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Marketing and Promotion—Musings, Madness, and Misgivings

Marketing and Promotion—Musings, Madness, and Misgivings 

In anticipation of an upcoming book release in August, I’ve been thinking more about marketing and promotion. I do not want to repeat past experiences where time and money have been largely wasted in some deep abyss. Of course, I would like to get the best ROI on the time and money expended (this second category has a very modest budget). As opposed to past book marketing and promotional efforts, this time I am working with a mid-press publisher that actually is devoting resources into marketing. I don’t want to duplicate their efforts, but our combined efforts will hopefully achieve some success. I have no misconceptions that this is their sole responsibility. In fact, I think more of the effort needs to come from me. What then is the best way to proceed?

Prompted by an exchange with GD, I am going to list and comment upon a broad array of different tactics and strategies that I am aware of. Some are familiar in so far as I have gone down those roads before. Others are new attempts I plan to try as a way to increase book sales. This is the primary result I want to achieve with these marketing and promotional efforts. I understand that there are secondary goals such as networking, name recognition, media opportunities, film options (one can dream), but the primary focus remains as increasing sales.

Some of the things I list are only pertinent to a new release. I’m sure the list is incomplete. I will not shy away from giving biased opinions on some of the techniques and strategies. As an example, I am generally opposed to steeply discounting books to provoke sales; although, I see a limited role for that particular strategy when doing so as a “loss leader” to hook readers into a series. I’m sure things that have worked for others that I have not found to be helpful are worth considering. I will add that compiling this list only reinforces the morass that many of us are trying to wade through.

Here goes:

