Thursday, December 31, 2015

More on promotion: timing

I recently received an email from someone asking me to mention a contest here on the blog. Since I hold contests myself, and think they can be valuable for writers, I hopped over to their site to check it out, ready to copy the link and post it here.

When I got to the site, there was no mention of the contest.

I returned to the email.
Sure enough: contest doesn't start till next week.


I see this a LOT with authors promoting all sorts of things: books, blog posts, contests.

Here's what you need to know: a certain percentage of your email list (and it's not high, it's probably 10% or so) is going to read your email and ACT NOW.

You'll lose them if you send your email before there's actually a live link, or a book to sell, or a contest to promote.

Another (larger) percentage will open, read, and act within a week or so.

How do you balance that?

First, you're aware of this response pattern.
Second, you plan your emails based on it.

The first email you send is the heads up: this is coming on Date X. Think of it as a Save The Date for a wedding or party announcement. It's short, it's sweet, it's got details but not a lot else.

The second email you send is when the link is active, the contest is open, the book is available for sale. This has more details (it's akin to the actual wedding invitation: date, time, location, attire etc.)

It drives me crazy to get emails that say "my blog post tomorrow is going to be about you." It means I have to save the email, and remember to go to your blog tomorrow. You have my attention RIGHT NOW. Chances are if I can't see the post while you've got my attention, I won't see it at all.

One of my most effective tools for staying ahead of the email deluge is to handle things ONCE. Read, act, done. If your email doesn't allow me to do that, and it's not something I care about passionately (ie my clients) your chances of getting what you want from me are reduced substantially.

It's the same with promoting your books. People are interested in your book but not to the point that it's something they'll prioritize for later action.  If you have their eyeballs NOW, make sure you have something to show them.

That means: don't post reviews until people can pre-order or buy the book. Don't talk about events until there's a link for people to get information about it.

If you're sending an email that starts out "next week there will be a..." you should plan the second email that says "TODAY there is a ...."

Any questions?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"Read, act, done". Love this.

On a daily basis at my 9 to 5, (which is only 9 to 5 today), the phrase is, "see, think, do".

I don't have a question but I do want to thank all you Reider-yahoos for a great year and especially to our illustrious leader, chum in abundance.

You guys mean a lot to me so whoo-whoo, have a great News Years eve.

How about, have fun, stay safe, sleep late.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I have heard it said timing is everything. Been writing (revising) since 4:30 am. At last my invisible friends are chattering away again. Hopefully, in 2016, my timing will be better. Need to get that proverbial cart behind the horse once and for all. Take care Reiders. See you next year.

Donnaeve said...

What timing.

This is a great post!

And before I go into my spiel, HAPPY NEW YEAR dear Reiders and QOTKU!!! In case I don't get to comment again safe, have fun, throw confetti, drink champagne and try not to get arrested in the process!


Anywho, you have no idea how many times this year I've had people say, "where can I buy your book?"

It has become extraordinarily clear to me how little folks know about the publishing world who aren't buried in the comings and goings of it.

I've also had people ask, "Why does it take so long?" They truly don't understand that with several hundred other books to publish, mine is only one in the pile. There is hands on work by a collective to get their part done, from the Art Director, to the Copy Editor to the Production Editor, back to me, and then to them again. There are systems, and processes, and deadlines to be met by all. For every book.

So to this: "It's the same with promoting your books. People are interested in your book but not to the point that it's something they'll prioritize for later action. If you have their eyeballs NOW, make sure you have something to show them."

And to this: "That means: don't post reviews until people can pre-order or buy the book. Don't talk about events until there's a link for people to get information about it."

That's why I don't say much about much. There is stuff happening but the timing isn't right. And we all know - timing is everything.

Kitty said...

No questions. I just want to wish Janet and all the Reiders a Happy and safe New Year!

Now, speaking on contests... ;~)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Wait, I'm supposed to email you if I blog about you?

(Honestly, I haven't blogged about you, as in, you're the Topic™ of the post. I've just mentioned you as our Virgil through the querying process)

It's an ironclad fact that if it's an email you have to go back to (....or intend to go back to.....), you probably just won't. Ask my family how good I am at emailing them!

