Instructor Q&A: Shennandoah Goodson

“It doesn’t matter if you plan to self-publish or to go with a traditional publisher; every writer with a desire to publish a book must start marketing themselves right away, even before the book is complete.”
-Shennandoah Goodson

Shennahdoah Goodson is teaching a 4-Class Online Marketing Series for the Writers’ League of Texas starting on February 28. The classes are “Marketing Yourself to Your Audience,” “Mastering PR and Media,” “Marketing Online,” and “Marketing Beyond the Basics.”  Marketing is an essential skill for writers to learn in order to be successful in the industry; this series is designed to help writers at any stage in the writing process who want to learn more about the many different parts of marketing.
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Scribe: At what point should writers begin to concern themselves with marketing? Is this something to work on after the written piece is complete, or is it better to consider marketing as they are working on their projects?
Shennandoah Goodson: NOW!! RIGHT NOW! Marketing begins IMMEDIATELY! It doesn’t matter if you plan to self-publish or to go with a traditional publisher; every writer with a desire to publish a book must start marketing themselves right way, even before the book is complete. This is because it is important to have a built-in audience ready to go before your book hits the shelves. Traditional publishers want to see an existing fan base and network, even for first time authors. They want to know that you have skin in the game and have a chance of moving some books. Self-published authors have no choice but to market themselves, but the longer you wait to start marketing the longer you are stuck with inventory in your garage collecting dust. Did I mention you want to start marketing right way?! Just want to drive home the point!
Scribe: You mention identifying a target audience for marketing; why is it important to focus your efforts on one particular section of the market, instead of trying to reach all readers across the board?
SG: A few reasons. First, not all readers will be interested in your work. Sure, some books have mass appeal and the potential to penetrate other readerships, but most books are written for a particular genre or readership. Die-hard mystery fans tend to stick with mystery while chick lit fans rarely wander over to science fiction. We have different book categories for a reason, but it also works in your favor, as many who stick to a particular genre or style are always looking for the next book or series to fall in love with.
Second, compelling and effective marketing is focused and speaks directly to a specific target. It is impossible to be “everything to everyone.” To make a sale, you have to connect with a specific audience and make a persuasive case as to why they should read your book. To do that you have to know who they are, what they like, and why they would want to read your book.
Third, it’s safe to assume that most of the writers reading this are first time authors. It’s also safe to assume that most are not millionaires with an army of marketers at the ready. Instead they are one-man bands trying to do it all on a very tight budget and in their “free” time. You don’t want to waste your precious time and resources marketing to people who will never care about your book. When you are talking about getting the best return for your effort, it’s best to market to those who are most likely to buy.
Scribe: As part of the series, there will be an entire class dedicated to online marketing. With the wide range of social media available to writers and readers alike, do you think one platform is key above the others for a successful online presence?
SG: There is no magical social media platform that will bring home the gold. As we will discuss in class, each platform attracts more of a certain type of use, and the demographics vary from platform to platform. What matters is where your reader is at, what time and resources you have available to invest, and which platform you are comfortable using at this point in time. I often suggest starting with a single platform, but any long-term marketing strategy is going to leverage a mix of marketing techniques and platforms. Focusing on one platform long-term is a bad idea. We will discuss the demographics, expectations, investment, and skill level of each of the major platforms in class so attendees can make their own informed choices about where to spend their time. Oh, and if anyone tells you there is a silver bullet on social media, they have an agenda and it isn’t helping you do what’s right for you.
Scribe: If you could give one piece of advice to authors in regards to marketing, what would it be?
SG: You have to market, there’s no avoiding it; but it’s not the horrible thing so many writers make it out to be. So first of all, make your marketing fun! You won’t do it if it’s not fun, but honestly it is fun if your head and heart are in the right place. Marketing’s main function is to connect the writer to the reader. As a writer working in your cave alone, you’re longing for that validation that someone likes your work. You’re always bugging every friend and family member you can find to hear you out, read what you’ve got, and to be as excited about the content as you are. Marketing lets you connect with willing participants in your madness! And you don’t even have to wait for your book to publish to make that connection!
Second, get creative. I’m just one of a thousand experts giving you ideas and best practices, but when it comes to marketing there are no limits. The ones who really find success are the ones who are unique and innovative in their marketing. You don’t have to come up with someone totally new to be innovative, by the way. You just have to be fresh and interesting and different enough compared to the next gal. So be willing to experiment and even fail with your marketing. As long as you are honest, humble, and keep at it, no one will fault you or a screw up here and there. That’s how you learn.

Thanks, Shennandoah!
Click here to register for the first class in this series.
Click here for our current online class schedule.
About the Instructor
Shennandoah Goodson is Director of Marketing and Business Development for Connor Creative Co. In her many years as a PR and Marketing consultant, Shennandoah has worked with numerous authors and publishers to build successful book marketing campaigns and author platforms. A writer herself, Shennandoah is passionate about writing and books and loves empowering authors to take ownership of their book’s success.

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