8/15/07

No Brainers by Marlene Austin

Thanks, Marlene for being a guest blogger and describing your experiences as a new author. Marlene is the author of Grave Secrets published by Covenant.

I thought it would be a no brainer. They said that if you are a decent LDS writer you’ll be able to sell as many books in the LDS market as you’d be able to sell in a national market because there’s so much more competition in the larger market. I listened and agreed—meaning I understood the concept, not meaning that I was giving up my idea of trying to sell my first novel in both markets. If I sold well in the LDS market, then sold as many again in a national market, I’d total twice a many sales. And why not?

You can think that way if you live in Massachusetts. Along with LDS friends I’d had half dozen non-members read my book and their responses had been as enthusiastic as the praise from my member friends. “Your book could sell in a Christian audience or even a national market.” one woman who had headed writers groups for years assured me. And a really good book should sell to anyone, LDS or Lutheran, in fact, Mormon or Moroccan. Hey, what percentage of Harry Potter’s readers are witches or warlocks? I was determined to sell to the Mormon market and the history lovers of New England.

I didn’t think about marketing. I should have.

I’d hoped to get some book signings and marketing events calendared near me in advance so I could focus on the western market when the book was released. Right. My first excursions were unplanned side-trips from my grocery shopping to local book dealers. Book buyer weren’t in but I was told I could leave a book so the owner could make a decision on setting up an account with the publisher. Leave a book? Since the book hadn’t been printed yet, that wasn’t going to happen. Account? I hadn’t thought about that. Curious, I emailed my editor about setting up accounts in non-LDS stores. The answers stunned me. In order for the publisher to ship directly to a store, they must have an account—which required an initial order of $1000. To keep the account the store must submit additional order for that much each succeeding year. That wasn’t going to happen either.

At least I could get some books placed in my local library—but not, I was told, until I had a legitimate review to show them. They did accept one free copy.

I couldn’t travel to Utah for the typical signings because of my health, so I sent cards and wondered if that had done any good when they began reappearing in my mailbox, a small black hand stamped near the address.

Pretty much discouraged, I whined on Six LDS Writers and a Frog. The responses were extremely helpful (Thanks, guys) in two ways: I learned about some new marketing strategies and I felt I’d been accepted as part of a family. I realized a computer is useful for more than just writing. With their encouragement and help, I’m entering cyberspace!

I’ve worked from manual typewriters to computers and email, but googling and blogging? I first saw a blog and tried using Google about three or four months ago. I felt like Rip Van Winkle. I hadn’t thought I needed to keep up with the new gadgetry; I was concentrating on writing.

I didn’t think about marketing. I should have.

But I’ll catch up. I’ll have a website soon. I Google all the time. Blogging is harder—there’s nothing like having an audience watch you learn something they’ve done for years. I doubt the spelling of every word, the placement of every comma, then I am so frustrated as I watch the whole thing disappear for no reason I can figure out. I guess I’ll get over that, too. I’ll have to. I need the techniques for long distance marketing and getting some name recognition—and to learn from my new friends.

Traversing cyberspace should help the long distance marketing problems, but I still have no way of showing local shoppers the book. No non-member would recognize any of the website it’s listed on. Any potential buyer has to hear about Grave Secrets from some other source and make an effort to find out how to buy it. There’s no glancing through a shelf of books or a catalogue to find a book attractively beckoning to them. If I make it here it won’t be because it is easy.

It seems that getting name recognition is all important in non-member marketing. One expert suggested finding a newsworthy angle and getting your name in the news. That didn’t seem like me, but after finding a clue that led to the identification of several important ancestors and conversing with several Historical Society presidents this may give me some opportunities later on and possibly some good newspaper coverage. I guess it’s the old adage slightly changed. “If you can’t open one door wide enough, you’ll find one that opens wider.” It’s long term marketing, but it is marketing.

Writing is a joy, marketing—not so much. Or at least not here and not yet. Maybe it is in those, “not here”s and “not yet”s that my real growth and rewards will come. The transition from typewriters to computers has been worth the effort and more. So, I trust, will be a leap into cyberspace. Will I find a healthy non-member market for Grave Secrets? I purposefully wrote the book showing an LDS woman in New England to work for both groups—using a plot line both will enjoy, hoping that each group will learn a little bit more about the other and family history. I don’t doubt that the book can be successful in both groups, but marketing definitely remains the major problem in the non-member market. I think changing my focus, concentrating more on the LDS market initially and getting my own acreage of cyberspace established, then really focusing in on the non-member New England market will be helpful.

And why not? If good people can become more familiar with the universal desires and needs of each other, maybe some of the divisions that split us will blur. Will that help us all? There’s the no brainer.

Thanks for letting me blog. And good luck to us all!

Marlene Austin

3 comments:

Sariah S. Wilson said...

Marlene, don't you have a genealogy angle to your book? You might want to start contacting those sorts of genealogy societies, maybe sending out press releases to genealogy oriented magazines or websites telling them about your book. There are lots of genealogy buffs who aren't LDS. That might help you widen your market a little.

Good luck!

marlene said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I am currently trying to work into a situation where I can get more name recognition with the Historical Societies out here,and to catch the attention of those interested in genealogy. I hadn't thought of the magazines or websites. I'll look into them. I have a couple of independent book store owners reading Grave Secrets right now, hoping they will like it enough to work with me a little on their consignment fee. And I got a review to take to the library. We'll see what happens from there.

Thanks again for the suggestions.

Kerry Blair said...

Love the blog -- and the blogger! One of my new favorite authors for sure! Thanks so much for your helpful, informative post, Marlene.

And thanks, LDSP, for the guest blog. What a fun idea!