Pub Rants

The Internet, Baby!

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STATUS: I may have finally caught up with all my post-BEA stuff. That just leaves everything else that hasn’t had attention for more than a week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THIS IS IT by Kenny Loggins

The problem with publicity is that sometimes, you can have all the promo in the world (and spend big bucks) and it doesn’t move books. The New York Times, usually once a year, runs an article that profiles two “big” books with similar marketing/promotion budgets and wonder why it worked for one book but not the other. Unfortunately, even the NYT doesn’t have the answer.
So, do you spend money to promote? Sometimes the advance isn’t enough to make a huge investment in that aspect if the publication. So where do conscientious writers go to get the word out?

Yep, you guessed it. The internet. Cost-wise, it can be most cost-efficient and effective (although how effective is up for grabs).

Here’s what Kelly Parra has been up to for her debut GRAFFITI GIRL:

YA Fresh blog, where I spotlight other YA authors and promote teen fiction.
Result: Continuous support and interest by other YA authors, readers, and librarians.

-Interview authors of all genres in my “Words of an Author” column on Publishers Marketplace. Result: reaching Author/writer/reader visitors interested in author back stories to publication and their new releases.

Special Graffiti Girl promotion:

Myspace page.

Result: I’ve connected with several graffiti and teen artists from the US and other countries, and gain teen artist interest daily. Also communicated with musician Mark Pickerel who wrote and sang the “Graffiti Girl” song with Bloodshot Records. We garner interest from linking to each other’s pages.

-A new urban art style Kelly Parra website redesign.

-I’ve had giveaway contests for Graffiti themed products and an Ultimate Art Pack giveaway.
-A flash fiction contest with a graffiti theme in order to win a Graffiti Girl ARC.
-Virtual blog tour with Karin Gillespie’s Girlfriends’ Cyber Circuit, consisting of over 20 published authors’ websites and blogs.
– Interviews on Graffiti Girl with Teen Reviewer/Reader sites.

All resulted in new visitors to my website and potential interest in Graffiti Girl.

14 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    The hard work and promo’ing and ideas here all appreciated. But is there any real way to tell what pays off? Any benchmarking being done or ability to count hits to an Amazon sale from a particular site?

    What was publisher interest (number of copies initially pub’d) and have these authors earned out and exceeded publisher guesstimates?

    Sales don’t translate immediately. I’ve worked in corporate marketing myself, and I fully understand the dynamics. But if books need marketing approval before they can be acquired, then there’s got to be a marketing plan that goes along with them, even if that plan doesn’t include lots of marketing dollars. Are grassroots efforts pushing sales above what the publisher’s marketing department thought would happen? And are authors who are campaigning hard and doing it right still falling short of the mark? What synergies exist between the publisher’s marketing department and the author? Does marketing share their expectations?

    Or is it all still a shot in the dark?

  2. The Bims said:

    I think the publishing industry in general has fallen behind on this one. A recent article in the NYT pointed to the difficulties in marketing a book and predicting a good sale, calling it basically a crapshoot. A discussion about the article on MySpace had comments like, “Well, books aren’t like consumer products. You can’t just ask readers what they want to read about.”

    And my answer is, why not??

    The thing about publishing is that the core product (books) hasn’t changed in what, thousands of years. So neither has the business model. But we’re at a time where we have unlimited opportunity to reach our readers directly, and by extension, sell more books.

    Publishing can stand to learn from other industries that are transitioning away from traditional marketing and metrics into the social networking, community marketing, buzz etc. that happens online through blogs, sites like MySpace, podcasts, and other innovative approaches. Not to dis traditional publicists – I know many work hard to get books on the shelves for their authors. But like Kristin and others have said – authors have to work hard, too. Why not take advantage of free or low-cost marketing tools like the Internet? Why not try something creative like Kelly is doing for Grafiti Girl, or like Jennifer has done for her promos?

    Anyway, I’ve just read a few books on this sort of thing for work (hence the rantastic rant being top of mind!), and found tons of applications for book promoting. If you’re interested in trying something a little different from the mass market approach, check out the ideas in the books – The New Influencers: A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media by Paul Gillin; and The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott.

    Hope that helps! Or at least gets people thinking!

  3. Kimber An said:

    I don’t see traditional marketing working with the readers I interact with through my blogs in any case. Advertising gets the word out, but the readers I know need to feel confident about their decision to buy. These are smart people and they’re not easily impressed. They’re rightly annoyed when they’re disrespected. They visit sites which reach out to them as individual human beings with thoughts and feelings. We help them find what they’re really looking for. They find the authors who deliver what they like and they latch onto them. These are wonderful readers for an author to have because they’re devoted and love telling their friends, but she MUST earn their confidence first.

