Monday, August 30, 2010

Thoughts on Marketing Your Books

Recently, I was on a marketing panel at the Catholic Writer's Conference Live. John Desjarlais was the moderator, and he kindly supplied me with questions ahead of time. I made some notes, which I never really got to because of the flow of questions from the audience. I thought I'd share with you today.

How does a non-artist get good promotional material?

• Use the cover art
• Get help
• Remember that “good” does not have to mean expensive or flashy—capture them with the story

In the modern age, has the web trumped public presence? Do you still need to shake hands and kiss babies?

• If in bookstores, I think physical presence is more important.
• However, it is fun and helpful to be available, to make live contacts (like Ann said in her opening speech) Not just for sales, but support and future publishing
What marks you as a professional when you market? How do I market on the cheap without looking like an amateur?
• Know what you’re doing—take some classes, get some examples of what works.
• Don’t hard sell. They say writing is an isolated art, but at the core, it’s about establishing a relationship, however temporary, with the reader. Marketing is the same.
example: There’s an author I friended on Facebook. Every post I see of his is really just an ad—often the same ad—for his book. A review quote and a buy link. Sometimes when he sees me on facebook, he IMs me to ask when he “can send me my copy.” Compare that to Carolyn Howard-Johnson. She has several books on book promotion and writing. She has a twitter account and a newsletter for promoting them and she mentions them fairly regularly, but mostly, she has interesting things that help authors. People learn to trust her, then they buy her books.

What do you think of getting your name out in tangential ways - teaching classes, apearing at conferences, etc.?

• I definitely recommend it. I sell a lot of stuff and gather new readers—and new friends that way.
• You don’t need to teach either. I always use conference workshops to work on a work in progress, like from my DragonEye. People get sucked into the characters, and I can mention that I already have one book out.

Your thoughts on appearing as original vs being compared to other authors? (Example: all the fantasy authors whose works are described as points on a line with Tolkein in the center.)

• I like what Terry Pratchett said on his website. “I’m having a real identity crisis, since apparently there are four or more of me.” I love Terry Pratchett and I aspire to write on his level, but I don’t want to be the next Terry Pratchett. However, when asked what my books are like, I have been known to say “Discworld meets Harry Dresden Files.” Or “Terry Pratchett meets Jim Butcher.”

Do you blog? Doesn't it take away from your writing time?

• I have a love-hate relationship with blogging. At one point, I had three blogs I kept up regularly, but they didn’t do anything for me except, as you say, take away from my writing—and my imagining time. This year, I narrowed it to one blog, twice a week. On Mondays, it’s anything goes, and I share news or review others or whatever. Thursdays, I write about my latest work in progress. That way, it does help me—it keeps people up to date, gives me a chance to give back to others who have hosted me on their blogs, and it gives me a little reward because I can talk about what I’m writing.

Do you do anything to determine what marketing methods are giving you hits and - more importantly - sales?

• I can’t get my head around SEOs and all that. One thing I found has helped is not depending on my own sites. For example, I started publishing my Dragon’s Eye View newsletter on Before, I only had a few readers each issue, now I average 10,000 reads. I’m still not sure how well that’s translating into sales.

What is the first thing I should do when I go home tonight to start marketing well?

• Set up a regular time or a regular task list. One thing about marketing is that you have to plug away at it, even if just baby steps. I actually publish a weekly newsletter, 30-minute marketer, that gives 4 tasks that take about 30 minutes each, to help folks organize that, and I have some samples. But really, the key is find that tasks that work and keep at them, a little each day or a little each week.

If you'd like a sample issue of the 30-Minute Marketer, check it out at

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