Cover Reveal, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Through the Veil, Uncategorized, Writing

Raising My Book Baby: Marketing Takeaways from the Trenches

The blog tour for Through the Veil is winding down, and things are slowly returning back to normal around here. That gnawing, hollow feeling in my stomach has dissipated, and I’m only refreshing Amazon now twice every hour as opposed to every two seconds (it’s my first book. Don’t judge me.). Things are good, and I can stand back from the past three weeks with a strong feeling of accomplishment and with the sense that I did everything I could to bring my book out into the world.

But book marketing is a strange, elusive beast, and I can say two months ago I had absolutely no clue how and where to even begin. On the first call with my PR person, I said, “Okay, I’ve never done this before, so explain book marketing to me like you would to a small child.” And she did! Beautifully! I can’t share all the trade secrets here (and quite honestly, I still don’t understand how all this goes down), but I can tell you some things I’ve learned and some things I wished I had known before I started. A lot of folks complain that publishing runs at a snail’s pace, but nothing can prepare you for the wild, fast-paced ride of a book release. They don’t call it a “blitz” for nothing. After the first week, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. But I also felt very pleased with the results. Publishing is weird like that.

Please note that I’m not a marketing person, and I can only speak from my experience. Not every approach will work for every author. This isn’t the Church of Colleen Halverson (well, maybe sometimes, hehe), and my words are not the gospel. But here’s what I know.

  1. Start blogging now. Right now. And it’s not for the reasons you think. I know building a platform is important, and having a nice back list of blog posts can help increase your visibility. Yes, yes, all these things are true. But here’s the real reason you should start blogging—so you are prepared for the epic marathon of writing guest posts. In total, I wrote 19 guest posts to help bring Through the Veil into the world, and this isn’t including interviews. “Wow! That’s a lot!” you’re probably thinking. Why, yes. Yes it is. I told my PR people that I would be open to guest posts and the demand was enormous. And it makes sense. Guest posts are free content and don’t require the same demands as a review or even an interview. I received great responses from my blog posts, and I’m really proud of the content I cranked out. But I tell you what, I’m so glad I began blogging three years ago. I don’t blog a lot (maybe once a month), but it was enough where I had an opportunity to settle into my blogger voice, which is different from my authorial voice. A good blog post demands certain criteria, and as you blog, you learn a lot about what sort of content, length, topics, and formats really work for people. So while writing all those guest posts was pretty intense, I walked into the task with confidence.
  2. Know your core audience. Do you know your audience? Like, really know them? I’m not talking about readers who might pick up your book, but the readers out there who want to pick up exactly what you’re throwing down. I honestly didn’t. Or maybe I just didn’t think about it too much. Like most authors, when I wrote my book, I just wrote something I would like to read, and it never really occurred to me until we started packaging it how seriously I needed to evaluate my core audience. Seeing as though I signed with Entangled and there’s loads of sex in my book, I figured…yeah, romance (Oh, Colleen Halverson…so much to learn…so much to understand…). It’s true that a lot of romance readers enjoyed my book, but after reading tons of reviews of my work, I understand now that my core audience, the audience who will enjoy my stories 99% of the time is a very particular kind of woman. Who is that woman? Well, not surprisingly, they’re a lot like me. They’re the woman who, every Sunday night, loves their Walking Dead with a Downton Abbey They’re all in love with Jamie Fraser, but like to deconstruct gender roles in Game of Thrones. As they say on Project Runway, “Who’s your girl?” That’s my girl. There may be ten of us in the universe, but that’s my tribe. Know your tribe. That knowledge will dictate all of your marketing choices.
  3. Follow Book Bloggers. Before I published Through the Veil, I followed one book blogging site: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (love them!). But now? I follow several. I read a fair amount, maybe two to five books a month depending on the length of the books and my deadlines. But these folks? They read dozens and dozens of books in like, a day. They blow us all out of the water. They know your genre backwards and forwards, and they know what they like. They also talk about books in ways that may seem very different to writers and to the greater publishing industry, and there’s so much complexity in that community as to what makes for a “good book.” I’ve learned a lot by reading urban fantasy/PNR reviews lately, and seeing how the community receives different kinds of books. Colleen Halverson is still going to do Colleen Halverson, but I feel like I have a much better understanding as to how my books will fit into this world, at least more than I had before. And that is some useful knowledge to have.
  4. Hire your own PR firm. I have the best PR support from my publisher with my own publicist on speed dial. We have met via teleconference several times and we email and correspond regularly. She’s also insanely hardworking and dedicated to marketing my book. With all that said, I still plan on hiring my own PR for my next book, maybe even a second one, and I’ll tell you why. For one, it’s like doubling down your reach. My book is a pebble in the vast ocean of the internet. Anything that can bring your book to more bloggers and reviewers can’t hurt. Also, I felt like my PR firm could focus on some particular action items that freed up my Entangled publicist to funnel her energy into other avenues. If your publicist isn’t doing your cover reveal, for instance, they can hustle more reviews and work on other projects that will help your book. My PR firm, my Entangled publicist, and I all collaborated to get this book off the ground, and our combined efforts were very successful.

    I know what you’re thinking. “But I don’t wanna market my book! Why is publishing making us do this?” Wah, wah, wah. Yep, I know. Here’s a cookie. Now go eat those feelings. In an ideal world, we would all have an army of publicists pimping our books, but unless you’re Stephen King, that shit ain’t happening. Also, hustling e-books in a one-click world brings itself new challenges that require a lot of people on deck. I’m in a private group with a bunch of debut authors, and all of our marketing experiences have been vastly different. They’re not contingent upon the size and scope of the publisher either. If anything, think of your own PR firm as insurance in case the marketing for your book is limited. It happens.

    I used Between the Sheet Promotions to market my book, and I found them to be very affordable, professional, and committed to marketing my book. But do your research! I hired them on a whim, and I really, really lucked out as not all Book PR firms are created equal. Also, make sure your PR firm will reach the kind of bloggers who are in your core audience. In the end, this was some of the best money I have ever spent. I have two kids, a full-time job, and two more books coming out this year. I don’t have time to contact bloggers, set up guest posts and reviews, and coordinate things like cover reveals or trailer reveals or rafflecopters. If you do? Awesome. I—don’t. And even if I did, I would much rather be spending that time writing!

So these are some of my big takeaways from the past few weeks. There are still some things I would love to chat about, but I may save them for another day. If you have questions or comments, please post below! If I can help, I certainly will. Solidarity, my writerly brothers and sisters! Marketing can be a ball, and it’s fun to see all those different facets of the publishing engine humming along. You wrote a book! Celebrate it!

AND SPEAKING OF MARKETING…

Do you like this content? Are you my tribe? Consider supporting my writing habits by purchasing a copy of my new fantasy romance Through the Veil.

Now available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Amazon UK, and Amazon Canada

Thanks for reading!

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