Friday, 2 March 2012

Some eBook marketing ideas by Jennie Walters

sparFirst off, I have to say I'm by no means a marketing expert. I'm still not comfortable with Twitter, despite having bought Nicola Morgan's wonderful guide, 'Tweet Right' and read at least the first five pages. And I'm never entirely sure whether my promotional activities are worth the time I've spent on them (apart from one example I'll come to later), because unless there's an instant leap in sales, it's hard to know what's worked and why. But, caveats aside, here's an account of my first hesitant steps into the marketing maelstrom.  Experienced marketers may dismiss my efforts with a lite larff (as Nigel Molesworth sa) but fellow novices may find something of use, or perhaps one idea that will spark off another. Apologies in advance if they seem hopelessly basic.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my main and most profitable ploy has been to leapfrog on the back of an existing media phenomenon, Downton Abbey. Because my Swallowcliffe Hall historical trilogy is very similar in theme and subject matter (though published several years before DA, I hasten to add), I've gained access to a whole range of readers who love the Victorian and Edwardian country house world, plus some new converts. So I've liberally metagged my ebooks with 'Downton Abbey' and sprinkled my blurbs with the same magic words. I've also set up a weekly Google Alert to tell me where and how DA is mentioned so that I can keep tabs on who's watching and what they think. This leads me on to the next ploy: guest blogging. Besides having the luck to blog for Authors Electric, I've also written a few guest posts on the blogs of people who are DA fans (Downtoners? Abbeyites? Crawlers?), which has been a hoot. For example, I have eavesdropped on the 'Ladies of Elegance' in New York at Sarah O'Holla's charming blog, who have been gathering to watch DA every week in fascinators and flowery hats, then avidly dissecting each episode. (Scroll down past the book covers and the adorable babies to find the Downton picnic, complete with projected Highclere Castle background.) Sadly series 2 of Downton is now over in the US but hey, maybe 'Upstairs Downstairs' will take over and I can shamelessly add a new metatag.

Another thing I've done is set up an Author page on the Goodreads site. I've had one particularly lovely review for the print version of my first Swallowcliffe Hall book, House of Secrets, which makes me love Goodreads. Thanks Stephanie!  Yet it can be a bit scary because here you come face to face with your readers, so to speak, and when you get a review or rating on this site that's not so good, it seems more personal. (Tip that I learned the hard way - don't try to message someone who's given you a good review or 'friend' them. It comes across as pushy, rather than just hugely grateful.) But Goodreads is great for showing you the kind of person who likes (or doesn't) your books. It's very hard to get data from Amazon on who is buying your ebooks, but Goodreads will give you a clue. You can set up giveaways there, too, join groups to discuss your favourite kind of fiction, post your own reviews and generally waste hours when you should be writing...

I've also made a Swallowcliffe Hall Facebook page. I really don't know whether this is a waste of time, but I've quite enjoyed it, and at least it's given me some photos for this post. I'm trying to give off a sort of Edwardian London/arts and crafty/domestic vibe (if you can imagine such a thing), so I talk about my research trips to the London Library, country house articles I've read, and er... for some reason I've put cake recipes and pictures up there too (see above). Later on, if I ever manage to finish the next book on the series, I can post news of that. In the meantime, if you have a minute to spare, do visit my Facebook page and try a cake or two. I'd be delighted if you liked it!

I've also recently discovered the wonderful world of Pinterest - the site that allows you to make online collages of inspiring photographs. By using my book cover as an avatar, I'm getting it out there, and maybe a few people who like my photo choices may be interested to find out more. I can also make a mood board for my current work in progress which may whet readers' appetites as well as helping me. (Anyone who's been to a creative collage session with Katharine Roberts will know how powerful this can be.) For example, I've found the most gorgeous photograph for my next Swallowcliffe heroine, Eugenie, which has given me a great clue into her character (see left). Even the tilt of her chin is just right - and look at her teeny tiny waist! Unfortunately I've been distracted by making a mood board devoted to my dog, but I'll start on a work-related one any minute now, I promise - just as soon as I've finished checking out everyone's dream houses and chocolate peanut butter cookies.


