Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Experiment I Want to Try, If Only I Weren't A Chicken

Okay, so prepare yourself for me to talk about my books again. I swear I'm not trying to spam you here on the blog. But if you don't want to read about my promotional stuff for POSSESSION, you can stop reading now.

No one will blame you.

So last year, about this time, I had bookmarks made for POSSESSION. And stickers. And jewelry. I was planning countdown giveaways each month from March - May. I had forms made for ARC requests and for people who wanted to host me on their blog for the release.

This year, I have nothing. None of that. Not one thing. (Okay, I do have an ARC request form. But that's it!)

Is this what happens to the second book? Is it "second child syndrome"?

I don't know, but I do know one thing. With POSSESSION, I didn't want to look back and go "I could've done more."

I can do that. I can look back and go, "I did everything I could've possibly done to ensure the success of my book."

With SURRENDER, I almost want to do the exact opposite. That's right. DO NOTHING. I want to see if it makes a difference. Does the blog tour really matter? Do people really care about stickers and bookmarks and jewelry? Will my sales be affected because I didn't answer five thousand interview questions?

I have a theory about what makes books sell, and I want to do this experiment to see if I'm right. But I am a huge chicken (which is ironic, because I'm terrified of all feathered animals. Especially ducks and chickens).

I'm not sure I can do it. I'm not sure I can just sit back and DO NOTHING. I keep putting it off, but I know that unless I make a commitment, eventually I'll DO SOMETHING.

So...should I commit to doing nothing? What do you think about promotion these days? Blog tours? Swag? All that jazz?

57 comments:

Summer Frey said...

honest truth: It's all a bunch of white noise to me. I've yet to buy someone's book because of swag, a blog tour, or any of that jazz. In fact, if I see that being featured, I generally decide to skip reading...

Natalie Aguirre said...

Okay you have something. My awesome interview set at Literary Rambles!

Personally, except for bookmarks, I don't want to win swag. I want to win your book. So I know you can't give away a zillion of those but that's what I'd focus on for giveaways.

You probably don't have to go as nuts as you did last time for a blog tour but I think you should set a tour up with book review bloggers and also us bloggers to get the buzz going.

And maybe sometime do a post on the nuts and bolts of deciding what book review blogger to use to set up a blog tour and how's that done.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I can't think of a single book I read because of a bookmark, stickers and such. Talk about it, ask your *many* friends to talk about it and don't do any interviews. Enjoy this one a little more :)

Kamille Elahi said...

I've never picked up a book because the author gave me free stuff. I don't actually know why I pick up books. I generally tend to only pick up books that aren't following a trend though.

Maria Zannini said...

I did the same thing with my last book. Nada. The jury is still out on its effectiveness. But I'm making sales and I barely even blogged for a whole month on anything, least of all a book.

When I finally came back to blogging, my first post was why blog tours, hops and interviews don't work. Swag falls under the same umbrella.

Most authors peddle on author sites, whose readership is--wait for it--other authors. It's just not reaching a large enough audience.

You're with a traditional publisher with more reach. You should be fine.

Susanne Winnacker said...

For my debut I decided against getting any kind of swag because I knew from myself that I was never interested in that kind of stuff. I think goodreads giveaways are a nice way to get some attention and I like the occasional interview. Getting your book into the hand of reviewers is probably the best way to do promotion. But what do I know? My first book isn't even out yet! LOL

Laura Pauling said...

The swag is fun but probably not necessary? I do think blog tours help raise awareness. Yes, I skip reading blog tours but only if the book isn't one I would normally read. If the author is guest posting about something fun or interesting, I'll read it. It won't convince me to buy but I think it does help.

That being said, I think it only has a small amount of influence in whether people buy. Sometimes it's the genre. And sometimes it's the actual book. Great thoughts.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Sway doesn't make me want to buy a book. I grabbed a bunch of bookmarks at the RWA nationals last year and didn't buy any of the books (but that might be because they weren't YA).

As long as people know when your book is coming out, you don't have to go all crazy with blog tours. There are so many as there is right now, let the debut authors have those spaces. As long as people enjoyed your first book, they'll read your next one.

April Plummer said...

