Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Authors are always on the lookout for ways to effectively market their books. This week and next I’ve asked two of my clients to showcase avenues they turn to that let readers know a new book awaits them.
This week Judy Christie, author of seven novels and five nonfiction books, fills us in on 2 promo ideas she’s used to good effect.
1. Judy, how did you connect with the Pulpwood Queen Book Club? How did you build off of the initial contact?
I was quite nervous when I first met Kathy Murphy (then Kathy Patrick), the exuberant head queen of the Pulpwood Queen Book Club, which has 550+ chapters in the U.S. and internationally. I had heard about her club, based in East Texas, an hour from where I live, and I attended a talk she gave about the power of story. Afterward, I introduced myself and, with a gulp, handed her an advance copy of my first novel, Gone to Green. I told her it was a Southern story, similar to some she had talked about that day, and she graciously took it.
I followed up when my novel released, and she invited me to speak at a small inspirational book festival she was experimenting with. I think she appreciated my helping her try that new event and has graciously invited me to be a featured author several times at her annual Pulpwood Queen Girlfriends Weekend. This event is held in January and draws several hundred very engaged readers and many well-known writers.
Through the years, Kathy and I have become friends, a reminder of how this writing business is really about relationships. An avid reader with an eye for books that become bestsellers, she’s devoted to bringing readers and writers together. I stay in touch with her, not just popping up when I have a new book, and I help to spread the word about authors I’ve met through PWQ. (For more on Kathy and the Pulpwood Queens, see www.beautyandthebook.com.)
2. In what ways has your association with the Pulpwood Queen been beneficial to your writing career?
The Pulpwood Queens keep me reminded of flesh-and-blood readers, real people who savor books. My relationship with them has enriched my life personally and professionally. As a writer, I have been renewed by coming together with hundreds of women who are excited about books. These readers remind me of the wonder of books and rejuvenate me on days when talk about changes in publishing tries to derail me.
In addition, these women show me that readers are as different as writers and that I need to know my target audience. Pulpwood Queens have bought my books and encouraged me on my writing journey, including inviting me to visit their chapters in person or via Skype. I’ve spent time with big-time best-selling writers such as Pat Conroy and Jamie Ford and met many great writers who have taught me a lot about writing.
3. How do you participate in the yearly convention?
The annual Pulpwood Queen Girlfriends Weekend is like a giant family reunion of readers and writers, and an author generally has to have a new release in the past year to be invited. This is not a stuffy, quiet gathering but a lively meeting of people who love books of all sorts and read like crazy. Kathy Murphy, a kind of Auntie Mame character, is the only person in the world who can get me to dress up in multiple costumes in one weekend. I participate as a waiter at the Authors’ Dinner, where writers serve dinner to a hundred or so readers, and I am featured on a panel where I discuss my book, followed by a book-signing.
Featured authors are expected to participate in the entire weekend, which includes a costume party on Friday night and the Big Hair Ball on Saturday. I’ve visited with Fannie Flagg while dressed as a fried green tomato, dressed as “reporter Barbie” for the launch of my series about a small-town newspaper and served readers dressed as Charlie Chaplin and a soda jerk. I’ve learned to get out of my comfort zone and be willing to take a risk or two. (One of the things I admire about Kathy is that she takes risks, and when something doesn’t work, she tosses it and moves on.)
4. Thanks for those insights. Now, tell how you developed your relationship with your local Barnes & Noble.
I stopped by the store when my first book, Hurry Less, Worry Less, a nonfiction title, was set to release. I muddled through a conversation with the store manager, who intimidated me. Then I dropped off a copy of the book and set up a signing.
This relationship has taken years to develop, with my dropping off ARCs, calling to followup, asking to be on the events calendar, and delivering cupcakes and other goodies. I’ve worked on patience and not being pushy. I always try to let them know how much I appreciate their help. Many bookstores want to schedule community events, so I make myself available to help when they need me, such as teaching a writing class during NaNoWriMo or speaking to teachers during Educators’ Week.
I schedule an occasional coffee meeting with the Community Relations Manager to discuss anything coming up that I might help with and to let her know about my next release.
5. In what ways has that relationship been beneficial?
The best thing I’ve done with B&N is to launch each of my novels with a signing party at my local store. This creates buzz in the community, in the store and among my readers. I write a news release and send it to the local newspaper and send out invitations, generating publicity. I serve refreshments and give door prizes and draw 150 people or so.
A side benefit: B&N (and some other bookstores) offers book fairs for nonprofits involved with literacy, so I tie each signing to a fair, which helps local groups build their libraries and helps me give back to the reading community. (For more on Barnes and Noble book fairs, see www.barnesandnoble.com/bookfairs/)
6. What advice would you give to an author who wants to connect with a significant book club or a local bookstore?
Look for a book club in your region and connect regularly, not just when you want to talk about your book.
Start with one bookseller you want to build a relationship with. While I sign at a variety of places, including local gift shops that I personally ask to carry my books, I identified B&N, the biggest brick-and-mortar bookstore in our community, as the key place to sell my books locally. We no longer have an indie store and the local Books-a-Million rarely does events, so this was an easy decision.
Introduce yourself, no matter how nervous or busy you are and begin to develop a relationship, expecting it to take time. Drop by the store to browse (an easy assignment). Figure out how their “system” works. For example, at our B&N, the Community Relations Manager is the person who pulls events together. Getting to know her and trying to make her job as easy as possible was key in my overall support from B&N. We, too, have become friends and enjoy talking about books.
Attend and support events that aren’t all about you. Be an encourager, instead of a complainer. Be flexible. Be persistent and don’t take it personally if they don’t get right back to you. Learn how to nudge graciously.
Don’t make it all about you. I joined my local chapter of PWQ, and I’m a regular at B&N, even though I might get books cheaper online. If you’re not a fan of book-signing (who is, right?), volunteer to teach a workshop or say a few words and publicize your books at the same time.
Judy Christie writes fiction with a Louisiana flavor. A Southerner through and through, she loves visiting from her blog at www.judychristie.com and www.twitter.com/judypchristie and www.facebook.com/judychristie.
What is one thing Judy does that you’d like to apply to your book promotions?
Looking for book promo ideas? Here are 2 author @JudyPChristie uses. Click to tweet.
How authors can connect with book clubs or local bookstores to promote their books. Click to tweet.