As promised, one of my main objectives of this blog is to chronicle what works and what doesn’t work in terms of book marketing. Last night was my book launch party, so I can now dissect each marketing strategy I used for this to report exactly which ones are worth repeating and which ones were flops.
As for the book launch itself, how did it turn out? Well, I’ll get around to explaining why I got the numbers I did later in this post, but about 30 people turned up. It was nowhere near what I had hoped for, but we had an excellent time nonetheless.
Strategy Number 1: Advertise the book on Eventfinda.
This one actually worked, to my amazement! I mostly listed the book launch there so anyone interested in coming could find more details if they looked it up, but two people actually showed up and bought books after reading about it on the event website.
In the future, rather than just passively listing the event, I might invest in a bit of promotion through Eventfinda. It seems that this website targets people who actually want to go out for the evening, so these are prime candidates to attend an event that offers free wine and door prizes.
Strategy Number 2: Hand out invitation cards to anyone and everyone.
We gave these invitations to bookstore owners, to farmers’ market stall-holders (the Christchurch Farmers’ Market was originally owned by the owner of the cafe where the book launch was held), to friends, to family, and to regulars at the cafe.
This strategy was a complete failure. While friends and family did materialize, they would have come with or without the invite cards. After handing out innumerable invitation cards, we had somewhere close to 200 people express keen interest. Perhaps 100 said they would “put it on the calendar” or “definitely be there.”
Well, I don’t know if it’s a Kiwi thing or just true in Christchurch, but I’ve found people here to be extremely flaky. More than anyone in the US. If you invite 20 people to an event and 10 say they’ll definitely come, it’s almost guaranteed that they will all text you the night of the event to say they’re too tired or (unexpectedly!) busy or whatever. It’s not just me–my partner has had similar success, where he has to invite 30 people to an event just to get 1 to turn up.
So, as it turned out, everyone I actually knew well (apart from my closest friends, who did actually come, the dears) came up with an excuse, some of them valid and some not so much. And everyone else just didn’t show.
I’ve learned never to depend on anything that requires people to actually show up at something. 90% of them just won’t materialize.
However, I did learn a valuable lesson to the contrary–while we were hosting the launch party, my partner started talking to everyone who entered the restaurant. To my surprise, quite a few restaurant-goers ended up buying the book. Kiwis are extremely nice people, and they all seem to be rooting for the success of an independent author (it’s a culture that’s highly focused on the do-it-yourself mindset), so the key is actually talking to people–with the book in hand.
With a reasonable cover price, a glass of free wine thrown in for good measure, and an enthusiastic author, people are quite happy to give the book a try.
Strategy Number 3: Show off books beforehand at the cafe.
Again, I discovered that having the book itself is an excellent selling strategy. While advertising the book launch, I brought in several copies of The Natural Order each day to work, which resulted in many coworkers and a few customers buying a copy.
The night manager at Town Tonic suggested I do readings at the restaurant accompanied by a music performance on Sunday nights; this sounds like an excellent way to engage people who might just be in the cafe for dinner, and once they’re present, they’ll be more than likely to purchase a copy of the book.
Strategy Number 4: Advertise on Facebook.
This one worked…to a certain extent. It undoubtedly helped raise awareness of the book launch, and some friends who would not have known otherwise ended up making an appearance, but therein lies the problem with facebook–it only targets friends. To make a book successful, you have to reach a wider audience.
And with the recent changes in facebook’s author-page guidelines, you have to pay to even get visibility for your book, so I’m not yet sure how to tap into a larger audience on facebook.
What’s the takeaway from all of this, then?
Well, the book launch was certainly successful in that it got the book into the hands of quite a few people who had no reason to look at it otherwise.
And it taught me that randomly engaging people who happen to be in the right place is much more effective than expecting anyone to show up for a scheduled event.
Now that the book launch is over, it’s time to organize the book tour!! I’ll be back soon with more news on how the planning goes.