“One of my first bosses in the industry told me that publishing is a hits-based business. Publish enough books, the hits will buoy up the titles that don’t sell many copies. Now more than ever, it feels like there’s often a push from on high for more volume – throw more at the wall and more will stick – but often, it’s very much a case of more for less: more books without more marketing spend; more output but no more budget for quality editorial and design; more authors but no more resourcing to ensure good author management.”
From an article in The Bookseller, May 2nd(NB the link may not be accessible for everyone).
She has a new book out!
This time she’s giving us a mystery set in one of her much-loved English country towns, Murder Among the Roses. I pre-ordered it and read it in one gulp, deep into the night. I can tell you, it has her signature tone of kindly humour, allied with a cracker of a mystery!
As a fellow writer who is pretty clueless about all things marketing, I wanted to ask Liz about the practicalities of promoting a book which is, for her, a new type of story.
Promoting a book: when to start and who does what
Q1 When did you start to tell people about Murder Among the Roses, Liz?
Has it set you any new challenges?
Thank you, Sophie, for that wonderful introduction. And for the question.
Promoting a book, unless you are already a guaranteed best-seller, is – as the quote from this week’s copy of The Bookseller testifies – very much down to the author.
Writing for many years for a publisher who promoted the brand over authors, I quickly learned that any promotion for my books was entirely down to me. I’ve been learning on the job for the past thirty years, but these days it’s a lot more than sending a press release to your local paper and radio station – although these are both still very important. As is making friends with your local bookshop and library. My local bookshop is running an event for me to celebrate Crime Reading Month.
The received wisdom is to start six months in advance of a new release, but I didn’t have a title or a cover or even a buy link until very late. So there was little I could do until about month before publication date, other than put the publicist I have used in the past on stand by.
Q2 We hear about desperately overworked publicists and marketeers in publishing. How do you co-ordinate?
The article in The Bookseller was pretty depressing but it’s something most of us have known for a long time.
This is my first book with Joffe Books, but despite everything running very close to the wire, they have been brilliant. Again quoting The Bookseller “There are publishers who…. give each title the best possible chance and spread their marketing resourcing evenly and realistically across their catalogue.” Joffe, I’m thrilled to say, are in that number.
Their publicity team have produced graphics and a stunning book trailer. They put Murder Among the Roses on Netgalley, organised a blog tour and sent it out to their own review team. Then, once the book was released, they were all over social media with it.
Short of putting it on the side of a bus, they couldn’t have done more. In return I did my best to share it on my blog and my social media.
My own input was to engage Nas Dean, a publicist I’ve used for years. She has her own review team and she organised five or six blogs on cooking sites (using a recipe from the book), and on writing and gardening sites (my amateur sleuth is a garden designer). A lesson in promotional thinking outside the box.
Promoting a book for free
Q3 Everyone knows that publicity is expensive. What can you do to get the word out there without it costing an arm and a leg?
There is quite a lot you can do that will cost nothing, Sophie, beyond your precious time.
Assuming that you have a website or blog to keep your readers up to date with what you’re doing, Amazon should be your first stop on the promotion trail.
If you haven’t got an Author Central page, make it the next thing you do. Check that all your books are listed there – it’s simple to add them. Once you have that, readers will be able to follow you on your Amazon sales page and they will get notifications of new releases (make sure new books are on your page as soon as you have a pre-order link) by email and on their Alexa.
You will no doubt have noticed that authors with mainstream publishers have some striking images on their book pages. (Check out your favourite authors if you haven’t noticed them.) The good news is that if you have self-published your book on Amazon, you can do that too. (Here’s one I did earlier!)
There are helpful guidelines here – A+ Content (amazon.com) . And, on the left hand sidebar of that page you’ll find a list of ways you can promote on Amazon.
BookBub also offer free way to market your book. Sign up for your author page, add your books and use a Bookbub graphic on your social media to encourage people to follow you.
