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Web Marketing and Book Awareness

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Back during our April Fool festivities when I pretended I was an agent and had stolen Ann Aguirre away from the fabulous Laura Bradford, I posted Ann’s faux deal involving a story featuring weredeer. Courtney Milan joined in the fun and blogged about how wereruminants had already been done by Tessa Dare, author of an upcoming 3 book back to back to back historical series from Bantam.

It was claimed that Dare had written a story for Samhain called Legend of the Werestag. In order to soothe our ruffled feelings over this preposterous claim, Samhain sent Ann and I a gift in the form of a review copy of Legend of the Werestag.   It was not, as I thought the title and cover conveyed, a paranormal nor does it feature any shapeshifting ruminants. Instead it is a wonderful historical short story.   I devoured it as if I had come out of the wilderness after fasting for forty days and forty nights. I could not wait for a taste of more Dare writing.

According to the presentation by Dave Thompson, Random House, at the Make Information Pay annual conference sponsored by Book Industry Study Group (BISG), the number one reason that people bought books was because of an in store display.   This is known as co-op.   Coo-op is where publishers pay retailers some amount of money to have their books placed, face out, on a table, an end cap, or some other display.   Nearly 80% of all romance fiction purchases, according to the data, are impulse purchases either at the grocery store, at a discounter, or at a bookstore.   (I find this to be personally true. I might have one or two must have purchases and the rest are purchases made after browsing cover, title, blurb).

What does this mean for an author? If the publisher won’t do co-op for an author, won’t place those books face out, won’t raise in store awareness, then what should an author do? How best can an author reach people, particularly as a new author? According to Thomspon, it’s the internet.   Certainly we’ve all seen ads for Harlequin all over. They’ve become ubiquitous. I’ve spotted them at CNN and Icanhascheeseburger. On Daily Kos and HuffingtonPost. For all I know, they are at RedState (a conservative site that I don’t visit).

Harlequin is pouring a ton of money into online ads because it is   raising awareness for the brand. They seeded readers with a giveaway for each line, a 16 book giveaway in total that is still available to readers.   We’ve blogged before about how free giveaways can raise awareness.   According to John Hilton III, Random House has seen an 11% increase in sales after it gave away several books for free online.

Of course, authors don’t have the breadth of reach of publishers, neither in the store or on the internet. It’s a matter of dollars.   What does this mean for Tessa Dare and authors like her? Sometimes they rely on intermediaries like bloggers.   And I am okay with that because part of my goal here at Dear Author is to help the readers find great new authors.   But for some authors who are fully immersed in the internet romance community, how many free book giveaways are worthwhile? For some authors established in the community, I think there is a certain point of saturation at which free ebook giveaways to a limited crowd has diminishing returns.

Further, I know that there are readers out there who will be turned off by hype.   I can be that way too, but more often than not the hype can convince me to read a book I might not have been interested in.   Sometimes all I need is the recommendation of a friend to get me over an initial reluctance.   Sometimes it is a combination of both.   For example, the book The Madness of Lord Ian McKenzie turned me off because I worried I wouldn’t really be able to like a rainman-like hero.   After gentle reassurance from Robin (aka Janet), I was convinced that I would read it someday. After the twitter folks started going on and on about the greatness of the story I knew I had to read it, and I did later that evening.   My only regret was that I hadn’t read it sooner.

It’s hard to say what moves and motivates consumers. I know for me it can be a free book. I probably wouldn’t have bought Legend of a Werestag. It sounds like a paranormal about, well, a ruminant, and I don’t find those to be terribly sexy creatures.   And, in the interest of full confession and disclosure, I don’t know that I would have bought Goddess of the Hunt, at least not at first.   The cover looked a bit bland to me but I would have been missing out.

I’m interested in hearing from the readership here as to what they like about author marketing and what they don’t like. I actually have a list of items I think are full of online marketing fail.   Will you download a free book?   Do guest blog posts and online blog tours make a difference? How about ads? Have you bought even one book, maybe more, through an online ad?   Do reviews make a difference? Does it depend on the specific reviewer?   What is the single best marketing tecnique you’ve seen?   Authors, what have you done or not done that has made a difference? Come back at noon and I’ll have a mini review of Legend of a Werestag.   Tessa Dare along with her publishers, Bantam and Samhain, will be giving away 3 copies of Goddess of the Hunt and 10 e-copies of Legend of a Werestag.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Laura Wilson
    May 12, 2009 @ 04:53:24

    Free books are good, especially if they are the first or part of a series. The $1.00 ebook was a good idea; I bought the first Larissa Ione even though I had the paperback. I get a lot of recommendations from different bloggers. Some I’m completely grateful for (Nalini Singh, Shelly Laurenston and Kresley Cole); others have been stinkers. I’ve learned to be careful about hype and look at the source. There are some author blogs I frequent, but I rarely take their recommendations. I like review sites, but stop reading those who are too cheerful or never give a bad review, even for books I think are legitimately badly written. There are a few websites where if you enter the contest, you get the author’s email newsletter. Those generally are deleted, especially if it’s a genre I’m not interested in or an author whose voice I’m not in tune with. Others I read depending on the time available.
    I received a snail mail offer where if I bought the new release in paperback and sent in the receipt, I would get a free ebook from her backlist, which I thought was clever. It was an author I’d never heard of, but it made me start looking for the book at the bookstores. I didn’t end up ultimately taking advantage of the offer. I started reading the book in the store and didn’t buy the characters motivations or set up, but I probably would have with a different story.
    Detailed reviews on trusted sites are probably the most likely to get my attention. I keep a list in Word of titles and authors and look for them when I can on Fictionwise, etc.
    Fictionwise, with the exception of recently, has been pretty constant with encouraging me to buy with the micropay rebates and special offers.

  2. Nadia
    May 12, 2009 @ 04:57:10

    * reviews by readers / reviewers I trust
    * free books / serials on the author website or elsewhere (I’m not talking piracy here…!)
    * word of mouth — again from people I trust

    Ads don’t affect me much. I rarely look at them.

    Re: hype — well…it can compel me to buy a copy, but it’s probably going to make me disappointed because it tends to raise my expectations. There have been several books hyped here or elsewhere that I thought were just … meh. It wasn’t because those books were bad. They didn’t meet my uber-high expectations.

  3. Theresa
    May 12, 2009 @ 05:42:43

    I have made several purchases based on on-line ads. What can I say? Shiny, pretty images of what look like interesting books catch my attention. However, I’ve also clicked through on ads and chosen not to buy a book based on blurb and/or excerpt.

    Free books – yes definitely, although I’m trying to figure out when I’ve read a free book and it actually generated a sale. Hmm. Do library books count? I’ve certainly first picked up books to try at the library, and then went out to buy them.

    One thing I don’t like is being coerced (or lured or whatever) into signing up for a newsletter or author’s mailing list just to read an excerpt or free short story set in the world, enter a contest, etc. I have to really, really, really want to read something for me to sign up, and the few times I have, I’ve regretted it (because I wasn’t then removed from their mailing list when I asked to be). Now when I run into this kind of thing, I typically just leave the author’s site, and will rarely go back.

    An on-line review might bring a book to my attention, but I still will rarely rush out to buy a book until I’ve looked up the author’s website and read any excerpts. Also, if there’s not an excerpt, it’s very unlikely that I’ll buy the book.

  4. DS
    May 12, 2009 @ 05:51:21

    I was thinking of what has worked recently: 1) a free book got me started on T. A. Pratt. However, I have also read a free book from another series that left me feeling that I didn’t want to follow that series about paranormal investigators– Oleander House or some other poisonous shrub was in the title.

    2) I will often check out my Amazon Recommendations but I don’t bother buying if there are too many 4 and 5 star reviews from people associated with review sites, especially if their user name is the url or the reviewer posts the url of the site in their review. I also read the 1 and 2 star reviews first to get a sense of what people don’t like about a book. I recently started reading the Cassie Palmer series because it kept showing up on my list.

    3) Recommendations by web sites have made me go look at several books and I have bought and enjoyed a few.

    One thing that will make me stay far, far away from a book or series is overly enthusiastic fans. I still haven’t read Brockmann, Ward or Jo Beverly’s books because their fans really, really annoyed me at one time or another.

    Also I will sometimes click on an ad but I don’t think I have ever bought a book I found that way.

  5. joanne
    May 12, 2009 @ 06:20:55

    Will you download a free book?
    That totally depends on the genre and the blurb. If either one is something that I don’t read then it just doesn’t matter if it’s free.

    Do guest blog posts and online blog tours make a difference?
    Not so much. If it’s a genre or storyline that I like then I’ll read some posts but they can be as much of a bore as the same tv ad running over and over.

    How about ads?
    Have you bought even one book, maybe more, through an online ad?

    I know a lot of posters don’t care for these ads but they work for me. I can click on the ad link and read about the book and make a decision about my purchase without having to wade through a lot of comments about the author/story.

    Do reviews make a difference?
    Absolutely — but not the grade as much as the opinions about the characters and plot and writing.

    Does it depend on the specific reviewer?
    No. (that should probably be yes since I’m a guest here but ‘no’ is the truth)
    If DA reviewers decided that they collectively hated a Linda Howard book it wouldn’t stop me from buying that book. In the same way that their love of a certain book or author wouldn’t encourage me to buy a YA title.

    What is the single best marketing tecnique you've seen?
    Covers. That’s a childish attitude, I know, but if it’s a new author or series then snagging the absolutely best cover available is the way to bring people to at least look at your book.

    I buy and read so many books I should be able to help more —but I couldn’t sell free Manolo Blahniks.

  6. Kimber An
    May 12, 2009 @ 06:32:14

    In my experience, free book giveaways and the Internet works best when the author or her publicist connects with blogging book reviewers who already like her kind of books. Like I just mentioned at Romancing the Blog, enthusiasm can’t be bought. Most of the readers I know rely most heavily on the recommendations of their friends, blog buddies, and blogging book reviewers with whom they have similar tastes.

    Don’t just overturn the box and start flinging your ARCs ever which way. In my opinion, you’ll waste your money.

    I suggest figuring out who the blogging book reviewers are who generally like your kind of book. Then, pay attention to personal tastes. My tastes change, so I try to post what I’m in the mood for ever once in a while. If you write Science Fiction Romance and learned a blogger who reviews the Fantasy genre, for example, suddenly posted a review of the new STAR TREK movie, gushing about how she adored it, email her and offer to send an ARC.

    I know paper ARCs can get expensive, but a lot of reviewers now take electronic ARCs, some exclusively. Find out who. eARCs are much cheaper, faster, and easier to send, plus you snag the reviewer while her enthusiasm is still at its peak.

  7. Cathy
    May 12, 2009 @ 07:00:35

    Reviews are probably the biggest motivator in my book purchasing. My purchase of romance novels has increased – both in quality and quantity- since I started reading DA and SBTB.

    I find covers eye-catching, and sometimes I’ll pick up a book with a really stunning cover to read more, but most mantitty, or Victorian dresses, or wizards look alike, which is why I rely primarily on reviews to draw my attention to things.

    Free e-books are great – I’ve discovered several new authors, or found old favorites through publisher give-aways. However, the system can also backfire; I downloaded most of the Harelquin freebies (I skipped the Inspired series) and of the 5 I’ve read, one was average, one was a DNF (just lost interest) and the other 3 were downright bad. The books were free, so I don’t really care, but this isn’t motivating me to check out other Harelquin books if these were the ones that are supposed to draw me into the lines. I have a few more to read, so maybe I’ll strike gold there.

    Online ads are nice, and – like covers – stunning ones will catch my attention and make me seek out more info, but I’ve only bought one book that I’ve seen an online ad for, and that was from an author I was already familiar with (it was Blue Diablo, by Ann Aguirre).

