Monday, June 14, 2010

If you're gonna do it, do it right
(right, Bill Cameron?)

On Saturday, I got to meet mystery author Bill Cameron.

It was a dignified gathering of two professionals discussing important things like smelly naked people on bicycles writing craft and publication.

I bought several of his books for myself and friends – including new release DAY ONE – and Bill kindly signed them for me there at Murder by the Book in Portland, OR.
Me with Bill Cameron (and yes, I do notice the camera flash apparently made my top semi-transparent. Classy. I tried to Photoshop it, but it made me look like I had a mutant nipple.)
What fascinates me is that this meeting would not have taken place without social media. In fact, I might not have bought Bill’s books at all.

This has been on my mind a lot in the wake of recent online discussion about the value of social media like Twitter and Facebook for authors. First came Chip Macgregor’s post discussing whether these tools are a worthy use of authors’ time. Then there was Maureen Johnson’s post on how some authors believe “branding” means smacking people on the forehead with your book until they fall to their knees and beg for the throbbing to stop.

Both make some terrific points.

Prior to my recent three-book deal, I spent the last 10+ years working in marketing and corporate communications, which means I’m as full of hot air as the next guy I have a decent grasp on the principles of marketing.

Here’s one: it typically takes seven points of contact to prompt a consumer to act. That means you have to see the bologna commercial seven times before you get off your sofa and trudge to the local market for some wholesome meaty goodness.

I believe it.

I’ve been a devout reader of Janet Reid’s blog for eons, and since she’s Bill Cameron’s agent, I’ve heard a lot about his books over the years. I always meant to read them. I even added one to my Amazon cart once.

But I didn’t make the purchase. Maybe I’m lazy, maybe I’m easily distracted. Probably both.

What prompted me to buy Bill’s first book was simple – I followed him on Twitter. He followed me back. We swapped some 140-character tweets about bacon and murder.

And suddenly, he went from being a nameless author to someone I knew.

That’s the idea behind social media. People want to conduct business with someone they consider a friend.

Within a few days of that first contact, I hustled out and got Bill’s first two books – LOST DOG and CHASING SMOKE – and sent him a quick tweet asking which I should read first.

And get this – he replied within a few minutes.

A far cry from the days I licked stamps and crossed my fingers the author of TRIXIE BELDEN would respond to my fan letter before the time came for me to select a retirement home.

Bill Cameron never once told me to buy his books. He never put me in a headlock and forced me to listen to a detailed description of his branding strategy.

He was just a funny, engaging guy who made the effort to connect. That’s how social media should work.

Regardless of what stage you’re at in your writing career – whether you’re querying agents or peddling your twelfth bestseller – there’s a lesson in there.

Be friendly. Be real. Engage with agents and editors and potential readers in online communities in ways that show you would do so even if you didn’t want something from them. Remember it's a dialogue and not your personal soapbox.

Oh, and since Bill Cameron is too gracious to give you the hard sell, allow me. His books are amazing. Stop whatever you’re doing now and go get one. I loved LOST DOG, am devouring CHASING SMOKE, and can’t wait to read my new copy of DAY ONE.

Buy now. Don’t make me use the headlock.

31 comments :

Debra L. Schubert said...

I know someone else you met b/c of Twitter *grin*.

Bill's great, and I love Janet Reid almost more than life itself. This is a great post (as always!) on why social networking works. We become "friends" and when you're friends, you care about each other and deeply wish for each others' success. It's simple, really. Be friendly. Be yourself. Help others along their path. And HAVE FUN!!!

Linda G. said...

I am SO JEALOUS right now. A double-whammy, too. I'm jealous that you got to meet Bill, and I'm jealous that he got to meet you. Yup, there's a great big jealousy stereo blasting in G-ville today. *sigh*

But I suppose I can find a smidgen of grudging happiness on behalf of each of you. If I dig reeeally deep. :)

(Oh, and I'm STILL waiting on a response to my TRIXIE BELDEN fangirl letter. Don't hold your breath.)

Jen J. said...

Holy smokes... TRIXIE BELDEN... now there's a blast from my past! Thanks for the good memory that revived. :)

And thanks for the rec of both Bill and his writing. I need to look into his books and I've already followed him on Twitter. He sounds like quite a character and that's a good thing in my mind.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I totally agree! I bought books from authors for the same reason--because I really liked them as a person after getting to know them thru their blogs or twitter--not because they hawked their books to me.

Bill Cameron said...

I'm so glad we got to meet and discuss the business of naked—er, publishing. And stuff. The pink wine was much appreciated. Let us not discuss the condition of my head, though. Still, I have learned a new phrase: pink wine hangover, which sounds much more benign than it is. Ow.

Danica Avet said...

I've experienced this myself. I'd seen a book advertised through Amazon for ages but it didn't flip my switch. Then I started following the author on Twitter, just out of curiosity. After a week or two of reading her Tweets and blog, I had to get the book. And loved it. I think social media helps the masses find those whoses voices they like whether it's wise or snarky (Hello, I'd be snarky and perverted, yet wise *cough*). It's great stuff.

