Nothing Works III: Yet More Things That Will Not Sell Your Indie Book!

So where did we leave off?  (Scroll down to see parts I and 2)

#9 Virtual Blog Tours.

I am about to embark on my third– and final– virtual blog tour for the novel Angel.  As I noted in a previous post, reviews on blogs, guest posts and interviews have not led to any spikes in my novel’s sales.  As a blog tour consists of these elements, it probably should go without saying that blog tours tend not to lead to sales either.  They have, however, made me feel much better because I know at least someone has read the thing.  It felt great to have my book mentioned nearly every day during the tours, but again, neither tour led to any uptick in sales that I can report.

The organizers of each of my blog tours did a good job and provided a lot of (non-selling) exposure for the title.  I have long wanted to get Angel in front of Christian readers, and the first book tour I organized through Sage’s Blog Tours did a good job and finding just that.  The second tour, arranged through Orangeberry Book Tours provided lots of extras, some of which I thought more useful than others.  Having done promotion of my title for a year at the time I booked the second tour, I was a very picky author and knew exactly what I wanted and didn’t.  Orangeberry was highly responsive to my requests. For example, in my early posts I mentioned my distaste for form interviews consisting of silly questions and my belief that no one cares who I am as a person.  I have also mentioned that guest posts have not led to any increases in sales and are time consuming, so I opted out of those.  I made sure that any interviews I did for the site were focused on the book itself and the craft of writing and not my life.  (Which, if you want to know, is not so interesting.  It mostly consists of sitting at a computer and typing words.)

You can, of course, get reviews and interviews on blogs yourself by contacting the writers directly, and I did a lot of that, especially when the book was first out and I had no money to pay anyone to organize it for me.  What I liked about the blog tours was having someone else making those arrangements.  It is nice to have someone on your team.

I, personally, do not like “promo posts.”  These are blurbs posted by participating sites that do not wish to review, either because they ran out of time, or because they didn’t like the book and feel compelled not to say anything bad as the author did pay someone to organize a promotional tour.

I wrote earlier about one case in which a Christian reviewer was uncomfortable with my book’s subject matter and posted a promo.  I felt as though this was a missed opportunity because my goal in getting reviews is not to have everyone love the book but to have people talk about what the book is so readers can judge for themselves.  A thoughtful post on why someone didn’t like the book could be as informative and useful a disingenuous endorsement.  As part of the same tour, I received a respectful review from the perspective of a Christian reader who was of the view that homosexuality was a sin, I appreciated this review very much.

I am afraid that the impression that blogs that participate in tours are required to give good reviews lessens the value of those reviews.  I hope that those who participate in my new tour, organized by Reading Addiction Blog Tours (there are still open slots!) will not feel compelled to praise the book if they do not honestly appreciate it.

#10 Book Signings

78220_10150098134485948_417282_o I have done a lot of book signings in my day. They tend to be like the one pictured at the side.  You sit in a near empty store, surrounded by copies of your book or books.  The clerks come by from time to time to apologize that no one is there.  The few customers who wander into the store try to avoid eye contact lest they be required to buy your book.

The only successful book signings I have had were those that were combined with a speaking engagement as part of a regular, well-attended series.  I happen to like public speaking, so those events are not usually difficult for me.

Given that most book signings are a little bit painful, and usually sell no more than one or two books (to people who feel sorry for you), you might be surprised that I did, in fact, make an effort to line up signings to promote the novel Angel.

The reason I did so is that you can get benefit out of even an unsuccessful book signing.  The local paper that is uninterested in a feature on your book might be enticed to cover an event.  In the past, I have lined up radio, TV and large print features based on the fact that I was in town to do a book signing.  Even if you do not sell books while you are there, book stores prepare for your arrival with promotional displays of your title.  After you visit, those books tend to have prominent placement, especially if you signed some for the store, for at least a few days.

You may find, with a small press title, that book stores are not willing to arrange an event.  My book is published by Itineris Press, which uses print on demand technology and therefore bookstores cannot return the books.  Few book stores are willing to risk having excess non-returnable stock.  If you want to set up a book signing, you will probably need to make some sort of direct arrangement with the store so that you assume the risk if the books do not sell and they get a reward if they do.

#11 Paid Print Advertising

This is, of course, the most expensive form of promotion.  For the first year of my book’s release, I could not afford to buy advertising of any kind.  (I was in one of those broke periods that tends to follow focusing on fiction instead of more lucrative non-fiction.)  When I got an advance on my next non-fiction book (it came out March 7, by the way), I decided to give print advertising a try.  I focused on three publications.

First was UU World Magazine, the magazine of the Unitarian Universalist denomination of which I am a part.  I felt, and still feel, as though the themes of my book would resonate with UUs if they learned about the book.  In fact, I drew heavily on my experiences working in a UU church to make the church setting of the novel realistic.  Unfortunately, there was no way I could afford a display ad.  The magazine does, however, have small classified ads in the back.  As I recall, these were not that cheap either, but within my budget.  I posted an ad offering free reading copies to book group moderators.  The ad did not receive any responses.  Money poorly spent.

Second, I concentrated on local media.  I thought that the Metro Times, the weekly arts and events paper for Detroit and Between the Lines, the LGBT paper, would have target audiences that might have an interest in my book.  I ran a slightly larger ad than I had planned in the Metro Times, I think a quarter page.  This was part of a package with banner ads on their web page and a mention on their Facebook page.  It was not cheap to run this one week blitz.  The ad in Between the Lines was slightly more affordable.

I rad these ads in the same quarter as one of my book tours in which I racked up an impressive number of very complimentary reviews.  With all of the exposure, I waited my next royalty statement with great anticipation.  That quarter I sold six books.  Disappointing.

Print advertising may be effective if you have enough money to repeat it.  Professional marketers know that the key to an ads effectiveness is repetition.  I simply do not have the budget to run an ad enough to make an impact.  I don’t regret trying, but I would not advise any indie authors who value their money to repeat my experiment.

Less expensive, and more satisfying, was Blogads.  Blogads allows you to buy advertising on popular blogs.  The ads are easy to set up and customize and you can run an ad for a week on some sites for as little as $50.  I targeted three blogs with audiences I thought might respond to my novel’s theme.  (I did not go for book review sites, although there are a few of them available.)  Blogs are much more interactive with their audiences.  One of the campaign generated what seemed to me to be a respectable number of click throughs.  (200 in a week)  I would like to be able to recommend it more highly, but unfortunately, in the quarter in which I did these campaigns I did not see any increases in actual book sales.

So, my friends, nothing works.  Here’s wishing you luck anyway.

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