In my experience, figure skating fans don’t merely love figure skating. They love all things having to do with figure skating, too.
The love souvenir programs and sweatshirts, autographed photos and commemorative DVDs, autobiographies and children’s books written by their favorite ice stars.
So why shouldn’t they like Figure Skating Mysteries, too?
The very first book I published – by myself – at the age of 23, was a figure skating trivia book entitled “As The Toe Picks.” If I may date myself, back in those days you couldn’t just format a book, upload it, and let a computer program to take care of the printing and shipping. I actually had to physically cut down 8 x 11 pieces of paper to match the size of the book I was ordering, print on both sides of the paper, put it together and send it off to the printer, who then sent me a box of books which I then mailed out individually.
But, before I could send the books out, I had to have someone willing to buy them (and preferably include a check.)
So, in my first attempt at niche marketing, I created post-cards (also cut out by hand from a larger sheet of paper) and sent them to every skating club, skating official and registered skater in the USA using the Official United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) rule-book. I also took ads (and solicited reviews) in print skating publications and in competitive programs distributed at local competitions.
I sold every single one of my books and even made a profit (though my dad, who’d fronted me the money, was quick to point out I only made my (his) investment back and then some, I hadn’t factored in my time.) By the time a skating novelties catalogue asked for more books, however, I’d moved on to writing romances with AVON, and simply sold them the rights to continue printing my original trivia book. (I saw it listed as a collector’s item on one site for $100!)
Flash forward a decade, and while I’m writing fiction for AVON and DELL, when it comes to skating, non-fiction is still the name of the game. I publish a coffee-table book called “Inside Figure Skating” for a book packager which eventually gets bought by B&N, and a biography of Sarah Hughes (two months before she pulls an upset to win the 2002 Olympics) for Penguin Putnam.
My editor for the Sarah Hughes book, being a huge skating fan herself, wondered if I’d be interested in trying my hand at a Figure Skating Mystery series. (Actually, the way she presented it was, “I read a proposal you wrote a few years ago. I didn’t like it.” I remembering thinking, “I am SO glad you personally called to tell me that.” We did, however, end up coming up with a proposal she liked.)
The resultant books, “Murder on Ice,” “On Thin Ice,” “Axel of Evil,” “Death Drop,” and “Skate Crime” were released between 2003 and 2007.
In 2011, after getting my rights back, I made a deal with Ice Theatre of NY (http://www.icetheatre.org/) to incorporate their professional videos into my newly enhanced e-books as a key part of the story.
A demo, “Skate Crime: Multimedia” (http://tinyurl.com/SkateCrime) came out in the Spring and, once again, it was back to niche marketing for me.
This time around, though, I had the Internet on my side.
No more post-cards. No more painstakingly typing in each address into a label program (raise your hand if you remember those!) No more trying to find mailing addresses and paying for postage, only to eat it when the missive came bouncing back.
Instead, I used a comprehensive directory of skating clubs, skating rinks, skating coaches and skating center directors to send customized e-mails (I got extremely nimble with cut and paste). A good percentage of them still bounced back. But, at least there was no cost involved.
In addition, I not only sent press releases to print publications, but also to on-line ‘zines, on-line fan-clubs and individual fan web-pages.
Strictly speaking, the bulk of my recipients cannot be mystery – or even fiction – readers. But, they’re skating fans, and that’s the aspect I highlighted in my sales pitch.
The fact is, there is very little skating to watch in the off-season (Spring/Summer). With “Skate Crime: Multimedia,” I was offering them an alternative way to get their fix.
Did it work? As with all marketing; impossible to ever really tell, since you don’t know for certain where your customers are coming from or what they may have seen that drove them to click BUY.
All I know is, I’m selling books. And making a profit, too.
Just as long as I keep excluding my time spent….
Alina Adams wrote Regency romances for AVON and contemporaries for DELL. Her soap opera tie-ins, “Oakdale Confidential” and “Jonathan’s Story” were NY Times best-sellers. Another tie-in, “The Man From Oakdale,” won the 2010 SCRIBE Award. Alina is currently working on turning her entire backlist into enhanced e-books with video, music and more, spearheaded by “Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama’s Greatest Moments”, and soon to include all of her Figure Skating Mysteries. Visit her at: http://www.AlinaAdams.com