Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Book Marketing - An Interview With Carolyn Vines

Book marketing is fast becoming a very specialized sub-set of Internet marketing. I recently had the opportunity to speak with author Carolyn Vines, author of black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity.

Carolyn is a woman with a message that resonates with many diverse groups of people. She is also extremely well versed in marketing concepts. She knows what must be done and she does it well. In this interview she gives us a glimpse of what she feels it takes for authors to be successful in an Internet marketing environment

How many books have you written - Tell us about them

To date, I’ve written one book, a memoir entitled black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity. It deals with how traveling and living abroad have transformed my identity as a black woman.

What was your goal in writing this book?

Because traveling within the US as well as abroad was instrumental for my internal journey, my goal was to inspire (black) women to do the same. I believe that many of the challenges black women in the US face boil down to an internalized racist ideology. Once we step beyond the geographical and ideological boundaries of our country, we begin to understand just how cultural that racist ideology is and that people in other cultures don’t subscribe to it. It’s the vital first step toward creating a healthy and authentic self-image.

What have you found to be your greatest marketing challenge?

There’s so much information out there that I felt lost trying to decide which direction to follow. My background is in literature, which isn’t a very practical field, so the learning curve was quite high. I still don’t know how effective my marketing is or will be so I’ll have to wait for book sales. If they’re high, I’ll know to keep doing what I’ve been doing. If they’re low, I’ll have to start all over.

What is the key to successfully marketing books in today's environment?

I think it’s letting people in your target group know that your book is out there, which means you have to know how to reach that group. Unfortunately, groups are not homogenous even if the one thing the individuals have in common is that they’d benefit from reading your book. You must create a variety of platforms to reach the individuals in your market.

What has been the most successful book marketing method you have used?

That’s hard to say at this point since my book was just released, but if I had to make a guess I would think my blog. Traffic to my blog has been consistent for the last 3 years but, unfortunately, it’s low. On the other hand, my blog has been key to helping me build my network, and a strong network is invaluable for effective marketing.

What has been the least successful book marketing method you have used?

Probably sitting around and hoping that people will buy my book! Ithink that everything I’ve done in terms of marketing – social media, media releases, blogging, networking, speaking – will yield book sales, some more than others. It’s hard to pinpoint one the other as being more or less successful because the one depends on the other. Blogging is more effective together with Twitter and FaceBook is useless (in my opinion) if you don’t have something worthwhile (like topics related to your book) to post.

Do you follow a formal marketing plan for your book?

No, not a formal one. As I wrote my book, I made a list of ways I could market it once it was done. Some of those actions I could take during the writing process and others made more sense only once the book was done.

Does the level of competition for the buyer's attention (on the Internet) concern you?

No it doesn’t. Early on in my writing process my husband gave me a brilliant piece of advice. He asked me if there was anything I could change about the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of books out there. When I said that I couldn’t, he asked me how I would benefit from worrying about it. After replying that there was no benefit, he told me to focus that on energy on the things I could impact, which were to write a best seller and then let as many people know about it as I could and trust that they would also inform their network about my book. That’s what I did.

What are your feelings regarding ebooks and electronic book readers?

They’re brilliant. They’re here. They’re the most effective way to distribute books.

What do you see in the future for the small independent book store?

I don’t really know. There are still lots of people like me who love the feel of a book. I love seeing books in my book case and then passing them along to others. Unfortunately, ebooks and electronic book readers are convenient. Books are literally at your finger tips, which means you don’t have to wait a day or two to read one. Convenience is as American as apple pie and what could be more convenient than downloading a book to your computer or book reader within minutes?

At what point would you feel you would be able to say 'I've made it'?

When I’ve sold 10,000 copies of black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity.

What advice would you give to other authors just entering the book marketing arena?

Get help. Don’t try to do the marketing by yourself, unless you have a strong background in the area. Find a few things that work

Carolyn Vines hails from Indianapolis, USA. Her passion for language has led her to teach Spanish, English and literature at universities in America and The Netherlands. It has also led her into a career as an author, editor and translator. Her work has been published in local Dutch English language papers and The Telegraph. She speaks Spanish and Dutch and last year translated a novel by a critically-acclaimed Curaçaoan author. As the result of her life experiences, she believes it is possible to travel beyond identity and offers inspiration to travel beyond limitations.

Ms. Vines’s website was the 2009 Black Weblog Award Winner for Best International Blog. Her book is available at Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes and Noble.


Carolyn Vines