TKZ Marketing Survey

by Steve Hooley

After a recent post on marketing, by Clare, Marketing in the Time of Covid, (April 12, 2021), Debbie and I were discussing the topic, and decided to survey all the contributors here at TKZ to learn their practices and strategies, and see what differences exist between indie and traditional publishers. In today’s post you’ll see five of the nine responses. On Tuesday, 5/25/21, you’ll see the remaining four responses and Debbie’s analysis, so please return on Tuesday to finish the discussion.

Today, as you read the responses, please be thinking about your overall strategy for marketing and if you plan to change any components.

 

John Gilstrap’s answers:

Traditional Pub

  1. What is your goal with marketing?
  2. The real answer here will sound flippant, but it’s true: My goal is to make my name and by books more recognizable to the public, and therefore sell more. I haven’t established any hard and fast metrics for this. And without metrics, my “goal” is more accurately classified as a “strategy.”
  3. What marketing do you do or participate in?
  • Speaking – Zoom – Podcasts – Book Tours – interviews

o   Speaking gigs as we once knew them are obviously dormant. As soon as more of America is released from house arrest, I hope to get back to more of that. In 2020, I did a number of Zoom meetings, from individual book clubs—which I hope to continue into the future—to speaking at virtual conferences.

  • Blogging – Website

o   TKZ is the only blog on which I regularly participate. I have a website that I keep current with book data, and I’ve populated it with short stories and essays about writing. That said, the website is fairly static. While I provide the content, I do not handle the design or manipulation of the site.

  • Newsletter

o   I have a newsletter list, and in theory, I send out newsletters, but I am not nearly regular enough with them. I send out publication announcements, but my life is too boring to send regular (monthly or quarterly) newsletters. I think I just don’t understand the purpose of newsletters.

  • Social media – Which platforms

o   Ah, social media. What a cesspool that has become. My SM focus has been on Facebook and YouTube. I use my Facebook author page as I think I’m supposed to use my newsletter. I post about the progress of the house we’re building and about selected life events. I also participate pretty actively in a 100K+-member FB group about fiction writing. I leverage many of those posts to point people to my YouTube channel which I call a Writer’s View on Writing and Publishing. The point of my YouTube channel is to get more invitations to speak at conferences and such.

  • Conferences – networking

o   Conferences are the great casualty of the pandemic panic. There’s no way to replace that kind of face-to-face interaction with readers, fans and other authors. That said, I have a standing date with some author buddies for virtual happy hours every Wednesday evening via Zoom. It’s not the same, but it helps.

  • Others

o   Kensington (my publisher) does a lot of work on my behalf with GoodReads, BookBub and the various retailers, but I don’t understand how most of that stuff works.

  1. For each specific activity above that you use, how much time do you estimate that you spend (per week? per month?)
  2. I dedicate probably an hour per day to Facebook. My TKZ posts take at least two hours apiece—often more. The videos for my YouTube channel take a few hours apiece, between scripting, shooting and editing. I tend to binge-shoot these in the weeks between books, and as my deadlines approach, I don’t do any social media.
  3. For each activity above that you use, what do you estimate is your return on investment? Which one do you think is the most effective?
  4. I have no idea. I don’t even know where to look to find that data.
  5. What resources have been most helpful to you in learning the above?
  6. My publisher’s publicity apparatus has been very helpful in educating me on what does and does not work in social media. We work together to project the same messages around publication dates. Historically, they’ve also arranged for some speaking gigs on my behalf. As far as YouTube is concerned, the best education sources are on YouTube itself.
  7. What changes have you made to your marketing b/c of the pandemic?
  8. I haven’t changed things so much as I have backed away from them. The best analogy I can think of is this: If I were on a canoe camping trip through the woods and a freak storm turned the normally placid river into a torrent, I wouldn’t attempt to navigate the dangerous waters. Instead, I’d wait for the stormwaters to recede. That’s what I’m doing during the blind panic of the pandemic.
  9. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting over?
  10. It’s been my belief from the beginning that there is virtually nothing an author can do to significantly impact sales. I think that book tours are terrible wastes of money and time. Conferences are better, but not by much. The Holy Grail of marketing is to snag the keynote speaker slot, but there are only so many of those to go around. The best way for an author to sell books is to write more books.

 

Jim Bell’s answers:

Indie Pub

What marketing do you do?
Speaking – Zoom – Podcasts – Book Tours – interviews
Blogging – Website
Newsletter
Social media – Which platforms     Twitter, Facebook (limited)
Paid ads – which onesBookBub, BookGorilla
Conferences – networking

3. For each specific activity above that you use, how much time do you estimate that you
spend (per week? per month?)

It varies, of course. I try generally to keep things 90/10…90% on my writing because word of mouth (the result of really good book) is by far the best marketing.

