An end-of October hello from Marti Pieper in beautiful Mount Dora, Florida, where the advent of fall means temperatures have dipped to a chilly fifty-five degrees (yeah, I know). Today, I have the privilege of sharing with you the marketing and publicity expertise of multi-published author Tracy Higley. I know you'll enjoy her insights as much as I have.
I've been writing since I was a little girl–short stories, newspaper articles, poems, plays, and fiction. I got serious about publishing about thirteen years ago and decided to write a novel and try to get it published.
My first book came out in 2002, and my tenth novel releases in March of 2013. Garden of Madness came out last May, and Isle of Shadows, an updated version of a previous title, releases next month.
How did you get your first book contract?
Writers' conferences were the best thing for me. I went to a smaller, more local conference first and received great feedback and encouragement to go to a larger conference the following year. At that conference I met an agent who wanted to represent me and sell my first book soon after.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
Having a website with lots of content that readers find interesting has been a great promotional tool. I travel quite a bit while researching my novels set all around the Mediterranean, and I've used my website to showcase travel journals, photos, videos, and more. I also make sure to make the most of my web visitors by giving them reasons and incentives to sign up for my mailing list. And then I'm sure to follow up with them about new releases, book news, etc.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change? If so, how?
Book marketing has been a learning experience all along the way. I would say that my biggest mistake at times has been thinking I could "do it all." I used to feel pressure to take on every new marketing idea I heard about, all the ideas that seemed to be working for others. I've learned that there are always more ideas and never enough time to do them all. Choosing the best ideas for me, the promotional tools that I"m comfortable with and even passionate about, is the best way to weed out all the conflicting advice, pressure, and chaos.
What's the craziest promotional gimmick you've tried?
I once wrapped up large bars of chocolate with specialty-printed labels and send them around the country to bookstore owners. Too late, it occurred to me that August probably wasn't the best month to send chocolate by mail.
That's hilarious. The last answer may qualify, but what's the funniest thing you've experienced during a promotional activity?
Hmmm. . . just a few weeks ago I nearly got kicked off the Acropolis Hill in Athens. I was standing in front of the Parthenon, getting my picture taken with oversized postcards printed with messages to a few dozen specially chosen readers. Just then, a woman who (apparently?) worked at the landmark heartily scolded me, told me there could be no pictures with "objects," then stood there and made me show her every picture on my camera so she could be sure I deleted them all. I felt like a criminal!
I'm glad you're not answering these questions from a Grecian jail cell! Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
I think the best thing a writer can do is partner fully with his/her publisher in the promotion of the book. When publishers see that you're excited, all-in, have creative ideas, and are willing to work hard, they get excited, too. That way, they're more willing to get behind you with their own efforts, which are often the more effective ones anyway.
That makes so much sense. Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
When I first stared writing historicals, my desire to travel to the sites of my books came from a longing to make the books the best they could be. I wanted to really understand ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, Israel, and Persia. But along the way, the travel I've done has become part of my brand and has helped promote my books all on its own. That was an unexpected bonus, and it's been very cool.
Now that you've been writing for a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
I've mentioned my website, but I'll say it again. My primary strategy: build a website with lots of fascinating content, include a note to readers in the back of every book that gives them a reason to visit, engage with them and capture their contact info while they're there, and then follow up with repeated contact to keep them excited about the next book and promoting my books to their friends.
I visited your website, and it's clear you practice what you preach. What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
All the book promotion in the world isn't going to help you be successful if your books don't connect with people. Focus primarily on writing an excellent book that impacts other people's lives. Then, once you've got a book worth talking about, make it easy for your fans to spread the word.
Wow, Tracy, these are some fantastic tips. Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts, and congratulations on your upcoming release!