When I got my acceptance into Daily Science Fiction, I was superstitiously afraid to say anything to anybody until I had an actual date for it, due to previous happenings. Though I realized belatedly that the SF Signal blog posts the Table of Contents for assorted mags, and I was on there, so I needn't have worried quite so long as I did. But I linked it on the blog day of, not ahead of time. It's the worst feeling to have people, well meaning people, say "Oh, when is that coming out?" and to need to say "well, that fell through."

Jed Cullan said...

Just posting a comment telling you I will post a comment tomorrow. When I post tomorrow's comment I shall also post a commentcomment telling you I
just posted a ccomment

Janet Reid said...

*harsh stare at Jed Cullan* Don't you have some sort of writing you should be doing??

Stephsco said...

Great post! Adding to this: authors/bloggers/promoters please have links to any other social media you use right on your landing page or home page! I have been known to hunt a bit if I'm very interested, but will give up if links are too buried.

Unknown said...

I am part of that 10%. I won't check later, I won't mark it down to check later, I won't even remember you as soon as I go to the next email.

Happy New Year to everyone in the known universe, and here's to achieving our goals without maiming anyone in the process. Cheers.

BJ Muntain said...

I agree. If I see your e-mail, I'll follow the link then, or forget about it. I get a lot of e-mails, and I know many people do. If the event is something I really want to do, I *might* remember it later.

Here's a suggestion (from someone who used to work communications/marketing): When you send your first message - the 'save your date' message Janet talked about - give your date, but also *tell them* that you'll be sending them another message once it's live. That way they're not fiddling with their calendars - and if they're not near their calendar, they can think, "Oh good. I'll do that then." And they'll be prepared for your next message, which will have a live link.

Don't overdo it, though. An organization I used to work for would, at certain times, send eblasts out weekly. I got very tired of seeing all those e-mails, and I worked there!

E.M.: Yay for your invisible friends chattering again! They might have just taken Christmas off. Stress can quieten invisible friends.

Have a safe and happy new year, folks!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Janet's blog is one of the few places I check more than once a day because I want to see what everyone has to say.

I'm one of those people who won't announce things until they're a done deal. When I read this I thought about blog tours and mailchimp newsletters. How does one time all the promotion correctly?

Happy safe New Year. We're having a party, foie gras, oysters and champagne.

Unknown said...

It's a real dilemma. Right now I dont have a published book to promote, so my "author" Twitter account isnt very active. If a pub or agent looks at it, they arent gonna find much. That doesnt look good for me, but what can I do?

Colin Smith said...

YES! Validation!! My promotion strategy of late has been to think to myself, "What do I do?" In essence, using my habits to help me think about the best way to get and hold other people's attention. And this goes right along with that. If someone tells me "Janet Reid will be mentioned in my blog article next week," I may or may not visit that blog, if I remember. But if someone sends me a link to their blog saying "Janet Reid got a mention in my article today--here, check it out!" I'm far more likely to click that link.

By the way, Janet Reid got a mention on my blog today. :)

See what I did there...? ;)

Happy New Year my beloved fellow Shark Tank dwellers, Reiders, Carkoon inhabitants, and Slush Pile exiles--oh, that's just you and me isn't it, LynnRodz... *sigh*. Maybe next year I'll find a way back into Her Awesome Majesticness's good graces. Perhaps send FirstBorn to New York just to bake lava cake for her...?

Elissa M said...

I never stopped to think about how I read and respond to emails, but this has made me realize that 10% who act immediately might be a higher number. I like to clean out my inbox. When I file something for later, I'm afraid I never go back to it.

I like the idea of a heads-up email that also mentions a launch email will be forthcoming. I can throw away the heads-up, but the launch won't be out of the blue.

I hope everyone has a safe and satisfying welcome to the New Year. Hubby and I are attending the best kind of party: a jam session with a bunch of other musician friends and their SO's. There's going to be jazz, folk, western, blues, rock--you name it. A good time is guaranteed to be had by all.

Donnaeve said...

Roslyn, I dealt with this fact too. I put my presence online via blog, Twitter, FB, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ (blech) Tumblr (blech blech) and I did this like, five years ago - talk about the cart before the horse. I didn't know what I should do with all of it, I'd just heard have an online presence. Check.

