Saturday, December 10, 2011

Linked In for writers

            There are 119 million people on linked in—and many of them read!

I recently heard public speaker and Linked In guru Jeff Zelaya give a presentation on how to maximize your efficiency on Linked In.  His first recommendation was that you complete your profile.

You may already be using Linked In for your day job—but there’s no reason why you can’t add an additional current job.  Assign yourself a job title—“Author” at your website. Mine reads “Neil Plakcy, author at Mahu Books” and includes a link to my website.

SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and in this case refers to using terms that people regularly use to search on Google and other search engines. Google values Linked In, and often includes Linked In profiles in its results. So be sure to use terms that relate to your writing, like “mystery author” and “police procedural,” as they relate to you.

Have you ever gone to an event and collected business cards? Perhaps they are from other writers who you might want to get in contact with in the future, or subject experts who express a willingness to answer questions when you have them. If you simply put those cards in your drawer, or even your contact file on your computer, you’ll quickly lose touch with them. You’ll forget about them, and they’ll forget about you.

Instead, as soon as you get home, log into Linked In. See if those people you just met are registered, and send them a friend request. Be sure to personalize it—“It was a pleasure meeting you today and I hope we can stay in touch.”

Then when they update their profile or make a post, you’ll know about it. When that attorney who offered you help changes firms, you’ll know. And the same goes for you—every time you change your profile (for example, adding a new book to your publications list) that information will be sent to all your contacts. So your name will stay fresh with them. (And maybe they’ll even buy a book!)

You can sync Facebook and Twitter to Linked In, so that when you post to one of those sites, your message is automatically added to your status updates on Linked In. But be careful not to overwhelm these people, who are essentially your business contacts (for your writing business) with lots of messages primarily intended for friends and family. You can add a feed link for your blog as well.

Under the “More” tab you’ll find questions people have asked. You can answer those questions yourself, using your expertise. That helps your ranking on Linked In, and it’s a way to share your expertise. You can also ask questions there, either ones about writing and publishing, or other questions that come up while doing your writing research, and get  answers from other members whose credentials you can verify.

Jeff suggests that you have at least three recommendations on your profile from others on linked in. Do you know people who have reviewed your books? Ask them to post those reviews on Linked In. Do you have connections who have read your books? Ask them to write a brief recommendation. The more content you have in your bio, and the more recommendations you have, the higher you will rank  on Linked In searches.

Don’t be afraid to ask people to connect with you. Remember, networking is a two-way street. Those people are on Linked In because they want to network with others—perhaps to get business, perhaps to keep up with current trends, perhaps to share the information they have. If you find someone on Linked In you want to connect with, see if you have any background in common—education, past work experience, and so on. If so, you’ll be able to send that person a connection request directly.

What if you don’t, though? The next way is to look through their connections and see if you have any connections in common. Then you can send an “introduction request” to your common contact. It’s just like meeting someone at a party and being introduced by a mutual acquaintance. You are more likely to value that new person (or be valued by him or her) because of your common connection.

Finally, if you don’t have anything in common, and you don’t have any mutual acquaintances, you can see what kind of groups that person belongs to, and join one of them. Hopefully it will be a group that relates to whatever it is you’re interested in this person for. Then participate in the group for a few days, introducing yourself and beginning to interact. Then when you want to connect with your target, you have that group membership in common, and Linked In will facilitate the connection.

Let’s say you’ve built up your connections and now you want to contact them via email. There is an export function—but be careful not to use it to spam people.

I have a background in video games, and let’s say I write a novel in which video games play a significant part. I could tailor a special email to my connections in the industry, writing something like, “Because we share an interest in video games and a connection through Linked In, I thought you might be interested in my new novel….”

Finally, Jeff recommended looking into Google Presentation or Slide Share. Both of those allow you to embed video content into presentations you upload to Linked In. Want to show off your great new book trailer? That’s the way.

Here’s another good article about Linked In, from Poets and Writers:

Now get linking!

Neil Plakcy

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cupcake Dreams! Marketing Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys, the Novel

When I signed my contract with indie publisher Krill Press in late July 2010, I realized I had about three months until my first novel, Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys would actually be out and available for lovely people to purchase and read.

Krill is a legitimate indie press but I knew that there were teeny-tiny marketing dollars on both our ends. And no one, (except friends and family,) would buy this book because of my name. So the question was, How in Holy Hell Could I Market my Novel?

Statistics conclude most indie and self-pubbed books from first time authors sell between 100 to 1000 copies. But almost eleven months after Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys was published, it has sold approximately 8000 copies, (most of them e-books.) Confession: While I’m not Amanda Hocking, I still consider my sales numbers to be pretty good.

Thanks to Jeffrey Marks, fab author, blogger, and marketing guru, I’m happy to share a few crucial ideas that I think helped attract readers to my book.

