Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spreading the Word

Promotion. A HUGE part of whether a book is successful or not. But there are so many options (endless ways you can spend your hard-earned money), what's a poor author to do?

Having tried lots of different things with my ten books, I've come to some conclusions about what does and doesn't work, what's worth the money, and what's not.

The first thing new authors need to realize is that it's going to cost money to promote your book. Oh, yes it is. There's no way around that unless you just hawk it to your relatives and be happy with your 75 total sales.

I recommend setting aside a minimum of $3,000 (hopefully this can come from your advance) as your promo fund. From this stash, I've found the most productive expenditures include good quality bookmarks sporting your cover, website and other titles (I use Printrunner online for beautiful, two-sided, glossy, full-color, relatively inexpensive bookmarks). These end up costing about a dime a piece and are your best way of advertising - hand them out liberally and offer them as "free gifts" at public events. People tend to keep them if they're good quality and will always have a reminder at their fingertips of your website and other books they might like to read. 

A full color brochure is also a must (again, Printrunner) if you're a speaker. I have print and online versions to fill all my advertising needs.

Book trailers are nice but have become somewhat mundane with everybody doing them, so my answer toward uniqueness has been to film a dozen 2-Minute Stress Busters to accompany the release of Too Blessed to be Stressed, which are posted on my website. Frequent reminders are posted on Twitter and Facebook, and go out in my quarterly e-newsletters.

Social media and e-communication are crucial these days. My e-newsletter contact list recently topped 3,000, largely due to a Kindle giveaway sweepstakes and blog tour organized by LitFuse, a publicity company I hired to handle my Too Blessed to be Stressed campaign. They've been outstanding in getting word of my new book out in cyberworld (tons of great reviews have racked up through the blog tour) and over 1,800 registered for the Kindle sweepstakes. It was engineered in a way to harvest all those e-dresses for my contact list. Brilliant!

These efforts have translated into 1,260 new visits to my FaceBook author page, and over 1,400 "likes" just since last month.

And even more exciting, Too Blessed to be Stressed hit #3 on the Amazon Bestseller List in the women/spirituality category. Way cool, don't you think?

A word of caution here: carefully check out the track record of the publicity company you're contemplating. I didn't with my previous book and the company I paid more than twice as much for (compared to LitFuse) did half as much and that not nearly as well. I felt like I had absolutely no control - like a victim instead of a client - and helplessly watched my precious money flush down the toilet.

LitFuse, on the other hand, came highly recommended by a writer buddy and offered a pick-and-choose services list from which I had total control of what my dollars would be used for. I opted for them to create and send out my press release to their extensive list of media contacts (from which numerous interview requests arrived), organize the 80-site blog tour which occurred over a 3-week time span, and advertise and run the Facebook Party.

These proved to be highly productive with minimal effort on my part.

One other promotional comment I just can't pass up: many new authors have idealized the traditional bookstore signing as the epitome of effective promotion. I've got news for you: it just ain't so. After dozens in multiple states over the last 5 years, I've concluded that it's not at all worth my time and energy to do a signing unless I'm in a location where I have a good sized fan base who I feel reasonably sure will turn out. It's totally embarrassing to have 6 people visit your book table, which is entirely possible if you're depending on store traffic alone.

During one signing, the only people who spoke to me were those asking where the restroom was.

At least I knew the right answer. But they looked at me kind of funny when I chased after them waving my book in one hand and a fistful of bookmarks in the other.

Hey, hungry authors do what they have to do.