It is a conundrum. The one thing I did like about blogging in the early days was I could talk about writing - even if it was to dead air. I could write about why I thought the way I did, and basically moan, and whine and wail and wallow in all that writer's wallow in while waiting for NYC to wake up and see me.

That was useful - to me at least. :)

Donnaeve said...

NOTE - not all of it five years ago - some technology wasn't "there" yet. But ya'll get the gist.

Unknown said...

I hadn't even realized that I lose emails seconds after I read them. I do remember thinking, hmmm, wasn't there something I should be reading or? Never mind, if it's important, it'll pop back up. If it doesn't I probably didn't need it anyway. OK, that has come back to bite me a couple of times but mostly it works.

This all sounds suspiciously like Common Sense.

Happy New Year to Everyone!

Dena Pawling said...

Roslyn Reid (cool last name lol). I have an author Twitter account. A whopping 150 followers. I follow writers and publishing folks to learn about craft and the industry. I also follow legal and military accounts and retweet interesting and humorous stuff. I guess you can call that my "brand". I tweet when I post my weekly blog entry, not that I get 150 hits but I'm collecting a few more each week. It's a place to start. Give it a try. If nothing else, I've learned stuff and I will only embarrass myself to 150 folks maximum.

Happy new year. Per my navy son, all new year events are on heightened security. Stay safe.

BJ Muntain said...

A bit of advice regarding social media, for those who are a bit lost:

1. Concentrate on the one or few social media types (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkdIn, etc.) you really understand, or want to understand. Each form has its own uses and its own audience.
2. In your signature on your queries (and other correspondence), under your contact information, add the links to your social media presence. You do put your contact information there, right? Well, this is also contact information: your website, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc...
3. ...But ONLY link to those things you want the agents to see. If you keep your Twitter up to date, then put that. If you haven't touched Twitter in a while, then don't put it there. This way, your prospective agent can check you out the way YOU want to be seen. They don't need to Google you to see you have a blog... and two other blogs that you've abandoned. They'll only see the blog you link to.

Also, regarding Twitter (since some have asked): If you don't have anything to promote, that's fine. Twitter isn't a promotional tool. It's a social media tool. Use it to connect with people. Even if you just follow a few people you find edifying - say, @Janet_Reid - you can learn a lot. But don't feel you *have* to use Twitter. There are other forms of social media that might be more useful for you.

Anonymous said...

First off, happy New Year's eve to all of you. I am going to bring in the new year writing. I'm toying with a new opening for RAIN CROW that involves a mare foaling. It will either be, "that's interesting" or "eeew." It's sad I'm having such a tough time with the opening on this darned story.

I have taken Janet's advice to heart and I'm paying more attention to my neglected website and blog. Techie son will be fixing the broken links, like the follow this blog link. When I bought my new laptop I took Will with me to help me choose. As part of a promotion I got six months of free virus protection and Geek Squad support. The salesman was really trying to sell me on why I should renew the Geek Squad support after it ran out. "Um, thanks." I pointed at Will. "I raised my own geek." He raised his hand. "I'm her geek."

I'm also going to get serious about posting more frequently. I have numerous posts about Surrey I wrote and never posted. It's late, but they may still be of interest. Plus, there are the short stories and recipes. And the post about Janet.

I'm not making a lot of commitments, but I can develop my blog more and post a few free stories on some platform or another to start building a following.

BJ, I'd be careful posting too many links in your query emails. They can trigger the spam filter.

John Frain said...

So this leads me to think we need to keep multiple email lists, correct?

For example, a list of potential readers who would buy the book. And then a separate list for promotion purposes, consisting of people who might get the word out about the book via giveaways, contests, reviews, etc.

I suppose the reader list is a subset of the promotion list, but they'd need to be kept separate somehow. Or am I creating more work than is necessary?

Whatever the case, this is a facet of life I had not calculated for prior to now, so as long as we're making New Year's resolutions...

BJ Muntain said...

John: MailChimp lets you create one list, then helps you pull subsets out of that list. Other such e-mail/newsletter sites can do the same thing. It's hard keeping track of a bunch of different lists - especially if someone asks to be taken off *all* your lists.

Julie: You're very right about too many links. I'm sorry - I should have mentioned that. I only put my website (which contains my blog) and my Twitter account as links. Those are the two platforms I concentrate on.

