IWSG: Where to from here for marketing The Big Smoke?

Last week, I posted about the top ten lessons I’ve learnt since I independently published my debut novel, The Big Smoke. Tonight’s post will be about what my next steps are for marketing /getting the book out there. Where does the Insecure Writers Support Group fit in? You’ll see!

Advertising at QUT

Over the past few days, I got very excited about the possibility of putting advertising material (bookmarks) into the welcome bags of first year students at Queensland University of Technology, which is the uni where The Big Smoke‘s two main characters study. I was even more excited when the uni said they’d give me a discount due to the book’s connections with the uni and my poor artist status.

However, after some long conversations with my ever-pragmatic business partner (aka husband Marky), I’ve come to the disappointing conclusion that it’s not a smart investment right now. You see, even with the discounted rate, it would cost me about $600 for the advertising fee and production of 5000 bookmarks.

Just to break even, I would need to sell 600 e-books or 110 paperbacks as a result of the advertising, which would require a conversion rate between 2% and 12%. Although the audience is pretty targeted (first year uni students), there are still going to be a lot of people in that audience who wouldn’t be interested in The Big Smoke. I’d say at least 60% (wild stab). So is a 2-12% minimum conversion rate realistic? I’d love to find out, but unfortunately we’re not in a position to risk $600 on it right now.

This doesn’t mean advertising at QUT is completely unachievable though. They do have some cheaper options such as putting up posters on campus, but I’ll need to do similar sums to those above before I know whether they’d be a good investment either.

Local magazines and newspapers 

I’ve got some feelers out at the moment for reviews/interviews in local magazines and newspapers, which I’m hoping may generate some interest. It’s early days in this area though so I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.

In saying that, thanks to my awesome dad and his “connections”, a teen magazine called Orbit on the Sunshine Coast has advertised The Big Smoke (for free!) and are giving away two copies of the book to readers. I believe their latest edition is out now but they haven’t uploaded it online yet. Here’s what the ad looks like:

Orbit Ad for The Big Smoke

Hopefully it sparks the interest of some sunny coast teens!

Review competition – idea still bubbling away

Some of you might remember a competition idea I mentioned a few weeks ago, where people who review The Big Smoke go in the draw to win a $50 book voucher. At the time, I said the reviews would need to be on Amazon, but now that I’ve learnt you have to purchase something from Amazon before you can leave a review there, I’m thinking that Goodreads reviews would be a better option.

As I said initially, reviews would NOT have to be positive. Any considered review of 100 words or more would be eligible to win. However, I’m still not sure whether I’ll go ahead with this idea because there’s a risk that people could perceive I’m paying for positive reviews. I’ve actually emailed Goodreads to get their thoughts on the competition idea (I value the connection they provide to readers and wouldn’t want to upset them), so I’ll let you know their response when I get it.

Goodreads giveaway and advertising

I’m currently holding a giveaway of two copies of The Big Smoke on Goodreads, and it does seem to have slightly increased my e-book sales (or it could be a coincidental increase). To support the giveaway (and promote the book more generally), I’m also running an ad on Goodreads, which I set up using their beta self-serve advertising system. At last count, 405 people have entered the giveaway, and there have been 205 “views” of the ad, none of which have resulted in a click through. From what I can tell, a “view” means that the ad has appeared on a page that someone is looking at, but you have to actually scroll down the page a little to see the ads, so I’m not overly worried about the conversion rate at this point. You’re only charged per click through, so if the ad tanks, at least it will be an inexpensive failure!

Here’s the ad and the targeting options I’ve chosen. I’d be interested in any feedback you have.

Goodreads advertisement

Book bloggers

I’ve provided review copies of The Big Smoke to 12 book bloggers / bloggers who occasionally review books, and so far four of them have written a review, all of which I’ve previously quoted. I’m hoping that the other bloggers have been too busy to read the book yet (as opposed to them having read it and hated it) but will get around to it eventually and contribute their opinions to the reviews slowing stacking up. I want to continue to identify book bloggers who might enjoy The Big Smoke because I believe that opinion leaders play a big part in the overall success or failure of books, and the best way to make opinion leaders aware of the book is by telling them about it myself!

And how does all of this relate to the Insecure Writers Support Group?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

It totally relates, trust me. I’ll explain right now. As you can see from the points above, I’ve got a lot of ideas and plans in progress for marketing The Big Smoke. Putting these plans into action takes up a lot of time, which is all well and good at the moment, but there’s also the slight matter of being 34.5 weeks pregnant. In less than six weeks time (or thereabouts), my priorities are going to change dramatically and I’m going to have, let’s face it, absolutely zero time to progress any of these plans. How long that will last is yet to be seen, but I imagine it will be at least three months.

I’m ridiculously excited about becoming a mum, but part of me is worried that all the work I’m doing now will equate to very little if I drop off the planet from a marketing and social media perspective. Will my sales figures dry up? Will I have to start from scratch when I’m finally ready to re-enter the marketing realm?

