Marketing = Madness

by Alexandra Sokoloff

I just did a straight week of marketing to launch the e release of my new thriller, Huntress Moon. And in the middle of that huge Amazon promotion I have also been clearing out my house to sell it, and have been constantly finding reminders of the brutal days when book launches meant book tours and bookstore drop-ins and call-in radio shows. How different things are for authors today, just three years later than what you’re about to read below!  While throwing out (meaning recycling) ten tons of paper promo material I was reminded of this blog I wrote for the hardcover launch of my poltergeist thriller, The Unseen, which I just put up for sale on Amazon and Nook this month.  Just a bit of a different process!

But I think you’ll find it uncanny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.


December 2008


Dear Diary:

You will be thrilled to know I’ve made an actual decision. No, I mean it, stop laughing. Really. I’m just not going to kill myself promoting THE UNSEEN when it comes out. No more of this stress. I love this book. I know people want to read it. Who wouldn’t want to read it? 

John Lescroart says the only viable thing you can do to sell your books is to write another book. So that’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to write another book. In fact, I’m going to write two books.

And the Screenwriting Tricks for Authors book, too – I can do an hour of that every other day. It all stops now. No more traveling, no more craziness, just workshops close to home. That people pay me for. I’m going to write. That’s it. Write. And have a personal life, remember that?

PS. You won’t be hearing from me for a while. I have writing to do. And – personal stuff.



                ———————— Five months later ————————



May 1, 2009.

Well, Diary, I am thrilled to report I have finished Book of Shadows and Scott loves it and SO DO I. I got that paranormal proposal in to HQ Nocturne and I will easily be finished with Ghost Ship by the end of the month and get that in to St. Martin’s ON TIME. I have an entire first draft of Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, and am psyched to launch into revisions. I am so golden.

Lescroart is so right. We need to be writing.


May 2

Woke up to panic attack. OH MY GOD, The Unseen is coming out in twenty-four days. How did that happen? Who scheduled this?

I haven’t done anything. Nothing. I haven’t even thought about doing anything. I forgot about promotion. Who do I think I am, a screenwriter? I’m an author now, I have to promote.

What’s promotion again? How did I do it before? OH MY GOD.


May 3

Woke up thinking about Konrath. OH MY GOD. Konrath is doing a 100-stop blog book tour for Afraid. I should be doing a 100-stop blog book tour. Wait. I can barely write one blog a week. I’d have to have started 100 weeks ago to do a 100-stop blog book tour. 100 weeks ago is – um, years, I think. I can do ten. No, twelve. No, eight. In two months. No, one. No, six weeks.

Is it worth it to do that? Does that even count as a blog book tour?

Note to self: check Blog Book Tour site for… specifics. Wait. Wouldn’t I rather just write more Screenwriting Tricks blogs? Won’t everyone hate me if I stop those for a month to do blogs on… whatever I would be doing blogs on? On somebody else’s blog site? Didn’t I start Screenwriting Tricks because I had nothing left to say about myself? Do blog tours really work? Konrath says it’s working.

Well, of course it’s working for Konrath, I’m talking about for REAL people, do they work for REAL people? Note to self: You are NOT under any circumstances going to try to pull a Konrath here. Just get a grip.


May 4

OH MY GOD. “The Edge of Seventeen” got nominated for a Thriller Award for Best Short Story. I can’t believe it. I mean, I love that story, maybe more than anything I’ve ever written, but… it’s supernatural. It’s got a teenage GIRL protagonist. I’m so overwhelmed it got noticed.

Lescroart is right. I need to be writing. Nothing matters but writing. And affection.


May 5

OH MY GOD. Thrillerfest is the same weekend as ALA. HOW DO THESE THINGS HAPPEN? How can I not go to ALA? How can I not go to Thrillerfest? I’m going to be just out with The Unseen in hardcover, I have to go to ALA.

But I’m nominated for a Thriller award, how can I not go to Thrillerfest? How can I be in New York and Chicago at the same time?


