Promoting Your Book by Michael Clark
Hi everyone, I’m happy to be here. Sadie wanted me to write a blog post on the subject of “Promoting Horror,” and I’m proud to share with you what I’ve learned. My name is Michael Clark, and I wrote the “Patience of a Dead Man” trilogy (Part Three coming soon). This article has two essential points to it—my experience with social media, and an excellent giveaway system you should implement to gain followers and grow your readership.
My experience with Social media, December 2019-present (The Learning Curve):
I’m new to writing, but I’m not new to the world. I’m 54 years old, and I’m a salesman in my day job (I promote small businesses). I’m not the rude kind of salesman you hang-up on, but I AM the type that takes “no” for an answer. I find the low-pressure way is the best. If I get a chance to “tell my story,” i.e., the person I’m talking to takes a look at what I sell and doesn’t like it; I move on. If I don’t get the chance--I move on then too.
Selling is a numbers game. The more people you talk to, the better your chances—but over time, you acquire regular customers. Whatever I write below this line might be scrutinized by authors who have been writing longer than I have, but let me tell you, I’ve been immersed in this whole “writing” thing for almost a year now, and already I’ve seen and heard things that even the veterans could be doing.
I was even shocked to hear one of the most popular authors say (in so many words) that they don’t like to promote themselves, as if it is braggadocious. In my thinking, this does everyone a disservice--both the writer and the people that could be reading their work. Sure, everyone wants to be the wealthy reluctant artist that is “discovered,” but that rarely happens.
I launched my first book on April 15, 2019, and nobody knew who I was except for mom and dad. One year later, that is still mostly true, but I think I’m on the right track, so I’m excited. Getting Sadie’s attention is proof that I must be doing something right. What did Sadie notice? *Well, I know some of the things she’s seen, but she’s a busy woman, so we haven’t had time to talk about which ones. It took a while to get her attention as it did many of the more active bloggers’ attention. At first, I felt I was invisible, and that “small press authors” had an unfair advantage, but now I know that Indies can succeed too.
*editor's note (Sadie Hartmann) to speak into why I asked Michael Clark to write this post will also answer his question about how I noticed his book. It's true that I am very busy. I get a lot of unsolicited emails from authors to review their books both for myself and for Night Worms. Having been a part of this industry for so long and traveling in certain tight-knit circles, I hear a lot of names. I'm familiar with all the publishers and I tend to stick to what I know. I rarely take chances on the "unknown" simply because they haven't been successful for me. A high percentage of unrepresented, self-published authors don't spend money on editing-it's frustrating to spend time on a book if the author doesn't see the value of putting their best foot forward. That being said, here is what I noticed about Michael Clark's book THE PATIENCE OF A DEAD MAN
- The cover has a good design and looks professional
- Michael's emails to me were respectful & well written
- I saw some readers/reviewers I trust saying positive things about Clark's books
- Michael Clark is active on social media (and not just to promote his books but he engages in bookish conversation)
- An author who invests time and money into quality swag like business cards, bookmarks and a sweet, little review copy package most likely spent time editing his book. It's a good first impression and speaks well of Michael's potential (I'm excited to read this book)
I guess the first thing I had going for me was that I believed in my book. I imagine that might ring a bell with you too, right? You spent a year or more, or whatever amount of time it took you to write it, so it must be good, right? Somebody will like it just as you do; you just have to find your audience—and that takes work.
After I got all my friends and family to read my book, I ran out of people and had to branch out. I felt I needed real horror fans to read my book, so last August, I very weakly began to ask a few bloggers to read it, and I got a few bites. From April 2019 until early December, I was juggling tasks like crazy—reading, writing, learning and listening. That’s normal, I think, if you’re learning how to do everything at once (writing is about half of the job), so don’t feel bad if you get overwhelmed now and then, it takes time.