    I guess reviews are the best marketing tool for me. There are so many books out there and my TBR pile is so large that I really rely on other people to separate the wheat and the chaff for me.

  8. MB (Leah)
    May 12, 2009 @ 07:23:31

    What works, gets me to buy or try new authors:

    1. Reviews from bloggers I know and trust

    2. Free books- contests or contests giving away free books

    3. Guest blogging by author

    4. Authors who facebook and twitter

    5. Book is in ebook format that I can read on my ebookwise

    6. Covers and good blurbs

    What doesn’t work for me:

    1. Online ads- never look at them

    2. Major hype- I don’t know why but when I see everyone jumping on a book reviewing it or blogging about it, I get turned off just because I don’t want to follow the crowd and it makes me rather read and underdog author

    3. If the book is only in paper format- I’d rather read ebooks now and tend to choose books that I can get in ebook over paper

    4. Contests that give away other things from authors. Rather they offer a book

  9. GrowlyCub
    May 12, 2009 @ 07:23:40

    I’ve clicked on ads (usually at SBTB), but haven’t bought via those links. If I have bought a book I saw advertised it was usually after reading about it at the author’s site and then buying at FW.

    Tangent: I mourn the demise of FW. Pretty much everything on my wishlist is now Mobi only and lots of books have disappeared that were formerly available. I still have 11 bucks in micropay that I’m hoping to use up before things go even farther south. I just *hate* that another retail giant took a great e-company and ruined it. :( I know I will be buying a lot fewer e-books (which sucks because I have a SONY reader and I like reading on it a LOT).

    If it’s a subgenre I’m interested in, free e-books work well for me, especially if they are the first of a series or a novella that’s part of it. I bought 2 Scalzi books after Tor gave ‘Old Man’s War’ away for free and I would have bought the newest except it came out in HC and now I’m not in the mood anymore. Authors, resist the shiny lure of the HC and associated royalties, you are losing readers!

    What I really, really, *really* want is a coupon to buy the (DRM-free) e-version for an buck when I buy a paperback. I re-read a LOT and I like having both paper and e-copies.

    Hype has worked (see my purchase of Lord Ian), but like Nadia says, that can be a double edged sword creating too high expectations. I’m considering bringing Lord Ian back to the store for a refund because I found it so meh, which is extra aggravating because the set up and the characters *should* have worked for me. Now I’m extra leery of trying Ashley again because if the ‘meh’ isn’t in the set up and the characters it must be the author’s writing ability that’s lacking for me.

    While covers usually work more in the sense of deciding me *against* buying a book, I have clicked on a few ads because I thought the covers were ‘shiny’ or should that be ‘sparkly’… :) But unfortunately I’ve found that the most visually appealing covers are on stories I have absolutely no interest in (UF or paranormal).

    I have a few comments on what doesn’t work for me:

    – author mailing lists that are full of ‘I lost my job, oh, you poor lamb’ posts and birthday wishes by readers to readers and the author chiming in on every single of those poor lamb posts, but ignoring questions about her books’ release dates, etc.

    – author announcement lists that neglect to announce new books or to update the readers on what the author is up to writing wise (I really don’t care at all about the fact that your 4th grandchild just had a new tooth, but I really do want to hear about how book 3 in the series is progressing)

    – author websites that do not have their backlist with blurbs or that do not list connected/series books or that are out of date (don’t list a book that’s been out for 2 years as ‘coming soon’)

    and the number one thing I hate:

    – don’t advertise a book as a romance if it doesn’t have a HEA/HFN; ‘bitter sweet’ ain’t cutting it! I’ll drop you like a hot potato and I’ll be telling all my friends; it’s bad karma!

  10. Keri M
    May 12, 2009 @ 07:32:07

    Usually ads don’t work for me, because I tend to overlook them. I will go get a free ebook if it is by a favored top author. I don’t do that with too many because I would only be reading it on my pc as I don’t have a reader.

    I will give you an example of what does work for me: Sites like this one and reviews that I can trust. Case in point, Le Nora’s Vision In White, I had no intention of buying the book, hadn’t even looked at it as a matter of fact. I mean come on I have 37 other authors lined up to be bought on my standing book list.
    But I saw the review of the book here on Dear Author and the more I read the more I liked and that soon turned to must have. Then to carry this even further I bought it brand spanking new which is breaking one of my hard-fast rules is to never buy new, unless it is by my top 3 authors.

    However, I had a 30% off coupon from Borders for Mother’s Day, so I took advantage. lol…I must have walked around that bookstore for 30 mins in a discussion with myself about buying the book, but Nora, you won. I am in the middle of my first contemporary by Nora Roberts and I am loving VIW, it is a beautifully detailed book and I love Carter. Luckily my hubby is a stand-up guy and completely understands. :-)

  11. Lisa J
    May 12, 2009 @ 07:33:02

    Reviews are a motivator if the author is new to me. A review will tell me what others think, but I am leery if all the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been burned by that before (see the Lords of Satyr).

    The story blurb, excerpts, and yes, the cover (I’m so shallow) also help me with my decision on buying books. The “if you like that book, you’ll like this book” are also helpful.

    I have found many new authors from reading a story written in an anthology. Many of my favorites were found this way (e.g., Lora Leigh, Shiloh Walker).

  12. Kati
    May 12, 2009 @ 07:46:03

    I find this thread interesting, mostly because almost everyone has said that reviews are the number one motivator for purchasing, and yet, I’ve always heard the online reviews really make no difference in the overall success (from a publishing standpoint) of the book.

    I have to agree with the crowd though, online reviews are my number one push to buy new to me books. Like you, Jane, I had absolutely no intention of reading The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie for a variety of reasons, mostly because I hadn’t read the author’s work before and I thought that it would be an “Avon-ish” story. I bought it because of the passion of KristieJ, and as usual, she was utterly correct.

    I don’t really look at ads, except if they are by an author I know, and generally all I think is “Oh! Shiny!”

    I am one of those readers though who when in a book store, I’ll turn covers of my favorite authors outward. Colleen Gleason’s books in particular. I’m constantly moving her books around to be sure they’re getting noticed. She’s got such eye popping covers.

    But most of my new to me authors come from reading online reviews from reviewers I trust.

  13. Julieb
    May 12, 2009 @ 07:49:08

    If you’re going to go through the trouble of putting pretty pictures of your book covers on your site, please link to where I can BUY the book. I’ve seen a lot of small press-pubbed authors make the mistake of simply linking to the main page on Amazon or BN rather than to the page for their book. They’re losing sales.

  14. Alessia Brio
    May 12, 2009 @ 08:25:59

    Will you download a free book?
    If available, yes. I much prefer a sample of the author’s writing before I spend money, and I’d rather a complete story arc than an excerpt.

    I have several free shorts available on ARe, and they are invariably at the top of my “best sellers” at that site, even the one non-erotic title. So, apparently the readers like ’em, too. I can’t point to a spike in sales in conjunction with a free ebook release, though.

    Do guest blog posts and online blog tours make a difference?
    Depends on the blog. Authors pimping to other authors is like a huge room filled with hamsters in wheels–a squeaking cacophony. Unfortunately, it seems that a large part of the romance blogosphere fits that description. Yes, authors are also readers, but there’s gotta be a better way to target BUYERS.

    How about ads?
    Have you bought even one book, maybe more, through an online ad?

    Nope. And I’ll only consider paying for ads at venues (online or off-) that don’t have that authors-pimping-to-authors thing goin’ on.

    Do reviews make a difference?

    Does it depend on the specific reviewer?
    Yup. The shiny, happy, everything-gets-a-4-or-5 review sites don’t have any power over me. (Did I just invite a review smackdown? *eep*) Sure, I’ll squee & crow about it when my books get shiny, happy reviews. Why wouldn’t I? However, the reviews that mean the most to me–of my own work or that of others–are those from sites/publications with a reputation for straight-forward, non-fluffy critique: what worked, what didn’t, and why. Fluffy doesn’t help me improve as a writer, and if fluffy sold books, I’d be a bestseller by now.

    What is the single best marketing technique you've seen?
    Have to agree that cover art is huge. Not sure it’s the best, though. A viral word-of-mouth campaign is most effective, I believe. Now, if someone would just tell me how to trigger one, I’d be eternally grateful.

  15. Chris W
    May 12, 2009 @ 08:27:12

    The best for me has been reading reviews and then going to the authors website for a blurb of the book – or reading the first chapter. The authors website also might have a short story on it of a secondary character and that helps me a lot, especially for PR or UF. Usually from the short story I will know if I like the writing and want to invest in another series.

    I also like Orbits $1 for the start of the series and have found a couple good ones that way. It is worth the risk, most of the time to get the book for a dollar or less…

    The free books are always nice – but I am with the person that has not really bought anything off of the sites or more from the author after reading them. I do better when reading a review and something in it catches my attention and then I do my own research.

  16. joanne
    May 12, 2009 @ 08:37:57

    by Lisa J May 12th, 2009 at 7:33 am
    Reviews are a motivator if the author is new to me. A review will tell me what others think, but I am leery if all the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. I've been burned by that before (see the Lords of Satyr).

    Holy hell, Yes. That series was a reminder — big time — of really different strokes for different folks, lol!

    by GrowlyCub: I'm considering bringing Lord Ian back to the store for a refund because I found it so meh, which is extra aggravating because the set up and the characters *should* have worked for me

    I guess this may be a can of worms, and I know it’s totally off-topic, but how can you return a book that you’ve read for a refund? If you read it and there are no pages missing or print-errors isn’t it now a used book? Am I missing something about what makes it a returnable item?

  17. Louisa Edwards
    May 12, 2009 @ 08:38:43

    So interesting how many people are citing reviews as reasons to buy! Of course, considering the site we’re all commenting on, we might be a flawed sample. I definitely fall prey to hype and advertising, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. When everyone is buzzing about Lord Ian or werestags, I want to know what it’s all about!

    Here’s my question: would people be interested in a free read that is a novella prequel to a soon-to-be-published series? Are there any recent examples of something like that?

  18. veinglory
    May 12, 2009 @ 08:38:45

    (Of course some of us actually do write stories about were-deer, in fact about queer were-deer)

  19. Carolyn Jewel
    May 12, 2009 @ 08:41:17

    As a reader, I have to say reviews do matter. I have favorite/trusted review sites. I’ve often bought books that got less than rave reviews because the subject matter seemed interesting to me just as I have been sometimes disappointed by books others raved about. I keep an ear out for authors people are talking about, too: often via twitter and blog posts where readers and writers post about books they’ve read. I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on an ad for a book. Free books have definitely gotten me started reading authors I hadn’t read yet.

    As an author, I have no freaking idea what works. The one thing I do know works — co-op — is beyond my ability to control or afford. I don’t have much say over my covers either. Nor can I really control who decides to review my books. I’ve had review sites decline my offer to send an ARC (paper or electronic.) Book trailers are probably not an effective sales tool, but I do believe they add interest to my website. I guest blog and do enjoy that, actually, but I end up wondering if anyone really cares. I give away free books and other prizes.

    I have a newsletter list, but to be honest, I want my newsletter list to consist of people who actually do want my news, so I try not to ask that people sign up for it as a condition of anything. I think that strategy works, kind of, because I get very few unsubscribes, but the number of subscribers is not particularly impressive either.

    Keeping in contact with booksellers at indies and chains is important; Going in and being nice, asking if it’s OK to sign stock, leaving bookmarks, ARCS and the like.

    I buy books because I like the cover, liked the back blurb and/or have heard it’s good, or because I’m already a fan of the author. My publisher has the most control over getting me brick and mortar visibility. The kind of buzz that makes people decide to buy a book by an author they don’t know is much harder to come by and is, ultimately, most affected by how good a book I wrote. That, I like to think, is something I can control.

    The reality is that lots of really really good books get no buzz and no visibility in stores and, speaking from experience, great reviews don’t always result in more sales, and sales are what allow writers to keep writing.

