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My Musings on Marketing

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by BWFoster78, Sep 14, 2012.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I’m an engineer, not a marketing guy. I hate trying to sale merchandise. However, as an author who intends to self publish early next year, I need to start treating my hobby like a business and figure out how, exactly, one goes about converting writing into fame and fortune.

    The more I research the subject, the more confused I become. The purpose of this post is to organize my thoughts, generate discussion, and provide, hopefully, some benefit to others from all the searching that I’ve done.

    Professionalism:

    Almost every source agrees on one thing, you need to be professional in everything you do. You need a cover indistinguishable from those produced by a big 6 publisher. You need a book that is written and edited to a level better than those produced by a big 6 publisher. Only by producing a quality product can you ever hope to gain widespread success.

    How this jives with products such as 50 Shades of Grey, I’m not sure. (Disclaimer: I have not read this book, but I’ve heard that the writing is dreadful.) It just goes to show that you have to take all advice with a grain of salt.

    Author Platform:

    There seems to be vehement disagreement on what kind of web presence an author needs to maintain, and I’ve read a lot from both sides of the argument.

    Author Website – It seems to me that an author’s website is a reasonable expectation, and the lack of one indicates someone who isn’t serious about treating his writing as a business. I don’t think that a website is necessarily going to create a lot of sales, though, so, from a pure cost to benefit ratio standpoint, I can see the argument to forego doing one.

    Blog – I can find a hundred sources that tell you that you must blog and a hundred more that tell you it’s a waste of time. Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine my blog moving ten books that I wouldn’t have sold via other sources. From a time cost vs. benefit analysis standpoint, it seems like a poor business decision. I can definitely see it for the non fiction writer. For the purveyor of lies, however, I don’t think it’s worth it. I’ll keep doing my blog since I enjoy it, but I wouldn’t tell you that it’s desirable to have one.

    Facebook – Having an author’s Facebook pages is another one of those things that is expected. Again, I don’t know how many sales it will really produce, but it seems easy enough to set up a page. It may have little benefit, but it also has little cost. My thinking is that it can’t hurt.

    Other Social Media – There are a ton of outlets available. Personally, I have no desire to learn Twitter or any of the others and don’t see the benefit.

    Bottom Line – If someone wants to find you, you need to be able to be found. A Facebook page and an author website seem to be minimum requirements for a professional author. If you have the time, energy, and money needed to develop a full social media platform, it will probably help you gain readers. I’m just not sure that the sales increase will be worth the cost.

    Reviews:

    You’ll see a lot of advice out there telling you that reviews are your number one tool to market your book. I’m a bit confused about how this works.

    Blog Reviews – There are a ton of book bloggers out there. The concept is that you send them a free copy of your work, and they read and review it. I see the benefit of this effort. The cost is low. You’ll need to send out a lot of emails and do a lot of interacting with the bloggers. If, however, you break it up into sending a few emails a day, it’s not that big of a deal. You also have to “pay” for the review copies. (I have a lot of questions on this subject. See below.) The benefits you receive can be big. You’re getting the name of your book in front of all the people who read that blog. Additionally, the post never goes away. Someone ten years from now may stumble over it and decide to buy your book. Finally, you’re building relationships with these bloggers and developing a list that you can use to make marketing your next book much more efficient.

    Amazon Reviews – I get the value of these to an extent. If someone comes across your book page on Amazon, their first step is to read the blurb. If the summary interests them, their next step is to read some reviews to see if others have enjoyed your book. Having solid reviews that communicate your book’s strengths and weaknesses then becomes a huge factor in whether that potential customer becomes an actual customer. I do not, however, see how having a bunch of reviews attracts customers to your page. Everything I’ve read about Amazon’s algorithms seems to indicate that the recommendations are based solely on sales. Which brings me to:

    Shill Reviews – There is a lot of information out there about authors paying people to write glowing reviews of their work. Three thoughts on this: 1. I don’t understand the benefit. Yes, if people come to your page, it may help them decide to actually make a purchase. But, to me, the key to marketing is getting people to see your book in the first place. Does anyone out there know of a way that more reviews increases the profile of your book? 2. The cost can be huge. Not the monetary cost, but the backlash. If you’re discovered using these techniques, good luck rehabilitating your image. 3. This practice is so unethical. I plan to pester everyone I know to give my first book an honest review. Yes, this means that my sister will give me a glowing 5 star review because, as one of my beta readers, she thinks it’s the best thing she’s ever read. Yes, she’s probably a bit biased. On the other hand, another of my sisters may read it and give it a 1 star review saying it’s crap. As long as I’m requesting honesty, I don’t have a problem with it. What do you think?

