The Good Story Podcast

Episode 34: Emily Enger, Book Marketing Coach

Episode Summary

How does a new author start gaining traction? Can you stay authentic while "selling yourself" as a writer? Book Marketer and PR Coach Emily Enger joins Mary to talk about some of the aspects of the writing process that might leave a yucky taste in our mouths. Tune in for actionable tips and insights into a publicist and marketer's side of the publishing world.

Episode Notes

How does a new author start gaining traction? Can you stay authentic while "selling yourself" as a writer? Book Marketer and PR Coach Emily Enger joins Mary to talk about some of the aspects of the writing process that might leave a yucky taste in our mouths. Tune in for actionable tips and insights into a publicist and marketer's side of the publishing world.

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Good Story Company: If you have a story in your head, we’re here to help you get it out into the world. We help writers of all skill sets, all genres, and all categories, at all stages of the writing process. Need a hand with brainstorming? Want to find a critique partner? Looking for an editor to help polish up your pitch, your idea, or your entire manuscript? We have all of it and more in our community. If you’re ready to take the next step (or the first step) on your writing journey, we’re here to help you.

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Mary Kole: Former literary agent Mary Kole founded Good Story Company as an educational, editorial, and community resource for writers. She provides consulting and developmental editing services to writers of all categories and genres, working on children’s book projects from picture book to young adult, and all kinds of trade market literature, including fantasy, sci-fi, romance, and memoir. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has worked at Chronicle Books, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Movable Type Management. She has been blogging at since 2009. Her book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, a writing reference guide for middle grade and young adult writers, is available from Writer's Digest Books. 

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Episode Transcription

Mary: Hello, this is Mary Kole with "The Good Story Podcast," all about the writing life, the publishing life, and everything in between. I want to thank our Good Story Company team. You can learn more about us at, and I'm thrilled to bring you today's show. Here's to a good story. All right, everybody. Welcome to "The Good Story Podcast." My name is Mary Kole. If my shoulders are up to my ears for the people watching the video, it's because it is -1 degrees. My guest also knows the pain of being in Minnesota in winter. She is Emily Enger of Good Enough Book Marketing which I love and the slogan is even better. It is "sell your book, not your soul." I love it. Emily, welcome. Why don't you introduce yourself a little bit more broadly for our listening audience?

Emily: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for having me, Mary. I'm just delighted to be here. So, me, by way of introduction, I'm going to take you way back, because I think...

Mary: Uh-oh, the time machine.

Emily: To understand my philosophy, you, kind of, have to understand the kid that I was. I was that nerdy girl who fell in love with books, who always had her nose in a book, that kind of cliche that I'm sure a lot of your listeners...

Mary: Never met one before.

Emily: But what was unique about my experience and being that way is I grew up... I'm a farm kid. I grew up in a very rural area, and I didn't know anybody like me. I didn't know anybody who had the, kind of, creative drive that I had or loved books to the extent that I did. And so I didn't know a lot of the stereotypes about writers and readers, which kind of had its... There's a benefit, I think, to being a little sheltered. So, it didn't occur to me that writers hoarded their words or were shy about letting their art be seen by the world or were, kind of, you know, praying to the gods to be discovered someday. I just assumed that, if you had a passion, you shared it because that's why you do this thing and you love this thing. And so, you know, when I was 10 years old, I'm a fiddle player. I learned to play at the age of 10, and within a couple months of learning the instrument, I had joined this fiddle group that my instructor started. So, I was 10 years old and I was basically playing in a band traveling all of Minnesota to do this. I didn't know that that was weird. When I was 12, I submitted my first poem to a magazine.

Mary: Oh, wow.

Emily: I didn't know that other people didn't do this, because how sheltered I was. I mispronounced the word "novel" until I was, like, 14 or 15 years old. I called it novel because I literally never heard anybody say it out loud. I only encountered it reading it and so my mind... You know, keep in mind there was not the media that we have today. I wasn't listening to book podcasts. There were no, like, influencers on social media channels, talking about the stuff I loved. It was just me reading a lot of books in my parents' basement. You know, so I, kind of, became a book marketing coach by, like, naïve optimism, that I didn't really know was weird.

So, eventually, you know, I went to college to get an English degree, but I also got a certificate in publishing. There was a teaching press at the college, which basically serves as, like, an internship for people who want to go into publishing. I was less naïve by the time I got to college, and that certificate definitely, kind of, beat out any of the remaining naivete about how the industry works. But I noticed that there was no marketing, not for me as a writer and my English degree, but even when I studied publishing, there was not a lot of talk about marketing.

And so in my senior year, I realized, because everybody, their senior year—not everybody but a lot of United States—have not quite enough credits to be a full-time student, right? You want to keep your full-time student status for the loans. So, you have to take a couple filler courses. And so most people take, like, Volleyball 100 or just like, you know, these easy things. And I was like, "Oh, there's an advanced marketing class in this time slot that I have an opening in my schedule for." So, I just signed up for it, again, naively like, "I'll try this."

Mary: Was it through, like, the communications department? So, it wasn't even like your department?

