A Poor Man's Guide To Shoestring Marketing
with Bruce Jenvey
So you've just signed your book deal and you're ready to let the world discover you and make you rich and famous. Your work is done! Right?
This circus is just beginning! The truth is, the success of your book and the fame it will bring you depend entirely on what YOU do NEXT. Even the big guys have to promote their own work. The difference is they have a staff. And you… all you've got are your shoestrings!
I'm Bruce Jenvey, author of the very soon to be released, Angela's Coven, and we're going to talk about ways to get people to buy your book. Hopefully LOTS of people.
Now, I won't tell you that this is the only way you should promote yourself, or that, "I'm right" and this is your map to success. But I have been asked to share with you, a different way of looking at things and an approach you might find useful.
And just who am I? In previous lives, I spent 20 years in advertising, working on national ads and promotional materials for such clients as Pontiac, Cadillac, FTD, Mr. Goodwrench, Budweiser and more. I spent an additional 10 years publishing and promoting my own travel and history magazine and the branded products it produced. And now, we're going to steal some ideas from the major leagues that might help you launch your own successful book campaign right from your kitchen table!
Reality Check Time: You are not that wonderful. You need to clear your mind of any pretext, any fantasy you've ever had about 'making the grade' and 'stepping into the limelight at long last.' Yes, there are fellow authors you will meet who still believe in this fairytale, but take an honest look at their book sales and ask yourself if that's all you want out of this.
The truth is, no one is going to interview you, invite you to functions or book signings, or bow down to you because you are now a 'published author.' There're a lot of us published authors out there, all scrambling for attention.
The question is, who is going to get the bigger piece of pie? That said, let's start to build your Public Persona.
Step One: The First Thing I Did:
I established my own web page to promote the book. You need a base… a lair to work from. What was Frankenstein without his castle? Or Dracula without his? No one's that afraid of a guy building monsters in the back of a public storage unit or a vampire staying at Motel 6. You need your own Castle, your own domain name, not a freebie site that has some long address that eventually ends in your book or persona. You need your own!
There are lots of places that will sell you a domain and web hosting services all in one package and actually quite cheap. Perhaps the best known of those is GoDaddy.com. All in one spot, you can research, request, and buy your domain name and arrange for it to be hosted on the web.
For those of you new to this: A domain name is a unique internet address you own such as, http://dell.com belongs to Dell Computers, http://nbc.com belongs to the famous television network and so on. Once you have purchased a domain name, then you have it 'hosted' by a provider on the Internet so when people type in that address, they get your page. And yes, you're going to need one of those, too. You can get a web page built for you by a friend, a fellow author or you may be surprised at what you can do yourself with some of the basic tools the hosting company may provide for you.
Either way, getting a web page with your own domain should be step one. Why your own domain? Because it looks bigger and more professional. No one knows you're just the man behind the curtain, you want them to think you are the all powerful (but friendly) OZ.
Your new web hosting account should come with a good number of e-mailboxes for you to assign. You start using these immediately and stop using your Yahoo, G-mail or Comcast e-mail address for anything to do with your book. Set up one for yourself in your nice, approachable, friendly first name, and then at least one more for 'your staff.' It can be something like info@ or help@ or whatever best fits the persona you decide to create.
I realize you probably don't have a staff, but appearance is everything. Press releases, schedules, any correspondence should first come from 'your staff.' In those e-mails, you refer to yourself in the third person. Silly, I know, but it works! And then, they may approach the benevolent you. Follow? (Let me discuss domain name choices and I'll pull this all together for you, promise!)
What domain name do you choose? Make it one you can use for some time to come. If you're writing a series of books, choose a name that covers them all under one umbrella so you don't have to re-start and re-establish everything all over again when book #2 is ready. Think like: Twilight.com or Steven King could have used CastleRock.com.
But here's my own example. My first book is Angela's Coven, the story of a modern day witch practicing old world witchcraft who risks everything to help an aging rock star break his unfortunate deal with the Devil. She has the help of her long established coven. It was decided to make the coven itself the continuing character in the stories regardless of who was a member at any given time, either in prequel or sequel.My web page is http://covenbooks.com and please, go check it out. We (really, I mean 'I', but 'we' sounds so much larger than just me alone, doesn't it?), we had some fun with the graphics (all stock photos from istockphoto.com), and the traditional expectation as to what a witch's coven is all about. It gets a few laughs, but keeps the visitor exploring the page. They can 'Join The Coven' which is really nothing more than getting on our (my) mailing list. But it's the e-mail addresses that have proved most important.
