This week’s AskALLi session with Orna Ross and Dalma Szentpály focuses on poetry content marketing. Orna shares her strategy and she and Dalma analyze outstanding content marketing by some other indie poets.
Among the topics discussed:
- Building Your Brand
- Your Goal and How to Measure it
- Don't Be Afraid to Experiment
- Fit Your Output to Your Lifestyle
- Collaboration is a Beautiful Thing
Tune in for discussions on a different theme each month with a focus on developing prosperity for poets through community building and self-publishing.
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Listen to the Podcast: Poetry Content Marketing
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- Empathy Maps
- Read Poetry
- Reyna Biddy
- Zack Grey
- Pierre Alex Jeanty
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About the Hosts
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 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: Poetry Content Marketing
Orna: Hello, everyone, and welcome. We are here for the monthly Self-Publishing Poetry Advice Podcast and I'm here with the wonderful Dalma, from Hungry. Hi, Dalma.
Dalma: Hi Orna. Thank you so much for having me.
Orna: It's always great to have you, to talk about poetry every month. I look forward to this session very much and hi to everyone who has come along to us this evening.
So, we are going to be talking today about poetry content marketing and this topic is something that we've been looking at in ALLi for the last couple of months actually. We started off doing an in depth kind of look at content marketing for fiction and I think that's, sorry for nonfiction. I think that's what most people associate with content marketing, because it's kind of very, we see a lot of it online, where people are selling courses and nonfiction books and you see, you see that a lot.
But we found when we looked into that there is also a lot of content marketing online for fiction and now, we've gone into it and we realize that content marketing is working really well for poets also. So what we're going to talk about this evening is, we will begin by just looking at the things that we have learned that work for content marketing generally, which also work for poets. Then Dalma’s going to talk a little bit about the basics that everybody should have in place. So, if you have a content marketing strategy, it doesn't actually make any sense to do as beyond the enjoyment of doing it, if you don't have certain things set up in the background, that mean that you actually get the benefit of the work of putting this stuff out there and then we'll bring you some examples of people that we think are doing it very well. Dalma has been researching some people who are particularly good at what they do in this regard.
So if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and we'll try to address them as we go through. But first of all, let's just take a quick look at what are we actually talking about what is what is content marketing? So how do you define it Dalma? How do you actually when you're thinking of content marketing, or if you were to say to a Poet, you know, in one sentence what it is, how would you describe it?
Poetry Content Marketing: Build Your Brand
Dalma: I would say that, um a content that is perfectly tailored to the readers that you're trying to reach and it's additional to your poetry. So it's not necessarily what you are going to put out there, but something additional that's going to build your brand, and you're going to bring out your personality as a poet.
Orna: Yeah. You’ve hit on a few important things there. These are snippets often very easily consumed, it can be text, it can be part of a poem or a, you know, a snippet or a couple of lines that summarize the poem, but are in different words, but it certainly doesn't have to be text and in most cases where people are attracting those people actually isn't text. It tends to be either video or audio. Video wise, Instagram and YouTube are very popular and audio wise, I think SoundCloud is popular and are some other platforms too.
But the thing about content marketing when you're setting off to kind of do it, I think the thing that's most important is that you have a bit of, something that poets are not really all that renowned for having, something that the business people call, “strategy”, so that you actually have some sort of a plan around what you're doing and how you're doing it apply to that.
Well, you can do the spontaneous overflow, you know, whatever is kind of striking you do it up and you put it out there and that's fine and that works really well. Every so often inspiration moves, we move with it out it goes, that's a lovely thing. But the problem about relying on inspiration is that it is sporadic. it's it by nature, it feels very well for a while and dries up for a while. That's just the way it always is and the most important thing I would say about content marketing is consistency. Most important thing is that you're there and that you continue to be there and that you're putting stuff out really regularly and when people get used to that connection and communication with you that it doesn't dry out, but it's fine, of course, to go on holiday or be away for a while, but that you have a plan for kind of consistently putting it out there. You know, the thing that's important is that you have a goal for your content marketing.
