An interesting poll is being discussed on various romance loops this week. It’s about book promotion, and I found the poll interesting. I’ve also heard a couple of people in different places state that based on this survey promo obviously doesn’t work.
Polling for Promo?
While I think this poll reflects a somewhat accurate viewpoint on promotion. It’s can’t be considered as accurate as a controlled survey. When one does a survey, one has to first come up with questions that are simple and don’t lead the responder to a certain type of response. The survey also must have demographics that are clearly defined for an accurate makeup of people surveyed and the end results must account for the number of people who DIDN’T respond.
The questions in this particular poll are well written and to the point. However, in my experience, one can’t define this poll as accurate (even within a +/- range) since demographics weren’t considered to provide a balance view of gender, race and/or age or fictional/nonfiction genre. Additionally, the poll didn’t account for non-responders.
Despite those observations, my personal belief is that the poll gives a reasonably fair picture of what works best in promotional efforts for books overall. However, I don’t recommend using the poll as a justification NOT to do promo. Especially because the poll didn’t differentiate which genre(s) the reader is predominantly drawn to. Romance tends to be the only genre I’ve ever read where anything other than bookmarks is used to attract a reader. Perhaps this is because we have such a large share of the overall fictional market, but that’s hypothetical on my part.
Over the past few months, I’ve seen people
…freak about marketing strategy plans (I freely admit I started that panic on another loop by showing my detailed PR strategy plan. It’s my background, and I didn’t realize it would look so scary to others. Mea Culpa was my mantra that week)
…scream that they’re spending too much time promoting and that promoting doesn’t work. I definitely understand the “too much time promoting” issue. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s necessary to get ahead IMHO.
With this new poll, some people are apt to see this as confirmation that marketing doesn’t work. In a minor way, they’re correct. Marketing one book isn’t always fruitful for an author because they’re promoting the book and not themselves. The books we write are an extension of ourselves and we need to let readers know who we are, what we write and intrigue them with the notion that we write stories they’ll enjoy reading.
Let’s face it, the competition is stiff. Books are discretionary items for most readers and they’re bought with discretionary funds. When the economy is bad, those discretionary funds shrink (and yes the economy is bad and will not be healthy for a year or more). Then there’s the mix of authors to readers, there are more and more new authors everyday. I think this is wonderful for readers because they have more variety in their reading selection. But it does put a crunch on authors because there is now MORE competition and with a bad economy, fewer reader dollars available. So it takes more than just a good book to get noticed if you’re a new or even a mid-list author.
When I was working as an Advertising Manager for an office supply chain, I learned one valuable lesson. Never cut advertising in bad times and maintain a steady level during good times. At the time I worked at this company, the economy had taken a turn for the worse, and the powers that be wanted to reduce expenses by cutting advertising. We fought to keep advertising, but they slashed the ad budget. In turn a competitor stepped up their ad revenues. Guess who’s still in business? Staples kicked our ass.
So why advertise during bad times? Because almost everyone else reduces their advertising visibility when economic times get bad. It’s the perfect time to make yourself prominent in the bad times; it’s less ad dollars you’re up against and more visibility. Now this strategy doesn’t mean to spend more money, it means to shift monies from one venue to another. Maintaining one’s brand can and will bring in readers, even if it’s one at a time.
Strategy Is Key
Strategies for tight economic times can vary depending on the person, where they are in their career and what books they have coming out. I’ve already decided to avoid RT this year (even though it’s a short 6hrs from home) to attend smaller events with access to more readers and booksellers. I want to try a different strategy. Network with readers to build that word-of-mouth advertising. I also plan on doing some “drive-by” book signings with another author I’ve become friends with. By not attending RT and forgoing the giveaways, I’ll have about $2500 more to spend over the next twelve months on banner ads on different websites. I’ll even be able to throw in a nice color ad into RT.
So the point of this post? Polls can be deceiving and revealing at the same time. For me, the primary point of the poll is that word-of-mouth advertising sells books. But to get word-of-mouth advertising to work, you have to build a brand for offering readers good books and maintaining a level of promotion that keeps your name on the lips of readers. For me, I can’t put a price on gaining a new reader. Every new reader is one more reader to spread the word about my books. Six degrees of separation is a viable concept to me and worth every penny I can afford to spend.