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Monday, February 27, 2012

Avalanche

The Frugal Way, Smart Grocery Shopping book is done. But I think I'm going to hold it in reserve for a couple of weeks while I finish another book in the series, The Garage Sale Bible.

That one is almost finished. Only three more chapters to go and then a thorough edit. If I play my cards right, maybe I'll have both books ready before my birthday rolls around.

The Frugal Way books have been one of my favorite projects to date. I'm glad Greg talked me into doing them.

Marketing: I was cleaning out old posts on my Reader and caught someone's blog saying that what had worked for her only two years ago, hasn't been working for her now. 

Amen to that. I've been very aware of the trend for the past few months. Yet, I notice very few authors changing their tactics. Maybe they don't feel it's affecting them--or more likely, they don't know what else to do.

What attracts an audience has been altered and so has their attention span. When I read blogs and visit forums, I tune out posts the second I suspect it's a sales pitch. It's become an almost involuntary reaction.

I'm not trying to be rude, but I have to be practical. As a reader, I feel authors have to give me something of value in order for them to earn what is most precious to me--my time.

So how should potential readers be rewarded? 

I've been watching myself in this case, mentally noting what triggers me to click on a post or delete it. Useful information tops my list, but also entertainment. 

I've also been analyzing the author's response (or lack of it) when I comment on his blog. Does he seem sincere or does he try to blow me off? Is there an effort to build a relationship or deepen an existing one?

The best analogy is the television commercial. Have you noticed how it's changed over the years? What makes us stay and watch? What makes us tune out? Most commercials have less than 20 seconds to make an impression. If they miss, the message (and money) is wasted.

I've held back on promo, trying to gauge audience reaction to the over-saturation of books and subsequent pimping. Historically, when the market is glutted, the product loses value. Has that already happened?

I think it has. The market needs time to level out, (and it will) but I'm not sure when that's going to happen.

Somebody has thrown a snowball down the mountain and it's picking up size and momentum. There's an avalanche coming and I suspect with it, the potential for casualties.

Agree or disagree? Is there any promo (in books or tv) that feels like nails on a blackboard?


26 comments:

Jennifer Shirk said...

I know when I read promo advice, I feel some of it is outdated. Things have changed and nobody really knows exactly what works.

I might try to find some "Mom" forums or online magazines. They are the shoppers and would be interested in cost-cutting ideas.

Angelina Rain said...

When it comes to promoting books, I can truly say that most of the things out there don't work. Maybe it's because the reader now has more choices then ever as to what they could buy. Because of e-publishing and self publishing, the amount of books available to the public has more then tripled.

As a reader, what works for me is a friendly, available author. One who blogs and responds to comments. I try to do that too on my blog, but I don't have the time to respond most of the time. I will try to work on it.

Also, speaking about TV ads. I did notice a new trend. A few years ago, there were plenty of commercials featuring celebrities. Now many ads feature babies and animals. There are a few with celebrities but not as many. I wonder if dogs sell more then people?

Mike Keyton said...

It is true. Promo blogs no longer work - if they ever did. At least in your face promo blogs. I think humour works, in adverts at least. Over here, comedy works better than animals or babies. Check out Meerkat.com on youtube. Comedy and animals - of a sort

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: It's this digital age. When entire networking machines can become outmoded in a couple of years (MySpace) is it any wonder that the human machine can't keep up with the changes.

Angelina: Too much choice is definitely an issue. Why should I bother with 'this' vamp story when 'that one' has a more engaging author who replies articulately?

Ref: tv commercials
I am a sucker for animal commercials. :)

Mike: I think promo on blogs worked in the early years. It was a novelty then. Now everyone is doing them and it comes out looking like spam.

Humor always attracts me. It's like getting a drop of honey with your advertisement.

Renee Miller said...

I love funny commercials, but most of the ads I see on TV just annoy me. There are a few I turn the channel for because they annoy me to the point of violence.

The same is true for a lot of book promotion I see. I've unfollowed really nice people on Twitter simply because I couldn't bear one more identical tweet saying the same annoying thing. I've also stopped following blogs that seem to be all about promotion and nothing else.

I'm easily annoyed though, so I'm not sure that I'm a good judge of such things.

I try to market without irritating...not sure how I'm doing at that just yet.

Krista D. Ball said...

First, good luck with your new projects. It's something you clearly enjoy!

Perhaps me and you should team up for a "crazy stuff that happens in history" and talk about pig intestines ;)

As for marketing, I've changed how I do things. Now I include a naked photo on page 32 of all my books. It's helped sales go through the roof.

Maria Zannini said...

Renee: I've unfollowed people too or hide them on FB when their posts got too whorish.

It's harder with friends or people I genuinely like. I haven't yet worked up the nerve to tell them the constant promo is annoying.

It's not the message, it's that they keep targeting the same people--usually other authors.

