When’s the last time you had fun marketing your books? My answer until maybe a month ago would have been never. Then, I decided to create a Pinterest board for every one of my books. Sure, my website lists all my books with links and descriptions, but Pinterest goes the extra imagination mile, helping me find photos that express who my characters are and what their setting is, even down to the rings on their fingers and the pillows on their fictional sofas. Since the advent of Kindle, I’ve missed the element of browsing book covers. Pinterest gives that back to me, and more.
Since I’ve succumbed to the deliciousness of pinning, all my books have come more alive to me. Making a perfect board for every book is still a work in progress, but as you see above, my first two rows of boards are all for my books. Lily White in Detroit is my latest novel, so it’s the first board. Obviously you want those novels front and center for marketing. And don’t forget the buy link! I’m working a bit here and there on Pinterest as I try to finish a novel before my husband retires in December. And I have a board for that, too. It’s the best one. Jane in St Pete has categories!
When I got off Facebook, it freed up so much time. Time to write Jane in St Pete (coming in 2020) and time to play. Pinterest is very fun to play with, and while I’m not sure it will be a great marketing tool for me, it’s more than just having fun. Working with visuals spark ideas for my books…and my life.
This past week a friend pointed out to me that since it’s December, I should be marketing my Blue Lake Christmas Mystery on Twitter.I’m of two minds about book marketing on Twitter. Mostly, I don’t do it. I depend on blog posts to indirectly indicate that hey guess what I write books too! So she said “pin a new post every day with a fresh picture, hash tags, and a buy link.” I accepted the challenge and posted a new pinned tweet every day last week. I’m not sure I sold any books. I am hoping none of the people who follow me got annoyed.
I find people who post a ton about their products annoying. If that is the only thing they post.
(Just as an aside I am trying to use the new “better” Word Press format. I started this post yesterday and couldn’t finish it because I got so confused. New tech is daunting for me. But I am determined to publish this post today. I see in previews that I do not like the box format at all!! Don’t know how to fix it. Hope it goes away when I hit publish! Sorry for all the !!!! but I am frustrated.)
So back to posting about your book (or your service, or your product that is not a book) on Twitter. It really doesn’t work as a sales tool for me. It does work for some people. I figured out why it doesn’t work for me this week. I usually post to Twitter once a week with a blog link. That’s it. I do look at other posts on the day I tweet. I have my favorites, but I also randomly read those I follow, too. If something someone says interests me, I will retweet it or make a comment or like it or all three.
Lately I’ve noticed people are not retweeting as much. I get many more “likes” than retweets. I thought it was just a new trend or perhaps a new rule. Really, are people sick of retweets? I thought RT was queen of Twitter, but at least for me, not so much anymore. Still, I persist in RTing. It’s what I do most on Twitter.
From what I’ve read, the rule for tweeting your book on Twitter is make it ten percent of your tweets. So that’s one post in ten. I like to mix up comments and RTs. I don’t do a lot of original tweeting because there are so many other people who speak tweet better. But I tweet a bit when I have a flash of brilliance…you see I set a high bar.
For blogging, I like posting on Monday to catch the #MondayBlogs hashtag. But those posts are not supposed to be about your book. They’re not for promotion or sharing buy links. So I kind of got out of the habit of talking about my books at all on Twitter or in my blog posts. I’m less shy about it on my Facebook author page. Not sure why.
So what this week has shown me is that if I pin a new post every day, I will look at my Twitter feed and spend some time on there commenting and RTing and even tweeting an original though every so often. I liked doing the new pinned book tweet every day, too. It was fun, even if it didn’t sell books. I think I will keep up this practice. And there’s always #TuesdayBookBlogs.
It’s not a bad thing to say that once you are labeled a romance writer, you will always be a romance writer. It’s just true. At least for me. No matter what I write. I’m okay with that label. I’m okay with the multicultural label too. At least it’s a bigger box.
