Market. A word which, to me, evokes pleasant mental images of brown paper shopping bags and fat, ripe tomatoes and the loaves of fresh bread I buy down at the little grocery by the park.
Marketing. A word which has always made my blood pressure increase – particularly once I realized it was part of my job as a writer!
When you start trying to get a book published, you hear a lot about marketing. You hear that you need to develop a platform, create an online presence, and turn your very name into a brand that consumers will want to buy. It was a foreign, scary world to me when I started out, and in many ways it continues to be.
So let me share with you the best marketing decision I've made, and it's an easy one for writers – Go to the library.
Over two years ago, shortly after Livvie Owen Lived Here was released, I was browsing the shelves at my local library and I thought to pop up to the youth floor. I wasn't thinking about marketing, or connecting with librarians, or finding readers for my novel. I was thinking about the approach of November, and with it NaNoWriMo, and how this was the first year I wouldn't be teaching public school – and, as such, wouldn't have a class of captive NaNo-Novelists writing alongside me. I figured there had to be children hanging out at the library who would like to participate in a writing project, so I asked the librarian whether she would mind if I led a NaNo group during the month of November.
Two and a quarter years later, my little class of four writers – except we've grown to eleven and counting – continues to meet once a week. We write novels and short stories, poems and songs. We read, critique, revise. We set goals and enter contests. We name each others' characters. We laugh and throw paper and generally make entirely too much noise to belong in a library. It's the brightest part of my week. Even when I'm in the worst kind of writing slump, the kids can snap me out of it, inspiring me to return to my desk, to continue to create.
The thing I didn't realize about starting the class, though, was that in connecting with the library, I was connecting to a great source of publicity for my novels. The wonderful staff at the library recommend my books to readers and parents. They put me in touch with teachers who need speakers for their classrooms. They host launch events for my novels. They schedule me to give presentations during area literary events. They spread the word.
And the best part? It's all just as easy and as pleasant as buying tomatoes at the local market. After all, I'm a writer. Where else would I rather be but in the library?