Book Marketing – What Works? (Part 7): Interview with author DeAnna Knippling

DeAnna Knippling and Books

Welcome to the final interview in my Book Marketing – What Works? series, here on Writing to be Read. So far, we’ve heard from independent authors Cynthia Vespia on face-to-face marketing vs. digital marketing, Tim Baker on branding, Amy Cecil on street teams and social media marketing, and traditionally published YA author Jordan Elizabeth with an altogether different approach to street teams. We’ve also heard from authors who have published both independently and traditionally, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd on blogging as a marketing strategy, and Chris Barili weighed in on social media marketing and Amazon KDP. It seems no matter which way an author goes in today’s publishing arena, they are going to be responsible for the majority of marketing and promotion for their book.

In my final interview today, I’ll be talking with independent author, DeAnna Knippling, who has created her own brand and press to publish her books under. DeAnna is a talented lady and multigenre author, who not only publishes her own books, but freelances as a ghostwriter, as well. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing three of her wonderful books, How Smoke Got Out of the Chimneys, Clockwork Alice, and Something Borrowed, Something Blue. DeAnna also shared with my readers in an earlier interview how she came about creating her own press to publish her books under. Today she shares with us a little about her book marketing experiences and talks about free promotions.

Kaye: How do you measure which marketing strategies are effective?

DeAnna: The ultimate proof is whether sales go up and stay better than they were before for a while. I tried a bunch of things that did well for a brief burst but left me no better off than I was before; I’m starting to be choosier about what strategies I stick with because of it.

Kaye: These days, reviews are a valuable marketing tool. What is the most effective way you’ve found to bring in reviews for your books? How much effect have reviews had for you?

DeAnna: Right now, I have an Advanced Readers’ Copy list that works better than other things that I’ve tried.  That is, if you’re willing to be a guinea pig, I’m willing to send you free books.

I started looking at who was reviewing my books on Goodreads earlier in the year and went, “Holy crap, I have readers who read 50+ different books a week and review all of them.”  I’m not joking. I call them super-readers…I started thinking about what I could do to attract more of those super-readers, and this is one of the techniques that I’m trying.  We’ll see if the others work; most of my ideas have to happen down the road a bit.

As far as the effect reviews have had for me, I had the good luck a while back to be riding near the top of a couple of the Amazon lists I was in while reviews were actually coming in (and while I was obsessively hitting the refresh button on Kindle Direct Publishing and the Amazon sales page).  Overall rankings went up by like 50 points an hour after the first review went live, even though only like one or two additional sales rolled in.  Reviews don’t always have such a measurable effect, but it was a blast to see at the time.  Also, when someone emails you off an ARC and tells you that you’re becoming one of their favorite writers ever and their review is up now, it really encourages you to keep going.

Kaye: You have used Instafreebie to promote your work. How does that work? How effective is it?

DeAnna: I think there are other resources about how to use Instafreebie that would work better than me trying to explain the basics in any kind of useful depth.  For the sake of the rest of the answer, though, I’ll sum up:  Instafreebie is a site where, for $20 a month, they host your ebooks and collect potential readers’ emails (for which the readers receive a free copy of the ebook).  You can boost the number of eyes on your book by joining group emails/group promotions, separate from Instafreebie.

It worked well for me, but I got in at exactly the right moment:  enough writers were participating in group promotions that the book giveaways hit a lot of new readers, and readers weren’t burned out with ereaders full of free books yet.  I added more emails than I knew what to do with and ended up costing myself a lot of money on MailChimp.  I actually had to cut some emails off the list–people who weren’t opening my newsletters. (I even got some responses back from MailChimp saying I had been reported as spam a couple of times and that the person hadn’t signed up for the list–not true; they had just signed up for so many lists that they had no memory of mine whatsoever).

Instafreebie allowed me to build up enough readers that I was able to put together an ARC list and to connect with some amazing readers that I wouldn’t have otherwise reached.  However, I’m not paying for Instafreebie any longer.  I don’t know how it’s going now; I just know that the flood of new newsletter readers who may or may not ever read my book was more than I could deal with.  Maybe when I get a better sense of how to market via my newsletter, I’ll try it again.

Sometimes you pounce on marketing opportunities.  The cost/benefit analysis on marketing shifts constantly.  “What works today won’t work six months from now” is kind of an ebook marketing truism.