  20. GrowlyCub
    May 12, 2009 @ 08:47:48


    coming from a culture/country where you cannot really return too many things (except for mechanical defects), I was astounded by what folks use and then return here. I guess I’ve gotten ‘Americanized’ after 11 years in the U.S.

    This would be the first time I’ve ever read a book and returned it, if I decide to do it. You cannot see that the book was read. There are no spine creases or bent corners and the book stays closed when laid down. It looks like it was never opened. Like I said, I haven’t made up my mind yet, but it’s really a sign of how disappointed I was that I’m even considering the option (especially in light of the fact that I NEVER even take books to UBS even if I hated them, because I might want to re-read a scene 3 months or 4 years down the road and that I’ve bought used copies of books I read from the library that were only so-so). I really wish I didn’t feel that strongly disappointed in the book.

  21. joanne
    May 12, 2009 @ 09:07:42

    (((GC))) thanks.
    You know I loved that book, if I lived next door I’d buy it from you *grin*

    Carolyn Jewel mentions newsletters, which I had forgotten about. I get plenty of them but I think they’re more about ‘singing to the choir’ then getting new readers. If I’m on an author’s mailing list it’s because I want to know what’s next for their releases and I’m already pretty sure to be buying.

    New and unknown authors have such a hard road.

  22. Keishon
    May 12, 2009 @ 09:19:25

    I don’t click on ads and I am wary of books that garner a lot of hype (usually I’m the last to read the book for a reason) and lastly, reviews are like tools, I use them only when I need them. I have a favorite set of authors (mostly mystery) and so I tend to not venture too far from my set of favorites. New authors have to entice me more and work harder to get my attention and that’s where word of mouth comes in.

  23. Sunita
    May 12, 2009 @ 09:27:39

    Will you download a free book? Do guest blog posts and online blog tours make a difference? How about ads? Have you bought even one book, maybe more, through an online ad? Do reviews make a difference? Does it depend on the specific reviewer? What is the single best marketing tecnique you've seen?

    I will almost always download a free ebook, unless I know in advance there’s no way I’d like it. And if I like the book, I’ll almost always go and buy one to say thanks for the freebie. This is true for individual authors and for publishers.

    I don’t pay any attention to guest blog posts and online blog tours. To me they fall within the category of advertising, which I tune out. So obviously, I don’t click through ads, let alone buy a book based on one. I rarely read authors’ blogs unless I’m looking for information on their websites, and I don’t enter contests.

    Reviews definitely make a difference, and who the reviewer is matters a lot. I read reviews more for information than for the recommendation, but there are a few reviewers whose recommendations I frequently follow. There are a lot (at other sites) that I use as reverse barometers. I don’t pay much attention to Amazon and none at all to “positive” review sites.

    For me, the single best marketing technique is a free ebook, or a generous free sample of a book. The sample lets me get a sense of a new-to-me author’s style of writing and voice.

    I don’t like coordinated hype around books, like blog tours or simultaneous reviews at a bunch of sites. I may still read the book, but I’ll usually wait until the noise has died down. I can understand multiple reviews, because lots of bloggers may be interested in the same book, but then it becomes about the bloggers’ experience rather than a communication to readers. JMHO and not intended to stifle the strategy, because it definitely works for some people.

  24. Kati
    May 12, 2009 @ 09:40:10

    Here's my question: would people be interested in a free read that is a novella prequel to a soon-to-be-published series? Are there any recent examples of something like that?

    IIRC, Nalini Singh did this with her Angel series. Angel’s Blood released and then very shortly thereafter she released a novella set in the same universe. I’m not sure how successful it was for her. But as someone who absorbed Angel’s Blood like air, I was thrilled and hurried to download it immediately.

    I’ve heard of other authors releasing epilogues after a book. Although, I have to be honest, Julia Quinn did it w/her Bridgerton series, and they charged for them. I refused to pay the fee to read them, but I’d have gone to the trouble of clicking through if they’d been free.

  25. Moth
    May 12, 2009 @ 09:42:07

    Will you download a free book? Nope. Not into ebooks at all. I use the library a lot, though. And I’ve been enjoying Carrie Lofty’s free serial Serenade on her website. So, I’m not opposed to free books. I just don’t dig the electronic stuff.
    Do guest blog posts and online blog tours make a difference? If they are very, very funny I might go look at their stuff, but usually if I get the book from the library I don’t end up liking it.
    How about ads? I thought the Grimspace ad on SBTB was really pretty, but that book had a great cover. Otherwise ads have very little effect on me except to marvel how cheesy they are.
    Have you bought even one book, maybe more, through an online ad? I didn’t even buy Grimspace. So, no.
    Do reviews make a difference? Oh, definitely! Here and SBTB. I’ve found some great authors and books that way.
    Does it depend on the specific reviewer? Yes. It also depends on how detailed the review is. Usually I will get it from the library and then buy it if I love it. Something has to sound really great and not be availiable at the library for me to buy it.
    What is the single best marketing tecnique you've seen? Reviews. That’s the best way to get me to buy a book.

  26. Minna
    May 12, 2009 @ 09:50:58

    I never read reviews. Just because someone likes/dislikes a book, it doesn’t mean I would agree. I buy a book if I like the blurb. Or if I’ve read the writers books before, I might buy the book no matter what it says in the blurb. Contests and such: who wouldn’t like a free book? Plenty of times I’ve found new books and writers thanks to contests. And if I’ve liked the book I have happened to win, at some point I have also bought books written by that writer. Bookmarks, coverflats and such: ok, I might end up buying a book, but since I don’t collect that stuff, what do I do with them? I’m too much of a scrooge to just throw them away, but… Collectors, here? Anyone?

  27. Maili
    May 12, 2009 @ 09:55:30

    Sunita said it all for me, especially those comments about the coordinated promo/hype and seeing reviews as sources of information rather than recommendations.

