Please welcome this week’s guest to the Showcase.
Marketing and Promoting in a COVID-19 World
As writers know all too well, the pandemic has created new challenges when it comes to promoting and marketing books. In my community, two colleagues had their launches cancelled. Readings, panel discussions, and workshops all vanished this spring along with income and book sales.
I launched my sixth Casey Holland mystery, The Blade Man in February, but with each new book comes a fair bit of promotion work. I’ve found, though, that self-isolation has not only provided an opportunity to get going on the tasks I set for myself, but has offered new ways to reach people.
Back in February I’d never heard of Zoom. Now it’s one of the most useful tools I have for taking part in events with other authors. Last month, our local arts community began to virtually showcase artists and writers. Through a Zoom panel discussion, we met new readers interested in our books. On another occasion, our moderator also arranged an interview with another local author. We’ve now formed a regular online group to brainstorm marketing ideas and are considering the possibility of an online writers festival.
So, how can you make marketing and promotion work for you? Here are ten more ideas, though I’m guessing that most of you are already doing some of these things. Still, there’s always something new to add to the list:
- It might be obvious since you’re reading Richard’s blog, but if you don’t yet write your own blog own, start one. I’m on WordPress and have found it to be a lively interactive community, but of course there are other good platforms. Hosting guest bloggers is a great way to network and it’s often reciprocal.
- If you don’t have a website, now’s the time to create one. There are many options and sources to help you get started, including WordPress. If you do have a website, freshen it up, add new content, and promote the updates through social media. Some authors set up shops to buy directly from sites, others prefer to use links to Amazon and other distributors.
- Reviews are still important in getting the word out about your books and there are plenty book review bloggers out there. Some sources for potential reviews are the Book Blogger List, The Indie View, LibraryThing, Goodreads (they also feature book giveaways), Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Booklist, NetGalley, and Kirkus, to name a few. A few sites charge to list your books and some charge independent authors for reviews or won’t review indie authors at all, but there are plenty of other options.
- Contact libraries about purchasing either a print or ebook version of your book. Start locally and work out from there. Nearly all of them have websites, so it’s often easy to find the name of the acquisitions librarian. Some libraries here in Canada have forms for independent authors and will purchase a print and/or an ebook.
- I sell print books at Christmas craft fairs as well as the summer events, and have gained repeat customers. Because the summer events are now canceled, I’ve mailed a signed copy of my latest book to customers upon request. My customers (who are primarily seniors) prefer to send a cheque, but of course there are other options. Given the amount of time it takes for a book to arrive by mail, COVID-19 isn’t a real worry, especially since I take the usual safety precautions. If you have an email list, or even a collection of names from people who’ve bought and enjoyed your book, why not contact them about the next one?
- Now’s the time to pay more attention to your social media platforms. There are plenty of Facebook groups focused on specific genres and topics. Join them and engage with others. Relationship building is a good way to meet potential readers and other authors to collaborate with on joint events.
- What about launching your book on Instagram? One of my colleagues did this last month from his home and it worked out well. An assistant monitored comments and questions while he alternated the hour-long event between discussing his writing process, answering the questions that were coming in, and reading excerpts from his new release.
- Consider turning your book into large print or audio formats. Authors who publish cozy and amateur sleuth mysteries have a large demographic of older readers who now prefer larger print or audio books.
- Some authors have found that Facebook Ads have been helpful. Again, research opportunities specific to you and the audience you want to reach.
- Try book promotion sites. One of the largest is BookBub, and although it’s the most expensive, I’ve found it to be the most lucrative. It can be especially profitable for those of you with multiple titles in a series. As the site is immensely popular, most authors are rejected several times before acceptance, but stick with it. You’re allowed to apply once a month and the process doesn’t take long.
The possibilities to market and promote yourself in a COVID-19 world are enormous, which brings me to a word of caution. Over the years I’ve found that what worked well for one person wasn’t as great for someone else, so experiment.
Promoting and marketing can become a full-time job, so decide which strategies appeal to you most and pace yourself. It’s important to decide how much time you intend to spend promoting and marketing. After all, we’re writers with plenty of ideas and new work to finish, so prepare a daily, weekly, or even monthly, set of goals. If you wish to invest in ads and promotion sites, determine the costs, then figure out your budget. Also, do your research as there are plenty of scammers out there who don’t deliver.
Lockdowns and pandemics won’t last, however I’ve met writers who are housebound for other health reasons, family responsibilities, or who have incredibly busy lifestyles. But even one hour of promoting and marketing per week amounts to 52 solid hours at the end of year, without having to leave home, and that’s something, isn’t?
Debra Purdy Kong’s volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and various jobs, inspired her to write mysteries set in BC’s Lower Mainland. Her employment as a campus security patrol and communications officer provide the background for her Casey Holland transit security novels.
Debra has published short stories in a variety of genres as well as personal essays, and articles for publications such as Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul, B.C. Parent Magazine, and The Vancouver Sun. She is a facilitator for the Creative Writing Program through Port Moody Recreation, and a long-time member of Crime Writers of Canada. More information about Debra and her books, can be found at www.debrapurdykong.com or contact her at email@example.com
Short excerpt from the opening of The Blade Man.
“Wesley, look out!” Casey Holland ducked behind the bus driver’s seat and glanced over her shoulder. “Everyone down, now!”
A Molotov cocktail bounced off the driver’s window next to Wesley Axelson’s head, but Wesley merely revved the idling bus engine and blasted the horn. “Candy-ass punks!”
Casey didn’t know why Wesley bothered with the yelling or the horn. Minutes ago, a mob of teens and young adults had overtaken the road, ignoring his earlier blasts. Why would they listen now?
The Molotov cocktail exploded on the road, rocking the bus slightly. Somewhere outside, a woman screamed. Casey peeked out the window to see a woman running from the flames flaring up just a few feet from the bus. If they had to evacuate, she’d make damn sure that the half dozen passengers who’d decided to stay on board got out of here safely. A decade of security work had taught her to stay calm in tense situations. She’d be deceiving herself if she wasn’t worried, though. A drunken mob was a new experience she’d rather live without.
“That was too damn close!” A middle-aged passenger glared at Casey. “I thought you called the cops.”
“Then where the hell are they? The RCMP detachment’s just two blocks from here.”
“Manpower shortage, most likely. From what I hear there’s trouble at the rally in the park.”
“Then they should have called for reinforcements by now,” the woman grumbled as she opened a window. “It’s too hot in here. Don’t you have air conditioning on this bus?”
Casey admitted it was unusually warm for mid-May. “Sorry, no. This is an older model.”
“Stupid company,” the woman muttered. “This is the last time I’ll ride an MPT bus.”
Casey hoped so. She stood and used her phone to record the broken glass and burning rag on the road. She zeroed in on the five culprits in ball caps, hoodies, and bandana-covered faces who were laughing and high-fiving one another. The stench of gasoline and smoke made her cough. She’d closed all the windows when the trouble started, but she wasn’t going to make anyone close them again in this heat, at least not right away.
ON SALE FOR $.99 UNTIL JUNE 25th! THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, Casey Holland Mystery #1
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1151714413
Links to The Blade Man:
Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1495092401
Connect With Debra at:
WordPress blog: https://debrapurdykong.wordpress.com
My thanks to this weeks guest for a great post. I hope you all enjoyed it.
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