Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Marketing Is Also Murder

 by Phyllis Zimbler Miller, @ZimblerMiller
Yes, as self-published and traditionally published authors learn sooner or later, writing a mystery is only part of the journey.  Marketing that mystery can be a much more difficult and time-consuming part of a published author’s existence.
And that marketing can be murder – on your psyche, your time and your wallet.
Why?  Because there are so many online promotional opportunities today that enable authors to stay in front of their computers and promote their books.  But where to invest one’s efforts and money (leaving some time to write mysteries, of course!) to get the most bang for your buck?
The answer is probably different for each author depending on a book’s genre, theme, etc.  For example, if you love Twitter and do not love Facebook (me), then you may not want to devote tons of your limited promotional time to Facebook.  Another author who loves Facebook and does not love Twitter would not want to spend tons of time on Twitter.
What I find most perplexing is the opportunities missed by authors on the elephant in the room – Amazon.  On many book pages on Amazon the cover and title do not convey what the book is about.  Nor do the cover and title appeal to the target audience.
Recently I realized that I was somewhat guilty of this error myself.   I have been adding or revising subtitles of my fiction books to better “signal” the story.
We all know that people glance very quickly at information online before deciding whether they are interested in learning more.  If your book cover says “for adults” and your story is “for children,” then you have a major disconnect in what you are portraying.
Authors need to evaluate all their book covers from their audience’s perspective. 
This realization led to my changing the cover of my spy thriller CIA FALL GUY.  As someone who many years ago had a security clearance, I thought the manila envelope on the cover would have meaning to readers.  That is, until I realized that this was “insider knowledge” and I needed a cover that immediately portrayed mystery.  
A subtitle can go a long way towards correcting this issue of confusing potential readers.  For example, my novel CAST THE FIRST STONE has the subtitle A REBECCA STONE MYSTERY to immediately signal the story is a mystery about a protagonist named Rebecca Stone. 
(I actually wanted to use A REBECCA STONE COZY MYSTERY but decided that made for too long of a title and subtitle.  But who knows?  I may still add the word “cozy” because, thanks to the ease of changing a subtitle on Kindle, I can change the subtitle at any time.)
Then there is the question of what author name you are using.  An author writing a Middle Grade novel told me she used her first and middle initials rather than a first name because her book had a male protagonist.  Someone had told her that this might help her book appeal to boys.
From many years ago I do remember this theory (and, yes, J.K. Rowling uses initials).  But today, with your author photo on your Amazon book page, I think using your own first name if you are a woman makes more sense as this is a more personal statement.
And online promotion is all about personal connections.
(This author also used a somewhat sexy author photo on her Amazon book page.  I suggested that this type of personal was not ideal for her target audience.  A straight-up head shot would be better.)
The most important thing to remember in book marketing is the expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Thanks to the Internet, your book doesn’t disappear after a couple of months on a bookstore shelf.  Your book can be around indefinitely.  This means that you can plan your marketing strategy for the long run and not overwhelm yourself trying to do everything NOW.
In conclusion, it is important to support other authors online.  We are not in competition with each other even if we write in the same genre.  We are collaborators encouraging readers to buy our books.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books, including TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO PUBLISH AND MARKETYOUR BOOK IN THE AGE OF AMAZON.  Her cozy mystery CAST THE FIRST STONE will be free on Kindle May 2-4 at
She blogs on book-related topics at and her Amazon Author Central profile is at