A Novel Approach To Marketing = Authenticity

>> Monday, June 06, 2011

(Comment for a chance to win a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card)

Even before I sold my first novel to Alicia Condon at Kensington, even before I contracted with my agent, Paige Wheeler, I was angling for market share as an author.  As a pre-pubbed, pre-agented writer dreaming of that "someday" call, I would walk down the aisles of WalMart thinking to myself, how did they get here?  Then asking myself, how do I get here?

For years I didn't have the answer.  I looked to everyone else for tips, tricks, advice, direction.  One writer says blog, another says don't bother.  One author says promote out the wazoo, another says, I never promote and I'm NYT.  One agent says, your premise isn't unique enough, another says the same premise is far too "out there".

I did the website, the blogging, the facebook, the twitter.  I took the dozens of classes on craft and storytelling and promotion.  I read.  I wrote.  I submitted.  I queried.

About 8 years later, by the time I signed with my agent, I realized what all published authors realize at some point...most before they even sell:  there is no shortcut, no trick, no "magic beans" as Lauren Dane says.

In the last six months, as I've struggled to cultivate clever marketing strategies in preparation of my upcoming release, I've watched the industry and the changes within.  Like so many other authors, companies and entrepreneurs out there, I've wondered just how to gain the attention of the customers (read: readers) I hope to cultivate soon.  Ultimately, I sat back, frustrated, disheartened and dazed, doubtful there was really any way I could make a dent in the attention deficit that has become our target market.

Taking that break from what felt like an upstream swim helped me settle.  I found myself able to look at the whirlpool from a different perspective and I discovered what I was doing that was holding me back: focusing on myself.

When I decided to dip my toes back in the water, it was with a stronger sense of who I am, where I fit and how far I will allow myself to be drawn into the pull of it all.

I'm a giver at heart.  Even as a kid, I've always enjoyed giving presents more than getting them.  I'm absolutely positive this is some personality disorder that is documented in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but in the end, it's just me--good or bad.  So when I waded back to the waters edge, I suppose I did it more authentically.  I utilized twitter and facebook and blogging as a way to give to others -- information, advice, technique, antidotes, gifts, thanks, whatever I felt I had/have to offer.

Not only did it feel good, it felt right.  I felt as if I'd found my groove.  In this economic slump, an environment of dwindling audience and growing competition for said audience's attention, simply giving without expectation of return on investment isn't generally thought of as the first or best plan of action, but it fits me.

The best part is that I've discovered it fits a lot of other people out there, too.  I've had a tremendously positive response and feel like I'm finally settled where I want to be...right on the edge of all the fun where I can watch and participate without getting run over or worn out.

Today I came across an article that validated my search for marketing authenticity.  I want to share a few quote from the article, as I could not illiterate my point of view any better.  The piece was written by Michael Stelzner, co founder of Social Media Examiner and you can find the complete articleHERE -- definitely worth the read.

But here are a few passages that spoke to me...intimately:

  • Have you noticed that everything is changing? Your industry advances, ideas expand, products morph and your customers move on. Similar to space travel, everything’s hurtling forward. Nothing remains still. Just when you think you have everything figured out, it all changes!
Um...yes! This is why I stopped trying when my head was spinning 90mph.

  • We’ve been treating people like fish. We’ve been taught to simply crawl into a boat, paddle out to where the customers are, grab our reel and cast out on top of customers. Then just jiggle that bait the right way and you’ll be able to force a customer into your boat.
As a customer, I recognize this tactic.  And, no, I don't like it.  It makes me feel...ordinary, forgetable, disposable.
  • If you want to connect with customers and attract raving fans, the solution is very simple: Focus on people.

I LOVE this!!

  • You can meet the needs of people by helping them solve their problems at no cost. When you help people with their smaller problems, many will look to you for their bigger issues.
  • Great content PLUS other people MINUS marketing messages EQUALS growth!
  • When you offer great content—such as detailed how-to articles, videos—that focuses on helping other people solve their problems, you’ll experience growth. Why? Because this type of content meets the needs of people. It doesn’t focus on you, your products or your company. It is a true gift to your audience.
  • Once the marketing messages are caged, the focus of your company shifts from “What can we sell you?” to “How can we help you?” You shift from pitching products to boosting people.
Now there's a concept -- boosting OTHERS, not just YOURSELF!! Wow, how novel!
  • With the old forms of marketing, you pitch and sell. People ignore you and your business is at risk. With the new method, you give gifts, people trust you and you become indispensable.
  • The result: You no longer need to sell! Instead, you demonstrate your expertise by the content you produce, the ideas you showcase, the stories you share and the people you attract. By creating a platform for others, you can also build strategic alliances, quickly grow a large following and dominate your industry.
  • You have the chance to own the place people go to for help, eliminating your reliance on traditional marketing channels. You can become the center of your industry, niche or local market. And when that happens, you’re launched on an unstoppable trajectory that will take you places you never imagined possible.
Well, there you have it...in theory anyway.  IMO, I love the theory, it works for me, it feels good and I'm going to stick with it.

