Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Marketing and Social Media: "Go Where People Are Already Gathered"

This concept, found in a Ning book marketing discussion, caused me to question the conventional wisdom on both social networking and book signings. An author was relating what was working for her. Rather than trying to gather a bunch of people to talk to them about her books (like traditional book signings), she chose to talk to civic groups and other pre-existing meetings that already had followings and publicized their own events.

When I did a recent book signing, I had to publicize the event, e-mail folks, etc. About 10 people came and I sold several books. Perhaps more will sell since I left some at the place of business to try to sell. But that was a lot of time and effort to try to draw a crowd and sell a few books.
Yet, there are many civic organizations and universities that have budgets to bring in speakers. They'd probably pay me something and allow me to sell books in the back afterwards. They already have loyal attendees and they do all the publicity. They gather the crowd and I just show up to speak. That sounds like a great use of my time.

Applying "Go Where the Crowd is Already Gathered" to Web-Based Social Networking

This makes sense and perhaps has application to our use of social media to get the word out about our books.

It seems to me that since social media (and the experts I read) is a "social" thing, where there should be ongoing discussions between people, that any marketing strategy involving Twitter, Facebook and a personal blog would be a pretty time consuming task. I'd not only put out information regularly (perhaps daily?), but would additionally follow others who follow me (time reading) and occasionally comment on their comments. And over time, that may or may not pay off in sales.

In a timeless world, where I could continually add things to my schedule, trying to gather a following would be a no-brainer. It's another way to start conversations about my book, gain a following, etc. But in a time-limited world, I have to think of this versus other ways to get the word out.

Now this goes against the prevailing wisdom of some of the marketing people I read. Feel free to reply if you think my reasoning is off.

Applying This to Writing a Newsletter

According to most marketing gurus I read, we should prioritize collecting e-mail addresses and sending out a regular newsletter. I understand the benefits of this and believe that for an author who has both the time and the passion for it, this can be a good thing.

On the other hand, sending out a quality e-mail can take lots of time and effort. And the newsletter can't likely promote your book every issue, so will the number of resulting sales be worth the effort, if your primary reason for starting it is to sell books? (I publish two quarterly newsletters, but they're not primarily to market my books. If that were my sole intention, I probably wouldn't publish them.)

Applying the "go where the people are already gathered" principle to newsletters, consider contributing to other people's successful newsletters. I just sent a post on a successful networking experience I had to John Kremer, one of the most respected names in book publishing. No telling how many people receive his regular e-letter or follow his blog. But he's putting my article on his blog, linking to it from his newsletter, and putting a link back to my site. All these people will then know something about my book.

Book marketing gurus like Kremer, Poynter and Jud probably each have many, many more people than I could ever gather for a newsletter. By helping them with their newsletters, I expose all of their lists to my books. And what about all the newsletters out there that target family life, personal finances, etc. I could keep myself busy for a year getting publicity through just newsletters!

Applying This to Writing a Column

Some publicists recommend that I try writing a column for a newspaper on my topic. Hey, it gets me out there, helps build a following, and who knows, I just might get syndicated and appear in newspapers around the country!

But writing a great column takes loads of time. And with all the competition out there, what are the odds that I'd win out over all the MBA's in professional writing who are pushing to write the same column?

And even if I win at this game and write a popular column that's syndicated, I can't talk about my book very much, or I become irritating.

I got to thinking about this problem, so I visited the Amazon pages of books written by some of the most popular syndicated personal finance columnists in major newspapers. Their Amazon rankings were 328,000, 612,000 and 353,000. That compares to my Amazon ranking of 132,000! That means that I'm selling many more books than these popular columnists (at least on Amazon). Perhaps it's because I'm going to places that people are already gathered, and each time I go (unlike a financial columnist), I can talk about my book, or at least put it with my signature.

Applying this to social networking, one person on Ning said that she has Google Alerts set up to alert her when anybody's writing on her topic. She clicks through to the the articles or blogs or online newspapers, reads the articles, comments and adds to the discussion, then signs it with her name and a link to her book on Amazon. She said that whenever she does this, she notes an increase in sales. I tried it yesterday with two comments, one on a newspaper and one on a blog. The person replied to the blog, "Thanks for the comment. I look forward to reading your book." Hmmm...that was a pretty quick return. And I didn't irritate anyone. And I didn't have to wait a year to gather a following. And I didn't have to spend many, many hours writing unique, informative blogs.

This blogger was delighted that I commented on his blog. (Bloggers live for positive comments, assuring them know that people are actually reading their stuff.)

This applies the "go where people are already gathered" concept to social media. Rather than spending my days trying to attract a Twitter and Blog and Facebook following that may or may not be interested in my book, a strategy that just might annoy my "friends" if I keep bringing up my book, why not simply go to the blogs and online media outlets that are already discussing my topic and join in the discussion? I get links back from many significant sites. And for the ones that don't allow links back (like many major newspapers), just sign it with your name and the name of the book.

So, regarding social networking, I'm concentrating on "going where the people are already gathered" rather than "trying to gather people". In a timeless world, I could do both. But the tick-tick of my wall clock reminds me that each second has a period after it. I've got to concentrate my limited time on the most likely payoffs.

Your thoughts?


  1. Steve this blog and all the posts have been the best compilation of Book Marketing advice I have ever read...really Like you I have been reading everything i can find about Book marketing, new marketing, social media marketing... and this put it all together for me.thanks for your hard work!!!!
    Lisa M. Russell

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Lisa! I've really enjoyed the marketing process and intend on eventually publishing a book on it.

    Did I give you my book marketing notes from Georgia Writers that links to many of these blogs? If not, you may want to check it out as well here: