Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Business Plan Part 10 - Marketing

Currently reading - Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Whethr or not writers want to admit this, marketing and promotion are falling more and more on the author's shoulders. Unless you're Stephen King. So, Stephen, please ignore the following post.

Everyone wants the secret, that one thing you can do that will launch your book into the stratosphere. I hate to tell you, but it's like the magic query. It doesn't exist

The following are my marketing suggestions based on what I've observed over the last six years:

Be Polite and Professional

A smile and good, old-fashioned common courtesy go a long way in making your career. This includes both industry professionals such editors and fellow writers as well as your readers. The former are more likely to help you if you're just plain nice. The latter will recommend your books if you make a good impression. By the same token, a diva attitude is the fastest way to kill a career.

Word of Mouth

The most effective promotion I've seen is word of mouth. Think The Bridges of Madison County. Think The Da Vinci Code. Think Twilight. How did you first find out about any of these books?

Back when I worked in a bookstore, a regular customer and I were lamenting the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He said as a Buffy fan I needed to try out this new lady, Sherrilyn Kenyon. I loved her book! Seriously, I handsold the hell out of Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series for my remaining year and a half at the store.


If you can't work in a bookstore, the next best thing is guest blogging and tweeting. Just don't over-hype yourself. By that, I mean talking about your book, and only your book, 24/7. Add a little value. Maybe a conversation about someone else's terrific book you've read lately. A movie you've seen. A new game you've played. Take a look at your interests and strike up a conversation with someone.

Public Speaking

Yoda and Obi-Wan (aka Colleen Thompson and Christie Craig) swear by this method for getting their names out to the book-buying public. If you're a people person, then this route may be for you. If you're like me (I used to puke before every court hearing), then find another route that's easier on the stomach.

Bookmarks, Postcards and Flyers

When was the last time you bought a book based on one of these? What makes you think John and Jane Public will be any different?


This is a toughie to admit because frankly, I love decent swag at conferences. Sometimes this may work. Sometimes not. Mints, lip balm, and pens have all come in handy, but I can't honestly say I bought a book because of them except once. Years ago, one gal passed out a variety of teas. She got me hooked on Irish Breakfast tea, but not her Regency romances.


If you can afford them, great. I love wearing author logo shirts. But are they really cost effective? I'd have to say no. Unless you're Wil Wheaton.

If I'm wearing a Star Trek, comic book or Wicked t-shirt, I can guarantee a comment or conversation with a fellow geek. My beloved Christie Craig t-shirt, not so much.


Yeah, wouldn't we all like hordes of adoring fans? Again, if you're Sherrilyn or Stephen or Neil, no problem. The rest of us? Well, mystery author Parnell Hall sings it more eloquently than me.


  1. Great post, and of course, it goes without saying that Christie's the Yoda half of the duo. Considering the height difference, she really has no choice. ;)

  2. ROFLMAO!! You are evil, Thompson!

  3. In my experience, T-shirts and similar expensive type swag is more effective once you're already past a certain level of popularity. If you're a big enough name, and you have good enough art, you can get your fans to pay for the shirts and mugs and such. If you're giving them away, though, they're probably not helping you much.

    Angie, who has T-shirts (and a polo shirt) based on two or three of her favorite SF series

  4. Gotta agree with you on that one, Angie. And I also think it swings more to the popularity of the characters than that of the writers. I haven't seen Stephanie Meyers' face on a t-shirt yet. But the actors that portray her characters and the book covers on t-shirts? Oh, yeah!

  5. Loved the post!

    Oh, and what about the huge magnet on the side of your car...realtors do it, why not writers?


  6. Thanks for dropping by, Tess! Has anyone besides John Foxjohn used signs on there vehicle? I know John's gotten a lot of attention. *grin*

  7. Hey, I'm not Yoda until I say I'm Yoda. Okay...I'll be Yoda!!!!

    And Suzan, you are so right about marketing. I do bookmarks and other PR items, but 90% of them go to booksellers and bookbuyers. My lipbalms and things also go to my fans when I send out other prizes, not so much as a selling tool, but as thank you.

  8. On author's faces on T-shirts, no, of course not; I should've been more clear about that. :P I wouldn't particularly want even my very favoritest writers' faces on shirts, unless the art itself were particularly cool and/or amusing. The point isn't to advertise yourself, but your books, characters, worlds, etc.

    I have a T-shirt that says "Saganami Island Athletic Dept." on it, sort of curved around a medallion sort of thing, with an X-X-L imprinted across the middle. It looks like any number of other college/university athletic department shirt, except it comes from the Naval Academy in David Weber's Honor Harrington books. And all the shirts said X-X-L, regardless of actual size; mine's an XL. The idea is that this is what the Marine grunts wear at the academy, or whatever. It's a bit of a joke, and it's one of my favorite series, so I love the shirt.

    I have a black polo shirt with the Barayaran Intelligence Service (in red) where the pocket would be (no pocket, though) and the Horus eye which is their symbol. Again, a bit of a joke and one of my favorite series.

    It's about the books, not the writers.

    On magnets, they're expensive. (Seriously, check them out! And the bumper sticker sized ones even moreso than the fridge sized ones.) I think that goes with the whole T-shirts-and-mugs thing; unless you can get readers to buy them, they're not going to help you.