Marketing Is More Than Saying “Buy My Book!”
Writing the words in your story is just where it begins.
There is more. So much more. That is, if you are a novelist who isn’t just writing for yourself (a noble calling) and who wants anyone other than your family and neighbors (if even them) to actually read what you write. Or if you are not (yet) a branded, big-name author with an invested, devoted following—that rare but impressive small group of authors who I will admirably and enviously refer to as “Big Shots.”
What exactly is the “more” to which I refer?
For convenience’s sake, I’m going to break it down into two categories:
The first category is what many novelists are doing or arranging to have done for them. This is the boring, tedious stuff I hate doing and leave to others to do for me to the extent that it doesn’t break the bank (spelled “MY” bank). I also don’t worry about the ROI (return on investment) of these activities as much as The Wife says I should. As a whole, these are the things that are fairly ineffective, unless you are one of those Big Shots I mentioned above, in which case it works because they really don’t need it to work to begin with. Kind of like those banks who prefer to lend only to those who don’t need a loan.
In the second category, we have what few, if any, novelists are doing or arranging to have done for them. This is the creative, fun stuff that I love as much as I love writing my novels. These are also not that cheap . . . but they are affordable and they work.
There are two groups of follow-up promotional tasks that every novelist must undertake. In the first group of promotional tasks, the boring stuff that I thankfully leave to others to do for me, we can include coming up with a great title and back-cover synopsis for your novel; designing a good book cover and interior; figuring out where your book is going to be sold and at what price points; how you’re going to get it reviewed; how and where you’re going to get it publicized, promoted, and advertised; and how you’re going to get it endorsed by authors and other influencers. If you want to know more about how to do those things, Google will gladly provide you with a long list of experts who will tell you how to do all that or how to hire them to do all of that for you for a mere pittance that will likely turn out to be more than you will make from your writing. Enough said about that by me.
The second promotional group is the creative, fun stuff that I find actually works. Writing exciting blogs, newsletters, and guest articles (like this one) will work—to the extent that “exciting” and “blogging” aren’t oxymoronic and mutually exclusive. But what will be even more effective—and is certainly a lot more fun—at least until this lane becomes as clogged as writing blogs and newsletters and posting on social media is . . . wait for it . . . producing videos. Not just boring videos that are nothing more than visual versions of blogs, posts, and newsletters that just say in one way or another, “buy my book.”
Because a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words (the approximate length of this blog), let’s take an example (maybe three). Consider the latest novel in my Brooks/Lotello thriller series, PAYBACK, about a writer wannabe (who also happens to be a serial killer) at a week-long annual writers conference where literary luminaries start mysteriously dropping like flies because our writer thinks he is not receiving the respect and attention he deserves. It is allegedly patterned after a well-known writers’ conference, and most readers of mystery, crime, suspense, and thriller novels will instantly recognize the literary stars.
One reader asked me if Payback is autobiographical!
That started me thinking. Watch WRITING A MURDERER, the eight-part video series that I scripted, produced, and co-starred in (I’m the cute one on the left) to promote PAYBACK. The eight free episodes of this video series, is Exhibit A of what I call the creative fun stuff.
Each episode was around 2 to 3 minutes long and aired every Tuesday and Friday evening throughout the appropriate period on my YouTube Channel, which you can access HERE. You can binge watch it now, but you could only watch the latest episode (and earlier ones) when you logged onto my YouTube Channel when this series originally viewed. And to discover the twist at the end, you had to stick with the series until the final episode when all was revealed! There were no spoilers.
Why did I put Writing a Murderer together? First and foremost because it was different and fun, especially getting to be a ham in front of the camera and mixing it up with Charlie, the serial killer. Second, because I was looking for a creative way to promote the release of my then latest novel, PAYBACK. And third, thanks to state of the art smartphone technology, because videos can be economically and easily made today.
Did it work? I will tell you this much. As of the writing of this article, Writing a Murderer was watched more than a quarter of a million times in less than two months. For those who weren’t math majors and don’t have their smartphones handy, that’s about two additional views every minute, or about one every 30 seconds, around the clock, seven days a week. That doesn’t exactly make me a rock star, but it’s not bad for a novelist, and it certainly hasn’t been bad for Payback. It promotes sales of Payback every time it’s watched. Without saying “Buy my book!”
Earlier, I promised you three examples. Not to disappoint, here are three less circumspect and more traditional videos I developed to promote the other novels in my Brooks/Lotello thriller series THE AMENDMENT KILLER, and THE PUPPET MASTER and JK’s CODE.
And to wrap up this blog with even more video marketing insights, I sat down with two of my Writing a Murderer creative cohorts in a Zoom panel PRESENTATION for Virtual Thrillerfest 2020.
Can you craft your Writing a Murderer too? You won’t know until you try.