Today at Bible study, a friend told told me she'd been at our local ER and mentioned to a nurse that she knew someone who "is writing a fiction book series about emergency medicine." In an instant, this nurse's brows rose and she quickly asked, "Oh, you mean 'Critical Care'? By Candace Calvert? I can't wait to read that book!" I am not making this up. You could knock me over with a feather . . . and I would lie there flat on my back, smiling. Truth is, I've never met that nurse and (swear) I've never wandered through that (or any) medical facility (yet) wearing a huge sandwich-style advertising sign, shouting via a megaphone "Buy my book!" This nurse apparently lives in San Antonio, and somehow, somewhere heard about the book-- still 2 months from being released!
I have no idea how she learned of it. Maybe in a nurses' lounge. Most likely online, at websites like (my publisher) Tyndale House, Christian Books, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and American Christian Fiction Writers. Or perhaps via my posts on large social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Shoutlife. Maybe she's even a fan of my quirky cruise mysteries, read about the upcoming series in my newsletter and wants to "climb aboard." I don't know. But the great thing is that she's heard the word, and she (like my friend from Bible study) is passing that information on.
Word of mouth, even in this age of technical wizardry, is still the best method of marketing. And the kindest on a scrambling author's pocketbook--something definitely on my mind as I mail off the second sizable check to my (very talented) web designer. I'm already budgeting for a launch party and travel to signing events. Authors (both new and experienced) try a variety of marketing and promotional tools. Some standard, some . . . a little strange. Here are a few things I tried in an attempt to stir up the buzz on my mystery series:
1) Huge glossy stand-up posters of the book covers (more than 100 bucks per pop)
2) Postcards and bookmarks--zillions.
3) mini-lifejacket ornaments as prizes.
4) A full size frosted Styrofoam wedding cake (with skull and crossbones) to match a book cover.
5) Baking dozens (and dozens and dozens) of shortbread cookies stamped with anchors
6) Buying "nautical" clothing to wear to signing events.
7) Having a Holland America cruise ship captain pose with me, holding my book
8) Auctioning a chance to appear as a character in one of my books (local charity)
Plus the usual promo ideas like ads in magazines, radio and newspaper interviews, blog tours, holding contests, etc. We make lists, we brainstorm, we try.
Authors do these things (buy this, spend that, lug gear around) never knowing for sure if their efforts influence sales. But, bottom line, if it gets people talking and the word spreads . . . golden. There are thousands of books out there, so many authors to choose from, that I know I'm grateful when a trusted friend recommends a good book. Aren't you?
This is why part of my marketing plan for Critical Care will involve creating a list of "influencers"--volunteers who receive a free copy of the book and then (if they like it), pass the word to friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, church members . . . and via star-studded reviews on sites like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. It is the very best way to generate interest . . . and the biggest blessing in the successful launch of a book.
So, if you're interested in joining my list of influencers, let me know. And, meanwhile, if you're in a hospital ER (or grocery store, or barbershop, vet, Jiffy Lube, dog park) tell them you know someone who's writing this great book. My friend at Bible study did. And I've now armed her with a stack of business cards. I'll be giving her an influencer book copy too. But I'm stopping short of asking her to wear that sandwich sign. Or carry a megaphone. Her word of mouth will more than suffice . . . and I'm really grateful.
It's my biggest dream to offer entertainment, encouragement and hope via this new medical drama series. Every day--every TV news cast, headline, every troubled face--I'm convinced we need exactly that. Help me spread the hope, won't you?
Word of mouth--let's start talking!
Oh, and if you need a Styrofoam wedding cake (with a skull and crossbones) give me a call.