Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bootstrapping Marketing/Promotion Advice to a Self-Published eBook Author

 Note:  The following is the advice I sent to a friend, the author of a new faith-based eBook that wasn't selling as well as he'd hoped. He sent me a list of what he's been doing to promote his book. I first critiqued his current approaches, then offered additional advice.  This is used with the author's permission.

First, the book is apparently only available via Kindle. This really, dramatically, limits the market-ability of the book.  I know what stats say about the number of books that are read electronically, but those stats are (IMO) misleading. This includes all free downloads (assuming they’re all read), and all books that have been bought digitally to be read, but which never got read.  For instance, I have bought probably a dozen books from Amazon, but I’ve only read one of them, cover-to-cover, and it was 19 pages long (a 19-page book – imagine! ).

Another example – I launched a book at the National Press Club, and had 40 reporters and four TV cameras there. I got the book reviewed in the Washington Enquirer, I got the author on a cable business program and Sirius Satellite Radio, and via online promotion, I got 500 online press mentions (reviews, articles about the book or the launch, etc.).  I even got Greta van Susteren pissed at me over one of my launch tactics, teasing the book.  The book was available initially only as a download (the production got delayed, not my fault – I was the publicist, not the book manufacturer).  But the bottom line, the online book sold TEN copies.  Ten. 10.  As in “less than 11.”  The author was so pleased with his success that I had to file two police reports over death-threat emails he sent me.  I got 50x more press coverage than he got books sold.  Some of that might have a bearing on the book, but I believe a lot of it had to do with its availability (during the promotion) as an eBook only.

I’m sure that’s not what you wanted to hear, but I think that’s important when you consider what you’ve done to sell your book.

Beyond that, some observations and questions.

1.     Sometimes, you can get fewer sales because of a low price – and for the quality of what you offer, I think your price is too low. That’s just a gut call, and really doesn’t have a lot to do with promotion – except that some media judge a book by its cover (price).  A $4 book isn’t a serious book. I know it’s humor, but you want it taken seriously.

2.     You offered the book as a free download to four targeted audiences.  Did any of them actually download it? If so, how many?  Can you divide them by category?  The reason I ask is that sometimes “free” does not impart value, which seems counter-indicated, but it’s another sad-but-true issue.

3.     I’m guessing that you didn’t “pre-sell” the book by asking any of the hosts, columnists, pastors or reporters if they’d like a copy before you sent it to them.  People generally respond better to something they asked for, than something that was given to them unbidden. At various times I’ve set myself up as a book reviewer, and I review books in the following hierarchy:

a.      First, those books that I asked for

b.     Next, those books from authors who contacted me, asking if I’d like to review it

c.      Books that come in over-the-transom

d.     Digital or eBooks

Yours was a blend – I almost never review eBooks, but you’re a friend, and you asked, so I did review it (and I’m glad I did). But as a “book guy,” I  didn’t personally feel any sense of value to it – because it’s not a printed book.

4.     I’d be interested in the Google Ad Words you chose (and your success) and what you advertised, and where.  I’ve had no luck advertising online – I’m a partner in a business that (as an experiment) bought a one-month ad in an online publication that has (for our market niche) a very high readership – and we got almost nothing back for our $350 investment – I think we paid about $40 per click-through (or maybe we had 40 click-throughs – but either way, it was a big waste of money).

Now for my recommendations.  And there are a number of them.  Some apply to the eBook, and some apply to my next recommendation (which is to get it printed).  Let’s start with the best way of using social media to get your name and your book’s name out there.

A.     Begin blogging, based on the content of the book.  Each blog should have a “excerpted from ___, available from Amazon”

B.     For each blog, create a video blog on the same topic. Don’t “read” the blog, but use a white board behind the camera with bullet points to help you keep focus. Keep them from 90 seconds to 3 minutes, and post them on your website, but most especially on YouTube

C.     Find other blogs about your topic, and “haunt” them – then whenever you can, post a comment to every possible blog post – and do one of two things:

a.      Agree with the author, but add two or three additional, reinforcing points; or,

b.     VERY respectfully and non-confrontationally, disagree with the author, and give two or three well-reasoned justifications for your alternative view on the subject

c.      Then, on all your posts, note that you are the “author of ____, available on Amazon – follow him at …”

