Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On the Way to Market

by Julie Coulter Bellon


I met with my publisher’s marketing team yesterday and I must say, I am very impressed. I brought the ideas that I had and they brought the ideas that they had, and then we talked for two hours about the best way to market my new book, “All’s Fair,” that is coming out in just over two weeks! (It thrills me to say that because it’s taken almost two years to get this book here. I might just say it again---My new book is coming out in just over two weeks! Can you see the big grin on my face?)

So, today, out of curiosity, I would like to ask the reading public of Six LDS Writers and a Frog Blog, a few marketing questions.

  • I think one of the fun things about having a new book out, is doing a contest for it. I plan to do one on my website, but I’m really looking for ideas on a fun contest. What kind of contest do you like doing? Quizzes? Just your name in a hat? Sign up two friends for my e-letter? Write a short story? Trivia stuff? Give me some ideas for a contest, will you? I need help. Also, do you like the prize to be the newest release? Or a choice of any of the books the author has written?

  • Blog tours are the big thing right now, it seems, and I do have one set up, however, I’m wondering: What do you think of blog tours?

  • Some people have the first chapter of a new book available for download on their websites. Do you download that, knowing it’s just the first chapter? Would you rather have more than one chapter? Or nothing at all, you’ll just wait to buy it?

  • Do you like bookmarks that are more paper feeling or cardstock? Do you use bookmarks at all?

  • How much stock do you put in reviews of the book? If the reviewer is all glowing and says nothing but good about the book, does that discount it for you? If there is some criticism of the book, does that prevent you from buying it?

  • Do you go to booksignings? If so, do you prefer that the author have candy on the table for you to eat while you’re looking at the book? Does it matter if it’s chocolate or not?


As the author of five published books now, you would think that this would become old hat, but oddly, I really like this phase of it. I’m excited about the things we have planned and to finally see the book finished and in my hands.

And just to show you how appreciative I am of you, the reading public, answering all of my questions above, I will make this my first All’s Fair contest. For everyone who answers all the questions in the comments section, I will put your name in a hat and draw the lucky winner of my brand spanking new Julie Coulter Bellon book.

Sounds “fair” to me.


23 Comments:

At 6/12/2008 1:28 PM, Blogger Kyle &Kristi said...

I would love to answer your questions, as a person who loves to read! Here are some of my opinions:
-For contest suggestions, I prefer just signing up without any other obligations, i.e. signing up other people, etc. A short story could be fun too. A good prize would be a signed new release, and maybe another signed copy from the other books the author has written.
-I am not familiar with Blog tours, so I can't give any helpful suggestions, but they sound like they could be a good thing!
-I would be interested in reading the first chapter, it would entice me into wanting to read the rest of the book! So yes, I would download it, knowing it was only the first chapter.
-I like bookmarks that are cardstock or something similar- paper is too flimsy. I love using bookmarks!
-I do think reviews are credible and important. Sometimes it determines whether I buy a book or not. Glowing reviews don't discount the book in my opinion, but negative ones may or may not, depending on how many there are in comparison to the good reviews.
-I would go to a book signing if I'm aware of one. Most of the time I don't know there is one going on. Candy is always good anywhere (haha) but I don't think I would be expecting it, so it's either way for me on that one.
Hope this helps!

 
At 6/12/2008 1:58 PM, Anonymous MoJo said...

Disclaimer: I hang out on a lot of romance reader blogs and this topic comes up for discussion ad nauseum; there seems to be a consensus amongst more vocal readers who participate in a few blogs that bookmarks and do-dads aren't that interesting for readers of romance. (Please forgive me that I don't know what genre yours is.)

Below are some discussions of this where I visit:

Azteclady on Promotional Tools

Azteclady on Effective Promotion

Laurie Damron on Promotion

Re: Contests

I see these are very popular, though I have never participated in one so I don't know exactly how they work or what are the best criteria for giving away books. I certainly intend to conduct one.

Re: Blog tours

I don't know what this is, but author blogs are very popular; I as a reader will go to an author's blog and see what they have and what it looks like.

Re: First chapters posted online

From my wanderings, I have learned that potential readers want good-sized excerpts (especially for new-to-them authors), so I posted the prologue and first three on mine. They like reading other things the author has written to (e.g., short stories) to get a feel for the voice. If you put out ebooks, this is especially important because there is no opportunity to thumb through the book to see if you like the writing style.

Re: Bookmarks

Some of the more vocal don't care about do-dads and most of the authors who are active don't bother anymore.

