Category Archives: Book Marketing

FIND A LOCAL CONNECTION FOR IN-PERSON APPEARANCES

I have been doing signings, readings, and presentations for several years now, and I’ve had by far the best results when what I was peddling had some sort of connection to the location where I appeared. I’ve noticed that attendees gravitate toward other authors’ books with local connections as well. This has been particularly true at author fairs and other mass-signing type events.

I have a couple of theories for why this is the case. I think, except for the rare voracious, super-passionate reader and authors, the general reading public doesn’t care so much about local authors. They’re more interested in the household names and those authors whose books appear at the top of the best-seller lists. So when they go to a mass book/author fair, they are going to be looking for some connection for making a purchase. Unless you happen to be a local author who has one of those household names, the connection is going to be a geographic connection. Since the attendee is likely to be a resident of the location hosting an event, your book about or taking place in or near that locale will probably fare better than your general thrillers, romances, etc.

Another reason book fair attendees look for some sort of connection, of which the geographic is going to most easily satisfy, is there are just too many books available. They want to purchase a book but aren’t able to purchase them all, so they gravitate towards books in which they again feel some connection. If you’re a relatively unknown author (which most of us are), you need something to hook in potential buyers when there’s so much competition. Having a book where readers can say, “Hey, I’ve been there,” foots the bill.

My first four books (two poetry, two novels) have no particular geographic connection. The two poetry books have no geographic identity, one novel is set in a generic unnamed Illinois town, and the third is based in Camanche, Iowa, but with no strong sense of that place. My fifth book, a novel, takes place in Camanche, Iowa, and the story is set off by an actual event, a tornado that occurred on June 3, 1860. I’ve had the most success, by far, with this book because Camanche is only about 1/2 hour away from where I currently live. It’s done really well at Camanche and Clinton County author fairs and other events. 

My most recent book is a poetry book with pieces written while hiking northwest Illinois and east Iowa State Parks. It is too early to tell how well it’s going to do, but I know it’s local chances are greater, so much so that I’m focusing on local marketing rather than online. I was able to get it for sale at the Quad Cities Convention & Visitor Bureau gift shops, the first book I’ve even tried to get offered for sale there because I know that visitors most likely aren’t interested in local authors’ books, but they may be interested in books about the area their visiting. We’ll see.

Do you have any thoughts or experience with selling geographic-focused books in person? If so, I’d love to hear about them, so please comment.

Start Planning Your Book Marketing Today

When I surveyed a group of authors late last year, the number one thing respondents said was holding them back (a full third) was getting started in planning their book marketing. So I’ve created a mini-course guiding you through three simple things you can do to start planning your book marketing.

Here’s a video with more information:

Ready to take the course? Go here to sign up.

Author Spotlight: Mary Davidsaver – In Her Own Words

Thank you to Mary Davidsaver for this guest blog post about how she’s approached marketing her first book, Clouds Over Bishop Hill.

Mary Davidsaver, in her own words:

Mary DavidsaverMy book came out last summer and I had the opportunity to schedule its launch over the two days of Bishop Hill’s Ag Days weekend. I was the fortunate beneficiary of all the publicity that came with a major event weekend for a town that’s been promoting itself as a tourist destination for decades. It has suffered through a downturn in visitation, but it still was a great boost for me. Having my book available in Bishop Hill shops was always in the marketing plan, and I have my book placed in two.

I was also fortunate in that I had another well-publicized book release at the Midwest Writing Center in Davenport, [Iowa,] before its move to Rock Island[, Illinois].

Those events and sales through Amazon pretty much took me through the end of 2016 in pretty good shape for sales numbers.

“Sticky notes are my life – photo of the virtual ones I’m using to try and organize myself.”

Marketing is necessary, but it’s definitely out of my comfort zone. I have to be in it for the long game, and it’s an ongoing effort to stay focused. But the New Year has begun and this is where the heavy lifting of my marketing plan begins.

My marketing plan began as a one-page proposal I drafted for my 2015 pitch to MWC Press. It was basically a brainstorming session of everything I’d learned from having my own craft-based business, from marketing workshops I’d attended through the Midwest Writing Center, and a lot of “Why not try this?” ideas.

