Beating the Coke Machine: My Publicity Scorecard to Date

I know that publicity is a hot topic for writers, since so many of us understand the writing thing, but the marketing thing…well, that’s a complete mystery for most of us newbies. Keep in mind, I’m not claiming to have any sacred knowledge myself – I still have the occasional day where I feel like marketing is a soda machine that won’t return my money or give me a drink, leaving me to beat on its metaphorical side in desperation to get the damned thing to work. I suspect a lot of us feel this way at times, and I know yesterday it had me a bit down. Well, until I got the box of books!

Today I feel like I see a light at the end of the tunnel, having sold out that initial shipment and received a hero’s welcome at my place of employment. So I guess it’s not all gloom and futility. With that in mind, I feel I can offer something of a scorecard of my efforts thus far, looking at how they’ve panned out.

Twitter/Triberr – B – I think I should talk about my use first. I started my Twitter account back in 2008 as a personal account, then transformed it early in 2010, dropping a lot of folks that I once followed and trying to re-gear it toward writing, publishing, and art in general. That process took a good four to five months before I started getting more reliable recommendations. I also joined Triberr in September as a means to expand my reach to other authors and share my bandwidth with those authors.

A good portion of my hits come from Twitter and/or Triberr, and I have met some truly amazing people, especially by joining a few select tribes on Triberr. Aside from making friends that may well be long-lasting, I’ve seen measurable swings in hits and purchases from my efforts. I think it’s worth being in any author’s toolbox, but shouldn’t be the only item in there.

Website/Blog – A – Well, duh. This has easily been the most useful part of marketing. Even my twitter links lead here, and this is the clearinghouse for announcements, thoughts, education efforts, and other various attempts at relevance. I’m still not quite satisfied with my number of readers, but the regular readers, a subset of some of those Twitter folks along with folks from other venues, are amazing, and I’d like to figure out new ways to include them in the discussion.

Facebook Page – D – I set up a Facebook Fan Page over the Summer, linking it with my personal account and this site. Unfortunately, so far its only real use has been conversing with people that I already knew. My personal account has been useful for contacting family, friends, and coworkers, but that’s a way more limited scope than I would like. For this reason, I’ve cut way back on my usage.


Goodreads  – N/A – This doesn’t fit into the “future” category because I already have something of a Goodreads presence. I have a feeling it could be the next great source of getting readers, but I haven’t really taken the time to set things up and participate as much as I know I should. It’s just that I’m already limited in the amount of time that I can devote to marketing, and need to be very choosy. I will, however, be expanding here in a big way in the next month or so.

Giveaways/Contests – A+ – It’s really insane how well this worked. You can check out Shannon Mayer’s post about the results of our four authors, four books promo that I shared here (hint: I may have come in third there). We’re looking to do another in the Spring, when Room 3 will be fresh and ready to go, so hopefully it will do even better. Last week’s giveaway was also a big success. So I see more of these in my future.

In Person/Appearances – A – The second-most-effective approach. Perhaps it’s my effervescent personality?? I don’t know, but so far almost every time I’ve spoken about my work directly with someone, I’ve managed to make a sale, whether it’s a print copy or convincing someone to pick up a Kindle edition. I’ve honestly started to re-evaluate how I’ll approach sales in the future using this model. Whether it means that I need to put in more appearances or take a more direct, to-the-person model on social media…I still haven’t decided. Perhaps a combination.

As to the future…

I’m eyeing LinkedIn and Library Thing at the moment. I’ve heard good things about building networks on LinkedIn and have meant to do so forever, I’ve just run into the same problem that I’ve encountered with Goodreads. Library Thing is more akin to Goodreads, so I think I need to at least establish some sort of authorial presence there.

Does anyone have experience with these? Any thoughts on LinkedIn network building? Am I missing out on any other venues that might be helpful? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. Hi Jonathon–found this post very enlightening–would like to join triberr but apparently need to know someone–can it be you? let me know, please! trying to do what I can to promote my upcoming book!

    • sorry about shameless cry for help–since I know very little about triberr am not sure it would be right for me–I appreciate all the information here and sorry I can’t be of help about linkdin–I am not part of it and I don’t take to the interface–facebook seems relatively useless to me for book promotion…at least so far but I guess things can change…thanks for sharing what you’ve discovered…

      • No worries at all, Nikki 🙂 I have my own tribe, but it’s not very large and not very successful – I have trouble with getting people to help each other out. I’m also a member of three other fairly successful tribes, but they all have minimum follower requirements (between 500 and 1000). I could invite you to my tribe, which would at least get your foot in the door? But I would pretty much be the only person RTing you for a bit. Let me know if you’re still interested.

  2. I completely get what you wrote about that Coke machine. I feel that way, too.
    I have the sequel to my 2010 debut coming out in early 2012. I am on nearly every social network and group known to mankind. Unfortunately, my 11 hour day job will only allow me so much time each day to touch bases with so many sites. I also write articles for a local E-zine.
    Now I need to focus energies on beginning a new project, but not sure what is going to have to drop in order for that to happen. *sigh*
    I am on Linkedin, but really only as a presence, so I don’t have much advice for you there, Jonathan.
    So glad you touched on this subject. We’re all in the same boat, aren’t we?
    Take care and much success with those boxes full of books.


