Attending a conference is fun, but it's also expensive. There are travel costs, registration fees, food, lodging and time away from writing.
So...the question is, "How do I maximize my presence? How do I promote myself and my book, Paper, Scissors, Death?"
My mystery won't debut until September. Still, it seems silly to "waste" this opportunity even though I don't have a book in hand. After all, I know that I make a note of books I want to read and I might not buy them for months! Surely other people have the same habits. And, I remember from my days in advertising that it takes many exposures for people to form an impression. But those exposures can't be spaced too far apart. Waiting until my book hits the shelves means all those exposures would come AFTER the book is out. And those 6 weeks afterwards are critical because that's when sell-through happens. It makes sense to start now...if I can do it economically.
Here are all the promotional activities I've undertaken for my visit to Love Is Murder on Dark and Stormy Nights. I won't be able to tell right away which of these have been valuable. Maybe when my book comes out, I'll be more sure of what worked and what didn't.
1. Interviews--I offered to interview the headliners for LIM. This has given me the chance to ask questions of the best and brightest: Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath. Plus, the interviews were shared in the LIM newsletter, and I can now post them in the resource section of my website. My aim: To be on the radar screen of some of the nation's best authors. You never know whom you'll click with. Or who will bring you the next big opportunity.
2. Business cards--I was told to wait, but that's silly. How do you follow up a meeting without information? I had the cards printed with my book cover on the front. (A tip from Elaine Viets.) The ISBN is on everything. As my pal Angie Fox said, "It's like the Social Security number for your book." Should I get a tattoo? Nah.
3. Proposal for a presentation--My unique ability is my background as a professional speaker. So I offered to do a presentation on speaking before groups. The LIM people thought this was a worthwhile idea, and now it's scheduled.
4. Appearances--I was fortunate enough to be assigned as moderator on one panel and participant on another.
5. Panel descriptions--How do people choose which panel to attend? I tried to write my descriptions in such a way that they were full of promise...promise that I knew I could deliver. I want to brand myself as offering tremendous value while having fun.
When Romance Leads to…
A romantic encounter can make a character more real, more vulnerable and more deadly. They can move a plot along or stop it in its tracks. We’ll share our favorite racy scenes and discuss what makes a romantic climax, uh, climactic! The useful takeaway? Our list of helpful ideas for writing romantic encounters. Plus, lots of chocolate hugs and kisses to get you in the mood.
How to be a Better Panelist
Or presenter. Or guest speaker. Do your knees knock when you speak in public? Are you scared you will make a fool of yourself? Would you rather die than appear before a group? We can help. (With the speaking part. The dying on the platform stuff is up to you.) Public appearances are an important promotional tool for authors. We’ll share proven ideas used by the top professional speakers. These ideas will make your presence memorable, enjoyable and profitable. Don’t miss the handout: Top Tips for Presenters.
6. Handouts--This is a key. But the handouts can NOT be self-serving. So the handout for the "Writers Dish on Writers" compiles a list of debut authors including me. I figure those in the audience are looking to expand their TBR list. For "How to Be a Better Panelist. Or Presenter. Or Guest Speaker." I created a list of tips. Some are on the handout, but the list was so extensive, the majorityare going on my website under "Resources." They should be up by Monday. For "When Romance Leads to..." I compiled some of the best thoughts from those who do a cracker-jack job of writing romantic scenes, and I added Internet and traditional book resources. Of course, on all the handouts, I share my details.
7. Recipe Cards and Homemade Cookies--Hokey, I know. But every time I've seen them offered, people snatch them up. On the front is a recipe, on the back is info about my book and a contest (see next), and my book cover is in color on the cards.
8. Pre-Order Contest--Vicki Erwin of Main Street Books was kind enough to agree to take pre-sales. ( firstname.lastname@example.org 636-949-0105 ) She'll keep a list of all the pre-ordered books. From those, I'll draw one purchaser's name to be included as a character in book #2.
9. Bookmarks--Pretty standard stuff, except that I'm customizing each one with a scrapbooking embellishment. I did a trial run of these and discovered people oooohhhhed and aaaaahhhed over them.
10. Prizes--As a motivational speaker, I was always pleasantly surprised by how excited audiences got when they won something. So I had customized bags of M & Ms made up. The colors are the same as my book cover. They say "Get Kiki" on one side, and "PSD 2008" on the other.
11. A Small TBR Album--I've also noticed that folks seem really astonished that I actually do scrapbook. So I've made the most adorable TBR album to show off. It reinforces my niche and brands me.
Okay, that's it so far. Now I'm staring out the window at the snow storm and crossing my fingers that after all this work, I can actually fly into Chicago!