September 9, 2006

BSP. Authors’ Blatant Self Promotion. Does It Work?

Okay, I promised y’all a blog on writing this week, although I’ll tell you I’d rather be writing a Maureen-Dowd type column for the New York Times simply because you get to make fun of the president. Oh, wait! I did that already. BUT I’m not Maureen and I’m not likely to be and I’m a little distracted anyhow because I’m packing right now for a cruise sorta kinda around or on the Australian Coastline with Count Babbalallapaloozo, someplace like that anyway, and I’m in a frenzy over what to take along this time. (My new rhinestone snorkling mask? The faux snakeskin fitted-to-THERE capris?) Ah, why not? Yes to both. Definitely. 😉

Anyhow, since I promised, I thought I’d take a few minutes to chat with you about author promotion. Although understand, I’m not the expert here, Beth is, but she’s busy sweeping cobwebs out of the corners now that she’s finished with her manuscript revision, so I guess you’ll have to put up with me today. Oh, wait! I forgot. You ALWAYS have to put up with me on this blog. Well, them’s the breaks, kid. (Did Bogart say that?)

Back to business. (OMIGOD, I just remembered, I can’t wear spike heels on board, don’t let me forget that! Last time I showed up for a cruise with nothing but spike heels, EVEN my favorite pink and leopardskin sling heels, which The Count loves me in, he made me go barefoot the whole time until we reached Italy where he did, at least, buy me a dozen pairs of gorgeous Italian handmade low, soft heeled shoes. I only hope I can find them.)

Anyhow. What were we talking about? Oh. Promotion. Okay, what works? What doesn’t?

Here’s the deal. I read an awful lot of author newsletters and lists and this discussion goes on and on all the time. I see people asking, “What about handing out pens and bookmarks and postcards and buttons with my cover on them to everyone I see? Does that work? Will that make them want to buy my book?”

Well, from what I’ve seen in answers on lists like that, the answer seems to be no, it won’t MAKE them want to buy your book. Most people, when questioned, will tell you they rarely buy a book because they received a bookmark or a postcard or a pen. Some might. Most, no.

BUT what it might do, and I emphasize MIGHT, is cause them to remember, in the deep, dark recesses of their minds, where they also keep their grocery lists, your name when they walk through a bookstore. Usually only if the book is right there in front of them, though. They might not remember WHERE they saw the name, but they MIGHT think, I’ve seen that name before and that MIGHT make them open the book and take a look. The rest depends on what they’re looking for, as well as your book. Either they want that one or they don’t. It’s just a fact.

There’s another side to that, however. When one of our (way) earlier books, ALL THAT GLITTERS, came out, Beth had 6,000 gold (the gold was my idea) and black bookmarks made. She bundled them up in little rubber bands about 5 or 6 to a bundle and sent them to Katherine Falk (Romantic Times Book Club). Katherine, for a basically minor amount of money (compared to the co$t of the bookmark$), sent them out to bookstores and libraries all over the country AND Canada and maybe other places, I don’t know for sure where all they went.

I do know they went to Canada because shortly after that, we were in Vegas at a large publishing convention and when I (y’all remember it’s always me at these things, don’t you, because Beth’s VERY shy?) was sitting at a table having breakfast with about a dozen nice ladies, and told them our name and our book title, two librarians from Canada remembered our name because of the bookmarks. So name identification did happen there. I have no idea what happened to the other 5,998 bookmarks, other than I’m sure they were sent out by Ms Falk. She did her job. I did mine by going to the conference. I don’t know what Beth did, other than write the book.

The point I’m making there is, if you’re going to do bookmarks, postcards, pens, all those small things, do something intelligent with them. Make SURE they go to your target audience. There’s no point in handing them to anybody and everybody because by and large, you’re going to have very little return for your money. Try to target your goodies where they’ll do the MOST good.

Another example: Sloane Taylor, who was one of my earlier blog interviews, has a four-book series set in Germany. She sent a slew of pens to a conference being held IN Germany. THAT’S targeting your audience, very smart of her.

