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:


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 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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  1. I really enjoyed your Blog and found good information here. Social media is one of the most increasingly important areas of a digital marketing agency package. Internet users make social media work.

    Outsourced Marketing

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I know that internet marketing is increasingly important and is a great tool for leveraging time and budget, but we also need to remember that, when it comes down to it, personal relationships and offline interactions are still important parts of the mix for building long-term relationships.

  3. Great info here, Linda. I've been considering purchasing ads on FB and GR, so hearing your input on the subject is particularly valuable. Love the anecdote from Jim Rubart too!

  4. Very true! I just had lunch at the Olive Garden yesterday and while I was giving my friend her Bday present (yup, two of my books), it caught the waitress's eye. Luckily I had some books in my car - translated into a sale :)

    Great article btw... it's tough because books are such an investment of people's time. It's not in one ear and out in 30 minutes as it is with music. It's time people are buying, and sadly most people don't have that luxury.


  5. It's hard to be 'out there' in person, though, don't you think? It has been my best sales tool, though, too ... so ...
    I liked Wanderlusts comment about people buying their TIME when they buy a book. So true, and time is something everyone is short of these days.

  6. That's a great list of promotional activities. How have the local festivals worked out so far?

    I was looking into maybe getting a table at a local music festival, but the rates seemed kind of steep unless I got the early bird pricing (which closed in March). Maybe next year...or maybe I could get some space with another local author.

  7. Awesome, Linda! I'm hanging on every word so I can implement these when the time comes! Thank you!

  8. Fascinating post Linda! Thanks for sharing this info.

  9. Samual--"Internet users make social media work." Absolutely. I'm almost certain there would be no social media without internet users.

    John--You're right about internet marketing being "a great tool for leveraging time and budget." It can also drain your time. I'm *still* striving for a balance between writing time and marketing time!

    Katie--I'm living proof Jim's advice works. I sold a book at the grocery store to the checkout lady and one in the bank to the teller. Gotta love it!

    Wanderlusting--I *love* your experience at Olive Garden! Like I said, keep a stock in the car. You just never know!

    Tracy--I don't know whether you mean "hard" because you're shy, or "hard" because you have a hard time finding opportunities. I've been blessed with some wonderful opportunities, which have lead to other opportunities, but as far as being shy, I'm such a ham, I put pigs to shame. Terry Burns's book *A Writer's Survival Guide to Getting Published* has a great segment about conquering shyness. I highly recommend it.

    MGalloway--The first festival didn't cost me a thing because I was hosted by one of the stores. The second is a different matter. Aside from booth slot, we had to buy the canopy, an extra table, and some chairs. Having that already, the next won't be so bad. What really helped was the write-up about my book in the town's local paper along with my post on their festival's facebook wall. Granted, it was my husband's home town, but we sold more to people we didn't know than people we did. It was good. It'll be better next time.

    Getting space with another author would be brilliant. If you can find a group to split cost (and time spent stuck under the canopy) you'll have a blast!!!

    Lynn--I can't wait for your time to come!!!

    Joy(my romance novel guru)--you're welcome. :D

  10. Good ideas here, Linda. I hope you are past the crisis and will have smooth sailing in the several years ahead. You've gone through enough!

    I've looked at the FB and Goodreads adds but haven't taken the plunge, so far.

    I like your ideas about off the wall stores to put your book in. For my next book I need to do a lot more of that. Mostly I've focused in online sales to this point.

  11. Appreciate your ideas and your honest evaluations. I understand curve balls. When my non-fiction book came out I was dealing with a life-threatening illness--totally hadn't planned on that!! Did it affect my ability to market my book? Absolutely!

  12. Lynnette, after the Bremond festival, I got placed in a western-wear store and, get this, a graphics design store! We'll see how it does.

    Beth--I know what you mean. I finished my first novel, Shattered Crystal (not worth publishing), in three years, between all my surgeries.

  13. Thanks for a very useful post Linda - I second the advice to carry books around with you in the car etc. So many times Ive been out and about and run into people who want to know can they buy a book? Where? And if I'd had them on me, i would have had an instant sale. Instead of directing them a store/outlet and then you know they prob wont get around to it for awhile ( if ever..we are all procrastinators!)

  14. Ms. Yezak, you are bull's eye dead on. I have never marketed a book, but this approach works for marketing battleships or paperclips. PLUS,,, your presentation last night at the East Texas Writers' Guild was right on spot too. Thanks for the visit and I can't wait to get "give a ride" on my new book. Thanks again, Glenn

  15. Thanks, Glenn. My method is too hodge-podge to be really successful. When the e book comes out, I'll try a different approach.

    Thanks for dropping by!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing, Linda. It's easy to find information on marketing things you should do, MUCH more difficult to find information on what to do when and how effective it was. I really appreciate the time you put into reviewing what worked for you and for writing such a detailed article.

  17. Thanks, Suz. Hope you've got your marketing plan figured out!