Monday, March 16, 2009

Sales, Promotion and Sanity... Or Insanity

We’re all involved in a world of volatile sales where we have minimal control. I say minimal, because all we can do is put our work before the public and hope they choose ours for purchase.

So, how do we attract the browser? How can we convince them ours is better, more enjoyable and they can’t get on without buying it now? Sales pitches and presentations aren’t just for cover letters and meetings with agents. The book market moves as fast and is as quirky as the stock market. It’s all about someone else investing in your stock, in this case, your books.

This is what I've seen from my vantage point.

There are a lot of factors involved. The genre you write. Are you hitting your target audience? The excerpts you’ve chosen. Are they presented in a manner in which is readable, the links easy to find and clickable? What time of year it is – a biggie when you consider property taxes are usually due twice a year, spring and fall and not all included in mortgage payments – is it time to get the kiddies ready for school – fall is heavy with birthdays seeing how the fav pastime of the frigid winter before – the holidays and so on.

You can play on all these moments and squeeze sales. Easter is coming and so is Mother’s Day. Suggest even a book for a gift basket someone might be offering up. I included another author’s book in my Holiday Basket. My work is on the erotic side, the book I included along with an autographed copy of my own is more mainstream.

Paydays are a factor in sales. Most of the country is paid every two weeks on the same Friday. In between you have fast food, grocery stores and other businesses. And don’t forget social security and disability checks at the first of the month. Military paydays in the US are the first and fifteenth of the month.

This means there is always someone there to buy a good book.

For a while, I saw evidence of sales around the main paydays – generally on Sundays and Mondays after. Then it switched to hit later in between the pay period, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Now, I’m seeing major monthly differences. One month sales will be on Tuesday and Thursday with a rare Sunday or Wednesday. The next month will be Sundays and Wednesdays with an occasional Saturday. So, you can see there is no way to set yourself up for sales except to post excerpts, blog, chat – be sociable when you feel like it. It’s a necessary evil we have to grin and bear.

If you don’t have a web presence going, you need to get on it. A website is important. People need to know where to find you, learn more about you and check out your writing.

I began posting excerpts every single morning and yes I sold enough to keep me on the publishers bestseller list for fifty-nine days, but we all know it doesn’t take much sales to get you on it and keep you on it. What does keep you going are the steady sales with buyers choosing you over another. I’d rather have steady sales then sale a hundred the first day, or three hundred in two weeks and then have sales fall down to nothing in comparison.

So, how do we keep steady sales? Luck, perseverance and timing is the best I can come up. And write to get more books out there. Do you get tired of seeing the same excerpts over and over when you browse your digests or see the individual headers in your email? I do. Ok, not in my digests and emails, since I actually go into the groups, but you get the drift. It’s overkill and I’m going to bypass unless you give me a reason so reread it. I’m more apt to stop at the oddball excerpt, the one I’m not seeing in every time I turn around.

I’ve seen better results with just a fewer postings myself. And guess what, even with smaller groups. I post two or three times a week, never more than one excerpt a day to the small groups, unless I went stupid, which has happened. The end result has been pretty good – usually within a couple of days, I see sales at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

I watch six venues., Amazon Kindle, Amazon Books, Barnes & Noble and All Romance Ebooks and Fictionwise. Why? Bookstrand pays me the highest royalty seeing how it’s my publisher – however, if you’re aren’t writing ménage, you’re overshadowed and have to struggle for sales period. All Romance Ebooks pays second best and have the best customer service I’ve come across. Amazon Kindle third with payout just under All Romance Ebooks. Fictionwise fluctuates too much take terribly serious – they pay your publisher 80% of your gross sales and your publisher pays you a percentage of the net sales. The gross sales is not the cover price of your book – when they have sales, you’re paid on the sale price of your book during these sales. The paperback books I have no sales info for as yet, so I don’t know where I fair the best. I won’t know until the end of April, but I watch them because I have a goal.

My goal is to sell at least one of each book per venue every week. It may sound low and not very ambitious, but when you write non a-typical heroines and heroes in non a-typical stories, steady sales are awesome, even if it’s one book at a time. Some weeks I may not make a sale at one venue, but I’ve been able to make up for that loss another week. Since I’ve been able to access my sales at the publisher, I’ve been very happy with the way things are going in the sales department. I’ve been meeting my goals.

My major goal is to get more books published and let the backlist take care of itself.

So, what can you do in this world that threatens your sanity? *wink*

Post at different times of the day. Often those on the west coast of the US are neglected. All the chats are over by the time they come on. So, we need to give them something. I’ve found most of the hits to my website come between midnight and two in the morning central time zone.

Change up your excerpts. I’ve seen some excerpts that still have release dates in them or other irrelevant information forgotten about. Make them easy on the eye, entertaining and irresistible.

I’ve actually found that one of my excerpts has better results than the others.

The quickest way to find authors who write the genre you write is to check out some of the venues where books are sold. I have to push All Romance Ebooks for this one – I love how they have categories broken down, such as the historical section. Glean some of the author’s names, the publishers and check out their web sites and see where they hang out. These places will be your target audience contacts.

