Free! Can go a long way, baby!

For more than a week, Patti LaBelle, her sweet potato pies being sold by Wal-Mart and the young man who sang about the pies, besieged social media. It’s immaterial whether or not you bought a pie, you liked the pie, or you are a Patti fan! What is important is the lesson that can be learned from this fiasco and that lesson is, there is no better way to sell your book or product than to get it in front of the masses and you don’t always have to pay someone to do that for you!

After 20 years as a District Sales Manager for Avon Products, I knew the importance of a marketing plan, I just never dreamed I would have need for one. However, when I became a book club president, event planner and author I learned that having a marketing plan in place was essential to my success.

To develop that plan, I read everything I could put my hands on about the “Four “Ps” of marketing – Product, Price, Place and Promotional strategy”. Even as I wrote “Plan It!” I spent time identifying my target audience and how and where to find them.

As the planner of the Black Authors & Readers Rock Weekend I already knew how to develop and stay within a budget, how to get the word out and grab the attention of and sell to my target audience – and all of this knowledge was put to use as I set about marketing and promoting my book.

Whether you are a book club president, author or event planner, knowing and reaching your target audience and developing and staying within budget are key to your marketing plan. Following are a few tips I hope you will find helpful:

  • Build an email directory - gather names and email addresses wherever you go. I began to amass a directory of book clubs, book club members, avid readers, authors and other literary professionals several years ago when I started to host literary events. I now have more than 900 contacts in that directory.
  •  Creating a presence on social media is essential because it allows you to share your message and establish your expertise. Create both a personal and a professional Facebook page, a website, and a blog. Remember that in order for you to get any payback from these tools, what you share must be of value and of interest to your readers and information must be consistently posted and updated.
  • Consider creating a newsletter that keeps your fans abreast of where you are and what you're doing. Investigate and use a service such as Mailchimp to send it out so that it doesn't simply go in spam folders - this often happens when you attempt to send an email with a large distribution list.
  • If you are an author, set up an Author Page on Amazon and GoodReads.
  • Keep your information updated or you will lose your audience.
  • Be very careful about how and where you spend your advertising dollars. Take the time to ask for and receive testimonials from satisfied customers before you purchase media help. Much of what others offer to do for a fee, you can do for yourself with a little time and effort.
  • Before you order book marks, business or post cards, take  time to consider how and when you will use them and what you want the audience to learn about you. Name, title of your book, where it can be purchased and how you can be reached are essential!
  • There are many free coaching sites that can be found on line. I recently subscribed to a free, on-line social media course given by “Nikki Woods, The Global Visibility Expert” ( and have found the information she shares both valuable and useful. 

Eventually the news media reported that “Patti Pie” sales hit more than $2.3 million. Even more newsworthy is the fact that the pies, which had been sold since September, didn’t start flying off the shelves until that fan took to social media with an unsolicited, hilarious video endorsing “Patti Pies”. All of this FREE publicity has allowed Patti to laugh all the way to the bank without lifting a finger!

Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers;

the believers and the thinkers; but most of all,

surround yourself with those who see the

greatness within you; even when you don’t see yourself!

Edmund Burke