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Empty_supermarket_shelves_before_Hurricane_Sandy_Montgomery_NYI’ve always thought that it would be a nice thing not to sell out of books. I’ve had it happen a couple times at festivals. It happens near the end of the festival usually. It’s flattering at first because there’s such a demand for the books.

In the case of festivals, I usually wind up taking orders and offering free shipping for delivery during the following week. Not everyone takes up the offer, though, and I undoubtedly lose some sales.

Those lost sales have slapped me on the head this month.

My book, Secrets of Garrett County, came out near the beginning of the year. It sold well, but sales had leveled off. I thought I had enough to meet the demand for the holiday season. Then in the middle of November, a big order came in for the title. I was able to fill that order, but it pretty much wiped out my inventory.

I ordered some more, but once we’re into the holiday season, it takes much longer to get a shipment. Usually, I can have a book ordered delivered within a week after placing it. Currently, I have an order that I placed 12 days ago and it still hasn’t shipped yet.

Meanwhile, in the past week and a half, I’ve had three stores and two individuals contact me trying to get copies of the book. I sold out of my last copies this past Saturday at a book signing at a store. The store owner wanted me to leave behind 10 more copies, but I couldn’t.

So how many sales won’t I get because a customer doesn’t want to wait until after Christmas to get their book? It’s a unique book, but it’s not an iPhone. People will just pick out another gift or another book, and I’ll lose the sale.

So it’s flattering that the book is in demand, but I need to do a better job of keeping books in stock. Even my 15-year-old son gets this. When I was preparing for a show that I had run out some titles before, he told me, “It’s better to have one book left at the end, than no books.” What he was telling me was that with one book left, at least I know I had met all the demand. With no books left, you’re not sure how many sales you lost.

I wonder how Santa keeps up with demand?

Usually, I do a better job managing my inventory. As an idie author, you have to otherwise, bookstores won’t want to work with you if you can’t get them copies of your titles.

I looked at the problems that I ran into this year and have made some adjustments for next year.

My problem this year has been that I’ve done a lot more fall festivals than usual. It has hindered my efforts to build up holiday inventory.

Next year, I plan on increasing the minimum number of copies that I have on hand before I reorder, to increase the size of my orders, and to place my holiday inventory orders at the beginning of November rather than the middle.

My hope is that these changes will keep me with a supply of all my titles. If I’m lucky, I will still run into supply problems, which will mean that demand continues to increase.

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096b0d8946bc2b824034ba68d473b09b647f2bb2-thumbIt’s been a year of firsts and new things in my writing career. It has paid off. By the end of September, I had made as much money and sold as many books as I did in 2016. It’s a testament to how beneficial stepping outside of your comfort zone can be.

One of the new things I’ll be trying tomorrow is my first, albeit mini, book tour. A group in Orrville, Ohio, has set me up to do five events in two days. They will also focus on promoting my biography of Chuck Caldwell who grew up in the town. I’m both excited and scared.

Who knows what the attendance will be? Will I be so exhausted after the drive there, that I come across as sluggish? Will I do Chuck’s story justice with the attendees?

I have to do my first event after a 5.5-hour drive. It’s a meet and greet and book signing at the community center there. Then I get a few hours where I can check into the hotel and take a nap before speaking at an invitation-only event at one of the historic sites in town. This is a dinner for people the historical society hopes to make a major donation to a fundraising campaign.

 

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Me and Chuck Caldwell at his house.

 

The next day, I will be spending all day at the high school talking to different history classes about Chuck. Then I have a couple hours on break before speaking at an informal dinner with the historical society board members. Following the dinner, it’s back to the high school for a presentation for the general public to help the high school alumni association.

Then it’s a good night’s sleep before heading back to Gettysburg on another 5.5-hour drive. With luck, I will have sold about 100 books, and that makes it worth all of the trouble.

