Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about experiences, ideas, nature, creativity, and culture. The latter might appear at times political, but we will try to avoid partisanship to speak to the broader issues that impact a culture. This is just too important a time not to sometimes speak to problems that impact society. As she and I do, readers will find we often disagree and have for over 50 years-- still able to be close friends. You can do that if you can be agreeable that we share more than not despite the difference.

Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled comments, or links (unless pre-approved).

Fantasy, the painting by Diane Widler Wenzel, cropped a little to fit the needs of a banner.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Marketing challenges

by Rain Trueax

Following is about the business end of writing, although it could fit many marketing endeavors. I've been learning some things and have some questions that I'd appreciate others taking a bit of time to consider. Hey, it's better than politics today... I think lol

the view out our window toward the creek. At this time of year, I live in a world of green

Trying to figure out why people buy a product is one of the challenges of marketing. Although writing, as well as any of the fine arts, is about the Muse and following inspiration where it goes, marketing is a very physical task about getting a product into someone else's hands. There are things to learn that have
nothing to do with the original creation. Well, it might but only in the sense of asking the question-- does my product fit the zeitgeist of its time? Whether we need to sell a chair, home, etc. etc., the same thing is true: the seller does not determine what is wanted-- although they might, through wise marketing, create a hunger for something that was never there before.

For authors, marketing is about half, and some say more, of why a book finds readers. In the case of Ranch Boss and me, we've been flying by the seat of our pants on this one. While this winter, he took some online courses, mostly the info out there is vast and works for one and not another (although it does make money for the one providing the course or writing the how-to book). 

So this will all be aimed at the writer. The first goal to get someone to buy a book requires they see it and then that something draws it to them. The competition is vast. What you see here are the covers for three of my first Arizona historical romances. Covers are the front-line for any potential sale. These covers are not the first covers these books have had. A cover should not only attract but give the reader a clue what they will find inside. While the marketing end of books can be frustrating, I've said before that how cool is it to be almost 75 and still be finding new things to learn and along with that, new challenges.
Having books in this since 2012, I've had good years for sales, where they sold in the low five figures (hey, it was good for me). I've had years where they are lucky to break four figures (this looks to be one of those lol). We had, until recently done virtually no advertising beyond what was free through Facebook or Twitter. I am not sure how effective either of those are. Twitter flies by, and I at least rarely read anything there. Facebook has mostly my friends and not too many of them are romance readers-- although quite a few are romance writers.

So why write about this here? Because some of you may also be writers and working to get your books seen, I thought you might find of interest what we've learned regarding advertising, specifically at Amazon.

When you advertise, you first need to come up with keywords, which also will involve authors whose books are similar. Without accurate keywords, you get what you see in the following screenshots. The first is of one of my books, an historical romance. The next are people who paid for a sponsored ad that is supposed to be similar. Were they? Not remotely, which means those writers or whoever paid for the ads likely threw their money down a black hole. 

Okay, so now you have fitting keywords, which can be hundreds. Next, you decide how many dollars a day you are willing to pay out and how many days the ad will run. You are presenting this proposal to Amazon. They don't all get accepted. You also put in a bid for what you will pay per click, when a reader looks at your book specifically. You are not charged for how many times it is presented; but if it got no clicks or sales, it was taking time when you could have had the ad going somewhere more effective. Clicks are not sales. Without sales, clicks can run up your cost but only to the amount you limited for that day. To further complicate it, your book will only be seen under the keywords you used when you sent it to Amazon.

In May, our first ad went up. It did well for a few days-- encouraging us. Then it was Memorial Day weekend and it nose dived. We tried another and it not only didn't get sales, the book was only showing under my own books-- not exactly a winner for paying out money, since also boughts almost always involve your own books lso. In short, it got no real ads for someone new to see the book.