 Catchy Title. I cannot tell you enough how I lucked out by including the word, “Cupcakes,” in my title. When I wrote this book, I vaguely realized cupcakes were trendy. I did not know how trendy. Readers love my title, which has helped sales. 

I’m not advocating chasing ‘trendy’. I am encouraging you to research, Google, check Amazon, B&N, Wikipedia. Advice: Take some time and effort to find the best title for your book. A publisher might change it. But they might not. If you self-publish, you can pick your book title.

Crossover Market. Envision connecting your book to a wider audience than just other book people. This will help you find more readers. Once I realized cupcakes were popular, I realized I had a crossover market. I contacted approximately 600 hundred baking and cupcake baker sites and gently pitched them my book. I went to Cupcake events that were charity related. I met awesome wonderful people who loved cupcakes. Guess what? A bunch of them bought my book. Who could be your crossover market?

Visible, punchy Book Cover. Unless you are picked up by one of the Big 6 publishing houses, realize that the majority of your sales will be online. Your book cover will be about the size of a postage stamp on a computer screen. Potential buyers must clearly see your book title, your name and a catchy book cover. Book cover graphics should trigger something in readers’ brains that says, “Buy. Very inexpensive. Costs about as much as a frappachino or a bagel with schmear. Buy. Now.”

Again, unless you self-publish you don’t have control over the book cover. Your publisher does. I loved my first book cover more than the one I ended up with. But, my Author Success coach, Deborah Riley Magnus, pointed out that the title was “unreadable,” on a computer screen. I mentioned that to Krill Press. Goodbye exquisite tiffany blue background. Hello dark purpley blue with a readable title. Hey, it pops.    

Do Not ask people twenty times a day on Twitter, FB or your blog to buy your book.  Honestly, I tune those people out. Instead, give potential readers information and entertain them.

 How can I entertain potential readers?

I have a Google Alert for Cupcake news. Everyday Google sends me cupcake news, I pick something interesting and repost on my book’s FB page, which I’ve automatically linked to Twitter. Other kind people on Twitter include my news in their “Follow Friday” links.

I have a Facebook page for my book instead of a separate Author Page. This is because until I have several books out, most people don’t know me as an author. But they might check in for some Cupcake news or a shout out that I have posted for a Cupcake bakery.

Which is another note. Give people shout outs on Twitter and FB. Tell them they’ve done a great job. Link to them. Kindness is key. A friend of a friend wrote a novel about a dog. On their book’s FB page, they asked people to send in pictures of their dog. They’d pick one dog to be ‘Dog of the Week,’ and put its picture and caption on their website. Who doesn’t think their dog is fabulous? They were flooded with fans, the book became a best seller and DreamWorks picked up the movie rights.

Videos. Before I even had a copy of my paper book in hand I decided to shoot very short funny videos related to the title. I filmed “Cute as a Cupcake,” and “Scarier than a Dead Guy” videos in which I always said, “Pamela DuMond reporting for Cupcakes, Lies and Dead Guys.” I used a Flip camera and I didn’t edit any of the videos. My goal was to let viewers know I was willing to be silly, which meant my book was probably silly as well.

Do mention your book on occasion. Link on FB or twitter, your blog, or your website if you got a great review that tickled you. Mention if you won an award. Got a shout out. I noticed Mystery Scene Magazine was asking readers to email them about new books they enjoyed. I asked several readers who liked my book if they would find time to do this. They did. My book got a great mention in the magazine.

Book Trailer? My friends did an awesome book trailer for me. Honestly, I don’t know if it helped sell more books but it certainly didn’t hurt. If you want a professional book trailer, watch this. If you’re as impressed as I was, call Mike Snyder at 818/300-5152.

Last but not least – Hang out online or in person with groups of people who like the kind of book you wrote. I found The Sassy Girls Book Club on FB. They are a loving kind group or readers that love funny books and support the authors.

  Good luck and enjoy the ride.


Pamela DuMond
Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys - a comedic mystery published by Krill Press is available in trade paperback, Kindle, and Nook.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Promoting in a Pack -- By Ann Parker

When it comes to promoting, some authors go it alone, by choice or necessity. However, as someone with a “pack mentality,” I’m here to sing the praises of group promotion. Promoting with others allows you to…

·       Plan together: From “where should we go?” to “should we have giveaways?” you’ve got others to bounce ideas off of.

·       Share the workload: Divvy up your contact lists so one person doesn’t have to make all the calls or send all the emails. Too, if there’s a design whiz amongst you, she can design a flyer promoting your “group tour.”

·       Share the costs: Materials, mailing, and travel (gas, hotel) expenses are more manageable when shared. And let’s not forget the good “environmental karma” you’ll rack up by carpooling, using one flyer to hawk three authors, and so on.

·       Offer a “two-fer,” “three-fer,” etc. to bookstores, libraries, etc.: In my experience, most brick ‘n mortar venues prefer hosting an event with multiple authors. They can advertise once, prepare once, and (fingers crossed) get more people in the doors.