Re: Reviews

Extremely important, at least for romance readers, particularly from Smart Bitches and Dear Author and Mrs. Giggles. However, that's in the romance genre and I don't know how this would apply to you.

Re: Booksignings

No clue and I don't recall reading much about them one way or another.

I hope this is helpful for you. As I say, I'm coming at it from the romance genre and am only now getting into LDS fiction and/or fiction written by LDS authors.

Mojo

 
At 6/12/2008 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like contests. One of my favourites was the "scavenger hunt" on Jeff Savage's website two years ago, or so, whenever it was that the first Shandra Covington book came out. I also like the idea of having everybody write a short story. Or a review of a book, like on Betsy Brannon Green's website. I do not like the idea where I have to find new friends for an e-letter, but that's because I don't have many friends in real life, I'm too busy reading. More gregarious people probably love that sort of thing.

I generally want to win the author's newest release, but I think having an option to take any of the books that the author has written to be good, too.

Blog tours -- if I read only one or two blogs about a certain new book, I'm okay. If every blog I visit has something about that book, I tend to feel overwhelmed. Overexposure can be a real danger here.

I love reading the first chapters on the author's websites. It helps me decide if I like their style or not. Would I rather have more than one chapter? Well, duh, obviously I'd like the whole book for free because my middle name is Scrooge. (First name Mrs.) One chapter is the bare minimum. Two or even three would be better.

I use bookmarks all the time, and I like the ones that are cardstock the best. Though in an emergency, I will use anything from letters to candy wrappers.

When it comes to reviews of the book, it depends on the reviewer. If I know them, or know of their reputation, then I'm more willing to trust their glowing reviews. I do judge the review by its text. People who gush in a few short sentences and say it was the best book they've ever read tend to get discounted by me. I take more seriously those people who have something sensible to say about the book, even some criticism. A few niggling criticisms are not enough to put me off. More criticisms than praise, however, or a distinct lack of reviews because nobody wants to say anything bad about a book, and I'm likely to hesitate before buying.

I would go to booksignings if I were in the area. Yes, the author should have candy on the table, preferably chocolate. Lindt is the best.

Melanie Goldmund
Mrs Scrooge

 
At 6/12/2008 2:27 PM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

Here's my $.02... (All those questions sure make for a long comment.)

Contests: I love contests. I think the newest release should be the prize. As for what type of contest, that's a good question. I'll have to give it some more thought.

Blog Tours: These are great. I love reading what everyone thinks about a book within a short period of time. It also seems to get some discussion between bloggers going about the book.

1st Chapter: If I've already read and enjoyed the authors work, I would probably buy the book anyway. If it is a new author, I like to read the first chapter and see if it catches my interest. I wouldn't be interested in much more.

Bookmarks: I love bookmarks, but I don't think I would buy a book based on a bookmark.

Book Reviews: I've often read a book based on a book review. I like a good review but like it even more if the reviewer does have some criticism. It feels more honest. Sometimes it feels like some LDS reviewers know the authors and never say anything critical, yet I know few books are that good.

Book Signings: Never gone to one because I live in an area that never has them. But if they did, I'd go.

 
At 6/12/2008 2:45 PM, Blogger Pat said...

Contests: Personally, I like the "name in the hat" ones that I can enter just by posting a comment. (since I'm not great at trivia...)
A choice of books is nice, but the new release is more tantalizing to me.

Blog tours: I've seen a lot around, but I don't usually participate unless it's someone I know really well (it's a time thing)

I love reading the first chapters of books - that's what seals the deal for me if I'm undecided about buying it. It's like those samples at Sam's Club - they make you hungry for more! LOL

If I'm handed a book mark - I want it to be sturdy (cardstock) since I do reuse them from book to book to book.

I do read reviews, but I don't put all that much stock in them since I rarely have the same opinion as professional reviewers. I mainly read them to find out more of the story line.

I haven't attended many book signings, but for me it just seems bad manners to stand there and chunk down munchies while I visit - something wrapped that I could stick in my pocket for later would seem more suitable.

Just my 2 cents.

 
At 6/12/2008 2:53 PM, Blogger yellow m&m said...

* Contests: I like contests. I don't like contests where I have to bug my friends into signing up for something.

* Blog tours: I actually first heard of this here, as a part of Jeff's blog tour. I think they're a good idea.

* Chapters online: If there's a chapter online, I like reading it. Like "Mrs. Scrooge" I like free books too, but first chapters give me a chance to get involved in the story.

* Bookmarks: I prefer cardstock, but I've used anything and everything as a bookmark before.

* Reviews: I like reviews that show good and bad. Sorry to say this, but there is no perfect book, and I like to read reviews that show it.