I was on Amazon a lot yesterday because I had a Book Bub ad and was checking on my rankings obsessively. I noticed that all my categories except for “Best Sellers” (My book is #335 on that list this morning) have romance at the beginning of the ranking line, despite Book Bub slotting me into crime fiction, where I think it is better suited. Anyway, on Amazon, my numbers look like this:
#3 in Books > Romance > Multicultural
#5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Multicultural & Interracial
#25 in Books > Romance > Romantic Suspense
Those were my rankings about 10 pm last night EST. Amazon is three hours behind us in Seattle, so it would have been 7 pm there. I wanted to stay up to see if the book ever got to #1 but I’d had a glass or three of celebratory wine and just couldn’t make it. (I have no idea if you can retro-check something like that; if you know, please tell me!)
Another new thing I noticed this morning on Amazon is my “Author Rank.” I don’t know if I ever had one before or if the number was too high to mention, but this morning it is #56 in Romantic suspense , #57 in Suspense #61 in Mystery & Suspense.
I am not a numbers person and I don’t do well with analytics and charts and things. I am not sure what any of it means, not precisely, but in general I think it’s all good. When my book first came out I was #onebilliontrillion in the “best seller” category, and into the thousands in other categories, so a lot of progress has been made.
Writing this post has made me look a little more closely at my rankings and I now see that not all of them call me a romance writer. Those Author Ranks only mention it once out of five labels. The categories are four romance and four other labels. And really, I don’t mind any label. IRL I am an extremely romantic person. I love a good love story and absolutely insist on having Whole Lotta Love in my marriage. My husband likes Led Zeppelin so it works out for us.
Even when I set out to write a book with NO ROMANCE, it still gets in there somewhere in the plot. I’m in very early stages of writing my next book, set in St Pete, and so far there is no romance. I deliberately made the female lead 20 years older than the male lead, who is in love with someone else who does not love him, and for good reason. But like I said it’s early days in the new book and I said the same thing at the start of Lily White in Detroit.
A wise writer once told me that labels and categories are useful to publishers, booksellers, and agents. Not so much for writers. Gotta say, I agree.
You may recall that several months ago I made a vow to really pull out all the marketing stops for my new release. I was thinking BIG. I told my husband I might have to break into my 401K and I didn’t care. Frankly, I wanted to give the book it’s best shot and spend money. Well, I didn’t want to spend money, but I was prepared to do so in the hope of my book being read by actual people. It only took ten books for me to realize I had to step up and “treat my writing as a business” as one marketing article says. I don’t know who, it was on Twitter and you know how easy it is to get lost on Twitter with all the RTs and links and so forth.
So I read that article. Plus three books. Plus the entire marketing plan my trusted publicist, hired just for this campaign, had written. I participated in a book marketing class online. With the marketing plan, I didn’t just read it, I took all the actions. Mostly online so far. The online part is easy but I shall be going out in the world and doing things. I already have. I went to the print shop and made nice copies of the sell sheet Dora designed. I plan to visit the bookstores she recommended and go to a conference, the biggest conference ever.
Bouchercon is the biggest mystery writing conference in the world. I’ll be flying from Michigan to Florida for that in less than a week. Murder on the Beach Books is selling my book there. I’m also doing up a nice basket of books and bling from my Michigan Sisters in Crime group. Lots of people have donated books and the board gave me a coffee mug. So I will really be doing the people marketing thing there. I feel bad because all this is on my Dad’s birthday and he lives in St Pete where the conference is being held. Also Dad is recovering from surgery. He almost didn’t make it. Somehow I’m going to see him on his birthday despite all the Sisters in Crime stuff (a breakfast and later a workshop) happening on Dad’s birthday.
I hear that at some of the Sisters in Crime events, members will get a chance to talk about their books. Which reminds me, I went on television and talked about mine. Television! Me! This is a major feat as I have stage fright something awful but my friend has a cable show and she said it would be just like us talking as they pre-record, so I did it. In the real world, not online. Online I thought I was doing pretty well according to the marketing plan. I have an ad on Amazon my publisher set up and one on Facebook, too.
I’ve been tweeting (not about my book!) and meeting new people. I came across one guy who was just so fun, inviting people to friend him, his response thread went on forever and all the people tweeting him back were hilarious. I have not had that much fun on Twitter since, well, ever. One lady had a gif of a corgi typing. I followed her. I followed a bunch of new people. I didn’t mention my book as I know that Twitter is a social channel and you’re just there for the fun of it. But every once in awhile you can post on your own page about your book. But mostly not, mostly interact and make new friends.
