Marketing Tips from Book Publicist

Maryglenn McCombs, book publicist, spoke at the recent Florida Chapter of MWA meeting. These are my notes from her speech.

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“Publishers are looking for authors who have platforms.” How do you get one?

  • Join professional writers’ groups and get involved. Besides the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, Maryglenn mentioned Crime Writers Association of North America, Independent Book Publishers Association, and StoryCircle.org.
  • Attend conferences and get connected with other people in the industry.
  • Ask your writer friends for endorsements. Make sure they are recognizable names in your genre.
  • Write a good book.
  • Have a professional product so that you’re taken seriously.
  • Also: Write a blog; comment on other authors’ posts; become active on Facebook and Twitter; share news and interesting articles.

Maryglenn mentioned that an off-press date is when the printing is finished, but it’s different from the release or pub date when the book is available for sale. If you can do it, time your pub date with an event or holiday. For a historical, you can set the release date around an event or a particular date in history.

Aim for review coverage at or after the book is available for purchase. Reviews any earlier are not helpful. The exception is trade media that serve bookstores and libraries.

Readers read. Radio people listen. TV viewers watch. So how do you reach the readers?

“Book promo is a marathon, not a sprint.” Three to six months ahead of your pub date, send info to syndicated reviewers, consumer print media, trade media, and larger online outlets such as:

The Freelance Star
The Bismarck Tribune
Mysterious Reviews
Mystery Fanfare
Stop You’re Killing Me

Promote your book for up to one year after its release. Target local media, alumni groups, newspapers where you grew up, niche markets relating to topics in your book, other groups where you’re a member, media in the town where your book takes place.

Share your news if you win an award, your book goes into a second printing, or you sell more rights.

Have available advance reading copies in print and digital formats; a jpg of your cover in 96 dpi and 300 dpi; a professional headshot; a website with your contact info; a one-page press release or media sheet with your book’s data; a 175 word or less story blurb; web links, and an author bio. “Brevity is the soul of wit” for press releases and pitches. Also prepare your elevator pitch.

To find reviewers, look for similar titles and Google them for reviews and media coverage. When contacting reviewers or press people, cast a wide net. Do your research ahead of time and address the proper person by name. Be polite, but also be persistent. Follow the submission rules on blogs and review outlets. Be accommodating to their requests. Do not ask a reviewer to send you a copy of the review. It shows you’re not reading her posts. Follow their sites and leave comments to maintain a relationship. Send a follow-up thank you for a review and ask the reviewer’s permission to use quotes from it. What counts is how you react after media coverage. Always say thank you, even for a bad review. i.e. “It’s feedback like this that will make me a better writer.”

What Works

Print Media
Launch Parties
Steady Media Coverage
Personal Contact with Booksellers
Starred Reviews
Winning Awards or Being Nominated
Big Endorsements
Your book put on “Best of…” Lists or Gift Guides

What Doesn’t Work

Radio Tours
Bad Covers
Lengthy Book Tours
Book Trailers
Mass Mailings
Swag and Gimmicks
Asking Readers for Amazon Reviews
“Buy my Book” Social Media Tactics. Share your real news, research tidbits, history of a region, writing tips. Work on social media for up to thirty minutes twice a day. Be engaging and play nice.

Seek “evangelists” or fans who will tell everyone about your book. But don’t let them manipulate posts online as that’s unethical. You want people who will tell their friends and book clubs about your work, hand out your bookmarks, and recommend your titles.

Disclaimer: These statements are my interpretation and any errors are my own.

Here I am with Kathryn DePalo and Kat Karlton aka Karen Kendall.

Book Promotion Countdown

Have you sold a book and now you’re panicking about what to do? Does the thought of book promotion strike terror into your writer’s heart? Here are some guidelines to keep you straight on the road to self-promotion. Or if you are a seasoned author, use it as a quick checklist of things to do. Always remember to be courteous, to avoid clogging the loops with your constant pronouncements, and to comment on other people’s posts in return. Don’t feel obliged to do everything mentioned here. Select what works best for you.

