Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yo, I’ve Got a Book Over Here!

Almost six years ago, I heard those words we who write yearn to hear; a publisher said yes. The next step, I assumed, would be to lean back and rest upon my lush, green laurels and watch my book fly off the selves. But I quickly learned, life is not a story I get to write and I don’t have any laurels. (The best I can manage is a little basil from my back porch). In reality, my book was one of 250,000 books published in the United States that year. It was one year newer than the 250,000 books published the year before and would soon be shadowed by next year’s crop of books and eager authors. So the question every new author must ask is: After the frenzy of purchases by friends and family, what makes someone want to put down hard earned cash to buy your book? These are my experiences in trying to answer that question.

Soon after my first book was published, Facebook contacted me with a proposition. They would advertise my book on Facebook to millions of members free of charge and only if someone was interested in my book and clicked on the cover would they charge a few cents to my pre-setup account. Great publicity, I thought. You can target people based on their likes. People who “liked” NCIS would see the cover of my crime lab mystery. The more refined I got, the higher the cost per click. I put together a very witty slogan and CLICK, CLICK, CLICK within a week I was twenty dollars poorer, my advertisement was popular but no books sold. Witty draws people in but not to buy books.

I changed the slogan to BUY THIS MYSTERY; fewer clicks but the same results. People are not on Facebook to buy books. Note to self: sell your book where people want to buy books. My next marketing strategy was Goodreads.com Fantastic place; readers wanting to read books, authors with books to sell. I signed up to give my book away. The end result…. 2682 people signed up to try and win a copy, 248 people clicked that they would like to read my book, 5 people read it and gave me some nice reviews. Not a slam dunk in sales but affirming.

So, back to the question, what makes someone want to put down hard earned cash to buy your book? After being on local radio stations, several newspaper articles, talks at book clubs, book signings at bookstores, book signings at libraries (libraries did much better than stores), book fairs and book festivals – in the end, the one thing that reliably sells your book is you; a connection with you, a smile from you, a question to you or a talk by you. At my first but book fair, I had a chair, a folding table and five books. Over time, I have added things to draw people to my booth; to make a connection. I can make enough through sales of the other products to pay for the festivals and have been to some of the biggest. Two excellent ones are the LA Times Festival of Books and Tucson’s Festival of Books. Few of us have laurels, even fewer can sell a book on our name alone but all of us can say, in our own way, “Yo, I’ve got a book over here. Come look!”

18 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I think this is the key bit of information for those of us who aren't famous already. Personal contact sells books.

Neil Waring said...

Thanks for the affirming information. I have not tried Facebook yet, but the things I have tried did little but take my money. I have spoke at several functions and have found, like you, that they work. I sell books and the next day or two I sell a few through online sellers.Face to face does sell books, hard work but it can be fun and profitable.

S Connell Vondrak said...

All authors must work to sell their works. There was a New York Times best seller at a table once autographing his books. When I talked to him he said 12,000 books is not enough to support his kids. His wife is the breadwinner. We have to do it for the love of writing.

Sunny Frazier said...

First off, I totally agree with you when you say personal contact sells books. I have several "sneaky" tactics in that dept., including hijacking other authors' fan base.

Second, I love your table and offerings. I need to pick up my game and try some of those ideas. Yes, I also steal ideas.

Third, think about offering people more than just your books. I write a column in Kings River Life ezine promoting mysteries hitting the shelves. This puts me in good standing with authors. However, I have built a fan base from readers trying to win free books and I Facebook friend them then take the time to notify them when free books are offered. I even go to such lengths as learning the names of their pets and letting them know there's a cat mystery or dog mystery available. I build relationships beyond marketing. Readers are impressed an author takes the time to notice them. And, why not? They in turn notice me, follow me on blogs, buy my books. I add about 7 or 8 new readers every time my column comes out. Growing a fan base is critical in the tough competition for readers.

amreade said...

I also agree. I get better results selling books when I actually go somewhere in person, whether it's a library or a bookstore or a book club. I've found that reader-centric book festivals are great, too. The one I like best is the Suffolk, Virginia Mystery Authors Festival. I've never been to any of the bigger ones, but I do love the small ones. And, yes, I do give out candy and postcards at my signings.

