At the end of the May blog, I noted that in June, depending on what I accomplish between then and now, I would cover some of the following marketing-and-sales topics: press release, the use of social media for marketing, Amazon Author Central, CreateSpace Marketing Central, and credit-card processing (for selling books at book fairs).
With on-going investment activities for which I’m responsible, I knew that the list was a lot to accomplish within a one-month period. Out of the five items, I made progress on four. The one item that I would need to defer to the next month is the topic about CreateSpace Marketing Central. Right before completing this blog, I looked into it briefly. There is so much information there that I decided to allocate the time to review the content more thoroughly. It gives you the basics of marketing, helps you develop a marketing plan, and provides you with additional resources. Among other topics, it also covers social media.
For less than $400, I signed up to have press-release materials created by CreateSpace and also distributed to a minimum of 1,000 media outlets – including ten specific ones that I had personally identified, mostly for the local area in southeast Michigan.
What I like about working with CreateSpace is that I am in control of everything I get done. For instance, the press release was created based on the information that I provided by answering a set of questions developed by CreateSpace. Then the support team put that information into a press-release format. It’s like working with a pro such that all I have to do is provide the content.
In any case, here is a valuable tip for you. I did not think to ask these questions until after I had already signed up with the press-release program. When I did ask, it was explained to me that, on average, (1) I can expect to receive 0 – 15 responses out of 1,000 contacts made and (2) the majority of the responses, if any, would come between one to three weeks after the release.
As of this writing, with the press release having been sent out by CreateSpace on May 23, 2012, it has been just over three weeks. The result, so far, has been ho-hum. I received two emails within a day or two of the release. Neither of them was from what I would consider traditional media outlets, such as newspapers, TV, or radio stations.
One was from a book-review company, requesting two copies of the book. After checking out its website and getting comfortable with the legitimacy of it, I obliged with the request. Depending upon how the review comes out from this company, this could be another helpful avenue to spread the word about my book among bookworms.
The other request was from a company which helps with what I just did through CreateSpace; i.e., another press release. Part of me wondered, “Why would I pay an additional fee – albeit nominal – to get done the same thing by another company?” Then again, while at the LA Times Festival of Books in April, I happened to have heard of this company as being reasonable in cost as well as effective. I also checked with CreateSpace and determined that the list of media outlets is not necessarily identical among different companies. So I’ll be checking out this company and its programs. Based on the lackluster result from the first experience, however, the only way I would sign up for another company is if it can guarantee solid results from some of the traditional media outlets. If not, then there will be no deal. I cannot afford to waste money on something for which a service company is not held accountable for its results.
As a follow-up to the original press release, I will comb through the list of media outlets that CreateSpace had created for me and selectively send out a complimentary copy of my book to some of them. I think that an actual book, accompanied by a personalized letter by the author, would be far more effective than a mass-emailed press release. What do you think?
It is finally starting to sink in to me that marketing my own book is a very slow and long-term process – no matter how much I believe in the book myself.
The use of social media for marketing
Because we had a great excuse to visit with family and friends, David and I personally attended and promoted my book at our own exhibit booth at two more book fairs in June 2012. This time, they were both within driving distance in the Midwest: Chicago Tribune Printers’ Row Lit Fest and Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books at the University of Wisconsin – Waukesha campus. Since I already wrote about book fairs last month, I will keep it short in this section. The topic of credit-card processing – for selling books at book fairs – is covered separately below.
The bottom-line results from attending book fairs were as follows:
- Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: 150,000 attendees; booth cost $1,500; no book sold.
- Chicago Tribune Printers’ Row Lit Fest: 60,000 attendees; booth cost $350; two books sold.
- Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books: 1,500 attendees; booth cost $100; seven books sold.
Costs for travel need to be added into the above figures as well. After talking to a number of people in attendance at all three book fairs (Los Angeles, Chicago, and Waukesha), I am finally convinced that I must get on the bandwagon of social media – if I were to effectively market my book in the 21st century.
As a starter, in terms of cost, use of social media is far less expensive than attending book fairs – although I would never discount the value of face-to-face contact with the public. In terms of the level of effectiveness, I will be looking into how best to handle social media. For instance, I am beginning to realize that, before I do any other marketing activities, I should have my own Google+, Facebook, and Twitter accounts set up and running – in addition to LinkedIn that I already have. People tell me, “It’s so easy. Just do it!” So I have no excuse not to set them up. That being said, my webmaster had set up this website for me such that those who wish to share my blogs through major social media are already able to do so. I just need to learn to take it to the next level such that I can reach my potential target audiences more effectively.
Amazon Author Central
Note: As with any other companies that I mention in my blogs, I am NOT paid by Amazon Author Central to write about it.
When you open Amazon Author Central, the first thing you will see is “Promote your books for free with Author Central.” As I recall, I was not able to sign up for this website until after my book was published.
