digital marketing for writers

Going Viral: Marketing and Promotion in the Digital Age

The one thing I hate is showing up lookin’ to’e up from the flo’ up. This thought bounced around in my head as I ran toward the Tampa Convention Center on a sunny, windy Friday morning. One hand on my hair; the other working hard to contain my pink feather boa that whipped like a flag in the fierce wind.

I sped into the Tampa Convention Center entrance picking feathers out of my teeth, only to find that Panel 115 was in Marriott Florida Room 6. I was late.

I open the door, and the cold wind wrapped its chilly arms around me. I run back toward the street. A girl in a red shirt blocks my path.

“Aw, come on,” she said. “I know you want to help the small children learn to read.”

I run past the girl before she finished her sentence. I had to be on time. I hate showing up late in the feathers. At the Marriott I take the steps as quick as my “Jesus Sandals” will allow. I take a second to check my hair and feathers before I enter.

There was no excuse to show up anywhere looking ugly—The Boa Flouncer, my alter ego’s motto.

I open the door and enter the room. I gasp. Every seat is empty. I take a quick look at my phone. I am ten minutes early.

I choose a seat near the front of the room. I remove paper and pen from my AWP bag, then adjust my feather boa. My love for feather boas started in 2008 after I wore one for the first time in a production of the play Hats. I played the role of Duchess, a sassy diva who strutted red heels and lived life on her terms. Shortly after that production, I created an author fan page on Facebook. I had very little information for daily posts on my new page, so I developed the sassy talking Boa Flouncer who strutted in high heels and wore feather boas. The development of the Boa Flouncer page was one reason I wanted to attend the panel Going Viral: Marketing and Promotion in the Digital Age.

The panelists—Ron Mitchell, KMA Sullivan, Kristine Somerville, Marie Gauthier and Chris Maccini—started a discussion on goals, a definition of social media platforms, and how to use social media.

Having goals are important as an author creates her social media plan.

As Chris Maccini, of Willow Springs magazine, discusses his digital media goals, he starts by first answering the question: What is the purpose of digital media? For Willow Springs, the goals are:

  1. Sell magazines
  2. Get more submissions
  3. Reach a broader audience
  4. Increase visibility

All the panelists agreed that setting goals for your book was essential to managing your social media platforms. According to Maccini, digital media doesn’t sell magazines, but it does help achieve the goals he set for his publication. He uses mini-author interviews as one way to engage the social media audience.

Kristine Somerville, marketing coordinator of the Missouri Review, said maximizing money spent on advertising is her goal. She learned some basic graphic design techniques, which eliminated the expense of a graphic design artist for advertising.

KMA Sullivan provided pointers on individual social media platforms.

  •  Twitter is conversational. Direct self-promotion isn’t helpful.
  • Facebook and Instagram are visual. The changes in Facebook include more insistence for users to buy ads and less visibility.

Other tips: consistency and responsiveness. Panelists also discussed the importance of having a website, and they stressed that authors should think of their book as a product.

I left the panel feeling that my use of the Boa Flouncer to promote my writing is valuable.

As the panelists shared, it is difficult to quantify the value of social media work. Even though you can track the number of people reached or how many people viewed something, it is difficult to quantify the building of relationships. The panelists advocate being genuine in your digital marketing and use a combination of face-to-face and virtual engagement.

I flounce my boa at you!

Katrina Byrd

Katrina Byrd is a student in the Low Residency Creative Writing MFA Program at the Mississippi University for Women. Katrina is a writer and playwright who has received four Artist Minigrants from the Mississippi Arts Commission. Several of her short plays have been performed locally and several of her short stories have appeared in Inflight Literary Magazine, Black Magnolias Literary Magazine and Monkeycyle Literary Magazine.

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