schroedersthoughts

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So far schroedersthoughts has created 36 blog entries.

New Grub Street: Writers And Advertising

A couple of months ago I told a Venture Capitalist that I was thinking of starting a company that focused on providing marketing and advertising services to writers, particularly self-published writers. I had only just started to create my own “marketing platform” (and still have a long way to go) for my own book, but I had noticed that, especially on Twitter, there was a lot of “echo chamber” noise, as N.V. Binder has called it. Now writers are, of course, readers, so they are a good audience to market to, but I’m sure we will all agree that we writers are still very much in the beginning stage of learning how to market our books–to the right (buying) audience, that is.

It struck me that one could, potentially, build a tool that crawled the social web to find one’s unique audience, and having found them, engage in conversations with them, follow them, friend them, and advertise to them. A Writer’s Dashboard, if you will. Something Bloombergian.

After my soft pitch to the Venture Capitalist, she looked at me like I was from Mars, and replied, “Why, Mark, don’t you know that writers don’t have any money?” I felt like launching into an explanation of how the new revolution in self-publishing would change all that, would place the responsibility and financial burdens of marketing back on the writers themselves, that most self-published writers have “day” jobs, that the image of the penniless writer is a Romantic legacy, and so on, but I’ve always found it best not to try to persuade someone that one’s vision is the correct one. In any case, most writers know that we are a hard-working group, toiling away during the day to make ends meet, and spending late nights and weekends pursuing our dreams. Not for us the Nietzsche observation: I went in search of man, but only found the ape of his ideals.

But still, I’ve been around long enough to know that intuition is best corroborated by hard data, so I decided to “crowd verify” some of my initial assumptions. I’m pretty confident one can build a social media analytics tool for writers. What I have been less confident about is the most appropriate business model for a company that built just such a tool. While “most” writers are not scribbling away in dingy garrets, money is still an issue for all of us, and I want to develop something that creates real value for writers at an affordable price. Identifying “where” to advertise and then providing a cost-effective platform to do so is one of two business-model options I have envisioned.

My first step in testing the assumption that the advertising model would work was to poll some writers on what they would spend to advertise their books, assuming they had “located” the right audience. 111 writers responded. Here is the question I asked and the responses.

How much would you spend to advertise your book to a targeted audience?

$0-$250  42.34%  (47 votes)

$250-500  18.02%  (20 votes)

$500-$1,000  12.61%  (14 votes)

$1,000+  12.61%  (14 votes)

Nothing  14.41%  (16 votes)

Total Votes: 111

85% (95 of the 111) of the poll responders indicated that they would advertise to a targeted audience. Average spend is hard to measure, but it is probably in the $300 range. Almost 13% indicated that they would spend more than a $1,000. Of course more responses might skew the results in a different direction, and I make no claim for reliability or validity of the poll results, but I will note that the responders were geographically dispersed and were practicing in different genres (YA, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Erotica, etc.).

I think that most writers, myself included, are hampered by the notion that if our work is “good,” then someone will read it. But that is not necessarily the case on the web. Indeed, I would make the claim that there is only a tenuous connection between quality of content and views. A perusal of the most popular You Tube videos provides one convincing data point for this perspective.

Rather, we need to adjust to the rules of the web, and think about the most cost-effective strategies that will place our work before a possible buyer. Quality of our work only becomes an issue once someone buys and actually reads our work. At that point, they either become a negative or positive referral, as the greatest source of reading suggestions comes from friends, family, and co-workers. If the work is good, then the advertising should pay off in spades.

At first blush, it looks like there is a compelling economic case for going forward. In my next post, I will upload some screen shots of what I am talking about when I refer to something Bloombergian. In the meantime, I would welcome your comments! Thanks.

At Find My Audience, we understand that not all authors are marketers. That being said, growing your social audience can expand your readership and book sales. You don’t have to be a book marketer to find new readers online. We are here to simplify this process for you. Sign up today and connect with potential readers across the globe.

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By |January 1st, 2012|EBooks and Advertising|16 Comments

The Book of Margery Kempe. Book Cover.

Like most of you, I am well aware of the fact that a book cover is a critical component in luring a potential reader. I’ve been working with a graphic artist that I know and we finally, through trial and error, hit upon a  cover that we both feel good with. Let me know what you think (ignore the black margins). The work is due out in January. Thanks!

