Friday, March 30, 2007

Turn the Page by Jess Lourey (with some help from Bob Seeger)

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:

  • 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!


Mark Terry said...

Wow. Veddy good shit here, even for someone like me. (Or especially for someone like me). Couple good resources, too. Thanks!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Jess, fabulous list! I especially loved the grant idea and the last one about naming the book something vague.

BTW, are you writing the book about getting rich, laid, etc. without ever leaving your couch? I'd buy a few of those as Christmas gifts.

Candy Calvert said...

Great stuff, Jess. I just did a (multi-library) Bookfest here in Texas and ended up doing a couple of workshops with bestselling romantic-comedy author, Lori Wilde.
She's a mega-promo Queen and you can bet I picked her brain.
She seconded a marketing niche that I'd already stumbled into: Women's Clubs, especially those associated with country clubs. They always need speakers, are avid readers, and are well-connected and will "spread the word."

I say "Yes," to them all--which once had me in the interesing situation of standing at a podium with my huge book image poster (of my sexy heroine holding her tropical martini)--only to discover at the last moment that it was an evangelical womens' group! Good thing the ER taught me to fly by the seat of my pants, and that laughter is a universal language! It actually turned out really well, and the women were both welcoming and receptive. It sure taught me to scope out my audience ahead of time. :-)

G.M. Malliet said...

Really great info here!

I do have one question - is that kitten dead or just passed out in his food?

Deb Baker said...

Great post! Thanks for the arts board tip. I try to do most of the things on your list. Just reading it made me want a nap. Murder Grins and Bears It will be out next month so I'm gearing up.

Julia Buckley said...

I do feel sorry for you, and now I feel sorry for me. :)

My question is, will you come with me? I'm about as assertive as, uh--well, do you remember Georgette from the MARY TYLER MOORE show? That's me in the bookstores.

But as a Jess Lourey fan, I can tell you that you have a good product there, and it's worth the work you're putting in, girl.

Bill Cameron said...

I thought The Secret was "people will pay good money for any nonsensical claptrap so long as Oprah's name is on a sticker on the front."

But, aye, good stuff here. Now to figure out how to fit it in while making all the little league and basketball tourney games, finishing another novel, and, oh, I dunno, make a living. Gracious!

Andi said...

Friendly amendment offered to
"Don’t send goodies (post cards, pens, bookmarks) to conferences to be set on a table. They get lost in the shuffle."

I disagree. DO check with conferences/conventions to see if they ACCEPT goodies. If they do, send some - ask if you want to (Left Coast Crime maxed out at 600 this year; Bouchercon is bigger, Mayhem is smaller). DO NOT mail goodies to the P O Box WITHOUT ASKING if that's acceptable or correct. ASK IF THERE IS A DEADLINE to accept such things.

I still think you might benefit from putting goodies out at a convention. If the event is set in the place your book is set, if you have a tie-in with the region, if the convention's focus is similar to your book style, it won't hurt to send stuff. People DO take that stuff home and, I believe, but I could be wrong, that someone who picks UP your postcard, pen or bookmark is a better possibility than someone to whom you've mailed the postcard from an arbitrary list you bought/rented.

This is based on nothing more than hunch but a) I've been to a couple dozen conventions and I've run conventions and notice that the "freebie tables" always get looked at and often get cleaned off by attendees, esp if there's a unique goody (and yes, many many of us are looking for new authors) and b) I am one of those who will toss any/every promo postcard into the recycling immediately since it's not how to get my attention.

But as someone who got stuff sent to her weeks before a convention (I was the chair and a) don't have a car, b) use a scooter to travel c) had files, paperwork, awards, gifts, clothes, you NAME it to tote with me and c) was likely to forget someone's freebies sent six weeks out, you MUST ask. We had several "designated people" to schlep things to the convention and I was not one of them and thought it rude as heck for someone to assume it was okay to send me stuff I had to track.
Andi Shechter (Chair, LCC 2007 and LCC 1997)

Jess Lourey said...

I hope the kitty is not dead. That would be very dark, to have a dead kitty on my post.

Sue Ann, I started the "getting rich, laid, and skinny without getting off the couch" book and am afraid I can't even come up with a pamphlet. Apparently, what I don't know about all three is enormous. Sorry.

Candy, you polluter of the evangelical! What other good stuff did you get from the promo queen?

Julia, I am a bigger fan of you than you are of me.

Bill, I think you can rent kid walkers. If not, you should be able to. If you can pay to have someone walk your dog, why can't you pay to have someone bring your kid to their frickin' baseball game?

Andi, as a chair of conferences, you would know better than I how much of the goodies translate into sales. My rule of thumb is to spend my promotional money (around $1.29 this time around) on unique efforts, but there is much to be said for the "leave no stone unturned" rule.

Yay! Thanks all for reading and responding!