Monday, January 25, 2016

Debuting 101: Marketing

So I planned to do just one post on debuting as an author and my experience, but then I realized there are about 4,385,934 other posts on just such a thing, something I should have remembered from my days as an almost-published author when I basically anxiety-read every single one of them. Instead, I turned to Twitter to ask just which questions, specifically, hadn't yet been answered by those four million other posts. And I soon realized I'd need to break my answers up into topics, because it turns out there are still quite a few questions. This is the first of such posts.

Here are the questions I received about marketing:

What marketing worked...and what didn't?

Things that worked: events! Events make real connections. Not only do you meet event coordinators face-to-face who are book-loving librarians/teachers/conference organizers (and have lots of similar contacts), but you meet readers and, ideally, sell a few books right then and there. I always felt these made the most impact, and since I didn't have a big budget, I just did events I could drive to and coordinated bookstore visits in places I was already vacationing in. But I'd have to say my favorite events have been libraries and high schools, where I get to connect with teen readers.

Goodreads giveaways are also something I highly recommend. They reach a much broader audience than your social media connections, and I saw a boost in to-reads each time (like, hundreds each time).

And last, BOOKMARKS. See if your publisher will provide them or at least design them, and order no less than 500 right now. These have come in so handy when I'm meeting new people and they ask what I do and what my book is called. Instead of having to awkwardly write the title on the back of a crumpled purse receipt, I just whip out one of those bad boys and instantly they have the correct spelling of my name, the book title, a short pitch, and the cover art. I've used these at dinner parties, the dentist, a childbirth class, indie bookstores, when I'm introducing myself at libraries, etc. I have five or six on me at all times.

Things that didn't work... honestly, I'd have to say: everything else. At least, everything I tried to do online. I received little interest for things like bookmark and book giveaways (except Goodreads), or preorder reward packages like signed swag/prizes in exchange for a receipt. I even created a fun personality quiz I was sure was going to be a hit - that didn't end up doing much. That's not to say you shouldn't try these things. If you have a substantial social media following and a lot of buzz around your book, these would likely be very effective. But with a more modest following, I'd focus on extending your reach - doing interviews/guest posts on other blogs, and reaching out to local libraries and schools to see if they'd be interested in hosting you for an event.

What kind of pre-pub marketing did you do?

Though I had a pretty small personal budget for marketing, I was lucky enough to have a team assigned to me at Macmillan that came up with some cool social media ideas on how to market Duplicity. They also coordinated complimentary copies of my book to send to select independent bookstores, got the book stocked in Barnes & Noble/Amazon/Book Depository, etc as well as libraries, designed bookmarks for me, and shared my marketing posts on their social media accounts. You can see many of the pre-pub posts I did here (scroll down to those posted before March 17). I also did some Goodreads giveaways for ARCs and signed books, which I felt helped me reach the most new readers.

What is the publicity process?

If your pub assigns you a publicist, she'll handle all this for you. ARC requests and event/interview requests will typically go through her, and behind the scenes she'll be sending your book off for trade reviews, arranging interviews with your local paper and/or radio shows, ensuring your hometown libraries stock the book and know you're in the area, and sending your book off to major publications like USA Today in the hopes that they might spotlight you. Actually, I'm realizing as I type this that that's probably just the tip of the iceberg. You can request your publicity plan from your publisher to see what they'll be doing for you, and if your publisher doesn't assign you a publicist, there are a number of independent publicists you can hire that I've heard good things about.

Of course, this is only my experience with marketing and publicity and is a pretty narrow representation of what to expect. Google widely, or at least take a moment to check out Saundra Mitchell's For Authors series.

Stay tuned for the next series post - expectations!

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