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Market Magic   8 comments

What’s the best way to market your books?

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If I Knew That, I’d Sell More Books

Seriously, I think there’s a magical formula … or maybe a novel fairy … that chooses who will be blessed among all indie authors to be “discovered”. For the rest of us, there’s just a lot of hard work and vagaries that work for some and not for others, and works some times and then not at all the next time.

Meanwhile, the advice is contradictory. Go to five book marketing blogs and you will find five different answers to that question. Some will say, “working with book bloggers” is one of the most effective ways to get the word out about your books. Yes, book reviews and interviews are essential to promoting an indie book. Blog tours can really help to get attention from a wide audience.

According to Penguin Random House:

Online exposure is the main benefit of using a blog tour to promote your book. It hits a different audience than, say, an NPR interview or local newspaper review. Sure, an unbiased review from a huge publication is fantastic publicity, but what the fans are saying can have a similar impact.”

Others will tell you to write guest blogs, a dedicated piece to be published on someone else’s site. It gets your name out there, drives traffic back to your website, and helps you build anticipation for your book. So “they” say.

Does it work? Sometimes. I’ve seen bumps in blog traffic when I write a guest post. Have I sold more books? Not really. Sometimes and not others. Why? I have no idea. And there in is the problem. I am not psychic and I just don’t know why a strategy works today and doesn’t work tomorrow. Maybe I need to invest in fairy dust.

How About Bonus Material?

Standard bookish merchandise ( otherwise known as ‘swag’), such as bookmarks, are often touted as excellent and relatively cheap promotional tool for indie authors. I know more than a few indie authors who have stuff to give away because they fell for this marketing ploy. It’s mining the miners. It’s a way to get indie authors to spend money they probably don’t have to try and sell books that probably won’t sell … that way. Always pause and ask yourself – am I being mined? Would I buy a book because the author gave me a free coffee cup? Yeah, maybe if the author was face-to-face with me to make me feel guilty, but through the Internet? If the answer is “No, I wouldn’t”, then the answer is “I’m being mined.” Formulate your own conclusions from there.

There are other “bonus materials” that might work better.

Related stories

I’ve written short stories for an annual anthology with an agorist/libertarian bent. Does it drive purchasers to my novels? Yeah, it appears to do so because I write books that appeal to agorist/libertarian/anarchists. I’ll usually see a bump in sales a week or so after they publish. I say “usually” because the bump was real weak once. Was that because I wrote a bad short? I don’t know. Where’s that fairy dust?

Although I haven’t done so yet, many authors offer a short or prequel for free as a reward for signing up for their newsletter, or as a bonus item for a book purchase. I’m developing a YA/NA book series that will have a prequel available for free on my website, if you sign up for my newsletter. We’ll see if it works.

Book club kits

That YA/NA series is a departure from my usual audience, so I plan to create a set of questions and discussion points that readers can use to talk about my books in a book club setting. I’ll make the list available on my blog. I’m told by friends this is an effective way to attract readers. Do I know it works? No, but it’s something that doesn’t cost me money that is worth a try.

Team Up With Other Creatives?

We creative types have to stick together, don’t we?! That’s what this blog hop is all about, right?

Doing the research for this post, I discovered a few creative collaborations I hadn’t thought of.

Bookstagrammers

I’m not on Instagram and I really don’t want to be, but I probably need to overcome my reluctance because many bookstagrammers are also reviewers, so sending out a free copy of my book(s) for some gorgeous promotional shots could kill two birds with one stone if they publish a review as well.

Podcasters

I had a great interview with a podcaster about two years ago, and there did seem to be a bump in my book sales for a while, but I’d rather write books than talk about them. Still, if you don’t flinch in horror at seeing yourself on the screen, do some research, reach out to podcasters and see what you can arrange.

Saturate Social Media?

That’s a lot of work. Before my books started paying for themselves, it was really my only choice because I couldn’t justify the financial outlay of most other options. I still post to my blog, Facebook (come join some of my liberty conversations), Twitter and MeWe, but I spend less time there than I used to and it’s likely I’ll spend less time there next year too. It’s hard to be heard on Social Media, so it’s a lot of effort for a little bit of return. It’s “free”, but man, what a time-suck!

I also think that it is counterproductive to keep waving a sign that says “Buy my books.” It’s annoying and I tune out that posts myself. Which is why I started the liberty conversations because libertarian/anarchist/voluntaryist topics (and the allergic reaction statists have to them) fascinate me and sometimes there will be a bump in sales or readership after a good one.

