Interview with Delilah Marvelle

Book CoverAuthor Delilah Marvelle won the Author Interview I offered through the Brenda Novak Diabetes Auction this year – thanks for bidding, Deliliah! When we started discussing her interview, Marvelle told me about the marketing pitch she’s making for her second book, and the topic turned to marketing in general.

Marvelle’s website has the details, but the crux of her contest is that:

Despite being sold out of my first print run for my debut book, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, my publisher will not be finishing the School of Gallantry series. As a result, I am looking to do one last push for the second book in the series, LORD OF PLEASURE, in the hopes that this series can be saved by another publisher who will see more promise in the series. Lord Caldwell, Lord Banfield and Lord Brayton (yes, the virgin) have yet to have their stories told.

I’m hoping everyone can help by blogging, pitching, sending out newsletters, telling their brothers and sisters, ANYONE to buy the book when it comes out August 4th. It is a simple way of announcing that this series does matter….

From August 4 until August 28, anyone who e-mails me at with the School’s quote from Lesson 27 found in the book LORD OF PLEASURE, will be entered to win one of three $50 Visa Cards. Winners will be contacted via e-mail by September 10th.

What were some of the marketing techniques you used to market book 1 that were most effective? Least?

The most effective marketing I’ve found is focusing on branding myself as an author.  Everyone knows that the industry is all about name recognition, not book recognition.  But for first time authors, name recognition doesn’t really apply because no one knows who the freak you are.  So a first time author, such as myself, has to start by branding themselves.  That means everything related to my name has to have a theme that will represent who I am as a writer.  And because I write very funny and very steamy historical romances, I make sure everything I put out there reflects just that. 

My blog, for instance, reflects what I write.  I don’t talk about my dog (of course, I don’t have one…) or anything else that won’t reflect who I am as a writer.  My blog, A Bit O’Muslin gets quite a bit of traffic because people know what to expect from my blog.  Every first of the month I write about a topic having to do with sex in the context of history.  With a humorous tone.  I get tons of repeat readers because of it.

That being said, the most effective promo I have found has been doing blogs tours, doing ads in RT, going to the RT Convention (the amount of readers I met there was astounding), getting online reviewers to review the book.  I get tons of hits from Night Owl Romance, for instance.  Networking with other writers who write what you do.  Their audience is your audience. 

And last but not least giving away the book itself.  Many authors get caught up in making magnets, postcards and pens, but how is that going to get anyone to read your book?  The only way to really get them to read your book is to GIVE them the book.  Is it expensive?  Yes.  Is it worth every penny?  Yes.  Because if that person likes your book, they will buy your next book and maybe even tell all their friends who will also go out and get your book.  The least effective?  Doing online ads.  I’ve never gotten impressive hits to warrant the money I’ve spent.

2. What parts of book 2 are you most proud of?

Parts I’m most proud of?  I would say when the hero (Hawksford) finally recognizes that in trying to please everyone he is not pleasing ANYONE.  Especially the woman he loves.  I also absolutely adore the hero’s interactions with his five sisters and his not-so-proper mother.  He’s the only man in the house, after his father passed, and so he is *seriously* outnumbered.  I even decided to make the cat in the house female so that Hawksford REALLY feels the whole I am woman hear me roar.  Those constant female interactions, however, is what molds him to better understand the one woman he knows he is meant to be with.

3. If there were to be a book three, what story would you tell?

Book 3, Moment of Pleasure, is almost finished.  And what I love most about the story is that the heroine is actually more like the man in the relationship and the hero is more like the female of the relationship.  The two must learn to redefine their roles toward one another if they are ever to survive in each other’s presence and eventually learn the valuable lesson that society doesn’t define your role in a relationship.  You do.

4. Yours is one of the few frank and direct approaches to bookselling I’ve seen in awhile. Why go this route? What’s your ideal goal for this campaign?

Publishers spend very little (if any) money promoting a first time author.  And yet a first time author’s sales will determine whether that author will go on to get another contract.  With that in mind, many first time authors who find out their sales suck, slink away into a hole and blame themselves.  It’s BS.  Why be blamed when no money is being spent to promote it?  I’ve never been one to slink away into the hole, nor am I choosing to blame myself for “lack of sales.”  If my career is determined by the amount of books I sell, and not how well I write, then the frank and direct approach is the only way to go about pimping my second book. 

That said, I want people to know what is happening in this industry.  I want readers and writers alike to sit up and realize that if we don’t support one another, our books will disappear off the shelves.  I hear so many readers complain about why publishers aren’t publishing the sort of books they want.  My answer is it’s because they aren’t going out and BUYING those books.  They are allowing themselves to only buy what is on the shelf.  Most new authors are lucky to have four copies of their book on the shelf and once those books are gone, they aren’t re-ordered by the store and in turn, they simply disappear off the reader’s radar (and sales suck).  It’s simply easier for a reader to pick up what is on the shelf at the bookstore as opposed to hunting down new authors and new books themselves.

