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Marketing Your Book: Websites, Blogs and the Stock Show!

Evans
By M.J. Evans
I have talked with many of you at CAL events. After our opening lines that go something like “What do you write?” our conversation often evolves to marketing our work. Most of you have said you hate marketing because it takes you away from your writing. I guess I am an aberration because I think marketing is a creative process in its own right. Trying to figure out how to get my book in the hands of my target audience is really fun and challenging to me!

First of all, my target audience has been clearly defined for each of my works. Let me give you the example of my equestrian trail guide books:Riding ColoradoandRiding Colorado II.Obviously, my target audience is horse people…specifically horse people who own both a horse and a trailer! Where do horse people go? I am here to tell you that they spend a lot of time (and money) at feed stores and tack stores. So, once my cases of self-published books arrived at my door I filled the acrylic display cases I had ordered and started visiting horse stores. My first stop was Parker Feed in Parker. I carried my little case with its five books into the store and walked up to Herman, the owner. “Herman,” I said with a big smile. “I have just published this great trail guide book for horsemen and I am hoping you will carry it in your store.” As I spoke, I set the display case down on the counter right next to the cash register.

Herman shook his head and with a sympathetic look on his face said, “I don’t want to carry any books. I’ve carried books before and they just sit around and gather dust.” (The dust part is not a surprise in a feed store!) As I kept talking about giving a return guarantee and how great the mark-up for him would be, etc, etc, a customer came in to pay for his feed. He reached over, picked up a book and said, “And I want one of these.”

I promise you, fellow CAL members, I did not set that up! Within an hour the case was empty and Parker Feed was calling me for more books.

I had a clear idea of my target audience for my new fantasy trilogy, the first of which is titled Behind the Mist, Book One of the Mist Trilogy. I wrote the book for middle grade and young teen readers, especially those who like horses, unicorns and fantasy. While marketing on a national level is, of course, much more difficult, the process is much the same. Where do my young readers go? First, I sent several books to children’s horse magazines to see if they would review it. Blazemagazine did a beautiful, full color review. I sent it to Home-school websites and got wonderful reviews there as well. Several of my local tack and feed stores who carry Riding Coloradoalso offered to carry the fantasy. I contacted libraries and independent book stores, especially those stores that specialize in children’s books. I hired a local videographer to do a cool book trailer for Youtube. (Watch it: Behind the Mist: Book Trailer. You can contact me if you want his name!) I set up a facebook page and a blog about Noble and Great horses,www.themisttrilogy.blogspot.com.

But one of the most fun marketing things I have yet done was in January at the National Western Stock Show. Now, I know that this would not reach the audience most of you are seeking, but for me it was perfect. I called the Colorado Horse Council and asked them if I could do a book signing in their booth. They were happy to let me do that and signed me up for several hours over twelve days. The first two days I just sat there grinning like the Cheshire cat. I only sold one book. By the third day, I wised up and started talking to my target audience and their parents as they walked by. Most of them would stop and talk to me if I initiated the conversation. I would catch the eye of the pre-teen and say “Do you like to read?” From there, they would stop and I would tell them a little of the story. Needless to say, within a few days, I had sold out of all the books I had!

A little digression here: On a few occasions I would ask if the child liked to read and the parent would answer “No, he/she doesn’t like to read.” This made me so sad. Reading has always been such a joy to me, a lifelong hobby and books are such wonderful friends. I doubt that any of you are thinking I need to get a life because you probably feel the same way.

This is part of the journey I have been on in my attempt to market my books. I enjoy applying my creativity into the entire process. I have a long way to go before I am a best-selling author. I probably won’t ever get to that point. But I am finding joy in the journey and that makes it all worth it.

Happy writing AND marketing fellow authors!

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