Guest Connie Hambley

BarbaraKay1 is Connie’s winner! Check your email, Barbara.

Edith here, happy to welcome author Connie Hambley to the blog today. She’s my vice president at Sisters in Crime New England, and a talented and hard-working author. She has a trilogy of books out that all involve horses, and she’s going to talk to us about affinity marketing.trilogy equine promo without wording

In the trilogy, world-class equestrian Jessica Wyeth becomes a target of an international crime syndicate after uncovering how family secrets link her to the power behind a Boston-based terrorist cell. In this gripping, multi-generational tale, the bonds of blood and love are tested through times of war and peace.

She’s giving away an ebook of The Wake, book three in the set, to one commenter here today, too! (For our regular readers, fair warning that these books aren’t cozy – but they have lots and lots of fans!) Take it away, Connie.

Engagement is the Key to Promotion

Selling head-to-head against better-known titles and authors is challenging for an emerging voice. Buy ads? Hire a publicist? Those are valid ideas and worth pursuing, but here’s the rub: It’s easy to spend money, but it’s very hard to make it.

THE WAKE - FRONT COVERRegardless of where you are in the publishing hierarchy – from independently published to small house to large publisher – the heft of promotion will fall on the author’s shoulders. So, what’s a writer to do?

First, let’s shatter the idea that we are out there to sell books. When the bulk of sales happen in the first weeks of publication, what does that say about our efforts for the following weeks or months?

The precursor to selling books is to engage your reader.

Two practices for successful engagements are something the Wickeds do very well. With an investment of time, the returns compound themselves. What are these magic practices? Affinity Marketing and Community Connection.

Affinity Marketing is a familiar and intuitive strategy used when authors want readers to feel an immediate connection to their work. We want our readers to identify some part of themselves with our stories, characters, or settings. Doing so elevates our book out of the din. We see this practice at work with books and blogs on adorable furry critters by Liz Mugavero’s Pawsitively Organic series, yard sales in Sherry Harris’ work and a love for Ireland in Sheila Connolly’s County Cork Mysteries.

Authors also forge relationships with readers based on aspects of their own lives that Hambley w Horseinfluence what they put down on paper. Sparking an interest in the person behind the stories makes readers interested in the whole journey of the author, not just in one title. Julie Hennrikus mines her experience in the theater for her new Theater Cop mysteries. I’ve woven a family experience with arson and a love of horses into the main character of my Jessica Trilogy books. Curious to know more? Exactly!

For affinity marketing to work, keep these things in mind:

Find your niche. Marketing head-to-head against best-sellers will exhaust and drown you. Find another love of your target audience and market through the “back door.” Genres can be used, too. History buffs will love immersing themselves in Edith Maxwell’s Quaker Midwife series and learning about life in a Massachusetts mill town in the 1880’s.

Books can be sold anywhere. I’m the first one to say that supporting your local bookstore should be one of your missions in life, but after you’ve secured a spot on their shelves, then what? Think of where people might be ripe for an impulse buy. Find a pet store that will place your book in the isle beside dog treats or get the email list for the local dog park to let the members know about your book (with proceeds donated!) or to hold an event there. During the summer, you’ll find me ringside at Grand Prix events.

All of this snoodling in shared interests brings us to the heart of engagement, and that is forging a sense of connection and community with our readers.

Social media platforms of Facebook, blog, website, Twitter, and more are essential tools. Barbara Ross’ post on promotion provides some best practices for our digital widgets. Use what feels right for you. The key is not to be passive. Responding to comments? Great, but outreach is the better connector.

The social behind the media are people. Remember them? Our flesh and blood counterparts are more than the bodies we slay on the page. Supporting professional organizations leverages visibility by adding a spoke to our promotional wheel.

Windrush Volunteering Kathy

Active participation through volunteering broadens your community. I’m a big believer in forging connections through paying it forward. I learned about hippotherapy (horse-centric physical and behavioral therapy) when volunteering at a therapeutic riding stable and knew I had to weave it into my most recent book, The Wake. I reached out to the CEO of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International to tell her of my inspiration and my book. She wrote a wonderful endorsement and featured my book in their global magazine.