Emily: Exactly. It wasn't part of the English department. It was part of the business side of the university. And when my advisor saw my schedule for the coming semester, he's like, "What is this doing on here?" And I was like, "I just want to try it," and he's like, "Well, don't you think you should try an introduction to marketing class first?" But there was no intro class available. So, I jumped into this advanced class, and I became this, like, humanities student sitting among all these business majors, and they're throwing out...they're talking and I don't understand what they're saying. And pretty soon I realized they're just speaking in acronyms, and their acronyms I've never heard of, but they all, like, know the language. And, you know, I didn't have a smartphone. This is before then, so I'm, like, writing on a piece of paper all the acronyms that I have to look up later just to understand what the professor is even saying. So, writers, like, I very much know what it's like to be like, "I'm not actually, like, a professional marketer. What's going on?" And this just being a very different thing and that, kind of, panicked feeling.

But I ended up loving the course. It was really interesting, and I learned so much, and I ended up then pivoting... Because everyone's like, "What do you do with a degree in the humanities?" "Well, you get really creative on your resume about skills it gives you," and I ended up pivoting into marketing and niche media throughout my career. I ended up at a few different...doing marketing work for a few different industries. As happens, you don't land, like, the industry that was your goal right away out of college, of course.

But ultimately I became the communications director for a regional art center in Minnesota. It serves nine rural counties and three Native American reservations, and I just did all of their marketing communications work. So, it was all the stuff you would think of—press releases, courting the media, courting the media, advertising, radio underwriting, direct mailing. But then at the same time, this is when a lot of companies were moving to what is digital marketing going to look like. So, I was then like, okay, website SEO, direct-to-consumer stuff that is more newsletters and social media, and balancing all of these things. But what's unique about an art center and my art center served both visual artists but also writers. Writers were my "people," I say in quotes. And so, you know, I was very excited to work with them.

But the way that I would grow, kind of, exposure for the organization was by simply propping up the person we were featuring, right? Who is the featured artist? Who is the guest speaker or the guest author? And so the first thing you would do if you were going to be at my art center is you'd get, you know, a congratulations email from the executive director, and then she would introduce you to me. And I was 10 months working with artists leading up to their event, doing all the marketing and media materials, rewriting their bio, and then setting them up on basically a media tour. And I almost was like a little mini publicist for them leading up to the event that they were going to do with us.

So, when it came time for me to, kind of, strike it on my own, the work-life-kids balance dilemma that so many women have to deal with when they become parents and childcare is hard to come by and expensive. I just pivoted that into helping authors more specifically and on an individual level.

Mary: I have about 10 million things to ask you and to say about that. This is actually not our first brush. We have, sort of, had some conversations already, and I'm sure Emily will tell you a little bit about that at the end of our time together. What you do now, which I would love to talk about, isn't what you started out doing. So, when you made this pivot, you were actually doing more like done for you stuff, and you've, sort of, gotten away from that. And so writers who think you sound great and would love for you to be their publicist, and I would also love to talk about the difference between, kind of, what we think of as publicists work and marketing work and why they're not the same thing because there is a distinction, but the people who might be like, "Emily, take my stuff and run with it because I don't know what I'm doing," would be so sad to hear that that's not available. Can you talk a little bit more about how you've, sort of, made the decisions that you did with your own career?

Emily: Absolutely. So, yes, when I first started, I was doing, yes, done for you services, which is you hire me, you tell me kind of what your goals are, and then I do all the, kind of, putzy work to get you there, right? You know, that could mean I would run your social media channels if you wanted somebody else to do them, or it could mean I send out press releases to the media trying to beg for coverage, or it could mean I set up advertising campaigns on Amazon or social media or wherever. All the things. I would do whatever your, kind of, desired strategy was.

I pivoted away from doing that. And now I consider myself a book marketing and PR coach. And, yes, they are different, but they go hand in hand. And the reason I did that is a bit twofold. One is cost. Writers already have pretty tight margins when it comes to making a profit. And so to pay somebody like me to do the thing that you want done is eating into a big piece of that profit. Now, ideally, of course, you're making a bigger profit if you hire somebody like me but especially upfront, before those results start coming in, it gets tricky. And it was hard for some authors, I think, to justify that because they didn't necessarily see that long-term strategy or maybe they did but you can't afford what you can't afford. They just weren't there yet. So, how are they going to get there so that then they can hire somebody? So that was something that I felt pretty passionate about trying to fix because I didn't want to be something standing in the way of authors making a profit. My whole deal is that I think the arts can be a real living for people if you can make money with the arts. And so that was one piece.

And the other piece was just a difference in the way consumers, your readers, what the expectations are. And we live in an era where people expect access. And so when you pay a go-between i.e. me to do some of this work for you, I was getting in the way of some of the authors that I was helping, because they were missing the connection with their readers. That's really, really important. And so I would find...I even started doing some experiments where I would find like if I would write the rough draft of the materials we were going to do but then I would have the author be the one who sent it from their email or who posted it themselves after tweaking and putting it in their own voice, the same post would do better because it just had that sincerity and that same voice that the author already has. And so it's a better strategy if you can do it yourself.