Out of the 17 items I had on my original list, I can check off ten as used in one way or another. I have: made personal appearances, published press releases, networked with the QC Convention & Visitors Bureau, consigned books in Bishop Hill shops, created a Facebook author page, created a Goodreads author page, created a Kindle book, updated my mailing list, entered contests, and followed what other authors have done. Can I do more with these? Yes, of course.

I’ve had the best results with press coverage with my old hometown newspaper. I haven’t paid for any advertising yet. My major expenses so far have been for travel, my Davenport release, and giving away books for review and goodwill.

The surprise income has been from a couple of panels I’ve been on. It was nice to get paid and the exposure to public speaking was very beneficial. I think the timing of the panels was perfect for my interview for Scribble on WVIK. I had intended to send out a query for that radio show, but a sudden cancellation and a friendly referral came through for me. I was prepared and able to help Don Wooten and Roald Tweet make it a good show.

I’m following one piece of advice about not overextending my personal resources. I’m focusing my social media use with the Facebook author page first—Goodreads, second. Those will be ongoing projects that entail growing visitation by using contests.

And speaking of contests, one of my New Year’s resolutions has been to make an effort to enter as many writing contests as I can find that seem appropriate for me. The costs will be spread out over monthly budgets. The Total Funds for Writers website, the paid version of Funds for Writers, has been a major asset.

I feel that I’m still in the early stages of implementing my marketing plan. I need to work with what I have and be on the lookout for anything new that might help me.

Next year at this time I’ll have a better sense of what worked for me and what didn’t. Right now I have to be open to all opportunities.

My best advice about marketing is to be open to anything that will promote your book and you as an author. Look for local resources and workshops. Remain flexible. New things and ideas will open up. Try to push yourself outside the usual comfort zone.

Clouds Over Bishop HillClouds Over Bishop Hill was published by MWC Press, an imprint of the Midwest Writing Center, in August, 2016. It is my first book.

Brief synopsis: A reckless driver sends recent college grad, Shelley Anderson, off the road and into the mysterious past of folk artist Olof Krans. Drafted into searching for Krans’s last portrait, her only clues are an old woman’s dreams and an uncle’s guilty conscience. How dangerous will it be to find a lost treasure?

I’ve kept my website simple, only one page, for now.  I found Weebly.com easy to use and I haven’t begun paying for any extras yet.

http://marydavidsaver.weebly.com/

Facebook author page:

https://www.facebook.com/MaryDavidsaverAuthor/

I haven’t begun paying for anything extra here either. I imagine that will change soon.

I’ve used my blog as a tool for writing about the progress of the novel and for helping out other writers when I can.

http://marydavidsaver.blogspot.com/

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15698205.Mary_R_Davidsaver

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Mary-R.-Davidsaver/e/B01LQNU9TQ/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Scribble interview:
http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wvik/audio/2016/11/SCRIB_1646.MP3

Mary Davidsaver is a retired jewelry designer who has written for local newspapers since 2007. She is a member of the Midwest Writing Center who has won two Iron Pen first place awards. In 2013, she was the first local writer to win the Great River Writer’s Retreat Contest. She has published her first novel with MWC Press.

Trouble with Book Marketing? You may be standing in your own way.

rhino-road-blockThis post originally appeared on the Book Marketing Tools blog with the title, “Get Out of Your Own Way To Market Your Books.”

I have something controversial to tell you. You are not required to market your books. Book marketing is a choice, and you are entitled to choose to not do it. You most likely won’t sell a lot of books, but if that’s not what you’re after as a writer, that’s okay.

When you think about marketing your books or yourself as a “marketer,” what thoughts come into your mind, and what feelings come into your body? Do you feel like a sleazy used car salesperson (and no, not everyone in used car sales is sleazy)? Do you think only already rich and famous people can sell books? Do you have doubts about whether or not your book is even good enough to deserve to be sold?

These thoughts and feelings are called limiting beliefs.

And they work against you by giving you an excuse to resist starting or continuing to market your books.

It’s just your ego’s way of protecting you.

From feeling threatened, or unloved, or out of control. It’s okay to have these feelings. Anyone who’s being honest with themselves and others has had limiting beliefs surrounding marketing their books.

The difference between the ones who market their books and the ones that let these thoughts and feelings cripple them is a matter of releasing. Laura Leigh Clarke of Prosperity QM (prosperityqm.com) can teach you, in detail, about releasing limiting beliefs (and all kinds of other emotional baggage), but for you as a book marketer, it’s essentially a matter of acknowledging you have those beliefs, visualizing letting them go (or symbolically by writing them on a piece of paper and destroying it), and then doing what you need to do to market your books anyway.

Of course, like I said, this is all assuming that you want to market your books. So first, it’s best to examine your goals for your books and define what success looks like for you as an author. If it’s to win a certain award or simply to just keep writing, you may actually need to do very little marketing. If your definition of success is to be listed as a New York Times bestseller or sell a million books, you’re likely going to need to do some book marketing. Unless your book marketing plan is to rely on luck, and maybe fate, which is entirely your choice.

Limiting beliefs are just one aspect of mindset.

Keeping other things in mind and developing a healthy attitude toward book marketing are also part of it.

So remember…

You are not like a sleazy used car salesperson; you are simply an author letting readers know about a book in which they might be interested in reading. There is no one-size-fits-all, magic formula, silver bullet, or other get-rich-quick cliché in book marketing. It all needs to be tailored to what makes sense for your author goals, success definition, readers, book, and available time and finances. You can never know for sure if a certain marketing tactic is going to work until you try it, but if you believe it’s not going to work, it won’t.

Give up any sense of entitlement.

Forget about whining that you shouldn’t have to market your books. The truth is that everyone has to market their books. Even those celebrities had to become celebrities before they had an audience scrambling to buy their books. Rid your vocabulary of “if only”; if only I could do this, then I could sell a million books (or accomplish your definition of success).

Marketing a book is not easy. But it can be less painful, and dare I say it, even fun and satisfying, if you develop a healthy book marketing mindset. So let go of those limiting beliefs and tell your fears and doubts, “Thank you, but I think I’ll try it anyway.”

To learn a specific technique for releasing your limiting beliefs around book marketing, check out my YouTube video here.

Author Spotlight: Karen Nortman – Camping Novelist

Karen Nortman

Karen Nortman is the author of seven titles in the Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries Series and two titles in the Time Travel Trailer Series, all published between 2012 and 2016.

Karen began writing the campground mysteries because she thought the cozy mysteries would be a good complement to the camping environment, and there weren’t any at the time she started writing them. She said, “About 8-9 million households in American own some kind of RV–and that doesn’t count tent campers. When people camp, even if they have TV, often they don’t have much reception, so my plan was to write short, light mysteries that could be read in a weekend, with a cast of retirees and occasional mishaps typical of campgrounds.”

Trailer on the FlyKaren hasn’t had any formal marketing plans as she’d rather be writing, but she has gradually built up a readership. She finds book marketing a necessary chore and difficult. This attitude hasn’t changed since publishing her first book, though her marketing efforts have adapted over the years. At first, Karen thought she would be able to tell people about her books through RV’ing forums, but that didn’t work out. So she now takes advantage of her camping-related niche by distributing postcards with recipes on one side and information about her books on the other. “I give out two or three books in each campground we stay in. I also leave copies in exchange libraries in campgrounds. For me, word of mouth is still the best advertising. I once received an email from a man in Australia that he heard about my books in an Australian campground!”

Karen offers her first book in e-book form for $.99, which includes a note at the end offering the second title free to anyone who signs up for her email list. She said, “I send out a newsletter to that list about once a month with news about books I have coming out, when one of my books will be free, and any awards I may have won. I also tell people what I’m reading and occasionally give away $5 Amazon gift certificates. A few people unsubscribe as soon as they have their free book, but it’s a pretty small percentage.” She rounds out her marketing efforts by offering a free day or two a month for most of her books, which are in the Kindle Select program. Then, she posts on RV Facebook pages about the free books. “The free days usually boost sales and help with reviews.” She stated she hasn’t used Twitter as much as she should.

Campy ChristmasKaren has avoided paid advertising for the most part, though she did buy an ad in Outdoor Iowa once, but thought she got few sales from it. She also ran an ad on a camping website, but couldn’t evaluate her results well since the sales are through Amazon.

