Last weekend was a pretty big deal for me. Seventeen months after the release of The Goodbye-Love Generation, I finally took the book to an event in Kent, Ohio, the setting for the stories as well as my hometown. The Art in the Park festival is a Kent tradition going back more than twenty years. As a richly artistic city, it’s an event that Kent’s population looks forward to every year.
Its values of creativity, community, and celebration of the arts made the festival the perfect occasion to unveil my book in person.
But once upon a time, we were at the beginning of a pandemic, where in-person events weren’t an option. We were sanitizing our mail, making carefully choreographed grocery runs, and the only way to eat at a restaurant was by picking up your food at the curb from someone wearing rubber gloves and a face shield.
Thankfully, that stage of the pandemic seems to be over. But if you’re an independent author, how do you market a book under circumstances where bookstore appearances, readings, book signings, and the usual fare aren’t an option? Answer: you get creative. Really creative. But here’s the great thing. We don’t have to toss out all those creative ideas now that in-person events are more feasible than before.
Having a virtual component to events is something that should stick around. These events allow more people to get involved than simply audiences in the immediate area, which ultimately leads to a broader reach for the author’s work.
I attended several virtual book release parties last year. Many were sponsored by independent bookstores, who used the events as a chance to plug not just the authors’ books, but offer coupons and special sales for attendees to shop online at their stories after the readings.
It was sketchy territory at the beginning, but now, Zoom events are something we have down to a science. And since many people may be wary of attending public events right now, having some sort of virtual component is vital to giving everyone a chance to attend. This is especially true for independent authors. If you choose to self-publish, you are choosing to take full creative control of your work, and there’s more to that phrase than what it sounds like. You are not just the author. You are the CEO of the publishing company. You are the financial director. You are the chief marketing officer. You are the graphic designer, the social media manager, the copywriter, the event planner…you get the idea.
Every event matters. Every chance to reach someone matters, because ultimately, this is an investment in your own work. More than just a chance to make money, every book sale represents another person who will be impacted by the message you have to share.
It’s complex stuff, so let me hit rewind and tell you how this all played out with The Goodbye-Love Generation back when I was still picking up carryout at the Mexican place down the road.
I Founded My Own Imprint
My first foray into independent publishing, Bone China Girls: A Poetic Account of a Female Crime, was released under my own name. No company, nothing. If you open to the copyright page, you’ll find Kori Frazier Morgan as the publisher. That’s not cool.
I’m not trying to hide anything here. If you read this blog at all, you know I’m a pretty huge advocate for authors who have the goods for independent publishing to take the reins on their own work. I am proud to say that I conduct all my own publishing operations. But you contribute significantly to your ethos as an author if you create your own publishing imprint.
Here’s a fun fact. Inkling Creative Strategies isn’t the primary name for my business. The actual name of my company is Bezalel Media. That’s the company under which I published The Goodbye-Love Generation.
I have a lot of expectations for how I might use Bezalel Media and there is a lot more to it than just Inkling Creative Strategies. In the meantime, I use it to promote everything I do with the book.
I’m not saying you need to start an actual business to publish your book. Most people don’t, so don’t panic if that doesn’t align with your goals. But you need an imprint to publish under that isn’t your own.
So use it as an opportunity. Design a logo to put on the book. Choose a name that fits your values and the values of the stories you publish. Not only does it help your work look more professional, but it can be a true reflection of you as an author. Note: If you want to know what Bezalel means, google Exodus 31. God, by way of Moses, spells it out pretty well.
I Made a Book Trailer
Here’s the thing about marketing: video is hot. The more moving images you can include in your social media and your website, the better off you’re going to be.
When I finalized my book and moved on to the promotion stage, I knew a book trailer was a must-have given that everyone was still stuck at home scrolling Facebook and the internet.
I had a prime audience to capture and as a marketer myself, I knew video was the way to do it.