And this even includes the media, which surprises people because the media is used to having publicists and agents as the go-between. But sometimes what I would find, and I've even talked to and interviewed some reporters about this, is what they appreciated is the media works very fast these days. Quick turn, quick turn. They need to be able to get a hold of you as soon as possible if you want to land, you know, an interview with them. So, if the author directly reaches out to them, they have direct reply and possibly a phone number. Within a minute of getting that email, they can call that author. If I send it, then they have to chitchat with me and be like, "Okay," follow up questions to me, which they have to be funneled to the author. And it was getting too complicated.

Mary: So, too many, kind of, layers and...

Emily: Yeah, there were too many layers.

Mary: So, while we're, kind of, on the topic, tell me what you consider to be the difference. You say they're related but between public relations and marketing. I think all marketing is public relations but... Wait, wait, wait. No. I always get turned around when I try to phrase a sentence like this. All public relations is market... but not all. Yeah, you know what I'm trying to say, so help me. Help me here.

Emily: All publicity is marketing is I think what you're trying to say. Yes, all publicity is marketing but not all marketing is publicity. Yes.

Mary: Yes.

Emily: So, the typical difference is that, you know, publicity, which is, you know, seen as typically like getting interviewed by the media, is much more about career and reputation focused. It is something you do even before you need a sale of anything. It's really just about career-building. Marketing is usually trying to lead directly to a sale in some way. Now it doesn't have to be a sale like literally, you know, money exchanged for an item. You know, when I was marketing for an organization, they weren't necessarily buying anything, but the goal there was, you know, "Show up at our event on this specific day." I had a very specific goal I needed, and I was talking about that specific thing. And so you think of marketing as advertising as, kind of, the obvious one.

Radio underwriting. So, not getting interviewed by the media on the radio but an underwriting message, which is, like, a form of advertising, telling listeners about a thing coming up. That would be marketing. And even some, you know, long-term strategies. You know, for an author, if you think about stuff like picking your categories on Amazon carefully, it will lead to better sales. That's marketing. It's not maybe what we think in terms of advertising, but you're doing some specific strategies that you're trying to meet a very specific end goal. It's actually about your career. It's about selling books. So that would be marketing.

Mary: Interesting. Yeah, I like that. And there's also events. There's some media releases. There's interviews. There's trying to get, kind of, article placement in traditional media. I mean, all of these...there are just so many things that could be done with marketing and with public relations, which I think makes it all the more overwhelming for a writer who isn't maybe naturally suited to some of these tasks or they don't know where to start makes it difficult for them to approach. Now, do you see a barrier to entry for marketing or hiring somebody to do marketing as this idea of you don't 100% know what moves the needle. So, like you said, you could do keyword optimization. You could do some SEO, but it's not like you do those things or you tweet a lot and then you get a sale. And you can link one task directly to the goal that you have for that task.

Sometimes, you know, we've all heard the adage that somebody needs to hear a marketing message seven times before they act. Sometimes this tweet that you did two years ago is going to end up going to a sale. And while technology is getting better at helping us track exactly what does one thing and leads to another, we're just not there yet. So, do you feel like that, sort of, black box of all your marketing efforts and inputs and then the end result of sales, that seeming disconnect is, sort of, a cognitive issue for some writers when approaching marketing? Sorry, that was a very long-winded question.

Emily: No, I love it. Absolutely. Yes, yes, yes. It is. One of yet another reason I switched and pivoted to being a coach instead of doing done for you services was just this sympathy that I felt because I kept running into authors who were very overwhelmed, right? And I didn't want to have to, like, wait till you hired me to be the person who could, like, you know, hold your hand or pat your back or tell you that it's like... It's okay. It doesn't have to be this overwhelming. And that's why my business is called Good Enough Book Marketing. I'm trying to take away that overwhelm. And if you do a deep dive on the internet not only to marketing but even specifically book marketing, you will find tons of gurus talking about all these tricks for how to track all those things. There are some ways you can do it. You can get customized links and make a bunch of them. And then in every channel where you talk to people and have a call to action, whether that's Twitter, whether that's Facebook, whether that's something different than social media, you put that specific link only in that spot. Then you're managing, like, 30 different links that all go to the same place. I don't know any author who knows how to do that. I'm sure I just said this, and all your listeners were like, "What did she say? Like, I don't even get how this works."

Yes, like, this is complicated. I don't think that's necessary, but that means then that you're not tracking what every single piece of marketing is doing. So, how do you know what works, right? That is the big question. And honestly I believe in intuition and your gut and, like, reading the room. Like, you can have a sense of something being successful even if you don't have the full knowledge that it was successful. And often because of the Rule of 7 that you referenced in your question, the idea that you need to have seven interactions with someone before they even buy, you need to build the "know like trust" factor, which I'm sure people have also heard about, in order know, over that course of the Rule of 7, in order to get them to buy, even if you had the tracking links for every single thing, you don't know what those seven steps were for every single reader. So, you have to say, "Who cares?" Like, at a certain point, you have to not worry about getting into the weeds.

Marketing can be simpler than this. Marketing is doing one thing forward facing that gets you into a new audience who's never heard about you while also doing something inward facing that nurtures the fans you already have, okay? And if you just keep that in the back of your mind like, "What did I do this week or this month that put me in front of new faces? What did I do that nurtured my own people with whatever way that I connect to them?" and you just keep that steady and consistent, that's going to be your foundation. And it doesn't matter exactly what you did that built that trust. It just matters that you're building that trust continually.

