Monday, January 21, 2013

Can We Talk?

Can We Talk?

How do authors promote their works today?

Rely on the publisher for promotion?
Launch Event?
Book Signings?
Book Tours?

With the exception of the first in this list, the others have one thing in common. They cost money. Let’s face it. The publishing industry is changing. The downturn in our economy is a mixed blessing. People are looking for escape from reality and are turnign to books. BUT, they are not buying Christian speculative fiction. Sales are down. Publishers taking chances on this sub-genre are getting hurt by these poor sales. The entire discussion of why the Christian Publishing industry is so bad at promoting this kind of work is way beyond the scope of a simple blog post.

My second book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” launched in October, 2012 and I have tried all of these ways of promotion. Let me share what has been successful and what hasn’t.

My publisher. Charisma Media has been very bold and took a huge chance with the Realms imprint. But, it would seem that the economic downturn and the difficulty of promoting Christian speculative fiction may have taken its toll. We shall see if sales are sufficient to keep Realms alive. The publisher helps out with social media promotion but, as with most publishers today, leaves most of the promotion up to the author.

Advertise? I bought a few internet banners on some specific websites. These banners showed up from November through December. I’m not sure how well they worked. This is the problem. How do you gauge how well such an advertisement works? Will the website give you statistics? So far, I just don’t know how well Internet ads work. I put a local ad in a “Family & Faith” magazine for my book launch. But, that launch suffered as I mentioned below by several factors.

Book Launch. When I launched my first book, “The 13th Demon” in October, 2011 I held a book launch party at my local church’s coffee shop/book store. It was a huge success. I moved over 100 books that night. I advertised in a local magazine and I gave away some donated prizes such as a Nook, a Kindle, and an iPad2. This year, I followed the same strategy and it did not work as well. Why? First, the Friday night I chose also had competing events such as a huge concert featuring a country singer and a very popular high school football game between two famous rivals. And, one of my friends jokingly posted on Facebook that the event had been cancelled so that friend would have a better chance of winning one of the prizes. People took the post seriously and did not show up! I ended up moving about 45 books. Not bad, but not as good as the first book launch. Factor in my cost of advertising, paying for free coffee and snacks, and subsidizing some of the prizes myself and I lost a lot of money. But, I did get some good publicity.

Book Signings. I was blessed to have three book signings during this campaign, one in Orlando, Florida; one in Austin, Texas; and one in my home town LifeWay Store. It is very difficult to get a LifeWay Bookstore book signing, but being a B&H Publishing author helped. The Orlando book signing was a success and I moved about 40 books. The Austin book signing less of a success and I moved about 24 books. The local book signing was a rousing success and I moved more books than I did at my book launch. It helped that the event was the first Saturday after the New Year and people were coming in for huge after Christmas sales.

Book tours. I did not hold a book tour for this second book. I held a tour for the first book and featured signings at several venues including book stores. For the cost of traveling, I did not move sufficient books.

Publicist. So, I hired a publicist. Big chance. Lots of money. Since the first of November, I have given almost 30 radio talk show interviews. Most of these stations are big names and have huge area coverage. The first part of my campaign featured the pitch, “What is so Cool about the Undead?” as my second book features vampires, werewolves, and zombies. I had a blast! I was able to always turn the conversation around to my book and I was able to use my apologetic training to talk about changes in our culture. The second phase of our campaign started a week ago. New pitch: “Do Video Killing Games Cause Violent Behavior in Teenagers?” Man, did that get the radio talk shows buzzing! I had 13 interviews just last week and I’ve got 6 more schedules in the coming two weeks. I have been invited to Dallas, Texas to be featured on a live one hour talk show in the next month. The campaign has been wildly successful. The one caveat: will it drive book sales? Will it drive listeners to my web site? That remains to be seen.

And, here is the warning to all writers. You MUST be able to speak and carry these interviews. You can’t get on the air live and “Hmmmm” and “Uhhhhh” your way through a ten minute interview. In fact, what I am learning is that in order to make a career in Christian publishing, you MUST create a platform that includes the ability to speak on subjects related to your book. To that end, I am attending Michael Hyatt’s PLATFORM conference in February. I’ll try and include details of what I learn in my next Charisma post.

