Since I started the focused marketing of A Long, Hard Look, giving away copies in exchange for reviews and to get attention on Goodreads, the total results (over a the past 5 weeks) have been underwhelming. A handful (that means 5, at most) of sales, a few of which were to people I know. A few reviews, mostly from people who read my blog or newsletter.
Like I said, underwhelming. (Not that I don’t appreciate that folks who know me buy, read, and review, but that isn’t a result of all this marketing, it’s a result of our personal relationship.)
There are a million sales tactics, and hundreds of people out there pitching their “sell a million copies” process. If only I could find the magic potion, the secret formula.
Thing is, I already have it, and it’s no secret, nor is it magic.
A conversation with Ed Teja often turns educational. I wrote something about “marketing” and Ed responded very much like this:
There are numerous discussions, blogs, courses and (of course) books on things writers can do to sell their work—both better and at all. They are comprehensive, exhausting and often contradictory. Partly the problem is that we confuse the activities that make writers more visible and their books desirable purchases. So, after hearing various comments from writers online, I thought it appropriate to help clarify what are becoming muddy waters.
Writers are supposed to be wordsmiths, so let’s start with some definitions.
Marketing activities are things we do to sell books.
Promotional activities are things to help with discovery of a product (yes, even a book.)
Publicity is work done to gain mind share…to ensure readers are aware of and think about the writer—the person.
We tend to blur these together, resulting in a great deal of confusion. They are quite different. Note that you can squish a bit of this or that from one category to another. I won’t quibble over specifics. The important thing is that an effective business plan must address all three aspects. Although they overlap, they do different things.
Over 200 people have entered to win the paperback copy of A Long, Hard Look in the Goodreads giveaway. That’s 209 people who’d never heard of the book, but now they have. (Since I have copies on hand, I’ll even make it an autographed copy.)
During the sign-up process, they’re offered a checkbox which says “Put this on my ‘to read’ list” which is checked by default. It looks like out of the 209 who’ve signed up, about 90 left the box checked. Whether this is because they missed it, or wanted it, there’s no telling. I’m not sure why those 100+ people want the book but don’t want it on their ‘to read’ list. I can’t imagine anyone thinking they’ll make money winning free books and reselling them. It’s quite the mystery.
But here it is, in case you’d like to join the teeming hordes.
My Goodreads giveaway goes live on Sunday, October 19th. Many of my readers use Friday’s newsletter as a trigger to catch up on posts, so they may not read this until Friday or Saturday; thus the Sunday start date.
I also used some statistical analysis to add more countries. Intuition said my fans were mostly in the US, Canada, England, and Australia. 72% of my readers are in the US. If I add Canada that bumps up to over 80%, but adding England and Australia makes it 90% of all the visitors to this blog in the past year.
The sooner the better. A 1-week giveaway as soon as I can set it up, then a 1-week break, and another 1-week giveaway, to maximize the benefits of being on the “new giveaways” list and the “ending soon” list.
How many copies to give away?
One. This is an experiment. I see no value in spending more than the minimum until we learn something. The experiment with Story Cartel reminds me that even the perfect tool might not be perfect for me.
First step to doing a Goodreads giveaway is to upgrade your account so they list you as an author, not just a reader. It’s free. They give directions on the site. (Dear Goodreads: Please have a data specialist organize your site and make things easier to find. Thank you.)
Next, you’ll need to be sure your book is listed at Goodreads. If you just released it, you’ll have to fill out the form and wait patiently for it all to coalesce. They recommend searching for the book first, in case someone else has already added it. I recommend it too, because A Long, Hard Look was already there. (Perhaps Sue added it.)
Now, decisions about the giveaway itself. Here are the questions we’ll have to answer:
As we learned from Catherine, a few short giveaways will be more effective than one long one. How many? And when? How much time between them? Goodreads sets no limitations except it can’t overlap itself, which seems logical.
Still learning little bits from the Story Cartel experiment: two new 5-star reviews — both from people in my own network, not Story Cartel. And their explanation of the “every download is an entry” is that making folks write a review is the legal equivalent of making them buy something to enter a sweepstakes, which isn’t legal in the US. I make no comment. Yet.
