Shining the Book Promotion Spotlight on John Betcher

John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota.  He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery.  The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.  His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at and at

Welcome to Book Marketing Buzz, John.  Can we begin by having you tell us a little about your book?

First of all, thanks for inviting me to your blog today.

What’s The 19th Element about? I like the summary on the book jacket. Here it is—

Al Qaeda plans to attack Minnesota’s Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant as a means to return the down-trodden terrorist organization to international prominence.

In addition to their own devoted forces, the terrorists enlist some homegrown anarchists, and a Three Mile Island survivor with a pathological vendetta against the nuclear establishment, to assist in the assault.

James “Beck” Becker is a former elite U.S. government intelligence operative who has retired to his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota – just six miles down the Mississippi from the Prairie River nuclear facility.

Possessing wisdom born of experience, Beck suspects the terrorists’ intentions as soon as the body of a university professor turns up on the Mississippi shore – the clear victim of foul play.

He recognizes connections between seemingly unrelated incidents – the murdered agronomy professor, a missing lab assistant, an international cell call, a stolen fertilizer truck – but can’t piece it together in enough detail to convince government authorities that a larger threat exists.  Only his American Indian friend, “Bull,” will help Beck defuse the threat.

So it’s Beck and Bull versus international terror.

May the better men win.

What is the first thing you did to promote your book once your publisher accepted your manuscript?

I sought out unbiased reviewers to read and critique the book. Since my book is self-published, I didn’t have access to The NY Times, Publisher’s Weekly or Kirkus Reviews to provide pre-release publicity and traditional credibility. So I needed to identify and impose upon other sources to get reviews. Without INDEPENDENT reviews of the book, how could I differentiate it from all the other self-published books out there – about a million new titles this year alone? I have not regretted that strategy and will pursue it with each new book I write.

What did your publisher do to promote your book?

My POD Printer at CreateSpace provided easy sales access through – including free shipping over $25. CreateSpace also made my book available in paperback through publishing industry wholesalers such as Ingram Book Company, so it was easy for retailers, schools and libraries to buy it through their normal channels.

All the rest of the book marketing was up to me. And I have enjoyed the experience so far.

What’s your opinion on blogging?  Do you see that it is helping sell your book or is it not making much difference in terms of sales?

It’s really too early for me to say whether my writer’s blog at Self-Publishing Central  ( is contributing directly to book sales. The book has only been available for about four months. And I’ve only been blogging since this past April.

Although I don’t know if my blog has helped my books sales, I do know that the blog contents have been useful to many self-published authors. How do I know? They tell me in emails, FaceBook posts and Twitter messages. So I’ll do my best to keep the blog going for that reason alone – to be of some help to other writers.

I understand using the social networks to promote your books is also an effective marketing tool.  Do you find it is or isn’t?

Once again, I can’t directly correlate my participation in Twitter (@JohnBetcher) or on FaceBook with book sales. But it seems to me that book marketing on the internet is at least partly a matter of numbers. The more places potential readers (or other writers) can see you and your books in a positive light, the greater the chance that sales will increase.

I do know that Twitter drives nearly 50% of the internet traffic I receive on my author website at So I take that as a good sign. I believe that social networking is a useful marketing tool.

Besides blogging and using the social networks to promote your books, what other ways are you doing it?

I have attended a regional book festival, met with book clubs, sent emails and books out to newspapers and magazines for review, held author book signings, contacted famous authors for endorsements and engaged in a number of other marketing activities on the local front.

If you had to pick just one book marketing tool that you’ve used to promote your book, which would you say has been the most effective?

I’m afraid that’s a question that remains to be answered. It’s too early to tell what is working and what is not. Sorry. I wish I had a magic bullet for all you authors out there.

My approach has been to try everything available within budget constraints. I suspect that, in the end, it will not be any single marketing tool that makes THE difference – but a collection of all of them together.

Your key search words are important to help the thousands of Internet users find you.  What are your key search words and have you noticed more hits to your blog or website because of them?

My key words are: nuclear, terrorist, Minnesota, thriller, Red Wing, al Qaeda

What are your experiences with offline promotions such as booksignings?  Do you feel they were cost effective?

My understanding is that a typical book signing event for a new author should be expected to yield sales of about four books. So purely on the basis of sales at the signings themselves, the events don’t make dollar sense. But a book signing is also an opportunity to network with readers, hand out advertising materials (like bookmarks) and practice your oral pitches for your books. So there are other benefits besides sales. I think authors should try to do them when they’re not too inconvenient.

Thank you for this interview, John!  We wish you much success!

And thank you to you and your readers for allowing me to visit your blog today. Cheers!

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