Friday, November 18, 2016

Author Coffee Talk: Marketing Books

GOOD MORNING, FRIENDS! Angie here! (Sorry for my over-enthusiasm to all you non-morning people. I don't mean to shout but I am sooo excited). 
I've got my cup of fresh brew with a splash of milk. Join me. Late autumn chill is upon us...or should be...has it been unusually warm where you are? It has here in the Midwest! But enough weather talk. Today, we'll enjoy our hot beverages as we hear from three amazing, multi-published authors about marketing their books. And then we'll hear from you! I am on the brink of publishing my debut novel, and I just had to seek the advice of the friends ahead of me on this journey. 
I love chit chat with a purpose, so after hearing from our featured authors, let's pour good conversation into the comments. Have questions about kicking off your first book, second book, or thirtieth book? Please ask! Have any fabulous tips of your own? Share!
If we were meeting in person, the Alley Cats would have pretty gift bags with bows and colorful tissue paper filled with bookish things. But, even if we aren't face to face, we have BOOKS to send you! Every commenter will be entered into our drawingssss...yes, we have FOUR GIVEAWAYS today! See a list at the bottom of this post.
Speaking of Giveaways... we have winners already! For those of you who entered the drawing for Ruth Logan Hearne's books last week, thank you! The winners are.... 
Home on the Range paperback: JOCELYN
Silent Night, Star-Lit Night ebook for any device: AMBER SCHAMEL and MEREDITH

Please email Mary Vee at

NOW FOR SOME COFFEE TALK! Sit back and sip your beverage (let us know what you are drinking too), and let's begin our Coffee Talk!

Welcome to our three authors:

HEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. You can find Heather's Viking historicals and West Virginia mystery/suspense novels here.

LAURA FRANTZ, award-winning author, is passionate about all things historical, particularly the 18th-century, and writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Scottish themes that reflect her family heritage. She is a direct descendant of George Hume, Wedderburn Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, settled in Virginia, and is credited with teaching George Washington surveying in the years 1748-1750. Frantz lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky.

ERICA VETSCH is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

Thank you for joining us, ladies! Here are a couple of questions. We are looking forward to learning from your past book promotion experiences!

First, how soon did you start promoting your book, and what is the most effective way you stirred interest? 

Heather-I always start promoting my books pre-release, starting
with the cover reveal. I try to have the cover and blurb finalized at least 2 months pre-release. I find that really stirs interest in the book. I also try to get my book edited about a month pre-release, so I can share quote pinnables from the story. But every release is different—some are more successful than others! Another thing I tried this time is releasing a chapter from my book to my newsletter subscribers about a month pre-release. Another great way to stir interest is to have a core group of early readers who love the book and start talking about it, as well as endorsements from authors readers trust.

Laura-I like to start promo beginning with the cover reveal which to me, is the most fun. Readers love cover art so I share that long-awaited cover with great joy and then, in time, the back cover copy. Revell creates incredible images using quotes and scenes from the book that I also share in a countdown to release day. The jury is still out on revealing covers too early but publishers upload them online sometimes 9 months in advance which many feel dulls the book’s impact sales-wise. I try to err on the positive side and do the cover reveal then lay low till 3 months before the book releases then start sharing more about what’s coming. Word of mouth is still the most effective way to promote books and I love those shares on Facebook and those repins on Pinterest! Giving away copies prior to release day is also very effective in stirring interest.

Erica- When I start promoting depends upon the project. With novella collections, the ladies usually start putting something together a few months in advance. With stand alone novels, I work with the marketing team of the publisher, and that can happen even a year in advance in some cases. Personal promotion efforts usually start in earnest about a month before release date, though the thought and preparation has been ongoing.

Okay, book signings, launch parties, online launch parties...what was your favorite way to promote your book? What are a couple of things you did during that time to encourage readers?

Launch parties and online parties—I haven't done one of those for my own novels, just with a boxed set. While it was a total blast, I'm not sure how many copies of the book it moved. I can't really commit to being online for a block of time right now since
we have a small child. What I have found really helpful is having secret Facebook groups of readers who are dedicated to my books—for instance, I have a secret mystery reader group and a secret
Viking group. These are my most avid readers who are more than happy to get the word out. I run my blurbs by these groups, share cover art with them early, etc. We can talk about my books in a more personal environment than my author Facebook page provides. I do have a newsletter, but I really feel the Facebook groups are more interactive and thus generate more enthusiasm.