***

Krista: You might have stumbled onto something with pig bladders. I don't know if you've seen a jump in sales, but I am getting a lot of hits from people all over the world looking for information on pig bladders. It's insane! LOL. It's neck and neck in popularity with chicken sex.

Sarah Ahiers said...

i'd much rather have a blogger state up front, or at the end of a post, a one sentence reminder that their book is available before they go into an unrelated post. It's ok if they just pop in the reminder, but i don't like to be tricked.
Speaking of commercials, i saw a Captain Morgan commercial last night that almost made me swoon. It had this strange, dark victorian feel to it. And Captain Morgan was looking mighty fine. It made me want to write a novel

Kaye Manro said...

You seem to be able to hit the mark so well. I am burned out on reading/watching promotion completely.

And therein lies the rub. What do we as authors do now? It's tough. I try not to pimp. I always try to add interesting or informative content to my personal posts, but I don't think I always am able to pull it off. I promo other authors too and I think I am still singing to the choir, as you have mentioned in other posts!

So what do you think is the coming thing for authors and what should we do about promoting/marketing?

(A book from you on this would be good!)

Raelyn Barclay said...

I have no idea what the middle ground is. I'm less irritated when others pimp/promo fellow authors whether through a guest post or an interview/review or a snippet. Yet how much does that actually help sell the book? And if that's all they are doing (unless it is an actual reviewer/review site) it just becomes noise.

For your series, I agree with Jennifer. Look to the 'mom' and parenting sites. Maybe some craft sites. So glad you're doing this series...thanks Greg :)

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I hate the avalanche promo. The twitterer that pimps their book ten to twenty times a day, posting reviews or snippets from their book or whatever. Those drive me up the wall and I unfollow very quickly.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Ref: Capt. Morgan.
Obviously I don't watch enough tv. :)

Ref: one line advertising
I actually like this. As long as it's unobtrusive and allows me to ignore it if I want, I think this would work.

***
Kaye: I just call it as I see it.

As for what will work, the most successful devices will be unexpected and unique.

I think apps, interactive ebooks, and merchandising are the least used, and therefore tolerated and sometimes enjoyed by the market.

The problem is unless you're a techy wizard (and I am not) how many of us can afford a custom app or have the connections to make a book interactive?

And merchandising requires other skills that most authors don't possess.

It goes back to why a big publisher can be useful--if he's willing to invest in his author.

But it's exactly why we need to look into unorthodox means. Our audiences are bored with the same old spiel.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: I will always like guest posts as long as the author provides good content, but again, who is it reaching?

Take you and me for example. Our blogs are probably read by the same people, give or take a couple of dozen. I would venture a guess that the majority are also writers.

Now say we promote Barbara Wright's latest book. (she commented just after you) Barbara will love us, but we didn't really give her too much help unless the people we know are different from the people she knows. Even then our spheres of influence are limited.

Hmm...I think Kaye is right. This might need a book to extrapolate all the options and potential venues.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: I miss Twitter. I really enjoyed chatting with my friends, but it became such a time suck.

Suzanne Brandyn said...

I agree, but I dont know what avalanche will hit us. It's just what to say on your blog that people will find interesting. I'm still trying to find the answer. :)

Jenny Schwartz said...

First up...Congrats on finishing so many books so fast, Maria, and definitely a topical series. Money's so tight it's squeaking everywhere (well, maybe not on Wall St!)

As for promo, I'm okay with a small seasoning of blatant stuff...we all know people gifting us with amusing blogs, tweets, whatever need some recompense. My attention to their promo (and then, sometimes, a purchase -- but they have to "sell" it to me) is a price I can live with. Overdo the "seasoning" though and I'm gone.

On the other side of the table, as someone trying to get a handle on promoting my own work, I try to keep all that in mind. Have I got the balance right? *shrugs* I think I'm close enough. I feel like I'm promoting in a way that respects the reader/writer community I'm part of. I sure as daybreak enjoy my conversations (like this one!) in that group :)

Maria Zannini said...

Suzanne: I think the best advice is just be yourself. Talk about things that interest you. In time, people with the same interests will find you.

Jenny: I think you do a great job of promo. I never feel it's over the top or heavy handed. And you're right. It's all about balance.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think even following so much of the advice, it remains for the person doing promotion to be charismatic enough to draw and keep fans.
I think I'm boring sometimes.

Shelley Munro said...

Congrats on getting more books done. That's awesome, and it's such a great subject/project.

Promo - I don't know. It's so hard to get the balance right. I look at my Twitter/Facebook feeds and they're full of promo (some of it mine, I have to admit). I've heard that even giving away free books on Kindle isn't doing much in some cases. I guess we just need to wait for the dust to settle with all the books coming into the market. Something has to give.

Clarissa Draper said...

