Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Beth Groundwater offers a bushel basket of book promo tips
We’re tickled to welcome Beth Groundwater to Jungle Red Writers and congratulate her on TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET, the second Claire Hanover gift basket designer series novel which comes out this month.
It opens with a death on a Colorado ski slope and, as the Kirkus reviewer opined, offers up “black diamond thrills.”
When we asked Beth if she'd share what she’s learned about book promo, she launched into song and then explained.
BETH: “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
As that line from the Bob Dylan song, "My Back Pages," so eloquently states, the more experienced you become at something, the more you realize that what you thought you knew about it is all wrong. This can be true for many things, but in my case, I’ll apply it to book promotion.
In 2007, as a brand-new author with my first release, A Real Basket Case, I plunged into the book promotion pool feet-first, arms-flailing, trying to do it all, and taking every promotion opportunity I heard about. And since I was such a networker and in so many writing organizations, I heard about a lot!
I made 51 personal appearances in 2007, and eight of those were weekend conferences. I drove over 6500 miles for my writing business. I launched a website, blog and e-mail newsletter and became active in over three dozen e-mail lists. I ordered business cards, buttons, “autographed by author” stickers, bookplates, and trifold fliers. My release was in March. By the end of June I was totally worn out, but I’d already booked summer and fall appearances, so I had to soldier on.
I’ve learned with my second release, To Hell in a Handbasket, to pace myself. And that’s my advice to new authors embarking on the adventure of promoting your first book: Pace Yourself!
I will make fifteen personal appearances in June, but after that, they will taper off to a few a month. I’m attending only four conferences this year: Mayhem in the Midlands, Bouchercon, and two Colorado writing conferences. I hope to return to writing fiction (versus blog posts and magazine articles) by August. Two types of personal appearances I’ve cut are library visits and multi-author panels. Both were good ways to gain exposure when I was a new, unknown author, but neither resulted in many book sales.
One thing I did for the release of To Hell in a Handbasket that I didn’t for A Real Basket Case is my May blog book tour. Two years ago, author blog tours were rare, but now there’s even a Yahoo! group class for authors planning their own tours. I set a goal of visiting ten blogs during May, and even though I declined or delayed some guest appearances, I wound up guesting at sixteen blogs, being interviewed twice on Internet radio shows, and visiting the Barnes & Noble on-line mystery book club. That was too much. I recommend authors limit their virtual tours to a maximum of ten stops in two weeks.
What kept me sane this month was that I wrote all of my articles except this one in April before my blog book tour started. I probably won’t have a good idea whether the blog tour was worth the effort until October--after I get my royalty statement and attend Bouchercon. I've heard a person needs to hear about an item five to seven times before making the "buy" decision. My hope is that the blog tour gave people some of those exposures to my books, so when I come to their location on my actual tour or to Bouchercon or they see my books later on-line or in a bookstore, they're ready to buy.
Another recommendation to new authors is to do as much as you can of your on-line work before your first book release. Set up your website and e-mail newsletter mailing service, join the e-mail lists for fans of your genre, and join the social networks you’ll have time to participate in. (I recommend Facebook and one of the book-reading sites such as Goodreads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing.) It takes a lot less time to maintain a presence on-line after you’ve set these all up and learned how to use them.
I’m constantly being asked what kinds of promotion work best and what authors should focus on. No one really knows the answer to this question. Magic can happen from any of your promotion efforts. I've gotten radio interviews from Facebook connections, blog site visit requests from Goodreads friends, book club invitations from library visits, you name it. It all feeds on itself. You do what fits your personality and what you have time for.
Remember my advice: Pace Yourself!
Comment on this article or comment on Beth's blog anytime during her blog book tour and you will be entered into a drawing for an autographed set of both books in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series: A REAL BASKET CASE and TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET. Good luck!