I only wish Chuck could go along. He really wants to visit his hometown again. The last time he was there was in 2011 for his 70th high school reunion! He will turn 94 this month, and he doesn’t make long trips any longer.

My point with this post is the one I made earlier. I consider myself fairly introverted, but I have had to force myself outside my comfort in order to market my books. It has gotten easier over the years, and when it does, I take another step forward. I don’t always make the best impression when I begin trying something new, but I keep at it and improve.

It works for writers, and it works for just about everything else in life, too.

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20170624_092912            Writers need to network. It’s necessary to help improve your ability to write better and sell books.

One of the places where I’ve been able to grow my writers’ network is at the festivals and other events where I sell books.

I usually two or three writers at these events. Some are other writers like me who are selling at the festivals. Others are writers who are visiting the festival.

Unpublished Writers

The first type of writer I meet is someone who has written a book but is not published. Some of them are afraid to put their books to the mercy of the public. Others just don’t want to put in the time to do the marketing that books need. Others still think that it’s very expensive to publish a book.

Published Writers

The second type of writer is one who has a couple books published but they aren’t selling. If they were published by a mainstream publisher, they often feel that it’s the publisher’s job to market and sell the book. If they are indie published, they aren’t putting in the marketing time.

The result is that the books aren’t selling. These authors are cutting their own throats because publishers aren’t going to want to publish their next books if they can’t show a strong sales history on their previous books.

These authors believe that a successful author just has to be lucky. They ignore the fact that they need to work just as hard at the marketing as they did at the writing. When talking to these authors, I always tell them that they need to spend just as much time marketing as they do writing.

I’ve learned about new festivals. I’ve gotten the names of businesses and organization to contact about speaking or carrying my books. I’ve gotten tips to improve my sales. For instance, I learned about selling additional product lines from a fellow author.

Entrepreneurial Writers

The third type of authors are writers who are doing better than me. I love these authors because I get to pick their brains what they’re doing, what they like, and what kind of results they are seeing.

Yes, I do festivals to sell books, but I’m always looking for new ideas and new techniques to try and see what works and what doesn’t. I keep what works until it stops working for me or until I find something that works better with which to replace it.

This persistent move forward has allowed me to grow my business. It might not be happening as fast as I would like, but I am moving in the right direction.

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Here I am at The Book Center in Cumberland, MD, on Nov. 19. I’m the one on the left, in case you couldn’t tell.

I have entered my busiest time of the year. For the next few months, I have virtually of my weekends booked up until Christmas. I’ll be doing book signings at retail stores, selling books at festivals, and selling books at holiday festivals.

It’s an exciting time because I get to meet a lot of my readers and, hopefully, future readers. It’s also exhausting, and I have to wonder why. I have to admit that I’m not highly active at these events. I exert some energy setting up, which takes about an hour and also taking down my booth, which takes about the same amount of time.

In between, though, I’m just standing and sitting and talking to people. I rarely even get to leave my booth because I’m the only one there.

So why am I exhausted by the time I get home?

I’m not unique in this, either. I’ve talked to other writers and festival vendors who feel the same way. So it can’t just be because I’m getting old. (Which I’m not, by the way. I have a younger sister who passed me in age a few years back and now she’s my older sister.)

I have a trip in November to Ohio where a historical society is bringing me in to do five events in two days. I’m excited about the opportunity, but I’m also wondering how I’m going to feel at the end of each day, especially since I’ve got a six-hour drive to get there and get home.

It will definitely be an adventure. I just hope that I’m awake enough to enjoy it.

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A part of the discussion among members of the Gettysburg Writers Brigade this past Wednesday involved where to find festivals where we can sell our books.

Here are two websites that I use that make searching for festivals easy.

Festivalnet.com allows you to search for the details of festivals across the country for free. If you want more details, you can either join the website, or you can do a web search for the name of the festivals you find.

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I’ve been doing the latter, but it is becoming time-consuming so I will be joining with a basic level membership.