I think that promoing to our writer friends is sometimes not fair. Most writers are poor and will buy our fellow writer's books but really, the few hundred followers we have isn't the target audience we want, so promoting on our blogs is just not good use of our time. IMHO. That's why I'm not going to do it when my book comes out. I'm not going to blog hop or anything, I have something better planned.

Angela Brown said...

As someone still on the writing, learning and reading side, I've noticed just how quickly I can tune things out. I'm actually a little surprised since I try to keep an open mind about things.

One thing that has been little more than static to me is Twitter. I was afraid to get on it because I wasn't sure if I knew how to say what I wanted to say in 140 characters or less, or if I could handle the traffic. Once on it, it seemed little more than buy this book, you'll love my book, buy me, buy me, blah, blah, blah. The only stuff I ever pay attention to is #writemotivation stuff. Most everything else seems a waste of time. If I ever publish, I'm not sure how I'd use it, but I'd want to use it, along with my blog and other outlets with a balanced approach. I want people to buy my books, whenever they come available, but I don't know if I can virtually pimp myself like one of those charlatan salesmen back in the old days selling orange juice with a twist of lime as the cure-all for ailments.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I think charisma can carry someone even if he has a mediocre book/blog. People are willing to die for charismatic leaders--of course, I'm not one of them. :)

***
Shelley: This is exactly why I stopped all promo. Not that some of it wasn't working, but I need to get my bearings. I don't want to be wasting time or money on halfway measures.

***
Clarissa: I think blog hops can be useful if there is fresh content and if it ventures outside writerly circles, but few writers do this. In a way, it's made my blog visits easier since I can just skip their blogs when it's spammy.

I've been narrowing down the venues I'll be using in the next few months. Like you, I plan to break out of the mold and try something else. Success to us both! :)

***
Angela: This is one of the reasons I rarely visit Twitter anymore. I miss it, but it's too much trouble to filter through the spam.

Marianne Arkins said...

I'm late, but that's never stopped me from giving my opinion.

I admit, I seldom respond to comments on my blog unless they feel like they NEED a response (a question, for instance) and then I usually either email the person offline, or answer it in my day's post. I never respond in conmments, because I don't think folks check back that much.

RE: promotional blogs -- I both agree and don't agree. As someone who arranges virtual tours for a living, I fully believe they're beneficial -- IF (and this is a big if ... I struggle with authors on this frequently) the author takes time to engage the reader and the post isn't pure promo. Sometimes it isn't promo AT ALL except a cover and blurb at the end. And, truthfully, those are my favorites.

No one wants to get beat over the head with pure promo. At LASR, we won't let our guest blogs be used for pure promo. No excerpt only posts, etc. That's just lazy.

What builds a fan base is being genuine and interesting. I'm sure I'm interesting on my blog, but I certainly try for genuine, lol.

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: My topics are written to actively seek discussion which is why I respond to comments. But I see Blogger has messed with that too just today. I always subscribe to comments. Now they've taken away my little check box. This might be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Ref: blog tours
As I mentioned in the comment stream earlier, some posts are successful. It's the drive-bys, buy-my-book posts that drive me insane. You have rules in place to prevent that, but there are still plenty of people who do it on their own.

Melissa McClone said...

2011 was my year to experiment with promo. I had done very little before that. I had great results with one book and could see no real difference with another. I also think the book/blog tour gig became inundated very quickly with authors jumping on tours and that affected results.

I also didn't like doing all the promo I did. It was expensive and took too much time. Given what happened with my three books out in 2011, I think the cover probably had as much to do with one's success over the others, which is out of my control. The one that sold well when I toured is still outselling all my other books when I'm doing zero to promote it now.

So 2012 I'm going back to doing bare minimum stuff and see how that works. I will probably line up a couple guest blog gigs for May release, maybe put my cover up a couple places, but that's it.

I do enjoy blogging, but I keep the promo posts to a minimum. At least I hope they are. It's hard to tell when it's your blog and you're writing the content. But my traffic is way up so I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. Most of my referrals are from the lolcats, but I've found people tend to read look at more than one page so hopefully they'll read some stuff, too! I'm trying to get back to commenting on comments, but it's hard when I'm not online a lot. Must make that more of a priority. I've always seen a blog more as a community, and I used to be so much better at participating.

I'm still on Twitter, but all the buy my book posts drive me crazy. I only go there a couple of times a week.

I much prefer FB to anything else for promo purposes mainly because it's easy and free though I probably don't make that good of use of it. I try to keep my book stuff on my book/author page and more personal stuff on my profile even though I do have readers there and most haven't crossed over to the book page. But I don't like selling my wares to "friends."

Maria Zannini said...

Melissa: I am where you are. It's been several months of wait and see. Like you said, there are too many people jumping on the bandwagon. Someone yells that Twitter is the place to be, and then boom, authors crawl over it like ants on a picnic.

PS I never thought you overdid your promo. :)