Monday, March 30, 2009

Publicity on Facebook: A Case Study

For some time, I've been contemplating how to let my 150 or so Facebook friends know about my book. I resisted letting them know the first day it came out on Amazon. They would have come to an Amazon page with no customer reviews, a publisher description that needed tweeking, and no way to "Search Inside" the book. But after two weeks, I had six nice reviews (all five-star) from people who had read my manuscript before publication and everything looked great to welcome all my Facebook friends. I was excited!

Here were some of my strategic thoughts going into it:

1) Put my announcement into the correct slot, so that it actually goes to all my friends (not just a select few, not just published on my Facebook page.)

2) Be personal and non-pushy. Facebook is a gathering of people I care for. Don't abuse that.

3) Time the announcement. I decided to do it on a weekend, when people are more likely to catch up with their Facebook friends. Otherwise, if I did it during the week and they checked their home page two days later, my announcement would likely be buried down on a secondary page and they'd never see it.

4) Let them know, in a few sentences, what the book's about, why they might be interested in getting a copy, and how they could get it.

Here's what I wrote (including the image):

FINALLY! My book’s off the press and available at Amazon! It’s called, Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It. Lots of documented research, but presented in a fun, story form. Nice gift for high school or college graduation. If you like it, pass it on to your other Facebook friends! (btw, my author name is J. Steve Miller)

The result? As of the end of the first day, I had two "Congratulations!" comments. Today, I find three more. But I don't see any sales from yesterday (I can track my daily Amazon sales through Booksurge). Not one.

Ruminations on my underwhelming Facebook publicity campaign?

1) Glad I did it. Hey, they're my friends and I want to share my excitement with them.
2) Yes, these are people I know and care about.
3) No, the book's not for everyone. Never expected all my friends to go buy a copy.
4) I'm unsure how many actually follow their Facebook homepage each day. Of 150 friends, I've got to wonder if 15 even saw my announcement.
5) Sales often come over time. Perhaps when they need to purchase a graduation gift, they'll think of it. If I get more response later, I'll update this report.

In the end, it's one less thing to worry about. I have plenty of ways to market this book. Now I can go back to concentrating on them. Facebook will continue to be a place where I keep up with my friends, rejoice with their successes and pray for their needs. It's not for hard "marketing" of my "products."

UPDATE: The following day, I got a few more personal responses. Now it's becoming more of a conversation item that will come up naturally as people interact. One will post a note on Facebook to say they're ordering the book, which may give an occasion for another to see the post, etc. With this new info, let's say that the announcement started a conversation that will continue. My book is a part of my life, and friends are interested in that aspect of my life.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Week Two: Sending Early Review Copies

Solomon said, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth." People believe what others say about my book more than what I say about my book. Thus, in order to "let another praise" my book, I've got to get it into the hands of potential praisers - preferably lots of them. According to book marketing guru John Kremer:

"Send out review copies. Send out lots of them. Send out more than you think you should. Hit every major newspaper and magazine which you think might be at all interested in the subject of your book. In most cases this means sending out somewhere between 300 and 500 review copies. Don't be stingy about sending out review copies."

But sending out free books costs me a lot of money. Can I really afford this? Kremer responds,

"For every hundred copies you send out, you'll get perhaps ten reviews. And those ten reviews will bring you anywhere from twenty to one hundred direct sales and many more indirect sales. Even at a conservative estimate, you'll receive 200 orders for every 100 copies you send out. That's cheap advertising.
" (1001 Ways to Market Your Books, p. 138)

Thinking economically, if Kremer's on target, then I'll pay about $4.50 plus shipping for each book sent for review. For each book sent, if I get two Amazon orders, I'll receive a check from Booksurge for $11.20. So, I receive a 100% increase on my investment. That pleasant thought takes the bite out of the initial expense.

Beyond sending lots of review copies, he recommends sending a news release, brochure, and reply card to less-than-prime reviewers. Send them copies only if they request them.

When do I send these out? Kremer recommends that most should be sent out during the first four months. That gives me time to see how the response is to the first group, and plan accordingly for the following mailouts.

Of course, although the initial sales generated by the reviews is encouraging and helps my bank account, what I'm shooting for is the sales that these early sales generate, as word of mouth takes over and people start blogging about the book and suggesting it to their employers for employee birthday and Christmas gifts. If it reaches a tipping point, where more sales bring even more sales, I've got a top seller.

So any day I'll receive my first shipment of 150 books. Here are some of my thoughts and action points:

1) Since I don't have to send them out all at once, prioritize those who require the earliest copies and those whose blurbs might carry the most weight with later reviewers.

