On a long and lonely highway east of Omaha
You can listen to the engine, moanin' out as one long song…
That’s a Bob Seeger song, and an excellent title for a mystery writer’s book tour, which I am in the midst of. Sure, I’m more northeast of Omaha (Minnesota and Wisconsin), but I’ve spent a lot of lonely time in my car promoting June Bug, the second in the Murder-by-Month Mysteries, and a lot of lonelier time at an author table at Barnes & Noble trying to catch people’s eye as they beeline for their audio copy of The Secret (and please allow me to save you $20 by spilling the secret--"think positive.")
This book marketing is serious work, I tell ya’. I’d like to say I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me, but that would be a lie. Who knew that promoting a book would be as hard (though a different kind of hard) as writing the book? In an effort to make life easier on all the other new authors out there with limited time and money, I'm going to share what I've learned. Here it is:
HOW TO PROMOTE A NOVEL
- Don’t send goodies (post cards, pens, bookmarks) to conferences to be set on a table. They get lost in the shuffle.
- Do send postcards to every library in the United States. You can buy mailing labels at several different online clearinghouses. The postcards should have your book cover on front and a brief synopsis and a couple good blurbs on back. I have a limited, Minnesota-focused list that I'd be happy to send to you if you email me.
- Do send postcards to every independent bookstore you can find, particularly those within your region. With all postcards you send, take a moment to write a quick note, like “good reading!” or “funny stuff!” or “regional author!”, or highlight a good quote. If there is something personalized on the postcard, it is more likely to be read.
- Sign stock at the chains. Any Barnes & Nobles and Borders within driving distance is fair game. Call ahead, make sure they have your books in stock, and then sign that stock. I hit 18 bookstores last Saturday, and three of them only had two copies of June Bug, but now they all have autographed copies of June Bug. Many of the stores even offered to put June Bug out on the new arrival table or face out and to order copies of May Day.
- Set up signings at independents and libraries. They do great word-of-mouth advertising, and usually, are fantastic places to get to know booksellers and buyers. And for every signing you set up, call the local newspaper and radio and offer an angle on your signing. I have so far gotten seven newspaper interviews and three radio interviews by playing up the small-town murder angle of my series.
- When you go to the chains to sign stock or the independents and libraries to have signings, hand out your promo stuff to the people who work there. (I do this at the chains, too, btw, and have met some wonderful people this way.) My promo item for June Bug is a flashlight/lockpicking kit with my website, the book’s ISBN, and a cute saying (Mira James is back….and she’s up to her Nut Goodies in trouble again) on it.
- Apply to your local county arts board for promotional money. With May Day, I received a $1200 grant for promotion. To find your arts board, google “[your state here] arts council.”
- Google all the magazine/journals which might represent your niche. Contact them, and ask them if you could please send a review copy of your book to them. I focus on Midwest, resort, and gardening journals.
- Incorporate cute pictures of animals into your writing. People love it and are 66.67% more like to read to the end of your document. ;)
- And finally, name your book something vague, like, I don't know, The Answer, The Life Map, or How to Get Rich, Laid, and Skinny Without Every Leaving Your Couch, and get yourself on Oprah. Works every time.
That might be all I know today. Happy promoting!