Contest: Best Marketing Ideas of 2007

by Pari Noskin Taichert

It’s happened.

I’m in marketing mode.

My ARCs arrived at the publisher late last week. They’re gorgeous.

While I love the University of New Mexico Press, and consider it "exclusive" rather than "small," the reality is that my publisher doesn’t have the reach that some of its NYC counterparts do. As a result, I’ve had to do some things on my own; I’ve had to be inventive. I don’t mind at all. A lot of the work is downright fun.

I know many writers who like to keep their marketing ideas close to their chests and I can understand why. Though we work to help each other at times, it’s easy to believe we’re competitors when it comes to readers.

I don’t buy that. I think the more we share ideas, the more we’ll encourage reading and nourish crime fiction as a whole.

(I’ll step off of my soapbox now.)

Here are two tips I’ve found particularly useful:

Tip #1
Buy more ARCs than your publisher allots for media contacts.

My personal stash goes to bookstores and online reviewers, to fans and people who might be able to get the word out about my books.

Tip #2
Participate in the American Booksellers Association’s Book Sense Advance Access Program

For $100, an author sends a 50-word (or so) book description to the ABA. The Association, in turn, sends out an email to its 1200+ participating members across the country. Booksellers then contact the author directly for ARCs.

There’s a formula for the description, but you have some latitude. The first line is standard. It’s the descriptive part that is both challenging and entertaining to try to put together.

For an example, here’s what I put in for the mailing last week:

THE SOCORRO BLAST by Pari Noskin Taichert (University of New Mexico Press 978-0-8263-4384-0 HC $24.95 January 2008) Two-time Agatha Award finalist, Book Sense76 pick (2/2004), Book Sense Notable Mystery (10/2005), " . . . she’s a first class writer . . . " Tony Hillerman  ". . . New Mexico is conveyed with a poetic eye that is truly evocative. The dynamic or dysfunction of families is captured brilliantly." Ken Bruen

That’s it. I got more than 20 requests. The last two times I did this, my books were well received and short descriptions ended up in newsletter print mailings to the ABA membership. Those newsletters were for customers.

Pretty cool, huh?

Put your best marketing tip in the comments section before midnight tomorrow. I’ll read them all and select the top 10. I’ll put those names in a hat and will draw for at least one ARC of THE SOCORRO BLAST.

The tips can be from authors, booksellers or people who just plain know about sales. My hope is that we’ll all learn from each other.

Let the games begin . . .

29 thoughts on “Contest: Best Marketing Ideas of 2007

  1. JT Ellison

    Wow, where are all the marketing gurus today?

    My best tip — give them something they didn’t know they needed, but once you’ve given it to them, they want.

    When I started establishing a web presence, I built a website at Publisher’s Marketplace. I had nothing serious to offer, outside of my book, and I was looking for an agent. But that wasn’t enough. So to justify my presence there, I started putting up a column called “The Best Book I Read this Week.” No reviews, just my opinion. I populated it with several weeks worth, then began updating it regularly. Static websites are fine for relaying info, but you want to draw people in, give them something to come back for. Something that they don’t need to do work to enjoy.

    Within three weeks, I was getting big enough volume to be listed in their top ten websites. I maintained that position for a month, and we all know what happened next.

    So… give them something they want for free. Value-added marketing.

    I WANT that ARC. Can’t you see the elbows flying?

  2. Louise Ure

    The ABA suggestion is a good one, Pari.

    I must admit, one of the best marketing devices I’ve seen recently was the rise of groups of authors banding together, like the Killer Year group. They engendered much more of a presence together than they could have individually.

  3. pari

    J.T.,Great idea! I think your comment about providing something that people “don’t need to do work to enjoy,” is right on.

    Louise,There’s something very powerful about working together. Killer Year is a fine example. So, frankly, is Murderati.

    I hope we get more comments — to me, this sharing is important.

  4. JT Ellison

    I can’t disagree with the group marketing avenues. I think it’s incredibly helpful to put aside the glory for one to promote the glory for all.

    I’m actually in Atlanta and about to go do drive-bys with one of my Killer Year mates, Derek Nikitas. Where doing this alone would be fine, together Derek and I get to talk about his book, PYRES, my book, the Killer Year anthology, plug Murderati, plus discuss the books of all 11 other Killer Year mates. I’m sure I’ll throw in a bit about Tasha too.