If the MidWest Book Review calls my book "this year's best bet for a graduation gift," I can mention that review to get the attention of later reviewers.

2) Spend the time necessary to build a comprehensive list and narrow it down. At age 75, Warren Buffett was hunting for undervalued international stocks. First, he narrowed down the countries, then got a book the size of a large telephone book that listed the financial details of South Korean countries. (Additionally, he had to read up on how to understand the terms and symbols used in Korean accounting and company reports.) The result? One legal sized sheet of paper listing attractive Korean companies. (Alice Schroeder, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, pp. 813, 814) No wonder he's so successful. Who's as thorough as Buffett? In the end, his sifting of pan after pan of dirt yields gold and precious stones.

My narrowing down a list of magazines, newspapers, bloggers and radio shows is similar to Buffett's search for good companies. Books such as Ulrich's Periodicals Guide and Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media help me to find publications that want information on my book's topic. Technorati's search engine leads me to the blogs about my topic (click "Blogs" and "Blog Directory"), conveniently listed in order of "authority" (how many sites and blogs link to the blog).

So how do I choose and prioritize potential reviewers? Here are my thoughts:
  • Choose those who write about your topic. Don't just send it to "Ladies Home Journal." Send it to the columnist for LHJ who either reviews your type of book or writes about the topics covered in your book.
  • Choose those who are most highly respected. Some are popular among those who like fluff, but are scorned by virtually all the authorities in the field. If they've got a book, check out their reviews on Amazon.
  • Choose those who are widely read. If a syndicated columnist for a large newspaper frequently writes on your topic, there's your priority. Read her column; purchase and read her book. Recommend her book on your blog or site. Write her a nice e-mail applauding her book, telling how you recommend it to others, and asking if she'd be so kind as to consider your book. How do you know the circulation of a newspaper or magazine? Gale and Ulrich give you the numbers. Technorati lets you know how many people link to a site/blog, giving us an idea of how many people are paying attention to what they say.
  • Prioritize reviewers who need it now. People will be looking for graduation gifts in about six weeks. Since I think my book would make a good graduation gift, I'll prioritize those short-lead-time writers who might want something on this topic. Big-time reviewers (e.g., Mid-West Book Review) receive lots of books in April and May, due to publishers wanting reviews for their summer marketing. I'll hit them in March, or wait until June, to increase my odds.
  • Prioritize reviewers with whom I have a relationship. They may not be big-time, but if you get good reviews in local media, that can lead to reviews in bigger media. Starting local is a good way to build a platform.
  • Prioritize reviewers who share the views expressed in my book. Financial advisers promoting short-term trading and get rich quick schemes wouldn't recommend a book like mine that warns people to avoid people like them.
By the way, don't apply the stats above (two sales for every book sent for review) to every book. It's just a rule of thumb. Every book is unique, with some having more appeal to reviewers than others.

But let's say that you send out an initial batch and discover that your book's getting good reviews and sales based on those reviews. Then forget the rule of thumb to send out "300 to 500 review copies." If you find 1000 legitimate reviewers with decent followings, keep sending them out over the months. As long as you're making money and generating sales, keep at it!

Sure, it takes some time to find these publications and writers. But it sure beats having a book that nobody knows about. And it sure beats wasting time and money by blindly sending out copies to people who have no interest in your book, only to find them sold as used books on Amazon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Book's Not Selling!

If you're looking for a blog to tell you "My Sure-Fire Way to Get on Oprah," or "Fifty Ways to Guarantee Your Book's a Bestseller," try another blog. I'm simply detailing writing and marketing strategies as I implement them and will transparently tell you what's working and what's not.

Week One Review

So my book's been available on Amazon for eight days. The first day, one book sold. Over the next two days, three more sold. According to my research into Neuro-Economics, when we see something happen a couple of times, our mind jumps to the conclusion that a pattern has formed, and we expect the pattern to continue. And as we know in premarital counseling, if we fail to dispel unrealistic expectations, we set couples up for a disappointing let-down.

I think I experienced that letdown a bit after the third day. Nothing else has sold. I should have expected this. After all, my marketing plan involves

#1 - Getting early reviews from big-time reviewers (galleys sent to places like Booklist months ago; hoping to get reviews in two months).

#2 - Get my Amazon page and other Web pages tidied up to look enticing when people come.

#3 - Let all my Facebook friends and other friends know about it.

#4 - Get the word out to magazines, newspapers and other media.

#5 - Speak, sell in alternative markets, and slowly build a following.

So, why would I expect people to be purchasing books at this stage? I shouldn't be expecting any to sell. I haven't marketed it yet.

