Terry Helwig: One Author’s Adventures in Social Media Book Marketing

True or False: Marketing a book is a grueling chore.

You already know this is a trick question, don’t you? The answer? True for some. False for others. Some people love to meet other people and share stories with them. They draw energy from their readers and look for innovative ways to meet more of them at less cost.

One such author is Terry Helwig whose new award-winning memoir was reviewed here by guest blogger Lanie Tankard a few weeks ago. Terry graciously agreed to share her experience of book touring. Below is her story in her own words.

With the downturn in the economy and the upsurge of e-books, book marketing is rapidly changing for authors—especially new authors. Instead of paying for airline tickets, hotels and transfers, many publishers are turning to radio media tours and social media to

Moonlight on Linoleum

promote new releases.  My recent book tour to promote Moonlight on Linoleum: A Daughter’s Memoir was a combination of both the old book tour (flying and driving) and the virtual book tour (staying put).

While I traveled to several states to promote Moonlight on Linoleum, released October 4th by Simon & Schuster, I undoubtedly reached more people in a single day on a radio media tour while sitting at my dining room table. Wearing a headset, I talked to 19 radio stations in 16 states over the course of eight hours.  The taped and live interviews, ranging from ten to thirty minutes, took place with an array of radio hosts from syndicated NPR programs to morning talk show hosts, the most memorable being Bulldog, Jeff, the Dude who hosts Rude Awakening.

While this service is far from free, it was much more cost effective than flying me to 16 states.  My publisher hired Auritt Communications Group to set up the radio media tour.  A kind, calm-voiced operator, Anna, guided me through the entire day.  She patched me into one radio station after another, told me when to hold, and when to hang up and take a quick break. She listened to every interview, hearing similar answers to oft repeated questions like: How did you come up with your title Moonlight on Linoleum?  What do your sisters think about the book?  Was it hard for you to relive some of the more traumatic moments?  Anna surprised me when she remarked half-way through the day, “I’m going to buy your book; it sounds so interesting.”  It occurred to me that Anna and I had bonded—not face-to-face—but virtually.

In addition to the radio media tour, my publisher touts the value of social media (Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, Skype, YouTube, blogging, a website, etc.) to promote books.  Simon & Schuster offers its authors exclusive Social Media Tutorials on its Author Portal site.  I had already created a website www.terryhelwig.com and a Facebook fan page for Moonlight on Linoleum, but GoodReads, Skype and Twitter were still unexplored frontiers.

My publisher gave 50 advance reader copies (ARCs) of Moonlight on Linoleum to GoodReads to give away to its members.  This helped readers become aware of my book months before it was publicly released.  I have no doubt the favorable reviews created a buzz for the book, helping it to become one of GoodReads October 2011 Movers and Shakers.  Even without a give-away, a Simon & Schuster tutorial encourages its authors to sign up for a GoodReads author account.

Another Simon & Schuster tutorial explains how to set up a Twitter account.  Within an hour, I was tweeting from @TerryHelwig.  I enjoy tweeting.  Creating a succinct message in 140 characters is a challenge and helps hone my writing skills.  Plus, I like giving a nod to worthwhile organizations, authors, and bookstores.  When I was on book tour in Atlanta, I stopped into Charis, an independent bookstore.  The store was pleased that I tweeted a

signing books at Charis Books, sent first in a tweet

picture of me signing their stock and mentioning the name and location of their store.  When I tweeted about being in Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books, five people showed up because they had read my tweet the night before.  Twitter proved to be a fast and efficient way to communicate information about my book.

Now, a month after Moonlight on Linoleum’s release, I hope to settle in and learn how to Skype so I can video chat with book clubs in November.  I like the idea of sitting at home, wearing my favorite pair of fuzzy socks, and talking to my readers in rural and metropolitan communities around the country.  I can interact with many more people because I don’t have to hurry to catch a plane afterward.  Instead, I can click off the computer and slip into my own bed—which could be my favorite perk of a virtual book tour.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Have any book tour experiences to share either as a reader or author? Book club members, what do you think of the Skype idea? Have you ever used technology to talk directly to authors?

 

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About Shirley Hershey Showalter

Author of memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. Blogging about Magical Memoir Moments and Jubilación -- vocation in the second half of life.
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11 Responses to Terry Helwig: One Author’s Adventures in Social Media Book Marketing

  1. Lots of great ideas here. Thanks for sharing, Terry! I am a ways behind you in the publishing process, but I just wrote a post on the importance of being willing to market yourself as an author. I am looking forward to being creative and taking advantage of technology like you are.

  2. Terry Helwig says:

    Emma, the idea of using this technology for writing and publishing would have seemed like “science fiction” to me ten years ago. I think it’s important to keep up with current technology so we don’t get left behind. It will be interesting to see the changes that come about in writing and publishing in the next decade.

  3. Your interview tour sound fascinating, and your “guide” was an angel. I especially like the Skype idea for book clubs. That’s a great reason to write a book that will appeal to book clubs. Any advice on how to connect with that circuit?

  4. Grace says:

    Congrats, Terry on your book’s success. I’m not much of a traveler so the idea of using the computer to promote my [not yet published] memoir sounds ideal. I’ll have to bookmark this post and come back to it. Now I think I’ll head over to GoodReads.

  5. shirleyhs says:

    Emma, Grace, Sharon, and Terry. Thanks for the comments. Terry, you are so generous to share what you learned from Simon & Schuster with other writers. Clearly, there are still many advantages in going with a major publisher. I’m thrilled to be part of a writing community that shares knowledge as it emerges. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

  6. Linda Gartz says:

    So much to learn here. Now I’d like to know how she got her publisher, who’s helping her along with all this.

    • shirleyhs says:

      I can’t answer that question, Linda. But I’ll offer this space to Terry again if she wants to go even further behind the curtain with us. It’s so helpful when authors share their secrets. But, of course, no one writer’s path is exactly the same as another’s.

      • Linda Gartz says:

        So true, but it’s always helpful to find out the path that various writers’ take, because a little take-away from each helps other writers create their own paths. If Terry is willing to address some of those hurdles, it would be so helpful. Thanks for the great post.

  7. shirleyhs says:

    I sent along your request to Terry, Linda. We’ll see if she’s willing and respect her choice if she isn’t. I love your tenacity.

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