Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Am NOT a HO

That is, I am NOT a Promo Ho. Many are. They are completely awesome at getting their names out and pushing their books but I am sooooo not one of them. Maybe it's because I'm new to all of this but I have learned something...you CAN teach an old dog and some of it's sticking.

When sold my first book, I thought....hmm, okay this is it. I'll go on to my next work in progress and the book will just fly off the shelves all by itself. No one will have to teach my little baby to fly, either. It'll just git-up-and-Go. SNORT. Yeah, right! Boy, did I ever have a lot to learn. Fortunately, I'm a quick study and I'm finally figuring out what works and what doesn't. At least for me.

Chats are an interesting thing. Some believe they do little good, especially if they aren't well attended and smallish loops to begin with. Others love them and are constantly chatting up their newest releases. For me, the jury is still out. I'm coming to the realization that too many chats, too close together not only make me seriously nuts, they might be overkill. Lately, I'm trying to space my chats a bit and only attend those that have a reputation for being well attended. I actually love chatting. It's a fun way to become familiar with the works of other writers and learn a bit about our customers and what they like. Right now, though I'm limiting to two (maybe three) chats each month. And NO, I don't like having a chat with just myself as the only author. Groups of authors getting together is far more fun. I tried going it alone once and quickly learned that I play with others far better than I play with myself. (Oh MY...did I really just SAY that? LOL)

I also belong to a number of groups. Some are better than others but it's a really good way to learn which kind of promo will help me sell a book. Authors are generous people, as a rule, and love to trade information. It's all a learning deal and I try to pick up and yes, share, things I think might be valuable.

Lately, I'm trying something new. Like Anny with her beautiful piks, I'm putting on my creative hat these days and trying to come up with promo items for an upcoming convention in Australia. I just ordered cheap but pretty business cards and I'm looking into buying either pens, sticky notes, or magnets. I've heard that most stuff is tossed in the trash by conference attendees so it's best to stick with things folks can actually use. I'm playing with some unique ideas that will set me apart...I hope, I hope. Surely something super creative will strike before I have to send this stuff off.

Kelly mentioned name recognition, branding, so I've added my Avatar. These days I pretty much put it everywhere I can. I use it for all my blogs and believe me, I'm doing plenty of those. I have a personal blog and do three group blogs. It is super time-consumming and I have no clue if it works or not but I'm giving it a try. Right now, I believe what I do is trial and error. Most is error and I'm normally quick to recognize and toss away if something isn't working.

The biggest problem with promotion is TIME. It takes a great deal of time and effort to promote and it seriously cuts into moments I could spend writing. Lately, I really resent it too. Still, it is a necessary evil. My first little baby never did learn to fly but others have since had my assistance and have done better. After all, who wants to write a book that no one will read? Promotion may leave a writer feeling completely out of his/her element but it's something we all have to think about if we hope to achieve any measure of success.

37 comments:

  1. *APPLAUSE!

    Great post Regina. I agree that promo seems so time consuming, and often feels as if it isn't even worth it. And it can be expensive.

    I think a good thing for us to do would be to band together for promo. It cuts costs way down, and it's more fun for the reader because they can be exposed to many different authors at once.

    This is especially good for contests, we can give away much nicer prizes because the cost is spread out among several people.

    XoXoXo
    Dakota

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  2. That is a great post.
    Getting a book published is just half the business done! The other half comes with promotion, which is a business in itself.

    Advertising & marketing have their value!

    I like the way James has gone to the people, who are potential readers ( bloggers) and has self promoted himself. That way, he gets to initiating a kind of 'networking' self promotion with a click of a mouse.( and the word really spreads like a jungle fire out there in the cyber world). It does not require him to go anywhere & is cost effective too!

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  3. I love chats too, but my problem is also having TIME. And my family is semi-uncooperative; they don't see me chatting on the internet as WORK. And with gas prices and hubby's income at the moment, my signings are also an issue. But I've told them repeatedly, I can't expect to sell them if they are sitting in a box in the living room.