So it actually can be something quite different. It might be that you want them to buy a book at the end of this, but it might be that you want them to sign up for your email and give them give you their email address. It might be that you just want to get general brand awareness. You want people to know what it is that your poetry is about who you are as opposed the kind of stuff that you like to write. So your goals can be quite different and there is in the show notes, there will be a link. It's kind of very long here for audio. And so I'm not going to even call it out. That's a really good infographic about deciding what your goal is for your content marketing, and then how you measure it. So I think that's the other thing that's really important. When you decide what your goal is, how are you going to know if you if you've met that goal? And so you put measurement, things in place, as well as part of your strategy.
How Do You Measure It?
Dalma: What would you say Orna, for you, what would be the goal? How would you measure it? What would be the measurement numbers that you would be aiming for?
Orna: Yeah, so me personally, my content marketing for poetry is set up is quite new, because as I said, at the end of last year here, I didn't for a long time, do the kinds of things that I was doing for my non fiction and fiction, I didn't do for my poetry and secondly, I think, in the work that we've done for ALLi over the last number of months, I personally have learned a lot about how content marketing works and while for ALLi, for example, we do put out a lot of content, I'm not certain that we were that good on the measuring and understanding what the goals are and so that's, that's something that we're, I'm kind of really familiar with engaging with the moment, but just answer your question specifically around poetry.
So if I take my Instagram and I have, I think, you know, I can't remember actually how many followers I have now, but it's in the low thousands rather than in huge figures, but there tend to be very engaged a my aim, my goal with my poetry, is with my Instagram is that they will come and take a look at my Patreon page, because they might be interested in supporting my Patreon. So, I have a Patreon page for my poetry in which people can get exclusive poems. They can get poems are written early, and you know and delivered to them before anybody else and I also run that the submissions for the Indie Poetry Please Podcast through the Patreon and also books and my Patrons get my books early, or they get if they're book Patreon’s they just get every book I write is automatically theirs. So that's my goal and it's very simple my metric then, my measure is how many people went from Instagram, first of all, clicked on the profile link? That’s one measure and then went from the profile link on to the Patreon page and I you know, I'm set up so I can see exactly what there is there.
So I, if your goal was email signups then your measures would be how many people actually clicked on the link for the signup form, how many people then actually did go ahead and signed up? If your measure was, I want to sell my books, well, then you start looking closely at how many books you have sold in that time.
But I would, I would advise against and particularly if you're new to content marketing, I would advise against making book sales your measure. It's best to have a few lines in between because essentially what content marketing is doing, is telling the reader whether you are fit for them, and getting them to know you, to like your work and to trust you to deliver and when you get all of that in place, that's when they begin to get more interested and that's when they're kind of prepared to make a financial commitment to you. Before the off I think its base, it's a bit much to ask.
So the most important thing with content marketing is definitely the content, you know, getting us out there producing it and making happen, but the measuring then going on in the background and it's not that you become fanatical about that piece of content, getting more clicks and that piece of content got me more, you know, it's that's not a good place to and not so that's not what you're aiming to do, but certainly to have a picture of whether things are working or not.
Don't Be Afraid to Experiment
Dalma: You can experiment with it what you feel comfortable putting out there, because I think that's also something that you can put out visuals, you can put that audio for someone, audio works better, because they feel more confident in speaking rather than, you know, getting on video.
So I think that's also important, what is something that you can do regularly without getting self conscious, for example, so be sure to experiment a bit and then stuck with something that you think works for you?
Orna: Yeah, I think that's really such important advice. As well as the format you know, there's going to be text or audio, or video and your right loads of poets hate, absolutely hate, you know, doing this kind of thing that we're doing here is not something they ever want to do face in a camera, reading poetry into that green light, is their idea of hell, they're never going to do it. And if you are uncomfortable, don't do it. Because if, if you're not enjoying it, as Dalma so rightly said, your audience are not going to enjoy it, you have to be, we do this podcast because we really enjoy it.
We actually enjoy the chat we were fine with the fact that it's something we don't love necessarily being on video, but it's, it's well worth it for us to get together and see each other have the chance to buy poetry every month.
