Thursday, July 15, 2010

Riley's In Da House!!!

And by Riley, I mean Elizabeth, which might be confusing, unless you know that Riley Adams is the pen name for Elizabeth Spann Craig on her Memphis Barbeque series... And when she and I first started talking guest blogs, she asked what I thought you guys would like, and I said—MY READERS WANT TO BE SMARTER than all those OTHER NEWBIE AUTHORS out there... They want to learn what YOU have learned, since most of us are a little (or a lot) earlier in our careers, and this is now your THIRD book release... (and you know what? She agreed—so in just ONE BLOG you will be smarter than all the other newbies! HA!)

[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, 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 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?

Bio: Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin as Riley Adams, the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink (under her own name), and blogs daily at 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.
Twitter: @elizabethscraig


Natasha said...

Fantastic post by a fantastic person.
I would be genuinely surprised if anyone could add to this list.

AND congratulations on becoming a national bestseller!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks again for hosting me today, Hart. :) What a nice intro!

Rayna--Thanks so much!

The King of Gjøvik said...

Blimey blimey blimey, Tart! You have been munching down those nitro-powered tablets once again. I should introduce my friend Ian to your blog. He writes genre fiction under a female pen name also. Only he is not a female. But he likes to wear fishnets.

It is certainly important to let everyone know you write books. In fact, you can't shut me up when I get started talking about my Norwegian epic "Thor in Tights."

Mari Salberg is currently writing my autobiography -- look out for "Gjøvik's Golden God" in paperback soon!

Hart Johnson said...

And thanks so much Elizabeth for being here today! I feel so lucky to have it correspond with you finding out the National Bestseller Status!

Okay, King of [word my keyboard is insufficient to type] BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! I think I'm in love, but I smell Norse mischief! Thor in Tights. *dies* Send Ian over, a love a man in fishnets.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

The King of Gjøvik--I like the idea of a ghost writer for an autobiography! Mine would have to take a lot of creative license since my life hasn't been very interesting. :) And telling folks about "Thor in Tights" means that they'll all know to go to the store and support you when it's release time!

Heather Wright said...

A great post. Thanks Elizabeth. Your recommendations were excellent and, for me, timely. Congrats on becoming a National Bestseller. Yay for you!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, some great tips, Elizabeth!

JE said... That's a lot of useful information! Thanks so much for sharing. And that book cover rocks!


Mason Canyon said...

Hart, thanks for hosting Elizabeth today.

Elizabeth, congratulations on being recognized as a bestselling author, not becoming one because we all knew you were that already. Great tips and very helpful information to those on the receiving side of material from authors. Best of luck.

Thoughts in Progress

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth - Thank you for these wonderful ideas! What I like best about them is they're all feasible. They don't require a huge budget, a large staff, etc... They're all things that an author can do. And even doing a few of them will help.

Will Burke said...

It's great that you took something mysterious & scary and gave practical tips to grease the wheels! Candy, bookmarks, and video trailers -- Briliant!

Will Burke said...

Mispelled "Brilliant," 'cause "I am so smaet.S-M-R-T."

Old Kitty said...

My goodness!! I thought once published one can just sit back and relax.. obviously not!! LOL!! I'm in AWE!!! at all these things you published writers do to get your book out there!!

Good luck!! This is where I say YAY for libraries (we LOVE libraries!!!) and bookmarks - such a simple but very effective marketing tool!

Thanks for an eye opener of a post lovely Naked Tart and lovely Elizabeth!! Thank you!

Take care

B. Miller said...

Awesome, and I mean AWESOME post. So many wonderful ideas! I can't wait until I can start using them! Just reading this gets my imagination all excited... thanks so much for posting! Hart AND Elizabeth... y'all are fantastic!!

JournoMich said...

My copy of 'Delicious' arrived in the mail yesterday, and the cover is just as beautiful in real life! So congrats on that, Elizabeth, as well as on the new sobriquet.

And, gee, I feel so smart after reading this...I hope to be able to put this ingenius advice to good use some day!

Hart- I have seen your name every where, but am just not getting around to stopping by. Why? I don't know. But I am the newest "minion."


Ted Cross said...

This was a very useful post. I only hope I can remember where I saw it when I get to that stage someday!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Once again, Elizabeth, your post is useful to me. Much of this information, I did not know.

Thanks, bunches.

And thanks, Hart, for hosting.


Scotti Cohn said...

Hello Elizabeth/Riley - Great post! I am a bit confused about the postcards. Do you actually send a postcard to every library and bookstore. . . in the country? That sounds very expensive.

Terry Odell said...

Congrats, Elizabeth - and great tips...IF bookstores can carry your books. Sadly, some of the smaller presses don't have the distribution the way the mass market publishers do, and bookstores won't touch the books unless it's a special order for a customer. That makes is triply difficult to get noticed. Joining Yahoo groups that target your genre is another way to bring your name and your book title out to readers.

Hart Johnson said...

Ha!!! Look at all these fabulous people in here! Thanks everyone for comments!

Elizabeth, you're bringing in the masses!

Welcome to the new people, and I DO love my minions!

Cruella Collett said...

Congratulations, Elizabeth! You're the kind of author the people working in the bookstores love! Polite and kind and informative and no stranger to taking initiative. You can come and sign in my store any day!

