The Sweet Tea Mafia #SteaM

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Sort of brings a vision of a flock of genteel southern ladies gathered on a sprawling front porch surrounded by geraniums, doesn’t it? Can’t you just envision them gossiping and carrying on in low-country drawl interspersed with the occasional bout of laughter like sugar spoons razing fine crystal, tinkling and singing.

Some months back, I started a blog space and Facebook presence with my bestie writing friend, Hayley Hayden, and we dubbed our space Sweet Tea and Other Things. Our intent was to not just highlight our writing, but also to share our lives and our many interests and activities, but the vision of that space wasn’t fully realized to us then.

Although we first met through our writing careers, we’ve since discovered we share much in common. In fact, we’re pretty sure during our forays into our genealogies that we’re going to find a mutual root on our family trees, which are pretty gnarled and twisted, at some point. We just know we’re related. We couldn’t possibly have so much in common if we were not. I digress.

Long story short, our blog has suffered at the hands of the very lives we live which we were intent on sharing with the world. After my grand re-entry into the world of writing and publishing after my self-prescribed hiatus, we’ve been on the same path: what to do with our stories. Not writing is not an option. The options lie in the publishing itself. Traditional? Big-five houses? (We’re both romance writers by trade.) Hybrid publishing? Small press? Self-publishing? It seems while Amazon is the great equalizer, as simple as things have become, they’ve also remained quite complicated. And, while neither of us expect to get rich with this writing gig, let’s face it, we like all other artists types out there have huge egos which need petted regularly in order for us to feel validated. The amount of validation varies from author to author and from situation to situation, but the need is there no matter.

So how does one go about getting noticed and receiving the necessary validation in order to feel as though one’s time isn’t being wasted? The ways and means of this are as wide and varied as the ways to publish I mentioned above. However, for romance writers, the avenues seem to bifurcate many times over. There are magazines devoted only to romance. There are blogs dedicated to only romance–and branch out from there according to genre. There are promotional agencies far and wide. There are reader venues where you can buy an ad space. Newsletters, your own website, other people’s websites, blog hops, podcasts, conventions, conferences, signing venues, book stores, get a plug in at the end of your friend’s book, and the list goes on and on. By my observation, the romance genre seems to hold the record for genre-specific ways to get one’s name and book out there. It’s almost ridiculous, actually. It’s most definitely, at times, overwhelming. Even for me, who worked in marketing for a small press out of Indiana for a couple of years, it can be completely swamping. I found I really didn’t have time to devote to my own writing most days for trying to keep up with every new way to promote the presses writers that came down the pipe. For self-published authors, this problem also exists; the balance between making product and promoting product. It’s less of a problem when one goes the traditional route as many mid-range to larger presses still offer lucrative assistance in the marketing of the work. However, marketing is becoming more and more the author’s responsibility no matter the size of house they sign with. My question is now, as it was at the beginning of my writing journey many years ago, where does one start and what is the best approach?

At some point, you have to ask for help. And I can tell you from experience, this is no game for introverts, which most authors will tell you they suffer from. In complete opposition to what we may have been taught as children on our grandmother’s knees, perhaps on a sprawling front porch at the feet of her and all her friends with their glasses of perspiring iced tea, surrounded by geraniums, we want to be heard and not seen.

Yes, at some point, as a writer with an ego to feed, one must step outside their safe space and ask for help. That may come in the form of approaching another blogger for a chance to guest on their blog and return the favor. It might be asking for a plug on their blog. This might entail asking your fans on your social media accounts to re-post something that might garner your work more attention. And, it might entail you offering some type of perk in exchange for helping spread the word about you and your book(s).

One thing the sweet tea mafias of days gone by had on us all was the ability to spread word about something in record time. If you washed your sheets on the wrong day of the week and your husband was out of town, stories were sure to fly from the sprawling front porches to the town square prior to noon, not two hours after said sheets had been hung on the clothesline to dry. It was with this in mind, Haley and I began to fully realize the potential of Sweet Tea and Other Things, and how it could be implemented in our quest to stroke the egos which keep us penning our tales of romance.

One of the most popular venues for marketing in the romance world right now seems to the street team by which fans of a writer ban together to spread the word about their favorite stories. This is done from the front porches of social media, with or without a mint julep or two. Haley and I put our noggins together this past week and banged out the frame work of our own Sweet Tea Mafia. We opened a Facebook group to complement our page and blog and we found our first team member. But, as everyone knows, there is strength in numbers. So, today, I bring forth my extrovert and present our proposal…

We’re looking for a few lovers of romance who’d like to sit on our Facebook front porch and spread the word! Perks of joining our Sweet Tea Mafia include swag designed specifically for our street team members, giveaways exclusive to the group, ARC opportunities, advanced notice on releases, exclusive excerpts and out-taken material, exclusive author access and chats, and more. We’ve also enlisted a couple of other romance author friends who write in different genres than we do so there will be a little something for everyone. Raven Relaford and Bru McCormick will be sharing our front porch and bringing their own brand of tea.

So what do you say, followers, readers, and friends? Will you help a gal and her pals out? If you’re not the Sweet Tea Mafia type, could you give me a reblog or repost on a social media platform to further the reaches of our quest for our tribe? Many thanks. And the favor will be gladly reciprocated should you find the need for some help, one introvert to another.

Thanks for visiting my front porch today, where the tea is always sweet and the gossip always hot!

 

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