The buzzword in promotion is platform. Agents and editors want their authors to have a brand, a tagline, an expertise that sets them apart from everybody else. For nonfiction writers, this concept is fairly straightforward. If I’m writing a book about training cats to line dance, then I must establish myself as an expert cat trainer—by blogging, giving talks to cat therapy groups, and writing articles for publications focused on all things feline. But how does a fiction author establish a platform/brand?
I’m headed for Portland today for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association tradeshow. I’m still surprised they chose me for an author signing (50 authors were turned away). I almost passed on this event because the fee is $125, I have to give away 50 fifty books, and drive two hours in each direction for a 30-minute signing session.
Why am I going? Because it’s an opportunity to meet bookstore owners/managers from all over the Pacific Northwest. It’s an opportunity to hand them my novel and my promotional flyer with all the rave reviews. Even if they don’t order my book, they will hear my name, see my story and series character, and file it away somewhere in their brain. And someday soon, they will order and stock my books.
In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In book marketing, it’s exposure, exposure, exposure. You can’t buy better (or cheaper) advertising than this event.
I made a list of promotional efforts that I want to be more consistent about and decided to share my new goals.
Give out more bookmarks! I read about people who say they do this everywhere and with everyone, and I must get into the habit. Goal: Give out 3 bookmarks a day. And I intend to start ordering them in large quantities from online printers. (Nothing like having 2000 bookmarks sitting around to motivate you to give them away.)
Send out one e-mail a day to writer/mystery/review blogs offering to guest blog or participate in a Q&A.
Send out two e-mails a week to writers I know online offering a free copy of my novel. If they like it, they’ll probably say so. Free promotion from other writers is as good as it gets.
Spend 10 minutes a day on Goodreads in discussion forums and adding books to my list. This is a direct connection to readers.
Spend 10 minutes a day on CrimeSpace. I used to do this everyday, then got out of the habit when I started spending more time on Facebook and Twitter (and blogging everyday). As a result, I’ve noticed a drop off in the number of books I sell on Amazon.
Comment on two other blogs everyday. This one is easy, and I’d like to do more of it, but I have to leave some time for writing novels.
Write one article a month and offer it online magazines—even for no pay—just for exposure. (This will be the hardest one to keep up. I hate writing for free…except for blogging!)
Get all of this into an Excel spreadsheet so I can track it and not get sloppy.
Get up earlier to get it all done!
I’ve been sending my novel (with permission) to other writers I’ve gotten to know online. I haven’t directly asked them for a blurb, but that is my hope, that they’ll saying something nice that I can use for promotion. I’m also lining up writers to read and blurb (yes, it can be used as a verb) my new Detective Jackson manuscript with the idea that it will help sell it. This is common practice in the industry. I haven’t asked, nor do I want, anyone to lie or fudge or say something they don’t mean. But apparently, this is common practice in the industry too.
J.A. Konrath has written extensively about the dishonesty in the blurbing business (authors who give rave blurbs without ever reading the book), but now the NY Times reports that a company has taken it to a new level: Blurbs for Sale.
Now I wonder if there’s any point in what I’d doing. Does the blurb still have value or has it become meaningless? Have you ever bought a book because a writer you like said good things about it? Will you do it again in the future?