Book Marketing Now: Jessica Martin
Jessica Martin, author of the rom-com FOR THE LOVE OF THE BARD, shares how to lean into your book's themes to build audience, develop rapport with bookstores, and marketing outside your comfort zone.
Welcome back to Book Marketing Now, a monthly feature of Books, Marketing, & More where I share interviews with writers about their marketing and publishing journey as they share the inside scoop on releasing books into the current market!
Check out April’s interview with N. Griffin | Other past interviews and insights here!
Reading For the Love of the Bard is like entering a fantasy written specifically for bookworms…. This is a delight, full of florid language, slow-building tension, groan-inducing puns, loads of food descriptions, and a fun and fleshed-out supporting cast.
As a former-high-school-theater nerd whose only spoken role ever was Lady Capulet, there’s a special place in my heart for Shakespeare. Luckily for me, debut author Jessica Martin has written an ode to theater, small-town New England, and love in all its forms: For the Love of the Bard is a rom-com packed with humor, family, second-chance romance, and a whole lot of Shakespeare-puns.
Join me in celebrating For the Love of the Bard’s book birthday with this pitch-perfect interview with Jessica Martin herself. She talks genre, Instagram, bookstores, and marketing outside your comfort zone. Her book’s launch event is tonight at Porter Square books and she can be found at a number of other indies in the coming weeks.
How did you initially market your books to your agent/publisher? How has that strategy changed now that you’re marketing to readers?
I initially pitched my book For the Love of the Bard under a different (and truly terrible) title during #PitMad, a Twitter contest where unrepped writers pitch their books to participating agents. I really thought my book was a straddle between a rom-com and women's fiction. Ultimately, my agent and editor helped me pick a lane and guide my book through the editing process to a more traditional rom-com.
It can be so daunting to identify your book’s exact category. How did your team help you “pick a lane” when it came to the genre of your book?
It’s really challenging, as a debut author, to market yourself as a cross-over between two genres; in my case, rom-com and women’s fiction. So when it came down to it, my agent and editor thought the romantic elements were stronger than the traditional women’s fiction elements; that readers would be most interested in the outcome of the relationship between Miranda and Adam. Once we settled on that, it was an exercise in making sure the romantic moments really had a chance to shine.
Who do you see as your book’s readers? What is the best way you’ve found to reach them?
I wrote this one for all the word nerds, theater kids, English majors, dog lovers and people who believe in second chances or those who just want to feel comfortable in their own skins. I’m still learning the best way to find my readers, but through working with a publicity team, I find that certain social media platforms, like Instagram and TikTok are the way to find my people. I’m not overly enthralled by TikTok (I know, I know. I do love BookTok, but the rest of the TikTok-verse kind of freaks me out), so I mostly maintain a decent showing on Instagram. Also, did you know the Facebook algorithm helps sell books? Yeah, news to me too, but it does. If you’re on the fence about setting up an author page on Facebook, I recommend it.
I may be a little bit in love with your Shakespeare figurine on Instagram. Tell us about him!
I’m not much for personal pictures of myself out in the wild, so I knew I needed to create an aesthetic. Shakespeare is iconic, so enter the wooden Bard. He’s become my calling card of sorts and goes everywhere with me. Sometimes he even quotes himself, but reciting Shakespeare (unless it’s a Shakespearean insult) can get a little tedious. So mostly he’s just a fabulous, mouthless avatar living his best life on Instagram.
How else are you using the Shakespearean connections in your story to market your book? What has the reception been so far?
Shakespeare can be pretty divisive. Some people love the Shakespearean angle. I just did a podcast for Reduced Shakespeare Company and the host and I geeked out over the Twelfth Night subtext in my book. It was so gratifying to be seen like that. Other interviewers have asked me what a Bard is, while others find my Shakespearean puns and references too over-the-top and trending toward twee. I get that. I think this really goes back to the concept of audience and who you’re writing for. If you’re the kind of person who loved Ten Things I Hate About You and would consider attending a free staging of Shakespeare on the Common this summer (seriously, do it! This year is Much Ado About Nothing. What have you got to lose?) this is your book.
What marketing efforts seem to have driven the most interest in your book and how?
I am going to own my ignorance here and admit that, until I worked with the fabulous publicity team at Berkley (and I mean that, absolute pros), I didn’t realize that a huge chunk of marketing efforts go into finding your booksellers, not just your readers. As a reader, I just assumed I was the target audience. It didn’t occur to me that there are a myriad of publications out there for booksellers building their lists and weighing whether or not your book makes the cut.
So during the month of May, I visited over twenty-five indie bookstores in the fine Commonwealth of Massachusetts (and a couple of out-of-state) with a glossy postcard featuring the cover of my book on the front and my info/social media details on the back. This was a great way to get the word out and once I visited, I waited a week and followed up with an email offering to do an event or sign copies. A ton of bookstores have taken me up on this.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out when it comes to marketing themselves?
At first, I was very resistant to increasing my meager social media presence. I wrote a book, it should speak for itself, right? Oh, that was so adorable and naïve of me to think that in this day and age you can pull a Salinger! You have to take risks, get outside of your comfort zone. If someone offers you an interview for a podcast or online segment... take it. I literally sweat through these kinds of things (profusely) but you have to do it to get yourself out there. If a website wants you to write a 1500 word essay on some aspect of your writing craft or routine, find a way to fit in. You never know what’s going to lead your readers to your book.
Finally, what tea recommendation do you have to help folks get through the marketing process?
My favorite tea on the planet is Savannah Grey, a riff on Earl Grey that I found several years ago in The Tea Room in (you guessed it) Savannah, Georgia. This Grey goes the traditional route of a long tipped Chinese black tea, not Ceylon, but goes delightfully off-book with a touch of lavender as well as cornflower and safflower petals.
To order For the Love of the Bard:
Bookshop.org | B&N | Indiebound | Porter Square Books (signed!) | Whitelam Books
Jessica Martin is a lawyer by trade, a writer by choice, and a complete smartass by all accounts. Based in the suburban wilds of Boston, Jess shares her life with a finance geek, a small sass-based human and a pair of dogs named after Bond characters. Her debut, For the Love of the Bard, releases today June 28, 2022, from Penguin Random House’s Berkley imprint. You can learn more about her writing and events at jessicamartinbooks.com.
Support Jessica Martin and other authors publishing in these here pandemic times by following, reposting, sharing, reviewing, requesting, and/or reading their books (and buying when you can)!
Happy reading & writing!
Writer & Marketing Coach
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Allison Pottern Hoch has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and as a writing/marketing coach for authors. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea.