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Write and publish with love and fury.

Review: The highs and lows of a book promotion campaign. What works?

Suspense, parables, inspiration, surprise.

Last week I wrote about my campaign to drag Self-help for Stoners into the world’s consciousness. If you’re new to the blog, long story short: I wrote a book of suspenseful fiction with a self-help twist dedicated to director Kevin Smith. When I had the honour of handing the book to my DIY hero at a comedy event simulcast to theatres across the US and Canada, I felt I had to take advantage of this unique opportunity. I tried an experiment with a press release distribution service called PR Web. For more on that review of the troubles I had getting the press release accepted for wide distribution, check out the original post here. 

Soon after the press release went into wide distribution, I got a small increase in traffic, but not, it seemed, in the way I’d hoped. 

The Dangerous Kind

Murder might solve your problems. Two brothers go hunting. Only one will see home again.

A fellow on Google+ was complimentary to me (I have balls!) but thought the money ($240) was wasted. He wasn’t being unkind…at least I don’t think he meant to be. He just thought there were better uses of my time and newer, more innovative ways to spread the word about my book’s existence. I’m always interested in learning more and I’m particularly interested when people have ideas about what to do instead of what not to do. (More on that in another post after I conduct more field research.)

Imagine my chagrin when I read a post by Dead Wesley Smith who decreed that spending money on book promotion is a waste of time and money until you have 50 books for sale. That’s right. Fifty! I double-checked to make sure it wasn’t the cloying cloud of depression and stress headaches obscuring my vision misleading me. Kurt Vonnegut only wrote fourteen novels in his lifetime. If Dean Wesley Smith is right, is there any place for book promotion for most of us? Maybe I struck the iron too early, but given the scope of the simulcast, my press release appeared to be a now-or-never opportunity.

My speed of production isn’t near as quick as Dean Wesley Smith, but how many of us can write (good) books that fast? Maybe I should write faster, but even at once every three months, I wouldn’t be gambling a promotional penny to let the world know I exist until 2024. Will I even live long enough to ever have to bother with book promotion at that rate? Hm. That would be a great solution except for  the part about me being dead. I do agree with Dean on one point thoroughly and I’ve said it many times myself: your best book promotion idea is to get to work on the next book and I’m certainly doing that. I’ll be coming out with three books this year (so that’s one every four months, though I confess that two and half are already written and I’m mostly in the revision stage.) I’m not as skilled as Dean Wesley Smith because I’m not up to the pace he’s setting. I honestly wouldn’t have confidence in the end product if I pushed that fast. No worries or apologies on that score. We’re all just doing the best we can. (For more on what indie production actually costs, check out Dean Wesley Smith’s post here.)

But what you’re wondering is, what did the PR Web press release actually do and could that work for your book? It’s too early to tell, so once again, my results are

Don't argue over parking spots with strangers. Or else.

preliminary. The cycle of Google analytics is 28 days long, and what follows is just the first week of results. (However, isn’t it already old news now that the event is over a week stale?) I can tell you that PR Web’s marketing guy sounded very pleased. He phoned me yesterday morning to say that I’d worked the SEO right (five links maximum was how it worked out with my word count) and he said the response to the press release was “great.”

“How do I quantify ‘great’?” I asked. I’m sure I whacked him with a heavy note of skepticism but he seemed no less bouncy at my glorious prospects. He told me how to get the analytics for the press release. Apparently, the number of people who read the release, liked the headline and read to the end of the article was impressive, perhaps even unusual. Nice, though I wish I liked the press release more. (For more on that, once again, refer to the original post.)

8,027 media deliveries boiled down to 49 “interactions” (where a link was clicked or a pdf was downloaded) and eight “pickups”. The report contains a sample of Web sites that picked up or syndicated my story. It’s apparently not the full list, but media outlets included: Hollywood Industry, Mac DVD Pro, Digital Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Corporate Media News, Yahoo! News, and Consumer Electronics Net.

