[Digression: I'd seen the tiny cover, but when you sent the version to upload--that is GORGEOUS! It'd make a good poster, ye know?] *cough* Okay, back to it.
[Second Digression and BREAKING NEWS: Elizabeth got notice from her agent of her first and second week sales number, and it's official: Next book she gets to put 'National Best Selling Author'! SQUEEEEEEEEE! --come on, do it with me-- SQUEEEEEEEEEE! Congratulations, Elizabeth!]
I am so glad Elizabeth agreed to guest blog here, as I've loved all the guests I've had visit, but it is just a little more exciting when it is a friend of yours presenting their cool stuff, plus, my friend Leanne says Elizabeth is the Queen of little old lady cozies. So there.
Welcome, Elizabeth... erm... Riley... Elizabeth!
18 Things I’ve Learned About Marketing
For most of us, promo is the least favorite part of the writing process, even ranking under revision and agent pitches. For me, there’s really nothing that comes naturally about selling—so I’ve had to work at it. Publishers expect it, and with the competitive nature of the book market today, it’s really a necessity if you want to keep your books on the shelf.
I’ve promoted books from tiny publishers to very large ones. Here are some things I’ve learned:
Send out postcards early—3-5 months ahead of publication is great. Many bookstores do their ordering early. Postcards should have your name, the book’s name, the publisher’s name, the ISBN number, the price of the book, the release date, book cover, and—if possible—a short review snippet if you’ve gotten one.
Bookmarks are very useful promotional tools for handing out at signings or leaving at bookstores or libraries (ask first). You can either design your own on Microsoft Publisher (which comes with Microsoft Office) and have a copy shop print and laminate them, or you can use an online printer like Iconix or Print Place.
If you write for a small or even medium-sized publisher, it’s good to make contact with bookstores to see if they are carrying your book or could carry it. If you’re going in person, bring your business cards. Either write the ISBN # of your book on your card, or have it printed there. If you’re on the phone, ask for the store’s community relations managers (CRMs) or else your marketing spiel might be wasted on someone who has a line at the cash register and wants you to call back later. Small stores get busy and don’t have large staffs. Be sure to ask if it’s a good time for you to talk to them about your book.
Libraries are a great market for writers. Again, send postcards early. Go to WorldCat.org, which searches libraries for content worldwide. You just plug in your book’s name, hit the search button, and find the results. For a listing of public libraries, go to Public Libraries.com. You’ll get physical addresses, phone numbers, and websites (from which you can get the library’s email address).Send the acquisitions librarian an email or postcard with your cover photo, ISBN number, title of the book, publisher’s name, your name, release date, short summary, and any good review snippets. They especially like reviews from the Library Journal if you were reviewed there.
Have a script for calling stores: After getting the CRM on the phone and making sure it’s a good time for them to talk, I usually say something like this:
My name. That I have an upcoming release on ______date for my _____ genre book. Could they order a couple of copies for their shelves? I mention my publisher’s name. I give them the ISBN. While they look up the ISBN on the computer (to see if it’s in their warehouse), I briefly share my good reviews. I have quick summary ready if they ask what the book is about. Sometimes they ask if I’m interested in a signing, so I have my day planner near.
Tip: Barnes and Noble wanted all of the information emailed to their CRM. This was very easy for me.
Tip: Independent bookstores sometimes ask the price of the book, its format (trade paperback, hardback, etc.) and whether it’s possible to get signed copies. Be ready to answer those questions. Link to IndyBound on your website instead of Amazon. Be a friend to independent booksellers.
Tip: Always be pleasant. The folks at bookstores have to deal with so many unpleasant authors and members of the public that it’s nice to stand out in a good way.
Signing stock: This is a nice way to set your book apart from the pack at the bookstore. You should definitely make a point of signing your books at your local stores—obviously asking the manager of the store first (you may even have to produce your driver’s license to show you’re the author.) I like signing stock. My books have a nice “autographed copy” sticker on them, which may make a reader decide to buy my novel over someone else’s. And I haven’t had to have a signing, which is definitely more work. Signing stock is a great idea if you’re traveling for a vacation or work, too.
Book signings—I’ve been to signings where there was a great-sized turnout and ones where I didn’t sell a copy. The most successful ones I’ve been to are signings in towns where I knew people or had family or family friends there. They got the word out about the signing very nicely.
