In parts one and two of this blog, I shared the highlights of writing and publishing SPIRIT OF GONZALES. The final phase of my journey has been the marketing. After all, if you spend ten years creating a product, you should do something with it.
When Lillie and I first saw a light at the end of the Spirit tunnel, she began to encourage me to do some pre-marketing. “You’ll need a website,” she said. “You’ll need a Facebook Page,” she said. I rolled my eyes in pain, Once again I was thinking, How do I do that? I know less about marketing than I did about writing! She noticed my anguish. “I’ll help you,” she said.
We considered my options; I could 1) put the book on a shelf in a closet and close the door to my secret treasure. 2) give copies to my cousins and feel the joy of having completed a goal for my family. 3) I could sell it to people outside my family. I decided I’d really try to sell the book.
And so we began. Lillie put me in touch with another gracious woman who completed the website I started. As a partner with another expert, I learned more about the technology of marketing. With a proper website I had some exposure.
Then Lillie asked me, “Who is your audience?” I happily quipped, “Everyone who wants to read my book!” She swallowed hard, and before I could realize how naive I was, she explained, “No book is suitable for everyone. You really must put some consideration into your appropriate audience.” I knew she was right, but I had no idea. So I began to think about that.
My first thought was to find my audience in familiar territory. Maybe my readers would be among those people who knew me. I joined the Chamber of Commerce in my little historic hometown, and committed to a booth at monthly markets at the historic courthouse square. I knew the folks attending those markets were connected to a similar history (Texas from 1831-1836). In fact, my little hometown was mentioned in my book. I knew I’d be among friends. I’d be safe. This was a good place to start selling books while I was trying to figure out my audience.
A new set of surprises began to flow.
Based purely on respect for other people, I initiated conversations by listening to people who stopped by our booth. I didn’t want to be intrusive, so I tried to focus on what they had on their minds. If folks just wanted to chat, our conversation went toward the weather and family news. On the other hand, if they commented on my book, that opened the door for a promotion of the story. Those who were interested asked more and more questions, and frequently that led to a purchase. Then, on subsequent visits to the same market, previous customers came by and shared their enjoyment of the book. A natural connection to the setting, the times, the characters and events of my story began to snowball. I realized my audience revealed themselves by our common interest. I began to imagine who those people would be in other communities, and I thought about how I could connect with interested people in other markets.
I got a notebook and began to list organizations that might be interested in SPIRIT OF GONZALES. I listed teachers of Texas history, the students of those teachers, the parents and grandparents of those students. I remembered the various organizations in our state who celebrate their heritage, such as the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) and Sons of the Republic. I thought about the museums and historic sites with gift shops. I went on line to search other small town markets in historic communities. I called local bookstores and asked for author visit signing dates. The list grew, and I was soon able to clearly identify my audience. Lillie had told me the rule was “not everyone.” I made a rule for myself: “Only those who express an interest.”
Following that rule has brought me surprising opportunities. Eight months after the birth of my book, I have sold more than two hundred copies. I’ve presented the book to schools, libraries, book clubs, and ladies’ groups. I’m scheduled to teach a history class in the spring. My calendar is full for the next six months. The Chamber of Commerce in Gonzales is featuring my book in the gift shop in the jail house museum, and my name is on a list of recommended DRT speakers across the state of Texas. All of these contacts are opportunities to sell books to people who “are interested.”
I’m also working on the sequel to SPIRIT OF GONZALES. I don’t have another ten years to complete it, but now I won’t need that long. I have learned enough to get it done in a fraction of the time. I hope in some way, by sharing my learning curve, you might also discover your own writing surprises.