Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Love Affair with Book Marketing

By Karen Dionne (

I’ll admit it: I enjoy marketing my books. For me, thinking up fresh ways to get the word out about my novels is almost as much fun as creating the story and the characters.

For my first novel, Freezing Point, I held an online book launch party that simulated a real-world book launch as much as possible.

The party lasted three days, and included video clips from the authors who endorsed my novel welcoming people to my party -- clips that in themselves ended up being a fantastic marketing tool. (Imagine seeing and hearing a #1 New York Times bestselling author wishing me well and saying how much he loved my book!)  Other video clips are just for fun -- a montage of authors (including another #1 New York Times bestseller) offering their opinions on what their characters would think of my novel.

I started planning the party a year in advance, lining up Penguin swag from my publisher, Penguin (the book is set in Antarctica, so items featuring the Penguin logo were particularly appropriate), and traveling to conferences, where I filmed most of the author video clips.

2,700 people visited the website during the party, and 400 posted comments in the guest book for a chance to win prizes.  The online party was a terrific way to launch my first novel, and allowed me to reach a far larger audience than if the party had taken place in the real world. (Just think of the catering costs!)

I began marketing plans for my second novel, Boiling Point, even earlier, before I wrote the book. The story takes place at an active volcano in Northern Patagonia, Chile. Because my publisher bought the novel before it was written, I was able to travel to the volcano for onsite research.

As I was planning the trip, I thought about how I could use my research adventure to publicize the novel. I bought a bright red raincoat, knowing that in photos, the red color would stand out.

 During the trip, I loaded up on authentic Chilean handicrafts to give as promotions and gifts. I also brought back 20 pounds of Chaiten obsidian that I collected from a stream bed less than a mile from the volcano, some of which I had made into jewelry to give away as prizes.

When the editors of RT Magazine heard about my trip, they offered to publish what turned out to be a fantastic two-page spread with photos timed to when my novel released. And my local newspaper, The Detroit News, ran a page-2 feature article about my research adventure. "Local woman writes novel" isn't newsworthy, but "Local woman visits active volcano to research novel" certainly is!

Of course these marketing ideas won't work for every author, because every book and author is unique. But it's that same uniqueness that makes marketing a novel so much fun. The key is to find the things that make your book special, and capitalize on those to get the word out. 

I'm currently writing an original novel based on a popular Fox/AMC detective series.  Unlike my first two books, this novel won't need a big marketing push from me, since the show already has millions of fans. That said, I do have a few ideas . . .


Photo by Robert Bruce

Detroit native Karen Dionne is the internationally published author of Boiling Point, an environmental thriller about an erupting volcano, a missing researcher, and a radical scheme to end global warming. Karen's first science thriller, Freezing Point, was nominated by RT Book Reviews as Best First Mystery of 2008. Freezing Point has been published in Germany and the Czech Republic, and both novels are available in audio from Her short story, "Calling the Shots," appears in the anthology First Thrills edited by Lee Child.

Karen is cofounder of the online writers community Backspace, and organizes the Backspace Writers Conferences held in New York City every year. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the International Thriller Writers, where she serves on the board of directors as Vice President, Technology.

 Karen blogs at The Huffington Post and has written about the publishing industry from an author's perspective for DailyFinance. She also reviews for The New York Journal of Books.


  1. Love that you visited Chile for research!

  2. Hmmm...a tie-in novel, huh?

    I'm sure you'll do great. Do invite me if/when you make a new online launch.

    Best of luck!

  3. Karen, you are brilliant at this, and your ideas are unique--but generalizable with a little imagination. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Hey, Pamela and J.H. and Jenny - thanks for commenting! (And thank you, Jeffrey, for the opportunity to share a little about my marketing efforts.)

    I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone reading thisblog post that marketing and promotion can be a lot of work. My guiding principle is that if I have to do it, I may as well make it enjoyable!

  5. The red raincoat wrapped around you surely stood out in the picture, Karen. You look very captivating, indeed! It just proves that writers have passion for fashion, too. :) How I wish I could have joined this online book launch party (ERRR! That was four years ago, I think I was in Japan that time). Penguin books have come a long way! If I'm not mistaken, the first penguin book I've read was Peter Pan. Sadly, some parts of the book weren't mentioned in the movie.

    Kevin Beamer