Promotion


The November books are officially on sale today, and with release day comes all kinds of promo:

C.L. Wilson is over at the Borders True Romance blog for an exclusive interview about QUEEN OF SONG AND SOULS.  You can also check out the video.

The Dorchester site is offering a $10 coupon for purchases over $25.

I’m answering questions today over at Barbara Vey’s Beyond Her Book blog for Publishers Weekly.

Congratulations to Lexie, who won all the November romances.  Later today, I’ll be pulling the winner of the widget contest for the Tairen Soul series. But there’s still time to enter!

Nate Kenyon is one of our fastest growing new authors.  And out-of-the-box promo ideas such as this one help explain why. 

From his press release:

With 1,000 entries, ‘First Reader’ Contest Smashes Publishing Barriers

Newton, MA— Thirty years ago, it would have been unheard of for a publisher to ask a bookstore buyer what they thought of draft cover art or jacket copy. Now it’s done routinely. But writers and publishers rarely ask their real audience—the readers themselves—what they think about a book before the editing process is complete.

By partnering with powerhouse online book club DearReader.com to run an innovative “Be a First Reader” contest, award-winning author Nate Kenyon did just that—and received an avalanche of responses.

“It was sort of like a test screening in Hollywood, or product research in the business world,” Kenyon says. “I brought an early draft directly to my target audience, and they’re helping shape the final product months before it hits the shelves.”

As Kenyon was finishing the first draft of his fourth suspense novel for Leisure Books, SPARROW ROCK, he wanted “first readers” to give him feedback on the story. Rather than turn to family and friends, he thought Dear Reader, with its established fan base, would be a great place to find them. Why not make it fun?

With DearReader.com’s founder, Suzanne Beecher, on board, he worked bone-factoryup a simple contest: subscribers could email him for the chance to win a signed copy of his just-released novel, THE BONE FACTORY, and a manuscript copy of SPARROW ROCK. He would pick five names at random. The winners would get to read the new book before anyone–even his agent and editor. The twist was that Kenyon was looking for real feedback on the draft. He wanted to know what he did well and what didn’t work. He wanted honesty and–yes–some hard work.

Kenyon thought he might get a few dozen entries and a suggestion or two that would help him tighten up the book. But it ended up being so much more.

“I thought the idea was brilliant,” Beecher says. “My subscribers love to talk to authors and get an inside look at the publishing business, and this was closer than I’d ever seen them get before.”

Moments after the contest went live, the emails started pouring in. And they didn’t stop. After one week they were approaching 1,000 entries. But it was the nature of these emails that amazed Kenyon and Beecher. People sent their life stories; they wrote about their passionate love affair with books; about wanting to be a writer themselves, or an editor, or just get a glimpse into the writing process. They were begging to be involved.

“It was so heartwarming,” Kenyon says. “Writing is such a solitary business, you get so few chances to really experience how your work affects readers. But there was no ambiguity about this. I couldn’t keep up with the responses.”

Kenyon picked the names and sent the five winners an email, offering a PDF to start, since he was on a tight deadline. Two of them read the PDF he sent in a couple of hours. Their responses were far better and more perceptive than he had hoped for—they suggested adjustments in character, plot points, and tone, and one even caught a huge, yet subtle, technical error he had made.

The other three took closer to a week to read the draft—but it was worth the wait, Kenyon says. “I had pages of detailed feedback from all of them. One even line-edited the entire novel for me. I’m talking grammar, punctuation, everything. My editor at Leisure is fabulous, but this was like having five more sets of eyes. I wanted to deliver as clean a draft as possible, and this helped me do it.”

SPARROW ROCK will hit store shelves in May 2010. He has no doubt that it’s a much stronger book, due to Dear Reader’s help and the feedback he received from his first readers. But what’s stuck with him about the experience is the love and enthusiasm for the written word that they all shared.

“I’ve always thought of books as uniquely personal things,” Kenyon says. “But I don’t anymore. I just can’t express how shocked I am by this entire process. The passion that these readers expressed, their excitement and enthusiasm, and the very real and valuable feedback I’ve received so far has been priceless. I’ll be doing this for all my projects now–and my new ‘first readers’ will surely have a hand in how my stories turn out. It’s a brave new world out there for writers, readers and publishers–but it’s an exciting one.”

