My friend Justin was my very first crush. He’s the son of my dad’s best friend. When I was 5 years old I knew I was going to marry him. Mostly because he had spiky hair and played hockey. And his sister was my BFF. Well. Fast forward 26 years. Justin is obviously not my husband. In fact, Justin is married to the cutest woman EVER and has the two cutest kids EVER (aside from my own…sorry, dude 🙂 ).
I’m telling you all this so you understand when I say Justin is the hardest working man I know. And I can say that because I’ve known him forever. He’s always working. Always networking. Always connecting. What does Justin do? He’s a ROCK STAR. That’s right. A bonafide rock star. Sweet black eye make-up and sexy microphone brandishing and everything. He’s the lead singer of Frequency 54.
I’ve watched Justin for years. Writing music. Playing music. Singing music. Promoting his music. Connecting with his fans. And now his band has inked a deal with Rat Pak Records!
I was sitting on Facebook the other morning and saw an update from Frequency 54’s band page about their upcoming tour. It hit me. Justin has been doing for years what I am having to do now: self-promotion. The music industry and the publishing industry are mirroring each other in so many ways. And hey, we’re all artists. I knew I had to talk to him. Like. NOW.
So, he was kind enough to oblige my phone call (which interrupted his dinner, sorry!) while my kids screamed in the background. He’s a family man. So he’s cool with that.
At the end of the call I realized his advice sounds familiar. Both about the process and about promotion. I’ll pass on what I learned.
We’ve all heard that before, haven’t we?
For Justin this meant marching into every single bar or venue he could think of, talking to the managers, and asking them if they wanted his band to play. For six years he did this. The band started scoring gigs and even played for free at first. The gigs got them a fan base. Those fans propelled them to higher levels. Venues wanted them to play because they brought in the people. That’s a mutually beneficial relationship right there. But, what they didn’t do was write one song and assume it was ready for a record deal. They wrote the music. They played the music. They got the fans. They put in their due time. That’s right…all before they ever had a CD to sell. And all while having day jobs.
As a writer, I can’t really march into anywhere and ask if they want me to write. It’s not that entertaining to watch. Really. But what I translated that to: Write the book. Write the blog. Participate socially. Do NOT send out unsolicited (and probably annoying) material to agents until I am ready. That’s pretty much the equivalent. I can’t march into a bar and ask if they want me to play. But I can write this blog and ask you to read it. And subscribe to it. And comment on it. Please :).
2. Be Accessible
It’s true what they say: you need to be social. Justin echoed what a lot of writing experts say everyday. Set up a Twitter account. And Facebook too. And get a blog. And read other blogs. Then…participate. Join conversations. Tell everyone you know about what you are doing. Answer questions. Reply to comments. AND–it’s not about YOU. It’s about others. So, no “poor me” posts. No “read my eBook here, here, and here!” posts. Not at first, anyhow.
“You can’t just spam people, they’ll delete you for that.”-Justin Rose
On Frequency 54’s Facebook Page, they do a question of the day. Just something to get people talking. For example, today’s question was, “This one is for the guys. What’s sexier: Thongs or Booty Shorts?” 42 comments worth of discussion ensued. Did it have anything to do with music? Nope. But it got people coming back to their page to talk.
No one wants to be hit over the head with your promotions. So change it up. It’s OK to post on Twitter something you do outside of writing. It’s OK to ask a crazy question on your Facebook page or Blog. Don’t just post links about writing all the time…your non-writer friends find that incredibly boring. It’s OK, I’ve only got about 3 of those too, but I’m going to add more. I’ve got a life outside of writing and I bet you do too. So, I’m going to try to keep it interesting going forward. Some nuggets for the writers and some nuggets for the readers. Yum. Nuggets.
3. Be Personal
When Frequency 54 was on tour a few months ago, their tour bus broke down. Justin posted a status update on his personal Facebook page and on the band’s page asking if anyone knew a good mechanic in the area. Turns out, someone did. And they helped him. If Justin and the band were no more than shameless promoters, who would have wanted to help them? Probably no one. But people feel like they know him, so they cared.
You never know who you might be connecting with and when that will come in handy, be it a broken down bus or promoting a book or recommending a great restaurant.
4. Tell everyone you know, be friends with everyone
You know your friend’s great-aunt who you met once at his 25th birthday party? And you know how she randomly friend requested you? And how you’ve been debating clicking that “accept” button? Do it. Don’t be shy. Great Aunt So-and-So might not be your target market, but she might have a niece who is. Auntie will see you talking about your YA Romance novel and think, “That Erin was a nice girl. I’m going to tell my niece about her book” or “What an awesome Christmas gift”. You just never know. Same with those high school classmates you see listed as people you might know. Or someone you’ve seen @ing with one of your followers on Twitter. Reach out. It can’t hurt.
Plus…remember how I said we’ve all got lives outside of writing? Maybe Great Aunt So-and-So’s niece has kids your kid’s age. Maybe you’ll make an actual new friend. I’m always game for a playdate for my kids. New friends are fun.
And, just to prove I’m not making it up: I think I’ve seen more of my second cousins talking on Justin’s Facebook page than on mine. He might not know my cousin Rita personally, but she is a huge fan of his. Connections are everywhere.
5. Embrace it…or not
I expressed to Justin that I had some concerns about all of this. I mean, my social media profiles have my full name. A Google search and few mouse clicks later and who knows what turns up. Pictures of my kids? Maybe. But you know what? If/when my book gets published, my name is out there. Life will be an open book. Justin said, “You can embrace that or not. I chose to embrace it.”
I took that as my official permission to channel my inner rock star. Embrace this. Own it. “Making it big” might be a huge pipe dream, but less so if I work for it. So…here’s to diving in. Crowd surfing, anyone?