    Review Copies – As an author, I cringe at the thought of unprotected pdfs (or other formats) of my hard work escaping containment. I know that I can distribute “gifts” of my books to reviewers, but I still have to pay Amazon’s commission for each copy. I also know that I can distribute copies for free if I sign up for a program where I agree to give Amazon some degree of exclusivity. None of these options sounds palatable to me. Are there other ways to get free copies of my book to reviewers?

    Other Marketing Ideas:

    Release More Books – Most of the sources I’ve read have said that releasing another book is a great marketing tool. I can definitely see this and plan to work hard to make this happen. There’s only so much time in a day, though.

    Fictionwise – I found a blog entry with a link to this site, and a couple of comments below the post purporting to be from writers who use it. According to the comments and the post, having your book listed here as a new release gives a significant increase in sales. I haven’t followed up on the research for this, though. If anyone has used it, please let me know your experience.

    Books on Marketing ebooks – There are tons of these out there. I dug through a bunch of them looking for one to read. The one that caught my attention was: Make A Killing On Kindle (Without Blogging, Facebook Or Twitter). The Guerilla Marketer's Guide To Selling Ebooks On Amazon. As soon as I finish reading Queen of Mages, I plan to buy it, read it, and review it on my blog.

    Blog Tours – The concept seems to be to prearrange with a bunch of blogs to do guest posts and/or reviews of your book at around the same time, preferably on consecutive days in order to create “buzz.” I think that there is a benefit in getting on as many blogs as possible, but I’m not sure it’s possible to establish an overwhelming internet presence by talking to ten or so bloggers.

    Guest Blogging – I’ve read authors say that their books get big boosts when they do guest posts for other bloggers. This makes a lot of sense to me. Blogs are a great way to get your book before a new audience, and a blog post is a way to introduce yourself to them in a positive, personal way. The important thing to remember about this marketing method is that you need to write posts that fit in with the context of the blog, not just write “buy my book because…” In fact, it seems that the soft sale, not mentioning the book at all in your article and having the blogger mention it in the introduction, is a better idea.

    Contests – There are contests out there for every known genre, length, and publishing method. The upside – if you win, or even get an honorable mention, the exposure can be quite beneficial. The downside – almost all of these contests require an entry fee and some a physical copy of the book, and there is no guarantee that you’re going to win. I’ll probably try to find a couple to enter, but I’m not going to devote too much time or money to it.

    Short Stories – A lot of authors base short stories in the world that they have created and distribute these stories as an advertisement for their novel. I’m planning on doing this. I’ll do my best to quantify the interest it generates and report back. EDIT: Based on JC's comment below, I'm claryifying this to say that my plan is to essentially give away my short stories in an attempt to build an email list.

    Endorsement Sites – The concept is that you pay a fee and submit your work to one of these sites. They review it, and, if it meets their criteria, they endorse it. This means that you’re allowed to claim your book as being acceptable to them and use their logo on your website. They’ll also link to your book from your website. I like the thought behind this, but I’m not sure that the value is worth the cost. I plan to contact some of the authors of the featured books and ask if they noticed a bump in sales after they got the endorsement. If they did and that bump covers the cost, I’ll consider doing it.

    If you have anything to add, please comment.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
    Endymion likes this.
  2. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    The real bottom line with social media marketing is that its incredibly useful if you can use it effectively. Now, I'm not personally sure how that applies to selling fiction (but I'm sure it does). In other industries companies are employing SEO Executives (for SEO obviously) and Online Marketing Assistants all over the place (who's sole job is it take charge of the companies social media presence).

    I think the problem is that there is very little measureable benefit to engaging with blogging, tweeting and facebooking, NOT that it has no benefit. The theory goes that you are more likely to buy a product (any product) from someone you feel a connection with. You may not see it when you buy a book, but ever been faced with a "good sales man". I bet you money that he made some kind of personal connection with you ("I have one of these myself", is a common one), but the more comfortable he can make a customer feel, the more likely they are to buy something from him, and the easier it becomes for him to sell them things they didn't think they needed.

    The last clause there is an important one. I've often thought that, when faced with a new title/author, the default setting for a fan of genre fiction is to not buy it. Especially now days when in most countries money doesn't stretch very far. When it comes to social media, you should be using it to bridge the gap like a salesperson would with their banter. I personally want any prospective buyer to think of me as reliable and trustworthy. With a bit of luck they'll put more worth on what I tell them.

