Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to Work!

I have to admit, I'm feeling kind of energized these days. I love the back-to-school feeling and even the cool, rainy weather--a nice respite from the overheated dog days of summer.

I had two clients' books hit the Times list over the summer, I'm happy to report. Laurie Notaro's IT LOOKED DIFFERENT ON THE MODEL and Celia Rivenbark's YOU DON'T SWEAT MUCH FOR A FAT GIRL.

Both have terrific websites and Facebook pages. Celia is also on Twitter.

Laurie Notaro:

Celia Rivenbark:
twitter: @celiarivenbark

And so here is what I have to say about this, beyond CONGRATULATIONS FUNNY LADIES. (It always takes me a while to get to the point):

SOCIAL MEDIA, PEOPLE. SOCIAL MEDIA. These two authors *get* it. They practice it. And it pays off in their success.

Published author, not-published-yet author, it applies to both of you. It's a brave new world, and finally authors have the power in their own hands to really truly influence their own sales. It's enormously exciting. But it's not easy. You have to hustle, hustle, hustle. You know who else is great at this? My new client Melissa Foster. Her salient info:

Twitter: @Melissa_Foster
Her social network for women:

I pride myself on my Klout score ( which is right around 64, give or take a point. Do you want to know Melissa's Klout score? A whopping 74. That's celebrity level, folks. Melissa is out there, all the time, promoting her books, yes, but also, significantly, working to help other authors, posting inspirational tweets and useful links. She connects, she doesn't just publicize. Not surprising that her self-published and small press-published books are hitting the Amazon bestseller lists and selling at ever higher five figure levels each month.

What I don't want to hear is that you don't know how to do it or what to do. The information is out there. So many smart, successful writers are blogging and tweeting essential tips for promoting yourself via social media that all you have to do, honestly, is start with a google search. If you need more guidance take an online social media course like the ones offered by Galleycat or Penelope Trunk.

Another reason why you can't afford not to do this. Social media is free. It takes time to learn and master, but it is free. And I think it is far more effective than many of the things that authors pay for, such as traditional publicity targeting print media. Or running advertisements.

My take is that social media works so well because it helps you create community and that creates readers who come back to buy you again and again. Read a business classic called 1:1 Marketing by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, agented by my long-ago boss, the incredibly savvy Rafe Sagalyn. It talks about creating loyal customers one at a time. Reaching and connecting with just one reader is far more valuable than sending out a generic message to one hundred folks or even a thousand. Make those connections with your readers: talk to them on twitter and introduce them to one another on Facebook. Create a mailing list so they can get new information from you, perhaps deleted scenes or a character who didn't ultimately make the book. Make your readers feel part of something, included, invested. The more you connect with them the more they will help you spread the word about what a great writer you are.

Published authors, if you don't "get" social media, there are plenty of people out there that do. You owe it to yourself and to your sales figures to start connecting. If there's no time, you can do what many of my clients do and hire someone to help you or find an intern at the local college.

Unpublished authors, do you have a great book but can't find an agent? There's no excuse not to get that book out there independently and prove to yourself and to the world that there is an audience for your writing.

That's my back-to-work pep talk for today, folks.

P.S. Because I try to practice what I preach, you can also follow *me* on twitter: @jennybent


  1. Congratulations, Jenny, on the two bestsellers!

  2. Thanks for the pep talk, Jenny!

  3. Hi Jenny. Twitter has been an amazing marketing tool for me. I've also just connected with Melissa. She's funny & social, and that's the secret formula for effectively using social media. Great post. I also love seeing you on twitter, gorgeous avatar :)

  4. It is always good to read about new authors who made it to the other side of the dance floor, so to say, especially after getting your email yesterday. Congrats on your new two bestsellers!

  5. Great advice. Published authors need social media. And it's good to get established in it before you get a book deal.

    But it's important that newbie unpubbed authors don't use it the same way isn't it? If newbies post parts of their WIP--even if it's deleted, they look kind of lame and may be infringing their own future copyright.

    But I do like to see an agent say this: 'Unpublished authors, do you have a great book but can't find an agent? There's no excuse not to get that book out there independently and prove to yourself and to the world that there is an audience for your writing." The ebook is the new query, isn't it?

  6. Wow. THAT was awesome! As for Twitter, THANK YOU (say it again, Sam)! I get a little heated when I find out that a business owner or someone in the entertainment business doesn't have a Twitter acct. Especially after I've "preached" the benefits.

    Melissa is a friend of mine and "hustle" is THE perfect word. I watch and absorb everything that she does from the background like a piece of Wonder bread to vodka the morning after a party! I left corporate America a month ago to "Just Do It" and go for my dreams before the chance to do so slipped between my fingers. Not only have I NEVER looked back (or worked this hard in my entire life...15-19 hrs min. per day and not because I have to but because I am in love with it all right now and can't pull myself away), I've never been happier.