* Booksignings: I like going to booksignings, even though I've only gone to two. I sometimes feel intimitated (after all, these people have actually published a book!) but it's fun. Chocolate is always good.

-Sarah

 
At 6/12/2008 2:54 PM, Blogger Noble M Standing said...

This is a great post. As a writer that has started to submit, these things are going through my head too.

I love contests, especially for free books to feed my addiction. Comments or a short story contest is a good idea. Not a email list tho' I dont like feeling like you used me for your mailing list.

I like the blog tours I have seen lately. I think it is a good idea to get your book seen.

Although I would probably put my first chapter as a teaser on my website, I won't read any of them. Why? I hate reading something I love and then having to wait to read it when it is realeased. It actually turns me off from the book. But that is me.

I love book marks as long as they aren't too big. I actually love buisness cards to mark my books. They are small and if I have your email addy on it when I finish the book I'll email you to tell you how much I liked it. Definately card stock.

I depend on the back cover copy more than reviews but I have written down the title of a book I have heard of from a paper or friend.

I love to go to book signings, I havn't been to many but I like them. Yes have something for me to eat, but remember that there are people that have nut allergys, so some plain boring chocolate is good.

Michelle Jefferies

 
At 6/12/2008 2:59 PM, Blogger Annie said...

1. You'll probably get more people to participate in a contest if it's easy, like answering a question or you pull a name. Newest release would be my pick.

2. I have seen blog tours, but haven't had the time (or great internet service) to check them out. Seems like a good idea to me, though!

3. I like having the first chapter, but it won't make or break me buying a book.

4. Cardstock :)

5. I rarely read reviews, I'd rather use my own judgement.

6. I've been to a few book signings, and I agree that if you have candy, something that can be eaten later is the best idea. Chocolate = Yes.
Candy isn't a must have, though.

 
At 6/12/2008 3:54 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

As my disclaimer (since others are disclaiming things) I'd like to say that I have very strong feelings on this topic. Also, since I have strong feelings I'm sure I've blogged about all this before, so you might've already heard it.

Anyway. The following is not what I like per se, but what I think are effective marketing tools.

*Contests are great. Everyone loves getting stuff for free. I think the key is to make them at least somewhat interactive, but not too demanding. In other words, make the contest entrant actually do something (to be personally invested) but don't make it something that automatically excludes people or requires too much effort. So, for example, a good contest would be one where you award someone who left a good comment on your blog, or who posted about you on their blog, or something like that (so, this very contest of yours is a great example). A less effective contest is one where people have to answer trivia from your previous books (because that immediately excludes everyone who hasn't) or solving an elaborate time-consuming puzzle. (Bear in mind that a contest will generally just get your friends and fans excited, but probably won't generate a lot of sales.)

*Blog tours are... Well, I don't like them at all for authors in the LDS market. As I've said time and again on this blog, the target audience for LDS fiction does not spend a whole heck of a lot of time in the LDS blogosphere. Yes, a blog tour could give a boost to a self-published novel (raising sales by three or four hundred, at best), and it could be good for a national release, provided that book has an audience that hangs around on blogs. Consequently, I have no qualm with the two most recent notable blog tours--Jeff's and Tristi's. I think it was a good idea for them. But there's no way I'd do one for a standard Covenant release. You're just not getting much return on investment.

That said, given the nature of the internet and the evolution of the LDS market, I might have a different opinion in three years. But, for now, I think they're a colossal waste of time.

(Exception: if you can get out of the regular old personal blogs, and hit websites where your target demographic hangs out, then go for it. My frustration comes when an author just asks his or her author friends to interview them on their blog. But, if your book is marketed toward 30-40-year-old stay-at-home Mormon moms, and you're able to get interviewed on a scrapbooking site, or a parenting site, or "What's fun to do in American Fork" site, then by all means do it.)

*First chapter. I think this is a must, and it's easy. Sure, it might not bring in a huge number of sales, but it's so easy that there's no reason not to do it. If it eventually leads to the sales of even just five books then it's worth it.

*Cardstock. People are slightly less likely to instantly throw them away.

*Reviews. Reviews are far more effective coming from a regular, trusted reviewer (like Meridian or LDSfiles or AML) than from a blogger who reviews two books a year (like...me). And, reviews are MUCH more effective if they're not coming from friends and acquaintances. Consumers are very savvy, and not many trust a review that begins "My good friend Jeff Savage just wrote a great book. I met Jeff many years ago, back when he..."