  1. Friends and family: an effective approach but the ceiling is low.
  2. Author email list: not a personal fan as I think it requires some effort to maintain and I think the usefulness in generating sales is limited. I do understand some authors will cross promote with each other using these lists. My personal list is small and I make no effort to build a fan base this way. I do have an author FB page (more on that later) and I think that’s my preferred venue to build and maintain a fan base.
  3. Press release: I’m letting my publisher handle this and I’ll blast it out on my modest social media network. Can be used to outreach to local press, radio stations, etc. but I’m not sure how effective that is.
  4. Speaking and presentations: Can be effective. May require some extra effort. Best if you can have a themed talk that somehow relates to your book. For example, chakras and charkra openings are an important element in my story, so speaking about this topic is a way to have a themed talk to provoke some book sales.
  5. Endorsements and blurbs: Great if you can get them especially from well-known authors writing in the same genre that your book is in. Does anyone have a direct line to Dan Brown (not just any person who happens to have that name, I’m talking about the author of The Da Vinci Code)? Please hook me up as this release is a suspense novel that involves secret societies. LOL!
  6. Contests: I think these can be helpful if you win an award and can leverage that into more sales. There are a lot of “fluff” contests out there and many readers cannot distinguish what is effectively a scam contest to prey on authors and what is a legitimate competition with qualified judges. I myself plan to apply for four such award competitions and am willing to devote some of my budget to try and obtain recognition with an award. If anyone is interested, I’ll be happy to share the specific contests and why I have selected them. My publisher may submit to other competitions. Some of the best awards require that your book be nominated. I’m not holding my breath for that.
  7. Goodreads: This has always struck me as a black hole of sorts. I think that authors who are active and “good citizens” of Goodreads groups can leverage that into sales. I am not in that category.
  8. Social Media: This is a big topic so I’m going to break it down. I’ll also cover ads on social media separately.
    • Twitter: I am reasonably active here, but I don’t think it results in many or any book sales. Occasionally some opportunity comes up with a follower, for example an invitation to do an interview.
    • FB: This is where I am personally active not only with posting on my own author site, but also cross promoting with my podcast FB page and other writing related sites. Impact on book sales is hard to judge. Whether or not to have a new FB page devoted solely to this new title is something I am debating. I am more in favor of author branding and not a single title and I really want the traffic and marketing efforts to be on my author page platform.
    • LinkedIn: I use this sparingly to post new content such as podcasts and will make announcements about the book release, share a press release, and that sort of thing.
    • YouTube: I have my own YouTube channel where I post podcast episodes, book trailers, and other content. I find it useful to use the YouTube content on my other social media platforms and I know this has been helpful in driving some sales.
    • I’m not using Instagram, Bookstagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Reddit , or other social media platforms. They may be effective but I haven’t explored and feel I am not inclined to try and go down another rabbit hole.
    • Influencers: If you can hook up with or somehow get picked up by someone with a big following, and have them promote your book for you, that’s probably a great strategy to use.
  9. Paid advertising: Again, let me break this down.
    • FB have used including targeting the right demographic. Waste of money in my opinion but other authors have had success.
    • AMS (Amazon Marketing Services). I’ve had more success with this than FB but not enough to set up and tweak ongoing ad campaigns.
    • Twitter promotions: way over-saturated and not worth the money
    • YouTube: I’ve had some limited success. The ads run through Google and are targeted. I think a well-produced book trailer can generate sales.
    • Promotions run through others. Here I am talking about things like BookBub, Fussy Librarian, etc. Unless you are willing to discount, I don’t think this is effective. I have used a number of different services (never managed to be accepted by BookBub), but I won’t be spending my limited budget this way. A big number of .99 sales has some merit, but coordinating this and getting agreement from my publisher is nightmarish without monetary return.
    • Print advertising. It’s expensive and difficult to track results.
  10. Book reviews: Here I distinguish between reader reviews, paid reviews, and other outlets.
    • The more reader reviews the better up to a threshold, especially if they continue to come in a steady stream following release and especially if they are verified purchase reviews. The number, rate, and whether or not it comes from a purchaser affect the Amazon algorithm that affects your ranking. I am personally trying to get 10 people to commit to a pre-order of the book and a review in the first week of publication (I provide an ARC so they don’t have to rush to read as soon as the book comes out). There is a narrow window to generate hype following a book’s release so if you can line up some preorders and early reviews you get a jump start. [If anyone wants to be in this early group, please email me at victoracquista@victoracquista.com] Continuing to solicit reviews I believe is an important strategy. There are reviewers but in my experience there is a big gap in requesting a review and getting one. I do have access to information (via Where Writers Win https://writerswin.com/ through membership in their Winners Circle) that gives a listing of reviewers by genre and ranking by site traffic. I should also mention that winning  a legitimate award may give an advantage to getting a review.
    • Paid reviews from entities such as Kirkus are expensive but they have distribution to get eyes on your book from ancillary places like magazines, film executives, etc. Ten percent of Kirkus reviews are starred and getting that designation could open some doors. I’m hoping my publisher fronts this cost. It’s also much easier to get into libraries if you have a Kirkus review. I’m not a fan of other paid reviews but I think they can generate exposure and if they are from a credible site, they might provoke some sales.
    • There are other review outlets including magazines, trade journals, newspapers, Publishers Weekly, and who knows what else. I’m relying on my publisher to make these connections.
  1. Launch party: Not a fan
  2. Launch event: If you have a low-cost venue, are budgeted to provide some food, and believe you can get sufficient people, then why not? Book stores are potentially a place to host at no cost.
  3. Prize giveaways: Can be done on your own or in concert with other authors. I did this with my sci-fi novel and found the ROI to be negative.
  4. Personal author website: I have one and will update accordingly. I’m not sure if it drives any sales. Same is true for Amazon author page.
  5. Bookmarks: Low cost and useful to hand out at conferences and other events.
  6. Publicity company: Hiring a PR firm is expensive and putting together a formal campaign is a big undertaking. I’ve done this previously but do not plan to do so again.
  7. Media exposure e.g. TV, radio, podcasts: Potentially useful with the cost being time. Eventual sales depend in part on what audience is viewing/listening to the show.
  8. Book signings, bookstores, events such as trade shows: There are potential costs involved for some of these related to entry fees, vendor space, a booth with banners, business cards, etc. On top of this there may be travel costs, meals and lodging, the aggravation of set up and take down. I think the ROI is more in the category of networking and less so in book sales. I am committed to doing some of this. There are true benefits to having a relationship with a bookstore, particularly one that goes to these trade shows. Then you can attend and have a book signing without actually being a vendor.
  9. Professional organization: I think there are benefits to being part of a writing organization where you interact with colleagues, support one another, attend sponsored workshops, etc. I am a member of the Mystery Writers of America and we have a terrific chapter in Florida. I think promoting one another’s work is one of the benefits of membership.
  10. Celebrity outreach: great if you can get exposure through a celebrity. Celebrity book club selection (think Oprah, Reese Witherspoon) would be huge.
  11. Bloggers: Could be effective. Fortunately, my publisher has a network of bloggers that promote the titles. I’ll probably do some outreach on my own but sifting through the wheat from the chaff seems to me to be a difficult task.
  12. Virtual blog tour: I’ve heard mixed things. Not currently part of my marketing plan. There are companies that will set these up for a fee.
  13. Book clubs: This is something I am currently investigating. How to reach out effectively? I think this has the potential to drive up sales.
  14. Libraries: Fortunately, my publisher has a lot of experience in getting books into libraries.
  15. Advanced reader copies (ARCs): Again, this is something my publisher is very proactive with. They participate with NetGalley and LibraryThing. I know of a recent release that had over 90 very favorable NetGalley reviews before it was even published. Authors can get their books into NetGalley but it’s expensive. Creating a buzz and generating hype seems to me to be an important element in driving book sales. I am fortunate that my publisher has these connections.
  16. Book trailer: I’ve made my own and paid to have one produced for a previous novel. I plan to pay for a professional quality trailer and use it on social media, my website, Amazon author page, YouTube channel and ads. I’m hoping there is a ROI but recognize that might not be the case.
  17. Podcasts: I saved this to present near the end of my list because it seems to me to be a somewhat novel approach. Here I am not talking about appearing as a guest on a podcast show to be interviewed and talk about your book. I started a podcast series, Podfobler Productions, where I narrate my own and other authors’ works. I produce YouTube videos of the shows and use them in my social media posts, FB page for the show, and ad campaigns. For profiling guest authors, I only ask that they distribute the show to their network and when I eventually produce a show about my new book, they agree to distribute that show. Here I am trying to build a fan base and also use the networking power of fellow authors. Will it help to drive sales? I don’t know but it is part of my overall marketing strategy. I just wrapped up season 1 with twenty assorted shows two of which featured co-op members (GD- episode 11 and Curtis-episode 15). Here’s the season one playlist in case anyone is interested: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpfls08qGbIsHnbp-2-C9r5I8fK8kw24j Incidentally, in case anyone wants to have their work narrated, drop me an email (address in #10 above). I’m currently working on a production schedule for season two.
  18. Fingers crossed for good luck: Napoleon said something to the effect of, “I would rather have lucky generals than good generals.” I know wishes won’t wash dishes, but I do think there is an element of luck that goes into this abyss of marketing and promotion.