You can write me, personally, at email@example.com but all press releases, first contact letters, etc, are sent from the catch-all address of firstname.lastname@example.org. In the recipient's mail box, the sender shows up as The Coven. Now, when you're looking through a stack of e-mailed press releases from… Shiply, Gregor and
, among many others, doesn't getting an e-mail from The Coven kinda jump off the page at you? Seems it does! This is my lair, my launching point, my writers cave or evil castle. You need one, too! Moore
One final word here, DO make certain your website's index page and description include all the important information for the search engines. You want it to include your 'umbrella name' (in text, NOT in graphic), your book title and your own name as author. Your log line (the one sentence description of your book's plot line) should be included, too.
Then, everyone, including your own provider will start telling you that you need some extra service to make certain you climb the search engines list. Personally, I never did and you can Google me, the book or Coven Books and see what you find. Last count, Google had about ten pages on me and yes, those are all me.
It takes time to climb the search engines, that's why you establish your web page first, long before your release date (that and those e-mail addresses). I searched my own keywords a lot, and then clicked on the search result. I also got my friends and family to do so. Within two weeks, if you searched Angela's Coven or Coven Books, it came up on Google's first page (started at like 20!). And as I did more, more got listed and as more got listed, I moved up the ranks and never paid anyone to do so for me.
Step Two: Participate By Doing "More:"
What type of 'more' things did I do? I participated in the Muse Blog Page when Lea put out the call for Characters to square off in duels and postings. They sounded like silly little things where you write a short piece as if it were coming from your prime character and then we either complimented or even slung good-natured barbs with other writer's characters. Apparently, a good number of people read that, but even if they didn't, it was one more thing for the web crawler software to find and group together with the small pile of stuff about you it's gathering… and growing.
Step Three: "Will You Be My FRIEND?"
These days, Social Media is also part of your Cyber Office. I truly feel you can't do them all well, so concentrate on the ones you feel you can do well. For me, that was Facebook and LinkedIn. My opinion only, but MySpace has sort of gone by the wayside with not enough interaction built into the system.
Yes, I have a MySpace page, two in fact; one for me as author and one for Coven Books. The only activity I seem to draw there is from trolling prostitutes telling Coven Books, (not ME, Coven Books) how they were drawn to my profile and want to be closer friends with me.
I never did Twitter as I believe that until I am more like Clive Cussler or Steven King, no one is going to want to hear my ramblings about being on the patio. And an account with 4 followers is worse than no account at all.
I think the same is true with a blog. By choice, I just don't blog. An unattended or outdated blog is worse than none at all. A poorly written blog that's boring because you did it in what little spare time you had is even worse. (Now you're telling people that not only don't you care enough to post something, but when you do post, it's boring stuff… probably like your book, too, ya think?).
Instead, I have guest-hosted on other people's blogs and then kept a link to the archived page. So pick your battles and throw what you can into those battles so you win!
I chose Facebook, and LinkedIn kind of happened. LinkedIn only pestered me from time to time with more and more requests from people I didn't know to join my network, or to join their network. Always accept! I may not have put a lot of time or effort into LinkedIn, but on the two occasions I have sent out an announcement to all my contacts, I have been surprised at the response I got.
Facebook has proved to be the biggest impact, though. I have my own page which I sacrificed to anyone who wanted to be my friend and I still use it to connect with family and old friends. I also started a page for Coven Books and then added one I don't push just for Angela's Coven. The Angela's Coven page is only there to direct people over to the Coven Books page. ALL three pages are open.
I've turned my privacy way down. While you have to be a friend or a member to post, anyone can see my stuff, read my page, see my photos… and it seems to be a good way of reaching people. Don't forget to 'like' your book page as an individual! That's how I got Angela's Coven on my favorite books page right next to Clive Cussler!
Other Facebook things I have done:
In my advertising days, I was once employed by a BIG agency and that group has continued to actually hold reunions. They have their own Facebook Group page and when I was asked to join, I did! And as I catch up with old friends from those days and hear what others are into, I of course, plant my own happenings with my book.
As your publishing process advances, you will have 'news' to share and I ask their opinion as ad people. "Here's my new cover, what do you think?" "Just got the revised version of the trailer, I like the end, what do you think?" Of course, all this stuff is also posted on my Coven Books and Angela's Coven pages and that's where the video link leads, etc. Even if they are not an active 'member' of my group, I get lots of lurkers!