·       Encourage cross-fertilization: People who are interested in your fellow author might, upon meeting you, decide to give your book a try… and vice versa!

·       Avoid awkward moments: During the event, if there’s a dead silence from the crowd, you can ask each other questions. Similarly, you can feed each other straight lines and set up each other’s stories.

Group benefits apply in the virtual world as well. Do you find daily blogging just too much to handle? You are not alone, trust me. Find others of a like mind and create or join a group blog. For instance, I co-administrate a group blog, The LadyKillers, which has fourteen authors. Most post once every two weeks, with a few splitting one slot and posting just once a month. The big pluses of this arrangement: the blog has new post up every day, and we look out for each other, promoting/commenting on each other’s posts and creating a conversation. Among the things we do to make The LadyKillers work smoothly are the following:

·       Have weekly “themes,” scheduled out about six months in advance. Although blogging on the theme isn’t required, it prevents the last-minute “what the heck am I going to blog about?” panics.

·       Have two co-administrators for the blog. Mysti Berry and I back up each other, and the blogsters know they can call on either of us for help, should the need arise.

·       Have a private yahoo group. Allows us to post messages to the group. We also use the yahoo calendar function to list who blogs when and what the themes are.

·       Have “emergency posts” ready to go. We try to encourage all the LadyKillers to schedule their posts to go live just after midnight. If someone forgets (it happens), or has trouble getting the post up (that happens too), we have some back-up quotes in the yahoo group files that can be slapped up by any LadyKiller when they see a posting is missing/late for the day.

If you want to give group promotion a try, here are some tips from my “partners in crime” for making your group effort run smoothly:

·       Approach authors you know or have heard speak elsewhere, so that you know their styles/personalities and yours will “mesh.”

·       Find a catchy title for your group, something that underlines your commonalities or plays up your differences. It can be as simple as “Mavens of Mystery,” “Historical Murder and Mayhem” etc.

·       Appoint a “moderator” from amongst you, if your group is three or more, for each event. The moderator can keep a list of agreed-upon questions handy, be sure everyone gets heard, and handle the audience Q&A.

·       Read the works of your partners-in-crime, or at least be able to sound like you have. Compliment each other: praise always sounds better coming from someone else. So, next time you have a book coming out the chute, maybe there are other folks you can join forces with to bring the power of numbers to promotion.


Ann Parker is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The latest in her series, MERCURY’S RISE, will be released November 1.

Leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win one of the Silver Rush mysteries! Winner will be announced later this week.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Promoting to Libraries

by Jacqueline Seewald

Writers can’t just write a book these days; they have to promote it as well. Today owing to the internet and the ease of self-publishing, there are more writers publishing their books then ever before. We are in the midst of a literary revolution that is changing the face of publishing throughout the world. So what are the best ways to promote books? The obvious answer is by using the internet: social networking such as websites, blogging, via Facebook, Twitter, etc. Bookstore signings and events are great. However, as we are aware with the demise of Borders among others, bookstore opportunities unless you are a famous author are diminishing. So where does an author go to find publicity and name recognition? How about libraries.

As a former librarian and teacher, I can testify to the fact that authors are welcome to provide an event at many libraries. Books are an important component of what the library has to offer. Authors are respected by librarians. Think in terms of what kind of event you can provide that library patrons will enjoy and appreciate.

On October 6th I will present an event at the Fort Lee, NJ Library entitled “We Can All Be Writers.” It will not just be a talk but a happening—an interactive experience for both attendees and myself. I will offer writing exercises that we can do together and discuss.
I’ll also talk about sources of inspiration for writers as well as library resources for writers. In short, I will be offering something to patrons. I believe that not only can everyone be a writer but should be a writer. By this I do not necessarily mean that they should strive for publication. There is such a thing as writing simply for our own self-expression. There is also writing to leave a written and historical record for our families.

What’s in it for you? Well, the library may or may not be able to pay you to speak but at least you won’t be paying a fee. Doing an event will provide you with publicity. You can ask the local newspaper to cover it. Hopefully, library patrons may want to either borrow some of your novels from the library or purchase them. At the very least, the library will buy your book.

As for me, I intend to give something useful back to the community. Hopefully, my expertise in teaching, library science and writing will benefit those who also want to write.

Multi-award winning author Jacqueline Seewald has taught creative, expository and technical writing at the university level as well as high school English. She also worked as an academic librarian and an educational media specialist. Eleven of her books of fiction have been published. Her short stories as well as poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications and numerous anthologies. Her hardcover mystery novels, THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL, are the first two novels in the Kim Reynolds series.
THE TRUTH SLEUTH is a new release in that series. All three novels have received excellent reviews from BOOKLIST among others. Her historical romance set in the Regency period TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS is available in both hardcover and large print editions. These novels can be found on Amazon, B&N online, and local libraries. A young adult novel, STACY’S SONG, is also available in print and as an e-book.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


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 ( to incorporate their professional videos into my newly enhanced e-books as a key part of the story.

