Book-marketing: The theory vs. How it actually turned out

This is a follow-up to my last post about tying your new book to themes for a more successful event.

That post talked about launching my new book, Tagged Out, and its themes: baseball and LGBT, and how I planned to use those themes to find events at which I could market the book. I focussed on: Pride week and a baseball league’s opening-day celebrations.

So, that was the “theory.” Now let’s take a look at what actually happened. In other words: how’d it go?

1. Opening Day Celebration: A rain-out but definitely not a wash-out!
The Toronto Playgrounds baseball league was celebrating its opening day with a big event and–awesome–they said I could be part of it. It was to be a day of baseball at Christie Pits (where my book is set), complete with batting and pitching clinics, a BBQ, and a local politician throwing out a ceremonial pitch, and then my 10-minute schtick plus book-selling and signing. Amazing.

logo Toronto PlaygroundsThe TP baseball league did a great job publicizing it on Facebook, their website, and Twitter. I created a graphic (using and sent that around through social media. The league was extremely well organized. They assigned a contact who would help me to get set up and answer all my questions, and since he was a former journalist, he would even conduct a live Q and A session with me on the day of the event. He came by and got a copy of my book so he could read it before the event. My local city councillor planned to come to the event as well. And Glad Day Bookshop planned to come to the baseball field to sell the books. I had set up a Facebook event and people had signed up and I had two big foamcore signs made, as well as bookmarks. Tons of people I knew were planning to come. Exciting!

…and then it rained.

The league tried to reschedule, but in the end there just wasn’t another suitable weekend. The event was eventually cancelled–and my launch along with it. The league was great, though, and they’ve offered to film a Q&A session, which I will take them up on. But weather is just one of those things that can’t be controlled: by me, my marketing plan, or the baseball league.

The rain-out was just one of those things.

2. PRIDE: Part I, Indigo book event
Since my baseball book features a strong gay character, another obvious theme is LGBT.  I called someone I knew at Indigo in Yorkdale Mall (a huge mall in mid-town Toronto) and asked if they were planning anything during Pride–which Toronto was celebrating for the whole month of June and into early July.

They hadn’t had anything planned, but immediately liked the idea and offered an event for Tagged Out. I suggested they add other LGBT kidlit authors to the bill, and they agreed that would be a good idea. One of the reasons I suggested this, is that I’m not gay (although the book features a strong gay character, and was beta-read by an LGBT-literature expert who advised me on the character). Even so, I didn’t want to be presumptive about “using” Pride, or, worse, appropriating gay culture just to promote my book. But, knowing that there aren’t a lot of middle-grade sports books featuring strong gay characters, therefore this is a genre that is sorely underrepresented, I did feel confident that Pride was a good, and appropriate, venue for it.

So… how’d it turn out? Beyond my expectations. Here’s what happened. In the end, Indigo decided to just feature me, rather than a slate of authors. They also set up a beautiful “Canadian kidlit” display featuring many Canadian authors and, before the event, my book sold out. They had to re-order in time for the event.

The event was on a Thursday, at 2:00. I showed up at 11:00 because I wanted to do a bit of shopping, and I also wanted to drop off the two-foot-high sign, and ask them for an easel for it. As that was happening… ALL THE POWER WENT OUT. Lights–out. Air conditioning–out. Everyone, including me, was ushered out the doors and they were closed.

I checked Twitter to find out what caused the outage, but no one was tweeting about it and Yorkdale’s Info people didn’t know, either. At least half the stores in the mall were dark. I wandered to the food court, which had power, and ate lunch while I waited for the outage to be fixed. By the time I wandered back to Indigo about an hour later, everything was back on track–and so was my event!

Joyce and Wendy

Indigo’s wonderful Wendy Mason is incredibly supportive of authors, and has vast knowledge and experience about how to expertly market books.

The Indigo-ites had set up a table in a very prominent location, they had books there, and I loaded up the table with bookmarks and set up my sign.  At 1:00, Wendy and I were standing near the table (waiting for 2:00, basically) and a woman walked by the table and kind of surreptitiously grabbed a copy of Tagged Out from the table, and then walked away. Wendy and I looked at each other. And then Wendy ran over to the woman to let her know that “the author” was here and she could have her copy signed–which she did. The woman and I chatted about how her son was a “baseball kid” and would love to read the book.

So the event started that way–about an hour early, which was fine by me. My colleague, Angela, arrived and started handing out bookmarks in the Teen section, to people who looked like they were looking for a good book. Some of those people dropped by the table.

One of the things I attribute to the event’s success is some advice I took to heart from Angela Misri (my co-owner of PGV and a kidlit author as well). She always says, “Get out from behind the table.” So instead of sitting down, or looking at my phone (as I’ve seen authors do), I got out from behind the table and I smiled, and held up my book, and said to passing customers, “I’ve got a terrific baseball book for you!” And you know, far from “bothering” people, as we introverted authors are often inclined to think we’re doing, people appreciated it. After all, they’re in a bookstore to buy books! And, the most incredible stories came out. Here are some of them that, had I stayed ‘behind the table’ would not have happened.

  • One man approached me, wanting to know, “where are the magazines?” When he said he was looking for Sports Illustrated, I said, “Oh, if you like sports, you might like my book!” Good thing I did, because we got talking and it turns out he had been on the 1952 championship baseball team at Christie Pits! He’d spent his entire childhood at the field where my book was set! (And yes, he bought a book.)
    Joyce and the guy from the Lizzies 1952 champs

    I met this man, who had played in the 1952 championship baseball game at Christie Pits, where my book is set!

  • Another man came by, whose grandfather had witnessed the 1933 Pits riot. (One of the opening scenes of my book.) When he found out that I was working on an historical book about that event as well, he gave me his contact information so I can talk to his ms. Incredible! Just the kind of first-hand information I was desperate to find. And, he bought a copy of the book. Oh, and because he’s in the film industry he said, “Hey, maybe I’ll option your book!” Well, tother about what had happened back in the 30hat will probably never happen, but… you never know, right?
  • I noticed a boy standing off to the side, wearing a Blue Jays hat and I ran over to give him a signed bookmark (I wasn’t trying to “sell” him on my book). But he asked about it, and it turned out that he currently plays in the league at Christie Pits! His caregiver bought my book for him.
  • And another boy said that my son had recently umped one of his games at the Pits–he bought a copy.

And aside from talking to people about baseball, I met a man whose wife self-publishes, and I told her about the free videos on Plot Goes Viral on book-marketing. (He bought two copies of the book.) And I met a woman who was looking for information on literacy for her son–I was able to point her to my free literacy website,, for tips (she purchased some literacy books from Indigo as well.)

All of those things happened because I ‘got out from behind the table.’

All in all, it was a very successful event. I made sure to publicly thank the people who had made the event such a success, and I was genuinely thrilled to do so, because they really had done a great job.

Stay tuned for Part III: Authors and Drag Queens!




Authors: Use the right URL for Amazon

Image by Jurgen Appelo,

Image by Jurgen Appelo,

When you’re posting a link to your books on Amazon, you don’t have to use the super-long URL (website link) they give you.

When you search for your book on Amazon, you’ll get something like this:

It’s overly-long and clunky and it takes up a lot of room in your post.

There are a couple of ways you can shorten it. You can paste it into a “URL shortener” like, which will also let you track it, so you can tell how many people use it.

An even simpler answer is to delete everything from the link, after the numbers. So now your link will look like this:

It works, and it’s much shorter and won’t take up a lot of room in your posts.