When asked what advice she’d give to other authors starting or planning to market their books, Karen said, “Don’t be discouraged–it’s a slow building process. Take advantage of local venues and writer’s workshops. It has been tremendously beneficial to me to exchange ideas with other authors. Especially if you are self-published, enter your books in contests and submit them to review sites. Some are quite expensive, but there are many that are free or charge a reasonable fee. Five of my books have been IndieBRAG medallion honorees. You can only submit one book at a time and it takes about six months for results, but I feel it helps with credibility.” On writing in general, she shared, “I think it’s important to provide readers with as many formats as you can. E-books are the easiest and certainly are my biggest sellers. But paperbacks are important for those without e-readers, book signings, craft shows, etc. Just this year I have finally gotten six of my books on Audible and they have done better than I expected.”

Learn more about Karen on her website, Amazon author page, Facebook page, or on Twitter @RVmysteryauthor. You can also email her at Karen.musser.nortman@gmail.com.

Karen’s books:

The Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries:

Bats and Bones, 2012
The Blue Coyote, 2013
Peete and Repeat, 2013
The Lady of the Lake, 2014
To Cache a Killer, 2015
A Campy Christmas, 2015
The Space Invader, 2016

The Time Travel Trailer Series:

The Time Travel Trailer, 2014
Trailer on the Fly, 2016

“Get Scrappy” with Book Marketing

Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small by Nick Westergaard is directly applicable to book marketing. What’s a smaller business than an author trying to sell his or her books? Often authors have a pretty good handle on talking to bookstores and libraries, getting appearances, holding signings, etc.. They may have varying degrees of success, but they at least know the concept well. However, they are often at a loss of how best to market their books online. Get Scrappy will not give you specific tactics on how to market your books online, but it will give you actionable steps about how-to clarify your overall strategy and goals in that effort.

Though all three of the book’s sections can be applied to book marketing, I happened to have my most “aha” moments while reading the first section: “Smart Steps You Can’t Skip.” It helps you get into a healthy mindset and think about the foundation of marketing and your goals; particularly, your brand’s goals. It then offers a way, using the classic, who, what, when, where, etc. to create your “marketing map,” helping you decide on which objective you should focus. If your objective is market research for writing your books, you can ask questions of your readers, having them vote on the next book cover or a subplot they’d like to see incorporated. Knowing why you’re using digital to market your book (objective) and knowing who you’re trying to reach (readers), will help you decide what to do to market your book.

The end of part one gives the basics of the current and most-used online marketing platforms. Nick purposely doesn’t explain how all of the available platforms work to reinforce his advice of avoiding being distracted by “shiny new things” As in other industries, there are always these shiny new things popping up to help you market your books. Chapter three helps you decide which shiny new thing to try and which to let go, giving you a framework for evaluating shiny new things that may pop up after Get Scrappy’s publication.

Part two provides advice to help you do more with less. As an author with a likely tiny marketing budgeting, doing more with less is essential. This naturally leads into part three which helps you decide how to do more with less by simplifying your efforts, including by connecting your online marketing to your offline.

Get Scrappy is more than just a book to read, it’s more of a marketing movement, a new way to approach marketing. It’s essentially a new way to think about marketing, including book marketing.

Source: Westergaard, Nick. Get Scrappy. (2016).American Management Association. New York.

(I received a free copy of Get Scrappy for review purposes.)

ERIK THERME: MYSTERY AUTHOR

Author photo (Erik Therme)Erik Therme has authored two mysteries: Mortom was originally self-published and then was acquired by Thomas & Mercer Publishing in 2015, and Resthaven was a 2016 Kindle Scout winner published through Kindle Press.

While Erik doesn’t use a formal marketing plan, he does keep organized: “I use a spreadsheet (of information) to make sure I don’t overlook anything when I release a new book. The spreadsheet contains everything from bloggers, promotional websites, to paid advertising opportunities.” His focus with marketing his first mystery, Mortom, was to build his fan base, which has helped him in marketing Resthaven. He said, “Now that I have a core group in place, they do a fantastic job of sharing my books with other readers, who then do the same. The great thing is that once you’ve hooked a reader with one book, they’re usually loyal to you for everything you write.”

eBook Cover (Mortom)Erik describes marketing as a necessary evil, but clarifies, “I’m OK with that.” He learned early on that even with a publisher, only big author names like Stephen King or John Grisham don’t need to extensively market their own work to be successful, but, Erik said, “Fortunately for me, I don’t mind the marketing process, as I view it as yet another way to be creative.” In fact, Erik has been surprised by how addictive book marketing has become for him. “After the release of Mortom, I spent the next six months doing nothing but promotion, and I neglected to do any new writing. The irony (as I’ve come to learn) is that the best marketing an author can do is to write more books, because each new book reaches new readers, which brings more fans into the fold. It’s definitely a challenge to find a balance between promoting and writing.”

