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Discussion in 'Marketing' started by Map the Dragon, Jul 1, 2011.

  1. Ok...aside from what our publishers can do for us, what can new authors do for self marketing? (this also of course would apply to the self-published author.)

    This would be a great thread to post individual strategies that may work, be working, or could work for you in the process of self-marketing and selling copies of our novels.

    Here are some of mine; I'll think of more later and post those as well:

    Website: Invest in a web presence. My site frank-lavoie.com did cost me some money, but it is a tax deduction...so that helps some. There are things on my site (like my flipbooks) that I could not have created on my own. You can then use your website in any number of manners - blogs, links, sending out to publishers and others, etc.

    Business Cards: I got on a cheap website and got business cards made for my novel. The front is a cover of my book and the rear has some info like my website, where to buy, etc. Now, when I have converastion with people and my book comes up (tends to come up a lot now :) but what the heck), I have something to give them. They don't have to remember my name, the novel's name, or anything else. Physical connection to the product as a reminder. I know for a fact this has led to one sale, so my costs are almost covered. I spent like $15 to get the cards made and sent (quantity of 500).

    TShirt: This is acutallly just a funny one, but my buddy bought me a shirt for my bday that said "Ask me about my book?" I wear it to goofy things, like when I worked my yardsale recently, or to a car show. I've had five people ask so far!

    Links: Anywhere and everywhere, try to link to your website or the site that sells your novel (amazon, other, ALL). I'm kinda anit-Facebook/Myspace, but have plenty of other places online where I have found it appropriate to post my links.

    Libraries: Get ALL of the people who know and support you to call local libraries and reserve a copy of your book. The libraries will then buy copies based on numbers of reservations (usually one copy for every at-large reservation).

    I have to go to a meeting now, but I have a few more...add your own to help the thread!!!
  2. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    I always planned on donating a copy of my novel (if I ever publish one) to my local library, which I after all use fairly frequently. But I guess other libraries, like the city library or the library in my parents' town, could be targets for friends to request the book. I'd rather those friends purchased the book themselves rather than reading a library copy, but I guess getting into libraries would be useful for getting my name out among readers who may later purchase that book or any others I write, so I'm sure it pays off.

    I never thought of business cards or the t-shirt idea before, those are great ideas.

    I think that, as writers, we need to get our names out in order to increase sales. One way to do that is, as you have done recently, to write an article for a website like this and have a link to your book along with it. This probably works better when you actually have something published to link to, but that's not stopping me from working on the article I am currently planning for the front page. Submission of articles and short stories to websites and magazines may well encourage those who frequent those websites or read those magazines to read the book. If I have learned anything from either the webcomics industry or academia, it's that getting your name out can be worth a lot more than getting paid for a particular item, in the long-term.

    I gather that book signings are also generally quite profitable. Some sort of book launch, too, is generally worthwhile, and enables you to invite critics, friends and family, fellow authors, etc, who might then, if they enjoy the event and the book itself, give you free advertising by recommending the book to their readers, friends, and relatives.
  3. Nick

    Nick Acolyte

    what about hiring really attractive models in swim suits to sell your book at conventions and other similar events?
  4. Well of course the swimsuit models. Duh!

    By the way, I am putting my headings into font size 5. (just in case you want to stick with the format)

    Also...TERRY - get in here and post! You've been at marketing your novel longer than I have for mine.

    Back on track:

    Generosity: Be generous in giving away copies or trading for copies with other authors / bloggers / reviewers / etc. This can helps generate residual interest in your book. I've sent my novel out to a few authors and some reviewers with the hope that they will talk or write about it. Maybe they'll give me a critique or make some other marketing suggestion. Obviously every book costs something to print, but you have to invest (my publisher takes care of this cost though) in giving books to people who can help.

    Go Digital: I haven't yet, but my publisher is setting up everything right now for me and it's on their company's list of things to do. My book isn't the cheapest, but is comparably priced to same-size paperback and hardcovers on the shelf at bookstores. When my digital is up (and it will be under 9.99), I think that will help me boost sales as a new author.
  5. Ooh, some great stuff in here. I am terrified of marketing, and I manage to get published I'll have to, so this is helpful. :)

    This is just an idea, but...

    Merch. Mostly I'm thinking of bookmarks, which are cheap to make, can be given away for free, and every reader needs. (I never have enough bookmarks.) I've seen authors do that. But hey, I suppose it could expand to themed T-shirts and posters and other such items once there's a good core fan base. Especially if said fan base is composed of the sort of people who would make a decent street team.

    Got a kick out of the "Ask me about my book" T-Shirt. :)
  6. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    A few thoughts (sorry if they appear random--they are, kind of as they come to mind) :) :

    As for libraries, it depends on distribution. The libraries in Ohio mainly purchase through Baker & Taylor. So if you're publisher isn't listed through them (the most common is Ingram), then getting into libraries (other than via donation such as Chilari indicated--and even then depending on the size and procedure for each library system) it may be difficult.

