Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cross-Promotion, Book Sales, and You

Being an author isn't easy. You put in huge amounts of time and effort to create, edit, and polish your stories, you package them in an eye-catching way, and then you run endless promotions to try to get your books into as many readers' hands as possible. You are, in essence, throwing matches into the forest, hoping to catch something on fire.

Some of us use bigger matches than others.
The problem is that, even if you wrote a really great book, slapped amazing cover art on the front, and you did everything you could to get people to read you, you might still end up as little more than a blip on the radar. However, it's important to remember that none of us are just fiction writers. As such, you can sometimes lever your audience from another part of your professional life into becoming readers.

In marketing terms, it's called cross-promotion.

How Does It Work?

You know how celebrities are always writing books? Whether it's a pop diva, or a reality TV star, or just a retired actor who wants to share his thoughts on his time in Hollywood, publishers are always happy to put out something with even a C-list celebrity's name on it. It's because celebrities, even minor ones, have a pre-existing audience, and the publisher is banking on that audience buying the book to see what's going on.

Talk shit all you want, you know you'd be curious to read it.
That's cross-promotion in a nutshell. If you have one thing that your audience likes (in this case a celebrity's movies, music, TV shows, etc.), then you try to get that same audience to buy a different, but related product (said celebrity's memoirs, parenting guide, etc.).

You, however, are not a celebrity. You're just someone who has a book to sell, and you're trying to get a toehold with an audience. So take a moment and ask yourself what else you are. For example, are you a journalist? Do you run a popular (even marginally) YouTube channel? Do you have a blog? Anything you do that generates an audience that isn't directly related to your book can be used as a pool for cross-promotion purposes.

A Practical Example

For those of you who don't know, in addition to being an author and running this blog, I'm also a freelance designer for tabletop roleplaying games. My second blog, Improved Initiative, is all about gaming, including character builds, strategies for improving your experience as a player, and even sharing my own and my readers' gaming stories. My audience there is significantly bigger than my audience here, and most of them have no idea that I'm a fiction writer. They show up, and follow me, because they've seen my name as a designer in the games they like, or because they enjoy my take on the hobby, and the culture surrounding the hobby.

Which is where the cross-promotion comes in.

Why not go and read the first 2 stories for free?
You see, if I mention to my gaming audience that I've written a collection of steampunk noir short stories titled New Avalon: Love and Loss in The City of Steam, some of them might perk up and take notice. That isn't why they're coming to me, but they like my other work, so this might be just up their alley. It's a different product, but it's also by an author/blogger they're following and reading on the regular, so some members of my audience will go check it out.

I personally take it a step further, though. For example, I announce giveaways for my book in my gaming updates, and I've been known to give out free copies to those who support my Patreon page as swag, and a thank you for pledging at least $1 a month. This means that audience members who were only familiar with my work as a gaming blogger and creator now have a piece of my fiction, giving me a chance to sink the hook, and convert them into a double fan.

There Are No Guarantees

Cross-promotion might sound like a slam dunk (after all, did you click over to my gaming blog to see what it was all about when I mentioned it?), but there's no such thing as a silver bullet when it comes to finding fans, and selling books. If you already have an audience, you'd be a fool not to try winning their support for your other projects. However, you also need to ask how big the overlap between your other projects, and the things your existing audience likes, is.

That way you can make a fair estimation whether you're going to excite, or frustrate, them when you let them know about your latest endeavor.

As always, thanks for stopping in to see what I had to say on this week's Business of Writing update. For more of my work, be sure to check out my Vocal archive. If you want to be sure you never miss one of my updates, then why not follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter?

Also, if you're a fan of sword and sorcery novels, why not check out my book Crier's Knife over on My Amazon Author Page?

1 comment:

  1. When it comes to selling your works – in whatever business you’ve chosen to dedicate your life to – just about anything short of murder and identity theft are fair game and often necessary to get make a name for yourself and enhance your livelihood. It’s okay to suffer for your art. But, even in self-help groups, folks around you only have X amount of sympathy to expound.