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.”
Karen 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.
Karen 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.”
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