Wednesday, September 06, 2017

How to NOT be a bone-head promoter

I received two emails last week week from bonehead authors who think "Hey I published a book" will lead to sales. It doesn't. It leads to this.

Another writer however wrote to share her good news about securing an agent and getting to the next step (she had not merely queried me; we'd had ongoing conversation. Her email was not a thinly disguised Neener Neener.)

I wrote back:

I'm so glad to hear this terrific news!
Thanks for letting me know.

(and I look forward to buying the book when it's published)

This information is valuable because you now have a start  on the list of people with interest in your book.

You record that info in the same way you keep track of queries. 

Person's name, person's email, how you know them, when they emailed about the book and what they said.

The starting point looks like this:

Tuck that info away in a file folder and name it something you'll remember.
Add to it as you collect names.
One at a time, sure, but pretty soon you'll have twenty, then thirty, then fifty.

Keep track of every single person who indicates interest. Comments on blog posts, responses to comments on blog posts.

Then when the happy day comes and you have a book to promote, you create a template email with all the news you'll share with everyone.

Then you PERSONALIZE it for each name on your list.

Dear Janet,
Back in September 2017, when I was finding my agent, you were kind enough to express
interest in Book when it was published. I'm delighted to tell you it's here. The title is TITLE,
and it's available on Amazon/indiebookstores.

I've arranged with my local store (name) to offer autographed copies if that's something you're interested in.

Yours very truly,
Not Bonehead writer

The chances of me buying a book from an impersonal email blast are zero.
The chances of me buying a book from a personalized email are about 80%.

Which means even if you spend 100 minutes doing 10 personalized emails you'll reap more reward than if you spend 10 minutes doing a 100-person impersonal email blast.

A Savvy Writer knows: promotion is a long game. There are no shortcuts. Most writers will do this badly. VERY badly. You only need to be sorta good to be better than 80% of your competition.

Any questions?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Here's an honest comment, no BS. (bonehead sh**)

Janet, I'm warning you right now.

I have been coming here so long, and I have asked you so many questions, and I have queried and re-queried you so many times, and you have been so helpful, that when I get an agent, and when I get a publishing deal, after my husband, my kids and my hairdresser (well, maybe before my hairdresser) YOU are the one I will spill the beans to. It won’t be neener, neener, neener either. It will be a, hey, guess what? I lived long enough to get an agent. I’ve got a publishing deal. WE did it.
And I say “WE” because I wouldn’t be as far down the road as I am right now without your expertise and this group’s know-how.
So there.
The check is in the mail.
Have a nice day.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

2Ns: nicely put. I can't say it any better.

This is so helpful. Not just the what NOT to do but also the what TO do. I can be such a socially awkward woodland critter at times. I appreciate these peeks into the social savvy of (a debut or not debut) professional author. Thank you, Janet.

Laura Mary said...

'You only need to be sorta good to be better than 80% of your competition'

This is so very, very funny, and so very, very sad!

Sometimes I want to shake a good helping of common sense over the boneheads, at other times the little devil on my shoulder tells me to leave them be - they're making it easier for the rest of us!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I still get slightly nauseous when I think about promoting a book. There really isn't any magic fairy dust for this? This is a bridge I will cross when I come to it. I willl hope the big old Billy Goat guarding it won't think me a troll.

Amy Johnson said...

Thanks for this, Janet. As I read it, I thought of what you sometimes say--about if we're worried about doing a particular thing wrong, we're probably okay. I think most of the other writers who read this blog every day as I do probably are also very interested in not being presumptuous or offensive. The etiquette of this writing business can be tricky. Thanks for the advice. And I so like the idea of keeping a record of people who have expressed interest in our writing.

Colin Smith said...

... or you could put that information into a DATABASE... ;)


Seriously, though, this is a good idea, and one I hope to be able to utilize in the not so distant future.

You only need to be sorta good to be better than 80% of your competition.

I'm sure I've shared this here at least once before, but in an interview in the early 90s, Billy Joel was asked to comment on his piano-playing ability. He doesn't consider himself to be a "concert pianist" (in the classical sense), but how good does he think he is? To paraphrase his response: he believes himself to be a competent pianist. However, in an industry filled with incompetence, his competence makes him look really good. :)

Amy Johnson said...

Elise, thanks for the laugh--Billy Goat and troll. :) I can't imagine you as a troll.

Sherry Howard said...

Today's advice makes so much sense. The idea of marketing muddles most of our brains, so every kernel of advice is stored like a chipmunk's winter stash.

OT: I hope it's okay to share some fun news I got yesterday. My YA won first place with Rate Your Story's awesome openers, and my MG got honorable mention. At least one Reider was a beta reader for the YA and helped me polish it up. So, remember we have two treasure chests: the one Colin maintains and each other!

Donnaeve said...

Belated congrats on the Snappsy The Alligator contest to D. Willadsen!

Way to go to you too, Sherry!

The chances of me buying a book from an impersonal email blast are zero. <--I would never ever do this.

The chances of me buying a book from a personalized email are about 80%. <-- this still makes me sort of cringe, no matter how much I know, or THINK I know a person.