IMMEDIATELY UPON SIGNING CONTRACT

Send a press release to local media with an angle that will interest them.
Send notices to alumni newsletters and professional organizations, if appropriate.
Solicit cover quotes from other authors.
Get a professional photo taken or consider updating your photo.
If you’re a new author, reserve your domain name and the domain name for your series.
Create a website or update your landing page with your book sale news.
Announce the sale on your social media sites.
Send an email newsletter announcing the sale to your mailing lists.

newsletter

4-6 MONTHS PRIOR TO PUB DATE

Send advance reading copies (ARCs) to book bloggers and reviewers after making personal contact. Some sites online allow you to fill in a review request form and upload a pdf copy.
Notify booksellers and librarians about your upcoming release.
Reserve ad space in trade journals, e-magazines, and online reader sites.
Offer to write articles in trade magazines for issues matching your pub date.
As soon as you get your book cover art, order printed promo materials.
Do a Cover Reveal as an Event. You may want to time it to when your book goes on pre-sale.
Design video trailer. Some of your blog tour hosts may ask for this link along with book data.
Contact bookstores to schedule events. Offer to be a speaker at writers’ groups, community clubs, conferences, and libraries. Schedule live radio interviews for release month.
Arrange for a virtual blog tour. Hire a company or solicit blog tour hosts on your own.

Pony Postcards  Bookmarks

2-4 MONTHS AHEAD

As soon as the book appears for pre-order online, add the buy link to all your sites.
Send a press release with signing dates to local media.
Load video book trailer and add links to all your sites.
Write the blogs for your virtual tour and match topics with hosts. Post your schedule online.
Decide what to do for a book launch party. Schedule it as an Event on all your sites.
Run giveaways of your ARCs on Goodreads and LibraryThing.
Order swag materials for conferences.
Look for niche marketing opportunities.

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1-2 MONTHS AHEAD

Contact booksellers and event organizers to verify your appearances and to make sure they’ll have your books in time.
Send email newsletter to readers, including signing dates, blog tour schedule, contests, and pre-order information.
Send promo materials or swag to conferences for goody bags or promo tables.
Set a virtual book launch party date and list it as an Event.
Prepare your newsletter and giveaways to coincide with the launch date.
Update websites with reviews as you receive them.
Write a page full of tweets and Facebook posts so you have them ready to go announcing your book launch. Do earlier if your book is available for pre-order. Include quotes from reviews when you get them.
Write a book club discussion guide if you want to have one available.
Post excerpts on social media to raise interest. Put your first chapter on your website.
Remember to promote yourself to your publisher. Send them copies of book reviews, feature articles, and promo events.

RELEASE DAY!

Send out a newsletter to your readers announcing the launch and inviting them to join your online party and enter your giveaways.
Announce the release on all your social media sites and online forums. Schedule tweets to run all day. You can schedule Facebook posts ahead of time on your author page.
Don’t forget to thank your blog hosts and respond to comments.
Go out and celebrate!

Launch Party Header

Time, budget, and energy are considerations when planning your promotional campaign. Choose what’s reasonable for you to accomplish, and remember that family takes priority, writing comes next, and all else is a bonus. The above suggestions aren’t written in stone. Some items you may be able to do sooner and some may come later. You’ll eventually work out your own rhythm. Do as much or as little as is comfortable at your level.

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Marketing is what I’m spending all my time on these days. I am readying to launch my revised Author’s Edition of Body Wave in June, and I’m working on the release campaign for Peril by Ponytail coming in September. And by the way, I have some ARCs available for my 12th Bad Hair Day mystery.

If you are a book blogger or have a review site, and you’d like to be considered for an advance copy of Peril by Ponytail, please query me privately. Reviews would be appreciated on Amazon, Goodreads, and BN as well.

 

Business Card Protocol

“Never leave home without it.” American Express uses this advertising slogan but it can well apply to your life as a writer, too. Always carry bookmarks, postcards, or business cards with you. You never know when the opportunity will arise to pass them out.

