Marketing a Book is a Giant Crap Shoot

My pal, Alice Loweecey, is guest-blogging today on what she did to her market her series. Alice is a former nun and so is her lead protagonist.  (Here she is, funny hat and all. Alice, I mean.) 

Loweecey with books

Her mysteries are habit-forming (badaboom!), with great characters and lots of humour. (They get great reviews, too.)

Since I am on a marketing binge at the moment with three books coming out in less than 90 days (the paperback version of The Beggar’s Opera hits Canadian bookstores in February; so does the second in the Ramirez series, The Poisoned Pawn, followed by the American release of The Beggar’s Opera) I asked her to focus on what she does to market hers. Her first book, by the way, was Force of Habit; the second, Back in the Habit, and the third Veiled Threat. (Which is why I feel free to make nun jokes.)

VeiledThreat cover

Here’s what she did to try to sell her babies. (Apparently she even gives out home-made nun dolls at her events, which I have to say, transcends anything I have attempted.)

(And before I forget, here’s a link to her website and some pics of those dolls.)

Say “hi” to Alice.

(Waits for everyone to take their seats. Taps microphone.)

Hi. My name is Alice. (Listens for obligatory chorus of “Hello, Alice.”)

Thanks to whoever made the chocolate chip cookies for tonight’s meeting. I’m here to tell you all that I’ve considered walking the streets with a sandwich board. You can still see them in old movies: A restaurant employee would walk around the block with two giant signs that read “Eat at Joe’s” hanging from his shoulders.

My sign would read, in 300-point Arial Narrow Bold: Ex-Nun Mystery! Stalkers! Kidnappers! Romance!

I’d haunt the sidewalks near the local indie bookstores. I’d hover at the entrance to mall parking lots. Heck, I’d sing and dance and wave a giant inflatable nun balloon. Whatever it took to get people into the bookstore and into the mystery aisle.

That sounds like a crap shoot. Yet the one constant I’ve found since my first book debuted in February is that marketing is one giant crap shoot.

I’ve done giveaways on Goodreads. More than 800 requests for four books. How many of the 796 others bought copies? Who can tell?

I’ve done giveaways as a guest on blogs. How many of the non winners who commented bought the book? Who can tell?

Even when I’ve been on panels at conferences—sometimes with upwards of two hundred people in the audience—there’s no clear way to tell how many of the people laughing at my humor headed to the book room to buy a book. Even if they downloaded it to their Nook or Kindle—was it a direct result of that conference panel? (Everyone join in now) Who can tell?

I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Both these organizations announce members’ new releases. I have a website. I engage my friends and fans on Facebook and Twitter. I talk about more than my new release, too—because writers whose posts do nothing but flog their books get blocked pretty quick by me. [Ed. note: me, too!]

I hold talks and signings in my hometown and in the town where I grew up. My publisher, Midnight Ink, sends out ARCs and posts my signings and appearances on their website. I get reviewed by the big guns: Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus. I get reviewed by book bloggers with wide audiences, like Dru’s Book Musings.

Word of mouth does sell books: one person telling another who tells another and so on. I do know I’ve gained readers that way, because they contact me through my website. But other than this, no marketing tool is truly quantifiable. I can triangulate sales numbers through Novel Rank based on when I held a signing or did a print or radio interview, but that’s only an approximation.

In the end, all I can do is keep writing books that people want to read, that my agent can sell to a publisher, who will send out ARCs, which get reviewed, which—I hope—open up more interview spots and signings.

I’ll turn the microphone over to the next writer now. Are there any of those chocolate chip cookies left?

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3 Responses to Marketing a Book is a Giant Crap Shoot

  1. Excellent and totally true post, Alice! I’m RIGHT THERE WITH YOU!!!!


  2. Your conclusions are much like my own, Alice! Except I don’t have nun dolls…


  3. Rachael says:

    Really helpful post! Especially for a complete marketing noob like myself 🙂


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