 At Find My Audience, we understand that not all authors are marketers. That being said, growing your social audience can expand your readership and book sales. You don’t have to be a book marketer to find new readers online. We are here to simplify this process for you. Sign up today and connect with potential readers across the globe.

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By |December 7th, 2011|The Book of Margery Kempe|3 Comments

Buying Your Readers. Think About It.

Once, while attending the Phocus Wright Travel Conference, I heard the CEO of the largest online-travel agency declare that it didn’t matter that a slew of new travel web sites with innovative products would pose a challenge to his site’s dominance. “We will simply outspend them,” he replied. “They won’t be able to compete.”

What he meant was that his company would be able to maintain its industry-leading position by “buying” users–in other words, spending enough on advertising to draw users to his site. The big three travel sites (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz) average approximately a 5% conversion rate. It simply becomes a math formula at that point. If the web site gets a million users, 50,000 of them are going to buy something.

As I prepare my manuscript for publication I have been thinking about what he had to say and did some “napkin” math.

Let’s start with a couple of assumptions.

**You are prepared to spend some money on advertising your book. Let’s say it’s a $1,000.

** Assume you have written a book that falls into the “chick lit genre” and that you want to advertise  on a variety of sites (travel sites, blogs, fashion, entertainment).

**Assume that your average CPM rate is $8 per 1,000 ad impressions (which simply means that you get 1,000 text or graphic ads appearing on a variety of web sites for that $8). In short, you will be buying 125,000 ad impressions for your $1,000.

** Assume that 1% of those clicking on your ad will buy your book.  That means you will have 1,250 purchases.

If you’re selling your book for $0.99 (a disturbing trend which I will write about later), then you’re probably going to break even–at first blush. But remember, reading is a lot like leisure travel: what you read (or where you vacation) is heavily influenced by others.  So, let’s assume you wrote a good book, one that 60% of the readers like, and that 10% of them recommended it to their friends, who eventually bought it–and who then recommended it to their friends. As you can see, a positive referral cycle begins and you end up making a profit and getting the word out.

Now if you sold your book at $2.99, which means you keep $2.10, then you have immediately made a nice profit, plus you got the word out.

Of course all of this is merely hypothesis. You may not get a 1% conversion rate on your ads. Your readers may not recommend your book. You may not advertise on the right sites.

In any case, food for thought. Please do leave a comment. Oh, and by the way, I do not work for or own any piece of an advertising company. Just a guy typing away…

At Find My Audience, we understand that not all authors are marketers. That being said, growing your social audience can expand your readership and book sales. You don’t have to be a book marketer to find new readers online. We are here to simplify this process for you. Sign up today and connect with potential readers across the globe.

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By |November 27th, 2011|EBooks and Advertising|3 Comments

Do We Need A Groupon For Writers?

Hi Writers,

Ok, full disclosure: I’m new to the game. I’ve spent the last fifteen years working as an entrepreneur and as an academic. Just recently, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and bring to fruition the many partially completed manuscripts that I have been working on during my “water cooler breaks.” I know many of you join me in this endeavor. Bit scary, eh? And exhilarating, too.

But the entrepreneurial mindset is one that is hard to shake, and as I navigate my way through the social web, I keep asking myself: how can we writers do a better job at marketing ourselves? That is to say, once we “locate” our readers, and I think a tool can be built to help do a better job at that, what do we do with them then? How do we get our “potential readers” to make a transaction?

My last company was in the travel space and I worked with many of the well-known travel brands. I recall that the big three OTAs—Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity–averaged in the 4-6% range for transactions, with seasonal variations, of course. If Expedia averages 25MM users a month, then that means 1-1.5MM users actually “buy” something each month. As you can imagine, that’s no small chunk of change.

I’m not sure that we writers can expect a 4-6% transaction rate, but one possible way (amongst many) would be to use a Groupon-like tool. Groupon, of course, is not interested in most of us–the margins aren’t there. But it is interesting to note that they did an experiment with Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, and helped him sell 1642 books in three days. Of course you don’t want to use Groupon. After they take their cut, and assuming some other entity (such as Amazon) takes a cut, that leaves very little for you.

But what if there was a tool–elegant yet simply designed–that let you run group-buying campaigns yourselves? One that let you design the offer and then distributed the offer to your “located” audience?

As I said, I’m new to the game; sometimes that is a good thing. Sometimes it makes you look like, well, new to the game. Perhaps there is already a tool out there that does what I’m suggesting. If so, let me know. I could use it. If not, I would welcome hearing your ideas and input.