A demo, “Skate Crime: Multimedia” ( 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:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

When Well-planned Marketing Strategies Fail

Bob Sutherland is an author, illustrator and the publisher of Pikestaff Press.

One issue that perhaps requires more discussion than it normally gets is the occasional failure of well-planned and well-executed promotional efforts to generate book sales. In marketing my novel The Farringford Cadenza I’ve experienced two such failures which colleagues might find interesting (and even useful). I certainly find them interesting—as well as irksome and puzzling. I’m sure some of you have had comparable experiences you might like to share.

It’s always disappointing when a well-planned marketing strategy fails to produce sales; and it’s particularly frustrating when, to the best of your ability, you’ve done everything “right”: identified the target audience, done the necessary research to design promotional materials for an effective “pitch”, and delivered those materials into the proper hands. On two occasions while promoting my mysteryThe Farringford Cadenza (The Pikestaff Press, 2007), I’ve found that—contrary to logic and counter to informed intuition—my hopefully scattered seeds fell on stony ground.

CASE 1. Since the novel has classical music as one of its chief components, and its main action is organized around the avid pursuit by a number of diverse characters of a missing manuscript of a cadenza for solo piano, it seemed to me that professional musicians would be a logical niche audience to receive promotional materials. These materials consisted of a letter that described the book (briefly summarizing its action), depicted its cover, and provided purchase information. In addition to the book’s being well reviewed in a number of venues, two concert pianists and the former principal flute of the London Symphony Orchestra had praised it, and these endorsements were included in the materials.
To obtain my list of professional musicians, I researched the teaching faculties of all the nation’s major conservatories and university music departments. I list them here not to be pedantic, but to show the number of schools and their geographical distribution: Boston Conservatory, U. of Cincinnati, Curtis Institute, Eastman, Juilliard, Levine School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, U. of Maryland, New England Conservatory, Oberlin Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory (located in Baltimore, MD, where much of the book’s action takes place, and which enters into the story, though under a different name), San Francisco Conservatory, USC at Los Angeles (Thornton School of Music), Cleveland Institute, Yale, Indiana U. (Jacobs School), Interlochen Arts Academy, Blair School of Music (Vanderbilt U.), Bard College Conservatory, and Illinois Wesleyan University.

From these various institutions, I selected the faculty members who were to receive promotional materials on the basis of (1) their instrumental specialties (piano, flute, trumpet, violin, etc.), (2) their academic interests (composition, theory, musicology, etc.) and performance histories, (3) where they had done their own training (and particularly if they had studied at Peabody), and (4) what their non-musical interests were (writing, reading, collecting). From the twenty schools of music I selected 369 individuals whom I thought would be the most likely to find my promotional materials interesting. I assumed that if they purchased the book (and liked it) they would tell their colleagues and friends, lend their copies out, and purchase additional copies as gifts (a promotional ripple effect). My timing had the letters arrive in early autumn, well in advance of holiday gift-buying. Altogether, I spent almost three months doing research, selecting recipients, and preparing and mailing the 369 customized cover letters. These efforts resulted in one sale—an outcome that I found not only disheartening, but baffling.

The niche marketing strategy had seemed valid: contacting a carefully selected group of musicians (performers, composers, musicologists, etc.)—teachers all, deeply committed to music, and to nurturing the next generation of practitioners. The flatline response was not only contrary to what I perceived to be the logic of my plan, but counter-intuitive as well. Was I naïve to think that musicians would be interested in my novel? Is it possible they don’t read mysteries, or for that matter, any sort of fiction? Are they too busy teaching, performing, traveling, and practicing to read at all? Was there something about my promotional materials that didn’t resonate with 368 diverse people? Having carefully crafted my pitch, I’m at a loss to know how I could’ve improved it. I find this non-response a real-life mystery that I haven’t yet solved.

CASE 2. Two years ago I decided that I should make a concerted effort to market the book to public libraries. Because there are many hundreds of libraries in the United States, and my promotional budget is limited, it seemed reasonable to launch an experimental trial run before committing printing and postage money to a broad-based scattergun approach. Since much of the action of The Farringford Cadenza takes place in Baltimore and on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I focused on a regional effort, targeting public libraries in the State of Maryland and in Christiansted, St. Croix, where theoretically there would be local interest.

While Maryland has some prestigious freestanding libraries like the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, many libraries in the state are housed in County systems, in which a main library situated in a particular town has administrative jurisdiction over a variable number of branch facilities in other towns. When I was visiting my son’s family in Ellicott City, I asked the acquisitions librarian at Elkridge Branch Library (the one near his home) if Elkridge would consider purchase of The Farringford Cadenza. The librarian said that she didn’t have the authority to purchase books; that those decisions were made at the Central Library for Howard County, located in Columbia.

