Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Copy Cat

by Holly West

Lately, I've been thinking I need to copy more authors.

I don't mean plagiarizing, silly. I mean studying what other authors do pr/marketing-wise and copying them. Or at least aiming to copy them. I have to be realistic, knowing that as much as I might want to, I'm never going to make the time to all of the stuff I see other authors do. My head explodes just thinking about it.

First, let's understand that the best pr/marketing tool we have is our next book. I get this. I'm working on that. This post is about strengthening my platform, creating a plan and following through on it. I've got lots of ideas but I suck on the follow through.

Who are some of the authors I'm looking to emulate?

Diane Vallere, author of four different series, one of which she self-publishes, is one of the best branded authors I know (she's also one of the savviest and most generous). And she does most of this branding herself. Her career trajectory is inspiring to me--she set about the traditional publishing route and when that didn't work out, she successfully self-published her Samantha Kidd series. After that, she launched her Madison Night Mad for Mod series, which was picked up by Henery Press, a small but growing publisher. Since then, Diane has secured deals for two more series, the Material Witness mysteries and the Costume Shop mysteries, both for Penguin Random House.

In the midst of all this, Diane quit her job and now makes her living as a full-time writer. While I don't want to write four series, I do want to diversify my writing life to fulfill my own interests and, if possible, to make a better income from writing.

So what lessons can I take from Diane?

1) She's always writing that next book.

2) Her website reflects her personality, the tone of her books and serves up what readers want to know.

3) Her social media presence is well-orchestrated without being obviously so. One of my favorite things she does is post pictures of her wardrobe when she packs for conferences. She knows her audience and caters to it splendidly.

4) She cultivates her mailing list and actually sends out newsletters.

5) I'm sure she does loads of other things I don't know about. But basically, she lays out a marketing plan and she follows through on it.

Jeri Westerson is the author the Crispin Guest historical mystery series (as well as several other novels) and I'm not sure if I know any other author who works harder at PR and marketing. She's also extremely knowledgeable about publishing and isn't shy about spreading that knowledge around. When her long-time publisher pulled the plug on the Crispin series, she self-published a prequel. She's since found a different publisher for the Crispin books but will continue self-publishing other titles in tandem.

Like Diane, Jeri is making a living at her writing, but it hasn't been straight forward and she's explored multiple avenues to get there. Everything I said about Diane, above, applies to Jeri, too.

I talk about self-publishing with author friends a lot. One of my favorites, Neliza Drew, just self-published her debut, ALL THE BRIDGES BURNING, and beyond the excellence of the book itself, she did such a good job with the publishing that it inspires me to consider self-publishing again myself. But if I ever do, it's clear to me that I'll have to master the art of marketing and PR in a way I haven't managed yet. Maybe by copying authors who do it better than I do, I'll get there.

Or at least I'll get closer. Baby steps.

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