The doctor is in the house! KJ Howe welcomes talented writer and physician CJ Lyons back to the lair. Remember her incredibly helpful tips on pitching at conferences? This time, she offers sage advice about promotion and branding, lessons she learned while promoting her debut novel, LIFELINES (a must read!).
Title: Practical Promoting in an Impractical World
KJ asked me to talk about practical promoting and what I've learned as a debut author. Hmmm…this might be a very short post!
For me, it's boiled down to knowing myself and my target audience. Or even more importantly, knowing my brand.
A brand is a subliminal promise to your readers—that any book written under this author's name will promise this type of emotional experience.
For example, even though I love to cross genres from women's fiction to suspense to thrillers to romance, every book I write has a theme central to my life: they're all about making a difference, trying to change the world.
Once I realized this fact, my tagline came easily: No One is Immune to Danger
Note that tagline is an emotional concept, not a promise of specifics. I did this on purpose because I knew up front that I didn't want to get locked into writing only medical thrillers. It works with medical thrillers, woman's fiction, romantic suspense, mainstream thrillers, etc. And it reminds the reader that I’m a physician—which is part of my platform or unique selling proposition.
A brand is more than a central theme, more than a tag line, it also includes visual images that evoke the same emotion.
For instance, part of my brand image is that I'm a doctor, so I use a lot of medical imagery on my website. I also use the color red a lot—again, creating an emotional response.
One thing that I wanted for my website was to evoke a response that it was fresh, dynamic, and different than other suspense writers' sites. Subconsciously, this tells a casual viewer that here is a writer who's different than others, willing to take chances, and whose books are also fresh and different.
I checked out as many websites as I could. Many I fell in love with—but they didn't fit my brand and the emotional response I was aiming for.
So instead of a dark background (which 99.9% of mystery, thriller, and suspense writers have) I went with a light background. And I asked my designer to make the images feel more fluid and expansive rather than boxed-in. As if there was a whole new world for visitors to explore.
Other promotional decisions I had to make:
--blog or not? To be successful you need to join a group, build a platform, or blog very often.
--contests? Offering free stuff is a great way to build interest and your mailing list, but it does cost money.
--appearances? Many conferences plan 9-12 months in advance, so if you want to get a speaking gig, you need to plan early.
Again, I based my decisions on my brand. As a doctor, teaching is a natural part of my life, and teachers are noted for making a difference, so volunteering to teach workshops, give keynotes, etc, was an easy fit for my brand.
And this is where I've had the greatest promotional success. I've been invited (ie. paid) to give online classes, live workshops, and keynote speeches all over the country. Fortuitously, many of these offers coincided with LIFELINE's spring release, so my "book tour" is partially paid for already, I have a built in audience, and the signings are arranged by the conference organizers, easing my workload.
If this didn't come naturally to me and fit my brand, I might have passed on some of these opportunities and spent my time and energy doing something else—like maybe blogging. But blogging doesn't come easy to me, so I use my blog as a news update and focus on guest blogging which feels more like teaching to me.
And I guess my final lesson in promoting was: it never hurts to ask. I knew my debut would be as a mass market mid-list general fiction novel. My publisher is very supportive, but was also candid with me up front that we had virtually no promotional budget and that it was pretty much all up to me. BTW, this is the "norm" for 80% of all books published.
But that didn't stop me from asking for things I thought were important. First, I asked for a "real" photo for the cover rather than stock art. After all, the whole idea behind LIFELINES was a "real" doctor writing about "real" events in a "real" ER—or as close as you could get and still be entertaining.
Wow!! Did Berkley ever come through for me there! The art director asked a lot of questions about my characters and then actually hired models for a real photo-shoot in NYC!!! And look at the results—stunning!!!
I also try to ask my audiences if they want to support myself or any of their favorite authors that they try to buy our books the first week they are available. That first week of sales is really the only thing that counts as far as deciding how long a book stays in print or even if there is a next book.
So go out, buy early, buy often! And to reward anyone who wants to buy more than one copy of LIFELINES (hey, it's only $7.99!), I'm hosting a contest: Treat a Friend and Win!
Simply send me copies of receipts showing two purchases of LIFELINES and you'll be entered to win prizes including an iPod Nano! Details on my website along with other contests, at http://www.cjlyons.net/
Thanks for reading!
KJ: The Banditas really appreciate you stopping by today to share those amazing promotional tips. We wish you all the best with LIFELINES!!! For more information about CJ, her bio is included below. As you can see, she is a very busy, multi-talented woman!
As a pediatric ER doc, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. CJ loves sharing the secret life of an urban trauma center with readers. She also loves breaking the rules; her debut medical suspense novel, LIFELINES, is cross-genre to the extreme, combining women's fiction with medical suspense with thriller pacing with romantic elements and is told from the point of view of the women of Angels of Mercy's Medical Center. Publisher's Weekly proclaimed LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), "a spot-on debut….a breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" and Romantic Times made it a Top Pick. Contact her at http://www.cjlyons.net/