Monday, December 17, 2012

Getting Bang for your Promotional Buck$

As a former entertainment publicist, I’m a big proponent of the importance of marketing and promotion. But when I moved from promoting actors and their shows to promoting myself and my books, the game changed in a big way. I found myself feeling very unfamiliar with a concept that was so familiar to me. So I started talking to the professionals – from readers to booksellers to agents – and asking them where to start. Those conversations helped me create a list of five important tips to always keep in mind when PS rolls around. [PS = Promotion Season for a new book]

I.                 Effective Social Networking is KEY
What happens in Vegas stays … on Facebook, Twitter, youtube...

I attended a webinar recently that was hosted by Thomas Umstattd, Jr. of Author Media, and one point (which he reiterated in his article in the Winter issue of the ACFW Journal Magazine) that really grabbed hold of my attention was how important it is to differentiate between your PERSONAL Facebook page and your PROFESSIONAL one. My reader page on Facebook has become a pretty awesome way of building my readership. My personal page is where I can share private information, musings and opinions that I might not want to share with the general reading public. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the importance of keeping them separate until well after I’d combined them, so raking through them for separation purposes has been a long, slow and somewhat painful process. So if you’re just starting out, let my experience shout at you on this subject.

II.               Understand Branding
What it does and (more importantly) doesn’t mean

I know this is a somewhat hot button issue for a lot of writers, but I am a firm believer in finding that one thing that you’re good at writing – and more importantly, what you’re called to write – and focus on that. Cluster bombing by writing a historical first, then trying your hand at suspense, then jumping with both feet into the YA market is not going to cement that all-important relationship with your readers. Experience has taught me that readers may love the way you write, but what they really connect with is your specific manner of storytelling. More often than not, that includes a love of your genre that will result in devoted readers.

III.           Learn the Art of Crafting Press Releases
Ready, aim, and shoot at a direct target

During my 15+ years as a publicist, I probably wrote at least two or three press releases per week. That kind of active experience teaches you something very important: Know your audience! It wasn’t uncommon for me to craft several different versions of a release for one specific event, and then send them out to the most appropriate outlets. I had a pretty uncanny track record for stories being picked up by entertainment news outlets for just that reason. Recently, author Erica Vetsch (we’re represented by the same agency) reached out to me for some help on designing a release for a very specific event, and I completely tore her first draft apart and revised it specifically for the news outlet she had in mind. A few days later, she let me know how thrilled she was at the results.

IV.            Cultivate Word of Mouth
You tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on…

Making a personal connection with readers is imperative. A few great ways to do that is to reach out to book clubs, do interviews with various bloggers, conduct contests for autographed books. Think of book giveaways – even a large one, to a full book club, for instance – as an investment in your future. Sort of like a Marketing 401k. 

V.                Come to Terms with the Importance of Book Trailers      
Hit ‘em where they live and give ‘em some eye candy

There’s been a lot of debate out there about the value of developing a book trailer for a soon-to-be-published novel. Again, I went to work and talked to a lot of people so that I could form an opinion on this subject. 

“An amateur-looking trailer can backfire and work against you, so carefully consider how you’re going to approach it. Then do your best to use your trailer in every way possible.” –Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent (Blog post dated 2/3/10)

“One thing is certain: publishers want trailers to sell books. And a trailer, which can live forever on YouTube or Vimeo, might just be the gift that keeps on giving…” –Edward Nawotka, (Blog post dated 3/24/11)

“When an in-house publicist has 3-5 minutes to convince a retailer to invest in a particular book, nothing speaks louder than a well-done, 90-second book trailer.”  --Maegan Roper, Publicist (formerly of Abingdon Press)

“It's becoming less and less common to buy books by their cover. It's more about showing eye candy to reel them in.” –Filmmaker Chris Roth  [LA Times article by Richard Verrier, November 9, 2011]

The dilemma here was that I don’t generate the income to match a lot of the prices being charged out there for the good ones. Fortunately, I had a friend who was in school studying video production and I sent her a dozen trailers that I thought were amazing. She allowed me to collaborate with her on a couple of my book trailers, and she’s grown it into a business! She’s very reasonably priced; in addition, I’ve known her most of my life! So if you’re thinking about a book trailer, feel free to contact Marian Miller of MarianCreates and tell her I sent you.

So there you have it! My five best tips for getting the most bang out of each of your promotion bucks. 

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Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian market. Her most popular series (that started with Always the Baker Never the Bride) will conclude this spring with Always the Baker FINALLY the Bride, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.


Iola said...

As a reader, I don't see the value of book trailers. I watch trailers for movies, but for a book, I read the blurb.

But Maegan Roper makes an excellent point: I'm not the target of the trailer. The bookseller is.

Ane Mulligan said...

This is really good advice, Sandie. I'm saving all of it!!

Sandie Bricker said...

Iola, I did an informal poll among my readers asking that very question a while back. Out of 100 responses, nearly 40% said that they do benefit from watching the trailer on a book they're considering for purchase. I think it's all about personal preference. I also think genre has something to do with it as well. Thanks for your comment, and for visiting. --Sandie

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Great advice, esp. on the separate FB accounts. My personal FB friends know my political views, but I try to keep those thoughts separate from my author account. That said, I did tweet quite a bit during the election, because I thought Christians' voices should be heard in a public venue.

I have yet to see a book trailer that's just blown me away, so most of the time I don't even watch them. I think vlogging is a great way to reach your blog readership with a picture of who YOU are. Then they're following YOU and not one specific book you're writing. I'm also guilty of cluster bombing genres, BUT I'm not published yet. I've written a spec fic novel, a historical fiction novel, and I'm completing a suspense novel. I know my loyal blog followers will be interested to buy whatever gets published first! But once it's published, I plan to stick to that genre (at least until I complete a series).

Fred St Laurent said...

We have 433 author videos at TBCN. All hosted free by our members.
They are searchable by name or title.
Great article Sandra!
Add us to your Social Network :-)
Oh and we can post videos in the magazine too! Get a lot of hits when we do.

Deborah M said...

Great post. And I love Sandie's books!

Deborah Malone
"Death in Dahlonega"
"Murder in Marietta"

Sandie Bricker said...

Heather, that's a very good plan! I did much the same thing in trying on different hats to see which one fit. I was blessed that my career branded me instead of the other way around! LOL

Sandie Bricker said...

Thank you, Deborah!

Ramona Richards said...

Terrific advice! I'm in the process of separating my professional and personal FB pages, and you're right. It's a PITA. I'll definitely lose some folks, but I expected that. And I LOVE book trailers. Of course, I'm a movie trailer addict, so it's an obvious crossover. I think the biggest mistake is that authors make their trailers too long.

Becky Doughty said...

Hi Sandra,

I attended the webinar, too, and learned so much from Thomas regarding my identity and how I present myself. Wow!

The book trailers seem to be the theme of your comments. I do watch book trailers and I will tell you, if they're badly done, I don't read the book. Period. If the trailer, the thing that the author is putting out there to represent their book, is sloppy and hokey, and that author is okay with it, my automatic assumption is that the book is most likely written in the same vein. Maybe that's not fair, considering that so many don't have the means to put together a good trailer, but I'd much rather see an eye-cam vlog of the author talking about the book, than a horribly home-made trailer with free stock images, or the family members dressed up in costumes, and synthesizers droning on in the background. Totally turns me off to a book, and essentially, an author.

But I'm not opinionated at all! GRIN.

Great points here - stuff to chew on as we turn the corner into a new year!