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  A Neteru may be born every thousand years, but Banks has to birth a book every six months. Add to that the job of marketing, which is many writers’ least favorite part of the process. To Banks it comes as second nature.

The quick production schedule puts her in close touch with her readers’ wishes, because while they’re dissecting her latest book online, she’s rushing to finish the next one. “You get in a lot of chat rooms where people rave about who they love to hate and who they’re afraid for,” Banks says. “I’m thinking, ‘Oh man, I’m going to have to kill [these characters] and then bring them back.’ When you’re doing it every six months it’s almost giving people real time and people are thrilled with what they perceive as real events in the books. Whether it’s Hurricane Katrina or the tsunami, I can put that in there.”

Banks has cultivated reader interest by sponsoring contests to name characters in her books and using a range of online marketing tools, from Twitter to Facebook. To celebrate the release of the final book in the VHL series in February, Banks plans a “big, blowout weekend” involving Philadelphia sites that she mentions in her books, such as Constitution Hall and the Clef Club. During the Comic-Con International in San Diego, Banks teamed up with Devil’s Candy Store to arrange the charitable auction of a one-of-a kind, artist-designed Madame Isis sword (Damali’s special vampire-slaying weapon). She also sold smaller Isis daggers, Damali-inspired jewelry, and coffee-table books featuring artists’ interpretations of the VHL series’ characters.

Not every marketing tactic goes according to plan. When Banks arranged for some promotional trailers to go up on YouTube, some of her readers were steamed by their less-than cinematic quality (and, perhaps, by the fact that the tight abs possessed by the book cover heroine weren’t reflected in the hoodie-wearing actress obtained for the video). Typical comments: OH PLEASE. That better not be Carlos Rivera … I just want to shoot this video … Damali is WAY better looking on the covers than that.

“People have been visceral about the YouTube thing,” Banks says. “People have been clamoring for a movie and there is no way for what it is that those things cost that they’re going to get an Angelina Jolie trailer. It makes me tickled, though. For all the personal drama that has occurred, what they’ve done is driven traffic to the site. The controversy has actually been a benefit.”

FEATURE:
Marketing the Macabre By Susan Frith
Photography by Candace diCarlo

 

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