Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Do-Dads and Selling Your Book

I'll admit when I first started this writing gig I was CLUELESS about promotion. I showed up at my first booksigning with nothing but a little bowl of mints and a few business cards. That was it. Honestly? No one seemed to mind. I had the signing at my local Books a Million and sat in a "high traffic" area and was thrilled as a line formed. Not everyone bought a book but most did and it was so great signing and meeting readers. But as time went on and I got more books under my belt, I figured out pretty damn quick that my little babies were NOT going to jump off the shelves and sell themselves. It was going to require time, creative thinking, and yes, money, to help things along.

I do a couple of chats a month. I've found some loops that have fairly high volume and I try to stick to those places to post excerpts and meet readers. I'll never forget my first "slapping the head moment". I scheduled a chat by myself! Oh, Lordy! Big Mistake. I was posting excerpts into a big, giant sea of nothing. Was there an echo in there???? Oh hell yes, there was. I was miserable and upset. I knew there had to be a better way. Later I learned the writing community is full of people quick to share their ideas and experiences and I found out it's a whole lot more fun to chat with a group. I often do chats with Anne and Kell and we have a blast chatting up our books, running contests and giveaways, and sometimes we can talk Anne into posting a naughty pic or two just to keep things interesting...wink wink. I also chat with a group called The Frogs, a group of talented Ellora's Cave writers. Fun to be had by everyone when these ladies show up to share their stuff.

I blog and blog and blog. I maintain a myspace page. These are FREE things and I'm all about FREE. I'm also looking into co-op advertising. A big group gets together and using their covers, come up with a full page color ad for not much money. Sounds like a plan to me.

At the moment, I'm planning to get some stuff together for a big romance readers conference in Australia and I'm racking my brain for something clever that won't cost the moon. Bookmarks sound good, so do magnets. Pens, pens, pens. A good idea or not? I just don't know. Since I'm a Texan, I'm thinking of a Texas theme that's fun and colorful.

Have any of you been to the conferences and seen clever/cute/smart ideas, maybe some dumb ones? I can't help but wonder what kind of stuff gets tossed in the trash and what is deemed worthwhile to keep. I'll probably do some conferences next year so yeah, I'm thinking ahead. Who wants to waste their money on stuff that doesn't work? Doesn't grab a readers attention?

Yesterday Anne talked about an ad on a popular site that didn't get put up. Pitiful. But does anyone know if these ads even work? Okay...color me a newbie but I'm ready for a crash course.

What kind of things grab your attention? What have you done as an author that really really works? Inquiring minds want to know.


Unknown said...

Regina, I love the magnets, pens and stuff. I have several magnets displayed in my office where most people can see them.

Do they help? In my case yes, at least some. I have gone to sites to check out books by author's whose stuff I've gotten.

I have gotten books from author's I've met in chats and loved most of them.

I read the blogs of authors I like and have read some guest blogs. In the case of guests it's usually due to an subject I like or that sounds interesting.

I carry bookmarks and have given a few away when I was asked about them.

Am I typical? I have no idea, but I thought I would answer anyway.

J.K. Coi said...

I'll also be going to a few events this year, and it's hard to decide what kind of promotional items to purchase. Thanks to Connie for your feedback. I like the bookmarks and magnets and pens, but wasn't sure if it was a waste of money.

Molly Daniels said...

I'm also a fan of magnets, pens, bookmarks, and sticky notes. This year I've added some oversized postcards, and hope they go over well.

I also did a promo on a chat once where I showed up and then all of a sudden everyone left! Don't know if it was just a slow day or if no one was interested, lol:) I've decided not to promo so heavily until I get a contract. I'll post blurbs and maybe a small excerpt here and there.

And yes, my TBB list gets added to when I read interviews on blogs, or excerpts on the chats. Had to stop doing that after a while though...the list was getting too long! I'll probably pick it back up this winter, though:)

Kelley Nyrae said...

I'm curious about the answer to this myself, Reg. I have magnets, bookmarks, small magnet calendars, over-sized postcards but I'm not sure how much good they do. I am a believer in chats though.

Anny Cook said...

Probably the most effective thing that I've used person-to-person is a magnet. I carry them in my purse and when I meet someone who asks about my books, I give them a magnet.

The number one most effective thing has been my digital reader. It gets attention. When someone inquires about it, I let them read the beginning of one of my books... a sort of excerpt I carry around with me!

BrennaLyons said...

The sad truth is, everything you do will appeal to some segment of the reading population. All you can do is play the odds.

