Conversations about Creativity
An Interview with Marketing Professional
Wearing Many Hats
May 11, 2017
Linda Leon is the owner of Book Marketing Professionals, a literary agency. The company specializes in the areas of book publication, marketing, author support and visual productions. Linda worked in management and as a producer in broadcast television. This industry has given her a spectrum of media skills from writing to producing television and radio programs. Linda’s television and radio work over the years has gone international and has reached over 80 million households. She is also a professional ghostwriter, author, and was a columnist for United Press International, the second largest news agency in the world, for 5 years. She is a prolific writer with hundreds of posts on line. Her podcast Book That Author that aired on Blog Talk Radio accumulated over 20,000 listeners. Her most recent books are Publishing and Publicity for Smart People and Rock Star Marketing for the Emerging Author are available on Amazon.com and other book outlets. In addition, Linda is a Certified Nutritionist. She produced the television broadcast Healthy Happy and Whole which aired in Houston and Atlanta for ten years. Linda has written cookbooks, hosted health conventions and held cooking demonstrations in communities. She says that her “greatest joy in life is serving God and being a wonderful wife and awesome mother.”
Ellen: Linda, as a writer, you have an understanding of the work involved in first bringing a book to completion and then having to market what you have written. Marketing generally does not come easily to writers yet it does to you – it speaks to you.
Linda: As a writer, I once needed help too, but because of many letdowns, much hard work and a good deal of experience, I succeeded in teaching myself how to market my own work. Now I market many other writers too because I am well aware that they need help initially; otherwise they will drown. I as a marketer, ensure that I give them a solid foundation upon which to build. I love everything to do with books and that includes marketing them.
Ellen: Did that love start when you were a child? If so, which were the books towards which you particularly gravitated?
Linda: I loved to read as a child. It was my window into the world. I would sit in my bedroom for hours traveling around the world and living different real and imaginary cultures through pages that felt alive to me. My favorites books were The Bible, history books, encyclopedias, books about inventors and about the kings and queens of England.
Ellen: So you were a dreamer and able to transport yourself into the stories you read. Did you enjoy writing as well when you were a child?
Linda: As soon as I was old enough to write, I was creating stories – writing them down. It has been a lifelong passion. My earliest memories of my existence were sitting on my father’s lap telling him stories about rabbits that I’d created in my mind. The natural progression was to take the stories in my head and put them on paper as soon as I could write sentences. My parents and my second grade school teacher encouraged my writing that they saw as a gift. I used to write romance, too, and poetry. I credit them for where I am today.
Ellen: These family influences helped start you on your creative path but I should imagine that you were also intrinsically self-challenging.
Linda: My parents and my grandmother were the biggest influencers in my life. They taught me to believe that I could do anything that I wanted to do and become anybody I wished to be. I have found that to be true in my life – actually becoming and living all those things that I wanted to be. That belief system and the fact that I was not afraid of challenges set me up for a life of adventure. When I married, I found a person who also had my spirit and zest for life. My husband is wind beneath my wings. We have transferred that same belief system into our children
Ellen: Tell us about your educational path. When you chose your areas of study, did you already realize you wanted to be a writer and did your education benefit you in becoming both a writer and a marketer?
Linda: My goal was to work in the media. I wanted to go into Communications. My parents however, did not think that was the best path for me. They wanted me to go into business. So I got my degree in Economics, which is basically a pathway for business. I honored my parents by doing what they thought was best for me, but I still pursued my media goals because I felt I had that ability. At some point in my life, both fields converged because I ended up in management at a television station, and eventually became a columnist for UPI and also, started a business. I am currently an entrepreneur. So everything that I’ve always loved, writing, working in the media and having a business in marketing, fell into sync.
Ellen: Do you ever feel that you are pulled in too many different directions because to write and complete your own creative work takes a tremendous amount of focus and time and so does being a marketer?
Linda: No, I have never felt pulled in too many different directions. I don’t have a too much point. I just do until I don’t want to do any more. I’m like the energizer bunny. My nature is always – go, go, go! I like different challenges, the reason being is that a foundation of optimism and confidence was laid for me as a child: you can succeed in whatever you wish to do. Limits in terms of what I could become were never imposed on me. So I’ve spent my whole life doing whatever I was drawn to do and often, simultaneously because there were so many areas I wanted to pursue. If something really spoke to me, I did it – and still do it. Even as a child, my parents didn’t curtail my thinking or my enthusiasm. They always encouraged me.
Ellen: How smoothly do you transition from writing to your role of marketing? How do you combine both so seamlessly?
Linda: Writing and marketing actually work hand in hand. If you write, I would think that you would want to sell your work. I certainly do and the majority of writers certainly do. Marketing obviously helps to sell your work. To me, it’s one natural progression – you first write and then you market – one follows the other.
