Your novel is written, edited, and published. Congratulations! Now, about that marketing plan of yours… Today Christine Goff shares some valuable insight about marketing your book outside of your hometown while keeping an eye on expense. -Gabrielle V Brown, Managing Editor
Marketing at 33,000 Feet
Promoting a book outside your local area almost always involves planes, trains and automobiles, and usually entails spending vast sums of money that you’ll technically never earn back in a signing.
So why do it? you ask.
There are reasons to go on the road, but it needs to be done with some forethought.
Figure out your goals.
Everyone’s goals are different. In my case, I wanted to expand my audience. I considered doing a bookstore-to-bookstore tour, but I’m not good at sitting at a table and hawking my book. Only certain stores have authors speak. Because of that, I chose to focus on fan conventions and strategic outreach (bookstores in the area where the cons were being held, mailings to specialty book stores, etc.).
My advice, define your goals. Everyone comes at this from different stages in our careers. We’re all after different things. Ask yourself, what do you want to get out of attending? Are you looking for an agent? Do you want to connect with other authors or with fans? Do you intend to promote your latest release? Do you want to make connections in the community? How do you best interact with readers?
Once you have the answers, you’ll find there are hundreds of bookstores and a myriad of writer conventions.
Establish a Budget.
Based on my book advance and my goals, I determined I was willing to spend $5,000 on promoting RED SKY. That included expenditures for swag, giveaways, book signings and conferences. It seems like a lot of money. In truth, $5,000 doesn’t stretch all that far.
Nail down your schedule.
I started locally with a signings in Denver and Evergreen (my hometown). Friends, family and local fans get first consideration. Then I committed to the following: the American Library Association’s Annual Convention (ALA) in June in Chicago, ThrillerFest in July in New York City, and Bouchercon in October in Toronto.
Why these three events? you ask.
In addition to spreading out on the calendar, these three events offered the best opportunity to get my books and myself in front of a lot of people.
ALA – libraries constitute a large market. Who wouldn’t want to see their books in libraries all over the United States? Sisters in Crime (SinC) sponsors a booth, and all I needed to do was sign up for a one hour time slot, giveaway books, and pass out swag.
ThrillerFest – this convention is devoted specifically to thrillers, and its location (New York City) allowed me to meet with my agent and editor.
Bouchercon – this is the world mystery convention and draws the largest number of fans. Plus, because of its location this year, it could introduce my books to a Canadian fan base.
Now is the time to be honest. We’ve all heard of author tours where publishers fly their authors from city-to-city to sign books and meet fans. It rarely, if ever, happens these days. In most cases you will be expected to buy your own plane ticket, pick up your own hotel room, and pay for your own meals. You will also need to contact booksellers to make sure they have your books in the bookstore and order swag to promote your work. The more you can setup and/or do ahead of time, the better.
But, I digress. Extrapolating my costs, I allotted myself $1,000 each for ALA and Bouchercon and $3,000 for ThrillerFest. There was my $5,000 right there and I hadn’t even bought promo materials or factored in mailings, local travel and giveaways. My budget was blown!
The bottom line.
I debated cut out one of the conventions, but in the end chose to forge ahead. All of these were important to me, so I decided to tighten the belt instead. I flew at inconvenient hours, and shared a room.
So how did I do? you ask.
ALA cost me a total of $1,042.19 with no tangible return on my dollars. But that is where the intangible kicks in. I may have only signed and given away 50 copies of RED SKY (which I talked my publisher into donating), but I put hundreds of cards into the hands of interested librarians from all over. Some I’ve even heard from.
ThrillerFest cost me a total of $2,407.55, and I signed a grand total of two books. But, I was able to spend one-on-one time with my editor, my publicist and my agent; managed to get my books ordered into The Mysterious Bookshop; and was on a great panel moderated by David Morrell.
Bouchercon ran $947.87, and I signed a grand total of five or six copies. I also met the proprietor of The Sleuth of Baker Street, reconnected with three other booksellers, attended the Crooked Lane annual bash, and was introduced to a packed room of Canadian readers while sitting next to Peter Robinson, one of Canada’s bestselling authors.
The grand total.
All in all, I spent $4,397.61 promoting RED SKY, leaving me extra for swag, local travel and giveaways. Not bad!
But was it worth it?
Yes. For me it’s the intangible benefits that come from having personal interactions with someone who’s read my book and loved it. It’s the connections made at conventions that landed me an agent, several book contracts, and innumerable high-profile bookstore signings, guest blog spots, library talks and keynote speaker gigs. Through a concerted effort, I’ve upped my profile, generated buzz about my books, and achieved my goals.
Then, just when I thought I could put the suitcase away….
Chris Goff is an award-winning author of eight novels. Her most recent, RED SKY, is an international thriller set in Ukraine and Asia where DSS Agent Raisa Jordan tests the boundaries of diplomacy as she races to prevent the start of a new Cold War. Goff’s series debut, DARK WATERS, was nominated for the 2016 Colorado Book Award and Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook.