Monday, August 31, 2009

Marketing you can't buy

You publish a book. You get a marketing plan (or not) from your publisher. Now it's your turn to get out there. You do it all: school visits, blog tours, interviews for the hometown paper, drive-by signings.

Yay, me!

Your publisher definitely appreciates your willingness to do the work of getting out there in front of potential readers but honestly, it doesn't affect the bottom line much. All of those things are lots of fun and many are personally satisfying but the amount of legwork involved rarely results in corresponding sales.

But why?

Because you are one person and unless you happen to have thousands of friends willing to buy your book - like tens of thousands - your efforts won't pay off the way you hope.

That sucks.

Yes, it does.

Maybe my book is no good.

Wrong - your book IS good. Your book is great. But what sells books is beyond your control. It's word-of-mouth. It's placement on a list. It's a celebrity bringing a copy of your book to the Academy Awards. I learned this firsthand this weekend when AOL happened to pick up a blog post that discussed my book, ALL ABOUT VEE, and placed it on its front page for about six hours. The post at Lemondrop was based on that awesome article Leanne Italie wrote and was itself amazing, with some tremendous comments from readers about weight issues, books, and my main character, Veronica May.

That alone was fantastic press and made me feel wonderful but AOL added a headline on its page with my book's cover next to it: "Plus Size Book Stirs Up Debate." This got people clicking over to the Lemondrop post, got people talking about the issue, got people clicking through to my website and also clicking through to Amazon. I couldn't buy this publicity!

More than anything, though, was that the post and the AOL headline encouraged people to discuss an issue that is very important to me, important to my book, important to a lot of readers out there. It happens to be timely (even though the book came out over a year ago!) considering the healthcare debate, the Fat Acceptance movement, the HAES movement, and the many new television shows like Dance Your Ass Off and More to Love. It's part of the zeitgeist, I guess, but it's not anything I could have created myself.

I just knew that if people were talking about weight issues and understood where Vee and I were coming from, they would want to know more. But I couldn't prove it until it happened.