“The truth is: Many authors spend 25% of their time writing, but 75% of their time marketing” – that’s a quote from a New York Times bestselling author appearing on a panel at Thrillerfest – the annual meeting of our International Thriller Writers organization. Anyone can register here for the next conference, where I’m sure there will be many more ideas offered on marketing than those gathered below. For multi-published authors, all of this is probably “old hat.” But it might be useful for new and aspiring writers — I do hope so.
With so much advice available, the question is: what works and what doesn’t? Members of the Authors Guild were recently given the chance to zoom into a panel of experts on the issue who shared their own experiences. They emphasized an author’s efforts depend first on the genre and identifying your audience. For example, if writing young adult stories, you obviously need to appeal to teenagers, parents, and libraries using all possible media platforms, especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok. For adult audiences, an author could also check out Buzz Feed, Facebook book groups and YouTube where one can upload a video interview or trailer highlighting your new release.
Bestselling author on the panel, Cait Flanders, whose latest book, Adventures in Opting Out was traditionally published, said she had spent some $25,000 on marketing and advised that any authors who receive an advance should consider spending half of it on their own marketing efforts while, hopefully, the publisher will have a staff to publicize the new book to their own lists. (Her figure was the highest mentioned on that particular panel. One self-published author said he had only spent $5,000 of his own money on things like Facebook ads and other projects whereas some authors have very limited budgets and try to get creative on their own).
Some of the most helpful efforts a publisher can make is to produce ARC’s (Advance Reader Copies) and send them to reviewers, bookstore buyers and libraries, along with negotiating what’s called “Co-op” with stores such as Barnes & Noble. This means the publisher agrees to an additional discount in exchange for the store placing that book on their “New Release” table (every inch of those tables as well as end caps and store front displays are “paid for real estate.”) Even placing an author’s series on a front shelf alongside well-known bestselling author’s novels is a huge help as I discovered when Barnes & Noble did this arrangement when my latest thriller was released.
A publisher will also usually send 20 ARCs to an author to distribute. There are many online reviewers who may accept your mailed ARC including: Mystery Reader, Front Street Reviews, Rebecca Reads, Fresh Fiction, The Mystery Gazette Blogspot, Armchair Interviews, Reviewing the Evidence Mystery Scene Magazine, Suspense Magazine, Mysterious Reviews and New Mystery Reader, among others. (Yes, this takes research but many will have submission guidelines on their websites).
The Authors Guild panel also emphasized the importance of appearing on podcasts, pointing out that people listen to them because they trust the narrator. A suggestion was to sign up for the marketing site: Blog Reedsy which offers tons of marketing ideas, including identifying podcasts to pitch. Another panelist said she had been blogging for ages before writing her first book and had thousands of followers. When her book did come out and she notified her blog followers, she immediately had 3,500 pre-orders.
Other suggestions: Start planning 6-9 months before your book comes out and arrange your own book tour (expenses are tax-deductible). Cultivate the Customer Service Rep at local bookstores to schedule book signings, and whenever planning personal travel, contact bookstores along the way and offer to come in and sign copies of your book (thus encouraging them to order it in advance). When my new thriller came out, the publisher also arranged for me to do radio interviews with various talk show hosts around the country. There are publicity firms that also offer to arrange radio interviews. However, I found that the best ones ONLY charge an author when an interview is actually scheduled on a station in a large or medium sized city or, even better, on a show that is syndicated.
When your book is up on Amazon ask friends and family to please post reviews there, and if invited to give a book talk anywhere, at the end of your talk, encourage members of your audience to post an Amazon review if they liked your story. Also, have a sign-up sheet at your signing table and collect emails from attendees for your newsletter (and have a place to sign up for it on your website). If you have a budget, you can also investigate taking out an ad in your school alumni magazine.
One rather time-consuming task that can be very worthwhile is having post cards printed with the cover of your book on one side. On the other there will be a line down the middle. On the upper left side list your website and where your new book can be pre-ordered. Then write a “personal” note saying, “Hi (insert a name), Hope you like my new novel” and sign it on the left side; write their home address on the right side. These can be mailed to your Christmas card list and any other list you might have. Many friends told me that when they received this hand-written post card, they either ordered the book online or took it into a bookstore to order the book there.
Bottom line: As you can see, marketing a book is indeed a huge challenge, but a necessary task for any author who wants to “get the word out.” Best of luck and thanks so much for joining us here on Rogue Women Writers.
Do you have marketing tips to add to this list? Please share your ideas in a comment below.