    That is highly effective. Especially for people like me who loathe to talk about their own work (it feels like boasting, for some reason), the ice breaker of being able to recommend someone else is very helpful.

    So go forth and tag team ; )

  5. pari

    Oh, now I’m just feeling sorry for myself.

    I actually thought about nixing this post today because of the wonderful — and far more timely — posts from Alex and Toni this weekend . . .

    Ah, well.

    Dusty, I think I’d spend $5 if I could stick that bill where I wanted to. Heh heh heh.

  6. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I don’t know, Pari – I’ve been thinking on this on and off all day, and have not posted yet because the truth is, I’ve been at this for a year now and I truly don’t KNOW what’s most effective. I did a little bit of almost everything but I can’t with any honesty say what did what, and how well. And now I wonder if I should have spent that time just writing another book.

    It all helped. But that’s about all I can say.

  7. Patricia J. Hale

    I’m a short fiction writer, so my suggestions are as a reader rather than experience like you pros.

    What do you think about Book Trailers on YouTube? With tags that get picked up on a search to as many potential groups as possible (including TV and movie viewers).

    Speaking of search, if I search for Konrath on Amazon, I get books listed where he is just quoted on the dust jacket. So searching for (for instance) a murderati member’s name, ideally would return all your books where they recommended.

    Congrats and best of luck.

    I want that book!

  8. Catherine

    My experience in Sales has shown me that polished promotional material creates a good impression, but it’s the feeling that you’re really connecting as people when you share information, that sets up not only good in the moment sales, but a nice ripple effect of continuing contact, and repeat sales.

    I find that people are often oversaturated with information, and sometimes jaded about too many slick campaigns. Keeping it real and being able to interact in some way have proven to be successful promotional strategies.

    I don’t think connecting with people is a particularly new idea, it’s just that word of mouth, with timely follow up continues to work in my experience. A sense of humour and empathy don’t go astray either.

  9. pari

    X,I was pouting most of the day, because I thought this would be such a no-brainer for so many people. Guess not.

    One thing I think you’ve done is to be very, very present in a variety of contexts. Your visibility has helped you. I’m sure of it. I did the same thing when my first book came out and I know it made a difference.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt that you’re a splendid writer and gorgeous . . .

    Hey, Patricia!!Thanks for the comment. I’ve got a video that I’m trying to figure out how to post. We’ll probably run with it in the next month or so. AND someone is developing a trailer for me as well.

    I think both have potential to take my work into other niches, if done right.

    But, I wonder, do you think people who are really into the visual stuff are also readers?

    I’m asking because I just don’t know . . .

  10. pari

    Catherine,Thank you for your comment.

    After all is said and done, word of mouth — that personal interaction and sense of warmth, of real-ness — continues to be the number one best way to sell . . . at least at my level.

    I know people enjoy my work, but I also think that readers discover it because someone tells them about me. Usually that someone actively wants to see me succeed.

    But I haven’t figured out how to keep it real and still find time for everything else an author has to do . . . especially the writing and editing part.

    That remains the most challenging part of this — being a parent, a wife, a writer, a marketer . . .


  11. Naomi


    I’m with Alex. After Book #2, I was still flush with ideas, but now after Book #3, I’m a little flummoxed about what works and what doesn’t. I think that the market has become much more difficult–at least in the past three years that I’ve been in the fiction business. I do think that whatever keeps you productive and creative is good. If promotion wears you out and makes you less productive, then beg off some and write. I think that having higher or different goals for each successive book might not be a bad idea. I finally got some foreign sales this year (thanks, Edgar!) and that feels mighty good. And with the middle-grade book, I’ll be strengthening my relationship with public libraries and creating new relationships with school libraries–all good. You’re a pro–that ABA Advance Access program sounds wonderful.

    As I prepare for a presentation tomorrow (while desperately trying to recover from a cold), I have learned that working on my speaking skills has been invaluable. I didn’t have a book out this year, but I’ve still done more speaking engagements than ever. That’s something helpful that keeps my books out there to some extent.

  12. Carstairs38

    Give me the ARC so I can have a review up at Epinions before the book comes out and at Amazon as soon as they start selling it.

    Okay, so I’m rather out of ideas. 🙂


  13. Fran

    I’m not in the contest because I GOT MY COPY and I can’t wait to dive in! And it is gorgeous, Pari! Thanks!

