Thursday, April 26, 2012

To market, to market

Remember the nursery rhyme “To market, to market, to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.” When it comes to marketing books, I harken back to this saying.

In order to exchange money for a desired item, one has to go to the market. Afterwards, it’s time to go home and rejoice. Interpolating, all authors have to do is get their books to a market.

Sounds easy, right? Just get out there and sell those printed books. But where? And how?

Many authors hold booksignings to market their work. While it’s traditional to hold signings in bookstores, there are other options. For instance, if your book is about horses, you might sell books at horse events. If your book has a quilting hook, you might do something at a quilt show or quilt shop.

I’ve held signings in ice cream stores for a summer release, in a seashell gift shop for a beach mystery, and at a golf course for a story where the victim was found on a golf course. I’ve also given talks at local clubs such as Rotary Club, D.A.R., and the historical society. I’ve launched books and authors programs for various vendors and library cultural events such as the Big Read. I even held one signing at a real estate Open House. At each event, I made sure to have my books for sale.

Why not just hold the signings in a bookstore? Believe it or not, that’s not an option for everyone these days. We have a satellite kiosk of a nearby indie bookstore in our county located inside an upscale flea market venue, but that’s it for bookstore in our area. I’ve signed at an independent store just south of us, but the big box bookstore in the same town wasn’t interested because I wasn’t pubbed by one of the Big Six.

Having to be creative about signings has helped me to enjoy the events I create. Have you ever sat at a signing in a bookstore and had folks walk by who won’t look you in the eye? Or had people refuse to take a free bookmark because they say they don’t read? (This happened in a large bookstore in Jacksonville!) Why put yourself through such torment? I’d much rather have a festive atmosphere, complete with a talk or a reading, gifts, refreshments, and a discussion time with fans.

 It isn’t enough to schedule a signing; you have to tell people about your event. Getting press releases to the paper is easy; getting them to run them is out of your hands. Write the best, most interesting press release ever, and send it off a couple of weeks before your event. Some newspapers have online calendars where you can enter your event in an online database, which is helpful in the event your press release doesn’t get picked up.

 The newspaper story will help attract new fans and will serve as a reminder for established fans. Send out a direct mailing to folks on your mailing list regarding the signing. Be sure and use your social media networks to spread the word as well. Encourage fans to bring a friend.
I can’t imagine having too many people at a signing. Wouldn’t that be a lovely problem to have? I would certainly do a jig all the way home in that instance!

Maggie Toussaint

Formerly an aquatic toxicologist contracted to the U.S. Army and currently a freelance reporter, Southern author Maggie Toussaint loves writing mysteries. She’s published four romantic suspenses and four mysteries, with Death, Island Style and Murder in the Buff her most recent releases. Her debut release, House of Lies, won Best Romantic Suspense in the 2007 National Readers Choice Awards. She’s currently a board member for Southeastern Mystery Writers of America. Visit her at,, and  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Using the Facebook fan page

There it is – your new Facebook fan page. It’s got your book covers up there and some cute quips about writers shedding blood to get their words out each day. There are some personal pictures of you with other writers and readers.

Now if you could just get some fans, that would be nice!

It was easy to get your aunt and your mother to come to your personal page and ‘like’ it, but that’s not really who you want on your fan page – although that might be better than no fans at all.

Most writers know now that they should have both a personal, and a fan page, to use with their author’s platform. Why a fan page? Many reasons. You can have an unlimited number of fans on a fan page (only 5,000 on a personal page).

While 5,000 sounds like a lot, it’s not once you get going. Those are 5,000 people who might or might not be interested in your work. And it’s difficult to turn those ‘friends’ into ‘fans’ when the time comes for you to switch.

Fan pages also look more professional. You can get your specific message out to exactly the people you want to see it.

But once you’ve set up your fan page, how do you get people to ‘like’ it?

It can be difficult and take a while to get people to come to your fan page if you’re not Stephen King or Patricia Cornwell, but it will happen. You have to be smart about your content and give it some time each day. Commit to making this an important part of your marketing. There are hundreds of millions of potential people out there on Facebook.

Some writers have a problem getting on Facebook and are stuck on it when they should be writing. Set the alarm on your phone or any other device (even an egg timer) for twenty minutes each day. Use that time to add content and look at your stats (on the Admin page). When the alarm goes off, get out. Answer questions when you can during the day.
Link your fan page to everything from emails to your website. You should do this anyway to create the whole marketing effect you want for your platform. If you have an agent, ask that person to link as well. Writing friends are good too. The more people, the better. While you’re at it, look for groups and fan pages that readers – those who might enjoy your books - might be interested in. If your book has a chef in it, link to cooking sites, and so on.
Encourage participation from your readers. Ask questions. Hold contests. Looking for a name for a new character? Ask your fans (even if there are only three of them). Fans like to feel included and will reciprocate by telling others about your fan page.
Facebook marketing research has been extensive for large corporations. Use some of their tactics. Make your posts light and easy to relate to. Humor seems to be best. Don’t get too long or dragged down by dogma. If you’re going to have a contest, make it easy. Don’t expect your fans to go too far to win something. Have answers – even to negative questions that can pop up from time to time.
Keep it fresh. Give your readers content they might not find anywhere else. Share something about your work. Give them some personal photos, maybe you, writing at your desk today, or the dog that resembles the one in your book. Readers want to see the inside stuff. Give them that but don’t be mundane.
Getting people to become fans won’t be as easy as getting them to be friends but it is worthwhile. Don’t be intimidated by that blank space you have to fill in each day. As writers, we’re used it. With time and patience, there will be fans on your fan page that will be waiting for your new books to come out and badgering you about writing more words each day!
Joyce Lavene writes mysteries with her husband/partner Jim. Their 60th book, A SPIRITED GIFT, came out in December 2011 and is a National Bestseller for Berkley Prime Crime. She lives in North Carolina with her family and has 577 fans on her Facebook fan page. Twitter - @author54 and Joyce and Jim Lavene at Facebook.