Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Dear Vincent, How Do You Do It?"

The greatest marketing machine on ain't that a mouthful.

This past week my agent, Chip MacGregor, made a business trip to the offices of Thomas & Mercer, Amazon's new powerhouse crime imprint to go over the final details of my deal. While he was there, one of the Amazon execs asked him, "What's Vincent's secret to his marketing success?" In reply Chip said, "I always thought it was that you were telling a good story." 

But after thinking about this for a while Chip then got on the horn with me and asked, "Well what are the two or three key elements to your marketing success?" 

Here's my response to him:

Hey Chip....basically, and I've blogged at length about this, there's no exact science to the marketing thing or we all wouldn't always be asking one another, "How'd you do that??? Ha!:)....But in a nutshell, you have to start out with a great product...GREAT writing, good story, great cover, and product description and a price that sells.

Ok, that said, I believe social media is key. Not direct selling of a book, although you can do a little of that. But selling yourself the author. If people like you, they will buy you. Part of the social media thing is to maintain consistent blog posts by selling your particular brand. In my case, people can come to The Vincent Zandri Vox and know that they will be getting a very personal essay about my writing experience. If they go to Konrath's blog, they get something about how to pursue self-publishing through e-books. Bob Mayer's blog will inevitably be about publishing industry shifts, upheavals, author marketing approaches, etc. All of us are bestsellers and making a nice living off of our books.
Virtual tours are also key. They help sell books because you want the Mommy bloggers on your side probably more than The New York Times Review of Books, even though the latter looks really good on a resume if you plan on teaching college one day.
Another key: In the begining years, you gotta plan work 7 days a week and you have to stay ahead of the indie curve. In other words, changes are always taking place on the bookseller level, especially at Amazon, where most of us sell the majority of our e-Books. In the past six months alone there is evidence of algorithm shifts in the titles that are promoted through direct marketing. New indie titles like my SCREAM CATCHER are no longer allowed to hang out on the Hot New Bestselling lists for more than thirty days now, as opposed to what had been ninety days. And pricing your books at $.99 doesn't guarantee massive sales anymore like it might have a few months ago, which I believe is due to the fact that so many readers have gotten burned by poorly written books that just plain suck. Which means $.99 can actually be viewed as a red flag for many readers, unless the author is already trusted.  
The second part to all this, is more of a technical nature. You want to tag authors who are also bestsellers and who sell in your genre. This helps get your name out there especially in Amazon land and just might increase your chances of landing in their algorithm-inspired direct marketing campaigns, of which I've been included a couple of times, both times helping me land spots for two of my novels, THE INNOCENT and THE REMAINS, in the top 20 and even top 10 over all kindles.
IMPORTANT: Extended two to four week stays in the Amazon Top 100 can make the entire financial year for an author. Two similar stays is gravy!!! That's what an author must initially shoot for or two rises to the top. What authors have to understand however, you can't look at being an immediate success. I've only been at this new publishing thing for 14 months, and despite selling around 200-250K e-books, my numbers still fluctuate a lot. That's because I have yet to hit my stride. That's perfectly normal. Whereas hitting a stride in the old traditional method could have taken up to ten years or more (Mega Bestseller Bob Mayer has written extensively on this and I invite you to check out his blog, Write It Forward), hitting the stride in these the days of digital media, can be shortened considerably to 2 or 3 years even (naturally every year we see a breakout bestseller who suddenly takes the world by storm and who is like 19 years old or whatever, but I'm talking the average "very good" and prolific mid-list author here like me...)
I'm also fortunate to have one of the best agents in the industry right now who isn't panicking to pay the bills by becoming a publisher (aka Trident), because number one, authors trust him and two, he's good at what he does meaning he's staying ahead of the trends and working with them. My deal with Amazon is evidence of staying ahead of that trend and will perhaps shorten the time it will take me to hit my stride by as much as a full year, so long as I continue to market consistently. 
Anyway, sorry to write so much, and perhaps I'll edit this into a blog, but this should give you an idea of the life I'm living as a writer. Just remember this: In the end, the best publicity a writer can provide him or herself is to write more good books. Once you have a certain amount of titles out there and your "brand" is more and more trusted, your audience will begin to expand exponentially.
Cheers Chip



  1. Love it! Great information, Vin. Note to self: ply him with beer for more industry secrets. LOL.

  2. This was possibly the most helpful post I've read since publishing earlier this year. Great info.

  3. Thanks for this great information, Vincent.