On Publishing: What I’ve Learned Doing THIEFTAKER Promotion


I’m on pins and needles.

If my breath was any more bated I would be fish bait.

The creatures in my stomach feel more like bats than butterflies.

Thieftaker is to be released tomorrow.  If you haven’t already ordered a copy, I hope you’ll buy one.  If you read it and enjoy it, please leave a review at Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble.  If there is a library in your town or at your school, please ask them to carry the book.  Tell a friend about it.  Tell two.  Tell ten.  Many thanks.

In the months leading up to this moment, I have been almost completely focused on promoting the book and finding new ways to get people interested in my work.  And I’ve learned a few things along the way.

1.  Using Twitter, Facebook, and other social media as promotion tools is incredibly time-consuming, but also incredibly effective.  I have slowly — SLOWLY — figured out how to use social media, particularly Twitter, which I initially found pretty confusing.  Not the mechanics of it — that couldn’t be easier — but rather how to make it something more than a series of inane conversations taking place 140 characters at a time.  As I’ve grown more accustomed to both Twitter and Facebook, I have come to see them as something other than megaphones, which is how I used them initially.  What makes them work is the interaction, the reciprocity.  Bling helps, too:  Posting pictures, artwork or other cool stuff to look at grabs people’s attention. I’m still figuring out the hashtag stuff on Twitter, and the ins-and-outs of all the different features on Facebook.  But I am reaching far more people now than I was six months ago, and I see it in the online buzz being generated for the book.

2.  A blog tour only works if you tell people about it.  Yeah, that one probably seems pretty obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less important.  Putting together the blog tour for Thieftaker took a couple of weeks — planning it, contacting people about appearances, distributing them in a way that (I hope) will maximize my exposure.  (For more on this, see Kalayna’s terrific post from a week or two ago.  And don’t forget that she has a new book out tomorrow, too — Grave Memory!) Writing the posts and interviews has been intense.  For close to a month, I have been writing a couple of thousand words a day, and none of it has been fiction.  Rather it has all been promotional stuff (and one of the really fun pieces will be going up on Faith’s blog on Thursday — an interview with my hero’s seductive and deadly nemesis, Sephira Pryce.  Stay tuned!)  But as I say, none of this matters if no one knows about it.  So I am posting to my blogs about every stop on the blog tour, I am posting about them on Facebook and Twitter, and I am benefiting from the efforts of my various hosts, who are giving me lots of exposure.

Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson (Jacket art by Chris McGrath)3.  Good artwork will not make a book a bestseller, but it will certainly get people interested.  I get comments about the art for Thieftaker literally every day.  Tor placed an advertisement in Locus that features my book along  with several others.  But the Thieftaker image is the one they used for the background of the entire ad.  That is going to get the book more attention.  Thieftaker has been picked up by the Science Fiction Book Club, in large part, I am told, because the folks as SFBC loved the art and want to feature it in their next brochure.  I am hearing stories like this again and again — enough that it’s a pattern.  And I should add here that I make a point, whenever someone comments on the art, of mentioning the artist’s name:  Chris McGrath.  He deserves the attention, and I’m more than happy to send it his way.

4.  Book giveaways, sample chapters, short stories to help build momentum for the book, swag — all of these things can add to the interest in a book.  Surprise:  People like free stuff.  And if you give them some free stuff — a post card, a sample chapter, a short story written in the same world — they are more likely to spend money on the product you’re trying to sell.

5.  All of these things work together to create momentum for a project.  Social media feeds interest in the free stuff.  Good artwork can only help if it’s seen, but when it is seen, in makes the free stuff more desirable.  A blog tour offers a series of venues in which to give away free books, t-shirts, etc.  But again, people only hear about the blog tour if they’re being reached with the social media.  There is, in short, a symbiosis among all of these tools.  One of them alone probably isn’t enough to create that all important buzz about the book.  It takes most if not all of them.

And yet . . .

6.  It is possible to do all of the things I mention above — and do them well — and still have the book not do as well as you might hope.  The publishing business is about hard work, and talent, and reaching the right people.  But it’s also about luck.  I have worked my tail off in recent months.  I think I am getting my book in front of the right people. And I think that I’ve written a good novel.  But still I am at the mercy of the vagaries of the market.  I have been lucky enough to get good reviews.  I was very, very lucky to get such great art work for my book.  We’ll see if that is enough to overcome a weak economy and the fact that people are not spending as much money as they do in better times.

So, with that, I will go back to my other promotional writing.  For those of you who have supported the book, who have said encouraging things to me about Thieftaker, who have expressed an interest in reading it, thank you.  I can’t begin to tell you how much all of that means to me.  Fingers crossed.  Wish me luck.

David B. Coe

31 comments to On Publishing: What I’ve Learned Doing THIEFTAKER Promotion

  • sagablessed

    Have faith in yourself. You do not need luck as the book will sell and make the top ten best seller list. We have spoken.

    (good luck and many prayers for your success, lol)

  • I can’t wait to get my copy! 😀 Apparently, it will arrive tomorrow. I hope so, or I’ll have to wait for Friday. Will turn out the cover every time I see it in bookstores!

  • What is your Twitter acct info? I would love to follow you/ retweet your info to my modest number of followers. It is a small thing to repay you for all your free (and accurate) advice during the lifespan of Magical Words.