I also did the same thing with a high school reunion group page. It was not intended as this at first, but has become a valuable resource in my PR campaign. It all started with reconnecting with a few old High School friends via Facebook.
Next, I was scanning old pictures from my annuals and posting them for a laugh. It built a following! It became Flashback Fridays and evolved into a group page for people (staff and students) who were at my small school when my class was there: classes 69-75. (I'm class of '72).
Still every Friday, I post 4 photos from the annuals and lots of people comment and far, far more 'lurk' and enjoy. Again, it's an open page. Membership is only required to post but not to see the pictures and read the comments. Of course, I occasionally work in the post about progress on the book, the release date is set, here's the new cover art… and did you see the trailer?
A note on trailers because someone asked:
Do you need a trailer? I say, yes, but only because it gives you yet one 'new' thing to introduce or comment about as you build interest in your book. It's also a good way to interest those who let's say… don't read too much, into at least considering your book, as the one book they may actually read this year. But trailers can damage your efforts as much as they can help you. Trailers should be brief, to the point and tease the viewer about what's inside. They should be like the movie trailers you see on TV. Aim for a minute, not two, three or more. The trailer should NOT be a brief summary of your plot line. It should be an introduction to the setting and characters, giving the viewer enough information so they can start to imagine the possibilities. I've seen some long tedious trailers that, when they were done, I no longer felt I needed to read the book… I'd just seen the movie.
Now, Let's Close This Section With Two Important Thoughts
You can build an online persona that reflects your work (remember, your work is MORE important than you!) through a web page and your choice of social media. You can do it very cheaply and still have lots of things on the search engines about you. This is why you start early. You do not need to sign up with people and give them money to post you here, register you there, and promote you. Remember this: The guys that really made a killing in the gold rush weren't the prospectors, they were the guys that sold the picks, pans and equipment to them!
Don't be afraid to let that foggy cloud of mist that everyone thinks is your staff surround you when it's convenient. You don't want to throw it in their face like, "I'll forward that to my staff" but you can say lots of things that imply things were done for you, either by a staff or by your publisher. Such things as: "I just got my first batch of cover art cards today!" (That's because you ordered them yourself from the printer!) "My trailer has just been released (by me), what do you guys think?" whenever I've needed to say something that sounded like I was tooting my own horn too much, let the staff say it.
On my Facebook group page, there are many postings that end in "—Admin" and then, I'll post something very shortly thereafter ending in "—Bruce Jenvey." That lets everyone believe there is more than one person tending to my pages and allows me to play the slightly embarrassed author. Also, these posts (and all my press releases) talk about me in the 3rd person. Not like Bob Dole used to, NO, NOT like Bob Dole! But they say things like "Bruce will be available for interviews on…" or "contact Bruce direct at…" all press releases and correspondence from the web site are signed: The Coven.
I recently had an exchange of e-mails with a
area radio station's program director, all from The Coven and all talking about me in 3rd person. She had no idea she was really chatting with me! Image is everything! Chicago
What's A Target?
Once you have a Cyber Office space to work from and you've started to grow your online persona, you need to decided WHO you are going to target, and then HOW! I know, there are a lot of people out there with preconceived notions about this aspect. I'm not saying I'm right. But, I am saying, I'm different!
Let's take a current, not traditional look at your market including its past, its flaws and its new additions. This E-Book market has been around a while. There are lots of people out there who have been reading E-Books for years.
I call them, the 'Early Adopters' as they were first to buy the early devices and use them. They were there before the Kindle and they were buying E-Books when they were originally hard to find. Many of them were romance novel readers who traditionally consume a high volume of books so the per-book cost was a factor at leading them into the E-Book market. They know all about sites like Coffee Time Romance, Fictionwise, the various publishers, and lots and lots more. They are used to digging to find what they want and now know where to get it. All promotion techniques I have read for us E-Book authors seem to be directed at this market. All the papers I've ever seen, the how tos, the what to dos, are all based on a growing number of publishers all competing viciously for this one segment of the market.
In reality, the E-Book market has exploded in the past couple of years. Last year, Amazon sold more E-Books than paper books. The Kindle was the #1 gift last Christmas. As of early January, 2011, there were an estimated 4.5 million E-Book reading devices in use! This includes Kindles, Nooks, Sonys, I-Pads, other less popular units, and selected E-Book capable Smartphones. 4.5 MILLION! That's according to the Amazon site and I know that number has grown significantly since then.
