Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Marketing Your Novel, Part 2

June 13, 2007
My second novel with Midnight Ink, THE SERPENT’S KISS, will hit bookstores on July 1, 2007. It may already be available. Hey, visit your local bookstore and ask or order online!

Back on March 9, 2007, on my blog, I wrote Marketing Your Novel, Part 1, where I broke down what marketing efforts and costs I was making to promote this novel. Well, it’s time to update it and I’m going to be as candid about time and money here as I possibly can. So here goes:

Website hosting and fees to-date: $393 and approximately 2 hours total (on my part)
(Most of that is my hosting for the year, already paid in full. There will be additional fees coming soon to cover e-newsletters and some site updates.)

AuthorBuzz: $895 and approximately 2 hours to write them.

Postcards: $424 to have them printed up (About 2500). I could have gone cheaper by using online sites, but I had problems with graphic matches and getting help, so I went with somebody I could talk to on the phone. (About 1 hour total)

Mailing labels: $40.27 (1 hour to run out to Office Max and get them)

Postcard postage: $534 (15 hours to print up labels, stick them on postcards and then affix stamps to postcards, then drop them off at post office). These were primarily sent to libraries, independent bookstores, former purchasers of my books, and Michigan bookstores. (What? You didn't get one and you want one? E-mail me with your address).

Case of THE SERPENT’S KISS: $278.80. I ordered a case of books (40 books) to be used for promotional purposes. Although I might sell a few, mostly these are give-aways. I created a list of media sources and reviewers in the area—TV, public radio, newspapers, university alumni association—and sent them copies with a personal letter.

Padded mailing envelopes (20): $16.81 (4 hours to get envelopes, create letters, address envelopes, and get to post office)

Postage for books (to-date): $49.33

Total: $2631.21 and 25 hours.

That’s actually a little bit lower than I expected it to be. I’ll be giving out at least 5 books (and as a result, more mailing envelopes and postage) and there will be more Website fees. After the book is officially out I’ll be hitting the road to visit bookstores and possibly giving some book talks. I’ll be involved in a book talk at the Romeo Public Library in early September as well as the Kerrytown Book Festival in Ann Arbor. The brochure for Magna cum Murder is on my desk, but I’m holding back, waiting for my October business and family schedule to gel a little bit. It’s the end of October and I know I’ll be traveling to Washington, DC for a business trip and it looks like there’s a school event I’ll probably be required to attend with my oldest son. (I’d also like to drive down my Visa bill a bit before I throw anything more at it; my nonfiction business has expenses as well, so the above total is only a portion of my overall writing expenses).

Is it worth it? Will I have $2631.21 return on investment (ROI)? I don’t know. I commented to my wife that I was trying to do all these postcards and mailings on the weekends so I could free up my workweek for “more obviously profitable writing activities.” The truth is, I don’t know if any of this will make a damn bit of difference or bring in any kind of ROI. We do so on faith and because to do nothing clearly won’t make a difference.

I do know this: if a single TV station gets a copy of THE SERPENT’S KISS or one of the big local newspapers gets my package and decides to do a piece, then it’ll probably result in equivalent sales (at least the TV ones will). THE SERPENT’S KISS is also very Detroit-centric, with the Detroit skyline on the cover, so it’s a book local people ought to be very interested in. I also know that nobody will buy my wonderful, exciting, high-octane, thrilling, edge-of-your-seat, rollercoaster of a thrill ride novel if they've never heard of it. So I guess I'm yelling from the rooftops.

So we’ll see.

And hey, if you haven’t ordered or purchased your copy yet…

Mark Terry


Spy Scribbler said...

Will do, I promise! I'm looking forward to it!

That's a lot less time than I would have expected. It's a good list to keep! Any chance anyone will do a Part 3: Marketing Online?

G.M. Malliet said...

Fascinating post. Also helpful to those of us trying to decide what to do when the time comes.

I also look forward to reading you. The TBR file around here threatens to take over the house. I am planning to install more bookshelves, as I've given away all the books I can bear to part with.

And DH is a packrat, bless him.

Joe Moore said...

Thanks for sharing. It's hard enough to gauge ROI on anything dealing with advertising and promotion. But with book marketing, it's even more of a hit and miss scenario. TSK is on my list. I’ll look forward to reading Mr. Stillwater’s latest escapades. Good luck.

Mark Combes said...

I think there is an old advertising saw that says, "If you make one dollar more than you spent on advertising your efforts were successful." Okay, fine. I can buy that - maybe. But how the hell do I know if I made $1 more!?

But like you say Mark, you've gotta get out there with the information 'cause folks aren't driving by the house looking for thrillers to read....

Mark Terry said...

SS--Maybe I'll post next week on my blog about online marketing, such as it is. Good idea.

GM--hope you do & enjoy. Thanks.

Joe--That's Doctor Stillwater to you, sir!

Mark--haven't heard that one. The one I've heard is, 50% of all marketing dollars are wasted, but since you don't know which 50% it is, you spend the whole dollar.

Joe Moore said...

"Joe--That's Doctor Stillwater to you, sir!" That's not one of those 10-day, life experience Internet degrees is it? :-)

Mark Combes said...

Joe, maybe it's one of those colonic cleansing deals -"Stillwaters run deep" they say....

See, I can work blue....

Mark Terry said...

Right, a PhD for "experience."

Well, yes, I did actually survive a terrorist attack. Can I get my PhD in Terrorism Studies now?

I've always liked the main character in Ross Thomas's "Out On A Rim" who became a terrorism expert the old-fashioned way--by being one for a few months. In his case, in the Phillipines in World War II, after his battalion was wiped out by the Japanese, running around on the island using guerilla tactics.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fellow small-press author applauding your initiative, Mark. I wish we could guarantee that our marketing investments would pay off. Unfortunately, I've gone basically the same route you're going, with the result that my books earn out their advances and not much more. The hard reality is I haven't turned a profit. Yet. But my books are in print, and I keep writing.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Bravo on your marketing tenacity, Mark!

I'm plotting a similar "let's try it and see what happens" approach. By the end of the summer I will be sending out about 5,000 direct mailings. I decided to allocate some of the money I budgeted for conferences to this endeavor, and hired a friend to do the labeling and posting so I could continue writing. Then we will review the results and see if it was worth it.

You never know if something works until you try. Then you throw out the bad and keep the good. :)

Mark Terry said...

Well, I'm not sure Midnight Ink is a small press. They're a small-to-medium imprint of a very large company, Llewellyn Worldwide, which is considered to be, if their PR is accurate, the second largest publisher of Tarot and New Age publications in the world. (I don't know if they base largest on revenue, number of books, number of people, or just, you know, a really, really BIG building--perhaps it's a mystery only the accountants know).

The single biggest difference between a small press and someone like MI or the big NY publishers is distribution. MI seems pretty good in that area. If you can't get your books into the bookstore, then pretty much all your marketing efforts and dollars are wasted.

Sue Ann,
I think that's an important point. To which I would also include: What works for you personally.

Some people love to go out and do book signings and book talks. I don't, actually, although I do some. I prefer drive-bys for the signings rather than formal signings. Over the course of a couple books (technically The Serpent's Kiss is my 4th)I've tried a lot of different things--hired a publicist to set me up with signings, got the Website, mailings (both postcards and a brochure last book), gone to conferences, blog, e-newsletters, library talks, Rotary Club talks, book fairs, street fairs...

I'm not sure any of them are exactly better than others, but some are more efficient for me, which might be another way of saying I have more money than time, so talks and formal signings and conferences aren't quite as effective for me as online and direct mail things.

Nina Wright said...

Hi, Mark. Love the comments in addition to your post. Everybody chiming in today has a point. I think the greatest frustration for most of us, whether our publisher is small, medium or even (gasp) large, is trying to keep books on bookstore shelves. If we can do that beyond 30 days, we're truly halfway to Profitville. I've hand-sold hundreds of copies of my books at dog shows and other local events. It's exhausting and exhilarating, and I can't swear that it makes a hell of a lot of difference in my actual numbers.

Shot in the dark? Maybe. But I have met some very cool Afghan hounds and their invariably attractive humans. ;<)

Moreover, I've personalized many books for dogs who, apparently, can read. Who knew?

Nina Wright

Mark Terry said...

Damn, Nina!
My chocolate Lab can't read a lick (er, no pun intended). But he is an avid listener of National Public Radio when we're gone.

jbstanley said...

Thanks for putting this out there, Mark. I too am using AuthorBuzz in July for FIT TO DIE. They have recently added a book club option as well that reaches some 5500 book club leaders. I have been interested in tapping into the market this whole year, but will wait and see what other authors think of that new feature. Good luck with the book and I hope you sell out right away!