So if you're deeply uncomfortable with video, don't go there or do something where you're not in front of the video. So I have seen some beautiful work with photography and poetry together or photography, poetry and music together that can work really well. Obviously, putting something like that together is a lot more work than just sitting in front of the green light and reading your work. But if you enjoy it, then that's great and the other thing to say about the enjoyment factor and the connection factor, the fit factor, you know, as well as the format being a fit, text, audio or video, really important that the platform is also a fit. And I see why Instagram has been so popular with poets because it really does make it a pleasure and also because of the restrictions that they put in around the platform mean that it can't be used for business in the usual sort of way and so there's just this sense of being on a very artistic platform as well because it's so visual, lots of artists there.
So you know, I can see why I certainly love Instagram for poetry. It has worked for me in a way that other platforms have not but, if you don't, if you don't like Instagram, then don't go there. I find if you're already you know, you already have followers on Facebook perhaps or you like Twitter, it can work anywhere, doesn't matter, that Instagram has become the most popular place, actually, you could stand out maybe better on a platform where there are fewer poets. So it's far less important about you know, where everybody else, and much more important about where you are and what you want.
So the other thing then, in addition to I think thinking about what we've spoken about so far, is that you need some sort of magnet.
So we spoke back in November, October, November, you and I we did a lot of talking about marketing and marketing plan and how to recognize your ideal reader and all that sort of stuff and that's basic to what we're talking about here in terms of content marketing. So folks, if you haven't seen those, I think it'd be worth tuning into those before doing your marketing plan. Your content marketing plan, are you going to say something there?
Dalma: No, I was just listening, to you.
Attract and Subscribe
Orna: Okay, that's fine. What I was going to say next was that having that magnet. So when we spoke about and marketing, generally marketing poetry generally in at the end of last year, we spoke about this method called Attract and Subscribe, Access Marketing, I call it.
So where you actually, first of all attract people because they like your, whatever content it is you're putting out there, but what you're ultimately aiming to do is to get some kind of subscribing from them to what you do. So it might be literally an email subscription, or it might be, you know, following your page. It might be again, you'll have your measure on, it depends on what it is, but in order for them to do what you want them to do, it's a good thing to have what we call a reader magnet. So a gift of some kind that is offered in return for an email address, or Facebook signup, or whatever it is that you want them to do. So that might be a tiny book. It could be, it could be just one poem beautifully put together. It could be anything. Honestly, there's so many so many different things. It could be, you're really only limited by your creativity. But the idea is that you're giving them some small gift in and asking them to do something in return.
And the final sort of piece of the content marketing jigsaw is a calendar, whereby you write down roughly what's going to go out. Doesn't need to be really intense, you know, beautifully crafted pieces, social media calendar going on behind the scenes, it can just be a weekly sense of what you're going to put out there when and where. But it should be something that you stick to on a rhythm that you feel suits your own, you know, because the main thing here is writing the poetry isn't it. The content is important, but it's not the end in and of itself. So you need to make sure that making it and putting it out there, fits in nicely with whatever creative rhythm you already have set up around writing the poems
Fit Within Your Lifestyle
Dalma: And manageable with your lifestyle so not only with your creative output, but also if you know that you have you have your kids to feed and go to work, just make sure that your social media calendar or your blogging is fitting for your lifestyle because you want to, you want to create to poetry first and foremost, because that's what you're actually in for. So that's why we're doing this and basically create a calendar that works for you.
Orna: So true. So you've been looking at the basics what we kind of feel every poet who's employing a content marketing strategy should have in place in order for it to work in the way that we're kind of talking about. So do you want to just talk to that for a moment?
Dalma: Take over a little bit.
Orna: I think there getting tired of my voice.
Poetry Content Marketing: Do You Have an Author Website?
Dalma: No way. So basically, yeah, I think one of the most important points is for you to have an author website of some kind. So it doesn't have to be incredibly elaborate. It can be a simple blog, it can be, maybe you can use, in your first of all maybe you can start with a social media, social media profile. That's not necessarily your personal profile. So it can be your author, social media profile. It can be as we said, it can be Facebook, it can be Instagram, whatever fits your needs or suits, your creative output.
But if you want to set up a website, it's it works for you better because there you can already post content that is connected to your sales as well. So basically, within the author website, you can have your books and you can have content, that attracts your readers. So that's, why it's, really important to have an author website,
Orna: I think so we were death on this at ALLi, you know, really feel that poets and authors need to have their own piece of real estate on the internet.
