book promotion, reading

What’s Your Plan?

I am riled by (the info in) Atthys’ latest post: readership is down (we knew that), and self publishing is way up. A lot of folks who would formerly have been reading are too busy, having been inspired by Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking to try their hand at it.

He’s right about writers, to a certain extent. I have many books I want to dig into. I nibble, here, there. It takes something really special to lock me in. It doesn’t mean I don’t admire a piece, but I have things I feel I need (as opposed to want) to read. Much of this is research. I confess, I am one of the recalcitrant readers.

But there are still plenty of not-booked-up book lovers around. How do we reach them? How do we convince them that our book, in the vast array of choices, is the one they want to read? How do we get ourselves noticed in the first place?

We need a marketing plan. A robust marketing plan. Putting your thing up on Amazon, doing an interview on someone’s blog, planting an announcement here or there, buying an ad on Google, we see from testimony given here, this doesn’t begin to suffice.

Number one, you need a website. I’m working on one, as most of you know. Curtis wonders why it has to be so elaborate. Why can’t I just post my novella, hand out my bumper stickers, and get back writing?

I consider graphic style to be a hook as important as a dynamite first paragraph. (Well, natch. I’m a designer.) Everyone I manage to herd to my site who doesn’t have his/her socks knocked off one way or another, I’ve had my shot with them and blown it. I aim to tantalize with fun graphics and patter, holding their interest long enough to get them to read a bit of story, hoping they decide that my squirrely thing is for them.

Only days ago I inserted Mr. Peabody into the mix. The Mr. Peabody. He performs a specific mechanical function for me, but I’m sure I’ll find other use for him. He is, you’ll recall, a history buff, possessed of a rare breadth and depth of information. (How can I pass up this astonishing opportunity?) He’s spent the past forty years earning his Ph.D. Like my ex-sister-in-law did, changing schools and/or fields multiple times, because she could. She ran through a large inheritance in the process. She’s now forced to sell land that’s been in her family for generations. Dr. P has depleted his own money (from his hit show) and, broke, the poor guy lacking a considerable remnant of once massive farmland to surrender, he’s coming to work for me. I believe I’ll give him an advice column on my site, poor baby.

I may call it Ask Dr. P. Will people think I’ve got Dr. Phil on board? Phil-style babble, references to a TV show, they may. Should I exploit that somehow? Something to think about. I’m beginning to wonder if Peabody wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Dr. Phil show, and they accepted it to get him out the damn door.

When I’m all tuned up, ready to roll, I’ll promote my web presence aggressively:

This is a bit out-there, but I may try it: In a bookstore, poke your business card into books in your genre, way in the middle. Readers will most likely not find the Rogue plug for some time. If they’ve bought used, they’ll think it was left behind by the previous owner.

We have several small second hand bookstores in our area, and one rather renowned independent, the Hickory Stick in Washington Depot, CT. Might they let a local author put up a poster? The area is full of weekenders up from Manhattan. Who knows what eye I might catch.

Kent is a movers-and-shakers summer haven. I will set up on the main street on a big summer weekend. (In summer, all weekends are big, but some are extra big.) I’ll grab a prime parking spot early in the day and publicize Sly out of my car.

That’s for someday. Back to now: I pick up valuable information in the several writer/web design groups on Facebook. Here’s a tip I found just today: Google has a new search algorithm that gives priority to mobile-ready sites. I have debated making my .com site a pared down mobile-friendly portal to a full site. (As opposed to a supplemental thing.) After reading this, I am convinced a simplified feeder to the big bass drum (Booth led boldly with his big bass drum, that line sticks with me from tenth grade, fifty-five years ago) seems to be the better way.

More street level shenanigans: Can you get yourself profiled in your local paper? My cousin Jim Meirose has had several pieces done on him. He’s made himself a name, at least in Central Jersey. Have you thought about posting a flyer in laundromats? I’ve perused many a bulletin board, waiting for my duds to dry.

I’m wondering, seeing all the political frou-frou on my way to work, how about yard signs? I’m considering knocking on doors, offering twenty-five bucks a month for permission to spear a placard into someone’s turf. Near a stop sign, where drivers sit in line.

That thin flexible vinyl bumper stickers are made of? I wonder if I could get an over-the-shoulders front/back billboard, turn myself into a walking advertisement. My husband might want to pretend he’s not with me but I can deal with that.

For all of this, you need an on-line home, where you: Talk up your book(s). Collect email addresses. Offer premiums. Post dates and locales of personal appearances. (Craft shows, etc., especially if you have hard copies to sell. I’m thinking here of my eventual paperdoll.) On Facebook you can place a link in any number of groups. Some percentage of viewers will take you up on it. I investigate sites all the time, to see how others handle them.

A website is your best tool. Create a hybrid, op-ed content in addition to the show-and-tell for your story so that, having coaxed folks on, you might keep them coming back.

Tell me your plan. Could be you have great ideas I’ve overlooked. I would love to hear them.

