Monday, 20 January 2014

What Works Online Marketing Symposium

Today I'm taking part in the What Works Online Marketing Symposium hosted by Arlee Bird, Yolanda Renee, Jeremy Hawkins, and Alex J. Cavanaugh. 



In their words, 'Do you ever wonder why some books become bestsellers while others can barely be given away? Why some businesses succeed and others fail? How does a blog post or a YouTube video manage to go viral? Is it a matter of luck or is there some magic formula for success?' 

Those taking part in the symposium are going to tell about a marketing idea that they used and what worked or didn't work. It could describe a campaign that succeeded in a big or small way or one that failed drastically. Anything that involved promotion!


I'm going to share my experience of releasing two books in very different ways.


The Good

In March 2013 I released my first self-published book, Passing Time: Nine Short Tales of the Strange and Macabre. I knew for my first release I wanted to make a big splash - I wanted it to be everywhere. Over 20 blogging friend helped me with the cover reveal. Several bloggers also helped with the release day, and ten helped with a two-week blog tour. I ran a competition for those who commented. As I wanted to keep costs to a minimum, I organised all of this myself. It was a lot of work. I had to be meticulous with dates and what I'd sent to whom and when.

The result was that on Passing Time's release day, and over the next two weeks, it was high up the Amazon rankings. For a few days it sat alongside a Stephen King short story collection. Taking part in a blog tour over two weeks kept it in the spotlight. By the end of the first month of publication I'd sold over 83 copies and received three great reviews. For me, it was a resounding success. 


The Not-so-good

My second release, Taking Time and Other Science Fiction Stories, was a different story. Despite personal issues that were physically and emotionally draining, I was determined to push ahead with my second release in July as planned. So, I went for a soft release option. A small cover reveal and release day announcement. No blog tour. 

The result was that while Taking Time did briefly making the Top 100 Science Fiction list, it dropped out within a day. The sales weren't there. At the time, I didn't care. I'd suffered a devastating bereavement on the very day it was published. However, several of my blogging friends stepped up and helped get the news out there despite me not being around. For that, I'm eternally grateful. 

In hindsight, I should have pushed back the release.


What did I learn?

Never release a book when you are under extreme emotional and physical stress. You might think you can find the time needed you promote your book. You won't.

Cover reveals, release day blitzes, and blog tours work.

If you can afford it, hire a professional book tour host to organize your promotion activities. Organizing and running blog tours takes a lot of time. And in comparison to other types of promotion, this is not an expensive option.

The longer the blog tour, the greater the book exposure. But don't over do it. One stop per day.

Keep your posts short and to the point.

Make sure each blog tour stop has unique content. Only repeat the book and contact information.

For one-week or two-week tours, blog Monday to Friday. Avoid the weekend and bank holidays, when web traffic is low.

For longer blog tours, visit a maximum of three blogs per week to avoid burn-out.

Don't forget your long-term blogging friends. Let them know about your release plans as far in advance as possible.

Run a giveaway with daily and/or weekly prizes. Be inventive with what you offer - book vouchers and swag are popular.

Always visit those generous enough to give you space on their blog. Make sure you respond to comments.

Finally, thank the hosts personally.


So, those were my experiences and what I've learned as a result. What about you?

Don't forget to call back on Wednesday, when this week's Speculative Fiction Writer is Fireseed One author, Catherine Stine.

37 comments:

  1. I agree with all of your blog tour tips! Yes, one stop a day and make each one unique. Seeing the same thing over and over will only make people NOT want your book.
    Sorry for your loss during the second book's release, Ellie.

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    1. You're spot on there, Alex. Thank you also for your kind words. Much appreciated.

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  2. Good tips, Ellie. I'm now jealous of indies who can set their own release date and price...especially price.

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    1. Self-publishing is a huge challenge, but one of the perks is total control. Although being in control doesn't necessarily make the decisions you make right, as I proved.

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  3. Great advice- especially the part about the different content-thanks for sharing!