The reality is ALSO, that the vast majority of these new users ONLY know how to log onto the Amazon or B&N site, pick a book, give it their credit card and presto, the new book appears on their device like magic. They have no idea how to manually download and copy a new book to their device. They have NEVER heard of places like CTR, Fictionwise or ANY of the many E-tailers. They don't need to. They log onto the Kindle or Nook site, they pick out a book and buy it and it appears like magic... over and over again. (Like the muscle-bound guy in the gym commercial that says "I pick things up and I put them down"...and that's all he can say.)
So the question is, why do we compete so hard, against each other, like Olympic athletes where the margin of victory is so narrow, for such a small segment of the marketplace when there is a mass audience out there who only wants to know your name? It's like fighting each other for scraps of food on a single acre of land when there's a whole prairie out there just waiting to be claimed.
However, that requires going mass media and to go mass media, you have to figure out what else you have to offer the public. Remember, they are not going to be impressed with the fact that you are a published author.Be The Tap-Dancing Party-Crasher!
Too many "amateur authors" are SO enamored with their new-found status of "published author" they think the world should recognize them. Not everyone will want to interview you because you are yet another published author. You need to have some entertainment value of your own. Your entertainment value SHOULD be in the research you have done to write your book in the first place. Set yourself up as an 'expert' on the topic and use your published book as your credential, NOT as your reason to be interviewed.
|Promote your fantasy release at a|
So, what entertainment value do you have? I'm not talking about baton twirling or piano playing. I mean, what entertaining information do you have that others don't? What do you know more about than the average person? Well, what's your book about? Swashbuckling Pirates on the
Spanish Main? Have you ever considered how many towns and communities across North America have local Pirate Festivals? There's even one in upstate ! For several days, these communities go Pirate Crazy and if you've done your homework, you can provide information about Pirates that will add to their enjoyment, feed their fantasies and yearn to be printed in their local papers or heard on their radio stations. New York
It's a matter of doing your research and being there (via e-mail) before all their plans are set. And if you can schedule the release of your book to coincide, GREAT! Is your book about medieval times? How about Renaissance Fairs? Alien Invasion? You realize they celebrate UFOs in a lot more places than just
, you know. Roswell
Be creative, but the important thing is not to come across as 'The Expert.' You don't want to burst their belief balloons, you want to put a fresh spin on it, or even feed their fantasies. Don't go to a Ghost Hunter's Convention and declare there's no such thing… or you run the risk of becoming one yourself!
One more note here:
Try first to do all these things by remote control, I mean by telephone or electronic connection. I remember reading a self-promotion advisory once that suggested you go to your local event (Pirate Festival, Renaissance Fair) dressed in costume as a character from your book. When someone asks you, 'why are you dressed like that,' you can give them your promo card. If this is the way you want to present yourself, fine. But how many people are you really going to reach in person? But a photo of you sent to a thousand people is going to reach a lot more. I mention this because of what I call the Myth of Book Signings.
Originally, Book Signings were a way for the public to meet an author and let the enthusiasm be contagious within a small crowd. They sold books this way in the days before easily accessible mass media. But to the Nuevo Author, they quite frankly became an ego stroke. It just felt so wonderful to have people line up for your autograph and tell you how wonderful your work is… and of course, how wonderful you are for creating it! Do the math, at any given book signing, how many people are really going to show for an unknown author? And with today's gas prices and hotel costs, you can't justify a 'book tour' where you meet and greet 10 or 12 people at a time!
Will I be doing book signings? You betcha! A FEW. (Trying to find one that will host an E-Book-only author is a challenge to say the least!) My plans do include a few book signings at Barnes and Noble Stores locally (See my web page for an updated list of scheduled events.) all tied to in-store promotions to push retail sales of The Nook e-book reader. Remember, there has to be something in it for the bookstore to allow you time and space.
The few people I will meet at these events are not worth the cost to go meet them. However the photos of me there (cropped and positioned properly, of course) will be invaluable on my social media pages! They will add considerable credence to my book and its value and their consideration to buy it. And that's what this whole thing is about, selling books!Put It All Into A Battle Plan… And CHARGE!