4. For each activity above that you use, what do you estimate is your return on investment?

In the back of my mind I’m always thinking I have an hourly worth based on my average writing income each month. So I tend to think “I’m losing money by spending too much time here” with regard to social media.

Which one do you think is the most effective?

BookBub.

5. What resources have been most helpful to you in learning the above?

TheCreativePenn.com

6. What changes have you made to your marketing b/c of the pandemic?

Obviously, more Zoom. Workshops, mini-conferences.

7. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting over?

Nothing really. I’ve kept writing as #1 and that hasn’t changed. I’ve tried paid ads — cost per click — on both BookBub and Amazon, but haven’t cracked the code for fiction. Nonfiction has worked better.

8. Where do you sell your books?

Amazon.

 

Terry Odell answers:

Indie Pub

I didn’t answer because I don’t have a marketing plan. I’m random and haphazard, and don’t track much.

Best for me, IF you can get one, is a BookBub deal. For Audio, a Chirp deal. I’ve done ads with other newsletters, such as ENT, Bargain/Free Booksy, Fussy Librarian. I’ve done the occasional Amazon ad, but just let them handle it, and I keep my spending very low.

I have a blog, a newsletter that goes out when I have something new, a Facebook Author Page. My blog feeds to my author page, to Amazon, to Goodreads (which I never visit), and I’m not even sure where else it shows up.

The only thing that’s changed during the pandemic is I haven’t gone to any conferences, although I’d cut way back before the pandemic.

Social media is about engaging, not selling, but if it’s lumped into marketing, then I probably spend under an hour/day doing “marketing.” If you remove that from the mix, more like 10-15 minutes, max.

Can you tell I don’t like marketing? I’m not in this gig for the money; I’d go nuts if I wasn’t writing. Seeing sales is good, but I look at bad years as a way to cut back on our taxes.

 

Elaine Viets’s answers:

Traditional Pub

  1. What is your goal with marketing?
  • To create a loyal group of satisfied readers who will return to buy my mysteries and help sell books by word of mouth.
  1. What marketing do you do or participate in?
  • Speaking – Zoom – Podcasts – Book Tours – interviews
  • I give talks via Zoom and I’ve been a podcast guest. Before Covid-19 I went on book tours. Now I participate in Zoom book signings. These are most successful if I team up with one or more writers for the event. My last Zoom book signing was with Charlaine Harris at Murder on the Beach Bookstore in Delray Beach, FL. Murder on the Beach asks participants to buy at least one book.
  • Blogging – Website
    • I’ve cut back on blogging, except for TKZ. I believe blogging’s popularity is waning. TKZ has an established audience, and it’s worth my time.
  • Newsletter
    • I have a database of about 3000 names and send out a newsletter two or three times a year, usually when I have a new book or anthology coming out. I don’t like to bombard my readers with constant newsletters.
  • Social media – Which platforms
    • Social media is a huge time suck. I use Twitter and Facebook.
  • Conferences – networking
    • Thanks to Covid, most of the conferences were cancelled. I really miss them. I’ve been a speaker at several virtual conferences and will be at Mostly Malice, the Malice Domestic conference. As for networking, I belong to MWA and I’m treasurer of the Sisters in Crime Treasure Coast Chapter.
  • Others
    • My agent, Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky, got the rights back for my Dead-End Job mysteries, my Josie Marcus cozy series and the Francesca Vierling series. He commissioned new covers and descriptions. Julie Smith at BooksBNimble does a good job of marketing the books. She places ads and has giveaways.
  1. For each specific activity above that you use, how much time do you estimate that you spend (per week? per month?) Blogging takes about two days per month. Social media is about half an hour per day.
  2. For each activity above that you use, what do you estimate is your return on investment? Which one do you think is the most effective? Facebook gives me the best results personally, though BooksBNimble does well as an income stream.
  3. What resources have been most helpful to you in learning the above? I learned about BooksBNimble by networking.
  4. What changes have you made to your marketing b/c of the pandemic? I go to fewer in-person events, and I miss conferences and book signings.
  5. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting over? If I were starting over, I would join MWA and Sisters in Crime earlier and go to the conferences as soon as I had a contract, rather than waiting for my book to come out.

