Q: Snake Oil – Marketing your novels – what has worked brilliantly for you and what has been a miserable, terrible waste of time and effort?
Brilliant? Nothing. I remain stubbornly on the cusp of mid-list authors.
Things I’ve enjoyed and that I saw have actual check-in-hand benefits are launch parties at my local bookstore. My friends show up and they buy lots of books. It’s a real party and lovely. I sell enough on those individual days and the few days after to put my new book on the County’s bestseller list for that week.
The next best marketing is doing bookstore events with another author, preferably one much more popular than I am. Cara Black, who also writes books set in France, has been such a generous person to share book events with me since my Burgundy series debuted. She’s well known, has fans everywhere, and we like each others’ books and stories, so we seem top partner well. Terry Shames and I did a handful, and we worked well together too. It requires both authors to genuinely enjoy each other’s company and to have read each other’s books. The audience senses the camaraderie and the mood is upbeat. It sells book that day and maybe gains new readers from the other’s fans.
I’ve done many, many guest blogs, but I can’t say it leads to book sales. Sometimes, there are no comments from blog readers, so I feel like I’m speaking at one of those nightmare events we’ve all heard about – the one where you’re parked behind a table waiting to sign books and no one comes. Recently Frank Zafiro invited me to be a guest on his podcast. I bet that’s good marketing for him, but I don’t know if it will motivate anyone to look me up. (Thanks, Frank. It was fun and you are so good at it!)
Panels at conventions are okay, and I relish riffing with other writers, some of whom are new to me. But I personally think they’re overrated as marketing tools, in part because there are literally dozens of other panels with scores of other eager authors, and unless you have the charisma of Catriona McPherson, it’s hard to make much of an impression.
I have received wonderful professional (not paid for!) reviews for all of my books, and even got a review in the New York Times. Did any of them help sales of build buzz that would be a marketing help? If there was buzz, it was low level and it never pushed me forward much. Maybe you have to win awards like Catriona, Terry, Abir Mukherjee, Paul Marks, and Jim Ziskin do to get liftoff?
Yes, I have a web site. But I don’t have a newsletter and I‘m hearing that I must create one. I'm usually on Facebook but took a break late in this national election cycle. I have a personal page and an author page. I do get comments on the latter, and I use it sparingly for book giveaways. But how good a marketing tool is it? I don’t know. What I really need to do is put time into my Amazon visibility, create a new edition of the Dani O’Rourke series, which was and still is selling, and figure out how to make the most of the Amazon marketing tricks.
Sorry I can offer much – we need to know what Cathy Ace does because SHE knows book marketing!
My marketing effort for today:
“Shea launches a cozy series that richly details life in a small French village. The outlandish antics of the eccentric locals add to the humor. Suggest to fans of Rhys Bowen’s early “Evan Evans” series for the humor, the characters, and the charming setting.” –Library Journal