Jul

12

2012

Getting Our Books Into the Hands of Readers

Guest blog by Debby Mayne

Debby Mayne with her agent, Tamela Hancock Murray

Our guest today is Debby Mayne, an accomplished novelist with over 30 books and novellas published since 2000! She has also publshed over 400 short stories and a slew of devotions for women. She has also worked as managing editor of a national health magazine, product information writer for HSN, a creative writing instructor for Long Ridge Writers Group, and a copy editor and proofreader for several book publishers. For many years she has judged the Writers Digest Annual Competition, Short-Short Contest, and Self-Published Book Competition.

You can visit her web site at www.debbymayne.com.

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Before I sold my first novel, I dreamed that once I wrote a book good enough to publish, an editor would call me immediately, tell me how brilliant my book was, offer to buy it, and maybe request a few revisions that’d I’d joyfully do (after I deposited my humongous advance that would cover hiring a publicist and purchasing a big house on the water). Then the publisher would print the book, and the marketing team would make sure it was available for people to purchase. I envisioned full window displays of my book at my favorite stores with people lining up to buy them…and of course I was sitting at a table signing my books as quickly as possible to keep the crowd moving.

I know, but remember this was a dream.

Eventually, an editor did call and say she loved my story, but I needed to address a few issues—and we talked for almost an hour before she sent pages of revisions. Oh, and she offered a humbling advance that didn’t stretch far enough to cover promotion or much more than my next mortgage payment. Of course I was happy to accept the offer, but my perspective changed.

I’ve made bookstores and libraries my second home since I could read, but the first time I walked into a bookstore as a published author, I saw everything differently. Every row in the fiction section had hundreds (thousands?) of books that were all written by capable authors who wanted the same thing I did. It quickly became evident that I needed to finish what I started. I wrote the book for people to read, and now it was up to me to make sure that happened.

I’m fortunate that the publishers I work with have expert marketing teams who know how to get the product out there, so I don’t have to worry about the lack of availability. As a former newspaper public relations rep, I understand the value of publicity. I don’t have a problem talking to people, and I have a pretty good idea how to get word out to the masses. However, I don’t have a corporate size budget, so I have to decide what will work best for each book as it comes out.

Over the past twelve years as a published writer, I’ve watched successful authors, adopted some of their promotional ideas, and come up with a few of my own. Here are some of the things authors can do to promote their books:

  1. Have a web presence. Most published authors I know have a website, a blog, and participate in blog tours to generate interest in their books.
  2. Get social. Participate in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and don’t always make it about yourself. Sometimes others like to know you care what’s going on in their lives as well.
  3. Let people know what’s coming. I like to send postcards to all the people on my mailing list so they’ll receive them a week or two before my book is due to release. Some authors send them earlier, but I don’t want to do the mailing too soon and risk people forgetting about the book.
  4. Partner with booksellers. I let all the booksellers in my area know when I’m about to have a new release. Sometimes I do a signing, but other times I just provide bookmarks and offer to sign stock when it comes in. If they’re allowed to accept review books (and most are), I offer one of my author copies to the bookseller.
  5. Talk to people. I’m an avid reader, so I spend hours and hours perusing the shelves for something new to read. If someone else is in the same row, I try to find a way to strike up a conversation. Sometimes I comment on a book they’re examining, or I might ask what types of books they like and recommend something by an author I know. I might even ask them for a recommendation. At some point, I try to find a way to let them know I’m an author. If the store has any of my books in stock, I point them out if it’s not too awkward. If you’re shy, you may have a difficult time approaching strangers, but I recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and giving it a try. Once you realize most readers are open to your suggestions, you might find it enjoyable.
  6. Look for interview opportunities. Contact your radio and TV stations, newspapers, and regional magazines. Let them know you’re available for interviews. If you’re doing a special event, ask if they might consider covering it.
  7. Target your market. Some of my most recent releases have been regional, so I do everything I can to get my books into the hands of people from those areas. After I received author copies of Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida, I drove down to this beautiful little beach town. I hand-delivered a copy of the book and a stack of postcards to the mayor, the city communications director, and the owners of two restaurants I mentioned in the book. Since this was a Christian romance, I stopped by a couple of churches and gave copies to people in the offices. Another book, Sweet Baklava, was set in the Greek community of Tarpon Springs. In addition to bringing copies of the book to several of the places I mentioned in the story, I brought some samples of baklava. I like to leave a few postcards to anyone who is willing to read my book to make it easier for them to get the word out to their friends.
  8. Keep a book handy and be generous. I try to keep at least one or two of my older books in my car so I can offer them to people who might enjoy them. Most people like free stuff, and this gives me an opportunity to share something with new friends who will hopefully become fans. I try to make room in my carryon luggage for a few books, just in case I meet someone who forgot to bring their own reading material. Before I leave a hotel, I leave a generous tip beside a signed copy of my latest book.
  9. Join the club. Or at least offer to be a guest speaker at reading groups and book clubs in your area. Have a list of discussion questions on your website so members can print and have them available. Bring door prizes that can be one of your older books or something symbolic from the current book.
  10. Benefit others. Offer some sort of charity tie-in and give to others. Use your story as a tool to teach readers what you’re passionate about, and then give a portion of your earnings to that charity. Even if you choose not to tell people about your donation, your passion for the cause will come through in the story, and you may actually have a positive impact on someone else’s life.

