James L. Rubart is the best-selling, and award winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, and THE CHAIR. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing, helping authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, water skis and take photos. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com Or e-mail him at: email@example.com
Mail Bag Answers
I thought it time to answer a few questions authors have asked. If you have a marketing question, don’t wait, don’t hesitate, fire it my direction and I’ll answer it in a future column: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marketing Jim, what’s the best way to promote my fiction?
Marketing Jim? Okay, I like that. The best way to promote your fiction? Tough call. It’s like asking me what restaurant you should eat at. I have no idea because I don’t know what kind of food whets your whistle, so to speak. If you’re a vegan I’m going to send you to a different spot than I would someone who thinks steak and potatoes adequately cover all the necessary food groups.
What are you good at? Speaking? Then speak. Blogging? Then blog. Social Media? Go there. But if you’re asking for one area that I think is underutilized, it’s writing articles on the Internet. The Web is a hungry beast. It needs content. Or better said, the owners of those blogs and Websites need strong, compelling content. So give it to ’em. In return, they give you exposure to their audiences and probably a very nice one- or two-sentence blurb about you and your books.
Some people tell me to do book signings, other people say they’re a waste of time. What do you think?
See the answer to the first question (Are you good at books signings?). I did a book signing at the Tacoma, Washington, Borders store before they closed. I did my signing at the same time an elderly lady, who had self-published a children’s book, was doing a signing. She’d been doing book signings for six months. I asked how many books she’d sold. “Ten thousand,” she replied. My eyes widened. Do you see the two things that stunned me? First, how did she get Borders to let her bring in a self-published book (she’s obviously a talented salesperson) and second . . . ten thousand copies?
I asked her how she did it. Then I watched her do it. She greeted every single person who walked through the front door. All of them left with something: a bookmark, a cookie, and quite often a book or two. The moral of the story, boys and girls, is this lady had no problem putting herself faaaaaaar out there during her in-store appearance. If that’s you, do signings. If you love doing them, love engaging with customers, then it’s your strength, so utilize it.
Do endorsements work? Should I spend a lot of energy going after other authors to get them to say something nice on the cover of my book?
Yes, they work. But the question shouldn’t be do they work but how well do they work? In other words, how valuable is it versus the amount of time it takes to get the endorsements? If 23 percent of the people who buy the book do so, at least in part, because of the endorsement, then it’s probably worth doing. But if it’s 3 percent, might that energy be better spent on another marketing idea or two that could yield better results? I know your next question. How do we determine what percentage of sales is driven by a well-known author endorsing a book? We can’t because so many other factors go into a purchase decision.
But remember, 25 percent of the population is influenced by what people they perceive as stars think about a product. These people care that Tom Hanks says Wilson volleyballs are the best. So those people can be swayed by a strong endorsement from a well-known author.
Bottom line? Endorsements don’t take that much time to get, and since most books have them, yours will look a little strange without them. Many publishers help with the process.
You say that 50 percent of advertising works, but the trick is figuring out which 50 percent. What exactly do you mean by that?
So many factors enter into a person’s decision to make a purchase that it’s hard to nail down exactly what pushed him or her into action. Was it the ad they saw? A friend’s recommendation? Did they suddenly have a craving for the product? Were they in a good mood that day? It’s usually a combination of the above factors and many more.
Even quantifiable methods such as Facebook ads (they clicked the ad, therefore it worked) aren’t the end all. They were probably influenced in a favorable way before they clicked.
The lesson is this: consistently promote a compelling product in a consistent way and the message will get through—and don’t let your hair get caught on fire worrying about the places the money isn’t working; you’ll never totally figure it out.