Given that the Gettysburg Writers Brigade is in Pennsylvania, I found another site called PA-vendors.com that gives, even more detail about Pennsylvania festivals than Festivalnet.com.

You can also find similar sites for festivals in New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.

So if you would like to find a long list of potential places where you can market your books, check out one of these websites.’

s-l500About a month ago, I wrote about ways that I’ve been trying to increase my sales from festivals and other events where I sell books. I do well at festivals, but in talking with other vendors, I have realized that books aren’t the biggest sellers, although they probably have a better profit margin than many other items.

The reason that I want to maximize sales at festivals is because my costs for a festival are fixed. The booth space cost one price and my gas costs another. They don’t change whether I have more or less to sell.

One of the things that I talked about doing was to offer additional items for sale that are related to my books.

I have been selling 1 oz. copper coins with various designs on them for five festivals now. They have sold well. In fact, at a small event last Saturday, I sold four times more coins than books. That was the first time the coins outsold my books and it certainly made my attendance at that event worthwhile.

I also added hand-crafted coal figures for the past three festivals that I’ve done. The prices on these vary widely, but they have been selling. They tie in nicely with my book, Saving Shallmar: Christmas Spirit in a Coal Town, and I do some of my events in coal country.

The results? The extra items have added an average of 27 percent to each event’s gross sales. It’s definitely worth adding these items. I’m not sure how much of my annual income comes from festival sales, but I’m guessing that if that percentage holds, it will add a few thousand dollars to my income.

The other thing that I’ve noticed is that the shiny coins and varying size figures on display attract more people to the table. It’s easy to overlook books, but they are curious about the figures and what they are made of. They want to see what is on the coins.

Once they stop at the table, they tend to look at everything so I get a chance to pitch my books.

While I can say that the extra lines have increased the traffic to my booths, I can’t say for sure whether it has increased book sales. My sales have increased, but they were already increasing nicely before I introduced my additional lines.

So adding extra lines is one experiment that has proven successful.

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18892965_10213701312467317_221280445819670687_nI’ve been looking at ways lately to increase my sales from festivals and other events where I sell books. I have been attending some of these festivals for years and have seen my sales plateau. Since these events cost money for the space and sometimes hotel and travel, I want to be able to maximize my sales.

Events like a festival are also great places to sell because you are generally selling at retail. You are keeping the retailer, distributor, and wholesaler cuts. I usually use some of that to create a deal that the customer can’t get in a store while still giving me more profit than if I sell the books through other channels. I make it a win-win to give them incentive to buy at the event rather than going home and buying the book off Amazon.com (which they still do sometimes).

So here are some things that I’ve tried or am in the process of trying to improve my event sales.

Keep Writing

My main purpose in attending these events is to do direct selling to my customers. It works, and I am happy to say that I have many customers who return year after year to see me at events and purchase my new books. That being the case, I’d better have new books to sell them.

You can’t rest on your laurels. You need to be continually working on a project. I work on multiple projects. I might be writing one book while researching my next. You want to have at least one book a year being released. Indie authors can generally do even more because they are not held hostage to their publisher’s timetable. 384472_10150370255946867_270838901866_8795042_317292409_n

Expand Your Genres

I generally write in the history and historical fiction genres, but I have ideas for other books. Two years ago, I decided that I would write some of these books under a pen name (J. R. Rada). The pen name wasn’t to hide who I am but to create a separate brand so my history readers wouldn’t be shocked to read a fantasy or horror novel.

Part of the reason that I finally made this jump was because I would often see potential customers looking over my titles and then say, “I don’t read history.” Now, when they say it, I have an alternative to point out to them.

I have to say this has been more successful for me online than at festivals. Festival attendees like the local appeal of a topic more, but I have been selling my horror, fantasy, and YA works. I expect the sales will continue to grow as I work more under the pen name.