Social media has been a big help to Erik in marketing his books, though he’s also done everything from hanging flyers on telephone poles, his least effective strategy, to handing out and leaving bookmarks at random places, “forgetting” copies in places like hotel lobbies when he travels, and donating copies to libraries through their return book slots. He describes Facebook as being “instrumental” in helping him market his books. He clarified, “That said, smart authors use Facebook to connect with people and develop relationships—not just as a platform to repeatedly shout BUY MY BOOK! That doesn’t work.” The least effective social media outlet for Erik has been Twitter, though he admits, “I struggle to share ‘quality’ content with my Tweets, and that could be part of the problem.”

eBook Cover (Resthaven)Erik has used paid promotional websites to advertise his books when they launched, with widely varying results. “It can often be a crap shoot, but it’s another good way to reach new readers. The most important thing is to set a budget, as fees can range anywhere from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars.”

When asked what advice he’d give to other authors starting or planning to soon start marketing their books, Erik said, “Connect with as many authors as you can. Most are friendly and generous with their time and advice, and many are happy to share your work with their own fans. Following authors on social media is also a great way to see how they promote their work, and many times I’ve discovered author events that I never knew existed. Lastly, reviews (in my opinion) are incredibly important to a book’s success. Mortom has been released for over a year, and I still work hard to find readers to review the book.” On writing in general, he shared, “A writer writes first and foremost because they love to write. Most of us aren’t in this for the money. But if you are serious about making a go of it, you have to treat your writing like a business to be successful.”

Learn more about Erik on his website, Facebook page, and via Twitter. Learn more about Mortom here and Resthaven here.

 

Erik’s books:

Mortom (Thomas & Mercer, 2015) is a “follow-the-clues” type mystery about a guy who receives a hidden inheritance.

Resthaven (Kindle Press, 2016), Kindle Scout winner, is a young adult mystery about a group of kids who have a scavenger hunt inside an abandoned retirement home.

Win “Get Scrappy” for Book Marketing

I’m trying something new and running a Rafflecopter giveaway for a signed copy of Get Scrappy by Nick Westergaard. If you win, you also get a bookmark and sticker.

ScrappyWin

Get Scrappy is about “smarter digital marketing for businesses big and small.” As an author, you are a small business that needs to focus when it comes to marketing. Get Scrappy will help you. Among other things, it will teach you how to do more with less and think long term.

I know Nick from when I took his Social Media Marketing class while getting my MBA from the University of Iowa. I’ve also attended the last two Social Brand Forums held in the fall, which brings in top names from the digital marketing industry. He works with the biggest business from the Fortune 500 list down to the smallest, local entrepreneurs. I also enjoy his weekly podcast, On Brand.

Nick is a great, fun guy from the great state of Iowa. I have no reservations in recommending anything he produces, so…

ScrappyWin

Get Any Mentor You Want

C. Hope Clark
C. Hope Clark

Though I don’t recommend blindly copying what other authors are doing to market their books, because there is no one-size-fits-all, magic-bullet book marketing solution, and what works for one author or book, might not work for you or yours, I do recommend keeping updated on what other authors are doing and borrowing those ideas that make sense.

Mentors are important in almost everything we do, but most of us can’t afford to hire one, and those that we really admire are likely beyond our reach. (Could you imagine the answer if you contacted Stephen King and asked him to be your mentor?) Luckily, though, with today’s technology, you can be mentored (at least to a degree) by anyone you want. And you don’t need their permission, and they don’t even have to know they’re mentoring you.

Gabriela Pereira discusses this notion of a “virtual mentor” in her book, diyMFA. To apply it to finding a marketing mentor, simply find an author you admire, study their websites, subscribe to their newsletters, and follow them on all of their social media outlets. Try to choose mentors who have books similar to or at least in the same genre as yours. Choose someone who you view as being “successful” in marketing their books.

Don’t copy everything your chosen mentors do; simply watch what they do and harvest ideas that make sense for you and your book. Try some out and evaluate what you try so you can stop doing anything that doesn’t work for you.

