January is the beginning of tax preparation season and it’s an excellent time for authors to review marketing strategies. All authors wear multiple hats: writer, editor, reviser and rewriter, marketing and publicity manager, accountant, cook, and chief bottle washer. Like the CEOS of Fortune five-hundred firms, even authors who hire others to do the grunt work of accounting and marketing should—-must—-periodically assess what works and what doesn’t. And then direct appropriate changes.
As a writer, I’m an individual proprietor who files a Schedule C with my 1040. I’m a fiercely independent person who prefers to do things myself. I’ve owned several corporations over the years and corporations and LLCs are fine ways of avoiding responsibility for those so inclined. I have closed all of my corporations and now only own two individual proprietorships. One is under my own name and the other is a DBA.
My marketing strategy for 2015 and 2016 included attendance at the World Horror Convention, the World Science Fiction Convention, the World Fantasy Convention, Wiscon, Windycon, Odyssey Con, the Nebula Awards, Bouchercon, Stokercon, and Thrillerfest. Conventions offer opportunities to appear on panels, autographings, and readings. My name got listed on the attending members page of convention websites. My name was included on programs. I got to personally meet and greet other fiction professionals, including authors, agents, editors, and publishers. Such networking is absolutely essential for writers, and I plan to remain an active professional member of SFWA, HWA, MWA, ITW, and Authors Guild. Those memberships are worth their weight in gold.
I paid for a table at 2015 World Horror Convention and ads in the WHC program. I won’t do that again because there’s no evidence the dealer’s table or those ads generated sales sufficient to cover costs.
Likewise, print ads and website ads provided exposure but generated few sales.
Amazon and Good Reads giveaways also provided exposure, but no additional reviews of the giveaway titles.
Readings and signings at bookstores, colleges, and cafes sold a few books. The exposure value was minimal considering the travel time involved. I’ll be more selective in the future.
2016 results are speculative at this point, but I’m hoping for an accumulative effect. I’m going all-out in 2016, appearing at conventions, doing panels, signings, and readings. I plan to cut back significantly on 2017 appearances. I need to spend the time writing rather than traveling. Besides, my tired old body is wearing out and my knees can’t stand the strain of standing in lines at airports, walking around convention hotels, or carrying luggage.
Believe it or not, what provides the greatest exposure and sells the most books is staying at home where I can write. Social media, such as Facebook and blog posts, keep my name and face in front of the public. Each new publication credit adds to my fan following. And the more books I write, the more my earlier books sell. Staying at home is a win-win for me.
Writing book reviews is a mixed bag. I get free books to read and keep, and I get to evaluate what others are doing that works or doesn’t work. Similarly, appearing on awards juries is time-consuming but allows me to evaluate what makes a story award-worthy. Since I can do both from home, I’ll keep doing both for the foreseeable future.
I’ve only just begun my marketing review. More revelations await. A rebranding and repackaging may be indicated. I’ll let you know more when I know more.
To Be Coninued