MARKETING, WAR TRAIN, AND MCMURTRY
In November of last year, I bought a “marketing package” from a marketing professional in Santa Fe. He offered a package that would advertise Teddy’s War on social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, once a week over a four-week period. It started the week before Teddy’s War was released, which was December 1. I wrote in my blog about it at the time and promised that I would report back on what happened.
I’m reporting back that I wasted my money.
I wanted the marketing effort to lead to increased book sales. At the time I bought the package, I told the marketer that I wanted numbers—which site he advertised on, how often, an estimate of the number of people reached, how many instances of feedback he received, etc. I also told my publisher about the package and asked him to put together the sales numbers from the publishing house’s national distributor for the time period when the marketing effort was going to take place. It takes months of lag time for the sales numbers to tally up correctly across the venues through which the distributor sells its books (including Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other booksellers), so I wouldn’t know the result of the effort until this spring.
Through the software that supports my website (Weebly), I also watched the number of visits to my website on a week-by-week basis. It doesn’t have anything to do with sales, but since the advertisement put up by the marketer referenced my website, any increase in website visits should indicate increased interest in me or my books, and should correlate to increases in orders through Amazon. I also monitored Amazon directly, to see the number of books sold per individual paperback books, but their data does not appear very robust or trustworthy.
Without giving any of the details, the marketer did not do what I thought he was going to do; he did not report any numbers and would probably claim that he couldn’t, which might be true; there were no increases in website visits in the timeframe of the effort; and Amazon did not show any unusual increases in sales during the timeframe of the effort. I decided to not ask my publisher for the sales data (I’ll get them later), and am really annoyed that the sales data are not easily obtainable by authors.
My best estimate is that zero books were bought as a direct result of the marketing of Teddy’s War across the social media platforms. I’m not surprised.
My tenth Mogi Franklin Mystery book finished its last review and edit in January. The story is titled War Train and takes place in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It centers around the Castaneda Hotel while it’s being remodeled, and has a lot of flavor of Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls. It deals with a bank robbery in Las Vegas during the early years of World War II, the subsequent disappearance of the robbers and the money, the restoration and preservation of the hotel, the discovery of a hidden footlocker that’s been locked for 75 years, and an ugly quilt.
The cover is currently being worked on, as is the conversion of the Word document into a printable paperback format. The release date is September 1. The book already appears on Amazon (with no cover) and the story description is good. You can see it by typing in War Train with my name.
I’m working through the manuscript of a new story that is a follow-on to Smoke Dreams. It involves Sam, the kidnapped boy who turned into a great Comanche warrior, after he leaves the Goodnight Ranch in 1884 to search for his sister. A different story begins in 1904 that involves Lucy, Sam’s sister, who was sent to St. Louis after he was kidnapped, and is now married, has kids, and just celebrated her 40th birthday. The story also involves Harry, Lucy’s son, who is twenty, as he travels through New Mexico and Texas, searching for what happened to Sam. I bring Sam and Harry together, reveal what happened to Sam during the years between, and then end the book with an emotional and heartbreaking incident that ties everything together, preserving the principle in the first novel that Lucy never discovered that Sam survived until she died.
If you liked Smoke Dreams, you’ll love this one. You’ll like what the house does, too.
I’m, once again, incessantly rewriting. I am more honest now and recognize that only through iteration do I produce any good writing at all. My strengths are imaginative plotting, interesting characters, describing the scenery, and creating authenticity in characters’ actions; my weaknesses are writing good words, sentences and paragraphs. I put the second draft away for three months, and now find myself with different eyes. I can read it differently and can see inconsistencies, incongruencies, bad word choices, and superfluous passages. It’s exciting and enjoying to change the scenes and words to have more clarity and read better, no matter how bad I feel about having written poorly in the previous draft. Maybe that’s the true reason I rewrite so much—I love the challenge of making it better.
I expect to finish my draft by the end of May, and may give the manuscript to an editor in June. I’m going to self-publish the book through Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing), matching Smoke Dreams, which I self-published in 2013. I don’t yet know what the title will be.
My publisher is improving their marketing strategies. Whether due to COVID or riding the wave of remote meetings, Terra Nova Books started a monthly ZOOM session that features their authors. I was scheduled in December, but because no one registered to attend, I was postponed.
I’m now presenting on April 28th, at 5:00pm, MST. Instead of having an invited audience using my personal email list, my publisher arranged for me to talk at a ZOOM session sponsored by the Santa Fe Public Library. They hold presentations twice a month and have a roster of some hundreds, so it’s probable that I’ll have a good number of attendees whom I do not know. I’m looking forward to it. I will include photographs, so it should be more interesting than just me talking. I wouldn’t even attend if it was just me talking.
You can sign up to attend the ZOOM session at terranovabooks.com. They will be archiving the presentation on YouTube if you want to watch it later.
Larry McMurty died this week. He’s one of my favorite writers and Lonesome Dove is one of my favorite books. He wrote a number of books and screenplays, won a Pulitzer Prize, and was also well-known as a book collector and book seller. In addition to having accumulated a personal library of 30,000 books or so, he started and managed used bookstores around the country. His most impressive and longest-lasting bookstore is in Archer City, a small town in Texas where he lived. He filled five large buildings with a half-million used books.
I visited Archer City in 2005 and found exploring the total collection to be impossible. Each building was stuffed with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves (in rooms with tall ceilings), and each bookshelf was stuffed with books. It was quite a sight.
I was looking for books by Robert Ruark. At the time, nothing was computerized (it still may not be), but the ladies who worked in each building got me to the right building, the right floor, the right corner, and within a foot of where Ruark’s books were located. As it turned out, I only bought a classic set of Sherlock Holmes stories.
I hope to go back, if for nothing more than to pay homage to the man. I read that McMurtry was trying to slim the collection down (from five buildings to one), knowing that his family was going to be left with everything once he died, and not wanting them to be faced with an impossible legacy. I doubt that he started soon enough. If you ever get close (Archer City is about 30 miles southwest of Wichita Falls), it’s worth the visit.
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Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.