May 6

Woke up thinking about social networking. OH MY GOD. I haven’t posted on Facebook in weeks. I haven’t Twittered in longer. And I can’t remember the last time I even signed on to MySpace. I need to update my sites. If I can remember them. Amazon blog, Red Room blog, MySpace blog, Haunt blog, Backspace, MWA something or other – Margery said we all had pages somewhere and that I haven’t done anything on mine; Pretty Scary, Authors Round the South, Indie Bound something or other, Library Thing?

Am I on that? Or was I supposed to do it and forgot? And what about that Facebook page thing? Did anyone ever figure out how to find my page as opposed to whatever the regular Facebook thing is? Is that page thing just going to open up a whole new spate of old boyfriends?


May 7

Woke up thinking about….

I can’t… think…


May 8

OH MY GOD. Romantic Times is in two days. Did I book a flight? What state is it in? Do I have bookmarks? Oh my God, I never ordered bookmarks for The Unseen. I have to e mail Kelley at Iconix and order more NOW TODAY so they’ll come in time. Will they get here or do I have them delivered to – whatever state RT is in? Kelley will handle it. IF YOU REMEMBER TO TELL HER.

Where are my business cards? OH MY GOD. I have to learn all the songs for the Vampire show. Shut up. Slow down. What you need to do at RT is WRITE. Go rehearse the Vampire show and then go back to the room and write, write, write. Five pages a day, minimum.

(Pages done at RT: 7 total, done on the plane en route. Hours spent rehearsing Vampire Show: 20. Hours on the dance floor: 3 per night. Hours in hot tub after dance=5. Parties… a lot.).


May 9

Woke up thinking about website. Hmm, worrisome. Most Awesome Webmistress is not returning e mail on website update. Starting to panic. Better call.

OH MY GOD. Most Awesome Webmistress has been sending e mails on website update that have disappeared into the ether. Website needs complete overhaul.

OH MY GOD. Must send in all updates by tomorrow and decide on design.



May 10

– Have to get announcements of The Unseen in to all the organizations I belong to for their newsletters. What organizations do I belong to again? Who do I send this stuff to?

– Have to send updated list of all reviewers I know to new publicist so she can send reading copies.

– Have to send updated list of all media contacts I have to new publicist to she can send reading copies.

– Have to send updated bookseller/librarian list to new publicist.

– Have to do author questionnaire for Little, Brown for UK releases.

– Have to do new author questionnaire for St. Martin’s.

– Have to do AT LEAST FIVE PAGES on Ghost Ship today. I have to. I have to.


(End of day: Pages written: 0)


May 11

Woke up thinking about bookstore mailings. Elaine Viets does bookstore mailings. Elaine swears by bookstore mailings, and everyone loves her. Does that mean I should do bookstore mailings? What is a bookstore mailing?

Books? Still don’t have them. Bookmarks? Bookmarks are great if you march them into the store and set them on the counter yourself, but if I were a CRM and got bookmarks in the mail I would just toss them in the trash. I don’t even open my own mail, how can I expect anyone else to?


May 12

Woke up thinking about book club mailings. Jenna Black swears by book club mailings. Do I need to do a book club mailing? What is a book club mailing?


May 13

There’s a book club coordinator at St. Martin’s. Who knew? I give her my targeted list of rabid book clubs and she will send books with my letter that I send to her. I love St. Martin’s.

Lesson learned: Ask, Ask, Ask.


May 14

Going through old promotional files and discovered Sisters in Crime has a bookclub database with specific contact info for mystery book clubs nationwide. Most want e mail contact first. I can do that. I can do that in a night.

I love Sisters in Crime.


May 15

OH MY GOD. I haven’t worked out in two weeks. Have you somehow for gotten that you have the personality of a rabid armadillo when you don’t work out for TWO DAYS?

Has it somehow slipped your mind that a BOOK TOUR means you will be dealing with THE PUBLIC for all your waking hours? Has it not occurred to you that if you don’t get an injection of endorphins, not to mention muscle tone, then too soon to contemplate you will not be fit for viewing?


May 16, 2009

OH MY GOD. I haven’t updated my mailing list in six months. And I need to do a newsletter. How does Vertical Response work again? What’s my password? Why can’t I log in? Oh, right, I have to use Firefox to get into that one. Um, I think. But do I have any news?

Did I for sure take that guy off the list who wrote me that horrible letter about how he didn’t know me and how did I get his e mail and why am I spamming him? Does he know how many nights of sleep I lost lying awake wondering the same thing?


