Monday, January 23, 2012

The Secret Promo Tip Is…

by Alan Orloff


question marksI’ve been busy the past 21 months. In that span, I’ve published three books with Midnight Ink (DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, KILLER ROUTINE, and DEADLY CAMPAIGN). I’ve also published two ebook originals, writing as Zak Allen: THE TASTE and FIRST TIME KILLER.

Along the way, I’ve done a fair amount of promotion and marketing. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you which methods work best and which are not worth the time or money.

Yes, I’d like to, but I can’t. Because I don’t have a frickin’ clue.

We’ve all heard the witticism, “Fifty percent of marketing is effective, you just don’t know which fifty percent it is.” I think I’d settle for twenty-five percent.

For each book, I had bookmarks made. Lots of bookmarks. (Did you know that ordering 2000 is only a little more expensive than 1000? And that 5000 is only marginally more expensive than 2000? I do.) I even got bookmarks for my two ebooks, irony be damned. But do those bookmarks translate into sales? Beats me. People seem to like getting them, and they’re pretty, and they describe my books, so on the off chance they don’t end up in the trash…

What about book signings? I’ve done them and sold some books. But there’s a limit to how many you can do. Radio interviews? Did a couple, unclear results. Blog tours? Yes to those, too. They seemed to be good for gaining exposure, but again, did they move the proverbial needle? Who knows?

Postcard mailing? Cable TV interview? Book club visits? Google AdWords? Tried them all. Data inconclusive.

What about conferences, book festivals, library panels, and the rest of those personal appearances? They too, seemed to broaden my exposure, but I certainly couldn’t justify the expense based on the sales at the events.

Facebook? Twitter? Yes and yes. Do I think they’re a good way to get your name out there and connect with other readers and writers? Absolutely. Do I think it all translates into sales? Murky.

If only Oprah were still on the air.

Oh well. Maybe writing another good book is the key.


Robin Allen said...

After reading the lead, I opened a Word doc and prepared to take notes. Thanks for nothing, Alan!

I think your conclusion is what really works--write a good book.

Lois Winston said...

Alan, I've heard it said that the only surefire promo that works is one an author has no control over -- word of mouth. If people like your book and talk about it to others, that spurs sales. Everything else is a crapshoot. What works well for one author does diddley-squat for another author. And sometimes what works for an author with one book, lays a giant goose egg for another book by the same author.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I totally agree with Lois. Word of mouth is the best exposure. You want your book to be like a bad cold that goes from person to person until it's pandemic. That's why I feel Twitter and Facebook are so useful.

I have all 3 of my series featured on my bookmarks, using both sides. It works better for me than using separate bookmarks. And you're right, even with e-books growing, people still love bookmarks and it's a small item they can take away with them. I don't even have business cards anymore, I just hand folks a bookmark that also has my contact information on it.

Shannon Baker said...

I did almost no promo for my first book and I sold almost no books. I hope to do a better job this time around. Just wish I knew the most efficient and fun way.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post and very apt for me right now. I'm doing a blog tour in February as I don't think I marketed and promoted my debut novel enough last year. I think your bookmarks idea is wonderful. I had business cards made with one side showing my book cover and the side with information.

It's hard to know where to start, especially when you're an Indie author, but with support it's always achievable.

CJ x

Cathymw said...

Plus, even if you *did* find the perfect method to promote your book... it doesn't mean it will work for all books. :)

(edited to add: I see Lois said that as well)

I never really thought about the irony of bookmarks. Then again, I don't use bookmarks on print books, since I tend to read books from start to finish. :)

Alma said...

I agree with you Alan, but I do thing it's cumulative. The more people in the industry see your name, the more they'll think of you. This seems to have helped me get both media coverage and booksellers to handsell my book. It does seem like you need a tsunami of mentions to move the needle even a little bit, though.

If it's maddening for authors, imagine how maddening it must be for publishers.

Alan Orloff said...

Robin - Sorry for the fakeout!

Lois - Maybe we should band together and form a website called

Sue Ann - I think I've ditched using business cards too. Go bookmarks!

Shannon - What the heck does FUN have to do with it?

CJ - It is hard to know where to put your effort (money, time). I should get a copy of Book Promotion for Dummies.

Cathy - Perfection is way overrated (not that I would know!).

Alma - Actually, Alma, I think you've done a fabulous job of promoting your book. And I say that without my usual sarcasm. We should talk...

Linda Hull said...

Alan, I can't tell you how helpful this post was for my pre-pubbed author jitters. I hear about all these friends of mine and all their marketing and it's enough to have me breathing into a bag. I mean, I just got a website up (with no content), FB and Twitter are something of a marketing mystery to me. Etc Etc. It's good to know you do your best job and cross your fingers like I've planned.

Kathleen Ernst said...

For most of us, building a career means making one contact at a time. I've done events where few people come...and yet perhaps one of them is very, very excited and having a chance to meet the author of a book they enjoyed translates into something good.

Bottom Line, for me anyway: Do what you can with the time and money you have, and then don't sweat the rest. Oh, and like you said--save some energy for writing a good next book!