Murder Lab Mistress
In response to my decision to self-publish, a conversation was sparked that weighs the benefits and advantages of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts and experiences, positive or negative, with either traditional or self-publishing.
In this discussion, Sara McBride asks the questions:
1. Self-publishing route: If I have $5000 to put into marketing my book, where should I focus my efforts?Personally, I believe in the mantra, "it's better to close one's mouth and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." So rather than attempting to answer Sara's questions, I leave this task to the experts. One such expert is Sunny Frazier, acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press. We will shortly be creating a publishing tab on this site, which will feature Sunny and OTP. In the meantime, please check out both and feel free to "press" them with further publishing questions. Sunny's answers to Sara's question follow..
2. Traditional (meaning a small to medium press, not necessarily a "big six"): What kind of budget does a medium indy press devote to marketing, and where does a press focus its efforts?
If you have $5000 in your coffers for marketing, you have about $4075 more than the rest of us! Look, writers are the ultimate starving artists and usually have a "real" job to support their writing.Just one. Readers, how do YOU market your books?
First, don't give any of that cash away to some promotion outfit. There are so many people making money off of clueless authors--that's how they make their money. I push free marketing venues, and with so many sites on the Internet, why is anyone paying for exposure?
Instead, get a website if you don't already have one up and running. Plenty of templates on the Internet to use. If you don't have the technical skills for one or find it a hassle (like me--lazy!), find a web person. I have a terrific webmistress (check my website out; her name is at the bottom and she's a gem: http://www.sunnyfrazier.com. She can ensure that your name pops up first when people google you. She sets you up with a URL. I pay about $100 yearly to keep my URL. She designs the site and works with you until you are happy with it. Both the charges are tax exemptions.
In fact, invest in a tax person who will bother to learn the codes for authors. Yes, we have different paperwork. My tax lady studied for a year when I informed her I was getting published.
Then, use the rest of the money to go to conventions. NOT writing conferences. I'm assuming you're writing mysteries. Only go to mystery conventions. My first one, I connected with J.A. Jance, who became my mentor. Sue Grafton and I hung out at a smaller one. Network like crazy. Stay in the conference hotel, the action happens on a moments notice (especially in the bar). One convention will eat up that budget. Find people to carpool and room with. You won't be spending any time in the room except to crash from exhaustion. Watch how authors handle panels and then try to get on a panel once your book is out. This is the only way you get a signing at the event. Eat as much free food as you can. Sign up for the Saturday sessions only if you want. Friday is usually just social as people are flying in, Sunday, people rush to get home.
There are large and small conventions all over the country. The Big Daddy is Bouchercon. This year it's in New York, I believe. Malice Domestic doesn't move around, it's always in DC. That's the cozy convention. Left Coast Crime is always somewhere west of the Rockies, this year in Colorado Springs. Love Is Murder is on next week in Chicago. Killer Nashville is more for beginning authors like yourself, different from the fan conventions listed above. Next year, we in California hit gold as we get both Bcon (Long Beach) and LCC (Monterey).
Join Sisters in Crime National and find a local chapter. This is where you will eventually do lots of signings. There are chapters all over the country and they are always looking for speakers. Join several. I'm in three. Men are always welcomed, we refer to them as "Mister Sisters." Don't tell Sarah Peretsky, she's is rabid about their inclusion.
Find cheap marketing give-aways. Postcards are passe. I plant something in my books that I can bounce off of for a promotional item. Boxes of raisins, astrology pencils and fortune cookies with my name and book title in fortune cookies for "Fools Rush In." Amber pill bottles with candy hearts and a "prescription" label with my book cover and title pasted on. Red licorice whips (Red Vines) because "Where Angels Fear" is about sex clubs and has a whip on the cover. Authors love anything edible. I've got hourglass pens and will be looking for turkey items at Thanksgiving to promote my next book, "A Snitch In Time." There are lots of fun sites to order this stuff. Keep it cheap. Be creative.
Order a cake with your book cover on it for your launch party. That's another expense when the time comes.
Don't buy books on marketing. They are old news as soon as they are published. This industry changes. Don't do what others are doing. Be unique. At conventions, go to the freebie table and see what other authors have come up with.
Oh yeah, that other question. Budget? Whatever we can scrape up. Most don't have a PR department. My publisher, Oak Tree, now has a woman who does it. Jeana handles the bookstore notifications, designs promo pages to send out, releases announcements, keeps a list of reviewers and sends out ARCs and the catalog. The publisher springs for ads in convention books and sometimes pays for business cards for the authors and entry fees for award contests. I do grass roots marketing using all my connections and I've developed the Friday Round-Up on the OTP blog. I also work individually with authors and keep an eye out for promotional opportunities for them. I do it for free.