A few months ago, in early March, I turned 21. Many people greeted and asked what my plans would be. Of course, I had a standard birthday dinner (my mother even flew from the Philippines and surprised me!) at my favorite Marshall Street restaurant. I wore a sparkly little tiara. But aside from the celebration, I spent the entire week before my special day on my social media outlets. I talked about releasing something a little out of ordinary.

An audiobook.

In the beginning of February, I started writing an audiobook of prose and poetry with the intention of publishing it on my birthday. After a lot of research and conversations with friends, I published “Ancestral Home” on the day of my birthday. I talked about it all over my Instagram and Facebook, marketing it to my friends and family to purchase it.

Art for the album cover by Justine Daquioag.

Publishing the audiobook came at the right time. This spring, I began taking IST 322 (Digital Analytics and Strategy for the Web) to fulfill my minor here at the iSchool. While I didn’t completely interact with Google Analytics or research the best strategies to market my work, I did pull out a few good conclusions on marketing myself and my work.

Social media is not the be-all, end-all

Actually, I believe it’s the word of mouth.

Social media is a tool to generate conversations by the word of mouth. I started out mainly by Facebook posts and Instagram stories. These social media communities are much smaller. At the time, only a few close friends knew about the project. The grand reveal to all of social media became all of what my immediate community asked me about in the next few days. Many people asked what it was about, what poems were featured, etc.

I took this chance to talk about the project that couldn’t be encapsulated on social media – about what it meant to me, where the proceeds of the project would go. Social media garnered the numbers to be noticed by others, but word of mouth brought the insights. In IST 322, we learned that the insights are always more important than the traffic. This is a good example.

Know your product like the back of your hand

You can’t market your product well if you don’t know it! A few days before publishing, I read and reread my track list until I could safely say I can describe each and every one. I would rewrite a piece if I didn’t like something about it, until I was satisfied.

This helped me shape some questions for listeners who bought the audiobook. I would ask some of them about their favorite pieces, which they related to the most, etc. These conversations shaped what kind of themes were most prevalent in the pieces, along with what were the most relatable. Like I mentioned earlier, insights are key to developing a product. I relied on insights from past writing to write the work for “Ancestral Home.”

Keep track of who supports your work

The first week after release, I gathered e-mails of every person who bought my audiobook. Using those e-mails, I sent a thank you note. As more people hopefully purchase the work in the next few weeks, I will keep sending out thank you notes.

This allows me to track who is supporting my work, and use this personalized data to create content for these people. If I decide to release more poetry work one day, it would be truly interesting to keep in contact with these people and see who would be interested in reading the work.

Now, of course, to actually get more purchases. But that’s another story. Maybe that’s a solution that will come with time.

“Ancestral Home” is available on Bandcamp for $8. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the non-profit organization Committee to Protect Journalists.

by Lianza Reyes