When I say painless, I'm talking about promotional efforts that don't require me to get dressed up, get in the car (with a box of books in the trunk, just in case), drive between 10 and 200 miles to a bookstore, tote my books and bookmarks and postcards and bowl of Hershey Kisses inside, sit or stand at a table for two hours trying to charm customers into talking to me, and then drive home, exhausted, after signing and selling a couple of books. For me, this is the worst kind of torture, especially the part where I have to avoid eating the Kisses, at least until I'm in the car and on the way home.
So what makes someone shell out the cash for a new book?
I step into my reader shoes and think of things that persuade me to buy:
1. I know and like the author, either personally or through online or mail communications.
2. I attend an author's signing or presentation (usually because I know the author) and can buy a signed first edition.
3. I need to buy a gift for a friend or relative (books are always my first choice).
4. I'm browsing in a bookstore for one of those gifts, and I impulsively buy a book for myself based on the cover art and synopsis.
5. I read or hear a great review from a reviewer I trust.
6. A lot of reader buzz is coming from everywhere. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a good example.
There are several things that rarely lead me to purchase a book:
1. Blurbs on book jackets or inside the book cover.
2. In-your-face displays near a bookstore's front door.
3. Bestseller lists.
4. Signings without a reading or presentation by authors I don't know.
Even if I choose not to buy a book myself, I might request a book at the library. That decision is often made after I read about a book on a website or blog, but I don't know the author or reviewer.
In my search for alternative ways to sell books, I'm exploring the world of blog book tours, updating information on organization websites such as my page at Mystery Writers of America, and joining new web social networking sites. I like the looks of Library Thing and intend to go there next. I'll do at least one mailing to libraries in the state where I live (Colorado), the state I grew up (Illinois), and the states where my new book is set (Arizona and Nevada). There are bookmarks to order, maybe postcards, and a few mugs to use in the conference and convention charity auctions.
I'm working my way through these older marketing books, looking for more ideas :
The Complete Guide to Book Marketing by David Cole (revised 2003).
The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't by Carolyn Howard-Johnson (2004)
Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons for Selling Your Work by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman & Michael Larsen (2001)
This blog is more about questions than answers, I guess. I'm not convinced a book signing tour is worth the time and expense. I'm not sure a blog book tour will work either. If anyone else has the answers, please let me know. I'm feeling particularly clueless today and wish I had a bag of Hershey Kisses stashed somewhere in the house.