Friday, February 8, 2013

Epic Marketing Fail

Authors, learn from my marketing mistake. To everyone else who has a sadistic thirst to read about my failures, read away. Yeah, that's right. You heard me. If you're reading on and you're not an author, it must mean that you enjoy my pain. OK, I'm just kidding. Enjoy.

We all know you have to be careful in spending your marketing dollars. As I'm about to show you, there is a fine line between thinking outside the box and not being in the right market. If you get it right, the success could be monumental. If you get it wrong, it can waste a lot of money. But hey, high risk, high reward, right? I wish this was a blog telling you about how I thought outside the box and became an Amazon best seller, but alas this isn't that story. Instead, this might be as far from it as one can get.

I decided to try my luck at advertising, Tamed, in a large local radio market. As I did the research, I got a little excited at the possibilities. Sure, radio listeners and book readers don't appear to have a lot in common on the surface, but maybe they are just an untapped market since book marketing has become so stringent in how publishers can spend their money. At least, that's what I told myself. I listen to the radio and I like new books, so there has to be others out there who do as well. Outside the box, remember? Now, hold on before you ask me if I'm an idiot and say, "Everyone knows radio ads won't work for books." That idea was just the beginning of an evolving process. Please, read on.

We all understand that a potential customer taking the step from listening to the radio in their car, hearing an ad for something they'd like to try, and remembering that product long enough to find it on their computer when they get home and buy it is a pretty big step. So, with that in mind, maybe a radio ad wasn't the ideal place for my book.

My evolving idea turned to the radio station's online music feed. Hear me out for a second. This idea puts the product and how to get it into the same place--a single click away. No need for the buyer to remember the ad until he/she gets to a computer because he/she is already there.

Now, let's look at a few of the other potential obstacles. Would a listener of, say, rock music buy a werewolf book aimed at the late teen/young adult population? I'm not talking Twilight, but old-school, ferocious werewolves.  Before you say "no" remember for it to be a successful ad campaign for me it only needs to make my money back and get me some exposure. That's it. That was my entire goal. Make my money back and get my book into readers' hands. Of course, rock stations aren't the same clientele as advertising in a book store, but if the station had enough listeners, even a small percentage of click-throughs would accomplish my goal. Right?

With that idea, I picked out a popular rock station that I myself listen to quite often. The thought behind choosing a rock station was that if my book was a movie, I'm sure the ad would play on this very station because I hear ads for movies like Underworld and currently World War Z on the station all the time. I know there is a big difference between a movie and a book, but again I was thinking outside of the box.

And chewing bubblegum. I'll get to that in a second.

I contacted the marketing department of the station and talked with the salesperson about my idea. Knowing people have to see or hear a product on average of seven times before they actually buy it, I needed to overcome that hurdle with my deal. A single ad just wouldn't cut it. The salesperson agreed. She thought my idea was interesting and worth looking into, though not a common request. Hm. In hindsight, I wonder why. Of course it sounded good to her, she's a salesperson.

I asked her about listenership and was told the online feed had 60,000 unique listeners per month and 120,000-150,000  overall listeners per month (meaning listeners returned.) That sounded very promising. With my low goal in mind,  I only needed less than 1% of the listeners to actually be buyers.

Next, I wanted to know how we could make it easy for interested buyers to purchase my book without a bunch of extra steps. We agreed on having a picture of my book with a link on the screen while my ad played. Getting better, right? Think about it. I now have 60,000-150,000 listeners one click away from trying a $2.99 ebook, a $12.00 print copy, or even a $17.00 audio version.

Let's get back to the-hearing-about-a-product-seven-times thing. How do we hit those listeners with the ad more than seven times? Well, we worked out a deal. And because I have no secrets, here it is. For $250, I purchased 100, 30-second commercials that would be created by the radio station and ran over the course of three weeks. Thirty-three times per week. Now, that's what I'm talking about. I did the math. $250, need to sell about that many books to break even and voila, easy peasy. Even my lowest estimates made it worthwhile, if not entirely profitable. Just think of the exposure. Reviews alone on Amazon sell books because of Amazon's algorithms. BTW, if anyone ever wants to help an author, go review their books. It helps more than you could ever imagine. The reviews don't have to be glowing either, just honest. But that's a whole 'nother blog.

I was sold. The ad was created and the start date was set. I asked my publisher to measure any spike in sales which would be easy because my sales had slowed quite a bit as of late.

The ad began running. And running. And running. For three weeks. And you know what? I sold 100,000 books in that 3 weeks. Alright, now that you've gotten up off the floor, let me tell you the truth. I had a zero bump in sales. That's right. Zero. Zilch. Nada. In fact, just to further kick me in the groin, my sales continued going down during those weeks. Can you say, "major failure?"