This is the only known accepted way of “borrowing” someone else’s followers, and this is highly ethical under the blogging rules of the road (if you do it right

D.    Follow the news – then, whenever you see a breaking news story that relates to one of the topics of your book (or of any chapter or sub-chapter), write a blog about it – about your “take” on the news issue, keeping in mind that you’re the book author, not the consultant.  Then do a video blog about it, too. 

a.      Follow all the promotion steps below, that apply to all blogs and posts on others’ blogs, but do one more thing. 

b.     Write to the producers of talk radio and talk TV (and to reporters and editors), and say the following:  Regarding this breaking news story (briefly describe the news story), I can help you put it in perspective for your audience.  I am Michael R. Shannon, Author of “Christian Conservative’s Guidebook to Living in Secular Times,” and you can see my “take” on this story (briefly describe) in my just-published blog and video blog here (url) and here (YouTube url).  I am available to appear on your program (or be interviewed for your publication – online or offline).” 

c.      If your comment on the breaking news story is really important, consider sending out a press release announcing it.  Sure, that costs money, but it will also do wonders for your SEO, especially if you use BusinessWire, which is automatically picked up by 294 news aggregator sites, from Yahoo Business to the Albuquerque Times.  This will help get the word out, but do it sparingly for financial reasons.

d.     This is how I got on Neil Cavuto’s program 5x during the 2008 election campaign, though I published my blogs in American Thinker.  But you don’t have to do that to catch the media’s attention). 

e.      Related, when you see an online news story, if it has a reader comment section, post an intelligent comment in that section, with a link to your blog and a mention of your book, with a link to Amazon.

f.       I do this (more or less) and continue to successfully promote a book originally published in2003 by my late wife.  When it went out of print, the rights reverted to me, so I posted it on Amazon as an eBook.  It’s a novelization of a true-fact UFO sighting/encounter in Kentucky in 1955 (my late wife had a relative who was involved in this bizarre incident), and whenever I see a UFO story in the news (and I get a Google topic-search on UFO each week), I wind up selling more eBooks.  So it really does work, not just for generating news coverage, but for getting those who follow the news to find you.

E.     Promote each blog and video blog post (and all of your comments on others’ blog-posts) extensively on social media, (especially the ones you’re posting to focus on breaking news stories, but really, do it for all your blogs, video blogs, and comments on others’ blogs).  Your promotion should include:

a.      Facebook
                                                              i.      Don’t just post on your FB page – join every group you can think of and find that relates to your book topic, and post there

                                                           ii.      Don’t post exactly the same thing on each post – change the first sentence or first paragraph – VERY IMPORTANT – since some of your audience subscribes to more than one group, and will see an identical post multiple times and get turned off

                                                        iii.      Include a link – certainly back to your blog – but also include a link to the Amazon book sale page (the first link will have a mini-display illustration, so pick the link wisely)

                                                         iv.      BTW – I monitor more than 200 FB groups for that business I alluded to above – the one that didn’t get much from our ad effort – and I get measurable thousands of FB links back to our site whenever I do a post … but I spend the time to personalize the posts, usually by (in the opening sentence) alluding to how my topic aligns with the group’s topic

b.     Linkedin
                                                              i.      I don’t use Linkedin much, but they have groups, too – to maximize their use, do as suggested for FB (although the posting parameters are different)

c.      Twitter
                                                              i.      Make sure your Twitter account is linked back to your FB account

                                                           ii.      ALSO, using Hootsuite, create a month’s worth of Twitter posts related to your book topic, but timeless – post 3x/day on weekdays, 2x on Saturday and 1x on Sunday – rotate them by time of day, keeping in mind time-zones (for the business day posts, stay within the 10-3 Eastern time to cover all major time zones – so like 10:38, 12:45, 2:15 (or something like that). Vary it each day.  Use a #hashtag in each one to link to your book topic (when I do this, I begin each one with #PRPro)

                                                        iii.      Then, because nobody archives or really remembers Tweets, keep recycling these, just vary the order (people tend to follow Twitter at certain times of day, but not others, so varying this will reach more people over time)

d.     Pinterest

e.      Instagram
                                                              i.      I never use the last two, but all the experts say you should, so I’ll tell you that, too

OK – that’s what you can do with PR and Social Networking.

