I think the reason why the discussion is so lively is that not everything works for everyone.
I’ve been asked a lot recently, though, about what’s worked for me with book marketing. In fact, I’m going to be speaking at a panel this weekend on the topic at the Cape Fear Crime Festival.
For the record, here are the different things I’ve tried and how I thought it worked:
Book Tour: I actually enjoyed this, despite the focus on public appearances. I think the reason I enjoyed it is because I was touring with several other authors…and staying with Molly Weston, who was very hospitable and fascinating—she’s organized tours for tons of authors. Ordinarily, though, this is the most expensive form of promo and unless you have a pro like Molly organizing it…it could be a flop.
Bookstore visits: My least favorite. I’m usually asked a lot where the restroom is or where the travel section of the store is. I would recommend putting candy and small giveaways on your table—and smiling a lot. You might want to have a nice glass of wine with an understanding friend afterward. :) Or you might love bookstore visits—your mileage may vary.
Social media/branding: You won’t be surprised that this is my favorite, I’m sure. :) It’s free and can reach a wide audience in a variety of ways. It can be subtle instead of pushy. And it provides a way to network as well as to market. On the downside, it will suck up all of your available time if you let it. Most authors like Facebook and blogging best…I also like Twitter.
Blog tour: I love blog tours. You get a chance to interact with a different group of readers, the blog host gets a chance to take a short break, and your book’s hits on Google go up. It’s important to be organized with blog tours—know where you’re supposed to be and confirm it with the host a couple of times. Be sure to check in with comments during the day. You’ll want the tour to be long enough to be noticed, but not so long that blog tour fatigue sets in (for you and your readers.)
Postcards: I’ve done a postcard drive before to bookstores and libraries. I found it fairly expensive, but worthwhile—I checked the before-and-after of my book at libraries (my primary target) on WorldCat and could see the number of libraries carrying my book increase. As far as independent bookstores? I’m just not sure if it worked or not…I couldn’t really get any data on it.
Calls: I’ve made promo calls to bookstores to see if they’re carrying my book and to ask them to carry it, if they didn’t (this was for my smaller publisher…the larger one had covered the bases pretty well.) I’m really not a phone person, so I went off a script after making sure it was a good time to talk to the CRM (community relations manager) at the store. I didn’t enjoy making these calls at all…but I did get my book on the shelves using this method.
Contests: I do a good number of these on the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen blog. Expense—it’s up to you. You could give away one of your ARCs, an author copy, or something that ties in to your book (I’ve done barbeque related supplies before.) We’ve noticed on the group blog that it’s better to have shorter contests—ones that go on for a week or even just a day seem to do better. You’ll want to make sure you include the cost of shipping in your costs when you’re deciding how much you want to spend. And you’ll also want to decide whether you’ll open up the contest to international readers (which I usually do.)
Bookmarks and business cards: These are really just a must. You’ll want them to give to people who ask about your book, or to put on the promo table at conferences or panels, or to have at your book signing, or to hand out at festivals. I’ve ordered them from different places (Iconix and VistaPrint) and I’ve made them myself using Microsoft Publisher and Office Max. But you’ve really just got to have them. Readers do seem to love them—I get emails from readers who ask for them.
Appearances/panels: It’s definitely harder, as a mom, for me to get to appearances at conferences, festivals, and panels—but I’ll definitely make them if they’re regional and not too expensive for me to get to. I do seem to sell books when I make appearances.
Book clubs: I enjoy talking to book clubs. They’re really going to be one of the most successful venues for writers because of the number of people reading your book…and because they usually provide a receptive audience. The ones I usually get invited to are friends of friends types of events. I’ve enjoyed all the ones I’ve gone to…and I have a couple on my calendar already this year. I know authors who have given away door prizes at these and that seems to go over well. It’s also a nice opportunity to get people on your email newsletter list.
As a reader, I’ve bought books (and continue to) by authors I’ve gotten to know through social media. I’ve bought books when I’ve attended panels and was interested in the authors who spoke at them. I’ve only occasionally purchased a book at a store because I saw an author there (that’s hit or miss…it might be that they’ve written a genre I’m less-interested in reading.) And I’ll admit I’ve not been swayed by postcards, bookmarks, or tours. But that’s just me.
If you’ve got a book out, how are you approaching promo? What’s working for you? If you’re a reader, have you ever purchased a book as a direct result of marketing?