Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel


Murder Must Advertise
Sponsored by Jeffrey Marks

Marketing E Books


Lately when I tell other writers that I've self-published a mystery for the Kindle and other e-readers, their first question is "How do you promote it?"

Lots of authors are wondering the same thing today, whether they are publicizing books available only in e-format, or books in multiple formats including electronic. Many of the traditional ways of promoting books don’t quite work in the digital world, and either need to be replaced or rethought.

I was inspired to self-publish my golden retriever mystery, In Dog We Trust, by Joe Konrath, author of the Jack Daniels mystery series, among others. Joe has a terrific website called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing with lots of great tips. He demonstrated to me that you can self-publish good books and reach a readership.

But I’m not Joe Konrath, with 221 books out (in various editions, according to And I don’t have a blog with a huge readership. So what could I do to promote my book?

I came up with a four-pronged approach, beginning with e-mail. I have a sign-up button on my website, and over 500 people have requested my occasional newsletter. I began with Mail Chimp, an email marketing program, because they were willing to send to a small list for free. As my list grew, I paid a few cents per message, rather than getting stuck with a monthly charge whether I sent a message or not.

As with many email programs, Mail Chimp provided me with statistics which proved that my effort was worthwhile. My last campaign had a 56.5% open ratio, compared to an industry average of only 15.5%. 3.6% of readers clicked through to learn more about the book.

Even if you don’t have a big mailing list, this kind of targeted marketing can get the word out about your new book.

The second part of my strategy involves marketing to online discussion groups. This is a tricky thing to do right; most lists don’t appreciate too much BSP (Blatant Self-Promotion.) I handle this by adding my book information to other messages of group interest. I might post a brief review of a mystery I’ve read recently to DorothyL, for example, and add a line about my book to my signature. “Neil Plakcy, author of In Dog We Trust, a golden retriever mystery available for the Kindle and other e-readers” is one I use a lot. In marketing, it’s important to make impressions, and keep your name and your book’s name in front of potential readers.

I also offered free copies of my e-book to any DorothyL member who was interested in reading it. I indicated that I hoped if the reader liked it, he/she would be willing to post a review to the list-- with no obligation, of course. I gave away a few books-- but heard from other readers who went out and bought the book based on that offer. As In Dog We Trust makes its way to the top of those readers’ TBR piles, I’m seeing a few reviews pop up, which continues the buzz about the book.

A similar group is Goodreads. This book site includes discussion groups for all kinds of books, including cozy mysteries and thrillers. Find a group that reads your kind of book, and join it. Make posts related to the topic, including your book title in your signature, or when relevant, mentioning your book. For example, one reader posted a request for mysteries involving dogs-- and that was right up my alley, so I jumped in and mentioned my book, along with a few others in the genre I had read.

I also write M/M romance, and in those groups there is a great deal of posting of erotic pictures. I have shared a few pictures with the group of guys who inspired my protagonists, along with a few words about the book. I’ve already seen response to this strategy from readers who write things like, “Wow! That’s a book I’d like to read.”

You can also post to other mystery lists, or lists that relate to your book’s subject. I belong to a golden retriever board and put up the occasional message there, hoping that if you love the kind of dog who stars in my book, you’ll also like reading about a clever golden who helps solve a mystery.

Another way to reach out directly to readers who read e-books is through the Kindle Boards. Mike Jastrzebski, a first-time author, works these boards regularly to post information about his new e-mystery, The Storm Killer. Mike writes, “The Book Bazaar allows writers to post about their books. The boards are most effective if you get involved in the discussions and get your name out there. There are also categories where readers are looking for new writers and you can post information about your book on these threads.”

Most mainstream review sites will not accept self-published e-book mysteries, but the good news is that there are many bloggers out there who do. I did some basic searching online, and found several sites. It’s important to read their guidelines and follow their instructions. Some will ask you to fill out a submission form, while others request an email query. I got a great review from Red Adept and the E-Book Addict, and have several more reviews in the works. I also solicited for reviews on a couple of sites I belong to, and on Murder Must Advertise I found a list of blogger-reviewers willing to consider self-published e-mysteries.

 These days, the burden of promoting a book falls on the author’s shoulders, whether your publisher is a big New York house, a small independent, or whether you self-publish. I hope these tips will be helpful to you no matter who your publisher is.




Neil Plakcy is the author of the Aidan and Liam bodyguard adventure series, Three Wrong Turns in the Desert and Dancing with the Tide.

His other books are Mahu, Mahu Surfer, Mahu Fire, Mahu Vice, and Mahu Men, about openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka,, and In Dog We Trust, a golden retriever mystery.

He edited Paws & Reflect: A Special Bond Between Man and Dog and the gay erotic anthologies Hard Hats, Surfer Boys and Skater Boys (2010).

Plakcy is a journalist and book reviewer as well as an assistant professor of English at Broward College’s south campus in Pembroke Pines. He is vice president of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a frequent contributor to gay anthologies.




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