Friday, January 25, 2013

Where do your marketing dollars go?

Update: Two-and-a-half years after it was published, this is STILL one of the most popular posts on this site, indicating that inquiring minds want to know how to spend their money for the best ROI for their books. I have since found some methods that I consider somewhat foolproof for selling at least a couple hundred books, quickly. Subscribe to the Murder Lab Report and I'll send them to you. 
Cheers,
Murder Lab Mistress

In response to my decision to self-publish, a conversation was sparked that weighs the benefits and advantages of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.  Please feel free to contribute your thoughts and experiences, positive or negative, with either traditional or self-publishing.

In this discussion, Sara McBride asks the questions:
1. Self-publishing route: If I have $5000 to put into marketing my book, where should I focus my efforts?
2. Traditional (meaning a small to medium press, not necessarily a "big six"): What kind of budget does a medium indy press devote to marketing, and where does a press focus its efforts?
Personally, I believe in the mantra, "it's better to close one's mouth and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."  So rather than attempting to answer Sara's questions, I leave this task to the experts.  One such expert is Sunny Frazier, acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press.  We will shortly be creating a publishing tab on this site, which will feature Sunny and OTP.  In the meantime, please check out both and feel free to "press" them with further publishing questions.  Sunny's answers to Sara's question follow..

If you have $5000 in your coffers for marketing, you have about $4075 more than the rest of us! Look, writers are the ultimate starving artists and usually have a "real" job to support their writing.

First, don't give any of that cash away to some promotion outfit. There are so many people making money off of clueless authors--that's how they make their money. I push free marketing venues, and with so many sites on the Internet, why is anyone paying for exposure?

Instead, get a website if you don't already have one up and running. Plenty of templates on the Internet to use. If you don't have the technical skills for one or find it a hassle (like me--lazy!), find a web person. I have a terrific webmistress (check my website out; her name is at the bottom and she's a gem: http://www.sunnyfrazier.com. She can ensure that your name pops up first when people google you. She sets you up with a URL. I pay about $100 yearly to keep my URL. She designs the site and works with you until you are happy with it. Both the charges are tax exemptions.

In fact, invest in a tax person who will bother to learn the codes for authors. Yes, we have different paperwork. My tax lady studied for a year when I informed her I was getting published.

Then, use the rest of the money to go to conventions. NOT writing conferences. I'm assuming you're writing mysteries. Only go to mystery conventions. My first one, I connected with J.A. Jance, who became my mentor. Sue Grafton and I hung out at a smaller one. Network like crazy. Stay in the conference hotel, the action happens on a moments notice (especially in the bar). One convention will eat up that budget. Find people to carpool and room with. You won't be spending any time in the room except to crash from exhaustion. Watch how authors handle panels and then try to get on a panel once your book is out. This is the only way you get a signing at the event. Eat as much free food as you can. Sign up for the Saturday sessions only if you want. Friday is usually just social as people are flying in, Sunday, people rush to get home.

There are large and small conventions all over the country. The Big Daddy is Bouchercon. This year it's in New York, I believe. Malice Domestic doesn't move around, it's always in DC. That's the cozy convention. Left Coast Crime is always somewhere west of the Rockies, this year in Colorado Springs. Love Is Murder is on next week in Chicago. Killer Nashville is more for beginning authors like yourself, different from the fan conventions listed above. Next year, we in California hit gold as we get both Bcon (Long Beach) and LCC (Monterey).

Join Sisters in Crime National and find a local chapter. This is where you will eventually do lots of signings. There are chapters all over the country and they are always looking for speakers. Join several. I'm in three. Men are always welcomed, we refer to them as "Mister Sisters." Don't tell Sarah Peretsky, she's is rabid about their inclusion.

Find cheap marketing give-aways. Postcards are passe. I plant something in my books that I can bounce off of for a promotional item. Boxes of raisins, astrology pencils and fortune cookies with my name and book title in fortune cookies for "Fools Rush In." Amber pill bottles with candy hearts and a "prescription" label with my book cover and title pasted on. Red licorice whips (Red Vines) because "Where Angels Fear" is about sex clubs and has a whip on the cover. Authors love anything edible. I've got hourglass pens and will be looking for turkey items at Thanksgiving to promote my next book, "A Snitch In Time."  There are lots of fun sites to order this stuff. Keep it cheap. Be creative.

