Monday, January 4, 2010

Marketing in the Digital Age

First and foremost – the economy sucks.

This fact is the one on which this series of blogs pivots. Traditional publishing (the Big Six) has fallen afoul of both the economy and changing times. The good news is that sales were steady this last year. The bad news is agents are saying things like this – "I'm passing on really good novels because currently I believe that really good might not be good enough in today's market."

There is a virtual sea of manuscripts, washing through the slush piles of editors and agents – a well-spring they won't risk tapping. They claim the Big Six only want blockbuster books, the next Dan Brown, J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers.

Is DIY the answer to clogged marketing channels?

Technology has provided the writer with unprecedented access to markets – should they dare to take the plunge into self-publishing in these troubled times. Some publishing insiders compare them to lemmings – following the crowd, going to the sea. I'm not so sure – after all a faint heart never filled an inside straight.

Many writers take the self-publishing plunge; more are teetering on the edge, not ready to jump, yet. The bad news is most will sink, unable to gain enough attention to make significant sales. Quality issues will sink many more. Yet there are still more indie authors, who are having a blast, gaining notice, actually making a little money.

Do we need a benchmark to put this into perspective? How many books does the 'average' mainstream published author sell?

You are going to love this!

The Daily Mail website posted this little gem. "Nielsen Bookscan has found that of 86,000 new titles published in the UK in 2009, 59,000 sold an average of 18 copies."

Well, hell – if that's the new benchmark for a mainstream novel – looks like we have a level playing field. Anybody can outsell 18 copies!

I'm posting, word for word – what Ray Rhamey is going to do to promote his Vampire Kitty book. Note that this is not his first time at the rodeo – oh no! Check him out on Flogging the Quill. For now I will content myself on quoting his marketing plan.

Vampire Kitty-cat rules

Ray Rhamey of Flogging the Quill has my favorite vampire's website ready. Check it out: The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicals Ray and Patch are gearing up for a big push. And Ray's not shy about sharing all the things he's ready to do to get noticed.

1. I'm going to launch with a POD trade paperback, a bunch of e-book formats, a free podcast and, if I can get it listed on, the gatekeeper for the iTunes store, an audiobook.

2. I'm putting up a website at (it's not live yet). It includes special promotional features such as:

  • I donate a percentage of each sale to the ASPCA. The ASPCA is willing to consider the book for placement in their online store.
  • There are two cat "social" features: a photo gallery to post a pic of a Cat You Love; and a "tell me a story about your cat" section.
3. I'm doing a video book trailer with the help of a designer friend, no charge.

4. I've hired a copyeditor to do his thing with the manuscript.

5. I've bought an ISBN number, and been assigned a Library of Congress control number.

6. For the POD book, I've

  • Designed a cover and the interior
  • Created an account with Lightning Source, the biggest print-on-demand printer around, I think, and a partner with Ingram, the biggest distributor around. I'm signed up for distribution, too. Lightning Source doesn't offer the kind of complete service that or Create Space does—you have to provide your own press-ready material.
7. I've written to 17 published authors to ask for a blurb—so far, 4 have said they'd take a look. I made sure to disclose that this is a self-published book. I also gave them the agent comments above and this little snippet from the first page:

Just after dark, death grabbed me by the tail. The moon was full, and cool September breezes were scented with earthy hints that fall was coming. I trotted over a mound of fresh dirt, not an uncommon thing in a graveyard, my mind on a svelte little Siamese who was coming into heat--and a hand shot up and grabbed my rear extremity.

I twisted and went for it with my claws, but another hand burst out and seized the scruff of my neck. I went limp, just like when I was a kitten and my mom picked me up. The hands snapped my body straight, and then a woman's face poked out of the ground. She sat up, holding me in front of her. I figured I was about to kiss my furry butt goodbye, and I was right.

Sort of.

8. I'm going to send an ARC (advance review copy) to

  • Authors for blurbs
  • About 20 vampire websites
  • As many cat websites as I can find—surprisingly, there aren't many
  • The makers of Vampire Wine (I have a bottle, to be opened on publication day)
  • The makers of top cat food brands to try and sell advertising space and product placement in the book and on the website—hey, this is a business, right?
9. The e-books I can do for free on Smashwords, and earn a healthy percentage of the sales. They even do the Kindle format. I can also list it with Amazon for the Kindle—I need to see what the return is.

10. The free podcast, taking a page from fellow WU contributor J.C. Hutchins, will be performed by me. A nice plus—there's a song by the Grateful Dead, Dire Wolf, in which the chorus says "please don't murder me." It's my character's favorite song. I've secured permission, subject to seeing the book, to use an excerpt of that song for the intro and outro on the podcasts and the audiobook. I'm going to credit the song everywhere I can, and they're not charging anything for the right to use it.

11. Through Lightning Source, distribution will be open at Ingram, Amazon, Baker & Taylor, and other national distributors and book marketers.

12. Oh, and I'm going to send an ARC and my marketing plan to a couple of likely publishers on the extremely unlikely chance that they'll partner with me on the production of the paperback, which would give it the advantage of being available in bookstores. If they like the book, my design work, and the promotional plans, their production costs will be quite low.

13. I've designed graphics for t-shirts and coffee cups to sell on Printfection.

14. And I'll put ads on my Flogging the Quill blog.


Now, that's a marketing plan!

I'm hoping he will keep in touch, and share some sales numbers. (I'm so geek when it comes to statistics!) The thing to keep in mind is that this is going to start slow. He may get a few hits here and there. But remember – he only has to sell 18 printed copies to equal the 'average' mainstream author.

I'll make a prediction – his e-book sales will be the first to take off. Once his pod cast of the book is finished and posted he will see the real increase in paper book sales. It will be steady from there but I do believe that the e-book sales will come first.

Stay tuned.


Julia Silva Rettig said...

I enjoyed reading your advice on marketing your book. I am taking the plunge on the marketing of my upcoming book. Take a look at my blog at I would love to get your input!!! I would love to share my marketing plan if you are interested. Thanks!!!

Ms Kitty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms Kitty said...

A little poking around gives me a better idea about the book and the people who are about to launch it.

"Our Stimulus Package is a sexually charming collection of side-splitting dating stories from all over the country that are voluntarily shared by Julia and Kirsten’s close friends. We are seeking representation for this 50,000 word book. This will be a book of fiction and any resemblance to venues, actual events, persons, places or body parts are purely coincidental."

"Our Stimulus Package will make you laugh, make you question peoples motives and generally get you through a few hours of this miserable economic climate. You will discover how Julia, a striking woman of Cuban decent, and Kirsten, a stunning woman from South Africa, had so much in common and decided to make the world laugh in spite of the worst economic climate since the great depression.

The writers are successful business woman in commercial real estate in Tampa, Florida. Neither of them has written a book, but with no tougher climate in their industry than now, they are ready to complete this project to stimulate their own economy."

This looks like fun.

Penny Ehrenkranz said...

This was an informative and useful list of how to market a self-published book. As a published author of an e-Book, I can see where I can also use some of these ideas. These days, authors need to do most of their own marketing if any books are to be sold.

Thanks for sharing.

Cleveland said...

Wonderful to read your list. I liked the way each item was identified as part of a bigger plan, also the order. I have a marketing plan(for a novel) and as a salute to you I'll check where my plan falls down.
keep up the good work . I wish you the best of luck with your writing.