Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Promotion - what works?

Promotion...the bane of a writer's life. At least it's the bane of my life. Well, that and tooth aches. Pissy donors, chocolate outages, fighting kids... I've spent a lot of time researching how to promote effectively and trying to promote my work. Is it working? Hell if I know. I haven't really thought about it much lately beyond blogging and MySpacing (which is mainly blogging on MySpace in my case.) But I just read two blog posts today about promotion and both ask what type of promo we think helps. One of the articles if by Marcia James posted on Shelly Munro's blog at: http://www.shelleymunro.com/blog/2008/07/16/promo-with-marcia-james/ The usual rule of promotion (for our readers - other authors know this already) is that it either takes a lot of time or money. If you have a lot of money, you can pay someone like Marcia James to do our promoting for us. We can buy full page glossy ads in RT and other magazines. We can buy radio spots. Conversely, when money is scarce or if we're too thrifty to spend our hard-earned money, then we have to spend a lot of time to do our own promotion. Unfortunately, I don't have much of either, not with much kids still at home and working a full time day job. Over the years I've tried many avenues of promotion and I still can't tell you what works and what doesn't. I can, however, tell you what works on me as a reader. So if other readers are like me, then I have a good idea. Although I love to get free pens that so many authors give out at conferences with their website addies (because I write a lot by hand), I rarely visit the sites mentioned on the pens. I mean to when I pick them up, but then I get busy and don't think of it later. Unless a bookmark is really spiffy, and I mean extremely professional looking and pretty, I don't pick them up. I don't need more bits of paper to clutter up my house. I'm fine with dog-earing my pages and I'm so used to doing this, I dog-ear them out of habit even in the rare occurrence I use a bookmark. Now I love the book thong I got from Lori Foster and the Power of Love authors. However, the book thong has no promo on it to lead me to any of their sites or books. I love to get magnets to post things on my fridge. Again, however, I usually don't go to the authors' sites. My computer is not in my kitchen. Magnets do not play well with computers and thus since the magnet with the author's website addy is not near me when I'm on the Internet, I won't think to visit the author's site. Candy or food items with the author's name and url. Honestly? I eat the candy and the wrapper is history. It goes in the garbage. Free cookbooks with recipes from authors. This I would actually keep and use. When I'm not too tired to cook after a long day at the day job (Oh! I answered that on Shelly Munro's other blog post, not here. Well, visit Shelly's blog for that discussion. Or maybe I'll post my own article about that in a bit.) But again, would I go from the kitchen to my computer in the other room? Maybe if there's an interesting blurb in the cookbook. And since it's not magnetic, I could lay it down by my computer. So this is a maybe promo item in my opinion. Articles: blog or otherwise. I love to read articles when I have time. If the article/blog really interests me, I might actually go to the author's website to read more about her books. If I like the blog, I will go back and sometimes I become the blogger's fan and maybe even build a friendship. In this case, I am much much much more likely to buy the author's books. So I think this is the best method so far. Post cards and promo by snail mail. I will usually glance at it and pitch it. Again, I have too many bits of paper around already. I'm trying to eliminate clutter in my life. Excerpts: Should I get as far as the author's website/blog/publisher's site/dead tree book, the blurb and excerpt is what will draw me in if the author is not already a friend or on my auto buy list. I rarely read a bunch of excerpts or single chapters compiled on CDs or floppy disks. Covers: A bad cover will not draw me to a book. On the other hand, a good cover might lure me to read the book's blurb, but not to buy the book on the strength of the cover alone. But at least it got me to pick up the book. Attending readers' and writers' conferences. I think this is a great way - if you have time and money. I'm lucky if I can attend one a year and most years, I can't afford either time and/or money to go. This year I attended Lori Foster's Readers' N Writers' Get Together in Cincinnati. I met a lot of nice people, pitched to several agents and editors, and hopefully got some promotion. Frankly, there were so many other bigger named authors then me, I don't know if it was really a big promo opportunity for moi. Participating on email loops f0r book lovers or other interests you have: This would probably be good if you have time to devote to it. Unfortunately, with a day job, kids, and the need to actually write my books, I don't have time to hang out on loops all day, every day. If you don't post pretty often, people don't answer or worse, they answer and accuse you of drive-by postings. That's worse than not posting to the loop at all. Press releases: I've heard they work. I've only done a couple, and I didn't notice any spikes in my sales. I'll have to try this again. Book signings: Ugh! I hate sitting at book signings where only a couple people stop by to see me. It's demoralizing. Worse, I feel like I'm wasting time. Worse yet, I'm shy and it's excruciating to try to lure people to me. It's really demoralizing if you're with a group of other authors and they're selling and you're not. That said, there still may be promotion value because, of course, you would have posted this news to your blog, your loops, in press releases, etc. so your name still gets out. Internet chats: This is a lot like book signings in my opinion. Rarely do many readers show up and you're spending time to be there. However, these can be archived so hopelly later readers will read it. Also, like book signings, you have a reason to post announcements. Free radio/internet radio interviews: In fact, I'll be the interviewee on Yolanda Renee's Internet Radio show Thursday, July 31st. This won't be the first time I've done this. Now that there's Internet "radio" and podcasts, it's a lot less expensive or free to have your voice heard and archived for later replay. Again, I'm not positive how much this helps the interviewee. I think it helps the interviewer the most as their name is promoted by their weekly guests over and over plus they promote themselves as they promote their guests. If I had time (and a quiet house), I'd start my own Internet radio show and help promote other authors. Someday, in the future I just may do this - when I retire from the day job or at least when all my kids are grown. We'll see. But then again, this is probably like being a chat host and if no readers come to the chat, then that seems like a waste of time and energy. Paid advertising: Banner ads and magazine ads. I've dug deep in my pocket to pay for ads, even RT ads (not a full page unfortunately - my pockets don't go that deep yet), but again, I haven't noticed any increase in sales after an ad. I'm sure I've forgotten other ways of promotion. I really hope there's ways to promote that I've never heard about that are sure-fire or at least that propel my books to the top of the New York Times and USA Today best seller lists. So, how do you promote if you're an author? What prompts you to want to buy a book if/when you're a reader?

4 comments:

Sandra Cox said...

I would love to be able to afford a publicist. Promos have me scratching my head. And you are right it comes down to time or money or both.
I think contests have been somewhat helpful.

Molly Daniels said...

I'm also on the shy side, Ashley, but I don't just sit at the table at my signings. I stand near and greet everyone who comes in the store, or in an acceptable radius (I don't chase the person if they veer off in a different direction!).

I support my blogmates when they do a chat, and occassionally I've been invited to post a few excerpts, which for myself, if a blurb or excerpt catches my eye, I'll save that particular digest or email and print it out so I don't forget it when it comes time to buy. I've had some people tell me via the chat they'll buy my book; don't know if they actually will. But for myself, it's a definite, as my TBB list is now reaching 100 again. I've actually stopped reading excerpts in order to get it smaller, but Anny's chats this past weekend bumped it back up LOL:)

I love the pens; the magnets; sticky notes; notepads...yes, I have a love affair with paper products! I spread the word about you guys whenever I find a fellow reader.

And yes, I'd love to hire a publicist too...I've hesitated about sending press releases. Maybe I need to take a marketing class? Someone to show me how to do it, and who to send to?

Amarinda Jones said...

Umm...is there anything you think is good to do?

My personal opinion - be yourself, do what you can and don't stress out over it. People will buy or not. Don't worry about what other authors are doing and pay attention to what readers tell you in their letters. In the scheme of things you will be remembered as a person first and a writer second.

Shelley Munro said...

I think the best thing is to pick the things you enjoy doing and pass on the rest. Promo is such a hard thing. I'd much rather write than spend heaps of time posting on loops etc. I do like blogging though and will blog hop. I've found some great new authors this way.

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