I recently had a chance to catch up with Kate Sparkes, author of the best-selling Bound Trilogy. I asked her a lot of questions, from how she shows up for her art, to how she prepares for launch, and even markets her book. This is the final installment in a 5-part series exploring how this talented author, who has managed to spin her dream of a full-time writing career into reality, shows up for your art. I hope you enjoy it!
If you haven’t read Kate’s work yet, well, get to it – you won’t regret it. Let’s begin with a little bio:
Kate Sparkes lives on the magical island of Newfoundland, where she’s always checking wardrobes, locked doors, and interesting caves to see whether they lead to new worlds. She passes the rest of her time hanging out with her family, reading, walking her dogs, and writing fiction that lets her come very close to escaping reality.
She likes sending treats to newsletter subscribers, so be sure to sign up for bonus content, sneak peeks, advance review copies, news about future books, contests, and more! Visit www.katesparkes.com for details.
Kate Sparkes on Showing Up For Your Art – Part 5: Marketing and Promotion
Laura: So many writers loathe marketing and promotion. What’s your relationship to it?
Kate: “Loathe” seems like a strong word… so I’ll use it. Loathe. We hates it.
Laura: Is it easier to market when you love your story and/or characters?
Kate: I don’t know. I’ve never written a story where I didn’t love them. I write books I want to read and stories I’m passionate about, so I can’t say what it would be like to promote something I felt lukewarm about.
Laura: What are your marketing and promotion strategies?
Kate: Social media. Being myself, trying to entertain people, and occasionally putting a promo message out (a teaser, letting people know about a sale, things like that. Always trying to add value rather than repeating BUY MY BOOK every 2.5 hours via automation). BookBub ads for sales when I can get them. Two free stories to entice people to my newsletter.
I’d like to start using Facebook ads. That’s probably next on the list.
Laura: Do you use Amazon free or countdown promotions? If so, do you have a strategy for doing so? Have you experimented with timing?
Kate: I’m not in KDP Select, so I don’t have experience with those things.
Laura: Have you discovered solid tools for making a best-seller category list?
Kate: BookBub is a fantastic tool if you can get in. It’s expensive, but it’s also the only email book promotion newsletter I’ve found pays for itself. Even $5 ones have failed me. I’ve found that pre-orders really hurt my books. The two that I used them on have suffered in their rankings because they didn’t get the release day boost, so I’m reluctant to use them on future projects (unless I have a tight enough release schedule to have pre-order links in the back of the previous new release).
And choosing the right categories is key. Try to get into some that will give you visibility without huge sales numbers.
Laura: What are your favorite tools? (social media, PR service or support, bookbub, etc)
Kate: I’ve mentioned BookBub a few times, so there’s obviously that. They seem to be moving toward taking on more traditionally published books and mega-bestsellers (you’ll see “500 five star reviews!” and such in a lot of their emails now), but it’s still possible to get in with them if you keep trying and have a great book. I like social media, but that’s mostly because I like social media for itself, not because it sells books. It’s more a connection tool than a marketing tool for me.
I’d love to use a reputable PR service that specializes in my genres, but finding time to search for the right one is tough. I’m a control freak and refuse to waste my money on anyone who’s not going to get better results than I can get myself. But what a load off that would be!
Laura: Any insights into the world of Amazon algorithms or best-seller lists that you’re willing to share?
Kate: No. Amazon is a mystery to me. I like them. A lot. But I don’t have time to go poking about, strategizing, and trying to figure them out. I trust that their end goal is to put the best books in front of customers so that the customers will be satisfied, so I focus on writing the best, most compelling and entertaining books I can so Amazon has good reason to sell my books.
Laura: Do you attend cons or other live events? If so, any recommendations as to events or strategies for promoting yourself while there?
Kate: Not typically. I actually just did my first one recently. It was fun. Not great for promotion, but I felt like the panel I was on helped a few newer authors, and I got some experience out of it. I’m generally not really sure about what I’ll get out of cons and such (especially with my introverted nature that keeps me from chatting random strangers up and pitching my book), so I don’t invest time and money into going. I’m pretty isolated here, so it would be a big commitment.
Laura: Do you employ giveaways, and if so, how would you describe the anatomy of a successful giveaway?
Kate: I do giveaways at my release parties (ebooks and several signed paperbacks), and will occasionally do them elsewhere (though my blog or Instagram, for example). I think the key is to make it as compelling as you can to make people want to enter, and as shareable as possible to get more eyes on it (so using Rafflecopter and having people tweet or post to FB for entries is great). You really want to try to use giveaways to get new and potentially interested eyes on your work rather than just having the same people enter all the time. And if you can make the entries pay off long-term by having people join your mailing list in exchange for entering, so much the better!
Laura: Any advice to authors struggling with marketing and promotion?
Kate: Know that you’re not alone. It comes easy for some people, and not for others. Don’t stress yourself out trying to be someone you’re not just to sell books. Focus on creating good work, do what you can to get it in front of people who might love it, and try whatever you feel comfortable with. I’ve said no to a lot of perfectly good opportunities that I wasn’t comfortable with (mostly things that involve getting people on my newsletter list who don’t really want to be there or cross-promo with authors I hadn’t done a quality check on before they wanted me to recommend their books). This is your business, and it has your name on it. Have a vision of what you want it to be, and take steps to get there. Even if they’re baby steps.
It has been wonderful to have had this opportunity to interview Kate Sparkes – she’s a highly talented indie writer who has managed to make the dream of writing full-time a reality. I hope you’ve enjoyed this chance to take a peek inside her growing publishing world (someday empire?), and that you’ve discovered some insights that will illuminate your own path. If you haven’t read earlier parts of the series, you can find part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here.
You can check out some of Kate’s work for free – learn how: