Jessica Caris likes to explore the boundaries and ranges of the human experience with her writing. The author of Breeding in Captivity and a former television writer and literary publicist, Jessica discusses her focused marketing techniques.
1. Give me the “elevator pitch” for your book in five to ten sentences.
Naomi Carter is a fast-rising, romantically-challenged professional, who aches to get married and have a family. After many first dates which never lead to a second, she is introduced to a handsome client. A whirlwind courtship ensues, and she blinks an eye and is married, finally! Like bad egg salad, things spoil quickly, and she suddenly finds herself pregnant, mother to a toddler, and divorcing. With all of her accounts mysteriously cleared, our spoiled princess is broke. Travertine gives way to Pergo and Hermes is replaced by Target. Just as she clawed her way up the corporate ladder, our heroine finds the moxy to overcome circumstances that would have reduced many women to a long “goodnight” with a fistful of Vicodin and bottle of Belvedere.
This book will remind any woman, young or old, married or single, who has ever thought her life was “ruined” or “over”, that a superhuman strength she never knew existed, resides deep within her.
2. Why did you become an indie writer?
I’ve always been a writer in some capacity. I’ve written for TV at CNN and Bloomberg and as a corporate writer have had articles published, mostly in national trade magazines, such as Barron’s, Career College Central or Tennis Magazine, to show the wide and wacky range of industries I represent. The dream to write a book was always there but when I was pregnant and going through a divorce, I was incredibly hormonal and emotional. The experience inspired me to finally embark upon my first book. I eat books for dinner some nights, and when I was going through this transition in my life, I was disappointed at the lack of fiction writers brave enough to cast a single mother as a heroine, and one who was inspirational, fun and funny.
My father is a beautiful writer and a clean, Spartan, funny one. When I got those first few sentences out, he was tireless in his encouragement. It’s so hard not having a perception of whether your manuscript is good or birdcage-worthy. He saw that it was a catharsis during a time of crisis and probably knew it was emotionally beneficial for me to work on it. He never got bored hearing about how I was developing my character or changing the narrative voice or killing a scene.
3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?
I’ve been traditionally published for articles, but not for my first book. I was able to get a strong agent out of the gates and she really believed in the project and pushed it hard with the big houses like Random House and HarperCollins. The book got strong feedback in terms of the voice, pacing, etc. and they asked if I had another work they could read. Many of them said to my agent that the topic of a woman divorcing while pregnant was too heavy. It is a heavy theme, however, my heroine is Teflon, funny, and tough as nails. My agent is still trying to work a print deal, but I wanted to try this route in the meantime, to test the market and see if there was an audience.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
I have underestimated the level of commitment needed to adequately market! It’s more than I had imagined. One nice surprise is the SEO [search engine optimization] pop I’ve gotten from key bloggers. In many ways they’ve virally marketed my book better than a reporter. The best reward is the community of indie writers… they are strong and supportive! I’m making friends I wish I had in the earlier parts of the creative process.
5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?
I’ve acted as a literary publicist before, so I have some tips to share. Hopefully they will work for me as well!
My novel is aimed at a sophisticated reader, so I included museums, restaurants, even exercise classes that my ideal reader would partake in. I then blasted a pitch to each of these companies’ PR teams letting them know they will appear in a novel. It’s my aim they blast it to their databases and help me sell my book by proxy. Literary product placement, if you will.
Hometown papers love their own. I reached out to the newspapers in my home state of NJ with an email pitch, and one of the larger newspapers is reviewing.
Finally, if you have the bucks, it’s a good idea to get a reporter database from Cision or Vocus, which allows you to create lists. As an example, I pitched mommy blog editors, book reviewers in NYC and southern California where my book is set, and female lifestyle magazines. Once I built the lists I took the time to customize each reporter email, referencing reviews of theirs I liked, offering relevant hooks for them, etc.
6. What are you currently working on?
I’m three-quarters through my next novel, a crime thriller, called Bad Mary. It’s exciting and refreshing to switch genres and learn about things like blood pooling or the legality of hiring a minor as a hit man. This novel also plays upon women’s biological urge to have children and what happens when that is compromised. It’s not an accident. I think there is an incredibly rich range of emotions and family/friend/professional dynamics which occur before and after a birth. I’m having fun playing in this area. My killer is a female who is sexy, seductive and maternal. She has others do the dirty work like Manson, and is persuasive enough to make other people murder for her.
7. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Human, dark and funny… with a side dish of repro-drama and a dash of pop culture.
8. How can readers learn more about your books?