I have been working my way through the Platform/Promo Lessons in Publetariate’s Vault University curriculum by April Hamilton and Zoe Winters (I was fortunate enough to win access to Vault University as a winner of Publetariate’s First Anniversary Contest.) While I don’t plan on revealing any detail on the excellent material presented in this curriculum (if you are interested, the fee is just $5 a month for monthly lessons, and I would highly recommend signing up and/or purchasing a copy of April Hamilton’s Indie Author Guide), I am using the subject headings of the sixteen “lessons” in the curriculum to evaluate my own attempts at promotion of my historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery. As someone who has been teaching (and therefore evaluating students) for 35 years I figure it will be a humbling experience to see how well I have learned my lessons!
Over five years ago, in one of my last attempts to get an earlier version of my book published through traditional means, I went to a local writers convention where numerous speakers talked about the need to establish a brand. At the time, I remember being discouraged by the news that marketing departments of traditional publishers seemed to have achieved the ascendency in publishing, and that only those authors who could demonstrate a sure-fire market for their “brand” had a hope of getting published. Nevertheless, I had to admit as a reader I responded to the visual cues book covers and posters offered me when I browsed bookstores, looking for the latest work by a favorite author, or looking for new authors to try out. If this is what was meant by a “brand,” well, that I could understand!
Consequently, a year ago as I began to rewrite my manuscript, I also began to think about how I would establish those visual clues for my future readership. The most obvious information I needed to convey about my book was that it was an historical mystery set in the Victorian era. The book was also to be the first in a series of mysteries with the same protagonists, set in San Francisco, emphasizing different female occupations of the era. Ultimately the choices I would make for the title of the book, the name I used as author, and the cover of the book would all be part of providing the visual clues that would “establish my brand.”