Mary: I love that. I love, sort of, unpacking it as one forward-facing, one, you know, your warm leads or however, or funnel-facing, let's call it. So, this does bring, I agree with you. The links management, you could get really granular on, kind of, tracking people through your various things that you've set up, and seeing what makes a sale, and optimizing everything and having spreadsheets of all of this stuff. If you remove that pressure, which I really like, you do that with your messaging, like even from the very name of your company, like you were saying. But if you remove that, I feel like one of the issues that a lot of people have about marketing is that of expectations, meaning people often come at this with expectations that don't necessarily match reality or what's possible, and there is somewhat of a question mark about it still. Even if you do track things or if you don't, it's like BookBub promotions fail. You know, you could be writing the most beautiful email newsletters, but your subscriber numbers are not responding or the unexpected thing that wasn't trying to go viral does go viral. And so there's always, sort of, an X factor about it, it seems. So, with that reality in mind, how can people, sort of, temper their expectations to approach what marketing actually is and what it can actually do for you in just an average case?

Emily: That's a great question. So, all of marketing really as an author in particular comes down to your why, and it also comes down to the brand that you have built because authors are a brand or a personal brand. And this is actually the same answer that I give when people ask me questions about like, you know, "I don't know what to post on social media. Like, what do I even say as an author?" In particular, because my focus is fiction and poetry, non-fiction is a little bit easier for like what do you post because you have something you're teaching usually. But in particular, if you wrote, like, a romance novel and you're like, "I don't know what to do for the subject of my newsletter. Like, what do I even say?" And this is the same answer is, why do you write? Why did you write that book? I doubt to become a New York Times bestseller. I think most people understand that that's a pretty unlikely goal. It wasn't to be on Oprah's chair someday, you know, I hope. If that was your goal, it was the wrong reason to do the business, right? It has to be about the art itself.

And so within that, that has to be your motivation. There has to be something about your story and your message that you think matters, and your goals should be incorporated into that. So, do you just want to have influence about a certain topic in your sphere? There's a lot of people in the world. There's plenty of people for you to have a huge fan base and be successful in some, kind of, niche messaging without might not necessarily be enough to make you a bestseller, but you will still be successful because you need to attract the people who are looking for what you are selling and you're not actually selling books. You're selling your brand. You're selling your personal brand as an author. Hopefully you will have more than one book throughout your career, right? So, when people find you, you don't want them just there because they liked one specific book of yours. You want them there because they are interested in you. They like your personality, they like your tone, they like your vibe. You have a voice as an author in your marketing that's different than, like, the voice of your books. So that voice and what people feel when they encounter you, that's really what you're selling. That's what your brand is. Your brand is actually how people feel about you when they're in a room with you. And so that why. Like, how do I want to make people feel when they encounter my work, when they encounter me as a professional? That is going to be your North Star, and that's going to help guide you through all those ups and downs and pitfalls, because at the end of the day, you can't be doing it because you're sure that if you gain the system right with easy categories and a BookBub promotion that you for sure will get, you know, "A plus B equal C. This will be your bestseller size," you can't control that. There are no guarantees, but you can control and guarantee what your brand looks like and the impact you have with the fans that you can find.

Mary: I love that reframe where it's not about marketing a specific product because ideally you're right. A lot of people will have more than one thing that they'll want to direct readers toward in their careers. So, what would you say... And I'm sure that you get this question all the time, especially with a tagline like "sell your book, not your soul," what would you say to the people who are like, "Brand? Blech! I can't even begin to think of myself as a brand. I think this whole thing is yucky. Art and commerce are completely exclusive. You know, I just don't see any universe in which I want to shill, you know, or hustle or do any of this grind Boss Babe stuff that I keep hearing about." So, give me an attitude adjustment if I'm that gal.

Emily: Okay. Well, first of all, only a slight attitude adjustment because I am the marketer for you. If you are like, you know, "My art is... I want it to be pure and authentic and not touched by the business world." Like, yes, I get that. I'm the English major. That is me. But a brand is going to actually be your way to make that distinction, because a brand does not have to be selly or salesy. A brand, since it's a personal brand, it's just about who you are. It's just about the experience you want to give. Walt Whitman had a brand. He didn't know he had a brand, but of course he did. When we read any of the classics, anything you want to think of as, you know, that kind of high literature and we look back, you know, through all of those men and women, I could easily write down, kind of, like what they were known for, the topics they covered, the voice that they had. All of those are brands. Those are the pieces of your brand.

What a brand is actually will help you stay as this kind of true, authentic artist because it's actually going to keep you on track, right? So if you are wondering...if you're staring at a blank, flashing cursor on your Facebook page like, "I haven't posted in four days and I'm told I have to post something," and you are really, really tempted to like, you know, enter into a political discussion that's really hot right now, right? And you're like, "Well, is this professional? Is it not? You know, whatever." How do you know whether or not you should do that? There's no rule book, but your brand is your personal rule book. So, you absolutely can if that fits the tone that you have set for yourself and your brand. But if it is not, then that's a little tweak of like, "Oh, this isn't really the lane I want to join because this isn't the vibe and the mood that I'm setting for my followers. So, I'm not going to post in that situation." Neither of this is selly. All of this is just trying to stay true to what you want your reputation to be as an artist.

