Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Marketing 101 for the New Publishing Model

Sex sells. But so do books, when you market yourself!

Ok that title sounds pretty academic if not banal. But damn if I don't get a lot of you fellow authors asking me to lend them tips on how to market your own books. Truth is, the whole idea of me giving an author...any author...advice, makes me laugh. Aside from a couple of major publishing successes right out of the MFA School gate, it's been a struggle for years and years. Until recently, that is.

But then, let's talk about recently. What's changed over the past six months that's made me go from thinking, Well, I can supplement my freelance journalism income by publishing a book here and there with a small press, to, Well, I can supplement my freelance journalism with my fiction?

What's changed is this: the new publishing model of Kindle and E-Books backed up by a great looking trade paperback and audio product. Having signed with a new publisher that has broken with the traditional New York publishing model has not only sparked a renewed interest in my books. It's made me a bestseller on not just one, but five Amazon lists, not to mention my novel The Remains being a hard boiled "Hot New Release" for eight weeks now and counting.

However, the model, as exciting as it is, isn't enough to make a book, E-Book or paper, sell. One must also market one's self like a pimp on crack. No one taught me how to market myself, I've just made it up as I've gone along. So, that in mind, here's just a few of my... ahemmmm...trade secrets:

First: Social marketing. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads... you know the score here. We all have accounts at all of these sites and more. And anyone who knows me, knows full well that I'm not there necessarily here to make friends (although I have many, many friends on these social networking sites...You know who you are!!!). I'm there to network my work. While perhaps on average of once a month, I'll get a short email from someone who scolds me for promoting my books, I always respond the same way: How many ads for Budweiser, Pampers, and Playtex Tampons do you encounter on any given day or night on the TV? Simply said, if you the author don't create your own buzz and maintain it, you're dead in the water. While it's true, I've been published a couple of times with major publishing houses in New York, my audience is not necessary built in or a given. And when I signed with my new publisher I made it a goal to land new readers and hopefully fans, everyday. And I've accomplished that by connecting with like minded pros and readers on these social networks. It also gives you the opportunity to create book release events, sales pushes, giveaways, and more. A huge tool and you can't beat the price: free!

Second: The Virtual Tour. I can't say enough about investing in a virtual tour for your new or re-published novel (both my novels As Catch Can and Godchild are to be published by StoneGate Ink in the coming year). VTs allow you an opportunity to guest blog and be guests on blogtalk radio. They get you reviewed in high profile blogs and online newspapers including some major syndicated ones. They also create a buzz on the ever burgeoning and powerful "Mommy Blog" network.

Third: Cough up the dough and have a trailer teaser made of your book. Everyone is doing it, as they used to say in high school bathrooms. Simply put, with Kindles books about to outsell all forms of paper, trailer teasers are now a downloadable tasty treat for books lovers. Plus its cool seeing your name and your book on the big screen. Sort of.

Fourth: Blog your glutes off. I mean it. Create a FB page soley devoted to your blog and put up a new post every couple of days or so. What's that, you don't know what to write? Then hit up your competition for ideas. Example: the other day, my boy Aaron Patterson, a bestseller in his own right, wrote about "Sundays" on his popular blog, The Worst Books Ever. And I don't mean hot fudge Sundays (although he's probably scarfing one down right now!), but just your average any given Sunday. Not having anything to blog about that day, I completely and blatantly ripped him off and wrote about what else, Sunday. Turned out to be one of my more popular blogs and it resulted in selling some books. Now I can afford a few hot fudge Sundays of my own.

Fifth: You're gonna have to make time. All the above takes time. Gobs of it. I'm lucky in that I'm a full-time freelance journalist and I can take a lot of time out of my day to bother people enough that they say, Oh man, I'm gonna buy this guy's book just so he stops bugging me! Ha! Seriously though, consider the alternative. Day jobs eat up a lot of your time too. Your can either be a full-time writer or a full-time wannabe. Take your pick. Making time to market will assist you in fulfilling the former, and pasting the latter on your Been-there-done-that-crap bulletin board. How much time is enough time? My daily goal is to set aside a couple solid hours each day to market and perhaps a little more on the weekends when people are impulsively buying books.

Sixth: Invest in a website that allows you to update without being a computer geek. Enough said there.

Seventh: This is optional, but it doesn't hurt to invest in a local publicist. It can be a pricey investment and it just might cost you pretty much the profits on a year's worth of royalties for one whole book, but in the end, it's worth constructing a solid publicity platform that begins in your own backyard. My editor at Delacort once told me that you begin by selling books in your hometown and like the stone that makes the ripple in the pond, you work your way out from there. My local publicist, Megan Baker, at Baker Public Relations in Albany New York, has managed to do just that, getting me on TV, in magazines, and newspapers. Peopke know me around town as "that writer guy" now. And that's pretty cool. It sells books.

Eighth: Yah, it kinds sucks, but hit up the bookstores for signings. This is my least favorite activity granted, not because I dislike bookstores (I can get lost for an entire day in one!), but my experience is that these events can be hit and miss. However, despite the exploding popularity of E-Books and Kindles, paper books aren't going anywhere. And our indy bookstores need our support!

Nineth: Volunteer. Give away books. Give speeches at your local rotary or church or high school or where ever. Be public. You might also blurb other author's books. Or offer them a pro-bono manuscript critique now and again. The point is to give and in the giving you will get something back.

Well, I can bet I forgot a thing or two, but by all means chime in and perhaps offer up a marketing secret or suggestion or two. There's plenty of room on the shelves for all of us so better to help one another than compete. For now anyway, I'm going to check on my Amazon ranking under "Hot New Releases!"

Got The Remains? Click here!!!!


  1. Nice collection of "freebie" tips here Vin. Thanks for sharing. I'm learning these the hard way but will take much of your knowledge for granted now, knowing that you've "been there done that" and been around the block a few times more than I have.

    Hey! Wanna free copy of my novel "On The Gathering Storm"? It's yours if you give me a review!

    My tongue is a little in my cheek on that offer, because I'm playing a bit with what you said about not worrying if you come across as shameless...but the offer stands! :)

    (I'm learning!)

  2. Ha...right on...send it on over...but one warning, I have two to do before yours :)

  3. Great stuff, Vincent. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I'm hosting an Author's Book Sales and Signing event on 4 December in Elkton, VA(the best little town you never heard of) as part of their Holiday Festival. This is a great way to showcase local authors. The $40 registration fee is tax-deductible and authors keep all proceeds from their book sales.
    I wrote a memoir about my parents that was published by Pathbinder Publishing last November. There is a reason it has 18 Five Star reviews.

  5. Right on Sara....thanks for sharing...will def check out your memoir:)

  6. Hey babe... yeah you are a babe... I love your blog writing style. It always leaves me wanting to 'converse' right back at you, point by point. Great tips and thanks! I'm only about a third of the way there on the goals you just set but I'll meet them... and a few more of my own.

  7. Right on Elizabeth...Keep it going!

  8. As the man (or was it woman?) said, if you don't tout yourself, who the hell will?
    Good advice as always, Vincent.

  9. This is so far my favorite one yet V.