Saturday, February 10, 2007

Are author appearances useful for marketing your book?

I'm still divided about this really. You see, the most useful marketing tools I have found in 
marketing my book are:

1. Bookstore display - you've got to get your books out there at shelf eye level.

2. Cover art and review snippets - goes without saying.

3. Newspaper exposure - not even magazines have the impact of a Star newspaper article.

I have never really sold very much from author appearances, such as from book talks or other gatherings. Lydia will blog about her book talks later (and oh, she's appearing today in MPH MidValley at 3 pm, so be there if you can).

Your friends turn up to support you, and they already have your book. (Or else they buy some more copies to support you, and then you feel pai seh.) But you don't really attract the bookstore crowd unless you're telling them about how to read face feng shui or Sudoku or if you're a famous children's writer. And even if you do attract a crowd, it's not guaranteed they buy.

Meanwhile, you end up spending more than you get. Don't forget, you have to drive to the shopping mall (petrol money $$), pay for parking, probably buy a few trinkets to give away. And you're doing this all to just earn 10% of the very few books you sold.

You can argue that the bookstore will give you more visible display for that day and order a whole lot more of your books. This is true, but then it comes down to DISPLAY again, and not your actual author appearance.

I don't know. I'm still terribly divided about this.

On the other hand, I have received over 25 entries already for Dark City 2. I'm taking some of them after fine tuning. Closing date is Feb 28th. Please keep them coming.


Argus Lou said...

I think author appearances are a PR thing between you and the bookstores. It's prestigious for them to host you, an author. You do it to maintain goodwill with them. So author appearances are an investment for a newish author, whereas most established authors are obligated to do it because perhaps it's in their contract.

Naturally, a newspaper article is going to attract a lot more book buyers - for example, the readership of a daily can be about 1 million (based on circulation of around 250,000 copies sold daily) compared to the readership of magazines (usually several tens of thousands only) many of which are not even audited for an official sale and readership count (some of them only tell you their print order, which may not sell more than 80 percent).
That's why newspaper ads are so much more expensive than magazine ads.

Xeus said...

Well said, Argus. Some canny bookstore managers actually told me author appearances don't sell that well, but they're obliged to do them anyway just to drum up some activity (not inasmuch for the author, but to make the store lively and hopefully attract a crowd which can then browse for books and magazines.)

Lydia Teh said...

Lynette, book talks can be depressing for the author if the turnout is dismal.

You've got a point about shelf display selling books, not the author appearance. But then again an author may not have enough clout to dictate prominent shelf space and the only way she could do that is to have a book talk at the store which then has no choice but to centrestage the books.

One may not sell a bunch of books at the talk itself but who's to know which customers buy the book because of the publicity posters put up in the store to promote the talk?

You're spot-on that review helps sell books because of the wide reach of newspapers and mags. If I have to choose between being reviewed or having a book talk, the choice is obvious, but then again, not every author can get media attention, so book talks may be the only way to drum up some buzz.

tunku halim said...

Lynette, I think the display is the most important which, following on from that, means the re-ordering. This means getting the store managers to re-order or getting your distributor to follow up. All very hard work for the poor writer.

Yvonne Lee said...

Xeus, how strange! This was exactly what I was thinking this morning as I was jogging with my hubby.
I was reviewing the sale of my book ( now that it is not a new story anymore ;)and I concluded that indeed, during the book talks, the sales were nothing astronomical like what the naive me initially thought it should be.

But I totally agree with Argus that the talk is a way to build a relationship with the retailers.

That relationship is so vital. But authors must be able to distinguish the fine line between being an agressive salesperson and enthusiastic sales person. The former irates the store manager with lots of calls demanding that the store place higher book order.

The latter updates the store manager on what publicity or promotion he/she is doing for the book. (Hinting for more order, perhaps)

I suppose the best marketing tool is still a damn ( sorry to use this word) sales savvy publisher with strong marketing arm.

Sad to say, some big name publisher s have got too many titles to fully concentrate on one title while (from what I observed) the smaller but really agressive publishers that are really gungho in marketing ( they sell their books everywhere, short of mamak stalls!) BUT, they are publishing lacklustre books or have a stable of not very exciting authors.

So, Xeus, how and where to match a gungho publisher with a sure-sell author?

I'm still trying to figure...

Xeus said...

Lydia, your standee is certainly very crowd attractive. Congrats for hitting No. 4 on the general bestseller list.

TH, some distributors are very aggressive, like MPH and Crescent. On the other hand, I find some of the smaller houses less aggressive. We did talk about not finding Write Out Loud easily.

Xeus said...

Yvonne, how naive we all are! But I guess we learn as we go on as to what works and what doesn't.

Seeing what a great job they did for Honk, I would certainly say MPH Publishing and Distribution is a good bet if you are in Malaysia and Singapore. But if you want to expand overseas, then be prepared to find another one in addition to them.

Lydia Teh said...

Xeus, thanks for the heads-up on Honk making it to no. 4 at One-U. Have emailed Rodney for a copy of the poster.

MPH did a great job for Honk.

tunku halim said...

Hmmm...I wonder where Pelanduk would fit in into this discussion.

Xeus said...

Lydia, it's wonderful, isn't it?

TH, Pelanduk has now stocked up MPH 1 Utama with The Woman who grew horns!

tunku halim said...

Xeus - good to hear that. I wonder if that had to do with some prompting from me. I've just submitted an article for Quill and said: "Ay, make sure you stock my books, ah!"

BTW which of my previous stories are you using for Dark City 2. Also any target publication date?

Xeus said...

TH, probably :)

What's more you are writing for Quill and all that now, so they will feel inclined to support you too. I'm sure Eric's prompting had a lot to do with that too.

I told Eric I'm thinking of, in addition to Hawker Man, using your story about the boy in the UK boarding school who is haunted by the old man. It has a great twist!

bibliobibuli said...

i wonder about an alternative ... the author giving a talk about some aspect of writing. xeus - you could talk so well about plotting the suspense story for e.g.

you get a whole crowd of intersted people and some by your book. a bit like writer's circle but talking about some aspect of the craft of writing.

Xeus said...

Bib, I have always done that in all my book talks. But it only attracts people who are interested in writing in the first place.

Eric did mention I should talk about plotting twists for the short story in one of the writers' workshops.

tunku halim said...

Xeus, if Eric hasn't sent you a soft copy of "The Width of a Circle" do send me an email and I'll shoot it to you. Just read it the other day and if really is one of my favourites, particularly since it is semi-autobiographical.

Bib - maybe you work on a series of talks by different writers on different aspects of writing.

Everbody - Happy Chinese New Year!

bibliobibuli said...

yeah - such talks will principally interest those who are interested in writing ... but maybe it would be possible to charge a nominal fee to attend ... am thinking of it seriously tho' am scared of taking too much on. need a nice venue too.