Sure, my book's in the world's largest bookstore. But I know a person whose book was available on Amazon for a year and never sold a copy. Typically, if you're not already an established author with people eagerly awaiting your next book, you've got to go out and sell books.

So why did my books sell for the first few days? My wife leaked out the word to some of her friends and they bought books. We know this explained a couple of the sales and assume it accounts for the other two.

Books don't sell themselves. The Chicken Soup guys put their first book in the trunks of their cars and marketed them. I'm on track for all this, but my first week's experience is a good, sobering reminder of the importance of getting the word out.

"But what about all those things you've done to fully utilize Amazon?" you might ask. Those things, like choosing tags and choosing search phrases, may pay off in a few weeks. I believe Google "dances" once a month to change rankings according to the new data that its "spiders" have gathered. Surely Amazon's searches work similarly.

My first box of books hasn't arrived yet. When it does...I'm ready to start!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Publicity Steps (Part 4)

Imagine that the largest bookstore chain has promised to carry your book. Now, imagine that the owner tells you that you can make changes in the way your book is displayed? What if you could convince the management to
  • show the front rather than the spine
  • place it in a special display rather than competing with other books on a long rack
  • bring up near the front of the store rather than leaving it on the back row.
Would you be interested?

Well, the world's largest bookstore,, gives authors many tools to influence their "position" in their store. Taking advantage of these tools can make the difference between your book being hidden in a corner and getting first class positioning.

We've already talked about such basics as putting up your book image and adding tags. Here are some more tools to put your book out front:

1) Start your Amazon Blog. You do this through Amazon Connect. You can either use the free blog they offer, or connect your blog to Amazon through an rss feed. Your blog entries will show up on your Amazon book page.

2) Tags for Amazon Search. Put in search suggestions (staff will have to approve them) to show Amazon that your book should come up when certain terms/phrases are searched. (Don't put in over 10 yourself. If you want more terms, enlist the help of others.)

3) Listmania. Recommend top books in your field, including your own book. You do recommend it, right?

4) Consider participating in the Amazon Upgrade program, by which customers who purchase your book on Amazon can choose to pay a bit more and access the book digitally (online). They can't download it, but they can search each page.

5) Participate in Amazon forums. (You should find some displayed at the bottom of your book page.)

Here's a general page on Amazon to help authors get started on maximizing their exposure on Amazon.

Follow Amazon's Rules

You don't want to be a pest, or get in trouble with Amazon. So follow their helpful rules for involvement in their communities. I think it's fine to put your name at the end of a comment on a forum and under it put, "Author of...." But beyond that, answer people's questions rather than advertise your product. Don't be obnoxious. Don't cut down your competition, use profanity, put in live links, etc.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Third Publicity Step After Getting Published

There are more ways to assimilate information than reading dead tree editions. Why not get your book out to people who prefer to listen to books in the cars or on their i-pods? Why not offer it to people who like to download books onto their computers or Kindles?

You've spent all that time researching and writing your book. Ultimately, your vision wasn't just to publish a traditional book. Your vision was to offer the world vital information or a compelling story. Think outside of your book!

Here's some information on one company that offers spoken books: .

Here's some information on Kindle, which currently offers about 1/4 million books.

As I keep learning options, I'll keep you informed.

Second Publicity Steps After Getting Published

#6. (continued from last blog) Add tags to your Amazon book page. As you scroll down, you'll find the section: "Tags Customers Associate With This Product." What's this all about?

Sometimes customers aren't looking for a specific book on Amazon. Instead, they're searching for a book on a specific topic. They might type "ways to make money" into Amazon's search. How does Amazon know what books to show these people? In part, Amazon considers the tags that people have recommended to describe the book.

So, you want to put up all the tags you can that legitimately describe your book. Of course, you can simply brainstorm what search terms and phrases people might use. But why not tag with the search terms that are most used in search engines to search for your topic? In other words, wouldn't it be useful to know that the phrase I mentioned above: "ways to make money" is searched 135,000 times a month in search engines?

It's quite simple to get this information. I talked about it in a past blog. Consult that and find the terms that most people are using to search for the information you provide in your book.

Next, go back to your Amazon book page. Under "Tags Customers Associate With This Product," you'll find "Your Tags" and a box to "add" tags. So go to it - put in the most searched terms.

Unfortunately, you'll find that Amazon limits the amount of tags you can add. No problem. If your spouse or children or friends have their own Amazon accounts (they've ordered at least one book through Amazon), bring them some milk and cookies or offer to baby sit. When they turn their heads, get on their computer, go to your Amazon book page, and add more tags.