Today, we met up outside the post office with a former colleague of my husband’s whom he hasn’t seen in years. The men got to chatting. When the friend mentioned how he listened to audio books on his trips north, I whipped out my card. Ah ha, a booklover, I thought! Even though my mysteries are not available in audio formats (and I have asked for my rights back, in case you are wondering, but the publisher is hanging onto them), I figured he might look up my works or pass the card along to his wife.

Then I went shopping for some black leather gloves to take to New York City, when I go there next month for my orientation as President for Florida Chapter of MWA. I gave the saleslady a business card in exchange for my receipt. She was delighted to meet an author. So maybe I scored two readers out of today’s excursions, who knows?

It’s easier to carry a business card than other formats in your purse or pocket, so what should you include? I buy my cards at Vistaprint and use their templates. That makes things simpler. Since I brand myself as a Florida author, the palm tree motif suits my needs just fine.

Side One

You could put your book cover on side one and the information on the other. But I use my first side to introduce who I am as an author.

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Here you’ll find my tag line, social links to Twitter and Facebook, my Website and Blog URLs, plus my email address. In the early days, I listed my PO Box address and phone number. I wouldn’t do this anymore. Few people contact me this way now. However, I do keep a couple of those cards around for conferences or events where I might make contact for a possible speaking engagement. I’ll hand those people the cards with my phone number. Everyone else gets this card, and I carry them everywhere.

Side Two

This is where the book info goes: title, author name, series, ISBNs, formats and buy links. I provide QR codes that take readers either to my Website or my Amazon author page.

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What is a QR code? It’s a box with encoded information that sends customers to a page online where they obtain information or perform an action. The site may be a URL or may show text such as an excerpt from your latest book. Smartphone users must download a free QR reader app to scan the codes. How do you get your own code? Type “QR Code Generator” into your search window. Go to the site and follow directions. Save your code as a picture file to your computer. Make sure you label what it is so you can remember. Then use it on your printed promotional materials.

Since I write in two genres, I’ve put one mystery book cover and one romance book cover on my business cards. My latest title is the one that’s usually featured (Warrior Prince isn’t my latest, but you get the idea). Once you have the template on Vistaprint, it’s easy to substitute new book covers and data.

Besides handing out your business cards at conferences or putting them on your book signing table, what else can you do with these items? Stick them in the bills that you still snail mail to the vendor. Hand one with your restaurant receipt to the waitress. Give one to the post office clerk, people you meet at parties, anyone who mentions they like to read. One thing I do not stoop to doing is approaching strangers who are reading. I don’t care to intrude. Otherwise, blatant self-promotion is the rule. Don’t be afraid to toot your horn.

What do you put on your business cards?

 

Time Management for Writers

How do you balance writing with online promotion? Marketing efforts take hours on the Internet. How can you keep up with tweets, Facebook posts, Pinterest, and more?

I am always asked this question whenever I give talks. It’s not easy to strike a balance. Often the online business takes over. But here are my Four Rules to guide you.

(1) Writing Comes First.

writing

Set yourself a daily writing or revision quota. When I am writing, I must complete 5 pages a day or 25 pages per week. When I’m doing self-edits, I try for a chapter a day but that doesn’t always work out. Either way, I must move forward with my current project.

Finish at least half of your quota before allowing yourself to check email. Or if you must, do a quick email check first to get it off your mind.

Limit your time online or you’ll get sucked into cyberspace. Go offline after the allotted time and return to your writing. Finish your daily quota. Then you can have the rest of the day free for social networking, meeting friends, or whatever suits your fancy.

(2) If things get too hectic, take Time Out.

Planning a blog tour, tweeting about a new release, guest blogging on another website, and running a contest? Does this make you nuts? Does it make your breathing come short and your pulse race? Time to calm down. Do something fun for thirty minutes. Take a walk, polish your nails, read a cooking magazine, play with your pet, listen to music. When you feel calmer, go back to work.

Pet

(3) Set aside time just for marketing.