    Book signings and other book events are great fun and interesting--but not always profitable--depending on travel and expenses. Sometimes you sell a dozen, but more often half that (for me). I've never been shut out, but that means I sold one copy. A thing to be aware of with bookstores is that it very much depends on how the books are obtained and what happens to the stock that doesn't sell.

    First, if your book is not returnable, some bookstores won't even carry it. You may be able to set up with the bookstore (especially if it's an independent one) for them to not only carry it/sell on commission, but also bring in your own books for the book signing event. See, if your book is returnable, and if the bookstore orders 25 copies--and you sell 6 at the signing (and say the bookstore keeps 3 on the shelf and over the next two months they sell two more) that means that 17 are returned.

    This may or may not affect the writer, but it can. It can affect the publisher as well.

    Two examples: I cannot recall the exact authors and don't have the links but I am sure if someone googled the topic, they'd eventually find them (this is several years back). But one example was an author, published with a major imprint (Ace I think) got himself set up with literally dozens of book signings in his region/area. Each one ordered between 25 and 50 or so books. He sold some, and the bookstore kept a couple, which mostly sold over the month or two, but there was always a big return from places like Barnes and Noble or B. Dalton or Waldens, in addition to independents. And this massive % return showed up. It skewed to the negative his apparent success. What the publisher saw was books going out to bookstores and large returns. It caused him real grief in getting a contract for his second novel with that publisher. He learned from the lesson.

    Second, some smaller publishers do offer returns (and this is important in getting into bookstores) but they are charged a fee, but Lightning source for example, for each book returned. So, a book signing where 25 books are ordered, 6 are sold at the signing, say 4 more are hand sold by the bookstore in the coming weeks, that leaves 15 returns. The publisher will have actually lost money in the deal. Repeat this often, and see if the publisher offers another contract to the author.

    Bookmarks are cool and I think having them has resulted in some sales, but they're not a bonanza. Business cards are handy dandy to give to potential readers as well as exchanging with other authors at book fairs and conventions, etc.

    One thing I did that was very successful at book signings (but not so much through my website as judged by the # of email contacts) was to have a drawing to name a character in my next First Civilization’s Legacy novel. At signings, I advertised this on my table and had sign-up sheets. Someone didn't have to purchase a copy of the novel to enter, but if they did, their name went in twice. Overall it was positive and drew interest. One thing is to find a way to engage and talk to potential readers. There's a lot of noise out there (online and at a book fair or fantasy/SF convention etc.).

    A few things if one intends to try this: Your publisher has to be agreeable. You need to have a contract the winner signs where they relinquish/give up any rights or claim to the character/name in the novel/series. You, as a writer, also give up some control of naming, etc. It's all how you advertise and explain it. I told potential folks who signed up that they couldn't pick names of established characters or real persons, that we'd work together to select the character (good guy/bad guy, male, female etc.) and that my editor/publisher in the end had the final say--which is true. It also is a final 'out' should the winner in the end be uncooperative. Let's face it, a publisher isn't going to allow something totally off the wall to remain in a novel.

    Give aways are sometimes cool at book signings. I have tote bags with my publisher's logo on it, and a teaser for Flank Hawk, with website URL etc. Each book purchased, they get a free tote bag.

    How to get freebies that don't cost too much? If you live near a Joint Vocational/Career Technical High School with a graphic arts or graphic design program, contact them. Most are looking for jobs that match what they're looking for in the curriculum (so timing and luck is sometimes a factor) for the students to work on. Normally it then only costs material and not labor to get the project done.

    My bookmarks were designed and printed that way. The tote bags, I purchased like 100 at a craft store (they were on massive discount for under a dollar each), and the school did the silk screening (I think that's the term) on them.

    I've seen other authors with large posters (even the roll down kind like a screen) that they set up behind their table, with cover art, and such to garner attention at an event. For the couple I've talked to--some it paid off, others, not so much.

    Positive reviews help. It's made some difference for me, and even authors at big publishers indicate it does. Good reviews at places like Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble can help. Tags, such as at Amazon help with the book being noticed by potential readers.

    Good cover/professional cover art. Sad, you don't want to judge a book by its cover, but it's the way things are. Whether online or in the store or at a book signing event, it makes a difference. Humans are visual creatures (and unless the author has a recognized name--the cover itself is what gets the attention). A good cover will get the potential reader to click and explore further. It will get them to pick up the novel and explore further. Again, there is a lot of noise out there.

    Blurbs are helpful, once a reader picks up or looks at a book. What other authors or notable folks say can help get a reader to look from the back cover to inside the book. The more notable the name and what is said by that individual, the greater impact.

    Interviews/reviews (online, newspaper, podcast, etc.) can be helpful but are not always as easy to obtain as one might think.

