Throw Spaghetti at the Wall

I want to write. That’s what I really want to do every day. Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard—write.

That’s what leads, in fits, starts and detours, to the finished product, be it novel or short story. Then it’s navigating through all the wickets to get the book published. But after that, I can’t just sit there and hope the book sells itself.

Marketing. Translated as doing whatever I can to make sure readers know the book is out there.

Back in the old days, before ebooks and indie/self-publishing altered the landscape, there was sort of a formula. I say sort of because it really didn’t work well.

My first nine books were published by big New York publishers. Their marketing strategy, if you could call it that, was “throw spaghetti at the wall.” If it sticks, well, it might be working.

My first novel, Kindred Crimes, got a better-than-average jump off the published writer diving board because I won a contest for the best unpublished private eye novel. That got me attention, reviews, award nominations.

The way things worked back then, I scheduled book events at local bookstores and hit most of the mystery bookstores in the western United States. I went to mystery conventions such as Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime, meeting readers, other writers, and selling a few books. All of this was on my own dime, of course.

I did have a few small book tours, mostly on the West Coast, on the publisher’s dime. The publicists booked me into upscale hotels. Nice, but I’d rather they spent less money on the hotel and sent me to more cities. At one point I suggested an East Coast excursion, because they had mystery bookstores there, too. The answer was no. Since my books were set in California, how could they possibly appeal to readers in the eastern part of the country or the Midwest? Go figure.

Then I got dropped by the New York publisher and went with a small California press. I still did my own marketing, as I always had. Over the years most of the mystery bookstores closed. I scheduled events at local bookstores when I could. A lot of the local bookstores closed. I remember someone I worked with in San Francisco asking me if my books were available on Amazon. Yes, they were. They were also available at the big downtown bookstore four blocks away. That bookstore is no longer there.

We were in the era of buy it online. Then came ebooks. A lot of big publishers thought that was a passing fad. They were wrong. I’m glad I got back the rights to those first nine books right before that, because I spent a lot of time and money converting those novels to ebooks and I sell a lot of them. The small publisher also closed and I got back the rights to those books as well.

Along with all of this came social media and using the Internet to connect with readers. In these days of self-publishing, readers have so many choices. I contribute to blogs, like this one, and sometimes do guest blogs. My fellow writer D. Z. Church and I send out a newsletter each month. I tried Twitter once and hated it. Couldn’t see the point of that, or some of the other platforms. As for Facebook, it seems most of my “friends” are other writers, mystery fans, as well as a few longtime friends and relatives. I have a personal page for pictures of my cats and the like. And an author page, where I post notices.

Advertising. I’ve done some of that in the past, but not much. Recently I did something different. I participated in the Five-Day Author Ad Profit Challenge, which is free, sponsored by the Author Ad School, which costs money. The Challenge is, well, challenging. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in categories and keywords and have been rethinking blurbs and hooks. I’ve learned a lot and hope it will be useful in building sales.

Maybe when I throw the spaghetti at the wall, I’ll hit the target.

6 thoughts on “Throw Spaghetti at the Wall

  1. I loved reading about how you began as a writer and what you did to promote yourself. Throwing spaghetti on the wall sounds about right. But I have to say having read your work, once someone is turned onto your writing, they are more than willing to buy and read your work. Good is good, and you are just plain good.


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