    Once in a while, they'll leave me alone if I'm chatting, but they also expect me to stop at the drop of a hat and do what they need me to do. That's where my own office space AWAY from home would be fantastic...but then they'd bitch about that too.

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  4. I love doing PR, but it is a time drain. I think it helps to find something you enjoy doing. I like guest-blogging since it's a one-time commitment of time. I also like to meet people, so I enjoy networking and booksignings. I don't put my thumbcuff keychain giveaways into goody bags or goody rooms. I give them away one at a time, so I can meet the people and give them a face with the pen name. But that's not for everyone.

    My dream would be to make enough on my book sales to pay for a publicist, so I can brainstorm great PR strategies with her and then have her handle the actual PR work. ;-)
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  5. Oh Marcia, you are welcome to do my PR anytime. I hate the stuff but it's a necessary evil. Regina, you've got an excellent go there with the Aussie conference. Your avitar is definitely becoming associated with your name in a very good, very recognizible way. Run with it.

    Excellent blog.

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  6. Kelly -- LOL! I do love PR since I look at it as a game. When I send a press release to a newspaper, it's a game to see if I can make it compelling enough for the reporter to print it or contact me for more info. When I do a booksigning, it's a game to see if I can chat up people and get them to buy my book. If you try to have fun with it, PR isn't as yucky. ;-D
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  7. Something about chats I forgot to mention. I've done some with so many authors involved that pretty soon it seems TOO MUCH. It's overwhelming. I'm doing one later this month with Anny, Cindy, Anne Rainey and Kelley Nyrae. To me, this seem like just enough, the right number to keep things moving and interesting and allow good interaction with readers. I've done some chats with twenty and damn it, that's too many.

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  8. The problem with giveaways is that they cost so much. How many authors sit down to do a cost-benefit analysis of passing out pens or piks or pads? How much money do you get per book vs how much each giveaway item costs? And how many recipients of your items would have to buy a book to make your giveaway worthwhile?

    Has anyone ever found any research or data on this kind of thing? Any estimates on effectiveness: e.g. Pens have an average buy rate of 1 book per 20 pens; bookmarks are 1 per 100; etc.? If you only have one or two books out, I can't imagine that *any* giveaway would actually pay off. If you have several, and as Kelly says, use your giveaways to promote both your newest book and your brand, then yeah--there's a larger potential for purchases.

    Otherwise, it's probably best to stick with the free stuff: chats, guest blogging, etc.

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  9. Great post, Reg, and all good comments. Marcia, you're an absolute gold mine of information! And I remember your smiling face well from RT.

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  10. Elissa -- Giveaways can be expensive, but their purpose is more about name recognition and tempting the recipients into checking out your Web site. It would be rare for a giveaway to sell a book. Excerpts are much better for selling books, so one hopes any potential reader who checks out a Web site will read the excerpt posted there.

    That said, my absolute favorite type of PR is FREE PR. ;-D
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  11. Thanks, Cindy! ;-) I remember you, too, and enjoyed meeting so many of the EC/CP authors I'd seen online.

    I've given away over 6,000 of my keychains -- one at a time, face-to-face with the recipient. Sometimes I felt like I was running for office! ;-D But I love seeing the responses of the recipients, which are usually split between those who notice and like my dog logo and those who think the thumbcuffs are funny.

    I probably enjoy PR more than most authors because I do it in my "day job". But usually any author can find some type of PR they like to do.
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  12. I find that giveaways that I distribute one-on-one are far more likely to generate sales that those that are mass distributed. I use my stuff by carrying it with me all the time. Talk to somebody about my books--give them a hand-out.

    Promo materials can also be offered as a "silent" reward for checking out your web site. I have that on my webpage.

    Chats are a twice monthly deal usually and I drop in on a couple more that are planned by fellow authors. Some chat loops are far more effective than others.

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  13. I enjoy talking to people, and passing out my bookmarks:) At one of my signings, I had a couple of pre-teens asking about my books (they were slightly too young, and I suspect the M&Ms were the draw, lol!), and they gladly told me they'd go home and tell their moms about the books. I told them they would better enjoy them at 12 or 13 rather than 10!

