Wednesday, December 2, 2020

It Ain't What You Do, It's The Way That You Do Cathy Ace

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

Well, this one's a challenge, too! I'm going to take this question as referring to selling books to readers, as opposed to anything else, and that means I have a list of things that do and don't work for I'll break it all down, to allow better focus. What I'll say as an overarching comment is that I find I get more out of a method when I put more in...and, since I don't have an actual "promotional budget" as such, that means I have to put most effort into the things it's free for me to do!

Online methods: these days I know I'm not alone in relying upon this way to reach existing and potential readers, so it's more important than ever to be able to learn from mistakes. I realize that what has and hasn't worked for me won't work/not work for everyone, but all I can do is share what I've learned. I should start by admitting that my promotional budget is all-but nonexistent, so bear that in mind when I tell you that - for me - Facebook advertising/paid promotion hasn't worked, nor has amazon advertising...but they might have done if I'd had a bigger budget. What did work well for me was a BookBub spot when I launched The Wrong Boy: it was a discounted offer just after the launch (not free) and it not only paid for itself (you have to buy the right to have details of your book included in the BookBub mailing) but the book achieved #1, #2 and #3spots in the UK, Canada and Australia as a result. I was pleased :-)

I send (in)frequent newsletters to my growing list of readers (I try to tell them important/interesting stuff, but not irritate them with constant emails) and I use Facebook a good deal to interact with friends and readers around the world. I use Twitter infrequently, but not as infrequently as I use Instagram - must try harder! 

Does any of this increase sales? The BookBub offer had an immediate and impactful effect, the rest is more of a "slow burn" effort - which I intend to continue.

I also blog here, which I enjoy very much. To prove a point, this month sees me beginning my sixth year of being a member of the Criminal Minds...thanks very much for continuing to read my bi-weekly musings!

Face to face: 

Bookstores: there are certainly sales to be made by sitting in a bookstore for hours; indeed, I sometimes wish I could sit all day, every day, at a table just inside the entry to a bookstore with my books on display and "hand sell" my work - it seems to pay off. But that's not practical, of course. However, for me, it's worked well in the past. But it's hard work - I have to gird my loins to try to engage those who are entering to browse; I try to spot those who might think my work's appealing, and have learned how to pitch what I write in about 20 seconds, and to use the fall back of "well, not every book is everyone's cup of tea" when I discover that "my mark" doesn't at all like the sound of what I write. 

Spotlight on my books by Black Bond Books in Maple Ridge, BC - even during a pandemic they support me!

Lots of disappointment and some awkwardness mixed in with the delight of finding a new reader. And my time is "free", so that's another bonus! 

With Allan J Emerson and Don Hauka at a book signing

Events: sometimes there's a chance to take part in a Special Event, and being the only author to "perform" at The Gower Festival in 2019 was one such occasion. A group of about a hundred people enjoyed "Crime and a Cream Tea" with me at The Worm's Head pub in Rhossili (the inspiration for the locations in The Wrong Boy) and book sales were brisk, which was lovely.

At The Gower Festival, 2019

Reading groups/book clubs: a lot of reading groups/book clubs have (traditionally) been run in conjunction with libraries, so the library holds a reading set of books which are read by multiple groups. Other groups purchase books to read. Either way, when a group of people choose my work, and then invite me to discuss it with them, this allows me the wonderful opportunity to talk about the entirety of a book - whodunnit and all (as well as a lump of sales)! Such a rare chance to ask folks if they worked out the clues, which red herrings they enjoyed etc. I never turn down a reading group, if I can help it, and am delighted that I've been able to continue to join such groups via Zoom/FB chatting etc. throughout the pandemic. 

Spoiled rotten by the lovely ladies of a group in New Westminster, BC

Conventions/panels: when I was fortunate enough to be Toastmaster at Left Coast Crime in Vancouver in 2019 I sold a LOT of books through the book room at the convention - thanks to everyone who purchased! - but, generally, I don't find the book sales via conventions to be huge. That said, it's lovely when your books sell out and the booksellers are happy too! However, attending any convention is HUGELY expensive, so attending them is not about immediate sales - for me, I use them to learn about the business, meet readers and other authors, and allow myself to feel the community I now belong to. 

I love seeing my books "rubbing spines" with those of author-friends in convention book rooms - this at CrimeFest 2019, book room run by Waterstones, Bristol (UK)

Libraries: I became a reader because I could borrow books from my local library, and I became a writer because I'm a reader, therefore I will support libraries to the best of my ability. It's free for me to give my time to talk at a library, and the books are free for folks to borrow - but I know that sales through libraries are important, as they create readers in the long run. 

Hard to believe but true - the last time I set foot in a library was back in July 2019, here at Pembroke Dock in Wales.

I hope you choose to try some of my books! Thanks for reading this find out more about me and my work, visit my website: CLICK HERE


Susan C Shea said...

I knew your take on this would be great when I called you out on Monday's Q&A. You sparkle when you sell your books - and your marketing results prove you're a real pro. Thanks, Cathy.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Susan...LOL! I didn't respond, because I knew I had to keep my powder dry ;-) It's not easy, is it, getting the word out, but we all try, and sharing these insights at least lets me know I'm not facing the struggles alone :-)