by Marilyn Levinson
These days we authors are expected to promote our books. In fact, many of us have discovered that promotion and marketing demand more of our time than it takes to write a novel. We’re bombarded by ads from companies that promise all sorts of financial bonanzas. We’re swamped with advice via how-to books, classes, promotions, and webinars. Every few months a new venue of social media arises. Added to the mix, authors blog about their success stories, touting one method of promotion over another. It’s enough to make your head spin. I zoomed in on one piece of advice that resonated with me: don’t try to promote every which way. Use the method you find comfortable and that suits how you communicate with your readers.
Several months ago, when Death Overdue, the first book in my Haunted Library mystery series, was in production, I knew the time to start promoting had arrived. I joined several cozy Facebook groups and enjoyed chatting with cozy readers about my new book, which was already available for preorder. Then Lena Gregory, an author I know on FB because we have the same agent, put out a call inviting cozy authors to take part in a Facebook party on a Friday night in July. I’d known about Facebook parties, but had never taken part in one. The truth was, they kind of frightened me. Still, with a new book coming out, I felt inspired to give it a try. I told Lena I’d be happy to be included in the First Cozy Pajama Party, but I didn’t know what to do. She assured me participating was easy enough, which turned out to be true. Even more, it proved to be a lot of fun.
Fifteen cozy authors signed up to participate in the party. Lena asked each of us to send her a photo and a short bio, which she posted on various cozy Facebook groups. She asked us to publicize the party on our own Facebook pages, inviting readers to join us, which I was happy to do. Next, she sent out an email with very specific instructions. We were each given a slot of ten or fifteen minutes when we’d be “on.” Great! I thought. Ten or fifteen minutes would be easy. Since the purpose of the evening was to familiarize cozy readers with our books, we’d talk a bit about the book we were promoting. Then we were to throw out a question that we would invite our guests to answer. Lena advised that we make it a fun question, so people would want to answer. And of course, we were to mention the prize we were giving away. She would announce the prize winners the following day.
Since my goal was to publicize Death Overdue, which had a release day in October, I posted this:
“The setting of Death Overdue is a small-town library haunted by a ghost that only my sleuth and a little girl can see. Carrie, my sleuth, is adopted by a half-grown cat she names Smoky Joe and he becomes the Clover Ridge Library’s library cat.”
I told our guests that I often include a ghost and/or a cat in my mysteries and asked them to tell me their favorite cozy series that has either a cat or a ghost in it and why it’s their favorite. A winner would be selected at random, and receive an ARC (advance reading copy) of Death Overdue.
To my amazement, the responses poured in so quickly I had difficulty keeping up, but I managed to write back to each of them! Even after my time was up, the comments kept coming for at least forty minutes. I felt excited. What fun! And I learned about many new series I hadn’t known while communicating with cozy readers.
Finally, Lena brought the party to a close. We authors had a chance to say good-night and to thank everyone for attending, although Lena kept the Facebook party page open until the following morning. We sent our winners’ names to her by eleven that morning and she announced their names an hour later on the Facebook page. I felt delighted to learn that the person who won the ARC of Death Overdue has a cozy blog, and she was kind enough to review my book, which she posted a few days before its release day.
Having had such a positive experience, I eagerly took part in another Facebook party when Barbara Early suggested a Cozy October Launch party. Barbara, Ellen Byron, Jacqueline Frost (Julie Chase), and I are all Crooked Lane Books authors and we all had new books coming out on October 10. We were four authors and the party ran for four hours, giving each of us forty minutes of “on” time with a short period at the start of the party to introduce everyone and a period at the end to thank Barbara, say good-night and thank our guests for attending, and tie things up. This time my giveaways were three e-copies of another one of my mysteries.
Since I had to fill forty minutes, I threw out a new question every ten or twelve minutes. Again, the responses were lively. Since a library is the setting for Death Overdue, I asked readers what they especially like about their libraries. Halloween was coming soon, so I asked what their favorite Halloween candy was. And then I asked how they celebrated Halloween when they were kids.
When Lena asked me if I wanted to take part in another cozy Facebook party, I answered with a resounding yes! I even asked if Ellen could join and she said she could. Again, we were a large group of authors. This time my question was about cozy mysteries. I asked guests what elements they especially liked or looked for when they selected cozies to read. The answers varied, but there were many similarities. It wasn’t an idle question, because I wanted to know what these avid cozy readers considered most important. It reaffirmed my belief that well-developed characters and an interesting, appealing setting are essential to cozy readers. Again, I had a wonderful opportunity to communicate with readers and a chance to talk about my latest book and learn what’s most important to readers. I gave away three e-copies of another mystery.
At the present time, I heartily recommend Facebook parties as a great way to reach readers and publicize a new book . I say “the present time” because social media is always evolving. What is popular one year may become stale two years later. With that in mind, I make these few suggestions:
- First become a Facebook party guest to see how it works.
- If offered the opportunity, join someone else’s Facebook party and learn from him or her how to set up the party and how best to publicize it.
- Organize one with other writers in your genre or publishing house.
- Email clear directives and instructions to participants.
- Make sure that each author knows when her time begins and ends.
- Mention your giveaway at the beginning of your “on” time.
- Make your question(s) fun—a topic(s) that party-goers are happy to talk about.
- Invite readers to sign up for your newsletter.
- Have fun!!
Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. Death Overdue, the first in the Haunted Library Mystery series she’s written as Allison Brook, came out in October. Read And Gone, the next in the series, will be out in September 2018. As Marilyn Levinson she’s written Giving Up the Ghost, A Murderer Among Us, Murder In The Air, Murder a la Christie, and Murder the Tey Way. Marilyn lives on Long Island. She enjoys traveling, reading, watching foreign films, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and dining out with her significant other. She especially loves to visit with her grandchildren via FaceTime.