August 7, 2018

Marketing Can Be Fun…Yes, Really! — Guest: Christina Delay

Child fingerpainting with text: Having Fun with Our Message

I don’t know about any of you, but marketing is at the bottom of my list of things I want to do. I know I need to do something about promoting—as our books don’t sell themselves—but I tend to procrastinate, looking for literally anything else I can do. *grin*

So when I went to RWA last month, I made myself attend a bunch of the marketing-and-promotion-focused workshops. I’ll admit that I came away with a better understanding of what I can be doing, and not all of it seemed tooth-pullingly awful, but we’ll see how well I do at following up.

Given my reluctance for marketing stuff, I’m so grateful to our guest today for helping us out. Christina Delay’s day job is in marketing, so she definitely knows what she’s talking about.

Today, she’s sharing insights from one of the workshops I didn’t get to attend. She goes into not only how to make our marketing efforts less excruciating, but also how they could be—dare we hope?—fun! Just as much as we enjoy writing our stories, we can enjoy putting together material to get readers excited for our books. Yay!

Please welcome Christina Delay! *smile*


How to Get Creative with Our Marketing Efforts

By Christina Delay

I had a bit of an eye-opening experience at RWA in Denver a few weeks ago. A lot of the workshops were really fantastic, but one in particular made me have, not a lightbulb moment, not a hit-by-lightning moment, but a electric storm of ideas moment that is still kind of happening.

That workshop, people, was Lindsay Emory‘s twenty-minute session on alternative content. I know. You’re thinking, how can twenty minutes cause an electric storm of ideas?? Right moment, right time, amazing workshop will do that.

I also need to mention that at the exact moment I was sitting in that workshop, I was also running a contest in tandem with the Cruising Writers elevator wrap I gambled on to give away a free cruise.

So in this post, I want to talk about two ideas, and they both center around how to use our creativity to connect with and engage our readers.

What Is Alternative Content?

Let’s talk about alternative content for a minute. Alternative content is content other than your writing that you can use to:

  • market your brand,
  • connect to and engage with readers, and
  • sell your books.

And here’s the really funny thing….I KNOW THIS! I’m in marketing and branding by day, and I tell my clients this kind of thing all the time. But for me? Never even crossed my mind.

Get creative with alternative content to promote our books — by @CruisingWriters Click To TweetBut I love the idea that I don’t have to give my writing away for free to get newsletter subscribers or introduce readers to my fictional worlds. Instead, I can let them experience my world, and then have them pay me for my actual books.

I mean, that’s the whole idea, right?! I write the book, a reader buys the book, a reader loves the book, a reader buys the next book. Meanwhile, I’m getting to make the fictional world they love richer because of the alternative content I’m offering.

Alternative Content Examples

Let me give you an example. (and full credit to Lindsay Emory for sparking these ideas)

A new novella series I’m co-authoring with the fabulous Julie Glover centers around a mythical island that has to do with the supernatural. So some alternative content ideas we’ve come up with are:

  • A character quiz (which character are you?)
  • Character cards, that include what type of supernatural creature they are
  • A curated list of resort-style clothing

And these are just a few of the things we’ve come up with to help bring our world alive for our readers, help introduce new readers to the series, and fun giveaways for our reader teams and newsletter subscribers.

What about you? Are there other types of content you can come up with that strongly relate to your world or characters that you could use to get newsletter subscribers or promote your books?

Maximizing Your Marketing Efforts

Another thing we need to consider when we spend marketing dollars is how we can best maximize our efforts. You are already doing this with box sets and audio books. The idea is how can I use this one thing, and triple the impact it has?

For example, that elevator wrap/contest to win a free cruise with Cruising Writers?

It started out as an elevator wrap would be a cool way to tell authors about our writing cruises. But I needed to make sure whatever I did, it maximized my efforts. Just an advertisement on an elevator wasn’t going to cut it.

So that idea then transformed to you know, I always get a little stressed at conferences. Maybe a big beach scene on an elevator would give someone a tranquil moment.

When that morphed into, you know what would be really fun? If I actually gave away a cruise, I knew I was onto something.

Make your marketing efforts work triple-time — by @CruisingWriters Click To TweetA bunch of entrants on Twitter later, my elevator wrap had been seen by the RWA participants and over 70,000 impressions on Twitter just from my top two entrants. My guess is those shared photos of my elevator wrap and others #bestwritingretreat photos reached closed to 100,000 impressions on Twitter.

