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Poetry Book Marketing Part 2—Developing Your Action Plan: Self-Publishing Poetry With Orna Ross And Dalma Szentpály

Poetry Book Marketing Part 2—Developing Your Action Plan: Self-Publishing Poetry with Orna Ross and Dalma Szentpály

Building on the basic marketing poetry book marketing plan established last time, Orna Ross and Dalma Szentpály move on to choosing some specific actions that feel right for you.

Emphasizing a spirit of experiment and exploration, they suggest a number of options available to poets, from book promotion websites to social media. And they show how poets are reaching readers in a variety of niches, without eating too much into writing time.

Tune in for discussions on a different theme each month with a focus on developing prosperity for poets through community building and self-publishing.

Here are some highlights:

Orna on Social Media for Poets

You don’t absolutely have to do social media. But if you’re not going to do social media, what are you going to do instead? So the reason that so many authors and poets are doing social media is because it provides a way to reach readers without a great financial cost.

Dalma on 80-20% Social Media Rule

What works best for social media is to have an 80-20 percent rule. That means that you shouldn’t promote your book that much. You should promote your own work like 20 percent of the time and you should share and you should engage with others in order to gain a following and you know, kind of be present in a natural way in the social media environment.

Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Centerhttps://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.

And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.

Listen to the #AskALLi Self-Publishing Poetry Podcast

Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or Spotify.

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Watch the #AskALLi Self-Publishing Poetry Broadcast

Show Notes

Important social media sites you should check out to network and promote poetry, in addition to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram—these are specific poetry sites:

Calling all poets: What are the best social media platforms for you? @OrnaRoss and @dalma_szentpaly have answers on the #AskALLi Self-Publishing #Poetry #podcast. Click To Tweet

About the Hosts

Orna Ross

Orna’s work for ALLi has seen her repeatedly named one of The Bookseller’s “Top 100 people in publishing.” She launched at the 2012 London Book Fair, after taking her rights back from Penguin in 2011 and republishing her books herself, with the titles and treatment she’d originally wanted. Orna writes award-winning poetry and fiction, runs a Patreon page for poets and poetry lovers as well as an active author website. She is on a mission to help eradicate creative poverty through digital publishing and enterprise. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @ornaross.

Dalma Szentpály

Dalma Szentpály co-hosts the Self-Publishing Poetry salon. She works at PublishDrive as a self-publishing professional and has been a lifelong lover of poetry. A native Hungarian, she started learning about lyricism from poetry giants like Attila József and János Pilinszky but also recited brooding lines of verse from international poets like Pablo Neruda or Anna Ahmatova. In university, she fell in love with W.B. Yeats and Emily Dickinson and wrote her thesis about the “villanelle” form in Sylvia Plath’s poetry. As a university lecturer and an event manager at an independent bookstore in Budapest Dalma encouraged readers to re-engage with poetry. Check out her blog post about contemporary poetry trends here: Find Dalma on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read the Transcript

Orna Ross: Hello, everybody and good evening from London where I am and hi to Dalma. You’re in Hungary tonight?

Dalma Szentpály: Yes, I am in Hungary. Hi Orna and hi everybody. This is Dalma from Budapest PublishDrive offices, actually.

Orna Ross: PublishDrive offices in Budapest. Hi, and hello to you wherever you are in the world. We are here for the Alliance of Independent Authors monthly podcast on self publishing poetry, and delighted to be here with you. And this evening, we’re going to be talking about marketing again. So for those of you who were here last month, you will know that we talked about your ideal reader and all the general sort of marketing materials and information that you need to amass as a poet, a self publishing polish and what we’re going to do today is developed that.

And so that, if you like, is kind of like if you think of marketing and promotion as a pyramid, in which you have a sort of a base of your own platform and your books and you as an author and the promise that you make to the reader, as we talked about last time. Now building on that up into a pyramid, and we’re on the peak of the pyramid is the book sale if you like. So, the marketing today, the kind of marketing we’re going to be talking about today is an actual action plan whereby you’ve got all your general information in place, you’ve got your platform set up, you’ve worked out who your ideal reader is, you know how you’re going to try and reach them.

