Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marketing Recap

by Michelle Gagnon

So the smoke has finally cleared from my latest marketing efforts for THE GATEKEEPER, and I thought I'd share a bit of what I learned.

First of all, Google Analytics is vastly superior to other stat counters. With my older one, ninety percent of the traffic sources were listed as undetermined. Not so with Google Analytics-finally I have clear information as to which links brought visitors to my site, and which didn't.

And here's the funny thing: I spent a significant chunk of money on blog ads, Facebook ads, and Goodreads ads this time around. Each of these generated a fair amount of clicks- but nothing even came close to what I received from random sweepstakes sites. Because I was offering a big ticket item as a prize (a MacBook Laptop computer), a lot of contest sites picked up the link. And I received hundred of hits a day from those sites, significantly more than from any other source.

The question is, are the newsletter subscribers elicited by those sites actually interested in reading the book? Although I received fewer hits from the other sites, they were geared toward a more targeted readership. So it's tough to say which worked better. But in terms of getting the word out there about a new book, offering a major prize definitely didn't hurt. Next time around I'll probably stick to a shorter time frame for the ads I'm paying for, and will count on the sweepstakes sites to balance things out.

I've also decided to more or less avoid touring next November when RACING THE DEVIL is released. Mind you, I love meeting booksellers, and had a wonderful time visiting Seattle, Phoenix, San Diego, and LA, among other cities.
However with a mass market paperback, the reality is that most of my sales occur in big box stores, supermarkets, drugstores, airports, and newsstands. The touring is always grueling, expensive (since most of it is on my own dime), and it doesn't have much of an impact on my overall sales. I'll still visit a few local stores, but after seeing the results of marketing three books this way, I simply can't justify the cost in both money and time anymore. I won't be attending as many conferences, either, for the same reason.

Social networking: I primarily logged on to FaceBook and Twitter this time around. That investment definitely produced some sales, and based on my experience the fans those efforts yielded tended to be much more enthusiastic about me and my books. I also did an exchange with some other authors, promoting THE GATEKEEPER on their pages the days of its release. That generated a few sales, but not a significant number as far as I could determine. However it was fantastic for prompting people to attend events.

I find it frustrating that there's no way to get ebook sales totals yet (at least according to my publisher). I suspect that those have jumped considerably now that there are more eReaders out there, especially after Amazon's report that for the first time on Christmas Day eBook sales trumped physical books. Once again, I'll have to wait months for my royalty statements to arrive before I have a completely accurate picture of my sales this time around. It seems a little silly to me that in a computerized age this information isn't more widely available.

So to recap:

Google Analytics: great
Touring: not so great
Social networking: moderately helpful
Big ticket prize: definitely worth it

I'm curious to hear if other authors have a similar rundown. Or if you have any marketing questions, feel free to fire away...


  1. Michelle,
    No suggestions from me, just a plea to keep giving us the benefit of your own experience. I'm about to find out whether any of this works, and like most debut authors, I have this deep-seated fear that it won't.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Michelle, you're not alone in your findings. My co-writer and I feel that touring is becoming a dying art. With today's economy, it's just too expensive for the return. And I agree with you that Google Analytics is excellent. That's what we use on the ITW Big Thrill site and the information it generates is amazing.

  3. Thanks for sharing your analysis, Michelle. Determining the efficacy of promotion is difficult -- what's the saying? 50% is very effective, you just don't know which 50%. I agree with Richard--your experiences are very helpful for us newbies just starting out. Thanks!

  4. For an aspiring writer this was a very informative post, one that I will save with a bookmark and refer back to in the event I'm lucky enough to need it.

    Thank you for sharing. Oh yeah...I love your books!

  5. Great post; thank you for this information.

    I guess I understand why it takes so long to get sales and royalty data for physical book sales, because of return policies. (That's a whole different rant.) I see no excuse for the lack of availability of e-book sales.It's not like they're going to be returned by the bookseller.

  6. VERY useful info, MIchelle. Thanks for posting. I alwasy wondered if the touring would be worth it and if authors had to pay for the full amount.

