Why You Promote With a Long Tail by C. Hope Clark

2014-06-1316.56.56            A common reason authors use for not going with New York is how these publishers throw a book out in hopes fans will break down doors and stand in lines to buy the title. If such activity hasn’t happened in, say, two months, the title is forgotten as New York moves on to the next. They operate via a long-tail marketing approach that emphasizes big sales up front then a residual decline over time. It looks like this:

 

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Picture by Hay Kranen / PD

 

As a new novelist of a new release for a new series, I entered the publishing world afraid if I did not perform, my publisher would drop me like a hot coal. So I toured the country, hitting 26 events in nine states in nine months. Luckily I sold enough books to receive another contract. Rinse and repeat.

As I contacted the office yet again to insure books would arrive where I’d be, my publisher asked what the heck I was doing. Heart in my throat, I point blank confessed I fought to remain keep-able. As I almost cried in relief, I learned that most publishers these days, especially since smaller presses have gained such power and reach, prefer a long-tail approach to marketing their authors. I was familiar with the above method, but my publisher soon explained to me that this is the long-tail they prefer.

 

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Picture by Hay Kranen / PD

 

I could deal with this. As a matter of fact, I was more than familiar with this concept via my freelance brand FundsforWriters. As a freelancer, I’d entered the writing world with the goal to increase my image and notoriety over a period of time, one step at a time on a daily basis until people remembered who I was and told somebody else about me. In FundsforWriters’ 15 years of existence, my readership grew from a dozen to over forty thousand with that mindset, garnering ten thousand in five years. Writer’s Digest chose the site for its 101 Best Websites for Writers 14 times. Why couldn’t this day-to-day ritual work for my fiction?

I’d made a novice’s mistake thinking that mid- and small-sized presses functioned much the same as New York. Turns out they understand there’s more money to be made in continually putting an author out there one book at a time, one right after the other, until the name recognition catches on.

Word-of-mouth is a simple long-tail example. Blogging is another. Frankly, anything you can do promo-wise in this profession aids your long-tail advancement. So why do so many authors fail at becoming known and selling books?

 

They do not promote daily.

 

Why don’t writers keep their noses to the grindstone when it comes to promotion? Through conversations with my peers, I’ve learned the thoughts are:

  1. A big event (i.e., conference, signing, blog tour) goes a long way and warrants a reprieve.
  2. A couple of hard promo months allows time to coast.
  3. A peak in success means those fans are solid.
  4. If a reader buys one book, he’ll always buy the others.
  5. Hard promo should create immediate success or it’s not worth the trouble.
  6. Having been famous means you remain famous.

 

Promotion takes consistent drive to work and take you up that graph. Those who stop promoting, or do so only after a new book, or perform hit and miss efforts every few weeks, never gain serious ground. The gaps kill the momentum.

HopeOKsigning3Authors never reach a point they don’t have to market. Too many others never stop. The authors making daily splashes, over time, becomes the authors that pop up in a search or find themselves on a recommended reading list.

In my first mystery series, I struggled sliding my foot in the door of bookstores and libraries because I was a novice fiction writer. However, I continued on as if I had a strong HopeEdistoBookstoreSignanchor in this profession. I spoke in front of groups as small as two and blogged on many a site with no resulting comments. I spoke on radio shows where nobody called in. I ate lunch with potential readers, media people, librarians, and other authors every chance I could.  I handed out postcards and hung six foot banners where I appeared. I did not see immediate results from any of these efforts, but I kept telling myself that one day I might.

Today I can’t count the numerous situations where something I did, someplace I appeared, or someone I spoke to led me to a bigger opportunity from a meeting that occurred, weeks, months, even years earlier. A radio show led to a book club invitation which resulted in two banquet keynote addresses. A panel appearance led to a reporter taking my picture which triggered a women’s club asking me to be their keynote for a major event. An obscure book reviewer in an online magazine asked for a review copy, showed the review to a film agent who fell in love with the books and signed to represent them. A reporter saw me at a local country festival and asked for a feature interview in the newspaper. The same event landed Palmetto Poison as a book club selection of the month. A twitter announcement landed me another television interview. Never underestimate a connection, and never forget to put yourself out there somewhere on a daily basis.

To keep readers, feed them. Sure you wrote a great book five years ago, but what have you written lately? The long-tail approach works only if you keep pushing it forward, which means not only the daily promo but also producing new material to maintain your fans. You have to feed these hungry people. Otherwise they’ll starve and hate you for it, or find other source of food.

The point is, no matter how small the venue or effort, put yourself out there each and every day. No matter how big you once were or how hard you worked on one book, continue to produce works. This is a path that never ends, but the rewards of putting one foot in front of the other are joyous, rewarding, and satisfying beyond belief. Because you can’t see success on the horizon doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

 

BIO – Hope Clark is author of two mystery series published by Bell Bridge Books, The Carolina Slade Mysteries and the newest Edisto Island Mysteries. The first release in the new series is Murder on Edisto due out in September 2014. Hope is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, renowned throughout the industry for its resource information for writers, from crowdfunding to grants, contests to freelance markets, agents to publishers. She is frequently asked to appear at conferences and events, but lives on the banks of Lake Murray or visits Edisto Beach, both in beautiful South Carolina. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

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