And now we’re looking at an action plan as to how you actually let them know you exist and let them know that this particular book exists. So that’s where we’re kind of going today. And so just before we start, I wanted to, I had a special request from Joyce Murphy who is an ALLi member and one of our regular listeners here and poet and publishing.

And this is the question that she had around some of the things that we talked about last time and where she finds herself in her author journey. So it’s here in the comment box. And so I’m just going to read it. It’s about her pen name, and she has some questions that I think will be very useful for everybody. So “Hi, Orna and Dalma. I wanted to put my question before the podcast starts so she can take in everything that we have to say later on. Okay, fine. So my question is about copyright and pen names.

So she’s just got a couple of things sticking there. I’m publishing my poetry book under pen name, that’s fine. We know that lots of you are doing that. I’m asking what I put on the copyright page of my book. I’m not too concerned about people knowing my real name is moreso for different genre. Would it be okay from my point of view for the copyright symbol and Joyce Murphy Publishing as a pen name? Also, I was wondering how to upload to Amazon under a pen name, but I will need to register my own name on Author Central and my book will be under my pen name. Thank you in advance, would appreciate any help on this.”

Okay, so the pen name, from the pen name point of view it’s absolutely fine to use a different pen name. So Joyce and anyone who’s wondering about this, because I know a lot of you, when it comes to poetry you want right under a different name. But the fact that you write poetry as well often clashes with other kind of work that you do. So first thing to say that it’s absolutely fine to have a separate pen name and the copyright on your book is copyright to the pen name. So there is no need, unless you particularly want to identify the fact that you are you know, say Joyce Murphy writing as Joanne Murphy or Joanne Collins or whatever. There is no need.

You can just do copyright Joanne Collins for your poetry, copyright Joyce Murphy for your fiction or nonfiction. That’s absolutely fine. On Amazon, your account is a publishing account. So the name on your account is not the same as your Author Central. So Author Central is an author name. And it can be, you know, lots of different publishers can feed into your Author Central. So if you take a traditionally published author only who doesn’t have any KDP Publishing on Amazon, just their books, they may have three or four different publishers.

Author Central is a place on Amazon, where you can gather your differently published books from different publishers into one place. So again, you don’t need to worry about that. What you would need to do is set up a different Author Central page for each pen name that you have. And that’s something that you can talk to Amazon about. So, I’m not sure if you have anything you’d like to add to this copyright question, Dalma?

Dalma Szentpály: No, you covered everything.

Orna Ross: Okay, fine. So Joyce, perhaps you just let us know if you have any questions arising in the comment box there and any further questions arising from the answer and we can we can take those if you have, but hopefully that clears up where you find yourself at the moment. All right, then. So moving more generally into marketing, Dalma. Talk to us a little bit about what do you think of social media as a marketing tool?

Dalma Szentpály: I think it’s incredibly essential to be present at multiple social media outlets. So I would say you should know which are the best ones that you would like and need to cover. So, if you’re a poet, I would say that you should check out Instagram first, then you should check out Twitter. But there are a bunch of others. I don’t know how specific you want me to go into social media right now. But I can give you a few tips. So All Poetry, Hello Poetry, Commaful. Also, Pinterest is something that you should check out because it’s also a visual, social media platform.

And when you check out these, you should find an experiment which works best for you. So I would join them, I would try out how they work and find out the best one. And then what I would suggest you to do is to select two to three and post frequently on them and consistently on them. And what works best for social media is to have an 80-20 percent rule.

I don’t know if you heard about that, Orna, what that particular means that you shouldn’t promote your book that much. You should promote your own work like 20 percent of the time and you should share and you should engage with others in order to gain a following and you know, kind of be present in a natural way in the social media environment. So what do you think about that?

Orna Ross: Fantastic.

Dalma Szentpály: Do you use social media like that?

