Monday, February 2, 2015


In my January 5 blog, I promised this first Monday of the month 2015 blog will follow (1) a year of marketing efforts: Marketing Plan, Implementation, and Results; and, (2) your (to the extent you share them via e-mail or comment) and my marketing efforts over the year.

Results:   Right off the bat, I realize that while results are the product (we hope) of plan and implementation, they need to come first, now that we are up and running.  The reason is something I did not mention last month, but that came up immediately because my January blog resulted in 4 comments, 1 e-mail exchange, and 1 request for a blog-interview. 

In that blog-interview, Tom Rizzo’s Story Teller 7, I answered, “In work, there is a  ‘Production Function.’  All it means is if you do something you get a result. For example, if you write 500 words a day, you get a novel.  So, just that one blog led to four comments, one exchange of e-mails, and this opportunity.” 

Another result was the very substantial contribution by Charlie Steel to the implementation paragraph below.

In short, what we are all trying to do is increase our production function!

Marketing Plan: The question that continues to plague me, and I think other writers, is simply: How do you create a marketing plan that really works?  There are too many things to do and you cannot really know how any of them work for you until you do them -- a state of affairs that leads inevitably to wasted time and frustration.  The alternative is to do nothing, a marketing plan that inevitably leads to … doing nothing.  So, one of the things we do is look for help.

I am going to indulge in a one-time-only bout of complaining.  This month I am going to complain about the rather large industry out there that is designed to make money off writers in the guise of pretending to help writers make money.   We are all mature, consenting adults, so we are responsible for our own protection.  In the end, I am suggesting nothing more than caution and prudence more for the use of your time than even for the waste of your money.  I have long since been suspicious that my subscription to Writer’s Digest was nothing more than an annual payment for the privilege of receiving solicitations. 

So, For One Month Only, like one of their screaming solicitations that arrive daily in my e-mail inbox, I thought I would test my perception for purposes of talking about where to turn to help for marketing plans.  I have accumulated and segregated all the e-mails I have received from Writer’s Digest or one of its affiliates or partners since 1:00 am Central Standard Time, January 5, 2015.  I complete this analysis at 6 pm Sunday night, 2/1/15, and attest to you ---what was that I said about arrive daily? Twenty-eight days, counting the day of publication, and 73 e-mails have arrived.  58 of them held as their subject a solicitation. 10 held useful content in the subject line and on the first page right up to a Read More that when clicked, you guessed it, offered to sell you something. 5 held out a proposed service that, once you clicked past the subject heading, became a solicitation.   

In the spirit of soliciting real interaction with this blog, I invite all of you to send me some tangible help you have received from Writer’s Digest in your career – and at what cost.  For example the analysis mentioned above cost me 28 days of surveillance and two hours of analysis.  Good value for this blog, but only once!  You do not need to mention whether or not you paid cash for it, just note the kind of help they provided you.

I will start it off.  I bought one of their best sellers, Create Your Writer Platform, $16.99 plus shipping.  Rather than focus on my negative reaction to being talked down to, I will focus on my positive reaction to Duke Pennell’s enormously instructive and useful admonition:  “A writer needs fans.”  Aha! That’s what they mean by a platform.

Implementation:   I admit it I am looking for an agent.  While I am trying to figure out how to maximize the productivity of my search, I have joined Query Tracker.  I will report on how useful that turns out to be.

The most interesting how- to-get-things-done discussion this month comes from an exchange with Charlie Steel resulting from last month’s blog.  Charlie commented: “Edward, …My best books sales have always been a free presentation about the WEST, a slide show, a reading of a story, and finally a sing-along of Western songs with me playing guitar. (At a senior resort, housing, library, clubs, etc.)”

My response: “Charlie, One of the problems I am trying to identify is how to get the event set up. Would you send me an e-mail about how you cause ‘free presentations’ to occur.”

Charlie did just that in step-by-step detail that he also asked me to keep confidential as he considers it proprietary.  In my promise to do so, I asked him, however, if I could quote what I thought was the most significant – and not proprietary – insight.  He agreed: 

“My experience.  Before speaking, very few in the audience would buy a book.  After being entertained and making a connection with the audience, well over 70% buy a book.

Booking an engagement is the MOST difficult part of doing a FREE speaking engagement.   (…)

Prepare a promotion letter, offering to make a free speech at the church, senior citizen housing, veteran group, library, etc., where you wish to speak.  And, mail them out.  Include email and telephone number.  Or, solicit speaking engagements with a cold phone call to the facility but make sure to have prepared statement.”

What I read in Charlie’s formula is simple:  Do the damn work!  I must admit I get depressed and exhausted, so these words are somewhat inspiring to me. 

An actual plan that got implemented during the month:  Pen-L Publishing’s Kindle Promotion. Pen-L dropped the Kindle price to 99 cents on all books in their catalogue and asked Pen-L authors to promote them down their channels.  They are willing to share with us that “seventeen days into our promotion, of the 40 titles included in the sale, 30 have attracted buyers who purchased 358 Kindles since January 14. The range per title is 1 to 30, with one outlier who did a paid promotion and simultaneously promoted at two sites (eReaderNewsToday and Kindle Books Today) and sold 153 copies.”  My personal result was 3.  I am still working down my channels.  I think sending your love for Valentine’s Day in a tangible way with a Kindle book is an idea that can’t be beaten.  Take a look at Pen-L’s page.  You’ll see a lot of old friends as well as maybe some new ones.  Kissing 10 girls for less than ten bucks is a great deal in my mind.  If you like it, you might want to try it with your own books.