I’m concerned about all of this, but it’s important that I remember what I set out to achieve when I decided to independently publish The Big Smoke. I never expected to achieve massive sales (dreamt about it, yes; expected it, no), I just wanted to share my story with people who were interested in reading it, and hopefully touch a few readers along the way. And you know what? I’ve done that.

I’ve also learnt an amazing amount already, which I plan to put to good use with my next book. So if everything comes to a halt because I stop actively promoting The Big Smoke for a while, that’s okay. It’s been a great experience regardless. And who knows, maybe little miss Jackson will be an absolutely perfect baby who is more than happy for me to spend a bit of time marketing and writing while she sleeps peacefully… 😉

Your turn

What are your thoughts about my marketing plans? Do you have any feedback on the Goodreads ad? What do you think will happen for The Big Smoke when I drop off the radar for a while?

PS You can find out more about the Insecure Writers Support Group at Ninja Captain Alex’s blog.



Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Marketing, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

14 responses to “IWSG: Where to from here for marketing The Big Smoke?

  1. What about a book signing on or near the campus? That might drum up some interest in the meantime. *shrugs* You could hand out (a lesser number of) bookmarks so people could pass the word. Just a thought…

    IWSG #145 until Alex culls the list again. 🙂

  2. I think your marketing plan sounds awesome! I understand your concern, though, about not being around as much when the baby comes. I sometimes worry about taking weekends off! LOL! Remember the book will be around for a long time, so it always has a chance to find its audience. 🙂

  3. Arlee Bird

    You are approaching things wisely. It’s easily to blow a lot of money on things that sound good but don’t work. I’ve done it and it can be very disappointing. There are so many options out there. Considering that you are doing this with your money, I’d go for free as much as possible and try little things to gauge how they work.

    Your first book can be the learning experience where you test the waters. Maybe you should plan on using Big Smoke as the springboard that starts building your catalog and better establishes your platform. Keep your eyes and ears open for unique promotional possibilities–sounds to me like you’re doing that. You are approaching this the right way.

    By the way, I’ve left many Amazon reviews for items I never purchased. I think you got wrong information unless they’ve changed their policy. It may be that a person can only leave reviews if they’ve been an Amazon customer and have an account. I’ve bought a fair amount from Amazon in the past, but most of my reviews have been for products I did not purchase through them and in some cases I’ve even stated in my reviews what my source was in getting the products.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Arlee. I appreciate it. It was hard to realise that the bookmarks-in-student-bags idea wasn’t viable, but I have to remember this is a business decision and I can’t always let my emotions rule!

      With Amazon, you must have purchased something from them in the past to leave a review. It doesn’t have to be the product you’re reviewing, but you can’t just set up an account for the purposes of reviewing, it has to be ‘financially verified’.

      When I thought more about it, I believe Goodreads is a better fit for the competition idea anyway – they are purely set up for reviews, not for sales, if that makes sense.

  4. I think the best thing you could do would be to write some short stories with these characters and post them for free on Wattpad. And then say, if you are interested in more, go and buy these books.

  5. To spring from what Lee said, all you need for an Amazon review is an Amazon account. You don’t need to have purchased anything.

    I see over and over again that the best marketing you can ever have is the next book. I’m not sure, yet, if it’s true, but I’m working on it.

    • This is actually incorrect. Amazon’s guidelines state:

      *”Who can create customer reviews?* Anyone who has purchased items from Amazon.com.”

      I’ve had people try to write reviews on Amazon for *The Big Smoke* but have been knocked back because their account hasn’t ever purchased anything, so they’ve gone to Goodreads instead.

      You’re right about the best marketing being the next book. It took me eleven years to publish the first one though so I might have to speed up my pace a bit! 😉

  6. Wow, that is a lot to think about. Too bad the bookmarks would cost too much. Would even placing them at the library on campus help?
    Sales are a weird ebb and flow and I’ve never figured it out.

  7. I like Michael’s idea.

  8. I think your efforts are commendable, Cally. You have a plan and that’s the most important part of marketing. We can only do so much and you can’t break your back trying to sell. You’re smart to do what you can in getting your name out their, then with each new book you release, you will have more of a following. Do you follow Susan Kaye Quinn’s blog at all? She is a self-pubbed rockstar with over 10k in sales. She shares her tips all the time.Also Becca and Angela from Bookshelf Muse share their marketing plans and what worked for their 10k in sales.
    If there’s anything I can do to help advertize, you let me know. Happy to help.
    I do have your book to read and review and I’ll get to it, but my revisions right now are killing me. lol
    Thanks for all the warm wishes on my blog. (hugs))

  9. doreenb8

    That brought back memories!
    Having just celebrated my books first birthday I can tell you what has increased my sales the most has been radio interviews (check out The Authors Show), newspaper articles ( must relate your story to the news) and Facebook/Twitter.
    Good luck with your little one, life will certainly be changed for you in a big way:)

  10. I like that ad you have for Orbit! Probably sensible not to have all those bookmarks printed … I understand your disappointment though ’cause I’d love to have a whole load of bookmarks printed for my book!

  11. Pingback: First post for 2013: Insecure Writer’s Support Group! | Cally Jackson Writes

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