    If I have to be honest, I tend to avoid reviews until I read chosen books. I read other reviews when I am positive I won’t buy those books. Once in a while, a review might spur me into buying a copy.

    I don’t and won’t take part in authors’ book giveaway contests when I know I won’t buy their other books or already buy all their books. It’s a different story if these were hosted by publishers, though. I think being so exposed to how much money authors spend on promoting their latest makes me wary of taking part in these authors’ giveaway contests.

    What does get me to seek information on books/buy books:

    1. my own interest in specific themes, storylines and genres/sub-genres.
    2. tailored recommendations by readers who are aware of my taste or interests.

    A reader at Twitter recommended Margery Piercy’s ‘Her, His & It’ (aka Body of Glass) because I mentioned how much I loved Susan Squires’s Body Electric. Other readers suggested ‘Clockwork Heart’, ‘Soulless’ and other titles because I’m a long-time reader of cyberpunk/steampunk fiction. Jane of DA suggested a Sarah Mayberry title because she knew I liked the friends-turned-lovers theme. I try to return the favour as well.

  28. Renee Lynn Scott
    May 12, 2009 @ 09:59:43

    This is one of the best blog posts I’ve seen in a long time. I’m thinking of some marketing for a friend during nationals, but if I told you I’d have to…


  29. Bonnie L
    May 12, 2009 @ 10:45:58

    I have found that lately I don’t buy anything that I haven’t read a review for unless it was by a trusted author. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I suspect that I am missing out on a lot of good books, but I got tired of buying something that looked good on the out side only to find dreck on the inside.

  30. ValarieP
    May 12, 2009 @ 10:56:55

    I will download a free book, but only if it is something that gets my interest. If I know I’ll never read the book, then even free is a waste of money so to speak. I have been loving those Orbit $1.00 deals for the first books in a series. Just recently I purchased the Jennifer Rardin book (haven’t had a chance to read it yet).

    I generally tend to look for books by authors I already know, because I have been burned a lot by books that get great reviews but just don’t suit my tastes. Although, I do love to try new authors, but I am very careful in my buying. A great blurb will usually get me interested, but what can really hook me is reading the first couple chapters (like the free samples that Avon books do), if by the time I finish those couple of chapters and I am still hooked then I will always buy that new author. Author exceprts usually start in the middle of the book and don’t give me enough of a read to know whether or not I want to continue on after that short bit.

  31. GrowlyCub
    May 12, 2009 @ 11:08:14

    but what can really hook me is reading the first couple chapters (like the free samples that Avon books do), if by the time I finish those couple of chapters and I am still hooked then I will always buy that new author.

    Yes, that has worked for me too, but when I read your posting I remembered something that really annoyed me when I read the excerpt for Anna Campbell’s new book on the publisher’s website last fall. They had about 70 or so pages up. I was totally hooked so I really wanted to continue reading, and was even willing to buy a full price e-book version, except the book wasn’t out yet!

    While I understand the idea of whetting people’s appetite, this really made me very unhappy and by the time the book finally came out, I had forgotten all about it until months later when I stumbled across it in a USB. Lost sale for author! Moral I guess, don’t put up those excerpts too early!

  32. Tabitha
    May 12, 2009 @ 11:30:18

    Will you download a free book?

    Yes. When Avon had The Duke and I available online as a free read, I was only a quarter of the way through the book when I went out and purchased that book plus Julia Quinn’s remaining back list.

    Do guest blog posts and online blog tours make a difference?

    Sometimes I pay attention more to certain authors when they visit the blog sites that I visit but that’s a small percentage.

    How about ads? Have you bought even one book, maybe more, through an online ad?

    Very few time have I purchased a book based on their ads.

    Do reviews make a difference? Does it depend on the specific reviewer?

    Yes, reviews make a difference especially when they are reviewed by readers and review sites that I’ve come to trust.

    What is the single best marketing tecnique you've seen?

    Reviews. 8 out of 10 times I purchase a book based on reviews of a book.

    My interest in a book doubles when excerpts are provided within a review or when checking out an author site and the author provides excerpts from the book that are more than just a paragraph or two (enough to tell me the author’s writing style).

  33. Jessa Slade
    May 12, 2009 @ 11:41:31

    As a reader, I am utterly faithless in what catches my interest. Pretty cover maybe, but an ugly, egads cover grabs my eye too. Hype turns me on or off depending the day of the month. Half the time I can’t remember what a reviewer said. A free book is just as likely to fall to the bottom of my TBR tower as something I paid full price for.

    As a newbie author, my own fickleness drives me nuts. How am I supposed to make decisions when I can’t be relied upon to know my own mind?

    So I appreciate this list of what other people like/dislike. Since it’s as widely varied as me myself, at least I know I’m not crazy.

  34. Jennifer Haymore
    May 12, 2009 @ 11:43:38

    When talking book promo, should one distinguish the brand new, unknown author from the consistent NYT bestseller who’s releasing her 20th novel? I’m thinking a successful approach for one might not benefit the other at all…

  35. Leah Hultenschmidt
    May 12, 2009 @ 11:51:12

    Just a quick clarification:

    If the publisher won't do co-op for an author, won't place those books face out, won't raise in store awareness, then what should an author do?

    Quite often, it’s the bookstore that asks for/recommends the co-op based on how many copies they’re willing to take. And then the publisher has to agree to spend the 25 cents per copy or whatever it is. We’ve had titles we’ve pushed for placement that haven’t been supported by an individual account, but I can’t think of us ever turning down a reasonable co-op opportunity.

    Ok, back to the free books. I love them, but I only actually download them if it’s something I’ve seen before or if I read good reviews. Author blog tours don’t sway me much. Generally, it has to be a review by someone I trust. Gee, like Jane at DearAuthor. I especially like having the grade at the end, so I can skip through the plot part and avoid any potential spoilers.

  36. Babs
    May 12, 2009 @ 12:05:16

    Free is always good — I’m more apt to try a new author or genre if I don’t have to pay. I took advantage of the Harlequin offer and have been enjoying the return to the books I read as a teenager that hooked me on the romance genre. When I need my equivalent of romance comfort food I might just head on over and purchase some more.

