Whither Thou Woozit Whatsit, Book Promo?

I’m in Chicago. Er, probably.

Unless my plane crashed, in which case, I’m dead.

Haunting one of you.

YOU KNOW WHICH ONE.

Meantime, I figure I’ll ask this question, generate some talky-talky:

Book promotion.

What works for you? As a reader? As a writer?

What totally fails as a book promo tactic?

First person to say, “Buying 100+ positive reviews” gets a pony.

And that pony will kick you in the jaw!

21 comments

  • Normally, showing me a graphic (book cover) and general explanation of the book are enough to get my attention and make me think of it when I actually have money in my little paws. Some stories, however, are outside of my usual comfort zone, so I’ve found that reading reviews on several sites and excerpts of the first 10 pages help a lot. Though, I find the title pages and acknowledgements pages to be a cheat, I’m talking 10 pages of story so I can see if the author is going to take me anywhere interesting.

  • There’s only been one book trailer that interested me…. and I still never bought that book.

    Amazon reviews, meh. Depends. I will usually look at something if it is under the “People who liked the same book you just read liked this” category, but even then I am shy about starting a book by an author I’ve never heard of…. as an obscure self published author this fact depresses me.

    I will almost always buy a book based on word of mouth recommendation from someone I know. If a friend says “I read this and it was great.” I will almost always give the book a chance. WOM is by far the most effective promotion I have ever encountered.

    Also blogs. If a blog lists a book under those “Top ten sci-fi books you’ve never heard of” sort of lists I will usually give it a shot.

    Now, that’s not to say I don’t like book trailers. I think the one done for your books was pretty cool, actually. Really enjoyed it. But it’s the fact that I enjoyed the first book that will make me buy the second one, not the trailer.

    That being said, I don’t think trailers are a detriment either. It’s about getting the name into people’s brains.

  • Ingenuity and quality sell me books.

    If I see the author doing his best to make his BOOK shine like a freshly polished monkey-skull (and not try to make himself shine like a polish turd) — and if what I see of said book grabs me by the throat — then any medium is perfect, whether book trailer, snippets of said book, 10 versions of awesome blurbness, reviews by other authors who don’t sound trite, etc.

    In other words, you’re doing a fine job by me, Chuck. And I’m all over your books. 🙂

  • The tactic that works most consistently on me is the Big Idea posts on Whatever. Give me a hint about the idea space you’re exploring, the new twist on a narrative you’re creating, and that will get my attention.

  • I’ve become sort of a backward book buyer of late. I’ve been meeting more authors online, and saying, “Oh look! You are very cool human BEING, you are not just a robot spouting book blurbs and only bothering to update your twitter if its a book release.”
    I’ve met -people- and thus I go out and buy books written by smart entertaining human beings.
    I call this backward, because most people I know read the book THEN stalk the author. did I say stalk? I meant follow… avidly… from your bushes. 🙂
    Other things that I like, YES, please say online WHEN the book is out, and WHAT it is about. I LOVE to see cover art, and hear authors RT genuine fans getting excited about a book. Share the booksquee!
    I also love ARC/Book giveaways, the more creative the better. And I love Book tours (publicist permitting, obviously) so that I can see authors in person (instead of through the foggy glass of the basement window.)
    Basically, I love authors who are engaged with their readers, and don’t mind interacting. Seanan McGuire runs a helluva blog over on her LiveJournal, and when it comes time for book releases she asks for fan questions about the books, and then answers some giving more insight into her fiction. She does giveaways there too. I actually started reading her books because I won an book from her, and that was all it took to get me utterly hooked on her work. 1 free thing= half dozen book sales, several book reviews, and I’ve gotten at least one friend to read her books as well.
    So the way I see it, step one, write book, step two, be involved in fandom, step three: profit.
    PS I adored Mockingbird SO MUCH and will let you know when I have a review of it up. 🙂

  • Excerpts. Nothing sells writing like a good-sized excerpt, and I don’t mean the first half of the book or anything. I was immediately sold on The Hunger Games by reading the entire first chapter. I know the problem with Amazon is that for ebooks, they tend to pick for you what they preview.

