Give Yourself a Promotion

- by Elaine Isaak

One of the hot topics for writers, whether you are trad or indie published, is how to effectively promote your books.  It used to be said in advertising that we know 50% of our marketing works–we just don’t know which 50%.  We’re constantly on the lookout for good information about promotions.  A recent article for writers claimed all sorts of benefits for promotional giveaways, and I was excited–until I realized all the statistics were taken from an industry survey made by the giveway guys.  Sigh.

Nowadays, thanks to various analytics, Amazon’s Author Central, and social media connections, we have access to much more detailed information.  And you’d think it would now be possible to figure out which half of our promotions are working.  And. . .you’d be wrong.

Sometimes, something we do has a very clear effect.  We can watch our Amazon rank take a leap with an appearance on a popular show.  If you can finagle your way onto tv, you’re probably doing pretty well already.  For the rest of us, it’s often a process of trial and error.  For my most recent launch, I made a spreadsheet showing the dates of various specific events like guest blogs, convention appearances and bookstore signings, then I set out to track a variety of metrics:  Amazon author and book ranks, blog followers, newsletter subscribers, Facebook and Twitter followers, sales data from Bookscan.  My hope is that, if I can pay attention to this stuff, I may be able to see when a promotion is truly successful.

The trouble is, it’s often more complicated than that.  Folks don’t see your book in one place and instantly buy it.  (well, some do, but not a lot).  It takes a number of impressions (advertising-speak for seeing your title) before the buyer makes a decision.  So those first three or four promotional moments might seem to be a wash, while the fifth one gets the sale.  But without those first few, the reader wouldn’t have been nearly so excited about the last one.

One thing we know sells books is name recognition:  people who read and enjoyed your previous book are much more likely to buy the next one.  And the more wide-spread that name, the more readers are drawn to it–hence bestsellers who hit the list with every book, even when many people agree this new book isn’t as good as the last one.  Most books on the lists aren’t there by of word-of-mouth, it’s the name on the jacket.

So my goal as a self-promoting author is to get my name and title out there in as many ways as possible, to get it in front of the right readers.  My hope is to gain that name recognition through repeated impressions, so the next time the reader sees my book, she’s thinking, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of this author!” and will break out the credit card.

In the meantime, when something I say or do causes a spike of reader interest, I file my data–and hopefully refine my approach for the next title!


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