In 2009, Delilah Marvelle won the author interview I donated to the Brenda Novak auction, and in that interview, we talked about marketing, and about her School of Gallantry series that she wanted to finish. At that time, she said of RT that it was one of the most effective tools for branding herself as a first-time author, as it allowed her to contact readers directly.
Now, four years later, Marvelle has published more than ten historical romances. Recently she contacted me because she's self-publishing the rest of her series after trying to sell it – and after turning down a contract for a new series. She agreed to answer some of my nosy questions, so here we are.
Tell me about what you're self publishing?
Delilah Marvelle: I'm excited to say that I've self-published a historical romance, Lady of Pleasure, which continues the School of Gallantry series which New York had turned its back on, despite its popularity with readers. It's a cheeky series about a School in 1830 London run by a retired, elderly courtesan who educates men in the topic of love and seduction.
When my series was cut short back in 2009, there wasn't a way for me to deliver those books into the hands of readers who wanted it. And now? I'm thrilled to say I finally have the means to do that and more. I haven't been *this* excited about my writing or my writing career until now. It's an incredible time for authors and readers.
When we spoke in 2009, you spoke about marketing yourself, and trying to revive a series that might not survive. What's changed, and what do you see and do differently now?
Delilah: Setting side the fact that self-publishing has exploded onto the market and changed the way authors deliver and control their content, I can also say that we, as authors, are now able to communicate with our readers on a far more intensive and personal level. The social media circles have exploded.
In 2009, I thought I was cool by being on MySpace, lol.
The ability to touch a finger to anyone and everyone in an instant is something I never saw coming. Authors have so many more tools available to them, it's staggering. The weight of marketing now consumes every aspect of an author's brand and career. With all of the books being published, both through New York and in self-publishing, you can't expect to just write a good book and be successful. People have to know about your book and social media and staying connected lends to that and more.
I will also say Google is an author's best friend. There are so many amazing people out on the web sharing their marketing tips and what they know. Because let's face it, unless you have a marketing background, what does an author know about marketing. With Google and social media, it becomes not only possible but the learning curve is something I have completely submitted myself to.
What are some specific things you've learned about reaching out to readers and using social media as a connection tool?
Delilah: Readers genuinely love being part of our writing worlds. It's amazing to welcome them into your world, but it's also time consuming. To include readers in your world in a genuine way, it's not about “selling” your book but showcasing who you are and why you are worth their time. Because there are tons of other writers. But what makes you special? Are you special? Those are questions I am constantly asking myself.
I have learned to be passionate about my writing, yes, but I have also learned to be passionate about my readers and give them something other than a book. I strive to be unique by creating a world only I can give them.
Outside of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, I have found two favorite methods of reaching out to my readers that I feel are unique to me. One is having a video newsletter readers can sign up for via my website. It's interactive and opens up my creativity and my twisted sense of humor. My latest video newletter which went out to readers, for example, included a “Historical Book Club for Men.” It was a riot having everyday men in historical costumes reading snippets from my books. I had to share it with my readers because it made me laugh.
I also host a blog called A BIT O'MUSLIN that chronicles all of my research about Sex throughout History. Readers want to be entertained and I'm here to give it in between all the books, lol.
I've been doing a unique post for my blog every first of the month since 2008. It allows me to interact with people over fascinating topics that interest me (and them). Starting this August, I'm revamping my blog in response to its popularity and will be turning my posts into monthly videos. It's all about having fun and letting your readers have fun right along with you. Because if there's one thing I've learned in this industry, which I apply to all of my social media, it's not about selling, but about making genuine connections.
What are some of the things you do different now vs. 2009? How have readers responded to your approach? Is there anything that you've done that you can point to and say, “OK, that worked the best”?
Delilah: Some of the biggest things I do differently? I have taken complete control of my website, my newsletter and all social media as opposed to letting someone do it for me. It allows me to be more creative and more interactive and readers appreciate getting the real me. Yeah, it's time consuming, but they don't expect me to be on 24/7. In fact, I always announce when I disappear into my 'cave' to write. I find that readers appreciate me not yapping every two seconds anyway, lol. So it simply goes back to that whole thing of making genuine connections. Autobots can't connect or respond in the way I can.
The second biggest thing I do differently? Instead of buying countless trinkets to give away, I started really focusing on getting my books into the hands of the reader by giving away copies. Especially when I go to reader conventions. People spend money on pens, stickers, and heaven knows what, but I find what the reader really wants is a chance to read your work. Will a pen make them go to your website? Maybe. But excerpt booklets and copies of your books will guarantee *someone* will read it.
Though I will say, depending on what the trinket is, it can make a difference. My penis candies were extremely popular, lol, and got shoved into every purse and pocket. So I wouldn't say all trinkets are bad, but I have learned to focus on my books, not the penis candy, lol. How have readers responded to both of these? Readers love being connect and readers *love* being able to get a chance to read an author they have never read before. I get countless emails all the time from readers who tell me I've become their auto buy after receiving a free copy at a convention.
