Monday, August 22, 2005

Radio Daze

In my previous post, I openly questioned the effectiveness of radio interviews. To recap:

I was invited to La Crosse Wisconsin to do a library event and a signing at Waldenbooks. The wonderful Terri Schlichenmeyer (rhymes with chickenwire) was able to wrangle three radio itnerviews for me, as well as promote the event on the radio herself. I appeared on four local stations, some of them several times, for three days prior to the event. I was funny, while managing to explain my books and when and where I'd be signing.

La Crosse is a town of about 60,000. How much of that population heard the show, and how many came to my events?

When the day was done, and the numbers had been tallied, the answer was clear:


That's one. Uno. Eins. Un.

I did well at the event anyway. I was at the library for 3 1/2 hours and met everyone who walked into the store, which resulted in 44 books sold. Not bad. But only one of those folks came because they heard me on the radio.

"You were really funny," she told me, "so I came by to get your books." She did buy them both, so about 5% of my sales that day were the result of my radio efforts.

Still, it was pretty enlightening. I walked into the store with visions on long lines and excited fans. Reality is a harsh mistress.

At the library event, I had a lovely chat with two librarians, over the large plate of cookies they bought in anticipation of the huge crowd. They apoloigzed for no one showing up. I apologized for no one showing up. They bought a book out of pity.

Afterward, I called up Barry Eisler, because we like to share marketing info, and I asked him about the effectiveness of media in getting people to events. He shared a story of being on a morning TV show in Portland, speaking eloquently, showing his book jacket, touting his upcoming appearance.

His efforts produced a throng of fan.

Yup, one person.

And that was TV, and Barry is a good-looking, entertaining guy.

The conclusion we drew was that all the publicity in the world won't bring people to you unless the people already know who you are.

Had a bestselling author, like James Patterson, been on TV or on the radio, the fans would have come in droves, because people recognize Patterson.

When was the last time you went to a book signing by an unknown author? What brought you there?

If the brand isn't recognized or doesn't meet a consumer's particular needs, the ad gets tuned out. How many men reading this blog know what Natracare is? O.B.? Gyne-lotrimin? Norplant? Massengill? FDS? Depo-provera? Estroven? Monistat 3? You've been bombarded with thousands of commercials and ads for these feminine products, and even if you recognize the names, and may even have some on your home, its doubtful you know what each one does.

You aren't the target audience, so you don't pay attention to the ads.

And if you're a woman, and you are the target audience for these products, chances are you already have a favorite brand and you stick with it, rather than switch because you hear an ad on the radio for a rival product.

As Barry says, there's no silver bullet---one specific way to slay the beast. As writers we have to keep trying whatever we can, and hope that some combination of our publicity and marketing efforts will get us noticed.

So I'll try radio again. It was fun, and doesn't take up a lot of time. But I won't seek it out. And I certainly won't pay a publicist to get me on the radio, or even TV.

Publicity doesn't work unless you're already a known commodity, and it doesn't work unless your target audience is listening and receptive.


BTW--for those keeping track (hi Maria!) I took an extra day in Wisconsin to do some drive-by signings:

Barnes & Noble in Madison West signed 8 hardcovers and 4 paperbacks.

Waldenbooks in Madison West signed 2 hardcovers and 8 paperbacks.

Borders in Madison West signed 4 hardcovers and 12 paperbacks.

Bookd for Murder signed 3 hardcovers and 14 paperbacks, sold 3.

Barnes & Noble Madison East signed 4 hardcovers and 8 paperbacks, sold 1.

Waldenbooks Madison East signed 2 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks, sold 1.

Borders Madison East signed 2 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.

Bookworld in Janesville, signed 1 paperback (but they ordered 10 more books)

Waldenbooks in Janesville signed 4 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks, sold 1.

Waldenbooks in Rockford signed 2 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks, sold 2.

Borders in Rockford signed 4 hardcovers, 10 paperbacks, sold 2.

Barnes & Nobel in Rockford, signed 6 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.

I'm going to be doing drive-bys in Illinois today, accompanied by Melanie Lynne Hauser, whose new book Confessions of Super Mom just hit the shelves. It's super-hero chick-lit with a mystery thrown in. It's also very funny, touching, and a wonderful read. Buy a copy for Mom---she'll love it.

Also visit Melanie at She's got a great website, and many unique ideas about how to promote books. Her booklaunch party is at Anderson's in Naperville, August 25th. I urge all of my blog readers to attend the event if you're able, to see up close and personal how a successful booklaunch works. I'll be there!


Anonymous said...

Too bad about the turnout, but at least you've got some radio experience for when you are as big as James Patterson.

Have you checked out Amazon shorts? They are now offering short stories for $0.49 each. Immediate download. No DRM or special readers required. It sounds like a decent way for an author to get exposed to potential readers.

Anonymous said...

Gee, can I have Barry's phone number?

Okay, maybe later. Joe, when you and Barry (or hell, maybe it'll be me!) find that one, sure-fire way, that ONE THING, that creates buzz, etc and brings out the crowds, then we probably won't have to write anymore. We'll just sell the idea for a small fortune and retire to the Cayman Islands.

Mark Terry

Jim Winter said...

I'm glad you followed up on this, because I heard back from my publisher after I commented last week.

He says sales of NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN did indeed spike after the interview. So someone's listening.

I do think more people buy based on radio and TV appearances than you hear about, mainly because people don't remember who or what tickled their brain to pick up a book in the first place. (Laura Lippman gives me a hard time for not doing television. Maybe in another 40 pounds I will. She swears by what it's done for her.)

mapletree7 said...

I work with a lot of authors, and we've found that the one thing that really works to boost attendance at signings is to contact local schools/colleges and talk to professors in relevant subjects - for fiction authors, creative writing. Doing a writing workshop or a Q&A session with a class is one sure-fire way to get yourself in front of people.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

So I have to ask, how did Patterson get so friggin' big? What secret do these guys have that everyone else is missing?

And don't say talent, quality of writing, etc. Because, Joe, you're every bit as talented as any of the big guys.

Was it the movies that made Patterson so big? Kiss the Girls?

If radio and TV don't work, I'm curious to know what DOES?

Laura Sue said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laura Sue said...

wow. that makes me feel better because in Spencer, Population 3000, we got one person to come to Ed's by putting you on the local radio station! We aren't so bad after all.

oh, and I finally got around to reading your book...fantastic. I love how guys write about chics.

Anonymous said...

In the September issue of REAL SIMPLE magazine, readers are invited to log on to, where they can invite a novelist (via speakerphone) to join their book club chat. I don't know how one goes about signing up to be one of the novelists, but it sounds interesting...

Anonymous said...

My name is Janet Smith and i would like to show you my personal experience with Depo-Provera.

I am 38 years old. I have been taking Depo-Provera for 8 years. This drug may not be the answer for everyone but for me without it my life is not pleasant. Bleeding in my shoes for days each month, terrible to the floor cramping and pain. First shot, period gone, have gone off it, takes months for it to come back but when it does it is just as bad. My mood changes when I am due to have my shot, I can feel it happening, and I will admit that I depend on it to keep me more level. I can feel the PMS when my 12 weeks is up, during the 12 weeks I have no side effects. My mom has some bone density issues and my doctor has suggested that perhaps I go off, not going to happen, it is monthly miracle, and although I understand the effects are different for everyone I say sometimes to have a more normal cycle you need to not have one.

I have experienced some of these side effects-
possibly weight gain, had been gaining weight before, mood swings when I need to get my shot, none that I get complaints about when I am on it, decreased sex drive

I hope this information will be useful to others,
Janet Smith

Depo-Provera Side Effects