Other things you can do include reaching out to organizations that have meetings, and pitch yourself as a speaker.  Authors are generally more credible than non-authors as guest speakers.

Now, this leads to your need to have a printed book.  With all the POD (Print On Demand) “publishers” out there, you can do this relatively inexpensively. Amazon has a print-on-demand service you could use for very little money.  There are lots of reasons for doing this, including:

1.     Lots of people like me value printed words on paper, and prefer books to eBooks.  It will open your market.

2.     When you send out printed/published review books, it looks like you really have something (eBooks are just electrons, after all)

3.     You can autograph those books, which gives them added value (I don’t know why, but people like that)

4.     If you have your book produced by Lightning Source in La Vergne Tennessee, your book can be picked up by any bookstore.  They are owned by Ingram, the largest book distributor, and any book LS manufactures appears in the Ingram catalog –which means B&N can order it, Books-a-Million can order it, and every mom-and-pop store out there can order it.  However, Amazon is cheaper.  I always tell my paying clients to use Lightning Source, but only because of the Ingram catalog (bookstores will typically NOT order from micro-publishers, preferring to order from distributors).

5.     If you have your book published by Amazon – see if you can’t work out a discount price from them for buying copies of your book for promotion purposes.  This is another reason to work with someone other than Amazon to publish, as you can buy in bulk and get discounts from Lightning Source and their many competitors.  However, for my late wife’s book, when it was still in print, we could get review copies cheaper from Amazon (at retail) than we could from the publisher, with their “author’s discount.”

6.     If you have a printed book, join the Independent Book Publisher’s Association – it’s about $120 a year. They are basically a clearing house for publishing support services – but more important, they are set up to help self-publishers and micro-publishers to promote their books. They have special promotional mailings to public libraries, for instance, or to specialty (including Religious/Christian) bookstores. They also go to the major book fairs, and you can have your book on their display table, where bookstore buyers (and foreign rights buyers) can see it.  They even do the American Booksellers Association annual event and the Frankfort Book Fair in Germany.  All of these are fee-for-service, but they are inexpensive and cost-effective – I’ve been using them since the mid-90s, and clients have always enjoyed the benefits of their services.

7.     Whenever you travel, contact the local Christian bookstores (or B&N) and see if you can’t do a reading and autograph books. Then use your PR skills to promote this, so you get an audience.

8.     Check out my blog on book publishing and promotion for more ideas:  http://barnettonpublishing.blogspot.com/

I make part of my living helping authors do all of this – but they don’t have your PR skills, so there’s no reason I can think of (other than greed – mine) for you to retain me.  But if you really insist, I’ll give you a good deal.

But basically, if you follow my advice here, you’ll start moving books.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bootstrap Advice to a Small Specialty Publisher

By Ned Barnett

I review most of the books published (on WW-II Aviation) by a small specialty publisher in Montana. Recently, I offered to help with suggestions for promoting their newest book (which is great); they took me up on the offer, and this is what follows. While the advice is specialized, a flexible mind will see how this could apply (by extension) to almost any non-fiction title. Since this is both real-world and current as of today, I thought I'd share it with you ... (the names have been changed to baffle voyeurs).

In one of your emails you mentioned something to the effect that you hope this book is getting proper international PR - do you have some pointers, thoughts, directions that you wouldn't mind sharing in this arena? You know I do the direct email, send out review copies, and do a general sort of PR - but I am always open to new ideas.

Glad to help – this is my stock-in-trade, and I’m glad to give you some pointers. First, please check out my blog on book promotion (http://barnettonpublishing.blogspot.com/) – this is based on decades of book promotion for my own nine books and for dozens of authors and half a dozen publishers I’ve represented at one time or another. I think you’ll find a couple of articles (my Top Ten lists might be most helpful, but check out the posts and see what’s useful to you).

Beyond that, try these:

1. Make sure you have strong reviews posted on Amazon.com. This remains the #1 outlet for books of all kinds, and it’s also a trusted source of review information. If you don’t have reviews there (or don’t have enough), ask each person who’s reviewed either book to post reviews (you can’t do it for them).

