Monday, January 20, 2014

What Works - Online Marketing Symposium

“On event day you tell us about a marketing idea that you've used and what worked or didn't work. Your post could describe a campaign that succeeded in a big or small way or one that failed drastically. Tell us about a business campaign, an organizational event, a fundraiser – anything where a bit of promotion was necessary!”

When I signed up for this event, I felt a little worried. I mean, what can I say about "what works" in marketing? I'm not a super successful author or marketer. I am just moving along, trying different things, and learning as I go. My sales rank at Amazon is low. I'm not Hugh Howey.

However, I have had one successful marketing event so far as a writer. And I have a fairly successful release event. And then, I had my little tiny efforts with tiny bumps of results.

Somehow, I ended up with a super long post.

Please skim the bold sections for relevance for you. :)

My most successful marketing event: A Book Signing!

The most interesting/odd/amazing of that event: Although I wanted to have a book signing, I felt shy about asking anyone or even planning it. My homeschool co-operative is huge, and the board of directors approached me and asked if I would do a book signing. Wow! That kind of blew me away.

What happened next: I set a date; made flyers with my book blurb, my author bio, and a pic of my front cover; and decided to donate a small portion of the book proceeds to the homeschool co-operative's building expenses (we have to rent a building on the day we meet because we're huge by homeschool group standards with 130-150 kids). I put the flyers up around the co-op for two weeks ahead of time, and put a flyer in each family file (kind of like mailboxes for our co-op).

The day of the event: I arrived with a box of books. The board of directors had set up a table for me with a pretty tablecloth, vase of flowers, and even a fancy pen to use for signing books. Kids and parents talked to me throughout the morning. At lunch, I signed and sold books. I didn't expect a big group. I signed through lunch and into the passing time afterwards and was late to teach my after-lunch class. I signed books that were already purchased online and brought to the signing. I signed books that I sold at the signing. My hand got tired. It was awesome!

What I learned:
1. I don't have to be shy about approaching others about a book signing.
2. I probably should bring my own tablecloth and set up for the next book signing (or at least I should be prepared to do that).
3. The flyers made a huge difference.
4. It had a lasting impact. Every month or so, a kid or parent approaches me and asks me about my next book, or tells me they've purchased a copy if they didn't at the event.
5. Book signings in a "regular" place are a good idea. I think that a book signing at a place where I didn't know anyone or knew few people would not have had the same kind of impact.

Second Most Successful Event: Release day and book blog tour event.
1. The best part of this event had to do with the idea of being a champion. Everyone has or has had a champion in their lives - someone who has inspired them or encouraged them.
2. What I learned/will do next time: I need to have a single theme and stick with it, and keep my release celebration to one day or one week.
3. Beyond release day and week, I think that successful authors (from what I can see from my small side) continue to interview, guest post, and get seen around the web, but without the "tour" label attached.

Third Most Successful Event: Book table at a local Christian drama group event.
How it happened: The Evergreen Performers are a Christian drama team who perform plays and skits around the area. Their director and leader extraordinaire happens to be a sweet friend of mine. We used to work together on Vacation Bible School dramas. My friend invited me to place some of my signed books at a table during their performances. I went and sat at the table twice. Performers and other writers sat at the table the rest of the time and sold my book.
Lesson learned: 1. Friends rock! (Personal connections help writers.) 
2. I don't have to be at the book table, and sometimes others sell my book better than I do.

The tiny successes (not necessarily in order):
1. Goodreads giveaways = Good reviews.
2. Kindle Select Free Giveaways = Gets more downloads and more readers, not sure about financial success.
3. Interviews and book blurbs on several different websites and blogs, continuing over time. Every time my books are mentioned, I see a blip in sales. It's not a big blip, but every little bit counts.
4. Twitter.
5. Meeting independent book store owners, and getting my books on their shelves.
6. Facebook.
7. An interview article in a semi-local newspaper (closer to the town I grew up in than where I live now). This one included some quotes from me that were "edited" creatively by the newspaper editor.
8. Hosting a monthly Writer's Workshop event at my church, and now at the local library branch. I'm facilitating/leading the meetings and encouraging other writers. I'm also getting to know other writers and readers.

