Sunday, March 2, 2014

Help me market my novel

My comedic novel set in a pet shelter was unleashed upon the world last July.

Here's the good news. Reviews have been almost universally excellent - four and five stars on Amazon and Goodreads, and even a very nice one from the pros at Kirkus. So, great, right?

Well, not exactly. Truth is, I'm just not selling many books. Here's the dilemma, no doubt one faced by many self-published authors. I'm not reaching my audience. If the book had lousy reviews - or even no reviews - I'd give it up. But people LIKE it, and many absolutely LOVE it.

So I'm seeking help: I need some fresh ideas to market the book without bankrupting myself.

Before you start to make suggestions, I'm going to outline what I've done so far.

Social Media
Twitter: I've strategically acquired nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, most of whom are animal lovers and/or avid readers. I promote the book regularly on Twitter, and send new Twitter followers a welcome message containing a link to the book on Amazon. Plus, I engage my readers daily with witty, fun, thoughtful content. And Twitter, my friends, has been the sole successful effort to date. Nearly all my readers come to the book via Twitter. I definitely need to diversify, which I'm trying to do. Read on.

Facebook: Created separate Facebook page for the book, and post there as well as on my regular page.

Goodreads: Contacted top reviewers, mainly women, and requested reviews. A few did so, with mostly glowing reviews. Results: some sales, I guess. Not tons.

Amazon: The mother of them all. Like Goodreads, sent review requests to top reviewers who seemed a good fit. Again, received great reviews. Enough to generate business? Nah.

: Have a bunch of followers there, and the book is part of my profile.

Women's interest e-newsletters

Sent the actual book or link to Amazon page to: Daily Candy, Pure Wow, Urban Daddy, Fab, Joyous, Hello Giggles (Zooey Deschanel's site) and Rookie. Guess the outcome.

Book Reviewers

Sent review requests to People, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle and even The New York Times (now there's a waste of postage).

The Dodo

This is in a category all its own. I read in the NYTimes that founder of BuzzFeed was funding his daughter's new animal focused website The Dodo. So I sent said daughter a copy of the book, and The Dodo featured a story I wrote about my dog on the site, with a link to the book's Amazon page. Guess I sold a few extra copies the days the story was featured.

Bookstore Readings
Did readings at two local stores. Frankly, don't have time to pursue this further and doubt it would do much for me. I also sent the book to one or two well-known independent bookstores around the country. Zilch.

Blurb and PR requests
Sent copies of the paperback to around sixty celebrities who are known animal lovers (yes, including Ellen DeGeneres) and to chick-lit writers, asking them to write a blurb for the book - or even, in some cases, option it for the movies. Yes, I have delusions of grandeur. Result: I received a lovely, handwritten note from author Meg Cabot, informing me that she was no longer doing blurbs, but wishing me luck, and - TA DA - an envelope containing nothing but an autographed picture of Charlize Theron.

Charity Tie-In
I approached animal oriented charities - ASPCA, The Humane Society, PETA and the World Wildlife Fund - offering to donate to them a percentage of the profits from sales of the book if they would promote it on their websites. All turned me down, though PETA does have an online store where I can list the book for $500. I'm considering it.

Pet-oriented businesses
I sent copies of the book to PETCO, Petsmart and a few other national pet supply stores to see if they would carry the book. All declined. Also tried a few local independents - same result.

Vets' offices
I tried my local veterinarian's office,which is part of the VCA chain. They said they couldn't make the decision to carry the book, and that I would need to approach VCA's national headquarters. I did so, and contacted the other big veterinary chain, Banfield, as well. Never heard from either - and yes, I did make follow-up phone calls.

Pet-centric writers
Sent copies of the book to a few columnists who write about animals. Nada.

What I've considered and haven't done
Placed copies of the book on subway seats and in airport waiting areas with a note asking finders to post reviews and/or spread the word any way they could in exchange for the free book. Any thoughts on this?

So, bottom line. I've done every free thing I can think of. Please share with me your ideas (whether more unpaid things or things I'd have to pay for) so that I can help my little baby find the audience it deserves. You can post here or email me at



  1. I'm impressed and inspired by all you HAVE done, actually! Have you thought about ink pens? I don't know about the ROI--but if you took pens around to vet offices, I wonder if they might be willing to give them to customers... Just a thought. I also know some local bookstores will stock local author books on risk for them and your book gets exposure for a period of time.

  2. Our humane society (in omaha nebraska) actually has a gift shop. Have you tried animal shelters?

  3. Sounds like you're doing everything right! Keep at it!

  4. It sounds like you're doing quite a bit, actually! Great reviews, and the cover is adorable. :) I'd suggest joining something like the Independent Book Publishers Association ( Not only do they have some great resources for independent publishers and some links for reputable (paid) book marketers, but being a member means they can take your book to big national events where bookstores and libraries buy books. (for a fee. but fairly reasonable.)

    Local Writers' Groups are a good source of community and connection too. Maybe you can connect with other area writers that write women's fiction, and host a big party that benefits the local animal shelter--and sell your books there.

    Bookstores for a local indie author probably aren't going to be worthy of the time (unless you host a big party like above, can cost $), but maybe local book festivals? Lots of cities & towns have festivals (I live in southern NJ and go to at least 6 within a 2 hour drive per year.) Again you can share the cost of a table with another author or two. Makes it more fun and people are more likely to approach the table the more stuff you have on it!

    You could also look into presenting at local book clubs, and pet clubs (rescue groups, dog play groups, etc.) will have a bunch of local groups focused on both of these things. Go and talk about your experience with animals, and with writing the book. Offer the book club a little discount if they buy it to read in bulk, then you can show up when they meet to discuss it. Libraries may also have resources for book clubs.

    I found your link from Twitter, posted by someone I follow (darn I wish I could remember who!) The internet does work, really! I'd recommend getting a website up IMMEDIATELY that not only describes the book in detail--and features all those great reviews--but provides multiple options for purchasing. Get bookmarks or business cards with the website and a QR code on it and hand them out to everyone you meet. That's another option! Put that link everywhere you can. Nice websites are not that expensive, don't take much time, and make you look really professional. :) Feel free to let me know if you need some resources for websites. I found "The Whole Pet Diet" author Andi Brown, I'm guessing that's not you?

    What are your sales goals, and did you outline a marketing plan for the book? Did you research sales for similar books & genres? It sounds like you're already doing well for a self-published book. You'll probably sell more books by selling locally first. People like to make connections.

    It's pretty rare that you become a bestseller with just one book; a backlist helps. So as soon as you possibly can, start talking about your next book! And keep your blog going too, not just about the book but what it's like to be a writer and more stuff like this. The more you post the more traffic you'll get.

    HTH! Good luck! Will keep tabs to see if any of these work :)

  5. From a marketing standpoint, have you tried blog hops and giveaways? I've run across some new books that way.

    I've also heard that having a backlist is very important for selling books in general. The sooner you can get another book, the better. As a reader, I know I love to see more books by an author I'm considering.

    Also, when I went to look at your book, I found the description just a little unclear. It says she wants to find love, but who is the love interest? I'm not quite sure if this is a romance or not. It looks fun, though.

  6. Have you tried reaching out to local media outlets like your hometown paper, local talk shows, etc? There's a human interest story here and you have a connection with the community.