Thursday, July 07, 2005

The 24 Hour Advertisement

I've heard it said that an author's web site functions as a never ending commercial.

I agree, to a point. A homepage should have information about your writing and your books. But if that's all it does---advertise your products---then you won't get many hits, or generate much buzz. TiVo allows us to eliminate commercials... why would anyone intentionally go looking for them?

Which is why I suggest you have more on your site than four blurbs and a link to Amazon (which indy bookstores hate to begin with.)

But this blog entry isn't about how to make your site sticky (I go into detail on how to do that here.) Instead, I want to talk about how people can find your site on the world wide web. You've raised your shingle, now how do you get the traffic?

1. Search engines. NEVER pay to submit to search engines--the big ones allow you to submit your URL for free, and no one uses the little ones i.e. "submit your site to 700,000 engines for $29.95." When was the last time you used to surf the web? Stick to Google, Yahoo, AOL, Hotbot, MSN, Altavista, Lycos, Overture, Dogpile, and Excite... but only if they don't charge. Don't pay per click... you think Stephen King does that?

My website is listed on all major engines, and I never paid a cent. They found me.

Make sure you have decent Meta tags on all of your pages, for the spiders to crawl (if you don't know what I'm talking about, pick up a book on web design.)

2. Publications. Your website address should be printed on all of your books, and included with bios for short stories, articles, and interviews. Every time your name appears in print, your URL should as well.

3. Business cards. Have two types made up; one with all of your personal info (phone, email, address) and one with just your website. I also put my URL on flyers, bookmarks, and even on my personal checks.

Give business cards to everyone you meet. I put them in bills I mail out, and drop them in check presenters when I go out to eat. Your motto: Everyone gets a card.

4. Email. Your email has a signature tag--put your URL in there. If you have more than one email account, make sure they each list your URL.

5. Newsgroups and List Servs. Google News and Yahoo have thousands of online groups discussing books. Join and post, making sure you always add your URL. The bigger online mouth you have, the more opportunities to pass around your link.

6. Blogs. I've been posting messages on other people's blogs, and I'm surprised how many people click through to my website.

As with newsgroups and list servs, contribute to the conversation. A non sequitur that does nothing but direct people to your website is spam. But say something smart or funny, and people will check out your website automatically.

7. Links. Trade links with as many folks as you can. Email websites and ask if they'd like to reciprocate, and swap business cards with author friends you meet at conventions. The more links coming in the better... all roads lead to Rome.

8. Google Adwords. I have some friends that swear by this. I haven't tried it yet, but you can find out about it here.

9. Print ads. Every time you, or your publisher, places an ad, it should have your URL on there.

10. Newsletters. If you have a print or email newsletter (and you should... collect names at signings and conventions and through your site), you should always have your homepage listed.

11. Amazon. For all the hoopla about Amazon, they don't seem to sell that many books. For example, I sold about 15,000 copies of Whiskey Sour in hardcover. About 2000 were through Amazon.

Still, you can focus some effort there. Amazon has many paid programs for writers and publishers to ensure better placement for your book. I've never done that, but I indulge in some of their free services; book reviews and lists.

I review books with the name "J.A. Konrath, author of Bloody Mary." People who click on my name are directed to my URL.

Amazon also lets you compile Favorites Lists. I've made a few lists of mega-bestsellers which also include my books. Hopefully people who like James Patterson or John Sandford will read the lists looking for similar authors, and then discover me.

12. Other. My publisher and are holding a contest for the release of Bloody Mary. You can enter the contest here. While I'm thrilled they're promoting my book, a quick read of the page shows that they forgot to ad my URL.

I hadn't known they were running this contest, or I would have commented on adding my web address. I could ask them to add it now, but I'd come off sounding like an ungrateful ass... "Sure, it's a nice contest, and I appreciate you being behind my books and all, but where's my website information?"

So that's a missed opportunity. An opportunity that hasn't been missed comes from buzzketeer M.J. Rose, who is linking 500 blogs to her vidlit page to raise money for Reading is Fundemental.

Vidlits are visual commercials for books, kind of like movie trailers.

I think M.J. is a pioneer in new marketing ideas, but that doesn't mean her ideas work (lots of pioneers died in the woods.)

I love her, and she's certainly becoming known in the writing community, but so far her efforts haven't made her a bestseller.

Nor have mine, for that matter.

What do you folks think? Does her Vidlit make you want to buy her book? Did it make you click through to her website?

I know I'll be watching her Amazon numbers to see if they shoot up. She's currently at 42,000 rank on Amazon, and her promotion begins today.


Anonymous said...

Vid Lits are pretty darn cool and I'd love to have them for my books. It's just figuring out how to come up with that $10,000 per that burns.

Do I tell my publisher: Hey, instead of sending me on a national tour this fall, let's do a Vid Lit. Don't think so. But then, M.J.'s credo is that the traditional book tour is a dinosaur and why not invest in the future. Here's hoping she's not one trailblazer who dies on the trail...although I don't think that's likely.