Using the website < > which lists all U. S. libraries alphabetically by State, with addresses, I compiled a list of Maryland libraries and obtained the address of the public library in Christiansted. I decided to pitch my inquiry to the chief or main library in each of the Maryland County systems. It seemed logical to assume that if the acquisitions staff at a particular main library purchased the book for their collection, they might make a blanket purchase for all the branches in their jurisdiction.

Back in Illinois with my targets identified, I again prepared promotional materials: a letter with a brief description of the book, depiction of the cover, and the endorsements as before, with an order blank for purchasing. But in these materials, I highlighted that the action took place in Baltimore (or respectively, in Chistiansted) as a detail that might catch the staff’s interest, and included ISBN and LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number). As a special incentive, I announced in large font that libraries purchasing directly from the publisher would receive a discount of 33 1/3% from list price ($10.63 net for a book priced at $15.95).

In all, there were thirty libraries on my list. I printed the customized letters and once again stuffed envelopes and affixed first-class postage. Later, in May, 2011, I arranged (free of charge to me) for Association Book Exhibit (ABE) to display the book in Ocean City at the Maryland Library Association convention, in the hope that seeing my book’s cover might jog the memories of County acquisitions staff who’d received my materials. How many sales resulted from all these efforts? Not one. It was as though a black hole had swallowed everything.

I began my experiment by targeting libraries in the State of Maryland, thinking it stood to reason that interest would be relatively high in the region closest to the scene of action (Baltimore). But even if interest was quickened, it didn’t translate into sales.

In both of these cases I did the best I could to frame approaches that would generate sales. My research was thorough, my planning meticulous, my presentation and wording of materials carefully calibrated for specific recipients. In targeting the musicians, whom I saw as a logical and “natural” niche market, I tried to think outside the box. In targeting the Maryland libraries, I employed logic and a systematic approach that simply didn’t bear fruit. The question remains: if my efforts in Maryland were so futile, should I approach other libraries in other states with individualized mass mailings? Would a campaign in Oregon be more successful? Oklahoma? Minnesota? And should I try the Maryland libraries again? Marketing gurus tell us that frequently multiple exposures are required for an advertisement to impact a potential target: maybe on the fifth encounter the target will take notice and act on it. But to balance that, there’s a popular definition currently floating about that may be worth considering: “Insanity is when you try something and, finding that it doesn’t work, you try it again the same way, confident that the outcome will be different.” I’m not inclined to spend the time, energy, and money on continuing the experiment with 49 other states.

The library failure, like that of the musicians’ campaign, is frustrating and discouraging. But like many failures in promotion, its cause may lie in variables beyond a marketer’s control—external events, a bad economy, shrinking acquisitions budgets, habits of buying in bulk from jobber-distributors rather than directly from publishers. The musicians’ lack of response is more problematical.

Though disappointing, failures are inevitable accompaniments to marketing. Promoters must be prepared to take them in stride, as bumps in the road, and go marching on. Good marketers must think outside the box, using analysis and imagination to discern potential new markets and to devise innovative and effective ways of reaching them. And in planning strategy, they must strive always to do everything “right” as the best hope for achieving success. 

Robert D. Sutherland

Pikestaff Press website:
mystery-writing blog:  (Anyone may post.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bookmarks: An Easy, Economical Way to Reach Readers

For authors, a bookmark can serve as a calling card, business card, giveaway, and even as an autographable object. But what should a bookmark do? What should it look like?

At minimum, a bookmark should contain the following information: book title, author name, website, publisher name. From there, you can selectively add other items, such as the book's cover, ISBN number, publication date, tagline about book content, blurbs, awards, other titles by author, contact information, and so on.
However, the trick with bookmarks---or any marketing item---is to keep it all focused, and to do as much as possible with as little as possible. In the example here, the graphic and title and author name draw the eye in, then, a minimum of descriptors are used, plus a sales blurb from an important person, and the all-important ISBN and website are provided.


There are many ways to produce your bookmarks. You can make your own if you have the skills, design software, and home printer. Design software will allow you to place elements accurately and make the best of typography. Some software (I use BeLight's Labels & Addresses for Mac) comes with templates that will even print your crop lines. Keep the design simple and focused, without a lot of visual gimmickry. Use at most two fonts, and keep them readable. Use your book cover image, if possible. And don't use too much type and image---let white space do the work---this lessened ink coverage will also make the printing easier and cheaper. Make sure that you use a heavier index paper for printing the bookmarks---and check that your printer can handle that weight paper, and that the ink will work on it.