    But also, something quick, flashy, and in your face, but in a funny or ironic way. Your trailer, as cool as it was, lacked humor, which is kind of what I come to you for. (Actually, I probably love your kinetic “in-your-face” language the most.) Also, it was a little on the long side. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I feel like anything over 30 seconds has trouble really catching my attention.

  • When the publisher gives away the first book in a series for a limited period. It’s worked twice for me, with two separate publishers. But only for a limited period, no more than a month. Something else that worked for me was selling the first book in a series at a lower price, half price. I did nothing but chat about it and tell people it was available on Twitter and Facebook.
    It’s fair, it gives the reader a real chance of sampling the goods and it’s a full book, not a bittie. I think all this buying reviews and followers shit is short term, and that’s putting it nicely because I’m a laydee.
    What doesn’t work? Writing a story just to give away. I have one freebie, and it’s had thousands and thousands downloaded. 11,000 this month. It doesn’t do anything for the rest of my books, and I don’t even know if it’s being read, or that people are just “collecting” it.

  • I hate to say it, especially as I know how little it can mean being a writer myself, but a good cover usually gets my attention over almost anything else. If the cover grabs me, I’ll generally pick up the book on the shelf, or click the little link on amazon, and read the blurb on the back. If that sounds intriguing, I’ll usually pick it up. If it doesn’t, but the people who have snippet reviews (i.e. “I’ve never seen such fantastical fantasy in a fantasy before” Chuckles the Bendigo) say things that intrigue me, I’ll usually give it a shot.

    Lately, I’ve been reliant on my twitter for recommendations. Books by authors I like, and the ones they recommend/retweet about, usually get a look despite the above.

    As far as promos, free copies never really work for me. Either I’m interested enough I already have the book, or my interest hasn’t been piqued enough to check it out and winning could just take the book away from someone who cared. Though, I imagine i’m an outlier here because most everyone loves free stuff.

  • The covers on Amazon are so small that I can’t really see them. And I don’t buy books in bookstores because they’re all in German and I’d rather read a novel in English, so the cover is really wasted on me. First, I read the blurb and if I like that, I want to read an excerpt. The first chapter or maybe more. If I was in a bookstore, I would do just that, so I think authors can let us have a sample of an e-book, too.

    If it’s a book from an author I’ve read before and one whose blog I also follow (and get something out of), I’ll buy it without an excerpt.

    I don’t like spam. But I know it’s hard to get any attention at all for blogs or books if we writers just sit at our computers and don’t tell anyone that we’re posting to our blogs or launching a book. There is a middle ground, one just has to find it.

  • I love the sample function for ebooks just to get a feel for the book. Also, if the sample consists only of the blurbs and the table of contents, I feel I can pass confident that I’m not missing much. I’ve been sucked in by a good blurb or a slick cover many times only to read the sample and think, “No.” I’ve also bought the book after the second or third page of sample.

    Knowing the author is huge – especially if I’ve read them before, or I’ve read their blog, or somehow I’ve come across the name in a positive way.

    The last and most effective promo for me is a friend putting the book in my hands (either literally or by giving me the title) and saying “Here. This rocked. Try it.”

  • Things that don’t work on me – trailers. A movie trailer makes sense – it’s a small sample of the work you’re going to see if you buy a ticket. It’s the movie analog of a story excerpt, a visual sample of a visual product. A trailer for a book trying to do a visual sample of a text product. That just makes me go “Huh?” But perhaps the bring in people who are primarily movie/tv consumers.

    Endorsements and reviews fall into the “very occasionally work” category for me. They have to come from someone whose taste I respect – another author whose work I love, or a reviewer whose reviews of things I’ve read and liked indicate that they got the same kind of things out of the book that I did.

    Discounted or free first books in a series do work. I’ve picked up a couple of new authors that way whose future books I’ve now watching for. Free short stories that tie into a series will do the same thing.

