3 S.R. Johannes: Marvelous Marketer: Tracy Marchini (Literary Assistant, Curtis Brown)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Tracy Marchini (Literary Assistant, Curtis Brown)

Hi Tracy! Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I am a Literary Assistant at Curtis Brown Ltd., a full service literary agency that has had the pleasure of representing adult and children's literature for nearly 100 years. We have a foreign rights and film department, and have just launched our new website. I also have my own personal blog.

Before joining Curtis Brown, I worked as a newspaper correspondent and a freelance children's book reviewer. I graduated Binghamton University with a BA in English, concentration in Rhetoric.

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

The top 3 things every author should do to promote their book:

1.) Start early.

Buy your name as your domain now. Maybe you don't need to set up your website yet, but squat on your space and pay attention to renewals. Once you've sold the book, you'll most likely have a year or two before your book hits the shelves. Start social networking now so that you have friends in the kidlit social community that will be happy to hear and blog about your book release. (Likewise, this is a friendship like any other, so respect your fellow bloggers by blogging about their book releases and linking to posts that you think other writers would find informative.)

2.) Encourage creativity.

Experiment with ways to create a movement around your book by offering your readers not only information about you and/or your book, but also different ways of interacting with you than they might interact with another writer. Try different platforms to see which are the most appropriate ways for you and your readers to talk. Try videos, contests, "open mic" Q&A's -- anything that might give the reader more information about your book without just giving them a sales pitch. Experiment without worrying about how many people might catch on, and remember that there will always be more people reading than participating (partially, I think, b/c of the ease of Google Reader.)

So, forgiving the fact that marketing isn't a large part of my role at the agency, and speaking more on a "what I'd love to see authors do" level, let's imagine that I wrote a funny memoir about needle pointing while traveling the world on the circus train. (On the off-chance anyone really did, I would love to read a copy!)

First and foremost, I would ask myself if this project would translate better online as a blog or as my own social network. In this case, I would consider A.) if there are any major needle pointing social networks already in existence, B.) if I felt that my audience would be interested in posting videos and pictures of their own needlepoint projects or if they would prefer just to comment on what I blogged about, and C.) if my target demographic was likely to be comfortable with one platform over the other. Because crafters would probably enjoy the ability to learn new techniques from others in a niche community, I would personally choose to create a social network over a straight blog.

Once I set up the network and traffic started to grow, I would invite my readers to tell their funniest circus stories, post a series of how-to needlepoint videos, keep my readers up-to-date on my latest needle pointing projects by posting pictures, encourage people to post pictures of their needlepoint projects by commenting on those that do, give away needle pointed bookmarks that I'd made as prizes, post sample chapters of the memoir, invite readers to write a circus story with me by writing a line, or perhaps invite them to create illustrations to a circus story I'd posted, etc. In addition to reaching out to my readers, I would reach out to other blogging needle pointers and invite them to guest blog. Perhaps I'd set up a needlepoint rivalry, challenging a fellow needle pointer to a cross stitching duel. (Post videos of your fastest 100 stitches? Or challenge each other to create the best original image without using a grid to pre-plan the design?) [If you're not a needle pointer, I'm sure the idea of watching people stitch 100 x's as fast as possible sounds about as much fun as giving yourself a frontal lobotomy with a spoon. It's tempting to be as general as possible in hopes to attract the biggest audience. But remember, the goal is not to have every person on the planet on your network. Instead, we're trying to create a tight-knit community of needle pointers, because they are the ones that would (possibly) be interested in a needlepoint circus memoir.]

Then I would experiment with how my Twitter feed and Myspace and/or Facebook page could integrate what was happening on the needlepoint social network without turning into a list of links. Maybe invite your Facebook followers to be the judge of the best needlepoint project that was posted on the social networking site by creating a Facebook page or group for it. Schedule a time to have a question and answer session with your most advanced needle pointer on your network via Twitter, and invite your readers (who have, at this point, essentially become co-creators on your site) to listen to the conversation and then ask questions.

If I had a major prize to give away (b/c needle pointing is so time intensive), I would ask my readers to needlepoint a favorite scene from the needlepoint/circus memoir. The scene where you discover the bearded lady isn't a lady, or perhaps the story about the tightrope walker who fell during a practice session into an elephant pile because they accidentally used your embroidery floss instead of the tightrope.

Likewise, I would experiment offline. Perhaps at book readings I would ask people to come prepared with their own needle and floss. I'd pass out 1 by 3 inch pieces of canvas and at the end of the reading, we'd race to see who can embroider their piece the fastest. Winner gets a prize and everybody else goes home with a physical reminder of the event, even if they chose not to buy a book. Or maybe I'd try to find an artist that makes beautiful needlepoint art, and see if we could have a collaborative reading and gallery exhibition.

