Both my computer and I were out of commission last week, me with a stomach bug and insomnia, the PC with a sticky switch, a bad memory, and other age-related ailments. I take comfort knowing that something in my house is showing more signs of age than I am. Anyway, since writing wasn't an option, I worked on publicity.
Many unpublished writers imagine that the end of the writing process is seeing their books in print. Or if they think about selling their books at all, they imagine book signings where all they have to do is show up and smile. Someone else, surely, will make posters and do the advertising. And the readers would love nothing better than to skip a night of vegging in front of the TV to meet an honest-to-Pete author, right? They'll show up in droves.
Nothing is more discouraging to the finishing of a second novel than the realization that hardly anyone is buying/reading the first one. And chances are, as a first-time novelist, folks who've never heard of you aren't going to go out of their way to help you get that book under the noses of readers (at least until they read it and love it themselves). You've got to start thinking in terms of advertising, marketing, incentives, and name recognition.
I'm no expert on publicity. Even after 4 published books, I find I'm still experimenting with what works. Yet, I could probably write a year's worth of blogs on the subject. One thing I do know--you have to get out and meet your potential readers. Join your local Sisters in Crime chapter. Team up with other authors to do joint book tours and signing events. Volunteer at your local library or senior center to speak on a topic you know well. Go to one or 2 book conventions a year if your budget can stand it. Go anywhere you think potential readers will congregate.
Remember, readers hang out in cyberspace all the time. Join listserves like DorothyL. Get yourself a Facebook profile, at least, and actually post to it once a week--don't just let it sit there idle. You don't want readers who do find you to give up, seeing that the last time you posted was Christmas 2006. Network through it with other writers (though, be friendly--stalking will NOT sell your books). You can also list your events there and link them to your website. Put a Facebook badge on your website so you can be found.
Write a weekly blog on a topic you know well. Link it to your website and have it send an update to your Facebook page each time you blog. Use the site www.booktour.com to list your signings, then link that to your website.
These are just a few avenues of publicity open to the writer and these won't break the bank. They DO take some creative time away from your writing, but unfortunately, marketing isn't a luxury. The more creative you can be about it, the more you can keep to your budget and the more you sell.
My project this week? I put up a fan page on Facebook for my most popular character, Miss Maggie, called "Miss Maggie (Magnolia Shelby) & Friends." My intention is to post recipes from the books, my signing and speaking events, news about my next book, a link to this blog, and whatever else I can think of that might be interesting or series-related. The more entertaining I can make it--and the more active I keep it--the more fans I hope to pick up. If they haven't read my books, maybe they'll give me a try.
If you'd like to take a look at Miss Maggie's page, click here or on the badge in the lefthand column. You don't have to be a member of Facebook to browse through it.