Posted On January 30, 2017 by Print This Post

Organic Marketing by Kristan Higgins

I am so excited to welcome back one of my favorite authors, KRISTAN HIGGINS!

Please no, you’re saying. Not another article on marketing! I know, I know. They’re such a drag (except THIS one, of course). And we authors do so much already. We’re tired!


Don’t worry, my lambs. Organic marketing is different and in some respects, easier, because all it requires is authenticity, an eye for why your readers reach for your books and a little time.


What is organic marketing?

Organic marketing is what you do as an author when you’re not overtly promoting your books. Direct marketing is when I post a graphic on my Facebook page with a cover of my latest book and give all the buy links. When I do a Q&A on Goodreads. When my publisher takes out an ad in People and sends me on book tour.


Organic marketing is me being me…or rather, the me who writes my books. Believe it or not, I don’t share every little thing about myself, my family and my life. The fact that it seems like I do is because I understand organic marketing. I’ve been in the writing world for ten years, so I know by now what readers respond to in my books and in my public presence—social media, speeches, workshops. Sometimes (often) they’re funny —my awkward encounters with the UPS man, the time I ate dog biscuits by mistake. Sometimes they’re sad—a recent blog about when I lost a baby.


Laughter and tears are an essential part of the experience I want readers to have when they pick up one of my books. Everything I do as an author backs that up. That’s organic marketing. It’s being “out there” as an author and how understanding that everything we do should positively on our books, reinforce our brand and keep readers’ attention…and in the end, how to get readers to buy our books without becoming a pain in the butt, because of course, we all want that, too.

Pick what you’re good at.

Let’s take Author A as an example. She writes steamy, funny romance with smart women who are not generally shy about their sexual needs. Her books are very much about physical, sexual and emotional satisfaction. She is a loud-and-proud feminist. She’s a force to be reckoned with on Twitter, loves nothing more than mocking trolls and posting hilarious, graphic pictures. You probably know who I’m talking about.


She’s also very shy in person, so one things she doesn’t do much is public speaking. For one, I imagine it would be torment. For two, it wouldn’t jive with the image her readers have of her as this sassy, bad-ass feminist who can take on any idiot on Twitter.


Me, I love people. You guys know that already, don’t you? I like to hug. I like to meet new people and hear their stories. That was true before I was an author, but now that I do this for a living, it’s organic marketing. It’s authentic, it reinforces my brand of friendly, relatable characters and happy endings, and it makes me happy. If I were shy and hated crowds or had agoraphobia, I would be like Author A, rather than someone who requires a shepherd to protect her from the masses.


You know how it is when you see a beloved author at a conference, but she won’t make eye contact and huddles with her friends, acting like a wounded dove who can’t be exposed to us, the great unwashed? That’s not great for her brand, whatever her reasons may be. My advice to her would be don’t sit in the lobby at RWA if it’s giving you a panic attack.


Zip it when it’s not your turn.

To quote a little boy who recently wrote to a certain then-President Elect, sometimes saying nothing is good, too. Just because we’re authors doesn’t mean we have to weigh in on everything. Take Author B, for example. During an online conversation about the lack of diverse representation in publishing, Author B felt slighted. Author B is a white person and had written a black character. She felt she was owed some recognition, so she got on Twitter—I know, you’re cringing, too— and started praising herself. She missed the point. Representation in publishing is not about white people writing characters of color. It’s about equal chances for authors of color. Author B seemed really tone-deaf and out of touch. She might not be…but she sure seemed that way.


This too is organic marketing. In Author B’s case, it’s HORRIBLE organic marketing. She should’ve stayed quiet, read more about the issue, and maybe promoted someone other than herself. Perhaps an #ownvoices author. Just sayin’.


Understand the difference between author and writer.

To me, the author is the one who puts on makeup, gets a manicure and wears slutty shoes. She is well spoken, she has dressed up for the readers who came out to see her, she has researched her subject. She is funny, prepared and energetic. More than anything, she understands that everyone who came to see her talk/workshop/signing could be home watching Game of Thrones, and she is very, very grateful.