For those who aren't comfortable with doing design work, you can easily find professionals to help you. If you're on a budget, students in graphic design always are needing projects for classes. When working with someone else, make sure to give clear instructions, and show them comparable work, so that they know what to shoot for. (Note: designers sometimes need to be reined in, especially on readability!) Another design method is to use a template, such as those offered by online print shops. You can also pay a print shop to have their staff design your bookmark for you.

The size of your bookmark will depend on your book's needs (themes, cover design, etc.), on your tastes, and on your printing method. Too big can be cumbersome; too small can be too hard to read or keep track of. Common sizes are 2 x 6" or 2 x 8.

Professional printing will allow you to take advantage of full-color, fully inked and two-sided printing, heavyweight paper and gloss varnish in ways that would be difficult or impossible when printing at home. Printing can be done at your local print shop, office supply store, or, for lesser quality, by a photocopy shop. Online print shops are commonly used these days for items such as bookmarks and business cards. Your publisher, under certain circumstances, may be able to print bookmarks for you.

Finally, make sure to proofread your bookmark! Have others proofread it, too. It's amazing how many errors can creep in, and how much you can miss. Triple-check your web address and your ISBN numbers.


Gee, it's cheap to print 5000 bookmarks! But do you NEED that many? You want to order a quantity that you can realistically use up within a year. Otherwise, you'll be stuck figuring out clever arts and crafts project with the kids to use up the leftovers.


For one friend's book, I designed a provisional (i.e. tasteful, homemade, low ink coverage) bookmark as soon as she signed the contract. I printed and cut 50 for her to use until things were further along. Was she ever glad that she didn't spring for 5,000 professionally printed ones: over the next year, the publisher, ISBN, publication date, and cover art all changed. Once the dust had settled, we worked on an "official" bookmark (i.e. full-bleed design, full-color front, BW back, on hefty stock) that she then had printed professionally.


Carry them with you, always! Hand them out, always! Give them to bookstores or library to give away. Put them in your books when you have a signing (do NOT practice guerilla marketing by putting them them in books at libraries or at bookstores without invitation; that will quickly get you banned). Provide bookmarks for bags of giveaways at conferences. Include them in your media kit. Sign them for people who have your book on an e-reader, or for people who'll borrow the book from the library.

A well-designed and well-printed bookmark can be an important part of your marketing kit. At pennies apiece, they linger for years as reminders to readers to revisit your work.

Barbara DaCosta

Barbara DaCosta's debut children's book NIGHTTIME NINJA, illustrated by Caldecott Award-winning artist Ed Young, will appear Fall 2012 from Little, Brown.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Goodreads promotion

I wanted to follow up and tell you about a Goodreads promotion that I did. My novel, The Ambush of My Name, is now 10 years old. As a result, I wanted to mark the occassion with a celebration. To do so, I offered to give away 7 copies of the book to people on Goodreads.

This is the text I used on Goodreads to explain my contest:
It's been a decade since I published my first mystery novel, The Ambush of My Name. The story takes place in Southern Ohio just after the Civil War. General US Grant is taking a victory tour to relax after the years of battle and to cement his burgeoning popularity. At his stop in Georgetown, Ohio, his boyhood home, he's surprised to enter his hotel room and find an unidentified corpse. 

Grant has to solve the mystery and a plot to make him the next victim. 

The contest will run until June 1, 2011, the anniversary of its publication. 

You can read more about the series at

760 entered the contest! I'm not allowed to use the information from the contest to email or spam any of the registrants (that's part of the rules.) However, I received a number of good reviews (see below) AND 54 people added the book to their Goodreads to-be-read queue.

3 reviews:
 rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: first-read
The story begins with Ulysses S. Grant (née Hiram Grant) arriving in this hometown after the Civil War. One must understand that even in Ohio, the town was split down the middle with sympathizers for North and South. He is welcoming includes speeches, cheers, jeers and finding a dead man in his hotel bed. And so begins our mystery, who is this man, and does he have anything to do with a potential plot to harm Grant and his wife? 

I really enjoyed the conflicted nature that Mr. Marks gave to Grant; not just at having to come home and face his childhood past, but also the more recent and horrific war past. I also really enjoyed Grant’s relationship with his wife. Mr. Marks made her strong without being a shrew, and she is totally relatable. (She just knows what she wants and makes her feelings known to her husband, subtle though the facial expressions may be to others.) 

I recommend this book for anyone interested in Grant, the post Civil War era or satisfying mysteries in general. The ending, is so good (I can’t even begin, without ruining it); it just has a great surprising and suspenseful ending - like I wrote, if you like mysteries, you'll enjoy this one. And for full disclosure, I did receive this as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.(less)
Jun 11, 2011
 rated it 4 of 5 stars
I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in historical fiction, the Civil War and/or mysteries. It has all of the above elements, with a hint of romance (my perfect combination). 
A previous reviewer did a good job of a summary of the plot; I will just add there are several possible suspects and Marks does a good job of making sure any of them could be implicated in the crimes. I had an idea of who it was, but wasn't able to be sure until the final pages. 
I will be reading his other books, A Good Soldier, also about Grant, will be first on my list. 
I won this book as part of the goodreads giveaw
Jun 01, 2011
rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: first-reads
I enjoyed the author writing about an actual historical character (Ulysses S Grant) in this fictional piece. Actually, without revealing too much, there was more than one famous and/or infamous character involved in this story. Depicted in Georgetown, Ohio in the late 1800's, Grant goes back home for a visit only to find his life and his wife's in danger.
Things aren't always as they seem nor or some grudges ever forgotten
ay. (less)

All in all, I was very pleased with the results, and the cost was in no way prohibitive for a fun contest.