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  4. You have been dealing with some tough things.. the fact you kept moving forward makes you a winner in my book and that book doesn't have many names in it, so you are amongst some really strong people...

    Jeremy H.

    There's no earthly way of knowing.
    Which direction we are going!
    [Being-Retro]

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    1. Aw. Thank you, Jeremy. You always say the nicest things and manage to cheer me up.

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  5. I keep hearing again and again that early planning is so key. That's one thing I wish I could have changed about one of my releases. I waited until post-release to contact review sites, largely because of problems getting the cover finished. Many of them who said yes never reviewed or took 8+ months to do it. I now wish I'd pushed back the date. Alas, live and learn.

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    1. It's interesting that writers who have traditional publishing contracts tend to release one novel every one to two years. Yet all I hear from my readers and friends is when's the next one out? I think we're under greater pressure to release more often and that can affect the quality of what we publish.

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  6. I had to push back the release of my book from the holidays to March. Its much better that I did. I think it would have been lost in the busyness of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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    1. I agree, Stephen. Late November through to early January is the wrong time to release. For most people, December passes in a blur!

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  7. You're so right. Do not push that release until you're able to attend to it and can sustain the pressure of time and commitment. Glad you posted this.

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  8. All good advice. Yes, one needs tons of stamina to push through a long tour.

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  9. Great advice, Ellie. I actually bookmarked this post so I can use it later. THANKS!!! :)

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  10. Great thoughts, Ellie. And I agree, blog tours are extremely effective when done right, but they are a TON of work to do right. That's the price we pay, right?

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  11. thanks for these tips; my first book is coming out soon and I'm taking notes!

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  12. Great advice, especially about making sure you have the time and upbeat energy to take a tour.

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  13. Very, very good advise. Orchestrating a blog tour can be a big effort it seems, but worthwhile.

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, with Joy)

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  14. I'm so sorry you had to go through that heartache during your second release.

    It's good to know that all the work of a blog tour is worth it -- I could so easily talk myself out of doing one for the next book, but this gives me the kick in the bum I'll need when the time comes.

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  15. I've set up my own blog tour. It started the day of my release on KDP (in November) and will go to April (one month after my World Wide Release). I do about 3-4 stops a week. It is very important to reply to comments, I can't say that enough! And it is common courtesy to thank the host too after all they have done.

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  16. Excellent advice. I learned the hard way to only have one host on a tour a day. I just burned out!

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  17. Thank you for sharing that - it's great information, but that being said. I'm sorry for your loss. It is a big commitment and with that kind a emotional hit, you're right - step back. Thank you again for participating. All this is good advice and insight that will help someone else. Awesome! Wishing you all the best with your goals!

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  18. Great advice. I've had blog tours, but only a few. You've touched on really important points here. Taking note of 'em. Thanks!
    The Musings of a Hopeful and Pecunious Wordsmith

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  19. You did have it tough last year. You did amazingly well in the circumstances.

    I like all of your points. My release tour for NIMUE was exhausting, but it went to number 2. The cover had 22,000 views in four days. I'll be doing exactly the same in June for my next release.

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  20. This is spectacular advice. You're aware I released my novella yesterday and I'm not doing a blog tour. I am one of those people who can't--no matter the consequences--bring myself to ask people for help. I do have a handful of close blogging friends who volunteered so I am very lucky. I'm also a long-time member of a very large writing forum and sold a high volume of copies on my release day. I'm grateful and lucky!

    Thanks for this. You and Alex both pointed out the massive benefits of a blog tour, which gives me a push and a little more courage to ask around when I release my second novella later this year.

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  21. Very thoughtful and encouraging advice; since it comes from personal experience, all the better. I agree, if you need to push back the date, don't hesitate to do so.

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  22. Yeah, releases are so taxing! It was tough being pregnant while I was preparing for the release of The Charge. I think it will be easier the second time around. Although I'm not happy that your second release didn't go as well, at least you know that all the work you did the first time did make a difference!

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  23. All good advice. It is a lot of work doing this stuff isn't it? Engaging a professional is a very tempting option...

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