29 Jul 2010
Drawing on his own experience, Nicholas Storey shows how blogging can substantially increase book sales.
Reading David Craig’s promotion of Google AdWords, in his article dated 22nd June 2010, prompted me to suggest an article about my own recent experience with a free internet-based advertising vehicle to which AdWords can be applied. But first some background.
In 2006, I sent Andrew Lownie the script for the book that became History of Men’s Fashion: What The Well Dressed Man Is Wearing (Pen & Sword Books, 2008). By early 2007 he had sold it. From the time of his enthusiastic reception of the script, he kept suggesting that I should have a website on which to promote the book (and those which, as it happens, are following it). I resisted for several purported reasons, all of which just amounted to readily manufactured excuses for inaction: cost; daily upkeep and effort; time, and untested doubts over the efficacy of a dedicated site.
The result of this extended procrastination by me, stretching over years, is that, although the first book has been critically well received (from Esquire to Maxim and Country Life), it has not sold as well as Andrew and I had hoped that it might. Most published writers will know that, unless they are one of the ‘celebrities’ of the modern world, or they have somehow already created their own publicity by a spectacular stunt, publicizing publications is largely left up to the authors themselves, on a long haul, which can be irritating, because although the authors own the contents, the actual books are the publishers’ products and the publishers take most of the profits from our free-wheeling promotional endeavours to sell the books. But this is the way that it is.
I have been a member of various internet fora (such as www.thelondonlounge.net) for some time and built a reputation in the area of men’s dress and lifestyle. A fortnight ago, I noticed that some other members have set up internet sites and blogs and were going on their own so I looked further into what they were doing. The first important thing that I found was that many of them were using a host called www.blogspot.com , so I looked it up. It is free.
You can build your own blog there, by following simple on-line instructions, from background colours and designs, to all the extra ‘gadgets’, such as visitor counters and statistics. There are links that you can use to give portals to direct sales’ outlets for your books (using the ghastly-sounding ‘monetise’ options), such as the amazon sites, www.bookdepository.com (which, incidentally, seems flavour of the moment with readers because they often offer discounts and worldwide free shipping) and the publishers’ own sites. Some of these direct sales’ links can actually earn you useful commission from the vendor for each book sold, which can amount to more than your royalty payment from the publisher. There are also other links that you can make to other blogs and internet sites of interest.
I designed my blog www.thenakedapegetsdressed.blogspot.com in a couple of days and have posted like fury to get it moving - and it has certainly been noticed. Someone with a bought website has mentioned me, my first book and my blog by name and so anyone searching any of these will hit his reference. This is important as general searches using words in your site might not otherwise pick it up. Then, of course, there is the advice in the article on Google Adwords, already mentioned.
This means that I am assured of some hits and everyday they come in droves and from all over the world: in a satisfying mix of both ‘new’ visitors and ‘returns’. The visitors come mainly from links that they have found on other sites (of which I am a member), such as www.aneasyandelegantlife.com ; www.thelondonlounge.net . I have statistics showing, in incredible detail, where my visitors are located; how long they are on my site, and the depth of each visit. I can even identify some individuals by what I already know of their identities, locations and profiles and find some amusement in the fact that I can track my ‘competitors’ tracking me in the field.
All this comes from signing up to www.web-stat.com, which is free for a thirty day trial and then subject to a small charge but there are similar systems that are totally free; just search ‘free web counters’. Today, I know that I have had visits from, amongst others: Buenos Aires, London, Lisbon, Tokyo, Florida, Illinois, Moscow, Texas, Hessen (Germany), Warwickshire, Los Angeles, British Columbia, Slovenia, Australia, Norway and K.L.. No doubt, I might have come across these people on members’ fora but I could not have had such direct impact on them, but for my blog.
What do I find that appeals to readers? I have noticed that readers like personal touches and so the little essay on my blog ‘Burlington Bertie – Or Tramp For A Night’ has amused several people. They also like the profiles of certain individuals that I have made, such as Jack Buchanan, Rudolph Valentino and Ray Milland. There has been interest from owners of lifestyle websites and enthusiastic support from one of New York’s leading trial lawyers, who mentioned in a comment that he had enjoyed my first book. There have also been encouraging noises to publish my second and third books and I know, largely from threads on other sites, that the blog is enjoyed and has resulted in sales of my book.
The blog is also enjoyable to compile, and there are no upper or lower limits on content or even frequency of entries but the most important thing is that the site is actually selling my books; it has even kick-started pre-sales of my second book, through Book Depository, which is not due for publication until January 2011 (History of Men’s Accessories).
Therefore, I suggest that there is much in Andrew Lownie’s advice to authors to have a website and, whether you go with his first choice of a bespoke site (for which I am sure that much may be said), or you choose to try this really very satisfying option of www.blogspot.com (or, as Jeffrey Archer, a combination of both), you will not regret it.