Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Marketing Pitfalls

Moonlight Mesa Associates is no different than any other small publishing house - or from any invested self-publisher for that matter. "Everyone can get a book published nowadays," says Moonlight Mesa publisher Becky Coffield. "Selling the dang things is where ALL the work is."

As Coffield sees it, there are three main ways to get a book into the public's eye: advertising, social media, word of mouth. Of course these three methods can overlap, but generally these are the three broad categories publishers and authors alike tend to use to promote their titles. The question is, which category is the most effective at selling books. "One must take into account time and money in this matter," Coffield added.

Essentially, there is no magic key to unlocking the marketing conundrum. Social media has been a  hugely popular avenue for many authors trying to recruit readers, especially self-published authors. How effective is social media? "That's hard to say," Coffield said. "I know that many FBers think that using social media to push merchandise is extremely annoying. I suspect more people become turned off by the self-promotion than become interested. One of the reasons we quit participating in FB was because of the continuous self-promotion by (usually) amateur authors."

"I don't really see Twitter as being a very effective marketing tool for authors either. I'm sure both FB and Twitter are helpful to some people, but overall the time invested in tweeting and FBing can be enormous. Might there not be better, more fruitful ways to promote a book? I think so."

If the publisher doesn't like social media, how about advertising in other venues? "Advertising has potential, but it is very expensive, especially in today's print magazines. We have seriously advertised different titles for three or more months and not sold one book due to the ad. That's exasperating and a complete waste of money. We've yet to try online advertising. I'm a bit gun shy after our experience with print, to be honest." The publisher went on to add, "I know that big publishing houses use advertising extensively, so it must be profitable for them. I think they have much deeper pockets, though, than small houses like ours."

Obviously, if the publisher doesn't care for social media or print advertising, that leaves only one option: word of mouth. "I believe word of mouth is the most cost effective way to promote books, especially for small publishing houses and self-publishers. It's time consuming, no doubt, but it generally isn't very expensive, and results can be seen right away. Can people use word of mouth on FB? Sure, but they need to not be so damn pushy and annoying about it."

"I know for a fact that Jere D. James, author of the popular Jake Silver Adventure Series,  has a large following because of word of mouth. James has been at many signings and has spoken at several appearances. It has paid off. Does James tweet or FB? The author doesn't FB at all after a brief stint at it but  does tweet on very rare occasions," Coffield said. "James does not maintain a website, blog, or do any of the things I've asked. But the Jake Silver books keep us in business, so what can I say?"

Rusty Richards is another of our authors who has sold literally thousands of copies of his biography, Casey Tibbs - Born to Ride. "While we did run one semi-successful magazine ad for the book, by far the vast majority of Rusty's sales have stemmed from his public appearances and word of mouth among many rodeo fans," the publisher said.

Lee Anderson, author of Developing the Art of Equine Communication, is another author whose public appearances generate book sales. The same is true for J.R. Sanders, author of the newly released historical western, Some Gave All.

Then, there are some books that simply sell themselves with no advertising or promotional effort on the part of the author or publisher. "These books are gems!" Coffield said. "Getting a Handle on Herpes is probably one of our best-selling books. We've not put a penny into advertising."

There are also books that seem almost timeless. Life Was A Cabaret - A Tale of Two Fools, A Boat, and a Big-A** Ocean is one of those. I did a lot of presentations when the book first came out, but I haven't done any in years, yet the book still sells," the publisher said. "I suppose as long as there are sailors, the book will appeal to some of them."

Sometimes it seems word of mouth gets off to a slow start, but authors should not get too discouraged, according to the publisher. "I think if people keep plugging away, they'll see some results, I truly do. But it takes persistence, determination, and a belief in yourself," Coffield said. "Most authors give up too easily. Selling books is damn hard work."

Do reviews help? "Sometimes. It depends on who is doing the review. If the review is on Amazon, not so much. If the review is by the NY Times, probably so. Fake reviews are easy to spot. Don't do it. You'll lose credibility, and that's hard to earn back," Coffield said. "Winning an award can be helpful, but it's certainly no guarantee of overnight success."

Coffield has spoken extensively to writing groups
about book promotion and will be offering an ebook on the subject later this fall.

Renee Witty

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