More later. (Cookies are ready. I'm going next door to add more tags.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

First Publicity Steps After Getting Published

Today, my personal money management book, Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It went live on Amazon. Yippy!

What are my first acts of publicity? The coming blogs will detail my steps - a helpful reminder for my future books, as well as for other writers who are close to publication.

1. Upload your image on your Amazon page. Having published through BookSurge, the front cover image was already up. If yours isn't there, upload it. (See the links under the place for the image for instructions on how to do this.) A book with no image appears rinky dink.

2. Allow customers to "flip through" your book. Below the image is a link called "Publisher: learn how customers can search inside this book." Click on it and follow the instructions to allow searching. It took less than five minutes to request this service.

Why allow searching your book?

First, in brick and mortar bookstores, we find an interesting book, look at the cover, then the back cover, and finally flip through to get a feel for the book. Amazon gives customers the same experience online. Don't worry, they can't read the entire book there. They just get enough of a taste to decide if the book's for them.

Second, it helps people to discover your book when searching for the topic your book covers. Example: You've written a book about losing weight and have a chapter on using vitamins to enhance your weight loss. Yet, neither your title, subtitle, nor publisher review says anything about vitamins. If you allow Amazon to search your book, those searching Amazon for "weight loss and vitamins" just might be able to find your book, since those words in your book would be considered in a search.

3. Link all your sites and blogs and social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Delicious, etc.) to your Amazon page. Not only will people who visit your social networking sites find your book, but search engines such as Google (and, I assume, Amazon's own search engine) rank pages higher that have more incoming links. In this way, people searching for information that your book contains will find your Amazon page ranked higher than those pages with less incoming links.

4. E-mail all those people who were kind enough to preview your manuscript and give suggestions and blurbs. Thank them for giving their early input on your manuscript. Tell them that the book's now out and you want to confirm their address to send them a free, signed copy. Ask them, if they liked the book, would they be willing to write a review on Amazon. Copy the web address of your book on Amazon and put it in the e-mail so that they can click on it to find your book.

Getting these reviews is critical. As Solomon recommended three thousand years ago, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth." People believe what others say about your book more than what you say in your title, subtitle and publisher description. So before I start announcing my book to the world (radio, newspapers, magazine articles, etc.) I want to make sure that when each of these go to Amazon, they see many enthusiastic reviews.

They've already read your book. They told you they loved it. You're sending them a free copy. So now they'd love to help you out once more by writing a review.

5. As I mentioned in a past blog, in collaboration with my publicist, Stephanie Richards, I'm collecting the names of syndicated columnists and magazine editors and radio show hosts who might be interested in my book. Since I don't yet have copies in hand, I've been holding off for that step. More on that in my following blogs.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The New Era of Selling Books

Sixteen years ago, when Tyndale House published my first book, my big concerns included,
  • "Will bookstores order and continue to carry my books?" After all, bookstores can carry only a small portion of this year's new books, and a much, much smaller portion of books published in the past (the backlist).
  • "Will my book go out of print after the first printing?"
What if a publisher had told me, back in 1993, that they could assure me that my book would be ordered by the largest bookstore chain in the world, stocked in every one of their stores, would be reordered continually to make sure it stayed in stock, and would never go out of print?

First of all, I'd laugh at the outrageous claim. Then I'd demand proof. It would be a dream come true!

But isn't that what we have today with From what I read, it's selling more books than any of the other bookstore chains. The book I'm now publishing through BookSurge (a subsidiary of Amazon) is guaranteed to stay in stock through Amazon. Twenty years from now, heck, sixty years from now, it will still be on display at the world's largest bookstore.

The implications to authors are staggering.

But take it one step further. Back in 1993, my only hope for international distribution was to land agreements with distributors in other English-speaking countries, or land publishing contracts with foreign publishers. What if they told me, in 1993, that they could guarantee worldwide availability through a device that allowed anyone to download it immediately and pay via credit cards. Again, I would have laughed at the outrageous claim.

Yet, today, people can order my books globally through Amazon.

I'm simultaneously publishing my book in a Kindle format, making it available to Kindle owners. Yes, Kindle is taking hold. Princeton, Yale, Oxford, and UC Berkeley offer textbooks on Kindle. According to the Boston Herald, a full 10% of Amazon's revenues from book sales are digital sales for Kindles. Impressive.