In the meantime, I’m anxious to see if my sales numbers were increased by these forms of publicity. We’ll see. What do you do to promote your books?


Caroline said...

I appreciated the post. I'd love to hear what the rest of the authors have done that's beneficial in marketing.

I too am signing up for that platform program too!

Jillian Kent said...

Hey Bruce,
I think you're doing better than me. :) Really. And I just don't think it's us, or the genre's we're in. I think it's a lot of writers in the same predicament. That's why there's so much buzz about doing it all yourself. Dean Wesley Smith and Bob Mayer are big proponents of it as are many others.

Personally I think we need to be somewhere in the middle. I've done a bunch of marketing too, book-signings, book clubs,blog tours, give aways, etc. Don't have the money for a publicist. trying to organize some other things. I started a column at the Online Christian Fiction Magazine called The Well Writer to help writers and get more name recognition.

I hand sell as well and to the hospital I work for and that my hubby works for in the gift shops but that's only been so-so.

I DO think it's worth while to enter contests. At least the books get sent to different places in the country, it's less expensive, and you might win! That may help too.
I'd suggest you read this post by James Scott Bell over at the Killzone.

I really think we just need to keep writing and experiment with selling our own e-books too. It's not easy at all.

I like Michael Hyatt. I've bought his Platform CD's but honestly I'm not convinced. We can kill ourselves doing all this stuff and I'm not sure it will make a significant difference. Let me know if you think it was worth while.


Bruce Hennigan said...

Thanks so much for the information. Like I said, paying some money to a publicist has definitely stretched me and taught me how to have an elevator pitch for my book. It's still out as to whether or not this promoted book sales. I don't know how helpful the Platform conference will be. I participated in what is now known as the SCORRE conference and it helped me become a much better communicator. This is the next level and we'll see if it helps. I'll check out James' post.

Beth Shriver said...

Bruce, do you think you made more than you spent? Sounds like a lot of money that I don't have;( We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and find what works for us.

Herbert E. Cracraft said...

Hello Bruce!Thank You for sharing this information with us. We want to know about more authors to get more knowledge. Adorable post by Bruce forever.

Bruce Hennigan said...

I worked with a publicist in 2007 who said that on your first book, you lose money. On the second book, you might break even. On the third book, you make money. He was referring to money spent on publicity. I'm taking a big chance here. I don't anticipate recooping the money I spent on a publicity campaign. But, I am also trying to develop a speaking career as well so I have to think synergistically. I and my co-author are now in the process of negotiating a contract for a nonfiction book that will spin off into a book series. For that reason, I chose to try this kind of campaign to see if it will benefit us in the future.
I'll let everyone know how the books balance out once I see if this campaign increased my book sales.

Darrel Nelson said...

Thanks for laying your cards on the table, Bruce. It's the "game" we are all playing--trying to promote our books in a way that suits our personality and ability. I appreciate everything Charisma Media has done to help promote my books, but I have felt that additional promotion was needed, so I have hired a publicist (Glass Road). For my two books, I signed a three-month contract for an online promotional campaign. Glass Road is VERY expensive, and I do not think I will recover my money on the first book, but that remains to be seen. I'm hoping though that between what they are doing and Charisma is doing, plus my own efforts of course, it will prove worthwhile in the end. Like I said in the Acknowledgment in my latest book: "It's humbling to realize how far the ripples spread when a stone is cast into the water." We need to keep at it and hope the ripples reach distant and welcoming shores.

Darrel Nelson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce Hennigan said...

Thanks for the post, Darrel. I am hoping that by using a publicist, I can rise above the fray and catch some attention. It will be interesting to see how your campaign works. My campaign was for 15 radio talk show interviews and 20 book reviews.
I have certainly created a lot of interest with my "Do Violent Video Games Cause Teenagers to Kill?" pitch and it was a bit of stretch to relate that to one of my characters in The 12th Demon. But, I had an opportunity to talk about Christ on many, many secular radio stations. I have to view this a mission as well as a promotion. Let me know how things work out.