Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Promoting a Book 101: As Taught by the Proverbial Blind

By Tracy Kiely

Ahhh, the joys of self promotion. What could come more naturally to a person who willingly chose a career where days can go by with no contact with the outside world and with whom the majority of their correspondence is done by email? And what’s more – prefers it that way! I know I don’t speak for all writers (so put your hand down, Mr. Lee Child), but I personally long for the Golden Era of Mysteries. Not only would plotting be much easier for me (God help me, but the technology of today has ruined several really good plot ideas of mine), but I envy those authors who bundled up their manuscripts in nice brown paper wrapping and sent it off to the post (preferably by a servant wearing a nicely starched uniform) and that was it! No blogging, no twittering, no Facebooking, no nothing! They just wrote their books and mailed them in. Heaven.

Honestly, it was a good plan. Writers, well, we write. One of the reasons we write, is that we like having that twenty minutes (or more) to come up with the pithy comeback. Some of us need that time. Hell, some of us need days. (Happily, there is no real time in writing where the characters stand around awkwardly while the writer stares blankly at the screen waiting for inspiration to strike.) My point is (yes, there is one) that we are not – for the most part – born fast-thinking marketers (no, I’m not talking to you, Mr. Stephen King).

For me, marketing is a strange scary language. Most of the time, I feel like Charlie Brown when the teacher starts talking. Those weird, faintly duck-like noises? That’s what marketing-speak sounds like to me. (The first time someone asked me if I “twitter” I was indignant.) I grew up choosing my books based on my parents’, teachers’ and friends’ advice. Sometimes it was because of a great review. Sometimes it was solely because of the cover (which lots times really drove home that whole ‘don’t judge a book’ adage). Even today, I’m embarrassed to admit that I still chose books the same way. I tend to rely on word of mouth and reviews – which is why I’m so inept at my own marketing.

My books can be best described as searingly insightful glimpses into the convoluted mind of the modern-day criminal humorous updates of the classic English cozy (or put another way, Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie). To reach potential readers I set up a website, I blogged, I contacted Amazon reviews and asked if they’d be interested in reviewing, and I contacted a slew of Jane Austen fan websites to see if I could guest blog or if they would like to review my book. I sent my book to newspapers where I had a connection. I made myself available for book signings and went to conventions – both for Austen fans and for mystery writers. I recently bought a book on How to Twitter (in the hopes that the duck-noises will begin to make sense). Like Rebecca asked on Monday - does it work? I don’t know. I wish I did. Sisters in Crime recently conducted a huge survey on mystery book buyers. Although I haven’t fully studied the results yet I did read through some of it. And it seemed – to me, anyway – that the kind of marketing one does depends on the intended readership (yeah, I know- duh!). Is your book geared to Twenty-Somethings? Then, absolutely, blogging is helpful. Do you have an older readership? Then send your librarian a fruit basket. The hard part is when your readership doesn’t fit a certain demographic. How much do you do for each group then? Is it worth it? And, oh yes, while you are figuring out all this fancy marketing you also need to write your books (preferably by deadline). So, if anyone has any ideas – I’d love to hear them (and this time I am including you, Mr. Child and Mr. King).


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Delightful post, Tracy, and so right on the money. How many times have we, as writers, stare into space and say, "but I just want to WRITE."

Rebecca Cantrell said...

So true, Tracy! Kelli, one of those born extroverts, is constantly chiding me for my fierce desire to hide in a cave and put words down on paper (and rightly so, I must admit, so thanks, Kelli!). It's a weird set of skills for a person to have: introverted enough to live in your head long enough to write a book and extroverted enough to go out and tell people about it.

Somehow, we all muddle through!

Thanks for a great post!

Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks for a much-needed morning laugh, Tracy! :)

I wish I knew the answer to the question of how we can get to do more of what we got in this business to do ... but at least we're all grappling with the same question.

And Becks, I'm not sure if I'm a born extrovert or a born nag, but believe me--we ALL need caves (including me), and right now I'd like some cave time!!

TracyK said...

There's an interesting article on self promotion in the Wall Street Journal. Granted, the author gave away an ipod to the winner of a contest comprised of everyone who pre-ordered her book...but it's worth a read. I think this link should work. If not it's How Authors Move Their Own Merchandise by Janne Kaufman

Reece said...

Great post, Tracy. I think I'm one of those natural cave-dwellers. Having a book to promote is the only thing that dragged me kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Now I have a Facebook account, a website ... and I even write the occasional blog post.

Meredith Cole said...

Very funny post, Tracy! I totally identify with the 20 minute lag. Everything is better once you've had time to mull it over--and rewrite it several times (IMHO).

Lois Winston said...

I really hate that we have to be more than just writers because I, too, am a cave dweller. But the publishing industry refuses to allow us to dwell in peace.

Right now I'm on vacation. My normal morning routine is kaput because I'm on the opposite side of the country, 3 time zones away. I keep forgetting to tweet my blog posts. I'm also on a blog tour for the release of my latest book, but the lousy netbook I took with me isn't configured properly, and Yahoo isn't allowing posts to go through. So I have no way of promoting all those guest blogs I wrote to many of the writing and mystery groups I'm on.

I preferred being a Luddite cave dweller.

Grass Oil said...

You're so clever, Trace! Good job. I can hear you when you write. xo