The store will provide you with a small table and chair, but it’s better if you stand unless you’re signing. You can smile, greet people, and ask if they’d like a free bookmark. This gives you an opening to talk about your book usually (“Do you like reading mysteries? Here’s a little about my book…”) This is hard for me. I’ve gotten to the point where I can offer the bookmarks, though.
Some writers have a bowl of candy and other small giveaways at the table, too. I think it’s a good way to bring shoppers over. I’ve also seen authors put their book trailer on a loop and set their laptop up on their table…it definitely seems to attract attention.
There will be people who want to talk to you at your signing. They will want to talk to you the entire time at your signing about their book, that they’re writing. And they will not buy your book…and they will keep you from people who want to buy your book and talk with you about it. The best thing to do is to give these folks your card, circle your email address and say, “I wish I had the time to talk with you about your writing right now. Can you shoot me an email later?” And email them back when they write.
Broaden your signing scope—craft fairs? Art fairs? Festivals? Be sure to check out the cost of a booth. Does your book appeal to a specific group of readers? I know writers who’ve written books where crafts were the book’s hook: quilting, scrapbooking, knitting. Consider contacting clubs and guilds and asking to do a talk for their monthly meeting or to give them bookmarks to hand out.
Do promo as a group. Sometimes it can make sense to pool resources and promote with other area writers. I belong to a couple of promo groups—we take each others’ bookmarks to events, swap marketing ideas, split booth fees for art festivals and even carpool to out of town events.
Blog tours are great ways to increase your profile online and make people realize your release is out. At the same time, blog tours can be stressful. Find out when your post will run…in which time zone. Find out what your host will do to check in and make sure things are running smoothly during the day (no spammers, nothing weird happening with comments, etc.) You’ll want to try to schedule stops at blogs where you might pick up some new readers along the way.
Book tours are expensive, but even a small-scale, regional tour can make a nice spike in sales for your publisher. Popular now is having a name and slogan for your tour (I’ve got one in mid-August with several other mystery writers…it’s the Killer Cozies tour.) Again, you could consider touring with other authors to share costs.
Conferences are great ways to meet readers, promote your book, and network. They are also expensive. Figure out which conferences will give you the most bang for your buck—is there one that your publishers will have more of a presence at? One your editor might be attending, or your agent? Is there one that more of your target reader is likely to attend? Book conferences early for discounts on the conference registration fee and airline tickets.
It’s important to let people know you write books. Acquaintances might be interested in making a trip to the store or downloading a copy of your book to their Kindle—but they can’t if they don’t know you have a book out. This is hard for me, too. It’s easier if I have a friend with me or if my husband mentions prompts me. “Oh, and Elizabeth has some exciting news…”
Rejection continues to happen…from reviewers or reader reviews. It’s best to take whatever kernel of helpful tip you can glean from the criticism and move on. Arguing with reviewers online or being defensive about your book just doesn’t serve a purpose and never makes you look good.
Don’t hand out all your author copies to friends and family. In fact, don’t hand out any, unless it’s a special circumstance. You need all those copies for reviewers, contests, etc. It sounds harsh, but these books don’t cost much—really, $6.99 is barely more than a cup of Starbucks. Practice telling friends, “You know, I’d love to sign any book you bring to me…I wish I had a free copy for you, but those are all sent to reviewers. Thanks for understanding.”
Don’t forget about area book clubs. Some book clubs meet in local bookstores (ask the stores if they have contact information) or libraries.
Keep ALL your receipts related to writing—paper, pencils, printer paper, etc.—for your taxes.
Send out interviews that are ready to print to newspapers. Include a headshot and tell the paper that the picture is copyright free and the interview can be edited for length. Put a press kit on your author website with royalty-free headshots, a high resolution book cover, your publisher’s publicity contact info, a ready-to-print interview, bio, and your contact info in it.
I recommend joining the Yahoo Group, Murder Must Advertise. It’s all about book promo—and it’s not just for mystery writers.
Thanks so much, Hart, for having me here today! I love hanging out at Confessions of a Watery Tart. Does anyone have any questions or any other tips to add?
Mystery Writing is Murder. Delicious and Suspicious released July 6, 2010. As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives carpools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips.