Sunday, September 4, 2011

Promotion = PR & Marketing!

Selling You, Selling Me! Where do we start?

Book Marketing! Call it what you will! Authors now have to learn the basics of PR (public relations). Strange words those, are they not. So how does PR work when it comes to selling books?

If you’re a famous person (celebrity) then you’re laughing, literally. Celebrities employ PR companies to sell them and to sell their products (off-shoots of celebrity status). These PR gurus sell the whole celebrity dream to adoring fans. It’s their job, it’s their mark of professionalism, and the best PRs are always one step ahead of those trailing in their wake!

A lot of authors have always gone the way of local radio slot here, a local TV interview there, and have sought a mention or two within local book review pages of county magazines and newspapers (UK). A few brave authors have sought publicity via national newspapers, mags and TV, but those slots have dwindled over the past couple of decades. Those national radio/TVslots have been given over to celebrities. Say no more! 

In the wacky world of published books, fiction books, editors and literary agents alike are now facing crisis after crisis. How has this happened? Good question. What happens when one buries one’s head in the sand in hope that whatever will pass by unnoticed and not affect the status quo? Well, the Internet came along and with it e-books and you know what, publishers laughed, and publishers ridiculed the very idea of e-books.

They said, “Oh really, funny-ha-ha, what fool is going to read an electronic book?” 

And here we are, e-books are big business. And yes, Indie/small publishers, the forward-thinking ones jumped in with both feet back in the early nineties and embraced the idea of electronic books and they are, the early birds, ahead of the game and will remain so.

“No No NO,” said the big publishers come the twenty first century, “we can learn from them and turn their success to our advantage. We have the clout, the money, and the big-named authors.”

Then came Amazon. “Whoa.  What’s this,” said the big publishers. “This is unfair advantage, the little chaps are in with a chance to thwart our World domination.” But, a few of the big publishers thought, Ha, ha, we can use this to our advantage, too.

Like hell they can. They make mistakes left, right and centre. They set up author/reader forums to entice readers and usually the forums are flooded with aspiring authors. These same big publishers tell authors the best way to know what excites their editors is to purchase as many of their books as possible. Which means, read their books but don’t bother sending them yours! These same big publishers talk authors into handing over novels to be published as e-books in new and exciting e-book lines, of course, with meagre royalty return. They wildly exaggerate on promises that if your e-book sells well, the mother company (trad house) may look more favourably upon your next submission to them. They publish thousands of backlist novels and publish them as e-books, no overheads, no running costs and usually overpriced for in-house monetary gain. They even resort, in some cases, to subsidiary vanity publishing. We all know what that is. And if you think VP is the domain of small publishing houses, think again, the big boys are at it, too.

SO! How do we, as small cheese, lure hundreds and thousands of book-reading mice to our books? Good question. Do I have the answer? Probably not!  I do know, however, that one can over do blog tours and drive bloggers away. I know that glowing book reviews on Amazon are mostly ignored and bad reviews are taken notice of: see my blog post re How is Your book doing on Amazon

However. I do know that we as authors have to create a brand image. How to do that is the leading question.
a)      Do blog tours work? 
b)      Does helping other authors work?
c)      Does seeking publicity via Twitter, Facebook etc., work?
d)      Does the act of joining blogfests to up followers in hope of book sales, work?     

Did any of the above help sales of your books?  I don’t know. You tell me!

Take a) I haven’t done a blog tour. I’m convinced more than one or two outlying blog visits do more harm than good, for both author and blog hosts. My belief on this issue stems from over-saturation of same thing, rather like a needling TV advert that pops up so often you’re tempted to zap the remote to blank the screen.  Do I want to be noted for this? No thanks.

Take b) I’ve enjoyed helping other authors by purchasing their books and posting reviews on my blog and, at Amazon. Now I’ve learned people don’t bother reading reviews. Hmm. There seems little point plugging for reciprocal reviews of my books

Take c) I think Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms are places for procrastination, posting tripe, making fools of our selves whilst trying to flog our wares, and basically a waste of time. I’d rather be writing next novel. Fans expect output!!  

Take d) re blog followers, yes you’ll get a few extra book sales with followers. But don’t ever think sales of books will equate to number of followers. If you want sales to soar put your face where it counts. Put your face in reader forums, talk to readers and gain fans. Treat author forums as places for exchanging experiences and gaining likeminded writer friends, but always, always look beyond inner circles of writers, because out there in reader-land is where your real audience is. Go find readers, the people who love the genre you write, and your books will roll off the bookshelves!!! 

Am I doing the latter? Sure I am. I’m book marketing savvy. My romantic historical novellas are available on Kindle and are selling extremely well with barely any reviews, no blog tours, mere advertising on my own blogs, and book trailers on Youtube and Amazon. I’m flirting with readers, and having fun with fellow authors. And, now here's the thing, I'm writing instead of wasting time on Twitter, Facebook etc. I'm getting books to my public!  

Ha ha, forgot to say: every chance you get put a link to your blog/s and post urls to book trailers, they are an excellent tool for catching the eye and imagination of readers.  

See my book trailers: The Highwayman's Mistress  & Her Favoured Captain.  Keep your book trailers short, choose music appropriate to story, and keep it simple: avoid bells and whistles re fancy effects, especially for romance novels.


  1. Does the selling price make a big difference, Francine? Any special tags used when Kindling?
    You know so much more than I do about this aspect of the marketing biz.

  2. Hi Ana,

    If a novel/la is too cheap some people will be suspicious and instantly think it's self-pubbed and maybe walk on by. Price though should reflect pages and time in writing them. But, a lot of e-books by publishers are over priced and almost as expensive as paperbacks. Some paperbacks are shockingly expensive.