David J. Montgomery said...

I think Vid Lits are awesome. Watching the one for MJ's book definitely makes me interested in it. It doesn't mean that I'd run out and buy the book (especially since I already have it), but it does pique your interest and raise awareness.

JA Konrath said...

Ten grand?!?

That means, to break even, she'll have to sell 18,200 paperbacks as a result of this Vidlit.

I don't know if that's possible.

The Vidlit links to four different sites to buy the book including Amazon, and Amazon is supplied by Ingram. By calling Ingram (615-213-6803) you can find out how many books they've sold so far.

Multiply that by four to get a count for The Halo Effect--which is probably high because more people will choose Amazon over the Harlequin site or BN.

But it doesn't take into account the folks who buy the book at their local bookstore because of the Vidlit.

Advertising builds on name recognition--that much is true. Establishing a brand is half the battle.

The other half is getting them to buy your brand. I know all about Coke, and still buy Pepsi--no matter how good the Coke ads are.

I'm sure people will view her Vidlit. And I'm sure a certain number will buy her book. But does the end justify the means? Will it be worth it?

I disagree that the traditional book tour is dead. I think I have a better percentage hand-selling books than any Vidlit--or any form of advertising--has.

When I'm in a bookstore, the customers are there to buy books. Meeting an author is a treat for them, and has a lasting impression. I sell to about one out of ten folks I approach.

Online ads have more people viewing them, but are much less effective percentage-wise.

Of course, M.J. may be thinking long-term. Getting someone to buy her book means she has a customer, and a vocal proponant of her work, for life. That kind of investment means that you lose money upfront, and hope for the longterm gain.

Complicated business, this.

Anonymous said...

Here's the ideal (for anyone with $10,000-plus to burn): Get a Vid Lit done then take it along on the book tour. Set up a big ol' screen at B&N, put your Vid Lit on a loop, and pull in the happy customers as they walk through the door.

Otherwise, I'll have to rely on my good looks and rivetting personality...and, oh yeah, the worthiness of my books.

Anonymous said...

Not having a book published yet allows me to do things like talk out my ass on this sort of subject. Be that as it may, I've always gotten the impression that authors are constantly hearing from publishers the equivalent of, "What have you done for me, lately?" After the book is in the stores there better be another one in the pipe, and another and another. Like any business constant exposure is absolutely essential. As you said, establishing a brand is half the battle.

Few people in this business are overnight superstars. The majority of the ones who have "made it", whatever the hell that means, have poured several years into both their craft and their marketing. Will the vidlit do a better job of creating and supporting that brand than author signings? If so, should it be considered simply a cost of doing business? And what if that cost results in a current loss, but the possibility of a net gain?

As you said, complicated business. Personally, I find myself reading things based on recommendations from total strangers. Lately these have mostly been blogs, though I had a memorable experience at the Mystery Bookstore here in Los Angeles a while back where I walked in, asked what was good and had books shoved into my hands before I was done asking.

That being the case the vidlit itself probably wouldn't have had as much an impact on me as the fact that people are talking about it and the book. Essentially word of mouth. The vidlit itself might not do it, but the buzz created because of the vidlit's existence might.

A complicated business indeed.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Stephen, how's this for direct book-promo impact: My book tour will take me to L.A. in October and a stop at the Mystery Bookstore. I don't know a soul there, no distant cousins, no nothing. Please show up.

It's not just a complicated business. It's a humbling one...

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Bob, will do. I don't get over there as much as I'd like. Planning on showing up on the 21st of this month for Mr. Konrath's Bloody Mary signing, in fact. Who says signings don't sell books?

If anyone reading this in L.A. doesn't know about the Mystery Bookstore, for shame. Wonderful place, excellent people. It's in Westwood near UCLA. Go there. Buy books.

David J. Montgomery said...

One of the things that I really appreciate about MJ Rose's work is, not only is she working her ass off to develop new ways of promoting authors and books (something this industry desperately needs), but in addition to that, she's sharing her experiences, insight and wisdom with the rest of us.

JA Konrath said...

"But the last little tidbit is - and forgive me for saying it but you mentioned it - Halo Effect is an international bestseller as of yesterday."

That's great! What a relief!

You have no idea how freaked out I've been, seeing all that you do, but wondering why Halo Effect hasn't hit the charts yet.

I treat marketing much like I treat exercise--I hate to do it, and don't see any immediate benefits. The goal is the long-term.

It's great that you're seeing some results... great for you, and great for the rest of us who are trying to keep our heads above water.

Bob Farley said...

AdWords cost me more than my sales brought in, which infers at least two sad truths about my book. It's either no good (despite all the loving comments made at Amazon and B&N), too expensive, or both.

I'm making more money with AdSense than with book sales.

Click one of my Google ads here: .