It's also possible to put the addresses of your social media under your signature *without* actually creating links, but that may depend on the e-mail program you use. Some will automagically linkify your text links.

Something else I forgot - and this is something that Janet's mentioned a number of times - don't put links in the actual query unless the agent has requested them (I've only seen agents looking for illustrators asking for links to artwork; I don't think I've ever seen one ask for a link in a query letter.)

LynnRodz said...

I have an email list of over 3500 potential buyers. These are people who have traveled to Paris, love this city, and because my story takes place here, they are interested in knowing when my book will be published. I'm interested in knowing when my book will be published. Heck, I'll be happy if 2016 is the year I begin to query.

It's late and I'm getting ready to party! The new year will be here in 4 hours. I just want to wish Janet and all her Reiders a Happy & Safe New Year's Eve! Enjoy!

Lance said...

Great information on this post and in the comments. As usual. Thank you, Ms. Janet, and all fellow woodland critters, for a lot of help and fun through this year. Happy New Year. Be safe.

Deep River said...

It would be better to maintain one master list of all contacts with each contact record having additional fields for marketing purposes. You might need one field to record buyers, a second to record promoters, a third to record reviewers, and so forth. The idea is that a single contact may buy, post a review, and then recommend your book to their friends. Other contacts may buy and review, and many may only buy.

The marketing fields allow you to create various subset lists from your master list, enabling you to tailor the message accordingly. You will spend much less time adding data to an existing contact rather than creating new, separate lists for each purpose that comes up. Also, if a contact changes (e.g. mailing address), you only need to update a master list once, rather than searching and updating every specialized list in which that contact may appear.

There are all kinds of contact management programs for designed for salespeople that would work just fine for authors; most of the contact functions are the same

Christina Seine said...

Happy New Year, Janet and fellow woodland creatures!

Janet, thanks for another bit of brilliant advice. From the recipient's point of view, I appreciate having a little advance notice of a contest or special interview or what have you, because I can't always count on getting grownup alone computer time. Often I can't hit my favorite blogs until 11 pm when the kids are (finally!) asleep. I have actually missed contests and giveaways that I would have loved to participate in and would have, if I'd gotten advance notice.

Feeling a bit apocalyptic here in Alaska. Within the last 48 hours we've had all our snow melt, had a power outage from the near-hurricane force windstorm yesterday, woke to green grass (frozen but still green), got rained on, survived a short but intense hail storm, and now it's snowing. It's like a mini weather-ish year in review. I think I need to move in with Amy.

Jed Cullan said...

Janet, if I could write, I'd have no time to bug you. And that would be terrible.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Absolutely agree what Janet said; don't waste people's time. Make it right the first time by considering first what you are asking of the person to do. If you set them up for failure, that definitely leaves a bad memory in place.

Uh oh. Another life realization. Like all things, promotions is somewhat akin to good horse training -Always leave a good memory- we try to do that each time we work a horse. Yep, good horse training applies to quite a bit in life- Julie would know ;)

And after reading yesterday's post, I am in awe of the Shark's accomplishments and the quality in which she performs them.
We took notes :)

Jed Cullan said...

I don't have any books to promote yet, but I do have twitter and a blog. You never know when you'll pick up readers for future books, so having them is useful for a writer.

I have updated my blog more this year than any of the previous ten years that I've had it combined. I haven't had a huge number of visits, and that would have been better had I not all but stopped updating the blog from June, but, as some like numbers, I'll give an example: In 2014, I had about 600 visits. In 2015, I've had almost 35,000. Not great, I know, but that may improve in 2016 if I can update on a regular basis, and actually keep it going.

I don't have an email list, though. Not that I thought I needed one any time soon. Should probably find out how to get one of those.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

The second comment - Happy New Year's Eve and Day to everyone! We are right now making brie cheese balls for the neighbors (all 13 of them within a 15-mile radius) who are coming over tomorrow for some good conversation, snacks and a little bit of libations (Baileys and black coffee - a cure of sorts for the night before). Okay, a lot of libations. Lord knows what is walking through the door this year. They tell me all I have to do is provide the ice. I can do that ;).

So raising my coffee mug to all; may we have a wonderful writing year, an even better querying season, and the time to read everyone's success!

And to you Janet Reid; Thank you for being the Literary Agent that you are. One who cares about good writing, good writers, and leads by example with this fantastic website!


(back to not tasting the brie again but forcing it into a somewhat round shape...really)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I also subscribe to the deal with it once practice. Not always successful and when my email inbox feels too full and overwhelming, deletions happen.

Happy 2016, Reiders. I'm looking forward to more learning alongside y'all.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

My scattered brain...

And Happy New Year's also to our community leader, QOTKU.

Craig F said...

I have long been a fan of the Burma-Shave plan. On streets that means an enticing sign every few hundred feet.

With email start a few weeks ahead and build anticipation of your release. Don't go overboard and piss people off enough that quit reading your teasers after the first slowly build them up.

If done properly it will build a familiarity with you and your offering. It also reminds those like me and are great with names and forgets every single one of them always.

Craig F said...


May the best of the New Year come knocking. Stay safe but also stay adventurous to answer that knock.

Anonymous said...

Following Janet's advice, I just went back to look at my bio on my site. It's strange and meandering, but so am I, so perhaps it fits. I'm now nudging my fellow writers to clean up blogs and inject life into theirs. I ended the year posting a story and spilling the beans about Janet. I know everyone's been waiting with bated breath.

Now if I can just get son to fix that picture.

Kate Larkindale said...

Happy New Year from 2016. So far, all is the same as in 2015... Sorry to disappoint.

Brigid said...

Happy new year!

Anonymous said...

Why do I have the feeling Jed Cullan should pack his bags for Carkoon? lol

I used to send chat-reminder emails a day or two before the chat. I've gotten better response, and more re-tweet/shares since I started sending them the same day as the chat. Took me about six years to figure that one out.

Happy New Year to Janet and everyone! One of my goals for 2016 is to actually get back to writing. Now, what did I do with all those random scenes I wrote several years ago?

Anonymous said...

I loved the burma shave signs, but I don't like telling people I'll be posting something. I still have posts about Surrey I am not happy with, so they need to be rewritten. I am going to try and be more regular in posting on my blog. That's about the only commitment I can make.

Janice is correct about ending things on a high note whether you're training horses, dogs, kids, or dealing with people. The man I learned dog obedience from reminded us frequently brains are like sponges. They have a saturation point and trying to cram more new stuff in just frustrates an animal or a person. Let them get something down and comfortable with it, then move on to the next step.

So it goes with writing. Master each step before you move on to something else. Otherwise you just have bits and pieces floating around in a maelstrom.

Christina Seine said...

I would only like to add that I hope the New Year brings new and exciting DIFFERNT experiences for us all.

*hides behind Julie*

Anonymous said...

Julie, what a lovely story. Not at all surprising to hear about Janet's generosity. But it sort of breaks my heart to think you've only had one birthday party in your life. That's just wrong.

Happy New Year to Janet and to all the rest of you in the comments. And to the lurkers too! I'm glad I finally started reading the comments this year, as you all have become not just a source of additional knowledge and insight, but also of community. Thank you for that.

Please be safe if you venture out tonight (she said in her best mom voice). I'd hate to lose any of you.

Janet Reid said...

*spots Christina Seine hiding behind Miss Julie*
brings out glitter.
Flings glitter at Christina, cackling wildly.

Happy New Year!

CynthiaMc said...

Happy New Year to Janet and all of you!

Hubby survived a visit from the physical therapy evaluator (who was impressed at what good shape he's in) and the medical equipment person with the bone stimulator (which I need to remind him to put on). He is up and we are watching Bama at the Cotton Bowl. Roll Tide!

Wishing everyone a great 2016!

Lilac said...

Good to hear that, CynthiaMc. :-)

I promised myself I would launch my blog for the New Year. My computer went crazy on me. I have a splitting headache. I started to write in rhymes. Had to pull myself out of it. It's after 4 o'clock in the morning. Pressed the wrong button, lines got deleted in my first blog post.

Tomorrow is another day.

Still, I'm happy. I feel blessed to be part of your blog and community, Janet. I will never be able to thank you enough for everything that you do for us.

Happy New Year to you and all the Reiders…what a ride we have together…I hope there are no rhymes…). ;-)

Cindy C said...

Happy New Year to e everyone. The timing of this wish is because I may be asleep before the new year actually arrives!