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Monday, June 15, 2009

Marketing Strategy 5: Join the Club!

In a Nutshell: Join groups for the ability to network and learn at the feet of those more seasoned and willing to share their knowledge.

Ah...networking. The key to making or breaking deals is the art of communication with customers, those in similar trades or fields, and even those in direct competition with you. How do I know? I belong to many groups, both online and off.

In college (okay, that was awhile ago), I was quickly taped to become the president of my sorority my sophomore year. Why? Because I was so popular? No, because anytime there was any job to be done, big or small, my hand was up. “I’ll do it!” Wisely, the adult, advisor quickly vetoed the idea and it wasn’t until my last semester of my junior year that I took the reigns. I was also the leader of many other on-campus organizations. I'm a joiner, a leader and a hard worker.

A pastor once told me that ten-percent of any given congregation does the work for the other ninety percent. The same holds true for many organizations. But, this is a detriment to an author wanting to become published.

Years ago, when my husband and I were purchasing a piece of investment property, a gentleman nearing retirement gave us some wise advice. He pointed to a young man who brought our paper work in to us, with a smile and an offer to get us something to drink. The banker shared that this young man was not the one who was suppose to bring in our loan documents, in fact, he didn’t even have to offer to get us something to drink. He was a go-getter and when there was something to be done, no job was too big, too small, or too beneath him. The man smiled and said, “That young man is going places.” And, I’m sure he is correct. Are you going places?

If you join a group, ask yourself not only what you hope to get out of it, but how you can be of help. I missed my opportunity as a new author, because no one shared this information at the beginning of my journey. As a newly published author I had my hands full. I was speaking, writing additional publications, more speaking, shipping, finding vendors to carry my product, distribution outlets, etc., etc. It never occurred to me that if I networked with others I would sell more books. In fact, it wasn’t until about two years ago that I joined several Christian publisher's groups. What a difference that made!

Now I was speaking not only in live venues, but online in virtual venues. I was selling books, e-book products and the like. I had hesitated to turn any of my “precious” books into e-book fearing they would be copied and shared. Yes, I’m sure this still happens. Yet, seeing that many, many other authors have e-products convinced me to give it a try. Currently only three of my books are in e-book format, and it has been a successful endeavor.

These groups have been on the forefront of news about customer protection issues, printing savings, editors that offer services for a discount to those who are members of the group. There have been many requests for free items from those in the group, all of this is on a voluntary basis. But, by giving away a “freebie” (and you can be sure my name is in that document, url links to my website, blog, and shopping cart, with additional offers of free downloads), there has been a huge increase in my newsletter subscription, and book sales have increased.

In fact, book sales have been on the increase this year in a down economy. Why? Because, those of us with quality products, those we are passionate about, tend to give 100% and more. I directly answer questions sent via my website. I may not get to them the day they are sent, but you can be sure I answer my customer emails before I chat with a friend online. Customer product, delivery and service need to be impeccable for an author that is self published.

Okay, so let’s say you want to obtain a royalty publisher. No problem. You still need to help your publisher sell, and the groups you join will be author groups, not publisher groups. These groups will help you to see what other authors are doing, join forces with them for book signings and learn at their feet if you are a new author. A friend who wrote a wonderful fantasy book for children went on a book tour with several other fantasy authors. Are these books competition? Perhaps, but if you have a great product you should never fear competitors. As a new author people did not know his name. In going as a group, these authors were able to share expenses, gather larger crowds and obtain great photo ops.

You may not have a book yet, so what? Joining a group is one way to get the word out when you book is completed. It may even give you some friends wanting to read your book and give some honest feed back. But, be careful. Make sure you don’t trust just anyone. I read a blog the other day by a veteran author who saw a newly published book whose back cover copy was very similar to the plot in her soon-to-be released book by a royalty publisher. She just about fainted and quickly ordered the book to make sure the plot lines were different. They were. In the fiction world it is very difficult to be original, especially with the amount of books already published. She was afraid she’d be accused of plagiarism, since the other book was already out.

A last word of caution; if you are a new author I would highly recommend you read back posts, and several weeks of current posts before you jump in with a question or comment…unless it is an area, or field in which you truly are an expert. Otherwise, you will find that no one will answer your post. Not that all posts are answered or commented upon, only that you want to start with your best foot forward.

If you haven’t joined me every Monday afternoon at 3:30 EST on my Blog Talk radio podcast, please do. I am having a blast!

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