    But the way I’ve bought most books in the past is to be attracted by something – an intriguing title, an appealing cover, etc. They key is to get me to pick it up or click on it and read the blurb. If that passes muster, then I want to read a little of the story. In the bookstore I open the book at random and sample (thus wasting the author’s wonderfully crafted first page hook). If what I look at grabs me, then I’ll try the book. Too many books have wonderful first chapters, or first three chapters, and then go to Hell. So for E-books I’d love to see a random sample, show me 3 pages from the middle of the book, kind of function.

  • As a reader, Twitter. Almost every book I buy these days is either by someone I adore/stalk on Twitter or was recommended by one of ’em. These people are genuine, witty, engaged, and insightful, and I can tell from the first 3 tweets in their stream whether they’re going to entice me.

    As a writer, one-on-one interaction. I arranged to have my books on consignment with a bookstore in the vendor room at Dragon*Con and only sold 1 book in 3 days. In two hours of walking the halls and doing panels while carrying a Giant Bag O’ Manchest, I sold 15. Now I wish I had skipped the bookstore and carried the darned things all weekend.

  • I second Scalzi’s Big Idea on Whatever as a consistently effective tactic, I also tend to buy the work of writer’s interviewed on Terribleminds and on I Should Be Writing.

  • Inside the bookstore, it’s always the cover or a familiar name that will make me pick up a book.

    Twitter has become my new favorite place to find books. I follow authors, who talk about other authors and their books. Then I find new people to stalk, er, follow. If the author seems cool and funny, or witty, I’ll give their book a shot too.

    I don’t read book reviews online because I don’t trust who has made the reviews. If someone I know tells me a book was awesome, or dark and twisty, or something I would like I will read it.

    Chuck, your book trailers were awesome, but I’m already a fan and biased. I’ve never seen any that weren’t kind of hokey before.

  • Word of mouth. If I’ve heard glowing reviews of something multiple times, either from blogs or people I know IRL or online, then that book goes on my to-read list. In addition, if I’ve met the author and liked them, then it’s pretty much a guaranteed sell.

    This is, with few exceptions, the sole determining force behind what I buy.

  • I love meeting the author in person. Whether it is a book tour or at a convention, being able to hear the author as they passionately discuss their process and/or how their newest book came to be opens my wallet with no hesitation. I’ve also been on a Google+ hangout with several authors as they discussed a specific genre and they answered questions from the chat. I think this could work great for an author promoting a book too!

  • I haven’t seen enough book trailers to have a real opinion one way or another. I tend to focus first and foremost on the cover, and then the short description on the back cover.

    I’ve got an old-school, brick-and-mortar bookstore approach. I still haven’t well to the e-book environment, so I’m probably missing a lot of good stories.

    That said, I read Locus, Tor.com, Analog, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, etc., so I look there for new stuff and then cull from various online sites including Amazon, obviously.

  • Just about all of the books I buy are ones I found out about through word of mouth. Some are from authors I know personally, and there are a couple of authors whose books I will buy without a second thought (Pratchett, Christopher Moore…and, not to be a kiss-ass, but after reading Shotgun Gravy, you’re on the list too, Wendig ;).

    I don’t even watch book trailers, unless they’re for a friend’s book – and then I usually just try to say something polite about it and forget I ever saw it. Most book trailers are *terrible*. They might have fantastic production values and great acting, but I just don’t think a book is the right format to get a trailer.

    That said, your trailer for Mockingbird is one of probably two I’ve ever seen that would actually convince me to buy the book. I love the idea of telling a mini-story in it, and THANK YOU for not having photos or video of actors portraying the parts. That’s what I hate most about trailers, I think – having the fun of picturing the characters for yourself taken away. That’s the same reason I don’t like book covers that feature sleek photographs of beautiful people who are supposed to be the characters. Let me picture them myself, book cover artists! *shakes fist*

  • Word of mouth, primarily. Beyond that? The title is a big sell to me, and so are the graphics. That gets me to pick the book up. And then, if the blurb doesn’t sell me, back the book goes on the shelf.

  • I tend to do the “Look Inside!” thingy ala Amazon. Prior to that, I would physically do the same in the book store or library. However, once I find an author who I really like, I just go for it and either buy the book or borrow it. This sometimes backfires miserably, but it’s always my intention to read a book knowing as little about the plot as is possible!

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