*Booksignings, I think, remain one of the very best marketing tools for LDS market authors, provided that the author is personable. Bookstore employees and customers hate the hard sell--never do the hard sell--but bookstore employees hate shy, quiet authors just as much. Go and have fun, and meet people. At a booksigning your goal isn't to sell books; your goal is to get people to like you. Sales will follow.


Anyway, those are my extremely opinionated opinions.

 
At 6/12/2008 4:43 PM, Anonymous Elizabeth Hall said...

*Love contests especially name in a hat drawing kind.

*Not a huge fan of blog tours...could just be me.

*Cardstock bookmarks last longer.

*I absolutely love having the first chapter available to read it tantalizes me and I almost always go and buy the book so I can read the rest.

*I like reviews and generally follow them but it depends on who reviews it. Jennie Hansen always has good feedback.

*I love book signings! It's so much fun to meet the authors! I don't think it matters. It's a nice touch just to have anything to give out.

Elizbeth Hall

 
At 6/12/2008 5:04 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

Wow! Great comments everyone. You are all full of good ideas. And Rob is full of it too! Actually I agree with everything tornado boy said. You just have to be aware that most of these things are aimed more at creating buzz than selling books. There is a big difference.

BTW, there is some good information on blog tours at http://kidzbookbuzz.com/

 
At 6/12/2008 6:22 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Just a couple of comments:

I love short story contests! Even though I don't do very well within the constraints, they're fun and they get me writing, which is never a bad thing.

Blog tours? eh. (sorry, Jeff)

I'd go with Rob on the 1st chapter. I don't usually read them, but I might if I was unsure about an author.

I like bookmarks - I've used one of Kerry's for a while (signed, no less) and I think I might have one from Rob and Jeff, too. None of them are on card stock, I might add. (Current bookmark: Deanna Troi)

Balanced reviews are good - overly gushy ones don't necessarily give you confidence that YOU are going to enjoy it. YMMV.

Love book signings! I never eat the candy. Kerry was handing out these Halloween-y pencils to go with her book - and I still use that, too!

 
At 6/12/2008 6:22 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Hey, Jeff stole my comments! LOL

I agree, I really appreciated everyone who took the time to comment today! There were a lot of good ideas.

As for the contest, I'm going to leave it open for the rest of the day. Then I will be putting all the names in a hat, picking one, and announcing the winner on next week's blog.

Thank you all again!

 
At 6/12/2008 8:23 PM, Blogger Primarymary2 said...

1. I like contests, Drawing a name out of the hat is the easiest, but I like trivia and Quizzes too.
2.I have no idea what a blog tour is.
3. I don't often take time to read the 1st chapter if I have already read previous books by the author and have liked them. They are a good idea to have available for people who aren't familiar with your books.
4. If I have a bookmark I will use it and prefer cardstock, otherwise anything can become a bookmark.
5. There are a couple of reviewers that I trust and take their reviews seriously. Otherwise I rarely read reviews and I don't let them influence my book choices.
6. I love book signings. Candy isn't necessary, but if its there I prefer chocolate.

 
At 6/12/2008 10:12 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

I've promoted myself so much over the last year that I'm exhausted and have no desire to even THINK about these questions right now.

How's that for an answer? :)

I'll look at them myself again next spring when I have another book out. For now, I'm in writing mode and enjoying it thoroughly!

 
At 6/12/2008 11:21 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

I make my "own" bookmarks that have some endorsements on them, instead of just as short blurb. Good luck with the contest. I'll just go ahead and buy your book :)

 
At 6/13/2008 12:03 AM, Anonymous Emily M. said...

Contests: I like them, as long as they don't require too much effort on my part.

Blog tours: I like the idea. I think you have to choose the blogs carefully, though, and make sure they are reaching your intended audience.

First chapter: I like. It's what tells me if I enjoy your writing enough to spend money on the book.

Bookmarks: cardstock

reviews: I don't trust all-positive reviews. If the review is mostly positive, with a bit of criticism, that makes it seem more believable to me. An all-positive review from a reviewer I trust also works for me.

Booksignings: I go to friends' booksignings and also those of authors I really, really love. Candy is irrelevant to me.

Good luck with your publicity!!

 
At 6/13/2008 12:49 AM, Blogger Sue said...

Robinson said: "Blog tours are... Well, I don't like them at all for authors in the LDS market. As I've said time and again on this blog, the target audience for LDS fiction does not spend a whole heck of a lot of time in the LDS blogosphere."

I have to disagree. The target audience for LDS fiction probably doesn't spend a heck of a lot of time on the blogs YOU READ AND FREQUENT; however, they are DEFINITELY out there blogging. They just don't hang out in the archipalageo.

There are thousands of LDS mommy bloggers who have thousands of readers. Half the women in my ward have a blog. It's the new scrapbooking.

On my blog, I don't post about exclusively LDS stuff, so I get a cross-section of LDS and non-LDS, and I hear over and over again from the non-LDS bloggers that they can't believe how many mormon women blog. The other day one of my non-LDS blogger friends posted about this very thing - feeling absolutely surrounded by LDS mommy bloggers.

The problem with the LDS book tours I've run across (and admittedly there were only one or two) is that they tend to be kind of incestuous - on each other's blogs, on their friend's blogs, on the blogs of their friends - and seldom on high traffic LDS mommy blogs. I doubt they even know who the "high profile" LDS mommy bloggers are. (If you never run across them, I guess you would never know who they are.) It's kind of a hidden world.

But I agree, a blog tour won't do any good if it's conducted on blogs your audience isn't reading.

 
At 6/13/2008 2:55 PM, OpenID storyengineer said...

Contests: As has been said, I like contests where I don't have to do much. I'm not very comfortable signing up friends. Occasionally if I'm in the mood for a short story contest, I'll enter. Otherwise, a name in a hat, or a quiz/puzzle that's easily solved with stuff on the internet is good.

Blog Tours: I'm participating in the Heaven Scent and Far World blog tours right now. I've enjoyed it. And I'm of the opinion that it does help authors, since word gets out about the book, and I know at least one of my reviews encouraged someone else to go buy a book.

First Chapter: Yes, put one up! If it's by a new author, or an author I've already read, but I'm curious as to what the next book is about, I'd read the first chapter before going to the library or bookstore to get it.

Bookmarks: I like them, but don't really care what they're made out of.

Reviews: I don't necessarily put a lot of stock in one review, but if I see a lot of reviews that are generally positive, I'll at least take a look at the book to see if its something I want to read.

Booksignings: The only booksignings I've gone to are those by authors I already know and they haven't had candy. Candy wouldn't hurt though. :)

~Andy

 
At 6/13/2008 4:11 PM, Blogger Don said...

1. Contests I enjoy holding contests. Quizzes are rather fun.

2. Blog Tours I think blog tours are pretty cool. I've enjoyed hosting several authors, and while my blog doesn't have the largest audience, there are regular visitors to my blog who hear about a book that probably wouldn't otherwise. Worth the price, I think.

3. First Chapters I have never downloaded or read a first chapter online.

4. Bookmarks It's fun to have a bookmark that matches the book, but that's about as far as my experience with them goes.

5. Reviews I put a fair amount of stock in book reviews. More important than the recommendation are what the reviewer says they liked or didn't like. Taste is relative, so a reviewer might say something critical that will make me want to read the book.

6. Book Signings I will go to see an author I know and/or like. Chocolate is generally safe. Tootsie Rolls seem to always be a real winner.

 
At 6/14/2008 11:48 AM, Blogger Green Metis said...

I like easy to do contests that are quick no brainers?

Blog Tours are a new phenom so to speak so 50/50 on thqt one

First Chapters are enough for me to decide if I read a book or pass?

Like Book marks if they are heavy like me and color coordinated

Reviews are like beauty almost always in the eye of the beholder

Have been to a few book signings and I enjoy the sense of excitement especially when they offer candy!

 
At 6/19/2008 11:50 PM, Blogger Terry said...

1.I do like contests to win a free book. I think you should let the winner choose which of your books they would like, also.
2. About a blog tour, I agree that getting onto personal blogs is better than just on all the author's blogs. I'm on Jeff's tour and I just sent emails to everyone on my email list telling them about the book contest on my blog. I hope it helps his book.
3. I just read your first chapter and now HAVE to read the book. Is it too late for this contest? If so, I'll buy it. Do you have it available online?
4.Cardstock, but I usually use a tissue. I have 6 Far World bookmarks I need to give out. (Loved the book, Jeff and have started my contest)
5. I read book reviews and do put quite a bit of stock in them. I tend to trust what people write and buy the book if the review is mostly favorable. If I have had a friend recommend a book, a critical review doesn't stop me from buying it.
6. I have only been to one book signing and it was a long time ago. Marie Osmond didn't have candy on her table . . . If you advertised that refreshments would be served, you might get more of the LDS crowd, but it would drive your profits WAY down.
Can't wait to read your book!

 
At 6/20/2008 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry,

Thank you for your comments! The book is available for preorder online at www.deseretbook.com and will be in stores after July 1st. Please let me know what you think of it after you've read it. I'm interested in your thoughts. :-)

Julie

 

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