Wednesday 28 July 2010

Writing and Marketing

I've never had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth Spann Craig, but she is one of those bloggers - other names that spring to mind are Margot Kinberg, Ed Gorman and Dorte H - whose blog posts are infused with personality, so that readers like me tend to feel they know the author, even though they have never met in person.

I've been impressed many times by the advice that Elizabeth proffers to other writers and would-be writers, and when talking to her through cyberspace about a potential guest blog post, I suggested that she might like to address an area on which she is very strong, namely the marketing of writing. She has obliged with this post, which is, as usual, packed with worthwhile ideas:

'Thanks so much to Martin for inviting me to guest post today. It’s an honor and a treat to visit here and go over some marketing strategies for writers.

Different Ways to Promote:

Postcards (mailers.): Mailers can get expensive, so be sure to target the recipients of your postcards carefully. Do you want to focus on larger chains or smaller bookstores? Stores in cities or small towns? Most bookstores do their ordering early…months before your book releases. Once you get a book cover from your publisher and the approval to use it, you can order postcards. My postcards have a picture of my cover on the back. The front of the postcard has a short summary of the book, the ISBN number, my name, the book’s title, the price of the book, and the release date. If I’ve gotten a couple of print reviews, I’ll include a snippet of the review on the postcard too.

Newsletters—I don’t use newsletters myself, but there are a lot of writers who do, and very successfully. These newsletters are emailed out to subscribers once a quarter or once a month, or however frequently the writer feels like creating one. A typical newsletter has information about an upcoming release, extras (recipes, pictures…even alternate endings for books…), delivered with a personal touch and opportunity for the reader to feel that they’re getting to know the writer a little better.

Book Release Contest—This is an easy way to increase awareness of your book’s release—and it doesn’t have to be expensive. ..a signed copy of your new book as a prize works out well. The contest can run as long or short as you like—you could have a small reminder on the bottom of each blog post that a random commenter will be picked as a winner on _____ date. Then, on your release date, you announce your contest winner and mail out the prize. There are different ways to run a blog contest—some people ask for folks to email their entries, some just ask for comments on the blog post. Others give their readers extra entries if they follow them on Twitter or Facebook, or tweet about their contest.

Contacting Stores—Calling bookstores isn’t my favorite thing to do, but it’s a quick and inexpensive way to get your book on the shelf. When you call, ask to speak to a store manager and, when they answer, make sure it’s a good time to talk. Tell them you’re an author of ____ genre and ask if they could order a couple of copies of your upcoming release ___________ for their shelves. Make sure you have the book’s ISBN number handy. While they look up your book, you can briefly mention that the book’s good reviews. Sometimes the manager asks what the book is about, so I have a quick summary ready (I get nervous on the phone, so it’s better for me to be prepared and not botch my synopsis.)

Book signings—Giveaways have gotten very popular for book signings. You’ll be amazed how a small bowl of individually-wrapped candy will bring people over to an author’s table. At one writing conference I attended, I gave away potholders that had my business card attached (the potholders had pictures of a grill on them and I have a barbeque book.) Other authors did the same thing at the conference—and we’d all gotten our giveaways from the thrift shop.

Signing stock—Signing stock is an easy way to make your books stand out in a bookstore. Of course, you should always clear it with the manager ahead of time…and also ask the manager if they have “autographed copy” stickers to put on the front of the book. Any time you go out of town for work or for a holiday, you can arrange to sign stock in those towns’ bookstores, as well.
Bookmarks—Most stores and libraries are delighted to have an author leave bookmarks at the checkout counter, but be sure to ask the manager first. Readers seem to automatically pick them up---and there’s your book, front and center, marking the spot in their current read. Your bookmark should include some of the same information as your postcard—but focused more on the reader. A book cover picture, the title, your name, the price of the book, a website address, and a very short summary works well. My bookmark for my current release has a sixteen-word teaser on it in place of a summary: “Welcome to Aunt Pat’s barbeque restaurant—serving up Memphis fun…with a side order of murder.” So something like that works best in the narrow confines of a bookmark.

