Mindy Starns Clark is the bestselling author of one nonfiction book and nine novels, all from Harvest House Publishers. Her books include the standalone mystery Whispers of the Bayou, the nonfiction how-to guide The House That Cleans Itself, The Million Dollar Mysteries series, and the Smart Chick Mystery series. She has been nominated for an Inspirational Reader's Choice Award and has appeared on TV and radio stations across the country. A singer and former stand-up comedian, Mindy is also a popular inspirational speaker and playwright. She lives near Valley Forge, PA, with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs.
There's some great stuff coming your way so sit back and soak up these great promotional tips
Susan: How far out do you begin marketing your new releases, Mindy? What do you do first?
Mindy:I begin building word of mouth while I'm still writing the book! That means referring to it on internet forums, asking around for help with various research questions, and mentioning the title and release date whenever possible in all sorts of places. I do a lot of radio interviews for my nonfiction, and I'll often try to work in a mention of the novel I'm currently working on whenever I'm on the air. I also make up "Coming (Release Date)" flyers with the cover image and a brief description, and I bring these to speaking engagements—sometimes up to a year in advance. That also helps build word of mouth and anticipation for the release.
Susan: Which marketing tool has been the most successful for you?
Mindy: It would probably be a tie between speaking engagements and postcard mailings. Speaking engagements lead to immediate book sales, and that introduces new readers to my work.
With my regular readers, I'm always amazed at the response when I send out a postcard mailing. Many of the people on my mailing list are ready to buy the next book as soon as it's out, so the postcard is a great reminder.
Susan: Your new book trailer for Whispers of the Bayou is intriguing! Have you done book trailers before? What kind of response have you had?
Mindy: This is the first time I've made a book trailer—and creating it was so much fun! Unfortunately, I was only playing around with some ideas at first, and I made the mistake of using copyrighted photos that I pulled down from the internet. That first version turned out way better than I had expected, so once I saw how effective a trailer could be, I had the choice of buying the copyrighted photos so I could post the trailer on my website or starting from scratch with my own photos. Sadly, the cost of the copyrighted photos was prohibitive, (more than $2000!) so I had to begin again and take my own pictures. In the end, I was really happy with the product, but it took a lot more work than I thought it would.
My next novel is set in Amish country (Echoes of the Valley, to be released January '09—see how I worked that into the conversation?), so now that I know better, I've been sure to snap plenty of photos every time I go out to Lancaster County to do research. Hopefully, when I'm ready to make that trailer, I'll already have the pictures I need.
To make the trailer, I used iMovie, which came free on my Macintosh laptop. Eventually, I may buy a more sophisticated movie-making program, but for now I was really pleased by the capability and ease of use of iMovie. I'll definitely use it again.
As for response, the most exciting part about the trailer has been its usefulness behind the scenes with book stores and book buyers. Apparently, they love it—and I guess it makes a nice change of pace from the usual book pitch. From what I understand, the trailer has been seen by a lot of decision makers, which is always a good thing!
Susan: How much do you do from home and how much do you do on the road?
Mindy: It's about 50-50. I have a number of speaking engagements year round, as well as conference appearances. Most years, I also try to work out an informal sort of book tour in the summer (often in the family van with my kids in tow!) To me, the only real value in doing book signings is the opportunity to meet store owners and staff, so I tend to skip the signing and go straight to the meeting. If I'm going to be in a specific area, I'll let the stores in that area know ahead of time, then I'll stop by with goodies for all and a warm hello. The effort is always worth it, and I really do love having the opportunity to meet the folks who are selling my books.
From home, my marketing efforts are more focused on the internet (website, blogs, etc.), mailings, and sending out review copies.
Susan: What is one thing a novelist can do to promote his or her book that a. doesn't cost a ton of money b. doesn't involve hours away from the writing desk c. is loads of fun to do?
Mindy: Take full advantage of the review copies your publisher sends out on your behalf. That means negotiating for them to send out as many copies as possible and then giving them an excellent list of reviewers and other influential people for them to use. I call it "working the list" and by that I mean that I'm always adding names, taking names off, asking around, exploring new approaches, and checking old approaches for their effectiveness. The feedback I've gotten from my publisher is that I have one of the most effective, active lists they've ever seen! And I think when they see how hard I work to keep that list focused, they're even happier about the cost and effort they're going to on my behalf.
And remember, just because your book is a Christian book doesn't mean it can't get great reviews in other applicable markets. My CBA mysteries are regularly reviewed in all sorts of mystery publications. Because housekeeping is a frequent problem for people with ADD and ADHD, my nonfiction book about housekeeping, The House That Cleans Itself, was sent to all sorts of ADHD magazines and ADD coaches. My Million Dollar Mysteries series, which is about a private investigator who works for a philanthropist, was sent to a number of nonprofit magazines and foundations. And wherever a book is set, I'm always sure to include a few names that will love it just for that. (Bookstores in that region, chamber of commerce representatives, tourism executives, etc.)
In other words: Think outside of the box! If you can get your book into the right hands, those people can become your own personal "word of mouth army". And that's the key to effective book marketing, in my opinion. Get people talking, and then watch those books fly off the shelf!
Thanks for stopping by, Mindy!