I tend to hibernate while working on a book. I do not participate in much social media and do very little, if any, active promotion. The truth is that it’s hard for me to switch my brain from creative into marketing mode. During the gestation of a project, I need time apart, a quiet space to contemplate. Maybe that’s because real-world considerations shatter the fictive dream, disrupt my thought processes, and sometimes make me anxious. Worrying about promotion stops the writing cold every time. I guess I have a one-track mind.
There are writers who are able to organize their days, allocating an hour or two to posting on Twitter, running their own blog, or doing whatever they deem useful to help them sell books. But I find writing a novel to be a messy, eternally demanding pursuit that absorbs all my energies. Thus, I tend to launch into marketing only when the book is done and the publication date approaches. At that point I set up blog tours, update my website, write historical essays, send out a notification in my newsletter, arrange Goodreads giveaways, attend conferences—anything I can think of. On publication day I make an announcement on social media, but I don’t often post about individual reviews after that. Blazing a trail in terms of marketing and promotion? Not so much.
Still, occasionally I’ll try something new. For example, a few months ago I teamed up with a travel company and wrote a post that highlighted some iconic sites of Regency London, the setting for my historical mystery series. The company generously combined this post with a giveaway that included a set of my books and a tea set. The result: the promotion attracted over 2700 entries, so at the very least I made contact with 2700 people who had probably never heard of me or my books. For my next release, I plan to purchase some extra copies from my publisher and give them away to readers. It’s a simple idea. Since I am traditionally published and can’t offer deep discounts or perma-free series openers, I’ll supplement the free copies provided by my publisher with a few autographed ones to send out into the world (not unlike messages in a bottle tossed into the ocean). With these gifts I hope to tempt a reader here, a reader there—anyone who likes the genre in which I write and would like to try my work. It’s fine with me that building a readership is a slow, organic process that can take years. Finding even one loyal fan is a big deal.
No doubt this isn’t the most effective or efficient approach, but it’s the one that works for me. Which, I suppose, is my point. As 21st-century authors, we hear a lot about what we are supposed to be doing to sell our books—as if we can singlehandedly determine their fate if we follow all the right steps and push all the right buttons. But I don’t think “success” is that easy, and I’m quite sure it means different things to different people. The bottom line: Each author needs to discover his or her own version of authorship through trial and error. Marketing is a highly personalized skill that develops over time and evolves as the writer evolves. I don’t mean to suggest that we should sit back and do nothing. Our books deserve that we make an effort to introduce them to others in order to give our work a chance to contribute something positive to another person’s life. Maybe we can entertain that reader or provide a much-needed distraction from troubles or even shed some light on the human condition. Overall, I find that focusing on this essential goal of communication keeps me on track in both art and business.
An incurable Anglophile, S.K. Rizzolo writes mysteries exploring the darker side of Regency England. Her books feature a trio of crime-solving friends: a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister. Currently she is at work on the first novel in a new series introducing a female detective in Victorian London. Rizzolo lives in Los Angeles with Oliver Twist and Lucy, her cats, and Michael, her husband. She also has an actress daughter named after Miranda in The Tempest.
Synopsis for On a Desert Shore (most recent release)
London, 1813: A wealthy West India merchant’s daughter is in danger with a vast fortune at stake. Hired to protect the heiress, Bow Street Runner John Chase copes with a bitter inheritance dispute and vicious murder. Meanwhile, his sleuthing partner, abandoned wife Penelope Wolfe, must decide whether Society’s censure is too great a bar to a relationship with barrister Edward Buckler. On a Desert Shore stretches from the brutal colony of Jamaica to the prosperity and apparent peace of suburban London. Here a father’s ambition to transplant a child of mixed blood and create an English dynasty will lead to terrible deeds.