Mary: Thanks so much for tuning in so far to "The Good Story" podcast. I just wanted to take a moment and let you know that we provide marketing services for those pre-published, about to be published, and already published authors who are listening. Anything from a marketing and social media audit to customized marketing plans with support from our marketing team to done for you marketing grunt work so you can get back to what you love, which I would imagine is writing because nobody really comes alive doing email newsletters. So, let us help. You can learn more at

So, speaking of wading into controversy online, which is very easy to do, there is a well-known author who constantly spouts off on Twitter saying things that some people find to be very inflammatory and very controversial, right? And so I was on Reddit, which is a web forum the other day. And one of the comments that somebody said in a thread about this particular writer going off on Twitter in a way that maybe doesn't fit this author's brand, this comment was so insightful that I took a screenshot, so I'm going to read it.

So, every time this person shows up being a whatever they're being on this social network, I'm going to repeat what I said the first time I saw it. So, this person commenting on Reddit has such beautiful insight. If I were a billionaire living off the royalties from my IP, intellectual property, I would pay someone to manage my social media to promote uses of the IP and some light fan interactions while I screwed off forever. A different word there for screwed, but I think that... So, it's like, to your point, Twitter is a hugely contentious place. You know, Facebook, everybody's saying whatever their hearts desire, but I love this idea of doing a gut check and just saying, "Hey, is this my brand? Should I wade into this? Should I just completely... Nobody asked me, but I'm going to spout off my views on X, Y, and Z. Is that part of my brand? Am I contributing in a way that's going to draw some of those readers and, sort of, my people toward me or is this maybe best left said to my close friends in the group chat instead?" And I just think being intentional about deciding whether or not to participate in conversations like that is just a really, really good reminder for all of us who exist in this forever landscape of social media where everything you say never truly goes away, even if you delete it. So, I just think social media can be such a force for good if you use it well or such a force for not good or not helpful.

Emily: Mm-hmm, absolutely. Well, and it is particular, you know, fiction, what I come across often is often just like, "Well, what is my expertise?" You know, I tell stories. I don't understand what my skill is. And then where they land and where I often help them land is that we expect our literary artists to be insightful people, right? Like, what your skill is, is that you notice, you're careful, you see behind the facade, right? And so that gives a temptation of like, "Well, I should wade into every political controversy then because my gift to the world is my lovely genius brain."

Mary: Or my hot takes.

Emily: Yes, which is not what I necessarily mean when I say being insightful. Being insightful also means being careful and having the discernment to know when is it helpful to say something and when is it just adding to the noise. And so making sure you have that gut check. And, look, nobody's saying you can't ever wade into controversy. All the great writers have had opinions, and they've written extensively on their opinions. All of the great writers of the 19th century that we think of—Emerson, Thoreau, Walt Whitman. They wrote a lot about against slavery, and those works helped. That helped shift the conversation in the nation extensively. So, nobody is saying you can't. It's just that, if you consider yourself to be an artist—I consider writers to be artists—is that you do that artistically. You don't do that as a hot take like a political pundit. So, if you think, while insight is what I'm giving the world, "I'm going to give insight on this issue that just popped up," then do it in a way that still is true to your voice as a brand and be picky about which issues you're going to wade into. The greats didn't write about every issue under the sun, but they did... Slavery was absolutely a hill to die on, right? So, pick your hills to die on if you're going to get political and don't touch every single thing that's ever been talked about on the internet.

Mary: I could not agree more. I love that, sort of, gut check focus like intuition-led approach. So, what do you say? So, one last thing about, kind of, social media and then I do want to stay on this brand thing for just another moment, but what do you say to those writers for whom social media... So, we just talked about the writer for whom social media, they have a hard time not taking the bait. What about those writers who are like, "Ugh, I can't. I cannot be on Twitter. I don't know. I think this is a waste of my time. I don't want to get sucked down this rabbit hole." They have the opposite thing where you couldn't pay them to be on social media. Can they still be successful or can they meet their goals in this landscape?

Emily: It depends on what those goals are, right? If you don't want to be on...

Mary: Oh, you.

Emily: If you don't want to be on social media, then we just have to talk about goals. And to me, I really don't like social media either. I'm on it, and I wish I didn't have to be. I've gone on it less and less as I've gotten older probably because I'm the early adopter, first gen that was on it. And so I'm just worn out now because I've seen it morph into so many different things. And now I'm old enough to just be like, "Well, this was the worst part of me. I don't need to revisit my childhood," because it seems like the immature side of Emily was social media.

And I don't think you have to be on social media, but then you have to ask honest questions about your likelihood of getting an agent if traditional publishing is your path because we have heard so many... I'm sure you've talked about this before but so many stories, and statistics, and confirmations from people in the industry that, yes, they check your following. So, you have to think about that. And then you just have to think about, "Well, how else can I make a connection?" Because the whole reason I do coaching now, it's what I've done for you, is because I didn't want to get in the way of the connection between the author and his or her fans. You can do that through a newsletter, but sometimes the same people who don't like social media don't like doing email marketing either. I would love to see you choose one.

