Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 16, 2010

Day 64 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:

  • Writing Topic –  Should we heed the undead?
  • Marketing Topic –  Cooks n’ Books – new venues to market books

Writing Topic – Should we heed the undead?

Trends. They permeate everything from pets (70s Pet Rock phenomenon, which I’ll never understand) to pants (I’ve still got my parachute pants from the 80s. I’m hoping for a comeback by the time my sons can wear them) to books. Case in point, vampires and zombies. From Twilight to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, there’s the books that started the trends, then there’s the books that try to imitate them, and then there are those who say the ones that started the trend are just imitators to begin with (the whole Stephenie Meyer vs Anne Rice debacle)

So, should you write for trends? I’ve already commented on writing with current events in mind. Of course, I have my political thrillers in mind, so I have to pick current topics. But writing novels that are trying to predict the next literary trends, which, since it will be many months to years before your novel is written and then published, is pretty much impossible. Or is it? Let’s pass the mic, or keyboard, as it were and have some discussion on this one.

Marketing Topic – Cooks n’ Books – new venues to market books

These days, we tend to look for marketing magic bullets in the social media/online world. However, don’t overlook actual, physical places that take up space in the real world. Signings are still the workhorse of any book marketing campaign. And while most signings will occur in bookstores, it’s smart to always think outside the box about signings.

For example, my local grocery store, Market Street, offers a cooking class that’s also a book club. The events manager picks a book that has some kind of food dish in it, and the class reads the book. When it comes time for class/book club night, they cook the dish in the first half and review the book and eat said dish in the second half. For example, for my event, we will be making crab cake sandwiches and drinking them down with Shiner Bock beer. Glorious!

This is a heck of an idea and a wonderful way to pair nourishment for the body with nourishment for the mind/soul. Okay, that was a bit of a stretch. But seriously, think outside the box when planning your next signing. You might come up with a whole new format to get books signed (and sold!). And if you do, make sure to share your idea here.  

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  


Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

August 5, 2010

Day 52 of 365

Books sold so far (as of the end of May 2010, which is my first official month – sales reports in this industry lag big time!): 157

In this issue:


  • Writing topic – Timing the ‘market’
  • Marketing topic – Revamping our websites


Writing topic – Timing the ‘market’


It happened to Dan Brown. And Stephenie Meyer. And Tom Clancy. Financial advisors say that if you try to ‘time the market’, or try to predict when the stock market will go up or down as the basis for your investment philosophy, then you will always lose. Many people have been trying for years, and while some have been lucky, their luck never holds.


But what about the writer’s market? The three aforementioned authors are examples of great writers, but they also were in the right place at the right time. Brown sold a few thousand copies of his first novels and then – bam – along comes a little tale called The Da Vinci Code that highlighted the Opus Dei sect inside the church, just as the scandal about Catholic priests abusing children, which was tied to Opus Dei as well, broke all over the world. Divine intervention not withheld, people across the globe immediately became intrigued with the scandal and they had a book they could immediately turn to that could further their interest in other conspiracies involving the Catholic Church. Meyer’s tale about vampire (and werewolf) love that has spread across the world was started by Anne Rice and even the movies like the Blade trilogy has helped keep our fanged brothers and sisters in the collective consciousness. Was it Meyer’s intent to use characters that have stood the test of time in pop culture? Judge for yourself:



And finally Tom Clancy. I love the story of how he came to be one of the most read novelists in history. During his presidency, Reagan was asked what he was reading, and he mentioned an obscure book about a Russian sub captain defecting to the US with the sub in tow. Till then, The Hunt for Red October was a little read novel published by the US Naval Press. News outlets latched onto that story and almost overnight, Clancy was a household name.


While that was an example of pure luck, The Hunt for Red October played on our fears of an escalation of the Cold War, which was still raging at the time.


Timing – how important is it? Should starving novelists, like hungry investors, try to time the next current event to tie in to their novel, or should we say to heck with it, if I want to write about a love story between lepers in the 13th century, that by God I will!  To the keyboards!


Marketing topic – Revamping our websites


My website blows. Okay, that’s a tad harsh. It’s not the best. Being a one-man show, I used one of GoDaddy.com’s templates for the design aspect, and I need to change it. It just doesn’t captivate the look I’m going for. I’ve been looking at James Patterson’s site, Sandra Brown’s site, and Dennis Lehane’s site to get some ideas in order to spruce up the old girl. Some things I’d like to are:


But I have no idea how to do it. I’d call Jimmy, Sandy or Denny, but I seemed to have misplaced their cell numbers. Besides, I’m thinking they have people that run their websites. So what’s a lone wolf to do?


One word: intern.  I’m not talking pulling a Kramer from Seinfeld and hiring an intern at Kramerica Industries (Fadtasktik, Inc. does have a certain ring to it, though). No, I’m talking about getting some fresh out of college kid who’s willing to spruce up the old resume with a website redevelopment project. Now, to find said fertile, IT minded soul who will work for that most coveted word, wait for it, experience. Google ‘website development project’? Ad on monster for a website programmer? Craigslist for web designer? Local college newspaper want ads? Networking with the locals? One of them has to know a kid who could inject some pizzazz into www.markfadden.com. I’m sure the Russians, and now Indians, that are visiting the site in high numbers would love to see some new, cool effects. And, dear reader, if you know anyone, send them my way please.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…