Ideas for this year:
1. Finding more websites for free marketing.
2. Guest posting/interviewing - if anyone will have me?
3. Twitter more. (with lots of twittering and retweets for other authors too - send me your tweets!)
4. Encouraging fellow writers and artists.
5. Two - three book signings.
6. Find more independent bookstores.
7. Try to do something additional for marketing each month - glean ideas from other authors - like the ones involved with this symposium.
8. Submit my short work for publication - short stories, poetry, articles, etc.
9. Approach other homeschool co-ops and several small Christian private schools in my area and ask if they would be interested in a Writer's Workshop event or book signing (or both). I'm terrified about this one, but I'm determined to at least try it. 
10. Take part in a homeschool book fair. (Some of these are expensive per table so I'm aiming for a smaller one at this point).
11. Invest a bit of money into ad space for two different dance studios at their end of year recital (my kids have danced there - so, it might work)
12. Possibly spend money (gasp) for online marketing - must do research for this one. (Hoping for ideas and eye-openers today)
13. If/when I do another book signing, I want to get in touch with my local newspaper and get a freebie blurb (I've done this before for a Writer's Workshop meeting), or if I can get an interview/article done for the event (which would be waaay cooler).  
14. More Writer's Workshop meetings - planning more at the library, and more advertising for the meetings.

Overall, what I've learned about marketing:
1. Encouraging others and being willing to give (time, talent, prizes, and donations) is a good place to start.
2. Personal contacts are the best, even if your hands are sweating through the ink on your business cards as you walk into an independent bookstore and meet the owner.
3. Marketing takes time, and must be balanced with writing and life.

Why am I into the homeschool, Christian drama, and Christian private school market? Because my books are Christian Fantasy for YA and MG readers, and I'm a homeschool mom -  I can connect with these groups.

However, I don't want to miss connections with other readers that fall outside the groups above. Whenever I meet someone from any place I go, whether it's a running shoe store (for my daughters), an audition (again, for my daughters), a dance studio, a coffee shop, etc., I want to take time to listen to their stories because they might be interested in hearing my stories too.

So, what marketing works for you?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Tyrean, you know you are always welcome at my blog!
Interesting some of you most successful stuff was in the real world. Wish I was brave enough to do more of those.
With blog tours, I think continuing and spreading out appearances works best.
Thanks for participating in the symposium. Lots of great information in your post!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Your book signing sounds like it was wonderful! And I think your marketing ideas for this year sound like good ones.

For me, self-publishing and marketing my flash fiction collection was an experiment, and I'm really enjoying this blog hop, reading about what worked and what didn't for everyone.

Jeremy [Retro] said...

I love... love that book signing adventure... great thoughts and advice.

Jeremy H.

There's no earthly way of knowing.
Which direction we are going!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Alex - thanks!!! I didn't realize just how much I had done until I wrote this post . . . and the real world stuff is worth it.

Madeline - your flash fiction book is amazing!!! I hope it's doing well, and I hope your writing is going great this year!

Jeremy - Thanks! It was an eye-opening experience.

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for sharing what you've learned! This is a big help. My book tour went well, but there are a few things I want to do differently next time around. Live and learn, right? :)

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

This was seriously great advice. You've inspired me! Thanks!

Crystal Collier said...

Yay for home schoolers!!! I've had a hard time finding co-ops here in Florida, or wanting to get involved with so much other stuff going on in life, but there's rarely a community so supporting or amazing, eh?

Stephen Tremp said...

We don't homeschool, but I thought of joining the PTA (I know, I should have already don that) ad bought a small advertisement in their newsletter.

I may still do that. It would mark the first time I paid for advertising.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I think that's great how you're connecting with Christian homeschoolers for niche marketing.

Sounds like you've got lots of great ideas to spread the word about your book. Awesome you're facilitating some writing workshops.

cleemckenzie said...