For me, if I see a review on a blog for a new book for the first time, I skim it. But if I see it again? I don't bother. If I see a Tweet about a book once, I check it out. (if the title interests me). But if I see it again? I ignore it. So, I think there's something to be said for doing nothing. I think telling us about the book is great! It made us interested to find out more and to buy it. But anything more...becomes, IMO, too much.

Slamdunk said...

That would be difficult to stand by simply as a spectator. I couldn't do it...

Kelly Hashway said...

I don't think this is a fair experiment because your name is already out there. People know who you are. So you have a built in audience for book two. I don't think you need to do as much as you did for the first book, but I wouldn't do nothing. I'd focus on whatever worked best for book one and just do that.

kmckendry said...

Recommendations from friends are usually why I pick up a new author. Swag doesn't sway me, but a great review might. Good luck with keeping the chickens away.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

You shouldn't HAVE to do as much for the second book (because the first one is doing the work for you). But I would look at this more as "I'm having FUN with this one" rather than "OMGOSHIHAVETODOEVERYTHINGRIGHT". That way you don't have to kill yourself with the crazy, but you can enjoy it as well. :) #alsocongrats!

Liza said...

I'd skip the "stuff" and go for the interviews/blog tours. That's how the word is going to get out. It also expresses your personality which is a selling tool unto itself. I have read interviews and said, "I really like this person, I want to read their book." I suppose, too, your publisher has some expectations as to how you'll be promoting? Wouldn't want to be a disappointment in that regard, right?

Christina Lee said...

SO STRANGE b/c I was JUST having this conversation with someone about it! I want to know too.

And I want to know your theory--whisper it to me!

I think your first book is like your first baby, so you go all out...and then you settle down a bit.

But I'm still looking for a hummingbird for you (like I did with the butterfly) to make into something... just b/c we're friends!

Kelly Polark said...

Oh, man, Elana. I do wonder, but I'd hate for you to lose sales in case it DOES make a difference. Maybe promote without having to buy swag and not invest $ into it?

Last night my mom was over and out of the blue she said, "I really wish there was another Possession book to read." (We exchange books to read) She was excited when I told her Surrender would be here in a few months!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I'm a put my hand in all kinds of pots kind of gal. More food for me. :D But I know what you mean. I have my own theories about what really sells and you know what, I was just speaking highly about YOU the other day and how your genuineness comes across every time. My gut...forget the trinkets & keep that self shining.
~ Wendy

Kelly Bryson said...

Swag doesn't matter, imo, but I wouldn't undervalue interviews, even on blogs whose readership is mainly authors. Mabbe I'm wrong, but I expect that most of us are the one that our friends come to for a book suggestion. I have 20 people at church/family I've recommended multiple books to in person over the past year. A hand sell is the strongest sell, and many times I loan out my favorite books. I think you need people that love books to find out about you and get the word out. You have to have a great book to do that.

I've considered self pubbing and giving away copies with geographic limits, like maybe 2 copies per postal code, first come first serve. Like your title, I'm too chicken to try it:)

K.T. Hanna said...

I'm not sure. I'm really not.

But I can say, I've never once bought a book BECAUSE I got swag. I bought possession for three reasons. 1) I liked the blurb. 2) I liked the cover. 3) I love the fact that the author seems personable and really freaking nice.

I don't know if this helps or not - but those are my criteria for buying a book. As long as the answer to 3 isnt: The author's a dick? Odds are, I'll buy the book regardless of any promotional material.

Just my two CP.

Melissa West said...

I've been giving this a lot of thought lately. My book isn't out until August, and I'm already planning all sorts of things. But in my gut, I really think the success (or lack of success) of a book has nothing to do with any of this. Either a book takes off...or it doesn't. I do think the online stuff helps to build an audience, which is also very important.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I think visibility DOES make a difference. Being seen, being noticed- seeing the count down buttons and the interviews and the cover art splattered across the blogosphere does make people sit up and say 'hey, there's a sequel coming out!'. There were a lot of really great books I read- dystopian and otherwise that I didn't order the sequel to because I DIDN'T KNOW there was one!

Lydia Sharp said...

