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marketing, summit, blogging, S.A. Young author, books, email

photo via summitpost.org

Summit: noun

1.the highest point or part, as of a hill, a line of travel, or any object;top; apex.

2.the highest point of attainment or aspiration:the summit of one’s ambition.

3.the highest state or degree.

4.the highest level of diplomatic or other governmental officials: a meeting at the summit.

  1. summit meeting.

Last month, I tried to do a “free” summit on book marketing, with a focus on self-publishing and publishers. It consisted of seven days of five to six webinars per day, all lasting for an hour each – more or less. Plus, there was a pre-seminar “orientation” as well as opening key-note and closing key-note speakers. All of this at no cost? My initial reaction was, “Wow, that’s just what we need!”

Well, not so fast. I’m here to tell you that, while the presenters were pleasant, some of them even funny (though a couple were downright condescending), for the most part, the whole thing turned out to be a forum for various entrepreneurs to convince me to pay for their services. I know you’re shocked, probably at my naive.

marketing, summit, blogging, S.A. Young author, books, email

graphic – Paul Tyahla – The Marcus Group Blog

Let me walk that back a little bit. It was not a complete waste of time, at least I don’t believe that it was. The final verdict has not yet been rendered. Over the course of the eight days, I was inundated with so much information that I’m still sifting through it all, trying to compile it into something neat and tidy that I can present to my co-writers.  (This was the summit creator’s insidious plan all along. Bury us all under a deluge of insider tips, expert advice and free pdf’s so that we have no choice but to pay, not for the “free” seminar, but eternal, unlimited access to all of the presenters and their topics. Well, I’m not biting.)

I have learned a few things so far. For instance, did you know that every time you see “New York Times (or USA Today or any other publication that gives out that designation) Best Seller”, that someone has paid for the privilege? It might be the author or it might be the publisher.  And the price paid determines how high the book is placed on the list. This does not mean that the author in question hasn’t sold a lot of books, because why would a traditional publisher, or an indie author, spend that kind of money to promote a product that wasn’t performing? An appellation like “best seller” or “best-selling author” means something to the book buying public, even if only subconsciously, not to mention that once an author has that title, it’s theirs to keep forever.*

On Amazon, it really does depend on sales. But it’s sales coupled with reviews that determine your rank. Depending on your genre and sub-genre, and because the whole thing moves so quickly, a book might be ranked #1 today at noon, might fall below 5000 by noon the next day. Okay that’s a stretch and it really depends on so much math that my mind boggles and I’m the first to admit that I don’t fully comprehend their metrics, but my point is, do it once and you own it.

marketing, summit, blogging, S.A. Young author, books, email, best seller

The same goes for “Award winning”. There are enough contests out there, in every imaginable permutation of every genre, from a vast array of publications, websites, organizations, etc., that almost everyone can win one and thus earn the right to call themselves “award winning”. I’m not suggesting that this is the equivalent of a “blue ribbon just for showing up”. Trust me, if I’m ever on the receiving end anytime someone wants to give me a prize, I’ll be the first to crow about it. But, sometimes, if you look closely enough, you might find that it’s for “Best Book with Every Word Spelled Correctly Sold at Buck-A-Book on a Saturday in April”.  Does this mean that the author is any less talented than if it were from the RWA? No, not in my opinion. There are a lot of very good writers, some of whom have sold a lot of books, who have never won a prize of any sort.

So far, the biggest take-away, for me, is that the most important tool for an author in the digital age, whether traditionally or self-published, is a list of email addresses. Anyone with a book to market needs a carefully cultivated and endlessly curated list, from which everything else flows. (Here is where I might make a joke about “the list” being life, but that would do a disservice to Ben Kingsley and Steven Spielberg, not to mention Oskar Schindler.)

Good book marketers don’t just email the people on their lists exhorting them to “BUY MY BOOKS!” when they’re ready to publish or on any of the days and months in between publication dates. No, they are much more subtle. They fill in the gaps by offering other kinds of content to the people on their lists who are either already readers, or certainly potential readers. This is where blogs and newsletters come in, as do contests and give-aways, anything that keeps them connected to their audience.  And finding the right combination is a mystical and magical thing akin to alchemy. What works for one author, may fall flat with another.

The presenters of the “summit” certainly know how important a “list” can be. I decided early on that unless I took a leave of absence from my day job and stopped wasting the hours I was using for sleep, that I would never be able to watch, let alone absorb and then summarize everything I was getting from these webinars. I figured the best thing I could do was to at least log on to all of them and collect the “freebies” that each presenter was offering.

There were some presentations that I just wasn’t interested in because they were clearly aimed at writers of non-fiction books. In fact, a lot of the presentations fell into this category. The information was geared toward helping authors who wanted to sell “self-help” books, books – some of them could probably be considered large pamphlets –  created to teach someone how to do or be a specific thing. (Which is why so many of them are able to crank out 4 or 5 books a year.) In these cases, I didn’t bother to  collect their “gifts”.

Of those I was interested in, in most cases, the swag consisted of pdfs or free copies of books that promised to reveal the secrets to {insert expert’s topic here} – or try to entice you to pay for that one missing puzzle piece that surely would do the trick. In every case, in order to gain access to these nuggets of wisdom, I had to provide my email address.  So, it would seem that this list-building thing is definitely working for the 35 or so authors/entrepreneurs who participated in the summit.

marketing, summit, blogging, S.A. Young author, books, email

graphic via growthgurus.com

So I signed up, and I downloaded. I am now drowning in emails sent daily from every one of those participants. And a lot of these new emails, those that I’ve been able to wade through, contain new links to even more free stuff which in turn leads to links for products and services to buy. If I click on a link through the email and end up purchasing whatever it is, the sender of the original email gets a piece of the price.

Here’s the thing, I now have a plethora of pages of free information, all of which will tell me the best way to edit my book, find a cover designer for my book, publish my book and market my book. The truth is that there is no one right way to do any of it and it is very, very, easy to become snow-blind in this blizzard of information.

marketing, summit, blogging, S.A. Young author, books, email

a screenshot of the email file I created, containg a fraction of what I’ve collected

99% of this information, by the way, can be obtained without charge on the internet. I was hoping that participating in this seminar would help the three of us here at SS&S to distill it down into something manageable.  While I think I achieved the exact opposite of this goal, I will say that a few names keep bubbling to the surface over and over again, either through this summit or in various writers groups on social media, with ideas and tools that we will probably be able to use.

We’re getting there. As someone wiser than I, probably K.R., once said: “This writing thing ain’t for sissies.”  Thanks for staying on the road with us.

marketing, summit, blogging, S.A. Young author, books, email

 

*Just like “Academy Award Winner”. Which is why it is so bogus that that phrase will forever be associated with a movie like Suicide Squad. JMHO

 

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