Finally, and perhaps most usefully in immediate-result marketing terms, I invested in a paid promotion with a company called Kindle Nation.  I have to say, this might not work for everyone (and I've spoken to an author for whom it definitely didn't), but I saw an immediate upturn in sales in the US which seems to have lasted. In the first couple of months after publication, I was selling more ebooks in the UK than the US, but now I'm selling roughly 4 times as many in America as in Britain. It's hard to know how much of this is directly related to Kindle Nation, but it certainly hasn't done any harm and so far I'm a very happy customer. And as of an hour ago, I've signed up with Backlist eBooks, too: a US-based promotional group for authors who are epublishing their o/p work.

Of course I know that what would really drive up sales of my Swallowcliffe Hall books would be a new title in the series. And just as soon as I've finished making cakes, writing reviews, trying to tweet, photographing my dog, reading blogs, going to the London Library and drooling over other people's Pinterest boards, I really will get down to some writing...

JennieWalters
http://www.jenniewalters.com



11 comments:

CallyPhillips said...

Oh my word, you actually make marketing seem like fun rather than horrifically hard work for questionable result (though I like the moodboard for dog idea best... perhaps why I'm NOT good at marketing - too easily diverted into the creative)Your post's a good kick in the pants and I'm trying NOT to tell myself that it's okay FOR YOU because you're working in a genre that will sell.. and tell myself to SHAPE UP and creatively work out my USP and DO something about it! Thanks.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Wow, but this is a post full of useful ideas - thank-you! I knew about Pinterest, but I hadn't put two and two together with publicising a book - and yet I'm sitting here with lots of wonderful old Polish photos - am definitely going to put them together. May also investigate Kindle Nation for the reason that the new novel seems to me like something that might do better in the States where there is a big Polish diaspora. I'm also about to start making a blog dedicated to the Amber Heart with all kinds of 'Polish' things on it. One of my most useful (and quite indirect) promotions, recently was when an old poetry publishing colleague from years ago read The Curiosity Cabinet and mentioned it favourably in a letter to the Scotsman. The spike in sales amazed me.

Jennie Walters said...

Thanks so much, Callie and Catherine, and glad you've found some useful ideas. As you may have gathered, I felt rather tentative about putting myself forward as any sort of guru, so I'm very reassured by your reactions. Your Polish photographs sound fscinating, Catherine - I'm sure lots of people would love to see them (including me!)And Cally, your Indie ebooks review site shows you're already several steps ahead in the marketing game!

Avril said...

Reading this makes me think of how much more I need to do to promote my e books but what's heartening is the way you make it all seem so possible. Some great advice - thank you for this Jennie it's really helpful

Kate Dunn said...

I was really interested to hear about your experience at the Society of Authors' event last week and your post today is equally helpful - many thanks for sharing your thoughts

Jennie Walters said...

Thanks so much, Avril and Kate. Hope this sparks off a few ideas for you...

Sarah O'Holla said...

Thanks for the shout out Jennie! I can't wait to start following you on Pinterest! Have you ever considered buying a Facbook Ad as well? You can choose how much you want to spend since you pay by the click. I've run an ad for my Desirous ofEverything Page and Jumpsuit Friday Page and gotten over 100 new followers each time! Just a tip- if you have any quesitons about that feel free to email me :)

Oh and PS! Have you heard about the new Julian Fellows Titanic Mini Series? Comes out in April- I'm excited!!

Jennie Walters said...

Thanks, Sarah! I'm slightly embarrassed about my slight contribution to Pinterest so far (ie 2 boards!) but the link is
http://pinterest.com/swallowcliffe

And thanks for the suggestion about buying a Facebook Ad. For some reason I've been rather wary of that, but I'll give it a go - thanks for the tip!

And yes, curious to see Titanic. I think a shorter, more concentrated time frame would suit Julian Fellowes very well.

Ann Evans said...

What a really useful and interesting post, Jennie. I've sat here reading it with my notebook and pen in hand jotting down all the tips you've made - and those from some comments.
Definitely going to work on the marketing side of things.
Love the photos in your blog - and could just eat a slice of that cake right now!

Jennie Walters said...

Thanks, Ann; so glad you found something of use. Yes, think I'll have to give up the cake of the week slot, owing to huge weight gain...

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