As far as the free or low cost promos go...chats, spotlights, interviews, reviews (save RT or other magazines that make you buy ad space to get a review), lists/groups, tag lines, banner ads, homemade book trailers, blurbs, excerpts, free reads, etc.... I figure as much as you can do, short of using all your time to do it...or too much money for comfort...is a good thing. Every one will find some reader to appeal to.

As for the physical promo gear, the polling done last year of readers showed not a single one at more than 40% approval rating. You're going to hit some and not others with anything you do.

Personally, I like pens, magnets, pins and...sometimes...bumper stickers. I use pens and collect magnets and pins.

I also keep a binder of business cards I get. I rarely pick up bookmarks. I think I brought more than 100 business cards home from RT this year but only 5 bookmarks.

Still, there are people who collect signed bookmarks or signed business cards, and I carry business cards with me.

OTOH, the polling showed some online/free types of promo running in the 90s. What does that tell me? Do more online promo!

I wish there was a simple answer to this, but there isn't.


Alisha said...

Hey Reg,

I've tried everything. I think as far as promo when you are at book signings, magnets and pens work well and if you can do something a bit different to catch the attention of others. I make book thongs out of beads that readers seem to love. I even had some people ask to buy the thong and I told them that they are free with a book. Well, the lady didn't want a book. Well, the thong is this price, then and you get the book for free...give it away to a friend that likes shapeshifters....lol. She was thrilled. A book for free...snort.

I think chats are only successful on high traffic sites. I read in RWR that most authors do not feel chats are worth it but I think it's important to connect with readers. I've met reviewers at chats that want to review my book so that helps get your name out too.

For group signings like the big Buns and Roses Tea for Literacy that I do, I have shirts made up. Something cute that someone will actually wear. Give me romance or give me death! And my web site address...a white tshirt with red lips on it and xxoooo's. Readers love freebies and you can get this pretty cheap at VistaPrint.

Another good thing to do at signings is to take one big gift...stuffed animal, basket of books or chocolates, etc...and have a drawing for it. Have everyone you talk to write their name on a piece of paper, then they will stick around, talk, drink coffee, nibble on chocolates so they can see if they won and usually they end up buying your book. Another author I know did this and she gave away a teddy bear every hour...people were huddled around her, waiting to see if they'd won this five dollar teddy bear and she sold tons of books.

I also try to hold one or two contests per month on my site. I do a contest with a group of 12 authors and I have one of my own. That generates more traffic to your site. I usually give away a download or a print book and sometimes I will mail bath stuff and a book as grand prizes.

And this costs money, but you were mentioning going in with a group of authors to buy ads. For me, this has worked better than anything and if you can afford it, go for it. I just had an ad come out in Realms of Fantasy Magazine...sold on college campuses nationwide and B&N. My book came out July 2007 and the ad came out a couple of weeks ago. Now I'm back on the best seller's list at my publisher so I've noticed a big peak in sales. 16 authors go in together so it's 120 bucks per author, but the ad is on the shelves for two months. That was the easiest thing I've done so far but of course, cost the most money. I hope I can do this with all my full lengths coming out. And college kids have no qualms about buying ebooks I've heard so if your book is not out in print or not yet out, this is a good place to advertise for anything fantasy/paranormal. I did not notice such a huge jump in sales when I advertised in RWR or even RT with a group of authors.

And this is funny. This other author I know, she takes her little doggie with her, some tiny little thing....she says she sells twice as many books..snort! You need to take Gypsy with you..not that you need any help but hey, whatever works! Tee hee!


Regina Carlysle said...

Hmmm. Magnets sound like a really good idea. Something generic maybe with name and addies. I'm thinking it could get expensive if you did magnets featuring covers but, dang, that would look cool, wouldn't it??? I personally have a side of my fridge where I keep cute magnets. Can't imagine those being thrown away.

Regina Carlysle said...

Alisha- you've got it ALL going ON with the promo and I've seen the book thongs at the signing we did together. They were a hot item and looked easy to make. Anny Cook does beautiful beaded hair pics. Bet those are popular too.

I also love the idea of doing a drawing for a basket of stuff. Not only creates interest BUT looks great on the table. Great idea!

Regina Carlysle said...

Chats...I think the best method is trial and error. Surely you can check how many hits you get on your blog or website after a chat and see if "lurkers" were there. Some loops just aren't as active. Lately, I've found some that are better attended and those are the ones I chat on.

Trying to hit all the loops is insanity, I think.

Regina Carlysle said...