So it's great to use the social media too, but the idea is that they bring people back to where you live, rather than you going to live, where they are and as Dalma so rightly says, you can just have your books and not just a website, but a transaction website where if they do arrive there and they love what you do that they're able to buy a book, you know that you're not sending them off again, somewhere else, to Amazon or whatever. A lot of people who love poetry, want to buy directly from the poet. They know, you know, the selling poetry books is not easy. If they like your poetry, you're touching their heart and maybe even their soul and you know, with that connection in place, they will buy, they're very willing to buy if their book buying type of people, are very willing to buy the book directly from you and you will get a better margin on the book sale and if you sell it through a distributor and this isn't about not using distributors like Amazon, Kobo and IngramSpark and so on. Of course you're there also. But it's about making your own website, the hub of what you do.
Dalma: Exactly, basically what you said that you're not sending to an additional link because you might be losing them at some point, you know, basically, people's attention span is not what it used to be. So it's when they are on your website, make sure that they will be able to be anchored down there for a bit at least. Otherwise, I would say that if you have a group of poets that you are working with so, I think Orna you said a multiple times that you do proofreading within a group of poets that you regularly work with, even edit each other each other's poems.
So it might work really well if you have a collective website together. Because then you can cross promote each other and their content that they're putting out is also your content at the same time. So you can reflect on each other and have a sense of community, which is incredibly important. There are a lot more people reading poems right now that I would say 10 years ago, but it's still a niche market.
So it has that kind of feel that it's great to be around similar people who enjoy poetry together. So if you put up on to the front that you're also working within a community it would be really attractive to people as well.
Collaboration is a Beautiful Thing
Orna: That is a great idea. I really love that, and I think also collaboration actually is going to be the story of the 2020s for Self-Publishing, because as authors are poets are coming into a sense of what's possible and seeing, you know, seeing other people seeing the kinds of things that poets are actually able to do now, which we just don't think of all 10 years ago, fill stadium full of people that sell merchandise directly, you know, have people going around with T shirts with your quotes from your poems written on them. I mean, it's all just marvelous stuff and selling a lot of books, you know, and the people who are doing this are people who are employing content marketing.
So I think and there was an American study recently which said that 12 out of the top 20 Best Selling Poetry Books in the bestseller list at the moment, are people who are doing it this way. They are not the traditionally, they haven't taken the traditional publishing route for the public. Does the marketing through the review system and so on, they are actually actively employing this content marketing way of getting their words out. So the other great thing I think about a collaborative websites, like you've suggested Dalma, is you have to get together and decide what it is you share and so that helps with branding and because it's can it's sometimes very difficult for a poet to know their own niche.
We spoke about this last year when we were talking about marketing the poetry more generally, but can be very difficult to self identify, you know, what's my sub genre as a poet? What's my niche? What's my micro niche? These are things that poets are not very good at, and what about the ration of the poem then think about all that and but if you have to get together as a group, then you have to work out what your value is, and what you know, why the reader, why the visitors should be interested and so it's really good in that sense as well in terms of you, honing your value and understanding it.
Best-Selling Poets to Check Out
Dalma: Exactly and I have brought an example that I think readers or listeners should check out. It's readpoetry.com. A lot of best-selling poets are there actually and I think it shows how this could work really professionally.
Of course, probably there is a lot of money behind that particular community page. But the idea of author collective is really well represented there. So there is kind of a mission statement, which, as you said before, is exactly about branding. So they are basically saying that poetry is about empowerment right now and that sort of sets the goal, what kind of readers they are trying to attract.
There is a page for all the poets there are involved. If you click on one of the poets, there is a very small introduction and already there are some content, video contents about how they became full time poets. Each of them speak about their own poetry, and some of some examples of their own poems.
So it's a great way to introduce yourself, maybe if you're not a big poetry yet, but there are some popular ones in your group. That's a great way to get an introduction to the whole world of well selling poets.
Orna: And it is worth saying that successful poets are unbelievably generous in general, because they know how long you can kick around the edges of this game without seeing any success and so they really do love to help anyone who is genuinely engaged with improving their craft and becoming a better publisher. So don't be shy. Ask and let them say no to you rather than you saying, “oh they would never want me” and well just ask if you do see a group that you'd like to be part of, then support them and get to know them and see if you can find some sort of synergies there that might work.
Dalma: Definitely and just to, to go on what are the different examples for content that works really well, if I move along to, on the content part?
There are some poets that I especially admire on how they are putting their poem poetry brand out there. So for example, Reena Bede, who is an inspirational poet. She most of the time, she's on Instagram, so there's definitely content there. But if you check out, readpoetry.com, you will be able to see how well she works on video. So basically how she speaks about her own journey and the messages that she puts into her poems. So it's about empowerment. It's about marginal, marginalized group of people and it's, it's tied to her charity work as well. So it's really great how well she, represents herself on videos so I would definitely suggest you to look at her content.
There is also Zedd Grey, he is also a self-published poet. If you go to, his website, which is Zedd Grey, I will put the link in but zeddgreywrites.com. You can check out his audio content he has. He has a link basically collecting a reading playlist of his own poems and it's really beautiful and I think it just really well done how he put it out there. So basically, it's, it's a playlist that you can listen to, I think it's on Spotify, so it's really well placed on his website and finally someone who is basically a bigger brand at this point. He is called Pierre Alex. I think it's pronounced Jeanty, but I'm not sure.
Orna: Don't worry that we will have all of these links and these people in the show notes with the podcast, which happens next Friday week. So if you haven't signed up for the Self-Publishing Advice Podcast, do subscribe on your favorite podcast, consume machine or whatever you call it.
Dalma: Yes. So we will make sure that all of these links are included there. So yeah, so let's call him at this point Pierre Alex, so he is, he writes inspirational, expressive poetry, but about gender roles specifically, and how gender roles are shifting at the same time as questioning how are women silenced and next to his poetry volumes. He also has self help books and he write’s really great blog posts and reflects on today's news as well. So that's, that's, I think, also a different approach to how you can, how you can, put out some content that would attract the kind of people that would be interested in your poetry. So I think.
Orna: I think you've done a great job and giving three completely different poets doing very, very different things, but all doing, you know, following the kinds of principles that we were talking about here today and just to finish, I think it's really important to say that all those bestsellers that we were looking at, and in that research that was done into the, I think was the New York Times, Poetry Bestseller List. What was striking was that the 12, who did employ content marketing, were a much more diverse group than the 8 who had been through the conventional traditional system who were all a much more conventionally you know that the pot we think of as the typical successful career professional poet, allied to the university and you know, rewarded with honors, reviews in the papers, that kind of thing.
It's a way to be a poet, but it's this other way is far more inclusive, and we see a lot more diversity of voice and approach and ideas.
And that's what really excites me most of all about this is that the conversation that we're having in the poetry field has really blown open in terms of who gets to speak, who gets to put their poetry out there who gets heard. So I think that's really the most exciting thing about content marketing. So we hope we have inspired you to think about your own content marketing, for your poetry, how you might go out there what you wanted to achieve, and who are the people you want to actually start speaking to and maybe working with as a poet.
As always, if you have questions just write to us anytime [email protected] we will be delighted to answer any of your questions to hear about your successes and we'd love you to join as a member. We are building up our poetry and our poets in our membership base and we would love you to join us and be part of the voice of poetry for this movement stuff that is kind of changing everything.
Actually I had said that was the last thing. the very final thing I'd like to say is that when you start doing this, you probably won't hear anything, you will feel like you're talking into an empty cave. That is a very normal experience at the start. The most important thing is that you have your calendar and that you keep putting it out there. Behave as if you had 100,000 people listening to your every word, and in time it will build up. The people who like what you have to say and how you say it will find you, so don't give up too easily and if you're absolutely you know, not having any sort of feedback or response, after some time, it may be a craft issue, you may need to work a little bit more on your actual poetry craft and all the time as you're doing this and I think content marketing is brilliant at honing the craft because you have to think again about what you're saying and how you're saying it and these very small tight snippets that go out on social media, make us better writers, all those bones, useless words, you know, extra adjectives and things like that have to go by the wayside because every word has to earn its place. And using content marketing in a way that helps you to become a better writer is also it's great value. So that's it for this month. We will be back next month with the new and poetry topics but until then, happy writing and publishing.