Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Shifting Sands

Snake Oil – Marketing your novels – what has worked brilliantly for you and what has been a miserable, terrible waste of time and effort?
- From Frank

Marketing sucks.

Some writers say the same about editing, but I love editing. I love it in a different way than I love writing, but I love it. Writing is like early on in the love affair. Editing is like marriage. 

But marketing? Marketing is like having an obnoxious brother-in-law crashing on your coach for five years during that marriage.

Okay, that analogy doesn't exactly work. But it gets a point across - marketing sucks (and so does your couch-surfing bro-in-law).

The thing is, it seems like what works in marketing your books is constantly changing, like shifting sands of a desert (analogy works, but is cliche? Oh, well). I mean, word of mouth always works, but how effective is social media? It used to be the panacea, now some say it's a time suck. What's the answer? Same with blogging (uh-oh!) and blog tours. How about podcasting (uh-oh again).

Having a newsletter is another example. I didn't have one for years. Then about a year ago, I started one, kinda wishing I'd been doing it since 2006, back when my first book came out. Think of where it'd be today! But while I've managed to build a decent number of subscribers that has stabilized, I'm not seeing any associated bump in sales. So is it worth the cost and the effort?

Advertising is expensive and again, hit and miss. BookBub seems a pretty sure thing every time I've done it, but they're picky and don't always accept titles. That's cool - QA is important. But it sucks when you're trying to promote a title and they say no, especially when they've taken other titles of mine.

[As an aside in the middle of this rant, I don't know that the problem is entirely with figuring out the right approach but with having the desire to focus on it enough. Did I mention I hate marketing? And yet, I am a hybrid author whose publisher is a small press. Those two facts don't sit well with each other, which means I have to get off my backside and focus more on what marketing works... and doing it.]

Still, there's so much information out there, and not all of it is transferable (or even true). I started the newsletter on what was highly touted advice from a respected author, but I must be "doing it wrong." So what is "right?" With the advent of indie publishing has come a slew of how-to gurus. Many know of that which they speak, but some also sound like... well, snake oil salesfolk.

And to that, I'm feeling a lot like my friend Josey here...

So what works for me? I think good reviews and blurbs help. I've noticed better sales from those books with both. Bookbub certainly works, and so do some of the other email list ads (but some don't). Right now, I have my first book free as a gateway drug, and that seems to be helping some, but not in a crazily effective way. I've got a good-sized newsletter but I'm not seeing the consistent follow through on that to actual book sales.

But I don't know why I'm even writing this blog post. It's Tuesday now, and the sands will shift again by Wednesday morning...


Despite that last grim comment... I want to let you know that my newest book, Code Four, is now available! 

This is the final book in the Charlie-316 arc!

The last two years have been tumultuous ones for the Spokane Police Department. On the surface, the agency has suffered from scandal and police officer deaths. Underneath, a secret and deadly game of cat and mouse has played out.

Now the Department of Justice has sent investigators to determine if federal intervention is needed. Their presence disrupts everyone’s agenda and threatens to expose dark secrets. Goals shift from winning situations to simply surviving.

Not everyone will.

In this tense and explosive final installment of the Tyler Garrett saga, everyone’s true nature is laid bare. Garrett scrambles to maintain what he has built. Chief Baumgartner tries to protect his department. Captain Farrell’s plans crumble around him, and Officer Ray Zielinski’s career is at risk. Meanwhile, DOJ supervisor Édelie Durand diligently follows the facts where they lead. And through it all, the unflappable Detective Clint keeps his eyes firmly on the prize—Officer Tyler Garrett.


Susan C Shea said...

How does your podcast work for you? It occurred to me after we talked that I could have offered a free book through you....Do you test audience by offering a free book now and then? Rock on!

Frank Zafiro said...

Susan, that's a great idea, and probably a missed opportunity on my part. I'll have to work it in and experiment with the idea. It might boost the authors who appear.

On the flip side, I think the podcast helps me by putting another line in the water. People may discover me by chance because they listen to pods and dig mysteries. More likely, they're a fan of my guest and listen for that reason and decide they might give my work a try or at least keep listening.

But the real value in the podcast for me has been the human connection with other writers. Most mystery writers are great people and meeting them is good for the soul. Even before Covid, my existence has been hermetical since about 2017 when I hung up my teacher skates (post LE retirement). So getting to meet new people and to spend time with old friends has been invaluable for my heart.

If that sells a book or two for either of us, even better. :-)