By early December, my plate was clean enough to make social media a priority. This, I consider my starting point in the horror community. I dug out my anemic “blogger” spreadsheet, which was jumpstarted by the excellent Bark’s Book Nonsense list (https://barksbooknonsense.blogspot.com/p/an-easy-guide-to-locating-horror.html). I say “weak” because I hadn’t worked on it nearly enough. Bark gets you going, but you have to cultivate and personalize it. While getting accustomed to Twitter and the horror community, I noticed that Laurel Hightower was killing it attention-wise, and her first book, “Whispers in the Dark,” had only launched four months before mine. I even saw her guesting on podcasts, and I wondered how the hell she was kicking ass, and I wasn’t.
I reached out to Laurel, and she was as gracious as can be. I told her I envied her attention in so many words, and we compared notes on being an indie author vs. publishing with a small press. The gist of the conversation, however, was she told me to get my spreadsheet in shape, keep good records on when you contact bloggers, their responses, and don’t be pushy. It was excellent advice.
In doing so, I kind of got to know who’s who of bloggers before they even knew who I was. And if they were busy, or said no, I accepted their answer. Bloggers are buried in books (especially the big fish—hint: look at the number of followers they have on Twitter and Instagram). In the process, I, unfortunately, witnessed a few impatient authors get torched publicly on Twitter for being unwanted pushy salespeople. In the meantime, I wanted to continue collecting blurbs, so I began to ask the not-as-busy bloggers for reviews in exchange for free books—this was just about the only thing I did right around Christmastime. In the process, I was fortunate enough to meet some up-and-comers along the way, like Well-Read Beard. He’s excellent, has a unique charm about him, and a relaxing voice (he’s a Booktuber too). He read and liked my books, and that was a real boost. The snowball began to roll then and there. Other bloggers listened, and I kept sending free books. I felt grateful and could sense traction happening, so I got excited--and invested--in some MUGS.
You might know my MUGS better than you know my books. I don’t think it’s by chance either. They’re fantastic and huge--23 ounces, and once you’ve had coffee from a mug like that, you realize the others have no room for milk and make you angry. I could have personalized shot glasses, but it would have been a mistake. Nobody, after all, do shots every single day—and they don’t hold pencils either. Anyway, I began to mail mugs as a thank you to the bloggers that took the time to read my stuff, and they loved it. They even started posting pictures of the mugs, and I think it led to other bloggers envying--THE MUG.
This process went on for about three months, and over time, reviews began to come out, and the snowball continued to roll. The only setback was the damn mugs ended up not being dishwasher safe, so I simply included a little note when I shipped, handwritten on my “Patience of a Dead Man” bookmark…not a post-it note. More on bookmarks in a moment. The author Andrew Cull also inspired me. He made some cool swag for his excellent book “Remains” in the forms of a limited edition postcard, and an Ouija Board planchette. He also hired an artist (Chad Wehrle) for a limited edition cover for his book “Bones.” So cool! As a salesman/author (and we all should be a combination of the two), that’s something to talk about on social media if nothing else, right? Answer: Yes, it is. I liked Andrew and Chad’s stuff so much that I got in touch with Chad, and we have two “projects” in the works. I also talked to Andrew, who was very gracious and helpful.
I think packaging is important. “God is in the details.” Have you ever bought something from the Apple store? Everything from the box to the bag is of high quality, and you don’t even want to throw it in the trash. Because I wanted to put my best foot forward, I did a few things. I commissioned a logo ($100), had logo stationery made, also TPOADM bookmarks (not the “A Stranger Dream” ones--yet), and logo business cards to rival Paul Allen’s (American Psycho reference in case you didn’t catch that).
I also noticed the bookmarks made by A Stranger Dream were something special, and that many bloggers and Bookstagrammers used these bookmarks in their book photos! Those photos are very artistic and are ads in themselves. Crossing my fingers, I contacted Karlee of “A Stranger Dream” and asked her if she’d like to take a crack at my character Mildred. I was nervous that she would say no—but she didn’t. I gave her notes on who Mildred was and what I wanted, and she was the first person to produce a version of “Mildred” that wasn’t my own. When it came time to proof her design, I told her she didn’t need to change a thing, and I think she was surprised, but she should not be (read the book, look at her bookmark, and you be the judge).
A Stranger Dream’s “Mildred” bookmark gave my books a legitimacy in the horror community worth its weight in gold.
