Many writers I know including myself are somewhat introverted and shun the idea of marketing at the expense of losing precious writing time. Because I'm both a writer and a business owner, recently I've been noticing how savvy business leaders are marketing their products and services with a "story mindset" that is part of their marketing efforts. Writers are expected to do their own share of marketing, even if they have a traditional book deal, and unfortunately, this demand is not going away anytime soon.
Truthfully, us hard-working writers can learn a thing or two from business owners who use storytelling successfully if we want to build a name or brand for ourselves as well as a following.
Marketing is not such a bad word
Marketing is really how you educate your peeps and lead them to learn more about who you are and your story. If you aren't a well-known memoirist like Mary Karr, you have to build this "know-like-trust" platform way before your book is actually published.
As a writer, you can do a number of things to build this platform like blogging your memoir. Business owners have learned to use the power of their story as a front and center marketing tool. Marketing generates a huge trust factor and when done effectively, it generates sales.
How Marketing for Business Owners is Different
So here's what I'm seeing: Savvy business owners are using their story to illustrate a problem or highlight a transformational period in their lives where they were forced to make a change. In the eyes of their peeps, they are already regarded as the experts because they've reached an important milestone while their peeps are deeply struggling with the very same issues. So this is where marketing addresses a pressing need.
These all too successful and savvy business owners who I've been following like Ali Brown, also step into a very vulnerable place in their lives. They even use words like "vulnerable" to illustrate the "new black." Ali Brown's recent journey of how she got in touch with her own spiritual awakening which brought her even closer to bliss reminded me of a very short version of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. The only difference was I was reading marketing copy that read like a story.
Writers Need to See their Story as Solving a Universal Problem
In the end, we all want to sell more of our own books, but the problem business owners and writers face are the same: "Buy my books" or "Buy my products and services" requires a more engaging step: Marketing, marketing, marketing.
Again, Ali Brown recently shared on her Facebook page a unique story. She started by telling how as a successful business owner, she had everything: money, fame, financial security. What more could this highly successful business owner want? But then she shifted gears and said, "But I felt something was missing." That something was her own inner bliss and spiritual prosperity. Immediately, I was hooked.
Here I was questioning the validity of her own story just as I was questioning my own sense of peace and happiness. So I may not have the same problem but in the end, her story touches universal problem: one's sense of lack in the constant need to fill that which is empty and the journey of course, is figuring out what that "emptiness" is.
So when she led me to the link of her 7 week course, I couldn't help but check it out because now I was intent on figuring out how she could help me solve my problem.
What Writers Can Do
Writers have to work even harder to figure out how their story appeals to some universal problem or element. This is not always so clear-cut at first and requires a bit of digging and understanding.
Here's a suggestion: As you write, try and see if you can sense those "greyish" areas in your writing that beckon a more common issue. It may be a scene or a part of a scene. It doesn't matter. You might not sense this at the beginning as you are trying to get your story out, but only at the later stages. If your story doesn't have a universal theme, then your reader will probably won't connect to it.
When writing and revising my memoir, Silence: What the Israel Defense Forces Taught Me about Empowerment, Courage and Faith, I keep writing about the experience of outsiderhood in different shapes and forms. It occurred to me that this is the running theme of my memoir and one I should concentrate on "marketing" as part of my platform building.
Then once I've hooked the reader, I then insert a link -- perhaps a blog post where they can learn more about me and my work. So you're not selling, you're marketing.
So as you can see, writing and marketing can be profitable if there is something universal that hooks the reader. Business owners showcase the stories of their clients or their own stories. If these business owners also happen to be writers (like myself) then that process can be even more challenging because one needs to know from which "marketing hat" to work from.