Edison said, “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” I’m working this hard and may need to get crowdfunding for deodorant considering how much sweat equity I’m devoting to this. I don’t think success comes without effort unless your stars align in some magical way.

This is a very lengthy dive into a murky territory, a swamp and quagmire full of traps that can swallow you up. I’m sure I missed some categories beyond what I have listed. Comments, insights, disagreements, and commiseration are invited and welcomed. Wish me luck as I get ready to take the plunge.










30 thoughts on “Marketing and Promotion—Musings, Madness, and Misgivings

  1. victoracquista says:

    You are funny and witty, GD. You nudged me into writing my disparate thoughts into some measure of coherence. The manifesto does give me a list to check over from time to time and should be useful in the future, and I want to give you deserved credit. Some of these thoughts we have discussed together as we enjoy good food and good fellowship.
    I shall continue to add to the list and start with #29–payola. Any palms to grease? Not serious about having that on the list and I know it was mentioned in jest, but is this still occurring in the music industry? I know at one time it was the way business was commonly done to promote songs. It does make me wonder to what extent this is going on, in some fashion, with promoting books.

    Liked by 3 people

    • A quick google turned this up:
      “Randy Kennedy wrote an excellent brief dissertation in the New York Times on ‘co-op advertising,’ the process by which book publishers effectively pay Barnes & Noble for guaranteed placement at the front of stores. (No disclosure, no hint of illegality.)”

      🙂 It’s not payola, it’s “co-op advertising.”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. mimispeike says:

    I applaud your ambition, but your YouTube offerings are not the sweet fly-paper that will lure and hold them elusive reader flies.

    I listen to music whilst watching a static screen, the sound is the draw. For a book promotion, I want to see movement, graphics. The approach you take is, in my opinion, counterproductive.

    You may agree with me; this is only your start-out effort. It is the most intimidating thing I can think of (after writing the damn book).

    That you have tackled it is terrific in itself. I haven’t worked up to exploring it yet. You have that over me.