Orna Ross: Yes, I think it’s really, there are a few things that I’d love to pick up on what you said. First thing, just to reassure everybody, don’t worry if you didn’t catch all the social platforms that Dalma mentioned there, they’ll all be in the show notes. And there are a few there that are unusual and are well-worth checking out and that you might not have heard of outside of the usual Facebook and Twitter. So yeah, I think the 80/20 rule is so important. And I think it’s, where it comes from is that as a writer is, there’s a huge, as poets particularly, there’s a huge sort of a feeling of wanting to share this emotion or whatever it is that is driving us to create the work in the first place.

And then when we go so far as to put together an actual poetry book, there’s so much has gone into that that we want to tell everybody about it. And it is very exciting. It very quickly becomes not very exciting if people are tuning into your account and if you just show your poetry book and say “Buy my book, buy my book,” you will very quickly lose your followers. So you’ve got this dual kind of thing going on.

Social media is social. So it’s got to be about engagement and connection as Dalma says, the important thing, though, you have a dual thing going on, you want to reach people and talk about poetry in a certain way or talk around it or whatever you’re going to make the framework of your social, but you’ve got this kind of other interest, which possibly you wouldn’t be on social media at all if you didn’t want actually people to buy your book. So you’ve got to manage this and social works best is if you’re actually using the social platform that you enjoy using, or else you must find a way to enjoy it.

And one of the things that I think is so interesting in some of the platforms that you spoke about there is that they are not verbal platforms. So you would think perhaps that Twitter being the wordy platform would be the best for poetry, but yet, it turned Instagram was the platform that would work for most poets and it’s a visual outlet. And I think that’s really interesting. And I think thinking about why that is so and what is going on there in terms of engagement is really important when it comes to choosing your social media as well. And I will say this, and I think we said it last time, you don’t absolutely have to do social media.

But if you’re not going to do social media, what are you going to do instead? So the reason that so many authors and poets are doing social media is because it provides a way to reach readers without a great financial cost. So it’s the cost of time and reproducing parts of your work, are we producing updates about your work or extending your work into the social sphere. So, you know, it’s that.

And so that takes time, but it doesn’t necessarily cost money. And a lot of authors, particularly poets, don’t have a huge budget for marketing. So social is good from that point of view. But the other thing is, if you’re not going to do it, you have to find some other way to do it. So the thing that you need to explore until you find something that you actually enjoy doing, and that takes a bit of time.

So a lot of poets and authors generally say, “Okay, I’ll do some social media if I really have to,” and then they pick them, off they go, they put up a few posts, nobody pays any attention, and that’s it. That didn’t work. And then they give up. So, you know, any thoughts about that? Is this something you’ve seen?

Dalma Szentpály: Yeah, I definitely see that and what I wanted to add to this is that some of the unusual social media outlets that I mentioned, I would suggest to check out, particularly because of this because they don’t necessarily work in the same manner as you would say Instagram works or Twitter works, because these are particularly for people who enjoy poetry.

And you might find people who are like minded and a lot less noise than what you would find in Twitter. Yes, a lot less readers, but they are there because they enjoy this particular genre. So I would say that if you’re in your exploratory mood, then you should check out these and see how that works.

Orna Ross: So you’re talking particularly here about Commaful, Hello Poetry, All Poetry, Litsy and *inaudible*you mentioned also, I know.

Dalma Szentpály: Yeah.

Orna Ross: And this feeds into what we were talking about last week, doesn’t it? Or last month, doesn’t it? You know, the whole idea of finding your niche and drilling down into that niche, and you have to do that on social and you have to do it for a while. So I would say, you’ve got to do it for six months, and you’ve got to be consistent, and try a few things. So if something’s not getting a lot of engage, and then try something else, but only try things that you like. So yes, it’s about posting your short poems.

Micro poetry, obviously, is an obvious thing to do. But there are other things you can do. You know, it doesn’t just have to be about you putting up your poems, and especially if you’re not the kind of, there is a certain type of poetry that sits very well on social media, and a short, expressive little soundbite type of poems, but not everybody can write those and they’re not necessarily right for you. So you can also think about talking, you know, in your social about, say something that inspired a poem, where your inspirations are generally, settings, poets who inspire you, you can engage other people.