What has worked the best? Giving away copies of my books. Without any doubt.
What do you recommend for an author who can't necessarily attend a reader convention?
If an author can't attend a reader convention, they should talk to someone who is going and see if that person would be willing to take some of your books and/or excerpt booklets. (Or you could have it shipped to their room). I tag team with people all the time. Because let's face it, it's expensive. It's a cost effective way of doing it and when it comes to the author community, there are always a ton of amazing people willing to help you out. Have everything signed, so they're personalized. Or have bookmarks made with the back blank (I do this), so you can have space to sign the back.
Leaving things at the goody tables, in my opinion, misses the point of going to a reader convention. It's all about making connections. Handing them out in the ladies room, lol, is better than leaving them on a table. You want people to meet you. Not just your book.
When I went to my first RT convention back in 2009 and only had one book under my belt, no one knew who the heck I was. But I was determined to change that. I shipped 250 copies of my book Mistress of Pleasure to the hotel as part of my marketing investment and hit the pavement with a goal to get every book into the hands of a reader I met.
When people were lining up to go into a historical romance event, I knew I was dealing with my crowd. So I'd go down the line with a pile of my books and ask if anyone wanted a free signed copy and introduced myself. The response was amazing! This worked really well for me and I continue to do it at conventions.
Interestingly enough, not even two months after I gave away all 250 copies, I sold out of my print run. Are they related? Who knows, but I feel good knowing I didn't sit back and I got to meet so many new people.
How many books do you send out online?
It depends. When it comes to reviewers, if they ask, they get. I never turn down a reviewer, because dang it, their jobs are hard, lol. As for readers, I pace myself.
I do a lot of print and digital giveaways to launch a book, from posting stuff on GoodReads, for my Street Team, My Facebook people, my Twitter People and so on. With my last book, I gave away 30 print copies and about the same in digital. It really depends on my budget.
If you were going to give a new author advice on reaching readers, what advice do you have?
Being a new kid on the block is overwhelming and it doesn't help that no one knows who you are. The biggest advice I can give to a new author trying to reach readers is to network with other authors and be visible online.
What do I believe is the single most effective way of reaching readers? Reviewers. New authors should contact as many reviewers as possible, asking them if they would be willing to review your book. Because reviewers have followers, and just because a reviewer has maybe 30 followers, doesn't mean you should pass that reviewer up. Every reviewer counts. People talk and if they love a book, even one reviewer on Facebook or Twitter can echo out into the world better than you can on your own.
The more of an imprint you make on the internet, the more people hear your name. With my first book, I personally contacted well over 50 reviewers. And I can say, yes, that was the biggest difference I made in reaching my readers as a new author.
What more can you tell us about your new self-pub book? Where is it located in the series?
My new self-pub book was originally started back in 2009 shortly before I found out the series no longer had a home. Because no publisher wanted to take a book that was in the middle of a series, I had to set it aside and went on to write other books. I really hated walking away from this series, because it made me laugh so much. I didn't return to the series until this past fall when I started getting more and more readers asking why I wasn't self-publishing it. It was an insanely good question, lol, and one I decided to take on. I decided to take on self-publishing full time to make room for it by turning down a three book contract from New York.
I've grown a lot as a writer and working with top notch editors at Harlequin gave me a better grasp of what I needed to do with not only my career but this book and this series. I was stupid enough to have this 'brilliant' idea that all five books in the School of Gallantry series would take place at the same time and would overlap in certain scenes. It took a lot of magic for me to ensure my readers were getting something new and fresh with each book. This book was no exception. I was surprised to find I not only pulled it off but really enjoyed all the puzzle piecing.
Lady of Pleasure ( A | BN | K | S | iB ) is Book 3 out of the 5 book historical romance series and delves into the life of Lady Caroline who grows up with four sisters and a brother in a *very* unconventional family. Her aristocratic parents had an open marriage and were part of an quiet, underground community known as the Whipping Society (think BDSM in 1830). Though she grows up fast as a result of her parents' openness toward life and sex, she clings to the more romantic side that her parents have ignored. Lord Caldwell is her brother's closest friend whom she has been in love with since she was thirteen. He, also, grew up unconventionally, but has a much darker side than Caroline.
What connects this series is a school taught by a retired, elderly French courtesan, who educates men on relationships. I based her character and the school on the 17th century courtesan Ninon de L'Enclos, who was Voltaire's godmother and actually held meetings with aristocratic gentlemen in her bedchamber to discuss and assist them with their relationships. I took her story a step beyond the meetings and just turned it into an actual school. Which was fun. The book is funny, gritty, and twisted. A combination I always love to play with.