Becky’s Big Bodacious Blog Post

If you were to ask 100 authors to name the hardest part of their job, 99 of them will tell you, “Marketing and promotion.”

The other one is a liar.

Personally, I don’t mind the marketing because I’m a walkin’ talkin’ rootin’ tootin’ Becky Show all day, every day. Yes, thank you for asking, it IS exhausting.

I don’t mind talking about my books or myself, or being interviewed, doing podcasts, writing guest blogs, goofing around on social media, speaking on panels or presenting workshops, sitting at a book signing table with my fancy pen poised …. or any of the myriad other things we must do to sell books.

What I hate, though, is not knowing what works, always wondering, “Which of these endeavors is worth taking time away from my writing?”

It’s a moving target from week to week, platform to platform, book to book. And there’s almost always a learning curve, often steep, with a series of several terrifying hairpin turns, some of which cost obscene amounts of money.

So Seldom logoHere’s my most recent example. I’m trying to train my subscribers to open and read my “So Seldom It’s Shameful” newsletter, mostly by bribing them with freebies … books from me or my author pals, and my handmade purses made out of recycled books.

book purse

Readers have risen to the challenge, and my stats have been pretty good. My February issue had a 43.4% open rate. (The average open rate in the publishing industry is 15.11%, according to MailChimp.) My March issue had a slightly lower open rate than February, but more than twice the clicks to the links I had inside. (Go figure.)

But with my publisher putting FICTION CAN BE MURDER on sale in March, and FOUL PLAY ON WORDS launching in April, I wanted to try something big and spectacular to take advantage of the timing.

I heard about, a company that runs contests and giveaways. They have a platform where I set up a list of ways people can enter my contest. Some tasks are easy and get people one chance at the prize …. like join my mailing list, follow me on BookBub, answer a question. Some tasks are a bit harder, but can earn a whopping ten chances for completing … like write a blog post about my books, post a photo with my books. And some tasks you can do every day to earn points.

The harder people work to help me create buzz for my books, the better they’re rewarded. (It takes a village to raise me, people!)

I have a grand prize package of a purse like in the photo above plus EIGHT books written and signed by some of my fabulous fellow cozy mystery writers from my Colorado chapter of Sisters in Crime …. many of whom you’ve met here at Chicks on the Case, including our own marvelous Cynthia Kuhn.

I’m hopeful my giveaway will make a big splash because every book lives and dies by its sales. It’s a business with razor-thin margins so even if a book has won numerous awards, if it doesn’t have the sales numbers, the publisher won’t continue the series.

Problem is, we authors never know what that number is or how close we are to meeting it.

In the first few hours my contest was live, 17 people performed 88 of my requested actions. A couple of days later, 64 people had performed 378 actions.

Not bad, eh? But like Oliver Twist, I wanted more.

Becky Twist

Please, sir, can I have some more?

People emailed me like mad to tell me how much they loved the purse, so I increased my offer. I posted on Facebook that if I got 50 people to share my giveaway, I’d add a second random winner who would just win one of the purses. And if I got 100 people to share, I’d add a third random person to win a purse.

This giveaway has been fun so far (after I dealt with the steep learning curve and all the hairpin turns, that is), and that’s really my benchmark. I’ll keep doing what I find enjoyable and what my readers like, all while trying to balance writing time with promotion time.

Readers … what kind of contests or giveaways do you like? Writers … what kind of marketing do you love to do and what do you find more challenging?

Oh, and if you want to enter my contest, here’s the link to Becky’s Big Bodacious Box O’Books and Purse Giveaway. And be sure to share for extra chances for you and your friends!



