Okat newspaper reviews are dying off.  Okay, the Internet is where it's at.

Okay, the Internet is a swamp.

Anyone have creative ideas on increasing the signal-to-noise ratio and generating some focused interest online?  What I did for my last book, BREATHING WATER, worked, but it took almost four months out of my life.  I sifted through more than 400 review sites -- everything from the bigs to the littlest and most personal blogs, got my publisher to give me 50 ARCs, and e-mailed the moderator of the 90 sites I liked best.  When the blog seemed to appeal to a special interest, I generated a specific pitch.  I offered each of them an ARC in exchange for a snail mail address where I could send it.

I got more responses than I had ARCs and had to make up some bound reduced manuscripts to fill in.  I would up with almost 40 online reviews and -- more important -- those contact names and the physical addresses of the reviewers,  (This was, by the way, a MUCH better result than I got when I paid Fauzia Burke's firm $6000 for the second campaign they did for me.)

I suppose I'm going to do it all again this time.  Morrow has been kind enough to give me a whopping stack of ARCs.  But does anyone have other ideas?  I mean, honestly, if (a) the Internet is the future and (b) most publishers can't handle it, isn't it to our advantage to figure it out?

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Agreed it's tough on the road. Hard work and much wasted time. But looking back, looking at the people I met and now know, I think it's important if you're trying to build a career at this. The mystery conventions paid off for me, too, not in selling books, but in making new friends -- new friends with information and contacts I didn't have. When I sold tax-free bonds, we called it networking, and I think it's important for any kind of business.

I'd rather sit in my room and write, but I don't see how anybody can do that these days. Robert Crais told me he HAS to tour for every book. Get out and press the flesh, he said.
I went pretty much the same route as you with my last, REQUIEM IN VIENNA, plus I worked with AuthorBuzz on adds that looked impressive re number of impressions as well as click throughs, but did they generate sales? Unclear. I went with their straight up ads--next time I might try their AuthorBuzz Notes which go as newsletters to book clubs and libraries. At least with libraries you know you are hitting potential buyers and it is amazing how much those institutions account for the bottom line, especially in genre fiction. I was too late to use that service--need to book well in advance to get it out near your launch date. Maybe other authors who have used it will comment.
I wish I had a magic bullet answer for this one--promotion takes up way too much time for writers, though on the upside it puts you directly in touch with readers, and gives you an idea of what is working and what is not.
Yeah, and everybody needs to go outdoors, figuratively speaking, once in a while.

I now know a lot of people in a lot of great bookstores, and I've met a lot of readers who write to tell me what they think (okay, maybe they're mostly telling me what I want to hear) about the latest book. It's worth it. I'm sure there are people who can write in a vacuum, but I'm not one of them.
At the end of the day, online marketing/social media marketing, etc., requires an investment of time and money - how much and how depends on what you want to do.

I'm sorry you seem unsatisfied with the firm you hired.

I believe JA Konrath's blog/web site are pretty good examples of strong content marketing. By offering useful and interesting content for free, he has created a large audience - a ready audience to purchase his books.

Your effort to obtain reviews seems successful. Do you have your web site listed in all the reviews? Once at your web site, do you have interesting content to hold the reader and to draw them back again? A clear and easy way to order your book?

Are you blogging? Engaging in social media such as Facebook? Twitter? Nings? Forums? Other sites? Are you using good, solid content on these to drive traffic to your web site? Remember these are about conversations, not a hard sell.

Have you experimented with web ads on some of the mystery online zines? Their ad prices are quite low from what I've seen - low enough to experiment anyway.

I also think "pressing the flesh" is important, too. I think there is great value in meeting people who can expose your book to a larger public - afterall, whether in person or as an aspect of social media, the best marketing tool is developing a strong relationship.

Also, have you evaluated why the firm's campaign for you was unsuccessful? Did they give you very specific details about what they did, how much time they spent on your project? Did one of their professionals handle it or was it handed off to an entry-level person or an intern?

Just some food for thought.
Hi, Clay --

The problem with the firm, FSB Accociates. was that they were suddenly too successful and my second campaign was handed off to someone who wasn't very good. Second, they blue-skied me, overpromising on the number of reviews I could expect. Third, when the term of the contract was up, almost 50% of the promised reviews were still listed as "pending" and I was promised a follow-up or two to monitor those sites. That was it -- never heard from them again.

I think the ads on the mystery zines are interesting and will check them out. I do blog, both on my own site and on MURDER IS EVERYWHERE, along with five first-rate writers from all over the globe. I don't actually push my books very hard on either site; in fact, my own site, www.timothyhallinan.com, is aimed primarily at helping beginning writers finish their books. The biggest area by far is the FINISH YOUR NOVEL section, which is almost book-length, and I even turn over the blog area to material that I think will be helpful -- at the moment, we've got a series of very good writers talking about whether they plot in advance or write by the seat of their pants, and why. And I'm here, on Facebook, Twitter, etc., although I think they're minimally effective. The most effective thing so far has been a guest blog on the Huffington Post, and I'll be doing some more of those. That actually did move all my books up the Amazon ratings for about five days.

Will check out Joe Konrath's site, and thanks for all the tips. You seem to be an expert on this.
Since they have no control over the reviews (or do they), I wonder how any agency can guarantee a review? Or press release publication? Etc? Certainly, you can hedge your bets, and provide some sort of reasonable expectation, but you have to be careful when making guarantees. When I was an editor of a newspaper, I can remember having quite a brawl with a PR person who revealed she had promised her client a story in my paper.

The ads are quantifiable. You $xx for the ad, and drives xx number of vistors to your landing page, and xx number of them buy your book. You can measure the results easily and you can see where there may be a weakness. If you are getting lots of visitors, your ad is working. But if it is not translating to sales, it may be your landing page. Or the opposite, few visitors may be a problem with the ad...or where you are investing your time...measurement and analysis is easy.

That's the challenge of social media. From your Huffington Post blog, you were able to see a tangible return, but often, especially for things like here, and Facebook and similar sites, the return on investment is very hard to measure. Now certainly people here, or your fans/friends on Facebook, or Twitter followers, have a higher than normal interest in you and/or your work, so certainly they are "highly qualified prospects" but it's still difficult to measure actual sales/dollars/clients gained from, say, Facebook, though if you carefully track your links, you can find out at minimum how it impacts web traffic.

The expertise thing is funny. I have a friend who mentored me in PR and he recently gave some social media marketing "experts" quite a tongue lashing. His claim? You have a new, and quite different, area of marketing. Really, social media as a marketing tool is only a couple years old or so. If NOBODY has a PhD-level experience in social media marketing, then how can anyone be truly an expert yet? It is an area still in development.

As for myself, my expertise lies more in the realm of content development, content management and content marketing, which does spill over to social media certainly, but I hardly feel like an expert. However, it is through social media, a contact in Linkedin, that I am having to make a major decision - turn down a major national client and continue with my newspaper career, or change directions and step aside from newspapers and pursue my consulting full-time.

Of course, to reinforce the idea of "pressing the flesh," every other client I've ever had came as the result of good old fashioned "who you know" philosophy.


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