We all want to sell books, right?A long time ago in a world that has almost vanished, I was a student at Lincoln Junior High School in Rockford, Illinois—seventh through ninth grades. In addition to the novelties of switching classes and finally meeting at least a few boys who were as tall as the girls, my junior high also offered the thrilling privilege, beginning in eighth grade, of leaving the school grounds for lunch.
My favorite option was Hedlun’s Drug
Store, just across the street from school. Hedlun’s had a lunch counter and a
long-suffering staff who steeled themselves for the daily hordes of young teens
who invaded their premises for approximately an hour and a half, demanding
lunch. I can’t imagine how they did it.
Every school day for two years, three friends and I showed up at Hedlun’s and put in our order, which never varied: three cheeseburgers and one tuna salad sandwich; three chocolate cokes and one vanilla coke. Guess who was the odd girl out?
I bring this up because I’ve been
thinking recently about the variety of tastes people have in literature.
Some people read only non-fiction (“Why bother with something that never happened?”). Others read only fiction but focus on certain genres—historical, literary, romance, traditional mystery, cozy mystery, suspense, international thriller, legal or medical drama, police procedurals, psychological thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, Christian, domestic suspense. Some people read widely. Some read only bestsellers. Others use those lists as a reliable what-not-to-read guide.
Here's my point: not every type of book is everyone’s cup of tea. That’s something writers must accept. Not everyone will read your books. Not everyone who reads them will like them. The trick is to identify your audience—those who want to read the kind of books you write—and reach out to them. How does that happen?
In case you’re not a marketing expert (I’m not), here are five simple strategies to try:
1. USE AVAILABLE TOOLS to identify your target audience.
This is a huge and complicated subject, but even a cursory dive into online statistics tells me that readers of mystery and crime fiction (what I write) tend to be older female adults. In fact, a recent Nielsen survey revealed that a whopping 63% of my readers are over the age of 50. This makes a difference when I’m deciding how best to use my time on social media. Statistics tell me my peeps are most likely to be found on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t use other platforms. It just helps me set priorities. In addition, most social media platforms offer targeted demographics, like “Audience Insights” on Pinterest and Instagram—showing your followers according to age range, gender, and location. That leads to the next strategy.
2. JOIN SOCIAL MEDIA GROUPS with interests that overlap with your writing.
Since my books take place in England and appeal to people who like history, travel, and antiques, my favorite Facebook groups include British Book Club, I Heart Britain, English Cottages, and British Mystery Series Readers. I also follow mystery groups like Sleuths in Time Book Club, Readers’ Café, Cozy Mystery Crew, and Diva’s Cozy Mystery Group. I also follow certain Twitter hashtags and favorite sites on Pinterest, like English Country House and Antique Trader Magazine. When appropriate, I let other followers know about the books I write.
3. JOIN THE ONLINE CONVERSATION.
It isn’t enough to log onto social media sites and lurk. Be part of the conversation. Get to know the other people who follow those sites and/or follow authors who write in your genre. Respond and comment. Follow them and they will follow you. Offer interesting content and comments. Share ideas. This doesn’t need to eat your life. If you tend to be an organized person, set a daily schedule—one hour for social media first thing in the morning, for example—and stick to it.
4. COLLABORATE WITH AND SUPPORT OTHER WRITERS.
I love the Malice Domestic motto—“No one needs to fail so that I can succeed.” If you support and promote other authors, chances are they will reciprocate. Joining with other authors, Especially those who write in your genre, can be lots of fun when planning events, either online or in person. Panel discussions, conversations, joint events—you are not only reaching out to your own fans, but you are also getting to know their fans. It’s called cross-marketing, and it’s a smart idea.
5. INTERACT PERSONALLY WITH READERS WHO LIKE YOUR BOOKS.
Invite them to review and recommend. Let’s face it—interacting with readers has been difficult during the pandemic—conferences cancelled, no in-person author events, no book signings. Nevertheless, we’ve gotten creative with Zoom, and there has been an upside. This year I’ve appeared at a number of book clubs in places I couldn’t easily have reached in person. And I’ve participated in several multi-author events, one from our car on the way to Florida. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews. Give followers an opportunity to sign up for your newsletter or blog. Include links whenever possible. Develop a mailing list and keep readers up-to-date on what you’re doing in both your author life and your personal life. Hold or join with others in giveaways of ARCs, books, or e-books. Ask for your followers’ opinions on book covers or logos. Lately I’ve had bookplates printed, which I will mail to readers who preorder my latest book, The Art of Betrayal (out June 8). The bottom line? Be creative and be personal. Statistics are informative, but real people buy books. I love meeting and interacting with readers, and there’s nothing like word-of-mouth advertising.
NEW WRITERS are routinely thrown into the world of publishing with little or no help in terms of publicity and marketing. Nevertheless, they are expected to learn quickly. I hope these five very simple strategies will help.
AUTHORS, what is the best marketing tool or strategy you’ve ever used? (I want to know!)
READERS, where is your favorite place to meet and interact with authors?