48 thoughts on “Becky’s Big Bodacious Blog Post

  1. Wow, that’s a fascinating promo! I’ve done Ryan Zee giveaways and Author XPs to mostly gather newsletter signups. Of course, you get a lot of unsubscribes once the contests are over. The best for those used to be the Henery giveaways because you were reaching a dedicated audience. Love your purses! I like that your contest is solely you. The ones I’ve done, I’ve been part of a big group. Can’t wait to hear how yours goes!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Ryan Zee does great promos! I’ve done some others, too, but you’re right, you want to avoid the ones where people just sign up for the prize. I toyed with the idea of giving a Kindle, but my publicist cautioned against that for that very reason. I decided that I’d rather have fewer people sign up, but those that did would really want to be involved with me and my books. I’m bumping up against the number of subscribers where I’ll have to start paying Mailchimp, so I’m always happy when I send out a newsletter and people unsubscribe. The idea of bothering people with my emails gives me the hooky-spooks! I want them to WANT to be there! I’ll keep you posted….


  2. Becky, sounds like you’re smoking on promos — and I LOVE those purses! I’m guessing my author newsletter is even more shamefully seldom than yours, but one of my goals is to be more consistent with it this year.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks, Vickie! Truth be told, I named my newsletter a looooong time ago, back when I was much less disciplined and even more clueless! I try to get it out once a month, but you know what Yoda says … “There is no try. There is do or do not.” Mostly I do not.


  3. If the prize is something I want, I’m more likely to participate. Although I get so many free books that I often let others enter so they have a chance to win.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Same here, Mark, and I probably only get a fraction of the books you get! I’m often torn because I want to support my author friends by entering contests and being on their mailing list, but I know I already love them … I’ll free up the space for others!


  4. HMM, this is a hard one. Great post, but what a poser!
    I like giveaways, even though there’s always the .005% of winning any one giveaway. That’s my made up statistic, and I’m sticking to it. I personally think it’s rude to sign up for a giveaway and then discontinue the newsletter.

    Have you ever thought about offering a book club prize? You could write up a list of questions for your books to post on your website. And offer maybe once a month or quarter to call a book club to discuss your book with them? Something like that? Heck if I know if that would work or not!

    A giveaway popular at charity events is character naming. Or let your fans pick a name for a shoppe or something like that? What if you could do that a couple of times for each book? I don’t know how hard that would be, but is it worth thinking about?

    Or what if you did a ‘guest post’ in your newsletter from a fan? A lot of fans are aspiring writers. You could give them a topic and let them run with it, something based on your characters or something (with your editorial approval of course)?

    Even though I’m one of those aspiring writers, I had a dang cute idea for a gift. Alas, no one would want it without me being known! I might bring it to Malice just to show the Chicks and some of my other author friends. It’s a menu from the “Cozy Mystery Diner”, with the ‘food items’ being parts of a mystery. Was messing around one weekend. Here’s a preview:
    Appetizers (Coming attractions)
    Hobby or career
    Appetizers (First Stimulations)
    Victim Found
    Sleuth’s Motivation
    The Cast

    BTW, I’m putting in an order to BUY one of your handbags at Malice, please?

    Liked by 6 people

  5. 1. I read the first two lines and knew it was you. 2. I have 38% open rate. I thought that was awful, but feeling much better now. 3. I do book giveaways. I was thinking about doing a genuine Alaska Native-made beaded earring giveaway (dovetails with my plot) later in the year. 4. I will be watching you. I think you’re going to figure it out long before I do.

    Liked by 5 people

    • 1. LOL!
      2. Right?? About a year ago I said on facebook that I was going to cull my list and get rid of anyone who hasn’t opened the last 4 newsletters or something. And did I get pushback! People told me all kinds of reasons why they wanted to stay on the list and that they had read it and blah, blah, blah. Some of it was technical and I didn’t understand, but it made enough sense that I decided against that!
      3. I think the earrings would be a GREAT prize. Especially because it fits in so nicely with what you write. I’ve never been able to find that thing for my books.
      4. Debatable, but whoever gets to the finish line first has to help the rest. (What? there’s no finish line???)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post, Becky, and I super-duper love your book purses. What I don’t love is marketing my books.

    Of course, this is the ultimate irony since my day job is in advertising. I’ve had author friends look at me wide-eyed when they see what I do–or rather what I DON’T do–and ask, “But aren’t you in MARKETING?” Well, yes, but the ad agency world is very different than the book marketing world. Plus, I always feel like I’m bothering people when I send some kind of marketing missive, again ironic since I seem to have no problem bothering people on my clients’ behalf.

