John Wanamaker, the founder of the eponymous Philadelphia department store, was reputed to have said: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."
I'm trying lots of stuff to publicize my ebook original and just hoping half will work. I said I’d keep you up-to-date on my adventures in the terra incognita that is ebook land and so here goes.
As soon as Drop By Drop became available on Amazon and Smashwords, I emailed just about everyone on my contact list to let them know the news. That seemed to drive a spike in sales. I later put the ebook up on Barnesandnoble.com, but there hasn’t been much uptake there (yet?).
Through PRWeb, I circulated a press release. It was a reasonable $40 after using a coupon. Even at that bargain price, I didn’t detect any signs it did much. It sure as heck didn’t generate any press inquiries.
I’ve blogged here and at my own blog. Over at The Rap Sheet, I recounted “The Story Behind The Story" of Drop by Drop. Here's a sample.
"The Intelligence Committee had just been made permanent based on the recommendation of the Church Committee, which had deemed the CIA a 'rogue elephant.' I started as the junior of three lawyers on the committee staff. Before the end of my first year, the other two had left. I was 27 years old and suddenly the senior attorney on the committee overseeing the government’s secret intelligence activities. Holy shit!"
The Rap Sheet is a pretty popular ezine (with good reason), and my column was picked up by dozens of other sites. A blog called Indie Bee Covers managed to make me confess that if I could be any fictional character, I'd be Frank Hardy, Fenton's son and Joe's big brother.
Garnering reviews from the regular suspects is tough. Daily newspapers have been shedding book reviewers for years. I’m a subscriber to the mags Mystery Scene and Crimespree. I emailed the editors, but they’re not reviewing ebook originals – yet. I sent out a tweet asking if any online reviewers wanted a copy of the ebook. My tweet was re-tweeted and a couple of terrific reviews resulted. Therese Poletti, the high tech columnist for Dow Jones’s Marketwatch, interviewed me for her piece called "E-books causing seismic shift in publishing." About publishing Drop By Drop as an ebook original, she quotes me saying, "It’s both exciting and scary. I am a tech guy. I like trying new stuff and figuring this out." (No news if you've been reading my pieces here.) A local newspaper and TV show will have me discussing how the ebook revolution is affecting a working writer. We should see what they come up with soon.
Brick-and-mortar bookstores like Kepler’s, M Is for Mystery, and Books Inc, were huge supporters of my first two books, but what can they do with an ebook? A signing? There’s nothing to inscribe. And they don’t have ebooks sitting on the shelves. (I am going to be on a panel at Books Inc in Berkeley next Monday, but they’ll be stocking Dot Dead and Smasher for me to sign.) The Palo Alto Library sent me an email asking if I would come by for a talk on Drop By Drop, but they need to have copies to loan out. Ebook format is okay with them, but the only way they get ebooks to loan is through a service such as Overdrive. I did fill out an online form for Overdrive, but since they seem focused on dealing with publishers than authors, I am not optimistic.
I’m doing advertising on Facebook and Goodreads, but not getting too many clicks on them. (That's one of the three ads on Goodreads above.) Since I pay only for the click-throughs, this is an experiment that isn’t costing much. I have high hopes for the advertising I have planned on an email newsletter that goes out to Kindle readers, but that won’t happen till October. No space until then.
I should have a book trailer soon and will look forward to pasting that on my website and everywhere else I can think of.
Andy Gross, the thriller writer (and terrific guy) whose books show up on The New York Times bestseller list every year, sent me a blurb: “No one puts the crosshairs on Washington, terrorism, and intrigue better than Keith Raffel. Do yourself a favor and read Drop By Drop!” I immediately put it up on my website and in the book descriptions on Amazon and Goodreads. (Andy's Kirkus-starred Eyes Wide Open is out July 12.) Hank Phillippi Ryan, who has won 26 Emmys as one of the country's top investigative reporters on Boston's WHDH-TV, has also managed to pick up a triple crown of crime fiction awards -- Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity. Hank is a class act and whip smart, but must have had a rare lapse of judgment last night when she emailed me that Drop By Drop is "intriguing, intense, and with such an insider's knowledge of the war on terror that I'm surprised it's not classified. Sinister, scary, and heart-stoppingly realistic--this is a gem of a thriller!" Can't wait to use that, too!
It’s terrific that Jess, Gin, Karen, and Joanna's ebooks published by Midnight Ink are doing so well at prices under $3. I just wonder what MI is doing to publicize them. With a couple of the books in the top 100, they are doing something right!
When you get a paper-and-ink book out, you have a pretty limited time to make a splash. After a few months, bookstores send their stock back to the publisher. With an ebook, things can take time to ripen. It’s against my nature to be patient, but I do believe more reviews from readers will come and word-of-mouth will build. Or at least I hope so!
As always, I’m open to comments and words of advice. Please send them along!