The writer stays home in jammies and shark slippers, eats Hershey Nuggets for lunch and binge-watches The Crown. She may have popcorn in her cleavage at any given time. She writes happily all day long and rolls on the floor with her dogs. But when she’s asked to go somewhere, she makes an effort.


One of the first conferences I went to featured a workshop from a very successful author. She began by saying, “Well, I didn’t prepare anything for this, and I’m really tired, so I don’t know how good this is going to be.”


Note to self: Never take a workshop from her again! Never read her again, because with those words, she disrespected everyone in the room. Look, I get it, Author C. You’re a writer who has deadlines and a family and your plane was delayed…but look at all these faces in front of you, hoping to learn from you, a successful Author with a capital A! Tsk, tsk!


You ever see Nora Roberts at a book signing in Boonsboro or at RWA? She is just as gracious to the last of the 600 people who came to see as she was to the first. And when I say 600, I mean it. I’ve been there and watched her. She takes a picture with everyone who asks. She asks to hold babies because she loves babies. She wears a wrist brace so her arm won’t give out and she never complains that her hand is tired.  Now, Nora probably doesn’t need to think about organic marketing or anything like it, but remember the authenticity element? There you go!


Let’s contrast this with Author D (as in Debbie Downer), who recently took to Facebook with a complaint that very few people had bought her latest book. She was disappointed in her friends, family and readers. She didn’t understand why so many people who allegedly supported her hadn’t read and reviewed the book.


Does this make you want to read Author D’s stuff? Does it make you think she’s written a book worth reading if even her friends and family haven’t read it? Do you think it’s appropriate, using social media to try to shame people into reading your work? Me neither.


Organic marketing is about making a positive impression that backs up your product. Keep that in mind. Give people a reason to look for you in this noisy world.


Be authentic. If you’re shy and introverted, that is totally okay. So many people will relate to that. If you’re goofy and outgoing (cough), embrace that, too. But don’t try to be something you’re not. It’s too hard, and besides, you’ll get found out. One of the worst things an author can hear is, “You’re nothing like what I expected.” That means your message wasn’t consistent.


Post regularly. Don’t have a Pinterest board you gave up four years ago. Delete your account.


Be honest. Don’t make stuff up, in other words. Now, we’re all writers, and we all can put a spin on something, and that’s our job. But don’t lie about your real life. It will catch up to you.


Oh, and by the way…you are not hidden because you use a pen name. Your book’s copyright tells who you are. Keep that in mind. So if you want to go on a rant about how much you hate someone, just be aware that your editor, publisher, bookkeeper, readers probably know who you are. Am I saying don’t be political? Heck no. I’m saying don’t be hateful. If you want to be political, go right ahead.


Be conversational. Ask questions. Entertain. Evoke emotions (except hatred; we should all stay away from hatred). Your author presence is all about them, the people who gave you this career. Don’t forget that. This is not the Kristan Show, starring Kristan, hosted by Kristan, all about Kristan’s Kristan-ishness. Respond to their posts. Be grateful.


Obviously, occasionally mention your books. “This is how I pictured O’Rourke’s Pub in the Blue Heron series. What do you think? Accurate?” is more organic than “Yo! I wrote that series, remember? Buy those books!”


Be topical & timely

Last year, my friend, Jamie K. Schmidt, posted a funny Star Wars meme.

Most of my readers are women. A Star Wars movie had just come out (the one with Kylo Ren and Han and Leia). Guess how many views it got? 12 million, that’s how many. 91,000 shares. 32,000 likes.


This involved three things: Jamie posting a funny meme; me seeing it on Facebook; and knowing my readers would like it, too. Did I sell more books because of it? No. I merely entertained for a few minutes. But social media is just that—social. Jamie was being social. I was, too. Those 91,000 people who shared it: ditto. That post is, by far, the most popular thing I’ve ever posted.


Be personal

We live in a personal world. As an author, I talk about my kids, my husband, my pets, my sainted mother. Star Wars memes aren’t enough. Readers want to feel a connection with you, the creator of the books they loved enough to seek you out. I share what I’m comfortable sharing, and I keep a lot of stuff private, too.