And I think a really good thing to do and actually an essential thing to do, if you are going to go down the social media route is to look at poets on social media that you admire, and look at exactly what they’re doing, drill down right into how often do they post, you know, what are their pictures like, how did the pictures play against the words and you know, everything you can kind of analyze, and we will have, we’re working on a marketing book specifically for poetry books, booklet and workbook, which we will have available at the beginning of January.

And it will guide you through this process because it takes a while. It’s all about experimenting and exploring, as Dalma said, and finding out what suits you and, you know, not thinking that it’s all going to happen all at once. It doesn’t. Social media is something that builds up over time. And the first thing you need to do, it’s like writing poems themselves, or like writing a longer book. It’s about finding your voice. And in social media, your voice is made up, not just of the words, but also all of your account, how it looks, how it feels, the other people who are there, and so many things like that.

Dalma Szentpály: Yeah. And as you said, you need to enjoy it. Because if you enjoy it, it’s more authentic. It’s more natural for you, how you’re using it, and that would draw people in more easily than if you would be forceful about it, I would say.

Orna Ross: Definitely. So what else have we got? Social media or not, instead of as much as in conjunction with maybe, or maybe instead of if you’re a firm, you know, social media hater and you’re never going to do it. What other ways are there of reaching a target audience, reaching your niche audience as a poet?

Dalma Szentpály: I would say that one of the things that you should do is send out review copies of your book, which is very, very important. So how does that work? Ideally, you would research, you would do research – who are the people who would be interested in your book? And I would say for this, particularly blogs, associations, different forums or moderators of forums who are interested in poetry and drew up their contact information, their email addresses in any way that you can reach them.

And I can tell you this right now that, for example, if you would use PublishDrive as a distributor, then you can use free review copy sender where you can just write in the email addresses and then you can send out review copies to these people. And when you’re sending out you’re asking them to promote your book or just, you know, not necessarily promote, but write a review about it. And that way, they post it to their site, they post it to their forums, and that gives you exposure.

Orna Ross: And it’s very good, I think in a launch period of a particular book, if you do a lot of these together, quite close and ideally, you know, it’s called a blog tour and it mimics the more general physical book tour that traditional publishing will do. So what you do is you tour the blogs instead. And again, you suss out in advance, it takes a little bit of time to find them. But the thing is that that kind of research work will stand to not just for this book, but for your entire career. So again, you’re beginning the building up, it’s also relationship building. It’s just not public, this is more private.

So you’re finding people online who like what you do, who like the kind of thing that you like, and it’s about pulling your tribe in around you. So you can find people who will set up blog tours for you. And again, in the show notes, I will have a contact or two of people who will do that if you don’t want to do all the kind of writing out and stuff yourself. But I would actually say that unless you’re very busy, actually making those email contacts yourself, reaching out yourself, getting to know people, having those conversations, telling them about your book, sending them your ARC, advanced review copy in a digital form, hopefully, sometimes on a blog tour, and you will find bloggers who want a physical copy.

And so that’s cost to promote, which you have to think about if you want to do that. But yeah, it’s really important to ask for also, to begin to build up your own personal email list and we spoke about this last time. And in the workbook, they’ll be quite a bit of talk about how you actually draw people in, to set up an email list on your own site. And those people, again, we’re talking about relationships. Again, we’re talking about people who like what you do.

Those readers over time, build up to be an incredible resource for you whenever you have new poetry out, a new book, you can ask them to review, you can send them an advanced copy and ask them to review your book on Amazon or elsewhere, again, to blog on their blogs to spread the word, and so on. So, you’re going to be starting, if you’re only starting out now and publishing your first poetry book, you’re going to be starting small. And that’s okay.