The Wickeds and I belong to Sisters in Crime, a national organization of mystery and thriller writers. Members enjoy networking and access to reader-centric events like library conventions and writer conferences. Being a dues-paying member is great, but passive membership has limits. By becoming a trusted member of a community, authors promote a sense of connection, familiarity, and comfort.

And with that connection comes engaged fans, and engaged fans buy books.

Readers: What leads you to buy a book? Writers: how do you engage potential readers? Have you used affinity marketing? Remember, Connie is giving away an ebook of The Wake, book three in the set, to one commenter. Hambley Business Headshot

Connie Johnson Hambley grew up on a New York dairy farm and all would have been idyllic if an arsonist hadn’t torched her family’s barn. Bucolic bubble burst, she began to steadfastly plot her revenge against all bad guys, real and imagined. After receiving her law degree, she moved to Boston and wrote for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Nature and other wonky outlets as she honed her skills of reaching readers at a deep emotional level with great research, laser-sharp focus on detail, and persuasive writing. Her high-concept thrillers feature remarkable women entangled in modern-day crimes and walk the reader on the razor’s edge between good and evil. Connie delights in creating worlds where the good guys win–eventually. Connie is a two-time winner of Best English Fiction literary award at the EQUUS International Film Festival in New York City. She is Vice President and Featured Speaker of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime.


26 Thoughts

  1. On my extremely limited budget, hard-cash purchases of books are with authors at a book talk hosted by the local college or library, after carefully weighing whether I am likely to need yet another repair to my 16 1/2-year-old car in the immediate future.

    1. Oh, gosh! You hit on my favorite way to reach readers — at just those kinds of events! I’m embarrassed to admit what I don’t do just so I can buy that next book.

      1. Now if I can only FIND her email amid the 13,602! thank you for letting me know!

  2. Great post, Connie. Thanks for sharing those tips! I didn’t know I was doing affinity marketing when I started writing my historical series, but now I have a built-in audience of readers who love history, of Quakers, and even Christian fiction fans.

  3. Welcome, Connie! Your point that marketing falls to the author is so true. I do more virtual reaching out to other yard sale people than actual yard sale type events.

    1. The landscape has changed for authors. We have to love both writing and finding ways to reach our readers. Fortunately, I know you love both the fun of writing and connecting with your fans, so it’s a win/win for you!

  4. What a great post, Connie. I’m furiously taking notes on everything marketing for August when I have to actually do it for realz!

  5. Welcome to the Wickeds, Connie! Many fans of mine are also fans of Maine, whether they live here, grew up here and went elsewhere, visited on vacation or hope to visit someday.

  6. All good points, Connie! None of us knows what really works best in marketing, and sometimes accidental encounters may give you results better than all the planning you can do. But I think the real key is to write about something–a place, a profession, a cause–that matters to you, because it shows both in your writing and when you talk about it.

    1. Oh, Sheila! I couldn’t agree more! Connecting with readers is like one big cocktail party. No one remembers the sot droning on in the corner, but we are drawn to the person who is animated and excited about what they are doing.

  7. I will definitely try your books after reading this blog! It is hard to go into a bookstore and pick out someone new without knowing something about the book, and I am always looking for someone new to read. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kitty! Welcome aboard and thank you! I’ve been blamed for burned dinners and forgotten kids at pick-ups because folks turned pages instead of tending to real life, so beware! Thanks for your support!

  8. What makes me pick up a book? Quite often, it is the hook of the cozy series – something I am interested in or something I haven’t seen done before. I’m sure there are other series out there I would love that I haven’t picked up before the hook didn’t interest me right away. It’s hard because there are just too many books out there to get them all read.

    1. That’s exactly the point, Mark! Sure we share a love of reading, but with so many great books out there, how does one choose which one to read? Thanks for posting.

  9. I love reading your take on authors connecting with readers on a special level. It’s just what I needed to be reminded of right now. Thank you! I look forward to reading your work–it sounds terrific!

  10. Thanks for visiting the blog today Connie! Looking to step up my game for a new series, so the timing is perfect.

  11. Thanks for your insights, Connie. There are so many things one *could* do that sometimes it’s hard to figure out which will give the most bang for the time, never mind the buck.

  12. Very interesting marketing advice and it makes sense.
    I am always looking for great new authors, and your book sounds very intriguing.
    If I don’t win your book, I think I may have to check them out. I also love horses in books.

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