Friday, April 26, 2013

Out-Of-The-Box Marketing Interview with Amy Lathrop of Litfuse Publicity (and Giveaway!)


Hello Amy! Great to have you here chatting with us on The Writer’s Alley today! You’ve been running your own publicity agency for several years now—and it’s grown to be very successful!

What made you get into Christian fiction/nonfiction publicity?

I love this story. I have a degree in creative writing and editing. But, I never thought I’d really use my degree. After I graduated from college I got married (to a generous and charming chronic entrepreneur), had two (super fabulous) kids, started a catering company, and opened a children’s clothing store. I was about as far away from writing as I could get. My business partner and I had five kids between us and realized the store was taking up too much of our time (and theirs) so we sold it.

Glad to be free of the shop, I wasn’t really looking for anything new when a good friend from church asked if I was interested in some part-time work. She was a writer (I had unofficially helped edit one of her non-fiction books), and she was looking for a writer’s assistant. The author was Tricia Goyer, and that was the beginning of Litfuse.

Once I started working with Tricia, I saw who she was: a prolific writer (fiction and non-fiction [for adults and teens], magazine articles, blogs, etc.) who could generate a scary number of ideas. I could barely keep up. Besides being a writer, Tricia was also a wife, mom of three, Bible study leader, co-founder of the town’s crisis pregnancy center, teen mom mentor, and speaker. The number-one question Tricia received was, “How do you do it all?” Her reply? “I have Amy.”

It was through word-of-mouth that I picked up more clients. I saw the gap between what the publishers expected of authors in regards to marketing and publicity and what authors had the time and ability to do. I loved this behind-the-scenes training ground and inspired by this unique perspective. Litfuse Publicity Group was built on filling this gap to help an author build their platform and rea
ch readers effectively—in essence, freeing up the author to do what they do: write.

As the business grew, I hired a publicist (then another), a graphic designer (then another), a blog tour coordinator, a social media strategist, and a publicity assistant, and now there are seven of us in the nest. I love that a little part-time “job” turned into something so much more than I ever imagined. Look what God can do!

WOW! That story is fantastic! I loved the telling of that too!

Your publicity site is one of my favorites to review for. Great to work with and innovative on your marketing ideas. Was it brainstorming and/or combining other ideas from other organizations that gave you the idea for how your market with Litfuse?

Because I had that inside view into the author/publisher dynamic, I knew what I was looking for: something to help authors grow their audience and build authentic relationships with readers while demanding very little of their time. I began to pay very close attention to social media and how authors and publishers were marketing books. I noted what worked, what didn’t work, and we tried everything. I saw something a publisher did, something an author did, noticed an effective marketing tool that a web design firm was using, and said, “Hey! Why not pull all those together into one campaign?”

We also noticed that during a typical book campaign, there was a separate marketing campaign and a separate publicity campaign. Very rarely did they overlap. Over time we learned the value of a holistic, storyteller approach to marketing and publicizing books. Looking beyond just the current release to the author’s and publisher’s overall goals, we build an author’s brand, tell his or her story, promote his or her latest release, and get readers to look ahead to their next release. As noisemakers for those who write and publish books we offer publicity campaigns (both print and electronic), blog tours, Facebook and Twitter launch parties, interactive websites and contests, live webcasts, blog development, author assistance, event planning, social media campaigns and training, street teams, and more.

What advice would you give to starting out novelists to build a strong platform to work off of?

Blog and have something to say. Keep a schedule. Pick a topic and blog on that. Be profound and fun. As Christian authors, most of you have a message. What is it? (Is it hope? Salvation? Redemption? Unity? Sacrifice? Love?) If you’re a fiction writer make sure your message(s) gets worked into your online conversation in different ways. If you’re a non-fiction author, make sure your message gets presented in a fun way, too (so folks don’t get tired of hearing it).

Social media, social media, social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Take baby steps and be a learner. Do what you can, but be personal and genuine. Don’t be afraid to show your ugly. We are all ugly sometimes, and readers can relate to that (because they know they are, too!).

Network with other authors, bloggers, speakers, and personalities. Say yes to everything until you see what works. You never know what God will use or how He will direct you.

Your personal favorite social media? How about the one you encourage all your authors to jump into and know really well?

As much as everyone disses Facebook, it really is the one that authors need to jump into and know really well. Facebook has the ability to incorporate pictures, giveaways, interviews, parties—all in a universal way that no other social media platform has (yet) been able to do. One to watch, though, is Pinterest; the majority of our authors will testify to the fact that most of their blog traffic comes through Pinterest.

And as a personal new user of Pinterest, it’s by FAR my favorite social media and doesn’t feel like quite the drain of time that Facebook is…with some nice input back for the user. ;-)

When it comes to social media there seems to be a thousand different directions to be torn in. I know for those of us who work full time, it’s hard to manage all of them. What suggestions do you have for making everything ‘work’ together without sacrificing writing time?

