This week’s theme is marketing-a timely one for me, since as you know, SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE is only recently released and thus marketing has been on my mind a lot lately. Okay, more than a lot. More like thoughts of marketing and publicity have been all-consuming. Because here’s the thing: not only do I have a book that I would like people to read*, but I would actually like to someday make a career out of this writing thing. That fact right there has determined how I’ve approached marketing. Because I’m not just looking to sell this one book, I’m looking to build a career and to do that, I need to be really smart and willing to invest blood, sweat, (hopefully not too many) tears and cash into my book and myself. That’s right, I said cash. I decided very early on that I was okay spending almost my entire advance (which wasn’t huge—I’m not talking about a major $$$ campaign here) on marketing my book. I know that won’t work for everyone, but I have a day job and a working husband, so I took that check, put it in the bank, and other than a few hundred dollars that I took on a cruise as congratulatory spending money, I didn’t touch it for anything other than book-related purchases.
This may seem odd that I’m putting so much into my marketing campaign, especially if you’re reading this and aren’t involved in publishing. But the new reality in publishing, especially for a debut that doesn’t have big publisher push, is that authors are, by and large, responsible for being their own marketing and publicity directors independent of their publishing houses. Some might look at this as a bad thing and no, it’s not a perfect system, but it is what it is, and as a control freak who isn’t afraid of working hard, I embraced the challenge of marketing my book mostly on my own. And by no means am I saying the people at Bloomsbury haven’t done their jobs—they’ve been great to work with and got SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE into the hands of key reviewers and did a bunch of stuff behind the scenes that has shown their huge commitment to the book. But I’m here to talk about what I have done to augment their efforts.
Your mileage may vary on this stuff, and since my book is a middle grade, I’m marketing to gatekeepers like librarians, teachers and parents, so if you’re writing books for adults, some of this stuff may not be right for your campaign. And of course, everyone has budgets and priorities, so this isn’t a blueprint of what you should do, just a recap of what I have done.
The thing that I think is most important about a product, be it a book, or a potato peeler, or a tickets to a Broadway show, is that people find out it exists. If people don’t know about it, they can’t buy it. So above all, you need to get your product seen by as many people as you can. To this end, I’ve been very active on Twitter (and Facebook, though not as much) and also have done a lot of blog interviews and guest posts (for pretty much anyone who asked) AND, in addition to being here as one of this year’s Debs, I’m also a member of The Class of 2k12 and The Apocalypsies, two groups of debut young adult and middle grade authors who work together to promote each others’ books**. With the exception of joining The Class of 2k12 (which is a pay to play organization, but to be clear, we pool our funds, we are NOT paying a marketing service), all of the blogging, tweeting etc, have been free things that only cost me time. There are tons of ways to connect with people online that costs nothing other than an internet connection and some time. Just please don’t be spammy. Build relationships, don’t blast people with constant marketing messages. This is tough and I do struggle with this and hope I’m maintaining a good balance of jokes, tweets about my lunches and some about my book.
I’ve also done a few live events and have more coming up. As an introvert, this is not my favorite method of marketing, but it’s the kind of thing people and bookstores seem to like. And getting myself outside of my comfort zone and reading to kids is a good thing and I am calling it personal development.
I’ve also given out a lot of swag and books. There are days when I feel like I have singlehandedly kept both Canada Post and the USPS in business, and I think postage will end up being my biggest expense. I had 5000 bookmarks designed and printed and have sent class sets to any teacher who wanted them. I sent stacks to librarians and signed ones to bloggers to keep or use as prizes. I sent out ARCS on ARC tours and to reviewers who seemed genuinely interested in the book. I also did a couple of Goodreads giveaways that I think have been amazing at getting the word out about the book and only cost me, yep, postage. And since the book has come out, I’ve given out a lot of copies as prizes, both for my own contests and for guest blog posts I’ve done. It seems counter intuitive to give out my own book when I want people to buy it (and I have bought copies to give out—this is above and beyond the author copies I received and gave out), but people talk about books they win and if they like it, maybe they’ll review it and tell friends about it, who in turn, might buy it or ask their library to carry it. In other words, I want my book to go viral. I’m looking for my tipping point.
And there’s one thing in all of this that may seem really crazy, but I love giving stuff away***. I really do and giving away copies makes me very happy. Honestly, if I had the money, I’d buy up all of my books and give them out to everyone for free. Sadly, I can’t do that or I’d have to learn how to survive on dust bunnies and good karma and I’m not sure anyone has done that yet (if you have, call me).
I’ve also spent money on other marketing materials, like my ginormous banner (see picture at left -I think it’s 6 feet tall. It was also designed by Jeff Fielder). I love this thing and definitely consider it money well spent. It sets up in about a minute and a half and is a great way for people to know at a glance who I am and what my book is about. It also makes me look professional when I’m standing in a bookstore with a table full of books beside me. I’m not a natural schmoozer, so this banner is an excellent ice-breaker.
I’ve also spent money on t-shirts, postcards and giveaway prizes like silicone bracelets, cute sock monkeys and other people’s books. I didn’t do a mail-out of postcards about the book, which I know a lot of people do, as I just don’t see a big ROI on them. Mailing postcards, especially from Canada, is an expensive endeavor and I’d much rather spend my money on a more targeted campaign. My postcards have the book cover on one side and are blank on the other so I can make them into note cards or I can run them through my printer for specific events. These have worked out great and will never go stale since I can tailor them to my needs.
I also spent money on my launch party—from getting my hair done (if you know me, you know this is a rarity!) to cupcakes to swag bags for the awesome bloggers who made the drive in from Toronto. I had the best time and I felt so good and proud that even if we had sold only a few books, this would have been money well spent. Indeed, maybe the money I spent on the launch wasn’t just marketing dollars, but also Joanne-feel-good dollars. And really, how can you put a price on that?
Now you—I’d love to hear from you about book marketing. What marketing idea, be it traditional or outside-the-box has made you buy a book that you probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise?
*Please read my book. And maybe buy it for a friend who likes books about buying your first bra and having a couple of ghosts help you with that. I know there’s a lot of those kinds of books out there, but if it helps, mine is the only one with a shiny yellow cover.
**Although these groups, including The Debutante Ball, exist primarily for marketing purposes, they have also netted me amazing new friends in the business—a huge side-benefit of working together with other like-minded people. Also, I have met a bunch of wonderful people through Twitter and various blogs – lots of amazing teachers and librarians who are not only wonderful reading advocates, but have championed SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE in a way I never could have imagined. The relationships I have forged on this journey are really worth more to me than the marketing, but for the purposes of today’s post, I’m sticking with the book-promotion benefits.
***This is precisely why I was a bad Tupperware consultant—I spent too much money on the giveaway stuff and ended up losing money. I still did it for a couple years because it was fun. Also: I love Tupperware.