You deserve more of this wild entertainment, watching me flail my way through some forms of marketing I’ve never done. After reading a great article by Catherine Ryan Howard, who does not post nearly often enough Cath are you listening? I’ve chose Goodreads as my next skydive.
Best Beloved and I will research what’s involved in doing a Goodreads giveaway (hopefully in more detail than I “researched” Story Cartel’s process) and report what we do and how it works.
What do you know about Goodreads or giveaways? What would youliketo know?
Stop the presses and hold everything. Fellow writer Libi Astaire pointed out a line in the drawing rules I’d missed:
Every reader who downloads a book gets one entry.
They are rewarded for downloading your book, whether or not they have any intent on reading it, any interest whatsoever.
This violates my primary principle of free: it is not a price, it is a strategy.
“Here, download this” is not a strategy.
The founders of Story Cartel are authors. And they may be good at marketing their service. But they have a long way to go to be good at marketing our books for us.
Your genre or network may deliver completely different outcomes, so this isn’t a sweeping condemnation of the tool. It does what it claims to do. My book was exposed to a wider audience, and I got reviews. It just didn’t add enough value to offset the cost.
During the experiment, I got two 4-star reviews from Story Cartel readers. In the same time period I got two 4-star reviewsplus one 5-star reviewfrom my own network.
Some folks responded to my email to the 23 addresses Story Cartel provided. At least a dozen, more than half, didn’t participate in any manner beyond downloading the book. No review, no response to my two emails, nothing.
One old friend tried to download, couldn’t sort it out, and bought a print version instead. There’s a sale which may have been triggered by Story Cartel, but was consummated because he’s been a friend for 20 years. (I offered him a free copy, but he graciously wanted to reward me for my effort.)
The free downloads closed last week, with a total of 23 copies downloaded.
9 of those happened before I even started promoting it. These are clearly Story Cartel regulars who grabbed the book. One of them left a 4-star review of A Long, Hard Look so that’s super.
During the time it was free 14 more people downloaded it. I recognize 6 of the names from my newsletter or other places.
What’s not clear, or even possible to know without asking, is whether the other 8 downloads were the direct result of our promotion, or just more Story Cartel regulars who would have downloaded anyway.
Last week I shared some details about setting up my promotion at Story Cartel. I’d like us all to see what an author gets for a $25 investment (which, if I recall correctly, includes Story Cartel giving copies to the winners of a drawing, meaning the author doesn’t shell out on the back end, only the front end. I’ll confirm this detail for you by the end of this series.)
Today, the details of the promotion itself: the messages we used, how often we used them, and the response we’ve gotten.
Here are the messages we used. Twitter has its 140-character limit, so I wrote 3 short ones to fit that, and when I realized one of them was perfect for longer-format networks as well, only wrote 1 more long one. Twitter benefits from more frequent posting, which is why we created more short messages than long. Continue reading “Story Cartel Promotion Process Details”
Update on my Story Cartel launch. My goal is to share every detail I can so you can see what would work for you.
Last Monday we sent out a special edition of the newsletter, and posted the same content here at the blog. We had launched the download at Story Cartel on Friday so we’d have the page’s URL for the post and newsletter.
By Monday morning, 9 Story Cartel members had already downloaded the book. This was before the newsletter and post went live.
The day of our launch, 9 more people downloaded the book; 6 of them newsletter subscribers. (One of the earlier downloaders is also a fan who follows everything I do closely, but I’m still pleased they discovered my launch on their own.)
I’ve written bunches about using “free” as a marketing tool. Generosity is your greatest marketing tool. Don’t use it sparingly; spread it around like manure and watch things grow.
Generosity and free aren’t the same thing. Generous can include over-delivering on what you were paid to do. I’ve had generous helpings of fish at our favorite chippy in St. Paul. Paid for, but still generous. When you hire me to help with your writing and publishing, generosity will be ladled over you like gravy. Good white gravy like we make in Texas for your sausage and biscuits; that kind of generous.
My newsletter is also an act of generosity, one which also happens to be free. Membership, though, is stalled out at 140 of you good folks. When we hit that magic number, a couple people unsubscribe, and then someone else finds me and we roll back up to one Tweet’s worth.
One thing I realized is that the signup form simply offers “more information.” Not the most enticing offer, perhaps. I considered giving away something more; a whole book, maybe?