Thursday, April 23, 2020

#SCBWIdigital workshop: Jennifer Vassel presents “Book Marketing 101: How To Be Your Own Publicist”

A screen shot of Jennifer presenting her #SCBWIdigital workshop

Jennifer Vassel is an author and an entrepreneur. In 2016, she self-published the first book in her “I Am Unique” picture book series. Her book has found readers in Africa, Australia, and Europe. What started as a single story has grown into a franchise with more books in the series, toys, merchandise, parent guides, teacher guides, and a potential animated TV series. Jennifer’s publishing path has been documented in Forbes, Essence, Black Enterprise, and Thrive Global.

An instagram post featuring Jennifer and her bestselling indie published picture book

Jennifer started out with two polls, trying to get a sense of what the 1,800 SCBWI member attendees were hoping to learn. (42% of us said we don't know where to start, 41% are curious about implementing book marketing strategies.) She then took a poll to see if we're traditionally published, independently published, or hybrid combo of the two. (54% of us are traditionally published, 24% indie.)

She briefly told us about her journey, how when she started out she thought just writing the book was enough. Fast forward to today where her mission has grown from a book into a movement.

Jennifer doesn't have a publicist, saying she's invested time and resources into learning how to do it herself. She encouraged us, “If you don’t have the budget to hire a publicist, you can absolutely do this on your own.”

First task:

Identify your target audience. Who does your book help? What are their interests? Where can you find them?

One of Jennifer's slides

She shared that before she targeted her efforts, back when she had just published her book, one eight-hours of tabling at an event with tons of people attending resulted in only two book sales. After she targeted her efforts, another eight-hours of tabling at an event all about empowering women and girls resulted in her selling over 1,500 copies of the very same book! Same book, same eight hours... it's all about targeting the audience.

Jennifer also shared a worksheet to help each of us get more specific about identifying our audience.

She urged us to build a mailing list, and not rely on connections or followers on social media. As authors, it's important to have "something that we own. A.K.A., our website and our mailing list."

Jennifer also ran down 10 different Marketing Strategies. Here are three:

1. Social media

Her book has traveled more widely than she has!

3. Guest blog

Leverage their platform, by offering their readers value. You're in front of them, and they can learn about you and your message. Pitch the ones who have the same audience you're trying to reach.

6. Influencer Partnerships

Numbers don't mean much when they're not targeted numbers. The partnership has to make sense. Jennifer shared an example of a partnership she did recently with the McClure twins (Forbes top 10 influencers) with millions of followers, but they also have minority mothers as their audience. As Jennifer's book is about self-love, the McClure twins' mother liked it, saying, 'it's exactly what I want to teach my girls.' They read snippets of her book online, on facebook and youtube. It yielded 150,000 views in two weeks. Jennifer advised us to think about Exchanging Value.

There was so much more, including a Q&A (with bonus questions from Lin), a discussion of video marketing, and a section on pitching the media, breaking down the nine elements of a pitch.

It was great information, and very inspiring.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Stay safe, all.

p.s. - Did you miss it? The video is available for 30 days to SCBWI members here.

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