I'm a big believer in karma.  How about you?  What are your thoughts on this theory?

Comment for a chance to win a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card!


Arlene 6:05 PM  

I think you have it right. All the social media experts I hear say you should re-tweet/reply a lot more often than you toot your own horn ...

I still struggle with that, though

megand 6:16 PM  

this makes more sense than a lot of the advice I haveen culling through as a first time author about to 'get wet'. I like where you say, " I'm finally settled where I want to be...right on the edge of all the fun where I can watch and participate without getting run over or worn out." this is so relevant in a culture that easily overwhelms us when we aren't looking...

Sheree 6:31 PM  

Working in the health-related fields, it generally *is* about the customer, the clients. People know if the seller is only pushing their own stuff or the products that need to get out the door at that time. It's better to tailor the program to the client's needs. That way, they are more open to being helped. Everyone wins!

Joan Swan 6:43 PM  

Arlene, yes, I've heard that too. I think I've heard different ratios, but generally, if you're considerate and fair and keep things interesting, I'm sure no one's counting. (At least I hope they're not.) :)

Joan Swan 6:44 PM  


So true! I didn't even notice I was trying so hard or getting so frustrated and disheartened until I took a step back and really looked at what I was doing. So glad I did and good luck at getting your feet wet. I'll be in the wading pool!

Joan Swan 6:46 PM  


I too am in the health field (day job) and it's always first and formost patient care. Patients are our customers and we always put their needs and comfort above ours.

It's a good point to remember in every industry.

Theresa Ragan 10:00 PM  

Wow, Joan. I love this. I noticed you the moment I saw a message on a loop from you offering to tweet or retweet or get the message out for anyone that wanted help. I thought, "wow, is she serious?" So I emailed you and sure enough you tweeted soemthing about my book or website.

You LOOK happy, too, and I think that alone will draw people/customers/readers to you. I am a big believer of karma. And I absolutely love your idea. Helping others is what it's all about...and it's fun sharing ideas and numbers and info.

About five years ago, I discovered the benefits of thinking positive and being positive and not worrying and being grateful. Karma. It's the same thing, IMO. Michael Stelzner sounds awesome. I'm going to go read the full article, but I love all the passages you mention. FOCUS ON PEOPLE. How great is that?!

I love this post. I'm going to tweet about it right now! Thanks!

Joan Swan 11:00 PM  

Such kind words, Theresa. It's so wonderful to meet others with the same pov. I too have studied positivity for years, as it doesn't come natural to me, but it can be learned. I'm far more relaxed and fulfilled, not to mention happy because of it.

Thanks for commenting!

Victoria 12:14 AM  

I love your post. Yes, I believe in Karma. I also believe in being thankful and grateful for all that we have and are. Also, being a positive giving person reflects onto others and it just spreads. Thank you again :).

Kimberly 3:59 AM  

Looks like it's working...I'm retweeting to help you out! ;)

Joan Swan 6:58 AM  


Absolutely, I completely believe in the reap what you sow and influencing others with your own attitude.

Thanks for coming by!

Joan Swan 6:58 AM  


Great to know and I really appreciate it!!

Laurie London 8:54 AM  

What a great article, Joan! I agree on all counts. After I finish here, I'm retweeting and posting on FB.

Yes, I'm a big believer in Karma. You put positive out into the world and it'll come back to you. And I've found the opposite to be true as well.

Thanks for all you do!

DrkCherry 9:54 AM  

As a reader, who follows many authors, I like the personal connection with the authors; not just promoting themselves, but actually conversing with readers on day-to-day things.

And I am a firm believer in Karma.

Joan Swan 9:56 AM  

Thanks Laurie! It's people like you that make this so much easier and far more fun and rewarding! XO

Joan Swan 9:59 AM  

Elaine, Thanks for taking the time to post. I'm in such a writer's bubble since I don't have readers yet. It's GREAT to hear from an active readers perspective. XO

Allison 12:36 PM  

I believe in the Biblical principle that you reap what you sow. Galatians 6:7-8. I also believe in the country adage that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Either way, I like your way of doing business.

Joan Swan 5:09 PM  

LOL, Allison, I wholeheartedly agree! And thanks!

StaceyPagan 6:49 AM  

I agree with DrkCherry - I follow several authors and those that are well known rarely, if ever, chat back w their readers. . . they remind me of servers in a restaurant. . . *I* am the reason for their paycheck. If I don't like their materials or they tend to be stand-offish or snooty WHY bother reading their books? Now you, Joan, clearly are not that way :) I think that will take you further than you can imagine! Hang tough, and watch out for that karma, because it will bite someone in the butt one of these days :)

moocow1341 7:18 AM  

I love this. I couldn't have said it myself, and I'm not even an author or work in the publishing field.