What you’re aiming for the first time is one person who gets it. One sign up on your list, one nice email exchange, or somebody who’s going to blog about your stuff and be confident that that over time builds exponentially. So a lot of the people that you are looking at and it can be so easy, especially on social media, to become disheartened. Because you look and you see people who have hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands and in some cases, millions of followers, and it seems impossible, and it possibly is impossible for you. You may not do that. You don’t have to do that.

That’s one way to do things. What you have to do is discover your way to do things. And find out how, you know, how it’s going to work best for you and that’s a process of time. And if you were setting up in any sort of business, every business advisor would tell you to give it two years, that it takes two years to establish your client base, to know what you’re doing, to settle in to the, you know, and it’s the same with publishing poetry. It takes about two years before you fully find your voice and fully find your marketing method and know what you’re doing.

And even then, you’re building and growing, you carry on building and growing forever. But you’ve got to be patient with yourself at first when it comes to marketing. And the feelings that you have, you have to find a way to manage those and to keep on, as we said last time, feel the feelings but keep on producing the stuff anyway.

Dalma Szentpály: Oh, yes.

Orna Ross: So you can shortcut this a little bit if you do have a budget, I think, it can help if you have some promotional dollars. I know you have some ideas about promotional sites that are particularly good for poetry that you’d like to share with people.

Dalma Szentpály: Yeah, what you mean is that basically how you can promote not only on social media, but if your book is already out there. So if your book is published on Kobo, or on Amazon or on library sites, basically what you can do is ask to be present in newsletters for these particular stores. So you can do this also with PublishDrive, by the way, you can ask to be recommended to be put in newsletters.

For example, in January, there’s going to be a newsletter for lots of different libraries, which says, New Year and New You and if you have an inspirational poetry book, then you can asked to be put into those newsletters but you know, basically, you can ask to be put in a lot of different newsletters. You can ask to be put in blog newsletter so not necessarily the review sites but this works really well because you access with only one you know request probably thousands of signed up people so that’s a great way to access people with your particular, not necessarily, you know, with engaging them directly but by just promoting your book.

Orna Ross: So you’re talking about paid promotion through Kobo or other services there or ?

Dalma Szentpály: Yeah. So this is basically, not necessarily. So for example, if you do it via PublishDrive, then you pay for a service and part of the service is to ask to be put into different newsletters or stores. So, you can do that and there are also review sites, for example, Chanticleer Reviews, that would do it also as a paid service for you.

Orna Ross: Yeah. And again, if time is more plentiful for you than money, you can actually approach the outlets yourself and see if you can have any luck going direct. Obviously, they get a lot of requests and-

Dalma Szentpály: Sure.

Orna Ross: It very much depends but they will definitely, you know, we have had lots of members who have had success in doing that. There are also sites that promote, you know, that are kind of setup to promote directly to readers. And I’m thinking the biggest of these, of course, is BookBub. But there are others Bargain Booksy, Freebooksy, Fussy Librarian and many others. Now, to date, they have not been great for poetry, but because of the poetry revival, because poetry is growing so exponentially, everybody’s beginning to finally take notice.

And so there will be more of that coming onstream next year, I think. We can look forward to that. Because at the moment, if you tried to take an ad with one of those companies, you’re put into literary fiction, which, you know, isn’t quite the same. I can see where they’re going with that. But it’s, you know, given the poetry is now so big, it will be great to see poetry coming in as a category. Because one of those ads can give you a great boost. It doesn’t last. I think it’s really important to say that. All of these methods, you know, will work definitely.

They definitely work but they only work that day. And what will work over time is time. So it’s repeated and doing it over and again. So it’s not just one promotion, it’s not just one ad, not it’s not just one thing. It’s, “What am I doing this week? What am I doing next week? What am I doing next quarter? What am I doing the year after next?” You know, having that kind of, you don’t have to know what you’re doing the year after next.

I’m not suggesting that for a second, but I’m suggesting you need that mentality that you’re in it for the long haul. And the understanding that, you know, the week that you decided to do a book launch and reach out to your reviewers and do a blog tour, you might also back that up the week after that with promotion, paid promotion and so on, if you do a bit of stacking like that, it can really make a difference in the algorithm. And then that’s when you begin to get a bit of support where it’s not so hard anymore.