Hire us! Just kidding. But not really. Balancing writing and promoting your book can be tough and sometimes impossible to do on your own. If you don’t want to hire a company like ours to help you out, the best thing you can do is to stay organized in your social media. Use some sort of scheduling platform like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule tweets, Facebook posts, and Google + posts. There are even a few Pinterest scheduling platforms out there that can help spread out your pins throughout the day.

Do you believe it’s more important to build a platform as a writer before the first sale or wait until the novel is saleable/been sold before truly developing our social media stance?

Both are very important, but the most important is building a platform from day one. Most agents or publishers won’t even consider your manuscript without a solid platform. If you’re not connecting with an audience now, then whom do you expect to market your book to once it’s released? Build relationships, network, use social media, and those folks will help you out once your first book has sold.

Thanks so much for your time and experience on this chat today, Amy! It’s been great having you here and I’ll be excited to see more tours coming from Litfuse in the coming months. :- )

Thanks so much for having me! Such fun. And thanks for being a part of our “flock” as a Litfuse Nest blogger. (If some of your readers are interested in joining our program, they can find out more here: http://litfusegroup.com/join-the-flock.)

Appreciate you Casey and this opportunity to talk about what we do in the Litfuse nest.

Thank YOU, Amy for giving us insider trader-tips for making marketing a success!

Okay, Alley readers! I’m an avid user of Litfuse publicity and have taken part in several of their most recent campaigns. If you’d like the chance to enter to win one of their latest novels on tour, leave a comment below for Amy (or myself) and I’ll draw a winner for next weekend’s edition. Up for grabs? Love in the Balance by Regina Jennings!

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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.

20 comments:

Jill Weatherholt said...

Thanks for sharing your story and for the great advice on social media, Regina. Great interview, Casey!

Jill Weatherholt said...

Sorry! I meant to say, Amy. I guess I have Regina's book on the brain. :)

Beth K. Vogt said...

I'm gearing up for my second Litfuse campaign and I can't say enough good things about Amy and her team! They are so "for" you -- supportive, creative, available. I am so thankful that they were recommended to me by Susie May Warren and Rachel Hauck. I trust them to help me spread the news about my novels.

Casey said...

Jill, wasn't that pretty neat to hear how Litfuse got started? I had no idea!

Casey said...

Beth, I love reviewing for Litfuse...so awesome to work with on this end in every way. Will definitely use them in my "someday".

jeannetakenaka said...

Wow, it's great to get an inside glimpse into what LitFuse does! And to get to know Amy a bit better. I loved reading how LF came into existence and all that they do. I've participated in a couple things they've hosted, and it's been fun. LitFuse seems to do a great job for authors. Thanks for all the research you did, Amy, to figure out the most effective ways to help authors in marketing their books and more.

Loved this!

Casey said...

Jeanne, her advice/info was phenomenal! Great for keeping you grounded when there are a million choices and paths to take (or so it seems. ;)

Amy Lathrop said...

Beth! Thanks so much for your kind words. Fab people like you make it all so much fun. Truly.

Amy Lathrop said...

Casey - thanks so much for having me on your blog. Thank you too for your kind encouragement and enthusiasm. We love what we get to do ... and love working with you too.

Amy Lathrop said...

LOL Jill ... I knew what you meant. I don't mind being called Regina - she's pretty fantastic. :)

Amy Lathrop said...

Jeanne - glad you liked our story. I'm thankful for the path God carved out for me. What I didn't say in this piece, is that I graduated from a SUPER liberal college as a non-christian (my family doesn't have a Christian background) with my degrees in writing and editing. Even then God was preparing me for what He would call me to do. And ... Litfuse is just not about me. It employs and affects the lives of six other people and countless authors/readers/bloggers. I truly believe people's lives can change with just one sentence in a book. Again, I say, "LOOK WHAT GOD CAN DO!"

traveler said...

Thanks for this interesting post which gave me insight into your background. What a talented and creative individual.

Amanda said...

What a fun interview. It was interesting to read the background about Litfuse. I love reviewing for them.

Regina Jennings said...

Great interview, Amy. I had no idea that's how you got started, but I'm so glad you did. You and Litfuse do an amazing job for authors!

Thanks for giving away a copy of Love in the Balance and thanks for the interview, Casey!

Sandy said...

nice interview and would love to win a book, thanks!!!

Hannah said...

Thanks for the great interview! And for the good advice :)

Barbara Thompson said...

Thanks for doing this interview and sharing the information. It's important information, but also very interesting. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the contest.
Barbara Thompson
barbmaci61@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Regina! Sixty Acres and a Bride is still one of my favorite covers of all time. :)

Amy Lathrop said...

oops ... forgot to leave my name. :)

Thanks so much Regina! Sixty Acres and a Bride is still one of my favorite covers of all time. :)

Amy Lathrop said...

Amanda and traveler - thanks for your kind words. And Amanda happy to have you on our blogging team! Hugs to you both.