I am always curious about marketing and different ways to get attention for books of all shapes and sizes. Katie Davis does an amazing job with promotion for all of her titles, and her latest effort in self-publishing is especially timely and fascinating. I interviewed her about Little Chicken's Big Christmas, a companion to the traditionally published Little Chicken's Big Day, written with her husband Jerry, and she had some great ideas to share:
MW: What made you want to go the indie route with Little Chicken's Big Christmas?
Katie: Suddenly I started seeing Little Chicken in a Santa hat kind of almost covering his eyes. Just as suddenly in mid-October I told Jerry we should do a Christmas book with Little Chicken. You can only do an indie book that fast! And if we were going to publish that quickly, why not try to help other writers, too, and do it as a marketing experiment? It's a reciprocal opportunity. Other writers are learning how to launch their own books, learning from my mistakes, missteps, and successes, and it's a three-part process, as the first part in an effort that will be repeated for my next indie eBook, the second edition of How to Promote Your Children's Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller. I've re-written it with new content, a bunch of additional chapters and information. I'm launching that on all my social media platforms: my Site, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, My Podcast and it will again have a limited signup time, just like this one did. (The third segment of the experiment will happen in the spring for my traditionally published young adult novel, Dancing With The Devil, published by Diversion Books.)
Jerry: The Christmas story is related to the indie route. We had to get an enormous amount of work done incredibly fast and we knew we'd make ourselves crazy getting it done. Now, Little Chicken has attitude and I love that. He does go along with his mom's running around and Christmas errands, but he *is* a kid and gets impatient! And from that kid point of view, the holiday season and all that hustle and bustle is crazy! The kids are focused on the presents. Little Chicken is impatient at times, but is enjoying the traditions despite himself. Spoiler alert: in the end we learn that Little Chicken's impatience is from a completely loving and selfless place so we get to underscore the importance of giving and expressing love and family during the holiday season, no matter how crazy things get. What better reason to make our own selves crazy getting that indie book out?
MW: Was it easy to upload/format?
Katie: It was more important to get the book done than learn how to format it ourselves and since we were under the gun time-wise, we interviewed a bunch of places and finally I found a woman we paid to do it. Sometimes you need to hire people to do stuff you don't have time to do. My Launch Team will have access to the entire process, and so will the next team, which I'll open up when I'm ready to launch the next edition and vastly expanded How to Promote Your Children's Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller. People can already sign up for that team by clicking here.
First I created a mailing list and within a week had well over 125 people signed up. I announced it on my blog and explained that I was having an e-book come out Thanksgiving and that sales would be over by December 26. I thought it would be the perfect marketing experiment in a bottle. My launch team members would learn all my methods and then be able to use them for themselves. They'd be able to use my strategies for their own launches, repeat my successes, and (bonus!) avoid my mistakes!
I sent each team member a review copy and ask them to post an honest review on Amazon. It was very important that it had to be honest or it would mean nothing. I asked them to social media-ize it, too. I, in turn, would show my appreciation by thanking them with awesome thank you presents. There will be a raffle for a guest spot on my podcast and since I get an average 2200 impressions per episode, it's good promotion for the winner. They could also swap that for an hour of my consultation services. There're also other thank you gifts that members received just for posting their reviews.
It's been a fascinating experiment, and one I'm still monitoring. I wanted to see how reviews - that is, social proof - effected buying. However, this experiment won't mean anything until the results come in from the second and third experiments, because this is only part one. This being a picture book, it will be a much different result from the guide mentioned above, and a novel (my young adult novel, Dancing with the Devil). And of course, this is still all kind of subjective, since the team members will be different (pb peeps v. marketing guide peeps v. YA peeps) AND they're all MY books and MY efforts. Someone else would have a different book to promote, do the promotions differently, have different ideas, and different outcome.
MW: What "creative marketing techniques" did you try? Which worked best, as far as you can tell?
Katie: As I said, we won't know the true effect until later in the month when the sales figures come in and even later after parts one and two are done. And again, because this is a picture book I will only know part one of the results - rather, one aspect, really.
But basically the entire idea was to see the effect of social proof. When people see that you have over 100 reviews they may think that book must be really good book and perhaps decide to buy it. Social proof is kind of like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Imagine you're on the street and you see a crowd of people all hovering around something and you hear cheers and oohs and aahs - you want to go across the street and see what they're all looking at ... social proof is the same idea. That's why I went for the reviews.
Another creative marketing technique is The Write Your Own Coloring Book promotion. When a buyer submits his or her receipt to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, he or she will be sent a link to download the entire Little Chicken's Big Christmas in coloring book form - but without the text, so the child can create an entirely new narrative. This is very cool because not only will the buyer benefit by getting a gift with purchase, but the child receiving the gift will, too, as will I, by building my mailing list and know who is interested in my work, and I can keep them updated when more books come out.
MW: How did you decide on the price for the book?
Katie: I simply looked at the prices of other books. I actually didn't do this for the money - that is for next year - this time I wanted to see what would happen if I did this or that. I wanted to sell a lot of copies, so I priced it low in the beginning. Every time I raised the price I offered an incentive, like the coloring book example, above. I've made some really stupid mistakes, too! The phrase "epic fail" doesn't come close! I will be sharing those and my numbers with my teams and I'll be comparing the numbers to the launches of the guide and of my young adult book, Dancing With The Devil. Because that one is traditionally published I won't have any say over the price but these are three such completely different kinds of books, so I think the comparison between them will make for a super interesting experiment in the end.
MW: What advice would you give to other authors who are considering this route with books, children's books especially?
Katie: I try to coach my marketing clients to be creative, and fear no failure! There's nothing we can't do now. You're only limited by your imagination and your lack of trying.