Ellen: Do you enter your journey into writing a fictional story with marketing in mind? By that I mean, does the idea for a story resonate with you simply because you have a strong desire to explore it or do you write it because you perceive a need in the market for it? Which is your stronger motivational pull – a creative idea that you wish to explore or the perceived gap in the market?
Linda: I never have marketing in mind for my creative writing process. Marketing enters my mind after the work is done. Then I shift into marketing gear and I ask these questions of myself: who are the people that need this book and where are they? The target audience for my books is wide so I am not limited – from young adults to those in their 50s, 60s and onwards. However, my writing always begins with a spiritual thought because that is my personal creative impetus. Since I am an ordained minister, all of my books have an underlying spiritual message even though they may be written as pure contemporary fiction. So the ideas with which I begin, are inspired by a desire to help broken parts of humanity – those are the people I am trying to reach – and there are so many of them. The mail that I receive from the readers in response to my books, informs me that I am reaching my goals. I get letters telling me that a particular work has changed their lives by helping them to restore a relationship or by giving them the tools to forgive someone who had hurt them.
Ellen: So does wearing so many hats reflect the “energizer” bunny in you?
Linda: Hats make me happy. My personality is such that I can’t exist without being productive and busy. My grandmother taught me that your hands should never be idle. Being productively busy was seen as a virtue in my upbringing. So this is very natural to me.
Ellen: I think most writers find it difficult to market what they have created because even though they hope their work might eventually become public, the process of writing is both solitary and private. Yet you do both. How did your versatility evolve?
Linda: My versatility evolved in the worst way for a writer, but with the best results. I had a book published over 20 years ago; I was working with a small publisher at the time. This company made a lot of promises with regard to effectively marketing my work but did absolutely nothing. At that time, there were not the choices of e-books or P.O.D. so I was stuck with thousands of books in my garage.I had to make a decision whether to fail or fly and I decided to fly. It took several years but I cleared every book out of that garage – and that is how I learned to market books. I knocked on doors, I sold and distributed through bookstores, I sold books to community colleges, created television shows and sold my books on air and in seminars. That’s when I learned that if you want to sell a book, you have to do it yourself and you have to know how to do it. So I continue with my own writing today and then market it, but I also have a business that reaches out to people who need my marketing expertise. I cater also for those who want to learn from me how to market their own work. I am fascinated with the many methods of marketing that keep developing and am constantly finding new ways to market books. I love doing what I do! For me, it is a process that never ends. I put just as much energy into helping others as I do into marketing my own books because I get satisfaction from knowing that I have helped others with their creative journeys. That alone, is rewarding to me.
Ellen: So you bring elements of what you created and marketed on your own into the shaping of marketing programs for others?
Linda: Yes, always. What I teach is what I do for myself. I have a lot of experience in this area. Working in the media and working directly with top writers and publishing companies, taught me a tremendous amount about marketing. This combined with my own experience in the field – my own school of hard knocks. Seeing how I could sell so many of my own books was the best foundation that I could have had to really help others sell their work. However, I do want to say that there is no magic bullet – you just work really hard until you sell the books.
Ellen: Would you say that good marketers have to be adept at quickly understanding the different personalities of their clients as they plan their marketing campaign? How do you adjust to their different requirements and to their idiosyncratic needs? I should think that marketing has seldom a “one size fits all” approach.
Linda: I think that is the most enjoyable aspect of what I do. I try to base things on the clients’ personalities so that they will also have a comfort level. Then there is choosing the right mode of communicating what I teach: is it auditory? Is it written? Is it both? I want them to grasp fully what I am conveying. Each client is different and so I craft each plan with the individual in mind. There is no point taking an approach that doesn’t fit the client’s personality. I really enjoy the aspect of finding just the right fit. So I try always to base my marketing programs on their particular personality and preferred mode of learning. My company, a literary agency, also prints, publishes and promotes books. After we publish a book, we help the author to market the book and we can create book videos to accompany the marketing process. We are a one-stop shop for all of your publications and book-marketing needs.
Ellen: So your company’s approach would be that one-size does not fit all. Each client is an individual?
Linda: Most definitely. We work individually with people. We hold your hand through the entire journey and that is rare in this business. I have always given information away to help new authors on my podcast Book That Author and I would encourage authors to listen to the show archives found on Blog Talk Radio.
Ellen: What about the role of social media in marketing?
Linda: If a person is comfortable with social media, there is an abundance of opportunities there with which I can familiarize them. If they are uncomfortable with social media, there are many other ways to market. Some things are foundational and therefore a requirement, and then there are many other ways that will be compatible with the client’s personality. I tailor what I craft to my individual clients with the idea that they will reach a level of comfort that will keep them marketing their work long after my program has ended.
Ellen: Do you think it is important to be a proficient collaborator in order to work well with clients because in many ways, it is a dance: you lead; the clients follow and then you adjust the direction in which you are taking them according to the steps that work comfortably for them – a harmonious intertwining of personalities and abilities. What do you think?