    • We pretty much are, and it’s so hard to figure out what to prioritize without any knowledge of what works. It doesn’t help that there is no real silver bullet – what may work for one person won’t work for another, as the world changes so much between one release and another. Just the other day I had a friend telling me she had sold over 30,000 books by doing the whole 99 cent thing, but it didn’t seem to be working as much anymore. That was just in the space of six months. It’s hard to keep a solid plan when so much shifts. I guess we just have to keep the faith and keep at it.

  3. This is an outstanding resource, and you are correct on the best ways to market your book (or anything online, really). Hope you’re having a great week!

  4. Love the coke machine analogy. Yes.

    I do think you can get stretched too thin if you get involved in too many social media. I think it’s better to become heavily involved in 2 or 3 rather than barely visit 6-7. (I’m on Twitter and I blog. I think I can add one more thing.)

    What is the effective difference between a facebook fan page and a regular facebook page?

    I started to get involved in LinkedIn but quickly concluded that it would be both a tremendous resource and a HUGE time suck. Plus my day job professional life quickly got tangled with my budding writing life, which is not appropriate. I’ve left it lying fallow ever since.

    If I’m going to get that intensely involved somewhere, I think Goodreads or Librarything would be better.

    (Sorry, I got long. Feeling chatty I guess.)

    • Thanks, I think the Coke machine thing felt pretty much perfect for how I was feeling the other day. Felt so maximum effort for little return.

      Good idea on the becoming more heavily involved in 2 or 3 things rather than neglecting several others. Hadn’t exactly considered it that way, but it makes a lot of sense. I think even if we were doing this as a full-time gig that might be the best we could hope to do.

      For me, the Facebook fan page is a place where people can come to get the latest information on what I’m working on, status of upcoming releases, etc. It’s easier than it sounds, as you can tie it into blog updates, and then supplement those with personal updates. The fan page gives you more flexibility in presentation and what you can offer readers, such as standalone discussions, etc. as compared to a regular facebook page. I also see my regular facebook page as a place to connect with friends and family, way more personal than the fan page. I think that’s how a lot of other writers use it.

      I think what you describe is my #1 hesitation with LinkedIn. While it might be fun to let colleagues and former coworkers know that I’ve published a book, and it might represent sales, it feels slightly unprofessional. Of course I say this having received a big plug from a senior director in a department meeting yesterday. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all. I don’t know.

      I do suspect Goodreads is the next step, I just need to read up on how other authors have used it.

  5. I hear ya on beating the coke machine. I agree with you on FB. I get some traffic from it and LinkedIn, but maybe 8-10 a piece. In person is effective even if you’re not the most out going person.

    Goodreads is a valuable tool. I agree with you that Twitter/Triberr driving traffic to the website is most effective.

    Blogging remains probably my top tool. Most of my loyal follower purchased my book. So, the key is to drive the traffic to where I can make more of a contact with people.

    A newsletter is effective, too. I got a few sign ups from people I don’t know who read something of mine somewhere they liked. Where it comes in handy, I can contact those people directly for the next release.

    • I’ve thought about a newsletter. What do you include? My biggest concern would be repeating what I’ve already written on my blog, or struggling to come up with new, interesting content.

  6. Twitter: Actually, it’s somewhere between business and personal. On one hand I have all my friends. And also I don’t constantly add people. Not because I get a reward for my followers to followed ratio. But more because I’m afraid of coming off as a spammer. Plus, I do check people’s feed out so I don’t want to follow so many people that it gets swamped. Still, it’s useful business wise from time to time.

    Blog: AMAZING tool. It’s like a spider web. It doesn’t attract new followers but it helps keep the interest with anyone who’s come into contact with me. Hopefully it will become an even more important tool once I get my book out there.

    Facebook: Only 11 fans of my page lol. It’s only really effective when you do Facebook ads. From what I’ve heard, you have your Facebook ad link to your fan page. When somebody likes it, it shows up in their newsfeed that they like your page. Which might cause someone else to like it with a chain reaction afterwards. If there’s one advantage of fan page over twitter, is that when you post something on your fan page, you can be pretty sure that it will show up on everybody’s newsfeed. Compared to Twitter, where everything can get quickly lost in the stream.

    GoodReads: As both a writer and a reader, gotta say that I love it. I even got my own book up on it now. Unfortunately it’s a catch-22 to get your book up there. You have to have a “librarian” put up your book and then you can claim authorship for it. But once that happens, you can edit info and add more books.

    GiveAways/Contests: N/A. Haven’t published my book yet but I am preparing to do a few with review/book sites. I might even do a contest winner cameo.

    In Person/Appearance: Haven’t done it but would love to one day.

    Loved the coke machine metaphor btw. Best of luck with promoting your newest book.

  7. Hi Jonathon,
    Thanks for your response about Triberr–must look into what it would do for me–sounds like they want people who have an aggressive presence on twitter and that is definitely NOT me…so if I tried to get on or in or whatever, I think I would be rejected! wish I knew how to get facebook working a bit better–it does nothing for me so far…but also my book isn’t out yet so maybe later? good luck to you with all your books–exciting times!

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