If things are building to an intolerable level, you may need to take a few days off to focus solely on promotion. Prioritize your projects. What needs to get done first? Tackle one thing at a time. Do you have to get your next email newsletter ready to go? Do it. Need to plan a Rafflecopter contest? Fill out the form. Have two weeks of blogs to write for an upcoming virtual tour? Decide upon your topics and write drafts for each one. Accomplishing a few of the items on your promotional campaign list will help you feel more in control.

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(4) Realize that life interferes. It’s going to happen, so take the time you need to deal with strife, and don’t feel guilty about being away from the computer. It happens to everyone. You’ll get your mojo back when the time comes. If not, you’ll find something else to bring your life meaning. We follow different paths throughout life. Yours may take you in another direction.

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Today is an example of how I work these rules. I did a few pages of revision this morning for about an hour. Then I allowed myself to scan my email. I answered the few items that needed a personal reply, and then shut off my Outlook program. I took a walk. Did more pages. Went on the exercise bike. Line edited some more. Peeked at email again. Back to the chapter. Finally, I finished my page quota for the day. It’s only 12:30 pm, but I started at 4:30 am. And now I’m writing this blog. Oops, the lawn guy is here and I need to talk to him. Big distraction. Go out, have discussion, back to work on blog. And so on through the afternoon. I could work, or I could go out with friends or my husband and take time off without any guilt. Because the writing comes first. When that’s done, all the rest is gravy.

Remember to visit our site over at Booklover’s Bench where I’ve joined with several other writers to offer contests, excerpts, and more.

Booklovers Bench

Also, please sign up for my quarterly email newsletter. I’ve an issue coming out April 26 and there’s a bonus subscriber drawing for some free books by my fellow BB authors. Look in the left sidebar on my Website for the sign-up form.

How do you balance your writing time with promotion?

Promotion Checklist

Have you sold a book and now you’re panicking about what to do? Does the thought of book promotion strike terror into your writer’s heart? Here are some guidelines to get you started on the road to self-promotion. Always remember to be courteous, to avoid clogging the loops/tweets with your constant pronouncements, and to comment on other people’s posts in return. Don’t feel obligated to do everything mentioned here. Pick and choose what works best for you.

IMMEDIATELY UPON SIGNING CONTRACT:

Send press release to local newspapers and trade magazines. Copy any feature articles that result to editor and agent.
Send notices to alumni newsletters and professional organizations.
Solicit advance reviews/quotes from other authors.
Get professional photo taken or update photo.
Reserve your domain name or the domain name of your new series.
Announce the news on your website, blog, listserves, and social networks.
Send an email newsletter announcing the sale to all your mailing lists.
Post excerpts to raise interest.

4-6 MONTHS PRIOR TO PUB DATE:

Send galleys/ARCs/pdf copies to reviewers after making personal contact.
Reserve ad space in online or print sites.
Offer to write articles in trade magazines for issues matching pub date.
As soon as you get your book cover art, order business cards, printed promo materials, and swag.
Design video trailer.
Solicit booksignings and speaking engagements at writers groups, community clubs, conferences, and libraries.
Add cover and blurb to your online sites.
Design contests for the next few months leading up to Release Day.
Solicit blog tour hosts and determine topics.
Look for niche marketing opportunities.

2 MONTHS AHEAD:

Send press release with signing dates to local newspapers.
Load video trailer and add links to all your sites.
Update mailing lists. Send email newsletter to booksellers and librarians.
Write all the blogs for your virtual tour and match topics with hosts. Post your schedule online.
Determine upcoming contest prizes and giveaways.
Decide what to do for a book launch party.
Send promo materials to conferences for goody bags or promo tables.

1 MONTH AHEAD:

As soon as the book appears for pre-order online, add the buy link to all your sites.
Add the book to Goodreads and post giveaway.
Create a “Meet the Author” poster for book events.
Set Google alert for title.
Verify dates with booksellers/conference organizers for events and check that books will be in on time.
Send email newsletter to readers, including signing dates.
Send copies of book reviews, feature articles, and promo schedule to editor/publicist. Remember to promote yourself to your publisher.

RELEASE DAY!

Have a party, run contests and giveaways, offer a Q&A session, and celebrate!