    All of which is to say, I think you kick marketing booty. You’re getting great responses on your newsletters (in AdLand, we’d be drooling over those open rates!), and I love the contest. So keep up the good work! And keep making those gorgeous purses. And (and) please boss me around and tell me how to market.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Marketing and promotion seem to take up about 80 percent of my “writing” time. Oy. Part of my likes it, but the other part has a really hard time saying to people: “Please like me! Please buy my books! If you don’t, I won’t get a contract for the next one!”

    Because that’s what it feels like.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Leslie, I’ve learned to change my thinking about marketing. I’m not trying to get you to buy my book. Instead, I’m offering you the chance to be entertained for a few hours for the low, low price of a few bucks. And that’s what YOU have to offer too. Your books don’t need to “be sold” to anyone, but they do need to be put on someone’s radar. It would be waaaay better, though, if I never had to talk about my stuff, and other people did. Alas …. nobody cares as much about my books as I do. ‘Sup with that??

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Becky, I am so impressed! We all are, in fact, I’m pretty sure. I’d never even heard of Gleam. It’s very cool that you are always looking for new ideas and thinking outside the box, which will definitely pay off. (Purse Lady, not Bag Lady, right?)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I only heard about Gleam because I threw out a question in my facebook marketing group, which any mystery author can join. Search for “Mystery Authors Secret Clubhouse”. Don’t forget to answer the questions or the door won’t be unlocked. I am always looking for new ideas, but it’s less because I’m such a forward thinker and more like I’m throwing ideas to the wall to see what sticks!

      Bag Lady made me laugh!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a great post. I hadn’t heard of Gleam before either (so very much love that name…wasn’t there a toothpaste called Gleam back in the day?). And those purses are to die for. Sounds like you are getting amazing results!

    I have been doing a book giveaway at Facebook every Wednesday for months now. It has been expensive and I think, if my math is correct, it has only netted five new followers there. But it’s also a little gift for the people who do follow the page (I don’t advertise it anywhere else) and something I can do for author friends, so even though I can see that from a marketing standpoint, it’s not a win, my heart has been happy about it… ♥︎

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m a Close-Up gal myself, Cynthia. Loves me my cinnamon toothpaste!

      The thing about marketing/promotion we must always remember is that if we’re not getting something out of it, we need to stop doing it. But if it makes you happy, then it IS a win! At some point it won’t make you happy anymore, or the math really goes sideways, or something more fun captures your attention and then you’ll dip your toe in some other pool. But keep doing whatever makes sense at the time.

      I think I’m going to stop announcing so much stuff on facebook and leave that all as a reward for my subscribers. But I get so darn excited about everything!


  10. I have found the cozy superfans on Facebook. All my promotional efforts seem to keep me in a loop with this core group of followers. I don’t know how to tap all the other Cozy readers who propel a 3 star book to the top of the NYT best seller list. Even my book bub ads have only returned a click through rate of 1%. I don’t do a newsletter or have my own blog because I struggle with time to write my books. I can’t commit to more. My favorite way to promote is cross promotion with other authors. Everytime I do a party or chat I pick up a couple new readers. I try to pay it forward by having other authors involved in my events so they can gain new readers too. When you find that Magic Bullet you let me know!


    • Like you, Libby, I do love connecting with cozy fans on facebook, but you have to remember that facebook/pinterest/instagram/twitter can go away at any time. [coughMySpacecough] Or those fans migrate elsewhere. Or the platforms look to win a different demographic who doesn’t read cozies. Or fb continues to mess with their algorithms so the only thing they let people see is what I’m forced to pay for. Or, or, or. If you don’t have a mailing list that you own, you’ve lost them. Email, OTOH, will never go away. That’s why I’m working so hard on getting people to engage as subscribers.

      I hear you, though, about not having time. I’ve cut waaaay back on my facebook time, and, in fact, set a timer. I do what needs to be done and if I have any time left, I try to see what my kids or real-life friends are up to in those few stolen minutes. Most days, their lives remain a mystery to me.

      Liked by 1 person

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