- from Susan
I respect and admire writers who have decided not to wait for the fickle hand of fate to lead them to an agent and a traditional publisher. These days, it can be a long, hard road. If they’ve taken pains to write the best book they can, had it read and critiqued by a professional editor, and researched independent publishing’s complicated ways, more power to them. Because I have gone the traditional route, having had the great good fortune of getting the attention of a wonderful agent at a time when she was looking for books like mine, I don’t have any words of wisdom for people who’ve chosen the indie route. Instead, I’ll say a few words about marketing.
We all have to market our books today, and it’s a huge, hairy deal. Forget about a press release to six newspapers and one local radio station. Who would you send it to, with most book editors gone the way of dodo birds? The radio station’s talk show host probably has 20 writers wooing him or her at any time, not to mention that he may not like crime fiction.
Today’s book marketing (I exclude the High Literary Stars who live inside the New York Review of Books’ and the New York Times’ charmed circles) is heavily focused on social media, on interactivity with potential readers, on blogs and blog reviewers, and on word of mouth. I read, and am sorry I can’t cite, a recent study that said readers still make most book buying decisions based on personal contact or word of mouth, which means you still have to trot out to the declining number of bookstore venues, give out bookmarks, and find live groups to talk to – libraries, book clubs, social clubs, etc. You need a robust web site, buy buttons included, and a strategy to get people to visit it.
All this costs some or a lot of money. I recall Rhys Bowen telling a Norcal MWA audience years ago, before her “Her Royal Spyness” series was launched, that you should invest your advance in promotional activities and it would pay off. With the shrinkage in advances and the increase in travel costs, you might have to invest more than that to have a big impact.
My last marketing comment: Start early. Conventional wisdom is your marketing should begun four to five months before book launch. For people doing a series with a new book each year, like my friend Cara Black, that means it never stops. Just look at her posted activities and you’ll see what I mean. She is the definition of hard-working!
My second Dani O’Rourke book, THE KING’S JAR, comes out next spring and, yes, I’m already developing a detailed marketing plan. I hope I’ll see some of you somewhere and, ahem, if you have a book club, I’d love to talk to you.