    Word of Mouth is probably the best seller. Think about it. If someone you trust and knows your tastes says" "You gotta get a copy and read this novel!" it's going to influence you more than any cover, blurb, contest, giveaway, author pitch, bookmark--whatever. But for word of mouth to work, you have to somehow get the ball rolling--multiple balls rolling.

    If I think of something else I'll chime in later, plus my daughter wants breakfast so I'll have to get on that..

    Just as a note: I've had some experience with this stuff (marketing) but I am no expert--not *even* close. I've sold enough copies of Flank Hawk that my publisher is waiting for the sequel (which I am working on), but I am nowhere near a NYTimes bestseller. I'm not even the top seller with my publisher (another author currently sells easily over 1000 copies of his works each month). So take what I say as a 'for what it's worth' opinion.

    Finally, remember, every minute tied up in marketing is one less minute available to write. Just like funds for advertising efforts is a finite resource, so is time.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  7. Nick

    Nick Acolyte

    Wow, the contest idea was awesome. It reminded me of when I was in college looking for grants and other kinds of funding to pay my way. I wrote countless essays trying to get some money. What if you held a fanfiction (based on your novel of course) contest on your website where the winner would win $1000 or something and get their fanfic posted on the website? I know 1000$ might be a little much for some aspiring writers but when you think about all the potential new readers it could bring the book to (and the people they know) it might be worth it.

    edit: also, the $1000 should be tax deductible since you're using it for business purposes.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  8. Great stuff in here so far...thanks for contributing Terry - I knew your insight would be valuable.
  9. Interesting. There are so many book bloggers out there now, each with his or her own review policy, that I'd have thought it relatively easy to get a number of reviews. (Though a little spendy, maybe.) Is that untrue? Or were you referring primarily to Amazon or B&N or Kirkus or other newspaper/journal reviews?

    Lots and lots of helpful thought in your post... thanks.
  10. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    There are a lot of bloggers out there that review...but there are also A LOT of writers out there--traditionally published and self published.

    Some of the review sites with the most traffic generally accept works from only the bigger houses. Some won't accept self published. Some focus on self published. But in any case there are far more seeking to get their work read and reviewed than you might think. That means a lot of them are overwhelmed with requests--their To Be Read piles (files) are backlogged, and/or they close frequently.

    Plus, it does little good to send a print or ebook version to a blog that has virtually no traffic other than the few authors who've had their work reviewed there. It's like setting up a billboard on an off the beaten path dirt road. Who will see it--unless you advertise it on your blog, website, Facebook account. But after you do that once or twice, you're probably reaching the same audience over and over and 'preaching to the choir.' Doing this via electronic versions isn't quite as bad because electronic versions don't cost anything to send--but print versions (whether author or publisher provided) do cost money (not only for the physical book, but to send it to the reviewer as well). Certainly, that is a factor.

    Plus, you'll want to select reviewers/review sites that appear to enjoy what you write. There are some that claim to enjoy fantasy, for example, but if you send them an epic or high fantasy novel, it may be a rougher road than urban or dark fantasy--which is what they really crave or enjoy.
  11. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    I guess what wasn't mentioned is book trailers.

    I think they're a tool, but I can count on one hand the number of readers that said the Book Trailer is what first got their attention and sold them. Of course, my trailer isn't as fancy as some. But it's a tool that if done well won't hurt.

    This next item isn't really a selling point, but more for readers who've finished my first novel, Flank Hawk. It's a "Which Character Are You" quiz. Answer short list of questions (multiple choice) and click and find out which character in the novel you most resemble. Most readers who've tried it get a small kick out of it and think it's pretty neat.

    If you're interested (to get an example of what I am explaining), you can find the book trailer and the quiz by going to my website by clicking on the signature below.

    I created the book trailer myself using Photo Story 3 (a free Microsoft download). The quiz, I had a friend who programs for a living help. I provided the basic framework and questions and scoring, and he did the actually programming. If you have questions about either, let me know here in this thread or send me a Private Message, or an email through the contact page on my website.
  12. Hmm. That is really, really good to know. I have noticed that most of the fantasy reviewers are into the vampires and werewolves and demons and the like, rather than high/epic works.

    Must run now, but I'll try and check out your book trailer soon. Thanks again.
  13. This has already been mentioned but book reading/signings can be productive. The question is time/travel expense vs. sales generated and getting your name out there.

    I was involved with a writers group that would meet at a book store twice a week a few years back and we would have published writers come from time to time. They would usually read a selection from their novel and then stay around for book signing and QnA. I would usually spend the week after their visit telling everyone I knew about the author, and if I liked the selection they read I would buy the book.

    In general book signing is hit and miss. The size of the venue and amount of people that are there probably determine its worth.
  14. yachtcaptcolby

    yachtcaptcolby Minstrel

    One thing to note about finding reviewers: don't expect to get a review quickly. All the review sites I've contacted in the last year had at least a 6-month waiting list. I suppose it's possible I'm looking in the wrong places, but that's been my experience.

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