Friday, December 4, 2020

Guest post: Loreth Anne White

Our guest today is Loreth Anne White, an Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestselling author of thrillers, mysteries, and suspense. With well over 2 million books sold around the world, she is a three-time RITA finalist, an overall Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Arthur Ellis finalist, and winner of multiple industry awards.

Q: Snake Oil: Marketing your novels – what has worked brilliantly for you and what has been a miserable, terrible waste of time and effort?

Loreth Anne White: Psst. Quick. Over here. Come, come, step inside my tent, cross my palm with silver  . . . try my book, buy my book . . . it will grab you by the throat. Keep you awake. It’s utterly gripping. It will change your life. You won’t stop turning the pages. You’ll never see the twist—I promise you . . . I beg you . . . purchase just one copy . . .  leave just one five star review . . .

Who are we kidding? Authors make the worst snake oil peddlers.

Marketing books is usually the one part of the writing gig that makes us squirm, or come at it obliquely, apologetically, with hat in hand, not quite meeting eyes, muttering, While I find this whole selling and talking up my books quite vulgar, and it’s not really me, I’d also quite like to be a bestseller, so if you feel like it, please be so kind as to buy a copy of my new crime novel. 

Yet in this world of digital content that keeps growing by the second—day in, day out, year in, year out—discoverability remains one of the biggest author challenges. And the circus will likely only become more challenging in the years to come. So yell into the noise we must.

What’s worked for me? I can mostly tell you what hasn’t! Or what I cannot quantify. I’ve tried what most authors have tried:  Attempting to solicit blurbs from bigger name colleagues in my genre (authors on the whole are wonderfully generous this way). Has it translated into sales? I don’t know.

I’ve sat at signing tables in bookstores or at conferences, smiling hopefully as I offer a bowl of chocolates or jelly beans to passers by. I’ve agreed to readings. I’ve done radio interviews, blog tours. I’ve participated in Facebook page takeovers, and live Instagram interviews with wonderful bookstagram influencers. I’ve done live Facebook Q&As, and Zoom gatherings. I’ve made promo videos. I’ve brought my dog on board and crafted social media posts that feature him flogging my books. Have you met Hudson? My pooch marketer in chief? And hey, don’t laugh! The graphics with Hudson Boy garner the most likes and comments and chuckles. But do they sell my books? Hell knows. If I was more sales savvy, like many self-published authors are, I’d probably turn them into Facebook ads, and do A/B testing, with buy buttons that are a call to action, but I’m not quite there yet.

I have paid for some social media advertising, and I’ve definitely noticed an uptick in sales when I’ve run ad campaigns. I’ve tried BookBub ads, and they do work. I know Goodreads is excellent as a social media platform solely for lovers of books who are always searching for new stories, and I am learning some new techniques to better use the site in an effort to boost buzz.

But if I flip this snake oil question on its head to look at it from a reader’s perspective and ask, what is the magic potion that makes me plunk down dollars for books? It’s almost always word of mouth from readers whose taste I trust. Readers who will tell me the truth about whether they liked or loved a book, and why, or why not. And those readers are often on social media.  If I try a book based on their recommendations, and love it, I will immediately seek out more from that author. And if her front and backlist delivers on the promise she’s created, I’m hooked. She’s an auto buy. I will purchase both hardcover and audio. I will pre-order. I’m a fan. I will leave reviews and talk her up. So I guess it all gets dialled back to the writing. To meeting a certain set of readers’ expectations. To delivering quality. On brand. Again, and again, and again. Preferably on a regular cadence.

And yes, a bit of snake oil. Or luck. Or a publisher with big marketing muscle and reach who can do the heavy lifting for you.

Because honestly, by far the most successful thing I’ve managed to do in terms of sales volume, is to have been able to partner with a publishing team comprised of truly wonderful people I love, and a publisher with incredible marketing punch around the globe. Amazon Publishing. I know, I know, I hear you . . . but APub has been able to put my Canadian stories—nearly all of them set in moody, misty British Columbia—into the hands of readers around the world. Which has changed my life. (Do I sound like a snake oil peddler yet? J )

PS: I’m keen to hear what magic works for others. And thank you Criminal Minds for inviting me.

A recovering journalist who has worked in both South Africa and Canada, Loreth Anne White now calls Canada home. She resides in the Pacific Northwest, dividing time between Victoria on Vancouver Island, the ski resort of Whistler in the Coast Mountains, and a rustic lakeside cabin in the Cariboo. When she’s not writing or dreaming up plots, you will find her on the lakes, in the ocean, or on the trails with her dog where she tries—unsuccessfully—to avoid bears. 

Connect with Loreth Anne White:






My Amazon Author Page:


Cathy Ace said...

Thanks for visiting us today - and for the insights. The more we all share our experiences, the more we can all benefit!

Brenda Chapman said...

Great post, Loreth Anne! I like how you encapsulated our aversion to selling our own books and agree that word of mouth can work wonders. Thanks for sharing your experiences in the marketing world and all the best with your books.

Frank Zafiro said...

Wonderful post! You really capture the crux of the marketing experience.

And welcome to the 7 Crim lounge! Cathy has put out a gorgeous spread. Jim will be by later with classy booze. Catriona has us laughing already. It's a warm place, so enjoy!

James W. Ziskin said...

Excellent post, Loreth Anne. I appreciate your honesty and humor. And you make some excellent points. Who knows what works? (Besides a very muscular publisher.)


Loreth Anne White said...

Thank you for welcoming me, guys! I'm still waiting for the booze, Frank. And you're right. It is a warm place.