 

Steve Hooley’s Answers:

Indie Pub

  1. What is your goal with marketing? Leave a legacy for my descendants. Sell more books.
  2. What marketing do you do?
  • Speaking – Zoom – Podcasts – Book Tours – interviews Beginning to work on a target audience of schools with visits and zoom.
  • Blogging – Website TKZ only. Website needs updating.
  • Newsletter Once monthly to a sign-up group
  • Social media – Which platforms On Facebook, don’t use it.
  • Paid ads – which ones Want to learn about this.
  • Conferences – networking – In past. Not post-virus.
  • Others
  1. For each specific activity above that you use, how much time do you estimate that you spend (per week? per month?) Speaking – just starting – one hour per month. Blog (TKZ) about 2-3 hr every other week. Newsletter – one hour monthly.
  2. For each activity above that you use, what do you estimate is your return on investment? Which one do you think is the most effective? No return with any, other than speaking to individuals and small groups when I was still in my office. Most effective – speaking.
  3. What resources have been most helpful to you in learning the above? JSB – How to Make a Living as a Writer. Dale Carnegie – The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking. Kahle and Workhoven – Naked at the Podium. David Gaughran – books and newsletters.
  4. What changes have you made to your marketing b/c of the pandemic? Beginning to learn Zoom.
  5. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting over? Build my website as a website rather than a blog site. Do a better job of updating. Build a bigger newsletter list. Start public speaking sooner. Experiment with paid ads. Begin use of Zoom earlier.
  6. Where do you sell your books? Amazon and local bookstores.

 

 

Okay, TKZ family, it’s your turn:

  • What is your overall plan or strategy for marketing?
  • Do you plan to make any changes?

 

Two final notes: 

  1. Please remember to stop back on Tuesday, 5/25, when the four remaining responses from TKZ contributors will be presented, and  Debbie will analyze the results and wrap things up.
  2. In two weeks (June 5th) Dale Ivan Smith, a former librarian, will present a guest post, titled “How to Break Into a Library.” Please join us, and bring all your library questions.
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27 thoughts on “TKZ Marketing Survey

  1. Good morning, Steve. Thanks to you and Debbie for putting so much into this. it provides an extremely interesting window into how to “get out there,” if you will. I’ll look forward to seeing the other responses on Tuesday.

    Hope you have a terrific, mask-off, weekend!

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  2. Good morning, Joe. Thanks for your comments. It’s always interesting to see how others are approaching marketing. This will be a virtual conference and networking in hopes that soon life can get back to normal and “real” conferences and networking can resume.

    Have a great weekend, yes mask free.

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  3. My readers are on Facebook, and my strategy is to engage. I reached my ‘friend’ limit, so I started a group: Laura Drake’s Peace, Love & Books. I post snark, weird stuff I run across, beauty pics, wisdom posts, and things I like. It’s become a community, with more joining every day, as my group members share my posts. When I have book news, hopefully they’ll buy, because they already know my voice, and will hopefully like my books. No way to gauge ROI, but I’m having fun in the meantime, and getting to know more people all the time, so it can’t be bad.

    I’m always open to new ideas, and keep my antennae up for something new.

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    • Laura, thanks for sharing your ideas. I particularly like the idea of forming a group on Facebook. Love the name of the group. People who join the group know what their getting into and expect to hear about your books. This sounds like a super-charged newsletter with lots of community involvement – better than a newsletter. This is something I need to look into. Thanks!

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  4. “My TKZ posts take at least two hours apiece—often more.”

    And it shows. Whenever someone asks me for guidance about writing, I always recommend TKZ.

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  5. My hat’s off to you and Debbie, Steve, for putting this marketing survey together. From all the writers I’ve connected with, I see two common themes – write more books (build inventory) and keep your name out there (discoverability). Also, what works well for one doesn’t necessarily work well for another. Looking forward to the next segment and enjoy your day!

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    • Thanks, Garry. “write more books (build inventory) and keep your name out there (discoverability)” seem to be the two top themes.

      I’ve seen your survey answers, and I’m impressed with your energy and all that you accomplish. Impressive.

      I’m looking forward to Debbie’s analysis and wrap up. She’s great at organizing things.

      Have a great weekend!

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  6. Thanks, Mike, for your loyalty. It’s writers like you who inspire us to continue providing useful information. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend.

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  7. Excellent answers, everyone. Steve, thanks for putting this together. It’s fascinating to share the marketing of other writers, and helpful. Looking forward to Debbie’s post, too.

    Enjoy your weekend!

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    • Thanks, Sue. It was Debbie who could see the big picture and knew how to organize this thing. I tried to con her into doing the whole project, but she insisted that we be partners in crime.

      I was impressed with your survey answers. I don’t know how you do it all. I encourage everyone to stop back Tuesday and see the remainder of the surveys, including yours.

      Have a great weekend!

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      • Steve, you give me too much credit. The idea was yours and you thought up the questions. And you’re a great partner in crime.

        +1
        • Debbie, you’re a great leader – someone who can keep things on track and make everyone else feel like their contribution is significant.

          So, everyone, please stop by on Tuesday, for the rest of the surveys and for Debbie’s excellent analysis.

          Maybe, by then, this partnership will have found some land or bridges to sell.

