Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Which Half?

by Clare O'Donohue

Q: "There are many different ways for promoting a new book. Which do you feel is the most effective?"

There's a saying in advertising circles that half of all advertising is a waste, but the problem is no one knows which half. I'd say that's true for marketing your books as well. You can twitter, Facebook, send out newsletters, do personal appearances, go to conventions, buy ads, and even drive around the neighborhood with a megaphone. Some of it will lead to sales, and some of it won't. But the tricky part is that if you're doing most of those things at the same time (as writers usually are) you won't know exactly which led to sales, which got the elusive word of mouth going, and which was a dead end.

So next book, you'll do it all again.

At the beginning I accepted every invitation to sign at a bookstore, or guest blog, or do an interview. Sometimes I drove eight hours each way and sold a whopping 2 or 3 books. Sometimes I stayed up until one in the morning writing the blog. It was exhausting, and often more expensive than I could justify. But did it help?

Probably. Some of it. Some of the people I met became early adopters, spreading the word about my books. Some of them even became friends.

But at some point, I had to step back and decide how better to use my time and resources. So I went with the highly unscientific way of choosing what was most fun for me. I like Facebook, and I think (as Susan mentioned) it gives readers a chance to connect with me, and me with them. So I do that. I can't for the life of me figure out the benefit of Twitter, so I rarely do that. (I'm not saying there isn't a benefit, just that it eludes me.) I send out newsletters about new releases to people who sign up for info. And I do public appearances that don't require an overnight stay, unless my publisher is paying.

For me, the most fun was getting involved in the mystery community so that's where I put my efforts. I feel a part of something, and I feel like I'm helping other writers. The side benefit is meeting writers, readers, bloggers, reviewers, and publishers I wouldn't otherwise know. That's led to invitations to higher profile interviews and events.

Has that helped my sales? Probably. Some of it. But it's also helped me feel connected and responsible to my writing. It keeps me from floating away when the work gets hard and the royalty check is low. I can keep doing it because I see a real benefit - it's fun - and consistency in anything is better than manic spurts.

So that's my advice. Try everything at first, and figure out what feels right for you, and what fits your lifestyle and budget. Then do that.


Art Taylor said...

Enjoyed your post here, Clare—and I think it's actually good advice! There's that old cliche about writing: If you enjoy it, your reader is more likely to enjoy it. If you're surprised by a twist, then your reader will share the surprise. And vice versa.

Maybe that's true with marketing as well: The fun you feel doing something will come across and connect better with readers than the thing you're doing just because it's part of a checklist you've been handed (or handed yourself).

Meredith Cole said...

Great advice, Clare! I, too, said yes to everything at first. And then for my second book, I only did what had worked before...

Catriona McPherson said...

I knew I was going to read everyone's post this week and be saying "I should do that!" over and over again. Newsletter - I should do that.

RJ Harlick said...

A great blog, Clare and very good advice.

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone! If nothing I do sells any books, I feel at least I've had a good time.