Monday, July 4, 2011

Marketing: What's Working for Me

Unless you're fortunate enough to have a publicist--and in some cases, even if you are--you're like the rest of us: trying to muddle through the marketing maze. Many of you are wise enough, and have time enough, to dig through the ever-growing mountain of marketing blogs, books, sites, and tips. If you're like me and life threw you several consecutive curve balls, you didn't have time to tackle the mountain. "Muddle through" is the correct phrase for the business end of your marketing and promotions.

My novel, Give the Lady a Ride, debuted in March, and while I haven't been as meticulous as I would've liked about charting sales-to-efforts ratios, I do have an inkling of what's working for me. One caveat here: What works for me may not work for others. I excel at grabbing and/or creating personal opportunities. Most every other writer I know excels at marketing on the Internet. But the Internet is a fickle lover, and it moves on quickly when you're not attentive, proving the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" maxim. If my life hadn't been in such turmoil over the bulk of this year, the sales results may have been different.

So far, the most sales I make is through physical interaction with the readers. Coming in at number two are the early blog tours I scheduled. (But for those blog tours to work, or for any cyber-event to work, you have to start building your platform long before you're published.) I tried other tools, aside from socializing on the Internet and writing blog posts on all my sites. I'll enumerate some of these for you here:

March through June marketing and promotion activities:
  • A debut tour of at least twenty-seven blogs, which included reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways
  • A cyber-party
  • Newspaper ads
  • A local debut party/book signing
  • A hosted book signing at a local festival
  • A sale booth at a festival out of town (I love these festivals. They'll be a permanent part of my marketing efforts from now on)
  • Ad campaigns on Goodreads and Facebook
  • Stocking my books in offbeat stores (at first, just a pharmacy and a hair salon, each of which sold out twice) as well as local bookstores
  • Individual efforts of myself, family, and friends (included in this is the time my mother sold two books while receiving a blood transfusion, and three more after surgery the following month. Where else could you find this kind of dedication?)
The only way I can measure how my efforts in cyberspace do is through my sales info page on Amazon. Amazon sales were just a small percentage of my overall sales. In fact, over the four months, Amazon sales made up just over one-fifth of my total sales. Is this an accurate measure? I doubt it--especially since Barnes & Noble wouldn't allow me an author page, so I have no clue how many sold there. If the number is comparable to Amazon, it would bring Internet sales up to almost half of my overall sales.

Goodreads and Facebook Ads

Whether you want to call these "effective" depends on what you're trying to achieve. Have I wasted my money? I don't know. Let me break them down for you:

Goodreads

The ad was far less expensive than the Facebook ad, which is one thing going for it. It's also less confusing and easier to design and purchase. With both Goodreads and Facebook, you get a report illustrating how many times your ad was visible on the site and how many times someone "clicked" on it. With Goodreads, the result you're hoping for is "Book Added," meaning someone clicked on the ad, then put the book on their "wish" list, which, of course, you hope will translate into sales.

I ran four campaigns through two months, which resulted in having my book added thirteen times. However, between the ads and the two giveaways I've held on the site, I have a total of 175 "book added" clicks and 146 folks holding it on their "to read" list. That means 163 people added the book as a result of the two giveaways.

Will this result in actual sales? Hasn't yet. As for the ads, the months I ran them were the worst Amazon months I recorded. Still, we'll see.

Facebook

Facebook gave me plenty of exposure, and when you consider how many folks are on the site, that's not too surprising. Facebook charges more per click than Goodreads does, which can eat through your daily budget pretty quickly. But both sites allow you to design your ad campaigns around your budget, and the amount you spend is totally up to you.

As with Goodreads, the months I ran the Facebook ads were my worst months on Amazon; however, the number of people on my fan page tripled. (I'm small-fry, so if you go to the Give the Lady a Ride fan page, you won't see an impressive number. But hey, since you're there, hit "like" for me, will ya?--oh, and that brings out another point. Don't do what I did and have a fan page for your book. Make it an author page. I'm still smacking my head over that gaffe.)

From what I can tell, most of my fans have already read the book, so I don't expect this to turn into sales, but . . . you never know. Fans have friends.

At this point, I want to go back and reiterate some of the things I said at the beginning of this post. Between the illnesses and deaths in my family--the curve balls I mentioned--I haven't been able to dedicate as much time to marketing as I should. The fact that I procrastinated in my marketing studies, and subsequently didn't have time for them after all the crises hit, doesn't help anything. I'm certain there are far more effective tools out there than what I'm using, and people who are far more effective using them. And I'd bet they got that way by studying early. Free advice: don't procrastinate.

For me, my best marketing tool is physical contact. I'm looking forward to my speaking engagements and late fall festivals. Interacting with people, shaking hands, swapping stories, allowing my picture to be taken with them--these work best for me. It'll take much longer for me to become a nationwide "name," but in the meantime, I'm enjoying it.

Marketing guru/author Jim Rubart impressed me at the ACFW conference last year. He gave those of us in attendance of his course the easiest and least expensive marketing gimick around. Paraphrasing, he said, "Whenever you go somewhere, someone will ask, 'how are you?' The perfect response for an author is 'Great! I have a new book out!' That's the best conversation starter there is."

Let me add to his advice: Have a supply of books in your car. You'll be surprised how many spontaneous sales you'll make.
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