    Ads, eh, not so compelling. I am much more apt to depend on reviews especially those with excerpts. Especially since the couple of books I’ve purchased based on ads were disappointing and with a finite book-buying budget I don’t like being disappointed in my purchases.

    I have certain authors that I faithfully purchase but since tastes change over time AND new authors are always appearing I’d love to have more outlets for discovering them. Blogs definitely help with that.

    I just purchased Werestag this morning (discounted to US$ 3.15 when I purchased it a couple of hours ago) but would have never touched the title if it weren’t for the review on SBTB — when I first read the title I figured it would be some paranormal story that would not appeal to me (while trying to wrap my head around a visual of what a werestag would look like!) If I enjoy it then I’ll most likely pre-order Goddess of the Hunt.

  37. Joy
    May 12, 2009 @ 12:18:25

    Free books have been the best online marketing to me. I purchased most of Lorelei James’s backlist based on a free book and have since spent too much money at Samhain on other authors (some based on other marketing/freebies but mostly because I now know how good Samhain books are).

    Twitter buzz from reviewers/authors I follow has also raised my interest in several books lately.

    Online ads have not yet gotten me to purchase a book – although I have started clicking on them.

  38. MaryK
    May 12, 2009 @ 12:21:12

    @Maili: Completely OT, but was the Piercy book good? I’m also a big fan of Susan Squires's Body Electric.

  39. Chenebe
    May 12, 2009 @ 12:31:45

    There are so many choices out there now that I no longer just buy books blind.

    For me, reviews are the way I determine whether I would be interested. Not just the intial blog entry (which is very useful to get an idea for content I find, which is why I prefer DA over Amazon), but also the follow up comments in response to a review.

    Not just gushing, enthusiastic reviews either, the ones that pique my interest are usually the mixed reviews, very strong likes or dislikes. What helps is if the reviewer bothers to say why they love or hate a book. An example from this site would be ‘Angel Demon’ by Meljean Brook. Some people raved about the world-building and unconventional heroine and hero; others say they couldn’t follow the convoluted plot. I looked up other reviews on other sites, and then decided to give it a go.

    More recently, I’ve been following recommendations on “If you liked X, try …” I am currently working off the recommendations by readers of Lois McMaster Bujold (on this website) and it has been fun trying some of the books there, though my liking of the books recommended is highly uneven.

    Another thing that I found very effective in pulling me in to get a book is the availability of sample chapters on an author’s website. If a particularly powerful and well-written scene is offered up, I usually find I cannot resist. The scene is constantly in my head, and will only be exorcised with a complete reading of the book. This technique is so effective for me that it can even convince me to read a new book by an author whose previous books I have not enjoyed. The examples here are Kresley Cole and Nalini Singh. I intially read both based on reviews. They did not do it for me. Both authors have put out sample chapters on their websites. What can I say, I was rather drawn in by the description of the clothing in Kresley Cole’s sample, and Nalini Singh’s two recent samples really caught me: ‘Angel’s Blood’ looked fascinating and I was convinced it was different from the Psy/Changling series; and her latest excerpt from the latest Psy/Changeling book is really hot! I did not even like the Psy/Changeling books and I found myself thinking I had to pick it up.

    One mistake many authors make is that they do not give enough of value from their websites. Some websites feel they are there mainly because the author felt they had to have one and there is this bland, uninformative resume taking up the web universe. Sheesh what a waste. By the time I bother to go to an author’s website, I have been hooked into visiting by some review or who knows what reason. To have an uninspiring lack of content is just disappointing. So, sample chapters like mentioned before work really well for me; I don’t need to get free stuff; and some authors manage quite a lively community around their blogs which I think is fun for they type of reader who likes to know who the author is behind the books they read, but I usually skim it and move on. Oh, and I think another avenue for the more “fan” type of reader is twitter. Some fans would love to hear 140 characters of random thoughts from their fave author, and it keeps an author alive and foremost in their minds. (However, with both blogs and twitter, the thought must arise that isn’t it better if the author were writing the next book rather than wasting time?)

    One final thing, and I know this is really shallow of me but: the cover. I love a beautiful cover and a book with one that offends my aesthethic sense will really turn me off. Two recent books that are HIGH on my to get list because the covers appealed to me (and the book summaries sounded appealing too): Jory Strong’s Berkley debut and Nora Robert’s lastest contemp (love that white frothy skirt). I know the whole male chest and ripped bodice thing is the bread and butter of romance covers but honestly, I find them repulsive and even embarassing. Occasionally, I will still buy a book with a horrid cover (and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books, designed to appeal to juvenile teenagers I think, come to mind, but ye gods her books are so good that anything can be forgiven) but if you are a new and unknown author, I may be so repulsed I can’t bring myself to own something so ugly. Sorry.

    PS. I reallly think that publishers should give authors some say on the covers of the books. I really think authors have the best sense of the sprit of their book and some idea what images best represent them. And some covers are just WRONG, like they are trying to depict a certain scene in a book and there are factual errrors that could be picked up if they only read the book carefully! That just annoys the hell out of me.

  40. MaryK
    May 12, 2009 @ 13:24:16

    What is the single best marketing tecnique you've seen?

    Substantive excerpts of good books.

    I’ve never read Jennifer Ashley before. I bought Lord Ian based solely on an excerpt included in an interview she did at The Good, The Bad, The Unread. I’m anxiously waiting for Beyond the Rain by Jess Granger because of an excerpt on her website. I’m also, based partly on a Book Smugglers review and partly on the included excerpt, waiting for The Magicians and Mrs. Quent to come out in paperback.

    So three new books, two of them trade paperbacks, from new-to-me authors based on samples of their writing ability. I rarely buy new-to-me authors new, and it’s even rarer for me to buy trade paperbacks. In these cases the best marketing was engaging excerpts. I’ve passed up many a book (especially ebooks where I can’t page through) based on ho-hum excerpts.

