Michael Stephen Daigle has had experience with both traditional and self-publishing. He suggests a variety of in-person marketing techniques and explains which ones work best.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
My last completed book is The Red Hand, book four in the Frank Nagler Mystery series. The title comes from the mark that the killer leaves at the scenes of his crimes. It is a prequel, set roughly twenty years before the The Swamps of Jersey, the first book in the series. It establishes themes that appear in all the other books, and defines the important relationship in Detective Frank Nagler’s life: with his wife, Martha. It also defines the Charlie Adams murder story that filters through the other books and the political crime scheme that is a constant.
I wrote The Red Hand to clarify those elements, especially as I plan the fifth book in
the series as a book-end to the entire story. Readers also wanted to read the Charlie Adams story. It should be available in the spring of 2019.
2. How have your sales been?
Sales are not as brisk as I would like, but I’ve learned not to panic about it. The marketplace is changing and I need to be flexible in my approach. Some of it is networking and some of it is determining how much I’m willing to spend to market the book.
3. You’ve used both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Which one do you prefer and why?
I self-published a short-story collection and a single short story, but pulled hem back. I was getting a lot of free looks but few sales. I also wanted to rework the collection. I have a small independent publisher who is enthusiastic about my books and has offered more support than I could have imagined. The choice reduced my costs, and frankly, got me published.
4. What are some of the pros and cons of both self-publishing and traditional publishing?
In each case, be prepared to do a lot of your own marketing. My publisher, Imzadi Publishing, has crafted online material that I use often – ads, YouTube trailers, etc. But the Internet is a funny place. As large as it is, it is actually a small space because it is a cluttered mess. There are people in Tibet who could care less that you have published your book. The open consideration is cost: with self-publishing you will bear the cost of production, even through Amazon sites. So the bottom-line question is: how much are you willing to spend?
5. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
Online I immediately created a website and linked it to numerous social media sites. I’ll be redesigning the site in 2019 to make it more useful. It has been generally a good venue. The more material you post, the wider distribution it will get. And as we are all learning about Big Data, the Internet will link you with anything it chooses, creating both useful links and those you should kill off immediately.
I also attend books shows, book conferences and a variety of fairs, and speak at libraries.
Libraries are good venues, even if at times the audience is small. I have seen follow-up sales. Fairs have also been productive. Book conferences have been the most disappointing because they are about the speakers hawking their goods.
6. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
The most successful marketing I have done was entering the books in contests that provide blind judging. These are different than “reader contests,” where readers must click on a “like” to record a vote. I also entered the book covers in contests just for the exposure. Both the books and the covers were named as winners. The books reached a different level of audience, the decision makers. The result: The third Nagler book, The Weight of Living, won four independent press awards this year.
The other key effort was paying for a Kirkus Review. It’s expensive, but it paid off.
Weight got a very favorable review, which got chosen for a featured ad section (no cost) in a Kirkus Review publication. All of that activity resulted in my getting listed in
Contemporary Authors, a 112,000-deep database that includes Stephen King and J.K.
7. Are there any marketing or networking techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I sampled various online marketing schemes and discarded most. While I did not invest
hundreds of dollars initially, the small amounts I did spent resulted in little or no impact.
There are dozens of such sites, so finding ones that work is possible. Choose carefully. I also avoid the online review sites. Too many trolls encouraged by the anonymity of the Internet.
8. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
Everything. I was in the newspaper business for 35 years, but book marketing and publishing are like nothing I have ever done. But you have to explore and experiment because you don’t know what works till it does.
9. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
Push harder to get into bookstores. (But there is still time.) Being an indie publisher can be a drawback. Bookstores have limited space, and – as happened in my state – they go out of business. But all the marketing is about layering.
10. New authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books, whether they go the indie or traditional publishing route. What advice do you have for an author just starting out?
Persist. If you can land your book with a big traditional publisher, good for you. It’s the same with agents. The market place is changing all the time. With an indie publisher you are generally your own marketing department, but it could be worth it, if you get published.
That’s the first step. Years ago when I was in the insurance business, training agents spoke about the “secret agent.” That was someone who never mentioned they sold insurance. Don’t be a secret writer. Tell everyone. Carry business cards and hand them out. You never know who will be your next reader.
11. What other projects are you currently working on?
I am planning the fifth still-unnamed Frank Nagler book, and looking at several non-mystery fiction works. I’d like to compile a new short story collection.
12. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
I write literary mysteries with compelling stories and characters, and penetrating fiction.
13. How can readers learn more about your books?