Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Marketing Lessons Learned at the 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers' Conference

The 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference was held this past Saturday, and all of the sessions were fantastic. Since the November blog theme is marketing, however, this post will focus on those parts of the conference that addressed that issue.

The second session of the day included a workshop on “Marketing Your Book” presented by Carla Suson. Here are a few of the highlights.

·       Have a marketing plan in place before your book comes out. The plan shouldn’t be limited to what you are going to do but should also say when you are going to do it. For example, schedule when you will send galleys to major reviewers.

·       Before the book launches, gather information on potential publicity outlets. This includes radio shows, newspapers, newsletters, magazines, niche markets, e-mail lists you have gathered from your website or from book fairs, and blog tour sites.

·       A website is essential. If you only plan on writing one book, the website should be for that book. If you have multiple publications, the website should focus on you with your books included as secondary information.

·       Choose your social media deliberately and post information selectively. Social media is good for celebrating milestones, achievements, and connections but hard sales tactics backfire.

·       Identify the national days and months that relate to your book and put them on your marketing calendar. Then write a relevant blog post for each one. See the note below for some examples.

Keynote speaker Cathy Day talked about literary citizenship, where writers benefit by cooperating rather than competing. Be interested in what other people are doing. Interview other writers for your blog or an online or print magazine. If you want authors to recommend and review your books, then you must do the same for them. If you want to be published in print journals, become a subscriber. If you want people to buy your books, then buy books yourself. As Cathy Day kept repeating, be interested in what other people are doing. Or, to sum it up in words she didn’t use, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

IWC expects more great marketing advice at next year’s Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference.

See you there.


You can find a list of national days and months at, and something is sure to apply to your projects. Are you writing a romance novel set at a lighthouse? August 7 is National Lighthouse Day. Did you publish a children’s picture book about friends splashing in puddles after the rain? January 11 is National Step in the Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day. And we can all celebrate National Books Lovers Day (August 7), National Get Caught Reading Month (May), and National Book Month (October).

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