There was an RWR article a while back that gave a lot of great information on how authors could go about asking for blurbs.  But what happens when you’re the author/reviewer/bookseller who’s asked to provide an endorsement?

A few tips to writing a great blurb:

  • Keep it fairly short. We don’t have a lot of room on the cover.
  • Be specific.  “A fantastic talent” or “A rising star” or “Lots of fun” are certainly short and all very nice, but will they really make a reader pick up the book?  I love the quote that Lori Foster gave Lisa Cooke‘s TEXAS HOLD HIM: “Mega fun, fast-paced with a sexy, to-die-for hero–my favorite kind of historical romance.”
  • Use comparisons. It’s a great shorthand way to convey the style of the book. My favorite example here is Erin Quinn‘s quote for Kathryne Kennedy‘s writing: “The imagination of J. K. Rowling and the romance of Julie Garwood all rolled up into one.” Or Allison Brennan‘s quote for STOLEN FURY by Elisabeth Naughton: If you like Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone, you’ll love Naughton’s dazzling romantic adventure.” I truly think those comparisons helped sell books.  Who doesn’t like J.K. Rowling?  Who doesn’t like Indiana Jones?  If accurate, comparisons can be really powerful.

A good blurb can help convey more than the cover art and the title do.  It gives readers extra information, hopefully information that will help them decide to buy the book. 

I remember when I was writing cover copy for Jennifer Ashley‘s MAD BAD DUKE, I had decided I needed some kind of cover line to help convey that it was sexy, had fairy-tale elements, and was Regency-set.  But how could I get all that in a line or two in a catchy way that would lead into the title?

Then I found a Booklist review from super-pro reviewer John Charles for PENELOPE & PRINCE CHARMING, the previous book in the series: “Ashley’s latest sinfully sexy historical Regency will delight and charm readers with its enchanting mix of fantasy and fairy-tale romance.”  Bingo! 

The whole purpose of going to the trouble of doing a book video is to drive interest in your book.  And there’s been all kinds of speculation on how effective they may or may not be.  Jeff Strand recently did one to promote his new release, PRESSURE, that I just have to share.  The humor transcends any genre, and I think people will get a kick out of it, whether they’re book lovers or not.  And though PRESSURE is definitely not a romance, if you’re a fan of the kind of chills from Obsession, Single White Female or Hand that Rocks the Cradle, I think you’ll want to give this one a try.

A while back I presented an editorial/production timeline as for what happens to a book when.  After reading a great piece over at the Book Publicity Blog about the importance of an author having a website built prior to publication, I realized it might be a good time to post a marketing timeline as well. 

Most authors know that these days, they’ll be responsible for helping with promotion.  But what should you do?  And when? 

12 months prior to publication:

At this point, you should already be brainstorming ideas for your marketing campaign. Do you have any useful contacts in the media? Whom might you feel comfortable approaching to ask for a cover quote? What are you willing to personally invest to make your book a success?

9-10 months prior to publication:

Discuss your marketing plan with your editor. Editors present upcoming titles to our promotions/sales staff nine months prior to your book’s publication, and it is at this point that your editor should be able to relay what you have planned and what you’re willing to do to promote your title. This way, we will know how to support you and complement your efforts with ours and can plan accordingly.

 

7 months prior to publication:

Any sizable promotion, book signings and advertising should be finalized.

In addition, your editor and our PR department should be fully aware of those plans so that our sales staff has the tools necessary to present your book to their accounts. If you intend to send advance galleys to booksellers, you should do so now.

3-4 months prior to publication:

Send bound galleys to reviewers not being covered by the publisher. Please note that industry publications such as Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist etc. strongly prefer advance copies from the publisher.  It’s incredibly important to check with the publicist handling your book to avoid duplication.  The package should include a copy of the galley plus a cover flat and a short letter.