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15 thoughts on “What’s Your Plan?

  1. Perry Palin says:

    Mimi,

    Reading what you have written here and on earlier posts, I have learned something about my future website. I have learned that there are important things that go into making a website of which I have no knowledge whatsoever, and which I am unlikely to learn in a year. My plan is to contact a professional web designer to see what he will do for me and for what price. I have a passing acquaintance with the man, I have seen his work, he has read at least some of my stories, and I think we can work together.

    I think I need a website. But what evidence do you have that an author’s website leads to book sales? Is your world different than my Midwestern neighborhood? I know two successful authors, one who sold every copy of his expensive full color photographic walking tour of the neighborhoods of Paris, and another who is still selling a very fine children’s book. Both have websites. Neither attributes any sales at all to their websites. The books sold at readings/signings/personal appearances, as a result of interviews and reviews, and in stores. Another more distant acquaintance is a Midwestern TV and radio personality that is recognized by many thousands of people. Her book, unrelated to her work in the media, sold on her celebrity and because it was reviewed in the large city newspaper. I bought my copy when she spoke at a association dinner. She told me that her website sold no copies of the book. I don’t know anyone who actually has significant book sales through their websites. Maybe my web designer will have other data.

    The guerrilla tactic of tucking your card into bookstore stock is good. I like it. I could not market a book out of my parked car for long without a peddler’s license. It might be worth it to get arrested, and show up on the evening news.

    Bringing the star of “Mr. Peabody’s Improbable History” onto your staff is genius. Celebrity hires always work. How great is it that The Big Bang Theory brought in Bob Newhart for a number of appearances? Content involving Mr. (now Dr.) P will bring return visits; this I think is the best way to use a website to raise interest in books for sale.

    You have given us some good things to think about. I’m thinking now about my plan.

    Liked by 4 people

    • mimispeike says:

      Thank you for your comments. I do not believe that a website sells books necessarily, I believe that a website boots exposure, and exposure sells books. My bag of tricks will (I hope) get people to look up my site, they will have the smart-mouth introduction to my world and a few chapters of my novella to chew on, I will supply some screwball questions for Dr. Peabody, and he will reply in a psycho-babble voice. And he will accept questions from viewers.

      I am already busy at work searching our archives for impenetrable nonsense – I found some great stuff last night already, the equivalent of Bill Clinton’s ‘what is is’ … my alternate impulse is to make him into the Dear Abby of your nightmares. He has a broad background (like my sister-in-law), having moved from cultural studies to this to that, ending in psychology. He thinks he has all the answers.

      I do believe that if I lay out my world in its magnificent lunacy, some percentage of readers will not be able to resist trying the starter book, and go on from there. I don’t intend to sell directly off my site, only to provide a link to Amazon.

      Do you mean to tell me that if I wear a slogan-printed vinyl vest around, maybe have bumper stickers plastered all over my car, and hand out business cards, I can get arrested? How is my vest (actually, I’m thinking now of a whole cape) different from any sweatshirt with a sports team logo (except for being a bunch more garish)? And yes, I am willing to be arrested, but let it be in the presence of a crowd of onlookers with means to record the incident, and a TV camera.

      Those two books you mention, the walking tour and the children’s book, are both (probably) expensive and very visual, and may need to be handled. A piece of fiction is another thing. You can get a good feel for it on a website. We writers can reach a much larger audience with a site set up to speak on our behalf than a one-on-one pitch can ever accomplish.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Perry Palin says:

        Mimi,

        I didn’t know what your plans were for “publiciz(ing) Sly out of (your) car.” Out here you could probably hand out promotional material without the notoriety of an arrest, but if you sold a book out of the back seat, that would be peddling without a license. We’ll want to know if this works. It seems like a scattergun approach. I’m trying to narrow my audience, selling my outdoor focused stories at outdoor club meetings (or at least having the books mentioned on THEIR club websites), and at stores that sell outdoor equipment.

        I went to the local writers’ club meeting yesterday. The only guy there who has much for sales at all told me that he sells his local histories at museums, gatherings of history buffs, and to members of church groups. He hand-sells some of his romances at craft fairs, community celebrations, and winery events. He tells me that his ebook sales are almost zero; results from his own website, his publisher’s website, and Amazon have been disappointing.

        Yes, the photo book and the children’s book are expensive and only available in hard copy. But I can’t argue with success. Those guys each produced a good product, knew how to find a welcoming market, and sold out their long first press runs without a problem.

        My wife is soon off to a meet-the-author event at the public library in town, to hear a regional mystery writer. The library listed this in the local newspaper, and I’d expect 20-30 people to attend. That’s not a big audience, but some books will be sold and perhaps some new fans realized, who may in turn spread the word about the author. This is not as efficient as a website that might reach many, but it is effective for emerging writers selling books in our small Midwestern towns.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Perry Palin says:

          Postscript to the above: My wife came home from the library event with two new paperbacks. The hardcover she wanted was sold out by the time she got to the front of the line, so she has that one order. By her description of the presentation, the size of the crowd (my estimate was quite low), and how people were lining up to buy books, I’m guessing the author had at least $1,000 in revenue today, and maybe more. My wife was so pleased with the event that she made a substantial monetary contribution to the sponsoring Friends of the Library.

