Pop! Say goodbye to that delusional bubble.
Even though I’ve been blessed with a fabulous marketing and sales team, I’m not immune to the pressure of marketing my books. Publishing is a partnership, and I’m expected to market as much or more than my publisher. After all, they have an entire catalog of new releases to sell. I have only my own.
So when I first waded into the marketing waters, I looked around to see what other authors were doing and followed their example. I had my website professionally designed, I got involved in Facebook and Goodreads, I set up guest blog appearances and interviews to correlate with my release dates, I had a launch party, I offered giveaways and hosted contests, I handed out bookmarks, did book signings, and spoke to groups any time I was asked.
Did any of it make a difference? I think so. It’s nearly impossible to measure the impact of marketing, but occasionally I’ll get reader feedback from someone who mentions that they found my books because of an interview I did on a particular blog, or that they bought my previous books after winning my latest one in a drawing and enjoyed it so much they wanted to read more from me. These little glimmers give me hope.
But now that I’ve gained a year of experience, it’s time to branch out from the crowd. It’s time to aim my creativity brain cells not just at my WIP but at my marketing as well. So when it came time to launch my third novel this spring, I decided to try something new. Something that would engage readers on a more personal level and hopefully entice new ones to give my book a try. I sponsored a fan fiction contest.
I write historical romance, and knowing that romance readers live for happy endings, I thought to give them a chance to create their own. I can’t tell you how many times as a reader or movie watcher I have mentally re-written an ending or continued the story in my mind, imagining how the characters’ lives would play out. I thought it would be fun to give my readers the same opportunity.
Now in To Win Her Heart, my main characters had a very satisfying happy ending, but the secondary love story was left with a little more ambiguity. Therefore, the fan fiction contest challenged readers to create an epilogue specifically for secondary characters Chloe and Duncan. I enticed readers with generous prizes like a $40 gift card from Amazon, an autographed book of their choice from my list, and the privilege of having their winning entry displayed on my website for all to see and enjoy.
I advertised in my newsletter, on Facebook, and in blog posts on sites that catered to writers. I was hoping to snag some readers from the writing crowd who might not usually read historical romance or who hadn’t tried my books before, but who were interested in competing for my prizes.
To Win Her Heart released May 1st so I ran the contest through the end of June. I didn’t have a flood of entries, but I ended up with a wonderful collection of about a dozen epilogues to choose from. More valuable than the number of entries, though, was the amount of personal interaction with readers this contest produced. I even had one lady say that she didn’t realize how powerful a marketing tool the contest was for her until she found herself in a bookstore buying my book just because she wanted to enter my contest. I’m hoping others experienced the same sensation even if they ended up not entering.
In the end, there’s no telling how many actual sales this contest generated, but I’m hoping the effects will continue to ripple. The lady who won has her epilogue on my site, and she’s no doubt sharing that story with all her friends. The quality of her writing was wonderful, and she captured my characters so well, that I was proud to display her work and to point other readers to it as bonus material.
Whether or not this attempt at marketing generated many sales, I’m glad I did it. It was fun to try something different and to interact with readers in a new way. It gave my stale marketing practices a much needed shot in the arm, and I would gladly do it again.
Question for You: What is the most inventive marketing strategy you’ve ever employed or seen employed? What marketing ideas have you toyed with that you’d like to try? What have you seen other authors do that caused you to find yourself in the bookstore buying their book?
To see the winning entry, visit the fan fiction page of my website at: http://www.karenwitemeyer.com