Blogging is a great way to increase awareness about your books. A personal blog acts as a sort of online living room for you to visit with other writers and readers. You can develop friendships, network, and obtain market (and other) information. The important thing about blogging is the interaction---allow comments on your blog and respond to comments, if possible. Add the links of other blogs to your sidebar and visit your commenters’ blogs. You can find new readers by posting intelligent comments on other blogs, guest posting, and hosting guests of your own.

Make sure your blog has a “contact me” link so that readers can get in touch with you. A “buy link” is also important—a link that connects a reader to an online bookstore to purchase your books. Book covers do sell books—put one or two covers in your sidebar and, again, hyperlink the covers to online booksellers. It’s nice to put a good review snippet under the cover and near the buy link. Blog readers like to feel as if they’re part of a community—consider adding a “follow me” widget on your blog. It’s nice also to have a Facebook or Twitter badge in your sidebar if you use those forms of social media—it just offers another way for people to connect with you. In addition, most blogs now offer a way to add pages to the blog—just as if it were a website. (Blogger offers this now, too.) If you’d like to use this feature, you could add tabs to your blog—an “About Me” that helps readers get to know you, a “Contact Me,” and a page with information about your books, etc.

When you have a new release, consider going on a blog tour. Ask bloggers whom you respect and have developed a relationship with if they could host you for a day. Make sure your posts supply interesting and useful content for their readers and aren’t just commercials for your book. Link from your blog to the host’s blog when the post runs. Even guest posting on five or six different sites will increase your visibility online, reach new potential readers, and help your name and your book’s name rank higher in Google search results.

Social media can sound difficult to learn and time-consuming to employ, but it can be adapted to fit any schedule. Starting out, I spent a total of ten minutes on Twitter, ten minutes on Facebook and was happy with the results I saw. Both Twitter and Facebook connected me to interviewers (print and online) and book bloggers. They’re also really useful tools for me to exchange information with other writers (and develop friendships with them) and interact with my readers.

Increasing your followers on Twitter. Twitter is a great resource for marketing—but it has to be subtle. If you constantly tweet spam about your book, then you’ll quickly lose any followers you might have had. Instead, tweet the best posts of your blogging friends or tweet interesting articles you’ve come across online. You’ll build followers and help increase awareness of your books. Schedule tweets, using a free service like SocialOomph to spread tweets out over a day. This is also a good way to ensure your tweets will be seen by followers in other time zones or countries. You can use URL shorteners like or TinyURL to get the most from your Twitter space.

Facebook is a great place to make connections and network—which ends up working well as a relaxed way to increase awareness of your book and market it. You can set up your blog to automatically feed to your Facebook wall when it updates. And, you can set up your blog on Networked Blogs—your friends can sign up to follow your blog and read it on their Networked Blogs reader on Facebook. Facebook is all about connecting. I’ve also found that many journalists and book bloggers will contact me through my Facebook inbox first, instead of my email account. Make sure your Facebook account links to an active email address so you can be notified of any mail you receive on the site.

I know that book marketing can seem overwhelming. But breaking the promotion tasks into manageable bits (and keeping track of your online time with a timer) can really help. Do you have any marketing tips to share or questions to ask? And, thanks again to Martin for hosting me today.'

Bio: Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin as Riley Adams, the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink (under her own name), and blogs daily at Delicious and Suspicious released July 6, 2010.

Twitter: @elizabethscraig


T. Powell Coltrin said...

Thanks, Martin, for hosting Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, I don't know where you get all your wonderful tips, but am glad you find them. Something that caught my eye "keeping track of your online time with a timer" is something I need to do. I haven't marketed myself...yet. I will store this away for that day. :)


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Martin, thanks so much for your kind introduction to my post and for inviting me to guest blog today. I appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for the kind words : ). And thanks for hosting Elizabeth.

Elizabeth - You've got some wonderful ideas here for marketing. I couldn't agree with you more about blogging; I've found it to be one of the best choices I ever made, professionally speaking. I've also become a solid fan of Twitter and Facebook. They are both very useful tools, especially for folks with limited marketing budgets.