Order a cake with your book cover on it for your launch party. That's another expense when the time comes.

Don't buy books on marketing. They are old news as soon as they are published. This industry changes. Don't do what others are doing. Be unique. At conventions, go to the freebie table and see what other authors have come up with.

Oh yeah, that other question. Budget? Whatever we can scrape up. Most don't have a PR department. My publisher, Oak Tree, now has a woman who does it. Jeana handles the bookstore notifications, designs promo pages to send out, releases announcements, keeps a list of reviewers and sends out ARCs and the catalog. The publisher springs for ads in convention books and sometimes pays for business cards for the authors and entry fees for award contests. I do grass roots marketing using all my connections and I've developed the Friday Round-Up on the OTP blog. I also work individually with authors and keep an eye out for promotional opportunities for them. I do it for free.

Anymore questions?
Just one.  Readers, how do YOU market your books?
                  

41 comments:

  1. I'm working on two different series, both mysteries and both for children or young adults. For my non-existent but soon to be series with my characters being the driving force of the series, I've not really done much marketing because I don't know what direction to take it yet. The only thing I can promote about the first book is that readers have likened my characters to Nancy Drew, and that I need to write more stories with the characters. I'm in the process of a writing contest to spark ideas from 4th grade and up students.

    My other series is a state related series so I try to attend as a vendor homeschool conferences, teacher conferences, librarian conferences and the occasional book festival. Also do fun state related workshops or at least related to my books at most of these conferences - depending on my audience.

    I use Oriental Trading to get inexpensive bulk items that are state related to use as giveaways. I use gotprint.com for my bookmarks and occasionally will do the freebies from vistaprint such as the banners and car magnets.

    My biggest expense is the cost of the booth rentals and travel and some days it's all I can do to get to an event. I would love to see someone pick up my state series again since I can't afford to pay my illustrator with the hopes of gaining some distribution to schools. But that's another fish to fry.

    Anyway, those are some of my marketing techniques and one of these days my name will be out there. E :-)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of Finally Home, a middle grade/YA mystery
    http://elysabethsstories.blogspot.com
    http://eeldering.weebly.com

    Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery, trivia series
    http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com
    http://jgdsseries.weebly.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We all love Vista Print and Oriental Traders. I go online and research to find other items when I get an idea. Two other favorite outlets are Zazzle.com and ULine Custom Labels. They will send you their catalog.

      Travel, conference fees, hotels and cost of booths will always be a major expense. Keep those credit cards handy! Once you are established, people are often willing to give you venues for free, pay your expenses and even pay you to show up! That's when this business becomes fun and profitable.

      Delete
  2. Great post, Sunny! I'm taking this one to fiction workshop students.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Melodie, I followed your blogs but couldn't find any contact info. Give a shout if you'd like some more visibility! Cheers,
      Kris

      Delete
  3. Great post as usual Sunny! I live in the same neighborhood that J.A. Jance used to live in and our kids went to the same schools. I worked full time and didn't meet many people outside of work, so my kids knew her kids but she and I never met. I didn't start writing until I stopped working full time, and by then she had moved. So close. So far away. Your tip on the conventions vs writing conferences and also on Sisters in Crime were right on! I need a tax person I guess - now.

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    1. Judy was one of my early idols (love the Beaumont series) and she showed concern at my mother's death when we ran into each other at a convention. I stayed with her and her agent when she was taken to the hospital at the San Diego Bouchercon. She came to Fresno twice to do booksignings just because I asked. The woman is incredible. I haven't seen her in years, but hope to spend time at a future conference with her.

      When you meet her, she's going to love the fact that your children knew each other.

      Delete
  4. Elysabeth, I've used Oriental Trading as well. I've found lots of stuff in the "I'm not perfect" section that work as freebies. Handing them out one-to-one seems to help people remember me.

    I've been going to SF&F conventions, since I write fantasy, but that's expensive for travel, sell-space and lodging.

    I've tried some blog tours,which have brought me a good number of reviews on Amazon, but not many sales, based on rank.

    Goodreads is a good place to find readers, though I haven't learned everything there is to know about using it. I have run a give-away of a small paperback story collection I self-published there as a way to build awareness of my novel.

    If you are published by a small press, you don't know immediately if your efforts are paying off. i've put about $300 total into promotion for the last three months, but I've only see sales and royalties fro the second quarter of last year (Apr-Jaun 2012). Self publishers have an advantage of being able to track direct effects of sales.

