Sunday, August 7, 2011

Reasonable Book Promotion

I received an interesting piece of mail the other day. An author (who will remain nameless) sent a glossy, two-sided postcard, a glossy 5x7 photograph (signed, no less), a business card, and a "special extra" item related to his/her forthcoming book. A small press (with which I am unfamiliar) is releasing the book.

I was unfamiliar with the author or book before receiving the mailing.

I'm not going to buy it.

Yes, you have to promote your work for people to discover it. Of course. But take this anonymous author's work for example. The glossy, two-sided postcards aren't cheap. Add the photo, business card (glossy and full color), and the bonus item--not to mention the first class postage and envelope... Well, there was probably a good dollar's worth of stuff in that envelope (and that doesn't include the stamp).

Reasonable promotion? Not hardly--I don't know what anonymous author's percentage is, but considering a mass mailing will not have a very high success rate, I can't imagine it paying off.

Promotion should pay off. Writing is a business. Business is about making profit. If expenditures outstrip income, well... Find another business. I mailed a bunch of bookmarks, press releases, and review copies of Loathsome, Dark and Deep when it was released. You know what? With my latest royalty check, I've almost paid for my "promotion". I think the review copies (I mailed about ten), netted three or four reviews. Not good business sense, but I've learned.

Too many self-styled Indie-writers focus too much energy on the promotion of their books. Yes, promotion is necessary, but not as necessary as a good book. Are you getting what you "pay" for in terms of book promotion? Remember, your time has value, too. Time spent promoting is time away from writing. Or hanging out with your family. Or some other worthwhile pastime.

So I'll mention two new releases of mine, collections of stories (reprints from the small press with a few new nuggets tossed in):

The twelve stories in These Darkened Streets play on the foggy boundary between horror and magical realism . You'll find shivers here, dear reader, and other, more thought-provoking flights of imagination all set in small towns with dark, quiet streets...

A Feast of Flesh: Tales of undead fiends, bloodthirsty monsters, and hideous nightmare-ghouls waiting to rend and tear human flesh...

I'll mention them, but for now, that's about all. I have more stories to write.

Have a lovely day.


Unknown said...

One press I've talked to recently told me they've found reviews just don't help sales as much as we all previously thought. Words to ruminate on. I'm stressing less on blurbs and reviews these days, and you've got a great point on how much time you soak into promo versus how much into writing. Plus, the story has to be good, too--exactly!

Loathsome is on my TBR list, and one day I'll catch up to it! :)

Robert said...

Yeah -- bookmarks, postcards, all that junk, you have to figure 99% of it gets thrown away. Word of mouth is the best promotion, of course, and the internet makes that easier ... though it's still difficult. I'm actually thinking of adding a few giveaway copies of my newest book on Goodreads, see if that does anything.

Bradley Convissar said...

I know that a lot of people download every free book they come across on Amazon, but I've always felt that offering free stories is a good way to hook people. And when offering samples of longer books, give away half the book. The more people read, the more time they invest in your book, the better chance they'll buy the rest.
And, as Robert says, word of mouth is the bets promotion. In my dental office, we pay for ads in Yellowbook and the local papers, but personal recommendations is what gets us the most business. So encourage your fans, either outright or by writing reviews, to get them to go out and buy your favorite Indie author's books

Danielle Birch said...

Fabulous covers those.

Cate Gardner said...

I think I got that same mailing just this weekend, although I didn't have a 'special extra' and now I'm wondering what that special extra is (I won't say where my mind immediately went). I figured they got my address via the HWA.

I'll hold my hand up and say I way over promoted Strange Men, but you know, I was young and over excited and I can't swear that I won't do it again. :( You'd think I was rich.

I'm not likely to keep glossy postcards or author photos, but bookmarks are always welcome.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I think reviews such as TV bookclubs (Oprah, Richard & Judy etc) help, but for the rest - forget it! I too spent too much money on my first book for too little response.
I have also seen people doing book signings where they have stood for ours in a bookshop only to sell one book!
I'm sticking to networking to stimulate word of mouth - such as it is. I also agree that the writing has got to stand up in the first place.

Barry Napier said...

2 books at once? Yeesh, Mr. Polson, make sure you change the oil in that machine at least once a week!

I LOVE the cover to These Darkened Streets. Simple but very powerful. Great work, as usual.

Unknown said...

When has a postcard ever sold a book? Where did that come from, anyway? Is there some kind of observable track record for that stuff, because when it gets to my house it usually winds up as kindling.

Anthony Rapino said...

I got that same mailing! I think the thing that weighed on my mind heaviest was how did this person get my address? But I think Cate is probably right that he found us on the HWA mailing list, since I do opt-in for such things.

I have to agree it isn't the best use of money. It got me to take a look at the website, but the mailing went right into my "drawer of horrors" where I keep all random things that I don't feel deserve being thrown away quite yet (call me a hoarder if you will).

And two new books!? Holy hell, Aaron. You're a machine.

Daniel Powell said...

Wow--more narrative goodness coming down the pipeline, to go along with two great covers! I particularly like A Feast of Flesh!

Simon Kewin said...

Well said, Aaron. And I love that artwork.