    And at my last one, I had a woman ask if they were graphic; I said yes, and also explained that the first one had an overabundance of the 'F' word, but less so in the 2nd. She then said to me that in her humble opinion, the works pre-late 70's and 80's were better, since "it takes more creativity to express things w/o using the graphic words". She then walked off w/o a bookmark, but with a smile and a 'nice talking to you. Good luck' wave and smile.

    I sort of approach my signings as a game, Marcia. I call it a success if I've sold at least 2, and have handed out most of my bookmarks. I still haven't gotten up the nerve to send off a press release, but at least I'm willing to talk to more people:) Also at the last signing, the other author and myself tried to get the TV reporter to interview us, but she wasn't interested. We did talk to her about the pet and baby contests, as well as applaud her when she rode the gyroscope IN A DRESS! Still, she kept walking. Oh well. Maybe next year, when BB's got 2 books out and I've got 3 or 4?

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  14. You know, I think FREE is the way to go when starting out. That's why I like promo like blogs and myspace and chats. It doesn't eat up too much time and the price is right. Book signings are a way to introduce yourself to the public but shouldn't be thought of as a big money-maker. Unless you're Nora, you're bound to be disappointed, I think.

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  15. Anny -- the first five people who enter my monthly Web site contest get a free keychain. They seem to like the keychains better than the contest prize. ;-) But postage can really add up. ;-( Boo, hiss...

    I like to chat up the men who walk by my booksignings. I tell them that romance novels are filled with insider information and they can learn a lot about what women want from reading them. ;-D Of course, there's always the snarky people who turn up their noses at romances. I just shake my head sadly and tell them I'm very sorry they are missing out on such great, feel-good books.

    I like booksignings more as a way to meet people -- the booksellers in particular -- than as ways to sell tons of books.

    Molly -- press releases are much easier than trying to talk a reporter in person to interview you. You can learn to write press releases; they need an opening hook, just like a good book. If you check author Web sites that have online press kits (I have one on www.MarciaJames.net), you can see examples of press releases.

    But the one step many authors don't do is the press release cover letter/email. It's not enough to write a great press release, you also need to send a cover note with it telling the reporter why his readers/listerners/viewers would give a damn about your press release.

    One good approach is to say something like: Attached is a press release about a literary event I believe will be of interest to your audience because one out of every four people wants to write a book.

    Another is to tie the press release to an event. For example, if you booksign in Nov., you can mention in your cover letter and press release that November is Nat. Novel Writing Month and you'll be available to answer questions about the publishing industry at your booksigning.

    Or you can tie some element of your book to a local event. E.g. if your book has a heroine who gardens, you can mention that the book is being released the same week as a local Home & Garden Show. You can work all sorts of angles like that. You just need to look at your book and see if there are elements (hero restores vintage cars, heroine knits, there are pets featured prominantly in the book, etc) that you can work into your press release and aim towards a niche audience. This works for historical and paranormal books, too, but if the sensuality level is high, it can limit your venues for booksignings and media coverage.
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  16. That's a FANTASTIC idea:) I have had people stop by my booth to ask how I got started, and I've even encouraged people to write their own books. In fact, one lady I met has already published two and is working on her 3rd.

    I also found out from my first year not to forget to pre-judge the men. I've had a couple who actually have read my books, and others who have bought them for their wives.

    Thanks Marcia; I forgot I do have your promo list on my hard drive!

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  17. You all have some great ideas. I've fumbled through the giveaways, contests, chats, etc. and find the chats fun and the giveaways not very cost effective. But here's a question: I'm a very shy person (in person) so how do I chat up my books with a stranger? How do you all broach the subject of your books with people you don't know?

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  18. I used to waitress in college. That got me over my shyness pdq:) I just say hello, hold out my bookmark and simply say 'I'm signing copies of my latest release today.' Some say no thanks; others smile and come over; and yes, some totally ignore me:) I just keep a smile plastered on my face and wait for the next person to walk in.

    But put me in a room full of strangers, and I freeze! I head straight for the food and pray for the courage to join a group or meet someone.

