Marketing Flail

Katherine Longshore 7 Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Just over a year ago, I went into a tearful, tailspinning panic over the marketing, publicity and promotion for my first book, GILT.  I did all the things.  Social media, guest blogs, swag, public speaking, giveaways, twitter chats, conferences, interviews, blog tours. I joined the Class of 2k12 and networked with the Apocalypsies.  I followed all the threads on those private listserves and on Twitter that talked about this stuff, climbing as fast as I could on a steep learning curve.  I wanted--desperately--to figure out the magic formula. I felt like the success of my book depended on it.

Well guess what?

It didn't.

Maybe it helped.  Maybe it didn't.  I honestly believe it's impossible for me to be the judge.  I'm not sorry I did it.  I'm not even sorry I made myself (and my husband and my agent and my already-published friends) crazy with it.  I needed to do it all.  I needed to do all the things to see what I am capable of, and to see what works for me. The copious flailing was worth it because it helped me get my act together and look at what I can and cannot do.

My second book comes out in a couple of weeks.  I had a deadline yesterday and another one coming up just before TARNISH is released.  I no longer have the time (or the energy) to do all the things, though I still worry that the success of my book depends on it.  So I try to remind myself every day of what works for me.  Here is the short list:

1.  Social media.  I'm a bit of a technophobe when it comes right down to it.  I tend to do most of my research in libraries and books, only got a texting plan last year, and often finding myself looking at the Internet and saying, "What do I do with this again?" But once I get my teeth into an online social medium, I kind of fall in love with it.  It may take me a while, but I do.  I love social media because of the interactive qualities, because I don't have to feel like I'm screaming "me me me" all the time and because it gives me a chance to be social, something a writer's life doesn't always engender.  My favorite at the moment is still Twitter, but I've just joined Pinterest and tumblr, too.  Still in the deer-in-the-headlights stage with both of them, but I'll let you know how it goes!
Events are a great way to get together with book friends!

2.  Blogging.  This, of course, can fall under social media, but it's really so much more.  It gives a writer a platform to talk about what he loves most--writing.  Or about his book.  Or his inspirations.  Or his other interests.  I'm a pretty reserved person, so I don't tend to get too personal in blogs, but I really appreciate that I can be myself.  Blog tours are also a great way to get the word out over a much wider platform.  This year, Kathy Coe at A Glass of Wine is running Tudor Tuesdays for me and Jaime Arnold at Rockstar Book Tours is running a tour over the two weeks before and after launch.

3.  In-Person Events.  I know a lot of writers who, as their debut launches came near, got very nervous. Many of us are introverts.  The thought of getting up in front of a crowd gives some people the heebie jeebies.  I'm very nervous about giving impromptu talks--I tend to talk to fast, repeat myself and use lots of verbal fillers--but I love reading.  I'd hire myself out to read other people's books at events if I could.  It's the former actress in me.  So for events, I usually do a little of both.

What terrifies me is setting these events up.  The thought of getting a lukewarm response--or no response at all--to a query is somehow worse than getting a "no, thank you".  But I'm working on sucking it up and getting it done.  Because I love to meet readers as much as I love to read aloud.

4.  Getting a little help from my friends.  I like to think of myself as a fairly creative thinker, but when it comes to promotion and marketing, I flail.  So I feel very fortunate to have some very clever friends.  Corrine Jackson, author of IF I LIE and TOUCHED, has started a business to help authors launch their books.  She used me and TARNISH as a guinea pig for her new blog series called Marketing Mondays, in which she brainstorms ideas for how to build buzz for a book.  She came up with some cracking ideas, some of which I can't do (I love the idea of doing a video blog series on Tudor dress, but as much as I love public speaking, I'm terrified of cameras!) and some of which I've already started to implement (see my Facebook page for the "quotables" Corrine suggested).
"Quotable" created by JL Author Services

I also called on the services of Joanne Levy, author of SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE, who has started a business as an author's assistant.  She is the brilliant tech wizard who created the quotables, and she researched and created a spreadsheet for local bookstores to which I can send my cover letter and press release in hopes of drumming up interest in author events.

5.  Swag.  Some people swear by swag.  And I love to get my hands on it myself.  I love bookmarks, t-shirts, silicone bracelets, tattoos, magnets...but I just don't know if I have the reach to justify the financial outlay for huge amounts of it.  If you're interested in swag for your own marketing plan, I read recently that you should think about "impressions".  Something a person takes home and only uses there only gets seen by a small number of people.  Something very visible that can be taken out on the streets (t-shirts, book bags) can garner many, many impressions.  Balance impressions with expense.  And how you're going to disseminate the swag, too (shipping costs add up!) This time around, I just had bookmarks printed up.  Not a ton of "impressions" for each unit, but they're pretty, easy to carry, and are kind of expected. My sister at Farshore Design created them for me, and I love them.

6.  Trailer.  I have mixed feelings about trailers.  I love watching them.  (I'm actually always make sure I get to the movies early so I can see all the trailers).  And there are some that are absolutely amazing. (Like Veronica's for UNDER THE NEVER SKY.) But I really wanted my publisher to be behind it.  I had a feeling that my own efforts to get the message out wouldn't justify the expense or time and effort. But the publicist at my agency convinced me to give it a shot.  So I put one together myself. (eep!) Let me know what you think.


Marketing flail is the perfect description...and that's speaking from personal experience. :-)

Enjoyed your book trailer. The music was a little different that what I expected for the time and setting of the novel, but it was an enjoyable trailer.

I know exactly what you mean about having to try all the things to see what you're capable of and what works for you. I'm the same way and feel pretty solid about my marketing efforts for my debut. Would I do everything again? Maybe not, but I would have felt like I'd been shorting myself (and my book) if I hadn't done it all the first time.
The trailer looks awesome--you did a great job!
And thank you so much for the plug!

Gosh, I'm in exactly your spot right now, which made your post soooo recognizable. I did EVERYTHING for my debut last year, and I'm now deciding what to do for this book.

Great tips and advice here! Will Tweet this up :-)

Thanks, Angela, Joanne and F.T.! I wanted to write the kind of post I'd have loved to read a year ago. Somehow, knowing others have gone through it (and lived through it!) helps.

Fascinating, helpful, and endearing post! And I'm so impressed you put that trailer together yourself. The music injects an updated energy to the teaser, which I really like, especially finished with the line, "You only think you know her story."

Super post, Katherine! I've done *all the things* and not sure how many actually work, either. But some are super fun. For my MG novels bookmarks are a must for school and bookstore visits and I love designing them. I also *adore* book trailers (yours is great!) and my book trailer just got posted on Youtube yesterday. In the process of getting it out there - starting tomorrow. :-)

Thank you, Lia! Your response really means a lot to me.

And Kimberley, I love your trailer! So atmospheric.

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