Be generous

Mention other authors. Give stuff away. Good karma creates good karma. Pay it forward, pay it back.


Be engaging

Rather than “I have a book out! Buy it!” give the readers something of substance, something that engages and entertains and yes, ties into your books. In one of my books (probably more than one), there’s an underwear malfunction in a pool. I mention this at the start of that blog, then go on to write about my adventures in the lingerie department at Nordstrom’s and how I got kicked out. The book is mentioned, briefly, and the audience is entertained…hopefully enough to buy the book, but not because they were harassed into it.


Be good members of the community

Create good mojo in the writer community, because the writer community is the reader community as well. Encourage newbies. Fan-girl. Sit with strangers. Make your workshops and presentations memorable and informative. People might not remember what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.


I probably should’ve started with that last sentence, but here we are 1900 words in, and I’ve just found what organic marketing is really about. So there you go!


I’m on book tour for the next little while, but I’ll pop in and see if you have questions (and if I can answer them). Thank you so much for spending this time with me! Hope to see you in person one day soon.






What have you done that’s worked for you in terms of organic marketing?

Author KYRA CORNELIUS KRAMER joins us on Wednesday, February 1.



Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, which have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her books have received dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Kirkus, the New York Journal of Books, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist. She is a two-time recipient of Romance Writers of America RITA Award and a five-time nominee for The Kirkus Prize for best work of fiction.


Kristan lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband, her greatly adored children, two overly frisky rescue dogs and an occasionally friendly cat.

New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins deftly explores the complex relationships of two sisters when both their lives take a major swerve.


Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is for Eric to blindside her with a tactless break-up he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral.


Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her half-sister, Kate, who’s already struggling after the sudden loss of her new husband. With seven years and a muddy blended family between them, Ainsley and Kate have never been overly close, but their shared sorrow dovetails their faltering worlds into one.


Kate has always been so poised, so self-assured, but Nathan’s death reveals she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought…and that sometimes the people who step up aren’t the ones you expect. Her grief also allows Ainsley to rise above the flighty younger sister role she’s struggled to overcome…and to take a long hard look about her own relationship with Eric. Both women have to reinterpret the past and open their hearts to a different kind of future—including the possibility of finding love again.

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24 Responses to “Organic Marketing by Kristan Higgins”

  1. Welcome back, Kristan! I love the Princess Leia meme – and I want to thank you for introducing me to Jamie K. Schmidt. She will be joining us at RU on Wednesday, March 1.

    I strongly agree with your post. I haven’t been to any conferences lately, but over the years I’ve been to a LOT of them. i’ve been an avid reader most of my life, and I love to meet authors. I’ve had wonderful experiences, for the most part, and have discovered the books of several authors I hadn’t previously read because I liked the authors in person so much.

    Luckily, I’ve had very few negative experiences but, sadly, those do stay with me.

    I have all of your books and, besides the fact that I love them, they hold a special place in my heart because both of my granddaughters are enthralled by the doggies pictured on the bindings of most of your books. They regularly pull the books out of the bookshelves. Adaline likes to look at your picture inside the back cover – when she was little(r) she would wave and say, “Hi Kristan!” If I ever make it to one of your book signings (I’ve been jinxed a few times), I want to bring the girls – or at least Adaline – along with me. 🙂

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 30, 2017, 9:59 am
  2. Congratulations on your upcoming release date for ON SECOND THOUGHT. As you know, I was confused and thought I already had that one. I think it’s just that I love those purple tulips on the cover so much I convinced myself it was already on my shelf. 🙂

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 30, 2017, 10:20 am
  3. Hi Kristan and Becke,

    I do a lot of over thinking before I post on Facebook. I do like and share other people’s posts and envy those who say something everyday.

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | January 30, 2017, 11:00 am
  4. I have been asked to join others Facebook parties and that has helped.

