Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday Think Tank: A Zamtastic Take on Promotion with Z.A. Maxfield

Greetings and Salutations, sweet readers. In today's Think Tank, we've got Z. A. Maxfield wearing the thinking cap. Oh, I know you might think that looks a bit like this...
But really, the zamtastic truth is a bit more multifaceted. Zam the author does seem to have magical powers in both creating phenomenal stories and in creating an online community where not only her own work, but that of others can flourish. If you've never had a chance to visit her Yahoo Group (or rather, Cybercafe) then you really ought to go pay a visit. Some days are quiet, but when everyone shows up and hangs out? It's an amazing place not unlike Oz. No, really. I even met a wizard there. 

So of course I had to invite this dear lady to the Writing Cave for a visit, hoping she could spread a little of her magic here. And low and behold, she agreed. Therefore it gives me tremendous pleasure to introduce the magnificent Z.A. Maxfield. 


Zam? Helloooo? Sheesh, are you off playing with baby hedgehogs again? Or is it more of the cute men that live in your head? What? Both? Oooooh, do tell. No, really. Tell. *drat, she's all focused today and staying on topic* Okay, well, then, get to the bit about promotion and then afterwards get straight back to writing some more fabulous stories. 

When Cherie Noel invited me to talk a little about promotion and marketing, I was a little surprised. At the time, I didn’t consider that I did a lot of promo. In the last two weeks, though, much of that seems to have changed. I’ll tell you what I’ve been thinking and working on lately, because it represents the first time I’ve given my marketing practices structure.

Being in any community, the key is to be a good neighbor. So first and foremost, I’ve tried to make acquaintances in the writing and publishing community and I treat these people as friends.

I read extensively and I’m not afraid to praise where it’s due. I share the books I’m reading with my friends and readers. I often drop a line to an author after I’ve read something I’ve particularly enjoyed. Sometimes I do this in my author persona, but often I do it in my real-life persona, because I’m a fan like anyone else.

My enthusiasm for the work we do is part of how I market, it’s the very first thing I think about: what am I reading, and who can I thank for the ride? I’m forging relationships that I hope will last my lifetime and I’m cross promoting with people I care about deeply.

Lately, I’ve established a hard and fast blogging schedule. I do two blogs a week on my website under the NEWS heading, and I find that’s working rather well for me.

Offering entertainment is the cornerstone of marketing. We need to think like television programmers. Sure, it’s the commercials that pay the bills, but what would happen if we aired commercials all day?

Offering a weekly “Friday flash fiction” or a “guess the book from my backlist” type blog post every week lets people know they can tune in to my website for entertainment and rewards, and of course, that means they’ll be there when I have marketing news to share as well.

My thinking is this: I don’t want people coming to my website only when they want to buy something, although I don’t mind if they do. I want people to see my part of the Internet world as fun. I want them to wonder what I’m going to write in my flash fiction blog this Friday. I might even ask them to send images I can riff on. I want my readers to engage.

I see consistency is the key to this. If I have a Tuesday Teasers blog post, then I don’t let a Tuesday go by without one. I want readers to tune in expecting something fun! I want them to plan to spend a very small amount of time with me on Tuesdays, because it’s amusing, exciting, and rewarding.

The next thing is I want to drive reader traffic -- ALL traffic – towards a subscription of some kind. I use Mail Chimp to create newsletters. I want my readers to sign up for my newsletter, which means giving me both, their email address and permission to send them mail.

Social networking is lovely, but I’m competing with how many people on a reader’s twitter stream? What I want is someone who not only gives me permission to email them, I want a person who looks forward to receiving my mail.

That means I want to (again), amuse, excite, and entertain. I want to give the reader content they aren’t going to get anywhere else. Free stories. Edited scenes. The option to maybe name characters in my books.

I want them to have exclusive content -- something I’ve written just for newsletter subscribers. I want to give them something to look forward to. Some kind of reward for their loyalty.

If they’re giving me something, I need to give something in return, right?

Is this a pipe dream? I don’t think so.

There are authors whose newsletters I enjoy reading. They’re a fun extension of the books I enjoy. I recently signed up for a second weekly newsletter from a single author, and who does that? Who signs up for a second newsletter?

The better question is how can I write one like that!

That newsletter (which I really enjoy) is the perfect example of what I’m talking about. I will be looking to for more books and entertainment from this author for years to come. (If you want to know, it’s Jordan Castillo Price.)

Social media is hit and miss. My forays into social media should be like auditions. I try to put out the best, wittiest stuff. It’s a teaser. The goal is to drive traffic to my newsletter. I offer the opportunity to sign up for newsletters on my website, on Facebook, on Twitter. Then I produce entertaining, exclusive copy on a regular basis.

Currently it seems to be paying off, so I suggest giving a three-fold marketing plan a try:

1.      Create entertaining content on all social networking fronts and use that to drive traffic to newsletter signups.
2.      Make entertainment the lynchpin of a newsletter system – one where you’ve gained permission to email readers with exclusive content and contests. Offer value, and make your little corner of the reader’s inbox a place worth investigating Every single time you send them anything.
3.      Be consistent.

Some things to remember: Even if a writer is limited to fewer marketing hours, it pays to make a plan.

Whether you choose to do your newsletter weekly (I don’t recommend this, if you plan on doing anything else) or quarterly, make a schedule and stick to it. Post your blog posts regularly so your readers get used to looking for them.

Blog in a central place and use something like SNAP – a wordpress social networking auto-poster to update other services like Tumblr, Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, and Facebook.

And Most IMPORTANT: Have fun. You’re the pied piper. You’re leading your readers into the world of your imagination. It’s time to be the most enthusiastic kid on the block and share your love of books, of reading, and of networking with other authors, and with your fans. 
Thanks for spending a little time with Zam and I here at the Cave. You can find more of the indomitable, real deal Zam a nearly any etailer out there, but I will provide a few linkys!
Social Media for Zam:

or Best Idea Yet, Sign up for ZAM's News, Free Reads and Exclusive contests HERE!! 

Buy Links for any of her books- Necessary, trust me on this. You are going to want to read everything the woman has ever turned her brilliant hand to.

or at any of the publishers she's with... I'll check on those and update this blog later today. Toodles!

Okay, I'm running my feet off, and Zam is published all over the place, so go to the link above that says BEST IDEA YET... click on the word HERE and hop on over to ZAM's site for fun, games, free reads and links to all her book buying locals! 

Get these two books if you've never read them. They rock!


  1. Thanks for letting me come and play, Cherie! You are my sister of the spirit, and not the one in the red and white striped stockings and red shoes, either... LOL


  2. Dear Zam & Cherie - I love you both.

    I did have a brilliant comment prepared (i believe my iphone froze under my exuberance) so I'll paraphrase in case it shows up: Thank you, I can't tell you how helpful this information is. It is a reminder that we must play both the long game (developing relationships with our community and our readers) and the short game (staying current, relevant, and connected both in technology/platforms and content).

    I'm tucking this information away until the end of the week, but know that I'm so very grateful for all the generous support you both give. And we may just have to dip Cherie in gold when we see her again. Thank you both!



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