Jayne said...

Hello Tawna! Mutant nipple aside (hee!), that's a great photo, and I really enjoying reading this post. I think you've hit the nail on the head with how social media should be used for potential authors and published folk - definitely being personable is the way forward, as opposed to the head-lock. :)

Candyland said...

Great point. Being real is the single best quality I love in an author, and really anyone. It takes them from "unattainable" to "friend." And I love to support my friends.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I can definitely understand this - I'm not a big YA reader. I mean, I really enjoy the genre, but when I have some extra money, I usually head over to the fantasy/scifi section. However, there've been lots of YA authors online doing reviews, and there are more YA books in my To Be Read pile than there were before, because multiple writers have done reviews on the books. Having a solid memory or image to lock onto when you pick up a book and see the author's name definitely helps. :)

Dawn said...

I think social media has facilitated many great experiences like you're described and in some ways tightened the circle of writers. Everyone feels more accessible. Thank you for sharing.

Tawna Fenske said...

Debra, did you and I meet? That evening is a little fuzzy to me, what with the wine and all :)

Linda G, someday, we too shall meet. And it will be a terrifying day for our lovely agent.

Jen J, you know, I never did get a response to my TRIXIE BELDEN fangirl letter. Bitch.

Jennifer, it really does make a difference, doesn't it? When you can get to know an author's "voice" first, it's great motivation to take the plunge and buy the book.

Bill, this is one of the proudest moments of my life, knowing I cursed you with a pink wine hangover. My work here is done.

Danica, glad to hear I'm not the only one who failed to follow through on intended book purchases and finally flipped the switch based on Twitter. It's an amazing tool, isn't it?

Jayne, the headlock does have its place, of course. Count on me to use it at future book signings if people fail to make a purchase.

Candyland, amen to this: "It takes them from 'unattainable' to 'friend.' And I love to support my friends." Exactly!

Bethany Elizabeth, you're totally right -- I'm not normally a huge fan of straight-up mysteries, which was probably why I never got around to buying Bill's books at first. But now that I've been reading them, I'm totally in love with everything he writes. I never would have known that without Twitter!

Dawn, I suppose I might someday curse the whole accessibility thing if I end up an international bestseller with stalkers camping outside my house, but since the odds of that are fairly slim, I'm glad to have the opportunity.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Mother Hen said...

I think you make a very good point about it not being who you know but how you chat them up! Social networking is key. You must have the knack- well done. I'll put Bill's books on my Must Read List. Thanks

Jason said...

Tawna - for what it's worth, your reasons for reading Bill are the exact ones I have for checking out your books... Your genre isn't one I typically give a second glance to, but through your blogging and Twittering, I feel like I'll enjoy them.

Christi Goddard said...

I concur that I would have never heard of many books if not for the writing community on blogger. Authors who have their own pretty websites, that's all well and good, I've one, too, but I go to their blog 100X more often than their websites. It does something for the esteem to be able to say "ZOMG HE TALKED TO ME!!!" Something I still brag about 10 years later after getting a letter from Koontz. See? I did it again.

Dr. Goose said...

I'm going to buy your book and give them out as Christmas presents. Seriously. Can you sign them for me before you hit it big and no longer have time? Tell me you will still have time for your original fans.

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Tawna, this is a great piece. I completely agree. Only you can decide if your time in the social media network is worthwhile. When we've managed to have a few names we worship following us on our blog or twitter, Martina and I can't stop smiling and pinching ourselves. Then recently, we've been graced by wonderful authors, agents, and so forth contributing to our blog in different ways. I can't tell you what an amazing feeling that is! How else would that kind of connection exist?

Thanks for this post!
Marissa

Terry Stonecrop said...

The blogosphere is fun. I'm not sold on Twitter and Facebook. But I can tell you Bill Cameron's, Day One, is a great read!

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

I do feel like the people I've connected with via social networking are my friends. Some find that strange (my hubby for example). But I don't. There's a real connection. Sometimes it's instant, other times it takes a while to build. But I truly and sincerely want these people to succeed. I'm cheering for them. And if I ever got the chance to meet them in person, I would jump at it.

Simon C. Larter said...

Hell to the yes. See, despite being a noob in the writing world, and a relative noob at teh social mediaz, I know fine well I'm more likely to spend my hard-earned money (that doesn't go toward alcohol or the mortgage) on people I actually like. If I can get people to like me (or at the very least think I'm vaguely entertaining), then perhaps when I finally have a product to sell, I won't HAVE to go the brand-beating route.

And Bill's books have been so well reviewed by a number of my friends that it's pretty much guaranteed I'll buy one soon, despite have not ONCE in my life picked up a mystery novel (outside of Ludlum and Clancy, who're technically thriller writers, yeah? Yeah.).

Social media FTW, is all.

pseudosu said...

