Saturday, March 21, 2009

So, Is Online Marketing Good?

I saw a recent discussion about this on another author's - Sarah Prineas's - blog (via Courtney Summers) and it got me thinking... how well does online marketing get the job done? And further, how does it differ from other types of marketing in terms of effectiveness?

As a book blogger, I have a pretty decent look at how publishers do the whole online promotion thing. There are a lot of ads, fan pages, dedicated websites, and blogger mailings involved, not to mention blog tours and book trailers and interviews and special promotions (like Penguin's free ebook thing). There are sites to defer to - like LibraryThing, among others. I've even seen book blogging communities started by publicity departments as a means of bridging the two. And hell, the list is evergrowing. People get creative every once in a while.

Then there are author efforts - interviews, guest blogs, review copies, contest copies, blog groups, communities (like the 09 Debs).

But anyway, how much of that actually attracts readers and results in sales? The bottom line is, they're all efforts to get some buzz going (well...maybe not author blogs. But an online presence, maybe). And how often does that really happen?

Now, for my moment of truth:

1. I don't watch book trailers. They do nothing for me.

2. I don't read most author interviews. I hate to say it, but most people are not that interesting. Also, many interviews are badly formulated. It's the reason why I don't do that many anymore. It's hard to find something that's worth doing, if you know what I mean.

So the question remains: What works? What can authors do to promote themselves? What interests you as a reader? Is online marketing any good or are people just kidding themselves?

Some examples that worked off the top of my head: John and Hank Green's vlogbrothers and Lisa McMann's online promo for Wake before it hit shelves last year. She wound up on the NYT bestseller list and I heard from others she was quite aggressive online.

51 comments:

Nikki www.yareads.com said...

I disagree with a lot of the things you said here, but in particular the thing about not reading author guest blogs and interviews. I read them all the time, as often as I can. I actually find people very interesting and I'm always keen to hear what the authors have to say about their work etc.

Interesting topic, though.

sassymonkey said...

I find it interesting that you mention the Green brothers as online marketing that works. It didn't start out that way at all and really their ultimate goal isn't really to sell anything (not even for John to sell more books or for Hank to sell any CDs), except maybe a decrease in World Suck and social engagement. They did something way bigger than online marketing - they created a vibrant online community without setting out to do it.

Diana Dang said...

Because of online marketing, I started reading actual novels again. Last year, I would read only mangas with an exception of novels once every other month if I was bored enough. After being introduced to the world of online book blogging, I find out about books at are actually worth to read.

Just recently I have bought a few books, which I have not done for five years believe it or not (excluding mangas). To me, when authors host launch parties, I feel the need to buy their book. That's how they are getting money out of my pockets lol.

Steph said...

Sass - I know, I know :) But I thought it was a brilliant idea nevertheless and even if not the original purpose, the project itself is one of the factors for John's success IMO.

And that's really interesting about those people who read many author blogs/interviews. I usually only read them from interview blogs - like cynsations - I like, and even so I don't buy many books. (This has probably more to do with the fact I live abroad and books are very expensive here than anything else though.)

Ah, I don't know. I'm sleep deprived and I wanted to post this. ;)

Lisa McMann said...

Online marketing is about recognition and buzz, not about directly selling books. It's about letting people know you exist, because if they don't, you CERTAINLY won't sell any books. It's about being out there and reminding people of your name and your books -- not just in the three weeks following your release but year 'round.

And it's about developing relationships with readers, which, to me, is extremely important and enjoyable.

You don't watch book trailers but you know they exist. You hear about them. You don't read interviews but you notice that certain authors are doing them repeatedly. Unconsciously, you note the name and title over and over when you peruse the Internet. That is why online marketing is important.

When I was a Realtor, I learned that my newsletter that went out every other month wasn't about people actually reading it. It was about the one second that they realize what the piece of mail is, and who sent it, before they toss it in the recycle bin or delete it from their email. So when it came time to sell their house, the most familiar Realtor name came to mind.

It's similar with books. That's how things work. Authors need to realize that there's no way to quantify sales based on the author's online presence, but that without the presence, their chances of selling big are hampered.

Kelsey said...

I was thinking the same thing that Lisa had said. It's just about getting the name in your head, that's all.

Honestly, Lisa said it better then I ever could.

BookChic said...

I don't watch book trailers either. I mean, I guess I see the point, but eh. Summaries work better for me.

I love reading interviews and guest blogs though, usually because they're funny. I love reading about authors and their books and their lives. It's why I like reading their blogs.

In regards to buying books, I hardly buy books now because I have no money, lol. But also because I do get a ton of review books and so I usually don't have time for any extra books. I have however bought a book yesterday that I saw on Lauren Myracle's blog because it was by her sister, Susan White. I even went and got it signed when Susan came near me on her tour.

And I almost bought My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters yesterday too because of seeing it mentioned on several blogs. The cheap price helped a lot too, lol.

