|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.