Wicked Wednesday: Post-release Promotion

It’s Wednesday. Let’s talk craft again today. Last week we talked about what to do before the book comes out. What about afterwards, from the book birthday onward? Wickeds, which post-release strategy do you find most successful in getting the word out about your book? Have you ever poured a lot of time/money/energy into a strategy that bombed? How long do you keep promoting one book before turning to the next one?

Jessie: I like to have launch parties. Mostly because I love to throw parities in general. I pick a theme and then I go a little crazy. My first book, Live Free or Die, has a fire chief as the protagonist and I centered the menu around foods that were smoked, charred and melted. And I held a New Hampshire trivia contest with local wine and a fire extinguisher as prizes. Such fun!

Edith: You gave away a fire extinguisher, Jessie? That’s fabulous! One of the things I like Namingrightspictureto do post-release is donate naming rights for a character in my next book to a charity auction. A couple of years ago they put the offer in the live auction and brought me up on stage to introduce it, and there was a real bidding war, finally raising something like $350 for the name. It raises awareness of me as an author and all my post-release books, and also lets people know more books are coming. People seem to really like the idea of their name in a book. I do state it won’t be the name for the protagonist, the villain, or the victim. But I don’t think we ever stop promoting our books, do we?

Barb: One thing I advocate is careful tracking of the publicity your book does get. I have a Google alert on my name (practically useless because my name is so common) and one on my title (much more useful) and on “Maine Clambake Mystery” (most useful of all). That way, I do find out about most of the blog reviews and other stories about the books on the Web. I link to them from my website (for example, you can find the reviews of Musseled Out here and other articles about me or the books here), but more important it creates a record of who reviewed the book for next time, so I can approach people about Advance Reader copies or let them know NetGalley previews are available. Fans are the most precious thing an author has, and it’s important to reach out to them if you can.

IMG_4597Sherry: Barb, you are so good about tracking! Like Jessie I’ve done launch parties for my first two books. But I look at them more as a celebration than marketing opportunity. The last one I did with Maya Corrigan — we share an agent, publisher, and this summer a release date. Barb Goffman interviewed us and it was a lot of fun — see the picture to the left. I’ve done a number of books signings and average selling 15 books. I have a love/hate relationship with these events. I meet new people who might not have heard of me otherwise but I always feel like a wet noodle afterwards. When I don’t want to do them my friend/publicist Mary Titone always says: It’s your job!

Liz: Since I’m lucky enough to be part of the animal community and my books strongly feature animals, I try to have events and parties at animal-related places. The launch party for my first book was at a doggie bakery and it was tons of fun! Shaggy even got her own cake 🙂

Fellow writers: What works and doesn’t work for you? Readers: Has something an author done helped you find her books?

22 Thoughts

      1. Google alerts are great, but I’ve found that they don’t cover every blog or online site, so it’s useful to run a search occasionally — I’ve discovered reviews I didn’t know were out there!

  1. Probably no author wants to hear this, but it’s useful to know. When Penguin and Random House merged, Penguin began offering sales data to its authors in real time (instead of only twice a year). I can speak only for mass market paperback sales, but for all of my books through Penguin, the vast majority of sales occur in the first week. After that each book putters along at a steady rate usually in double digits–say, 20 per month. There might be a spike when the next book in the series comes out, but then it settles back into its groove.

    What lesson do we take from this? On the plus side, PRH authors can now look to see if any single promotional effort made a difference (if you check your sales for that period). But in my opinion, promotional efforts after the release help with maintenance, not boosting long-term sales (i.e., moving to a higher level) And after a while, you’re promoting the series, not a single book.

    Others may have had different experiences, and I look forward to hearing about them. But my opinion is, do the events you enjoy, but don’t expect major changes or trends (unless you write a break-out best-seller). Don’t wear yourself out: write the next book!

    1. “Do the events you enjoy.” Absolutely! Also, events in particular, but much of what we do is marketing, not sales. We’re making potential readers generally aware of who we are, which may or may not lead to them recognizing the book in a bookstore or in an online promotion and buying it down the road.

      As Kate Flora points out here, conferences and whatnot are expensive, so my approach is that I go to the ones I would go to anyway, even if I wasn’t yet published–ie go where I want to go.