          Liked by 2 people

          • mimispeike says:

            I do not mean to sell on the street. I want to hand out promotional material advertising my website. And I do not plan to sell directly off my site, I only want to make my case and send folks to Amazon.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. GD Deckard says:

    Mimi, you are the very portrait of a driven writer: Thoughtful, analytical, independent, prefer to work on your own, tend to be impatient with bureaucracy, distrust authority as hindering the uptake of novel ideas and have little patience for social customs that seem illogical or that obstruct the pursuit of ideas and knowledge. Meaning, you prize autonomy in yourself and others. So, it’s no surprise that no matter what the world is like, you’re gonna do things Mimi’s way. I applaud!

    Like

    • mimispeike says:

      “. . . you’re gonna do things Mimi’s way.” GD, that has always been my strength, and my downfall. I listen to opinions, but I come up with my own solutions, to the horror of many, particularly my often aghast relatives.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. mimispeike says:

    And, a reminder, first and foremost comes the quality of the writing. I just found this comment on Scribophile:

    “Many years ago I was assigned the slush pile at Holt Rinehart & Winston on Madison Ave. in NYC. I soon learned that the first page is a 100% accurate predictor of the quality of writing on the next 300.”

    And that is another reason why I labor so over my site. Every line must be perfection, not one a throw-away thought.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. writerdjlutz says:

    As mentioned in my earlier post on anthologies, sometimes there truly is “safety in numbers.” Our marketing plan is this: we all look for places to hold book signings, places where we can draw in customers for the place (win for them) – and we can sell our book (win for us). We also have an understanding with each other that we can sell our own books alongside the anthology. The anthology is full of mysteries, but individually we write in many different genres. Our goal is to have something for everyone. Will we become NYT Best Sellers this way? No. But the group moved 10k books last year. They also fan out and attend as many conferences as possible, usually volunteering or even better, being on panels. From what I see, you volunteer for a year or two, then you get an inside ride to becoming a panelist or moderator. Does this sell books? Not directly, but now your audience has grown immensely and your sales could (key word) grow with it. You don’t know until you try. Need a group, a cohort? Go online and either look for one nearby, or start one. There are probably writers or those who want to become one nearby. Good luck and keep working!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. mimispeike says:

    Well, this is troubling. On Scribophile, someone says, Amazon will now not let you leave a book review until you have spent $50 on books. And although she had spent that much on Anazon.com.uk she had not done so on the US (.com) site and the money spent did not carry over. Anybody know anything about this? It’s a new policy, just put in place.

    Like

    • I just went and looked it up. It seems to be Amazon’s latest attempt to prevent people from flooding a book with fake reviews using the so-called review farms. As usual, though, it is something that the unscrupulous will probably be able to get around quite easily, but which will lock out the casual reviewer. I respect the goal of getting rid of fakes (“This book was awesome! Can’t wait to read the sequel!” —end of review.) but they’re attacking the problem with a chainsaw instead pruning shears. I can’t believe in this age of date mining, they can’t come up with something more sophisticated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mimispeike says:

        OK, that makes sense. For anyone who buys hard copies, that goal is not hard to reach. For e-book buyers, that’s a lot of books to purchase, and to read. I much prefer to have a book in my hand, that I can underline. If I want to read something badly enough (that is, to actually read it cover to cover) I want the print version. I buy many a thing available on Gutenberg, for that reason.

        Like

        • I’m pretty sure it’s a cumulative thing, like if your Amazon account shows a history of book buying equal to $50. But I’m not positive. But you’re right about eBooks. My own sell for $2.99 a pop, which is a popular price point (the lowest at which the 70% royalty rate applies.) That’s seventeen book purchases before you can leave a review.

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          • From what I can see, the $50 isn’t just for books but all products, so can come from the reviewers’ entire purchase history. I’m not sure if I’ve ever bought anything other than books myself, but a lot of people do.

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  6. mimispeike says:

    Nothing in line but for good ol’ GD. Somebody feed this beast, or we’re gonna end up with Daily Prompt: Graceful.

    You know, Graceful is the reason I started posting a headline, as notice that an article was on the way. I’d thought that was what was going on there, an announcement that a commentary was in the works. I’ve waited for the guts of the piece to arrive. How long has it been? A month or more, right? Strange.

    As is, I’m afraid my response would be anything but graceful. I’ve got my reply ready to go. The title is Daily Prompt: Bullshit. You don’t think I’d actually throw it up here? I wonder myself. We’ll see.

    Okay, I’ve followed the link and looked at the site, and it is rather interesting. I still think we here expect more input than an invitation to provide content for another site.

    Like

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