When it comes right down to it, there are a lot of people competing for shelf space in someone's living room, and it is the personal connection that may make the difference between me and someone else. I shell out a lot of money to attend events that don't pay me back, but I have to look at it as getting out there, getting noticed, and meeting people.

I've also started a newsletter, which I'm hoping will bring a little more of the "personal touch" that readers are looking for. We'll see!

Cindy Sample said...

My two best promotional efforts basically involved me just being me. In my previous corporate life, I was big on the team approach and I try to involve my FB friends in my writing process. I'll have book cover contests, ask for help choosing a song in the book, or submitting recipes for my new culinary mystery. Personal appearances via short luncheon presentations to community organizations, Soroptimists, Rotary, etc. can result in huge sales. I recently spoke to a group of 50 women and sold out of both suitcases (60 books altogether). And it's great word of mouth on a local level.

PS - I love your display. It's the best I've seen.

Dac said...

Well said! You gotta sell yourself if you wanna sell your book.

Patricia Gligor said...

Loved the post!
In my opinion, there's no doubt about it. My in person events have been so much more effective than my attempts to sell my books online. I've done well at book launch parties and festivals. Next weekend, I'll have a table at a craft show at the high school I graduated from. Fingers crossed!

jrlindermuth said...

Since there are no bookstores in my immediate area, libraries and small club gatherings have been primary in my 'reaching out' efforts. Writing a local history column for two area newspapers also helps in getting my name out there.

James R. Callan (Posse member) said...

Building a market, a fan base, is a slow process. Many get discouraged and quit before that magical moment when something happens and people begin to notice. And what works for some may not work for the next person. You post reminds us of the work that goes into marketing. And you advice to look at why people are at a particular place is excellent. Thanks.

Joyce Ann Brown (Posse) said...

Thank you for your take on marketing and promotion. One group tells me Twitter is the ultimate promotion tool, another holds out for Facebook ads. I believe a personal connection with your readers is very important. Trying all of these things can't hurt, but I hope I soon find my best one. Writing great books has got to be the best marketing tool of all.

Linda Thorne said...

I'm getting use to Twitter. It does reach more people quicker. It's not as hard as I thought it would be. You ask online "how to" questions and the answers are all there & the next thing you know you are twittering. I do not like it as well as Facebook, but I'm still using it and getting more used to it. Some swear by it, but I'm not sure I'll ever be in that group.
Good article. Thanks.

Linda Thorne said...

Sunny's idea of getting readers to know her with other things like a magazine column sounds wise to me.
I forgot to mention I'm in her posse when I first commented. I enjoyed reading the post and the variety of comments here.

timdesmondblog.com said...

Posse member Tim here. This is exactly what I've learned over the past five or six years. This past weekend I was camped next to another author at a Civil War Reenactment. He did very well and had displayed his gear and opened his tent to show how the visitors how his "soldier" had lived during the war. His book was half the cost of mine and he had the "Square" on his phone to swipe credit cards.
I had my own thing going, but that's another story.

Lesley Diehl said...

I also do best when I can meet people in person. Here in Upstate New York where I reside during the summer, there are no population centers of any number within a hundred mile radius, so, factoring in gas, it's difficult to justify that kind of travel unless its a big event I know I will sell at. However, in Florida during the winter, I have numerous events where I sell and a bit of a fan following there. I'm presently trying out a number of social media sites.

Kathleen Kaska said...

From Posse member Kathleen
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I've also found that face-to-face contact sells the most book. I've made a lot of connections via social media, but I most enjoy getting our there and talking to readers whether it is teaching a class, giving a workshop, or being on a panel.

Liane Spicer said...

I've heard you have to hand-sell the first 2000 books by the sweat of your brow. I've sold many more than that, both traditionally and as an indie, and I still have no answers. Some books fly off the shelves with no effort on my part. Others don't make a blip even with paid advertising. Which all brings us back to the tried and true "Yo! Come over here" I guess.

Augie said...

I've learned a lot reading this post and comments. Looks like I have a lot of work cut out for me. I'm excited to be in the company of the posse and Sunny Frazier.