1-2 month prior to publication or sooner:

Finalize plans for guest blogging, online contests and follow up with booksellers regarding signings.  Get contact information for any local publications and pitch/send info to publicist to pitch your book for an article timed to run at release. 

Oh, and back to that website.  It’s not on our general timeline–though it certainly should be.  I’m a firm believer in getting a web presence around the time you’re starting to submit.  I like to be able to find out a little about an author before I make an offer.  Plus, it helps me see the level of commitment. 

As you can see above, we start marketing plans in earnest about nine months before pub.  So there are going to be in-house sales people trying to dig out as much info as possible for the booksellers.  We’re not talking racy pics or anything <g>, but awards, any quotes, interesting highlights from your bio, previous publications, that kind of thing.  As much as I love the marketing end of things, I have to admit that I don’t always think to ask because I’m usually too busy gushing over the book itself.

And by seven months before pub, the books are being presented to the booksellers and the promo kits have gone out.  Think about the number of previews I’ve featured here.  When I seen interesting cover in another publisher’s kit, I jot it down and then when ready to do a preview post go back and look up the author’s site.  If the author doesn’t have any info, it’s likely I won’t post about the book.

As mentioned above, the most important thing is to keep in touch with your editor and publicist about all your efforts so we can coordinate as much as possible.  Don’t ever worry about sending too much information.

librarians

I went to visit my parents in western NY state for Mother’s Day weekend. For the plane ride there, I wore Angie Fox‘s Kiss My Asphalt tee.

On the way to the house, we stopped by the local library where I worked in high school and where my mom works now. Both Mom (right in the pic) and the library’s director, Mrs. V. (left) were taken with the shirt and it got us talking about Angie’s books.

Fast-forward to Saturday when Mom & I are in Wal-Mart and see a copy of THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR DEMON SLAYERS

“Oh, isn’t this from the T-shirt you were wearing yesterday?” she asks. 

“Yup. That’s the one.” I show her the acknowledgments.

“I’m buying this,” she says. 

“Mom, really, I can send you one.”   [Shh, don’t tell my Sales dept.]

“No, I’m buying this to support your author, and then I can donate it to the library for others to read, too.”

So there you have the actual point (finally): That promo t-shirt directly led to a sale.  From there, who knows how many more people will read the book and pick up Angie’s backlist.

The same thing happened to Gemma Halliday on the way to a workshop we gave in Topeka a few years ago.  She had a canvas tote with the cover for SPYING IN HIGH HEELS.  The woman she was sitting next to on the plane asked about it and ended up coming to Gemma’s signing the next day and buying all the books she had available.

Quite often with marketing efforts, it’s incredibly difficult to tell what’s effective and what has enough impact to lead to sales. But anything authors do has a much higher chance of ROI when it’s actually being used and as visible as possible.  Especially around chatty plane companions and inquisitive librarians.

Happy May Day!

Authors, while at RT we had a chance to meet with dozens of incredibly enthusiastic folkseager to sell your books.  One of our main purposes of the meeting was to get advice on what they like best.  Here’s what they told us:

  • Most preferred bookmarks to postcards.  Some wanted to receive about 10; others wanted close to 50.  If you have a way to check with the store, please do.  But they will get used.
  • Some booksellers will include bookmarks for upcoming titles when they fulfull their online orders.  They try to match the bookmarks to the style of the book the customer is currently ordering in the hopes they’ll come back.
  • Night Owl Romance has a bookmark club where members receive five bookmarks every month for a nominal fee to cover postage.
  • Others offer a free bookmark with purchase to provide extra value to their customers.
  • If you’re going to send signed cover flats, please sign the front (the side the art is on) so they can better display it.
  • A number of stores tack up the cover flats to help encourage preorders from their customers.
  • Pens are useful, but they can be more difficult to include in mailings.
  • The best way to build a following for a first-time author is to let booksellers read the book.  Many are now willing to accept eARCs, but they also find chapter booklets helpful.

If you’re a bookseller and you’d like to let us know you’re individual preferences, contact me using the form on the About page.  And I’d love to hear from authors and booksellers alike more advice on what works in the Comments.

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