  4. The Grump said:

    Again, a lot of useful information.

    Still, I have questions about building an effective website. There’s so much conflicting information/opinion on how best to use a website to promote your writing — both pre-publication and post.

    Would you care to expand on the elements that work to make an effective website? I know I’d be appreciative. Maybe others would be too.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for all your good information… your posts are terrific. I learn so much.

    I must, though, protest your use of the term “grafitti artist” in this blog post. I bought a house two years ago and I have a wall that is tagged at least once a month by VANDALS, not “artists.” Some hit the neighborhood last night but left me alone, thank goodness. I haven’t even gotten all the rooms in my house painted– but I’ve painted my outside wall at least ten times in two years. The VANDALS have tagged electrical boxes, telephone poles, trees– I’m in a transitional area that is undergoing “gentrification” and while I love the urban “flavah” of the neighborhood, I draw the line at calling uninvited vandalism “art.”

    I don’t know how your author treats the topic in the book– meaning I don’t know if being a vandal is glorified– but I hope the MC “gets hers” and ends up in custody. I’m about ready to put up security cameras to catch the local teen “artists” in action.

  6. The Bims said:

    The Grump, one thing to consider is that an author Web site should not be primarily focused on selling books. Of course that’s our ultimate goal as authors, but for the type of sophisticated, plugged-in readers Kimber An mentioned, the best way to sell something is to connect with them on a more personal level. I don’t mean sharing all your secrets – I mean talking or posting content about things your readers care about. It may or may not be directly related to the book, but it will drive loyalty and word of mouth if you’re seen as a real person. I think this is why so many authors have blogs instead of just corporate-like marketing sites.

    The Web was designed to be a conversation, not a one-way message blast. Somewhere we got off track, but technology has finally caught up with that original goal, allowing authors to communicate directly with their readers about all sorts of things, not just the book. Print marketing strategies (glossy brochures, untargeted mailings etc.) simply don’t work on the Web.

    You should still offer basic info that people would expect on your site – bio, book info, tour dates, etc. – but try to think about ways to make it more interactive and community-based for your audience.

    Ok, that’s my ten cents worth for the evening!

  7. Vicki said:

    I’m not yet published however future promo’ing is one of the reason’s I started my blog.

    I believe that it is good to start now building an internet friendship with readers and authors now before I have the book to promote. If people have formed that friendship with me and enjoy reading the blog then I think it’s one step closer to them wanting to read my book.

    I’m not saying that blogs or websites sell books but they do IMO sell the author to many readers who may not know who they are otherwise.

    I guess it’s part of networking to me.

  8. Kelly Parra said:

    anon 8:42, Graffiti Girl promotes the beauty of the graffiti style and self-expression, not vandalism. Sorry to hear about your situation!

    Thanks, Word Nerd! 🙂

  9. Lisa Hunter said:

    Hey, Kelly, if you’d like to do an interview on an art blog (a whole different audience, most of us with nieces or sisters to buy presents for), let me know. Graffiti Girl sounds cool.

  10. Anonymous said:

    Dear Kelly,

    I appreciate you chiming in. *s*

    My comment was not about your book (although I live in a southern California neighborhood that is probably much like your MC’s) but about Kristen’s use of the term “graffiti artist.” Anyone who paints on a wall without being asked to do so is a vandal. Period. As for your MC’s exploration of self-expression, well, I certainly hope that the book is not one that encourages more kids to emulate her and spray-paint for “self-expression.” Walls around here are thick with the same, painted over so many times to cover “self-expression” that they look soft and blobby. “Self-expression” has been carved into brand new cement sidewalks, scratched into paint, fences and even garbage bins! They even paint on ivy-covered walls” There may be art done in a “graffiti-inspired style” but, IMNSHO, there are NO “graffiti artists,” as Kristen termed them Kids with spray cans are a horrible problem (I’ve seen 9 and 10 years old on bikes, spraying things to be like the big kids) that depresses property values in areas like mine that are trying to grow.

    Good luck with the book… I know you’ve got a terrific agent, even if she and I disagree on what makes an artist. *s*

  11. Ian said:

    The internet can provide certain lower cost alternatives for publicity and promotion. It also is a leveler of sorts: you don’t need to hire an advertising company to create your own materials or a PR agent either. But going back to the first part of your post, none of it necessarily translates into sales. I’m editing for a small literary press, Hollyridge Press ( We’ve managed to generate a steady stream of daily internet traffic to the site. What’s missing is converting that traffic into steady sales.