Add new books as soon as they have an online listing. Much like the Amazon author page, these will be added to BookBub emails to your followers. Reviewing books you’ve enjoyed will help raise your profile and follower numbers. And do follow authors whose books you enjoy.
Once you have 1000 followers, you can use their pre-order alert, which costs just a few dollars, depending on the number of followers you have.
Received wisdom is that a newsletter is the most important item in your promotional arsenal. Initially it’s free at somewhere like Mailchimp, but expect to pay once you get above a certain number of subscribers. Encourage new subscribers with a free short story or book as an inducement to sign up. You can also ask subscribers if they’d like a review copy of your book.
If you offer that on any social media platform, you will be inundated with people who offer to review – usually for $35. Don’t go there. I’m pretty sure Amazon will take a dim view.
Finally, the biggest freebie is social media and for this, Canva is your best friend. The basic version is free and Getting started with Canva – Design School offers all the help you need to get started. I used it to make the graphics for Amazon A+
It can feel that you’re standing in the middle of the room and shouting when using social media for promoting a book, but the images pass at lightning speed and followers will be in many different time zones. Use tags and hashtags to help spread the word. And if you have them, use your pets.
People love animals. Kate Hardy’s spaniels (and her amazing needlework) have a following of their own on Facebook.
With Twitter, more is definitely more, but use a variety of images to mix things up a bit and quotes from reviews. But don’t just use it for promoting a book. Engage with people. Share your life. Share your Wordle. Create a tribe.
I haven’t yet got to grips with Tiktok but Fiona Lucas has a Tiktok for Authors group on Facebook where you’ll find a lot of help.
Promoting a book by paying for it
Q4 If you decide to invest some cash, what options are there to promote the book, especially to new readers?
My advice is to set yourself a budget and be thoughtful about where you spend it.
My favourite has to be a blog tour – the price will vary on the number of people and days involved.
The best blog tour organisers get booked up very quickly, so get in touch at least three months in advance. You will be paying for the organisation involved. The readers who sign up to review your book get nothing but a free book. They are self-selected volunteers, so presumably enjoy the kind of book you have written. Be very, very grateful.
BookBub also do promotions of book deals, but competition for a place is fierce and it’s expensive. Don’t even think about it unless your book is on sale for 99p or you’re offering the first book in an established series for free.
As I’ve said, along with many of my colleagues, I use the services of publicist, Nas Dean, who always does a really good job of promoting a new release.
Q5 How do you identify the message you want to promote? Is the publisher’s strapline enough?
Obviously, my biggest concern was to take them with me into this new genre and Fiona Marsden, who is the most fabulous supporter of romance writers (and an award winning writer herself) gifted me the best response ever to a book when she wrote on Twitter, “It’s so good. All you love about a Liz Fielding book but with murder.” That’s it. Perfect.
How much time to invest in promoting a book?
Q6 Finally, how much time does it take? I assume it isn’t a single task and then it’s done. Do you continue to monitor and/or vary the message depending on feedback? How long will you continue to do that?
To be honest, if you’re a procrastinator, looking to do anything but write, it can take over your life. A disciplined time slot is your friend here, but it isn’t a one-shot job.
While the launch is a moment to throw everything you have at promoting a book, your book will be available for a long time. Maybe not in the bookshops, and the paperback may go out of print, but it will be in libraries (times are hard, so encourage readers to use them). It will also be available to download digitally from online booksellers pretty much indefinitely.
Ongoing promotion can be linked to themes in the book, to locations, to events that coincide with the date your book is set. With a Coronation, maybe. 🙂 Or in a run up to the publication of your next book. Try and set aside an hour or two to do something every week.
Thank you for allowing me to witter on about my favourite subject, Sophie.
I hope you and everyone else will find something they can use to help in promoting a book they’re bringing to the market.
As for the next book in the Maybridge Mysteries series – look out for Murder With Mistletoe this autumn.