Now, if you all will excuse me, I apparently have some biography writing to do... King of Gjøvik (*snort*), are you absolutely sure you want to sign the contract before we negotiate the prize? ;)

LTM said...

THAT is the most awesome book cover ever! I would buy it for the cover alone--and the title "Delicious & Suspicious"-! LOVE it--Congrats Elizabeth/Riley~
And thanks for the marketing tips!

Dawn Ius said...

Wow! This is an amazing amount of great advice. Thanks! (And thanks for hosting Elizabeth today...)

Talli Roland said...

Congrats Elizabeth! National bestseller - how amazing.

And what great advice. I'm definitely bookmarking this post for future use!

Lexi said...

Elizabeth, this post couldn't come at a better time for me! My first book DEMON HUNTING IN DIXIE is being released by Kensington in May of 2011 and I am CLUELESS about marketing! I am shamelessly copying this wonderful info for my files. You are the best! And Hart, thanks for hooking us all up with Elizabeth.

Lexi George

ViolaNut said...

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.

I think I love you for saying this...

In re: negative reviews online, another author once told me that it was a good idea to have a network of friends who were willing to go jump on B&N or Amazon or whatever and pop in a positive one if someone hits you with a negative one, just so the top one on the list isn't a slam. Seems eminently reasonable to me. :-)

Hart Johnson said...

Elizabeth, you are TERRIBLY popular... evidence you are doing everything right, I think. I KNOW this is my best showing for a guest author, but it is pacing so I may have a best commenting day ever (we're only like 10 away, and it is still early afternoon...)

Anyway, THANK YOU, so much, everyone who is stopping by! Leanne-excellent suggestion!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Marketing may be tough for you, but you make it sound so easy! Thanks for the extensive list of good ideas. Congratulations on becoming a best selling author!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Heather--And good luck to you!

Alex--Thanks so much! And I'm excited about your upcoming release--know you're putting some of this into gear, yourself!

Justine--Thank you!

Mason--Thanks so much! I really appreciate it. :)

Margot--And there are online print shops that run amazing specials.

Will--I hope it helps! It *is* sort of scary, I'll admit it. And I feel like I've been holding my breath a lot the last week. Really, it just boils down to the fact that I want my publisher to think I've done a good job.

Will--Oh, I don't even pay attention to typos in comments. So many folks are typing on their phones these days with those tiny keys.

Old Kitty--I wish we could relax! But in many ways, it's an exciting time, despite being really hectic.

B. Miller--I can't wait until you can use them, either! It's time for me to get back into reading horror.

Michele--Thanks so much! I really appreciate it. Hope you'll enjoy the book!

Ted --You can always shoot me an email and I'll send it to you. :)

Journaling Woman--I didn't know it either--I think I was in the school of hard knocks!

Scotti--You're right, that would be VERY expensive! I try to focus on where I think my best market is and send postcards to those libraries. Frequently those are smaller towns that may not even have a bookstore.

Terry--You're so right. A lot depends on the publisher and the book's placement.

Hart--Thanks so much to everyone for coming out! And Hart, thanks so much for having me. :)

Cruella--Thanks so much! And I'd *LOVE* to sign in your store--and be in your country right now. I'm thinking it must be a whole lot cooler than 95 F. :)

LTM--I like the cover, too--thank you!

Dawn--I'm so glad you came by!

Talli--Thank you!

Jeanie--Great! I'm so glad it helps. :) Good luck with your release!

ViolaNut--Thanks! :) And I wish it weren't true. I'd like to *think* that book people are nicer than the general public, but...

I think that *can* be helpful. And we all get slammed from time to time.

Hart--Cool! And sorry for the big gap in responding....the kids pulled me out to an amusement park today--hot and crazy there, but they had a blast. :)

Jane--Thanks so much! It's really a hard thing for me to do, but I think I've worked it out so that I'm able to handle it a little better than I did. :)

zz said...

Thanks for this really useful post Elizabeth. I think the most encouraging thing about this is that you're not some slick saleslady, but you've trained yourself to promote your books. So if you can do that (and still be a nice person) then anyone can do it right? Congrats on the National bestseller status - that's a wonderful accomplishment!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

zz--Thanks! No, it definitely doesn't come naturally, but it feels *more* natural when you keep doing it. Sort of like public speaking (which freaked me out tremendously 5 years ago.) I still am not *wild* about doing public speaking, but each time I do it I'm more comfortable. And I don't *dread* it anymore, which is quite an improvement. :)

Nina Killham said...

This was one of the most useful blogs I've read. Thanks so much. I'm printing it out and tacking it to my wall. I wish I had read it when my last book came out!

Deb and Barbara said...

Excellent advice. And, Hart, can't wait to "see" you following all of it in the not too distant future!

Hart Johnson said...

Ha! We made Debbie Ohi's list with this one--she is amazingly helpful at reaching the world--just followed around one of those OTHER helpful blogs with a link back here, and she is where she got it...


And Barbara--thanks so much!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nina--I'm so glad to help out! :) Yes, I wish I'd had it when I was first published, too! I made a ton of mistakes.

Deb and Barbara--And I can't wait to read Hart's book when it comes out!

Hart--Debbie's a great tweeter!

Unknown said...

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