Joanna Penn
Joanna Penn

Inspired by Gabriela, I have chosen two mentors who I view as more than marketing mentors for me, but more as lifestyle mentors. They are Joanna Penn and C. Hope Clark. Both of these authors have several successful fiction books and they are running successful businesses which also help authors. Joanna’s thrillers are published under J.F. Penn and her website, thecreativepenn.com, helps authors with all aspects of writing, including marketing. She has several courses, books, and other content for free download and sale. Hope has written several successful mysteries and she runs fundsforwriters.com, which helps authors earn an income from, in addition to marketing books, freelancing, crowdfunding, grants, and other income-generating activities involving writing.

Of course, I don’t want to be exactly like either of these women; I have to offer something unique. My model is writing historical fiction books and helping authors with book marketing, including the writing craft and editing insofar as this relates to the product part of book marketing. Watching what they do is helping to inspire me and is giving me ideas to tweak and use to promote myself and my own books.

Who would be your ideal mentor? Please share as a comment below.

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: MISTY URBAN

button headshot

Misty Urban’s latest book is a short-story collection published by Snake Nation Press, A Lesson in Manners. These ten stories “offer a how-to manual for dealing with love, lies, loss, and loneliness.” Her other published book-length work is Monstrous Women in Middle English Romance, which won the D. Simon Evans Dissertation Prize for Medieval Studies and was published by Edwin Mellen Press in 2010.

The first time Misty thought about book marketing was with A Lesson in Manners’ publication; she created a marketing plan for the collection after completing Midwest Writing Center’s Book Marketing Workshop Series (led by yours truly). She said, “The class gave me a template for a marketing plan that encouraged me to develop a sense of how I wanted to present the book and brand myself as an author. Portions of the template prompted me to think about competing books and how mine compares, identify my ideal reader, and decide how and where I wanted to promote the book. The marketing plan gave me practical tools for tracking the financials, keeping a schedule, and collecting press clips. I would have figured all this out on my own eventually, through trial and error, but the guidance offered by the class was enormously helpful. Having a marketing plan helped me enjoy the publishing process and feel I was prepared for the next step.”

Because the medieval study was a “high-priced, highly specialized book” and she knew her target audience was small, she didn’t spend much time thinking about or marketing it. When A Lesson in Manners was picked up by Snake Nation for publication, she knew she would need to do more marketing to find the wider audience to which the collection appeals. “Signing up for the book marketing class was my first step, and it really made me plan in advance. I decided how I wanted to brand myself as an author, selected my platforms, decided which tools I would use, and learned about other marketing networks and resources I could participate in. I actually want people to read this book, so that’s motivating.”

Misty said she ended up enjoying marketing more than she thought she would. “I thought at first ‘marketing’ meant ‘trying to get someone to buy something,’ and I felt really uncomfortable about having to get in people’s faces and beg them to buy my book. But then I decided to think about marketing as a process of visibility. I get my book out there, on the website, on the shelf, and then let the reader decide if it’s something they want to buy. It’s a short-story collection from a tiny press, so let’s face it, I do not expect great sales. But if my book means something to the people who read it—if it gets talked about, passed around, maybe taught in a class or two—that, to my mind, is the pinnacle of success. What I’m really interested in is seeing a community of readers grow around the book, seeing how people respond to it. That’s the real payoff for the marketing time spent.”

When asked what has surprised her most about the book marketing process, Misty said, “I think the biggest hurdle I overcame was getting the right mindset. I feel much more at ease when marketing is an outgrowth of my larger participation in a literary community: talking to readers, talking to authors, networking, teaching, holding and attending events. I’m a writing teacher (composition and creative writing), and I run the writing center at the local community college, and I also participate in a local community writer’s group. As a teacher I get invited to run workshops and do classroom talks, so I feel like my larger contribution is as a teacher and literary crusader and then, by the way, here’s my book. I don’t like to sit behind a table and try to answer the question of ‘why your book, and not the book of the person sitting next to you, or a nice steak dinner?’ Um—because it’s my book? Only I can tell those stories? But if it’s medium-rare, and there will be wine, then honestly? Maybe the steak. Having the marketing part be one piece of my larger participation in a literary community takes away much of the humiliation and aversion I feel about self-promotion.”