But mainly, I do request some books just from seeing them on other peoples' blogs, like you do sometimes. But since I'm not paying anything, it doesn't matter too much, I guess.

So I don't know how well online marketing helps, but it is fun to see. If an author has the time for it, then why not. I think though if you do it, then you need to put yourself into it 100% and not do a half-assed job. I think the reason Lisa McMann's promotion worked so well is because she was constantly promoting her book and talking it up, from way before it even came out and then for a while afterward. It definitely helped.

Polo.Pony said...

Applause for Lisa, wonderfully said! I know that I have found a lot of books from different book blogs online that I would love to read, compared to before I discovered all of this! I think that online marketing is good for authors since the more they get involved, the more there name and book name gets known, which probably expands the amount of purchases since more people that would be interested in the book find out about it!

Renay said...

Recently, someone did a poll (although I don't think it was in the kidlitosphere) about how book blogs changed their buying experience. I am fairly sure that in that poll a vast majority reported that book blogs did result in people buying more books. That's what I see outside this particular community, anyway. It really might vary depending on genre, and I expect many of the YA bloggers, unlike other types of book bloggers, don't have the disposable income to go around buying books they see on blogs they weren't going to buy anyway, but adult book bloggers and book blog readers who have jobs certainly do.

What's true of one subset of the community isn't true of another, anyway.

YA Book Realm said...

LMAO this so freakin ironic!! Believe or not I was thinking about writing up a post on my blog titled How Lisa McMann got me book blogging!!


Anyway in regards to what you said:

I actually do watch trailers. I LOVE them. I also love watching author videos. I know HarperTeen and Penguin post tons of author interviews and I think they actually work in creating interest and what not.

For example Wings by Aprilynne Pike. I was never interested in it, even when I saw it on your blog and a whole bunch of others, all I knew was its about fairies and not being a fan of fairy books I was like heh whatever and didn't even bother to know what the rest of the book was about. Honest to God.

But then I remember looking through HarperTeen's youtube channel and seeing an interview with A.P. and I was what the heck let me watch it and find out what's it about. And when I saw the author video , I learned more about it and most importantly, wanted to read it. Chances are that when it comes out, I will be buying it.

SO I guess in a way this whole story related to what Lisa McMann said you get the name out there by different means it will stick. I heard about Aprilyne Pike by various blogs, it stuck, watched the video, learned what it was about, got interested, and now I'll most probably buy it.

I think your totally right about book bloggers being most of the readers for book blogs. But there's another factor that plays into this. Word of Mouth. I read a book. I like it. I tell my 10 of my friends to read it. Let's say most of them read it and some of them like it. Then they in return will recommend it to 10 of there friends, and so on. Also, I see a book in a blog, sounds like something on my friends might be interested and so I make them aware about it and etc.


Great discussion! Love hearing what others think. =)

ALEXA YOUNG said...

I love everything Lisa said and agree with all of it, but I also understand where you're coming from, Steph. I often wonder the same things from time to time (why am I doing this interview/ giveaway/ blog post/ reading/ signing/ mailing/ prostitution ring...oh wait, wrong blog!) ... and then I have to remember (as Lisa said) that it's not about hard numbers and tangible sales results (which are virtually impossible to track anyway). I've heard authors complain time and again that no matter WHAT we do to build buzz or market our books, the chances our efforts will pay off are pretty slim. Authors typically (not always, but typically) need HUGE dollars and backing from their publisher--including insane distribution and product placement and all kinds of other boring business things I don't totally understand. Even THOSE things don't always equal sales.

ANYWAY. Long comment longer...as authors, some of what we do is done in the name of the almighty dollar, but a lot of it is also done to build buzz, our profile, name recognition, platform, etc.--and, most important (gratuituous or disingenuous as this may sound), to connect with readers. Whether our readers paid for the book or got a review copy or checked it out from the library, a lot of authors really enjoy chatting with the people who read and love our books (and, in my case, even those who hate my books! Kidding. Kind of). What ELSE do we have to do, really...?

XO

Reverie said...

Interviews... hmmm... my problem with that is that they are all generic and boring. I wouldn't want to read the same interview 10 times, so why should the author have to do it?

I strive, and would like to set that as a goal, to ask interesting questions and make the interview creative. That way its not only fun for me and the author to do but fun for the readers. Those interviews I read. But others that keep asking fave this or that..... ehhh. not so much sometimes.

BTW well said LISA!!

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I love everything that Lisa said! And wholeheartedly agree. There are a few things Steph that you said that I don't agree with.

I'm always disappointed when an author doesn't have some type of presence on YouTube via a trailer or interview. I always search for them after reading a book, although I admit I don't look at them before reading a book.

I really disagree with the whole author interview/guest post thing. Isn't that a slap in the face to say that you love to read but authors aren't interesting? That you simply don't care. True, there are a lot of bloggers who don't take the time to come up with great interview questions and don't give the author much to work with. Sure, there are authors who don't take the time to give original and interesting answers. I must admit, that I feel my author interviews are one of my blogs greatest strengths. I do a ton of research, sometimes spend hours formulating questions and editing the interviews. I have yet to find an author boring. I have loved every bit of interaction that I've had and hope that my readers will appreciate the time that I've taken to bring an author more alive for them. When I love a book, I love to promote them on my blog. I also feel that the presence of interviews give the blog a sense of authority thus increasing your readership.

Buying books. I know for a fact that book bloggers are not my main audience. It may seem that way because they are the main commenters but I know from my stats that at least 90% of my readership are not book bloggers and do not have access to free books. I also know from being an amazon associate that I have seen the direct book sales from books that I've reviewed. Blogs do sell books. I honestly would be saddened to think that my influence does not extend beyond the book blogging community. Yes, I love them. Without a doubt. I couldn't survive without them. But the only ones I'm talking too? Thank goodness that's not the case.

So there you go, Steph! My thoughts on the subject.

jocelyn said...

Interesting thoughts. But, I beg to differ with point number three--Judging from my stats and comments, most of my blog readers are NOT other book bloggers or people with access to books. I don't really know a ton of bloggers reading my blog, but I get so many random comments on reviews from people who leave no URL (and thus are not bloggers most likely), and way more traffic than can be explained by a community with access to free books!

Leah:) said...

A little birdy tells me you have an award waiting for you at my blog!

Leah:)

Abby said...

I agree with Lisa's comment and also Natasha's comment about authors needing some kind of web presence. I'll check an author's website to see what else they've written or to read about how they researched for a book or what inspired them to write. And I'll tell you that I'm more likely to seek out and read books by authors I feel a connection to. Maybe I read their blog or follow their Twitter.

And, okay, personally I don't buy the vast majority of the books that I read and review. But I know that a major portion of my blog readers are librarians or teachers. Library sales account for a large percentage of a book's sales and I think that more and more librarians are paying attention to blogs, Twitter, websites, etc. to find out what new books are coming out and what buzz they have.

I can speak from personal experience that I often order a book for my library after it's been reviewed on someone's blog. Then I might, in turn, review it on my blog and reach 50 other librarians who then might order it for their library... It adds up.. :)

Hagelrat said...

I've found the online community a huge benefit in deciding on new authors to explore, and I read some interviews, watch some trailers and buy many books.

Anonymous said...

What exactly do you mean by this:

"I think publishers should have a more discriminate system of book mailings"

Do u mean they shouldn't send it to book bloggers? Really confused because most ARCs go to bloggers, book stores, websites, and etc. Which is a VERY smart thing the publishers do. Cuz were in the 21st century and hello practically any prospect book buyer has connection to the INTERNET! Er-dur!

Please elaborate on that statement. Also wowow you don't find authors interesting but boring. interesting.

Amy said...

Interesting post, Steph. I buy books I read about on blogs, but I have an addiction and it must be fed.

Also, I know that people buy books or get them from their libraries based on my reviews.

I think for book bloggers, and of course book blogging is only part of online marketing, what is most valuable is when a book blogger, a person whom the reader has developed a sort of relationship with, interacts with a book, via review, or a guest post relevant to the blog's audience, or an interview with questions that make sense from the blogger's perspective. That personal touch will make the marketing more effective. For book bloggers, it gets time consuming, but it's best all around, I think. I have no idea if that made sense.

Lenore said...

I will absolutely read author interviews and I enjoy doing them too. I make an effort to read any interviews the author may have done before so that I am not asking the same questions. And I ask what I want to know, so even if no one else gets anything out of my interviews, at least I enjoyed the experience.

I also can't tell you how many times I've seen the same book on tons of blogs and let's say maybe the 23rd time I see it, someone finally says something about it that clicks with me and I say - oh yeah - I gotta have it.

I still buy books even though I have review copies galore. If I particularly liked a book, I want a more lasting copy than an ARC. Or if I see a book reviewed that is already out, in most cases I am going to buy it rather than ask for a review copy.

Steph said...

Natasha: I still read some author interviews (like the Shannon Hale one you did- I loved it), but it really depends on the source. I found out the hard way that by asking the same questions EVERY single TIME, I was only boring myself and the author, probably. (One got back to me 3 months after I mailed the interview and sounded bored through it all.) But sadly, this is the approach many take to interviews - always using the same stuff. I think it takes a certain type of savvy to interview others. So, I'll still read SOME interviews...just not most of them.

Jocelyn: Really? I swear I have a nagging sensation that all I get are authors and other bloggers and the occasional publicist. =/

Anon: I mean I've always thought they should have a somewhat stricter system. Why mail to thirty bloggers with less than fifty hits a day when you can mail ten with two hundred? I can't say people with minimal page views aren't effective, but I don't see what hitting everyone under the sun helps in anything. Isn't hitting the top and letting it pass down the chain enough?

(I'm not complaining, by the way. I have a feeling that even if they did things that way I'd still not get anything from publishers because most won't ship abroad. It just truly baffles me.)