Anny, you've really USED your Sony e-book reader to an advantage in promotion. You not only manage to promote your books while showing off the reader, you educate readers about ebooks. It's a great idea.

I also liked what you said yesterday when we talked on the phone. You mentioned leaving your pens on little tables in reception areas in drs offices, etc. You could "leave" a pen, almost everytime you write a check. Ooooh, a beauty shop would be a great place to do that.

Regina Carlysle said...

Oh Lordy, Alisha! I can just imagine how Gypsy would react at a book signing. She's a 2 lb. yorkie. Sooo cute. Yeah, she'd be a big draw, for sure.

I like the idea of doing a co-op ad in a niche magazine. Great idea. And the cost should be minimal, if you're doing it with a group.What? Maybe $40 or so, depending?

Alisha said...

I think taking an ereader is an EXCELLENT IDEA! I can see how that could really help! Readers could read excerpts and you could educate them about ereaders too. And it's just more of a reason for a reader to linger and talk, get to know you and your writing style when you chat about your books.

Regina Carlysle said...

Anny always has an excerpt of one of her own stories pulled up so when someone wants to look, they can also read an excerpt of her book. It's a great idea.

Anne Rainey said...

I'm reading the comments and getting lots of tips! Great post, Regina. :)

Melissa Blue said...

I think everything works and everything doesn't work. A friend of mine posts a cover and blurb on her blog. That's it. That's all the promo she does. She makes A LOT of money.

My other friend promotes her brains out. She also makes A LOT of money.

I say do what you feel works and hopefully you'll get results from it.

Regina Carlysle said...

I know what you mean, Melissa. You KNOWS???? It's crazy. I know writers who do very little and sell a bundle and some who spent over half their time with promo and have little to show for it.

I'm not going to take any chances!!! Gotta do some promo. LOL

Regina Carlysle said...

Ooops. My bad. I meant WHO KNOWS??? snicker. I must be getting tired. HA.

Molly Daniels said...

I LOVE the drawing per hour idea! This would work well with my last 2 craft fairs and the big event at the end of this month!

I'm slowly getting a pen collection together, to leave at various offices and to hand out at signings.

Molly Daniels said...

Oh...forgot to mention. You can turn your business cards into magnets by buying the magnet-things at Lowe's...fairly cheap and called Peel-n-Stick Business Card Magnets.

anny cook said...

Hmmm. I'll have to look for those. I have two boxes of business cards!

Alisha said...

I have a book signing this weekend at a psychic fair...anyone out there that writes paranormals, this is a great place to do booksignings. Most of the people attending go for readings and books about tarot, palm reading, etc...so we sort of stand out....just another way for them to get their paranormal fix. And it's big fun to hang out there too! But I'm thinking of doing the drawing every hour too. I'm going to give something away but not sure what. It's five hours. Any ideas, Reg? Anyone else? Something with a parnormal theme maybe? I need help!

Alisha said...

And Anny, can you tell us how you make your pretty hair pics? Do you have any photos to share? That sounds like a wonderful idea!

Another author I know makes "fairy perfume" with the little sample vials you get at the department store. She mixes up some scents and bottles it and has some adorable little card with it about a love potion. People loved this!

BrennaLyons said...

There are a ton of paranormal-themed things you could give away. How big do you want your prizes to be?

Depending on what you write, you could put all sorts of great little gift sets together for almost no money. Oriental Trading and Rhode Island Novelty both have a bunch of products, and so would places like Dollar Tree...especially now that Halloween is coming up.

For instance, if you write vampires, you can get things like "blood filled" (red ink) syringe pens, candy blood bags, blood-filled gum, vampire teeth...

General purpose types of paranormal fare would include coffin gift boxes or white shroud bags to put the prizes in (especially if you're going to do something more general inside), candles, incense, "death mints" or skeleton candy kits, silk eye masks, silk restraints for that matter, glass beads the size of runes or semi-precious stones at about the same size (for instance Hematite or bloodstone for vampires...grinning).

Basically, have a good time. This is a great time of year for a paranormal author to get supplies.

Also, don't discount giving out a free read! One of the best contests I ever held was for 12 signed copies of a signed short story of mine.


Amy Ruttan said...

Oh lord, I'm still trying to figure out what works! LOL!

snoopsspots2 said...