It's a new era for selling books. Let's take advantage of it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book Marketing Research Tools (Part 1)

Getting Reviews an Offering Related Articles

How can authors and publishers trace down the appropriate magazines, newsletters, e-zines, etc. that are eager to spread the word about your books? If you want the comprehensive resource, go to Ulrich's Periodicals Directory. It contains close to 1/4 millions resources, categorized by subject so that you can find everything from an e-letter specializing in fish bait to a newsletter dedicated to people in wheelchairs.

How to Access Ulrich

You can probably search it digitally, free of charge, through your local public library or university. I've been using the print version in four volumes (large enough to put a bar through and do a decent set of bench presses.)

Here's how I'm mining gold with the print version:

1. Open volume one and flip to the one page "Subject Guide to Abstracting and Indexing" (in the Roman Numeral section before the 1,2,3 page numbering begins.)
2. Find a category that that might relate to your topic. Example for my personal finance theme: "Business and Economics." Write down the category and the associated page number.
3. Find that same category in the following "Subjects" section. In this section, you'll find subheadings under your chosen category. Example: "Investments." Write down all relevant subheadings.
4. Repeat #2 and #3 until you've found all your relevant categories and subheadings.
5. Look up each category on the page number indicated. You'll likely find hundreds of magazines, newsletters, etc.
6. Skim down the middle of the column to weed out resources from countries or languages of no interest to you. I decided to start with only the USA. I might come back at another time and search other English-speaking countries, since my book will be available globally with Kindle.
7. Write down whatever information you need. Although Ulrich's gives me contact names and phone numbers, I'll probably check these against each website anyway, so that I'm primarily writing down the name of the publication and the web address. I also write down any pertinent information about the publication (e.g., who it's targeting, how many subscribe) to help me prioritize who to seek out first.


Volume 4, as well as cross-referencing and indexing the subjects and titles, lists daily and weekly newspapers by city and state. Don't you think your hometown newspaper might be interested in your book?

How to Use These Contacts

I'll send some of these an early copy for review. Others, I'll e-mail or mail a flyer and book information to see if they're interested. If they don't respond, I may follow-up on to see if they received the information.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Marketing Tools For Cheap Writers

The Tools for Finding Your Market

Somewhere out there, your topic of expertise is being discussed in newsletters, e-zines, magazines, newspapers, radio shows and TV shows. Scads of people, hungry for new information on your topic, eagerly tune into these publications/broadcasts to learn more about your topic.

Wouldn't it be great if, rather than trying to drum up interest in your book among people who don't care, you could instead take your book to those who are looking for materials on your topic? How can authors/publishers introduce their books to the venues that are eagerly looking for their writings?

Directories are the GPS systems for book marketers, showing us where to find the niche writers and publications that want to freely expose their readership/viewership to our books.

How to Access These Tools

The three ways to access this information seem to be:

1) Ask your publisher or publicist to print off information for you. They're likely to have a paid subscription to online services that give the latest information in a searchable format. Typically, this would be a bit expensive for individual authors to access personally, without going through your publicist.

2) Go to a regional library or university. Small library may carry only very dated versions. I don't have time spend long hours researching this stuff at the library, since I care for my 103-year-old granny next door. I do my work in two-hour stretches.

3) Buy hard copies yourself. This way, you can pull them down during those 15-30 minute free moments (I get a lot done in 15 minute segments.) But who can afford to purchase these huge sets? This morning I found a better way.

Library Sales

My wife and I cherish our bi-yearly date to the Cobb County Library Sale. Since I have a book coming out this month, I was in a marketing mode. It didn't occur to me until I arrived that large libraries must replace their dated marketing directories each year. Sure, some are a year or two out of date, but I can always update the names, phone numbers and e-mail contact information by going to websites.

I was so excited with my success that I wanted a picture with my prize acquisitions. (If only books had antlers!) Here are some of the great reference books I got:

$1 per volume: Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media (2008, 5 vols.). The cost for a new one is over $1,000, or used at Amazon for $75 + shipping. ("the definitive media source," including newspapers, magazines, radio stations, TV stations, cable systems, names of key personnel, etc.

50 cents per volume: Literary Marketplace (2007, 2 Vols). Costs $300 new. Get it used on Amazon for $20 plus shipping. ("The directory of the book publishing industry." Includes publishers, literary agents, awards and prizes, calendar of events, books and magazines for the trade.)

$1 per volume: Ulrich's Periodicals Directory(2008, 5 Vols) Get it used on Amazon for $235 ("...the premier serials reference source in the world." Find over 200,000 magazines, e-zines, newspapers, newsletters, contact information, circulation, etc.)

So, I saved well over $1000 compared to new prices or or over $300 over the used ones. I got invaluable reference tools I'll use continually over the coming years for $11.

Next year, show up at the library sale!