by Christa Allan
Here’s what I wish I would have known about marketing my novels: If you wait until the first one is released, you’re too late. In fact, if you wait until six months before it’s released, you’re dangerously close to too late.
In my delight, disbelief, deliriousness of my agent calling to announce that my first novel had been sold, I didn’t think to ask about marketing. To give myself somewhat of a break, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That is—marketing is to a novel what parenting is to a baby. It’s just not enough to give birth; you have to commit to pre-natal and post-natal care and post-post natal and post-post-post…You get the analogy.
Girlfriends’ posts about marketing prior to mine have provided a wealth of information. If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to scroll through the previous days’ posts.
My fourth book is about to be released, and I’m still discovering all that I’ve done or not done, right and wrong. Perhaps my experiences can help.
1. No Whining: I think this was mentioned in Judith Arnold’s post, but there’s no glory or progress made in whining because we, as authors, are expected by publishing houses to assume greater responsibility for marketing our own books. Perhaps Stephen King, John Grisham, Nora Roberts and etc. get a bye on this one…when I/you are there, we’ll know.
2. No Spending Money You Don’t Have: Set a budget, maybe some or all of your advance, or other money just hanging out waiting to be spent. Promoting dollars disappear as quickly as peanut M&Ms do when I’m on deadline. Bookmarks, postcards, flyers, brochures and other print materials can be pricey. But, this also isn’t the place to go for the lowest bidder either. Tacky, amateur graphics can be worse than none at all. Find out what your publisher will and won’t supply. And there’s the cost of maintaining a website, attending a conference, hiring a publicist, print ads, blog ads, blog promotions, and the beat goes on. And it’s overwhelming. Talk to your agent, in-house publicist, and/or writer friends for ideas for spreading your wealth.
3. No Social Network Pimping or Stalking: Marketing means making your presence known. But here’s the deal. . .don’t use Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn or other social media as advertising for your novel. Especially if the first time you’ve been on the sites is the week your book released. It’s like trying to be friends with a lottery winner the day s/he cashed in the ticket. You wouldn’t nudge your friends about buying your book every time you see them, and social media is just that…a time to be social. Build relationships.
4. No Guts, No Glory: Reach out to local bookstores, libraries, schools and offer workshops. Find “real world” connections to your fiction and join their organizations, read their websites, perhaps offer a few free copies. I mailed copies of my first novel, Walking on Broken Glass, which dealt with alcoholism and recovery to local and even out-of-state treatment centers, especially those for women. Prior to even finishing my second novel, The Edge of Grace, about a Christian woman whose brother announces he’s gay, I joined the online Gay Christian Network. My publisher sent copies to the local Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. They not only endorsed my book, they invited me to speak to their group. My upcoming novel, Threads of Hope, has characters meeting because of the AIDS Memorial quilt. I included a section at the end of the book with instructions on how to make a panel to send to the NAMES Project. So, even though it's fiction, a novel can still cross-over to find ties that can help in marketing.
5. No Gorging: Sometimes we venture so far into the marketing cave, we forget there’s a laptop waiting for us at the entrance. Marketing, for me, is often more time-consuming, more exhausting, and more discombobulating than writing. If I’m not careful, I can spend too much time talking about my writing than writing. Set aside an hour a day or whatever works for you without gobbling up your writing time. I’m retired now (entering week three and oh, how glorious it is!), but when I taught, I used Saturday or Sunday to plunge in to the muck of marketing.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful. (If they aren’t, just don’t tell me). Remember, though, above all….you are a writer. And if there's no writing, there's no need to market!
Christa Allan is the author of the soon-to-be released Threads of Hope. Her other novels are Walking on Broken Glass, The Edge of Grace, and Love Finds You in New Orleans. You can find her at www.christaallan.com, Facebook, and Twitter. When she's not marketing and/or frantically meeting deadlines, she's weeding her garden in hopes of generating ideas. Christa, a very recently retired teacher, and her husband live in New Orleans in a house older than their combined ages. Their three neurotic cats are adjusting.