But these aren’t the numbers you really want to know. Has this press release helped sales? Sadly, not much so far that is measurable. I saw a bit of a bounce up on my Amazon sales, but that settled quickly. And the truth is, since I’m doing several other things, I could easily attribute that blip to the success of other marketing tactics. But before I draw conclusions in this review, see if you can follow the roller coaster of author thrust and bureaucratic parry that has brought me to my sad current state.

Here are the highs and lows and forays

of my marketing campaign for Self-help for Stoners:

High: I sent out several press releases about meeting Kevin Smith to CBC shows and to my local paper. These forays cost me nothing.

Low: CBC didn’t call back. The local columnist who showed enthusiasm seems to have lost my number. Or he’s sick and not at work. Gee, I hope he’s sick.

What if God gives you what you want? What if you win an argument against God?

High: Kevin Smith has a cult and for a shining moment I was in front of them. I paid $200 for a one-minute ad to run on Smith’s Smodcast network the day he got back on the mic. I figured since he hadn’t been on the mic for such a long time, the first day he got back on the show would have high ratings and many downloads. And maybe they’d remember said shining moment from the broadcast of the Live from Behind Show in Toronto.

Low: The ad didn’t run on schedule. There was a communication breakdown. Despite my best efforts at keeping in touch with the ad guy at Smod, it didn’t happen. It’s supposed to run today (February 14th on Smodcast Internet Radio. I’m sacrificing a goat to Thor, hoping it happens this time. Don’t worry about the goat. He’s suicidal.)

High: I did two podcasts about my Kevin Smith experience, before and after. They’ve been well-received by those who have heard them. “One and a quarter hours of narrative gold,” said one, Thor bless him. Bliss. (See all the podcasts here.)

Low: Though they may catch on in the long term, not many people have actually heard them! I screwed up the metadata so, on Stitcher, the first words that show up in the tiny window that give the podcast summary are not Chazz Meets Kevin Smith and Jay Mewes. Instead it reads: Show notes and podcast details… That won’t get anybody new to check out my filthy jokes and stream of consciousness trips in order to find me utterly delightful and worthy of their love and bucks.

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

High: I thought KDP Select might be my salvation to really get things going. Amazon told me all I’d have to do was tell Bookbaby to withdraw from all other platforms to meet the exclusivity caveat. Any other action might risk duplication on Amazon’s site.

Low: BookBaby disagrees. I got a nice email (eventually—BookBaby seems awfully slow to respond to me of late) saying that they would have to withdraw the books from all channels, it would be permanent, and I’d have to enter my books into KDP Select myself. With no confidence in how long that might take, I don’t want to risk not having any books for sale anywhere, especially with all the promotion work I’ve done. I replied to BookBaby that rather than risk a screw up and no availability of my books for an indeterminate amount of time, I’d keep my books where they were through BookBaby and just get the new books straight into KDP Select without them next time. That’s a loss all around, I’d say, but I’m the one who will feel it most.

There are a lot of tragic starts and stops to this tale, aren’t there?

The word “thwarted” is pushing into the centre of my brain like the capricious thumb of an angry god.

High: I tried to organize a Buy X Get Y promotion for my book on Amazon.

Low: Amazon Advantage said they couldn’t do it because fulfilment for my paperback is through CreateSpace, which is POD and they’d need stock on hand. After a light scolding, they told me to go to CreateSpace for a similar promotion program.

Asia_Unbound

Are we ever free from our secrets? Find out here.

Lower: CreateSpace said they’d call back. Then they sent me an email instead saying they have no idea what Amazon is talking about. (Note that CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, too, but never the twain shall meet, I guess, even if the plan would have made a buttload of money.) Once again, Chazz hurts moms. So much so, he begins to write about himself in the third person. With loathing,

Lowest: As I write this, I’m feeling a bit emotional and teary. The sum of the message so far is: Nobody knows me, I don’t matter and as good as the book is, it still doesn’t matter if I can’t convince anyone to try it out. And a fresh pile of bills arrived yesterday. There isn’t an author on earth who hasn’t felt this way, yet the lash feels equally new for every person every time.

