Finding My Audience

When my latest book come out last month, I booked a romance blog tour. My promoter did a great job and got my book featured on about 40 blogs. About halfway into the tour, as I was thanking hosts and seeing no other comments—none—I realized I was wasting my money. The blogs were all focused on romance, but not the sort of books I write. They all seemed to feature contemporary and paranormal romance. I write historical romance, and this book is medieval, which is an even more specialized sub-genre. I was getting a lot of exposure, but very little with the people who actually read books like mine.

And yet, I know they are out there. I know a number of authors who write medieval romance and who are doing moderately well. It’s just that getting those readers to even know your book exists is a huge challenge. I realized I had to change my marketing strategy. I had to find a way to connect with those readers.

I contacted some authors I know and got suggestions. They all said you have to gradually build a following. Advertise on romance sites that feature historical romance, join Facebook groups, try Facebook ads, do giveaways, and build a newsletter list.

There are services that help you build a newsletter list. Others that help you get reviews by offering your book for free to interested readers. I did some of these things with my last book (which was Regency romance, a much more popular era), but it looks like I need to step up my game and do even more and spend even more money.

My publishing career, which was once a source of extra income, is turning into an "expensive hobby." But I have no choice. I’ve planned two more books in this series, and if there’s going to be any hope that my publisher will publish them, or that anyone will read them, I’m going to have to invest significant time and money into promotion.

I’m fortunate I’m at a point in my life where I can afford to do this. But there is a part of me that remains uncomfortable. I feel like I am being self-indulgent, trying to "buy" something that should just happen—that is, if my books were good enough. But then I think of my characters and realize that I’m doing it for them. I want to share their stories, and if spending money on promotion is the only way to get their stories out there, then I’m going to do it.

Long Live the Oldest Profession: Pimping Your Book

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Since none of my previous published novels have hit the bestseller lists, for which I blame you (you know who you are), I decided to try a new marketing approach for The Fairyland Murders – Blog Tours. Not the kind I set up for myself, on blogs I’d visited seven times already, with people already sick to death of me (again, you know who you are), but blog tours arranged by PR companies who specialize in this sort of thing.

People in the know. People willing to pimp my book for a small monitory gain.

I started to hatch my evil…I mean, marketing plan by typing in a quick google search for just these sort of companies. I found a surprising amount of them, each who boasted of great results for former blog tour authors. Determined to break out of my midlist funk, I settled one three of the big ones.

The first one I emailed offered a package deal for $99, including a facebook party launch. I filled out the form and waited. And waited. And waited. Luckily for me I hadn’t sent over the requested $99 via paypal yet. I finally heard back from them a week later. They claimed my form had gone to junk mail. Sure, that happens, so I wasn’t too concerned. Until my second email to their representative had the same result. If they couldn’t get back with me, imagine how the blog tour would go? I quickly moved on to blog book tour company 2.

At least they emailed me back within a day.

That is about all I can say was going for them. I opted for a book blast tour costing $50. Now it was encouraged that I also offer a gift card reward for those commenting as well as hosting my book blast. A goodwill gesture. I’m all for goodwill. I get that these bloggers’ time is worth something. They were doing me a favor after all.

Then again, when the tour happened, I felt sort of sleazy. Like the tour was set up merely to win this gift card, for blogger and commenter alike. Not that there were many commenters. In fact, on at least 75% of the blogs, the only comment was a thank you for hosting from the blog tour company. The remaining 25% had one or two other comments.

Not quite what I'd expected.

Which brings me to blog tour company 3. This one seemed to be the most organized, and yet, when it was all said and done, my money wasn’t well spent again. These blog readers weren’t in it to learn about new books, but rather to win free stuff. Not that I mind giving it away, but I’d like to give it away to people actually interested in what I had to say or at the very least in books.

Now I didn’t post this to whine, but rather to offer this bit of advice. Marketing is all about taking risks. I’m not sad that I tried this blog tour approach. I’m glad I did. Now I know for next time it doesn’t pay to use these companies. What does work, is setting up my own guest posts with blogs. Trying new and different things will keep you interested in your own marketing, and that will make for a happier author and readers.

Has anyone had a different experience when using a blog tour company?