Monday, April 12, 2010

Marketing, sheesh!

Marketing is one of my least favorite tasks of the publishing industry. My friend Carrie Sheppard is a marketing professional. When she tells me the formulas for contact vs conversion, I can't imagine doing a more discouraging job. As lousy as the numbers are in regular marketing and advertising, they are even worse for books.

I keep telling Carrie if she could figure out how to sell books, she would be a wealthy woman. (She laughs and says that books are a hard sell.) So why is that? Nearly everyone loves to read. (Even I read, just not much fiction except for mss and almost never the NY Times best seller list.)

I get lots of unrequested marketing pitches for books. I also get lots of marketing pitches for marketing companies. I haven't seen any new ideas in any of the material - even the ones that come in the regular postal mail. They look nice enough, good paper, excellent graphics - and no new ideas.

Maybe it works on other people, but the social networking sites don't work on me. Do they work on you? How many novels have you bought because you heard of them on Facebook or through Twitter?

Have you ever randomly searched through one of the online booksellers like you do the stacks at the bookstore? I don't. Not for fiction anyway. I usually go there with a book or an author in mind. (I'm waiting for a book on import/export rules to arrive.)

I'm just wondering about all of this. Like everyone else, I'm trying to figure it out. Book reviews and word of mouth hardly work on me. I've been burned so many times by bad pitches that I wait until I stumble on a book on my own. What do you do? How do you select your next book?


  1. The is I genuinely think very simple. You get out on the road. People love a signed book. I forget the authors name, I have the book upstairs but my daughter saw the guy was signing books in WH Smiths in the city she was at university in and bought me and a few other people one as Christmas gifts. She knows I like signed books. There were plenty of other books in the store I would have preferred. But it was the guy sitting behind the table. The personal touch. With my first two novels I took them everywhere in a carrier bag, French lessons, parties and sold signed copies. My son made a cd (I produced and engineered it) he sold lots by the personal touch. How many concerts have you been to and then queued up for a signed cd afterwards that you wouldn't have dreamt of buying in the record store (store - oh my God I'm turning into an American. I shall be at the mall next) but you see what I'm getting at.

  2. I agree about the signed copies but I don't think people will line up if they don't know something about the author. Making a presentation helps - but I don't enjoy doing those. Stage fright.
    I buy lots of books online - about 98%. But it's usually a book someone has recommended to me or something I have read about the book or author that causes me to look for the book. I just don't randomly browse.

  3. It sounds simple, but one of the things most people don't know is that bookstores charge the writer or publisher a heafty fee for booksignings. Typically, the sales don't offset the cost.

    Book fairs and street fairs also charge a booth or table fee. There was one in Phoenix a couple of years back that was highly promoted among authors. The table fee was $75.

    I attended as part of the foot traffic. Good thing, there was hardly anyone there who didn't have a booth. There was almost no foot traffic. Authors stocked up on books and still have them in their garage. It was a big money loser because it had been promoted to authors.

    People who host these events and even websites assume that writers will bring their audience. News flash: Everyone I know who wants my book already has it. They are not going to drive to the airport area to buy another copy of it.

    So to get an audience for a signing, you cannot rely on natural traffic, you have to drive people to the event. People mean well, friends plan to attend and be supportive, but something comes up or they just don't feel like going out by the time it comes around.

  4. I agree that people are more interested in a book if they know something 'personal' about the author they can connect with or that is in their interest area. I'm horrible about promoting myself. I'm a different sort of shy from Joy, but beyond that, I'm very private and reclusive. Those are not great marketing qualities. I'm much better at promoting others.

  5. I would go to a dinner party, and during the evening I would have a friend set up to say, 'Glyn did you bring that book with you?' I'd get it from the car and someone would say 'did you write that, where can I get it from? And I'd say, I think I have another couple in the car?' And sell them like that. Great fun.

  6. Grand idea, Glyn. If you could then get those people to buy, tell their friends, not lend their book, but tell their friend where to get it. Ordinarily, people say, "Sounds interesting, can I borrow your copy when you finish?" The other person says yes, or even offers before the request is made.

    So the question is, how do we attach a dollar value to what people already enjoy? We don't have to get people to read, they already do. But like water, they take the path of least resistance and read what costs them the least. That is one reason I push for signed books. People are more likely to hang onto their copy.

  7. Lending books? I don't lend books as I don't know how people are going to treat my precious books. They should buy them anyway regardless of how famous the author is - too much work goes into writing a quality book. Don't I know that. I enjoy a second hand bookshop though. The author though should get some profit from that. I feel a blog coming on.

  8. See my blog at

    about lending/borrowing books and even buying from second hand bookshops.

  9. Hello Glyn,
    And who would pay the royalty to the author? How would you track the second hand bookstore sales? They aren't part of the scan network?

    It is the reason that publishers have to charge so much for new books. They expect the book to be read [al least] five more times when the buyer finishes with it - factored into the list price.

    Plus, even with ebooks, those that sale well have to carry those that don't. Otherwise, writers without a strong marketing history would never get a chance at a debut novel.

    If that was the case, everyone would have to first print their own mss (one way or another) and show a good sales history to be picked up by a big publisher. Wouldn't that change the dynamics of the industry?

  10. Read your blog, Glyn. It does catch one - what do you say? They are so excited to say they read your book or have loaned it to 5 of their best friends. I don't think everyone in a household need buy their own copy, but like CD's and DVD's - I don't lend or borrow them either. I support those industries by buying. But those are a bit different. We hear the songs on the radio and buy the CD. We see the movie on TV and buy the DVD (if I plan to watch it several times). This might not be fair, but it seems to me that the more a person loves to read, the more they lend/borrow books. Guess that is just how it is.

  11. I don't mind my novel being lent out. It was the way I was spoken to. The woman was doing me a favour reading my book.
    I thought when I wrote the blog it would be impossible to keep a check on second hand bookshops.

  12. See Kate Beswick's comments at my blog

  13. Did see. Thanks for the info. Since we don't have 'radio' to 'play' our books to sell our 'CD's' lending and libraries [perhaps used books stores] are one way people hear of us. Good thing if you write more than one book, less likely to sell your 'other' book if you have only one.

    It is extremely important to encourage everyone to buy debut novels, if you've liked it. That will influence their contract for the next book if sale through numbers are good.

  14. How possible is it to set up internet radio to give new authors publicity?

  15. Love your over-due newsletter. I see you have been a super busy woman. I always enjoy your zeal for life and find it in your words. I am curious where you have moved to and curious about the new job. Thinking of you, Nadine and happy life changes. ;o)

  16. Hello Connie! Wow, how do you pack so much into so few words?