  7. Great post, Michelle.

    As a debut author whose book won't come out until 2011, I'm really trying to understand how the promotion side works. All I've been able to determine is that no one is sure what works and what doesn't.

    Your big giveaway resulted in a lot of clicks. Do you think the smaller giveaways are a wasted effort?

    Also, is there any way to determine if those clicks resulted in sales? I mean, can you track sales on a timeline to see if a spike correlates with one or more of your marketing efforts?


  8. I can never tell any correlation between marketing effort and sales. Only one thing ever seemed to make a difference--I did advertising on YouTube so that my book video appeared when people did searches on things like, Twilight. It increased the number of clicks to the video exponentially, but again, no idea about book sales.

  9. What a creative way to hone in on your target market, Kathryn.

  10. Thanks for the kind words, DL, I'm glad you're enjoying the books!

    A few other things I forgot to mention- for a MMP, at least in my experience, hiring a publicist was a complete waste of marketing money. Even if you can afford the $1,000 a month, 3 month minimum that most charge, it's rare for them to get much attention for a mass market (trade or hardcover is a different story, I'd imagine). So don't waste your money on that.

    Also- DO NOT, under any circumstances, send cute mailings to booksellers. Most get enough stuff to fill a trashcan every week, and chances are that's where your clever promo item will end up. For THE TUNNELS I mailed out runes branded into wood to 500 booksellers. Huge mistake. It cost me a lost of money and time, and the impact on sales was negligible.

  11. Great. Thanks for the information.

  12. Michelle,

    Thank you so much for sharing your insights!


  13. I am considering dancing on the street wearing nothing but a sandwich board of my book covers. I will video tape it and put it on YouTube. Guaranteed to become a viral video.

  14. Thanks for sharing how you market. I've been following you for quite a while, but your facebook presence lets me know when a new book is out. I was able to buy The Gatekeeper from an Indie bookstore where you did a book signing. I didn't see it at Barnes & Noble.

  15. Michelle,

    This was a fabulous and informative post. If you ever DO go to a conference again, first round is on me.

    And if you don't mind a slightly nosy question: What's the before-after of what the promotion did to the size of your newsletter list?

  16. Interesting Michelle - and great feedback on what worked/didn't. Touring is expensive and exhausting and as you say who knows what real impact it makes!

  17. Great post
    Jason Starr

  18. Thanks for sharing, Michelle. I recently came to some of the same conclusions. Facebook and Twitter are helpful, but I regret the money I spent on a publicist. I'm curious about where you spent your online-ad dollars. I'm still wavering on that venue.

  19. Our book tours tend to be high yield, but we mainly travel through the region where our books are set. Great insight here. Thank you.

  20. I agree, it is frustrating to spend time and money on marketing and not know what venues are bringing in the sales, but I can't imagine NOT doing it.
    One of my more successful ventures has been writing similar articles and posting them on blogs, web-sites, newsletters, etc with a "if you'd like to read more..." note linking to my web-site and book, Sea Fare: A Chef's Journey Across the Ocean. The effort has garnered me book sales as well as multiple by-lines.
    LinkedIn was a great source to connect with people who published the blogs, newsletters and web-sites.

  21. I found your site through the Boneyard Book Trailer that lead me here. I think this is a wonderful collaboration with authors partaking and assisting each other. It's gracious of you all to share your talents with us.

    I am new to publishing eBooks without a publisher, editor or a contract. I prefer to research right now. I have written content of manuscripts and poetry my whole life. I am testing the waters before I proceed ahead.

    Your book trailer for the Boneyard has secured you a purchase today. I can't wait to read it.

    It's an inspiration to read authors intake from both sides of the publishing word, traditionally and electronically. Thank you all for taking the time to share your insight with those of us out here that do appreciate your efforts.

    Best of luck always.

  22. What a great idea, Victoria!
    And thanks, CD, I'm thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the trailer. There's a cool one for The Tunnels too that was done for a student project in Dundee. I'm working on getting it posted to my site.

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