One Writer’s Marketing Platform for a Debut Novel

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Luke MurphyMy marketing started with the writing of my book. I always had a plan, an idea of the plot, but now I had to think about the characters and setting, and I had to think about my target audience.

I wanted characters that readers could relate to. Characters that were real, not fictional to the point of unbelievable. My protagonist, Calvin Watters, is as real as they come, with faults and weaknesses like us all. Because of my sports background, I wanted Calvin to also have an athletic background. I was a pro hockey player, but I decided that hockey would be fine for a Canadian fan base, but I wanted to cater worldwide, so I chose football.

For the setting, I needed a major market in the United States that people would want to read about, so I chose Sin City, Las Vegas. Everyone is interested in this fast-paced, party-all-night city.

In today’s society, most people don’t realize that writing a book is more than just putting a good story down on paper. I learned this quickly. Agents and publishers want someone with a “platform,” someone who already has a fan base and is guaranteed to sell books. It’s risky for a publisher to take a chance on a new writer, because there is no telling how many books they will sell, no matter how good that book may be.

In 1999, I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in Marketing, so I felt I had a running start at promoting my work.

It took me two years (working around full-time jobs) to complete the first draft of my novel.

It Was Time to Build my Marketing Platform

Once my publishing contract was signed, then the real work began, building my marketing platform. I knew that when I signed on with a smaller publisher that the bulk of the work promoting my book would fall on my shoulders, and I was prepared.

I did four things quickly:

  1. I created my own website.
  2. I started a blog.
  3. Opened a Facebook author page.
  4. I joined Twitter account.

Here are some things I did next:

  • I scribed a letter to all of my email contacts (2500) and all of my Facebook friends (2500).
  • I sent a letter to all of the media outlets (radio, TV, print) in the cities where I played hockey or have contacts. One of the benefits of playing professional hockey was that I went through a lot of interviews with personalities in all forms of media.
  • I picked out the site for my launch party and spoke with the owner about it.
  • I played hockey for teams and leagues all over North America, creating a fan base in a variety of cities, and also worked in hockey camps, so I already had some followers that I contacted.
  • I was a reporter on the radio for a couple of years after retiring from hockey, and my radio reporting was a presence on the web as well as in radio.
  • My sports column (2006-2009), Overtime, which was a main feature in The Pontiac Equity, not only had a following, it helped me learn how to write concise and exciting prose.
  • I created a list of local stores for potential book signings.
  • I compiled a list of local stores where I could sell my book.

Next I picked out my target audience and searched the web for them:

  • Thriller readers looking for an atypical thriller hero—an African-American who is no saint.
  • Sports fans will be fascinated by Watters’ struggle to recover his decency and win, a kind of Blind Side story with little sentimentality and few illusions.
  • A Las Vegas setting—the world of The Hangover movies and many youth films like Bridesmaids—will appeal to 20s-30s readers.
  • Watters’ romance with a former prostitute will appeal to younger female readers.  The marital tension between Detective Dayton and his wife will interest adults. Both men and women will enjoy the twist on the femme fatale figure of the murderer’s lover, who has her own schemes.
  • Lovers of history, as the term, “Dead Man’s Hand,” is a legend dating back to the Wild West of the 1800’s.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067]

I started creating relationships on the Internet through Facebook and Twitter. I met not only authors, but fans of the genres I write.

When my book was released in October 2012, I felt I had a solid foundation to stand on.

I contacted the media for interviews, held book signings, joined shows and had a blog tour. I contacted anyone who wrote a blog and asked about being a guest. I joined Pinterest, Linkedin, and Google+, as well as sites created to support Indie authors. I did anything I could to get my name out there, get my book in front of readers.

My publisher set up special promotions where my book was Free on Amazon for certain periods of time. All of this was done to increase my following, and expand the awareness of my book on a worldwide scale. This will hopefully lead to future sales with not only my debut novel, but subsequent books if I’m fortunate enough to write more.

Since my book was released at the end of October, I didn’t have a full three months for my first quarterly royalty statement. But in just over two months, I sold: 511 kindle copies and 32 paperbacks.

I had no idea what to expect going in because this was my first book. I’ve been happy with the result thus far, but I don’t have anything to compare it to. I feel that the more books I write, the more success I will have. The more I get out there, the more excitement and interest is garnered.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


Editor’s Note: Luke forgot to mention that as of this writing, he has 68 five-star reviews on Amazon. Not bad!

Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, three daughters and pug. He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude). Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012. For more information on Luke and his books, visit:,  his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter

Social Media Just for Writers by Frances Caballo

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