Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Well, Halloween is almost here, and before we know it we'll be stuffing ourselves with turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, among many other delectable treats, I'm sure. Then, if you're like me, as I sit with my family sharing the end of the Thanksgiving holiday, the realization will hit me (like it always does) that Christmas is ONLY four weeks away...

If you're an author, you're probably always looking for places to market your books. For me, I'm lucky enough to have chosen a popular genre to write in and the first three books in my YA Fantasy Series are showing to be very marketable. Over the summer there are fairs, summer parties, and many other places that I can market to, and believe me, I try to every chance I get. But in the fall, just like the changing seasons, I also change my marketing strategy.

With the beginning of fall comes the beginning of school, and one of my target markets is schools. What better time to create something to send to a school than the end of summer!

I use Adobe Photoshop for almost all of my marketing ideas. It's a wonderful product to have to manipulate pictures or to add text on top of a picture. Be aware, however, there is a learning curve to this program.

When the marketing bug finally bit me correctly (it took a while, believe me!), one of the first things I did was to go to and get a quote for their bookmarks (two-sided) and business cards (also two-sided). They give you a template, which I open up in Adobe Photoshop, and I use the template to design bookmarks & business cards.

Another thing I've used Photoshop for is to create a postcard, which I then mail to local schools. To design my postcard, I create the blank document then inserted a photo of each of my book covers. With photoshop, you use "layers", which are just what they sound like. You can "layer" one photo on top of the other (or move them to where ever you want on the document) - You can also add text and color the background. When I get it just the way I want it, I save it as a pdf with all the individual layers, then "flatten it" (this combines all the layers into one layer, which means that you can no longer make any changes to the design) and save it again as a flattened pdf, then again as a .jpg. I then take this .jpg down to staples and have them print out whatever quanitity of postcards I'm looking for. For mine, they usually can do 4 postcards per sheet of card stock. Their prices are fairly reasonable and it makes it MUCH easier for me to just have them do it and I go pick them up later.

I then go online to google and search for "southeastern CT schools" and it gives me sites that have a list of schools in New London County. This can be a pain when you do it the first time, but once you have the list, put it into an excel sheet and save it... then you won't have to do it again. I then do a mail merge in Microsoft Word and print these addresses out on Avery sticky labels.

Another great thing about the beginning of the school year is all of the fall festivals that happen around New England. If you do a search on google for "New England festivals" or "Connecticut fall festivals" (or your own state), you'll likely get many hits for different fall events going on in your area. Some of these events can be pretty expensive to be a vendor at, but many of them (in our area at least) are reasonably priced. About a year and a half ago, Tom Santos (another author and good friend) and I bought two 10'x10' canopy tents and some card tables from Wal-Mart. The size of the both spaces at these festivals is usually the same size as our tent, so we'll either share one booth or get two booths and set up next to each other. It's a good idea to have other things to sell in your booth, because let's face it, some people just aren't interested in books. You want to make your booth appear more rich and inviting, so it's probably a good idea to bring in other items to sell, but make sure you check with the event coordinators first. Certain events that we do here don't want it to look like a flea market, so you have to be tactful with what you bring :) ... and if you're crafty, hand made things are perfect for these events!

Something else I've done is to have an 18" x 24" foamboard poster made at Staples from a picture (that I again created in Photoshop) of all three books and text at the bottom announcing that I'm the author, my email and my website info. Actually I have quite a few of these made, because I also take them to Borders Stores where I have an upcoming book signing so they can use it to advertise for me... but when I do these craft fairs, I'll usually hang one of the posters showing all three book covers on it directly in front of my books, then I'll have an easel out near the front of the booth where I hang another (different) one, advertising usually the cover of book three (Dragon's Tear) because it's the more eye-catching (I think) of the three.

Tom had us a couple of large banners made from and we hang them at the back of our tent from the top area of the tent. We also bring bookmarks, business cards, and I have summaries of each of my books as well as PLENTY of books! Especially at this time of year, more than any other time, people are looking for a sale, so I post a sign on the front of my table alerting readers/buyers to my special price for all three books.

Events like these are great because it's a BEAUTIFUL time of year in New England, but it also gets you "out there" to meet the people and to start getting that name/face/book recognition that every author needs to be successful. Because of our rapidly changing seasons here, our participation in outdoor events is nearly at an end, but that just means we need to change our focus to indoor events.

And as for writing book four, who has time for writing when all they can think about doing is market, market, market? :) When Christmas is done and we settle into the bitter cold of winter, THAT will be my time to write. It won't stop me from THINKING about selling, believe me, but hopefully I'll be able to slow myself down a bit to get that next book in my series done.

For now, I'm thankful for all that I've learned about this whole process we call "being an author". Who'da thunk it could be SO DAMN CHALLENGING! But you know what? I've said it before and I'll say it again… I wouldn't change it for anything. I love how much I've grown the past few years and how much I've learned about what really goes into being an author. Writing is definitely the easy part (well, when you can find the TIME to write, anyways!!). But the way I see it, whether you're self-published or traditionally published, if you want your books and your name to become known, YOU will HAVE to do the work to get them out there! Unless you're someone like Stephen King or JK Rowling of course, which many, many of us are NOT…

So, what are you waiting for! Start Googling!

Plug away, my friends, and know that someday all your hard work, time, blood, sweat and tears WILL pay off!!

Happy reading, writing, AND fall craft-fairing!

MJ Allaire

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