Linda: To some degree it is a dance, but at other times, I find that it really needs to be a follow my directives approach because I am trying to teach them secure modes of marketing. Too many directives about book marketing abound and not all are based on substance and experience. When I work with people, because of my own difficult and costly experiences with other marketers, I can say confidently that there is weight – not fluff – behind my words.
Ellen: What is the importance of intuition in marketing or is the process one that is mainly dependent on tried and tested techniques?
Linda: I like tried and tested techniques. There is a place for intuition, but I like things that I can measure. Even though the best of techniques might not guarantee the success of a book, it is essential to cast a marketing net. If you don’t do that, your book stands no chance of being noticed, however good it happens to be. So you have to make every effort (and there are many creative things you can do) to make your book reach a point of demand. Of course, there is never a guarantee that you will reach that point but if you truly believe in and like the book you have written, there are others who will like it, too. I speak from my own experience: there are many buyers for your books. They will sell but only if you help them along. I have experienced that myself.
Ellen: What qualities must a marketer have in order to successfully represent a client?
Linda: The best marketers don’t simply teach according to the methods of others. They teach what they know and what they themselves have experienced. Personal experience has more weight than a marketing degree.
Ellen: Would you say that your goal in sharing your knowledge and marketing experience with your clients, is the hope that your clients ultimately will become adept at wearing more than one hat when necessary – hopping from the focused creative process of completing a book to the process of marketing – yet another long haul?
Linda: Yes, indeed. With all of my heart, I want my clients to find a piece of the whole marketing pie. That’s what I have taught them. I seek out strategies for them that resonate with their personalities so they will reach a point where they will use them. It brings me so much joy when clients come back and say, “See – I stuck with what you said and just look at my results!”
Ellen: So you wrote your latest two books, Publishing and Publicity for Smart People and Rock Star Marketing for the Emerging Author with the goal of supporting writers?
Linda: That’s right. I wrote these books to solve a problem that I saw facing authors in the writing community. The problem that I saw was that there is an overwhelming amount of information online that shows authors how to market their books. Too much information can be as bad as too little information. What I decided to do was to write books that would not overwhelm the author with information. Yet at the same time, provide a quality resource that they could use. With the goal that by the time they finished reading my book, they would have already been marketing it. It is formatted to use the information immediately as you are reading. That is what makes the books unique. They are available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
Ellen: Because the ever-evolving world of social media is both confusing and time-consuming for so many creators, and because it is generally necessary for a creator to have some presence there, I would think that it is enormously helpful to have a relationship with a marketer capable of wading into those noisy waters.
Linda: I agree – most writers certainly need help initially because otherwise they will drown. Marketers can give them a solid foundation about social media and then encourage them to build upon it. But because social media is so personal, writers have to eventually do it their own way once the marketer has helped them to understand the changing dynamics. A good marketing program will teach a client both how to start and how to continue.
Ellen: The work of the creator has been privately conceived and developed but once the work is completed, it becomes time to share it with the public. There are some writers with the ability to switch gear quite adroitly and market themselves. Most however, cannot and do not. Thus their work that has taken them months or even years to complete, languishes. This is where a marketer steps in. I see you, Linda, as really providing a service to such writers. Do you see your work as a service?
Linda: Yes, I see my work as a service – it’s a ministry for me. What I do can help people change their personal world and even, depending on their subject matter, the world in big or small ways. I go beyond the technicalities when working with people and try to inspire them with a can do spirit which in many ways, is more important than marketing. You need that spirit to help you persevere with what you are doing.
Ellen: What advice would you give to writers?
Linda: Every author should have a website that they own and not rely on 3rd party websites like Facebook. They can have a Facebook account, but should own their own site. Also, they should adopt an attitude conducive to enjoying their marketing efforts and that should be why they select their promotional activities. Enjoy what you do! This will help you to keep progressing long term. Also, find the social media platforms that work for you and use them. Do not try to do what everybody else seems to be doing. It is important that you realize that marketing takes time and you will have to test many things before you find out the areas that sell books. But if you can meet a need, you can sell a book. Finally, never give up. That’s the most important thing. Don’t give up and don’t under-estimate yourselves; rather, each writer should reinforce in themselves the belief that the world needs their voice, after all, isn’t that why they started writing their books in the first place?
Contact and media information for: Linda Leon:
Book Marketing Professionals
Connect with Linda on LinkedIn
Phone: (281) 331-5845
Read all Ellen’s interviews in one place in the Conversations About Creativity Book.
Her conversations with diverse creators give readers fascinating insights into the commonalities, the differences, the passions, the persistence and the joyful engagement found in the innovative process. There is no ownership of creativity which exists in many disciplines. These interviews are inspirational and catalysts for self-reflection and creative engagement.