A debut author has to do a pile of marketing. Most authors will tell you that whether you have a large publisher or a small one, you’re expected to have a presence on social media and do author events, ranging from festivals to book signings.
And so as we approach the New Year, I’m been looking back on what I did in 2012 to help market The Beggar’s Opera. Whew — this list makes me tired! I’m pretty sure I was taller at the beginning of the year.
On the social media front, I published 283 blog posts in 2012. (I’ve had over 54,000 hits –thanks, everyone, for checking in!)
Back in January, 2012 I launched peggyblair.com with the help of the brilliant Michael Morin. I set up a Twitter account (over 19,000 tweets so far) as well as an author’s page on Facebook. (Unlike my personal FB account, Peggy Blair, Mystery Author, is open to anyone, so feel free to drop by!) I also created a Goodreads author account.
Between December 2011 and mid-February, 2012, when TBO hit Canadian bookstores, I worked on preparations for the Ottawa book launch. This was held at a gorgeous venue, The Orange Art Gallery.
The novel is set in Cuba so we had live Cuban music, Cuban food, and Cuban art, even two neon palm trees!
I got lots of support from local businesses. Blue Gypsy Wines did a wine tasting; Domaine Perrault donated wine, and Beau’s Brewery donated beer. We even had little grab bags with bookmarks and cookies that looked like chalk outline bodies, thanks to my talented and creative neighbour, Lynn Wallace. The Cuban food was absolutely amazing: it was prepared by over forty friends. (Below are classic Cuban mini-sandwiches with tiny flags.)
We also had Cuba Libres, thanks to donations of rum from Ottawa mortgage specialists York Polk and Matt Nesbitt. There was the most fantastic replica 1957 Chevy cake from Kate Green Cakes, chocolate cigars with the Penguin logo on them, and Penguin cupcakes by Sarah J Cupcakes.
143 people attended throughout the night! We sold out of books, and it got lots of buzz. Local politicians, media, journalists, and lots of other authors came, not to mention a ton of realtors. But it was weeks of hard work– like planning a wedding.
(You can check out more launch photographs here.)
There was a smaller Toronto launch at a Cuban restaurant as well, which was organized by Penguin, but it was just as much fun. I brought a cigar cake with me, again by the amazing Kate Green. (It’s all edible except the foam back.)
When you’re marketing, don’t forget print media. I’m a realtor, so I contacted the editor of a national real estate magazine and ended up on REM Magazine as a cover story. You can see the pic in the sidebar; it’s also my Twitter profile pic. (Now that was cool.) Because I’m a former lawyer, I also got in touch with Lawyers Weekly which ended up doing a feature story (“Fiction not Factum for Former Lawyer”) on lawyers who turn to (fictional) crime.
I was interviewed by David Yasbek on a local community radio station and I appeared on Rogers TV on Daytime Ottawa with Lois Lee and Derek Fagan. (Afterwards, I pitched Rogers a series on real estate, and ended up hosting Ottawa Experts: Real Estate. I’ll be hosting a six hour series on Canadian authors starting next April, too. Did I tell you how much I love Rogers TV?)
Thanks to my pal, Mark Bourrie, I was featured in Ottawa Magazine (“Whodunit and How”). And through a contact at work, I was able to get TBO reviewed in The Ottawa Citizen. Then fellow mystery author Cathy Astolfo told me to get in touch with Mark Medley at The National Post. Thanks to that very kind referral, I ended up writing four columns for their Afterword series, as well as one for their regular feature, “Old Book, New Author.”
I had our Royal LePage printer (they’re terrific!) design a bookmark, and circulated 1,000 of them. They also made up 200 notecards with The Beggar’s Opera jacket cover on the front. I mailed these out to everyone associated with the book and the launches to thank them for their help.
I emailed 225 bookclubs across Canada and told them about TBO. And I posted an ad in Ottawa Events and on Ottawa Kijiji offering to attend local book clubs. (I ended up being invited to 12 of them including one near my cottage. Fun!)
Later in the year, I was asked by the REACH auction (Resource and Advocacy Centre for the Disabled) and the Red Dress organizers (Heart and Stroke Foundation) if I could donate a couple of books to auction off at their events. Instead, I suggested auctioning an evening with me and six free copies of TBO plus Cuban appetizers and mojitos. Penguin was kind enough to supply the books; I did the rest. One of these events was last night, and we had a blast! I made corn fritters, black beans and rice, and piccadillo, and taught everyone how to make mojitos–great evening! I also auctioned off a copy of the book at local Bach quartet event fundraiser.
Because Hector Apiro, one of my characters, is a dwarf, I contacted all the Little People chapters in US and Canada and told them about TBO. They put it on their Facebook pages and in their newsletters. I also contacted Cuba Friendship Associations throughout Canada; they spread the word as well.
Then there were the speaking events. I spoke at Ottawa Public Library to PWAC about “Getting the Dream Deal” and to a national editors annual meeting about what it’s like to work with an editor. There was an event at Books on Beechwood with two other authors, Brenda Missen and C.B. Forrest, called Scribes and Scones and one at Collected Works Bookstore on Support your Indie Bookstore day. (I’m very sorry to say that both these bookstores are about to close, in what’s becoming an all-too-familiar sign of the times.)
I was interviewed by Book Madam Julie Wilson for the 49th Shelf and by Jan O’Hara for Writers Unboxed. Richard Young did a review of TBO for Beat Magazine after we met on social media; so did the Millstone. Thanks to FB pal Jayne Barnard, I did a Skype Salon with the Calgary Crimewriters Association which was not only great fun but resulted in the host, Owl’s Nest Books, handselling enough books to put me on the Calgary Bestseller’s list !
Let’s see, what else did I do?
I became a regular blogger for the UK Theakston’s Old Peculier Mystery Festival’s feature, You’re Booked, and because TBO had been shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award in the UK, I made sure to keep the CWA posted on my success too. That got TBO mentioned in at least three of their newsletters. Speaking of newsletters, I sent out monthly ones with updates on the book/events as well as real estate to my real estate contacts, clients, and book club pals (that’s a database of about 400 people).
Then there were the online competitions. TBO was nominated for the CBC Bookie Award for Best Mystery/Thriller. I reminded people to vote every day. (We won!) After that, TBO was nominated for the CBC Readers Choice Giller Prize which we also won, although I held back on campaigning for that round–who has time? –and focussed instead on promoting all the wonderful authors on the shortlist. That resulted in yet another Q and A interview, this time on the CBC Books website, as well as an invitation to participate in a live chat .
I also went to some festivals (Kingston Writers Festival, Thousand Islands Literary Festival, and Quebec Crime Writers Festival) and had a rapid-fire trip to Toronto to be interviewed by Michael Enright at WOTS (Word on the Street).
And finally, there were events organized by Penguin’s lovely senior publicist, Barbara Bower as well as other Penguins. These included a busy blog tour, when the book first came out; an evening of Cocktails and Conversations at LCBO, and numerous on-line interviews including those with Zoomer Magazine and Open Book Ontario.
I’m sure that I’ve forgotten something but that’s an indication of what you can do to help your baby along. So whenever I’m asked, what did you do to market your book? I guess the answer is everything I could think of!