Steph said...

Oh and! Lisa - thanks for weighing in. :) All you said makes a lot of sense (and is well-put), but I have a question: Would you say there's a point of saturation in that? Your comment made me think of a blog tour that occurred last year. One time some bloggers and I were commenting on that book and I distinctly remember someone saying, "If I hear about that book one more time this week, I'll scream." (You could say the blog tour in question was fairly exhaustive :P)

harmonybookreviews said...

I think online marketing is very important but like Lisa said, it's all to get the buzz going.

I rarely ever watch book trailers, they don't do a thing for me, but I do read interviews and guest blogs occasionally, because I like finding out more about the authors and sometimes I'll find out something that will push me the extra inch to buy the book. But I think it's a waste of time for an author to do 15 interviews when 10 of them ask the same questions and they're giving the same answers.

I also know that I do get some readers who aren't other reviewers or authors who don't have a source to free books. I generally don't buy books because I have absolutely no money but seeing a review for a book I've never heard of or a bunch of reviews that really intrigue me, make it so much more likely that I'll either beg my library to get it in or that when I actually do get money, I'll buy it.

Even if I don't buy it, you can bet that when I finish a good book, I'm telling all of my friends about it, and if they like it, they're telling their friends, etc, which often leads to atleast a couple of copies being bought.

Just my personal thoughts, though.

Callista said...

Interesting discussion!

I don't go and seek out book trailers but if they are in a blog post, I watch them and they are usually really good. Some summaries just aren't clear enough.

I don't generally read author interviews, mostly because I don't read a lot of fiction and most interviews are with fiction writers. I won't read the interview if I haven't read the author for sure, there's just so many other things to read. I'm just starting to do some interviews and so I'm probably at the boring question stage and I apologize for that. However next week I'm having a "Start Talking" week featuring a nonfiction book about moms talking to their daughters about sensitive issues and I'm including an interview with the authors and guest posts and a giveaway as well as my review. So I hope that goes okay.

What Lisa said clearly explains the point of online marketing, so *clap clap* to Lisa. Well said.

As for being more reserved with giving out promotion books, I do understand what you mean. I had to wait till my book blog took off a bit to get review books but I see blogs that just started in 2009 that are getting review books! I also see the reviews from review books (on new and old blogs) that are so short and to the point. If I get a review book, I make sure to write as much as possible without it being too much of course.

beth said...

I can honestly say that every book I've purchased this year came as a direct result of online marketing. I pick up books at the library if they look interesting, have good cover copy, a nice image on the cover. But I buy the book if I've heard about it online. The more online marketing, the more likely I am to seek out and purchase the book. Just yesterday I was at a bookstore and walked right past several shelves, seeking out a book I'd heard about online. I subscribe to several book reviewers sites and author's blogs, and when one book gets mentioned 10 times, it stays in my head and I make an effort to find and purchase the book.

So, for me, the difference between library books and purchased books is almost 100% online marketing.

Amee said...

I don't usually watch book trailers either. I like to read the summaries. That tells me more than a trailer.

I don't read a lot of author interviews either. If they're a favorite author or one I've seen around a lot and am thinking of reading their book, I will. A lot of the time their personality and/or enthusiasm will seal the deal for me and earn them a spot on the ole wish list. So they can be effective in book sales.

I wish list and do eventually buy books blogs have recommended. Mostly from the ones I've been reading for centuries like you, Alea, Kristi, and a few others. Your guys' opinions are usually right on for me and when you guys get excited about a book I do too! So I definitely think book blogs help.

It may sound like I buy a ton of books from what I just said but I do get a lot from PaperbackSwap which is a trading site. So no money goes to the publisher or author. However, there are some books I don't want to wait for to become available there. There are also ones that I've seen around and know a lot about the author and feel compelled to support them so I'll actually buy the book. Either way, I do obtain and read a lot of the books recommended via the book blogging community!

Reader Rabbit said...

I don't care much for book trailers, I'd rather read the summaries. However, I do love reading interviews and guest blogs of authors whose books I've enjoyed or whose books I plan to purchase. I don't have a job and still have to put in alot of free time before I'll be able to get the one I have my eye on and so I have to be picky with my dollars. I can't afford to drop my money on any book that seems somewhat interesting. A funny author interview might make a hell of a difference. Likewise, a good review on a book blog might change my mind.

And on the review copy thing, so many blogs that have just started recieve gazillions of books. Tons more than I do and my blog as been running for over a year now. It's amazing, really. The book blogging community has become huuuuggee.
But on the promotion thing, usually if I read an ARC that I liked, I request my library to buy it (since they fail at finding awesome new books themselves...). They usually buy 10+ copies if I give them a reason good enough and while it's not much, it's something.

Also, I reccommend books to pretty much everyone I know. And then I make them buy those books. And if THEY like them, then usually they tell someone else to read it and someone else and it all goes in a chain.

And back from when my stat thingy died, I don't think most of my audience is from book bloggers. I think it's somewhat split, but I'll have to fix my counter before I'm 100% sure.

And, lastly, I almost always buy books from authors that I love and want to support. Even if I already have an ARC from some of them, I still put their book on my wishlist and when I'm short on the amount that I need for free shipping, often those books find their way to my account. :)

Maya Ganesan said...

I think an online presence is key. Making a name for yourself and having people know who you are is really important when you eventually have a book to market.

Like a lot of others before me, I really like what Lisa had to say on this. Just make sure that people know you. And I do love book trailers and I do interviews -- haven't done too many, but I do them -- and I think they both are good publicity. Interviews, especially on popular blogs, are going to tell the readers about this author. They're going to say that Hey, there *is* an author like this out there, and maybe you should go check out his/her book(s).

And book trailers are mostly fun to watch, but they do serve as good book recommendations and when they get passed around they are pretty big. I know that from seeing the trailer for Wintergirls, I want to buy it more. Or the trailer for Secret Keeper (Mitali Perkins). It just tells people what the book is about in a nutshell, and the fancier, the more attractive and likelier that your book will gain something from it.

I think it's just important to be there and be known online.

m-stiefvater said...

Interesting discussion! I have to say, though, that I pretty much disagree on everything except the interview front. Some authors, I LOVE to see interviewed -- I've read the book, or I read their blog, or something else factors in. But I almost never read interviews by an unknown (to me) author -- they're rarely intriguing to me without context. I do like guest blogs, however.

I do think, however, that online marketing makes a huge difference. I once got a review for LAMENT that said they bought the book because of all the "online buzz" it was getting -- well, that was me. Just being me. Sending copies to book bloggers when my small publisher didn't, commenting on blogs in a way that was actually participatory instead of spammy, and generally just being part of the online YA community.

And likewise, I buy a lot of YA because of my blog reading now. When I see positive reviews go by on blogs or when I see a title that sounds intriguing a couple of times, it makes a connection in my head when I walk into the bookstore. I know it shouldn't make a huge difference, but it does -- I can feel it when I see two books on the shelf and I've seen one of their covers before. It makes me pick up that familiar book first and flip it over to look at the cover. I might not buy it, in the end, but it has a WAY better chance than that unfamiliar book next to it.

Genevieve said...

Hmmm... Well, I think that Lisa put it best. It's about getting readers familiar with the author names and book titles. I've been influenced by many good reviews (or bad ones not to buy a book) and when I see a lot of people review the same book I become curious. Before I'd go to the bookstore and I'd only get what I came to buy. Now I recognize many of the title and authors that I end up spending more that I'd like. I just started blogging in Jan so I don't get as many free books as you may get but I still buy books. I like supporting the authors that I enjoy reading. Also, I read a lot of the interviews. I like hearing what authors have to say about themselves or their books. If I've see an author interviewed many times I might skip the similar questions but overall I really do read interviews.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this quote from Alexa Young: "... I've heard authors complain time and again that no matter WHAT we do to build buzz or market our books, the chances our efforts will pay off are pretty slim. Authors typically (not always, but typically) need HUGE dollars and backing from their publisher--including insane distribution and product placement and all kinds..."

I'll post as an Anon -- I've had one YA book published by a major publisher, in hardback. I busted my a$$ doing all sorts of promotion for the book. But, to be painfully honest, the book was not any kind of priority for the pub-house and because of this didn't get great distribution. Though the book got great reviews by Kirkus, SLJ and the like, and was voted one of NYPL Best Books for the Teen Age, none of it really helped sales. Pretty hard to generate sales when the book isn't getting stocked in stores, you know?

A big push from a publisher -- your book is a LEAD TITLE -- is usually why a book breaks out. Publishers can do things to push a book that an individual author really can't.

Very brief example: Ally Carter's spy girl books are comparable to Jennifer Lynn Barnes cheerleader/spy books. Ally's were a lead title. Jennifer's were not. Guess which one is on the best-seller list.

Rose said...

Great post and discussion. I think the range of opinions here really speaks to how much more growth and evolution online book marketing will go through in the coming years, not to mention how our changing interactions with books themselves (e.g. e-readers) will affect book marketing.

I think Lisa's point - saturation, staying on the radar - is spot on, but it's also about really understanding your audience and creating the right vehicle for connecting with them effectively.

Social networking, blogging, tie-in websites, book trailers, etc aren't boxes to check off when promoting a book, but tools that need to be strategically chosen and well designed in order to be effective.

Lisa McMann said...

Steph, sure, there can be over-saturation. But sometimes that's the person spending 24/7 online reading book blogs, no? lol. Kidding. It's a JOKE, people. :) Keep reading the blogs 24/7! You rock!

Anonymous, you make a great point and I understand that frustration. What I can say is that I was told by my publisher that because of my marketing efforts before WAKE came out, they noticed. And the box store buyers noticed -- yes, they look at Myspace pages and Facebook and and blogs and websites and twitter. They also happened to like the book, which is an important factor, and the truth is, they don't like every book. But that's how WAKE got more publisher attention and $$. Because it certainly wasn't slated as a lead title when we sold it.

So that's where I'm coming from when I say internet presence is crucial and good for biz.

Em said...

Steph, great post! I'm loving all the feedback and discussion. I have to agree with Jocelyn - most of the people that visit my site aren't other book bloggers. Quite a lot of bloggers leave me comments but the majority of hits are people searching for a specific book or author. Anonymous mentioned that if a book is a lead title, then it's generally going to be a big hit. I think that's true - and it is sometimes a shame...I've seen really bad books get lots of publicity mostly because they were lead titles.

I'm sort of with you on the guest posts and interview point though. I generally skip these when I see them on blogs. Not because I don't care. It's mainly a visual thing. If the blogger has pictures or some sort of fun set-up, then I read it. If it's just straight text, I generally pass by it.

Speed Reader said...

There's been a lot of good responses made in opposition to most of your points, so I'll try not to repeat that info. I'll just add this:

*Before I started book blogging, I was always online Googling authors/books for more information about the next book, info about the book (deleted scenes, how the book came to be, etc), info about the author, etc. I was always annoyed when I couldn't find author websites or other interviews on blogs or online magazines/newspapers because I wanted to know more. So I think online activity for authors and their books is important. Maybe you aren't getting a lot of hits before the book is released and well-known, but after people have a chance to read it they will turn to the Internet for more info and come across these book reviews, guest-blog posts, and interviews. I'm surprised how often my google search hits on a daily basis for my blog are about books/authors that I posted about months ago.

*As for book trailers, I think it depends on the trailer. This is a relatively new marketing idea for me, so I think it will become more popular in the future. A book trailer that recently caught my eye was for THE DUST OF 100 DOGS, and because of it I finally had an interest in reading the book after seeing it blogged about EVERYWHERE else!

*On a similar note (and related to Lenore's & Lisa's comments), I have to see a book title/cover/author many times before I remember it (unless it's something I specifically sought out because I was already interested in it). With THE DUST OF 100 DOGS, I saw the book blogged about by everyone and their dog (pun intended) but the cover didn't do anything for me, so I never read those posts ... until I saw it blogged about by Lenore and finally something clicked and I read enough to get interested. Once I viewed the trailer, I was definitely intrigued and wanted to give it a shot.

*And yes, I think most of the followers for most of the book blogs are book bloggers themselves. But there are also non-book bloggers. As for me, I recommend all the good books I read to my friends who will read the book and generally enjoy it (because we have a good read on each other's tastes, I know who to recommend what books to and they know that I'm giving them a good recommendation). I also belong to a book club where I further spread the word about good books I've read lately. Many of them rely on my to keep them up to date on the latest good books I've read. Most of them are not online and have not heard of the books I am telling them about.

*As for buying books, I am a big fan of the library. I only buy books if it's one I want to read again. I still use this method even though I now get ARCs. I'm just able to read and review the book earlier rather than waiting for it to come to the library. Personally, I give away all of the books I am sent from authors and publishers for review and show my support for a book by buying it. I also make sure that my library has the book on order, and request that they do order it if not (every book I've requested has been purchased by my library system).

The bottom line is that if someone doesn't know a book exists then they aren't ever going to read it. Online buzz is all about helping people to know that a book exists, and it takes seeing the book/author pop up several times in different locations before a reader will remember and be interested in the book.

Speed Reader said...

One other comment ...

RE: ARCs being sent out to everyone ...

I think ThomasNelson has an interesting system of allowing people to request a book to review (from a list) and you can't request another book until you have posted a review about that book on your blog and on a commercial website (such as Amazon). I know that I have quite a stack of ARCs to get through (I do read and review everything I get, it's just a matter of timing sometimes), so maybe book bloggers could "earn" ways of getting more than 1 book at a time through timely reviews, higher traffic, etc.

vvb said...

As a newbie to the book blogging world, I want to say that all the online marketing mentioned here definitely affected my buying habits. I was introduced to a lot of interesting books while reading the blog reviews moreso than when browsing in the store and library. Because many reviews are for new books which libraries do not yet have, I end up ordering or pre-ordering books online because of the hype and buzz created. Yes, online marketing works.

Anonymous said...

mean I've always thought they should have a somewhat stricter system. Why mail to thirty bloggers with less than fifty hits a day when you can mail ten with two hundred?


There are a very few blog that would be considered "popular" I guess one of them being The Story Siren and ... I can't name another 9? See where I'm going.

But again I think publicist do a smart thing by distributing to a WHOLE bunch of bloggers. Like lenore said

"I also can't tell you how many times I've seen the same book on tons of blogs and let's say maybe the 23rd time I see it, someone finally says something about it that clicks with me and I say - oh yeah - I gotta have it."


a lot of us have that same mentality. see a book in big blogs little blogs medium blogs more chance of SEEING it and hence you buy it. This seems a little obvious. Weird that's it is being questioned.


but thnx 4 replying!

