Question: What is the single most important thing you can do to promote your book?
(Please resist the urge to scroll down for the answer).
Here's the good news: if you decided to become a writer, as you probably already know, you're crazy. And crazy is exactly what it takes to tackle the immense, many-headed beast of today's book marketing. Most of us go in blind, swinging whatever makeshift weapons we scavenge along the way, like Don Quixote. But isn't that how you tackled your first blank page?
“Think of it as a job,
an investment in yourself and your new career.”
Tip # 1 - Trust the process, follow wherever it takes you, and keep swinging.
Hopefully my story will at least point you in the right directions, and give you an idea what to expect. In November, 2004, I got the phone call writers dream of - my agent, B.J. Robbins, saying we had an offer from a major New York publisher (Berkley / Penguin). My fourth novel, but first sale. B.J. was as excited as I was. For several ecstatic minutes I danced around my kitchen, clutching the phone, savoring each morsel of what my “editor” said about why she wanted the book. Editor! My God, I would have my very own editor!
Then (I will never forget) B.J. said, “You know, you have to do everything you can to make this work. Think of it as a job, an investment in yourself and your new career.”
The words hit the pit of my stomach like the proverbial chunk of lead. Five months earlier, I had retired from years of teaching high school English, years gleaning early morning hours to write before school. I retired to write full time. Now, my new job was book promotion?
Days later B.J. emailed info about a workshop in L.A. I went and soaked up everything.
Tip # 2 - Attend Bella Stander's Book Promotion 101 (www.bookpromotion101.com) offered twice a year in L.A. and New York. And read everything you can find on the subject.
On a grueling Saturday eight workshop participants refined and practiced our "elevator pitches," learned how to give good readings, how to make a "Marketing Plan," get media attention and much more. What struck me most was the power of "niche marketing" and this harrowing truth: If you rely on your publisher's publicity department or on book store signings, you'll most likely be very disappointed, i.e. paltry book sales. Premature remaindering.
outside the box.”
Tip # 3 - Find a niche (or several) for promoting your book.
My novel, HOT WATER, takes place in one weekend at a lush spa resort near Palm Springs. Sexy, fun, full of female empowerment - perfect for spa-ing. So... why not market it as "The Ultimate Spa Novel." Put gold stickers on the cover. All my Adobe PageMaker practice with students paid off. I made flyers using the book cover, a Q & A, author bio, endorsements and excerpt, and sent a mailer to 100 spa resorts around the southwest. Then followed up with phone calls and advance copies of the book to those interested, and started scheduling events.
When HOT WATER was released last January, we held the launch party at Two Bunch Palms, the resort where it's set. What a dream! Since then I've done book events at a dozen spa resorts, including La Costa in Carlsbad, The Oaks at Ojai, Ojo Caliente and La Posada in Santa Fe and the Aladdin and Paris Hotel Spas in Las Vegas. The first novelist to tour spa resorts. Crazy. Who woulda thought!
I also do book store and library signings, book club events and my second niche idea - the HOT WATER House Party, like Tupperware or lingerie parties only with me and my novel. Oh, and fun door prizes. Turquoise t-shirts and thongs that say, “Get Into HOT WATER.” Mugs with the Eleanor Roosevelt quote that starts the book: “Women are like tea bags. They don't know how strong they are until they get into hot water.” Some fifteen parties so far. Amy Murphy, a teacher in Escondido, was so moved by the story, she compiled a CD of HOT WATER music and registered it on iTunes. More door prizes.
“Never under estimate the power of grassroots
Tip # 4 - Use the internet as well as your personal network, colleagues, clubs, organizations, friends, relatives. Email, make calls. Be polite and confident. (It gets easier). Explain your idea for an event or media appearance. You're an author, remember. They admire your accomplishment. If your book fits the niche, they want you. It may take four, five, ten calls; one will bite. Brainstorm, think outside the box. Ask yourself where your book would fit. Is there a scene in a beauty salon or art gallery, a dog kennel, a museum, car dealership? Two HOT WATER parties here held in Mexican restaurants because of scenes late in the book. An unusual event stirs interest and sales for the business too.
Often they'll do the advertising, especially in smaller towns. My best sales per time spent were in Grand Junction and Montrose, Colorado. Also, Bisbee, Arizona. People said they'd never met an author in person.
“Let's get practical.”
Tip # 5 - Never under estimate the power of grassroots word-of-mouth. Be a big fish in a little pond. An event with 6 or 8 people can lead to more events. You can't track the sales from people telling people. Just do the work. Knock on every door, follow every lead, every “crazy” idea and dream, just as you do when you sit down to write. And trust those dreams enough to spend the time and money to make them happen. Believe me, with each step, part of my mind said, this is crazy! It'll never work.
Touring spa resorts? HOT WATER House Parties? Who would have them? What if I end up with stacks of t-shirts and credit card bills? Instead, I keep running out and ordering more. Especially the thongs. (How women love an excuse to throw a hot party!) It is working. HOT WATER keeps selling. Hey, it was #2 on a local best seller list in the San Luis Obispo Tribune! DA VINCI CODE was #4. There's a framer!
On two of my tours I never stayed a single night in a hotel, and my life is enriched beyond measure getting to know the fascinating people who set up events and opened their homes to me. Still, even with such kindness and the financial help B.J. negotiated from Berkley, it's expensive. In Book Promotion 101 we learned it is not at all unusual for an author to spend her entire advance on book promotion. At the time I thought, not me! Right.
“Weigh what you want and believe in most.”
Tip # 6 - Let's get practical. All this is extremely difficult while working and / or raising children. Save money and hire a publicist. Negotiate with your spouse to hold down the fort while you take a leave of absence. Sell something. Weigh what you want and believe in most.
If it's your book / writing career, go for it. (As long as the children still get raised). In July I start work on a sequel. Readers keep asking what happens next. What better way to keep HOT WATER afloat? And I'll be writing again!
Here's a peek at my schedule for 2007, at this point:
Girlfriend Weekend with the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs http://www.beautyandthebook.com/pulpwood.htm in Marshall, Texas, January 19-21, 2007. Check it out. They expect 10,000 girlfriends. Saturday night is the “Hair Ball.” (As in big hair). Know where I can find a glam gown and a wig?
Bloggers: July 20. Join me in some HOT HOT WATER blogging at Romance: By the Blog! With romance columnist, Michelle Buonfiglio. See her fab June 21 review at www.WNBC.com/romance
And don't miss the Southern California Writers' Conference in Palm Springs, Sept. 29 - Oct. 1st. www.WritersConference.com. Author, Sherry Halperin (RESCUE ME, HE'S WEARING A MOOSE HAT) and I will share a workshop, “Promoting Your Book: What the Author Should and Must Do.”
I'll also do a workshop on, “Erotic Encounters: Writing Sex Scenes that Satisfy.” Me? Crazy! But no crazier than that night at The Hot Licks BBQ & Saloon in Bisbee, Arizona, complete with belly dancers and a sexy lingerie fashion show. A book signing in a bar!? Hey, I have photos to prove it.
Tip # 7 - Stay crazy. You started this “impossible” dream. Make it happen! And get ready for the time of your life!
Answer: Write a good book.
References: PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK, Jacqueline Deval, A Perigee Book, Berkley Publishing
NAKED AT THE PODIUM, The Writer's Guide To Successful Readings, Peter V.T. Kahle and Melanie Workhoven, Seventy Fourth Street Productions, LLC
Kathryn Jordan can be reached at email@example.com.
Web site: www.kathrynjordan.com or www.hotwaterthenovel.com.
Her column, “Women Changing The World,” appeared monthly in THE DESERT WOMAN.
DIDN'T GET ENOUGH OF KATHRYN JORDAN?
It's a Double Feature!
Click here to read our adventure at Two Bunch Palms with Kathryn!