Friday, June 5, 2009

Painless Book Promotion -- Wishful Thinking?

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.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

If you haven't already, join the fabulous Yahoo Group, Murder Must Advertise. Wonderful info there on the boards and in the archives.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Galen Kindley said...

Golly, did this post resonate with me. Painful is a charitable description of book signings. I just hate them. Unless you're someone the public knows, they’re very, very tough, expensive, and exhausting. As to online tours…Galen takes a deep breath…I’m willing to keep an open mind.

I am troubled, though that for our blogging class, I’ve only been able to attract other authors, and those are from this class who are more or less obliged to come visit. I appreciate them all, but, what I think we really need is just plain old readers. Where the heck are they? My tweetering and Facebooking, and whatever have done little--no nothing--to generate reader traffic…at least as measure by comments. Clearly I’m doing something wrong, or, my content is the pits, or both. Shrug. Maybe it will all work out.

Anyway, good and timely post, Patricia.

Best Regards, Galen.

Karen Walker said...

Ditto, Galen and Patricia. My blog site visits have actually dropped since the 30-day blog challenge and no new visitors at all. I'm feeling like I want to quit all this stuff and just write, even if no one will ever read my work. Whine, whine whine,

Lynnette Labelle said...

I had to laugh. The things you marked as what rarely makes you buys books are what mostly make me buy them.

I've been growing my blog. All you have to do is visit other people's blogs, read 'em, and leave a comment. If you're interested, become a follower, if not, a comment will do. Many times, people will check out your blog and either leave a comment or follow you.

I find new blogs every day by clicking on people who've commented on blogs I follow. Sometimes, I even click on their followers. There are a lot of bloggers out there, you just have to find them.

Also, if you have a site meter, you can see exactly how many people traffic your site. Not everyone leaves a comment, so don't go by that. One more thing... Your followers won't necessarily read your blog every day either, so you can't go by that number. You want to know how many peeps are reading your blog every day. There are different contraptions to monitor this, but site meter is what I use (the free version) and I love it.

Lynnette Labelle

N A Sharpe said...

It is so hard to figure out the right combination of things to do to attract the readers. It is all so time consuming but a necessity. It feels like time might be better spent writing...but then you have another book with no marketing. It is frustrating.

Nancy, from Just a Thought…

Karen in TN said...

You might want to consider publishing your books for the Amazon Kindle or offering them as free ebooks, then joining some of the author forums for these formats (kindleboards and mobileread are two such) where authors mingle with readers (who predominate). Many of those authors have found that free or nearly free copies of their books result in sales they would not have had (and more total income, not just more readers). A $10 book offered for $1 often results in a 10 times higher sales volume-- you make the same income, but have a reader base 10 times higher for the next book. This works especially well for those with multiple books out in print, but also for "new" (ie, undiscovered) authors out there.

It can also help to track down blogs that do book reviews or are otherwise followed by book readers (mine concentrates on "bargain" ebooks, for example, but includes other book reviews) and see what you can do to be mentioned on those.

If you have contests for free book copies, promote them heavily ... try to join up with other authors and do a large cross-promotion (one contest, dozens of authors, with cross advertising and perhaps even the a requirement to track down a trivia answer on each, for example, is a gimmick that Samhain and others use).

Books On The Knob

Karen in TN said...


Thanks for visiting my blog. I replied to you there, but am reposting here, to make sure you see it:

Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your book. You might also want to check out this post, to see how a few Kindle authors have done:

Books On The Knob

Linda Faulkner said...

I have to agree with Lynnette. I've found that keeping yourself in front of people, whether in person or in cyberspace, is essential for the success of your marketing campaign.

Unlike you, Patricia, I love getting in front of people. I'm an introvert, but outgoing and I do well in small groups. Still, I don't have anywhere near the time needed to do lots of signings.

One thing I found that is a terrific way of marketing painlessly is to have postcards printed. I've found an Internet site that allows you to upload a photo of your book cover on one side and design the print for the back side. They're very inexpensive and you can distribute them locally, mail them to far away places, or bribe friends and relatives into distributing 25-50 of them in exchange for a free copy of your book.

Cassandra Jade said...

Great advice - thanks for sharing this post. I must admit, I do tend to do random draws of books on shelves and the blurbs have a lot to tell me. Frequently though I put books through the first page test - if I can't get interested in the book by the end of the first page, as in my fingers aren't itching to turn over, then I am not going to buy the book. Still I'm finding that more often now, I am drawn to books that are spoken about on blogs or recommended by people I've been talking to. Thanks again for the great post and sharing this information.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. I had exactly this kind of experience Saturday afternoon with a Sisters in Crime of Upstate NY panel at a local library. Thre were five writers and eight people in the audience, not counting three family members, three chapter members (fans, not writers) and one frustrated bookseller.

I sold two books, then went out with one of my writer friends and her husband and blew my great profit on a half rack of baby back ribs and two glasses of merlot. That part was the most fun.
To add to the misery at the panel, the moderator elected to show old film clips as a springboard for a discussion about crime writing. She didn't know how to use the library's DVD player, and there were long agonizing pauses and mistakes - like one of those performance anxiety nightmares I often have. Thank Goddess it wasn't me at the controls - but then I would never have volunteered for techie duty.

On the upside, sometimes it's fun bouncing ideas back and forth with my fellow writers - when we don't get too bogged down in blatantly self-promotional monologues.