3 S.R. Johannes: Marvelous Marketer: Shrinking Violet Promotions (Robin LaFevers)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Shrinking Violet Promotions (Robin LaFevers)

Marvelous Marketer: Shrinking Violets (Robin)

Hi Robin, Thanks for joining us. Before we get started, tell me a little about yourself.

I am the author of eight books for young readers. My most recent book, Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris, (Houghton Mifflin, 2008) was featured on The Today Show’s Holiday 2008 List and appeared on the Winter 2008-2009 Kid's Indie Next List.

My next book, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist (Houghton Mifflin) will be released in Fall of 2009.

Do you/your agency/your house have a website/blog? When did you start it and who manages it?

I actually have two websites and three blogs—yes, that is probably overkill and one of them suffers because of it. My author website was designed and built by Vivian Lund and is perfectly suited to my five earlier books.

However, when my writing switched tones and direction, it no longer fit quite as well so I had her build a "book based website for THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS. We used the artwork from the books to create a very unified look. The other thing I really like about the Theodosia website is that it is built on a Wordpress blog platform, so it is really easy for me to go in and make changes, updates, add pages, etc. myself.

With my author based website, that is not the case so it doesn’t get updated nearly as often as it should. I consider my author blog as sort of an update page for my website. Unfortunately, I didn’t launch my author website until my second book, but that was almost six years ago and I don’t think the web had become quite the marketing force and presence it is now. Now I would definitely have my website up and running by the time my book came out.

Lastly, I jointly run a blog called Shrinking Violet Promotions, which is a blog devoted to the idea of helping introverted authors cope with the extroverted task of marketing their work.

In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

The top three things would be to:
1. Have a website
2. Find a way to build a second, social network on the web, whether through a social networking site or a unique blog, and
3. Really, write the absolutely best book you can.

The thing is, if you write a book that shines, your publisher will get behind it in a big way, and they can do far, far more for your book than you can in terms of getting the word out there. So while it sounds kind of trite to say “write an amazing book,” there is a whole heap of truth in there. Take an extra year, a few more workshops, really wrestle with the craft and voice until it shines.

In your opinion, how important is social networking?

Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and GoodReads can make sense in some cases. Especially MySpace and Facebook. Twitter is fun, but I’m not sure I get how it can help you with the task of marketing, and sites like GoodReads strike me as a bit of a field mind for an author.

It seems to me that you’d have to take your author hat off and really interact on that site as more of a reader, but I may be wrong. It also depends on the age of your readers. My readers are mostly under 13, the age required to log onto any of those sites, so I haven’t participated in them nearly as much as some.

It makes much more sense for a YA or adult author, although I know that bookstores and librarians and reading groups have their own MySpace pages now, so it could be a good method of interacting with them. Basically, you have to choose where you’re going to put your energy, so if those sites make sense for your reading audience, great, if not, ignore them in good conscience.

How important is technology to an author’s marketing plan?

I think technology is an author’s new best friend, frankly. There are just so many ways to reach out to your readers using technology, it puts so many great options at your fingertips, and at minimal cost. Blogs, podcasts, book trailers, videocasts, video conferencing, social networks, reading sites, there are just so many ways to get involved! Honestly, they can form the bulk of an author’s marketing plan.

Do you feel it is beneficial for authors to team up and promote books as a group? Why?

I think it can be hugely beneficial for authors to team up and promote their books together. The most obvious example is the aspect of shared work and rewards. With Shrinking Violet Promotions, Mary Hershey and I take turns posting the material and bounce ideas off each other. While we are both introverts, we also have very different approaches to things and that brings a richness and depth to the joint blog that would be lacking if just one of us was doing it. Mary and I also tend to do joint book signings whenever possible because we find it is much less intimidating for people to approach the two of us, rather than just one of us. Somehow, having two authors sitting there interacting with each other is more socially inviting than having a single author alone at a table, waiting for readers to come along.

Do you have a formal marketing plan or is your marketing more random? If not, why? Would you like to?

I do tend to have marketing plans for my books. I find this helps me stay focused and stay on top of the time line for certain marketing tasks (especially since so many of them have to be done so far out). It’s usually a combination wish list of all the things I’d like to do and a To Do list with all the things I absolutely will do. Although I have to confess it is a lot like a synopsis in that what actually happens doesn’t always stick closely to the original version.

What creative things have you done to promote a book?

Probably the most creative thing I’ve done to promote a book is the extensive Theodosia character blog I did. When I first started it ( Jan of 2007) it hadn’t really been done much before and it was a fun way to begin a teaser stream for the upcoming book, then after book one came out to try to stay connected to the readers until book two came out I’m afraid it may have lost some of it’s efficacy by now however, as it sometimes devolves into a chat room for a few girls, but it was very effective, especially in the beginning.

Thank you for joining us today and sharing some of your marketing strategies!


Candace Ryan said...

Great interview!

Fellow introverts, run on over to the Shrinking Violets blog if you haven't done so already.

Unknown said...

Great interview!

I always find it enlightening to see how authors use social networking sites to their advantage. Also, it's reassuring that an author website is valuable, considering how I'm in the process of designing one, er, now.

Sherrie Petersen said...

Great interview! I just finished reading Theodosia and I enjoyed it tremendously, even more than the first. And I really enjoy insight into how authors market themselves. Thanks, Shelli!

Kelly H-Y said...

Great and informative interview! Thanks!

Lisa Schroeder said...

I love the Shrinking Violets blog! It was great to learn more about Robin here.

Christy Raedeke said...

I love the S.V. blog!
Great interview as usual, Shelli.

Carrie Harris said...

Another Shrinking Violets fan here! Thanks for the fabulous interview.

Casey Something said...

I'm rather introverted and I'm worried how it might affect my promotion in the future - I'll definitely check out the Shrinking Violets Blog!

Thanks for chiming in!

Anonymous said...

interesting comment about the book-based website versus the author-based website. Right now I have a book-based website but what happens when the second one comes out? 2 websites or one for the author including pages for the books....? Vshecter

Unknown said...

That was really informative Shelli! Great interview. For me, learning about all of this technology in 3 days has been a daunting task (blogging, Twitter). I have wonder why it is important for me to be on Twitter. Seems Robin has the same thoughts. Good to understand it all though.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, when I reread this post, I jump on #3 of the top three things to do because THAT I understand. I can polish, polish, polish. The building a social network on the web? Feel totally foreign. But I am taking baby steps...