Basically, since the first ad, none have led to more than a few sales and sometimes with more clicks, which means someone looked at the book and rejected the sale. Whenever you look at an Amazon ad, it counts as a click and costs the seller money. The author then has to wonder-- did you see something in the blurb that turned you off? Maybe you wanted a book with no sex and it had it. More questions than answers obviously, but still, the book got seen and that's an improvement over what was the previous situation. 

So, here comes the question. Feeling the books were not connecting with the right readers, Ranch Boss, who is their editor, was working with the sheep shearer (they look lovely all shorn) when he decided we needed to change book titles. Although the books are based in Arizona and to me are about the cycles of life, he thinks for today's readers, in a competitive world, they aren't catchy enough. He suggested Arizona Sunset become Outlaw Love. Arizona Moon would be Enduring Love and Arizona Dawn would become Forbidden Love. He had ideas for the other five in the series but that's enough to give you the idea.

I took his suggestion to my Facebook author group and got mixed results with some thinking a new title would be good and others thinking they fit their stories. One said that my titles fit an earlier era better than what readers want today. Eek. 

Here's the thing, I have liked to think of my books as literary novels married to romances. I didn't want a title that was overtly romantic. Even though my books are romances, I don't use flowery language and didn't want words like that on their covers. Words that suggested too much passion would disappoint readers but words sounding sweet might make them mad. Generally, I had chosen titles that related to nature or a broader concept in the book, like the Oregon Trail romance being Round the Bend. Maybe though I am wrong. Maybe it's what it takes-- spicy titles. 

Comment if you are willing. I can use all the advice I can get. I know probably few of you read romances but the whole idea of titles that grab interest, of ads that attract a second look, most can relate to that... maybe...


Joared said...

I find reading about the challenges of an author today seeking readers to be of interest. I really don’t feel qualified to provide any meaningful suggestions for several reasons. One is, that a book’s cover is strictly incidental for me — subtitle might be of interest, but other type visuals have no bearing on my choosing to examine a book, much less purchase it. I don’t think that’s necessarily true for readers in the genre’ in which you write.

I think the proposed new titles primarily place more emphasis on the romance aspect of the books than the present titles do. If there’s actually very little romance in the story then a reader might be disappointed. Those proposed titles sound like a fairly tame romance to me, unless pictured cover characters attire, body positions suggest otherwise — titles don't imply to me what I would think of as being spicy. The cover characters representations with the proposed new titles definitely would convey an expectation to be reading a romance story. Don’t know if you plan subtitles where the setting and historical/literary aspect you want noted would appear.
Suppose that would be Enduring Love under the Arizona Moon, etc. Does suggest higher priority for romance content.

Certainly, like it or not, leading with romance title in an ad will likely catch eyes more readily than the name of a state, or sunset, moon or dawn for many people. Would be interesting to know overall numbers for the genre you write in to see if it does seem to have evolved into something else now. Seems possible in our culture.

Rain Trueax said...

Thank you, Joared. Those are cogent thoughts and something for me to think about. I do think romance titles are more prevalent. While I consider my stories romance, I always love the relationship angle and what else people are doing-- like keeping a garden; but I am not the average romance reader probably. I am still trying to figure out what to do. I think we'll pull the ads for a little bit while we do that. I feel we need to do all we can, as writers, to get our work seen, but it's not the highest priority in my life for sure.

That said, I am enjoying writing the fifth book in the paranormal whatever the heck it is series lol. I had another one I knew I should start instead but I kept coming back to the matriarch of the Hemstreet witches and her trying to work out her life with her daughters married and spreading out. I relate to her story and always like writing someone in their fifties or sixties for a romance. This one is enjoyable for me to at least write although those books have yet to find readers. So be it. Writing is what I always did before I tried to do marketing. Marketing just adds a new challenge to it.

Thanks for commenting. I don't think many realize how much comments mean to blog writers as it's the only real reward for the sometimes hours of work.

Rain Trueax said...

I think your points convinced me, Joared. I just need some time to figure out what comes next. It's summer and I am enjoying being outdoors; plus starting that new book. I'll be thinking about those titles though as I probably need to bend on this ;)