Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tips from a publicist--of sorts: Kathy Richards

If Kathy "Katdish" Richards believes in someone, she really gets the word out. And she believes in Billy Coffey. Actually, I don't know who I met first, her or Billy. She's been effectively promoting him, his blog and his book for over a year now, but she's hesitant to call herself a publicist. She's just a woman who's excited about a writer she believes in.~~~

When Linda asked me to write a guest post about marketing, I immediately agreed because I am spontaneous and generally agreeable. (Okay, maybe a bit more of the former than the latter.) Then it occurred to me that I am certainly no expert on the subject. What Billy Coffey and I have done over the past year has been a learning experience for both of us. For me to write an article about the Dos and Don’ts of promoting an author online is a challenge, because I don’t follow the rules. I follow my instinct. Which is not to say I break any rules, I’ve just sort of made them up as we went along. But maybe what I’ve learned can help someone else out there. I certainly hope so.

What I share with you comes not from the perspective of a writer, but from a person who has a passion for helping writers share their stories with the rest of the world.

I don’t need to tell you the importance of marketing yourself and building your platform. If you don’t believe me, simply refer back to your stack of rejection letters from agents and publishers. Oh, I know—the writing should speak for itself. After all, you’re a writer, not a spokesperson. If you’re willing to take your stand and die upon that hill, stop reading now.

Still here? Okay, good. It’s time for me to make a few assumptions.

Assumption One: You have a blog or (preferably) a website. How’s that working for you? Do you have an “About” page? If people take the time to visit your site, there should be a place where they can get to know you as a person, not just as a writer. Who are your readers? If the bulk of your readers are other writers, you may have a tendency to write about writing. And while a regular post about writing is certainly not a bad thing, your website should be primarily a place to spotlight your talent as a writer, not a how-to guide for other writers. (Unless of course, it’s specifically designed for that.) All writers are readers, but not all readers are writers. Don’t limit your audience.

Assumption Two: You have Twitter and Facebook accounts and you are interacting with people online on a regular basis. This does not mean sharing your latest blog post with your friends and followers and then logging out. Talk to people. Engage in conversations. Don’t wait for someone to talk to you, jump in. Promote others before you promote yourself. People will care more about you if they know you care about them. If all you ever do is promote yourself and your own projects, that is a huge turn off for most folks. A word of caution: social media sites can be a huge distraction and time waster. Limit your time there. Your writing should be your first priority.

Assumption 3: You are not trying to do this by yourself. Have you developed relationships online with people who seem to be connected with a wider and more diverse audience? Are they regular readers of yours? Do they support what you’re doing? Ask them for help. Connectors can be invaluable allies in your career as a writer. A true connector who is willing to help you doesn’t need much instruction on how to promote you. It’s second nature to them. If they believe in what you’re doing, they will convince others to believe in you as well.

If you are like many writers I know, much of this talk of self promotion and marketing flies in the face of your introverted nature at best, and at worst may make you feel like you’re a complete sell out. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to compromise your integrity in order to effectively market yourself. Above all, be true to yourself and your craft. Your current and future audience will appreciate your honesty and will reward you with their loyalty.

Kathy Richards (aka katdish) is not a writer, but she plays one on the internet. You can find her most days at her website Hey, Look! A Chicken! or giving unsolicited advice on twitter at She also designed and manages what she thinks is just about the best author website on the internet, What I Learned Today.

When asked to describe her working relationship with author Billy Coffey, she best describes it as follows: "I am Chloe O'Brien to Billy Coffey's Jack Bauer. If you're not a fan of 24, this will make absolutely no sense to you. If you are a 24 fan, it should be noted that Billy does not scream profanity-laced demands at me like Jack does to Chloe. Much."

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