It’s a Jungle Out There

This article first appeared in the April 2008 issue of the Scarlet Letter, the newsletter of Southeast Mystery Writers of America

Selecting the most cost effective avenues for marketing is tough. The array of choices is dazzling. So, how do we get the word out about our books? How do we hack through the marketing jungle to find daylight? Let’s review some marketing choices.

Print ads. The most successful book ads target your market and exploit marketing hooks. Are you selling to librarians, mystery readers, thriller convention-goers, or the beach-read crowd? Select your ad placement based on the widest possible target audience.

Promotional items. Many authors buy pens, pads, bookmarks, postcards, etc. with their name or website imprinted on them. For maximum effectiveness, these need to have value to a reader.

Multi-media campaigns. Many authors are interviewed on radio or television in conjunction with an event or book release. Consider speaking engagements and public appearances to broaden your reader base.

Press releases. Send these out to every relevant magazine and newspaper. Mine the marketing hooks in your book. A book with a boating crime scene might suit a nautical publication or a marina newsletter.

Online promotions. Yahoo and Google have reader and special interest groups. Virtual book tours involve blogging at various sites. What about a podcast or a book trailer? With these tools, your promotion material will be available on the web indefinitely. Online social networks like MySpace and Shelfari allow you to mass mail bulletins about your new release or event to “friends” in moments.

Book giveaways. This sounds counterproductive when we’re after sales, but this strategy drives readers to your website and promotes interest in your backlist. Give books away at charity events, conferences, or other relevant reader hang-outs.

Sales are the best indicators of marketing effectiveness, but unless you track sales in real time, discerning marketing effectiveness may not be possible. However, increased website traffic can monitor interest. Many web hosts track site visitors linearly through time, allowing you to link marketing strategies to website hits. The tracking indicates IP addresses of where site visitors linked to you from.

One of the first thoughts I had as a published author was that I could never get a handle on all of this. Doing a little bit at a time worked for me, and I didn’t do everything for every book. The key is doing what you enjoy within your time and money constraints.

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