    Liked by 4 people

    • victoracquista says:

      There have been thousands of views. What you see as videos are primarily podcasts made for audio that get repurposed into YouTube videos that are meant to be listened to more than watched. It’s the medium that has a much wider outreach than a blog post or author list.
      Starting a channel of your own is super easy so don’t be intimidated. You could post readings (readers like when an author narrates their own work provided the narration skills are decent and the audio quality is decent) and have a cat-cam for action.

      Some of what’s on my channel is “story time” readings with static images, but other videos on the channel are book promotional spots, some of which are cinematic.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Today I watched a SCBWI digital workshop on marketing in which the presenter began by saying the two crucial steps most authors miss when promoting their books are identifying their audience, and not understanding that marketing efforts have to be targeted or you’re wasting your time. Then she covered how to ID your audience and ten proven marketing strategies that build visibility for your book and business, singling out video marketing as a game-changer for her. She also recommends Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger as a must read.

        What she didn’t say was exactly how those strategies affected her book sales.

        Liked by 3 people

        • victoracquista says:

          I agree about knowing what audience you are targeting and tailoring your efforts accordingly. I address this somewhat in my response to Perry. My actual marketing plan to the publisher has this covered from my perspective and I know this is something they also incorporate from their end.
          I am curious what the presenter had to say about video marketing since this is a part of my plan. If you can send me the presenter’s name, I would be grateful.

          Liked by 2 people

    • victoracquista says:

      Elsewhere I have described marketing and promotion as a black box and a black hole. It is tough to figure out what is inside the box and make sense of it. The black hole sucks everything you put into it and you are left with nothing to show. That, at least, is how I sometimes have felt and and continue to feel. Recently, some of the mystery inside the box is beginning to show itself and there seems to be some light that is not consumed by the black hole.
      I frequently have a feeling of exhaustion at the time and effort I am putting into this marketing stuff. it can be overwhelming. In truth, it is far less time and effort than I have put into researching, writing, and editing my novels.
      I conceptualize three mountains to scale: writing a book, publishing that book, and having people read that book. They are each challenges and in some sense require different skill sets. I’m still on a learning curve for all three. Fortunately, I am wasting less time than I used to.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I’m starting to learn some things about marketing from the blogging community and reading up on it. I’m also struggling with feelings of resentment because I didn’t sign up for marketing I signed up to write fiction and poetry. Time to suck it up, eh?

        Liked by 4 people

        • Perry Palin says:

          Exactly, Liz.

          I never thought I would make any real money at this, and thank goodness I don’t really need the money. For me I wouldn’t call it resentment. Maybe disappointment or resignation. I get good reviews from my small circle of readers,but the circle isn’t growing and I don’t want to have to put in the hard marketing work to make it grow.

          S I can be resigned to a small circle, or I can do the work.

          Liked by 3 people

  3. Perry Palin says:

    Victor has given us a long list of marketing activities. I don’t know anyone who could do them all.

    Who is in your target readership? To what will they respond? Many of my readers have never and will never get into social media, and they don’t do ebooks, but they like a nice looking paperback they can hold in their hands. That determines what I might choose from the list. Should I worry that I am missing potential readers by not trying other things?

    A nice surprise for me was unsolicited published reviews from community influencers which led to sales. A not so nice surprise was crickets from influencers to whom I gave free copies, and they said they liked my writing but never told anyone else.

    As I have written here in the past, the few really successful authors I have known meet their readers a handful at a time at readings and signings. The virus has put a pause to that. One friend told me he would sometimes sell just one book at a reading, but he wasn’t discouraged because that sale earned him another friend and it often led to future sales.

    Liked by 3 people

    • victoracquista says:

      That’s a tried and true strategy, Perry. As far as target audiences, I think it’s wise to understand who your potential readers are and then incorporate strategies to reach those audiences. The actual marketing plan I sent to the publisher targeted three different groups and had different approaches for each. A mainstream fiction readership might best be targeted with a wide net. An audience interested in conspiracy theories would require a narrower, more surgical approach.
      My publisher has access to market research data that directs some of the targeting. This might affect keywords that appear in search engines. It can get quite elaborate to delve into the specifics about how a publisher develops a plan to reach the targeted audiences. I know a little about this from communication with the publisher. They have to know how to do this or they would not remain in business.
      My marketing plan does include local efforts at bookstores and events. There is something nice about meeting a local author and getting a signed copy of their book.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. A very comprehensive list there, Victor – thanks! As Perry says, I don’t think anyone could do them all so it’s a matter of focusing on a few and trying to do them as thoroughly as possible. You’re right that a newsletter doesn’t generate many sales but it’s still my main focus. I enjoy doing it, which is essential – otherwise there’s no point. And I need to build up the number of subscribers to ten times what it is now (roughly 1700) to start to get any real traction. Meanwhile I dip into Facebook every so often, and am still studying how to go about advertising there – everything needs to be as good as I can make it before I’m going to venture into that. Just been working on a book trailer too, so I guess You Tube is a next step. And somehow we’re supposed to find the time to write?
    Thanks for keeping us informed. Sharing the results of our different experiences is valuable.

