Friday, September 11, 2020

Marketing in the Time of Covid

This year has thrown us plenty of curveballs. Have you (and your publisher) adapted new ways to market your books?

by Paul D. Marks

I have to admit that I just did a blog post recently over at SleuthSayers on this very subject before I looked to see what this week’s question is. So this will be a rerun of that for people who didn’t see it there. The one thing I’ll add is that in addition to everything below, I’ve also been trying some Facebook and Instagram ads, with some okay results. The Amazon ads we tried had virtually no results. And we use KDP Rocket and do whatever we’re supposed to do but for whatever reason not much came from it.

And so now to what I said a couple of weeks ago on SleuthSayers. Still valuable and definitely responds to this question:

We’re all hunkered down these days under house arrest. Some people are binging on Netflix, others catching up on all the cute cat videos they’ve missed. Others still are too anxious to do much of anything productive. I’m lucky in that my life hasn’t changed all that much on a day to day basis since I’ve worked at home for ages. I still walk the dog/s. Do my writing. Listen to music. Watch the old black and white movies that I love. Read. The one big change is that my wife’s been working at home since March. Luckily we seem to get along. Blame that on her more than me 😉.

But, as writers there have been some changes, most notably that in-person events have been cancelled. Most of the conventions and conferences that we enjoy have been zapped, Bouchercon, West Coast Crime (right in the middle of the actual convention), and others. In-store book events and launches have largely disappeared for now. But we live in an age of new-fangled thingies, an amazing age, an age of the internet, Zoom, Skype and other modern marvels.

My virtual acceptance speech for Ellery Queen Readers Award

So, the other day, as I was doing a Zoom panel for a writer’s conference, it dawned on me how cool it is to be able to do this. Not all that long ago it couldn’t have happened because the technology wasn’t there. With something like the Covid pandemic the event would just have disappeared. But with Zoom, Skype and others they just sort of morph into something virtual.

Since the lockdown began I’ve done several Zoom events. I haven’t yet hosted one though I’m thinking about doing that for the Coast to Coast: Noir anthology that I co-edited that’s coming out in September. That will be a new learning curve. But before that I had to learn how to Zoom as a guest. It’s not hard—and it’s really cool and fun. I also did a short (non-Zoom) video for Ellery Queen on coming in second in their readers poll since they, too, cancelled their in-person event in NYC. And I’ve done several panels and interviews and even virtual doctor appointments. As I write this a bit ahead of its posting date just a few days ago I did a Skype interview for a radio station in England. Could we have done that even twenty years ago? Maybe by phone, but with much more difficulty and expense.

E-flyer from Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles first House Arrest virtual reading

Remember long distance phone calls (and long distance could virtually be just across the street in some cases). They were ridiculously expensive. You’d call the operator before your call and request “time and charges,” then when the call was over the operator would call you back and tell you how long the call lasted and how much it cost. And you’d get sticker shock.

The "good old days".

In the near last minute my wife suggested doing a virtual launch for The Blues Don’t Care in June since there were no in person events happening. So we had to scramble to figure out how to do that. We weren’t sure if we should try Zoom or another service or stick to the old standby (yeah ‘old’ standby) of Facebook, which is what we ended up doing. And it turned out better than I had expected. We had a big group of people and questions flying back and forth. Plus I’d toss out tidbits of info on various things related to events that took place in the novel, like the gambling ships that lay off the SoCal coast back in the day. It was fun, if a little hectic, and I think people enjoyed it.

So we make do as best we can. And we don’t have to shower or drive to get to our meetings 😉. It’s also kind of cool to just see someone when you’re talking one to one with Zoom or Skype or other services. My wife’s family reunion was cancelled this year because of Covid but her and some of her cousins get together semi-regularly with each other via Zoom. Like they used to say, it’s the next best thing to being there.

So what’s next? Virtual reality meetings? Holograms? Mind-melding? Beam me up Scotty! There seem to be no limits to technology, but there is still something to be said for meeting people face to face. Standing close enough to whisper something, closer than 6 feet apart. Laughing, talking, sharing good food (and drink!) and good stories. So until we can do those things again, at least we have the virtual world, which is the next best thing.


And now for the usual BSP:

Thanks to Steve Steinbock and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for the review of The Blues Don’t Care in the current September/October 2020 issue just out. Four stars out of four. My first time getting reviewed in EQMM. A great honor!

And our own Cathy Ace’s The Corpse with the Crystal Skull is also reviewed in this issue.

Please join me on Facebook: and check out my website


Anonymous said...

Paul, just as well-said the second time around. We're indeed lucky to have the technology tools to go through this very interesting time.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Maggie. I appreciate your comment. Hope you're doing well!

GBPool said...

Your point about how nice it is that we have certain new technology that is coming in handy when it was needed. My brother is an aeronautical engineer. He told me once that there are lots of scientific and technological things out there already invented, but so far nobody knows exactly what to do with them. Slowly but surely needs come up and those inventions are dusted off for everyday use. You have to wonder what unbelievable invention is sitting on a shelf just waiting for its time.

Paul D. Marks said...

That sounds really exciting, Gayle, about all the things in the wings waiting to be dusted off . I'm sure there's technology that we can't imagine that could really make differences in a lot of ways.

Lisa Ciarfella said...

The FB event for The Blues was fun. If you do a zoom for the new coast to coast, let us all know! Can't wait to read that one!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Lisa. And glad you enjoyed the Blues event. That was pretty last minute but I think it turned out pretty well. I'm trying to work on something for Coast to Coast and it'll be on FB and in my newsletter if it comes to pass.