Impulse Buyers

I’ve spoken with two other authors in the past few months who offer more than books at their festival tables. One told me it was profitable, but not a major part of his sales. The other one said that the additional products that he offers are the reason that horror conventions where he can sell 50 books are profitable for him.

I even saw an example of this in action this past weekend. My son attended a WWII weekend with me. On the afternoon of the last day (the slowest time), he decided that he wanted to go into business. He found a vendor at the event who also sold wholesale. He bought some Lego-style minifigure sets at wholesale prices and began selling them at retail prices ($3). He quickly started making sales. My estimate is that he could have made $400 if he had been selling during the whole event.

So I will also start offering $5 copper coins with a historical theme on them. In addition, a friend who deals in coins offered me a small box of tokens made from pieces of the Statue of Liberty. I’m hoping that this will add about $300 to my gross sales at my next festival. If it works, I will be expanding the variety of copper coins that I offer.

The key to offering other products is that it should tie into your genre. One author I know writes about the Civil War and also offers small lead busts of Civil War generals. The horror author I know offers horror character t-shirts and horror scenes in snow globes.

Other Buyers

Some festival attendees will walk right past an author tent because they aren’t interested in books. I can capture the impulse buyers with a low-price line of products. These products have a small profit margin, though.

I wanted something that could really help my sales while tying in with my books. I won’t say what it is now because I want to try it out first, but the retail prices are $5 to $25 for the products of which half is profit.

The big feature of a festival is traffic. You have thousands, even tens of thousands of potential customers. I want to attract as much of that traffic to my tent as I can and have something that will appeal to them to buy.

That’s how I plan on continuing to make festivals a profitable venue for my books.

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Smashwords kicked off its 8th Annual Read an Ebook Week yesterday. It’s a giant promotion of ebooks published on its platform. Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of ebooks are discounted anywhere from 25 to 100 percent from March 5-11.

It’s a great opportunity to get a great deal on ebooks from new authors. Because Smashwords is an aggregator, meaning they distribute their books to around two dozen ebookstores, you can find an ebook that fits your ebook readers.

I checked the promotion and saw that 10 of my books have been included. I’ve got history, historical fiction, biography, young adult, and horror titles that are part of the promotion. So if you are looking to stock up on some of my titles, here’s your chance.

50% Off Books

Saving Shallmar: Christmas Spirit in a Coal Town ($4.00 promotional price)

9f2a936d3ba79285caad2a928ffd477705b98828-thumbIn fall turned to winter in 1949, the residents of Shallmar, Maryland, were starving. The town’s only business, the Wolf Den Coal Corp. had closed down, unemployment benefits had ended and few coal miners had cars to drive to other jobs. When children started fainting in school, Principal J. Paul Andrick realized the dire situation the town was in and set out to help.

 

 

October Mourning: A Novel of the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic ($3.00 promotional price)

cabd7e2edf73bcd3295d24eba5d467e89829e78c-thumbIn October 1918, Spanish Flu left behind 40 million dead. In Cumberland, Md., Dr. Alan Keener wants to take steps to prevent its spread, but he is met with resistance from old-school doctors who believe that the flu’s deadliness is overblown and easily treated. His work is complicated as a street preacher named Kolas aids the flu’s spread.

 

 

Beyond the Battlefield: Stories from Gettysburg’s Rich History ($4.00 promotional price)

58bc7189378b3328a38ab711142c5868a7e9cef2-thumbBeyond the Battlefield is a collection of 47 true stories and 56 photos that tell the history of Gettysburg and vicinity beyond the famous Civil War battle.

 

 

 

A Byte-Sized Friend (Hackers #1) ($3.50 promotional price)

e0da6fbdc837e571342e9880a63a6abed1279ea2-thumbChris Alten’s world is limited to the wheelchair that an accident has confined him to. He is lucky, though. The same accident killed his father. Chris also has a mysterious new friend whom he meets online and shows him a brand-new world where he can once again walk. This new world comes with its own dangers when it is discovered that Chris’s new friend is an artificial intelligence program.