That being said, no quick-response marketing strategy will work if you don’t have the basics covered, like having an updated website and a newsletter and a way for your readers to find your books and to contact you or connect with you.  There’s a lot of passive marketing stuff that supports the big, quick-turnaround experiments like Instafreebie.  Otherwise the readers fall through the cracks and disappear after they get their free ebook or whatever.

Kaye: A lot of authors today offer their work for free, or do limited free promotions. I’ve never really understood this. How does giving away your work pay off?

DeAnna: I think it depends on how you see readers, which is not to say that one way is better than another.  I mean, I know people who swear that giving away books for free will be the death of a career.  But I just can’t see giving away free ebooks as dooming me to failure per se, any more than you can see it the other way.

I see obtaining a loyal reader as an investment.  I want them to read my work and love it so much that they pass it on to someone else.  I’m willing to invest a free ebook or ten to see whether I can flip them to loyal readers.  If yes, YAY.  If not, it’s a sign that I need to work harder and keep learning.  I don’t write irresistibly good fiction yet.  I’m working on it.  Oftentimes, the people who are buying my books are people who are on my ARC list, who already have the free ebook in hand, and want to help support me.  I know, because they care enough to email me about it.  I tear up every time.

Maybe when I write fiction that I know people can’t resist, I’ll restrict my opportunities for free stuff.  I have already done that a bit.  For example, I no longer give away books for free per se.  I want an opportunity to keep reminding the reader I exist via newsletters or whatever–I want the opportunity to try to win them over.

Kaye: What other marketing strategies have you employed? Which ones worked for you?

DeAnna: I’ve tried a lot of things, and most of them are irrelevant at this point–we’re past the six-month mark.  What it comes back to:  your readers are your boss.  Write a lot.  Write better every time.  Stay in contact.  Don’t work for the jerky boss, work for the one who appreciates your work.  Keep your information updated.  Be a person, not a marketing machine.  Say please and thank you.  When you reach out to new readers, treat it like a job interview.  Keep your eye open for ways to go a little bit above and beyond.  Keep your eye open for ways to team up with bloggers, reviewers, other writers, and readers.  When you’re selling a book, sell the book–describe your book in a way that makes somebody drool, instead of saying things like, “I have a new release, check it out LOL.”  Investigate why people like what you write, how you make them feel when you’re at the top of your game, and sell that.  Be ready to pounce on opportunities, and learn from train wrecks so you can pounce on fewer train wrecks.

Marketing is hard.  It takes time and respect.

Kaye: What works best to sell books for you, as far as marketing goes?

DeAnna: Staying honest with myself and writing the books that are in me, and not the books I think should be in me.  I had to look at myself and go, “I write hipster pulp.  I write trope-filled popular fiction stories with quality ingredients, decent technique, a few original weird touches here and there (the equivalent of sriracha mayo on a juicy burger, I guess), and with a bit of ironic perspective and humor.”  Suddenly, voila, I had more sales.

More seriously, though, knowing yourself and your work on this level is sometimes known as “branding.”  The description is a bit facetious, but…well, it’s not exactly wrong, either.

I know what writers are looking for is a magic button to make their books take off in the market, but there isn’t one.  What you want to be able to do is repeat success and learn from failure.  Don’t be the person who writes one book (or one trilogy) that takes off and who then cannot repeat that success or in fact finish another book at all, ever.  Don’t be the person who burns out on writing because of all the marketing you have to do.  Do what it takes to stay in love with writing first and foremost, experiment with different techniques, and be prepared to fail on a regular basis.  Try to fail in a different way each time.

Also, if you can write porn, do that.  It sells really well.

Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?

DeAnna: Purely for promotion, as opposed to staying in contact with people?  Probably Goodreads.  Highest proportion of dedicated readers and super-readers.  Lots of great data, too, if you poke around a bit and make a few inferences.

Kaye: What advice do you have for authors who are trying to get their work out there?

DeAnna: Don’t blame the readers.  If your ads don’t work, if nobody shares your posts, if nobody wants to review your book, if nobody gushes over your cover, etc., etc.  Don’t blame the readers.

I want  to thank DeAnna for taking the time to answer all my questions. It’s evident by her answers that she’s put in the time, both in writing and marketing, and it’s wonderful that she is willing to share with us here on Writing to be Read. You can learn more about DeAnna’s books at Wonderland Press.

This is the last of my interviews for this series, but be sure to drop by next week to take a look at my conclusions in the last post for Book Marketing – What Works?.

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