    Getting face time with your public, and with the booksellers who will be out there with your books, is a big thing. But that’s not always financially feasible, so personalized mass mailings (time consuming, yes, but we reviewers and sellers are amazingly easily flattered) really do help get the word out.

    And if you have some sort of spiffy thing you can have as a drawing prize at signings, it does generate interest. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just fun. People love the chance to win something.

  14. Patricia J. Hale

    Hi Pari,

    Will look for your video!

    Good question (people who are really into the visual stuff are also readers?).

    Folks I know read books they were made aware of my movies/tv, blog or anything for topics of interest so to me it’s fluid, but don’t know how common it is.

    Some writers have an anti-TV movie video thing. I don’t see it, personally, since I do it. I’m a lazy butt watching all that stuff but read too.

    I have my standards, though. I only watch SOME reality TV.


  15. Catherine


    A friend that has her own small very well regarded children’s books publishing company and is an author too, (career length 37-ish years). She has said to me, if I ever wanted to consider becoming an author to make sure that I spent about equal time writing to promoting. Her view was that a lot of writers love the idea of being able to just write ( not an unexpected desire), but in her experience they also had to create ways they could connect with people at all points of a books creation/life cycle to generate sales.

    She by trial and error, has created a pretty good balance between work, family, writing,publishing and promoting over the years. She has an incredibly full calendar and seems very happy each time I see her.She promotes on a local and global level but has slowed things down a bit as she’s close to 70.

    Her promotions are often very participatory and incorporate something along the theme of the book. I’m not sure how well this could be translated legally in the Murderati world mind you.

    I think that your comment sharing that you find balancing all that you do is not easy, is part of keeping it real.

    I enjoy reading all the author posts on this site and am beginning to search out books written by you all. So for me text driven information sharing works well. I’m not so keen on visual images myself.

    Right now it’s time for coffee and cramming for an exam…reading Murderati fiction will have to be delayed gratification..although it’s very much on my to do list.

  16. pari

    Naomi,I know what you mean. I find myself wondering about many of the things I did with the first two books. That’s one reason I put the question to Murderati readers.

    Mark,You are so funny. And, you interest me strangely . . . I also know you’ll buy the hardcover when I hit L.A. sometime in ’08.

    Patricia,I just went to MYSPACE and saw that my video is already up. It’s NOT a book trailer; that’s going to come sometime next month. This one just has me talking about why I write what I do — but it also has other imagery. I think it’s pretty fun.

    Fran,I’m glad you got the book and I hope you like it. This is that odd time when I want everyone to read it, but also feel nervous and all that odd self-doubt. My newest baby is going out into the world.

    Catherine,Good luck on the exam.

    I think that participating in a blog is a wonderful way to communicate on a more immediate way with people. I know some of my fans come here to check it out. I’ve met other people simply by keeping steady and writing my weekly posts.

    We’re lucky here at Murderati to have such a good group of writers who also like each other. It makes for an enjoyable experience, I think, for everyone.

  17. JT Ellison

    I have to share just one more tip. And it’s possibly the most important one that I received, took, and have found to be bullet-proof.

    I hired an independent publicist to handle the overflow from my house’s publicity department. While they were out getting me press, interviews and the like, I wrote. And I can’t begin to tell you how valuable that was for me. I don’t want to be a marketer, I want to be a writer. Working with other people makes that possible.

    And… never underestimate how far a nice smile and pleasant attitude will go.

  18. Chester Campbell

    I’m working on some cooperative arrangements with a few other mystery writers, and with a new booking coming out, I’ve just re-done my website. I’m not a speaker (unfortunately, I don’t have the voice for it), so I’ve always relied on plain old booksignings. My success has come from wife Sarah standing at the store entrance, passing out my promo flyers and steering people toward my table where I stand (never sit) and chat about the books. I sign up people for my newsletter and keep in touch that way.

    Great tips, Pari. Keep up the good work.

  19. pari

    J.T.,You’re so right on both points.

    Chester,Great to see you here.I’ve seen your wife in action. The two of you make one heck of a fine team.

  20. Carol

    I’m a reader. I can’t begin to tell you how many of an author’s books I have bought after I won a book in a contest and enjoyed it. I tend to buy authors I know and that’s the best way for me to get to know a new author.

  21. pari

    The winners?

    Catherine and Patricia!

    Contact me at my website and I’ll get your address.

    I’ll hold the ARCs until next Monday — after which it’s anybody’s guess.


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