I fixed up my Facebook fan page too, that’s in Rachel’s book, and it’s still not great but I’m trying. Some people’s fan pages look so good. Mine is better than it was. I pinned a post to the top of the page! Did not know I could do that until I read it in one of the books. I have my regular Facebook page with my friends but I am trying very hard not to post anything author-related there or Facebook just might kick me off. They let the Russians post, but me and my new book, no. Anyway, that was a joke. I can tell Mark Zuckerberg feels bad about the Russians.
Really, I did all that and my book was looking like all my other books. That is, no where near #1. So it was a fortunate coincidence that Book Bub wrote me an email congratulating me on my new release and telling me about their new ad program. Book Bub! Writing to me! Inviting me to do an ad. I had to hear them out. It was confusing, the ad thing. Apparently you bid on keywords and there are some other things that seem like what my publisher is already doing. But they still have their famous deals. I couldn’t do the new release deal, as you can’t apply after release date. But there was still the other deal for books on sale. I consulted friends and my publisher because I know Book Bub is pricey and everyone said go for it. So I submitted a deal. Not sure if they will accept me.
I did one Book Bub many moons ago when free books were a thing. I got a ton of reviews and my book went to #1 on the free list. But it was free, so I couldn’t say “Amazon bestseller” because you know if it’s free it’s not sold. Still it was pretty cool and I got more reviews than all my other books put together. 80+ on Amazon and 100+ on Goodreads. I realize for some people that is peanuts. But I currently have four (or is it five?) reviews, not all in one place, for my new book.
Another unexpected thing happened online. I am such a reader. I read 200 books a year. I read book reviews online. There was one gorgeous page and it was women’s fiction central, which the New York Times Book Review is not. The page drew me in and so I wrote to them with my pitch for an essay. I figured if they said no, it would make good blog post. But they said YES! So you see it is good just to go on Twitter and have fun because you never know what will happen there.
I hope you got some marketing ideas from this post. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave your desk and the safety of the internet because you should also speak at bookstores (real ones) and libraries (also real). I plan to do this after Bouchercon. I was going to visit a certain indie bookstore in Detroit this week but now I have an essay to write!
The single most obvious thing (not to me, obvioulsy) I have learned after writing ten books is that it’s okay to take some time and money (but make those $$ choices wisely) and go out there into the world and sell your book. It doesn’t have to happen all on the day, week, or even month your book comes out. Just keep going places where people expect to hear about your book. No matter what.
I admit I am a little…eccentric. I pay attention to the phases of the moon and Mercury Retrogrades. I buy new outfits when Venus tours my sun sign. I listen to psychics. Well, sometimes. I tend to go with my gut first. The thing about trusting your gut is, if you are an introvert like me, it can hold you back. Keep you in your comfort zone. This means, if you’re a writer, you won’t promote your novels much.
Yet I find myself in the middle of a massive (for me) promotional campaign. I’m not sure how it happened. Two psychics told me I should “take a bigger stage” that it was “my destiny.” I doubted my inner voice saying “NO! Stay home and write.” It felt a bit cowardly. After all, I had to launch three books in three months. And so I talked myself into hiring a PR person to make up a media plan. Now that I’m in it, I can’t believe I began such an intimidating enterprise. What was I thinking? It might have been the steroids I was on for a sinus infection.
Whatever the reason, I find myself okaying a press release (my first ever), giving interviews to journalists, pulling together media kits, agreeing to book signings, reviews, workshops, conferences, social media suggestions. Just a big fat YES to everything.
Already I feel overwhelmed and I’m only one day past the first release of three books in three months. Yesterday was release day for Blue Heaven, the Encore edition. An in-dpeth profile appeared in the local papers; I participated in a Facebook Launch Party. Both things never part of my experience before. It may have worked. Blue Heaven went from being ranked in the sub-basement of five million up to two thousand. (UPDATE: In July of 2016 Amazon featured Blue Heaven in a summer read campaign. Blue Heaven hit the top 100.)
I need a break. The keyboard calls. I must write. Immerse myself in what I do. I have an all day event, a book signing, but that’s not until next month for the second release. And I promise myself I’ll submit review copies and do other things on the list this winter and perhaps participate more in real-world events next spring. Because spring is a long way off and perhaps the stars will align again for me.