What I like to do are a couple things: 1) engage with new readers on social media. What I've found is, if they liked the story, and even better, if they like me, they will tell their friends and family about my books. I also trot out my bookmarks quite regularly (as y'all know), no matter where I'm at or what I'm doing. Post office, mailing the people in line, here you go, here's a bookmark. Shopping, and to the sales clerk, "do you like to read? Yes? I write southern fiction. Here's a bookmark."

When I visit book clubs, I ask members if they'd like to be added to my Newsletter, and that's when I get email addresses.

So, this is just some other stuff I do that's a bit different, but I'm sure Janet would agree, there's no 100% foolproof way you HAVE to do this, just do it the way you're comfortable with - and won't make you feel socially awkward, or dread it like a dose of castor oil. :)

RachelErin said...

The other reason to personalize the emails is then it's not a mass email, which means you won't run afoul of the various spam laws.

(for mass mailings like newsletters, you need to have people opt-in, and they need a way to unsubscribe in each email. It's also just the right thing to do relationally, to respect their inboxes).

A lot of newsletter programs are free up to a certain number of people (e.g. 2000), so you could consider putting all this info directly into a mail managing database. Then, when you send your personalized email, you can also include a link or an invitation to join the mailing list for further announcements (and put one on your website). If you do build it in excel or similar, however, they are not difficult to import.

MA Hudson said...

Sherry - well done! It must be very satisfying to have your hard work and talent acknowledged by others in the industry. Congrats.

I love this idea, Janet. It's got the vibe of a feel-good scrapbooking project instead of a calculated promotional strategy.

RachelErin said...

One other note in defense of marketing - the best marketing is usually perceived as a service to the ideal recipient.

If you look at Janet's example, she says explicitly, "I look forward to buying this." Not Bonehead Author did her a service by noting down her interest, and letting her know when it was available. It saves Janet from having to keep track of it herself, look it up, google, figure out the likely title change, etc, etc. That's why you build a database like this, to help people who care about your work to find it, to fill a desire they have. It's step 3 in the marketing process (attract, engage, ask).

I could blab about this for much longer, but I'm pretty sure I'm around 100 words. I'll save it for when I start my own blog =).

Sherry Howard said...

Donna, I've watched your marketing, and interactions, and think you have a wonderful, personal way of reaching out to people. I hope that translates to sales for your awesome work! I think your first sentence posts are a great idea! I'm a big fan!

Amy Schaefer said...

It comes down to the fact that there are no short cuts. Effective promotion means putting in the long yards - just like effective writing does. Slow down. Take the time to do it right. Don't be another impersonal message in an advertising-drenched world.

(Aside: it is the most beautiful early fall day here. I can hardly make myself stay at my desk. Perhaps I'd better walk to the library later on, just in case something new came in overnight...)

Donnaeve said...

Thank you so much, Sherry! That means a lot. Sometimes it's hard to gauge, so getting a viewpoint from someone objective is helpful!

Unknown said...

Not only is this a grand idea, it motivates me. Organizing helps scare away the fear. Fear paralyzes the writing, the querying, the promoting.

Well...that and laziness.

H.Oakwick said...

At this point, querying has become a part time job, so on the chance that I do get an agent and a deal, sending out personalized emails about my book will be the best feeling ever!

I personally don't like author newsletters. Not quite sure why. I either like an author blog, or just a notice about a new book being published. To me, a newsletter usually feels like those times you're looking at a recipe blog to find a recipe for muffins, but the blog author spends two pages just talking about their day and sharing photos of those muffins, and you have to scroll and scroll to even find the recipe. I actually love reading a new book from an author before reading anything about their process behind writing the book. To me, reading blog posts and interviews about how they felt during writing the book is like a bonus, like the extra features on a DVD. So getting a long newsletter when a book comes out feels a lot like watching the extra features before the film.

RosannaM said...

This was such a helpful post and one that I seriously needed. I am feeling not at risk of being one of those boneheads, but maybe one of those who would say, "if I only knew this back then..." (thank you Janet for building my to-do/not-to-do lists)

OT-didn't catch all of yesterdays threads till way too late to comment, so Melanie I hear your fear about that many littles at one time. My solution if baths. Baths with music. And baths with wine. And baths with music and wine.

And to all who are in the middle of or preparing for natural disasters, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Yesterday felt weirdly eerie, hot and oppressive, yet with a sun that was either partially or fully obscured from several area fires, with visible ash raining down and dusting cars and mailboxes. These fires are not close, either, rather 200+ miles away. The west is battling so many fires, it is sad.

A hard one to see footage of is the one near Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. For anyone who has not driven the stretch of I-84 east of Portland, OR, it is a stunningly beautiful drive. Now it is burning on both sides of that majestic river. Sad.

Sorry for the long post, am not usually this long winded.

BJ Muntain said...

I wish I'd started this years ago. I had so many people on Twitter and Facebook say they'd like to read my book, but I thought I'd wait until I had an agent and/or a publishing deal before jotting them down, and I - of course - figured that would be imminent. (Spoiler: It wasn't.)

Now I'm looking at a marketing software that will help me keep track of these things - it's free, but I haven't even downloaded it, so I won't give any recommendations. It may be too big - it's for companies. But I'm soooo interested. Cuz marketing. :)

Panda in Chief said...

I'm not saying this to pat myself on the head (well, okay, maybe just a LITTLE) but when I started sharing my cartoons on my blog, I started engaging with readers, just like Janet is relating: one at a time. I'm saying you should do this because it is a FUN way to connect with people.

I spend days at a time staring at my easel, or sitting at my panda desk, not talking to anyone. To be able to connect with people over something we all love (pandas) is pure joy. The bonus is those readers who have so embraced my characters that they are chomping at the bit as to what will happen next in the serialized stories. And they do buy my books and support my Kickstarter projects.

When my graphic novel finally sells and is published, these folks will all be ready to welcome it and sing its praises to anyone who will listen. I can't wait to celebrate here when that happens, along with celebrating your book releases too.

Did I mention how much fun it is to connect with people this way?

Leslie said...

I love this blog and treasure the great advice I've actually used -- not just from Janet, but from the commenters. I read daily but rarely comment.

Like everyone else, I queried Janet and while she didn't represent me, she went out of her way to help me (after the recent WDC). I truly appreciate that, and although it didn't work out, I managed to get an agent for my nonfiction project. I'd never do the "neener neener" thing - quite the opposite. Thank you, everyone - esp. Janet - for the advice here that got me this far. 💖

Lennon Faris said...

Yeah, I'm with 2Ns - when I get an agent and publishing deal, I will be jumping up and down and emailing Janet a bunch of other folks and there will probably be misspellings and missed letters and lots of thank-you's. It won't be for book promotion but from purely a, "Look what you helped me accomplish!" like a student showing their teacher.

Hopefully I will calm down enough to appear professional shortly thereafter.

Joseph S. said...

First, Congratulations, Sherry Howard. I love good news. Every accolade, every reinforcement, every positive recognition is a step upward. And you've had two exciting ones.

Second, I want Donnaeve to be my marketing manager.

Third, I agree with 2Ns. If I have any success, I’d want to share it with Janet Reid and the people on this blog (especially Julie Weathers and AJBlythe, who have been so helpful to me). I’d feel self-conscious emailing Janet Reid directly, but I may do it anyway.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I second making Donnaeve my marketing manager when and if the time comes.

Then I will hire The Reef as my publicist.

Congratulations Sherry - well-deserved

Kate Larkindale said...

Very useful advice again today. I haven't started a newsletter yet, because I'm not sure I have enough to say, even once a month.... But I should think about it. I got a box of print copies of my book yesterday, so I finally feel like I'm a real author! I know ebooks are real, but they don't feel quite so tangible. Now to go and get some copies into my local libraries.

Craig F said...

Sage advice indeed. It does, however, assume that you can talk to agents like they were real people or something. I'm stuck with the hope that three agents have more than doubled their response time for me because they have serious considerations for my offering.

I say offering because that is how it feels, offerings in a biblical sense.

OT: Hope everyone up and down the East Coast is getting prepared. Irma is a beast and there is no telling when she will strike.

Donnaeve said...

Hooey, I can hardly manage me, but I am flattered. I'm happy to offer tips and tidbits WHEN that happens. (notice I said when Joe Snoe, and Elise)

Unknown said...

I'm with Goldsmith on the dread of marketing/promotion. Not dread exactly, just, well, the reality of it kind of kills the buzz of anything published that does not have the full backing of a big, traditional house able to get you big media exposure, and even then, you've got to spend time on promotion. Especially for older writers, the idea of sitting at a computer engaged in promotional activily and compiling databases for same instead of creative activity is onerous.

There is one way around the dilemma: professional publicists, but they come at a premium. I am in absolutely no danger of becoming a bonehead in this regard.

Unknown said...

Congrats, Sherry! As far as marketing my book goes, I'm just taking it one step at time. Mainly, I've just been socializing with other writing folks on Twitter. I know it's time to start thinking about a blog, but I'm waiting till I get somewhere in my agent search before proceeding with that. At least I think I'm doing things right...somebody please correct me if I'm wrong.

And, oh yeah, speaking of Twitter, tomorrow is #Pitmad! Get your pitches polished, people! Guess where I'll be in cyberspace tomorrow...hope you didn't mind me mentioning this event, Janet.

Theresa said...

Congratulations Sherry!

Donna, you do everything with wonderful style and I will emulate you as much as I can when my next book comes out. I'm so bad at promotion that even though I carry my bookmarks around with me, I can't bring myself to actually hand them out to strangers.

Beth Carpenter said...

Congratulations, Sherry. Great news.

Wish I'd started one of those data bases say five years ago of people who I interacted with directly. Instead, I have a mailing list of mostly people who wanted a free book. Not nearly so valuable.

Donnaeve said...

Thank you, Theresa! You're too kind. I test the waters first before I decide to give them out.

Another little tip - I leave them around. Ya know - doctor's offices coffee tables, restaurant tables, hither thither, I sprinkle them around.

That might be more in your comfort zone.