Monday, July 23, 2007

Book Promotion...Part 3

Probably the most important part of promotion is making the personal connection with the reader. Not an easy task. There are millions of them and only one of you. And substitutes for the personal connection - websites, blogs, myspace pages, etc are just that - substitutes. And overall, I don't find that they work well, at least not for me, not so far. Here's the thing with the substitutes - they take a lot of time and many readers are not going to be able to find them. Let me explain.

In order to get people to my website, I need to advertise it. I put the address on pens to give away (usually to people who have just bought the books...) it's on the covers of my books, I mention it in any print advertising I do, and I try to get people to link to it (though I haven't been very aggressive about that...and don't intend to be). Now the website is very useful because I have had a couple of interviews and invitations come up because people had heard about me, gone to my website and decided they wanted to talk with me. But I don't think any of this actually sells books. Not, mind you that I sell all that many anyway.

There again, blogs mostly seem to have the same readers coming back to them. Great as a community, but not as a promotional tool. I've found that talking directly to readers at bookstores, at libraries, and in reading groups, generally gets me a fair number of sales. People want my books once I've talked to them enthusiastically about them. Onthe other hand, I don't think a single sale has been made through this blog.

The problem, as I pointed out earlier is that it is a difficult thing to talk to potential customers. Assuming you sell a book to 5% of the people you talk to, (and probably a tenth that for those who stumble across your website) you'd need to talk to tens of thousands of people to have any impact. Still, the success ratio is high.

Here's the deal then on public appearances...Read very little. And read out exactly one page in my last appearance at a public library but did well with sales. Seems strange, but I think the people wanted to hear about...themselves. They had questions about the writing process, the road to publication, how I came up with my ideas, etc. They weren't all writers, but none of them wanted an excerpt from the book or an author gassing on about his own concerns. They wanted funny stories, exciting stories, moving stories, and they wanted to learn about what they wanted to learn about. They got those things and bought books.

Now this book talk was in a relatively disadvantaged (or as we used to say "poor") neighborhood. A couple of ladies asked if there was a way to buy titles that I hadn't carried with me. I said Amazon, and they asked what that was. I told them and they asked if they needed a computer... Both these ladies bought books and many book buyers are in the same position. They're not spending their time online, they're spending it in libraries or in bookstores or they're reading reviews in the local newspaper.

Of course, if anyone has pointers about how I CAN promote online and make sales, let me know. I'll post it.