Alison Kent asked last week what Wendy, Superlibrarian thought was good promotion. Promotion is largely in the hands of authors, particularly new authors. I won’t begin to speculate on why publishers don’t spend more money on promotion. I have to guess that there simply is not a high enough return on investment to warrant it. This leaves authors in a quandry. With a limited budget, what works?
Maybe its an unsolvable problem. I’ve been thinking alot about marketing lately and debating what works and what doesn’t. Angie W examined her own bookstore habits a couple of weeks ago. There are things that the author can’t control: cover, position in a bookstore, placement at Wal-Mart, back blurbs. But there are some things that the author can control: distribution of advanced copies, website, connecting with readers and booksellers, blogs, giveaways and so forth.
Here are some of my opinions regarding good and bad marketing. And by bad marketing, I mean two kinds – the kind that doesn’t work and the kind that is false, deceptive and probably does work, but if I find out about it then I am peeved. Kind of like when a famous person lies on their resume – it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Good Marketing: Word of mouth, obviously. I suggested yesterday that giving away an ebook version of your story free can generate publicity and word of mouth. If you don’t get ARCS, why not print off your galley and send it around. I received a lovely printed and bound galley of No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole. It had a vinyl back and a clear vinyl cover and big color print out of the cover which was signed.
Bad Marketing: Cover blurbs by authors who are cover quote whores. I mean some authors don’t even read the book for which they are giving the quote. Could that be more deceptive? Bestselling Author A says “read this awesome book my fans. I’ve read it and it is just as great as my books.” In reality, Bestelling Author A hasn’t even read said book.
Janine likes author interviews and pays close attention to the books that her favorite author’s read.
If author X says she loves author Y’s books, and author Y is one of my favorite authors, I will be more interested in author X’s books because they may have some similarities to author Y’s. For this reason, I think that authors who won’t say who their favorite authors are in interviews are doing themselves and their readers no favors.
The problem is that alot of people treat cover quotes like Janine treats endorsements by Author X in her interview.
Good Marketing: Face out in the bookstore.
Bad Marketing: Going to the bookstore and changing your books to face out. For some reason, when I hear this it bothers me. Are you turning someone else’s books face in? Are you pushing some other aside for your books. My understanding is that sometimes a publisher actually pays for the face out placement. I always cringe when I see authors and readers talking about rearranging bookstore shelves.
Good Marketing: Good reviews and even bad reviews so long as the review states the concept of the book. Janine stated that she is often swayed by the commenters more than the reviewers. Shana Abe’s, Smoke Thief, received a D review from AAR, but reader comments which differed from the reviewer sold many a reader, including me. Without the negative review, however, there was no platform for discussion.
Bad Marketing: Quoting reviews to make it seem like they are endorsing you but they really aren’t. I think this is done for movies all the time, but I can’t say I like it. At her blog and her Amazon plog, Diana Peterfruend quotes from the Washington Post:
The action is undeniably juicy , from steamy make-out sessions with campus hotties to cloak-and-dagger initiations , and the book is a quick read.
The reviewer didn’t actually like the book and went on to state why.
It’s hard to tell what audience the book could possibly be intended for: It’s too sexed up for young adults, too juvenile for actual adults and too Encyclopedia Brown for anyone in between.
Peterfreund had good reviews from so many other notables, I couldn’t help but wonder at the posting of this particular review. Interestingly enough, this is not a review that is available online but my office gets a copy of the Post and I noted the discrepancy after reviewing the Peterfreund blog.
Good Marketing: Websites. Janine and Jayne agree that the number one thing that will sell them is the excerpt. Excerpts are like the novelists’ version of a writing sample. Paperback Writer’s ebook challenge recognized the importance of writing samples as a marketing tool. Excerpts need to be formatted for easy reading on a computer monitor. Spaces between paragraphs are helpful. Perhaps even a larger font.
Bad Marketing: No website or a poorly designed website.
Good Marketing: Contest giveways for amazon certificates and free books.
Bad Marketing: Gimmicky contests.
Janine: Some of the marketing gimmicks out there, like drawings for chocolates or cover flats, just don’t interest me and I don’t enter them. A drawing for a book only gets me to enter if I’m already interested in the author. Most of the time I skip these too. The ones that tempt me most are drawings for a gift certificate for an online bookstore, since I am always buying books. I may not buy your book with it, but you will probably get my email address out of me that way.
Jayne: Gimmicks like item giveaways usually won’t entice me into trying anything. I do like excerpts. If someone mentions their book on a chat group list, I might look into it and that’s where I want info at an author’s website or something like that which will give me more info.
Good Marketing: Blogging that includes information about your books. When the next book is out. What you are currently working on. What motivates you. Where you write. Look at the questions asked of an author in an interview or the questions readers ask authors at the Romantic Times Ask an Author, if you are looking for blog content inspiration.
Bad Marketing: Blogging. The Lipstick Chronicles is a very strange blog. It reads more like a bunch of personal journals than a blog about an author’s work or maybe that is the focus of the blog – personal journal entries. I think it is a strange way of marketing. Sarah Strohmeyer of the Bubbles fame wrote an entry where she describes giving her husband a blowjob. Ugh. That is just not a vision I want to have while reading a Strohmeyer book. I kind of think of authors like my parents. They are completely asexual beings else I would not be able to read a sex scene that they wrote.
Good Marketing: Newsletters which inform the reader what is going on with you, where you are signing books, what your new releases are, and generating excitement for your books.
Bad Marketing: Spam. In recent months, I have been getting a number of spam emails from authors. I understand that there is someone that goes to romance internet sites and scrapes off the email addresses of the posters (the emails are not available to a scraper here at DearAuthor) and then sells this list of email addresses to authors. I make a note of authors who spam me and block their emails.
Good Marketing: Being part of the internet community. I have bought book of Karen Templeton, Mary Reed McCall, Carla Kelly because of their great contributions over at AAR. And I would probably buy Shiloh Walker’s next book because even though I tore apart her first book, she was totally gracious about it and actually still comes and comments here. Talk about grace under fire.
Bad Marketing: Trying to be part of the internet community just to market. I.e., blog hopping near your release date when you’ve never blog hopped before.
What say you, readers? Good marketing/bad marketing? What works and doesn’t work for you as a reader that may be in the control of an author? Is it just so damn hard to make it in this industry that anything goes?