Emily M. said...

first off, i am not a book blogger or an author. just someone who adores books and has vague and hazy aspirations towards writing.

i can't speak for others, but i can tell you that the online book community definitely sells books to me. my situation is unique--i live abroad and have no access to libraries or bookstores (in english, that is). the internet is my only source of information about the book world, other than my subscription to the Horn Book. if i want to read books i must buy them.

but even when i lived in the states and wasn't buying so many books i still got much of my book information online. i still bought books, just not as often. and even if people aren't buying books, but are checking them out from the library, isn't that a way of selling books too?? just to libraries, not individuals.

Meghan said...

I have wondered about this question, but I've basically concluded that the whole point is to get the book out there. Book bloggers are all readers and as such we're more likely to have reading friends who may not be on the blog scene. If we love a review book, we're going to tell them about it. At least, I do that myself. It's buzz, not necessarily direct selling of books, and word of mouth is a very powerful tool that is difficult to harness, but a fabulous book will do it.

Also, it's worth mentioning that I am more likely to buy a book that someone has reviewed simply because I've now heard of it, particularly if it's received a good review. I don't buy many books, but when I do I often go for the ones I've heard about on a book blog. I trust those recommendations more than a random choice in a bookstore.

Risa Hammonds said...

Just another anon echoing the other anon comment on this

"A big push from a publisher -- your book is a LEAD TITLE -- is usually why a book breaks out. Publishers can do things to push a book that an individual author really can't.

Very brief example: Ally Carter's spy girl books are comparable to Jennifer Lynn Barnes cheerleader/spy books. Ally's were a lead title. Jennifer's were not. Guess which one is on the best-seller list."

And while Lisa McMann did a lot of promotion online, I think her book would not have taken off the way it had except for the fact that she'd written a paranormal, bookstores want them (I work in one), and Simon Pulse picked up on that and pushed Wake accordingly, arranging for dumps (which we couldn't afford, but that's another story of indies vs chains), and then sent her on tour with Cassandra Clare, who was an already established bestselling author. Did Lisa's efforts help? Sure. But what really mattered in the end was the publisher push. They wanted to get the word out about her book and they did. For all the talk about online promotion, what really moves books are publisher support and word of mouth, two things authors have no control over.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Rissa Hammonds -- this is exactly what I'm talking about -- a publisher push IS what pushes the book.

Your Quote concerning WAKE: "... I think her book would not have taken off the way it had except for the fact that she'd written a paranormal, bookstores want them (I work in one), and Simon Pulse picked up on that and pushed Wake accordingly ... sent her on tour with Cassandra Clare, who was an already established bestselling author. Did Lisa's efforts help? Sure. But what really mattered in the end was the publisher push. They wanted to get the word out about her book and they did. For all the talk about online promotion, what really moves books are publisher support and word of mouth, two things authors have no control over..."

I know this for a fact to be true. And I don't mean any disrespct to Lisa McMann in any way, but authors that get this treatment sometimes aren't aware of how little publishers do for other, non-pushed books. I know several authors that didn't have their ARC's available at BEA or ALA, others that worked for months to get quotes for their books that the pub house never bothered to even follow up on.

I'm sure every author wants to think all they've got to do is some promo and they'll make it to the best-seller list. I disagree. I'd say if the pub sends you on tour with a bestselling author, that's the kind of push that skyrockets your sales and its the kind of push others aren't getting. It wasn't an accusation, I just wanted to balance the waters a bit.

Melissa Walker said...

Wow. This is a fascinating discussion. I'm not sure what I can add, except my personal experience, so here goes: The Violet books were definitely NOT lead titles, and most aren't even available in bookstores anymore. Yet I do hear from readers regularly who've found them, and I do feel like there's still life in them, mostly because I'm online and engaged with very cool bloggers and potential readers.

I do it because it's fun for me! I think that's the bottom line for authors: If you're blogging for pure publicity, it might fall flat. If you're blogging because you love the engagement, you'll find that people are interested in your books.

Lisa McMann totally gets that, too, I know. An online presence won't get EVERY author that lead title spot with their publisher, but it's worth doing anyway, if you have fun with it and are genuinely interested in your readers.

susan said...

The more I know about an author and her work, the more likely I am to read the work. While I might not buy the book (I buy few personal books, but spend quite a bit of time trying to get books on trade, bought for us or I will purchase for our library), I will tell everybody and their mother about an author, and her book if I like it. I willingly promote like crazy for author I'm impressed with.

I do read blog reviews, interviews and I belong to Shelfari/ Belonging to the network site along doubled the number of reading my first year and has continued to increase. I have also read books I would not otherwise because I connected with the author either on her own blog or because she left her own island and interacted with readers on a reader's blog.

