October 13th, 2011 | 16 Comments
Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the award-winning novel In Leah’s Wake. Books offer her a zest for life’s highs and comfort in its lows. She’s all-too-happy to share this love with others as a novelist and a writing teacher at Boston College. She was grateful and thrilled beyond words when In Leah’s Wake hit the Barnes & Noble and Amazon bestseller lists in August. She owes a lot of wonderful people – big time! – for any success she’s enjoyed!
A year after publishing your book In Leah’s Wake, you sold over 20.000 copies, which puts you firmly in the category of mid-list authors. Could you describe how you started marketing your book?
When I published In Leah’s Wake in October 2010, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d been making good progress on a psychological thriller, Nowhere to Run. I knew that the industry was changing and I’d need a platform if I hoped to sell the new book. Stupidly, too embarrassed to self-promote, I put the book on Amazon and left it at that. I mean really left it at that – not even my parents knew I had published the book!
I sold two books in October, four in November, and thirty-four in December. For a few months, as people bought books for their new Kindles, I sold a few copies a day. By March, with sales lagging, and I realized that, if I didn’t do something, the book would die. In early March, I began blogging and activated my Twitter account.
Unsure of what to do next, I scoured the Internet, looking for advice. After landing on the Novel Publicity site three or four times, I contacted Emlyn Chand, and signed up for a few basic services. For the next three months, Emlyn and I worked on building my social networking platform. She introduced me to Twitter, reorganized my blog, and created a media kit, book discussion guide, and video trailer. In mid-May, I began my Novel Publicity blog tour. In May, I sold thirty-eight books. In June, sales increased to about 2 – 3 books a day. Now, just shy of six months later, we’ve sold nearly 20,000 copies of the novel, with 5500 sales between October 1and October 9.
Is there any specific marketing action you took that led to a marked increase in sales numbers?
Once I got used to the idea that marketing didn’t have to mean calling attention to yourself 24/7, I began to enjoy it. I’ve done two blog hops with the IBC, a second tour – Social Media Whirlwind – with Novel Publicity, and the IBC’s elite promotion, Bestseller For A Day. Emlyn and I also created an interactive In Leah’s Wake quiz and crossroads stories for my blog. Because we’ve done a lot of different things, often simultaneously, it’s hard to attribute increased sales to any specific marketing strategy. It’s more likely a case of all these things contributing to name recognition.
I think the most important thing I’ve done, or tried to do, is to connect with people. I’m active on Twitter, where I’ve met wonderful new friends who’ve supported me and shared my news. I’ve been reviewed or interviewed on dozens of blogs. Bloggers are amazing people – kind, generous, caring. They’re evangelists, and they help us for no reason other than their passion for books! Any success I’ve enjoyed I owe them!
You have been using Indie Book Collective to assist in your marketing efforts, could you elaborate about the practical steps that it entails both by you and by the collective, and how you began working with them?
I first learned of the Collective online. I came across their websites and was impressed with they work they did. I applied for the Bestseller For A Day promotion; I didn’t hear back right away, so I just watched for ways that I might be involved. In late May, I saw an ad for their Tour de Troops blog hop. This is a tremendously fun event, involving multiple authors. Each author gives a free eBook (Smashwords coupon) to anyone who leaves a comment on the author’s blog. The blogs are linked in a daisy chain. The tour begins at one blog, and that author introduces the next, with a promo blurb and link to the next blog. The blog hop takes place over three or four days. As an incentive to increase traffic, the IBC gives a prize to the author with the most unique comments. In addition to lots of free eBooks, visitors receive an entry to a drawing for a free Kindle. So lots of cross-promotion, with fun and awards for everyone!
The Tour de Troops was particularly exciting, because for every book we authors gave to a commenter, one active duty troop received a free eBook. Until I did the blog hop, I had no idea that books are the number one care package item requested by troops! So it was a wonderful case of doing well by doing good.
In July, I joined the IBC for another blog hop called Tour de Force, also great fun. In mid-July, IBC founder Carolyn McCray called to inform me that she and her partners, Amber Scott and Rachel Thompson, had selected In Leah’s Wake for their elite promotion, Bestseller For A Day. This intense promotion requires weeks of preparation, and relies heavily on cross-promotion. Along with the featured book, three additional authors join the promotion. All lower the price of their eBook to 99¢ for the promotion; this gives readers the chance to buy four great books for only 99¢ each. For three days – the day before, the day of, and the day after the promotion – IBC blog hosts post reviews, guest posts and interviews, and IBC staff members share promotion news across their social networks. As I’ve said, a tremendous amount of work by many wonderful, generous people. I’ll never fully repay the IBC for all they’ve done for me. In Leah’s Wake is listed on the IBC-sponsored 99¢ Network, and I hope to continue working together, not only to promote my book but to help others!
As opposed to a growing number of writers on Amazon, you only have one book in circulation. What is your position about the new fashion of putting up short stories and novellas to fill the author’s personal page with publications?
There is no getting around the fact that a robust backlist generates sales. When we finish a great book, the first thing most of us do is to look for another by the same author. Having a backlist also gives authors the chance to promote a new book by lowering the price, or even giving away, an older title. I have no doubt that I lose sales by having only one title.
That said, I’m a slow writer, and I’m also a perfectionist, which is not necessarily a good thing. It means that I can’t throw a second book together for the sake of a backlist. I’m not suggesting that quick writers are sloppy. Heck, Stephen King can finish a book in three months – and all the power to him! But that’s not my M.O.; unfortunately, perfectionism is not something I can change. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I haven’t followed the sales of short stories and novellas closely enough to have a good feel for their value. As long as you’re writing in the same genre, and readers are buying the books, I say, why not?
You had a blog tour organized by Novel Publicity. Could you explain how that works and what it entails?
Going on a blog tour simply means that, over a closed period of time – usually a few weeks or a month – some number of bloggers features your book. Typical features include book reviews, interviews or guest posts. Before my first tour, I had almost no reviews. As we all know, reviews can make or break an indie author. I sent a copy of In Leah’s Wake to all the reviewers Emlyn lined up. A few didn’t have time to read the book, so offered to post interviews or guest posts instead, and quite a few did both. These phenomenally generous bloggers put In Leah’s Wake on the map!
Tours are terrific, but they can also be exhausting, not only because of the prep work – writing posts, answering questions – but also because you should try to visit each of the blogs. Emlyn is working on a tour to coincide with the November release of a UK edition of In Leah’s Wake by British publisher. For that tour, I won’t need reviews. While I’ll certainly supply anything requested, bloggers will be offered a choice of excerpts or various prewritten posts. This seems to be a new trend.
You are offering both print and digital versions of your book. Which ones do sell better?
I sell more eBooks – far and away. Of 20K books sold, only 1000 have been print. This is no doubt due in part to pricing – at 99¢ for digital, unless you’re really don’t like eBooks, why buy a print copy? I believe it also reflects changing industry trends.
What would you advise a writer new on the scene to do to get readers’ attention?
Talk with people. I really believe that connecting with others – readers and writers – is the most important thing any author can do. No, we don’t sell books through social media. A few authors try, but their efforts are transparent, and they rarely succeed.
If you connect with people, on a human level, they remember you. They may not buy your book, but maybe they’ll mention your name to somebody else. Marketing makes a huge difference, but word-of-mouth – people talking, readers recommending your book to their friends – has always been the most powerful and effective way to sell books. The industry is changing, for sure, but some things will always be the same.
Thank you Terri for these very helpful and practical advices. Best of luck with your writing career !
Be generous, share!
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