My ideal goal for this campaign would be to generate enough sales that would enable me to continue to do what I love beyond all else.  Writing stories that make me and others laugh and sigh.


Marvelle is definitely taking a different route to promotion for her second book, and I’m curious what you think. What marketing efforts have you seen or used yourself that worked in your opinion? What doesn’t work?

Thank you again to Delilah Marvelle for a frank interview and for bidding on the opportunity to benefit Juvenile Diabetes Research at the 2009 Brenda Novak Online Auction.

Lord of Pleasure is available at most retailers, including Amazon, and for international shoppers, Book Depository, and at Books on Board.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Rhonni says:

    I love this.
    If it were a non-fiction book, it would be *assumed* that the author would take the lead in book promotion, and yet I sense that in fiction the power lies mostly with the publisher.(?) Is that a fiction itself?

    I’m new to the Romance Book Industry, but fascinated. This interview gives me hope that authors are more in charge of their own destinies than I had first perceived.

  2. 2
    Anony Miss says:

    Haven’t read her books, but love the cover art!! :)

  3. 3

    Great interview.  The tips on marketing are right on and as a first time author myself, very helpful!  As an introvert, I will have to gear myself up to be more direct, but I know that’s the way to go.

  4. 4
    Terry Odell says:

    Sadly, I agree. It was a total shock to find out how much time I would have to spend in marketing myself. I have a lot of trouble approaching people—rejection is painful, and face to face, it’s worse.

    I recall Linda Howard speaking at RWA a year ago, and someone asked “How much time should you spend in self-promotion?” and her answer was “None.  The publishers want to make their money; let them do it.” How times have changed since she hit the big time.

    I keep up my blog, do book giveaways (I have an ARC to give away this month), and try not to think about how much it costs me to be an author. If there were a magic formula, I’d love to know it. 

    Meanwhile, I write.

    And today’s magic word is being65.  Not quite.  Not all that far away, but I’m not being 65 just yet.

  5. 5
    Anon says:

    Despite being sold out of my first print run for my debut book, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, my publisher will not be finishing the School of Gallantry series.

    Delilah, have they told you the reason why?

  6. 6
    Babs says:

    Oh no! I just read Mistress of Pleasure  over the weekend and couldn’t wait to read the stories for all those attending the School of Gallantry. Hope the series finds a new home because the humor and personalities were stupendous in the first book.

  7. 7
    Missy Ann says:

    I don’t have anything to add about marketing. As a reader I must say how much I hate it when publishers don’t finish out a series. Gennita Low. I am so pissed off that we haven’t gotten the next Virtually book. The first one had the release date of the second in the back of the book! I’m full of hate for her publisher for PROMISING me the book and then not delivering.

  8. 8

    The whole self-promo thing scares the ever-loving crap out of me. I debut next year and don’t know what I should focus on and not focus on. I was hoping the publisher would get my name out there, piggy back me with some of the bigger authors readers already know, &c.

    Delilah, would you be willing to share what online advertisements didn’t work for you and why you think they didn’t work? Is it because you didn’t have the name recognition as a debut author? Or is it because it didn’t land you a sale once the reader clicked on the ad?

  9. 9
    Lostshadows says:

    It’s simply easier for a reader to pick up what is on the shelf at the bookstore as opposed to hunting down new authors and new books themselves.

    Sometimes this is the only option the readers have for buying books. Not everyone has a credit card, so if the only place they can find the book is online, it’s hard or impossible for them to get.

  10. 10
    Monica Burns says:

    As someone with a PR/Marketing degree, I LOVE Delilah’s unique approach to selling this second book in an effort to ensure there’s a home for books 3 & 4. It’s savvy and IMHO it compliments the brand she’s building. The marketing has Delilah written all over it. I’d love to hear how this marketing approach works out for you Delilah, and hoping it nails the contract that will let you continue the series.

  11. 11
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Despite being sold out of my first print run for my debut book, MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, my publisher will not be finishing the School of Gallantry series.

    Delilah, have they told you the reason why?

    She got the same line I did: Her sell-through was too low. Hard to understand how that can be when the book went unobtainium before her second one even hit the shelf (and a real problem, since you want to see copies of book one pushed into stores again to support book two; that’s how you build a freaken fan base). *sigh*

  12. 12
    Babs says:

    BTW, if you want to pick up the first book in the series I found it at Books on Board.

  13. 13
    senetra says:

    It’s also at Fictionwise for 3.19 or 2.71 Buywise, AND it has a tiny Micropay rebate. I’m buying it right now.

  14. 14
    senetra says:

    It’s Secure MS Reader or Secure Mobi only, though.

  15. 15

    Great interview, Delilah!

    For those scratching their heads over this, it’s not that the sell-through of debut authors is too low, it’s that the INITIAL print run is too small for the publishers to make “enough” money on. Oh they still make money, but they are looking for cash cows.

    Here’s another way of looking at the issue, from Jackie Barbosa’s blog, about What Constitutes “Good” Sales.

  16. 16
    SarahT says:

    I’ve heard tales like Delilah’s before and I think she’s doing the only thing she can:  get the word out and self-promote. I read somewhere that a newbie author should spend at least her advance on promoting her debut book. In other words, see the first book as a non-earner and use it to build a fan base for subsequent books.

  17. 17
    KeriM says:

    Amazon won’t even let you order the first book as a back-order, but you can order the kindle edition. B & N won’t let you order it in anyway and Border’s will you let you set up a back-order. Go Border’s!!! Let’s see how long it takes to get mine.

  18. 18

    Delilah, I have been right where you are (and am afraid of it happening again) and I truly feel your pain. It’s such a crazy business and I’ve tried just about anything and everything promo wise over the years. I’ve come to believe word of mouth is the best thing an author can shoot for. Getting people talking about your contest is great! 

    Of course, the very best thing is for the publisher to A., Print enough books and B., Pay for some co-opt.  Which is completely beyond our control.

    Speaking of getting your name out—drop me a line if you want to set up a guest blog at Plotmonkeys, we’d love to have you.

    Good luck!

  19. 19
    Lostshadows says:

    Let me see if I’m understanding this correctly:
    A new author, who’s likely to have a low first printing because they’re new, is probably going to be dumped by their publisher, because they’re a new author who’s likely to have a low first printing because they’re new.

  20. 20
    Cat Marsters says:

    I’ve been there too, Delilah.  A gal does all the promo she can—especially considering promo income derives from royalties.  Either way my series got cancelled.  (I get great reviews, I get great reader feedback…and I get low sales.  Are they all passing around the same copy?)

  21. 21
    JoAnn Ross says:

    Delilah, I’ve always said that the strangest thing about this crazy rollercoaster business we’re in is that anyone actually refers to it as business.  It’s also populated by control freaks who quickly learn that they HAVE NO CONTROL over anything but The Work.  And some days not even that. 

    These are tough times and I’m hearing your story from so many writers, including many whose books have always been must-buys for me.  I’ll definitely be picking up Lord of Pleasure and will put links to your site on twitter, facebook, and Myspace tomorrow.  Here’s helping you at least get some attention from this.

    Meanwhile, this definitely isn’t the end.  If you’re an RWA member, you MUST read Jayne Ann Kretnz’s interview in the July issue about how many times she’s reinvented herself.  Having been published for 26 yrs, I’ve become convinced that writers who stick around for the long term are those who can switch gears from time to time.  (Waving to the super multi-faceted Leslie Kelly-Parrish here!) 

    So, keep writing, hang in there, reach out to writer friends who truly understand, and things will pick up.  They always do.  xo

  22. 22
    Karen says:

    As was said earlier, both books are available on Amazon for Kindle—and under $3 for the first!

  23. 23
    Tammy says:

    lostshadow said

    Let me see if I’m understanding this correctly:
    A new author, who’s likely to have a low first printing because they’re new, is probably going to be dumped by their publisher, because they’re a new author who’s likely to have a low first printing because they’re new.

    As someone trying to sell their first book, I have to be honest and say that this doesn’t give me a hell of a lot of hope.

  24. 24
    Chicklet says:

    As someone trying to sell their first book, I have to be honest and say that this doesn’t give me a hell of a lot of hope.

    Hell, as a *reader* this doesn’t give me a lot of hope, because it means a lot of good writers will have their careers derailed before they have a chance to get started.

  25. 25

    Don’t forget the other piece of the puzzle… Book buyers. I mean the ppl who buy books for the chains and big stores. They don’t accept explanations from the publishers and publishers are well aware of this. Book buyers look at previous print run and previous sell-thru and base orders for the next book on that, along with covers and quotes, etc.

    When pubs don’t pick you back up, they are not blaming the AUTHOR for the sales. It’s just that there’s no overcoming the numbers.

    I wonder how the rise of e-books will change this dynamic.

  26. 26
    medumb says:

    I saw this contest last week, I think it is brilliant.

    I do not know much of this business, and being over the other side of the world, I am curious, does any romance author apart from la nora get any promo from the publishers?
    Don’t seem to come across much online or at this end of the world.

  27. 27
    medumb says:

    OMG I got good English skills huh?
    I haven’t noticed a large amount of promotion for romance books either online or in other formats over this way, except for stuff that is from the author.