How about going to writers’ conferences every other month or so? Will that work?

It’ll work as far as making yourself known to conference-goers and you might sell some books. I say some. Probably not a lot. Even Joe Konrath will tell you that. You’ll make friends, you may create a buzz within the writing community, you will almost certainly get your name out there a little more than it would have normally. BUT there’s a whole world out there of people who never go to those conferences. In fact, most of the world doesn’t even know about them. In the meantime, you’re spending a whole lot of money for very little return–AT the moment.

BUT. It does help people in the industry know your name and what you write, and you never can tell what that may lead to. Case in point: a long while back, our Harlequin Superromance, COUNT ON ME, was sold fairly quickly after I attended an RWA conference because I met Harlequin’s head editor at the time there and I was agreeable to Beth’s making some revisions on that book, which was sitting on THAT editor’s desk that very day.

My point is, you never know what wonderful thing will happen because you went to a writers’ conference, so if you can afford it, go. This doesn’t count as promotion though, unless you have a book already out and you’re going to be presenting a workshop.

THAT will almost always sell some books, the simple act of getting up there and presenting a workshop to an audience. Do a good job, don’t drool or pick your nose while you’re up on the podium, try not to faint, be very nice, be friendly, convince them that you know what you’re talking about, and chances are, quite a few WILL buy your book.

BUT. Remember this. If it costs you $1,500 to attend a conference, including airfare and hotel, etc. and you only sell a few books, it may not be cost effective at that moment IF you’re mainly thinking about selling books. If you can afford to spend the money by betting on your future, by all means do so. If you can’t, think about it first before you hock your house. There are pros and cons to every step you take, so pick your pros wisely. I would also add that in my opinion–and it’s an educated, experienced one–to a brand new writer of any kind of womens’ fiction, not only romances, RWA national (and/or local) is one of the best conference opportunities in the universe because of what you’ll learn there. If you’re writing mystery or suspense, there are tons of wonderful conferences out there for you.

AND there’s something else, while I’m talking about the value of presenting workshops at conferences:

The BEST way, again in my opinion, to actually sell books is personal contact. Whether it’s hand-writing the postcards you send out, or dropping into a bookstore or library and introducing yourself and your book, EVEN if it’s going out to where the jobbers (those are the guys who deliver and place your books in the bookstores) load their trucks, taking them brownies and introducing yourself, it’s the personal contact that makes the biggest difference. Later on in this diatribe you’ll find a brilliant example of exactly that.

One of the best ways I know of to really promote your books is for you to make sure you target libraries and bookstores. Not only the big ones, but the smaller independents too. If I had a large amount of money to spend on promotion, I would make sure I sent an ARC or the book, plus a promo folder, to every single independent book seller and library in the United States. My reason?

THEY DEAL EVERY DAY WITH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE. They know what sells and if they like your book, which, if you send it to them as a gift, chances are they’ll at least read it, and if they like it they’ll order more for their customers and they’ll hand-sell it. That’s no small thing, so don’t forget your local independent bookstores.

I’ll probably never have that kind of money to use for promotion (unless I can convince The Count to sell one of his yachts and hand the money over to me.) 😉 Meantime, my game plan is to at least start at the local and state level. Get the actual book or ARC out to them as early as you can. And then follow up with a phone call or personal visit.

Joe Konrath, author of the Jack Daniel mystery series, just this past summer did what most authors only dream of doing. He spent his entire summer driving, at his own expense, to every bookstore he could possibly get to across the country. I don’t know how many he visited, signing in some places, just talking to the owner and sales staff in others, but you think for one minute his next book isn’t going to outsell almost every other book out there? No way! He’s one of the smartest people I know of on book promotion. Go check him out at: http://www.joekonrath.com/ . You’ll find a LOT more promotional advice there. You don’t have to listen to me, but for sure you want to listen to Joe. He’s the smartest Book Promotion Guru you’ll ever meet.