Regarding interviews, I find poor interviews are more often because the interviewer fails to ask relevant and interesting questions and not that the author is boring. I think some bloggers are more interested in promoting themselves (their blogs) and put up light content to drive traffic instead of producing an interview that highlights why an author is worth checking out. I could care less about an author's favorite color or what she had for breakfast. Tell me about her writing process, what makes the book work, talk about her writing styles and thoughts about other books.

85% of the books I read I have found either by participating in a discussion forum, blog, book trading site or a direct recommendation from a reader I interact with online.

Beth Kephart said...

What a phenomenal discussion—should be a panel discussion at the next major book fair.

Interviews are conversations—the questions must be as good as the answers. Blogs are conversations, too—or should be. There are many books I'd have never have bought (and I only buy books, never borrow; it is my small way of helping to keep the industry alive) had I not been introduced to them via another's blog or a comment left on my own.

Steph, you are the great provocateur. These kinds of conversations have to happen; I'm glad you're there stirring them up.

BookChic said...

Anonymous- If The Story Siren is the only popular book blog you can think of, you don't read much. I thought about it and came up with 11 (though some are not just necessarily book blogs)- Story Siren, Reviewer X (and not just because we're talking on her blog, lol), Alea (Pop Culture Junkie), Shooting Stars Magazine, myself (Book Chic), The Book Muncher, Teen Book Review, Little Willow, The Compulsive Reader, The Page Flipper, and YA New York. And that's not including ALL the book blogs I read. And there's tons more I don't know about that could also be extremely popular.

Anyway, I agree with Steph, maybe not necessarily with the popular comment, but definitely a stricter system of sending out ARCs. I find it odd that book bloggers who just start out nowadays get review books within a few weeks of starting their blog. They have no following and who knows if they'll even follow through with the reviews or even the blog itself after a couple months pass. I think a blog needs to establish itself a bit before recieving free books for review.

Now, it may sound a bit hypocritical that I say this since I got review copies within the first couple weeks of starting my own blog, but things were different when I started. There definitely weren't as many book blogs as there are now. A lot of the blogs I mentioned above started maybe just a year or so ago. And aside from that, I only accepted review copies that authors contacted me about. I didn't even know I could get free copies of books to review. A lot of the bloggers starting out now go in knowing that information and then expect it right away without really having to work for it first or prove themselves.

So I do agree with Steph on that front. I think publishers need to spend some time looking at book blogs and deciding which ones should be getting review copies and set up a more stricter system for it rather than just sending out to pretty much anyone who asks. I kinda liked how they did it for ARCs of the third Gallagher Girls book- you had to submit a bunch of information about your blog to an email address and someone went through it all and picked the best ones to send ARCs to.

Amee said...

The thing about having someone go through information and pick the best blogs to send to is that they might not always have the man power for it. Especially in the current economy when budgets and jobs are being cut. I suppose depending how bad it gets the amount of ARCs will also subside. How the publicists would then decide who to send to, who knows. I certainly hope they'd at least make a quick visit to the blog in question and check out the sitemeter (or whatever counter that person has) in order to make a quick but more informed decision of who to give the rare ARC to. This should be how they do it now, in my opinion, but as long as the book supply is high, I can understand their not being so selective.

wrigleyfield said...

Online promotion gets me to buy a book when it does one of two things:

1) Gets me invested in an author's persona. (Example: Ben Esch, John Green)
--> This is also why well-done author interviews appeal to me, but I agree with Steph that the vast majority are really boring.

2) Lets me know about a book whose premise would be enough to hook me, but I might not have become aware of. (Example: _Shine, Coconut Moon_)

I'm learning NOT to read books based on online "hype" because I am finding it to be a poor guide to what I'll like. (Example: _Evernight_, which I read last week based on blog reviews, was not my friend.)

On the other hand, there are some people whose recommendations I take seriously because they've paid off over time. (Example: Jennifer Hubbard)

Liviania said...

Online marketing definitely affects what I buy. Mostly it helps me know certain books exist. The reviewer might not of liked it, but if it contains my book!kinks I'll search it out.

I agree that I don't watch book trailers, but I do read interviews and guest blogs. Knowing more about the author makes the book a richer experience to me. When I do interview I try to make my questions as interesting as possible.

Jen said...

I love the vlogbrothers! nerdfighters. I think when authors are a bit more personal or speak directly to their fans (not about books) but just as a person talking about normal things, showing off pictures of their cat (meg does this) or a cute video of willy, I find I feel more attached to that author. I love the way Meg Cabot blogs, its really similar to PD series so I really go all out getting the series. Word of mouth is definatly effective. Twi-marketing (like the band aids and stuff) really annoys me though.

Jen said...

Didnt think to add this but I also think its fairly easy to sell a vampire book or a zombie book or whatever the new trend is. After HP comes out people want wizards so you throw a lot of wizard stuff on the shelves. Like after Twilight was really popular my book store was a lot more attentive to the vampire titles. I also found that non-readers would like something like Twilight and they wouldnt read too many other books but they would go get a whole lot of vampire books. I find books are really trendy.

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