Promotion & Permaculture

A while ago, I mentioned in a post about target audiences and using myself and my December novel as a guinea pig.  It’s August… which in publishing terms means December is more than right around the corner, it’s breathing down my neck.  So that means promo gets in gear.

Do all the things!”

The problem I have seen with many promotional theories — even my own, back in the day — is that they assume you can’t miss anything, so you should somehow try everything.  That usually means getting on every type of social media there is (twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google Plus, Pinterest, Linked In, whatever) and then constantly streaming stuff about your book and yourself.

What’s more, there tends to be too many tactics.  You’re expected to set up a blog tour, send out review copies, write guest posts, comment on book blogs, keep up with Goodreads, work your social media, set up local signings, order and send out promo items, and maintain an author blog on your own website.

While writing.

And, presumably, maintaining the rest of your life — namely, your family, your day job, your social obligations, and your own self-care, which tends to come in last on the list.

Promotion burnout.

The main complaint I have heard from other authors:  they are overwhelmed, unsure of where to go, and exhausted from trying to do everything.

What’s more, most aren’t even sure the tactics work, and if they are working, they have no proof and no sense of connection between activities and results.  This is where the “I write the best book possible and hope for the best” tribe tends to spring from.

That said, if you haven’t been doing all the things, and you’ve got a book launch around the corner… what’s an author to do?

Slow approach to promotion.

It’s often said that the best time to “build your platform” is long before your book is published, and with a continual, steady effort.  I can agree with this, although part of it, for me, is a mind-set thing.  There’s a difference between getting in contact with your community and making genuine connections, and acting like a Mafia don, doling out favors that you fully intend on recouping later.

In a “bestseller” world, the key is traction.  You want to sell not only a lot of copies, but you want them to sell in a short time frame.  Booksellers look for traction to see if a book is worth re-ordering or pushing. From a digital standpoint, traction tends to nudge the algorithms that “suggest” books to buyers.

When it comes to print books, traction is more important because after a certain time frame, you either justify taking up space on the shelf, or you don’t.  In digital, while you may languish in obscurity, you won’t get kicked out.  There’s time to grow.

How I think this would work:

  • Lower the goal.  Set a lower sales goal… but at the same time, actually set one.  Or maybe a different metric.  Reviews.  Subscribers.  Something measurable.
  • Widen the time frame.  Most launches seem to live or die in the first four weeks.  If you don’t make it in that first month, your publisher’s on to the next (unless you’re self-published.)  Set a lower goal, with a wider time frame.
  • Tighten the focus.  Most promotion efforts and tips I’ve seen want to target the greatest number of potential readers.  I am wondering if a smaller but more focused group is a better idea.  (This is going to be the bulk of the experiment, I think.)
  • Track the results.  It’s impossible to see if your promo efforts directly result in sales unless you’re generating sales directly from your site, or something.  Which is why those other metrics, especially subscribers, might be a better way to go.  Need to noodle on this, to determine “yield.”


The experiment.

In my next post, I’m going to go into more detail of the actual experiment. (Plus, I’m going to talk to my science-y friends and discuss how an experiment is best set-up.  It’s been years.)  But in a nutshell, I’m going to test:

1.  Creating goals that are measurable and achievable (with time frames and everything!)

2.  Creating a strategy that takes into account how much time I can spend/want to spend, with a set of criteria that all tactics need to go up against.  Sort of a “What Would My Right Reader Do?” decision matrix thing.

3.  Creating tracking metrics and definite check-ins (which I will then report back.)

I think that it’s possible to hit a Slow Writing target, with a minimal but consistent amount of energy/time expended on a weekly basis.  In my next post, I’ll lay out the parameters of the experiment for my December novel.

And, now that I think about it… I might need to get some control subjects, to see what the difference is.  (Anybody else have an Urban Fantasy coming out in December they might want to also use as a guinea pig?)

What do you guys think?

What would you most want to test?


7 Replies to “Promotion & Permaculture”

  1. Well . . . this is a bit beyond my realm right now (my head is spinning with the idea of algorithms,) but I’m super excited to follow your experiment!

