Note from author: I had originally posted this on my blog for about a day, when my brother, who is a PR and social media specialist and who has been helping me market THE MORONI DECEPTION, quickly emailed to tell me that I "was better than that," and that he thought it sounded like a whiny, angry rant to him. Actually, I wrote him back, I had assumed a few writers might have stumbled across my blog, and that my post was really for them, to pass on some tips and advice before they went down the same path, or so they at least might know what they were getting themselves into. So here, in most of it's unedited glory, is the post that was up for less than a day this past week, relaying my experiences with BookBaby, and the advertising programs set up by Goodreads and BookDaily.
Well, The Moroni Deception is finally out and I've learned a lot of things in a relatively short amount of time. I've learned that when dealing with a service like Bookbaby (the company that converted the book into an ePub file, but then more importantly, distributed it), it's mostly (although not completely) like any other company, despite all their feel good rhetoric about helping out writers. At one point, they lost my file, found it, then turned around and tried to blame it on me for not letting them know that I had sent them the file, despite the fact that I got a confirmation back from them that they'd received it. I know--a bit Kafkaesque.
They then also stretched out what should have been a 5-10 second conversion (press a key and wait for the program to convert it) into 3 weeks (1 week the first time, 2 weeks the second) before they sent it out. However, I was pleased with their conversion and their distribution, which is what I paid them $249 for, and am now just waiting for that 70% from Amazon (and the several other distributors with their various percentages) to come back through BookBaby into my bank account (which reminds me, I still need to set that up).
So in the end, I guess I could use the analogy and describe BookBaby as a pretty good doctor, with not the greatest bedside manner--they'll get the job done, just don't expect them to hold your hand (and they may even slap you).
Next, BookDaily sounded like it was going to be a great investment. For a very reasonable monthly fee of $49, they'll send out your first chapter to their 23,000 reader members who are supposedly looking for the first chapters of new books to decide whether or not they want to read the rest.
Fine in theory (and in their advertising), but what I've found early on was a company and a service that appeared to mainly just be going through the motions (although I was recently told they will modify their delivery method for the better after a suggestion I made). My first experience with BookDaily involved my book's chapters being sent out to about 700 members under their heading of "Literary Collections," which my novel is most definitely not -- so that was basically a wasted effort that got almost zero response (they have a very good tracking system of who actually opens the email, and then who goes on to read your chapter).
When I went to see what their Thriller/Mystery offering was for that same day (which mine really should have gone out under), the lead-off book was a non-fiction sociological study having to do with crime in the hood (which was what the description read after I clicked on for further details). So not real close attention to detail appeared to be paid by whoever hit the "Send" button that day, and in both cases readers received genres they didn't sign up for. They then supposedly sent out my chapters to almost 17,000 members with their next emailing about a week later --17,000 who were supposedly interested in reading Thriller/Mysteries. Of those 17,000, I think only something like 800 of those recipients eventually opened the email, and of those 800, only about 50 supposedly then read my chapters.
So 50 out of 17,000 -- I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure those are not real good odds. I think this largely, or at least in part, had to do with the fact that nobody would have had any idea what my book was remotely about when all they got in the email was the chance to blindly leap right into Chapter 1 (that is, if they decided to give it read if and when they got through the first offering -- mine, also unfortunately, was the second offering -- I'd like to see the statistics on that, as to which gets read more, the first or the second one).
As I pointed out to an executive at BookDaily, you don't usually just walk into a bookstore, walk over to the mystery section, and then grab the first book off the shelf you see and start reading Chapter 1.
Nobody I know does that. You may grab the book if the cover catches your eye (that is, if you are not already looking for your favorite author), and you'll then read the back jacket, and if it's a hardback, you would likely read the longer inside jacket synopsis. Then maybe, after all that, if it still holds your interest, you might start reading that first chapter.
So until BookDaily starts including just a brief synopsis with their emails preceding the chapter (and their reader members learn that they'll be doing this), I would maybe not advise using them until that time they make the changes -- you can still list if for free on BookDaily until then. After they make these changes, though, if their readers are seriously interested in the varying genres they've signed up for, I think it could be a pretty good return on your minimal investment once they make it closer to a "bookstore experience."
As for Goodreads and their "self-help" per/click ads, the verdict is still out, but so far I've seen a fairly slim return. I saw the statistics at one point that there had been something like 27,000 views of my ad, but only 15 clicks or something ridiculously tiny (the most recent statistics just showed 282 clicks out of 223,000 "views"), and I was like, where are these ads even posted? And then I finally noticed where, most often in the very far right lower corner -- usually the last place anybody would get to by reading left to right and top to bottom.
There they were in a rather unobtrusive gray box with several tiny book cover images, which by its size, location, and design, appeared almost as an afterthought. So these ads had been there all along and I didn't even know it. I had, in fact, been part of that earlier 27,000, but until I searched these per/click ads out, I had no idea they were even there.
Now this one, I have to say, is definitely partially on me -- I really should have checked out where and how these ads would appear before shelling out $300. In Goodread's defense, however, they have the added advantage of potential "viral" marketing, so that when one of their readers adds the book to his or her shelf, this is then shown to their Goodread's (as well as their Facebook) friends if it's been set up that way, which could then potentially lead to their friends checking the book out as well, and then so on, and so on. So I'll also probably check out Shelfari and Librarything as well for that very reason.
So, all of this is just a long way to say, going about promoting your book independently is a very tough row to hoe. (Yeah, I know, I had always thought it was "road" too) I knew that going in, I just didn't know how hard.
The thing, though, is, apparently from what I'm reading, unless you're John Grisham or Steven King (or some other well known author with a promotional budget behind you), you're probably going to be mostly on your own anyway. Maybe your publisher will get you one of those larger, more expensive ads at the top of the Goodreads page (which admittedly, would definitely help at getting the word out better), but I guess it still ultimately comes down to first, the quality of your work and whether anybody would recommend your book after reading it, and then finding these kind, generous, very intelligent people one reader at a time--through Goodreads, BookDaily, Amazon reviews, Twitter, Facebook, and trying to find some interested book bloggers and reviewers (might try Mayra Calvani at email@example.com to help you with that for a very reasonable fee).
Good luck with your promotional efforts and if you have any hot inside tips or suggestions for me, please email me at Jack L. Brody@gmail.com. (Also, if you're a fan of conspiracy thrillers, check out my new novel, THE MORONI DECEPTION, at http://www.themoronideception.com/ where you can read the first 13 chapters for free. If you liked THE DA VINCI CODE and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, I think you'll really enjoy it.)
Until next time,
Jack Brody is a writer, ex-military, and an avid traveler. After his Army stint and then deciding to pass on law school, he went to film school, wrote screenplays, and held a number of jobs which ran from everything to working for a newspaper for one day, to film production, to then going into real estate (with at least five other jobs along the way). He's fascinated by history, politics, and architecture, all of which play a part in his novels (yes, he already has two more in the works).
When not writing, Brody can often be found hiking with his two faithful dogs, occasionally breaking out the old BMW bike for a ride though the mountains, or playing volleyball or bar trivia with his friends. He divides his time between his home in the Southern Appalachians and wherever his passport will take him. After reading Jon Krakauer's bestselling Under the Banner of Heaven, he was inspired to undertake a full year of research in preparation for his novel. Taking what he'd learned, along with a bit of imagination, the result was the conspiracy thriller, The Moroni Deception. Go to www.themoronideception.com for more information about the novel and to read the first chapters for free.