2. Find every online modeling or military history website (the subject matter of the books in question) bulletin board or discussion list that deals with German aircraft, then register on those lists.

3. Create an email list of as many interested parties (former clients, reviewers, etc.) as possible.

4. Whenever a new review is posted anywhere (Amazon is good as it’s credible) post a link to this review to all these lists and bulletin boards and such - and include a web link (URL) so people can find the reviews.

5. Also, send out an email blast to all those on your list (making sure you don’t cross the line into spam – if you don’t have the technology, I can refer you to a friend and colleague who does have that technology and does all my email blasts for me).

6. Send out a press release over the Internet about the review.

a. You can send one out (keep it under 400 words, and set it up for just Montana – trust me, the Internet will get it out) via Business Wire for $300 per release.

b. I recognize that this might be cost-prohibitive – PR Web and Market Wire have much lower cost releases (I find them a bit less effective, but for my own business I’d use them for most releases).

c. OfficialWire is dirt cheap (and well worth it ). OfficialWire you pay a one-time fee of about $700 a year for as many releases as you want, any length (most other services charge a length factor). I use this to put out low-value releases, but use one of the other services (too) for more important releases/news.

7. Whenever the Fw 190 (especially the Dora) (the specific subject of this book) becomes a point of discussion (this requires some monitoring), have (author) draft a response to the discussion, preferably pointing out something new to the discussion and mentioning that more details can be found in Vol. 1 or 2.

8. Create a blog (I use “Blogger” because Google owns it and searches it, but WordPress and other outlets are available).

a. Periodically have (author) write interesting anecdotes or information (could be cut-and-pasted from the book) about the Dora, then announce the new blog article following steps #4, #5 and #6.

b. For the blog, I know (author)’s got contacts with some surviving WW-II German aces (or he did, I know time and mortality is creeping up on them), ask them to write (or write in their names, with their approval) blog articles about the Dora, or anecdotes about its use, or anything like that – the do the 4, 5, 6 promotion again

9. Contact every national and regional modeling contest (the organizers) and offer up prizes for a category – the Fw 190D (that would be my choice). They’ll sell you a trophy package and generally it’s not too expensive.

a. The real hook is that you give the two-volume set to the #1 winner, a complete set of the Fw 190D decals to the #2 winner, and something tied in but of lesser value to the #3 winner.

b. Ask in return that the award be prominently announced in advance and at the event. I am truly surprised that so few authors, publishers, model companies or after-market companies do this; it’s a great way to get publicity and promotion.

c. Also do #4, #5 and #6 above for each award program you participate in.

d. When you have winners, get the contest folks to send you photos of the models and the modelers receiving their awards (both) then throw up a web page showing them, then do 4, 5 and 6 again (a release and announcement of the winners, the prizes, etc.)

10. Find surviving aces or even pilots (ours or theirs) who have ties with the Dora. Interview them for the blog and press release, and present them with copies (for the press release), and get that out on the various 4, 5, 6 media/publicity opportunities. Co-opt (in the best possible sense) their fame and name recognition to promote your books and such.

11. Find non-profit groups (even charitable groups) and donate autographed copies to be raffled or auctioned off to raise money (and work with them to make sure the full publicity is accomplished – 4, 5, 6 above).

12. Propose to non-profit and charitable groups that they become resellers of the books to raise money. Military history and aviation museums, member associations, military reunion groups, model clubs, etc., might all become resellers. Give them your best bookstore rate and help them promote it (plus do 4, 5, 6 above).

13. Post autographed copies of the book on eBay – set your reserve minimum to your wholesale cost, and let the auctions find the market price (you might also have an eBay web store where people can “buy now”). This, by the way, could apply to all of your products – other books, decals, prints and paintings, etc.

14. Which brings up a key point. All of what I’ve proposed above for the Dora Vol. 2 could be applied to any and all of your products – books, decals, etc.

15. Related to that. If you have a book that’s out of print, you can add a bit to it (it doesn’t take much – a new updated final chapter, some additional references to the bibliography, etc.), re-copyright it, then re-release it as an “Expanded/Enhanced Second Edition” – and with POD now available, you could avoid creating inventory. The new second edition could be subject to reviews all over again – it becomes new all over again – and much of what’s proposed up above will work for each book you re-release.