Mary: Those people need to fall on at least one sword. Come on.

Emily: Well, and the other thing is I've seen some other creative things. I know an author who has a podcast. She is this antisocial media. She's very vocal about not being on social media. She's published with the big five. She's like, "Ha, proof you can do it," right? But she has a podcast. So, she's talking regularly, and her fans have something to listen to, she's building that "know, like, and trust" because they're hearing her voice. They don't get to talk back to her, which is probably why she likes that medium. It's not a back and forth, but you have to build "know, like, and trust" somehow. So, she does it through that and through a newsletter. That works.

Certainly, you can do it the old-fashioned way through a lot of events, a lot of in-person events going to the same place, the same cities every year over and over again because you're trying to find the same fans and court them. That's exhausting, but you can do it that way. But just remember like we're living in an era where the nice guy no longer finishes last. So, if you can make your fans just feel like a million bucks because you actually had a long conversation with them at your book event, and it wasn't just about you, you turned the tables and asked them a few things about themselves too, and you guys just had a conversation like you were friends getting to know each other and you were chill and you were not a prima donna, you are making fans for life that way. That is not what writers used to be. Writers used to be a little bit more on a stage and on a pedestal, and that's not where we are anymore. So, even through in-person events, you can build a fan base, but you got to be social to do that.

Mary: And it's also hard to scale. You can't have that one on one, you know?

Emily: You can't have that one-on-one in everything. And, you know, at that point, I said, "We have to talk about goals." If you're doing it in person, your goal has to be the impact. It can't be that you expect to be like a major bestselling author. I don't think that your sales are going to reflect that. But if that is not your goal, you know, if your goal is something different and something more personal, that's okay. You don't have to do it the way everybody else is doing it. You just have to be realistic about what you're going to get for the effort you're putting in.

Mary: That's great. And I'm not shy on delivering some reality checks, so I really am grateful for you, kind of, giving us that context just because so many people have ideas that don't necessarily gel with realistic expectations for what marketing is, what it can do, what it can't do. So, okay, you've sold me on this brand lens through which you seem to see things, and you seem to encourage writers to see themselves. So, if I'm a fiction writer, right, I like to write, and I like to tell stories. Like you said, that's why some people get hung up on pitching their novels because it's like, "What do I say about myself? What's my sales hook? Ack!" It's that art versus commerce conversation again. I wrote something I thought was interesting. That's it. Stop asking me questions. But let's say I'm like, "Okay, I see the wisdom behind this brand approach, but I'm "just a fiction writer." How would you talk me through trying to think about a brand and trying to suss out what that might mean for me, what my watchwords are, what my vibe is?

Emily: There's actually something's called a brand guide, and this is what major organizations use. It's what I used when I was doing marketing for the arts center. If you are in any kind of business team, an actual document is created that has rules, which I say in quotes because we don't have to be super strict about them but, kind of, rules for how this brand is going to look forward facing so that everybody's on the same page. And it gets really granular. It gets into like, "If you use our logo, that is the colored version. It can only be on a white background. And if there's a black background, you must use this one. And you can never make it smaller than this exact size." It's like there's rules, and you better not break them because General Mills needs to look the same no matter who is posting that day. And authors can do this for themselves. I teach authors how to do brand guides for themselves. But of course, you have a logo, right? So, what is a personal brand? What is your guide? You're thinking about things like your why you're creating a mission statement just like a business would, but yours is going to be something more personal. You're thinking about mood setting a lot.

There are some poets... Now everybody's voice is different, but there are some poets in particular that I follow on Instagram literally because I am getting sick of social media, but they are like rebels in the social media space because their particular brand, not every poet has to have his voice, but theirs is very calming. When their posts come up on my feed, I feel like I'm sitting next to a fountain, and I'm just closing my eyes and listening to the water trickle over and over and over. And, like, I calm down from whatever else on my feed was starting to stress me out. I'm so grateful...

Mary: You have to email me or I could put this in the show notes even because I need a fountain timeout most of the time.

Emily: Well, yes, and this is, in particular, when I talk to poets, I tell them all the time, "You're not selling a book, you're selling a mood." So, help me, your audience, get in a better mood today. And that's not to say you can't be sarcastic in your voice if that's your brand, but these particular people, this is what I love from them, and that's something you would decide in your brand guide. Is my voice such that this is what I bringing and then I need to show up with that voice and that tone every single time? And when you actually write it down... So, those are the pieces you're thinking about. You're thinking about your voice, thinking about your mission statement. You're thinking about your audience too. You have to determine who is your ideal readers that you remember who you're talking to. It doesn't do a lot of good to enter that political space, yada, yada if you are talking to a group that just doesn't care or already has gotten the message. Like, you're just adding to what's already been said at that point, what they already know. So, who are you talking to? That's a big piece.