You can learn more at:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Succeed in Writing Without Really Marketing

I know, this probably seems like a strange title for a post
on a blog called Murder Must Advertise.

But with all the discussion today of how many lines are too
many on a sig (and I am guilty of adding them one-by-one myself), and wondering
if it could possibly be in good taste to mention your novel at
great-great-great Uncle Freddy’s memorial service—after all, the book does
have a dead body in it—I thought I’d offer six pointers that nobody will ever

1)     Have a website. Note: this tip says
nothing about telling everyone you have a website. But you have to have
one. For one thing, people will go looking for you once you have a book out,
and Googling your name is the first thing they’ll do. For another, your
publisher will want you to have one, and if you’re independently published, the
many resources indie authors have at their disposal—yellow pages, forums,
review sites—will want a link available. And finally, building yourself a snazzy
website is something you can do while you’re not marketing!

2)     Join a writers organization. MWA or SinC or ITW for mystery and suspense. There
are groups for romance, speculative fiction, and fantasy. If you don’t write in
a specific genre, join ASJA. This may be
splitting a hair, but I would call this networking, not marketing. Networking
is all about building connections and a sense of community. If down the road,
one of the writers you meet invites you to be on a panel…or to guest on her
blog…well, you can meet new readers and sell books, all while telling yourself
you didn’t even have to market to do it.

3)     Join a listserv or two. Like this one.
Here you can learn about conferences and get out to them. Most of all, you can
participate in the threads, and offer any wisdom or advice you may have. When
people post about their various events, go to them if they are nearby. If your
book is relevant to the conversation, by all means mention it. But it won’t
even matter whether you do. How many times have I gone looking to the List to
find authors who write on a particular subject because I needed them for a
panel? If you become an active participant on a listserv, people will come
looking for you.

4)     Blog. But don’t blog about yourself and
your work, or at least not primarily about those things. Instead, try another
approach. Is there some element of your book that will specifically interest
people? Say you write mysteries that concern horse racing, as author Sasscer Hill does. There is a whole subset of the world that loves horses. You can blog about them without ever
once mentioning that you have a book. Your blog will do the work for you—if you
offer content that people appreciate, they will go looking for more work
by you. And what will they find? Mysteries set in a world they already love and
trust you to depict. This can work for books that involve maps, cooking, or a
specific region. Books that involve almost anything.

5)     Blog approach #2. Another way to blog
without constantly trying to come up with something new to say about your own
book—“And on page 316, I once had to cut a comma…”—is to offer a platform to
fellow authors. Emerging writer Karyne Corum is doing this splendidly with her
website, Jerseywise Fiction. Karyne gives NJ writers the chance to talk about how setting influences their writing and process and work. Are these writers talking about their books? Of
course. But they’re being asked to—by Karyne. And that makes a heckuva

6)     Get to know independent booksellers. As
many as you can. (Caution: This one will cost some money.) Start with your
local store or stores, then widen your driving radius. Then begin identifying
bookstores anytime you travel or go out of town. Spend time in these stores.
Say hello to whomever is at the register, ask the owner’s name. Attend author
events and always—always—support the people who appear. Sooner or later, you’ll
be the author appearing, and you won’t have to set up a thing. The bookstore
owner will know you and wonder why you haven’t yet come in to talk about your
own book. Come to think of it, you don’t have to spend a lot of extra money to
make use of this tip. Simply buy books any time a holiday or gift-giving
occasion is coming up. By frequenting bookstores, you are helping to keep healthy
an industry that gives health to authors. This isn’t marketing, it’s writers

I have the sense that this post could go on and on, but
hopefully these six tips will keep you busy for some time to come—busy not

Good luck! I bet I’ll hear about your book before too long.

Jenny Milchman teaches writing and publishing for New York
Writers Workshop. Last year she founded Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, a
holiday that went viral, enlisting 80 booksellers in 30 states, England, and
two Canadian provinces. She co-hosts the series Writing Matters, which draws
authors and publishing professionals from both coasts to standing-room-only
events held at a local bookstore. Jenny features Edgar winners, international
bestsellers, and independent authors in the Made It Moments forum on her blog,
Suspense Your Disbelief. Her short fiction has been published in a collection
called "Lunch Reads I" from Istoria Books that reached #19 on the
Amazon bestseller list of mystery anthologies.

