Do you have a book coming out? Do you dream of the day when you will?
If so, you’ll be eager to learn from someone who’s been through the process.
Janet Dean’s first book released last fall. I was privileged to interview her then as a debut author. She agreed to return and share the lessons she learned about book promotion in an article that first appeared on her awesome group blog, The Seekers. The tips are so helpful that you may want to bookmark this post or even print it for future reference.
If you leave a comment for Janet, you’ll be entered in a drawing for a copy of her latest novel, Courting the Doctor’s Daughter. (See info after the article.) You’ll also be entered in my regular drawing as well as my monthly drawing for a First Sale Scrapbook. That’s right! You have three chances to win.
Janet agreed to drop by and answers questions you may have about book promotion or the Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical line.
And now, here’s Janet.
What I Learned With My First Book on the Shelf
By Janet Dean
My debut novel, Courting Miss Adelaide, a Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, released in September 2008, a wild, wonderful, wearing month. I was blessed to have a freelance writer get an article into our local newspaper. Some other media coverage fell into my lap. I learned a few things about promotion, distribution and even about myself.
I Didn’t Expect the Sense of Urgency.
Love Inspired books are on the shelves one month. I knew Steeple Hill has great marketing and distribution, but when the book released, I was surprised how frantic I felt about having only one month to impact sales.
I Didn’t Expect the Amount of Time and Money Promotion Would Take.
I got little done the entire month except to promote the book. I bought “autographed copy” stickers and new business cards for booksellers, but here’s where I spent the bulk of my time and money:
I used my author copies from Steeple Hill for reviewers/influencers, family and blog tour giveaways. I needed more books to enter contests (five books per contest) and bail out book signings. During the month, I bought five cases (48 to a case) from Author-Author http://www.author-author.net at a discount of 35%, less than my publisher’s 40% discount, but I got royalties.
I learned there are four Ingram distribution centers in the country and approximately how many of my books they carried. I learned Levy doesn’t restock category books at Meijer and WalMart. For tax purposes, I learned to keep a comprehensive list of those receiving free books.
• Blog Tour/Book Giveaways
I didn’t blog every day during the month, but some days I was a guest on two, once three blogs. It took time to write the posts or answer interview questions. Announce my appearance to loops, pop in and out on the day and mail free books to winners.
What I learned: It takes lots of time and expense, but a blog tour created buzz the book wouldn’t have had otherwise and brought it to the attention of readers I wouldn’t have reached on my own.
My critique partner, Shirley Jump, designed them, or they would’ve cost more. My name and cover appeared on the front. The book’s blurb, my photo and Web site were on the back. I considered bookmarks my business card for readers. I ordered 2,500 two-sided bookmarks at http://www.onlineprinthouse.com at the cost of $150.00 with shipping. I should have paid another $40.00 more and gotten twice that many.
How did I use them? I e-mailed friends and family and asked if they’d like to help promote my debut. Most everyone said yes. I sent the bookmarks and a letter with suggestions on how to distribute them, where the book would be sold and upcoming signings. One friend asked for 250 for an upcoming library event. Another asked for 100. Most asked for 25 or less. I could mail 7 bookmarks and a letter in a business envelope for the price of a stamp.
I left bookmarks with tips at motels and restaurants. Friends passed them out locally, coming back for more. Owners of my hair salon and Curves put them out for clients. I took them to conferences. Now that Courting the Doctor’s Daughter has released, I’m putting the new and old bookmarks inside the second book, hoping readers who missed the first book will order it on Amazon.
• Postage and envelopes . . .
To mail books and bookmarks. It cost $2.03 to mail a book in a padded envelope. Less if I wasn’t overprotective of my books. 🙂
• E-mails/calls and visits
I called librarians, bookstores, even the historical museum in the town where my book was set. I notified people by e-mail the day my book hit the shelves. If anyone mentioned the possibility of their book club reading my book, I offered to attend. I have spoken at several book club meetings.
I Didn’t Expect All the Ups and Downs of Book Signings and Differences in Bookstores.
• I didn’t expect rejection.
I may be a local author, but that didn’t mean bookstores wanted to host a signing. I was turned down twice. I was surprised the rejections hurt my feelings. I’ve learned many signings result in minimal sales and some expense for the store so I try not to take it personally.