And then lastly, an option is to think about colors just like an actual business. When we think of brand, the reason readers or authors don't want to think about a brand is because they assume, "Oh, big business. It's a logo and your colors." You guys, a logo and the colors are what you see of the brand because that's just the visual elements. That's actually the last thing that is chosen in a brand. Those colors in that logo are meant to reflect what's the deeper thing that is behind the business. The companies chose those colors to reflect their mission and vision statement. You don't need to have a logo, but if you are that brand that is like, "I'm the poet that wants to calm the world down," a lot of black and white. Not overstimulating colors, right? So, that way when people are on your page, it's like a meditation, right? I'm not seeing a lot of stuff. Now that's maybe getting a little bit into the weeds, but it can help you stay on track if you feel like you need like a bit of a compass. You know, my brand and also yours is bright yellow.

Mary: Yay.

Emily: Right? We love the yellow branding. I chose it because it was happy and exciting, and I want to have a sense of possibility when people land on my page. I literally googled color meanings but based on... And then I found the ones that fit, like the keywords that I had chosen as part of my personal mission statement. So, colors are an option, but, gosh, they really do put the package together if you decide you want to do that.

Mary: You know, I have been following tangentially this idea of sound logos or, what are they called, auditory logos that big companies are doing, like, for example, Tostitos revealed a new sound brand for themselves, and it's like a three-second clip of a sound that's going to play with all of their advertising. So, Tostitos specifically, I don't know if you've looked at their logo recently, but worked into their logo are these little images that look like people gathering together next to a bowl of chips.

Emily: Oh, I love that.

Mary: So, it's sort of like, to your point, people get bent out of shape about logos and hung up on fonts and all of these brand elements, but it's a reflection of the work that you've already done to, sort of, choose those things and curate those things. And then the logo and the colors and maybe even an audio logo if you are... Mastercard unveiled one. If you go down that road of "writers don't need an audio logo," but it's this distillation of all the things that you've already come up with. And I love tools like Canva. They make it very, very easy to choose your colors. If you get Canva Pro, you can kind of preload your theme colors, so everything you make just goes right to your colors. We didn't start to come alive as Good Story Company until our graphic designer gave us that style guide, that brand guide that you were talking about. Now we have a very consistent visual language that everybody on my team speaks, and it's just such a great thing to do. Maybe not as a first step, right? You're saying it's a little bit in the weeds, but it's such a wonderful thing to do eventually, to just really hone yourself on what you're trying to say and who you are and how you're presenting.

Now, this is a philosophical question, so it's like, if I'm the fountain poet and my Instagram is very calming, everything's black or white, and you know, maybe pale pink, just a kiss of pale pink, if that's my brand, is that really me? And this is a big sort of question, especially about Instagram, is like, is that authentic though? Is that who I am? What if I'm having a really bad day and I just don't feel like being the fountain person for anyone else? Is there any friction with that image that you present? Does it have to be the thing you always present? Like, the Rachel Hollis breakdown. This authentic, empowering, self-help girl, wash your face turned into... That was such an image and it ended up falling apart and it ended up biting this creator in the butt. So, can we be authentic? Can we stray from brand once brand exists?

Emily: Okay, so thank you very much for asking that follow-up because I honestly should have pointed that out. When we were talking about brands earlier, because that's very, very vital, your brand should be authentically you. I do believe that. That's why your fans are fans of you. And with that Rachel Hollis example, like, yeah, that's a betrayal, right, only because she was a personal brand, right? If your brand is a company, well, then obviously we realize that we're looking at a sheen. But in this personal access landscape that we're living in, your friends just want to be your friends and you're not really being real if it's not real.

And I would also add your brand guide is a guide, it's not a rule book, right? So, it's helping you get ideas on the page to give you a road and a compass, but you can stray from the brand once in a while. Anybody who works with branding will tell you like, "It's okay to have a Post B, something a little off-topic on occasion." And 100% you should be vulnerable. One hundred percent. If you don't feel like being the fountain poet today, then you should show up real because that's going to be your best post actually. As you're saying, I don't feel like being happy today. Like, that kind of vulnerability is what's going to make help you build that trust that you're trying to build.

And it's not trustworthy if the brand is too much of a facade. Obviously, all of us on the internet are putting on a little bit of a facade. We're not 100% real online, no matter how real you try to be. And then there are people who try to capitalize on being vulnerable and then it feels fake like their vulnerability feels fake. And then if you're getting too far the other way... And then you're just starting to overthink at that point, right? You get a brand guide, you get your core, kind of, ideas of what you want to do. You give yourself freedom to stretch from it on occasion, and you make sure that when you're writing down like what your mission statement is, what your personality is, that that is you doing therapy, right? That is you actually looking inward into you actually. That's not you creating a character on a page. You're actually showing up as you.

Mary: I love that. Okay, so before we wrap up, you've given us I think a lot of food for thought and a lot of really, really valuable resets for ways to think about marketing approach, especially if there's like a yucky taste in our mouths about the whole topic of art versus commerce and selling ourselves. If I'm a writer, and I'm not agented, not published yet, I hope to be but I'm sort of in the big, big ocean with everybody else, what are... Let's say I'm open to trying most things. What are the top three things that I should be focusing on right now with the understanding that we'll be screaming into the void for a little while until this starts to get traction? But we finally come around to the idea that we probably should start doing some stuff. What are my next three action items once I've gotten over that hump?