    I agree the best approach is a sustainable one that grows a strong product. Too much fertilizer (and we all know what that’s made of) often produces quick-blooming stock that dies off before the end of it’s season.

    Looking forward to learning more!

  2. Same here as Denise, feels a bit beyond my current realm, and also super excited to follow along.

    But I have moved toward adopting the tenets of Slow Writing (baby steps). I used to feel like I ‘had to do all the things.’ For example, among everything else, I was trying to do a blog post a week and promote it on Twitter (as well as fb). But I decided to only do a blog post when I felt I really had something to say, and I pretty much gave up on Twitter (it was pretty forced, tweet and run, me, me, me stuff anyway).

    Interestingly, the last few blog posts, with no tweets (by me) have resulted in my highest pageviews. I just want to build naturally, make real connections (without thinking like a mafia don), and focus on the work. For now, anyway–I know I can’t ‘write the best book possible and hope for the best.’ I’m thinking the Slow Movement will have me in a pretty good spot by the time I have an actual physical product.

    I’m with you, as always, Cathy!

  3. I will be watching this experiment with interest. I’m often overwhelmed by the whole promotional/social media vortex. Like Vaughn, I’m moving toward adopting the Slow Writing tenets, too. Thanks for opening this dialogue Cathy.

  4. Sounds very tricky to test! Works being so different and all, people’s established social networks varying in size and enthusiasm … most comparisons would likely be apples to oranges.

    Another factor would be that I’d guess people who buy e-books and those who buy regular books are often quite different.

    Take older people as an example, who by and large tend not to embrace technology. Okay, before anyone lets me have it because they are older and embrace technology or know older people who do — I’ll use the specific of my own parents and their neighbors to ground the still workable generality. My father reads like crazy but a kindle is too complicated for him and electronics in general baffle him. My mother is simply not interested. Their neighbors often ask me to help them figure out their new cameras and such. None of them own e-readers, and I doubt any are going to start.

    Marketing, then, is marketing to a truly diversified audience. Young kids would probably willingly subject themselves to a Facebook neural implant even if they couldn’t control the features and their brain scans could be sold to advertisers and they could be watched in the shower. Older people by and large do their social networking at the bowling alley, golfing, by meeting in real life, on the phone, and not electronically except for e-mail.

    You’ve got your work cut out for you!

    1. I am still trying to get my arms around the scope and dimension of this experiment, but I think that, for example, if I’m trying to sell more digital copies than print copies, I’m going to target people who are either digital-focused or perhaps those that might be comfortable in either format. Smaller slice.

      Also, with so many variables, the key will be to find goals that are targeted and can be somewhat isolated. Either that, or find someone in Regression Analysis who’s able to help me figure out what variables affect what– somehow I think that’ll be harder!

      Or it might be where I just say “I’m going to do this, based on this theory” and see where it goes. I’m not going for my doctorate here. 🙂

      1. I think you’re onto something there. As in writing, so in experimenting — perhaps define your audience in general and subdivide it into the audience for your particular set of results?

        For example, authors who go with the traditional publishing model narrowed into those who write genre fiction or a particular kind of genre fiction. Or authors who self-publish narrowed down to those who self-publish e-books plus POD copies(or alternatively those who self-publish e-books only) narrowed down to those who publish urban fantasy.

        A comprehensive theory of everything might not be workable across all the variables, but it’s always possible to address discrete categories and find something like their individual truths.

        Those various categories can be gathered together over time to paint a broader picture too. As one collects data, it might build from single compelling experiments toward a more integrated understanding.

        Even any accumulated discrepancies between results can eventually prove illuminating and a good subject.

        So you may have a study that might best be carried out in individual steps or stages that are then linked together with a final cumulative analysis and conclusion. If done that way, it would certainly be an interesting project with individual chapter, course, or blog-worthy high points along the way to motivate readers to keep going until they see the conclusion.

        That’s one idea, anyway. I’m not sure how much it overlaps with what you’re thinking or how much use it is to you, but even if it merely lays out what you don’t want to do, perhaps that’s of some use too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *