Wednesday, December 2, 2015

An Assessment

An Assessment

Recently my good friend said, “I have to go to Paris in January. Why don’t you come with me?”

Paris. Any time of year beckons. She tried to persuade me: In winter the fares would be cheap. We have somewhere we could stay. It will be cold, but the crowds will be lighter. Yes, yes, yes….uh, no I can’t. I have a book coming out January 12, and for the following month or two I’ll be in a frenzy of promotion. I’ll be doing library and bookstore readings, and interviews, guest blogs and social media events. I’ll be hosting giveaways, publishing a newsletter, etc, etc. All designed to say in as nice a way as possible, “buy my book.”

The promotion will involve car travel and plane travel and hotel bills. Oh yes, and drinking too much wine and eating too much. In addition to the expense (no, small publishing houses do not pay for your travel expenses—they grudgingly have bookmarks made),  it takes time and energy—time and energy that could be spent writing. Or going to Paris.

Here’s the problem: I don’t have a clue whether it actually does any good. I know that at present the money I spend on promotion isn’t worth it in terms of book sales. It gets me out of the house, allows me to have some fun, and gives me a break from writing, but it doesn’t sell books on-the-spot. Does it sell in the long run by getting my name out there? No idea.

There are some indicators that make me suspect that it doesn’t do much good in terms of book sales. Despite never having gotten anything but great reviews from professional reviewers, and having received many, many complimentary emails about my book, my Amazon reviews stay stubbornly low. Meanwhile, I see the reviews pile up for authors who don’t do any travel and readings. Do they have batter and more friends than I do? Are they better at social media?

Possibly. But I suspect the real answer is that no one knows what promotion works and what doesn’t. I get bombarded with emails from people who tell me that they have the keys to success, that they can guarantee me a huge audience—for just a few thousand dollars.

This sounds like whining, but I’m just taking stock. I’m trying to do a risk/reward ratio to determine what makes sense. At my worst moments, when I contemplate another round of flinging myself into the fray, I despair of getting anything out of it but a few extra pounds. But then I remember that except for a very tiny percentage of writers, writing as a business makes no sense at all. It only makes sense as a passionate undertaking. And I am passionate. I write because I want people to read my books. And the only way I’ll get the books read is if people know about them. And the only way people will find out about them is if I promote them.

So, no Paris for me. Hmmm…Maybe in the spring, right after I turn in my next manuscript and before I hop back on the promo treadmill.


Jane Gorman said...

Go to Paris! Include photos of it in your newsletter, post fabulous shots on social media (tying in to your books if you can). Bring a few copies along, you never know- read one blatantly on the plane or in the airport, leave one surreptitiously on the cart of a bouquiniste. Have fun. The marketing will still be here when you get back.

Keith Raffel said...

John Wanamaker said: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half." I think that about sums up book promotion. said...

I sympathize w/ your pain . . . joy, Terry. We all love to write, followed by the drudgery of flogging our books.

I published "Bloody Mary Confession" last Dec, then left for UK and France to take advantage of decent fares, NO CROWDS, and enjoying life as Brits and French who seemed mystified why anyone would want to visit in the winter.

We were in Paris in February, decent weather, waiters courteous. But in the back of my mind I was balancing the joys of winter travel w/ agony of not promoting. Alas, an LA publisher picked it up, new cover, paperback, hardback and audio book.

With a new book coming out soon, sequel to "Thirteen Days in Milan," I'm planning a serious social media marketing plan following Joanna Penn's blog interviews, specifically Mark Dawson on using FB targeted ads. Check in out.
Also going to mount a Twitter campaign, getting great response already, check out Jane Freidman's recent blog.

I'll post a pre-sell on ebook sites this month, Italian and English, publish in June. Six months to get advance orders. I have resources in Italy, translator and researcher, and a marketing specialist who has an excellent plan to market in Italy.
I'll share results with you at LCC in Phx.

Terry said...

Keith, that tells it all. But I'll be interested to see what comes of the next poster's (name?) campaign. Sounds interesting

Ellen Kirschman said...

I'm with you Terry. I'm still waiting for someone with nothing to sell to show me an algorithm that says what promotions sell books. In the meantime I'm sticking with what is fun-face to face events at bookstores, book clubs and similar events.

Diana R. Chambers said...

Good piece, Terry. I know you thrive out in the world. And you have been very successful at getting your name out. I'm sure you won't go to Paris, but it's not a bad idea. Maybe next year? Promote via your photos and adventures:-)

Terry said...

I love it that everyone is telling me to go to Paris. Once my hand heals. I'm absolutely going to Paris...and Florence....and who knows where else.