3 (and a half) Simple Truths I’ve Learned About Marketing & PR

In my other life, my day job, if you will, I work in marketing. In a previous life, I worked at a PR firm and later, as an editor at a magazine. Who knew my previous work experience would be such a huge help as the launch for Chasing the Sun approaches? It’s not that any of this is made any easier, or less overwhelming, as I think of ways I hope to promote my book and help it be as successful as possible.

But it does help me answer a couple of very important questions every time I’m about to pitch or promote my book to an audience: How would I feel in their shoes? What would make me take interest rather than let this request drown out along with hundreds of others we receive every day?

The things I’ve learned are simple:

Growing Social Media

1. Personalize your pitch and mind the details. When I was an editor, I’d constantly receive pitches addressed to “Natalie” about stories that our publication had absolutely no connection to. I still get requests for book reviews on my blog, even though I don’t review books. All that really tells me is that the person hasn’t read the publication they’re pitching. But a well-researched pitch, in which it’s clear you’ve thought of possible story angles and how your idea ties in with the publication’s goals, was always a breath of fresh air. Be that breath of fresh air.

2. Mediums may change; the basics of communication don’t. Whether you’re emailing the producer at your local news station, chatting with a fellow author at a happy hour, or sharing a status update on Facebook, we are still people communicating with other people. Kindness, consideration, and courtesy matter. You’d probably never walk into a party and announce to everyone, “Hey! Buy my book!” (right? right?!)…but if after talking to someone and the subject of literature or what you do for a living came up, it would be perfectly natural to mention it. Connect with someone as a person first, and then the promotion part won’t have to be promotion: it can be two people, taking a genuine interest in helping one another.

3. The most important thing you can do when you’re trying to get your message out is listen. Because really, it’s not about you. It’s about how your story might connect to people. How it might help them, or bring a smile to their face, or inspire them. And how will you know any of those things if you don’t listen to the people you’re trying to reach?

And finally, this is something completely unrelated to my previous jobs, but I feel I should mention it because so many of us dread self-promotion, or asking people to buy our books. So maybe, don’t. Maybe the best thing we can do for ourselves and our peace of mind and our enjoyment of this journey is this:

Become a part of something bigger. What’s bigger than you and your book? Community. Compassion. Helping someone without the expectation of reciprocation. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and make new friends, not because they might buy your book but because they make life sweeter.

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Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel CHASING THE SUN (Lake Union/New Harvest, June 2014), about a frail marriage tested to the extreme by the wife's kidnapping in Lima, Peru. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Texas. Visit her online at nataliasylvester.com

22 thoughts on “3 (and a half) Simple Truths I’ve Learned About Marketing & PR

  1. I love this so much, Natalia. What a wonderful post that speaks volumes about who you are. The last paragraph is brilliantly refreshing, and it makes me even more glad we’ve connected in this writing community. But I think my favorite part about this post is when you say this: “The most important thing you can do when you’re trying to get your message out is listen…,” which in my experience is true not just in business and marketing but also about 99 percent of the time in life and relationships, too. Great post!

    • Thank you, Julia! You’re so right that listening is important in all aspects of life. So many of us want to tell our stories…so few of us take the time to listen.

  2. Fabulous post, Natalia! You’ve boiled down so much confusing advice that swirls around the topic of promotion to four pointers that are not just common sense, they are human *and* can be adjusted to each of us. I’m super excited to read Chasing the Sun. Congratulations!

    • Thank you, Marialena! I’m glad the tips are helpful. It’s such an overwhelming topic, but I’m trying to stress less about it. It’s more fun for everyone involved if we simply try to be helpful and better ourselves and those around us.

  3. Great post, Natalia. The listening piece is crucial. As a teacher, I learned the most important key for learning (or engaging a reader in this case) is to know your audience–what makes them tick, what aspects of your knowledge (book) they will connect to. It’s the same thing with pitching. 🙂

    • I love how you tie it to teaching, Heather. I’m no teacher, but I recently started volunteering with an organization that teaches creative writing to kids, and I’ve found that listening to the students is the only thing that makes me feel like I can actually help them.

  4. Terrific post, Natalia. My favorite part is, “So maybe, don’t.” That’s been my instinct and now, it just might become my mantra!

    • Thank you, Stacy. I love how put it: “the art and need of being nice.” That’s really what it boils down to in the end, isn’t it?

  5. Love this: “Connect with someone as a person first, and then the promotion part won’t have to be promotion: it can be two people, taking a genuine interest in helping one another.”

    Because, really, isn’t connecting with people the reason we write in the first place?

    • Yes, exactly! I think this is why I’ve enjoyed so much of what most would call “book promotion.” Being on social media, blogging and being part of the Debs, etc…these are all the type of things that authors are expected to do today as part of self-promotion. But what makes me enjoy it are the people I connect with. That’s the most rewarding part of it.

  6. I love this, Natalia! You have such a wonderful online presence (and no doubt personal presence too) that you get people rooting for you and responding to you. I’ve noticed this. And I think it’s because of your sincerity. It’s inspiring!

  7. Very good rules. It’s all too easy, on the Internet and in marketing, and especially where they intersect, to forget that we’re dealing with people, not just rows of words and images.

    I’d also add that I’ve seen people say they can’t do marketing because they’re “introverts,” but I always say that label can be too broad. For example, I’m very awkward in situations where I don’t know people, and I’m not very good (to say the least) at promoting myself, but I have no problem with public speaking (I used to be a professional musician, and I’ve done training classes with over a hundred people). Other people are very good one-to-one but hate speaking in public. It’s always good to break it down, and figure out how to do the things that we’d be good at.

    “So maybe, don’t.”

    Indeed. In the immortal words, “I would prefer not to.” So, I don’t. 🙂

    • You’re so right! Also, being introverted doesn’t automatically mean shy; it just means that we’re not always ON, that we sometimes need moments to ourselves in order to fully recharge and get back out there being social. I’m more comfortable in one-on-one situations than I am speaking publicly, but I’m willing to learn these skills and push myself out of my comfort zone, not just because it’d be good for the book, but because it’d be good for me to grow as a person.

  8. Hi Natalia:
    2 years ago I started out thinking “book promotion” and now I’m thinking “relationships and community” — which is a long-term view. It’s far more rewarding. Thanks for this post!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Janie! I wholeheartedly agree. Community is also something that lasts much longer than any big “promo push” for any one book. It’s about infusing a little more meaning into this journey by connecting with one another.

  9. Very nicely said, Natalia! I hope to have this problem someday and will try and remember your wise words. I think for most authors today, the work is SO much more than writing now. They have to wear a marketing hat, technology hat, and suddenly be willing to step out into the public where years ago they lead a private life and “just write.” You wrote about balance – a very wise decision.

  10. Wow – great post. You really do have a great online voice which reflects your spirit. It’s, to quote another commenter, so “refreshing!” My favorite: “Connect with someone as a person first, and then the promotion part won’t have to be promotion: it can be two people, taking a genuine interest in helping one another.” That is my mantra.

    So, Debs, if I can help ANY of you from my job, I’d be happy to! I write for a big faith website (Christian) so themes on faith are best for the company, but personally I’m super open to reviewing books on any subject as life isn’t about just one view point. I read everything and a big believer in supporting voices.

    A spot for your stuff could be in our weekly newsletter (book review section). This newsletter reaches about 8K/week and is rising. Also, as my own blog gets rolling here – due to be up and running in February – that would be an organic way to incorporate your work, too.

    Feel free to write me offline and I’ll absolutely help where I can! Andrea.Paventi@gmail.com

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