August 8, 2011

book marketing

Now that I’m nearing the end of my novel (only 15,000 words to go! you can read the first few pages here), I have to start thinking about publishing, marketing, and sales. Whether I end up traditionally publishing or self-publishing, these things are important. Gone are the days when authors only wrote books.

I’ve been reading several blog posts about how to market books, most of which, I’m already doing. Social media seems to be the priority—BUILD YOUR PLATFORM! Yes, I understand that finding people to sell to is your number one priority, but what do you do once you get their attention?

I know there are certain marketing aspects that snag my interest. I just wonder what other people, what you think is good marketing.

So here is a list of things that I’ve seen done to market books.

Book Trailers
Sadly, most of these are done terribly, just an assortment of photos and text set to music. Others are done rather well. Personally, I’ve never bought a book because of a book trailer. However, I have bought books that I have seen trailers of because I remember the book title. That’s the point isn’t it? I saw the book trailer for Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel back when it first aired, and I recently bought the book because I remembered it.

Clockwork Angel

I’ve also watched a few other book trailers after reading a book, just to see how they’re done.

Tiger's Curse

Ruby Red

And then there are just awesome book trailers. I really like this one, but I don’t think epic live action book trailers are for everyone.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

So, whether the book trailers lead people toward books is left to be decided. I suppose it just depends on the book and the quality of the trailer. My husband doesn’t think that book trailers help fuel interest, but I’m not so sure.

Bookmarks, Bracelets, Book Plates, Buttons (other things starting with B)
A lot of authors have these promotional tools. I had a professor in college… we’ll call him Mr. Pond. Every semester, he doled out bookmarks for his novel to his students. I loved this teacher, but I had absolutely zero interest in his book. After three semesters with this teacher, I had a bookmark for every single one of my textbooks. I will always remember the book, but that doesn’t mean I’ll buy it.

Darby Karchut, author of Griffin Rising gave out bracelets and book plates for her debut novel. I have the bracelet sitting at my computer from when she sent me an ARC of the novel. I already owned the book at this point, so the bracelet was more of a bonus rather than a promotional tool. She also had a contest not long ago, giving away book plates with the Griffin Rising griffin and the title on them. These things just might be nice things to own if you’re a fan of the books, but as promotional tools, I don’t know how effective they are.

The same goes for other merchandise. It makes sense once a fandom has been built. Just think of the Harry Potter franchise. People will drop tons of money on Harry Potter paraphernalia just to own a piece of the franchise. But when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone released, I don’t think there was that rush to own or buy peripheral items.

Blurbs From Other Authors
You see these on the front covers of books. Authors are supposed to fish for these blurbs to put on their covers or within the first pages. They say something along the lines of:

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White: “The most refreshing paranormal debut of the year.” – Lisa McMann, bestselling author of the Wake trilogy

Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard: “The perfect mix of old-school style and modern-day sass!” – Kieran Scott, author of I Was a Non-Blonde Cheerleader and Geek Magnet

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein: “Nothing has come along that can match it.” – Science Fiction Weekly

Enclave by Ann Aguirre: “For fans of The Hunger Games.” – Publishers Weekly

To be perfectly honest, I don’t even register these. It doesn’t matter who said it, or what they said. Most of the time, I see the blurb and I think… Who the heck is that? I then commence reading. That person’s opinion doesn’t affect my purchase of a book, and it seems like a lot of work on the author’s part to fish for those pseudo-reviews to be ignored by readers. Other people may care, but unless it’s a big name author, it usually skips my notice.

Author Interviews
I like author interviews. They give me a sense of a person behind the words. I have yet to buy a book because of an author interview, but a lot of the time, I’ll buy a book and if I like it, I seek out the author to learn more about them. Sometimes, I decide I like the author so much that I’ll be a life-long customer of their books.

Whether they effectively garner interest in a specific book, that remains to be seen. However, I think that it’s more important to sell yourself rather than one book. As authors, we want repeat customers. We need to give readers a reason to continue buying our books. We show them our wit and creativity and personality in an interview, better than we can in our bio at the end of our books. That’s where I think interviews shine.

Advanced Reader Copies and Book Giveaways
As I said before, I received an ARC of Griffin Rising. In this case, it was a great investment for Darby. She got a review, an interview, and an awesome critique partner (if I do say so myself) in return. But what about for other authors? Darby’s the only person to ever send me an ARC. I don’t fish for them, because, well, I’m terrible at keeping up, and I don’t really think about it.

A lot of authors hold contests for readers, giving away ARCs or copies of their books. Potentially, whoever wins will read the book and recommend it to others. That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Spreading the book through word-of-mouth. But I wonder if giving books away is a legitimate promotional tool. Yes, you get another reader, and you may just hook them for your subsequent books, but is it worth sending out 10 free books, 100?

When I publish my book, you better believe that I’ll give away copies. I think word-of-mouth is the best marketing tool we have as authors. I’ll give away copies of my book in hopes that whoever reads it will recommend it to others, and so on so forth.

