Please help me welcome Kendra Bonnett.
You Don’t Have to Drown of Anonymity in a Sea of Memoirs
Helen, Story Circle Network’s conference is fast approaching. In anticipation of that and because I’ll be on your “Getting Published” panel, today I get to appear Straight from Hel. What an honor.
While perusing the Internet last weekend, I came across an article in the Los Angeles Times book section entitled, “Will GOP Race for Governor Kick Off on the Bookshelves?” Apparently both Republican front-runners in the governor’s race, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, have new books out…just in time for Californians to read before they vote in the June primary.
Yes, the memoir (actually Whitman’s book combines elements of memoir with lessons in leadership) is certainly a hot marketing tool for pols these days. But they’re not the only ones cranking out personal stories. Ben Yagoda, author of the new book Memoir: A History, writing for The Daily Beast website, decries the “Celebrity Memoir Glut.” His list of recent and soon-to-be-published memoirs is staggering.
But it is beyond the pale of celebrity-political breast baring where the exciting work is being written. These are the inspiring, insightful, teachable, slice-of-life books that ordinary people are writing about their very real lives and experiences. Through memoirs, they share their horrors, fill us with hope, encourage us to endure and make us think.
Without celebrity status, however, the average memoir writer is challenged to break through all the noise and competition. The question is obvious: How do you get your book noticed when everyone is writing memoirs and publishers lack the promotional budget to give each book a big introduction?
The answer, of course, is marketing. While there isn’t room to create a full marketing strategy here, I’d like to suggest a three-pronged approach that may help you craft your plan.
1) Make a Local Splash
Book tours were once the norm, but today the high cost of travel and the relatively low turnout at most book signings is a formula that doesn’t compute. But that’s not to say that the public forum is gone completely. To borrow from the Green movement, your best bet is to Act Locally.
It’s all about leverage. You have a community network of friends and acquaintances upon which to draw. This should get you coverage in local papers, an opportunity to speak at libraries and schools throughout the county, and a chance to get in front of community groups and local chapters of national organizations. Retailers in your town also might sponsor a book-signing event and promote it to their customers. Let’s say you’ve written a story about your life, and because you love clothes, you decided to organize your chapters around 12 favorite dresses—each with a story to tell. You might get a local women’s clothier to host an evening of reading and shopping.
Whatever opportunity you generate at home, just remember that if you do well, you might just find that your reputation has grown beyond the borders of your city or county. Your grassroots strategy might just earn you national exposure.
2) Create a Joint Venture—the Ultimate Leverage
I’m not talking about a contractual agreement but rather a temporary and informal joining of forces to share expertise and/or assets for mutual benefit. In other words, if you’ve got good content and someone else has access to people who represent your ideal audience (market), then work together and share the profits.
Such relationships will cost you a small percentage of your proceeds but you’re building a reader base, and that’s your real asset. Furthermore, if you take book orders directly through your website, you’ll be building a database. The next time, you can go out to these people directly and keep all the profits.
To give you an idea of how this might work, let’s say you have written a memoir about your Junior Year Abroad experience in Rome that turned into a lifetime love affair with Italy. Talk with your college’s endowment program about promoting your book to alumnae. In exchange for access to the school’s list, you offer to donate $5 for each book purchased through your website.
3) Take Advantage of all That the Internet Has to Offer
When one window is shut, somewhere else a door opens. To many writers, the Internet has been that door just as publishers have been slamming their windows closed. The breeze blowing through that open door is of hurricane proportions. Through the Internet, you have the opportunity to reach readers across the country and around the world.
But where do you start? The truth is, you can spend years trying to figure out how to build a presence online. I’m going to give you strategy and a set of tactics to get you started. It’s far from comprehensive, but I think it will help focus your planning. It’s too long to post here, so follow this link to Women’s Memoirs and the second half of my post.
Thank you Kendra for such an informative post!
Everybody, while you’re over on Women’s Memoirs reading her post on building an online presence, be sure you also read Kendra’s bio. She’s worked with or interviewed everyone from Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon to President Gerald Ford. Today, though, she’s here, so be sure to say hi or ask questions.