You can attribute this marketing failure to many things, I'm sure. Did the ad suck? Was it too vague? Does the book's premise itself suck? (Though, I don't buy that one ;) Can radio listeners even read? *grins*

I actually don't think any one of those are the biggest reason for the failure, even if they played a part. The real reason the ad failed, IMO, was because it wasn't the right market. Duh. That's it. I was selling bubblegum in a denture-maker's market. The bubblegum might have been great, but no one hearing the ad cared. As I said at the beginning--there is a fine line between outside the box and not being the right market.

In hindsight, I'd say it kind of sucks outside of this box. And I gotta sell a lot of bubblegum to make up for that loss. When you get knocked down, I guess you gotta get back up and try again. In fact, I'm getting a new idea. I wonder how people in nursing homes would like my bubblegum ads. There are indeed a lot of old people and my sell-through numbers don't have to be a very high percentage. You know, I think it just might work.

Here's the ad for your amusement.


  1. Good tips! Thank you for sharing, could be useful for any author it seems... Reading your post/experience, I couldn't refrain from posting mine as well, though it's not exactly about marketing, but being careful... yet, I guess it is as much important:
    It is a well-known fact that men are extremely inventive and horrible at the same time. There are many shrewd ways to steal and cheat some of the criminals use. Some of them are so skillful that could get round any law. There’s no exception it seems for any kind of business, branch and job. Including publishing, of course…
    I cannot say I am the ultimate expert in all the good and bad sides of the long and hard process of books’ birth. Yet, my experience could save any new author a lot of anger, money or frustration. If you’ve written a book and are desperately trying to find a publisher, you’ll definitely come across some “ladies” and “gentlemen” who will “like” your manuscript so much that they will immediately offer you their services of “literary agents”. But when you agree to sign a contract, it will “turn out” that your nice work needs a lot of “editing”… Then, an offer will follow to edit your book in exchange of some money (not too much, compared to other similar but real services), so that it could be really “ready” for the market.
    These guys will just take/steal your money and do nothing of their real job, searching and finding a publisher and then earning their percentage of the sold books (about 10 % usually). They will not just steal your money (after their “editing” your manuscript won’t be ready for the market), but your time too. As while they are lying to you that they are editing your work and after that are offering it to many publishers, you could search for and find some real offers from real literary agents and publishers…
    I know I shouldn’t post anything offensive for anyone (and use no bad/foul language, though in this case I would really like to), yet I have to share my personal experience with such a lady. A few years ago, Jillanne Kimble, the so called “literary agent”, offered me to represent one of my books (Tale Of The Rock Pieces), but insisted that she had to edit it first, in exchange of some money, of course. As I’m not a native American or Englishman, I knew my work was not perfect, so I signed a contract for editing and then representing of my book with this “lady”… It was a big mistake… Then, I had to wait for nine months to finally receive an “edited” copy of my manuscript and to be really surprised to see that Mrs. Kimble had just put some commas and altered a couple (literally) of words. When I asked her (so many times) what was happening with representing of my work to publishers, she sent a response that so far no one was interested in my book. Then, when I asked her to let me know to which exactly publishers she was offering my manuscript, she just sent and answer: “They are a lot…” Well, finally I realized I was cheated in the most shameless way. I found some good sites with good, useful tips for authors, like and talked to some friends all over the world who were more experienced than me in such matters and send an e-mail to my “literary agent” to let her know that we must put an end to our deal as she was not doing anything of her obligations…
    Be aware of such persons, dear authors! If you need editing, use the services of editors, not “literary agents” who try to cheat you and just steal your money, though everything will seem legal. Or try to learn to write better, following grammatical rules, proper punctuation, etc, so that you won’t need any editing, though it seems...
    Good luck, my friend! Best of the best wishes for all your endeavors!

  2. Aww, Doug, I'm sorry to hear this didn't work out. :( Yeah, you have to hit the right market. Like, I'd say pay for a blog tour, but you'd have to research and find the right place that hits the right blogs with the right readers. But hey, you got experience under your belt with this. Not a total loss. :)

  3. very interesting! I think they did a decent job wit the commercial. Hopefully you were able to continue to use the audio ad. A Word about marketing. there's no magic bullet, marketing is really about exposure. and getting out there in front of people. weather they buy it or not. as for the right market, I'm a big advocate for conventions. That's targeted demographic in a barrel...for that same money, it's possible for you to set up at a local book/horror/sci-fi convention dealer table (or as an author guest) and you will make sales. Unlike a radio commercial. Radio is a tough market too, but if you had ran this in the time leading up to a convention. it may have a had a stronger impact.