Misty has learned the value of having professionally printed promotional materials, like bookmarks, to give away. She’s enjoyed more interactive personal appearances like readings, question/answer sessions, craft talks, or discussions about writing and publishing. When she has a table, she fills it with things that would appeal to those who don’t buy her book at that event. “I printed up acquaintance cards and flirtation cards, old-fashioned calling cards that people can take with them, along with my business card. I have handouts on how to do a formal place setting, a riff on the etiquette theme. Lately, because I like to feed people, I’ve been bringing snacks ‘developed’ by different characters. At my book launch party, I had a table of displays and a table of prizes inspired by the book. It’s a way to give people a feel for the book when there’s not a narrative to summarize.”

By far, the most successful marketing tool Misty has used is her website. She said, “Years ago I bought my own domain and paid for a website hosting service so I could have e-mail as well as full control over design and functionality. I wanted a professional online presence to help collect and describe my work as a scholar, teacher, and short-story author, to distinguish me from the other Misty Urbans floating around the world. (There are more of us!) I’ve switched to WordPress as my CMS, because it’s free and flexible, easy to update, and it comes with built-in tools to handle things like comments and subscriptions. I don’t have a huge following, but when you Google ‘Misty Urban,’ my site is the first link that comes up. So that’s useful for people who are gathering information or following along from home.”

Misty has used a mixture of learning from other authors’ experiences as well as getting creative on her own to expand her marketing toolbox. “When Manners came out, I sent out the book for review to a few places, and I’m lucky that the response so far has been welcoming. I was warned in advance that sending out cold copies is a waste of time, so instead I just chose to send free copies as gifts to the writers who have most helped or influenced me. If they want to give me a blurb or review, great, but I mostly wanted to share my pride in my book. I’ve also been told not to read Amazon or Goodreads reviews, ever, but I ignored that advice immediately. My reviews are coming from people who read with care and honesty and interest, and their thoughts mean a lot to me.

“I’m also trying two new tactics that were my own brainstorm. I recorded audio of certain stories and put those up on my website as samplers. And I’m currently hosting a contest for readers to write their own story inspired by the book. A couple of professional publicists who heard about this didn’t think it was great as a marketing strategy—too much time for too little return, they said—but for me, and my hopes to network with other writers and participate in a writing community, it’s perfect. I love hearing other people’s work and I already have a few entries. I might come up with more such reader-interactive activities and contests in the future—quizzes, games, whatever.”

Other than bookmarks, postcards, business cards, and other promotional items, Misty hasn’t used any paid advertising but said she might consider Facebook post boosts, Goodreads ads, or other paid advertising in the future. At this point though, she doesn’t think paid advertising would net a great enough return given where A Lesson in Manners is currently distributed. For social media, Misty uses Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest. She also has a LinkedIn profile.

I asked Misty what advice she had about selling and marketing books for authors who just completed a first book or are about to be published. She said, “Have a marketing plan! It’s so essential to get things organized from the beginning. Spend the time thinking about what how you want to brand yourself—what kind of presence you want to have as an author? What kind of publicity do you want to do? The very best thing the book marketing workshop taught me was to play to your strengths, make sure you’re having fun, and don’t do anything you don’t want to do. My own advice is to be strategic about the methods you employ. You really do have to budget your time. Maintaining websites, being active on social media, subscribing to the blogs and reading the book marketing books will take up the mental space and energy you need for writing your next book. Have a plan, have a budget, set your limits, and retool as you go.”

On the writing life in general, Misty said, “Heaven knows the writing is agony—Getting the words on the page! Revising the words! Getting the words fit for publication!—exhilarating, but also agony. The book marketing shouldn’t be. Do try to have fun. Do what rewards your time and energy, sparks you with inspiration, makes you want to get busy writing. Connecting with readers is hugely satisfying—hugely!—and having somebody read and love my book validates my career, my life, my worth as a human being. But at the end of the day, being read or not being read won’t stop me from writing. It’s the writing I really love.”

Learn more about Misty at her website or Facebook page or about A Lesson in Manners on her Goodreads page.

Misty’s books:

A Lesson in Manners (Snake Nation Press, 2016), short story collection: Ten very different stories that offer a how-to manual for dealing with love, lies, loss, and loneliness.

Monstrous Women in Middle English Romance (Edwin Mellen Press, 2010), winner of the D. Simon Evans Dissertation Prize for Medieval Studies. A study of Melusine, Constance, Medea, and murderous women.