Emily: Okay, so the number one most important is networking. You need to start networking yesterday. What is networking? Find friends. Find friends in the business. And this also, kind of, feels slimy for some people because they don't understand the purpose. So, let me explain. I don't mean like find friends that are insincere so that you can get a favor from them, although hopefully you do get a favorite from them. That is a nice thing about friendship. But find friends that can help build community for you in this business and be intentional about who they are.

I see so much advice online about how networking is like joining Facebook groups. Like, uh-uh, no, no, no, no. You can join Facebook groups if you want. There's a lot of good things happening in Facebook groups, but you're not going to build any friendships that are going to help you climb a ladder by the random people you have a conversation with in a group of 10,000 other writers on Facebook groups. No one cares. You need to find other people in other sections of the industry, so of course other authors but also book reviewers, journalists, bookstore owners. Like, who are the other people who touch the book industry that are not just the authors? And do you know any of them at all? That is pivotal because once you do have a book out, whatever your publishing path, you will be leaning on those friends, not just for opportunities, and favors, and kickbacks, and things that feel slimy but also support and friendship who will guide your hands at what is a good idea versus a bad idea or a good opportunity versus a bad opportunity. I like to think of networking as finding coworkers. Writing is something you do in isolation. Most people in other industries have coworkers even just for their mental health. It's nice to have other people you have to talk to every day. You need those for yourself, and the sooner you get them, the better. So, networking is number one.

Number two is the brand guide that I was talking about. Sit down and figure out what are your goals as an author, not just for that book. What do I want to look like in the world?

And then the third action item would be choosing how you're going to make a connection with fans. It doesn't have to be social media, but then it should be something else. And if it is social media, which platforms? And actually just making a conscious choice to figure out, what is my connection point going to be? And then setting up boundaries for yourself around that, so it's not overwhelming. And you can set up your author page even before your book is out, because you're showing up as a brand, not an author, right? So, you can start that and feel authentic starting that whenever. You don't have to push it super hard if it feels too weird since your book isn't done yet, but at least open it up, get it ready, play around. It's kind of nice to start it soon when you only have a handful of followers, because you can make all the mistakes and only a hundred people will see them at that point.

So, those three things. Those would be my goals.

Mary: That's great, that's great. And I want to magnify what you said about how you show up when you're trying to make connections everywhere. People are just going to, nope out if you are like, "Well, I'm a writer. And did you know I'm a writer? And I have all of these books and all of these ideas, and I just want help. And me, me, me, me." It's all about participating in a relationship rather than a transactional, "Here I have a megaphone thing." When you blog, for your email newsletter, what is your value to the other person? Even if you don't yet feel like you have a lot of value to give, what could your value be in the relationship? What can you offer even if you don't feel like you have a lot to offer? But, yeah, your efforts are going to be a complete non-starter if all you do is shout about your own stuff. I think community...

Emily: You give before you ask, absolutely, is what I hear you saying there.

Mary: Exactly. And that's just such a good thing to remain centered on as we approach this maybe strange, scary, new world of author and writer marketing. What is next for you? You are percolating in exciting projects, so I'm going to let you talk about that as a bit of an outro. Take it away.

Emily: Excellent. Well, I am just launching my first course, and it's got a bunch of expert guests, one of whom your listeners will be very familiar with. Mary is actually part of my course as well as several other wonderful voices. This is a course called the Prepare Book Marketing Masterclass. So, I teach marketing in about four different phases, and so this course focuses on just the preparation phase. And it's just about getting you ready before, kind of, outward-facing marketing, so a lot of the stuff we talked about already. Networking is definitely a piece of that, right? Social media, connection, how are you going to make that connection, you have to do all the things. All of that type of stuff, I go into a deep dive in my course, which you can find at

I also have a newsletter, and if you go to the same site,, you actually can download a free handout of seven book marketing activities you can stop doing today to just free up your time. And it's my favorite handout that I've ever created, so it's my freebie for signing up for my newsletter. And, yeah, it's all there right on the website.

Mary: Well, Emily Enger, thank you so, so much for joining me. You are a wealth of information and a delight.

Emily: Thank you. I just love being here.

Mary: Oh, stop. I love having you. We're besties now basically, but check out Good Enough Book Marketing. Check out the class not just because I'm affiliated with it. I think this preparatory work where you're just laying a foundation is going to be so crucial to anybody who hopes to build upon that foundation in the publishing industry, whether self-publishing, traditional publishing, just becoming a brand in the space. I love this topic. Emily, you've been so wonderful. Thank you for coming on today.

Emily: Well, thank you, Mary.

Mary: And thank you all for listening, for spending your valuable time with us. Check Emily out, and my name is Mary Kole. This has been "The Good Story Podcast," and here's to a good story that you sell without guilt or shame and with savvy skills you learn from Emily. Have a great rest of your day.

Thanks so much for joining me. This has been "The Good Story Podcast" with me, Mary Kole. I just want to offer a heartfelt thank you and bit of gratitude to the entire Good Story Company team. You can find out more at and of course to all of you listening and taking the time to really dig into these conversations with me. This has been "The Good Story Podcast" and here's to a good story.