Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sowing the Seeds of Your Book

After my book, No Evidence of a Crime, was released last fall, I contacted all my friends and family with the news and my books sales soared as they ran out to buy a copy. But, what to do next? It seemed obvious; I would lean back and rest upon my lush, green laurels and let my great, new book fly off the shelves. But, in fact, what I was resting upon was a cold, hard slab of reality as book sales dropped to nothing. (Note to self: I have no laurels).

Hmmm, I needed a plan. As a forensic scientist, I knew I needed to generate some empirical data to assess the best course of action. So I started a systematic campaign to track down what is the best way to sell a book. Enter Facebook. They had a proposition for me. Yes, sent directly to me, a proposition. They must have known! (They know everything). They would advertise my book on Facebook to millions of members free of charge and only if someone was interested in my book and clicked on the title would they charge a few cents to my account. Clicking on my book would send the clicker directly to my page where they could immediately buy my book. This was brilliant; not as easy as resting upon your laurels but close. Each week Facebook sent me feel good messages about how many hundreds of thousands of people saw my ad, how many people liked it, how many clicked on my book, how many more potentially could. After a few weeks, I stopped the campaign to assess its effectiveness. I couldn’t wait to see the data. In the end, I sold a handful of books. (For those not familiar with units of handful, it is a number not to exceed what you can count on one hand).

Time to change strategies. My next strategy was local. I had a little article in my local paper. I made sure I mentioned my book at any party, any graduation, any “Hi, what’s new?”. And, even though to equal Facebook in exposure you would have to multiply the number of people with whom I had contact by one million, the nod goes to the locals giving me higher sales but I was swimming in a pretty small pond.

Next I wanted to see if giveaways are effective in selling books. I joined Fantastic place; readers wanting to read books, authors having books to read. I signed up to give my book away. The end result…. 2682 people signed up to try and win a copy of my book, 248 people clicked that they would like to read my book, 5 people actually have read it and gave me some good reviews and ratings (5 people, hmmm, back to that darn handful, again).

Next I will try Blogging (definitely not my strong suit). I think there are the natural bloggers whose words fly out of their fingers and the struggling bloggers, like me, who chews on a topic in the back of their brain until they know just what they want to say only to return to the blog-site and see there were already 172 responses, everyone became bored with the topic and all moved on to three new topics. But, I will do my best. I have a few blog interviews coming out and a Killer Nashville e-zine article. In the end, I think I know what the results will say.
It will say: Doing anything is better than doing nothing. For most of us, books won’t fly off the shelf. The best we can hope for is to plant our book in the palm of someone’s hand and hope something will grow from it.


Carol Crigger said...

I hear you and feel your pain. I'm going the blog appearance route, but have no idea if it's resulted in even one sale. I'm also taking my book to local farmer's markets and talking it up wherever I can. Sales? Slow. That old "handful" thing, and that's on a good day.

Two Feet Below

Holli said...

I also think there's no one size fits all to promotion. Mike Orenduff does fabulously with personal appearances and book signings, some people do better to stay out of the public's eye. Some have found success with stricly online campaigns, some a combination.

Sunny Frazier is super organized, choosing one day a week for her online promotion. I'm more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl.

Whatever works, stick with it I guess.

Gumbo Justice

Marja Mcgraw said...

I think many of us can relate to what you're saying. If I ever come up with a killer promotion, I'll share. But don't hold your breath.

Kit Sloane said...

Great post. As long as I've been doing this, and it's a LONG time, the most asked question is always, what works best when doing PR. One of my series had really major pre-orders and I felt I should support that by doing an amazing amount of PR. It nearly killed me! But the bottom line after doing all this was NO, or highly minimal, increase in the original sales. And when I think of all the TIME (and $$, because most PR does have costs) I spent doing the PR. Well, you just have to try it all and see what balances with your lifestyle AND your time and money considerations. Wish there was a magic formula!

S. Connell Vondrak said...

Thanks for all the great comments. My original title was Marketing Observations from a Newbie but it sounds like it is a hurdle for most of us.

Sally Carpenter said...

This weekend I finished writing an article for the Killer Nashville e-zine too. Looks like that's the hot spot for authors right now! I'm just starting the marketing for my OTP book. My membership in Sisters in Crime will be a big help, as I already have a couple of readings and author panels booked through that group. I recommend SinC for any mystery writer! (men are welcome too).
Sally Carpenter
"The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper"

WS Gager said...

Great post and it was interesting to see your results. I have tried a lot of things and have had similar results. The best we can all do is keep trying and keep supporting each other with mentions, comments and support.
A Case of Hometown Blues coming soon!!!!

Sunny Frazier said...

Okay, now for some specifics.
1. Keep books in your car and one in your handbag. You'll be surprised to have sales on the run. I sell one or two copies every train or plane trip.
2. Have business cards with your bookcover on them.
3. You have a real edge with forensics--give interesting cases & info in blogs.
4. SinC chapters always looking for speakers. You would be a treasure.
5. Ask your local library for an author night. Or, do I like I did--create a bookfest.
6. I have a new strategy, untried. Upscale trailer parks and gated communities or senior centers. They have newsletters, a rec room and people with disposable income. That's what I'm doing this summer.
7. Find a friend with connections and a nice house and have her throw you a book launch. I sold $500 worth at one.
8. Local reading groups. Two ordered my books and then had me come to ask me questions.

S. Connell Vondrak said...

I was going to have in the article about how I get it, now (but I thought it was already a little long). I get it, when you tell your Posse to go blog here, or you need to join this, or make sure you leave a comment there. It is doing all those things, a little here, a little there that moves a book along.

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