Clawing and climbing out of the mire: So there are a few things I am doing which I’m more positive about. Writing and revising the new stuff is going well. (Three new novels this year! Whoo, and also hoo!) The Writing World will run an interview with me in early March. My friend Eden Baylee will also run a saucy little interview with me soon. I’ve sent out a couple more copies for book reviewers and will continue to seek out reviewers for all my books. The Self-help for Stoners podcast continues weekly and I had a clip broadcast on Succotash, a popular comedy clip show. I think I’ll have an excerpt from Self-help appear on the next The Word Count Podcast, in support of #IndiesUnite4Joshua (fun and a great cause.) I’m also getting quite a few nice mentions on other podcasts, like Logical Weightloss and The School of Podcasting.

But wait, Chazz! How do you account for that blip where sales came up a bit? It could be my promise on my podcast to gain converts individually by tying each new reader up and torturing them with sexual delights to gain converts. It could be that some new people I met lately have checked out my books or some found me through the Kevin Smith event when I was on

Get Vengeance and get surprised.

camera. Maybe the press release had some effect, but I tend to doubt it, at least until more evidence arrives through Google analytics.

So what have we learned about promoting our books? So far? We need more data.

I’d say I’ve learned this much:

1. Triberr has helped me get more new traffic to my blogs than anything else. I can see that clearly in my stats and my Twitter feed.

2. I have to find more innovative ways to get the word out. I’m working on that. (More later.)

3. I have to get more reviews. I have had excellent feedback on much of my work, but even when people are enthused, it doesn’t necessarily translate to reviews. I am soliciting reviews as my writing schedule allows.

4. I have to remember how much I believe in my books, because in the beginning, no matter who you are and no matter your experience, you’re just another schmo until you’re discovered. After you’ve made it, you’re a genius. Until then? Schmo. The writing awards and all the experience don’t matter. Yet.

Most important?

Did I mention I have more books coming out?

That will be what counts more than anything.

I have to provide a larger target for my readership to find me. 

My people are out there. I will find them. They will find me.

UPDATE: In keeping with the theme of getting thwarted, the Smashwords website is down at the moment, so the links from the short story covers are directed back to the author site until Smashwords is back up. The links in the The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun & profit) covers work fine. You can still get everything I write across most digital book platforms, of course, (i.e. search Kobo and there they are) but as long as Smashwords is down, you can’t grab the short stories directly from that site. I will update as soon as the Smashwords server is back up. It’s all very…consistent with today’s theme, isn’t it?

LATEST UPDATE: SMASHWORDS IS NOW BACK ONLINE AND THE SHORT STORY COVERS NOW LINK BACK TO THAT SITE. Find out more about these short stories here.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit), the novella The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and several suspenseful short stories with gut-punch endings, available at Smashwords. He’s in suspense, figuratively and literally and his comedy podcast, Self-help for Stoners, airs each Friday on Stitcher and iTunes. Visit the author site, AllThatChazz.com,  for updates on Chazz’s fiction and to download the podcast.

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Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rejection, reviews, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses

  1. First of all, I have to say I love your blogs…your humor rocks.

    Secondly, yes I agree that prolific = lucrative.

    Thirdly, exciting near-misses suck. Talisman, the colorful canine character in my RED HOT novel series, has an Ellen crush. I blogged about it. Twitter picked it up. Ellen started following me on Twitter. Her people requested a copy of RED HOT PROPERTY. Um, that was over a year ago and nary another word. Very high. Very low.

    Oh, and then there was the TV mini-series that the William Morris Agency put together for my novel WITCH HUNT…an event that never manifested. Very high. Very low.

    I don’t think the answer is being with a major publishing house: I’ve sold way more books on my own than I ever did when I was with Simon & Schuster.

    Best I can figure, the answer is to write often, write brilliantly, promote your ass off, and find your audience.

    Just MHO!

  2. Chazz says:

    Thanks, Devin! Nice to know I’m not alone. Forehead’s a bit bloody on this brick wall this morning.

  3. roguetiger1 says:

    It seems that your press release was about as successful as it potentially could be…at least people read it and some picked it up. But that it didn’t translate to sales is unfortunate. My client and I are going to take a crack it after a cover redesign and I’ll let you know if we stumble onto anything good.

