Marketing Winners and Losers

Lit by Laura Shumaker, 06/04/09

After a long and hopeful wait for my agent to find a publishing house for A REGULAR GUY: GROWING UP WITH AUTISM, my memoir of life with an autistic son, I came to the conclusion that it was time to self-publish. I released my book under my imprint, Landscape Press on July 7, 2008.

While I was tallying up the past year's marketing expenses for tax purposes, I was forced to reflect on what had helped me sell books and what had not. Some of my well thought out strategies were a WASTE of money, so read on and learn from the winners and losers of my marketing campaign:

1) I started building a platform long before my book was finished. My personal essays were published on KQED Perspectives, in the San Francisco Chronicle, just to name a few. WINNER
I was building credibility, getting my name out there AND I had something to put on my website. Cost: $0.00 but hard work

2) I entered contests. WINNER
I was still building my platform, but also able to put something in the AWARDS column.
Cost: between $10 and $50 and hard work

3) I built a website long before the book was published. WINNER
A website is a must. It's a place to put your clips, your bio, and a way for your readers to communicate with you.
Cost: $250.00 because I had Likoma do it for me, but I hear it is easy to do yourself.

4) I started a buzz for my book long before it was published. MIXED
I talked about the book so much that people kept asking, "When is your book going to be published?" It was stressful. I think it would have been better if I waited until I was closer to publication.

5) I submitted abstracts to Autism and Autism-related conferences with hopes that I could speak once my book was published. MIXED - It's tricky, because you never know who is speaking the same time you are! At one conference, I sold 200 books, and that was terrific. But at another, I flew many miles and only sold 10!!! I have a conference this coming July and I plan on making a flyer that will go to all attendees ahead of time and promise some kind of giveaway (ideas welcome!)

6) I joined IBPA so that I could take advantage of their marketing programs. MIXED
Few of the programs they offered yielded great sales, and they were expensive. I spent $1,000 on a library mailing and did not get that many sales. But their organization was helpful during the self-publishing process and helped walk me through.

7) I tried to get essays published near the release of my book with my bio and website at the end. WINNER
I recently had an article published on the CNN.COM website and got over 4,000 hits on my website-and sold hundreds of books Cost: $0 dollars but hard work

8) I made sure my book was available on Amazon. WINNER
Sure it's better to sell books directly, but everyone loves to buy books on Amazon. Cost: $0.00 and easy

9) I got a distributor. MIXED
Bookstores prefer to buy from distributors, so you need them, but they take forever to pay!!!

10) I bought an ad in my local paper that ran for two weeks. The ad told customers where the book was being sold and had a link to my website. WINNER
Since I put my "buzz" out too early, I wanted people in my community to know my book was out. The book was well received, and the paper ended up doing a profile about me. That was huge. My sales skyrocketed. Cost: The Ad ran about $800.00 but the profile cost $0.00.

11) I sent out messages to my email list announcing I would read for bookstores, book clubs, school groups and disability groups and I never said no when invited! WINNER
Even when you have a very small group at readings, you never know who your audience is and how they can help you.

12) I contacted every blogger I could think of - mother bloggers, autism bloggers, book bloggers, blogger bloggers and offered to send a book and asked for reviews. Then I became a blogger! WINNER
The Blogospere is the best way to get the word out!!! Cost About $3.50, my cost of for a book (you usually need to send them your book)

13) I bought an ad in FOREWORD Magazine and paid extra to have my book displayed at the BOLOGNA Book Fair. LOSER!!!
Who buys magazines in a bad economy? Who travels to Book Fairs in Europe in a bad economy? Cost: $500.00 - yikes

14) I made a book video. WINNER (but I should have done it sooner)
Cost $600.00

15) And last but not least, the biggest winner of them all…(drum roll)
FACEBOOK!!! I created a Facebook profile for myself and then created a fanpage for my book. I now have over 4000 fans and some of them are very high profile people.(Ron Howard!) I have sold hundreds of books with my fan page and am trying to dream up a way to get ALL of my fans to buy a book. (ideas welcome)

The main thing I try to do is just keep my name and my book OUT THERE. When I see that my website isn't getting so many hits, I do something to bring the numbers up. I send a KQED Perspective piece to Mark Trautwein, I write a story for our local paper, I think about a market that would love my book but maybe they haven't heard about it….

And I just keep writing.

Laura Shumaker ( lives and writes in Lafayette, CA.
She and her husband Peter have three great sons and a yellow Labrador.

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