The timing aspect is excellent advice. I don't like blog tours that go on and on, but I thought I was the only one who didn't like them. Glad you managed to overcome that shy factor and get out there!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A writing workshop is a great idea. You need to ask and make that happen.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You did a great job finding your audience and getting lots of sales. Word of mouth proves you had a great book to sell.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Good post! In-person events have been my best sellers. Though only my first reading/signing was very effective (probably because it was held at the library where i work and was very well promoted), I have done well with classroom visits where I talk about being a writer, discuss revision (something the kids are having to learn), and provide order forms for signed copies. A class visit usually brings anywhere from 3 to a dozen sales.

Overcoming shyness and the diffidence we all learned so well as children is the hard part.

Chrys Fey said...

Very informative post! I am doing my own blog tour (without the "Tour" label). I started it the day my book was released on KDP and I'll be doing it all the way through April (one month after my World Wide Release). Every week I have about 3-4 guest spots on other blogs. I like this better than doing a one time blog for a week or a month because I get to connect with more people and have my book out there much longer.

SittieCates said...

I had fun reading your post and learning about your successful moments. Will take note of your tips. Thanks! :-)

The Musings of a Hopeful and Pecunious Wordsmith

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Tyrean,
I think a mixture of approaches works well in trying to market books. It's the only way to find out what works and what doesn't. Haven't done a book signing yet, so that's something to try in the future.

Sarah Allen said...

Great list of ideas here! And I have an open door submissions policy for guest posts, so if you're interested get in touch!

Sarah Allen
(From Sarah, with Joy)

mshatch said...

These are all great ideas - thanks for sharing :)

Jack said...

Book signings scare me, because I keep thinking I'd have to go up and try and talk about my book and would only stammer and make them NOT want to read it. But everyone says they help a ton, they seem to make a big marketing difference.

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine Rains said...

Great post! I've read a few today that said book signings have been really good for them. I'm terrified of interacting with people in real life! I'll have to check out several of the things you mentioned you're going to too. Thanks!

Yolanda Renée said...

Sounds like you have quite a plan! Thank you for sharing that! So awesome, the results - I love personal books signings too. My problem is being able to afford the books I need to take. Bookstores will order those, but non bookstores won't. It's a catch 22 - because I really like getting out and meeting the folks.
Keep up the great work, and thanks again for participating! Wonderful!

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Yolanda, I always keep copies on hand. It cost a hundred or so to order up 20 of each title, but when I sell them, I make $4-6 per, so they pay off well in the end. And it's always good to have a copy at hand when anyone asks. I read somewhere that you should carry copies everywhere, and I pretty much follow that advice.

Anonymous said...

Your experiences show that there are lots of ways to connect with your audience. Personal connections with readers is vital to promotion and sales.

Sherry Ellis said...

That's great that your had such a successful book signing! You have lots of great tips here!

Damaria Senne said...

You have a very interesting mix of marketing ideas for the year. I like that push real life marketing, even though you say you're shy.

Heather R. Holden said...

Wow, you've tried so many different marketing techniques already! Very cool to see that the book signing was the most successful for you so far...

Heather Cashman said...

Thanks for the advice. It's a good thing to store away for that hopeful day when I actually get to publish something.

Michelle Wallace said...

I like your list of marketing ideas. It offers a variety, which gives you more chances of success... you never know which technique or techniques will be the winning ones!
Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Cherie Reich said...

Sounds like your marketing events were a success! I do find book signings and the like very helpful with connecting with local people.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Everyone - Thank you so much for stopping by - I'll be by your blogs, and if I have time I'll come back and re-comment here. Sorry I'm so slow this week.

Unknown said...

Really (REALLY) enjoyed this, Tyrean! I've felt the same way about trying to organize a book signing (shy, nervous, not sure anyone cares enough to talk to me LOL) This helped me a bunch.

Very thrilled to hear yours went so well, and I think your tips and what to do next time are spot on.

Arlee Bird said...

You've got a ton of great info in this post. That's what this event was all about and you certainly delivered.

I think the signings are still the best and your creative approach is the way more authors will need to start going with the demise of more and more bookstores.

Thanks for being a part of this and if you want to do a guest post on any of my blogs just let me know. We can work something out.

You can email me at jacksonlee51 (at) aol (dot) com

Tossing It Out