So, let's put all this into practical application. What am I doing to prove to you that this is a viable addition or alternative to your marketing plans? First, I've had my web page up and running for the better part of a year now and I have climbed the search engines. Second, I have a social media presence that seems to hit a lot of people (not everyone who sees your page makes the effort to 'like' it!). Third, I have branched that out into other pages and found creative ways to tell former workmates and schoolmates that I have a novel that will soon be released.
I've kept their interest by not bugging them, but by occasionally reminding them it's there with an update about trailers or cover art. So, these people are primed, they're telling other people, and the pages I'm using to tell them about it, are climbing the search engines, too.
Now, we are ready for that 'Entertainment Value' to kick in and we're going to tell it to the world:
My entertainment value is that I spent a lot of time researching witchcraft, the history of witches and also brought in some of my own personal paranormal experiences. I can tell you a lot about witches you never knew! And I have put this all into a document I can cut, paste, shorten, lengthen, and tailor to the needs of the media that might show an interest in me. My book is strategically set for release just 10 days before Halloween.
I put together a press release about this entertainment value. Now, remember a good press release will be short, to the point and involve multiple, short paragraphs. It should read so that the first paragraph should be able to stand alone if some media boss only has a few lines to fill. The following paragraphs just flesh out more, what you told them in paragraph one.
My press release quickly raises the question as to what they have planned for Halloween programming and suggest this might be a fresh alternative (to the usual guy they interview who thinks he's a werewolf or the guy who's a truck driver in what used to be
Transylvania). Broadcast stations are always hunting for some special interest story this time of year that's different, fun, and as I promised them, fresh.
The press release is written from The Coven stating that Bruce will be available for interviews of any length you may need and the book is my credential to justify my position as interviewee. Included at the bottom are links to my web page, my You Tube link and an in-depth interview one of my fellow Muse authors granted me.
Next, I sent this press release to over 1,200 radio stations throughout the
US and . Where did I find over 1,200 radio station contacts for e-mail? Google! Why radio stations? With radio, you can easily be interviewed by phone. You can be recorded for later playback and even repeated if they liked you. There are far more radio stations than TV stations and Newspapers. In an effort to be 'different,' many of those radio stations are more relaxed in their pace and even their professionalism. It's a slower process and they aren't afraid to try 'different' things. Canada
I sent these press releases out in late July and early August, hopefully long before they committed to a different direction. I have actually secured a small number of interviews so far as well as two TV interviews and two local public appearances. (Lunch at the Rotary Club counts as a public appearance.)
I know, there will be some of those interviews that may only reach 5 or 6 people at a time… small stations, small audiences but if you want to start a big forest fire, light a lot of little ones all over the place!
But it doesn't matter if I didn't get a single interview. I would do it again even if I knew right up front that the response would be zero. Why? Because I know there are over 1,200 more people out there now who have at least heard about my book than there were before.
Think about it:
Who at the radio station is going to get the mundane duty of clearing through the company e-mail? Even just the info@ or the contactus@ e-mails? Someone at least has to look at the e-mails coming into the local star DJ's box for him, right?
I'll bet you the person who gets 'stuck' with that duty is smack dab in the middle of my target audience! And right there in that endless list of requests and press releases from corporate places, is that one that says it's from THE COVEN. And if she reads it, she might click on the links and see my page and my trailer. Even if there is no way I'm going to get an interview, it may interest HER personally. She might even forward it on to a friend with a note about the book video. She might share it with the person in the next cubical and laugh. But that's how you start a forest fire… 1,200 little fires at a time.
And what will happen when they Google me to check me out? They're going to find ten pages of info from my web page, the Facebook page, my publisher's blog page, the comments made about the cover on the cover art page… it's going to immediately look genuine, different and could well land me that interview and if not… I got the opportunity to wow yet one more bored office person and enrich their day with thoughts about: "If only I could be a witch… what changes I'd make around here!"
Will it work?
The science isn't perfect, but the press release is the only thing I have issued that directly links to the You Tube posting. Everything else, all other postings for the trailer are on Facebook. So, reasonably, I should be able to look at my You Tube views as a measuring stick of my response.
I have looked at other writer's trailers and I've seen they've been up there a year, 18 months maybe and they have a hundred views, or less. Mine drew over 300 views in two months, half of those over just two weeks after I revised it to include the final cover art. In the meantime, take what you need from here, and from other presenters and just remember to be creative, inventive and above all else, confidently different!