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  8. Good morning, Steve. Hats off to you and Debbie for putting this together, and to the KZB contributors for sharing their marketing approaches.

    I’m an indie, too. When I started self-publishing novels, I leaned very heavily on newsletter building, sharing promotions with other authors, as well as running ads with the various promo sites like Freebooksy, Book Barbarian etc. I was exclusive with KDP Select and thus in KU for the first seven months. When I went wide, I was able to start applying for in-house promotions with Kobo and Barnes and Noble, as well as use Google Play Book’s tool to upload sale prices for a promotion, which might or might not get them to showcase the title(s) being promoted. These are all essentially advertising. I haven’t found social media effective in selling books, or even in really engaging with readers.

    I have an author Facebook page (not a group) and found that it didn’t move the dial much. What moves the dial most, as is often observed by Indies, is releasing the next book. There was a time when I was getting a steady trickle of emails from readers, but that has died down.

    Moving into the mystery genre will give me another opportunity to try some new to me marketing approaches (including perhaps a Facebook *group*). Already I feel like it’s easier to come up with content for my mystery newsletter than it was for my fantasy/science fiction one.

    Looking forward to part II on Tuesday!

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    • Good morning, Dale. Thanks for sharing your strategies and goals, and what has worked for you.

      One of my big questions when we put together the survey was what percentage of writers were “going wide” vs exclusivity with KDP Select. I think I’m seeing a trend toward going wide. And your comments sound like going wide allowed more options with marketing.

      Good luck with your mystery novels.

      We look forward to your post in two weeks (June 5th), and I encourage everyone stop in then to learn “How to Break Into a Library.”

      Have a great weekend!

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      • Wide really works for me, both in terms of marketing, and in terms of publishing freedom. As always, YMMV.

        Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about working with libraries! Really looking forward to it.

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  9. Great job putting this together, and fascinating to read what others are doing in the marketing space. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned here, marketing and I have a good (and fun) relationship. It’s not a chore but just part of being an Indie Self-Pubber, which I am now. My basic strategy is to repeat Peter Drucker’s advice back in Clare’s post: “… the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. … Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy. All that should be needed then is to make the product or service available, i.e., logistics rather than salesmanship.”

    And for me, a big part of that is Amazon’s recommendation engine (i.e., algorithm). While I also continue to use the usual suspects (website, email list, FB, CPC ads, et al.), I like to think I’m priming the Amazon pump by (A) understanding how to best use keywords, genre categories, and the like; and (B) adding to my inventory of books (currently 4 novellas, 3 novels with the 4th in progress), which compounds the marketing effects.

    So no big changes planned, but I’m always open to trying something new.

    Now off to write my scene for today…

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    • Thanks, Harald. Your attitude toward marketing has to be a big plus in terms of enjoying the experimentation until you find what works. I wish I could learn to enjoy the process.

      Your comments about Amazon’s recommendation engine reminds me that is something I need to study more. A focused discussion of that subject would be a great TKZ post.

      Have a great weekend, and thanks for your comments.

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  10. Enjoyed reading everyone’s responses. I’m traditionally published and am blessed to have a great marketing team at my publisher. I still do a lot of marketing myself, mostly on social media–videos and posts on FB, Instagram, Twitter. I have a blog that I do twice weekly, on Tuesdays I have a Mystery Question for my readers to solve, and on Friday’s I review a book I’ve read recently.
    Most of my marketing is aimed at interacting with readers.
    TKZ is one of the few blogs I read daily. Thank you all for putting in so much time and work on your posts.

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    • Thanks, Patricia, for stopping by TKZ daily. We appreciate your comments and participation. It sounds like you put a lot of effort and time into your marketing. Your approach – “Most of my marketing is aimed at interacting with readers.” – is very likely building a loyal following. I hope that sometime you will have the opportunity to tell us which SM platform yields the most responses for you.

      Have a great weekend!

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      • Steve, I get my most interaction on my blog, getting anywhere from 20-25 comments each week, whether it’s the Mystery Question or the book review. That and a weekly FB group where I usually get from 50-60 comments on what I post there. I have no idea how that translates into book sales, though. lol

        My blog is https://ptbradley.com/blog/. Stop by sometimes and see if you can figure out which answer I made up.

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        • Thanks for the answer, Patricia. 20-25 comments on the blog vs. 50-60 comments on a FB group. The Facebook group idea is sounding better all the time.

          Your blog/web site looks great.

          Thanks!

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  11. Thanks to you and Debbie for putting all this together, Steve. It’s always good to see what others are doing and cull the most helpful things. Good job.

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    • Thanks, Jim. It is good to know what all of you professionals are doing, especially for a beginner like me. My only problem is that now I have no excuse for avoiding marketing.

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