By Nancy Jarvis
I woke up one morning about a month ago with this crazy idea for promoting books, and being addled in the morning before my first cup of coffee, decided it was a viable one.
I’m not new to trying whatever publicity idea occurs to me in a fit of creativity…scratch that…fit of silliness. My cat Fala (as in the Christmas melody Falla lalla la la la la la) recently had a mention in Ladies’ Home Journal because they were doing an article on pets with strange names. She has her own YouTube video about the perils of living with a mystery writer, so it seemed like a good idea if she added another media accomplishment to her resume.
(If any of you looked at the video and are curious, I used Fiverr to have someone animate her. My out-of-pocket for that was five dollars.)
When my first book came out, I pitched an article to Realtor Magazine which goes to every Realtor in the country because my protagonist is a Realtor and because I was a licensed Realtor at the time. I did a little research: I was the country’s only licensed real estate agent writing mysteries with a Realtor protagonist. It sounds more impressive than it is—kind of like the statistic that one sixth of all people die within two months of their birthday—but it was a good pitch and using it combined with what I did for a living got me a lot of publicity.
There was a little story in The Costco Connection—which goes to Costco’s entire membership—about my second mystery, Backyard Bones. It got there because I noticed some small print in the magazine that said they liked to know what their members were up to and told them. Think about your memberships; they can be useful for more than saving money.
Lend a helping voice. Thanks to HARO (Help a Reporter Out), which is a wonderful source of publicity opportunities, I worked a story about people taking Social Security at 62 into a pitch for my books. The reporter liked my angle and put me in her article which was on CNN/Money, CNN.com, and YahooFinance.com.
Use what’s in your book to get publicity. Recently I was interviewed for Bloomberg News about what buyers are willing to do to attract a seller’s attention in a hot market. I suggested the reporter read pages 59 and 60 of Buying Murder. My newest mystery, The Murder House, may have ghosts in it and now some ghost hunting sites want me to discuss the book.
Using what we know and who we are connected with is a great way to get publicity. It’s easier for non-fiction writers or for fiction writers who happen to have written a book about a “hot topic” to get the word out about their books, but as you can see, all fiction writers have opportunities.
You can also get publicity close to home. Contact local newspapers and tell them one of their readers has written a new book. Most will at least squeeze a mention of your book into their publication; many will give you an article complete with pictures.
Approach groups in your community and offer to be free entertainment for them. I’m not a member of the Kiwanis Club, Rotary, a retired school teacher group, a government worker organization, or a senior citizen group, but all have had me speak. All sorts of groups would all like to hear what a member of the community has accomplished. They will probably give you a meal and many of their members will buy your book, especially when you inscribe a copy as a gift for their favorite aunt. In this vein, don’t forget to look for retirement communities and even large mobile home communities for speaking engagements.
Sadly, my hometown has been losing bookstores. Fortunately I live in a tourist town and my books are set in that location. I suggested to local store owners with tourist traffic that people would find it entertaining to read a book about where they are visiting. Turns out I was right and some of those stores sell more books than our remaining local bookstore. Look for your community’s odd venues and ask to do a book signing; it’s a great excuse for more publicity in the local media for you and the venue hosting you.
So, what’s the idea I had in the wee hours of the morning? Form a publicity co-op. I write cozy-style mysteries and it turns out many writers do. Books in that genre often have recipes and food associated with them; we could do a cookbook. My idea wasn’t terribly original. There have been mystery writer cookbooks and several big publishers have put together cookbooks featuring recipes from their stable of writers. But a book of recipes from more than a hundred cozy mystery writers, well, that’s a new publicity-worthy spin. Cozy Foods will be out next month and I bet every writer who contributed a recipe will tweet, put something about the book on their blog and their Facebook page, and tell their friends about the book. And that’s just for starters.
Nancy Lynn Jarvis thinks you should try something new every few years. Writing is her newest adventure and she’s been having so much fun doing it that she’s finally acknowledged she’ll never sell another house. She let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC.
She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Real estate details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences.
To keep her writing fresh, she took a time out from mysteries to write “Mags and the AARP Gang,” a comedy about a group of renegade octogenarian bank robbers and is now almost in the midst of editing “Cozy Food,” a cozy mystery cookbook.