May I also suggest Book Buzzr. It's a free resource for authors to promote their books. Amazon's Author Central is also a free and easy resource.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Always love reading Elizabeth's posts :-) wondering if any of her delicious books are on Kindle? Hmm, I might go browse now...

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Journaling Woman--Thanks for coming by, Teresa. The timer works really well for me because it's so easy for me to lose track of time when I get online.

Margot--I've heard good things about Book Buzzr and Author Central, too. Thanks for the tips!

Charmaine--Thanks so much! "Delicious and Suspicious" and "Pretty is as Pretty Dies" are both on the Kindle. :)

Mason Canyon said...

Martin, thanks so much for hosting Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, great tips. These are definitely good ways for the reader to know more about you and your books.

Thoughts in Progress

Jessie Mac said...

This is a great list of ways to promote yourself.

I do like the bookmarks idea because I do love my stationery - a bit too much.

I'm using Hootsuite for Twitter and it's working out fine.

The online timer that Journaling Woman mentioned - yes, I have an egg timer but I haven't touched it yet. I should.

Thanks Elisabeth for the post and thanks Martin for the hosting.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love these tips, Elizabeth! You've covered so many bases - awesome :)

Unknown said...

Wow, it never ceases to amaze me at the wealth of knowledge Elizabeth has. Always such useful information.


Terry Odell said...

As always, Elizabeth sums it up. These tips are great. Even more difficult is promoting when your book isn't automatically picked up in bookstores, and you have to 'train' people to look at the on-line bookstores. There's not much impulse buying if your book isn't on the shelf and people have to request it from the customer service desk.

Buy links on websites help with this.

Dorte H said...

Elizabeth is indeed a wonderful blogger (innovative as well as an engaging person) so thank you for hosting her, Martin.

And what a generous introduction to her guest post! I am so proud to be mentioned in such excellent company!

Anne Gallagher said...

Thank you for hosting Elizabeth, Martin. And thank you Elizabeth for giving us all these fantastic tips. I'm so afraid of Twitter and FB, you make it sound so easy.

And the bookmarks are a great idea.

Helen Ginger said...

Excellent post. Elizabeth is one of the most generous and knowledgeable bloggers I know.

I had to resign up with TweetDeck after a computer crash. When I did, I added Facebook and LinkedIn. Now I'm almost scared to tweet; I'm hoping it won't send to FB or LinkedIn unless I tell it to.

That tells you I'm a wimp and Elizabeth is brave.

Martin Edwards said...

Greetings, Journaling Woman, glad you liked Elizabeth's tips.

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, thanks for mentioning Book Buzzr, which I'm not aware of. Something to check out.

Hart Johnson said...

Okay, now I'm tired. MAN, there are a lot of things to think about! You do such a fabulous job though, giving us the tools available. So THANK YOU!

And thank you, Martin for hosting!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Hart.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Mason--You're sweet to come by. Thanks!

Jessie Mac--I like the bookmarks, too. :) I have one author friend who actually signs the bookmarks--she has one side of the bookmarks done in a laminate and the other side is matte. Then she'll sign the backs. People email her for bookmarks!

Jem--Thanks! And thanks so much for coming by.

Clarissa--You're linked in to some great information, too! Love the forensic series you're running now.

Terry--Thanks! I do like buy links. It takes a lot of effort to find a book online for people who aren't as comfortable on the internet. Having a link that goes directly to a page where we can buy books is so important.

Dorte--Y'all are making me blush, now. I think *I'm* happy to be mentioned in the same paragraph as *you!*

Piedmont Writer--I promise it's not bad--you can spend as little time on it as you like. And, if you *don't* check in with Facebook often, you can have them send you an email when something important happens on Facebook that you should know about (if someone sent you a message, for example.)

Helen--Tweetdeck was more than I needed because I don't read my Twitter stream--I just tweet and respond to @ replies and DMs (which will all sound like Chinese to those of you who aren't on Twitter!)

Am I brave? Maybe I'm just not spending too much time thinking it all through so I won't freak myself out!

Martin--I've heard good things about them--free tweets, right Margot?

Hart--It's a lot to think about, but it makes our publisher so *happy* when we do them! :) Marketing is definitely not my favorite activity, but I think I'm getting more used to it.