Maybe just try something different this time. I've never been in your position so I can't so this with absolute certainty, but committing to doing nothing, not one single thing, feels like giving up the fight before the first punch has even been thrown.

But maybe "doing nothing" is a strategy in itself. By doing nothing you're essentially leaving all your promotion to word of mouth from the readers, which could work very well or very... not. It definitely shows your faith in your readers and your faith in your story.

So I guess I'm torn. Sorry, that was no help at all.

Susan Roebuck said...

I'm in the same boat! Second book out in April and I haven't done a thing about it - yikes. I feel I should. However, I did read somewhere that if you want to increase your readers then get as many books out as possible. So maybe we're on the right track...I'll let you know :-) In the meantime, I think I'm going to spend more time on writing this year.

Wendy Swore said...

Okay, so it looks like I'm in the minority here, but I DO buy books based only on what I see on the net on blogs and giveaways.

If I see a lot of people buzzing about a book, I check it out. If I pass over it once and see ten more people talking about it, I'll give it a second look.

I agree that bookmarks and such are not a draw for me, but book giveaways and interviews are.

I probably buy 8 out of ten books this way, and the nice thing is, by the time I've seen all the hype, I know what to expect and I'm rarely dissapointed.

I bought Possession last year because of the blog hype.

ilima said...

I'm looking at my "tagged" sticker on my desk right now. I like little swag like that. BUT, it definitely does not sway my decision about whether to buy and/or read a book or not. I'm buying SURRENDER either way. I need me more Jag. :)

Rick said...

This is a great question, Elana, and I've wondered about this often as well. I can't speak for everyone, but I can say the things that make me sit up and pay attention are:

* Early reviews.
* Some blog tours - if they're at high-profile blogs that I already read or know about. I'd say be really selective about this.
* ARC giveaways.
* Giveaways of tangible things, like jewelry. (I'm not the audience for this, obviously, but bookmarks and stickers never turned my head.)

Good luck! Please let us know if you draw conclusive findings either way.

Carolyn V said...

I honestly think buzz works. But I don't usually pick up a book unless I've heard great things about it (because time is precious) or it's from a friend that I want to support. So it's a mixed bag. (I know, I'm so helpful.)

Hey, put me on your ARC list! I'd love to read it. ;)

Ben Spendlove said...

"unless I make a commitment, eventually I'll DO SOMETHING."

That's SO backwards, Elana.

Jen Chandler said...

I say do what gives you the most peace of mind. Sometimes I feel authors get so caught up in promotion they miss the excitement and the ride to where they've been wanting to go for so long! Enjoy the ride! Enjoy the process! And if you feel like giving a bit o' swag along the way, then by all means do so!

But if not, no one will call you chicken :D

Cheers!
Jen

Stephanie McGee said...

Elana, you're a busy busy woman. I say send out ARCs to people, maybe even let someone coordinate an ARC tour with one of them. I am a firm believer in ARCs and word of mouth. If not for the amazing word of mouth surrounding Everneath I wouldn't have been at the signing last night. Swag I can take or leave but word of mouth is invaluable.

Do what you need to and let others help carry the load, when they're willing.

Emily said...

I have never bought a book because of a bookmark. But.... I have bought a book because of a blog tour. I read several reviewers blogs and get a lot of my reading recommendations from them.

So...Maybe let the blog tour commence and forget about the swag.

Just my humble opinion.

Patti said...

I think a few people have already said this, but I'd rather have the book than a bookmark or other stuff. I'll be interested to hear about the results of your experiment.

Jan Romes said...

This is such a good post, Elana! My second book has just been released this morning. I did order some business type cards with the book info on them to randomly pass out in person. Will it prompt the person who receives it to buy my book? No one knows! But I look at it as a way to get my name out there since I'm published in ebook format. No one knows I'm here unless they see my name somewhere!

I love all the great comments! You hit it out of the ballpark with this article, Elana! This is a topic we can all relate to :-))

Best wishes with your writing/books!

Jan Romes

Stacy Henrie said...

I think the blog tours are nice. I know I've read about a book on someone's blog and decided I wanted to read it, so I bought it. For me all the swaggy stuff isn't as important.

Do it, Elana! Do nothing. :)

Angela Brown said...

