Promotion: the act of furthering the growth or development of something; especially: the furtherance of the acceptance and sale of merchandise through advertising, publicity, or discounting
Advertising: the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements
Publicity: a: an act or device designed to attract public interest; specifically: information with news value issued as a means of gaining public attention or support
b: the dissemination of information or promotional material
c: paid advertising
As an author it is imperative that you do something. If you do a combination of either of the latter two, you are automatically doing the first. It simply isn’t feasible or sane to think you can sell books without doing something, whether you pay for it or not.
The question is, when do you do what? I have some strong opinions on this and you can take them or leave them.
I am not a huge fan of advertising on the whole, but there are situations when I think you can get some value from paying to be seen. Newspapers/Magazines, not so much. Readers/consumers have become desensitized to advertising, so a general ad to sell books in a newspaper/magazine is useless because you are competing with beer, bras, boats, cars, houses, politicians, etc. Those are the things people expect to see and notice in the newspapers/magazines. Books probably don’t even garner a glance.
If you want to make an ad pay off for you, then make certain you focus on your specific market. The point in question today is, what is the benefit of advertising in a conference/convention program/newsletter? The answer is targeted marketing.
The people (consumers) who see the ad in a con program are at the con because they read/write/love books. It is simple. They will go through that program page by page to see what is in it and what they can do or get from that con. They want to get the biggest bang for their buck, just like us. Do you have to be at the con to benefit? No way. Sometime better if you are not. It takes the pressure off the consumer if they can’t buy right now. They don’t have to deal with the guilt.
As a rule, when I go to a con I use that program the entire time I am there. That means I open and close and peruse that thing a gazillion times over the course of 3 or 4 days. Each time I open it, I see the things printed in it, including the ads. Have I ever bought anything from a program ad? You bet. I have found books in a few by authors I never would have heard of had I not seen them and their books in the program.
How much is too much? This ad that brought up this question is costing each author $80.00. The ad will be seen by a minimum of 200 people, people who are actually looking. You figure that each of them may see the ad 3 times. This makes your price per view (600 views) .13333333 (and so on). To me, that is not bad. If you did a Facebook ad, you might be looking as high as .50 per view with no guaranteed views. Ads can be very expensive. Want to see if your heart is still beating? Check out the ad rates for Publishers Weekly. I’ve seen ad rates for con programs go as high as $1200 for a business card sized ad. I’ve seen higher, but my eye twitches to think about it.
I don’t do a lot of program ads, but I very carefully select the ones I do. The key is trial and error. Nothing happens overnight. If you are expecting to put an ad anywhere and see immediate results, then you are insane. I mean seriously insane.
Now, a quick note about publicity. This is generally free. How do you get publicity? You make news. What kind of news? Whatever kind you can. I have been criticized for saying this in the past, but go out and do something to make you look good. Self-serving? Hell yes, but it also serves a purpose. Here are some potential Press Release headers that might give you ideas.
*Local Author Serves Christmas Dinner to the Homeless*
*Teen Author Runs Half Marathon to Benefit Blood Cancer Research*
*Local Author Gives Writer Workshop at Local Middle School*
*Local Author Gives Free Writing Workshop at Local Library*
*Local Author Walks to Benefit American Heart Association*
Get the point? Sure, you may be doing those things just to get publicity, but this is a two-sided coin. Anything you do in your community (or any community) to get publicity probably also has a benefit to the community. I honestly believe it is okay to get something back if you are actually giving.
Organize a Chili Cook-Off at your church or YMCA. Get 20 friends to walk 10 miles and donate the pledges to a local charity. Spend a day at your local animal shelter on their adoption days. You are doing a public service and there is NOTHING wrong with writing a press release to let people know you are doing it, then have done it. It takes some effort, but we all know that what you give, you get back tenfold. Karma ain’t just a bitch, she can be kind.
Authors should be sending out at least one press release a month. The first few might not hit, but after they see your name and releases a few times, they will take notice. Just be patient and be active. Sitting back on your laurels will do nothing but make your butt spread wider.
Promotion is the key. How you do it is up to you, but if you want to sell books, you better be willing to do something, or you might as well grow rocks.