My strategy varies with each book I write. I think the key is coming up with a marketing plan that is doable and gets the attention of the target audience. Figure out how much money and time you have to commit to promoting your books and make a list of what you need to do.

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Debby’s latest novel came out on July 1st in a digital first release from B&H Publishing as part of the Bloomfield series. Click the cover below and get your copy today for only $2.99!

28 Responses to “Getting Our Books Into the Hands of Readers”

  1. Sundi Jo July 12, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    Thank you for these recommendations. I like the idea of personally handing books and thins to the mayor, city council, etc. Something to keep in my back pocket for my book release.

    • Debby Mayne July 12, 2012 at 5:06 am #

      Hi Sundi Jo! One of the restaurant owners told me that groups of Love Finds You in Treasure Island, Florida readers visited, and they told their server that they wanted to experience what the characters did in the book. The owner became one of my most enthusiastic supporters, and I’m sure he’s probably responsible for a handful of sales.

  2. Penny Zeller July 12, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    Great recommendations, Debby! I really liked the “Target Your Market” suggestion. My books take place in Montana, and your idea was one I hadn’t thought of for promotion. I also liked “Let People Know What’s Coming” – excellent idea to let potential fans know ahead of time, rather than after the book is released.

    I, too, have given out books to the helpful staff at hotels. What a great way to show appreciation!

    Congratulations on your latest release and thank you for sharing your expertise. God Bless!

    • Debby Mayne July 12, 2012 at 6:32 am #

      Thank you, Penny! I’ve noticed that people who have visited the real settings in my stories get a kick out of seeing places they’re familiar with.

      The Bloomfield setting is a little different. I realize several states have towns named Bloomfield, but ours is fictional, and we intentionally don’t name the state. However, I think anyone who has ever lived in or visited a small town will recognize the places and characters.

  3. Sandie Bricker July 12, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    Debby, this is a really good post with solid suggestions for an author at any level of their career. I really wish you and all of Tamela’s involved authors the best with the Bloomfield series! I think B&H is doing a great job in getting it out there, and everything you do to support that is an investment in your future books. Keep up the good work!

    • Debby Mayne July 12, 2012 at 6:54 am #

      Thanks, Sandie! As I’ve told you privately, I’m extremely happy with the support we’re getting from B&H. And I also appreciate your support! It means a lot to all of us.

  4. Rhonda Gibson July 12, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Well said, Debby!! I loved all your suggestions, some I already do, some I will be doing in the near future. This is going to be a great series and I love that you are heading it up. Way to go gir!!

  5. Debby Mayne July 12, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    Hey Rhonda!

    We’re all super excited about this series, so thank you!

  6. Pamela S Thibodeaux July 12, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    Great advice Debby!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Good luck and God’s Blessings!
    PamT

  7. Lindsay Harrel July 12, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    What great advice! I’m still at the point where I need an agent and editor interested, but I’m tucking away this knowledge for when I have a book to promote. :)

  8. Heather Day Gilbert July 12, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Great post and I’m tweeting this one! I think it’s such an advantage for an author to have an idea of how to work the media these days. It’s a learning curve with all the online technology, but I’m already plotting bookstores/libraries to hit and newspapers to accost, once my book is published. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but thinking outside the box often works.