    So, between the Pajama Jeans and repping Melissa, I'm thinking you're 2 for 2 Jenny! Congrats to you and your best-selling authors (and the ability to recognize one when you see one)!

  7. Great info, thanks. And i'm proud to say i found this on twitter!

  8. This is something I'll start quoting in my social media classes: "Reaching and connecting with just one reader is far more valuable than sending out a generic message to one hundred folks or even a thousand." That's brilliant. Thank you!

    And 64 is an impressive Klout score! I'm still working my way up through the 50s after mine plummeted over summer vacation.

    Thanks for such an inspirational post, Jenny.

  9. after a couple recent rejections from agents for my story collection, Real Magic Doesn't Sell, I needed this. (And btw, did yo get the shameless plug? I'm trying.)

  10. It's a great time to be an author because social media allows you to do promo work from the comfort of your home-- since most of us are introverts, we don't want to get out and actually meet people. But it takes a lot of consistency-- that's the number one thing I've learned.
    Thanks for the post.

  11. Thanks so much for coming over to my blog and clarifying things to the skeptics, Jenny. I'm so grateful for your open, forward-looking attitude.

  12. This is such great advice, and just what I need. A real kick in the marketing pants! Thank you for sharing and for encouraging and cheerleading.

  13. I'm still so inspired by this blog post that I keep coming back to it to motivate myself, lol! My klout score was "61" 8/30 but has gone down...lets see about that! lol! Have a great weekend Jenny and again, congratulations!! ;)

  14. Okay, okay. I hear you! Thanks for the nudge. I'm feeling motivated. :-)

  15. Thanks for this good, practical advice, Jenny. It's really appreciated.

  16. Thank you for the blog post and saying it is okay to self-publish while I wait for my big break. I have published with 2 small publishers, but want to see a book in print. So, I will keep querying agents and editors. And I LOVE Twitter!DRAGON IN THE MIST @NLBadger

  17. Great post, Jenny! I was leary of getting on twitter back in April, but I did and never looked back. LOVE it now. So thanks for encouraging me to try. :) I met Melissa via tweets the other day, too. She's FABULOUS.

  18. Oh, and congrats Celia and Laurie for hitting the Times list!

  19. This is an inspiring post. I've about come to the end of querying on my first novel. I have been building my online presence with my blog and visiting social sites. Since I started querying my novel has won an award, and I wonder now that it's won this award, should I re-query some of the same agents?
    BTW, I see Melissa Foster out there in Cyberville all the time and she’s been an inspiration to me.

  20. I found this a very encouraging post, particularly the point that free use of social media can be more effective than the traditional methods used by a big-budget publicity machine. I'm on Twitter & Goodreads, have a Facebook Page, blog & website, & am selling my novel on Kindle, and know I have a long way to go yet, but feel inspired to believe I can get there.

  21. You have given me hope!!!! Thank you!!!!

  22. I don't believe that marketing to other writers is a worthwhile exercise, and I'm talking from the point of view of the one being marketed to. Whenever I join a site like Goodreads it seems at least half a dozen writers 'friend' me or message me wanting me to read their latest novel. Every time it happens I think, "I am not the person you want reading your book." For a start, being a writer and always looking for faults in my own work makes me super critical of everyone else's. Secondly, I've read one and a half books this year.

    Twenty years ago I recall talking to a writer who ran a bookshop who confided that since running the shop, he'd become the worst reader imaginable. At the time I was truly, genuinely shocked at the possibility that anyone could not enjoy reading. Yes, well, now I know. I've found POV faults in Salman Rushdie's and Bill Bryson's work. If you find fault with Bill Bryson, it's time to stop reading.

    While I'm happy for the writers mentioned above and for their success, I'm still not convinced that marketing to other writers by providing tips, links etc. is effective, if only for the reason mentioned: "everyone's hustling." Readers on Amazon are very well aware of 'quid pro quo' reviews exchanged by writers.

    Although it's backside numbing, eyeball scrambling work, I prefer to go after real readers by requesting reviews from book bloggers.

  23. Wow! This was really eye opening for me. I thought I working hard, but I've barely got my toes in the water. Thank you for helping me set some new resolutions for the new year!

  24. Thank you, Jenny, for this inspiring article!

    I'm a writer who is new to blogging. With a background in marketing, I know it is in my best interest to always make the most of social media. I’ve personally learned that blogging is a great way to not only build an audience, but also find my writer’s voice. This has been especially helpful to me, since I originally started off years ago as a writer of unintentionally humorous poetry.

    Blogging has helped me narrow my focus and get a sense of the topics that generate the most interest. I always appreciate and learn from the wonderful feedback I receive from my growing group of followers. In fact, just yesterday I just wrote a post on the one of the best benefits of blogging: it's free!