 

 

25% Off Books

Clay Soldiers: One Marine’s Story of War, Art, & Atomic Energy ($5.99 promotional price)

096b0d8946bc2b824034ba68d473b09b647f2bb2-thumbChuck Caldwell is a WWII vet and Purple Heart winner who has met Civil War soldiers, fought at Guadalcanal and Tarawa, and studied atomic bomb explosions in Nevada. Through it all, he painted and sculpted miniature figures that have become sought after by collectors around the country. Clay Soldiers is the story of a man who became part of the history of America and chronicled it through his art.

 

FREE Books

My Little Angel

e64185333e93433b9b7be9da00c1e7585bd02946-thumbJanet Sinclair is not looking forward to her first Christmas without her daughter. Janet still doesn’t know how she will go on without Danielle. Then Janet receives a beautiful porcelain angel that looks so much like Danielle that she can’t bear to look at it. As Janet tries to deal with Christmas, she finds out that the angel is more than just an ornament.

 

 

When the Babe Came to Town: Stories of George Herman Ruth’s Small-Town Baseball Games

85d5ff6c190421c86439ef06e7dfef0c142737f0-thumb“Babe” Ruth was a baseball legend. You can find out why in “When the Babe Came to Town.” This book shows how the Babe connected with the fans through his many exhibition and barnstorming games.”When the Babe Came to Town” is a collection of some of these stories highlighting games that Babe Ruth played in Emmitsburg, Maryland; York, Pennsylvania; Oakland, California and Cumberland, Maryland.

 

The Race (Canawlers, Book 4)

295dc0e85e623c2c13f705aa78fdc5168b1c4bc3-thumbFollow the lives of the Fitzgerald family on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal as Tony and Thomas Fitzgerald race their canal barge against a train. If you enjoyed “Canawlers” and “Between Rail and River” by James Rada, you’ll want to follow this adventure set a few years after the Civil War during the canal’s heyday. Originally published as a limited-edition chapbook for CanalFest 2003.

 

 

Welcome to Peaceful Journey

8c8a7ab5d44d5d8a40c59c4f008be84ed971912b-thumbA collection of short stories featuring the most-unusual funeral home you will ever see. Welcome to Peaceful Journey Funeral where the journey from life to death can be anything but peaceful.

 

 

 

Kachina

ae894698c3f44c84c60a38c4864370d5cea5158c-thumbDavid Purcell was on his way to meet his girlfriend when he fell into a cave. Now he can’t remember the five weeks he spent in the cave. With the help of Adam Maho, a Hopi, David discovers that he must remember that lost time if he if he going to stop the ancient Hopi evil, the dark kachinas, from being released into the world again. To do so, David will have to find his way back to Kuskurza.

 

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My two-table set up for weekend festivals.

Having a strong backlist of books is great for a writer. When I sell books at festivals, I am able to have a large display of different covers, genres, and sizes of books to attract readers. In fact, last year my show display grew from one table to two tables. A backlist also means that I have multiple ways to attract readers. Each title gives me a new opportunity to catch a reader’s eye.

 

That’s all great.

However, I’ve run into a drawback with having a library of 18 books, and it has been driving me crazy this past month.

Grammarly Review

I have started running all of my books through Grammarly to catch any mistakes my editors, readers, and I missed when the book was originally published. Surprisingly, given how many eyes were on the manuscripts, I have found too many. Running 18 books and a half a dozen e-books through the program takes times. I started doing this in December, and it could very well continue until next December.

Review Request

Since I  was reviewing each book, I also decided to make sure that all of the electronic editions had a review request at the back. I haven’t worried up until not about getting readers to post reviews of my books online. That delay has come back to bite me recently as I have tried to expand some of my marketing efforts. Some places that I have wanted to use to market my books want to see more reviews of the books. So I’ve had to detour some of my marketing in order to increase my Amazon.com reviews.