Joan Swan 7:21 AM  

Aw, Stacey thank you! That made my day (which just started, so it'a doubly awesome).

Here's my thing...I really don't like it when I send a direct, friendly, positive comment about an authors work and they don't reply. Nothing. Even just a smiley face of acknowledgement would be appreciated. Now, yes, they could have missed my comment...but two, three? I'm obviously not worth their time.

I don't care what industry happens to be the topic, if you don't connect with your customers, unless you have a product that is utterly necessary, like say the vaccine for Anthrax poisoning during a white powder strike in Washington, you'll lose business.

That said, I totally understand the crazy schedule of writers, especially BIG name writers with millions of readers and I can't begin to understand what goes into that type of business structure, but I do know that authors like James Rollins is on Twitter chatting with his readers, so it's clearly about priorities.

Everyone is different and has to run their business the way they see fit. I'm one of those who loves the connection between people, not reader and writer, not writer and writer, just between PEOPLE who share a love of something similar.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

Joan Swan 7:23 AM  

Moocow1341, The great thing is, it applies across all industries. IMO, it's simply a lifestyle, an outlook, a mindset. I love it too. And like you, when I read Michael's post, I thought -- I couldn't say it better, which is why I used his quotes. :)

j. barrett 8:14 AM  

gotta know what the consumer wants :}

Maureen 8:52 AM  

What an interesting post. I think you can apply those ideas to anything you do.

Joan Swan 5:35 PM  


So, so true. Anything else is mute. :)

Joan Swan 5:36 PM  


I agree. I try. It's not always easy and I don't always succeed...but I try. :)

Jeffrey Beesler 5:50 PM  

I understand all too well what you mean by being a giver. I love giving to people, and I don't really expect anything in return. It just feels good to give. Of course, I won't argue with karma if it smiles down on me once in a blue moon.

Joan Swan 6:10 PM  

Jeffrey, Good to know you're out there -- seriously thinking of submitting the disorder for the next DSM revision. :)

And so well said on the karma!

Anonymous,  9:34 AM  

Very interesting. I've always learned in marketing that you need to listen instead of speak, so I can see how this theory applies. I do believe in Karma, you have to get to receive. Thanks for the post!

Joan Swan 12:20 PM  


What a great perspective: listen, don't speak. Love it!

Joan Swan 3:10 PM  

Hi Joan:

I have to say this is an awesome site. And your hand made bookmarks are SPANKALICIOUS. It reminds me of Army medals. All I can add to this is....I WANT ONE! I WANT ONE! and...well ok, will you make some bookmarks for my new book BDSM FOR WRITERS? I'll throw in some more Shackles. *smiles sweetly and holds up a bribe*

Live with passion,

Dr. Charley Ferrer
Clinical Sexologist
Author of:
BDSM The Naked Truth

Anonymous,  10:20 AM  

Jeffrey Beesler is our winner chosen by Random. org.

I'll email you Jeffrey!

Deanna Jewel 7:42 PM  

Joan, just wanted to stop in and say hi! Loved your article. Truly it's hard to get our foot in the door with readers and the variety they have to choose from. I continue to plug away, holding chats and am open with my readers and followers.

I hold blog interviews and tour stops for other authors so please email me should you need a stop when you have a new release about to come out. This goes for all authors who read this. Email me and get on my blog schedule. My blog is there for one of your book tour stops!

Thanks again for sharing with us about your struggle to get published...congrats!

Joan Swan 6:07 AM  

Hi Deanna,

So very very true. Thank you for the extension of blog invite. You may hear from me around release time :).

I, too, am inviting authors to blog with me, but because of my work schedule and limited time, I'm still trying to figure out how many and how often.

Its a tough balance, but keep working at it. Perseverance really does pay off.

Nina Nakayama (nnsakusha),  12:09 PM  

This post is so very you (seriously, I think your profile picture is smiling brighter now days). *grin*

There have been authors whose books I've read thinking, wow, this one just *feels* different from the others. It touched me deeper, rang truer. Then, aha, they indicated that this one was about a true inside passion and/or one they've based on life, etc.

As I tell my students, their students know when they are being genuine or not. I believe the same holds true for readers -- all readers, novels, blogs, twitter alike. Since I'm an English educator at my core, I can't help but dissect while I read. While reading your post, I felt the raw, real emotion. I felt the angst, the giddiness, and the overall feeling of contentedness.

This stronger sense of who you are is already shining brightly -- a beacon of honesty that I think will draw both readers and fellow authors in.

I'm already gravitating to its warmth.

Amazing post. Keep on inspirin' babe! =D

Joan Swan 9:49 PM  

Wow, Nina...I'm...speechless. Thank you so much for the insight and inspiration. XO

Dentist Seo 10:45 PM  

I love your post. Yes, I believe in Karma. I also believe in being thankful and grateful for all that we have and are. Also, being a positive giving person reflects onto others and it just spreads. Thank you again :)
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greem smith 9:20 PM  

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