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.
5. Meeting independent book store owners, and getting my books on their shelves.
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?