    I vehemently disagree with whoever told you it’s a waste of time to promote yourself. That’s jaded and misguided. No one will ever find you if you don’t! You can throw a 100 books out there but who’ll care or notice? Rather, accept that it is a slow hard grind until you catch a big break. And keep swinging for the fences because eventually you’ll crack one. I think you’re on the right track focusing on book reviews and interviews.

    I admire your marketing savvy, especially how you’ve integrated podcasts and connected your book to Kevin Smith. You have blazed dozens of digital trails that all lead back to your book. Keep feeding the machine with content and it’ll pay off eventually. That’s the game. The worst thing would be to hit your home run and have nothing out there for the curious to find.

  4. Chazz says:

    Thanks for your kind words! I still have a few more promotional tricks up my sleeve for this book. We’ll see how that works out and I’ll report back.

    The Smod ad ran but at the end of the show (after a mix up.) They’re trying to remedy that since the drop off in listenership to podcasts soars that deep into any show. (Yet another high and low! Ack!)

    I’ve had a bit of bad luck in that it didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped and, as you can see from the post, it’s amazing how many bureaucratic obstacles can stand in the way of progress. WIthin the sacred bunker of Ex Parte Press, I don’t see what I could have done differently. Out in the world, I encountered a lot of NMJ, Not My Jobism.

    The press release distribution company contacted me today saying now would be a good time for my next press release. They made it so difficult to get wide distribution the first time, I have no idea what I would do that would satisfy them. If you hear about a series of grisly mime murders across the midwest, that’s probably me working up a newsy item for a press release.

    Perhaps you’re right and the benefits of what I’ve done recently will be seen in the long term. I hope so, but the main thing is, today I’m writing and revising because, like most authors, I can do naught else.

    Thanks again for reading.

  5. […] good review or maybe it will languish unread for months. Shrug. You might as well enjoy the moment. Last week I detailed my many forays into press releases and book marketing to find what worked. Nothing really did. Yet. (And that local newspaper columnist still hasn’t called about […]

  6. Reena Jacobs says:

    The world of publishing can be a very discouraging place. “Don’t give up” is the common advice writers give to other writers. These days, my mentality and advice is “change your attitude.”

    When I decided to try my hand at becoming published, I thought the process was: write a book, find an entity to publish it, see it on the shelves, get paid big. 🙂 Yes. I was that naive. So when that didn’t happen, boy was a bummed.

    Then I tried self-publishing. Others were pulling in the money. How hard could it be? It didn’t take me long to realize reeling in sales is a bit more complicated than just sticking a piece of work on the market.

    These days, I’ve started to look at publishing as a paying hobby rather than a career. I’ve removed quite a few of my eggs from the publishing basket to focus on other areas in my life. Royalties become nice to have extra income rather than disappointments.

    I love the idea that every work I publish becomes a perpetual source of income… a legacy I can leave to my family.

    Would I like to earn more with my pieces? Of course. Who wouldn’t? 🙂 But I’m also not going to let royalties following around like a storm cloud directly overhead. When I have a good run, I cheer. My royalties are small, but they’re enough to pay for some continuing education courses I’m taking. When I have a dip in sales (haha not that my royalties have much room to dip), I shrug. After all, it’s extra money from an activity I’m doing anyway.

    As for advertising, I really haven’t found the benefit of spending money on it. I don’t have the funds to do the type of advertising the large traditional publishers have. Throwing a little bit of money at marketing isn’t effective, in my opinion. Either go big or not at all. Otherwise it’s just money wasted.

  7. […] Review: The highs and lows of a book promotion campaign. What works? (chazzwrites.com) […]

  8. […] Review: The highs and lows of a book promotion campaign. What works? (chazzwrites.com) […]

  9. […] Review: The highs and lows of a book promotion campaign. What works? (chazzwrites.com) Please spread the word:TwitterFacebookPinterestEmailPrintStumbleUponDiggTumblrRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  10. […] Review: The highs and lows of a book promotion campaign. What works? (chazzwrites.com) […]

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