 Laura-My most memorable release was for The Mistress of Tall Acre held at our local LifeWay last fall. Both Revell and LifeWay did a great deal of promo to make this a success, including posters of the event and also a postal mailing. LifeWay ordered in all my backlist titles and had them on a beautiful display at the store’s entrance. My publisher provided a large gift basket of Kentucky-made items I had picked out to give to one person who attended the signing. I was seated at a table signing books, having pictures made with readers, and giving away bookmarks and other book bling. The manager said it was their biggest day since Mother’s Day, something I attributed not to my popularity but how savvy both my publisher and this local LifeWay was with timely and attractive promo. For me, the personal, hands-on, face-to-face contact with reading friends means the most so an offline event works best such as the recent Christian Fiction Readers Retreat held in Nashville. If that’s new to you I encourage you to check it out!

 Erica- I have never done a book launch party in person, though I love doing
FB launch parties. During FB parties, I love to have games, prizes, Q&A, etc. to interact with readers. Book signings can be feast or famine. Mostly I like to do signings with at least one other author, but the more the merrier. Group signings draw bigger crowds, and you always have someone to talk to during the slower times.

OOh, I am saving these ideas, how about you? So, next week, we will have THREE MORE authors sharing! We are so happy to have authors willing to share...and we just couldn't resist picking their writerly brains! We'll announce who's sharing next week very soon! Keep an eye on social media!

Now it's your turn! Please share in the comments! What have you found to be a great marketing tip as an author? What questions might you have? Any author that has input, feel free to answer! We love to converse here at the Alley...and give presents.....

All comments will be entered in drawings for these FOUR FABULOUS PRIZES (we will draw consecutively for these prizes, except the first one will be from those indicating they are on the indie road to publication):

  • Indie Authors! Our featured author Heather Gilbert has her own Indie Publishing Handbook ebook that she'd like to give a copy to one of our indie-journeying authors! Indicate in the comments if you are interested in the Indie route! 
  • Reader's Choice Prize! Heather is also generously giving away a reader's choice of one of her Fiction ebooks (check out her books here ).
  • AlleyCat Surprise! Our dear Casey is giving away A BOOK FROM HER STASH...who knows what amazing novel it shall be...but we know Casey's taste is impeccable so be very excited!
  • AlleyPal Book! Mary Vee is amazing, and will also be giving away The Rimgmaster's Wife by the lovely AlleyPal, Kristy Cambron.

--> -->


Lindsey Brackett said...

So grateful to read this today especially since I began putting together marketing for my debut novel this week and it absolutely about sent me over the edge--and meant poor Pepper got a flurry of texts from me while she was trying to work :)

It's the social media gamut that was doing me in. I'm so excited about real live launch parties and so overwhelmed by the idea of Facebook launches and blog tours and cover reveals and making tweetables and pinables, etc, etc, etc... Thanks for featuring authors who are doing a variety of techniques. Maybe there's no "right" way, but a way that's best for each of us given our time, talents, and temperament.

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks for stopping by, Lindsey, and congrats on your debut! I think you are so right--do what you love and what you are confident at. Perhaps you have friends who love the social media aspect, and will help promote through that...maybe even throw you a party? I love in person parties too...hoping to do both for my debut. Have a fabulous morning!!

Karen Schravemade said...

Oooh, how fun. Great questions, Angie, and I loved seeing the different answers.

I love Heather's tip about the secret Facebook group of influencers and the way you engage your newsletter list with a sample chapter. Genius!

Two questions for Heather:
1. How did you connect with your influencers? (ie how did you find your most avid fans and choose which ones to include in your group?)
2. How big is the FB group? Is it a bit exclusive, or the more the merrier?

