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Friday, April 17, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Advertising, part 1

Before we get into today's post, please visit me at The Romance Studio blog where I'm talking about collectibles. Be sure to leave a comment over there and tell me what you hoard--er, I mean, collect. In return, I'll show you a few of my lovelies.
On to today's Killer Campaign post on advertising.
My art career began as a graphic artist, but my writing career began as an advertising copywriter. I started as a freelance artist designing logos and advertising collateral like business cards, flyers and postcards. I learned quickly that building a turnkey business where I provide the art and copy was the way to go. I also discovered I actually had a knack for writing good copy.

I enjoy the advertising industry. I enjoy creating something that will intrigue, induce and entertain the consumer.

Remember those descriptors. That is what you want to aim for when we go into next week's post on how to create an ad for a book or author.

Today, let's discuss on whether advertising makes good financial sense for an author.

Successful advertising relies on several factors.

• Frequency of ad
• Venue
• Target audience
• Strong copy and design

Frequency: Unless you have a publisher willing to foot the bill, inserting an ad in trade magazines, newspapers and websites on a regular basis can be cost prohibitive. The key is to target the venue that would not only draw the largest (interested) audience, but also one that would be easy on the pocketbook.

Venue: You could take out a display size ad in the Sunday paper for the next sixteen weeks and still not see any significant rise in revenue. You could also put in a rotating ad in a genre-specific website for a fraction of the cost of that same newspaper ad and get a lot more blog traffic and sales.

I can't tell you which venue is going to be your best bet, but I can tell you that as a whole, advertising can be hit or miss.

If I had the money, I would probably put an ad in Romantic Times Magazine where book sellers and librarians will see it. This is an excellent source for targeting the wholesale buyer. But the cost is right next to an arm and a leg unless you are getting a beefy advance.

A 1/3 page 4-color ad appearing only one time will cost you $1,075. I have friends who would consider splitting the cost three-ways, but it's still a shot in the dark. I have no concrete evidence that the ad will be worth the money, other than knowing that RT is a respected and well-known institution.

Target Audience: Know your audience. I cannot stress this enough. If you write vampire stories, you want to be seen in venues that cater to that audience. I would look at placing an ad in magazines, stores or catalogues that sell to goth enthusiasts. Do a Google search and see what you can find.
I did a quick one and found Bite Me Magazine, a UK periodical that might be the right forum for a vampire writing author.
Renaissance Faires usually publish a catalog and/or map. That might be an inexpensive way to reach an audience more attuned to the genre you write in.

I did some more surfing and came up with an online store called Morticia's Morgue. And they sell books too. So not only might you have an outlet for an ad, you might also find a seller for your books.

I chose vampire fiction as an example but you can do this with any genre. Know where your audience hangs (no pun intended) and you'll know where to advertise.

Strong Copy and Design: It's getting harder and harder to find bad graphics. The software is so good that anyone with a fair amount of color and spatial sense can design a decent ad. But copy is where most people fail. This sounds particularly strange considering that we WRITE for a living, but the sad truth is that copywriting is the distant ugly bastard cousin to fiction writing.

Good copywriting is tight, to the point and elicits strong emotion in less than a dozen words. Difficult, but not impossible.

Now that I've told you all the things a good ad should have, the question you have to ask yourself: Is it worth the money? Only you can answer that.

Ask yourself these questions:

• How often will the consumer see my ad?
• What kind of consumer will see my ad? No ad is worth the money if it's not getting in front of the right people.
• How big is your target audience within this particular publication?
• What is the cost breakdown per issue?
• How many books might I potentially sell through this venue? (Obviously, this is a guess. Or you can bite the bullet and see what kind of response you get from your ad.)

I personally feel that advertising is only a TINY benefit for selling books. If you want exposure, there are plenty of FREE outlets if you're willing to put in the effort. That's not to say that I won't ever advertise. I've seen a good response from The Romance Studio where the cost was minimal. (I got in during their half off sale.)

I also might go in a bigger publication if I can share the cost with others like I did in the last issue of Realms Of Fantasy.

It's a personal choice based on your promotional budget, your long-range agenda and where you'd like to be seen.

Next week, we'll talk about how to create a persuasive display ad and some options on how to lower the cost of advertising.

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