When I attended the traditional mystery convention Malice Domestic this May, I had to overcome my reluctance to push my book. I’m an introvert, with a wide streak of shy. Schmoozing with strangers is my idea of torture.
Many authors seem to thrive on social media and self-promotion. Not me. My career path never even veered close to sales. That alien territory is fraught with rejection. I will admit I have sold quite a few Girl Scout cookies in my day, but seriously, those Thin Mints sell themselves.
Before my book came out, I did some research on book promotion. I hoped to discover a magic formula for what worked and what didn’t. There is no formula. Whether your novel is traditionally published, like mine, or indie, the correct approach to selling that book is as individual as the author. All promotion involves time, effort, and a bit of luck.
Here are some helpful hints I picked up on my journey:
- Don’t wear heels if you’re a sneakers kind of person. Find what you’re comfortable with, and don’t force yourself to spend time on promotional efforts you really hate. In my case, with a demanding day job, time is very limited. I focus my energy on my website and blog, Goodreads, and a few carefully selected in-person events.
- Not everyone likes Thin Mints. Don’t take rejection of your book personally. Focus on selling to your audience. At a book event, a woman glanced at the cover of my murder mystery, and declared she never read anything negative. Ouch! I smiled and nodded as I considered creative ways to do away with rude people. In a fictional manner, of course. I’ve had plenty more people tell me they love mysteries. There’s a market!
- Readers want you to succeed. The most important thing I learned at Malice Domestic is that readers have voracious appetites for fiction, and are excited to make new discoveries.
- Can you make a career off one novel? Harper Lee did it with To Kill A Mockingbird. But I’ve seen more success among authors, in any genre, who keep the good stories coming.
- Don’t stop writing because you’re promoting your new release. Keep working on your next story!
Conferences are good places to gain exposure to potential readers. I went to Malice Domestic because the focus is on the traditional mystery, cozies, and amateur sleuth novels. The conference offered authors multiple opportunities to pitch their novels to readers of murder mysteries.
The first morning, I sat in on Malice-Go-Round, an intense session where authors circulate around the room giving two-minute pitches at dozens of tables. I congratulated myself for not signing up for the frenetic event. I would have been in a straight jacket by the end.
Then the woman sitting next to me leaned over and said, “I can go home now.”
I needed clarification. She explained that this was what she came for every year. She was kidding about leaving. She would stay the entire weekend, but Malice-Go-Round was the highlight. I noticed readers scribbling notes as authors gave their two-minute pitches. People were making purchasing decisions, some for libraries.
I did sign up for the New Author Breakfast. Dozens of authors gave timed pitches to the entire room. I was still a nervous wreck, but at least it was over quickly. A hint to new authors – try to sit near an exit for that last minute dash to the facilities for cases of nervous tummy. Just sayin’.
The panel was where I really hit my stride. The focus was on my novel and my writing process, not me. I wasn’t alone. Three other authors participated in a panel on the topic of regional settings. The audience was lively, and seemed eager to find a new series or author.
- Find the promotional methods that work for you.
- Focus on your audience.
- Feed your readers’ appetites with new stories.
You might have to step out of your comfort zone to reach your readers. That doesn’t mean you need to tackle all forms of social media, public speaking, or other means of publicity. Genre-specific conventions like Malice Domestic are a great way to promote your novel to a receptive audience.
1) Malice Domestic – http://www.malicedomestic.org/
2) Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/
3) For more one hit novel wonders – http://listverse.com/2008/02/07/top-10-literary-one-hit-wonders/
4) Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery : Amazon – http://amzn.to/18R60gQ
Catherine Dilts writes amateur sleuth mysteries set in the Colorado mountains. In her debut novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, business is as dead as a dinosaur, but when Morgan Iverson finds the body of a Goth teen on a hiking trail, more than just the family rock shop could become extinct. Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. Her short fiction appears in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at http://www.catherinedilts.com/