In 2008 I used to have a lot of time to randomly search the internet; to click on links, read blog posts, and generally fill my head to bursting with all sorts of interesting tidbits. One gem I stumbled across was that a castle was going to be built roughly an hour away from us, using medieval building methods. Tourists would be able to visit the site, do various activities, and, though transported to a different time, snap hundreds of photos. I marked it down as something I wanted to do when they finally got around to making it a reality, and clicked on.
Fast forward to 2015. I have since moved, but a conversation with a friend reminded me of that castle project that never came to fruition. On a whim, I hit google, and was horrified to discover that it had indeed opened in 2010 – and closed in 2012 due to lack of interest. They’d expected 150,000 visitors and got only 12,000. What did they do when the people didn’t come? They slashed staff, and raised the admission price from 12$ to 18$. But, what was the one thing they didn’t do?
Living only an hour from the site (until 2014), I had no idea that it had ever opened. There were no billboards, no TV commercials, nothing. Apparently they garnered a mention on a TV show I’ve never heard of, and made “national headlines” (that I missed). While this “national attention” was going on, the tourists who were sitting in their backyard, literally wanting to go to something like this, had no idea the attraction existed.
This reminded me of many indy authors. They write a book, they edit, they might even pay for a good cover image and professional polishing. They publish, they announce to their friends and family and then… they sit back and wait for the sales to roll in. When they don’t, they take drastic measures; they slash prices or raise them, they rewrite, they buy new covers, sometimes they even quit, but the one thing they need to do they don’t.
They need to advertise.
Just as I couldn’t go to the castle because I didn’t know it had opened, so readers who would like to read our books can’t buy them if they don’t know they exist.
I’m not talking about spam advertising, or shoving your book down someone’s throat, or even the aggressive marketing I’ve heard some authors do (Hello stranger in the grocery store, I know you’re shopping for spaghetti, but did you know I wrote a book where a character eats spaghetti? Here’s my pitch and my business card) but we do need to do some advertising.
I’s even better if you can target your advertising. What does that mean? In a nutshell its advertising to the people who want to buy what you’re selling. That above mentioned shopper might like spaghetti, but she might not like your genre, she might not even be a reader, and while buying groceries she’s probably not looking for a new book.
How do we target our advertising? One way is to list your books on email lists (this works best with free days or bargains). The people who get those emails are not only looking for books (not spaghetti) but are looking for books in your genre!
Of course this isn’t the only advertising method, but it’s a start, and for shy authors it doesn’t involve a lot of uncomfortable interaction. The downside is that it often costs to advertise, but you can’t make money unless you spend money, and you can’t sell a product unless your customers know you’re there.
Just ask the Ozark Medieval Fortress.
What are some ways you’ve advertised your books or author brand? Did they work the way you’d hoped?