• I didn’t expect the bookstore not to have books.
At my first signing, the bookstore ran out of books. At the second signing, my books were on back order and hadn’t come in. Both times I loaned the stores books. We checked with an accountant on the legality of selling books and paying sales tax at year-end filing.
• I didn’t expect the wrong books.
Thankfully this was rectified in time. 🙂
• I didn’t expect that whether some bookstores carried the Love Inspired line depended on the store’s manager whereas the decision is made at the corporate level at other bookstores.
What did I learn? To check with the store a week before the signing to make sure there’s no surprises. I always carry books in my trunk along with a receipt in case I must supply the books. I learned to sign where there’s heightened interest in the book and to keep track of mileage. I learned to ask buyers to write the name I was to autograph books to. I learned it can take months to get reimbursed for the cost of my books.
I Didn’t Expect to Feel so Wacky About Reviews, Rankings and Indifference.
My first review was Romantic Times’ 4 ½ stars. The best RT gives, unless a book is named Top Pick so naturally I was thrilled. The next reviewer gave the book 3.75 out of 5. I was hurt, almost like a new mom when visitors don’t rave about her infant. And this was a decent review. Following rankings on Amazon can be damaging to mental health. I’m dismayed that a few family members I sent the book to haven’t let me know if they liked it or even read it. I learned to get over it. LOL
I Didn’t Expect the Degree of Support . . .
All of my friends and many of my acquaintances knew I’d tried to get published all these years and were almost as excited as I was when the book came out. The lesson: Whining pays. 🙂
• Of friends
One friend hosted a party to celebrate the book’s release. I learned covers look great on a cake. Another friend contacted our hometown newspaper and got a mention in a column. One friend got her church bookstore to carry the book and passed out countless bookmarks.
• Of family
Our girls rounded up friends for signings, passed out bookmarks at MOPs, neighborhood gatherings, and chatted up the book. My husband carried bookmarks everywhere. He came to my book signings and handled the business end. He made post office runs.
• Of readers
I knew book club members sometimes sent notes or e-mails, but I was amazed to get cards, voice mails and e-mails from others, too. I’ve never written a writer when I loved their book so I was blown away by the time people took to contact me. And by how much their approval meant.
Courting the Doctor’s Daughter released May 12, 2009. I’d hoped to find a way to use less time and money promoting the second book, but I’m repeating the promotional tactics I used for my first book. Even though I can’t be sure how effective they were. I got radio coverage because this time I planned far enough ahead to get on the schedule for Author-Author segment.
Thanks for having me today, Keli!
Courting the Doctor’s Daughter
An Unexpected Match
A widow with three boys to raise, Mary Graves has no time for peddlers of phony medicine. She’s a dedicated healer working alongside her doctor father. When a handsome stranger blows into town with his “elixir of health” and asks questions about her newly adopted son, Mary’s determined to uncover the truth behind all his claims.
Once the reckless heir to a Boston fortune, Dr. Luke Jacobs travels the country with his herbal medicine while searching for his long-lost son. After meeting the feisty doctor’s daughter and her youngest boy, Luke has found what he’s been looking for at last. But can he convince her to let him into her home, her family—and her heart?
Note from Keli: I read Courting the Doctor’s Daughter just as soon as it was available on eHarlequin. Janet has written another heartwarming tale with engaging characters. I grew to care for Mary and Luke from the first chapter and wanted so much to see things work out for them that I stayed up late on several occasions. My yawns in church one Sunday morning were due to the fact that I couldn’t wait for the end and read way past my bedtime. 🙂 The winner of Janet’s book is in for a real treat.
Leave a Comment for Three Chances to Win
Special Drawing for This Post Only
One person leaving a comment on Janet’s post will win a copy of Janet’s current release, Courting the Doctor’s Daughter.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on this post by June 5th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On June 6th, I’ll post the winner’s name right here.
Congratulations to Lindsey, winner of Janet’s book.
My Regular Drawing
My next drawing will take place June 10th. The winner will receive a 5 x 7 inch black leather Writer’s Journal, just the right size for purse or tote, in which to jot those sudden inspirations, plot a new story, etc.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by June 10th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On June 11th, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and June 30th. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On July 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)