Laura, it's so cool to see the level of marketing support you get from your publisher. We hear so much about how the burden of marketing rests on an author's shoulders these days, so it's encouraging to see that you're not just thrown in the deep end and expected to do it all. Also, you are so beautifully humble, but I feel pretty sure your successful signings probably have quite a bit to do with your popularity as well.... just sayin'... ;)

And Erica, group signings is such a GREAT tip. I cringe at the thought of no one showing up to a signing!! Not that I have to worry about that yet, but I'm an advanced worrier... ;)

As an unpubbed author I am no voice of experience by any means, but I do have one marketing tip to throw into the mix. I have been focussing on one thing only for the past couple of years, and that's on building my email list. That's the most important thing I believe any of us can do to give us a solid platform to launch from.
-> Start collecting subscribers today and BUILD THAT LIST!! <-

Casey said...

ERICA, HEATHER, LAURA, so good to have you here!! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and insight into marketing...such a large animal that we all seem terrified to start understanding and wrangle into some form of training for our purposes. :) Looking forward to learning more from you all throughout the day!

Angie Dicken said...


You have such great questions and tips. I will admit, I'm a bit terrified of compiling an email list...and a newsletter just seems so daunting! I keep thinking that will come along after I have books out there, but I think you are wise in compiling them before. I am sure life is busy on the other side of a book on the shelf...this seems like a proactive task for right now...hmmmm..... gulping my coffee!

Terrie Todd said...

Lots of great ideas here, thanks for sharing! Waterfall Press launched my debut novel, "The Silver Suitcase," last January. Because they're owned by Amazon, they have all the tricks to run various promotions and they do a phenomenal job of selling books (over 20,000 copies so far, counting all formats.)When the first book did so well, the momentum was in place. My second book, "Maggie's War," is set to release in January 2017 and my third, "Bleak Landing," in August 2017. So my advice is to get rolling on your NEXT book to take advantage of that snowball effect.

For my own efforts, I recruited 50-60 friends to post reviews on Amazon on launch day to "prime the pump." I also held a local launch at the library with homemade pie and ice cream (no, I did NOT do the baking!) We attracted 150 people that evening and sold about that many books, which was quite overwhelming. Because I was writing a weekly column in a the local paper at the time, it gave me a real advantage in promoting the launch. My column has since been discontinued, so it's going to be interesting to see how many turn up for the next launch.

Above all else, PRAY and leave it in God's hands. He'll get your book to the readers who need it.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Wow, it's so FUN to be featured today with Laura and Erica! I'm so honored to be answering marketing questions along with these writer giants! :)

And Karen, in answer to your questions: what I did at first for my FB marketing group was ask in my newsletter if people were interested. The only caveat is that people have to be your personal FB friends before you can add them to the group. I directed those interested to my personal FB profile and once we were FB friends, I would add them to the group. I did a generalized shout-out on both my author and personal FB pages, too. I also asked specific "uber-readers"--my "superfans", as it were, if they wanted to join. I personally like having around 50-60 in the group, but I know the more, the merrier, as long as they're all committed to helping out. I know I've joined some groups where I don't have time to help much, and I've offered to bow out, simply to leave room for another more avid reader/influencer. You can't be sure everyone in the groups will influence, but I would say the majority will. It's just such a lovely place to talk SPECIFICALLY about that genre--those characters your fans have grown to love. I hope that helps answer your question! And I will also say that I love asking for help for my book blurbs in those groups. My readers will tell me if something's working or if it's falling flat--and as an indie author, I need that input to target my readership with my blurbs.

Erica Vetsch said...

Hey, Alley Crew! Thanks so much for having me here today! (Waving to Laura and Heather!)

Lindsay B. Congratulations on your new release! WOOHOO! As to your evaluation of marketing strategies...You nailed it. There is no wrong or right way, only more or less effective given our resources, time, and abilities. I try to prioritize...what the publisher wants me to do comes first, then tried and true things that have worked in the past, and then new things where I can get a good feel for what the return on my investment will be, something tangible like new names for my newsletter list.

Karen, you're so right. The newsletter list is GOLD! Publishers are looking for platform from authors, and having a quantifiable number you can reach easily is very attractive to those publishers.

Angie, start compiling that list now! The sooner the better. And newsletters aren't so terrifying. I use MailChimp, and I use Picmonkey to create graphics that are easy to make and eye-catching. And I use rafflecopter for doing giveaways, and one of the ways readers can enter is to sign up for my newsletter.

Terrie, great ideas! And good job leveraging your local network. Amazon reviews are important, boosting your book in I want some pie!

