Getting the Word Out
by L.C. Blackwell
I spent more than eighteen months writing For Sale Murder. Draft after draft—researching, editing, formatting, designing a cover, finding beta readers, choosing an Indie distributor, prepping the book for upload, and more. I thought I was ready to release my very first mystery baby, all 85,000 words of it.
My domain, AuthorBlackwell.com, was locked up but I had no functioning website. I hadn’t plumped up my Facebook connections, either. Ditto for Twitter, LinkedIn. What’s more, I hadn’t cleaned out my email contact list or beefed it up—I was too busy writing.
Developing a basic marketing plan was not a particularly challenging assignment; I was an advertising exec in an earlier life. My history, however, did not help me avoid making marketing mistakes.
Choosing to market my own book, I contracted with a print-on-demand distributor. My book is on all the right websites, but that doesn’t ring up sales. And hiring a publicist or paying a distributor to be your marketing arm doesn’t take the burden away. You are still the captain of your sales force.
You must create noise about your book, and your name. You can’t be shy or apologetic. You must be brave, wear a mantle of courage. And most important, believe in yourself. Remember, not everyone will like your book, but if no one hears about it, those who could love it may not get a chance to read it.
Marketing to your target
My target was easy to define; it was integral to writing For Sale Murder. And that was a major advantage. I knew the who, the what, the where, and the how to direct my marketing efforts. It was easy to focus my message on postcards, email templates, bookmarks and everything else.
My first mistake: Not starting my marketing efforts sooner.
Developing a plan is vital. Initiating it in waves, I discovered, is critical.
A smart, early move: Creating a voting ballot for my book cover.
An L.A. Creative Director, a close friend, helped me. He recreated my rough cover design into three outstanding versions, which I sent to all my email and social media contacts for a vote. The ballot accomplished three things: 1. Great press. It announced to thousands of my contacts that I had written a new book; 2. A winning cover. I had a clear winner—by a landslide; 3. More press. In emails and posts, I announced the winner and included a teaser video.
Next Mistake: Not advertising my cover posts on social media.
I’ve since learned the value of a timed Facebook boost.
Recognizing the need for more intel, I googled indie marketing tips, marketing groups, websites, et al. It was as though I was back at MSU cramming for finals. I downloaded free eBooks, articles, anything available to grasp publishing changes that could help fast-track my plan.
The results were formidable. And whittling down the number of resources and guides to a manageable list was a worthwhile task. I got new marketing directives and ideas I could put in place with little effort.
I also searched Google for mystery associations and mystery reading groups and websites. That search brought me a national list of Indie bookstores, mystery book clubs, mystery bloggers, book fairs, and shows. With slight changes to email templates, I was able to market to these groups. The result: an email response rate of 34% that equated to strong upticks in sales.
I am surprised and encouraged at the reaction to For Sale Murder. I was able to get a Publishers Weekly review, which I link to every email template I send. I’ve been interviewed and invited to guest post on wonderful blogger sites (DrusMusings.com is one of them). And, I’ve received invitations to join other mystery authors on mystery panels.
My marketing is not finished. My focus now? Libraries. What’s more, as I continue to build my brand, I’m writing my second book in the Peter Dumas series aiming for a late spring release. Marketing to start shortly!
My first mystery has been a learning journey in marketing. The websites and resources I discovered have contributed to my efforts and continue to do so. It is a time-consuming process to filter the best resources and the advice they offer, but the lessons learned are invaluable and will be a blueprint for my next book.
Every author competes with millions of books—on the shelf, online, in libraries, in bookstores.
And almost every sale depends on much more than just wonderful words between a front and back cover. The story description, the cover image, and how you present your book come into play. So, write your heart out. But don’t ever forget to strategize, target, and plan.
Some resources to help you on your writing and marketing journey:
GoCentral.com—GoDaddy’s sweet and easy website builder that anyone can manage. Plus, a support team that is unbelievable.
Blog.Reedsy.com—A British company with great info and an impressive list of available professionals—worldwide editors, artists, publishers and more.
The Self-Publishing Tools of Trade Every Author Must Know –by Lama Jabr.
Free Kindle download.
A wonderful directory of tools and websites complete with description.
SistersinCrime.org—a supportive group with benefits for published and unpublished
L.C. Blackwell began a career in Chicago advertising agencies writing and producing Radio-TV and print advertising in a variety of industries that included Fashion, Food and Food Service, Consumer Products, Automotive, Children’s Products and Retail. Among the client brands represented: Brown Shoe Company, Johnson’s Wax, Armour (Dial Soap), Goodrich, Quaker Oats, Oldsmobile, Sportmart, Echo Housewares and American Dairy. A growing interest in programming saw Blackwell become an independent writer-producer developing creative for a select group of projects. Among them: “Belleza Latina,” a 13-week package of daily short-form beauty programs written, produced and licensed to the Spanish Entertainment Network for a double run; A bull-riding documentary airing on ABC and Univision affiliates in Phoenix, Arizona; A multimedia promotion that included creative, jingle and presentation production for the National Fitness Foundation presidential appointee, George Allen. Additionally, L.C. Blackwell is the author of 2 children’s books as well as a licensed Managing Broker in Illinois