Power in Numbers
Change is tonic, right?
In those good ol’ days (say, 1996, when my first book was published), publishers arranged the signings and radio interviews. They also sought out reviewers. All a writer had to do was send postcards, make phone calls, walk into a bookstore, and wait for checks in the mail. But a few years ago, the book-publishing business metamorphosed. Authors now have to do much of their own promotion. And wary bookstores have become picky about who they schedule.
Nowadays, authors have to think outside the binder. Here are eight promotional tips I’ve learned along the way:
1. Organize a book-launch party. It’s an informal way of promoting. Thinks of its as a cocktail party with your book as the main topic of conversation. Send out invitations and include bookmarks for your friends to pass out to their friends.
2. Create a newsletter to post announcements. But don’t just talk about your book. I also include a series, Five-Minute Writing Tips; a list of what I’m reading, and a humorous or heartwarming essay.
3. Write articles associated with your book for literary journals and magazines. This is free advertising and it’s a bonus if you get paid to write the article.
4. Start a blog, which can be part of your website, to provide readers with helpful tidbits on a topics in which you are well-versed. (My Five-Minute Writing Tips blog-posts are being published in a book by Cave Art Press, the company where I work.)
5. Build a social network on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Goodreads, etc. According to an article in IBPA magazine’s April 2017 issue, Facebook is on “track to hit two billion monthly active users in 2017.”
6. Volunteer when you attend a writers’ conference. I presented at a Sherlock Holmes conference a couple of years ago and volunteered a few hours during the weekend. It gave me an additional opportunity to meet people and talk about my books.
7. Schedule public-speaking engagements. Great venues are libraries, community organizations, conferences, book shows, and any organizations or locations related to your books. When my book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story, was released in 2012, I scheduled presentations at Audubon chapters, community organizations, libraries, wildlife refuges, and bird groups. Many of these places have invited me back. A nearby library recently put me on a program for the seventh time in four years.
8. I’m really excited about the latest promotional strategy I’m using. It’s not a new concept but one that I haven’t seen used a lot lately; and it’s proving tremendously successful. Background: my latest mystery was released a few weeks ago by Black Opal Books. So I made a list of mystery bookstores where I could schedule signings. The only problem is that I’ve yet to become a New York Times’ bestselling author (can you relate?), so I was having trouble scheduling events with bookstores unfamiliar with me or my work.
Here’s what I did. Since I spend most of the year in Northwest Washington, and a lot of time in my home state of Texas, I contacted some Black Opal authors in the Seattle and Houston areas. With in a few days, several were interested in my idea of a panel presentation. I then called bookstores in both states about scheduling this type of event. They were much more interested in having several authors in their stores instead of just one. I even gave our group a name, the Black Opal Babes (operable until any male authors join—then we’ll become the Black Opal Babes and Studs).
Why not expand on this, I thought. I was planning a trip to Manhattan, so I called a mystery bookstore about a signing. Naturally, they weren’t interested in an author from across the country who wasn’t known in the city. But they were willing to at least order my book and invited me to stop by and sign copies while I was in town. So I contacted a fellow Mystery Writer of America friend who lives across the river in New Jersey and asked if she’d be willing to participate and help me organize a panel event. She was delighted to do so, and suggested two more local writers. Two days later our panel was on the bookstore’s calendar.
Now that I’ve got my foot in the door of the oldest mystery bookstore in the country, and several in Seattle and Houston, scheduling events in the future will hopefully be easier.