Her first novel, a literary mystery called COVER OF SNOW set in a small
Adirondack town, is forthcoming from Ballantine.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spontaneous Publicity by Mary Reed

There is no doubt that Fortuna plays a part in publishing, or as Roman dramatist Plautus observed, "Things unhoped for happen oftener than things we desire".

I believe this applies to the marketing part of a writer's life. We can blog ourselves blue-faced, tweet until our fingers are sore, Facebook into a frenzy, run contests and giveaways, take out ads and go in for booksignings, and many other agonies besides, but sometimes we are blessed with spontaneous publicity for our work -- which is to say, publicity that just happens without any effort on our behalf.
Publicity that in any case could never have been arranged deliberately.

And often it is far-ranging.

Robin Burcell, author of THE BONE CHAMBER, offered "cop tips for chicks" as a public service providing advice on staying safe in the Christmas season and addressing related matters such as protecting yourself from burglars who do their festive shopping by breaking into your car or home. The tips were totally unrelated to her book and she tweeted them to her normal Twitter list and Facebook friends. Eventually a TV news station in Wisconsin picked them up via Twitter, and when Robin was in the area they asked her to appear on their morning news talk show. While the news piece was about the tips, they showed her book on the programme and linked her website to theirs for that particular show.

Larry Karp, author of the Music Box Mystery series, the Ragtime Hist-Myst trilogy, FIRST, DO NO HARM (a medical-ethics standalone), and the upcoming A PERILOUS CONCEPTION, has an extraordinary story to tell.

The chairwoman of the San Marino (CA) One Book/One City Committee happened to see THE RAGTIME KID, the first book in his Ragtime trilogy, displayed on a shelf in the Crowell Public Library. She was drawn in by what Larry describes as the lovely Poisoned Pen Press cover art, read the dust jacket summaries, became interested enough to read the book, and then contacted Larry to ask whether he would be willing to appear at and highlight their 2011 One Book/One City event, which would focus on THE RAGTIME KID.

And that was with no promotional effort whatsoever by Larry.

My story is a more modest one.

It unfolded in April 2000, not long after the publication of our historical mystery ONE FOR SORROW, the first novel about our protagonist.

A gentleman who read the book wrote to our publisher, who forwarded his letter to us so we could pass along its request to be put in touch with one of the people listed on the book's acknowledgement page. We were happy to oblige. And thus by an almost unbelievable chain of events, two old friends regained contact after losing touch with each other many years before.

We never found out where the reader saw the book or why he picked it up, but as it happened this particular dedicatee belonged to a genealogical and historical society whose secretary were so struck by the remarkable chance that had brought the friends together again that he related the story on their website.

There must be many such stories of spontaneous publicity floating about in the mystery world. Since we cannot control them, we must just enjoy them -- so let's hear them!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Establishing a Platform with Social Media by JP Farris

I write with the philosophy “Hook ‘em fast, hold ‘emlong.”  Basically that means to “hook‘em”  with the first few paragraphs and“hold ‘em” for the duration of the novel – between 280 to 350 pages, althoughsome novels are considerably longer.  

I don’t know how many times I let readers read the first fewchapters of The Banshee and the Archangel.  If after the first couple of pages they aredrawn in to the point the rest of the world disappears I know I’ve done myjob.  They ask me when it’s going to hitthe bookstore shelves so they can read the whole thing.  I smile and say in the near future, but whenI sent my 10th query out and received another rejection letter itwas like the rug was pulled out from underneath my feet.  It was more than disheartening.  I believed in my work.  A few choice mystery readers believed in mywork.  So why – after the 10threjection – couldn’t I find an agent or a publisher?

Your voice has to find the right ears and your manuscriptthe right reader who will accept it with enthusiasm.  But how does one go about doing that?  The solution is the same as when you go outand promote a book.  You have to promoteyourself as well.

“How do I do that?” you may ask.  Sometimes the simplest and most economicalway to promote yourself and your work is by word of mouth.  Or in this digital age by social media.  Social media may have begun as an avenue forpeople to meet and chat with each other online, but it was quickly picked up bybusiness minded consumers.

Establish a social platform. Networking is of paramount importance. If you don’t have a Facebook account, get one.  If you don’t have a Twitter account then goto the Twitter website and sign-up. Network with other professionals by signing-up for a LinkedInaccount.  Establish yourself online withyour own blog; and you can post your work at sites like for publicdiscussion and critique.  (You canestablish a portfolio for free with five examples of your work, any more than fiverequires a paid account.)

In retrospect – establish your persona online and develop aplatform.  Don’t be afraid to putyourself and your work out there.  Andabove all, never stop believing in your work, because if you don’t whowill?  Never give up.  Continue to push forward and eventually yourwork will find a home and an audience.