Yes, Valentine’s Day has come and gone in 2016, but the tips and sentiments from the following post originally published on Writer Unboxed in February ring true for any holiday season:
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which for couples everywhere means ramped up romance complete with gifts of roses, chocolate, jewelry — perhaps lacy lingerie.
For writers whose novels contain even an inkling of romance, Valentine’s day may bring love to mind but also stirs up notions of something a lot less sexy: marketing. Because with love in the air, any novel where romantic love is a central theme — especially a straight-up romance — has the potential to generate lots of buzz.
At least that’s the thinking behind the sudden upsurge in online ads and social media posts about books with an amorous angle. Yet just as each year in early January I receive a spate of queries about potential Valentines Day PR initiatives, each year on February 15 I receive a big batch of emails from authors who are dismayed that their efforts fell flat.
First, a fact: I don’t do special Valentine’s Day PR pushes — nor do I get involved with special initiatives around the two other big holidays books try to peg to: Christmas and Halloween. That’s because true to the nature of market timing in general, I have yet to see results that convince me of its value for books.
Sure, at certain times of the year there’s an abundance of visibility opportunities to leverage. The social mediasphere, for one, is abuzz with conversation snippets about chocolate and roses right around now, Santa and snowmen in December, ghosts and ghouls in the fall. News outlets cover stories in the spirit of each season, and advertising everywhere takes on a tinge of red and green, or black and orange — or this week, pink.
Still, this doesn’t mean that suddenly demand for related books will spike. Think about it: romance readers will choose romance over other genres year-round. As will crime, suspense and horror book fans. At the same time, with thousands or possibly hundreds of thousands of authors all hoping to ride the wave of special days simultaneously (not to mention purveyors of all sorts of other products with similar hopes), the market quickly becomes saturated, the noise deafening. It can be overwhelming for readers to sift through the influx of ads and information and make a choice.
The same paradox applies to other occasions, of which there are plenty: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Hanukkah, the 4th of July….The list goes on and on. It extends to many that most people have hardly heard of, too: National Nurse’s Day, Secretary’s Day. Did you know for example that yesterday, February 7th, was National Ballet Day? Or that Wednesday, February 10th is Umbrella Day and that February overall happens to be Bake For Family Fun Month, Library Loving Month and, yes, Bird Feeding Month? If your book features birds, should you hurry to leverage this?
Of course, it never hurts to try and who knows: you could wind up with a mention in a local newspaper or on a blog. But if you’re considering channeling energy or resources into doing so, there are many potentially more fruitful ways these can be used. All of them stem from one key, evergreen concept:
Book marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It builds slowly on a year-round basis and success is the result of a combination of factors. No one tweet or review or piece of coverage — or mention in the context of cupid — is going make or break a book’s future.
So rather than trying to compete for attention in the endless sea of marketing to Valentine’s Day and other special-occasions, I recommend these more sustainable initiatives:
Make a list of steps you can realistically take each day or each week that will continue to resonate in the future.
For example, contacting libraries to arrange speaking engagements and setting up book club talks. Author Anjali Mitter Duva continues to do a stellar job keeping her book promo calendar full 18 months after the publication of her novel, Faint Promise of Rain. Take these initiatives consistently and tirelessly to keep the momentum going.
Focus on engaging with your audience and building community.
These are the absolute most effective tools for generating sustainable visibility and buzz. You can do this on social media and through blogging and just being out there speaking at or attending events. It’s a process that by definition unfolds over time.
Most importantly, use times like Valentine’s Day (or Christmas or Halloween) to PAY IT FORWARD.
This means mean showing love to your community rather than asking for it. You can offer token gifts or simply send stickers on Facebook, hold giveaways with multiple winners or send online greeting cards. Recently, I received a $5 Starbucks gift certificate in the mail from a connection in the literary world that I found so touching I wound up keeping it on my desk as a reminder of the smile it brought to my face rather than spending it. Now, whenever I glance at it the person who sent it comes to mind.
Which brings us to the heart of things: Like many other special occasions, Valentine’s Day is merely a time to celebrate an ongoing sentiment. Book marketing is all about ongoing sentiments. Focusing on the long-term will keep the love real.