Friday, December 28, 2007

Promoting a new book, what works, what doesn't?

I've been sidelined with a code in my node the last few days. Since the day after Christmas, to be precise. But the show must go on. Or the promotion of my new book, again, to be more precise. And to give you a just a smidge of an idea how "out of it" I've been, I slid in here just now in a panic because I thought it was Friday and I was hours late posting this. Checked the handy little date/time thingy on my computer, heaved a sigh of relief. It's only Thursday as I write this. It will hopefully be Friday when I post it. Where was I? Promotion. Ack.

My new book, FIFTY-SEVEN HEAVEN just came out fifteen days ago. So between decorating, Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, hosting or attending parties, chewing vitamin C (which obviously didn't work, sniffle, snort) finishing up my financial records for my accountant (who doubles as my daughter-in-law) I've been squeezing in promoting/selling my new book (which is playing havoc with the aforementioned financial records, sigh.)

Promoting a book in December is a double-edged sword. People buy books for Christmas gifts. Which is good. People are short of book money for themselves. Which is bad. And everyone is busy, including me, which makes it tough to shift their attention to a new book coming out. And there are those pesky financial figures to turn over to my accountant-slash-DIL. My biggest problem is figuring out WHERE to promote. Which promotion does the most good?

I already had a website set up with loads of information about my other books when this new book in a whole new series came out. (The link is on the left, in case you're curious.) I also have a personal blog and I blog here on Poe's Deadly Daughters, when I can remember what day of the week it is. And, yes, I have received a necessary nudge once or twice from my Poe sisters to remind me. Hubby and I already belonged to a national car club, AACA and a local chapter as well, a huge help since the book is about a couple who own an antique car. I've put up my own virtual "garage" on Edmunds Car Space and they featured me in their newsletter this month. I'm also on CrimeSpace, Squidoo, MyShelf and MySpace. Whew. Fifty-Seven Heaven received several good reviews, including Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly. I emailed my faithful readers when the book came out. I've got copies in two stores in Metropolis, IL, where I live, Hummas and the Metro Chamber of Commerce. I'm on Amazon and B& among others. I belong to a ton of discussion lists about mysteries. Busy, me?

Next up, I'm about to try a virtual tour. Visiting and posting on various websites that are willing to host me, to see if I can get the word out. My book will be the book of the month in February on Mystery Most Cozy, an online group that discusses Cozy Mysteries. I'm also scheduled for two conferences in February, Love Is Murder in Chicago and Murder In The Magic City in Birmingham. And I'll be hosting a launch in January at the Metropolis Library and a signing at the West Frankfort, IL library. In other words I'll be hard at it throughout 2008, promoting Fifty-Seven Heaven.

But what works? Which of these might possibly rocket me to fame and fortune? Or at least sell enough books so Five Star will want to publish book number two in the proposed series, which I've already written, with fingers firmly crossed. Who knows?

But the thing is, authors HAVE to promote themselves to sell books, because publishers no longer do it for them, except the REALLY BIG publishing houses that sign authors so well known they don't even NEED promotion. But we have to be extremely careful how we promote our books because an awful lot of people have limits to what they will or won't tollerate from an author in the way of promotion. Let me give you an example. I've been following a discussion on Sisters In Crime about problems authors run into at book store signings. But let me digress a bit first . . . .

Many passersby, in response to an author asking: Do you like mysteries? will respond: I don't read. Ooookay, we wonder to ourselves, what are you doing in a bookstore? But we're too polite, not to mention too smart, to ask it outloud. We authors been given to understand that we should stand up at our signings, not sit down, maybe offer candy of some sort to draw attention, have an interesting table, make eye contact, ask politely if the passersby likes mysteries, but NOT accost the reader and pin them up against the nearest bookshelf, forcing a copy of the book into their hands and demanding they read chapter one before they will be allowed to proceed any further through the store. Okay, I can understand that. I don't like it, but I understand it. Sniff.

The discussion I mentioned above centers around what an author should do when the reader buttonholes her/him and begins asking questions, effectively blocking the author's signing table and making it difficult for other buyers to nab a signed copy of the author's book. Solution to that? A friend or store manager to help out. IF you can get one. I have learned that bringing someone along to my signings to handle: money, stranger-than-usual passersby, and the table itself when I need a potty break is KEY to having any kind of book signing. Key.

Back to promotion in general. What in the varity of options works for an author? Internet presence (websites, blogs, discussion lists, newsletters, emailings)? Book store signings? Library appearances? Mailing out postcards or first chapters? Newsletters? Handing out bookmarks and chapters? Word of mouth?

So far as I can tell, and I'm no expert, they all work . . . to a degree. Word of mouth, someone buttonholing their friends with the words: You simply MUST read this book, I loved it. THAT is the very best promition of all, and it's something we have absolutely no control over, except for writing the best book possible. As for the other options, as I said, they do work, to a degree. The trick is to use them to make others aware of your books BUT somehow not overdoing it. Getting our name in the reader's mind but not getting in their face. It's tricky and a VERY fine line to walk. The author needs balance.

Soooo, DO any of you folks like to read mysteries? Chocolate covered cherries, anyone? What's that? Oh, yes, the bathroom is located right there, on the back wall of the book store. Thanks for stopping by. Anybody got a tissue?


Joyce said...

Nice blog, Lonnie.

As for accosting readers, I guess slamming them up against the wall, doing a pat-down search and handcuffing them until they buy the book would be out too? Darn.

paul lamb said...

Chocolate covered cherries, really? I was thinking of those little Tootsie Rolls. You didn't really discuss soliciting reviews of your books. I tend to come across new authors best this way. There are plenty of sites that do reviews, though I suppose getting them a free review copy is part of the deal.

Darlene Ryan said...

The funniest--and most most fun--event I've ever done was one where I read an excerpt and stopped just at a critical point in the action. Then I invited the listeners to write their own ending. The "best" ending (involving a rabid raccoon and a Bates-like motel)was chosen with audience applause. I've never laughed so hard at a reading.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I think it really depends on the reader. What some won't think twice about, others will be offended and scream bloody murder about it on DL and elsewhere.

And yes, review copies are always nice. It does make the job easier. Otherwise, if the local library does not have the book, we have to go on Amazon and just make up stuff.


Lonnie Cruse said...


Feel free to make up stuff about my book, just please make it good! Paul, you're right, I forgot about reviews. With Fifty-Seven Heaven, the publisher sent out a bunch of review copies, so they took care of that for me. Which I loved.

Sigh, Joyce, the pat down is out. For now. I'll see if I can work on that.

Darlene, I LOVE that idea!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

lol...having not read any of your book.....

(who never uses the phrase "a swirling tour de force"