It became my personal challenge finally to get something going on Facebook.  I still have Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and others to do.  I continue to resist them as a time sump, but it looks to me like it is working for someone.


  1. Thanks, Edward, for such a comprehensive post. Marketing, of course, is the magic ingredient--the sprinkle of pixie dust--involved in selling stories.But marketing needs an audience to target the marketing. The foundation of such an effort, I believe, involves building an audience of loyal readers (through various available channels) so marketing efforts have at least a chance of succeeding rather than a process akin to "cold calling."

  2. "Building an audience of loyal readers." Wonderful. What a powerful and simple goal for a marketing plan.

  3. No one on planet earth works harder at his wonderful blog than Mr. Tom Rizzo. HOW he does it is the key. It's always good stuff and his StoryTeller7 interviews (some being turned into a book) leave a wonderful and important legacy for us all.

    What a didactic mind you have Mr. Massey. Wow, it takes a moment to digest what you say here and what an undertaking! You are also very upfront and honest.

    I wonder, as you already said, writing book after book after book may be the big key to fame and perhaps fortune. When you Google Livia J. Washburn/Reasoner, James Reasoner, Robert Randisi, and so many other writers with long lists of titles, their listings of articles about them go on page after page after page, forever. The only way to do that is to do what they did---write books over a lifetime. AND, unfortunately for most of us, we're near the end, and that is just NOT going to happen. Still, we can try.

    For me, as I have said many times, I have written many completed manuscripts but I refuse to have them published without a complete and comprehensive edit. My editor I work with is mostly busy so it is a long slow process.

    Your blogs as to how to approach marketing are interesting. I'm impressed that you continue at it and that you are keeping us informed.

  4. Fascinating. As both and author and entertainer your words do resonate. As the member of organizations that look for speakers, I know first hand that speaking does work help saes. I l look forward to your next post and what you will impart. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

  5. Nice post, Edward. In my experience you and Charlie have it right when you talk about building a brand and a deep backlist. I heard a young (and moderately successful) writer with a few books under his belt ask Thriller novelist Jeffery Deaver what the two of them were doing differently since Deaver was so much more successful. Deaver smiled and said, "Last I checked, I'm nineteen books ahead of you."
    Every new (well-written) story can add a few more readers to your fan base, as I'm sure James, Livia, Frank, Bob and others can attest.
    I read your post with great interest because this is something that I think about all the time. I've read a half a dozen books on guerrilla marketing and the main thing I've learned is to market a brand instead of just a title. There has to be something to make an author stand out in the middle of all this crazy cacophony of thousands of stories streaming onto the internet.
    Many of my Facebook friends are fellow writers. Because of this, I am bombarded with information about new books--many of them Romances, allowing for much head shaking by my sons, military, and Thriller-writing friends when they look at my FB feed. Since these are my friends, I am happy to see their success, but I wonder how people feel when they get too many posts from me asking them to buy my book or read something I wrote. I'm always fearful that they will feel like you do about Writers Digest. Here comes some guy wanting to sell me something else.
    To the extent possible, I try to do my marketing subtly, chatting on message boards with like minded people--in my case about motorcycle touring, law enforcement, shooting sports, and other adventurous stuff--going so far as to give a way a few copies to my friends that I make in these forums, turning them into a sort of "street team" of readers that take the message of my brand (books, characters and me) out there. An important note here is that they have actually become my friends, not just minions selling my books. I rode part of the Alaska Highway on motorcycles with one of them and keep in close contact with many about many things besides my books.
    I really don't like signings. They seem, for me, a lesson in humility. I sat next to a NYT Best Selling Author at a signing in Long Beach last fall. Neither of us sold enough books to pay for lunch. If I do an event, like Charlie mentioned--though I tell a few war stories instead of singing--I do much better than a simple sit-at-a-table signing. But the main thing a signing does is allow me to talk about an event instead of the book itself on social media. A little less in your face because I am just asking for people to drop by and visit while I'm in town. If they happen to be a thousand miles away, I still got to mention the book to them. I've heard from a readers as far away as New Zealand, telling me they're sorry they can't make it to Texas for an event.
    Anyway, I could go on and on but the amount of marketing an author must do was a huge surprise to me, especially someone who has been used to living under the radar for thirty years.
    Thanks for getting me thinking about this some more.

  6. Great post, Edward. I don't do signings anymore, either. A total waste of time, and really deflating. I spend a lot of time (probably too much) on Facebook.

    Like you, I think Writers' Digest just loves me for my money. They're not getting any more of mine. A lot of the "tips" they give on those newsletter advertisements are things anyone would know to do--not anything truly informative.

    I hate marketing. I wish there was a magic genie to make it all just "happen".

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