But at the beginning, it definitely does take quite a bit of commitment to get it off the ground. Okay, so yeah, anything else to add? We are almost out of time, anything else to add on promotion specifically, before we run?

Dalma Szentpály: I think one more thing that we can add is offline promotion. So basically, I worked in an indie bookstore for about four years. I loved it, it was incredible. And one of the things that really worked for poets, especially if they did a reading for their poetry book, and I’m sure that in your vicinity, there is an indie bookstore that has some kind of offer.

You know, most of the time they are really, really helpful. They are saying that if you do the promotion for yourself, so basically, you reach out to people they are happy to give you the place for a few hours to connect with your readers and they may send send out a newsletter of their of their own, or put up a sign that you’re going to read from your poetry book. And I think it’s a great way to connect with your reading community locally. So I would definitely suggest for you to try this out.

Orna Ross: Yeah and it’s also great for you to know which poems reach people. There’s nothing like standing up in front of people and reading them out to actually get a sense of what might be wrong or what could be improved and also which ones people like most and that sort of live response that you get there can be used very effectively in social media afterwards because you can also talk to people about, you know, when they tell you they like your stuff, you can ask them what it is, you can begin to get what we were talking about last time, the sense of your value and what it is, your unique thing that you are offering.

Also remember to do the same for other poets and poets, more than anybody else, I think. Authors generally are incredibly supportive of each other. And poets really are as well, particularly so. So if there is a poet that you admire, make sure you let your readers know about that person. And if they have something going on, or a book launch or particular festival or something that they’re appearing at or they’re celebrating a particular date or something, pass that on, you know, use your own work as a way to build a community and a sort of a, what’s called pay it forward marketing and Angela Putnam (sp?) calls it and I really like that idea.

So it isn’t, I do this for you and you do that for me. It’s more karma-based than that. You pass on what you value yourself and what you want other people to know more about. And as a result you just become part of something that then is bigger than you and that buoys you up. So yeah, we get a bit more specific again about this and in in 2020, and we will be offering a facility whereby poets can some way Indie Poetry, Please will live. We have been experimenting with trying to get you to send in your audio poetry and produce it in that way, but I’m afraid it’s not working too well for technical reasons. Sometimes the submissions are not up to standard and stitching them together is proving difficult and so on. But we are exploring that further.

So we will perhaps do some readings here. Or whatever we’re going to work it out. There won’t be a self publishing poetry podcast in December, because it’s right there at the end of the holidays, and we always take a podcast break in December. So we’ll be back at the end of January. And we’re going to be looking particularly at love poetry, because we will be coming into Valentine’s Day which is prime poetry buying season. So keep that in mind. And also keep in mind if you do have anything that falls into the inspirational genres, as Darla said, New You, you know, January sort of post improvement time is a very good time for poetry when people realize, “Oh my god, like, all that surface consumerism is crazy. I don’t like it. I want something deeper and meaningful and in comes poetry.

Dalma Szentpály: Yeah. That’s very true.

Orna Ross: Bear that in mind. Be a little bit patient and get through these crazy few weeks and your time will come. Okay, so thank you very much for being with us. Joyce has a final question on the pen name, which yeah, it’s about banking. So actually, Joyce, I’ll answer that in the comments in writing when we’re finished because it’s not quite so relevant for everybody else. So yeah, thank you Dalma, again as ever.

Dalma Szentpály: Thank you, Orna.

Orna Ross: And thank you everybody for being with us. And we will see you in 2020. Until then, happy writing and happy publishing. Bye Bye.

Dalma Szentpály: Bye.

Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an editor and writer with more than 30 years of experience in journalism, from newspapers to magazines specializing in business, science, and technology. He has spent the past few years guiding coverage of independent publishing, amplifying voices of the marginalized. Howard is also a book doctor who enjoys working with authors to get their work ready for publication.

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