“For readers familiar with the Genesis story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the finale should come as no surprise, but the journey toward that end is well worth following. The characters are flawlessly drawn, utterly human, and completely true to life. . . . This excellent, well-crafted historical novel showcases a truly talented storyteller.”─Library Journal
“A compelling and exceptional read, Angels at the Gate documents author T. K. Thorne as an impressively talented novelist. This is the stuff of which block-buster movies are made. Solidly engaging and entertaining from beginning to end.”–Midwest Review
Angels at the Gate by Birmingham author T.K. Thorne earned rave reviews in 2015. Thorne spent two years researching and writing her novel. However, creating content was not her only focus; she started marketing long before the book hit print. Thorne recently shared some tidbits about the business of promoting books.
When did you begin the marketing process?
Since Angels at the Gate was my third book, I started much earlier than with the first two (getting smarter!). That included posting on social media and trying to get a stir on Goodreads as an “anticipated novel.” I’ve been building an email list for a while now (something I recommend) as well as a book club list. Start building your “platform” immediately, whatever your stage of writing. Gather social media “likes,” comments, and blog readers, etc. This work is important.
How and when do you pitch?
If you have a publicist, he or she knows when to pitch. But if you are pitching on your own, you need to adhere to reviewers’ guidelines (posted online); they are strict. Send your package in plenty of time. In fact, you need to plan your publication around having those reviews and others. Meanwhile, get comments about your book from other people/experts ASAP!
How did you develop a list of bloggers who review books?
Most of that was done by the publisher’s PR agency. But in general, you need to take into consideration how long it takes someone with a stack of books to get to yours and give them at least a couple of months’ head start to review. If this is your first time and you are on your own, investigate some of the publicists who offer a package of reviewers. Spend some time searching the Internet and building relationships with bloggers who are passionate about books. Then ask them for recommendations.
Plan a marketing budget for your book. Even if your publisher provides a publicist, supplement what he or she does. This individual usually is employed for a three-to-four-month period to promote your book. When it’s time to move on to the publisher’s next book, you are on your own.
Also, be aware too that there are now many levels of publishers and they offer different levels of marketing assistance, from very little to the big time and everything in between. Don’t sign a contract just to publish; understand what the publisher will or will not do for you in terms of marketing. Bottom line: all authors are now expected to pitch in themselves, no matter who their publisher is.
What is your strategy for setting up readings and book signings?
Use your imagination. If possible, use an event or holiday as a focal point. Depending on what your book is about, you might do better at other locations besides traditional bookstores. I know a person who wrote a book about animals and did her launch at the zoo! That made it of interest to the media. If you are in a store for a signing, walk around and invite people. Have postcards with info on your book. Talk to them. (This was really hard for me, but I did it! This approach worked much better than sitting behind a table the whole time.) For all of my books, I threw a party and invited friends from the area where I work, at a time when it would be convenient for them. (Hint: try not to plan a book launch when weather in your area could be really bad.)
How do you line up speaking engagements?
First, make sure your website reflects your availability as a speaker. Second, send a press release to media outlets and organizations that might be interested in your story (notice I said “your story,” not necessarily your book.) The media need a “hook”—a holiday, your connection to something, or the book’s connection to something. I love talking with book clubs, but finding them is difficult. In honesty, most of them have found me. Readers can access a media page and an events list on my author site.
Do you participate in online book tours?
A few. It’s not my favorite thing to do. It’s hard to say what works and what doesn’t. And what I’ve seen is that a whole industry has grown up around the boom in author self-promotion. There are myriads of people out there pitching the latest and greatest on how to sell your book, teaming up with each other, giving webinars, or coaching. And now they are even making money teaching about how to teach! A newbie can easily fall prey to all of this. I am not saying there is not good information out there, but there is no “magic bullet.” Before choosing a publicity “guru,” pick your strategies and peruse the free information carefully (there is a lot available).
Will you try a new tactic or two with your next book?
I will take my own advice above and supplement the work of the publisher’s publicist in terms of getting the book out to more reviewers. Also, I will do more Goodreads contests. Most of all, I will employ my secret weapon. (See the next answer!)
Tell us about your number one fan─your sister!
I am so incredibly fortunate that my greatest fan is my sister, and she has taken on the mission to tell the world about my books. She is the self-appointed queen of my “Super Fan Club”─wonderful people who have been so supportive with their time. Writing is a sport where you are alone with your words for long stretches. Knowing there are people waiting for those words is an incredible motivation and joy. Laura has pulled them together to be a force. Without her, I would be clueless about marketing. In a better world, I would pay her big bucks, but she works for love and an occasional lunch.
Any parting words of wisdom for first-time authors?
I have shifted from trying to sell books to building relationships with people. Do focus on creating and maintaining an email list and/or blog followers because they represent relationships. Be generous with people, appreciate them, and be interested in them. Network at conferences, offer to speak at conferences, build your teaching resume. Realize this is a long-term commitment and having a book take off involves a large degree of perseverance and luck. Then go write your next book.
Also, realize that marketing is a huge, bottomless hole. You do need to concentrate in the months before and after your book comes out, but after that, don’t try to “do it all.” Find a few places where you are comfortable and can do well—blogging, the social media of your choice, whatever. Spend a little time on it, but don’t neglect your soul. Write! If you can, find a way to use your writing skills and passion in your marketing. I find if I can post something meaningful to me, it feels good. Tell a story, even if it is a tiny one.
T.K. Thornes’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” When she retired as a captain, she took on Birmingham’s business improvement district as the executive director. Both careers and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Alabama provide fodder for her writing. Thorne’s debut novel Noah’s Wife garnered several awards. Her first nonfiction book, Last Chance for Justice, presents the investigators’ perspectives of the 1963 Sixteenth Street church bombing case in Birmingham. Thorne loves traveling, especially to research her novels, and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap.
Catherine Hamrick blogs at Random Storyteller, where you’ll find quirky Southern stories and helpful links to publishing experts, book marketing sites, and writing resources. She’s also an editor, writing coach, and social media strategist at Catherine Hamrick, Soul Deep Storyteller.