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | January 30, 2017, 12:24 pm
  5. Yes! I love the distinction you draw between being an author and a writer. Over the past 12 months, I’ve been discovering that I really enjoy giving presentations on romance writing, and the writing life. I also love meeting and encouraging beginning writers. I had a chance to do both this past weekend, and I’m still on a high. I never really thought of this as part of my marketing, but now I can see that it definitely falls into the organic marketing category. Thanks for an informative and encouraging article. The book sounds great too!

    Posted by Elizabeth Harmon | January 30, 2017, 2:04 pm
  6. Hi Kristan! This article made me laugh, made me think, and made me encouraged that there is another spoke on the book promotion wheel that is inexpensive and very productive.

    Thanks for sharing your amazing insight.

    Posted by Kristi Rhodes | January 30, 2017, 2:55 pm
  7. This comment was sent via email by Pam De Voe:

    This is such a timely piece–in more ways than one! The two main points I take from this are: be authentic — i.e., don’t be sidetracked by what you think you should be vs what you are — and, as an author, your stories are all about your audience, your reader. Thanks for the advice.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 30, 2017, 6:03 pm
  8. Great post, Kristan!

    We’ve come a long way from the black and white photo of an unsmiling author on the back of the dust jacket!

    As others have stated in comments, authenticity is key when reaching out to readers. A social media presence is a must these days and I know it’s not so easy for everyone. What works for one author may not work for another.

    Thanks for being with us today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 30, 2017, 7:02 pm
  9. Kristan! Goddess! *genuflect*

    Sorry, I’m late, stuck at work. pfft. Fabulous article and I can see so many different authors I follow on FB and Twitter listed right there. And yes, sometimes it makes me want to buy their book (Yours will be in my grubby little hands tomorrow1) and sometimes I put them on my do-not-buy list.

    Thanks so much for being with us again, we love it when you stop by! Looking forward to digging in to the new book tomorrow!


    Posted by Carrie Peters | January 30, 2017, 11:06 pm
  10. Kristan: I loved your post today. Couldn’t agree more, being authentic is essential. I think pen names and the anonymity of the Internet fool us into thinking that we’re disguised somehow. We’re not.

    One of the sad patterns I’ve observed – from several writers now, come to think of it – when a friend becomes a bestseller and brushes you off like yesterday’s lint. Once I met a nice lady at the Erma Bombeck conference. Humor and Erma, what could go wrong, right? She shared this anecdote, of having a male writer friend. Over the course of several years, they’d lunched together and bolstered each other’s spirits on their publication journeys. Lo and behold, he wound up becoming a bestseller. With much excitement, she drove over to his book signing, purchased his novel, waited in line. He ignored her. Pretended not to know her. She shook her head. “We’d had dinner together several times, with our spouses, so that rejection really stung.”

    My husband would say – “that guy wasn’t really her friend.”

    He wasn’t authentic.

    Thank you again for your blog and all the inspiration.

    And I am so not a kickass type. I can barely keep up with the laundry.

    By the way, Kristan, I recently bought “If You Only Knew,” (a fellow romance writer recommended it).

    Posted by Cheryl | January 30, 2017, 11:10 pm
  11. Cheryl – That story reminded me of something funny Jenny Crusie mentioned at a conference some years ago. She said when you go to a book signing, it’s a good idea to write down your name as you want the author to sign it. She said it’s easy for authors to go kind of brain dead with the stress of the signing, especially if it’s crowded. She said once when she had a sort of assembly line going, she looked up and smiled at a woman, thinking, “She looks familiar. Where do I know her from?” But she blanked when it came to her name. She said she has a couple tricks like “How do you spell your last name?” which can backfire if they turn out to have a really easy name. In this case, as I recall, she finally just said, “And how should I sign this for you?” The woman looked flabbergasted and then laughed out loud. It was her aunt!!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 31, 2017, 12:05 am
  12. P.S. Apologies to Jenny Crusie if I messed up that story. It was awhile ago!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 31, 2017, 12:05 am
  13. Kristan – Thank you so much for hanging out with us today! I know what I’ll be reading as soon as the mail comes tomorrow. I am so impressed at the way you keep your books coming on a pretty regular schedule. What book are you working on now? When will the next book come out? I’m not impatient AT ALL! 🙂

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 31, 2017, 12:07 am


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