I'm going to speak as the second child (middle child syndrome may be identifiable but my older brother and younger sister have yet to say anything yet).

When you get to the second, you've done all the crazies, made the various mistakes, learned some hard knock lessons and can just roll with the punches. Won't be many since you've been there and done that with the first.

You've had your debutante ball with Possession. At this point, you've accrued a fan base that wants your next work because they enjoy your writing. I can see giving out swag when you go on a book tour, but this is the second time around. This is the one that should be extra fun because you've got your name out there already.

Honestly, if you did anything at all, I could see some sort of fun thing that gets your established readership extra excited about the sequel and encourages great word-of-mouth to their friends and their friends' friends. Usually, the giveaway that gets hits is the one where your book can be won.

Okay, so I rambled long enough. If you do decide to hop to a few blogs, you've got a long list of folks who would be happy to host you, including moi.

Gina Blechman said...

I say: stress less.

I don't buy books because people give me bookmarks or stickers for them. (Actually, I even won a signed book recently that came with a signed sticker and was sort of like, "What the hell am I going to do with a sticker?")

I usually buy books because of good reviews I've seen, the recommendations of people I trust,or because I like the author and feel like I know him or her via the blogosphere, or a lot of times just from doing random searches on goodreads or amazon or wherever and seeing what's new and then reading the back cover story.

You may want to do an interview or two, but when I start to see twenty blog interviews with the same person that gets annoying.

However, I really appreciated your live chat launch party. I think that was effective and a lot of fun.

Essentially, don't worry so much, just do what you need to get it out there and let it go.

<3 Gina Blechman

Sam said...

No, I definitely think that swag doesn't matter. I enjoy blog tours though, they're great for readers to get to know more about the author and the book it self. But jelwelry and bookmarks? Who really cares? They're just a waste of money to make!

I'm sure Surrender will be a success on it's own, without the swag, etc...

Can't wait until June!!!!
Sam :)
-www.bookcrazedreviews.blogspot.com-

Matthew MacNish said...

You should commit to it, I'm sure you'll learn something. Although, we have a couple of those bookmarks at my house, and we do love them.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I agree that the swag won't get me to buy a book. But I do need to know about the book if I'm going to buy it so getting the word out is important.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I don't think swag matters. What people want/hope to win is a book. It doesn't even matter if it's an ARC or a final copy, signed or unsigned (of course, we all think signed is awesome), we just really want to read the book. I think blog tours are beneficial because they give your book more exposure to a wider audience, but the tour doesn't have to include a bajillion interviews--just reviews or mentions.

L.T. Elliot said...

I don't blame you for being scared of ducks. They have those shifty eyes. And the weird square (but sharp) teeth that kind of aren't really teeth but still kind of hurt when their beaks clamp down on you. And then they have the nerve to honk at you like it's YOUR fault that they bit you. Stupid ducks.

As for the swag and stuff, I can tell you right now as a consumer that I don't give a flip about it. Sure, it's kind of nice. Sure, the jewelry can be fun. But truthfully? I don't give a shiz because what I really want is in between the cover. What I really want is a damn good story that makes me forget I'm not in it. So if you want to test it out and see how it does, I say go for it! And then tell me how it goes because I'd be interested to know how it really affects sales.

Love you. Think you're awesome.

Angie said...

Sorry about the chicken thing! (You know what I'm talking about, right?) I have been wondering about marketing stuff. I hope you'll let us know what you find out either way. Good luck with the next book!

Anna Staniszewski said...

Thanks for posting about this since I know I'll be dealing with the same issue next year. As someone mentioned above, visibility is pretty important when it comes to selling books. So while swag might not be that worthwhile, a blog tour (or something else that reminds people that your book is coming out) is probably a good idea. Whatever you decide, though, I know you'll rock it. :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Actually I'm more paranoid about how well my second book will do than I was with the first. Must be the pressure.
My publisher will send me some bookmarks, but that's the only physical item I will have. The blog tour and all that? Definitely doing. If I can repeat what happened last fall with the first book, that will be beyond awesome. (Although that had more to do with the fact I was hosting two blogfests and started the IWSG than anything else...)

Jennifer Hoffine said...

