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How to kill it with debut thriller: Book promotion chat with Vicki Weisfeld

Inside: Discover how award-winning mystery writer Vicki Weisfeld is promoting her debut thriller, Architect of Courage.

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Associate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a couple of pennies (at no extra charge to you).

When I first met Vicki Weisfeld, author of the debut thriller Architect of Courage, I was intimidated.

It was many years ago. I had just joined the communications team for a national awareness campaign Vicki created and managed for her then employer. She had high standards and expectations for the people supporting her goals.

It was clear that I’d have to earn her trust and respect. Was I up to the challenge?

I did my best.

Over time, our professional relationship has evolved into a friendship that has allowed me to watch this mentor transform from an accomplished professional communicator into an award-winning mystery writer.

And now, with her first book released by a small press in early June, I continue to be impressed as Vicki works steadily to introduce readers to her story.

I invited her to talk about her promotion campaign here. I hope her activities inspire you to think about what’s possible for your book.

Introducing Vicki Weisfeld

debut thriller author Vicki Weisfeld
Architect of Courage author Vicki Weisfeld

Vicki’s short stories have appeared in leading mystery magazines, including Ellery Queen, Sherlock Holmes, and Black Cat. Find her work also in a variety of anthologies: Busted: Arresting Stories from the Beat, Seascapes: Best New England Crime Stories, Murder Among Friends, Passport to Murder, The Best Laid Plans, Quoth the Raven, and Sherlock Holmes in the Realms of Edgar Allan Poe.

She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society (which awarded her “Breadcrumbs” a best short story Derringer in 2017). Vicki also reviews crime/mystery/thriller fiction for the UK website, Crime Fiction Lover.

Grab a cup of tea, friends. Vicki has lots to share with us about the effort and energy she’s put into promoting her debut thriller.

Book promotion Q&A with debut thriller writer Vicki Weisfeld

The publication date for Architect of Courage was early June, but I know you started thinking about promotion well before then. What are some of the early things you did to prepare for your book’s launch?

In a way, it was like I was “preparing” for the book launch for the last decade. For example, I launched my website in 2012 and post about four times a week. In total disregard of the fate of the nation’s trees, I’d been printing out and organizing helpful-seeming articles on marketing and promotion—actionable steps!—for years. (Some of those articles were yours, Sandy!)

As publication day approached, and I realized I finally had to wrap my head around this challenge, I went through my files and pulled out the articles that looked most germane. I had a couple of articles about scheduling: “six months before publication, you should . . .”; “four months before publication, you should . . .” It was overwhelming.

And, we were in the midst of Covid, so even though I had the time, I lacked the motivation. In the end, I whittled my plans down to a manageable number of tasks that I felt confident I could do well.

Two months before the launch…

Many of the most helpful things I did, starting two months before launch, involved getting my tools together:

  • Assembling a mailing list in Excel from all my different sources of contacts (almost 500 people)—a vital tool.
  • Creating a list of bloggers in the crime/mystery/thriller genre and what their requirements are (including whether they want to hear from me or my publisher).
  • Enrolling in the International Thriller Writers Debut Author Program.
  • Writing a series of posts for my own blog on 10 successive Tuesdays (the day I have the largest number of visitors) in April and May about different aspects of the book, to “soften up” the market.

These posts contained information specific to the book, but also generalizable tips for writers. They had an overarching “Where writers’ ideas come from” title, rather than a “Here’s why you should buy my book” approach. This is an example. This series was well-received.

  • Sending announcements to organizations in my genre that mention members’ new books in their publications.
  • Sending a flyer to about 36 close friends and family members letting them know the book was coming (at last!) and how they could help promote it (more on this later).
  • Planning the launch party!

I know you’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into book promotion. Tell us about your Partners in Crime virtual tour.

I paid for a Partners in Crime Tour (PICT), and provided the staff with information and photos (book cover, me), and they took it from there. Loved that! Even if I felt “unproductive,” I knew something was being done with a range of book blog sites. Over a month’s period, that arrangement produced:

  • Six “showcases” (reprints of my promotional content plus the book’s first chapter)
  • Five reviews
  • Two “interviews” accomplished by email (Read them at Braydon’s Briefs and The Big Thrill.)
  • Two guest posts that I wrote
  • One podcast (scroll down at that link), where the host read my first chapter and gave a review
  • One blog talk radio interview scheduled for September (for an extra fee)

Interestingly, none of the bloggers PICT found were in my list. So, in addition, I’ve reached out to several from my list, which has garnered additional interviews, reviews, and guest posts.