Thanks!

At Find My Audience, we understand that not all authors are marketers. That being said, growing your social audience can expand your readership and book sales. You don’t have to be a book marketer to find new readers online. We are here to simplify this process for you. Sign up today and connect with potential readers across the globe.
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By |November 23rd, 2011|EBook Marketing Innovations, Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Much Would You Spend To Market Your Book?

I’m an entrepreneur and an aspiring writer. When I’m writing, I’m often thinking of the next business I want to start. When I’m working on a new business, I’m often thinking of the next book I want to write. It’s a heady dialectic, to be sure, and generates a lot of angst and guilt that I’m not doing the other activity. My cross to bear, I guess.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing. You see, I’m almost ready to release my first book, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I am putting into practice all the great advice from Konrath, Locke, et al. It hasn’t taken me long to notice that I’m not the only one out there engaged in doing this. Several questions have popped up for me during the process: how do I find my “niche” audience? Are there any unique ways of getting my message in front of them? Will I have to pay to do so?

The last question is especially relevant–and I’m not the only who has asked it, as a quick troll through a variety of blogs reveals. Author Brad Swift, for example, has asked the question: “If you had a budget of $1,500 to promote and market your book(s) that are available as Kindle books and POD hard copies, how would you use it? If that budget was $3,000 what else would you do? Is there anything else you’d include if your marketing budget was $5,000?”

Jane Friedman responded to Swift’s query by saying that one should first determine the “primary target audience.”  She suggests that you shouldn’t “spend a dime until you know who you’re trying to sell to. You should thoroughly research your target readers’ habits, discover where they spend their time online, and how they decide to purchase books.”

So my question of the day is: assuming you can find that “primary target audience,” how much would you spend to reach them? I’ll start off by saying that I would spend in the $250-500 range. Let me know what you would spend. I’ll share the results in another post. Thanks!

At Find My Audience, we understand that not all authors are marketers. That being said, growing your social audience can expand your readership and book sales. You don’t have to be a book marketer to find new readers online. We are here to simplify this process for you. Sign up today and connect with potential readers across the globe.
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Talking ‘Bout A Revolution: This Ain’t It

I’ve always loved Penguin, more specifically, the Penguin Classics. When I was an undergraduate, I set myself the task of reading every single Penguin Classic that had been published. I can’t say I reached that goal, but my book shelves still contain quite a few of those works, and I remember my time with them with feelings of joy and, yes, nostalgia.

So it was with great interest that I read about Book Country, a service that the Penguin Group offers to writers of genre fiction. David Shanks, CEO of Penguin Group, told the WSJ that the company had invested a “substantial amount of money” in the new technology.

And there’s the rub. I’m just not seeing any innovative technology. Yes, there are community and networking elements, and while helpful, these are not new innovations. Indeed, it makes it look like Penguin was a little late to the game, and cobbled together a variety of functional (read: social) elements to cloak their true intent: that is, to sell high-priced services and to take a distribution fee.

The wonderful Joe Konrath said that he “threw up in his mouth” when he looked at what Book Country was offering. Perhaps he realized that the lamb he was eating was really mutton?

Konrath has done a great job at detailing what Book Country is all about: high-priced formatting services and a stake in your revenues. Makes sense: for lack of better ideas, services are where the lowest-hanging financial fruit swings.

But what bothers me is simply the lack of innovation. I’ve worked with many publishers in my professional career, and we share the same abiding interest: a love of books. But with the exception of a few publishing houses (O’Reilly comes to mind), most publishers do not attract the best and brightest “technology” minds. They can’t–there simply isn’t the upside (or environment) that the small start-up down the street offers. Instead, publishing houses tend to hire folks who have graduate degrees in English. Great people (trust me, I used to be one of them) but they aren’t thinking of algorithms in their spare time.

A suggestion to the publishing houses: if you really want to be of help, take a look at what’s happening in Silicon Valley. There are quite a few companies that provide models for what aspiring writers need to market themselves.

At Find My Audience, we understand that not all authors are marketers. That being said, growing your social audience can expand your readership and book sales. You don’t have to be a book marketer to find new readers online. We are here to simplify this process for you. Sign up today and connect with potential readers across the globe.
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By |November 18th, 2011|EBook Marketing Innovations|0 Comments