    Liked by 5 people

    • victoracquista says:

      I agree with both you and Perry that it’s not possible to do everything on the list. Furthermore, it’s better to do a few things well than many things poorly. Newsletter + building author list + FB are three things that can work synergistically. I think if they are done well, they can be very effective.
      One of the most enjoyable parts of participating in this co-op is the chance to share ideas and experiences. I am sincerely grateful for this fellowship of colleagues.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. mimispeike says:

    I am about to dip a toe into the marketing whirlpool. I have organized my hundreds of old files and have separated out material that covers up to chapter eight. I am comparing them, chapter by chapter, to what I have on my website. I discovered a whole additional chapter that didn’t make it on there. What was I thinking? Too much information repeated later? (From another viewpoint) That could be it, but there’s plenty of stuff here that I have nowhere else.

    I expect to have my teaser website final a week from now. I have one new graphic that I am working on for the new chapter. I am designing chapter heads in Photoshop, to add interest to the display you see when you open the page, that I hope sends the message: Folks! This is far from the usual thing, give it a chance.

    I don’t have the book ready to publish (needs a painstaking final edit), but this will be a test. I have an email dedicated to the book, I’ll see if I get a response.

    I have numerous eye-catching graphics created that I am going to post around, Facebook, Pinterest, Medium, anywhere that comes to mind. I had meant to have some of these tabloid-size pieces printed up at Staples and try to get them into local bookstores but that has to wait now.

    I’m feeling good about this. Very good. I also have my ‘A Cumbrian Lad’ (scenes from Sly’s childhood, in verse) site close to ready to show. All it needs is more art. I’m working now to get a rusty nail cutlass into the hands of my damselfly.

    Pearl, pirate queen of the ocean-sea needs her cutlass. My frog has his pirate hat, and looks suitably belligerent. Sly will have his viking helmet (a horn-footed chalice he stole off an altar). Upside down on his head it makes a dandy helmet. Herk Hedgehog, not sure what I’m going to give him. Got to think about that.

    I’m getting there. I feel damn good.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. mimispeike says:

    The teaser site is: MyGuySly.com

    The ‘A Cumbrian Lad’ site (still needs art) is MyGuyToo.wordpress.com

    Curtis, GD, I am prepared to remove ‘An Enchanted Evening’ to another unadvertised location. Just say the word.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Great post! I find marketing overwhelming and try to stay away from the things that don’t lead me to a new book. I’ve never clicked on an ad and bought a book or got an email that promoted me to buy a book, which leaves me with word of mouth, mostly. It’s slow going. I got 1 new reader by creating a Twitter account. Little by slowly …

    Liked by 3 people

  8. victoracquista says:

    I hear you loud and clear. Our focus and energy is on writing and creating and expressing ourselves through that medium. If we want to do marketing or enjoy putting our efforts into it, it is different than if we view it as a decomposing corpse that we have no desire to look at, smell, or think about. Hyperbole intended but still…Yuck!
    Despite the manifesto of sorts, marketing does not come easily to me and I have have to push myself to engage that part of my brain. But when I get past the resistance, I find that it affords another way to be creative. Writing and marketing can work synergistically and have the affect of getting your work in front of a wider readership and opening up new opportunities. In the end, it’s more about how you choose to spend the limited resources of time and energy.

    Liked by 3 people

    • True, Victor, that marketing can be creative and enjoyable, but like you I have to push myself to get into the right frame of mind. Not sure that it works synergetically with writing – I find that when I’m engaged in one, it tends to block out the other. Bottom line is, if I do some marketing, there’s a slim chance of finding readers, but if I do none, there’s no chance. Time, energy, and money – all too limited unfortunately.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Pingback: Marketing and Promotion—Musings, Madness, and Misgivings – Karen O'Brien Country Music

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