Promoting and selling your book in a changing world
When I started this series, it was to be an account of my journey into the unknown realm of self-publishing rather than an authoritative discourse on "How Things Are To Be Done". This was a fortunate choice because I am finding that the rules and tools keep changing. As fast as I discover and make use of something, another resource appears, or my solution has limitations which I did not fully understand.
Here is the first problem I was faced with and the evolving decisions that have been required:
Problem #1 - being an unknown self-published author with a first book in an undefined genre
The standard solution is to throw money at the problem. Money will buy excellent advice, competent PR people, and will support advertising and promotional activities until your name and your book appears in all the right places. If you are already famous and the book isn't too badly written, you will probably cover your expenses. If you are an unknown self-published author with a first book, etc., etc., you will probably not cover your expenses.
My solution to get visibility was to find a way to get free copies of the book into the hands of interested readers at no cost to myself. I was able to put my entire book manuscript on changethis.com as a freely downloadable manifesto. I made the decision to post the book rather than an excerpt in order to create the maximum impact. More than 20,000 copies of the book were downloaded in a six month period and I gained the valuable exposure that I hoped for. I am still getting emails from people who were told about my book by someone who had downloaded it.
In the beginning, book sales appeared to track the pattern of downloads. What I didn't expect was that the downloads would begin increasing while the sales leveled off. I had a few people write and say that they had enjoyed the download so much that they bought a copy of the book, but an increasing number of people went for the download and it satisfied their needs.
Unfortunately for me, Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day is a reasonably quick read. Some readers reported that once they started reading, they had not been able to put it down until they had read it through.
On that basis alone, I should have realized that a download which can delivers the entire message in one fell swoop offers little incentive for purchasing that which has already been assimilated.
If my book had been more ponderous, or difficult to assimilate, a full download would have been difficult to read and would have prompted more book sales.
I would have been better off offering a download that drew the reader in and required purchasing the book to get the crucial information needed to solve the reader's problem. Live and learn.
The other alternative would have been to specify that the full book would be available for only a limited time. Other manifestos on ChangeThis have done this and a link was established at the end of the free download period to show where the book could be purchased. I saw no reason to limit availability as I proposed to let the manifesto remain indefinitely.
I finally came to my senses and requested that my manifesto downloads be discontinued, I suggested that a note be left telling where the book could be purchased. The manifesto was removed and no forwarding link was provided, so I need to go to the sites that link to this missing document and give them a forwarding link.
I have no complaints, because I received the benefit of advice from Seth Godin and incredibly valuable exposure on ChangeThis. I also learned something about promotional offers that had never entered my mind before. A promotional offer is only good if it prompts someone to buy something.
If the value that you are selling can be gleaned from your promotional offer, you need to change something quickly.
I achieved much of what I was after by giving away free copies of my book in electronic form. Now that I have realized that my promotion is unfair competition for my product offer, I have made the necessary changes. I am offering only a partial download of the book and the downloads are now turning into sales.
The next post will discuss some interesting changes in blog advertising. Stay tuned.