    Okay I think I am going back to bed, I am struggling this morning.

  28. 28

    She got the same line I did: Her sell-through was too low. Hard to understand how that can be when the book went unobtainium before her second one even hit the shelf.

    It’s called returns.

    Imagine your first print run is 40,000 books.  (I don’t know Delilah’s numbers, so these are entirely made up.)  You sell 5,000 in the first two months.  Then the chains start returning the books—because the economy is bad and books sitting on the shelves are equivalent to credit freed up for faster-moving titles—and so 30,000 volumes are stripped and sent back to the publisher.  Then you win an award and demand spikes and chains reorder—and you sell whatever was on the shelves plus another 5,000 books of a second print run.  That gives you two print runs, the second of which sold out completely… and 15,000 books sold out of 40,000 printed.

    “Selling out of a second print run” while still having an abysmal sell-through is entirely possible.

    Returns have never been good news for the author, but Delilah’s book hit the shelves at a terrible time in the history of publishing, especially for a debut book with little publisher support.  At around the one month mark for her release, right about the time when bookstores start asking themselves the all-important question of “should I reorder this book or return it?” publishing went kablooey, credit contracted, and every chain out there was suddenly scrambling for a way, any way, to get their Christmas stock of books on the shelves so that they could try to earn their way into the not-so-red for the year.

    They couldn’t get the books on tick, because there was no credit to be had.  So October through November of last year, bookstores returned years and years worth of inventory; there were months when the bookstores nearest my house literally were facing out books right and left and laying out the “new releases” in piles of two to hide the fact that they had returned every last mother-loving book they could get credit for.  (Moonrat had an excellent post on this from the editorial perspective:

    I don’t know Delilah’s numbers at all, and this is pure conjecture on my part, but I would be shocked if that first print run of hers didn’t get swept up in that mass of returns.  If so, her first print run likely didn’t get the sell-through it might have, had it stayed on the shelves.

    Now, you might say—that’s just not fair to Delilah!  Her book might have sold far far better, were it not for an accident of publishing and a unique global economic circumstance.  Why shouldn’t her house give her another chance? 

    And here’s where we get into what Victoria mentioned: It’s the numbers.  The book buyers, when placing that second order, are going to run the numbers.  Are they going to take the time to see if Delilah got swept up in the Great Credit Crunch of 2008?  Probably not.  Are they going to ask any of those questions?  Probably not.  And that means they’re going to base their orders on the number of books that didn’t sell because they weren’t on the shelves.

    So it’s not just that her publisher isn’t giving her another chance.  Nobody else will, either—and if you can’t get your book in the stores, it doesn’t matter how good it is—it’s not going to sell.

  29. 29
    Jody Gore says:

    Delilah is right on with the branding. Book writing is like owning your own business. Regardless of who you publish with you must be promo savvy and constantly push for your sales. Like the Little Red Hen, unless you work it, no one else will. Having the independant pub books on the shelves is an absolute!

    I am a writer, but my true passion lies with author promotion; especially with the small pubs! Authors, you have to make wise choices. Again, Dalilah is right when she talks about giving away a book. Not just for any promo, but when it is important and smart to do so. In other words, will it increase your sales. Research your sites and blogs. Run contests. Think creatively.

    Once upon a time I worked the e-zine, W.O.W. (not the one now…I sold the domain name). I found that, in general, the author interviews that were matched with a book review pulled in the best book sales. For every free book (the reviewers pay for her/his work) the author, on an average, sold two. That is an excellent return. Again, check the website or blog stats before offering your free book. How many hits a day, week, or month does the site receive and is the author interview or review pages top on those hits.

    I will give a blatant plug here, because like Dahlila, I feel the best way to sell books is to lay out the bottom line. Come to my blog. It is new (one week old…lol) so is still under construction. It has a review page and an interview page. As of an hour ago I had 128 hits for today! I am excited ‘cause there ain’t much to see yet, but people are curious.

    Okay, I have blabbed on. Go to and under reviews/interviews you will be able to leave your author information. If that is uncomfortable for you then write me: romancingthepubs @

    Good luck all! I have my fngers crossed for your sales!

    Jody Gore

  30. 30

    Wow.  I’m in New York until Wednesday signing books, so I apologize for not jumping in sooner!  Thank you to everyone who posted and for all your unbelievable support.  I guess the reality is, there is a lot of mystery in this business and it’s difficult to pinpoint exact reasons for certain decisions made.  Bottom line, Kensington gave me my foot in the door when no one else would, which is now opening up other doors I never dreamed possible.  I just had the incredible experience and honor of signing with Donald Maass while here in New York and I know despite the ups and downs in this business, one thing remains constant.  My love for writing.  I will be announcing incredible news in the next week or two and wanted to thank everyone for their support!!!

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