A couple of months went by, and thankfully I was referred to Sadie and the NightWorms by a power reader named BookMonster (shout out to the Monstah). All of a sudden, I felt like I was ON STAGE. A NightWorms Book Party! Thankfully (because of everything I’ve already told you), I was ready.
To make the NightWorms packaging extra special, I broke out some little cheapo plastic flies my wife bought last Halloween for her Mildred costume (she’s also Mildred on my book covers—I purchased the dress on Etsy). I dropped three or four of these plastic flies along with the books into each of the NightWorms shipping boxes. In a stroke of luck, Chad Wehrle sent me some “Mildred concept” drawings just before shipping. BOOM. I printed Chad’s illustrations out and packed them in the boxes as a “NightWorms Exclusive.” Dress for success! Now I’ve set the mood with a mug, some logo stationery, a business card, my bookmarks, the “A Stranger Dream” bookmark, and some plastic flies—making it look like Mildred herself packed the boxes.
It’s a nice introduction if nothing else, right? Now, I just hope they like the book.
Facebook advertising + autographed book giveaway = Money well spent.
To do this, I recommend a few things be set up ahead of time:
First, have a website (it might have to be a WordPress website, but I’m not sure, check me on that).
Second, buy the KingSumo Giveaway plug-in. I think it costs around $200 for a lifetime license. What KingSumo does is give each separate giveaway you do its own professional looking webpage. Also, when people enter the giveaway, they can enter more than once by doing things like: following you on Facebook, following you on Twitter, following you on Instagram, and visiting your webpage. I had 700 Facebook page likes in mid-January. Now I have over 1500. Third, have an email service that collects the emails when people enter the giveaway. I’m currently using MailChimp, but it’s getting expensive ($50/month because I recently went over 5000 people). I’m thinking of switching.
Once you have these things set up, couple your giveaways with Facebook advertising.
Facebook noticed I was “boosting” posts and had someone contact me to teach me how to run REAL Facebook ads. I’m sure they’d talk to you too. Now I’m advertising in the five English speaking countries, talking to cool people from the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. I even have a Kiwi Beta-reader now as a result--pretty amazing. I forgot to mention that you can target your audience to READERS OF HORROR FICTION. It doesn’t get any better than that, right? My ads, therefore, are aimed at not only people that read but people that read HORROR, making it very cost-effective. I’m not wasting money on clicks on people that don’t like horror or don’t even read at all. The target audience is a pool of 28,000,000 people if I recall correctly. I got over 1,000 new subscribers from my last giveaway. Does that mean every one of those people is going to buy my next book when it is launched? No. I have noticed that there is also a “freebie” crowd out there looking for any type of giveaway, but time will tell. I’ve been targeting the same group for several giveaways now, and it shows no sign of slowing down. My social media followers are growing, as well as the number of emails I am collecting. In short—this is the best thing I am doing towards increasing my readership.
Don’t forget to post your winners on social media, so people know the giveaway is real. And be prepared to pay $25 in postage if your winner is outside the US. I’ve even mailed a book to Australia before—surreal.
One last thing that I do for my readers is one of my favorites. I’ll send an autographed bookmark anywhere in the world for free (Note: Not the “A Stranger Dream” because that is a premium gift). I’m mailing out four bookmarks today: Canada, Canada, UK, and Australia, …and it makes me happy. An international stamp is only $1.20.
I tell them they’ll get an autographed bookmark--but I send them two. One has their name on it, and one doesn’t--in case they want to share it with a friend. I also write them a personal note on my logo stationery and autograph my better-than-Paul-Allen’s business card. So it’s a pleasant surprise when it arrives. I even had one person say they were going to frame it. Isn’t that cool?
Michael Clark was raised in New Hampshire and lived in the house The Patience of a Dead Man is based on. The bats of the barn really circled the rafters all day and there actually was a man-made grove hidden in the forest. He now lives in Massachusetts with his wife Josi and his dog Bubba. The Patience of a Dead Man is his first novel. Dead Woman Scorned is his second. More to come.