    I aimed for fairly low with HFC, but the next one is a little longer on word count and price will reflect that.

    Tags should reflect genre, sub genre etc. There used to be a loophole at Amazon whereby certain key tags could be used to link to other more popular books (best-sellers) and increase one's ranking, but Amazon have closed the door on that scam. Authors are limited in the number of tags they can now post, and are reliant on fans adding more tags as and when they notice the tag button.

    Kindle is easy enough, once you practise and play with the formatting. Some people swear by justified text, others say avoid such. Kindle is a simple code reading device, it can't cope with complicated instructions. It basically ignores them and does its own thing which is simple HTML. I fluffed a few things with the first novella, changed them and re-uploaded but Kindle remembered some of the earlier instructions and in overwrite mode it refused to alter original to new! I could have unpublished and republished the whole, but if one does that, all reviews etc., vanish and one ends up with no reviews.

    The Historical novellas, two written, one to go, I'll sell individually as e-books, then sell three-in-one as paperback. ;)


  3. Francine, I think it's wonderful your novella has done so well and it sounds like you've got a good handle on what works for you. Like you, I think there can be over-saturation in marketing, but I think that's true with whatever method you use. As you know :) I've been doing blog tours (and very much appreciate your popping by to comment, by the way) and personally, I've found them helpful both in "selling" my name or brand, as well as attracting more readers to buy my book. In my opinion, I think the more places I can get my name out there, the better. I agree with you that social media can often be a waste of precious time, but at the same time, it's a great way to connect with readers. Even other writers are great to connect with because they have readers who are loyal followers, and if an author I like recommends a book, I'm more likely to read it. Personally, I've found success in doing my own marketing (I used to be in PR so I'm familiar with the process) and getting my name out to as many places as possible helps. My best successes are with people who know me--they buy my book because they know me and then recommend it to their friends. I've expanded that loyal group of core followers on Facebook and it's just a matter of not playing on Facebook when I should be writing. I haven't tried local radio shows, but I'm thinking about it for the next book.

  4. Great post, Francine, and so true about the big publisher change of attitude to e-books.
    But, in the end, who knows what actually sells books? Yes, of course there's a lot of hype for celebrity books, but that's a completely different ball-game from the one we are playing.
    There's actually no way of knowing what particular aspect of promotion works the best since we, as authors, get virtually no feed-back from the people who buy our books about why they bought. No-one writes to us saying 'I bought your book because of ...' whatever, could be your own blog, blog-tours, trailers, reviews, Facebook, Twitter etc etc. Which means we have to try every avenue.
    Not with a 'please buy my book' but with snippets and teasers (but not long excerpts repeated ad nauseam on every yahoo group!).
    Looking at the books I've downloaded to my Kindle, most of them are written by personal contacts I've met through the groups, through blog contacts and through my own blog. As Jennifer said, personal contact is probably the best way to sell!
    Another valid point, as far as I'm concerned, is that here in the UK e-book reading is not as widespread as in the States, particularly among my (older) age group. So I reckon I'm at a double disadvantage here. My personal contacts are, in the main, older. No-one I know has a Kindle and they still want 'real' books and not e-books.

  5. Hi Jen,

    Exactly, nothing wrong with the You-know-me
    I-know-you aspect of publicity, but in the end it's limited! Not everyone is in to promoting other people as the initial wave of enthusiasm wanes. That's why I'm saying look beyond fellow writers, friends and family and to the reading communities. The advantage with Amazon is your book stays on the shelf unlike conventional book stores and supermarkets. So even late recommendations can lead someone straight to you book, whether e-book or paperback.

    Hi Paula, ha ha, how old do you think I am. Boy, like you, I've been around the block many times. I'm 66 this year, and thumbnail pic is me taken this summer, if you can call it a summer. My dad was killed in the Far East in 45, I never met him. He was a Royal Marine Commando. I have a 21 year old granddaughter, and two grandsons 13-15. Yee Gods, I was a teen of the late fifties and swinging sixties! So, I'm with you on life's big changes. I do have friends who are Internet savvy and others not. Since I published my novella on kindle the latter have rallied with downloadable Kindle reading app and read on their desktops/laptops, one on her blackberry assisted by her grandson. Several of them have now purchased Kindles. The snowball effect!! I purposefully requested no reviews, because all would have glowed too bright and probably had spoilers in them: giving plot away. I'm happy with someone just saying "Loved it, just my kind of book type of comment rather than reviews where the best bits are revealed." ;)


  6. Many of my peers have computers but I only know of one who downloaded and read my book on her computer. I'm talking about the 60+ age-group here, and not younger friends. The rest all wanted the paperback version and I've sold quite a lot of those.
    We're still way behind the US market as far as Kindle and other e-book readers go, though. The big advertising push by Amazon only really started last year, and I'm sure it'll be repeated as Christmas approaches again, but it'll take us a while to catch up.

  7. Great food for thought here, Francine.

    All in all, it's about getting our names and our products out there in whatever way works. And it's the game of how much time to I spend writing versus how much time do I spend on promotion. If I don't write, I have nothing to put out there, but if I don't promote in some way, no one will know my work is out there.

    And I think everyone has their preference as to how they like to promote and what works best for them.

  8. Hi Paula,

    You're so right about the UK trailing behind the USA and rest of world! Most of my sales are State side and would you believe it, Germany. What I love about self-pubbing is one can see results of where sales are coming from via Kindle, and of course how many books sold per minute, per hour, per week.

    Hi Debra,

    True enough, balance between writing and promoting is all down to the individual. But, it is vital to note where marketing is working well, where it's mediocre, and where it's dead space and time wasted.


  9. I won't know how many of mine have sold until I get the royalty statement, so it's impossible to tell what promotion has influenced/not influenced sales. I won't know where they've sold either.