And this leads us to

I review books on my blog. I wonder if that’s such a great thing. Sometimes, I have great things to say. Other times, not so much. But I believe in being honest, so take that for what it’s worth. Now, when authors send out free books, they hope that they receive some sort of promotional coverage in return, usually a review. When I give away copies of my book, I’ll definitely send some to blogs that do book reviews, hoping for a nice four- or five-star rating.

However, there is bound to be someone that just absolutely HATES my book, with a fiery passion of a thousand suns. I hope to avoid these people, but it happens. You can’t really evade the negative reviews. Every author has them. I know people that call J.K. Rowling a hack. Whatever.

I will probably get negative reviews. I understand that. I don’t want that, but it’s inevitable. On the one hand, it doesn’t bother me. On the other hand, the hand where readers sit and soak in the wisdom of the internet, I fear that a single, bad review might lose me a handful (or a hundred) readers that might actually buy my book, but they don’t because so-and-so didn’t like it. There is some balance with Amazon reviews and Barnes&Noble because they average up your star ratings, but for book blogs, they don’t have such a system. It’s one person’s opinion, and that person could be very influential in giving you sales, or taking them away. It’s a luck game, that’s for sure.

I’ve never bought a book because of a good review, but there are several books that I’ve not bought because the reviews were bad.

S.P.A.M. (Something Posing as Marketing)
I hate seeing those tweets that follow along the lines of:


And that’s all you ever see of them. They come out of the Twitter cave to tweet about their book and then return to silence. This is probably the most ineffective way to market a book. Of course, when I publish, I’ll tweet about where you can buy my book, but I won’t tweet it every day, every hour on the hour. I’ll tweet once a week, or I’ll just include a link at the end of each blog post that I write. I hate bombarding BUY ME tweets, so I’ll do my very best to avoid them.

So, these are the marketing strategies that I’ve seen in the book world. Whether any of them work is anyone’s guess.

Word-of-mouth is the greatest tool. Where any of these marketing tools may or may not work, I will usually buy a book based on a friend’s recommendation, when the flavor is right. I won’t buy a self-help book because my mom said it was good, but if someone who has similar tastes as mine recommends a certain book, I’ll most likely pick it up.

What are some marketing tools that you’ve seen or employed? What makes you buy or not buy a book? What strategies do you think work best?

And for shameless promotion… I retitled my nearly-complete novel and redesigned the cover. Here it is for the world to see. Let me know what you think!


  1. Great overview of ideas for authors to consider, especially those about to finish their first book.

  2. Sharing these ideas is awesome.

    I must admit that as much as a book trailer can help it may also hinder if it is not done well. Of the trailers above, I wouldn't be interested in Tiger's Curse. It's probably an excellent book but the trailer just didn't do it for me. I just finished Clockwork Angel so I like that the trailer was very well done for it. Abraham Lincoln...Dear Me! That trailer worked and I'm ready to check out Amazon to download the ebook if I get a chance. That was wickedly well done.

    So many things to consider...

  3. I'm in that stage of marketing that I am trying a little of everything. Right now, word-of-mouth is looking very strong, but also getting reviews on some of the "big" bloggers also helps. I got a HORRIBLE review a few months ago that just ripped my book to shreds. Nobody noticed. I also think award contests is another avenue to try. But what I really thinks sells a book? The next book. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And the three rules to running a marathon:
    1. Breath.
    2. Keeping running.
    3. Stop AFTER you cross the finish line.

  4. I only have one thing to say:

    Good God I do love Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter's book trailer. Between it and the awesome book cover, I bought the book literally the day it came out.

    But no, that approach doesn't work for everyone.

  5. I go by word-of-mouth most of the time. I hardly ever look up book trailers--some are so awful they make you lose interest anyway--and author blurbs ate not quite the same as full reviews. Self-promoting tweeters who spam my home feed are so obnoxious that I wouldn't be inclined to buy their book even if it's good because they've annoyed the heck out of me.

    It's a tough market.

  6. Holy crap that's an awesome book cover! I agree--a lot of marketing "tools" seem less than effective. I suppose maybe some of it is a "sum of their parts" kind of thing--no one thing adds up to sales, but the combination and repetition makes for name recognition at the least. I tend to buy books first that interest me, second that have been recommended to me by friends. In some ways--well, a good book sells itself once it gets out there :)

  7. Brooke, I liked your old cover, but I LOVE this one! That is awesome.

    You know, I just had an idea, and I don't know if you can do it, but in case...I think the cover would be even more awesome if you could hint at a reflection of a face in that stopwatch. Just an idea. :-)

    As for marketing -- it's overwhelming what all we should do. I'm still barely treading water with the kindles on my writing guides that I just started putting out this summer. And I haven't even attempted reviews yet, but know I need to.

    You make a very good, comprehensive list. Thanks!