You Have to Spend Money to Imagine Making Money

For the month of August I’ve purchased a banner ad on a gaming-related website, the population of which I thought might be a good fit for the mix of humor and horror and action in Perishables. Part of the deal included sponsorship of their main free podcast, to which I already subscribe, which meant that I had the extremely surreal experience of going for a run and hearing my own book being promoted by people of whom I am already a big fan. There is just nothing stranger. Nothing in the world. If nothing else, this process has been a series of incredibly strange, new experiences. I am not sure I could ask for more from the universe. I love nothing more than a strange, new experience.

That said, wow was buying a banner ad a huge marketing fail. The ad cost a fair amount and generated approximately 1/10th that in sales. I sold about a dozen copies as a result of that promotion and that was it. I’m now sitting somewhere just north of ~60 total, which is six times my original goal but far fewer than I’d kind of hoped. Almost all of them were immediately after the ad went live. As users of that site have become accustomed to seeing the ad they have clicked on it less and less. There was a bump from being mentioned at the beginning and end of this month’s episode of their podcast, naturally, but otherwise it’s been an organic decline. This is entirely expected, but I had hoped that this would generate more sales than it has. I don’t regret the decision to sponsor them because they are a fantastic site and podcast and well worth any support they receive. In some ways I feel like I’m paying them back for the many hours of quality content I’ve enjoyed courtesy of their podcasts. I’m a little sad that I wasn’t a bigger hit with their user base, but such is life. If failure were not an option then there’d be no point in experiments such as this.

Marketing remains something at which I’m basically terrible because I’m so terrified of it. Mama didn’t raise me to brag, y’know? The more writers with whom I talk the more I realize that we’re all victims of our own hesitation. As such I’ve decided to combat my hesitation directly by forcing myself to get out there and do something else in meaningful ways. We don’t become well-known by doing nothing and waiting to be discovered so I’m trying to get out there and produce content that is free and will generate exposure for myself and my work. It’s terrifying but necessary. The things I’ve done or are doing also have the advantage of being free or extremely cheap:

  • Last week I wrote a guest article on Literary+ regarding world-building.
  • This week the first of my contributions to the shared-world serial Smoke & Shadows will go up on the Literary+ site.
  • Next weekend I’m appearing on The Platform with John Rakestraw to discuss pricing and marketing.
  • Tonight I provided my answers to the first round of questions for an interview by steampunk author Brooke Johnson.
  • I am continuing to appear on the monthly G+ hangouts of Mike’s Zombie Book & Movie Club.
  • During Dragon*Con I’ll be using the public promotion tables to make available a business card advertising Perishables.
  • Over my fall break or possibly my winter break I will be working with two voice actors, already cast and in agreement to perform, to record an audio version of Perishables to make available as a podcast and/or audiobook.

Ultimately, though, I think the advice of my cover artist, John Ward, has been the best: get a sequel out there and then get a third book out there. People want series. They don’t want stand-alone books that are hard to categorize; they want a free first book and some sequels that cost money. My class this semester looks to be pretty light on deliverable assignments (a most welcome change after a semester of intense, original research in the spring) so I might actually have the opportunity to get Tooth & Nail and Deal With The Devil edited and published. It’s been pretty freaking neat so far to say that I have a book I’ve published myself; it would be even neater to say I’ve got three.

I’m also contemplating – now that I have a much better camera than before – doing my own cover for Tooth & Nail. There are a couple of fraternity brothers who could make excellent models for Withrow and his cousin Roderick and they’d probably be willing to work for beer.

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