  9. Lesley McDaniel July 12, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    Great post, Debby. I’m going to tuck this one away in my “(future) marketing” file. I’m still enjoying the dreaming stage, where I spend the majority of my days writing on the flower-filled lanai of my Costa Rican condo. While my personal chef prepares dinner. And the maid cleans the cat box.

    • Debby Mayne July 12, 2012 at 7:52 am #

      Sounds like your dreams are similar to mine, Lesley!

  10. Debby Mayne July 12, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Pamela, Lindsay, and Heather, thanks for posting comments!

    There definitely is a learning curve on publicity and marketing, and it keeps on curving in different directions. I also recommend working with the publisher so you don’t duplicate efforts, and they’ll be able to play off what you’ve already done.

    With the Bloomfield series, we have 8 authors putting our marketing efforts together. And since there are so many formats, our challenges and opportunities are different from anything we’ve ever done. Fortunately, B&H is willing to work with all of us to try different things.

  11. Julie Pollitt July 12, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    Great article for aspiring writers (and established writers)! It’s tough to know where to start, and this covers a great deal of wonderful and useful ideas. It’s a little scary to think about how to get started, but this breaks it down for all authors. Thanks!

    • Debby Mayne July 12, 2012 at 7:54 am #

      Hey Julie! Thanks for commenting. I think you’ll be using some or all of these ideas soon. And then you’ll come up with some brilliant ones of your own!

  12. Debbie Lynne Costello July 12, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    Wonderful ideas! Thanks Debbie.

  13. Jennifer Dyer July 12, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    This was a great post. Marketing mystifies and terrifies me. I’m not shy, but I get tongue tied when I talk about my projects. Silly, I know. :-). Your suggestions are doable and not nearly as scary as I’d thought. Lol! What a chicken I am.

    • Lesley McDaniel July 12, 2012 at 8:01 am #

      I don’t think that’s silly at all, Jennifer. Maybe because I’m the same way:) God calls us to be humble and to give Him all the glory. I always find it easier to praise others, so maybe that’s one key to successful promotion- partnering with other writers.

    • Debby Mayne July 12, 2012 at 8:40 am #

      I’m not shy, but sometimes I do feel awkward talking about myself. Since so many of my friends are also my favorite authors, I talk about them to readers and try to make recommendations based on what they enjoy reading. Sharing the news about the Bloomfield series has been easier because there are so many of us, and the other authors are among my favorites to recommend.

  14. Sandra Ardoin July 12, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    Good ideas, Debby. I do have a question about the postcards. You said you have a mailing list. How do you collect actual mailing addresses (instead of email addresses), or are you talking about online postcards? Do you have a sheet at booksignings, etc?

    • Debby Mayne July 12, 2012 at 8:47 am #

      Hey Sandra! Over the years I’ve made up a mailing list of people (from book signings or just people I meet) who have requested books or information about upcoming books. I have separate lists of businesses that are related to my stories and another list of libraries. Some publishers provide postcards, but if they don’t, I have them made. It’s taken me about 6 years to build my list to where it is now.

      If you want to start working on a list, contact your friends and ask if they’d like to be added. Then post it on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter. After a while, people will email you and ask to be added.

      • Sandra Ardoin July 18, 2012 at 5:45 am #

        Great! Thanks, Debby. I’m collecting as much marketing info as I can find.

  15. Patti Jo Moore July 12, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Hey sweet Debby! LOVED this post and your suggestions…will be re-reading many times, I’m sure. I’ve enjoyed ALL your books I’ve read so far, and looking forward to many more. Thanks for sharing with us today. Hugs from Georgia!
    p.s. CUTE photo of you with Tamela. :)

  16. tcavey July 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Great advice, very helpful. I’m going to bookmark this page for future reference!

    Thanks.

  17. Martha Rogers July 12, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    Great information Debby. I may have to pick your brain some in Orlando. I’m savintg this for future reference because marketing and promotion are not my thing at all.

  18. Christina Mobley July 17, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    Debby, thank you for sharing this! Great tips. I have been searching for ways to promote my novel, and I came across your post.

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