I too, have had twitter contact with Mr Bill-- although it probably wasn't memorable at all for him. I was THRILLED when he laughed at a fake Christmas letter post I did once, and won a copy of his book for it.

I LOVE twitter for meeting all kinds of funny interesting writers and all around cool people.

btw-- yep-- works now. :)

Patty Blount said...

Great post, Tawna! I started with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter because I was pretty much forced into it for my day job as a software technical writer. It took only a few months for my personal use of social networks to take off - I have two twitter accounts and two blogs.

I'm so grateful to the twitter techies who connected me to all of you (and you know who you are!) Especially, Jeff Somers. Truth be told, I'd have walked past Jeff's books in Borders had I NOT followed him on Twitter and enjoyed his wit, his pantless adventures and of course, his banter with Sean Ferrell.

I CANNOT wait for July, when both are reading in NYC - I will have them trapped -er, I mean, I will get to meet them both!

I'm a Romance girl, myself, so Jeff's Avery Cates novels would not have been my cup of tea (or bar of chocolate) if I'd had only back cover copy to go by. Following him on Twitter led me to his blog, which is hilarious, which led me to a text adventure game (I never did figure it out) and that, finally, convinced me to buy his books. I've read books 1, 2 and 3 twice!

Yeah, they're that good.

I eagerly await Sean's debut novel in August, as well. Sean's blog is brilliant, so I know "Numb" will be, too.

trishaleighkc said...

Excellent post, Tawna, and I agree with you whole-heartedly. I read Bill's books for the same reason, and also purchased Courtney Summers two novels.

It of course goes without saying that I will be in line for yours as well.

Jo Schaffer said...

Good points here. And I checked the links out. Thanks for sharing. (=

Claire Dawn said...

I second it all!

That's why I believe in blogging. It's a conversation, not one way comms, like the old marketing stuff. And it definitely makes me feel connected.

There are several pre-pubbed authors who I follow on here, and I'll be the first in line for their books. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I read a romance novel (probably Bridget Jones), but that does not mean that I will not be beating people with a salami to get my hands on yours!

Susan Adrian said...

Yay for Bill AND you!!!

And Twitter, of course.

And Trixie Belden, which I ADORED.

Harley May said...

Yes, Bill is a social networking god. I'm so glad you got to meet him and I hope you gave him the noogie I asked you to give.

Steve Stubbs said...

I don’t know you from Trixie Belden but you do such a wonderful job of bringing your personality through in your page layout and writing than I find myself feeling really good you are having such success as a writer. That seems worth saying because it is undoubtedly the reason you are having such success with social networking. May it translate into success with the reading public as well.

As for the headlock, I’d love to, but I live too far from Oregon.

Tawna Fenske said...

Mother Hen, you'll have to report back and let us know how you like Bill's books!

Jason, wha-? You're not an avid reader of the romance genre? How could that be?!

Christi, I'm the same way with Jennifer Crusie! I go out of my way to write blog comments I think might stand a chance of prompting a response from her :)

Dr. Goose, you will be dead to me once I hit it big. Wait, you're pretty much dead to me now.

Marissa, isn't it amazing the people you can connect with online? I'm glad you're having such success!

Terry, I was pretty skeptical about Twitter at first, but I'm a huge fan now. As a business tool it's pretty amazing.

Elizabeth, you're totally right about the beauty of cheering each other on. I love the supportive nature of the online writing community!

Simon, don't worry, I still think you're a noob.

Pseudosu, yaay! You can finally make a comment! Thanks for the tip on switching the comments to popup, by the way. Worked like a charm!

Patty, Jeff Somers is next in my TBR pile!

Trishaleighkc, thanks for the reminder to add Courtney Summers to my list as well.

Jo, weren't those other blog posts interesting? I think we're all saying the same thing, essentially -- just be smart about how you use social media.

Claire Dawn, the thing I look forward to most of all isn't my book release. It's seeing you beat people with that salami.

Susan, all this talk of Trixie is now making me want to go get my hands on her books all over again!

Harley, you'll have to ask Bill if I gave him the noogie :)

Steve, aw, thanks! I'll give you a raincheck for the headlock. Next time you're in Oregon, give me a call.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks Tawna for this post. One of the interesting things about marketing and communications work is the subtlety aspect to it. You summed up very well the way this whole wing-bang SHOULD work.

Joelle said...

Dang, I've only been on Twitter hiatus for about 12 hours and you're weakening my resolve! I also met Bill through Janet on Twitter and guess what? He came to MY signing and bought MY book! And he was so unassuming that when I asked him to write his name in my notebook (I have to see people's names before I can write them myself), he just smiled and wrote Bill Cameron. And I read it and then I totally freaked. OMG! Rock Star Author wants me to sign a book for HIM???? He was so nice, although we didn't get much chance to talk. Next time I'm in Portland, the three of us will have to get together and have some veggie bacon.

inkgrrl said...

Did you take him a case of Ovaltine? He loves that stuff.

Totally think you should 'shop in a mutant nipple, with tentacular tassel action.