Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Targeting Readers with a Traveling Show

On my book tour, friends invited their friends to parties and threw me into the mix as an attraction.
Photo by Cara Lopez Lee
Before I landed a publisher, I established a platform for my memoir, They Only EatTheir Husbands (Conundrum Press, 2014). In fact, my original publisher said my platform was part of what decided him to sign me—on top of my killer manuscript of course. My book was about my life and loves in Alaska and my solo trek around the world, with a theme of moving from dysfunctional relationships to self-actualization. Successful entrepreneurs have taught me the importance of focusing on a narrow target market rather than trying to appeal to everyone. My goal for my memoir has been to target readers interested in: travel, women’s empowerment, alcoholism, and abusive relationships.

I’ve sought to achieve that goal through less conventional events and tours. In that vein, I started Girls Trek Too, which was both an adventure blog and a series of independent-travel workshops. Girls Trek Too helped establish me as a travel expert.

Before and after my book’s release, I posted travel stories on the Girls Trek Too blog about once a week, attracting a small but significant following. I also wrote guest posts for other travel blogs and offered adventurers the opportunity to do the same at my blog. Now that I have more name recognition, I’ve rebranded my blog under Cara Lopez Lee in preparation to market my historical novel.

Offline, I’ve led independent travel workshops at REI outlets around the West, given travel-photo presentations at a travel-gear store called Changes in Latitude (which specializes in such talks), and given travel-writing workshops for literary organizations. Those have provided great opportunities to sell books.

On the subjects of abusive relationships and women’s empowerment, I’ve written guest posts for bloggers who specialize in women’s issues. During my book tour, I partnered with a couple of women’s organizations to give talks and donated half my proceeds to their causes in return for them helping me promote the events. That made it easier to convince booksellers and others to take a chance on a new author, and helped me drum up attendance.

In Seattle, I gave a talk at Third Place Books and donated proceeds to New Beginnings, a domestic violence shelter. That event landed me a guest spot on New Day Northwest, a local TV talk show, where the host was interested in domestic violence issues.

I also did a national radio tour. I was lucky to have a friend at a media relations firm who was kind enough to schedule a tour of about 20 radio shows and podcasts. A few shows focused on travel or women’s issues. A paid tour like that would typically be out of my price range. However, I’ll bet a few of the show hosts and producers would have responded if I had approached them on my own.

I find it important to create events that play to my skill set. I’m at my best with intimate groups when it comes to public speaking, so on my book tour I set up stops with friends who invited their friends to parties and threw me into the mix as an attraction. Those parties were fun and successful. I sold lots of books to people who were genuinely interested in my story because the friends of my friends were likeminded people.

My physical tour was a four-week, solo, low-budget driving tour across the West, staying in hostels, and couch-surfing. That was a great tie-in for my memoir, which also featured a solo budget trek. I kept a journal of the tour and shared it on my blog. In that way, my book tour became another armchair adventure to capture readers’ imaginations.

I’ve also done traditional author promotions: posting on literary blogs, talking at book stores, teaching writing workshops, and networking on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Instagram. Whatever I’m doing, I focus largely on targeted subjects that fit the themes of my writing. Since my writing reflects my life, it’s not difficult.

My advice to writers who are nervous about marketing is to find aspects of your book that reveal your areas of expertise beyond creative writing. Then find the tribe who seeks your expertise: talk to them, write to them, and hang out with them. Marketing success is built on relationships, especially for authors. What more intimate relationship is there than that between a writer and reader? I’ve built my platform on a sincere desire to reach out to audiences I believe will benefit most from the stories I share.

Cara Lopez Lee is the author of the memoir They Only Eat Their Husbands. Her stories have appeared in such publications as The Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Connotation PressRivet Journal, and Pangyrus. She’s a book editor, a writing coach, and a faculty member at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She was a journalist in Alaska and North Carolina, and a writer for HGTV and Food Network. An avid traveler, she has explored twenty countries and most of the fifty United States. She and her husband live in Denver.

9 comments :

  1. Wow, Cara ... that is some impressive activity! My platform is more like the deck on the back of my house ... rotted and shaky. Oh and the Alaska thing ... that's impressive too ... Homey don't go north of the 45th parallel.

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    1. You always make me laugh, Christopher. Actually, I've been all the way to Point Barrow in the Arctic, northernmost point on North America, to see the last sunset of the year before 2 months of darkness.

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  2. Thanks for some terrific marketing tips, Cara. I think finding the niche for your work is so important, and yours is a natural. I think it is harder for those of us who don't have such a definitive focus for our books. Mystery is so general. LOL

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    1. Indeed, that did occur to me, Maryann. I have noticed that some mystery authors have a research niche, but for most I'm sure it's not that simple. However, the parties that friends threw that featured me as a guest speaker were a lot of fun and that's something that required day no niche.

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  3. Finding a niche is crucial to selling a memoir. A friend of mine, Marti MacGibbon self-published her memoir, Never Give Into Fear, relating her experiences as an addict and victim of sex trafficking. As a comedian, she writes with humor about horrific circumstances. It has launched her into speaking around the country about the danger of sex trafficking including Washington DC. She never imagined where her project would take her. A memoir that touches on larger themes has a better chance than most and can lead to unexpected opportunities. A good memoir has the power to move others,change their thinking, teach, advocate, and/or inspire.

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    1. We'll said, Diana! What a fascinating topic for a memoir. Wish I could do comedy. Sometimes I'm funny. But now and then a joke falls flat - in my books, I can always rewrite them. :)

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    2. It is a specific skill set, just watch Last Comic Standing. Not all jokes fly. :)

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  4. You touched a nerve, Cara, if we but listen and take to heart the essence of what you are saying. Thinking outside the box is a must, as well as taking creativity to the next level. I was thinking about what Maryann said regarding mysteries and can't help but wonder if some other element of the story might open a marketing door or two. What if a major player is a single mom, a senior citizen, works on a dude ranch, has escaped an abusive mate, or is an identical twin who has lost touch with her sister? What potential audiences beyond mystery lovers might be interested in the book? Great post, by the way.

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    1. Good thinking, Linda. I hadn't spent as much time thinking about the mystery/thriller/suspense genres. It's also time to put on my thinking cap for my historical novel.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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