Friday, March 21, 2014

What Works? (Notes on Book Marketing)

In Spring the writer's mind not-so-lightly turns to thoughts of — marketing. At least, mine always does. Winter is great for hunkering down and writing, but Spring rolls around and I suddenly remember the other half of my job.

Maybe because it's the beginning of conference season and suddenly there are all these other authors around, comparing notes and strategies. Well, I'll be doing just that at Left Coast Crime this weekend, so a report on that to come, but also I thought I'd double my own marketing efforts by blogging about what I'm doing, in a series of posts.

And it's useful to start out by looking back on what I used to do, and how things have changed in just a few short years. I originally posted this blog in October 2008, but Lee Child's comments are just as true as ever, and what he says below is something EVERY author needs to understand.

What Works?  (Notes on Book Marketing)

On the excellent book promotion Yahoo group Murder Must Advertise (which was a godsend to me when I was scrambling to figure out the publishing biz after the sale of my first book, The Harrowing), Jeff Marks asked these questions of the month for those who attended Bouchercon:

1. What did you do to promote your book?

2. What do you think worked best?

Great questions to ask and ponder, but I find that it's hard to pinpoint what it is that works to market your books. I mean, it ALL works. And what works "best" at one conference might not work as well at the next con, so you're constantly shifting your strategies and emphases.

At B'Con I:

- Was on a well-attended panel on supernatural fiction.
- Did an outside signing at a local bookstore with other authors.
- Did a panel at Pratt Library.
- Dropped in to other local bookstores to sign stock and meet the managers.
- Left bookmarks and postcards on all the giveaway tables.
- Circulated in the book room and met or reconnected with all the booksellers.
- Met with my agent and editor
- Attended parties to network
- Stayed in the bar till all hours to network
- Hung out in the hospitality lounge to network
- Hung out in the halls to network
- Hung out in the bathroom to network
- Hung out on the deck to network
- Made a point of introducing myself to authors I love and admire and being simply a raving fangirl
- Blogged about all of it afterward here and at Murderati:

But most of all, I was just there, and having fun and being available to anyone who wanted to talk to me, which I suspect is the most effective marketing of all - and such a pleasure that it doesn't feel like work at all.

Luckily I love people and the social aspects of this business of promotion - it's a great balance to that neurotic solitude of writing.

Now, what worked best of all of that I've listed above? I don't have a clue. It's everything you do, all the time.

But there are realities we have to be aware of. A few months ago there was an excellent discussion at David Montgomery's Crime Fiction Dossier about promotion, which I want to link here for posterity (and my own easy reference!), and Lee Child weighed in with this:

Everything works. Literally everything. I don't think there is anything I have ever done that hasn't produced at least a couple of readers. Years later one fan told me she tried my books because I greeted someone politely at a conference, and she thought, he's a gentleman, I should try his books.

But Dusty is right because getting a couple of readers at a time is obviously at the cost-ineffective end of the scale.

So obviously the question is what makes the big impact?

And, problematically, the answers we hear tend to ignore the 800-lb gorilla in the room, which is that everything we talk about in blogs like these addresses only the tiny grains of sand scattered in front of the huge mountain - and the huge mountain is expensive, committed, unrelenting support from a major publisher ... specifically, penetration to every conceivable point of sale. Advertising and reviews are only the tip of the iceberg. The real effort (and cost and expertise) goes into making sure that your book is actually for sale everywhere. If your book is in the 20-slot rack at the airport or the drugstore, it will sell purely by the law of averages to one in 20 customers.

So, should authors without massive publisher support do nothing? No, because being proactive is a kind of "audition" for the moment when a publisher decides who exactly to back in a big way. There are always five or six contenders, and being a helpful, motivated person can tip the decision your way.

The whole discussion (and the links from it) is worth reading and absorbing.

And here are a couple of other articles I find particularly helpful -

- From David Montgomery on Buzz, Balls and Hype

- Putnam editor-in-chief Neil Nyren on Murderati

I got a great Equinox present yesterday -

The Huffington Post Books blog recommended the Huntress series on their "Women You Should Be Reading" list.  (As part of the #ReadWomen2014 movement. Some great authors in all genres, including my friend and Weymouth 7 critique pal Margaret Maron.

Here's the list.

Get Books 1 & 2:

Amazon UK   
Amazon DE

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can't believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of "accidents" and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

Roarke's hunt for her takes him across three states...while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and must race to capture her before more blood is shed.

- An ITW Thriller Award Nominee for Best Original E Book Novel
- A Suspense Magazine Pick for Best Thriller of 2012

"This interstate manhunt has plenty of thrills... Sokoloff's choice to present both Roarke's and the killer's perspectives helps keep the drama taut and the pages flying."   -- Kirkus Reviews

Book II in the Huntress/FBI series, Blood Moon

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE

Twenty-five years have passed since a savage killer terrorized California, massacring three ordinary families before disappearing without a trace.

The haunted child who was the only surviving victim of his rampage is now wanted by the FBI  for brutal crimes of her own, and Special Agent Matthew Roarke is on an interstate manhunt for her, despite his conflicted sympathies for her history and motives.

But when his search for her unearths evidence of new family slayings, the dangerous woman Roarke seeks - and wants - may be his only hope of preventing another bloodbath.

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