Monday, May 4, 2009

Charming Notes of a Guerilla Marketer

Welcome to all who have visited NovelMatters for the first time during the past month! We hope you'll chime in and help to make our discussions amazing.

We have two copies of a fabulous book to give away this month: Zora and Nicky by Claudia Mair Burney. One will be won by a reader who has recently joined our ranks but hasn't yet posted a comment, and the other is for his/her friend who has not yet visited NovelMatters. Just comment on a post this month and mention that it's your first time, and you'll be entered in the drawing. At the time of the drawing, you'll give us contact information for a friend who has never visited NovelMatters and we will arrange for them to receive the other book. The drawing will be on the last Friday (May 29) of the month. Easy, huh?

I had a very eye-opening experience recently. I sent an email of appreciation to a best-selling author in the general fiction market - one whose books grace the window displays of every major bookseller in the nation. I didn't really expect a reply back. At least, not from her directly. Possibly from an office assistant who would follow up with a general acknowledgment in the next few weeks. To my surprise, the author emailed me back within a few hours (at midnight, her time), commenting on something I'd said in my email. It was no auto-reply. The next morning, I sent one more email, mentioning something I'd neglected to say the first time--which of her books was my favorite and to please keep them coming. About an hour later, I got a follow-up reply from her Blackberry. On a Sunday morning, no less! I was very impressed that this well-known author would take time from her family on a weekend to make contact with an anonymous fan.

I would have thought that when an author reached her level of success, they wouldn't need to be quite so hands-on in regard to marketing. Sure, she speaks at different venues, probably all over the world, and does book signings, but to take time to respond to one lone reader? Like I said, it was a lesson in marketing.

In the book, Guerilla Marketing for Writers, the authors state that promotion isn't over when someone buys a book. The point is to make customers for life by a never-ending circle of communication with readers and to "understand the immense potential value of every reader."

In Carolyn See's book, Making a Literary Life, she suggests sending one charming note to a novelist, editor, journalist, poet or agent whom you admire each day as a way of connecting and making your own literary life. I would add 'readers' to her list.

I have to say that a simple, personal acknowledgment from an author whom I admire has made her seem more real--more genuine. I think I'm a reader for life.

How has it impacted you to make a connection with a favorite author? I met Ray Bradbury once, and he was a very genial, interesting man who laughed easily with his fans. As writers, how does receiving notes from readers help to encourage you?

By the way, the author who emailed me back so quickly was Jodi Picoult.


Lori Benton said...

I've made some dear friends by following my impulse to email a writer whose books touched and entertained me. Case in point is J.M. Hochstetler, who writes the American Patriot series (and is now a publisher with Sheaf House). Her characters had become so real to me that one day, while doing some cleaning around the house, I caught myself praying for them. I laughed when I realized what I was doing, and then I thought, "If these were my characters, I'd want to know if they touched someone so deeply." I sent her a quick email, confessing what I'd done and why. We've been friends, crit partners, prayer partners, and met in person once, in the years since.

So yes. Write that letter. Send that email. You never know what blessings God has waiting for you, when you seek to bless another writer.

That's great about Jodi Picoult. Another secular writer who is very available to her fans, and other writers, on line, both to chat and to teach the writing craft, is Diana Gabaldon.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Thanks, Lori. It's great to hear about your experiences. You never know where a simple, sincere note will take you. Or posting on a blog, for that matter! It was great to meet you at Mount Hermon.

Kathleen Popa said...

Perhaps Jodi Picoult didn't see your correspondence as marketing. Now that I am published, I realize how great it feels just to know someone who isn't a friend, who doesn't feel obligated, has actually read my work and liked it! Maybe Jodi never got over it. I suspect I never will.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Thank you, Debbie and Lori, for sharing your experience in contacting a fav author. I met such an author at a women's group and later I attended a writing workshop she conducted. I could tell her how much I enjoyed her stories. Authors write to bless others and appreciate knowing that they have done so. This was a great post, Debbie.

Bonnie Way aka the Koala Mom said...

I'm going off to email my favourite authors. Usually I'm too shy to do so -- or figure they're too busy to even read my note, much less reply. What a lesson here. Thanks for sharing.

Patti Hill said...

I attended a writers conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming solely to meet Elizabeth Berg, my FAVORITE author. She was gracious, posed with me for a picture, but it was Wally Lamb who stole my heart. I'd brought She's Come Undone for him to sign, and he was saying his final farewells before leaving to catch a plane. I said, "Mr. Lamb, if you have a second, could you sign your book?" He sat down and chatted with me for a half hour. I'm not so sure about his fiction--before meeting him I was sure he hated women--but he is a gracious person. I came away feeling like I mattered.

Related, last week I spoke at a local school about the writing life with 4th and 5th-graders. They asked lots of great questions. One boy waved his hand feverishly, "What's it like to be a famous author?"

Tempted to tell him I'd have to get back to him on that, I rethought my answer. I told him to email an author anytime he gets lost in a story. That's the only way an author knows their story connected with a reader. "Doing so will make that author feel famous."

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I penned another thank you card to Ray Bradbury which I will mail tomorrow. He is elderly and doesn't reply, and that's okay. I just want him to know how much his fiction has inspired me to write my own stories. Maybe I'll write one to Elizabeth Berg, Patti. I love her books, too. By the way, that was a great answer you gave that boy. Kathleen, you're right about how great it is to hear that someone liked your work.

Thank you, Koala Bear Writer and Pat Jeanne for your valuable input into our discussion today.

Anonymous said...

To show the other side of the coin, I was invited to a political breakfast a few years ago where a famous singer was the big-name-draw to the event. He was a contemporary of my dad, who was also a singer, though never professionally. I admired this man for his music, but also because my dad liked him so much. I had an opportunity after breakfast to approach him, told him how much I enjoyed his music, and asked if he'd sign my ticket. With obvious annoyance he took the ticket from my hand, scrawled his autograph on it, then handed it back without ever looking at me, thanking me, nothing. I walked back to my table embarrassed and wishing I had never approached him. I wadded up my autographed ticket and left it on the table at the end of the meeting. That man lost a fan that day. He forgot that it was the fans (in our case, our readers) who helped him rise to the top. Sure, he had talent, but without record sales he'd have been singing in his living room like my dad--who was every bit as good as this singer--did for so many years. I make sure I thank every reader who takes the time to send me an email or drop me a card, because without them my words are left hidden between two covers.

Unknown said...

Being a writer and venturing out in public has its downsides (sometimes people think that a writer can inherently solve the problems of others; which, I'd like to mention, I can't do!)

But it has its perks. I remember the first time a reader approached me, said nice things about my writing, and then turned to my husband and asked, "Is this Mr. Latayne Scott?"

Latayne C Scott

Marybeth Whalen said...

I have also written Jodi and received an instant and direct reply, which shocked me to no end. She even wrote from her private email, not the generic "contact me" email. For a long time I walked around with a secret smile that I had Jodi Picoult's home email address... not that I ever used it lest she think I am a stalker. :) But I had it. One time she wrote me from her Blackberry in the back of a limo as she was being rushed from one signing to another. That was pretty cool.