Monday, April 23, 2007

Tornado Siren Marketing: What I've Done So Far

I'm trying to stick with my plan of 30 minutes a day on marketing my novel, Tornado Siren, and 30 minutes on screen stuff. So far, I've spent more than 30 minutes on the book mostly making a list of exactly what I've done so far, so I can get my head around what's worked and what hasn't. Next I need to make up a list of what I want to try next (and then actually do it).

So, here's what I've done so far:

  • Designed and printed post card. Got 5,000 copies. Have about 1,800 left.
  • Mailed out post card to a couple hundred people. Gave away lots more.
  • Got web domain registered. Put together a web site for the book.
  • Set up an Amazon Day, where I e-mailed all my friends and family and encouraged them to buy on the same day (in the hopes of increasing the Amazon ranking, and thus gaining more notice). It worked pretty well (we got to #484 overall, and in the top 100 for fiction). Not sure how many we sold, but it was close to 100. This was the most successful book selling that I’ve done, and really fun, too, because it reconnected me with a lot of old friends.
  • Came up with a list of all bookstores in Oklahoma. Called most of them and then had publisher send them advance copies. Didn’t seem to accomplish much—I don’t know if they’re currently carrying the book.
  • Worked out a deal with an Omaha bookstore to offer a discount on the book with a ticket stub from a play festival (in which I had a play). The theatre offered a discount to patrons who brought a copy of the book. Sent post cards to the theatre to give out. Didn’t seem to generate many sales.
  • Did a signing at a Washington, D.C. theatre festival where I had a play. Learned, the hard way, that having the signing after the show is a bad idea. Intermission would have sold a lot more books. I also tried setting up a cross promotional deal with area bookstores, but they weren’t interested.
  • My parents and my in-laws have all sold dozens of books for me to their friends and co-workers. Not unlike as if I was a Girl Scout selling cookies. I have to say, these readers have been some of the most appreciative that I’ve encountered.
  • Did another signing at a play reading event. I signed books at intermission and sold half a dozen or so, which felt good.
  • Set up my first book store signing, at the MIT Coop bookstore. It was an early signing, 5:30pm, which was problematic, but it was my first, so I got about a dozen people, who bought almost 20 books. This store rarely does events, so they were pleased with the turnout. I’d postered all around campus and sent tons of e-mails. The e-mails helped but the posters did nothing.
  • I set up signings at other bookstores: Harvard Coop (good audience, decent sales, great staff), Book Ends in Winchester (local flooding was a problem, but 2 people showed), Salem (driving rain kept away all but 2 people), and two signings at a Barnes & Noble in Worcester (where the books were sold on consignment)—the first one was great, with coverage in the local paper (though the article brought in only 1 person) and my wife’s book club showing up. The second signing brought in only 1 person.
  • I tried to get signings at half a dozen other stores in the Boston area, but was turned down.
  • Went to a local weather conference, and gave out a few post cards and made a possible contact at a book store, but sold no books. (Started to figure out that weather geeks are more interested in non-fiction around tornadoes than fiction.)
  • Got a copy to a meteorologist friend, who is friends with the publications director of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). This landed me a nice blurb in the Bulletin of the AMS. This, in turn, got the book noticed and mentioned by the Weather Guys, who write a blog for USA Today. I wrote to people that I knew had read the book and asked them to write comments to the blog, and got a great response (28 comments). The coverage sold a few books, and word popped up on another blog, but that was about it. (I had fantasies of it catching fire from this coverage.)
  • The book got three reviews (Curled Up With a Good Book, Romance Junkies, and Publishers Weekly) thanks to my publisher’s efforts, and I got one from a playwright binge writer (on Ink19, which was my very favorite). All were positive, but all were on-line only, and it’s unclear if they lead to many sales. We still haven’t had an actual print review. (The best print coverage I got was in Worcester.)
  • I tried my Boston Globe contacts, but they only write about theatre (and not about playwrights writing books).
  • I researched all the big media markets, looking for weather forecasters who were black and/or female, and gave this list to my publisher (my main character is a black, woman meteorologist), who sent out copies. We also sent one to Al Roker. Never heard a peep from this. (I’d hoped at least one might read it and like it.)
  • I searched Yahoo for groups interested in romance novels (mine has a romance in it, but isn’t a “romance novel”) and groups interested in tornadoes. I joined a couple, made an initial post or two, but didn’t find a way to make any progress. I still feel like this could pay off, but I must be missing something.
  • I gave books away as raffle items, to my daughter’s school, and to the weather conference I attended. This didn’t really seem to lead to anything further.
  • I contacted some of the biggest stormchaser web sites, and even got a nice mention on, which is a biggie. Sold a couple books that way.
  • Sent books to a bookstore in Denver, where my old theatre company, Chameleon Stage, was having a signing of some of our collected monologues. (I should follow up with them.)
  • Went to NYC for two signings sponsored by my publisher. Unfortunately they were at odd times, on weekdays (one in a restaurant that changed its name that very week, so was tough to find). We had half a dozen authors or more at each event, but the audience was entirely made of spouses and people that I’d e-mailed (and just a handful of them). I don’t know that any books were sold.
  • Got my publisher to enter the book in both the Massachusetts and Oklahoma state book awards competitions. (My publisher paid for all the books.) But I didn’t win.
  • I set up an interviews with shows on a Worcester Community Access TV channel, but for the first one, the producer never showed up, and the second one got canceled. It started becoming clear that it wasn’t worth the gas, so I let it go.
  • I participated in an author’s weekend sponsored by my local library, where I got to do a reading and a signing. My friends and neighbors came out in support, and I sold about half a dozen books. There might be some ongoing contacts that come from this event. (We might start a book show on the Brookline community cable channel. We’ll see.)
  • Put in requests with my local libraries to carry the book. (And had family members do the same.) They did buy the book and it’s now often checked out.
  • Sent a copy to my screenwriting agent/manager in Hollywood, with the hopes that it might lead to it getting optioned by someone. Nada.

That's mostly it. Mostly I've learned that selling a first novel, by an unknown author is very, very, very, very difficult.

I'm certainly interested in suggestions/ideas (other than, "get it on Oprah.")


sm said...

Some friends of mine with published books have done a "virtual" book tour, basically finding blogs that might be interested in the work and contacting them to see if an interview/feature could be done on the blogs. Seems to have worked really well for them.

patrick said...

I think that's a good idea. I haven't really searched on blogs at all. (I'm fairly new to the blogosphere.)