Become a ‘book fairy’

Okay, I’m not talking fairy dust here. Have you heard of Emma Watson’s ‘Book Fairies’ project? The Harry Potter actress began an international book-sharing movement, which involves leaving free books in public places for people to find and take home. The finder is encouraged to pay it forward by leaving the book for someone else to find once they’ve finished reading it. It’s not exactly a new idea. Something like this has existed in the Fairbanks community for as far back as I can remember. Go to any laundromat in this town and you’ll find a few dog-eared “left” books, some of them with handwritten notes inside say “Take This Book and Enjoy It.”. It’s a good idea that should go viral.

There are people participating in the Book Fairies project all around the world or with similar initiatives like Melbourne’s Books on the Rail. It’s a great way to do a good deed and promote more reading in the world – but have you ever thought of using it for promoting your own book?

I haven’t tried this yet, but there’s a fine madness in the thought of leaving copies of my books in public places for people to discover. Why haven’t I tried it yet? Why do I think it’s a little mad. It involves a cost outlay for me to essentially giving away several physical copies of one of my books for free. Would it work to drive traffic to my other books? I don’t know – which is why I’ve not tried it – yet.

Advertising

My father-in-law, an experienced businessman, will tell you “You’ve got to spend money to make money.” He’s right. Just make sure you spend money on things that make money. Advertising helps. I’ve tried Facebook ads and, yeah, I sold some books. I’ve tried the book advertising sites. Sometimes I’ve seen some sales conversions. I’ve tried Amazon ads recently. So far I’ve spent about as much money as I’ve made, but I’m not bidding very high and I just started, so I haven’t got enough data to be sure it’s working. Ask me in three months.

Write the Next Book

Honestly, I think the best marketing technique I possess is writing the next book. My readership goes up with each book I write in the Transformation Project series. I can now see that on KDPs KENP Reads. People appear to be binge reading the entire series. The best thing about that is it doesn’t require me to put on pants to set up a book signing at Barnes & Noble. I’m doing what I would be doing anyway and so, it is essentially free and not a time-suck. My self-imposed Transformation Project break since the publication of Gathering In is now officially over, so get ready for Winter’s Reckoning next year. And, possibly that YA/NA in Spring 2020 IF the betas think it’s ready to go to the editor.

So, I don’t know what the “best way” to market books is. Book marketing is a lot like playing Pin the Tale on the Donkey. There’s several ways and they work to varying degrees at times not necessarily of my choosing. Good luck and if you have any tips ….

Posted November 25, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Watch This Space   3 comments

March 25, 2019

What are the best sites you use for publicity?


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Like most writers, I didn’t decide to publish books because I wanted to market them. Marketing books cuts into writing time and I’m not sure how effective it really is. That said, if nobody knows your books are out there, they can’t read them.

So …. most effective sites …?

That I’ve used?

I am an unashamed capitalist, which means I believe my books need to support themselves in the marketplace. Yes, of course, I will give some money to my books to get them started, but I won’t pour good money after bad in hopes that if I keep doing the same thing over and over something will eventually stick to the wall.

What worked last year doesn’t necessarily work this year. My daughter tells me I need to be over on Instagram. Too bad you have to work off your phone or tablet for that, because I really hate working on tiny screens using my thumbs instead of full-sized screens using all 10 fingers.

Thunderclap gave me most exposure and the best sales bumps I’ve had from any “free” campaign I tried, but that went away last year. Pity, but that means I needed to move on.

I do belong to a few sites that for a small fee allow me to post my blurbs for long periods of time and I do see an occasional bump from these sites, but they aren’t all that useful. I also get some bump from my website occasionally. The discussions I post on Facebook sometimes gain interest for my books.

Posting in Facebook groups – not so much, although occasionally I can see a visit from that post over to my website where I hope they go onto Amazon. Twitter – doubtful. I’ve never tried Twitter ads because I really think Twitter is too ADHD for people to buy books from. I still have a presence there but I don’t waste a lot of time with it.

I do occasionally toss $20 at Facebook for an ad because I have seen verifiable sales from advertising there. And, of the sites that still exist, Facebook ads has been the most marketable. That said, Facebook has gotten far too bossy lately, so I’m not probably going to advertise through them any longer. I don’t want to give them my driver’s license. That’s a violation of my privacy and an invitation to identity theft. So unless nothing else works to sell books, I’m done with Facebook ads for the time being. I will still host discussions there until they ban me (or until MeWe or some other platform presents viable competition to the behemoth would-be monopoly that is Facebook. All is not lost, however.

Craig Martell, a fellow Alaska author who is selling about 100,000 books a year (he’s a retired attorney who is writing about 20 books a year compared to my one, so …), has convinced me to give Amazon ads a try. I’m not going to buy in as big as he does – at least not unless my small ad campaigns make a substantive dent in my sales. Again, I’m a capitalist and so I only spend money when it will net me a return. But I’m willing to experiment a little over the next year and see what happens. After all, it makes sense that people who want to buy books are on Amazon, so you’re best marketing dollars are spent on that platform. Amazon is just that much more expensive to buy-in to that I’ve hesitated, but now Facebook has given me a reason to try another platform.

