With the launch of my fourth novel, “The House Always Wins,” in October, 2017, I’ve been in full promo mode for the last four months. Luckily, I’m a marketing guy in real life, which may give me a leg up but doesn’t make the task any easier. Still, as they say in the Farmer’s TV commercials, I’ve learned a thing or two since my first foray in 2002, which I’m only too happy to share. At the very least, I can keep you from making the same mistakes I’ve made.
Book marketing, in my experience, is like running for office (except it never ends). While the web makes things easier to a certain extent, or at least gives you additional weapons in your arsenal, more than half your time should be spent on grass roots efforts (which is where the political analogy kicks in).
During the past months, I’ve spoken to Rotary Clubs, library patrons, book store customers, writers’ groups, readers’ groups, coffee shop aficionados, and even visitors to the Las Vegas Mob Museum (my novel has a racketeer theme, among others). I’ve participated in launch parties, presentations, panels, symposiums, workshops, readings, signings, book fairs, and something called “Painted Stories,” in which a talented artist creates an image of your chapter while you read it.
I have a standard stump speech, an elevator speech, and a couple of custom speeches geared toward specific subjects and audiences. (My favorite is “What Does Success Mean to You?” which I delivered to a roomful of other writers.) I’ve traveled one mile and 100 miles. I’ve sold one book and 50 books. And I’ve learned to never prejudge and never say “no,” because I honestly can’t predict what’s going to be a strikeout and what’s going to be a home run.
After doing hundreds, if not thousands, of these things over the years, I’ve gotten really good at it. I know that’s counter intuitive, because most of us gravitate toward writing because we enjoy the solitude. But I recommend you fake it till you make it. Maybe even take a Dale Carnegie or Toastmasters or other public speaking course, because there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction with fans and prospective fans.
You’re sharing your innermost thoughts and ideas with folks you’ve never met, hoping to make a connection and maybe build a long-term relationship. When you get to meet them, they’ll want to know as much about you, if not more, than about your book. Questions like:“What’s your writing process? Where do you get your ideas? Are your characters based on real people? How did you learn to write? Who are your favorite authors? Can you recommend an agent? What are you working on next?” and dozens more. Be prepared.
One final thought. Whether you’re self-published, indie, traditional or some hybrid I haven’t heard of yet, you need a brand. Something that separates you from the hundreds of thousands of other authors who release books every year. In my case, I’ve hitched my wagon to Las Vegas, my adopted home for the last four decades. My goal is to become synonymous with my city, to give readers an authentic glimpse behind the curtain that visitors rarely get to see. I want to be to Vegas what Carl Hiaasen is to South Florida, Elmore Leonard is to Detroit, and Laura Lippman is to Baltimore. I may not be there quite yet, but I’m getting close. I suggest you find your niche and do the same.