    Have you bought even one book, maybe more, through an online ad?

    Not directly, but the ads raise my awareness of an author’s book.

    I can give you an example of marketing fail. I was almost sold on a book by a really interesting ad and cover art and then the excerpt didn’t follow through. I actually went searching through the epublisher’s website for the book because I remembered it from the ad but hadn’t been able to click through it at the time. The excerpt was the book’s prologue which featured the hero and the unborn heroine’s mother. Um, not helpful.

    I don’t want excerpts to give background or set the stage – that’s what the blurb is for. When I read a romance excerpt, I’m looking for engaging, main characters. If a book is about a heroine, showing me her mother or her gaggle of girlfriends doesn’t help me. In this case, it might’ve worked if the hero really grabbed me, but he didn’t.

  41. Suze
    May 12, 2009 @ 13:55:34

    I buy books because I like the cover, liked the back blurb and/or have heard it's good, or because I'm already a fan of the author.

    Me, too! In fact, I became a Carolyn Jewel fan because I enjoyed Marjorie Liu’s first book, so picked up her Crimson City book, which led me to Carolyn’s CC book, which led me to her demon series (MOAR pls kthx). I haven’t made it to the historicals, but the day will come.

    Covers and back blurbs, recommendations from trusted friends/reviewers work for me. Ads are hit & miss, but an ad showing a good cover and that links to a substantial excerpt works VERY well. I’ve bought books in hardcover, which I hate to do, because the first 4 or 5 chapters were on-line at Baen books, and I was too impatient to wait for the paperback.

    I’m too lazy to set up Author Tracker, to let me know when authors I like have something new out, but I should.

    Those “if you liked this, then you may like that” things sometimes get me to try someone new. The logic of them is a little odd.

    Recommendations (cover quotes) from authors I like very often suck me in, until I become aware that Author X is recommending every book published in the last six months. I’ll try anything that has a “Loved It!” quote from Patricia Briggs or Lois McMaster Bujold. I bought Windflower in the early 90’s based on the blurb plus a recommend from Johanna Lindsay (who I really enjoyed at the time).

    Essentially, word-of-mouth is the best way to get people to buy books. And I have no idea how you can trigger enough of that to make a difference, beyond publishing the best book you can create.

  42. Bev Stephans
    May 12, 2009 @ 16:56:36

    Since I buy all of my books online (used and new), most marketing hype won’t work on me. What does work is good reviews at Dear Author or Smart Bitches. I have found many many new authors this way.

    I’m not saying every good review will send me to my favorite online bookstore, because there are several sub genres that I don’t buy: Regency, YA, Manga and some historicals.

    I have also found some interesting new authors from the Literature Map.

  43. evie byrne
    May 12, 2009 @ 17:40:12

    At least three people in this thread have said something to the effect of “I must be shallow but covers mean a lot to me.” I just had to step in and say there’s nothing shallow about that at all. You’re responding naturally to a well designed image. A good cover is a work of art, and if it’s doing its job, you should be drawn to it, fascinated by it, seduced by it.

    I’m a writer, so I should know as well as anybody that an author has little to no control over her cover, and that the cover can’t be trusted as an indication of the quality of the prose within. But even so, I am still seduced by a good cover and am almost inherently prejudiced to believe that a good cover = a good story. Even when I have abundant experience to the contrary, I still want to believe it. That speaks to the power of images. Never underestimate them.

  44. Sherry Thomas
    May 12, 2009 @ 18:14:05

    Alessia Brio said:

    Do guest blog posts and online blog tours make a difference?
    Depends on the blog. Authors pimping to other authors is like a huge room filled with hamsters in wheels-a squeaking cacophony. Unfortunately, it seems that a large part of the romance blogosphere fits that description. Yes, authors are also readers, but there's gotta be a better way to target BUYERS.

    When I spoke on the phone with my agent and the publicist she’s hired to represent her clients in dealing with pushing for more publisher PR, the publicist said that based on her experience, publisher promotion at such events such as RWA National–which is nothing but a gathering of authors–is a very effective way to spend PR money.

    I suppose it’s because authors aren’t just readers, but voracious readers who know a lot of other readers. When they love a book, they don’t keep it to ourselves. They recommend it to everyone they know–online and in real life. In political terms, they are a good part of your base. Get your base excited, and they will go out and work on the other voters.

  45. Chenebe
    May 12, 2009 @ 18:19:31

    It’s probably cos of the old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”!

  46. Heather Massey
    May 12, 2009 @ 20:26:24

    I rely on reviews and excerpts for discovering new reads in general.

    Sometimes they rely on intermediaries like bloggers.

    But when it comes to niche genres that I enjoy, I strongly rely on bloggers who share the same interest because often these books are difficult to find.

    Sometimes it takes reading a whole book to learn if it falls into the niche genre one enjoys. When bloggers share info about such books there can be payoffs for authors in terms of word-of-mouth and other types of exposure (that can lead to sales and even things such as foreign rights sales).

    And sometimes, the ball gets rolling at blogs far off the beaten path. I’ve seen it happen. I realize authors are busy, busy people, but responding to requests for interviews and such with a “small” niche blogger could actually turn out to have significant benefits. From my experience, though, most authors are very responsive to niche bloggers who enjoy their work and want to share the love.

  47. Andrea S
    May 13, 2009 @ 11:28:23

    I tend to rely heavily on bloggers. Review sites like this one are the best place for me to find books. Because I’ve figured out who I agree with and I can decide if deal breakers would ruin a book for me.

    I love free/really cheap books. I will try just about anything if it’s free. When Tor was offering free books, I ran into a couple of different authors I am trying more of. Also, excerpts online (especially longer ones) tend to hook me. But I have to be looking for the book to get to those.

    After that, it’s probably just cover/blurb. I might pick up a book that is placed cover out, but the blurb would still be a bigger deal than the placement.

    I don’t know that I pay attention to ads, but I’ve definitely noticed (and giggled at) Harlequin’s ads recently. So there is some visibility.

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