Additionally, the fabulous Rachel Caine generously donated a second free writing cruise. And that’s not even mentioning all the additional followers and newsletter subscribers that came out of that contest.

I want to make note here that I could have just left the elevator wrap as is. But adding the contest to the wrap and opening it up to any author, not just the ones attending the RWA conference, maximized my efforts and made for some really fun engagement with authors interested in our writing retreats.

You Can Do It!

What are you doing right now to creatively think about your marketing efforts? Is there something you could do better?

  • Or is there something you could do that would be more fun than what you are currently doing?
  • And when you decide that, how can you best maximize your efforts?

Marketing, for a lot of authors, feels like eating your vegetables. You know it’s good for you, but you kinda hate it.

But thinking creatively about marketing so that you’re incorporating fun and being thoughtful about how to best maximize those marketing efforts? Well, that sounds more like dessert with an extra helping of chocolate sprinkles to me.

Christina DelayAbout Christina Delay:

Christina Delay is the hostess of Cruising Writers and Creative Wellness Retreats and a multi-award-winning author represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. When she’s not cruising the Caribbean, she’s dreaming up new writing retreats to take talented authors on or giving into the demands of imaginary people to tell their stories. | Facebook | Twitter


About Cruising Writers:

Cruising Writers brings writers together with bestselling authors, an agent, an editor, and a world-renowned writing craft instructor writing retreats around the world.

Cruise with us to Grand Cayman this October with Kristen Lamb (Bestselling Author and Marketing Jedi), Rachel Caine (Bestselling Author of 50+ books), Deidre Knight (The Knight Agency), and Alex Sehulster (St. Martin’s Press).

Or get ready to Dive Deep and join us on a 7-day Immersion Cruise with Margie Lawson this December to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel! | Facebook | Twitter

Cruising Writers Goes to Grand Cayman!


Thank you, Christina! As you said, when we indulge our creativity and use the results for marketing or promotion efforts, that can be a win-win for us.

As I was reading this post, I was reminded of a list of bonuses and extras we could include on our website that I came up with years ago. I think some of those extras could work for promo material too:

Brainstorm Alternative Content with “Extras”:

  • Deleted chapters or scenes
  • Bonus epilogues, scenes, or short stories
  • Story inspiration
  • Background information on story research, cover models, or cover design
  • Book trailer
  • Soundtracks to accompany the story
  • Hints of “easter eggs” hidden in the story
  • Character interviews
  • Inspiration pictures for characters, settings, etc.
  • Setting maps, character family trees, etc.
  • Recipes from the story
  • Quizzes or contests
  • Photos of fan art
  • Icons, screen wallpaper, etc.
  • Photos of readers (from our book signings, holding our books, etc.)
  • Information for book clubs/groups

Other Alternative Content Ideas:

Other unique ideas for alternative content from the handout to Lindsay’s workshop include:

  • Knitting/needlepoint patterns
  • Travel guide (real or fictional)
  • Tasting notes (beer/wine theme)
  • Non-fiction book to go along with our series (original photos, recipes, etc.)
  • Podcasts

Again, none of these items are meant to drain us even more or add to our overwhelming to-do list. Rather, something on those lists are bound to trigger our creativity and not feel like work at all. That’s what we want—to take something we’d like to do for fun anyway and turn into something positive for our brand.

Many of us create ideas for a broader world or deeper characters than we ever detail in our books. Thinking about alternative content is an opportunity to put those creative ideas to work by drawing our readers deeper into our stories and adding enjoyment to our marketing efforts. *smile*

Do you have any alternative content, and if so, what? How have you used that content? Do you have alternative content ideas (stuff other than your books) you could use for “reader magnets” to get people to sign up for your newsletter? What could you do that would be fun, and how could you get more benefit out of it? Do you have any questions for Christina?

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Comments — What do you think?

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Christina Delay

Thank you for having me on again, Jami! And I LOVE your list of ideas at the end!

Deborah Makarios

Handwork! I love handwork (knitting, sewing, quilting, embroidery…), and until recently it somehow never occurred to me to bring that in to my books (except for a scene in Restoration Day where the heroine herringbones a wound closed…)
But then when I was noodling on a story recently I suddenly envisioned one of the main characters doing a particular type of handwork I knew almost nothing about – but which then started affecting the plot and is now (of course) something of an obsession with me.
Thanks for the tips, Jami and Christina!

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Thanks, I hand out bookmarks to everyone who displays interest, but most people don’t have Kindles yet.

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