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  19. You know, Molly, I think doing booksignings with others is a good thing. Your friends can help you break the ice. I don't have a problem with shyness but I called some friends (non writers) who showed up for support and they helped with conversation. We'd initially talk to people who stopped about little thinks and then the conversation would shift to the books.

    If it's IN a bookstore and someone has something in their hands, you can always say...oh, what do you have there. Oh, I love her, etc etc.

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  20. I can't afford to pay for promo either, so I blog and do the occasional chat. When I pay for advertising, it's usually with a big group, like Dakota suggests, to pare down the costs.

    PR's a necessary evil, but it cuts way into my writing. Worse, I'm shy and it's really hard to do face to face or even in chats.

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  21. Group ad buys are a good thing. Lots of writers are shy, I think, Ashley. Probably explains why we write. It's easier to express ourselves that way.

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  22. Teri -- I agree that you can learn to be more outgoing and also that it helps if you aren't booksigning by yourself. But there are so many types of PR that you don't need to booksign unless you want to. Still, learning how to chat people up is a skill that will help you in all sorts of ways -- particularly since networking is a way many authors get ahead.

    I wanted to add something to the comment I made above about looking for elements in your books to see if you can promote them to niche markets. Once way to find groups of people who would be particularly interested in your book is to take a book element (let's say a knitting heroine since that has worked so well for Debbie Macomber)and check ASSOCIATIONS UNLIMITED, a library reference book, for groups that like knitting. This reference book features thousands of groups for every imaginable topic. Most groups have a contact person and the info on how to mail or email him/her. You can send the person a press release or even a copy of your book to review for the group's newsletter. And you can find out if there is a local chapter of the group that you could maybe meet and chat up.

    The sensuality level of your book could be a factor, though. For example, I have Chinese Crested hairless dogs in my books, and I found a "crestie" message board that I could chat with. The nice thing about the group is they're a fount of info on the dogs, which is helpful since I don't own one because I'm too allergic to have a pet! So my dog logo is my virtual pet.

    Anyway, I'm a strong proponent of "growing the market" -- promoting books to people outside of the huge, voracious but finite pool of romance readers.
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  23. When I did the first signing this year, another author was with me, and she was great at greeting people. Pretty soon she had me doing it too, and we were laughing by the end, because we ended up doing a 'tag-team'...for instance, if I greeted someone, I'd introduce myself and my book, and then say 'and also meet BB, a first-time author who's written a fabulous fantasy adventure novel.' Also, sometimes our genres got mixed up, and she was the romance author and I had the fantasy/sci-fi! But it all worked out, and I'm still learning 'the gift of gab' from her.

    And speaking of niche...I was too shy to contact MADD concerning my 1st book (it deals with the issue of drinking and driving), but my later ones would certainly fit other groups...I have an emotional abuse situation, an eating disorder, drug abuse, gambling addiction, that sort of thing. Maybe by the time the fourth one gets pubbed, I'll be over my 'contact shyness'?

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  24. I've done group book signings and do pretty well in talking to other people in those venues. But how about when you're in the grocery store or the doctor's office or wherever...how do you wind up in conversations about your books?

    I'll have to give some thought to special interests within my books...

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  25. Molly -- I think your booksigning sounds great! It's all about having a party that people want to join. They see you having fun and wonder what you're up to. That's one reason it's nice to stand up sometimes and not always being seated quietly behind a table.

    You can help overcome your "contact shyness" by realizing that niche markets LOVE to find fiction books that include their "pet" cause or hobby or whatever. It sounds like you are writing books that feature important causes, so groups that support that type of work are going to love your books. So you are essentially doing those groups a favor by letting them know about your book. Don't think about it the other way around -- that you are asking them for a favor. You are giving them info they'd like to know about.

    Teri -- As for how to bring up your books and writing at doctors' offices, etc., I find that easiest when I give away my keychains. People like to get free things -- especially cute stuff. So I say, "Would you like a free keychain?" Most say Yes, then ask about the keychain. I explain that I'm a romance author. Sometimes the conversation continues, and sometimes they just say something like, "Cool" and ask me to schedule my next doctor's appt. ;-D

    By giving away the keychains, I can stay in the mindset that I'm doing something nice for people vs. asking them to buy my book. I don't expect them to buy my book in response to getting the keychain, but I do hope it will tempt them to check out my Web site.
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  26. If I see someone near me with a book, I'll politely ask them what they are reading. If it's one I've read, or an author I recognize, it generally leads to a discussion on books. And then I quietly slip in the fact that I'm published, and if they seem interested, I pull a business card out of my pocket. I've learned to never leave home w/o them!

    As to the signings...I've read many articles concerning the ins and outs of a successful signing, and one thing in particular jumped out. Don't sit down! I also saw this at my first signings. If I sat down and did my own thing, I might get a few people to stop at my table. But if I was standing, and activily smiling and handing out the bookmarks, more people would stop and talk to me.

    Does VistaPrint do keychains? I like that idea...kids love 'em!

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  27. I've bookmarked this entry so that I can refer to it. I'm another brand new author, and I have to promo, too. So far, I've signed up for a group chat, and two stints of guest blogging, and I don't even have a release date yet. I hope I'm not getting ahead of myself.

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  28. Never too early to start doing your promo, establishing your name, etc. Good luck!

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  29. Teri... and the other shy ones... one thing I did NOT see mentioned is the digital reader. I've spent more time talking about my books because people are curious about my reader than from any other ice breaker. Many of them want to "try" it... so I have a snippet (G rated) from one of my books that I allow people to read to try it out. I know of several people who later bought my books because of that chance to read them on a reader. It's a great ice-breaker.

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  30. Molly -- Vistaprint doesn't have keychains, but there are lots of other novelties companies. You can Google "novelties". My PR file that you have has a section on companies that do print PR materials and novelties.

    Anny -- I just got an ASUS EEE mini-computer, which makes a great conversation-opener, too. Also, the digital badge I got that a number of EC/CP authors have is also a fun thing that makes people stop and ask you about it.
    -- Marcia ;-)

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  31. Oh Anny...G-rated? Not a certain bathroom scene in Honey? Hahahah...I know...gotta keep it clean for everyone:)

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  32. Wow what a great blog Regina. I'm like you. I found out that chats are taking so much time. I did one the day my book was released. I was happy to have a bunch of you around. After three hours I was exhausted, but I know I have to do it again. I have my own blog but don't popst regularly. I posted comments on several blogs daily, but recently I was overwhelmed by too many things and couldn't continue.
    Someone told me that the best promo was to give a free book. This way you hook the reader to your books to come. What is your thought on that?
    I thought of starting a newsletter. Any thought about that?

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  33. Hi Mona! I don't know all that much about newsletters but I know some who have started them lately. I'll be interested to see how those work for them. As to giveaways, I'm not really sure they work. I've done contests before and will see a bunch come and sign up or whatever and I've learned they are pretty much the same people all the time. Same names wanting a freebie. Don't know if it leads to sales though. I'm giving away less and less these days, it seems.

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  34. I'm a reader that loves promos. I love bookmarks and magnets (I have some magnets at work!)

    Key chains would be really cool but they cost more to do.

    I like to catch the chats when I can.

    Newsletters can be great and I really love contests.

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  35. Yeah, COnnie...I KNOW you love the chats. LOL. We were just on one together. Fun stuff tonight.

    I'm actually thinking about key chains or pens. What do you think you'd like best?

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  36. Great blog! I do two guest blogs a month as well as limited effort on my own blogs, have a fan page at Facebook and a newsletter. We try hard with the newsletter but evidence shows that it isn't being read. I think chats work if someone is there saying they like your books, maybe not so much otherwise unless you hit a nerve. That's why we have to talk about each other's books, I guess. A friend of mine has a Cerridwen book I love and I always talk about it. It continues to sell every month though it's well over a year old! I really like the avatar idea. Might have to have Delle Jacobs design me one.

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  37. I've noticed on most of the chats where other authors are involved the support is amazing. We always pump each other up. I will never again do a chat all alone. Talk about MISERY!!!

    Too many isn't fun either. It's nice to find a good balance.

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