On Book Marketing, Media Kits and Homecoming Queens

I'm including this first person essay in this WritersOnTheMove blog because when I teach marketing classes to authors at UCLA, my students often have trouble wrapping their minds around exactly what the first-person essay that should be included in their media kits is. And that difficulty is exacerbated when I tell them that it helps if the essay is associated with issues that are currently in the news. This one is related to current events at the most basic level--that is, it is a commentary on a news/feature story in a respected newspaper. But the issues are current, too. I hope it helps WritersOntheMove. I've also included the author credit, because that is a vital part of marketing media
Marketing, Continuing Education, and Homecoming Queens

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I admit it. A feature story in the New York Times Digest on...ahem...beauty queens struck a chord. On several levels.

The article by Tara Parker-Pope told the story of Heidi Hansen, a forty-two year old mother of teens who has gone back to school to study nursing. And if that weren’t nontraditional enough, she’s running for homecoming queen. Gasp!

Even more amazing she’s marketing her candidacy with the same vigor of her young competitors and she’s doing it without a shred of apology for her untraditional paths or (apparently) without an utterance of the word “shameless” connected with her marketing campaign (which I’ve always contended has a subtext that there is something to be ashamed of).

So, I should back up and tell you I have an agenda. I like to defend my own circuitous path to a degree from the University of Southern California (USC). I was graduated at the ripe old age of thirty-three with two young children, one of whom I once hauled to class with me and let him pretend to catch fish in the fountain outside my class window where I could keep an eye on him. By the time I received that degree on heavy, lineny paper, I had taken at least one class every semester (including summers) since I started seventeen years before. I always considered this approach to education a gigantic plus. One class at a time with plenty of time to focus on required (and optional!) study and research. I figured I was getting more from my education and would retain it longer.

That explains my personal interest in the late-bloomer aspect of this NY Times story. But I find Hansen’s proclivity for marketing just as satisfying. Not only did she decide to run for homecoming queen because“…it’s a continuing process of being engaged in the world around me, and right now a big part of my world is my life on campus,” but she isn’t dodging the issue of being, shall we say, a bit older than the other candidates even though the photograph in the Times looks to me as if she could easily pass. No. Her campaign slogan to attract votes is,“I’m not your mother, but I could be.”

Now, you should know that I began a lifelong interest in public relations very early when I worked in New York as a publicist and when I worked in several jobs as a journalist and writer. But it didn’t really congeal until my last semester at USC when I studied public relations under the head of the PR department, a former President of Western Airlines who believed that the way to find the best and brightest students for his department was to teach entry level classes and teach them as if he were teaching seasoned pros. And my awareness of the importance of marketing in all our lives only became more intense when I became a published novelist, poet, and author of how-to books on—you guessed it—marketing!

So you can imagine how I rooted for Ms. Hansen when I read that she enlisted the help of every demographic she had access to (other than her children who seem to be. . . well, oblivious to their mother’s schmaltziness). She found fellow students (not necessarily students in her age range) to contribute their skills—one writing a musical campaign ditty, another for producing a video. I call this cross-promotionin my Frugal Book Promoter, a how-to book on marketing for writers. Mr. Hansen's videographer and musician friends are both getting their share of marketing exposure by being part of her campaign. I mean, a mention in the New York Times? I sure hope these students use that information (and the example set by Ms. Hansen) in their resumes as they learn more and more that nontraditional paths and tried-and-true marketing work for everyone.

Regardless of their age.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a senior (not in the collegiate sense) who has always used her marketing skills in her professional life and found they gave her a special boost when she took on a new award-winning career in publishing at the age most are considering retirement. Learn more about her at http://howtodoitfrugally.com.  Find her how-to book on marketing at http://budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo


Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, thanks for sharing this. I'm sure many of our readers will appreciate the example of writing an essay in first-person.

It's so true that marketing opportunities can come in nontraditional paths. And, it's important we make as many of them as possible.

I also went to college later, in my thirties, with two young children and while working. It took me around 10 years. I once took four courses in one semester. Never did that again. :)

Margaret Fieland said...

Carolyn, interesting article. I went to grad school part-time while working full time and got an MS in computer science. Then I decided to go for a PhD, which I never completed, and went full time while working part time at the same place I'd been working at full time. Then we move to Massachusetts and I worked on my thesis proposal but ended up dropping it.

I had mathematics anxiety dreams for years afterward. I'd walk in to the class, and it would be the midterm or final exam. I would have skipped doing the homework and missed most of the classes. Then I'd wake up, truly thankful it was only a dream.

Math is one of those things it's impossible to fake.

Magdalena Ball said...

Fantastic story, Carolyn. There are many lessons here, not least of which the notion of making use of "every demographic" (which we could call skill sharing), not worrying too much about "shamelessness", and forgetting societal boundaries when we decide to pursue our dreams.

Heidiwriter said...

Great story--I love it!

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great essay...I also really appreciate the concept of connecting a personal essay to things happening in the world.

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