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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Break in the Scene

Today, we take a break from the scene. We are honored to present to you, an interview with S. R. Johannes, author of UNTRACEABLE. Huntress reviewed her latest publication, a YA adventure, here. But more than an author, Ms. Johannes is also fluent in marketing. We asked her about marketing and her book.

1)    What is your marketing background?

I got an MBA at Auburn University and joined Andersen Consulting. In 2000, I quit on a whim due to tons of travel and a life event. I decided to do freelance consulting for a couple of years. But my client sought me out and eventually hired me into a bank as an executive where I did associate communications and marketing. I eventually left in 2006 went back to working for myself, partly so I could be with kids more. Also I was tired of working 70 hours a week with a baby. I started doing marketing jobs with clients like Spanx and Goody Products. I’ve been writing on the side since my daughter was born.

Geez I sound boring.

2)    Can you give us Fast Five Marketing tips?

Marketing is really just the art of getting known, liked and trusted, in the hopes of inspiring action. There’s a few ways to do this:
·         Network – which means build long lasting and trust worthy relationships not spamming.
·         Start building a platform now – before you get published – so people start to learn about who you are and what you do.
·         Branding - Identify what kind of writer you want to be and how you want to be seen by others
·         Do a PROFESSIONAL web site! Yes you have to in this day and age.
·         Get a professional-looking business card made – it’s worth the money. Now you can get them done online for a great price.

3)    How do you feel about Social Media and Marketing?

I think marketing, social media, social networking, branding, publicity are killer words. They are all terms that freak writers out and keep them from moving forward. Or that paralyze them into thinking they can’t do any of it themselves.

In a nutshell, marketing and social media is really just about creating a brand, a great product, and building relationships – whether online or not. I think we need to stop thinking of it as marketing or social networking. Just get out there with a professional presence, build relationships, help people, and put out good books.

4)    Where do you see publishers and agents in the next 5-10 years?

Gosh I have no idea. I think the lines are blurring, which to me means they will all be involved in everything at some point. Some writers will be doing more marketing. Some agents will be doing more publishing. And publishers will be changing with the digital world. So you might as well start learning about all facets of the industry - selling, editing, and marketing and be ready to help where you need to in order to get your books in front of the audience.

Unless you are Stephanie Meyer or JK Rowling – writers will never be just writers – we will always have to wear many different hats. Never again, will we just sit around and write all the time.

5)    You mention there is a quality stigma for self-publishers, could you elaborate?

I think over the last 5 years, a lot of people turned to vanity presses and PODs that were of low quality. Either that or they wrote something in a week, printed it out and copied it at Kinkos with a spiral binding. Then sold it out of his or her with a homemade sticker that said $2.99. That all got lumped into self-pubbing.

So now, whenever we hear someone is self-pubbing – we assume they aren’t good enough to get pubbed and so they will only put out a crappy project. I think today we are seeing more and more credible authors on the indie scene.

Self-pubbing is a short cut to publishing process but it is NOT a shortcut to writing.

We have to remember Christopher Paolini and John Grisham were both self published. Mark Twain was self-published. There is a line between the good and not so good – as in any industry.

6)    What was your inspiration for writing UNTRACEABLE?

My hubby came home one day from camping and said, “I was so deep in the woods, crazy people could do anything and get away with it.” A year later, I went to Cherokee NC and stumbled upon the bear pits there. Those 2 ideas came together and Untraceable was born.

7) Could you give us an excerpt from UNTRACEABLE showing off Grace's wilderness experience?

Deciding to make a lean-to shelter, I cut my tarp into two pieces. Half to make a waterproof roof and the other half for bedding. After collecting large, leafy branches, I construct two Y-shaped supports and hammer them into the ground with a rock. Then I suspend a long pole along the top and lean strong branches against the beam. Next step is to weave saplings over and under the sloping branches, creating a thick lattice that will not only hide me, but keep me from being exposed to any rain or wind.

A fire is one of the most important things to have if you’re lost or stuck out in the woods. Somehow it lifts your spirits. I stack up a small nest of tinders and use a flint to catch a spark. As soon as the pile starts to smoke, I blow lightly to massage any flickers of flame. Once a fire begins to dance, I break a few sticks and stack them on top until it’s roaring with warmth.

I sit on my rain poncho and rub my hands together. There’s something about making a fire that makes you feel safe. The light cuts the darkness in half, preventing me from being swallowed. I grip the handle of my knife and keep it close.

Just in case.

Thank you, Shelli! It sounds like we writers have a lot more work ahead of us after we finish the book. We are coming into the industry at a time of big changes with bigger challenges, especially in self promotion. Thanks for the advice!

And I'm excited to read this book! Especially after hearing Grace's brave voice in that snippet!


mshatch said...

excellent interview - except for the part about wearing many hats. I only want to wear one hat and it says writer on it not 'slave to a soul sucking job,' lol. Interested in reading this book, too :)

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

WE all only want to wear one :) Thanks tara!