Marketing is no different to excavating a plot. Keep digging through your ideas and you can unearth promotional gems. You have one goal--to build buzz.
Start with three things:
- Communicate with your publisher. What do they plan to do and how can they help support your efforts?
- Create a marketing budget.
- Create a marketing plan or the less scary marketing to-do list.
What might you include in your marketing budget?
- A website if you don’t have one. To keep costs down, I hired a grad student, and he worked tirelessly to create a unique image that reflected my writing.
- A blog tour to generate reviews. I hired TLC Book Tours and will definitely use them again. Obviously, I had no control over the reviews, but TLC tailored my tour to fit my needs.
- AuthorBuzz—the marketing service that puts you in touch with readers, book clubs, booksellers, and librarians. Not cheap, but so worthwhile.
- A book trailer.
- Author photos.
- Handouts such as bookmarks, postcards, etc., which you can give to your street team and enthusiastic friends who want to help.
- Ads on Facebook or Google.
- Thank you gifts for bookstores and book clubs.
Congratulations. Now you’re ready to create a marketing plan.
A marketing plan can cover everything from soliciting blurbs to sending family friends buy-my-book emails. I started five months out and planned big. Since The Unfinished Garden has an unusual hook—it’s a love story about OCD—I dreamed of a fundraiser with the International OCD Foundation. But life happened, and I had to adapt. Three months out from my pub date, my mother underwent heart surgery and I became her full-time caregiver / house elf--in a four-hundred-year-old English house with iffy Internet and crap phone service. Which is why it’s important to…
While I was England, I had to walk the pampered dog twice a day. Where did I walk? Through some of the real-life settings that inspired scenes in The Unfinished Garden. So, I started the TUG walking tour and posted photos to my Facebook page (when I could log on). People still talk about those pictures! Despite everything, I was managing to promote my book.
Think outside the box:
What can you do that’s different? When I approached my local librarian about an event to mark OCD Awareness Week, she was thrilled. And just recently, I booked a Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day event to celebrate crazy love. (I piggybacked on the success of Silver Linings Playbook, another love story about mental illness.)
I booked my own readings, but decided to stay local so as not to disrupt family life. Make sure the stores can order your books—sounds stupid, but this is important—and see if your publisher will provide posters. (Mine did.) Don’t forget to share dates with the local media for their community events calendars, and invite people via Facebook and email. Also, communicate with stores ahead of time about numbers. And don’t forget to send thank you notes.
To party or not to party:
I didn’t want to combine my inaugural reading with a launch party. (After two glasses of wine, I love everyone.) However, I have three wonderful girlfriends who wanted to help with the book, so I let them throw a party. And just look at the cake they organized.
Love it or hate it, social media will be an important part of your marketing. I was already active on Facebook, but I set up a Facebook author page and discovered I could add a free welcome page--with a link back to my website--through pagemodo. Did I mention it was free?
Write those blogs:
Yes, you do have to commit to a few blogs. But beware: Blogging can consume your writing time, so pick wisely, my friends.
Find book clubs:
Friends, libraries, and indies can help your find book clubs. My first two book club events came through an email I sent to friends saying, “Do you know of any neighborhood book clubs?” You can also use the Internet to search for local book clubs and then invite members to public readings.
I like to give away a signed copy of TUG when I do a guest blog, and I also wanted to do a Goodreads’ giveaway. My publisher organized the latter, which was fabulous. We had around 1,500 entries for five copies. Entries translate into your novel moving onto readers’ to-be-read shelf, which is the golden egg.
The local press is a huge resource. Approach press coverage the same way you approached your agent search. Do your homework, and figure out whom you want to approach and why. Then craft a story and sell it. Concentrate on anything that is newsworthy or unusual about your book, your path to publication, or the story behind the story. For example, I successfully worked four separate angles for The Unfinished Garden:
- Local settings.
- Local girl makes good.
- Healing power of gardening.
- Real life OCD.
Obviously, the marketing iceberg can be as big as you want it to be. But remember what Captain Barbossa said in Pirates of the Caribbean, “The pirate code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.” Let that be your marketing motto.
Barbara Claypole White is the author of The Unfinished Garden, a love story about grief, OCD, and dirt (Harlequin MIRA, 2012)
“White…conveys the condition of OCD, and how it creates havoc in one’s life and the lives of loved ones, with style and grace, never underplaying the seriousness of the disorder.” Romantic Times 4* review
“Barbara Claypole White gives us a moving story about the challenges of OCD and grief combined with the power of the human spirit to find love in the most unlikely of places.” Eye on Romance