Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Swinging at Curveballs

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

From Frank

In a word, no.

I mean, not really. But a little.

I'm a hybrid author in terms of publishing. By this, I mean that half of my novels are published by Down and Out Books, a small press that specializes in grittier crime fiction (they also sponsor my podcast, Wrong Place, Write Crime, which is mighty nice of 'em). The other half I publish independently. Essentially, if it is a River City-based novel, whether part of the main series or a spin-off, I publish it myself. 

So this really comes down to two different questions - what has the publisher done differently, and what have I done myself?

First, my publisher. The honest truth here is, not much. Down and Out's method of promotion isn't one that has been impacted much by the limitations of Covid-19. A small press is never going to be taking out a billboard for any of your books in the first place, right?

One thing we did different, but this was decided at Bouchercon 2019, was to release the remainder of the Charlie-316 series in rapid succession. So instead of book 2 (Never the Crime) in June 2020 and Badge Heavy (#3) and Code Four (#4) coming in '21 and '22, this series will come out in June 2020, September 2020, and November 2020. Bam, bam, bam.

Maybe it's a dumb idea. Maybe it's brilliant. But two things are certain: readers won't have to wait, and Down and Out deserves some kudos for a willingness to try something outside the norm.

Me? Well, I haven't been doing any bookstore signings. I have done a virtual event, and it was pleasantly Zoom-bombed.

To be honest again, I haven't adjusted much from some of the strategies I implemented before 2020 made landfall (and yes, I think it is fair to consider this year as the equivalent of a tropical storm or an invading army). I've been building a newsletter, trying to find the balance between quantity and quality of subscribers, and riding that line of balance of perfect enagement that is neither too frequent to be bothersome or too infrequent to be forgotten... and I'm sure I'm not hitting that mark very well. 

Social media has long been touted as a way to reach fans, but I wonder about that. It seems to me that it is a great way to connect with existing fans but not to create new ones. Still, it is the cheapest and most accessible way to market oneself, and a writer would be foolish not to have at least a minimal presence there.

Another marketing consideration is the focus on digital. I've never sold a lot of physical copies compared to digital. 2020 has only reinforced that, so I've been leaning hard toward those methods that push the digital. This is probably different for some other authors, perhaps even those on this blog, and that's fine. Every journey is different.

Another "new" way is that I've started taking a minute or two during my aforementioned podcast to mention my own work. I shied away from that for the first couple of seasons, wanting to feature my guests exclusively. But I decided (with the help of a listener poll) to make a quick mention when there's something worth mentioning.

I just looked back over this post and realized it is an awful lot of space to say "No, not really." I'm going to resist the urge to delete the whole thing, and just leave you with this:

My sixth River City novel, Place of Wrath and Tears, came out on August 12 (indie) and the third Charlie-316 novel, Badge Heavy with Colin Conway will be out on September 14. If you follow the link by clicking on the titles or covers, then this post counts as marketing, right?

Oh, and there's the book trailers. I forgot to mention those. My friend and co-author Colin Conway did those. Place of Wrath and Tears has one, and I've embedded the Badge Heavy trailer below. Again, I don't know how effective trailers are but I will say this - Colin did a great job, and I'm glad to have one more little piece to help promote.

Check out the trailer!


Paul D. Marks said...

Frank, the thing I've found is that what works today doesn't work tomorrow. Things helped me sell a lot of books a few years ago seem to do little today. So we're always having to look for the new and next best thing. It can be very frustrating, especially if you don't have the big bucks of a major publisher behind you. But even if you are with one of them they normally spend their money on already big-name authors with a few exceptions here and there.

And good luck with your new book on the 14th!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Great trailer, Frank. I can't wait to read the book.

Brenda Chapman said...

Good post, Frank. You make me feel better about my struggles to promote since Covid shut everything down. This is a tough time in the business.

Susan C Shea said...

Yes, it's a hard job and as Paul says, if something is seen to work when an early adopter tries it, in a month 10,000 other authors are overwhelming the method and it's over.