I recently discussed the need to advertise your book using targeted advertising – but what IS targeted advertising, and how do you do it?
image from openclipart.org
Meet Bob, the knife salesman. Bob is a go-getter, and he wants to sell as many knives as he can. He makes sure the knife store has plenty of his knives in stock – Only hundreds of knife salesmen also have knives there. There are so many kinds of knives there that people don’t see his – unless they’re looking for them.
Bob needs to advertise.
First he goes to his family and close friends. Many of them buy knives, not necessarily because they need them, or even want them, but because they like Bob. Bob’s a great guy.
Flushed with success, Bob decides it’s time to go out into the wide world. He picks a park where lots of people go and sets up at picnic table. A few stragglers wander over, and he makes a sale or two, but for the most part people ignore him. They’re at the park for a picnic, not to buy knives. Unhappy with the number of people who purchased, and getting hot from all the sun exposure, Bob climbs up on the table and announces the knives again – and again, and again, and again. He then wanders around and butts into people’s conversations, shoving knives under their nose. The results are no better (though luckily no one calls the cops).
Disheartened, Bob hears about a place where he is guaranteed to sell. Other knife salesmen have had success there in the past. Hopeful, he hurries over to the emporium. He gets set up, he puts up his sign, and he starts his demonstration – only to discover that almost everyone else in the emporium is also a knife salesman. Sure, a few buy (he is selling different knives than they are), but it’s not the success he was promised because most of the fellow salesmen are there to do the same thing he is: sell, not buy.
Desperate, Bob dumps his inventory in the knife store (more on that later) and starts writing articles for newspapers and magazines. he writes about how to sell knives. He writes about how to sharpen knives. He even writes about the different kinds of knives, but the people who read the articles don’t buy – most of them are also knife salesmen. SO he thinks he’ll be clever and spend his time hanging out where the other salesmen hang out – he’ll leave engaging comments on their articles, but the only attention that really earns him is from – you guessed it – even more fellow knife salesmen.
So how can Bob sell knives? How can he get discovered?
Aggravated, he moves his knives to a smaller store with more discover-ability. Maybe he even makes his own store – only now he has a new problem. No one has heard of this new, small store. So what does he do? He goes back to the park, shouting and waving signs to tell people that this little store exists – the problem is, the people in the park STILL aren’t looking for knives.
Just as Bob has a hard time finding his customers, so do authors. We have the same discover-ability problem he had at the knife store. There are thousands upon thousands of books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and all the others. Unless you’re a best seller, or someone is looking for your book, there’s a good chance a customer will never see it, let alone buy it.
To combat that, we hit up our friends and family, then we go to Facebook and post, post, post. Only most of the people on facebook don’t want to buy a book from us – they want to see cat memes and read about how our kids/parents/pet fish are doing. They probably don’t mind us mentioning the books sometimes (they are a part of our lives) but they’re not interested in advertisement after advertisement. The same goes for the other social networks. We rely on shares and word of mouth from our “army of friends” but, unless you’re luckier than I am, those 700+ facebook friends *might* yield one or two shares of any promotional material, and generally they stop there – far from the viral-ity we’ve been promised.
So we run to Twitter. As authors, we’re told that Twitter is the be-all-end-all for book sales. I don’t know about you, but I recently organized my followers in “lists”. Of the 1,600+ followers, almost 900 are fellow authors – and those are just the ones I know personally or who say “author” in their description. 140 of the remainder are author promotion sites (many no longer any good), 130 are friends from facebook, and 60 are artists or photographers (following me for photos). Then we take away bands, news sites, inspirational quotes and the 25 brands/celebrities who follow me back, and that leaves me with a potential 265 people, most of which are Russian (I don’t know what they’re tweeting – they could be spam for all I know), and 50 of which are book reviewers who are probably there to advertise their reviews and services.
So how many readers am I reaching? Am I mostly just advertising to fellow authors, like Bob did at the emporium?
And what about blogging? Sure, we might make a sale here, or a sale there, but if we’re blogging about writing topics, who are we going to attract? Most readers don’t care about “show don;t tell” or “25 secrets to success” – it’s fellow authors who want to read those articles. Yeah, one of those authors might read our book, but is it worth the time for that one sale? *
This is why our advertising needs to be “targeted”. Posting “ads” in unexpected places may make a few sales (I once sold a book because of an image on Flickr!) but it’s not an effective strategy. When gauging the success of a “campaign”, we need to look at not only results, but how much time or money went into getting those results. Did we sit at the park all day – composing tweets, posts, sales images, and replying to hundreds of blogs – like Bob, and make 5$? Or did we spend twenty minutes filling out a form and make 20$? $1 a minute is certainly better than a 1$ an hour, and it can be done by targeting your ads to people who actually want to buy.
How do we target our advertising? Rami Ungar has posted his results with targeted facebook advertising, and, as many authors mentioned in the comments of my last post, email lists can be a great thing (In the next day or two I’ll post my results from several different sites.). There are website listings, and forums and facebook groups just for advertising books to people who are *looking for books*. In fact there are hundreds of places promising targeted advertising. But how do you choose which to use?
This is where fellow authors come in. Before you spend money advertising, or lots of time, take five minutes and either ask your author friends (you should have some kind of group you belong to, whether on FB or google groups – like the Ink Slingers) or just do a quick google search. Usually you can turn up a forum post from someone else asking the same question, and you can then quickly scroll through the answers they got.
If Bob had done that, maybe he wouldn’t have had to sit at the park all day getting sunburned.
How do you target your advertising?
EDIT: *I’m not saying that author blogs are a waste of time – I enjoy writing posts to help fellow authors – but I do it for the enjoyment, not for sales. The same for an author blog where I post stuff pertaining to my books. It’s more fun than profit, and I do it that way accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with doing something that could be construed as advertising that doesn’t REALLY make sales if it makes you happy instead. But if you’re just doing it for sales that aren’t appearing – and you’re not enjoying it – then you’re wasting your time.