I began my experience with
the Midwest Writing
Center by driving into Davenport from Bishop
Hill for the Pen In Hand mini-conferences. I could handle the travel and the
work load of the one day events.
It took me awhile to work my way
up to the three days of the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference, an annual
June event that turned 10 years old this year.
After I had a couple of DRC conferences
under my belt and a nearly finished manuscript in hand, I felt ready to
approach the visiting pros during the pitch sessions for the 2014 conference—a pitch
session being 10 intense minutes of talking up my book to an agent or a
publisher. Of course, that also meant pitching myself as well as my book. Both
would be difficult, but, thanks to working on this blog, I felt reasonably ready.
My first appointment was with
Steve Semken of Ice Cube Press. He runs a small publishing company that looks
for “writing that better explains how we
can best live in the Midwest.”
I didn’t know if he would consider
Bishop Hill part of his Midwestern range, but I needed the practical experience.
Everything went well until
the very end when he asked me one of his stock questions: “Who do you see as being your audience?”
I had pages of notes about
characters, themes, plots and subplots…I had nothing on the marketing aspects
of publishing. It seemed too far away to plan for at that time.
Since I knew I’d be on
display, I tried to dress the part. Instead of my usual jeans and t-shirt, I
had on dress slacks and my best new jacket. And since he caught me by surprise,
I tugged at the shoulders of my nice jacket and ad-libbed: “Ladies who lunch.”
Afterward, I spent some time
trying to figure out where it came from. How, in a pinch, I would have thought
of that line.
I had to think back to my
time in Bishop Hill and what the main attraction was during those years. It was
Bishop Hill in the 80s and
90s built up an impressive supply of tea rooms for family, friends, and other groups.
The day in and day out staple: ladies. So, yes, that was a valid response.
However, it was not complete. It didn’t answer the question of how does one
market to “ladies who lunch?”
I left the issue unexamined
throughout the past year as I went through extensive rewrites and revisions.
Only in the past month have I spent time thinking about how to reach potential
customers. Book buyers are customers.
I signed up for a different
pitch session for the 2015 DRC Writers’ Conference and a requested element for the
presentation was to have a marketing
plan. I fell back on my experience as a craftsperson. I had operated booths
at craft shows & fairs before eventually opening a shop in Bishop Hill. I
brainstormed a page of ideas. Again, I felt ready.
As a bonus feature of the
conference, Steve gave a free workshop at the MWC on what to expect from an
independent press. I attended. I was struck by something he mentioned: He
relied on events and gift shops for selling books.
When I went home to check my
list of marketing ideas there they were—events and gift shops—as my top items.
I was on the right track to
finding those elusive “ladies who lunch.”
Now, I just have to refine my
sales pitch and broaden my range of appeal.