My book on shelves, PRADA AND PREJUDICE, is about a fifteen year old girl who trips in her Prada heels, hits her head, and wakes up in 1815. I have four other books in the pipeline, most notably my August 2010 release, YOU WISH, about a girl whose every birthday wish from the last fifteen years came true-- starting with a life-sized MY LITTLE PONY.
I got started like most do-- querying. I landed an agent in 2006, but it took two years (and nine drafts) for Prada & Prejudice to sell. It's a rather long story, but if you'd like to read about it, I recapped it here, on my blog.
Selling my debut novel (as part of a two book deal) was sort of like breaking through a logjam, and I've sold three other books since. (including a book about Nascar, Driven (June 2010, Harlequin); You Wish (August 2010, Razorbill) and Shattered (Written as Amanda Grace, Flux, 2011)
Blogging has been really amazing for me, but at first, it had nothing to do with marketing. I met my critique partner(s) through livejournal, and I really don't think I ever could have been published without them. I used livejournal as a way to socialize with other writers and document my journey.
I do get a lot of traffic to my blog these days, most notably to the "road to publication" tagged posts. After my book deal, I went back and unlocked the entries dealing with rejection. The ones where I whined and moped that it would never happen. I was hoping that other writers who were struggling with rejection would recognize that we all felt like that at one point, and perseverance is what it takes to get beyond it.
You are very active in the social networking community. How do you use the various channels to get the word out about your book?
I think it's important not to be obnoxious when you're on the social networking platforms. If you be yourself and try to make genuine connections and friendships, you create a far more lasting impression than if you friend everyone with a message about your novel and where they can buy it. I talk to people every day on Twitter and Facebook, but I do it because I enjoy connecting with writers.
I do think it's important to use your real name (or pen name, if you have one) consistently, rather than goofy nicknames that change between the social networks. If your livejournal name is WRITERMAMA45 and your twitter name is Janey Smith, I probably won't even realize you're the same person.
I also make a point to keep my book cover in my avatar or user picture. My book cover is my brand, and people are more likely to remember the image than the title.
In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?
A) You absolutely must be google-able. I can't tell you how many opportunities I've had because people were able to find my website or Facebook and send me a message. One of the countries that bought foreign rights contacted me directly, and I was able to forward that to my publisher. I've also set up library visits and talks with writer's groups after someone contacted me. I've discovered my book is in a grocery store chain in California.
In other words: be available for opportunities to strike. If they can't find you, they'll find someone else. If you can't afford a website, use a customizable blog. An example of someone who does this well is Suzanne Young
B) Interviews. I must have done at least thirty or forty by now. But they are free, except for your time, and it gets your book out there.
C) Write another book. All the work in the world isn't going to mean a thing if you don't have another book coming out. This might not seem like a "marketing" type tip, but it truly is--if you want a career, you need more than one book on shelves. Unless you're Jay Asher. Then you can bask in the glory of your awesomeness. (Although, for the record, pretty sure he's writing another book too.... So what are you waiting for?)
You have done some very creative things in terms of marketing. Can you tell us more about the STUPID PRADA SUMMER VAN TOUR?
The Van Tour started as a joke during a chat room conversation. Rhonda Stapleton (author of Stupid Cupid) and Saundra Mitchell (Shadowland Summer) and I were talking about selling our books at truck stops. Truly, it's a stroke of marketing genius, right? Someone needs to provide books to truckers. It ended up spinning into this epic joke about us driving a van across the country, selling our books. Saundra is a graphic design goddess and created funny photoshopped pictures of us. Then we kind of fed off each other and tried to make each tour post more ridiculous than the last.
In planning the tour, we came up with the stops by looking at list of silly tourist attractions (like the giant cow or huge ball of twine) and funny town names (Half.com, Oregon). It was really fun, and we're talking about doing a "world" tour in 2010, for our sophomore releases!
It was funny how many people still thought the tour was real, even though all of our photos of the events were stick figure drawings and we talked about going to a rave with George Washington or doing our signing in the crown of The Statue of Liberty. I even posted a picture of Little Miss Sunshine stealing our van and the guy from fight club. HA.
But yes, basically, we each picked three locations and blogged once per week (My day was Wednesday) an the "tour" lasted three weeks that way, revolving between our blogs. It was a really fun, goofy way to entertain people and talk about our books.
(If you want, you can read the tour recaps).
I was actually one of the people who thought you guys really rented a van! (ha!) After promoting Prada, what would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned about marketing since you began this journey?
This is going to sound vaguely Sesame Street, but I feel like the best thing I've done is just be accessible and helpful to people. I genuinely love this industry and want to see people succeed, and I like answering questions and encouraging people. It seems, in return, people buy my book and talk about it, and I really, truly appreciate that.