      1. So right! Conferences are great (if you can afford them) for making friends and keeping yourself visible, and waiting until you have a book coming out doesn’t help you directly. If you’re terrified of talking with strangers or talking about yourself, you won’t market yourself well. Go and make friends, and don’t worry about how many copies the bookseller has sold–it’s a cumulative effect, and people will remember you.

    2. A thought that’s been rattling around in my head all day – I wonder if part of the reason you see so much of your sales that first week is because it has been drilled into readers that first week sales and pre-orders are what makes or breaks an author’s career. So we all dutifully go out and buy it that first week even if we don’t plan to read the book for six or more months. If we bought it closer to when we planned to read it, you might see sales spread out more evenly. But it would probably hurt your career.

      Don’t know if this is true or not, but just a thought.

      1. I know I buy them ASAP (as you suggest) because I know the Big Publishing Chiefs are looking at those numbers, because I may forget them too quickly (my apologies! I want to read everyone’s books!), and because if you have the luxury of going to a real bookstore, the new releases might not be on the shelf for long. Of course, Amazon will have them listed until the next Ice Age.

  2. The best thing I did after my book came out was have a launch party with Sherry Harris and interviewer Barb Goffman! As Sherry said, the party was a wonderful gathering, fun for us and for those who came to celebrate with us (or so they’ve told me.) I have to remind myself not to be so focused on an upcoming deadline that I forget to reward myself for the work already done.

      1. Shared events are my new favorites! I’ve done them with Tracy Weber, Lisa Alber, Christine Carbo, and romantic suspense writer BJ Daniels. You get the benefit of each other’s promotion efforts and friends and fans, plus it’s a lot easier to relax and have fun when you’re not the sole focus of attention. Love that Sherry and Maya got Barb Goffman to interview them — looks like the readers had a great time, too.

  3. What good ideas! I especially like the “naming rights.” I’ve been doing a launch at a local library with each book with good results. Forty to fifty have shown up each time and most buy several books. When I was writing YA, before the Witch City mysteries happened, I was often a presenter at conferences but that hasn’t happened yet with the mysteries. But it’s only been a year since book #1 (Caught Dead Handed) was released, and book # 3 (Look Both Ways) will be out next month. If I could figure out how to attach a picture to this, I’d send you a picture of the cakes I serve at the signings with the book cover and “A Wicked Good Book” in frosting! I get the Neilson results of the book sales every Friday and they are wildly inaccurate when compared to the actual figures on the royalty statements. Off by thousands! Maybe those PRH figures are off too..

    1. Hard to say, since we have no access to “real” figures without subscribing to wildly expensive services (I’ll leave that to my agent). PRH is the one who’s supposed to be paying me, so I suppose they’d be happy to shave the numbers, but it’s hard to challenge them. They’ve done two promotions on my last book in the past couple of months, and did they mention either one to me? No. (Although the sales numbers did show a sharp spike on their “Portal” (think they named it that to make it sound archaic and mysterious?).

      1. Update: Just looked at BookScan vs. PRH figures for my June book. BookScan shows about half the number of copies sold (all formats) as PRH. Their week of release numbers are even more skewed. Anybody wonder what the reality is?

  4. As a reader, I will say that book signings were huge to me years ago. Before the days of blogs (hard to remember those days, right?), I often found out about books by the book signings at the local mystery bookstores. If the book sounded interesting, I’d go out and get it at the signing, then I’d read it and follow the series if I liked it. That’s how I started reading Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine, Stuart Gibbs, Rhys Bowen, Lee Goldberg, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and the list goes on. It’s another way to get your name out there.

    Sadly, the mystery bookstores around me have closed, and I’m not keeping up with signings any more. Of course, my TBR mountain range has never been bigger, so I’m not hurting for books to find. But I often wonder if I’m missing any great new authors out there. I certainly do miss chatting with the authors at book signings.

    Naming rights are certainly fun for readers as well. If any of you need a character name, Mark Baker is certainly all yours. 🙂

  5. I enjoy knowning you and the blogs are great. I go to local signings in Davis where I work but it’s your blogs I love and a chance at a free boo once in awhile.

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