Book Descriptions

Last month, I learned some new techniques for writing book descriptions that I have also started applying to my book pages as I update them. This is not a single update. I need to make changes to a book on four different websites (Amazon, KDP, Smashwords, and Bowkers) to make sure the descriptions are all the same.

Hardback Editions

I recently discovered a way to accomplish two things that I have wanted to do for years. When I switched from doing offset printing to print-on-demand through Createspace, I stopped being able to get my books into physical chain bookstores. The three reason I heard for this were that the stores couldn’t get their typical discount when purchasing the books, they didn’t want to support Amazon.com, and stores can’t return print-on-demand books.

Up until now, I haven’t worried too much about it. I  have been making most of my sales through other channels. However, as my marketing efforts expand, I have started running into this roadblock more often.

I have discovered a way to use Ingram Spark and Createspace together. I can still get the books that I sell through Createspace, and customers purchasing books on Amazon will still see the books always in stock. Meanwhile, I can use Ingram Spark to get my books into the chain stores and offer a hardback edition.

I have wanted to offer hardbacks since I wrote No North, No South… It is an oversized book, which is typically printed as a hardback.  Since that time, I’ve written another tabletop book and a couple novels that I would have like to offer as hardbacks.

All of these are useful things for me to do. They each will have benefits to help me continue moving my career forwards. I recommend authors do all of these things. It’s just that having to do all of these things for all of my books is very, very time-consuming.

It’s happening, albeit slowly, but I’m excited to see the results.

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I had the opportunity to run the same promotion for two different books this month and have been evaluating the results.

CanawlersThe Books: Canawlers and The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe. Canawlers is a historical novel that was first published in 2001. The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe is a horror story published last year under my J. R. Rada pen name.

The promotion: I decided to use my five free days on KDP select on a Monday through Friday promotion.

The Marketing: I blogged and tweeted about both books through my accounts. I advertised the books on Facebook groups that I belong to. I used the Author Marketing Club promotional submission tool to have my promotions listed on 31 free book sites. I can’t say how well the book sites worked, but I did see a sales surge with both books after I posted a listing in my Facebook groups.

The Results: Canawlers had nearly twice as many downloads as The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe. Does the number of downloads indicate that there’s a larger audience for historical fiction over horror? I think it may. This seems to dovetail with some things on paid promotional sites that charge more for historical fiction than horror novels. Most of the downloads for both books came during the first two days of the promotions, although Canawlers had a surge of downloads during the last 10 hours it was on sale.

Since there is no direct return on investment because the books were free, I had to estimate sales that the promotions generated for my other books both with actual sales and pages read. My indirect sales were three times higher Canawlers than The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe. The fact that it was as profitable as it was surprised me a bit because a ran a paid promotion for a 99 cent version of Canawlers last year that turned out to be a loss.

The profits weren’t tremendous, but they were profits. It also gives me a baseline going forward.

UntitledMy Conclusions: It pays to promote books in a series. They have some coattails. Canawlers has three sequels and an omnibus edition. All of them saw sales during and directly after the promotion. The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe was a stand-alone novel.

Also, it helps to have a backlist. I have 14 ebooks available as James Rada, Jr., and only five ebooks available as J. R. Rada.

Don’t ignore the Kindle pages read during a promotion. They jumped significantly for both promotions. It was a big enough jump to make me consider adding more books exclusively to Kindle. I still considering this. I probably should just find a way to market my non-Kindle ebooks better.

I will definitely run future promotions, although I will break my five free days into two or maybe even three promotions. I will continue to use the Facebook groups and perhaps try a paid site for the free promotion. I will do it with Canawlers, though, since it generated a greater return. I realized that I should be asking for retweets of the promotional tweets I did. I forgot.

I want to try a promotion for a non-fiction history book and a middle-grades series I’ve started. Then I will compare those results against the results I got for Canawlers and The Man Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe.

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