Tuesday, March 13, 2018


With less than three weeks before the official launch of Empty Promises, my life is consumed with marketing efforts. I have blogs to write, interviews to complete, reviews to post. The list is as endless as I want to make it, and therein lies the problem.

I think that the biggest issue I have with the Seamus McCree series is exposure. Goodreads reviews for books in the series average 4.4 out of 5. Except on those days of self-doubt when I’m convinced I can’t write anything more engaging than a grocery list, I realize readers who enjoy my kind of story, enjoy my stories. But only if I can get my books into their hands. And so I search for blogs and reviewers with the right audiences.

So many choices, so many unknowns.

Iceberg off Antarctica in the early morning
One mistake businesses (and writing is most assuredly a business) make in attempting to gain new customers is to neglect their current customers. JC Penney provides a wonderful example unrelated to books. The brand was in difficulty, as were most of its competitors. Their new CEO tried to make the store a “hip” place to shop. Its customer base wanted traditional goods at a fair price. The CEO decided a fair price meant low everyday prices: reduced retail prices, but no more coupons and sales.

The net result was the hipper crowd never thought JC Penney was the place to go, and their loyal customers liked feeling special with coupons and sales events—even if it meant higher list prices and the same net prices. The CEO managed to alienate his base and attract no one to replace it.

The Three Tenors (Chinstrap penguins)
Now, besides writing more great books, how can I keep my fans happy customers? I provide my newsletter subscribers with discounts, free stories, and inside scoops. But I write at the tortoise pace of one book a year. How can I keep fans engaged in between book launches?

It turns out lots of my readers like my photography, especially shots taken while on trips. Since I recently finished an excursion to Antarctica, I’ve been taking time away from what I “should” be doing to promote Empty Promises and, instead, selecting and posting pictures from the Antarctica trip. My approach was to have people take the trip with me by posting a day at a time. (Sometimes with really busy days, I posted morning and afternoon separately.)

Gentoo Penguins in the rain
Antarctica has nothing to do with Empty Promises, which takes place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but I’ve discovered that penguins may be better than cats for getting likes on Facebook. Who knows how I might use that information in the future? Maybe Megan McCree (Seamus’s granddaughter who debuts in Empty Promises) will get a penguin doll for the next book.

That’s the choice I made: share commentary along with a very small subset of the 2,700 pictures I took rather than spending the time on more traditional marketing activities. The “vacation reprise” ended earlier this week, and now I’m full bore on writing interesting blogs. I hope my fans have been entertained and maybe even mentioned my posts to a friend or two and remembered to include the information that I write the Seamus McCree series. Well, that’s my hope anyway.

Readers, do you ever discover an author from an activity divorced from their writing—like, say, Facebook posts about an Antarctica trip? Authors – how do you balance promoting to new audiences with keeping fans happy? 

A version of this blog first appeared 3/12/18 on the Writers Who Kill blog.

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