I started out with the book trailer process by searching for stock footage of hippies, but it was all too clean and too filled with girls who looked like extras from the Taylor Swift video for “You Need to Calm Down.”
The Goodbye-Love Generation is about trauma victims and addicts and broken marriages and needless death. There’s nothing nice about that stuff.
Then it occurred to me: I didn’t need stock footage. I had the mother of all video footage just waiting for me to use. All I had to do was call my uncle Johnny. Johnny is my mom’s youngest brother. After their mother passed away in 1969, Mom started taking him on the road with her when she traveled with my dad’s band. Armed with his reel to reel tape recorder and later a video camera, Johnny documented the entire history of my dad’s music career.
I knew that somewhere, there had to be film footage of my dad’s band from the era of my book. And Johnny had it. The problem was that we were still in pretty hardcore lockdown at this point and I couldn’t exactly have contact with him, especially since he’s a cancer survivor with preexisting health risks.
So I called him up and asked if a) he had the footage digitized and b) could he email it to me for my self-published book promotion work?
He did and he did.
The trailer for this book is truly a time capsule of the music that is at the heart of the book. I edited the grainy footage together in a way that created an emotional story, then overlaid it with audio of the lead singer of Lacewing performing a haunting a capella version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”
It appealed in particular to people in northeastern Ohio who remembered the time period and even clearly recalled seeing local bands like my dad’s play live.
Video content, simply put, is a great way to introduce your book to the Internet and future readers.
Live Broadcasts & Lead Magnets
After making a BIG announcement where I released the trailer online, I did several Facebook live events to build hype for the book release on May 1. First, I did a Q&A where I hung out and took questions about my book. It was really laid back—I drank tea and played old ‘60s vinyl in the background while viewers messaged in their questions about the project, Kent in the ‘70s, and more.
The cool thing about this was that people got really into it. I thought maybe three people would come, I’d make some witty remarks, and then leave. After all, did people really care about my self published book when the world was crashing down around us outside? I was wrong. Something like 25 people were watching the live event and I was on for an hour answering all the questions.
One guy from a band my dad was in even popped on and was desperate to know if he was a character in the book. Given that I had been sharing the trailer like mad for about a week and a half at that point and that dozens of others passed it on as well, the video content got the job done.
Later, I did another event where I read an excerpt from the first story in the collection. But not the whole thing. If they wanted to find out how the story ended, viewers could go to the book’s website and sign up to get a free copy of the entire story. In marketing, we call this a lead magnet. By signing up for my free story, they gave me permission to send them more emails…including updates about the book release and reminders to preorder the book.
Does that sound spammy to you? It’s not.
It's not about being gimmicky. It’s not about being sales-y. It’s about making connections with people to share your book’s message. And if you believe in that message, you’ll get creative about how to share it.
I Made Band Merch
This is probably my favorite thing I did. The central characters in my book are the members of a Kent-based rock band called the Purple Orange.
Another fun fact: My dad was in a band called the Purple Orange in high school. I just repurposed the name.
In addition to being a musician in Kent in the early '70s, my dad was also an artist on the side, designing t-shirts and logos for friends. So, to add some authenticity to my book's branding, I asked him to design a logo for the Purple Orange. My dad had read the book in all its iterations, so he knew the characters pretty well. I told him to imagine that Alex, the central character, came to him and asked him to make the band's logo, and then create it. He came up with this:
At the official website for the book, you can now visit the Merch Booth and buy shirts, buttons, stickers, and more adorned with the Purple Orange logo. Since the book is historical fiction, it adds authenticity to the characters I created.
Find something cool you can do to bring your story's world to life through art or additional merchandise.
Want more details about how to tell the world about your book? Want to brainstorm more ideas? I’m glad to help, and I do that through what I call a Virtual Meetup.
It’s a half-hour writing consultation on Zoom where we’ll talk about your hangups, questions, and writing conundrums…and it’s totally free. Click here to get scheduled.