May 17

OH MY GOD. I have to be at BEA next week. What state is BEA in this year? I need a pass. I need books. Did I book a flight?…. Frantic e mailing ensues …. HAH! St. Martin’s has sent books and is sending me a pass.

I will do my Quail Ridge launch then drive up to NY with Natasha and stop at bookstores along the way to sign stock.

A Garmin would be good, though. Konrath swears by his Garmin. Note to self: need to get a Garmin. More to the point, need to figure out how to use it before I hit the road. Can I realistically do that? I mean, really?


May 18

OH MY GOD. Right after BEA I’m due in L.A. for the HWA Stoker weekend and So Cal MWA conference and Dark Delicacies signing and Mysterious Galaxy signing. Did I book a flight? OH MY GOD – must do bookstore drop-ins. Must do TONS of bookstore drop-ins. I can do 200 easily in two weeks before I have to be back for my Southern tour stops. Even without a Garmin. No Garmin required here at all. Konrath may be Konrath, but I know California freeways.



I wish I could say that’s as bad as it gets but it’s not even close. Multiply the chaos above by twelve thousand and you have a rough idea of my mental state at the moment. There is no order to anything.

The funny thing is, I just did an interview in which the eminently sane interviewer posed the question: “You’re a great business networker. What’s your strategy?”Which I guess is encouraging because no matter what is happening inside me I have the APPEARANCE of control and organization. So that must count for something.

But you know what? I was so fine while I was just writing. I really did get – almost – two books, a proposal, and a rough draft of another (non-fiction) book done in five months. This last month I’ve managed to do some editing, but that’s about it. And I am miserable about it. I could so easily have had my new book done by now.

So I really, really want to know. Are we really doing ourselves any favors doing this kind of insane promotion? Or is John Lescroart right, and we should just always be writing the next book, period?



July 2012

I find the above really amusing and frightening at the same time.

Thank God at least SOME things are different. I no longer have to book so many flights for book tours (which I have a total aversion to doing, even though these days someone else is almost always paying for my appearances, I figured THAT part out at least!).  Bookstore drop-ins?  The chains have crumbled. These days you have to figure out how to work the Amazon algorithm, but you don’t have go GO anywhere to do it.  That alone is less time-intensive.  I’m still using this paper promo at conferences, people still use bookmarks, but as I found out this week I already have a lifetime supply (!)

It’s amusing to me that we were looking to Konrath for the magic answers before the e book thing, too.  (And anyone who thinks he just got lucky on the e book thing should remember the days not so very long ago that he was doing 600 bookstore drivebys in three months and 200 blogstops in a month.)

But I can still get caught up in that kind of frantic obsessive promotional frenzy, even though I don’t have to get dressed to do it anymore. There is an addictive aspect to marketing that I think authors have to be very wary about, and always self-monitor.

And my question today, July 2012, is exactly the same:

Even though we’re doing it online, now, Facebook, Twitter, blog tours – is that really helping us?  Really? Are we really doing ourselves any favors doing this kind of insane promotion? Or is John Lescroart STILL right, and we should just always be writing the next book, period?

What do you think?



Huntress Moon, now on sale:  $3.99  An Amazon Hot New Release!

A driven FBI is on the hunt for that most rare of killers… a female serial.


Amazon IT




11 thoughts on “Marketing = Madness

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Of course in the middle of this there is HUGE drama today because some people's rankings on Amazon have completely disappeared!

    Probably every Rati author with an e book is frantically trying to figure out what is going on.

    I'll post what I can learn…

  2. KDJames

    I'm the first to comment? That never happens.

    Alex, this post had me laughing so hard there were tears. At the same time I was cringing at the demands of your schedule.

    As a writer, I have no answers to your question. But as a voracious reader, I can tell you I've never bought a book because of any of the type of efforts you listed, with one exception. Hell, I didn't even know half that stuff existed. The exception is blog posts. I have bought many books after reading blog posts or author interviews on blogs.

    Hope a few more people chime in on what they think works. And why.

  3. Alexandra Sokoloff

    KD, there's something wrong with the server today – it's so slow loading I can't get on unless I log in as an admin and post from inside, and everything I've tried to post when I WASN'T logged in has disappeared.

