Rick Grant, (www.rickgrant.net) principal and founder of Rick Grant & Associates, has been a writer and journalist for over 25 years. He founded RGA in early 2007 to provide businesses with customized strategic communications solutions. Prior to launching RGA, he founded Texell Interactive Media, a production company delivering electronic audio and video content for Web-based marketing. Before that, he spent more than a decade as one of the nation’s leading financial industry-focused journalists. He writes features for National Mortgage News and is a columnist for HousingWire. Rick will be facilitating the session on "Effective Self-Promotion for Writers" at the Write It Right conference. Rick took a few moments to talk with us about why marketing is important for all writers, no matter the genre.
BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Rick! Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
RG: I own RGA (Rick Grant & Associates) in Jim Thorpe, PA. After ten years as a trade journalist covering the US financial services industry, I now lead a team of communications professionals that serve companies operating in this space. We help firms that sell to banks and mortgage lenders do a better job of telling their stories and promoting their businesses.
BDWN: Marketing is so important, no matter what business you’re in. But why don’t more of us do it?
RG: Few of us went into business to spend all of our time selling. It's painful to realize that while you took the leap to become a full-time writer, you'll only spend part of your time actually doing that. Often, the smaller part. Too often, writers try to ignore this responsibility to their doom.
Another impediment is presented by the fact that many writers are not comfortable talking about how great they are. We tend to be somewhat more introverted than that and it is difficult to get out there and tell people how great we are.
The good news is that the more you do it, the less you have to do it, especially if you use social media so that others can begin singing your praises for you. Building a reputation can be the best form of marketing and as long as you maintain it, it will work for you.
BDWN: It seems obvious that freelance writers, who do work for others, would need to market themselves. But what about fiction writers?
RG: Oh, absolutely. It's more important now than ever. While I've spent all of my time writing in the non-fiction periodical world, I have many friends who are published authors and they tell me that the publishing world has changed. It's not just about how well you craft a story and how quickly you can churn out the next. Now, publishers want to know about your “platform.”
They're talking about the audience the author has already attracted through short story publication, Web-based social media, conference and convention attendance and their own marketing efforts. Today, unpublished fiction writers are expected to come to the table with much of the work of attracting an audience already done. This requires a thorough understanding of marketing and the discipline to get it done.
BDWN: “Marketing” sounds very overwhelming and time-consuming. What are some easy ways that writers can market themselves?
RG: There are many easy ways writers can market themselves. My favorite is to publish a blog, its free, easy to set up and will help attract an audience. Beyond that, writers should have their own website or Facebook page. They should get out into the world they want to write in (whether that be the business world at a local Chamber of Commerce mixer, the journalism world by posting stories to news websites, or the fiction world by appearing at Cons) and shake some hands. Most of the work writers get comes to them from people they know who have referred them, so start building up that network.
BDWN: Do you have any pointers for how to get started?
RG: That's exactly what we're going to be talking about during my sessions, easy ways writers can get started now promoting themselves more effectively. There are a few things that come first. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you have to think of you the writer as a business. That means getting business cards printed up, setting up your website presence and creating a simple letterhead (both print and electronic). Secondly, you really need to learn all you can about social media. That's the cheapest and fastest way to begin building out your network and it has the potential to take you on a viral wave to stardom. But don't focus on that right now, just learn about blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn (if you're a news or business freelance writer) and tools like Twitter that can be used to promote your most recent work.
BDWN: So how can writers tap into all of the social networking and technology that’s out there and use that for marketing purposes?
RG: First, develop a love for drinking out of fire hoses, because that's what it will be like it you try to tap into it all. I suggest you just start with three tools: a Facebook profile and page, a LinkedIn account and a Twitter account. With those three tools, you can begin to build up a network of contacts that will get your work noticed. And by focusing on just a few marketing tools at first, you can spend the bulk of time doing what you must do if you're hoping for long-term success: write, write, write!
BDWN: Can you give us a little sneak peek of what you’ll be talking about at the Write It Right conference?
RG: We're going to go into depth on much of what we have discussed here, answer as many questions as we can, but most importantly, we're going to help folks get set up with these basic social media tools so they can start putting them to work.
We're also going to take a step back and look at some of the more traditional ways that writers can promote themselves. Some of these techniques are so old that they're new again—and they can get a writer a lot of attention.
By the time we're done, I expect attendees to walk away with a new understanding of some of the social media tools they can use to promote themselves and their work as well as a plan for getting that job started.
Join Rick and our other facilitators at the first annual BDWN Write It Right Conference on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at the Schuylkill County Council for the Arts, Pottsville!