M is for Marketing

At least, this week it is…

by Alex

List of marketing tasks (I mean tools. TOOLS):

Author website
Personal blog
Murderati blog
MUSE blog
Storytellers Unplugged blog
MySpace page
FaceBook page
Crimespace page

Book trailer/COS Productions

Dark Scribe column

Business cards

Personal mailing list
Reader mailing list
Library mailing list
Bookstore mailing list
Invitations to book launch

Bookstore signings/readings
Bookstore panels
Bookstore drop-ins

Posting on websites –
-Romantic Times

Posting on weblists –
-Murder Must Advertise
-Sisters in Crime
-MWA Breakout
-Mystery Babes

Participation in local chapters of genre associations – each with online lists

-Genre conventions
-Book festivals
-Art festivals

Teaching workshops
TV/radio interviews

Author blurbs
Collecting reviews

And that’s just off the top of my head – no doubt I’m leaving out several obvious things.

No wonder authors are always tired and frazzled, right? The above is pretty much the list, give or take, that we all juggle all the time IN ADDITION to writing. Things fall off the list, until the moment that we hear another author talking about one of the things on the list, and then we jump back into it.

Or we wake up in the middle of the night as if the smoke alarm has just gone off: “OMG, I’m completely out of bookmarks and Left Coast Crime is NEXT WEEK.”

We’ve been talking on and off over the last few weeks about cutting down on all that and spending most of our time on writing. Excellent. Only when I had one of those reality check talks with my editor this week about whether I should cancel some of my upcoming promotional events for THE PRICE so I could get Book 3 in on time, he said, “No! Do the promotion!”

Well, that’s not too vague.

Still, there must be a better way. There must.

The thing is, it ALL works. It’s almost impossible to say what works the best, because I think that shifts, actually. You can’t predict which is going to be the best conference of the year, and you can’t predict which bookstore you randomly drop into is going to have the handseller of your dreams, and you can’t predict which random blog post is going to get you that coveted gig on Murderati. 😉

But there are some things that you start to suspect are worth moving toward the top of the list.

Of course, that may change from week to week, or it might be an idea you cling to because you can’t possibly do it all.

But this week, the two things that I’ve moved toward the top of the list are the mailing list and the book trailer.

I mentioned Vertical Response last week (I think that was last week.) It’s a direct mail marketing software that’s free to get started on and costs very little to send out a bulk e mail campaign (which they can do for you without your e mail account being shut down for spamming). There are many great things about VR:

– It has all kinds of templates with layouts and easy ways to upload book cover images, even for the technologically challenged.

– It saves all your e mails and lists in one station for easy, permanent access.

– It has features that let you separate your lists into specific segments for specific mailings so that you can customize an announcement and send it out with different information to different segments of your list (like sending out your California signing schedule to all your California readers) – without risking deluging the same people with your announcements.

Now, the thing about a program like this is that there’s a learning curve – you have to figure out how to do it and how to use it and, oh yeah – you have to take the time to build your list to begin with. But after working with it pretty intensively over the last week I can see how this is a really targeted, CHEAP way to reach people who have, after all, actually ASKED you to keep them informed about your books.

So maintaining a detailed mailing list has moved to the top of MY marketing list, and taking an hour to update the list every two weeks or so is one of my belated New Year’s resolutions.

My second big marketing ploy at the moment is the book trailer. We all hear a lot of chatter about these on various lists these days. I decided to do them for the paperback release of THE HARROWING and the hardcover release of THE PRICE mainly because of two people: our own Toni, who talked to me about how excited our mutual publisher got about her excellent trailer (and I thought – That’s reason enough to do it right there), and the wildly successful Christine Feehan, who very kindly spent a long time with me at Heather Graham’s New Orleans conference talking about how doing a book trailer was in her experience the most important marketing tool available to authors. Christine emphasized that the company that does her trailers, Circle of Seven Productions, doesn’t just make the trailer for you, but also distributes it to several dozen websites that feature book trailers. COS has also just made a deal with Barnes and Noble and Powell’s Books to put all their authors’ trailers on those websites, and COS also functions as a PR firm for their authors – they’ve already passed along several great interview opportunities free of charge.

Making a trailer is more of an investment – of either your own time, or money – than other marketing tools, but once you have a trailer there are multitudes of uses for it. You can link to the trailer in your newsletter, embed it on all your websites and blogs, send it to bookstores and libraries where you’re appearing to advertise your appearance… some conferences like Romantic Times charge a relatively low fee to broadcast your trailer during their mass signings (I found myself mesmerized by the trailers at RT).