    It's too bad, because you raise such an interesting topic. You may not THINK that you don't buy because of all of those efforts, but the books you get intrigued with and buy – in all probability you would never have seen them to begin with if not for that kind of marketing to get the books out there in front of you. THAT'S the catch.

    But it's great to know that blog posts work….

  4. David DeLee

    Well I have no idea whether all the effort is worth it or not. But for those who are trying, I did find a nifty little resource the other day. THE BOOK PROMOTION HANDBOOK by Jim Kukral (it was up on Amazon for free the other day, now its on sale for $1.01). Anyway, in it he actually list sites (actual links) that announce your book (for free and paid), Kindle Select promo strategy links, Facebook pages that will announce your books, directories to add your books to (like Librarythings and Goodreads, places like that), and a bunch of others.
    The links I followed worked and I put a bunch of stuff out there (we'll see how well that works) but anyway, this resource should save you a ton of time and trouble looking for places to promote your work. Anyone interested in it, here's the link:

    BTW — I get nothing off this and don't know the author. Just thought it had value to those (like me) trying to find places and ways to h=get their names and books out.

  5. Alexandra Sokoloff

    That's great, David, thanks for posting. Actually all of that stuff is on the public Kindleboards, too – I think it's good to read up and see the points at which all this advice converges!

  6. Barbie

    I'm sorry I'm late to this, but I figured I'd answer anyway 'cause it's an important question. And my answer may differ a bit from others here.

    Five years ago, I went to bookstores and looked around, reading backcovers and seeing what might catch my attention, what would intrigue me and THEN, I'd buy a book. That's how I rolled. Then I got a Kindle and an iPad. Now I read completely digital. When I go to bookstores, I only look through children's books and Psychology books. I don't choose books like that anymore. I choose my books pretty much only via blogs, author webpage and Twitter, as in: I read an author's blog post, and I think they have such a GREAT BLOG VOICE, so, I go to their webpage and I read their written "about me" and FAQ. If they're "voicey", I decide if I want to read them. Or, I can see an author on Twitter and think they have a great Twitter voice, and equally follow through and look at their webpage, where I'll look at their "about me" and FAQ. Of course, I'll look through the book's backcovers on Amazon, but I'll always "test drive" the author first. And I'll do it when they do these appearances online. 🙂 I don't really do it on FB, though. The only authors I have on FB are the ones I've bonded with somehow and have formed a kind of friendship. I use FB for friends and family. Twitter is the one I follow people. I also UNFOLLOW people, if I feel they clutter my life with propaganda and things I don't need 😛

    Maybe it's because I'm young and have a lot of time, but that's how I do it 🙂

  7. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Barbie, you're always the voice of the vanguard! Thanks for laying that out, because I think that's exactly how a LOT of readers are finding new authors these days.

    And I think you're right about FB, too – there's not enough prose there in those FB updates to make me want to check out an author. But I now that you've spelled it out, I have to say I agree – I almost EXCLUSIVELY buy new authors based on blog posts and guest blogs these days.

    Which is bad news for me, because guest blogs are so time intensive I just shudder at the thought of doing more of them….

  8. Sarah W

    I don't know if circumstances will ever allow, but on the off-chance I ever have a book to promote, I'm pleased that I'll be able to do a lot of it online. Blog tours sound like just as much work, but I could do them from home without worrying so much about my family or day job . . . or the regrettable fact that I've a face for radio and voice for mime.

    I'm not sure about Twitter — there's so much self-promotion there it's easy to dismiss it all — but as a reader, electronic word of mouth via blogging and ratings and so on works for me!

    (if it ever does happen, I'll be sure to wear plenty of petticoats, just in case)

  9. PD Martin

    Hi Alex and all. Very late to the party but it's certainly a question I've been asking myself, too. I try to limit my time on Facebook and Twitter as much as possible (about half an hour a day) but sometimes worry I'm not doing enough. Sounds like maybe I should be looking at a blog tour!

  10. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Actually, Sarah, statistically Twitter doesn't do much for book sales, from pie graphs I've seen presented at conferences.

    Petticoats… appropriate for SO many occasions!

Comments are closed.