I have a postcard printed with the cover on the front and blurb (and contact details, of course)on the back. I hand these to the prevaricators, with a huge smile and an 'it's free and you never know" type comment. It has actually worked. Coincidentally, I posted a "Promo and other scary things" blog on my website. I haven't put it "out there", but I pointed a new-writer to it here in the UK, and she promo'd me to 81 other people. She said she learned more from it than she had asking a thousand questions over the telephone, soooo... It's on the Ramblings page of my wesbite (thank you to the wonderful, extremely talented and patient Rae Monet!!!), if anyone wants to take a look. It is based on my experience here, but I think the same applies generally. Feel free to browse! www.charlottechalmers.com

Regina Carlysle said...

I remember one year on vacation we went to a little Touristy gift shop and they were selling little bottles of "fairy dust". It was sparkly glitter stuff in a tiny bottle and the bottle had been connected to a satin string to make a necklace. The little girls were going crazy over them. It would be a cute idea. Or you could call it "love potion" something like that. Would be a cute idea and fairly cheap.

Regina Carlysle said...

Oh...dang. I completely forgot. Some of the "fairy dust" wasn't on a string. You could just by the tiny bottle.It was sealed with a cork. Very cute. All different colors. THat would be soooo cheap to get at a craft store.

Alisha...Anny is a really good friend. I'll give her your addy and have her send you some pictures of the beaded hair pics. They are beautiful. She just sent me some.

P. Robinson said...

I always love pens and bookmarks but I think the unusual things are best- something that relates to the book maybe or a signed cover flat by a loved author would be a great prize for me!


Anny Cook said...

Alisha, there's a picture of the small pics on my website on the bio page under "contest".

The hair pics are connected to my Mystic Valley series. The people in the valley wear them in their hair.

I also make big ones from bamboo chopsticks and give those away as prizes for contests.


Alisha said...

Those are wonderful ideas for the psychic fair. It's a werewolf book but I can still get all kinds of little Halloweeny things..tee hee...can't wait.

Oh Anny! Those are beautiful! Wow! Such a wonderful idea! And so wonderful that they are connected to your books! How cool is that!

I love the fairy dust idea too, Reg!

My mother-in-law popped in with only like 30 mins. warning from out of town. Groannnnnn........sorry it took so long to respond to everyone's beautiful ideas! This is a great blog, Reg! I've gotten so many fantastic new ideas!

Regina Carlysle said...

The way I figure it, it makes sense to share our ideas. Lots of trial and error, I know, but some of these ideas sound fairly inexpensive and worth trying. If they don't work, nothing lost really but a little bit of time.

Desirée Lee said...

I am part of a promo cooperative called Bookworm Bags and we've received a lot of kind comments about our goodie bags.


I use bookmarks, postcards, magnets and some stickers and pens to get the word out about me and my writing. I think the magnets are the most popular. I want to get a lot of pens made up. So far I have only got a few done. I need more moolah first before I can do the amount of pens that I want.

I try to autograph most of my paper promotion items. I think a signed piece of promo holds more value to the recipient than the random bookmark/biz card/etc.

As far as online promotions, I am on a LOT of Yahell groups and try to post regularly on the ones that allow promos. Big key of course is to observe the promo posting rules! It's so irritating to see people posting promos on a day that is not a sanctioned promo day. I think to myself "are they blatantly rude or just idiots who didn't read the rules?" Either way it's not cool, imho. If you aren't the loop owner, obey the rules, simple as that. That being said, when it's open promo day, utilize it! Sure a LOT of promos come through on those days, especially on some of the busier loops but any exposure is better than no exposure, imho.

Chats are hit and miss. I've been to some where the joint is jumping nonstop all day and the posts are flying by, and also to some where the virtual tumbleweeds could be heard blowing across the room. Don't discount the lurkers though! Many people are on digest or read messages on the web and don't get to them until later in the day/next day/etc.

You mentioned MySpace which is free. There are also other social networking sites. I find MySpace to get the most traffic but again, any exposure is better than no exposure! The more places your name and info is out there, the more chances you have for potential readers to find you.

When I leave comments on MySpace, on blogs, etc, I try to include my sig/tagline/url as part of my sign off. Maybe it won't get clicked on but who knows, maybe it will.

I don't think there is some tried and true magic formula for promotions. If there is, I want to buy it! *LOL* We just do what we can to keep our names and our work accessible to potential readers and hope like heck that they notice it.

Carpe Noctem,

Desirée Lee
Putting the Romance Back in Necromancy

Regina Carlysle said...

Good stuff, Des. SOmeone said not long ago that Face Book was very popular in europe. That's free. Easy. Not a bad idea at all. I loooove FREE, don't you???