Plus, trailers are starting to be recognized as an art forum. There’s a category for Best Book Trailer in the new Black Quill awards – and COS just won for their trailer for THE HARROWING.

I can’t say I have any evidence for this yet, but I’m starting to suspect that the additional exposure of a trailer is gold.

And it costs less to make one than the cost of going to a conference, for example. Something to think about.

So that’s my marketing report for the month. As always, would love to hear other authors AND readers thoughts on what works for them.

And anyone who can explain to us all how to do RSS feeds gets a signed hardcover of THE PRICE, hot off the press.

14 thoughts on “M is for Marketing

  1. Ken Bruen

    Dear AlexPhew, just reading that list of author necessities is……….dare I say……….Harrowingcongrats on the black quill for the trailer!LoveKen

  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I see I’ve scared everyone away! (including myself)

    PS. The screenwriters have a deal and it’s MUCH, much better than many people even dared to hope. The strike made all the difference.

    I am so grateful!

    More later, after the membership meeting tonight.

  3. Elaine Flinn

    Great post, Alex!

    I’m somewhat touching on this very subject over at Evil E next month. But you pretty damn well nailed it all. In fact, I’ll reference you on this one.

    So, aspiring writers out there…print Alex’s post out and pay close attention to what’s in store for you. 🙂

    Great news about the strike settlement!

  4. JT Ellison

    Hi X!Great column. I shook my head at your to do list and realized how similar it was to mine in November. It’s insane some of the things we do to get out names out there, when the most effective tool of all is writing the best book we can possibly write.

    There has to be a way to find a balance when you’re starting out. I’d pay good money at this point to let someone else worry about some of these things. Maybe next year. This year, I’m going to disappear and write. A lot. A few more tour dates and I’m Yertl.

    So glad to hear about the strike. You and the Guild should be proud as hell!

  5. Tom, T.O.

    Hi, Alex,I hope you authors don’t have to foot the bill for all of that stuff–publishers should do the marketing. (Am I naive, or what?) I saw Louise’s trailer and thought it was great, but I would have bought the book anyway. That’s the only trailer (book) I’ve seen, and I would never go on a random search for book trailers. A bad and/or stupid commercial would keep me from buying a product, but a good commercial would not lead me to buying. I don’t need bookmarks or postcards or other goodies, though I’ll stick them in the books for “posterity.” I will, on occasion, go to an author’s website to see if he/she is touring, or to check to be sure I have all her/his books. I rely on two bookstores to send me electronic and/or paper schedules of signings, and I look forward to events/conventions (selected) to meet new (to me) authors and revisit with old ones. Basically, all your marketing efforts save the personal appearances are wasted on me. As JT said, just write a darn good book and come out to see us. …But that’s just me, and you know how strange I can be about some things!

    Glad the strike settlement appears to be a good one for you.

  6. Book Marketing newbie

    That is some list, but I wonder why all the blogs? I can understand the social network pages, but I would have a hard time writing more then just one blog. Seems overkill on that front. But I’m a newbie so I may be missing something. If you want a list of places to list your books on the internet for free, check out: http://www.bauuinstitute.com/Marketing/Marketing.html and click on the “Free Book Listing Sites.” That might help too.

  7. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Thanks for the link, BM newbie!

    Two of those blogs are only once a month, which isn’t a hassle. It IS too much but the blogs I do are worth it – they hit completely different communities, so it’s different exposure. I was always a big journaller so it doesn’t take me that long to write one.

    Tom, you are unique. 😉

    I have no doubt most of most of my (and other authors’) efforts are wasted on MOST people. But buiding recognition seems to require a large net.

    Or not.

    Who really knows?

  8. Raj Jambotkar

    Hi Alex –

    I’m a product manager here with VerticalResponse. I’m glad to hear that you’re finding our product/service valuable. I just wanted to say hello and offer you an open invitation to share with me any product suggestions/feedback you have.

    Best of luck in your endeavors!

    Rajrajesh @ verticalresponse.com

  9. Zoe Sharp

    Hi Alex – sorry to come so late to this one. Been away working all weekend and only just catching up. I’m amazed by the breadth of your list of stuff. How do you find the time to write?

    Thank you for some excellent tips!


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