16. One final note. I know you sell direct and I presume that’s your most profitable move. However, some people remain reluctant to buy online except through established vendors (i.e., Amazon) – so whenever you give a link to buy from you, also give a link to buy from Amazon. If you set up as an affiliate of Amazon’s, you’ll get a (small) commission from all book sales generated by people who link through your website. There are some people who’ll buy from Amazon who won’t buy from you, and you don’t want to lose those sales.

I hope this helps, (publisher). Obviously, this is just a quick-and-dirty tip-of-the-iceberg overview – you’ll find more ideas in my blog posts on book promotion. Also, obviously, this is what I do for a living, and I’d be glad to help professionally. However, times are tough and you and (author) are creative – if you can do these on your own, please do so with my blessing. Ever since I reviewed your AVG book and decals a decade ago, I’ve been among your biggest fans, and always glad to work with you to help you achieve success (knowing that this success will lead to more wonderful products down the road).

So make this happen, or retain me to make this happen – either way, these steps should help you to build your business, domestically and around the world.

That's it - a practical, real-world guide to bootstrap promotion of an exceptional specialty book. Adapt the advice to your own specialty market, and you can get it done, too - or call me (702-696-1200) or write me (ned at barnettmarcom dot com) and I'll help make it happen.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Five Quick Novel and Non-Fiction Promotion Strategies That Work, One That Doesn't

By Ned Barnett - (c) 2009

Here are five quick strategies that work for authors and novelists, especially those who don’t get a lot of support from their publishers, and one – the first one – that doesn't work, although logic suggests that it should.

1. 1. The one that doesn’t work: Book signings at bookstores don’t really work for you – unless you’re Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly or Tom Clancy, book signings can feel good, but they don’t really move a lot of books and seldom generate any publicity. Getting publicity is something else – and while a book signing can be a hook (“I’ll be in town and would like to do a quick radio interview”), it’s not a strong hook.

2. 2. A way to make Signings work: Book signings at special events that seem tied to the book theme do a much better job of moving books, but they’re harder to find. However, given the sales potential, they’re worth the effort

3. 3. Another way to make Signings work: Book signings at talks that you give seem to move books much better as well – the trick is getting speaking gigs. You have to promote these separately from the book, which may distract you from promoting your book, but the sales potential may make this a reasonable trade-off.

4. 4. Volume group sales are more profitable than individual sales, even when the sales are discounted. However, the trick is to find groups that tie into the theme or setting of the book, and persuade them to buy your book in quantity to give or re-sell to members.

5. 5. Networking: “Working” your alumni, church, civic and fraternal organizations is another way to build brand equity (name recognition) and sell books. A surprising number of people This same process can go online with:

6. 6. Social Networking: Online social media is emerging as an effective promotion tool for writers. They key networking tools include email lists and phone/SMS lists (for real Web 3.0 impact, nothing beats a short-and-sweet text message).

a. Networking sites include FaceBook, which is on the way up, big-time, and MySpace, which began to crash-and-burn last July. Its numbers are way off – but still hug – but MySpace has become a Youth site and very not useful except for YA authors. Linkedin and Plaxo and a few other networking sites are growing in popularity and potential. Right now, Twitter’s getting all the buzz – though so far traffic is still relatively small.

b. The key to Social Media marketing – “make friends” and “network” – then get the word out to your “friends” and ask them to spread the word. If you’re lucky and good (and sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but both is better still), “viral” will take off and you’ll find people you’ve never heard of wanting to be your friend (on the network) and buying your books and spreading the word.

c. Social Networking lets strangers feel like you’re an author who’s also a friend, someone they can brag on, an excellent sales motivator. For more on this, the free e-book “The New Rules of PR (for online PR) is two years old but still useful: http://www.masconsulting-online.com/Channel_news/New-Rules-of-PR.pdf

d. Create your own Social Network by setting up websites and newsletters that link in buyers of previous books. This can create a demand for a new book (Lawrence Block has done this effectively, as has Janet Evanovich). Think of your author website and e-newsletter as the core elements of your own private Social Network.

These strategies work, but only if you work these strategies.