In any case, ever since I published my book in March 2012, I have been doing multiple marketing activities, trying to figure out how best to promote my book. (The progression of this pursuit can be found in my previous marketing blogs.)
Except for word of mouth, few marketing activities are free. In fact, some of them, such as book fairs, can be quite expensive. So when there is a mechanism through Amazon to promote my book for free, it seems to make sense to take advantage of it, particularly because Amazon happens to be the major channel through which I am currently choosing to sell my book – at least until such time when going through expanded-distribution channels may begin to make better sense.
Based on what I discovered, until such time when doing something else makes better sense, I will be using Amazon Author Central as a bulletin board to keep the public informed of activities related to my book. For instance, it can be set up for RSS feed for my blogs; photos and videos can be posted there; so can upcoming book-related events (I noticed that past events are automatically deleted, which is great); my author page URL www.amazon.com/author/reiko can be used in my blogs and any social media; and my latest tweet can be displayed on the Author Page as well.
Once again, for Amazon Author Central to be most effective, I will need to first set up and begin using social media.
Credit-card processing (for selling books at book fairs)
Much of the credit for this section goes to my husband David, who did the majority of the research on this topic.
David and I run multiple businesses but none so far involved selling any merchandise where it would require accepting cash or credit-card payments. With the potential sale of physical copies of my autobiography at book fairs, this was about to change. We needed to learn some new skills.
Cash payments, if we are to receive any, of course, would be straight forward. We simply need to know the sales-tax rate at the location of each book fair. David called the department of revenue / treasury (or whatever it may be called for each state), explained what it was about, and they told him exactly how much the rate would be. It is advisable to find out the exact rate for each book fair because the amount could be unique depending upon where the fair is held. For instance, you would think that the state sales-tax rate is all you need. Well, not always. For instance, in the case of Chicago (for Chicago Tribune Printers’ Row Lit Fest), the total sales-tax rate is a combination of the state and city rates: in other words, 6.25% for the state of Illinois and 3.25% for the City of Chicago, for a combined total of 9.5%. Add that rate to the base price of the book and, voila, there is the total amount that you need to collect from each buyer. The only extra thing we would need to be ready for is the exact change with whatever denominations of coins and bills are necessary.
Learning to accept credit-card payments involved quite a bit more research. First, David Googled about evaluating credit-card-processing companies and found two excellent articles, both written by Janet Attard: “How to Evaluate Credit Card Processing Companies” and “How to Get Lower Credit Card Processing Fees: Save Money on Your Merchant Account.”
With the knowledge gained from reading these articles, we wanted to make sure of two things: first, we would not be paying monthly fees – because we are not planning on attending book fairs every month; and second, the cost of the equipment is affordable.
On the internet, we reviewed ratings for card-processing companies. We created a matrix on an Excel spreadsheet to compare which companies offered the best solution for us. The matrix included such items as equipment cost, application fee, discount rate, transaction fee, monthly fee, monthly minimum charge required if any, and any other fees that we needed to know about. Most of these turned out to be best for larger businesses with a large volume of ongoing charges. In their case, the monthly fees are minor relative to the dollar value of business they are doing and the discount rate and transaction fee are much more important. On the other hand, for small-volume vendors like us, who may have months with no charges, the monthly fees can easily wipe out any potential profits.
The best solution for us (until we become a large-volume vendor) turned out to be an iPhone app (it also works with iPad and Android phones) called, “Square.” The equipment is free. There are no monthly fees of any kind. It is capable of accepting major credit cards, such as Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Discover. The only cost to us is the transaction fee of 2.75%. While this may seem high, for our situation, which involves infrequent use, we concluded that this was the best deal.
We downloaded the app from Square, plugged the equipment into the iPhone, swiped one of our credit cards as an experiment, charged ourselves $1.00 (the minimum required amount), and it was all set.
A few days later, we received 97 cents back in the bank account for the $1.00 charge made, after the transaction fee of 3 cents (2.75% rounded up), which was a reasonable fee for figuring things out. Through iPhone, Square is capable of sending a receipt to the buyer’s email address. Among other pertinent information, the receipt comes with the location map at which the transaction took place. My receipt for the buyer also includes a picture of the front cover of my book. You can also put in the sales-tax rate for the state or location where you are selling, and Square automatically calculates the total.
By the way, we can also keep track of cash sales using Square with no additional cost to us; i.e., the 2.75% fee does not apply. And receipts can also be emailed to the purchaser as in the case of a credit-card transaction. So far, we have experienced more cash sales than credit-card sales. So Square is perfect for making sales at book fairs and provides a great system for record keeping.
If you decide to use Square to accept credit-card payments, make sure to be connected to the internet (through Safari) on your iPhone prior to when the event starts – so that transactions will be processed smoothly.
Coming up next month
In terms of marketing my book, the topics will be (1) what I learned from CreateSpace Marketing Central and (2) implementing social media.
Next month will also be a transition period in that starting in July, the main focus of my blog will shift to investing in America, outside of Wall Street.