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How To Define Yourself As An Author (Marketing Plan #1)

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nametag_bubbleOriginally published in ACFW Colorado’s The Inkwell Blog.

Beginning this week, I will be taking you through the steps of writing a marketing plan. This is different from a plan prepared by your publisher or publicist, since it focuses on steps that you as an author can easily take to promote your own work. There are as many different formats as there are authors, and you can feel free to adjust for your needs. This just happens to be one with which I’m comfortable, and I’ve used it to successfully market everything from medical products to yoga classes to business books.

The first step is to define yourself and your product. As authors, we’re not just selling our books, we’re also marketing ourselves. This begins with your mission statement and your tag line.

1. What is your mission statement?
A mission statement is your purpose in writing. What do you hope to accomplish? What do you wish your readers to get out of your work? You’ll be the only one to see this, so don’t worry about polishing it. This is just to help you guide your thoughts as you define your work in the marketplace.

Here’s my mission statement for my fantasy fiction: To portray God’s unceasing faithfulness amidst life’s most difficult trials.

If I wrote a non-fiction book on marketing, my mission statement might sound like:To overcome the stigma of marketing in the Christian writing community and enable authors to effectively reach their widest possible audience.

2. Come up with a tag line.
Yes, this is a tricky one, and admittedly, an optional one. If you’re going to use a tag line, it needs to encompass the general feeling of your mission statement, as well as your genre. It should be specific enough to give readers a flavor of your personality while not being so specific that you are locked into always writing on one particular topic (for example, romances set in Austin, Texas). Here are a few memorable ones used by published authors.

Romance, suspense, and hope. (Colleen Coble)
Where adventure comes to life. (Jill Williamson)
Stories for the hero in all of us. (Sharon Hinck)

Each tag line gives a clue to both the type of book the author writes and a sense of their style. Colleen Coble’s tagline tells us clearly she writes romantic suspense with an inspirational message. Jill Williamson’s says there’s an adventure element to all her works, and the tone hints at the fact they’re written for a younger audience. Sharon Hinck’s motto tells us we’ll receive stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

It’s worth noting that many established, well-known authors do not use tag lines. Others have waited to use them until late in their careers.

3.Define your genre.
I know, how could you possibly fit that contemporary-fiction-suspense-modern-historical novel you’ve been writing into a single genre? You’ve got to try. Until the bookstore devotes shelf space to a time-travel-chick lit-horror category, people are going to look for your books in a specific category.

One way to determine your genre is to think about what would most hurt your story if you removed it. Does the plot fall apart if you remove the love story? It might be a romance. Does it lose its teeth when you take out the murder? Then it might be suspense/mystery.

Once you’re finished with these three steps, you should have a better idea of who you are as an author and what defines your book.

This week’s action item: Write your mission statement and tag line (if desired). Define your genre.

Next week: The Competitive Landscape– how do you fit into the existing marketplace?

Marketing and the Great Commission

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Originally published by ACFW Colorado’s The Inkwell Blog.

There’s a persistent feeling among Christian authors that marketing is somehow dirty. We write stories we hope will touch others, bring them comfort, challenge them. We may even feel that we were called to write with a Christian worldview or to bring others to Christ.

But marketing our writing? That’s where the enthusiasm over our calling fizzles out.

Personally, I write inspirational fiction because I can reach far more people in print than I can in my day to day life. Sure, I come in contact with dozens of people every day, and I may even share my faith with some of them, should the opportunity arise. As a writer, though, I can reach hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people. I can touch far more lives through the written word than I ever could in my day to day life.

So why wouldn’t I want to get my message to the greatest number of readers possible? If I have something of value to share, one that could potentially impact lives, isn’t it wrong to restrict that message to shoppers who might happen across a display in a Christian bookstore or see it on a list on Amazon?

As Christian writers, it is our duty to market our work. Not for own glory or our own pocketbook (though let’s face it, we’d all like to jump up and down over a good royalty statement), but because we’re doing God’s work. If that is true, we shouldn’t shy away from spreading that message to the furthest reaches.

Jesus said, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19). He didn’t say, “Go and make disciples of only readers who shop at Christianbooks.com.” Those of us who don’t explicitly write salvation messages aren’t off the hook either. Portraying characters with a Christian faith, or even just a moral viewpoint in today’s “anything goes” culture, can have an impact of which we may never be fully aware.

Over the next several months, I will be conducting a marketing boot camp to make sense of all those buzzwords and help you think about marketing your work in a consistent and professional manner. At the end of each week’s post, I will give you an action item to complete or a question to answer before next week’s post. By the end of the series, you should have a solid framework for creating your own marketing plan.

This week’s action item: Why do you write inspirational fiction? What message has God called you to deliver?

Next week: Defining yourself as an author

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