The most important thing to remember, I think, is that if people love your content and if you are genuine in your interactions, then they're going to want to participate in the making of similar content. So experiment yourself, and encourage other people to experiment with you.

3.) Be gracious.

Networking online is the same as networking in person, so whether you're online or offline, it's important to be a gracious host and an appreciative guest. Thank people for re-tweeting, or for posting a link to your blog. It's important to remember that people online are still peope, so take care when you comment and post.

In your opinion, how important is social networking? Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, GoodReads etc.

My main area of interest is children's literature, and so I can not stress enough how important it is as a children's writer to talk to your audience on the platforms that they are most comfortable with. I think this helps not only on a marketing standpoint, but also I think it improves your writing and keeps it more real. As we get older, our perspective on middle school, high school and college changes, so why not talk to the very same people you're writing for and ask them -- what are you worried about today? What is the best thing that's happened to you today? I think the answers will be inspiring, and will help keep authors in touch with how they were felt at that point in their lives.

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

Technology is important because it enables its users to access the type of information they want at an ever-increasing pace. What that means for an author is that their fan-base can decide how much or how little they want to know about an author and their books.

Sometimes I think authors are resistant to blog or tweet, or chat on Facebook because they worry that people don't really care what they're working on or what their flight to Denver was like on the way to their book signing.

But that's not something an author should worry about, because the people that follow them are doing so by choice. Your readers want to hear from you!

When evaluating whether to take on an author or book, do you ever Google them to see if they already have a web presence or platform?

We often Google perspective clients. We're always pleased to see a professional looking website, but we are also looking to make sure the author isn't a fugitive!

Can you give us an idea of what things Publishers may offer in contracts in terms of Marketing? What does the average author receive or is it different, depending on the book?

Contracts vary depending on the author and publisher. It's been my experience that debut and mid-list authors will rarely see any sort of marketing commitment in terms of dollars spent in their contracts. (One exception to this is Vanguard Publishing, whose business model is to offer a certain amount to be spent in marketing dollars instead of an advance.)

Unfortunately, most publishers have one small marketing and publicity team that handles all of the imprint's and/or publisher's books. It's impossible to buy a full page ad in the School Library Journal for every book, or to send every book to the New York Times Book Review.

So be nice to your publisher's publicist! You want them to want to help you.

Thank you Tracy for your time and advice!

Thank you Shelli.


Vivian Mahoney said...

Good advice! Thanks for another great interview.

Kelly Polark said...

Very thorough interview!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Great! Awesome interview.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Great! Awesome interview.
Thanks for the info!

Kelly H-Y said...

Fabulous advice ... thanks for the great interview!

Tess said...

Good thoughts here. I wonder how we do this with fiction, however. It seems obvious for non fiction platforms, but fiction??? Hmmm...will have to think about my manuscript....


lotusgirl said...

Fantastic interview. These are some great points to ponder and act on.

moonrat said...

tracy, everything you say is just SO RIGHT. (originally typed "so write." guess it's that, too :)

lisa and laura said...

Great info here. I love that marketing and self promotion is one part of this crazy process that we can actually control.

Danyelle L. said...

As always, wonderful questions and answers! Great interview!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I have been following Traci's blog for awhile. Thank you to both of you for this interview! Very enlightening, and some awesome information. Thank you!

Carrie Harris said...

That needlepoint example was both funny and informative! (And if anyone writes that book, I want to read it too!)

Thanks to you both for the terrific interview!

Lori Calabrese said...

Thanks for a great interview! Excellent info!

All the best,

Crystal said...

Great information! Thanks, Shelli & Tracy!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Thanks so much Tracy and Shelli for an interesting interview. One question: How important is it to have multiple networking sites? I understand the need for a web page and a blog, but, considering the time it takes to keep things up and running while still writing new material, does one need FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter and multiple blogs? If you had to choose, which would you consider most valuable for a writer? Thanks again.

Adrienne said...

Thanks for the great advice!

La Belette Rouge said...

A fantastic and informative interview. Thanks. I am off to start my memoir on my needlepointing circus life. Now that I know there is a market I am going to get cracking on it. Chapter one: The yarn of the big tent.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

tess - i think is can be applicable to nF and fiction. Just the market and channels would vary.

Tricia - the channels willl vary based on who your target market is. i always say focus on 3 different ways to hit your market - ie blog, facebook and twitter

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Fab advice! Now if I could just move from nodding my head, saying "great idea!" to actually DOING something!