Sunday, March 7, 2010

1001 Ways to Market Your Books

The March theme for my blog is promotion, so we’re starting with this book. With a cover blurb from the authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books looks impressive and weighs about as much as my medical dictionary.

The edition I have was printed in 1998, but while the industry and communications in general have progressed a lot since then (my edition refers to “the new voice mail technology”), I decided to review this and see how the author, John Kremer, can help writers.

The Good

There is some useful advice here – for instance, Kremer offers tips on cover design and developing a strong backlist, but most of all on promotion, marketing and advertising. There are innumerable suggestions on these. Everything is backed up with anecdotes of the people who used that particular technique to sell books or become better-known, and there are plenty of statistics as well.

As a result, I wouldn’t call this book very user-friendly, even though the information is broken up into lists and categories. Perhaps the latest edition is more readable, though – maybe even entertaining. With this one, I felt as though I was getting a lot of information pushed at me very fast, and not all of it was relevant.

The Bad

Some of the tips are either unworkable or idiosyncratic: door-to-door selling, for instance, probably doesn’t work unless you’re in a Girl Scout uniform. I’m also not sure how effective it is to leave promotional information in laundromats and grocery stores, but I am sure that booksellers dislike reverse shoplifting.

When he travels, Greg Godek, author of 1001 Ways to be Romantic, places copies in hotel gift shops and other retail locations. He sneaks copies on the shelves and leaves them there.

And if they compete with or cover up books that the store has actually ordered… well, too bad for those authors, I suppose.

If the stores sell the one copy, he knows they’ll order more. (pg 150)

No, they won’t. Firstly, they couldn’t sell the one copy if it wasn’t in their database. Secondly, how does he know the staff don’t check the shelves and remove any material that they find is not appropriate or not ordered? He’s hardly the first author to try this trick.

Some of the examples given are also nonstandard for writers. What Epson did with their first dot matrix printer may not work for a romance novelist with her first novel. Other tips, such as giving seminars or being recommended by newspaper columnists, may be more effective for writers of nonfiction.

A few suggestions are so unworkable that it seems as though Kremer only included them to pad out the book – for instance, hiring blimps, renting out your email list or bribing your children until one of them comes up with a way to get you on a TV show. If you have enough money for blimps, bribes and skywriters, you could just hire publicists instead of leafing through the book.

Well, perhaps not sarcastic publicists.

Call 213-385-0209. That’s the advice that publicist Arielle Ford gives to authors who want to be on Oprah! That’s the Science of Mind prayer line. Some authors swear it works.

And some authors are relieved they found this book at Half Price. Other tactics would simply be difficult or inadvisable to replicate – for instance, the author of The Messengers, a story of angels and reincarnation, apparently “got a testimonial from the angels”. There was also some repetition of stories and advice, to the point where I felt I was sifting through a great deal of chaff to find the wheat.

Like it or not, your efforts as an author will largely determine your book’s failure or success.

Finally, I’m leery of this admonition because I’ve seen it used often as a reason why writers don’t succeed with self- or vanity publishing. There, the model itself can seriously limit a writer’s sales even if the writer works as hard as possible.

So in conclusion, there’s some useful advice in this book, but I can’t fully recommend it.


Maria Zannini said...

Books like these tend to flood you with "success" stories until you filter it out for what is also workable. That's when you discover there are more gimmicks involved than useful promotion.

Marian Perera said...

Flood, that's exactly what this book attempts to do. And I don't think the quality balances the quantity.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts on the topic as well, in a week's time. :)

Kirsten Lesko said...

Great review. Love the blimp. LOL! I never knew this book was out there & am always interested in checking out new marketing ideas. Thanks for the review!

Randall said...

How would you demonstrate that you had angels' testimonials? Just put quotes on the cover of the book, like any other reviewer?


"You can't make this stuff up!"--Zauriel

"I smote Satan with my copy. He fell like a bolt from Heaven." --Michael

Anonymous said...

Randall's comment just cracked me up. Good one! :)

I'm going to get blurbs from the Bronte Sisters and Poe. ;)

I'm glad you're doing this series of posts, Marian. Looking forward to reading them.

Marian Perera said...

Kirsten : Thanks for commenting! In the past I've looked out for promotional tactics that didn't work, but now that I have a book to sell I'm looking for promotional ideas which do.

Randall : LOL at Michael's recommendation!

Tasha : What about Mary Shelley? I'm sure she'd be interested in reviewing your work as well. :)