Ultimately, folks, I suspect the best marketing technique is to write the next book. When I published my fourth book in the Transformation Project last fall, I set off a really good quarter of sales for all of the rest of my books and the only marketing I did was to announce (through a $20 Facebook ad) a giveaway of the first book in the series and a sale on the others. I sold more books in that one quarter than I’ve sold in the previous four years. Now, let’s see if I can manage to repeat that using Amazon ads.

I’m curious to see what my fellow bloghoppers have found works for them because they might know things I don’t know.

Posted March 25, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Media & Messages   Leave a comment

March 19, 2018 – How much is too much? We know repetition is important to remember things. That’s why we see the same commercials over and over again. But, how much is too much? What’s your favorite ad and what’s your least favorite ad. (Can be television, radio, billboards.)

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Image result for image of a really great advertisementSo, I have to confess that I don’t watch advertisements very often. Broadcast television is and always has been limited in Fairbanks, Alaska, so first we had Dish (mostly advertisement-free) and now we have Netflix. The closest we come to ads is the very ad-like sponsorship spots on PBS during Friday news night. If I hear that BNSF Railway spot one more time, I may just run screaming into the Alaska night.

My very first journalism class in college studied Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, which came out in 1964. It had been out about 15 years, but there was no denying the freshness of his perspective nor the prescience of McLuhan, who loved advertising. He was among the first to celebrate unreservedly what he called “the Madison Avenue frog-men-of-the-mind.” The business of trying to sell people more stuff neither frightened nor appalled him. He didn’t look down on it, as so many of his contemporaries did.

“Many people have expressed uneasiness about the advertising enterprise in our time,” McLuhan also wrote in Understanding Media. “To put the matter abruptly, the advertising industry is a crude attempt to extend the principles of automation to every aspect of society. Ideally, advertising aims at the goal of a programmed harmony among all human impulses and aspirations and endeavours. Using handicraft methods, it stretches out toward the ultimate electronic goal of a collective consciousness. When all production and all consumption are brought into a pre-established harmony with all desire and all effort, then advertising will have liquidated itself by its own success.”

Further proof, as if any were needed, of Marshall McLuhan’s prescience. In 1964, he wrote:*

“The classified ads (and stock-market quotations) are the bedrock of the press. Should an alternative source of easy access to such diverse daily information be found, the press will fold.”   *Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (ARK edition, 1987) p.207

“Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century” according to McLuhan.

Now there’s a thought. It is certainly true that many of us remember the ads that separated the shows better than the shows themselves. “Where’s the Beef?” … “Let Mikey try it. He won’t like it.” … the Maytag Repairman … Madge the Dishwasher … Mr. Clean … the coffee commercial with the guy who became Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer … all that Coca Cola memorabilia.

These ads played in the background and many of us got up to go to the bathroom or make a sandwich when they were playing, but they still stuck with us because …

“Ads are not meant for conscious consumption. They are intended as subliminal pills for the subconscious in order to exercise an hypnotic spell, especially on sociologists.”

McLuhan had some interesting observations about advertising in his day that speak to the situation in our own.

“After the Second War, an ad-conscious American army officer in Italy noted with misgivings that Italians could tell you the names of cabinet ministers, but not the names of commodities preferred by Italian celebrities. Furthermore, he said, the wall space of Italian cities was given over to political, rather than commercial slogans. He predicted that there was small hope that Italians would ever achieve any sort of domestic prosperity or calm until they began to worry about the rival claims of cornflakes and cigarettes, rather than the capacities of public men. In fact, he went so far as to say that democratic freedom very largely consists in ignoring politics and worrying, instead, about the threat of scaly scalp, hairy legs, sluggish bowlers, saggy breasts, receding gums, excess weight, and tired blood.”

I think it’s striking that advertising has largely gone the way of the dodo bird in the 21st century. We hit our mute buttons or channel surf or we choose media that have no advertising (one of the beauties of streaming). And as we lose that “cave art” we turn our minds, perhaps not surprisingly if we’ve read McLuhan, to politics. We don’t pay as much attention to product brands today, but wow do we know everything there is to know about President Trump. We obsess over whether Melania wore high heels or tennis shoes. We hang on every trolling tweet. McLuhan would say we’ve gone backwards … that freedom is found in the stuff you can buy, not the blood sport of politics. And, yet, here we are … once again refusing to learn from history so that we’re doomed to repeat its uglier segments.

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