As someone who used to work in marketing in the music industry, I found a lot of pleasure in following Beto O’Rourke’s grassroots campaign. Despite his loss, he still managed to build up a great foundation not just for himself but also for others, and I think that in itself is an incredible achievement.
I guess it’s no surprise that Beto used to be in a punk band because his campaign had a lot of elements of what indie musicians do to build a fanbase. It’s no surprise to me that he read Book Your Own Fucking Life back when he was a touring musician.
So, I’m writing this in the (possibly futile) hope that writers realize that they too don’t need to (and shouldn’t) rely on publishers for marketing. You can and should take your own book marketing in your own hands.
Gather people together with purpose
It’s time to rethink what exactly a book tour entails. Book readings may have had a certain importance decades ago when it was the only way to preview a book and meet other book lovers. But nowadays, we need to reconsider why we want people to gather together when we host a book-related event.
Beto’s purpose was to both introduce himself AND get to know people by listening to them. His gatherings allowed people who had the same interests to gather together and form a community. His presence–his dedication to showing up, which I’ll write about in a little while–inspired them.
When you do your book marketing, think of all the moments that you can help people gather together. What about your book can inspire them to form ties with each other? What about your book can inspire them? Instead of sitting in a bookstore to read books, maybe you could host a community meal, a spiritual service, a family activity, or a meditation session. There are so many types of gatherings, why limit yourself to just reading?
Don’t be afraid to show up
Just like Beto, you need to be present in as many gatherings as you can to show your commitment. Don’t be afraid that people won’t show up: it’s just part of the experience. A multi-platinum band that I once worked with often reminisced about their early days when they would play to zero audiences in some dingy restaurant bar. Apparently this was preferable to playing to that one guy who stands right in front of the stage with his arms crossed and a creepy half-smile.
These experiences help you learn how to improve, and with social media, it’s even a chance for you to use it as part of your travel diary, which is what Beto did.
Now: costs. Obviously, ideally, your publisher should pay for a tour as part of your book marketing, but if you can afford it, then do it. If you don’t have the financial resources, look at sponsorship opportunities and your network of friends and supporters. Beto raised money and support from people who believed in what he was doing. What are YOU and your book doing that would make people support you?
Which leads me to…
Build a support network
Share your experiences with as many people as you can, and make them part of the journey.
You can’t do it on your own, and the best way to get started with your book marketing is to help other writers with theirs. I wrote a little about Rene Denfeld in a previous post about building a network because she’s a writer who understands both helping and being helped. Rene has written about doing your best to help other writers with their book marketing, whether it’s to provide a place to stay, babysitting services, contacting venues, anything that you have the capacity to do.
The ethos of Book Your Own Fucking Life was to create a support system to prop up the indie music scene. Everyone involved had to pitch in: you couldn’t just take, you had to do something to help out others, too. The more everyone helps out, the stronger the network becomes, and the more effective marketing becomes.
No one succeeds without help from others. There is no such thing as a self-made success. If you’re interested in being part of a network, contact us here at The Unpublishables (contact[at]theunpublishables.com) and join our DIY marketing network. Let’s count on each other!