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Time, budget, and energy are considerations when planning your promotional campaign. Choose what’s reasonable for you to accomplish, and remember that family takes priority, writing comes next, and all else is a bonus. The above suggestions aren’t written in stone. Some items you may be able to do sooner and some may come later. You’ll eventually work out your own rhythm. Do as much or as little as is comfortable at your level, and good luck!

CONTEST WINNER

Congratulations to Karin Tillotson from Sharpsville, PA for winning my MAY MADNESS CONTEST. Since Karin is a newsletter subscriber, she has also won the bonus prize. 

The winner is selected using a random integer generator at http://www.random.org/integers/

We had 91 entries.  Thanks to all who responded! 

Keep watch here or on my CONTEST website page for the July book launch contest to celebrate the debut of Silver Serenade.

PLANNING A PROMO CAMPAIGN

How soon should you begin publicizing your new release? As soon as you sign the contract. But what if you only have a short lead time? In four months, my new book will launch. Am I prepared to announce it to the world? Not totally. There’s a lot of work to do first.

In this digital age, most of my promotion will be online. But with the choices of what to do being so overwhelming, how can you choose which are the best? Don’t be like me: I take a look at what other authors are doing and hit the panic button. Where will I find the time to do all that? Then I remember the advice from workshops I’ve attended: focus on a few targets and spend your energy there.

Where should you start? Consider breaking down your campaign into manageable parts and tackle one at a time. Decide on a countdown. What’s the most important item to start working on now? Get a calendar and mark out your dates. Here are some items for your list:

BLOG TOUR: Besides keeping up with your own blog, look for popular bloggers with a focus on your genre, inquire about a guest blog opening the month of your release date, and fix a schedule for a visit. Your host may want you to offer a giveaway, so decide upon the book or item you’re donating. An ebook download or bookstore gift card are alternates to a signed print book and will save you postage. Once your tour schedule is arranged, publicize it on all your sites.

BONUS FEATURES: Add bonus features on your website related to your story so readers who like the world you’ve created can read more about the characters, immerse themselves in the world building details, consult a glossary, or get a taste of sequels to come.

BOOK TRAILER: Have you uploaded your trailer to all the possible sites?

CHAT ROOMS: Find the chat rooms for your genre, decide which ones to target, and garner an invite.

CONTESTS: Plan contests leading up to your release date and celebrating the book’s debut. What prize will you offer? Consider a bonus item for people who leave blog comments or for your newsletter subscribers. Publicize on sites beyond your own.

INTERVIEW: Interview yourself about the new book and offer it as a guest blog, post it on your website as a bonus feature, or consider recording it as a podcast.

SOCIAL NETWORKS: If you already have friends on Facebook, should you start a fan page? Are you taking advantage of all these sites have to offer? On Goodreads, for example, you can now offer giveaways. Spend a day at a time on each site to make the most of them. Some examples: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari, LinkedIn, Filedby, Authors Den, and more. Or pick one day a week and that’s your day to put aside writing and spend it on promotion.

READER FORUMS: Visit discussion groups in your genre and begin participating several months ahead of your release date. Avoid blatant self-promotion unless it’s a group just for that purpose. Look on the social networks for these discussion groups as a way to get started. Your publisher may also have a listserve for this purpose.

VIRTUAL BOOKSIGNINGS: Okay, I’m not quite sure what this is but I’ve read about it. I believe you sign up with a bookstore online, like an indie, and show up for a virtual event. This concept requires more research on my part.

It’s a lot easier to write this list than to do it. As with any overwhelming project, it will be more attainable if you break it down into manageable tasks. This means focusing on one item at a time.

My first goal is to design my contests for the next four months, decide on the prizes, and load up the info onto my sites. Then I’ll send out an email newsletter announcing the contest to my fans along with other news I want to share. But wait…this may bring people to my website. I already hope to gain more readers from eBook followers when Silver Serenade comes out from The Wild Rose Press. Have I updated the books list on my website with the ISBNs and such for my titles which are available in eBook format? Not yet.  Better get cracking.  Onward and upward!