  • Good luck! Amazon has shipped my copy which should arrive tomorrow. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • I hope it hits big numbers. 🙂 I couldn’t pre-order because I never know whether we’ve got disposable income or when some emergency will hit and we’ll need the cash, but I will definitely be picking up a copy. I’ll also check to make sure the local libraries we frequent have it ordered.

  • TwilightHero

    Good luck! *raises glass* Here’s to hitting the bestseller lists 😉

  • Thanks to all of you for the kind wishes. I’m most grateful.

    Scribe, thanks for the pre-order. Hope you enjoy it. I don’t know if you were kidding or serious, but please do NOT turn out the book when you see it in the bookstores. That actually ticks off bookstore employees no end and will wind up hurting the book in the long run. Books that are face out on the shelves are that way because publishers have paid for the extra shelf space. It’s not just something that happens at random. And in turning out one book, we take that space away from a book that actually is supposed to be face out. I appreciate the sentiment, but it really is not a good idea.

    Lillian, my twitter feed is @dbjacksonauthor Thanks!!

  • David, LOL. I WAS that bookstore employee for three years during college. It was in jest. Don’t worry. 😉

  • Ah. Okay then. And thanks for the “nostril” comment on FB. Cracked me up.

  • David, over the years you and I have talked (a lot) about early sales and awards and lists and the definition of success. I’d like to add my opinion here. (okay, try to stop me 🙂 and stop rolling your eyes. Sheesh.)

    For David, this is a first book, new author, new name, and actually, new genre. David is breaking ground here. Long term numbers are far more important than short term numbers for what amounts to a first book. The chances of a bestseller (on this type of newnewnew book) right out of the chute is not high, not on day one, but if the book goes into second printing right away — that would be fantastic! When the first Jane Yellowrock book came out, that is ALL that I was hoping for. And now it is its … 6th? or 7th? printing. And book 3 made a list. And book 4 made 3 lists. Building successes are far more important in the long run.

    So, fingers crossed for Thieftaker’s success in all its measurable quantities and qualities. So far, Thieftaker already has, and is getting, all the necessary things for that success!


  • […] I’ve created for the Thieftaker universe.  I have also put up my usual Monday morning post at Magical Words.  Not surprisingly, that one is about THIEFTAKER, too . . . .  And finally, this evening I will […]

  • […] I’ve created for the Thieftaker universe.  I have also put up my usual Monday morning post at Magical Words.  Not surprisingly, that one is about THIEFTAKER, too . . . .  And finally, this evening I will […]

  • Susan

    Can’t wait to get it in my hands. It’s already shipped from Amazon. 🙂

  • Faith, thanks. Words to live by. Thanks for the wisdom, the perspective, and the good wishes.

  • OOH! Just got my email that it shipped! 😀

  • quillet

    Just ordered mine from Canadian Amazon — eh! And I’m wishing you luck from the frozen north. 🙂
    (…Okay, it’s actually very hot and humid here, and only frozen inside the freezer. But I’m still wishing you luck!)

  • Quillet, thanks for ordering it! And thanks as well for the good wishes. Hope you enjoy it.

  • ajp88

    Can’t wait to finally read it. Best wishes for a successful release!

  • Topher

    I can certainly say that it was your blog tour that convinced me to pre-order to the book.

  • Thanks very much, AJP! I appreciate the good wishes.

    Topher, thanks for letting me know. Authors do stuff like blog tours all the time, but we don’t always know if we’re reaching anyone. Nice to get the feedback!

  • I also got confirmation that my copy shipped. I guess I’d better hurry up and finish the novel I’m in the middle of, because I’m going to start reading yours as soon as I get it in my hands!

  • I’m planning on wearing my awesome Thieftaker shirt to work at the library tomorrow, so I can talk up the book to my patrons. *hugs David*

  • Thanks, E.K! Hope it gets to you soon.

    And thank you, Misty. Hope the library is busy tomorrow!

  • Razziecat

    Greatly looking forward to this book! Mine will be arriving on Kindle but I’ll have to wait until I get home to download it 🙁

    Ethan’s guest interview a week or so ago here on MW really piqued my interest…can’t wait to see what Mistress Pryce has to say 😉

  • Happy book day! And best of luck with this, David. I think the marketing you’ve done *has* helped, for the record. At least three of my friends here in Vancouver (and one in England!) have said they want to buy it. One of them because she found the Thieftaker postcard on my fridge and followed the link to read the first three chapters. May Thieftaker be a huge success. 🙂

  • Thanks, Razz. Hope you enjoy the book. The interview with Sephira was a lot of fun to write, mostly because she is SUCH a rhymes-with-witch. Just ask Faith…

    Thank you so much, Laura. That’s good to hear. I appreciate the kind wishes.

  • Something went wrong with my pre-order, so I had to order it again and I therefore haven’t read it yet. Considering I was planning on reading it the day it came out, this makes me very sad.

    I work at a book store and the computer says it’s a special order item only, which means we don’t keep any copies on hand. So, who has two thumbs and is going to pull some strings and get it on the shelf?

    This guy! 🙂

  • J.J., that’s great! Thanks so much. Sometimes it’s hard to predict which stores will carry a book and which won’t. Of course, if I had people like you working at every bricks-and-mortar bookstore in the country, it would be a lot easier….

  • Gypsyharper

    I was so excited to come home on Tuesday and find my copy waiting for me! And then I saw it on the new book shelves when we were in Barnes and Noble yesterday. Can’t wait to read it!

  • That’s very cool. Glad to know that it was displayed prominently at the B&N! Thanks!