If you post strictly promos on group promo days – messages that carry only blurbs, contests, etc – change them up and make them seem fresh every week. There’s a lot of concern about the time it takes to promo and how it interferes with writing. We’re all suffering with this. Finding a set schedule is difficult. You have try different ones to see what works best for you. Some take time first thing in the morning, others are sticklers to writing a number of pages before they allow themselves to get on the internet and read emails and do promotions. I go in phases – I’m a free-for-all.

Sometimes I won’t post until evening, sometimes afternoon and evening, sometime first thing in the morning, maybe in the afternoon, then evening. It all depends on my mood and how the writing is really going.

There really is no rhythm or reason how to do it. Do what works for your schedule, but if you’re finding sales aren’t coming in, go ahead and try something different.

Many groups now have theme days. Check out the calendars and mark the ones for your genre or something you like to read and make a pit stop if you can. Just your presence and your signature line can be enough to bring a sale. You don’t have to stay all day, unless you can’t resist.

What can you do offline? It all depends on how gung ho you are. You can arrange book signings if you have paperbacks, gather with other local authors to do this or maybe setup a book fair where it’s a meet and greet type thing.

There is a group titled Bookworm Bags – this is a group for only authors. You send each other promo items, can be anything from business cards to key rings and pens. People are always going to various functions where promo bags are handed out. A writer friend of mine near Kansas City was thrilled to see my stuff in her promo bag she received from a conference in Texas a few months ago.

For those who don’t go to these functions and don’t think you can share in passing out promo packets – there are other ways. Online contests and so on. If you’re giving away one of your books in a contest, include a nice bookmark or something from another author.

Exchanging banners and links is another way to promote yourself.

And don’t forget the odd groups out there such as: Goodreads, Facebook, Live Journal, Twitter, Authors Den, Shelfari, Myspace, Romance Readers and Writers, On the Same Page. I know I’ve not mentioned several, but I’ve already been long-winded.

I applaud you if you’ve made it this far. Lol

Go get those sales!



Lindsay Townsend said...

Brilliant, Bekki! Not living in the USA, I never knew the info about pay periods and taxes, etc. Fascinating!

Savanna Kougar said...

Bekki, I made it that far!
I wish I were that gung ho... I simply do the best I can...

I did notice copies of Red Lioness Tamed are still selling regularly, which is nice, since it's been out a year. I only know because Mike sends out the info every month via e-mail.

And I've noticed a few sales for All Shades of Blue Paradise, also out for a year. So, it is sort of steady, if not a lot.

I think one of my biggest bugaboos is seeing the same stuff over and over. In order, not to bore myself I have to change what I'm doing, in terms, of promo.

Linda Banche said...

Thanks for putting all this info in one place. I've got it bookmarked, I know I'll be referring to it.

Bekki Lynn said...

Hi Lindsay --


I wish I knew more about the economy in other countries.

Bekki Lynn said...

Great, Savanna!

Let's keep those sales going.

It's nice to hear that other publishers care enough to let their authors know what their sales are. I think it helps so much, even if the sales aren't where we'd like them to be.

I wish book venues would set up something we can access -- it wouldn't be that hard or time consuming to do once a program was in place to give an author access at the same time they are putting their book in place in their listings. Publishers shouldn't be the only ones to have access.

I can't see me doing booksignings, but I do like the idea of a meet and greet book fair. I think that would be fun.

In person, I'm not a social butterfly - I'd rather be that fly on the wall, watch and listen.

Sounds odd for my career - but there, it's almost like shapeshifting into another human form. lol

Bekki Lynn said...

Thanks, Linda. You're welcome!

I hope it helps.

Don't drive yourself crazy, just do what you can and go back to writing.

Writing is the most important part of your career.

Linda Banche said...

Bekki, I'm glad to hear you can sell books without doing book signings.

I don't have a print book yet, but I'm not much of one for social things, either, and I don't care to do book signings.

From what I hear about book signings, the authors don't sell that much at them. Sounds like another way, if you're so inclined, to get your name out there for future sales.

Bekki Lynn said...

I'd like to do more locally to sell books, I'm just not up to speed on what or how since you simply can't walk into a book store and buy the book. Most people want right now. I have a few on hand.

One of my friends is a marketing & advertizing student at a local college -- she graduates in May. She's alway pushing me to let her help me, and wanting me to do this or that.

She yelled at me for turning down a speaking engagement, but I feel so inept and don't want to mislead people. And probably couldn't answer most of their questions.

One day, I'll have my act together and get something written out and organized in my head.

Oh, shoot - I used the 'o' word. Don't tell my husband.

Bekki Lynn said...

Something else I've been working on is gathering authors who live in my state and putting together an Authors of Illinois site for the sole purpose of letting residences and businesses in Illinois know who their local authors are and what they write.

There are quite a few published author in my state alone.

I'm hoping this will spark sales and events. And if it works, it can be done in other states.

Lindsay Townsend said...

All sounds good to me. The regional aspect, especially.

I think if publishers, print and ebook, could give authors a little guide on free, easy how-to promote, everyone would gain.