I have a street team who helps me spread the word, and I am so grateful for them. And any chance I get, I market with other authors. That way you can sort of cross-pollinate with each others' readers. I've got a couple of December marketing ventures coming with other authors, and many hands really do make light work.

Angie Dicken said...

Wow, that's awesome! I am so not a numbers person so all of that scares me. LOL! I am super excited to have a local launch. So the library was a good place? I didn't know if a library, bookstore, or coffee shop would be good? I figured a B&N might be nice because they promote with posters and such. Are people still willing to purchase a book at a library? Is that a ridiculous question?:)

Thanks for sharing!

Angie Dicken said...


How often do you send out a newsletter? When did you send out your very first one in relation to your debut? :)
What do you include in a newsletter?


Erica Vetsch said...

Angie, my first novel came out in 2009, and I didn't have a newsletter. They just weren't 'the thing' way back then. :)

I've had a newsletter for about three years now, and I send them out quarterly-ish...but I send a quick blast out when there's news, like a new release, a super sale on one of my books, or something fun just for newsletter folks, like revealing a new cover to them first, or an excerpt from a book, or telling them about a new contract. It's fun to provide subscriber-only news as an incentive to join the list, and it provides something to the subscriber they can't get anywhere else...or at least as quickly as not belonging to the list.

As to what I include...always news about upcoming releases, any place I'll be signing books, any giveaways, etc. Some authors include a devotional, a recipe, a historical tidbit they've found through research. Anything that you are interested in that you think your readers would be, too. Anything that connects you and finds places of commonality.

I encourage my subscribers to find me on FB, because that's where I tend to hang out online and connect with folks. If you read my posts, that's pretty much me. What you see is what you get, and I find that readers like that. Because they're people...and I'm people. :)

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Terrie, Waterfall Press (Amazon) is such a marketing machine! I can't believe the number of sales/reviews they get on their books! I am glad you were able to go with them and get that super boost for your book.

And newsletters--I'm still learning. Some authors have such lovely newsletters--very personal and with both helpful and personal info--like Joanne Bischof. I tend to be more utilitarian (not the greatest at newsletter design--I use Mailchimp and they do have templates, but I'm just not that creative), so my newsletters are usually about giveaways or releases or low-price deals on my books. I think the thing to do is to watch people who have newsletters you actually read/enjoy and try to emulate them! It's definitely on my To-Do list--to bring more relevant/fun info to my readers.

But I have heard so many authors say that newsletters are critical, because even if your publisher goes bust or something unexpected happens like Facebook/Twitter reconfigure and you lose your followers, you will always have those emails of your newsletter readers and those are the ones you need to reach to move books.

Amber Perry said...

What a fabulous post!!!! I love all those ideas for promotion, ladies--thank you for sharing your wisdom!!

I haven't ever done an in-person signing before--I'm not sure I would get many people to come, so I've avoided that humiliation. LOL But I do think it would be a blast. Maybe someday...

My favorite part of any book release is the cover reveal!! I get crazy excited about that, and as a reader it just really pumps me up. I love when the cover is revealed way in advance--especially when it's for an author I love--because it's just SO hard to wait for the story!! LOL The cover is the perfect thing to tide me over until it finally comes out. :)

Love all you ladies!!

Kristy Cambron said...

Love being an AlleyPal! ; )

Promotion is something that's constantly evolving for me -- especially since I want to focus on authentic connections with reader friends. In the early (pre-published) days of promotion, I blogged a TON. I invited author guests onto my blog for interviews, reviewed books, and ran giveaways. It was a great way to get to know readers + writers in the industry.

In the past few years, the way I connect with readers has changed dramatically-- both because of my home/family commitments, and my writing/travel/speaking schedule. Now I try to work on promotion with much more intention. I value the in-person connections I make with readers in book club visits, conferences, and at speaking engagements. In an online space, I recently signed up to organize my social media channels from one posting site, so I can put a planning process behind the time I spend online. I still blog -- it's just re-focused from promotion to CONNECTION with READERS, as whatever I blog about is something that God's laid on my heart (such as, my passion for Verse Mapping). Promotion is more targeted to building community around book release schedules now, and engaging with reader friends in the "between" times when I'm writing and speaking. ; )

Sylvia said...

I haven't been to a book launch before, but would like to some time. Assisting at a book launch would be fun and rewarding.

Cover reveals are always exciting and I am glad that publishers let us see them far in advance. It spreads out the celebration and you have something in which to look forward. If it's a must-buy-author's book I will pre-order it anyway.


Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Such good stuff here! Awesome idea, Ang! Heather, Laura, and Erica, thank you so much for lending your expertise. Heather, really appreciated your insights on the street team/reading group. I'm about to break down and give that a go. As soon as I finish talking myself into it :) thanks ladies!

Pepper said...

Oh what wonderful advice from three amazing ladies!!!

Sounds like Cover Reveals are at the top of the list for promo (and one of my favorite parts, btw)

And that small core readership? INVALUABLE!!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Hey there ladies! So nice to see all of your comments! And Amy--yes, I resisted the Facebook "street team" idea at first, but now I'm so thankful I have those in place. These are just such dedicated readers who want to see my books succeed. I have met some of them in person and it is just SUCH a blessing! Mine probably started at around 20-30 people each, then I just keep adding as readers email me about my books, etc. All the best to you gals as you prep to market and keep up the marketing efforts! I like Kristy's idea of streamlining things. Right now, I still post separately to Twitter, FB, and Instagram, but I've seen authors who post the same thing to all. I might do that someday if I can figure it out!

Amber Schamel said...

Love this post! Thanks so much for sharing your tips, ladies.
Amber Schamel

Angie Dicken said...

That's a good point about why having the emails is crucial. My problem is, I wonder who would sign up pre-reading my work, you know? Hmmm....I will have to chew on this.

Angie Dicken said...

I love seeing artwork! It's so fun to get a taste of a story by the cover reveal, I agree! Thanks for stopping by, Amber!!!

Angie Dicken said...

Kristy-I love how intentional you are in making that connection with readers. I think authenticity and communication is so essential now a days. I hope to remember your strategy in my upcoming debut year! Thanks for stopping by!

Angie Dicken said...

Sylvia! That's a great point---cover reveals generate pre-orders! Love that! Thanks for stopping by!

Angie Dicken said...

Pepper's street team is amazing! I think you would have a great one too, Ames! I can't go there yet...too much too soon for me...but I can see how important they are!

Angie Dicken said...

You have rocked at revealing your covers!! They are all so memorable, Pepper!

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks for stopping by, Amber!

Laura Frantz said...

Every comment here is so unique and informative! I always am learning & my strategies for promo & reaching readers are always changing. Each author has definite strengths & I think it's important to be authentic & engage in what you enjoy most for social media & marketing, etc. You alley cats are the best of the best!

Laura Conner Kestner said...

Such a great post - thank you!! I'm unpublished as of now, but hope to see that change soon. I know it will happen in His time, not mine, but when it does happen I'll be better set for marketing and promotion after reading this. Thank you ladies, all!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Sometimes just knowing what marketing methods are currently working, which ones don't garner sales, which one steal time, which ones are worth investing time...all of this is so comforting...because inventing the wheel is difficult.
Thanks so much for sharing with us Erica, Laura, and Heather!

Angie Dicken said...

Laura Frantz, thanks for your wisdom and encouragement! It was such a pleasure having you at the Alley for Coffee Talk! Have a wonderful weekend!

Angie Dicken said...

Laura Kestner, I am glad you stopped by! God's timing is perfect, that's true. Now that I am embarking on publication, I am glad that I took the time to build my social media connections pre-publication... promotion doesn't seem quite so daunting. I think there is some marketing that can be done pre-publication. That might be a good question for another Coffee Talk! Actually, do any published authors have comments on that? I will put it on our Facebook Page and see if we can get some conversation going!

Angie Dicken said...

Mary Vee, Good point!!!! I am so glad we have the writing community to glean from!

Polaris Northstar said...

SO cool! I have not decided yet if I will go traditional or independent yet (but I am leaning toward independent;).
And... um... is this giveaway still open (just found out about it... but I think I may be too late.)?
Thanks for doing this post!

Miranda said...

I am very much pleased with the contents you have mentioned. I wanted to thank you for this great article.

Angie Dicken said...

You aren't too late! Thanks for stopping by!