Targeted PR, Cross-Promotion, and Knowing Your Audience

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Today I’m going to piggyback on Faith’s PR post from yesterday.  She gave some awesome advice that those of you who recently sold your first book and think 12-18 months until release is a long time should pay extra close attention to. Trust me, when it comes to promoting your first book, the months directly around the release are going to be madness so already having templates for interviews and your website up, professional, and easy for search engines to find will make things easier during a time that has the potential to be very stressful. If you’re not yet at that stage in the game, bookmark her post and come back to it when you’ve sold.

Faith also mentioned reviewers, review sites, and bloggers. Whether you are published or not this is something you can research now without any extra work on your part–simply note what review sites and blogs you enjoy reading. Whether a review is in RT Reviews or on a review  blogger’s site, you will figure out quickly if that reviewer has similar tastes to you. Most people read within (as well as outside of) the genre they write in, so if you have a couple favorite sites, or  if you stumble over one in your genre, make a note to yourself. When you sell a book and are looking for someone to review your book–or blogs to do interviews, etc. –you’ll already have your list started. Even better, this list is most likely geared toward your genre, which means the time you spend writing an interview or making the effort to get the reviewer your book will (hopefully) be well worth your time as the people who read the review/interview will be your audience.

That is targeted PR. As in, promotion that has the highest possibility to be found by the audience most likely to be interested in what you write.

While all the writers on MW write fantasy, the places we devote out time (and even our money) to promote our books will not all correspond. Why? Because we look for the highest density of our likely readers. That’s not to say people who love David’s High Epic Fantasy wouldn’t also enjoy my Dark Urban Fantasy–they’re the same genre after all, but the sub-genres are vastly different. So, if I’m going to buy banner space on a site or spend time writing a guest blog, it is probably not going to be at a site that caters more toward High Fantasy, but to one that is focused on urban fantasy. Of course, there are also places that fantasy is fantasy and readers of all genres congregate–such as fantasy conventions and publications like Realms of Fantasy. Promoting in such places is perhaps less targeted, but it’s not scatter-shot either. Like I said, most readers enjoy more than one genre, and while online ‘communities’ (which may be blogs, forums, or listserves) tend to be narrow in focus, venues like cons are much more diverse and people come in expecting fantasy and Sci Fi  of all kinds.

The next part of my topic is cross-promotion. Now, in all honesty, cross-promotion is still targeted PR, and when you blog/interview/are reviewed by/ or buy ads on a site fitting the criteria in the previous paragraph, you are in effect using cross-promotion because you are basically saying,  “If you like the books this site normally reviews, you’ll like mine too.”

“If you like that, you’ll probably like this” is actually one of the biggest ways people find books these days. And your publisher knows this.  That’s why they seek cover quotes from big names who write in your genre and why covers usually fall within the normal ‘stereotype’ (for a lack of a better word) of the genre. If you pulled up all the Magical Worders’ covers, even if you didn’t know who we were or flipped the book over and read the blurb,  you’d probably be able to guess the genre. At a glance, you could assume that if you like Faith’s Jane Yellowrock series and C. E. Murphy’s Urban Shaman series that you’ll most likely enjoy my Alex Craft series. But authors can’t control their covers or who blurbs their books, that type of cross promotion is out of our hands.

So what, as authors, can we do?  Quite a few things, actually.

One of the most important thing we can do as authors is to network with other authors who are likely to be grouped in that “if you like” category. Why? Well, we’ve talked about networking and it’s many benefits before, but in this situation, networking in genre is helpful because authors cross promote other authors they like and whose work they love. Of course, authors promote each other regardless of genre, but (at least from what I’ve noticed on my own blog) our readers are most receptive to suggested reading in our own genre. 

Networking can also lead to cross promotion in the form of events–such as Faith’s release party for RAVEN CURSED which will be January 7th at the Booknack (mark  your calendar folks) and I feel very honored to have been invited to sign as well.  Also,  projects like Faith and Catie’s joint novel EASY PICKINGS, act as treats for readers of both writers, but they also expose readers only familiar with one author to the other’s writing, and if they like it, they will like go try out more of that author’s work–that’s great cross-promotion.

This post is starting to run long (and late) so I’ll very quickly fly through just a couple more cross-promotion strategies.

Something I’ve found effective is to always carry bookmarks with me when I  visit a bookstore. But I don’t leave them at the front desk–they are rarely picked up by people actually interested in your book (I was an assistant manager of a bookstore for a while and while some bookmarks were seriously looked at, most were taken–sometimes in multiples–by people who just wanted a place marker and would never dream of reading your genre let alone your book.) Here is the strategy I started using in my store when book marks came in, and that I now use with my own books:  Instead of having the books waste away on the counter, ask if you can stuff the bookmarks in books. But don’t just stuff them in your own books, stuff them in the newest books by the authors in the “If you like” category. The reader who buys that book gets a free bookmark and, as your target audience, will likely pay at least a moments attention to the bookmark and possibly pick up the book the next time they are at the store.

Another way to garner readers through cross-promotion is to review books in your genre on amazon and B&N (but only if you’ve honestly read the book and truly LOVE it). Make the review thoughtful and  informative to those who read it. Then sign it with your name and website. If your review was truly interesting, some people might check out who you are. (Note* authors writing reviews is a very controversial subject–particularly when it comes to bad reviews. I personally make a point not to review anything publicly, but I know other authors who’ve used this method of cross-promotion quite successfully.) 

There are lots of ways to promote and cross-promote your novel and this is by far not an exhaustive list. What are some methods you’ve either used yourself in the past, or that you’ve seen that convinced you to try a book? And, a question I always love to ask: How do YOU discover new authors and what convinces you to try a book by an author you’ve never read before?

Okay, shutting up now and hitting post because this is late enough. Happy Thursday everyone!

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3 comments to Targeted PR, Cross-Promotion, and Knowing Your Audience

  • Kalayna, this was great! I’d add FaceBook fan pages. I hve one for Faith Hunter, Beast, and Jane Yellowrock. And Beast’s fans are very attentive! 🙂

  • Nice post, Kalayna. I would add to this list “Goodreads,” which is kind of like Facebook for devoted readers. You have friends, you link to different folks, you can have author fan pages, and people post reviews. Great site. D.B. Jackson is on it already, trying to build readership!

  • Hmm. I’m probably lightyears away from needing any of this advice. Given current relativistic speed limits, I may never get there…

    If I ever do find myself in the same star system (i.e. if I ever actually get any publishing house interest in my work), I’ll have to come back here and revisit this advice. It sounds like a lot of good stuff, though I’m sure the landscape will change some by the time I get there, too.