As I gear up for Her Grace’s Stable’s release next week, I’ve had promo on my mind. What has worked. What hasn’t. Where I made mistakes. The lessons I’ve learned.
Then I thought, hey, a blog post! And more importantly, a chance for discussion. I’d like to hear from YOU about what you do and don’t like about author promotions.
It’s really sad, but there are some really basic don’ts that we shouldn’t have to talk about, but they’re done often and it’s annoying to the readers.
- Never add someone to your newsletter who didn’t deliberately opt in themselves. It’s SPAM.
- Never @reply someone on Twitter with a random “hey look at this! buy my book!!!” that has absolutely nothing to do with the original Tweet. It’s SPAM.
- Never post on someone’s Facebook wall or timeline with “buy my book” sort of garbage. It’s SPAM.
- Never rate or review your own book.
- Don’t create sock puppet accounts to rate/review your own book.
- Don’t go out and negatively rate/review the “competition” just because you think it’ll make your book look better.
- Never attack a reader or reviewer because they didn’t like your book. Certainly don’t send death threats, hunt down their personal information online, etc. (Yes, this has been done.)
Now here’s some facts/opinions I’ve picked up over the years.
1. Does advertising work? Honestly, it’s impossible for me to tell. Even when I’ve done an online ad and saw several clicks through to my site, you never really know whether it led to a sale or not. I do advertising for name recognition, but I don’t count on it helping sales. I probably ought to sign up as an Amazon affiliate at some point, but I just haven’t had the time.
2. Do blog tours work? Again, honestly, it’s impossible for me to tell. All I can tell you is it’s EXHAUSTING. I did two huge tours last year and my blogging mojo has been out of whack ever since. (And I’m pretty sure that my Twitter friends got sick of me tweeting about which blog I was on, sorry about that.) It’s especially hard to keep coming up with unique ideas — much easier if the site provides a basic questionnaire or interview. Small unique excerpts are nice too. But the whole 500-word unique blog post is TOUGH. There are only so many different things I can say about a book after blogging about it for months+ on my own blog! Again, it probably helps with name recognition, but most of the commenters are hoping to win a free book (as they should) and may not go out and buy the book on their own.
3. Do mailings work? I used to belong to Pat Rouse’s romance bookclub/bookstore list and for my first two print books, I mailed out a fairly extensive number of ARCs (considering they were all out of my own pocket and I’m with small presses). It certainly didn’t hurt, but my print sales are an incredibly small piece of my royalty pie. I decided it made more sense to concentrate on where 98% of my market is, and that’s electronic. Plus I did have one bookstore return the opened package back to me marked “refused.” Boy talk about a blow to your self esteem!
4. Are bookmarks, postcards, etc. worth the cost to print? I find it incredibly ironic to have bookmarks printed when most of my sales are electronic…! But it is nice to have something to sign and hand out. If you’re not going to conferences or mailing gifts/prizes out, then save your money. Some other notes…
Back in 2007-2009, I had a bunch of stuff printed with my Drollerie Press releases, and then the pub went out of business. ALL of these listed the publisher, some had the ISBN, and even the ones I self published since all have new covers. So be wary when printing up 1000 bookmarks! Consider creating bookmarks that support your author brand beyond a single book if possible, too.
I will say that I’m very glad that I still have several hundred Dear Sir, I’m Yours bookmarks. I love the cover, it supports the brand I’m trying to establish nicely, and it’s convenient to hand out. After all these years, Dear Sir is still my #1 seller every single month. Isn’t that crazy? So it’s definitely been a nice investment. Plus I hope that if someone new finds me through this book or bookmark, they’ll go out and buy the other books in the series too.
If you do send out bookmarks, I think it’s nice to sign them. People are more willing to hold on to something that’s signed, even if they’re strictly ebook readers. I personally haven’t found postcards, etc. very useful.
Also, if you’re not a whiz at Photoshop or design, do consider hiring someone to design your print promo for you. It seems “so easy” to create a little postcard based on your cover, etc. but I wasted hours and hours of time trying to get things just right and I was always disappointed in the final product. I know exactly what I want — but I often can’t figure out how to create it! A professional designer has definitely been worth the cost to me.
5. Do giveaways work? Again, who knows? I *hope* that whoever wins a free copy of my book will a). give it a try and b). love it and c). maybe review it somewhere or talk about it to a friend, etc. But you just never know. People do love to win free things, so I do think giveaways help with name recognition. The bigger prizes will often draw contest-junkies though – not necessarily readers.
For me, I like giving stuff away, especially books or cute/cool little things that made me think about the book. As soon as I saw the Jane Austen Royal Mint Stamps, I had to have a set for myself and I also knew it was the perfect thing to give away for any of the Jane Austen Space Opera books.
I love the personalized giveaways that Lynn Viehl always does – like her fantastic quilted totes. I can’t sew, but if you can do something like that, what an awesome prize! Handmade, beautiful items are always a treasure to win, at least to me.
Gift certificates are nice too, but you never know how the winner will actually spend it. e.g. don’t expect them to use it and buy ONLY your books! That’s a totally unfair expectation. I like to giveaway a free copy of my newest book along with the gift certificate, so people can feel more open to buying whatever they want, while giving me the feeling that at least they have one of my books to try.
What else do you have to say about promotion don’ts — or better yet — what you wish more authors would do?