You know, I have this same feeling when I go to the gym, looking around at all those skinny young girls thinking...you'd look just the same even if you didn't work out, and I'll look just the same even if I do...depressing, but (for the most part) true. I am still hopeful that excersise can fend off heart disease and other important things like that.

Anyway...for your dilemma, I say Susan Kaye has the best advice above. All you did for your first book is for the second one too. This time just do what appeals to you.

Christy said...

Interesting...I really wonder about that. Does all of the promoting make a big difference? I am thinking that even though it doesn't seem to make a difference at first, the fact that your book has reviews and stars and has been seen around makes later readers take the plunge and buy your book.

Christine Fonseca said...

I posted a great link to a survey from 2011 book buyers as to what motivated the decision to which typoe of books. The top things: Recommendations from friends, reviews, and blogs. That was it. Nothing else really.
So, yea...most of the stuff is irrevelant!

Sophia Chang said...

1) I agree with Summer - promotion isn't what I read blogs for

2) For selfish reasons I would absolutely love if you did this experiment so I can see myself how much work is really necessary to market. Although you've already got a huge fanbase so I really think you're in the position (out of anyone) to be able to pulll this off without a bump in your sales at all.

skybluepinkish said...

I agree with most people here that the freebies wouldn't make me buy a book. I have read books I've heard serialised on the radio (but then I have crossed several off the list because when I heard them they were dire). I take recommendations from friends and I've chosen a letter of the alphabet and make myself look at every author on the fiction shelf whose name begins with that letter even if they look like a book I wouldn't read in a million years. I've found some beauties that way. But big hype rarely makes me buy a book. Even at the big cash end of the market where you see the same author on every chat show and magazine that is the ultimate turn off. I don't want to be manipulated into reading their book I want to choose to read it.

Franny said...

To be honest, I never saw any of that stuff with Possession. I bought the book because Amazon.com recommended it to me. Whether or not I will buy the next book is based on how much I liked the first one. Of course, I loved Possession so I can't wait for Surrender. Most of the people I know that are avid readers based their next book purchase on the recommendation of someone they trust to suggest a good book not because of a sticker or bookmark.

Susanne Drazic said...

I think sitting back and doing nothing would be a mistake. Someone like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King could get away with that, but I think you need to let people know you have a second book coming out and you need to do some promoting once it is out. I think that blogs are a wonderful avenue for getting the word out, even if they are all fellow authors. Perhaps go through your list of followers and contact some of them who did not host you when your first book came out. Ask them if they would like to have you do a guest post for their blog or if they might do a quick interview for you. Limit it to about 5 or 6 questions. Just asking people to share the cover, a book excerpt and buying information is a wonderful way of getting the word out. Oh, yeah. I like swag, but I definitely think that getting a book is much better. : )

lbdiamond said...

Good for you! Sit back and enjoy. ;)

Valerie Ipson said...

You're putting off doing nothing??? I LOVE THAT!

I generally look for a book after I have heard its title (and maybe author) mentioned over and over a ton of times. They say the magic number is ten...it's probably true.

REINHARDT! said...

I think it's prudent to assess if there is something about blog tours and interviews and all that stuff that turns you off from it. Perhaps it is not that you want to do nothing, but that the conventional ways to reach out to readers are not resonating with you.

Maybe there are more unorthodox ways to increase the book's visibility. Before you commit to doing nothing, think about things you could do that you'll actually enjoy. If there's nothing, then maybe sitting promotion out is the right step. But if there are things that can raise your visibility AND be fun, why not do those things?

Heather said...

As I'm approaching the release of my second book, I've been wondering this too. I think the blog tours work because they get the word out that your book is releasing. As for the rest, I'm not so sure. Power to you for wanting to try this!

Stephanie Thornton said...

I don't think swag is worth the time or effort unless it's really nifty swag. (One time I saw an author giving out ancient Roman coins with her book- very cool.)

Blog tours and interviews probably help with word of mouth, but you don't need to knock yourself out with them, especially as this is your second book.

Janet Johnson said...

My 2 cents, I don't think swag is worth it either.

That said, I don't think I could do nothing if it were me. I like what Natalie said way up top.

See Elana's recent blog posts

Recent Posts Widget