Jim Rubart

Since 1994, Jim Rubart has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Barefoot Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. His debut novel ROOMS will be published by B&H Fiction in April. He's also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world's most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn't sleep much. You can reach him at jlrudini[at]comcast.net

From the Quantum Marketing Mailbag

Q: Mara says, “Hey, Jim, Facebook and Twitter are all the rage these days, but is it really worth my time?”

A: Yes. No. Maybe. No one knows the answer. But many people are trying to find out.

Last month, Ford announced that instead of marketing the new 2011 Explorer through auto shows, it will launch the vehicle through Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/2bp8seq).

There are numerous other stories about companies using social media as a primary marketing vehicle.

Are they making the right choice? Should you follow their example and pour yourself into social media?

Some authors are FB and Twitter disciples. Ten-plus posts a day isn’t unusual. They see tremendous value in marketing themselves through FB and Twitter.

Some refuse to get caught up in the social media whirlwind.

Are more copies purchased from an author active on FB and Twitter than from those not hooked into social media? I think the answer is an unequivocal yes. But are enough additional copies sold to justify the amount of time invested? As a friend of mine likes to say, “If you’re doing A, you’re not doing B, and B might be a heck of a lot more profitable.” Is FB and Twitter the best use of our time?

Let’s talk hard numbers: Right now I have just over twelve hundred friends on FB, which is probably a little more than average. Let’s jump into fantasyland for a moment say 50 percent of my FB friends buy a copy of ROOMS. What would my publisher say about selling six hundred books? Probably something along the lines of, “Hey, that’s great.” (They’re very supportive.) But they wouldn’t grab their Snoopy dancing shoes. A publisher doesn’t think in terms of selling hundreds of books; they think in terms of selling thousands.

So am I saying Facebook and Twitter are waste of time? No. Because FB and Twitter can be used to build our tribes.

A tribe is a group of people who are passionate about you and your books. They are uber-influencers, and you’re their leader. (See marketing guru Seth Godin’s book Tribes for more info.)

Think of a tribe this way: If you threw a party, your tribe would be the first ones on the invitation list. And they would be excited to come. At the party they’ll talk to you, talk to one another, and if you ask them to, they’ll invite their friends—folks you don’t know yet—to come to the party as well. The party grows, more people eat the cake (notice I didn’t say drink the Kool-Aid), and your tribe grows larger and larger.

You’re no longer the only one talking about the party and sending out invitations. Your tribe is spreading the word as well.

See where I’m going? Stats say that everyone has an average circle of influence of 250 people. If 25 percent of my twelve hundred friends become tribe members, that’s 300 times 250, which equals 75,000 potential readers. I like that number.

Where do you find tribe members? They are the ones who e-mail you and say how your novel changed their lives. You write back and invite them to join your Facebook author page. You talk to them there. They talk to you. They talk to one another. And when your next book comes out, they’ll tell the world.

Q: Geoff asks, “I keep hearing that novelists have to market their book themselves, which probably means I need to learn something about copywriting. Do you agree? If so, do you have any suggestions on where to start?”

A: Geoff, you’re right, copywriting is an essential skill for authors. You must learn it. Copywriting skills jump onto the stage when you write your elevator pitch, your book proposal, your Website content, your blog posts … I would go so far as to say most things other than your book(s) require copywriting techniques.

Unless you’ve studied copywriting, you might not know how to do it. When I first entered the publishing world, I figured anyone who could write a novel could write copy. Nope. Since 2006 I’ve rewritten or written many authors’ Website copy, one-sheets, sales letters, back cover copy, etc. And many of these authors are far more skilled than me at writing novels, but they struggle with copy. So you’re not alone!

Think about your copy the way you think about your books. The first line of your book must engage readers’ emotions, raise questions, intrigue, challenge … and be original. Same thing with your copy. Last year I taught copywriting at ACFW and showed a slide with twenty-plus Websites from authors that started with “WELCOME!” or “WELCOME TO MY WEBSITE.” Not engaging, not intriguing, not challenging, and certainly not original.

Two quick (and free) suggestions on how to improve your copywriting skills:

1. Become a student. Just as you study other novels that are well done, start studying copy that makes an impact on you. Why did it create a response in you? Why didn’t it? If you were to imitate what they did for your own brand/Website/one-sheet/blog post/thank-you letter, how would you say it?

2. Subscribe to a copywriting blog. (There are many out there, and you’ll probably have to experiment to find the one is the best fit for you.)

Enough for the moment, but I encourage you not to ignore this subject, and create a plan on how you’ll learn this essential skill.

Have a marketing question you’d like answered? E-mail me at jim@barefootmarketing.com and I’ll see if I have anything intelligent to say on the subject.