Despite the title of this article, I actually do many of these things I’m about to list. I’m not at all convinced of their efficacy, however. Also, by listing these ideas, I am not suggesting that any of these are right for you or work particularly well (in fact, I have no idea what REALLY nets sales; if I did, I’d be having a much more lucrative career in advertising.)
The reason I do a lot of these things is because I can’t stand the idea of not doing anything. I would much rather throw money away to keep myself busy, rather than pace a hole in the rug wondering how my sales figures are doing. This is a personal choice, however. And I do them with the full knowledge that they probably aren’t getting me anything in terms of a return on investment. I’m okay with that. Like I said, for me it’s about wasting my time and money versus tearing my hair out by the roots.
Okay, after all that disclaimer-ing, let’s get to the list:
1. Advertise. When I go to conventions (which I listed as something I feel is a good bet for your bucks), I often run an advertisement in their souvenir booklet. This typically costs me $200 a pop (and I do all the art design myself with Publisher, which came as part of my computer package). I have no idea if this works or not, but I kind of like the karmic aspect of supporting a convention, as the money they get from advertising goes to publishing the booklet. These days I also like to run group advertisements to help mitigate the costs. $200 can become more manageable when split four or even five ways.
I have looked into advertising in glossy magazines such as Romantic Times, Locus, SF Bulletin and the like. I've found, however, that those magazines are often beyond the stretch of my pocketbook. I _do_ think that people are affected by ads they see -- I know I've bought books because I noticed a cool cover (or author's name on a new book) that I've seen in ads, but I might be weird that way. Anyway, I haven't done it, so I can't speak of whether or not I really think it's worthwhile.
2. Purchase Professionally Produced Postcards. There’s a really great e-printer called 48hourpress which has, IMHO, very cheap rates and extremely professional products. This costs in the range of $200 - $400, depending on how many you decide to have printed. I tend to order 1,000 at a time, because I have a ton of uses for these things.
Because I’m a member of RWA and MFW (previously covered), I get notices regarding romance conventions that are on the look out for “goodie bag” stuffers. Romance readers, unlike SF folks expect gifts when they go to a conference or a workshop. They typically get a shopping bad FULL of postcards, magnets, pens, post-it notes, bookmarks, and doo-dads of all variety as well as copies of out-of-print/backlist books. Postcards and bookmarks go there on a regular basis. Does this work? Yes, I’ve gotten responses from people who said they bought my book because they saw a postcard for it in their goodie bag. Given how many I’ve sent out do I think that the money is well spent? Probably not.
A side note: I actually spend a LOT of postage (although book rate is surprisingly cheap, given the pounds these boxes weigh) sending out boxes of my science fiction backlist to romance conventions/conferences/workshops. But, if I didn’t, I’d have a million boxes of my own books collecting dust in my office. It’s very depressing to be writing a novel staring at six cartons of remaindered books. For a while, I called my office the “room of doom.”
I also “re-use” my postcards to send out book signing/event notices to my friends. I simply use my laser printer to print out labels containing the pertinent info and then stick them over the part of my postcard which normally has the book blurb on it.
I bring them to SF/F conventions to leave on the freebee tables.
I also send them out to book buyers. Now here’s a big expense we can all argue about…. I have bought (the list cost another couple hundred dollars) a list of book sellers from one the many places you can buy such things. I print out labels and send out thousands or postcards to independent and chain box bookstores. Does this do me any good? I highly doubt it, as this is really one of those things – talking up your book to book buyers – that your publisher should be doing for you. Why do I do it? Because I like thinking that maybe my cover is just eye catching enough that I made a tiny bit of an extra impression on a book buyer who then decides to purchase a copy of my book.
3. Group postcards/calanders/give-aways As a member of MFW and Vampire Vixens, I regularly throw my money away towards group postcards which are sent to book buyers listing all the romance titles from our organization and their pub date. MFW writers is putting together their annual postcard right now. Plus, the Vampire Vixens usually has a strong presence at the big romance conference put on by Romantic Times/Book Club and this year they’re producing a calendar with all the pertinent book release dates on the various months which I’m paying to be part of. Worth it? I have no idea, but again, I like to do this stuff because in a lot of ways it seems stupid for me not to join in, particularly when someone else is going to do all the hard work. I should say, this is the cheapest of my ventures costing ($60 a pop, but as I do two of them at least a year, it costs me over a $100 annually.)
I'll write more as I think of it, but this is all for today.