Back to packing for my Australian cruise with Count Babbalallapaloozo now. Hmmm…I’m wondering…ya think he’d like the black spandex capris with the red feathered top, or should I pack the purple and turquoise and orange sequinned top? I can’t decide. I suppose I’d better take both…

Love y’all, and come back again soon, ya hear me?
Hotclue Herself

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  1. Hots, you’ve done it again. People contact is a must. Believe me I learned the hard and expensive way. Pens are great, conferences too, but it’s the reader you have to reach.

    Beth and I had a long conversation on this very subject. You should have been there. The martinis were great.

    Since I do ebooks it’s harder. Chats and groups participation are a must. BUT you have to target. I guess that’s the key in all promotion, just as you said.

    Have a great cruise and don’t forget your vermillion boa! I heard the count adores you in feathers.

    Reply

  2. He does adore the feathers, especially the ones on my

    As for promoting ebooks, it’s very difficult because so many readers don’t yet have electronic ebook readers, and in addition to telling them about your book, you also have to teach so many people how to get it and then hope they actually do go and do it. As you say, since most ebook readers are already online, that’s where your target audience, the biggest one anyhow, is going to be. Getting on the groups and making yourself known, chatting with them, doing the online chats, all of it helps as long as you don’t give away more books than you sell (which was my experience ;-). Going to the EPIC conference would help also for ebook authors, because they promote ebooks bigtime and you’d get a lot of promo ideas there as well as meet people you KNOW are interested in reading ebooks.
    Love, come back soon, Hots

    Reply

  3. Excellent advice (as always). You know, I visit here all of the time and thought I’d left comments, but the comment thingie didn’t recognize me! (Big ol’ pouty lips here.) I think this blog should be a must-read for new writers. And I hope you have a blast on the cruise!

    -toni

    Reply

  4. Hey, it’s Toni, the Funny Girl! Well, I’ll have to have a word or three with my comment thingie because of COURSE it knows who you are!

    Thanks for the nice words on the blog Beth gave me, although I think she did it mainly so she wouldn’t have to think up a new blog every week.

    As for the cruise, I’m still working on packing my lingerie trunk. That’s one of twenty-six I have to pack since the cruise will be for a whole week this time. Some of my friends want to go with me to VC to pick out some new fluffy understuff, but I guess we’ll have to go to one on the north side of Chicago, since my friends embarrasingly got us thrown out of the one in my suburb. I hope VC doesn’t keep a master list…

    Cheers, hugs, and come back soon!
    Hots Herself, who is thinking about a Botox job so I’ll have big ol’ pouty lips too. Although I’m sure yours are natural. (They are, aren’t they?) 😉

    Reply

  5. Always great advice, Hotclue. I hope Beth is paying attention, after sweeping the cobwebs. Personal contact is so important and conference are expensive. If one can’t attend major conferences, buying the cd’s is a much cheaper way to go and you can listen to the workshops and learn.

    Reply

  6. Beth has more cobwebs than you’ll ever know about. 😉

    That’s a great idea about CD’s from conferences you’d love to attend but can’t yet afford, Yasmine!

    Cheers and Hugs, hope you come back again soon,

    Hots, who meant, on her answer to Toni, to say VS, not VC. Well, Beth’s about right, isn’t she. I sure am illiterate sometimes. 😉

    Reply

  7. As always, Hotclue, you hit the nail directly on the head. You know you are our guru of things pertaining to writing. Where would I be if I didn’t have you to use your 2 x 4 (excuse me, that’s Beth, not you), well anyway you know what I mean. I may have said it many times but again, thanks, lady. I just hope I live up to your expectations.

    Virginia/Jenna

    Reply

  8. Living up to my expectations isn’t really what you want to focus on, though. Living up to YOUR expectations is the only thing that really counts. My only advice is, set your expectations for yourself high, always high.

    Love, and come back soon,
    Hots, dodging Beth’s 2 X 4 today myself. 😉

    Reply

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