This week’s blog posts will be all about the world of writing cozy mysteries. It’s been a period of interaction with fans lately, which is refreshing after the year we’ve had—so much isolation. It’s especially fun to chat with Rags’s fans and now Olivia’s. And it’s heartwarming to know that my stories (a record 9 published in 2020) have brought people so much comfort and joy and even a chuckle here and there for 9 years, but especially this last year.
Olivia’s debut book, Calico Calamities, the 51st Klepto Cat Mystery, is weeks old and she already has followers/admirers. One even created a rubber stamp of Olivia’s paw print so she can PAWtograph her own books in the upcoming Calico Cat Mysteries series. What fun! The list of preorders for autographed and pawtographed copies of Book 51 is growing by the day. (Author copies are expected to arrive here late this week.)
Before I started writing fiction—which has been the most lucrative of all the writing I’ve done in my career—I taught authors how to build a business around their writing. Most authors, as you can imagine, do not want to deal with the business aspects of authorship—the biggest block for them/us is promotion. Yet, if you want to sell what you write promotion is absolutely necessary.
Books need exposure. People won’t buy your book if they don’t know about it. So how does an author get exposure—it’s called publicity—and you get publicity through promotion: Blogs, a facebook page and other social media, podcasts and webinars, as well as in-person appearances: presentations, book fairs, panel discussions, library and school visits, conference attendance and so forth. Many authors send out newsletters either regularly or periodically. I’ve been known to run and also participate in book giveaway contests. You can write short stories or articles for print and online publications for added exposure and credibility, and always carry books in your trunk in case you meet someone in your daily travels who wants a copy, because another promotional ploy is talking about your book everywhere you go.
Coming up with items and ideas to use to promote your books is also important. The paw print stamp is an example. Another example is products related to your book theme—things you can sell or give away, such as bookmarks, packets of note cards featuring your book cover, calendars, pens, tote bags, coffee mugs, even jewelry and t-shirts. Create a stuffed or ceramic replica of your main cat/dog character, produce a book of poetry featuring your character, or pjs, a cat toy…the ideas are endless.
I mentioned autographs earlier. Books sold through online and storefront bookstores are generally not autographed, so some authors (including me) will provide buyers with an autograph written on an adhesive-backed label to attach to the book after purchase. Nice touch. And don’t forget about connecting with other authors and reader-related websites for added exposure. Enter contests and flaunt your wins.
Promotion can be fun, and the writing is fun (for a writer), but as I said, publishing is a business, and there are legal aspects a writer must deal with as well. If you sell books, you need licenses, there are fees to pay here and there. If you’re publishing under a fictitious business name (name of your publishing company), in some states you’re required to apply for a fictitious business permit and renew that every so often. You’ll need to formally copyright your books and keep clear and concise records of book sales and expenses. My expenses include fees for someone to format my books, my webmaster, a cover designer, editing, purchasing the International Standard Book Numbers and barcode. I also keep track of travel expenses when I attend conferences, book fairs, and other events related to bookselling and promotion.
This gives you a sneak peek into the business life of a writer. And you thought we just lazed around all day listening to our muse.