    The ability to do that is a marketeers greatest tool, often called the "gift of the gab" (though that's too much of a misnomer for my liking).

    If you use social media no differently than a "shop display" then you aren't using it effectively. In the absense of face-to-face contact with your readers, social media is a perfect vehicle. Give them that added value. Make them believe in you.

    Using the above point as an example, you need to be very careful with advice in a malleable industry such as ours. It can't hurt to have short stories to offer. Unfortunately this kind of advice usually stems from the days when publishers could discover new authors via short stories summissions to anthologies or magazines. While the market of those is on the rise again, people are equally as likely to stumble upon you on the internet or via word of mouth. The more magazines that go out of business the less likely it is to be discovered via short stories.

    At least ... that my opinion. I think it's far more worth ones time to push themselves as a writer of novel length fiction if that is their strong point.

    Free fiction is a different matter mind you. People love free stuff. Ever go to a convention just to pick up all the free pens, pencils, bookmarks and button badges? ;)
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
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  3. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    I believe Smashwords allows that without much cost. Otherwise, you need to contact reviewers and directly offer them the ebook file or whatever.
     
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I get your point. My concept with social media marketing is not that it has no benefit or not enough measurable benefit but that it's benefit, unless done extremely well, probably doesn't match the costs in terms of both money and time.

    This is a good point and is what I meant. I'm going to edit the original piece slightly to make my point clear.
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I think the best way to sell your book is to set up a single place on the web as your "Home Base" designed to sell your book. Then create accounts everywhere - Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, Blogger, forums, etc. - and post, comment, talk to people, while all the time linking to your "Home Base" in your signature or else by linking to new content you've updated. But the important thing is to be a presence, make friends, network, schmooze and hobnob the web in communities that are prone to liking your work. Be a value. Be someone they want to invite to guest post because your comments represent someone fascinating.

    The "Home Base," however, reflects an attitude about the site you need to create, rather than the direct content. You don't need people to keep returning to your home base over and over and over. You just need them to visit once and then progress towards buying (and reviewing!) your book.

    Maybe your home base has a blog that you update daily, or else just three times a month, or else it's just a webpage with little regular content. Maybe it's just the "Amazon" page where your book is being sold. That's up to you and the efforts you're willing to put into it and how reflective it can be of the content of your book.

    However, if you want to talk "gimmicks," there's worse than fake amazon reviews. You could, literally and unfortunately, buy your way onto the best seller lists. Drop a hundred grand on 10,000 copies of your book, and you're almost guaranteed that people will demand a sequel that genuinely sells.
     
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  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I like this concept.

    Let's see... If I took out a second mortgage on the house... Hmmm.
     
  7. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    Got an additional bit of explanation: You need to go to your target audience and make it easy for them. However you choose to do that is up to you, but if the majority use a certain internet service it can't hurt for you to offer them things there.
     
  8. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    That's the heart of the problem, though. How do you reach your target audience? How do you determine exactly who they are and where they hang out? How do you attract them to your book above all others?
     
  9. gavintonks

    gavintonks Maester

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    selling of everything is extremely hard and requires faith.I self published a poetry book and although I did not make any money as when I took the real costs into consideration from time to transport and the cost of publishing but was a brilliant exercise.

    Through friends kids they developed a following and used examples at their school, the library took copies which were book out and the local book shop took on consignment and sold a few copies. So sold where there were buyers also at craft shows etc but I realized if I wanted to sell 5 000 copies you need 5 000 people to buy but they are not all in one place so in a relatively small area you can sell 3 to 5 books easily so the hard part is finding another 1000 places the same.

    That's the secret with publishers as it is the distribution network to the thousands of outlets or doing a deal with a supermarket that gets the book in the face of the people you wish to buy your book. You need to sell and sell and sell and its hard but not impossible, I know a couple of authors who have sold a few thousand books but it is also a huge investment in stock and knowing how much delivery and postage costs
     
  10. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Devor, can't get past you refering to "Home Base." Homebase is a chain of stores in the UK which stock household and garden items from toilet seats and door hinges to plant pots, cleaning chemicals and wood varnish. Whenever I hear that phrase, say in the context of George W Bush talking about the war in Iraq, I can't help but think of browsing pretty water features in the garden section.
     
