My comedic novel set in a pet shelter was unleashed upon the world last July.
Here's the good news. Reviews have been almost universally excellent - four and five stars on Amazon and Goodreads, and even a very nice one from the pros at Kirkus. So, great, right?
Well, not exactly. Truth is, I'm just not selling many books. Here's the dilemma, no doubt one faced by many self-published authors. I'm not reaching my audience. If the book had lousy reviews - or even no reviews - I'd give it up. But people LIKE it, and many absolutely LOVE it.
So I'm seeking help: I need some fresh ideas to market the book without bankrupting myself.
Before you start to make suggestions, I'm going to outline what I've done so far.
Twitter: I've strategically acquired nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, most of whom are animal lovers and/or avid readers. I promote the book regularly on Twitter, and send new Twitter followers a welcome message containing a link to the book on Amazon. Plus, I engage my readers daily with witty, fun, thoughtful content. And Twitter, my friends, has been the sole successful effort to date. Nearly all my readers come to the book via Twitter. I definitely need to diversify, which I'm trying to do. Read on.
Facebook: Created separate Facebook page for the book, and post there as well as on my regular page.
Goodreads: Contacted top reviewers, mainly women, and requested reviews. A few did so, with mostly glowing reviews. Results: some sales, I guess. Not tons.
Amazon: The mother of them all. Like Goodreads, sent review requests to top reviewers who seemed a good fit. Again, received great reviews. Enough to generate business? Nah.
Pinterest: Have a bunch of followers there, and the book is part of my profile.
Women's interest e-newsletters
Sent the actual book or link to Amazon page to: Daily Candy, Pure Wow, Urban Daddy, Fab, Joyous, Hello Giggles (Zooey Deschanel's site) and Rookie. Guess the outcome.
Sent review requests to People, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle and even The New York Times (now there's a waste of postage).
This is in a category all its own. I read in the NYTimes that founder of BuzzFeed was funding his daughter's new animal focused website The Dodo. So I sent said daughter a copy of the book, and The Dodo featured a story I wrote about my dog on the site, with a link to the book's Amazon page. Guess I sold a few extra copies the days the story was featured.
Did readings at two local stores. Frankly, don't have time to pursue this further and doubt it would do much for me. I also sent the book to one or two well-known independent bookstores around the country. Zilch.
Blurb and PR requests
Sent copies of the paperback to around sixty celebrities who are known animal lovers (yes, including Ellen DeGeneres) and to chick-lit writers, asking them to write a blurb for the book - or even, in some cases, option it for the movies. Yes, I have delusions of grandeur. Result: I received a lovely, handwritten note from author Meg Cabot, informing me that she was no longer doing blurbs, but wishing me luck, and - TA DA - an envelope containing nothing but an autographed picture of Charlize Theron.
I approached animal oriented charities - ASPCA, The Humane Society, PETA and the World Wildlife Fund - offering to donate to them a percentage of the profits from sales of the book if they would promote it on their websites. All turned me down, though PETA does have an online store where I can list the book for $500. I'm considering it.
I sent copies of the book to PETCO, Petsmart and a few other national pet supply stores to see if they would carry the book. All declined. Also tried a few local independents - same result.
I tried my local veterinarian's office,which is part of the VCA chain. They said they couldn't make the decision to carry the book, and that I would need to approach VCA's national headquarters. I did so, and contacted the other big veterinary chain, Banfield, as well. Never heard from either - and yes, I did make follow-up phone calls.
Sent copies of the book to a few columnists who write about animals. Nada.
What I've considered and haven't done
Placed copies of the book on subway seats and in airport waiting areas with a note asking finders to post reviews and/or spread the word any way they could in exchange for the free book. Any thoughts on this?
So, bottom line. I've done every free thing I can think of. Please share with me your ideas (whether more unpaid things or things I'd have to pay for) so that I can help my little baby find the audience it deserves. You can post here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUGE THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO READS THIS, BOUGHT ANIMAL CRACKER, OR MAKES A SUGGESTION.