Did any of this activity result in actual sales? That’s hard to know. However, I wasn’t expecting a straight-line relationship between blog post and ringing cash registers. I recall the old publicity rule of thumb that people typically need 14 exposures—14!—before a piece of information sinks in or takes hold enough for them to push the “BUY” button. Having my book in so many places increases those exposure numbers.

Moreover, since I’m a new author with a tiny publisher, I don’t have any prestigious reviews, so I excerpted the book bloggers’ posts to populate the “Editorial Reviews” section of my Amazon page.

You’ve done several book appearances for Architect of Courage, too. Please offer an overview so we understand what types of locations hosted you and what they accomplished for your debut thriller.   

debut thriller book coverYes, I’ve done presentations at my launch party, to my women’s group, two bookstores, Mystery Writers of America – New York Chapter, and the local Sisters in Crime chapter.

Some of these presentations involved a reading, and some were just Q&A—more fun, actually. I was allowed to sell books at some events, and not others. I had to bail on a book festival I’d signed up for in northern New Jersey, because of being stranded in Lisbon with Covid, but I have another one scheduled for October.

I’ve sold about 54 books through these means.

Two additional points:

  1. With books sold “in person,” you make more of a connection with the reader, and probably increase the probability that person will give you a review, which is very important
  2. All the work I did for PICT, coming up with examples and alternative ways to respond to very similar questions, really stood me in good stead. Someone asks a question, and I have a well-thought-out (usually!) response at my finger-tips. Even small events are worth doing, if only for the practice.

I’m impressed with the number and quality of reviews on Amazon. What’s working best for you for getting reviews?

Here’s where I learned from you, Sandy. Part of the reason people don’t review a book is they can’t think of what to say. It’s not necessary to give a book The New York Times treatment; a casual “I really enjoyed this book and here’s why . .” works every bit as well.

Writing a review is one of 10 things I suggest people can do to support a book or an author they admire. That list was part of my “friends and family” letter before the book was launched. I’ve taken copies to readings, etc.

[novashare_tweet tweet=”Writing a review is one of 10 things I suggest people can do to support a book or an author they admire. ~ Vicki Weisfeld” hide_hashtags=”true”]

When I realized it could be a “generic” product—without the links to my blog, my author page, etc.—I made it available on my blog (it’s had some 250 page views) and highlighted in on Facebook and Twitter. You are welcome to download it, add your own ideas, pictures, and so on.

How did you identify and connect with the three book clubs that plan to read your book?

This was in part serendipity.

One is a mystery book club here in Princeton that I belong to.

One invitation came after a member read the book, liked it, and suggested it to her book club (which is also doing an interview with me the previous month).

And the third invitation came from a friend of a friend who read the book and liked it. Zoom is a big boon here, because book clubs are all over the country!

What’s next for your promotion activities?

I have a list of mystery book clubs and reaching out to them is my next task, along with finding an audio book producer and distributor (I don’t want to manage this myself).

Plus, developing a strategy for submission to appropriate award programs. That falls under the rubric, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Even being nominated provides additional exposure.

Of everything you’ve done so far, what would you do again for your next book?

Regrettably, I can’t participate in the International Thriller Writers Debut Authors Program again! But I would definitely repeat the Partners in Crime Tour.

debut thriller virtual tour service

I’ll be keeping my master mailing list (that Excel list) up-to-date in the meantime, so I can reach out to people again, and perhaps by then I will have a fairly good newsletter following. I also believe writing the series of blog posts about the book was helpful.

What’s your single best tip for other novelists about book marketing and promotion?

Say “yes” to everything. You never know where it might lead!

I remember an author talking about a bookstore event she did where no one came. She used the time instead to chat with the store’s staff, who then, because they had that personal connection with her, displayed her book prominently, and invited her back when her next book came out. Much better attendance!

Any other thoughts you’d like to share? 

Book promotion is work, but it’s part of the job description of being an author in 2022.

[novashare_tweet tweet=”Book promotion is work, but it’s part of the job description of being an author in 2022. ~ Vicki Weisfeld” hide_hashtags=”true”]

I think we get a little paralyzed by so many articles with headlines like “15 Marketing Mistakes New Authors Make” or “Are You Dooming Your Book?” Ignore all that.

Don’t try to do everything, it isn’t possible. Find the tasks that appeal to you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help (“friends and family” again). They’re likely very proud of you and happy to provide some assistance. You just need to tell them how.

Whatever you do, do it in good spirits, with reasonable expectations, and move on with a smile on your face. You’re an author!

Big thanks to Vicki for sharing her experiences with us! Do you have a question for her about how she’s promoting her debut thriller? Please leave it in a comment so Vicki can respond. 

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