  11. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I love that last suggestion... HAHA

    One thing I've noticed, that really got me to consider books in the past, was the little sample they let you read. I don't know what it's called, but for me, I read most of one chapter of a book, and was dying to turn the digital page, but the sample ended. I'd strongly recommend you do something like that... post as much as it takes to get people completely and utterly hooked, then make them purchase to see what happens!

    This is not a criticism, but I think read-only PDFs are probably okay. Think about it, if someone has the ability to read your book for free on their kindle or laptop, they could also copy it, so a PDF, while not completely secure and copy-proof, is at least a way to accomplish what you want. Anyone can copy someone's work if they really wanted to, I'm not sure there's any way to fully protect yourself from that.

    Thanks for posting your research and thoughts here. I think hearing all sides of traditional vs. self, and the behind the scenes work people have to do is really useful for people who are maybe not as far along their own paths. Sure, it sounds like a breeze to self-publish if you've been rejected by dozens of agents, but when you look at what efforts you have to make, to be successful at it, it is a bit sobering.

    Best wishes on your venture. It never hurts to have all your facebook friends and their friends like your page and your book. I agree about the blogs. I think blogging is something you do if you love it, but I'm not sure whether the results in sales volume, derived solely from blogging, would make the time effectively spent. It is probably more beneficial if you have many links to other blogs or sites though.
     
  12. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Facebook keeps track of just that. I know the age breakdown of the viewers to my FB page and the gender percentage.
     
  13. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    If there were easy answers to those questions then there would be no need for people whose sole purpose in business is to deal with it.

    The hard answer to targetting your product is research. I could quote a number of models, and theories like the marketing mix and so on that offer a method to proper marketing but not only can I not remember without delving into the hordes of text books I have on the subject, I think people can come to the same conclusions without such models. It's fairly common sense.

    If you take the idea that you "write what you love", what kind of places to do you hang out at online? The marketeers best source is themselves. When thats not possible, you could embark on painstaking research, or just wing it by altering your marketing by what results you see in return. If something isn't working don't be afraid to drop it. No sales through a certain distributer? Drop it. Especially if it's costing you.

    It is definitely a trial and error based subject. Unfortunately without hard earned experience it's difficult for most people to pin down exactly what works. And to top it all off, all markets fluctuate pretty unpredictably most of the time (there are a few steady state markets I'm sure, but most change most of the time). What worked last month, or last year, won't necessarily work now, and the real trick is effectively altering your methods BEFORE it becomes important based on extrapolation of trends.



    So yeah, marketing is a legit subject. It seems simple on the face of it, but being good at marketing feels to me a lot like being asked to become clairvoyant. It would be so much easier if you were.
     
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  14. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    This is why Facebook has become the go to social media for people looking to sell you things. Half the time you probably don't even realise its happening to you. I've heard there are companies who buy into the facebook and google "databases". You would genuinely be frightened to find out exactly what companies know about you, and you can be damn sure they use it. The fact that Ankari or anyone can easly research their target audience using social media WITHOUT buying into the marketing database idea should prove my point.
     
  15. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    My understanding is this: if I send someone a pdf of my book, there is nothing preventing that person from sending copies of that pdf to anyone they want. With the Kindle, the management of the book is contained at Amazon. There's no way for them to copy the file and send it to anyone.

    Maybe my understanding is incorrect.
     
  16. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    You could always offer a limited amount of free copies of your finished product to promote it. Perhaps even have a few printed copies to give away at conventions... anything to get your name out there because word of mouth is always the most effective and cheapest form of marketing.
     
  17. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Great. Now I have to research how to become clairvoyant too. :)

    I agree that it's a lot of trial and error. I'm doing my best to research what other people have done and what has worked for them, hoping to learn from their successes and mistakes.

    I think it's important to have a plan in place.
     
  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    No, you can pull the files off a Kindle and email them around as well. The Kindle has a USB connection and you can attach it to a computer and access it as a drive. You can put DRM on it, if you like, though people can strip that off as well. But even though Amazon stores your books online, they are downloaded to the actual device to be read.
     
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  19. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    That's good to know. Thanks for the information.

    With this being the case, it seems to make no difference if you email it out or not, so, while I worry about it on one hand, on the other it seems like it's beyond my control and that the best bet is to just email copies to whoever needs one.

    Thanks!
     
  20. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I've emailed copies of my book to people in Kindle form. On the other hand, pulling it off a Kindle yourself takes a few more steps, and if it has DRM it may deter a few other people because that takes some work to remove. On the other hand, some people don't want to buy it if it has DRM.
     
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