    Everyone says you need to find your audience. I'm looking through the UBC to see where my audience might blog.

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  5. Excellent article! You are one smart lady! I hope you make a zillion $$$ and soon!! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

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  6. Question 1: How do small presses get bookstore placements? They can't throw marketing dollars around like the Big 5. Is it even worth trying to get a single title, spine-out, on a shelf in B&N?

    Question 2: How does a small press do its online marketing? Is it mostly through paid ads, and if so, which sites are the most productive? Are Facebook ads worth the money, or is it better to spend ad dollars on Goodreads (or whatever)? I've already done the website/Facebook/Kindleboards/Author Central drill, so I'm looking for new ideas.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. What bookstores?

      Big chains have never been behind POD presses. Many small publishers won't take returns and so bookstores don't want to deal with them. In my small town, I've sold books on consignment at the flower shop, stationary shop, tourist board and tea shop.

      Are you involved with American Legion? That's a buying audience for your novels. Many organizations are looking for speakers--have you tried the Elks, Lions Club, libraries?

      A small press has to watch its pennies, so we don't spring for ads unless we know we aren't going to be buried. If we have authors going to conventions, we'll take out an ad. But, most of these events have freebie tables to put promotional items out for the taking.

      You're looking for new ideas, Lance? Okay, here's one. I tried to google you and your name did not immediately pop up. You allow people into your "Wombat Burrow" but you don't give out your email for easy contact.You get no replies to your blog. I went on Face Book and could not "friend" you. Are you trying to be hard to reach? Because I was going to suggest you send me a manuscript as I'm also a military vet (go Navy!) but just decided not to. Your platform is incomplete, your promotion is a one-way street.

      You sell books by making very personal contact with potential fans. I think you have distanced yourself and assume others will do the work for you.

      Delete
    2. A comment and a question:

      I have to defend Lance for a moment because he has been completely interactive and supportive on this site. I assume it's the same elsewhere as well.

      So my question: what *is* the trick for coming up first in a Google Search? If you search for Kristen Elise PhD, I'm golden but a search for just plain old Kristen Elise reveals a nude model who is clearly more popular than I am. For everyone's info, that is NOT me, by the way.

      Cheers!

      Delete
    3. As to getting your name to come up near the top or number one spot is a mystery. I know a lot has to do with search engine keywords. You just have to make sure your readers only associate your name with the PhD behind it. When you search, are you at least on the first page? You can always use the model's existence to your advantage by making sure to note that when folks look for you that you are not the model in a tactful way. My name shows up on several things but its not a normal name either. E :-)

      Elysabeth Eldering
      Author of Finally Home, a middle grade/YA mystery

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    4. Sunny --

      I just Googled myself and my website came up at the top of the results list. LinkedIn is second, my interview on SheWrites is third, my Twitter feed is fourth, and my Facebook author page is fifth. In fact, the entire first three pages of Google hits are me. I get similar results on Yahoo. (BTW: the top four Google hits for "Doha 12" link to my novel, so that one works, too.) Based on this, I can't comment on why your results are so dramatically different from mine. Did you spell my name correctly?

      Several people have managed to "like" my FB author page, and a few others have commented on my blog, so I know those work. I have a contact form on the "About" page in my website if someone really wants to email me. Otherwise, there are more than enough other ways they can use to talk to me.

      Delete
    5. I clicked on the name on this post, although I can't figure out why you didn't include your last name. Do you want to remain a mystery?

      I have the first 40 pages on google last time I checked. 400 hits. Try harder.

      A few people comment on your blog? Most of mine got over 80.

      Linked In, Twitter, She Writes, Face Book--how generic is all that??? At least you didn't put down Good Reads.

      You think you're trying, but you are making minimal effort in my mind. You're doing the same thing everyone else is doing.

      You asked for new ideas. Do you want to be in my Posse? Do you want to work? Or, do you feel what you're doing now is successful?

      Yes, Elysabeth, it's all about keywords. However the magic is done, I leave that up to my webmistress. Which is why I suggest an expert if you don't know all the ins and outs. Well worth the money.

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    6. To get better placement on Google for your name/genre etc you have to set up Google Plus Profile and connect it with your blog. It's not hard, especially if you have WordPress as your site. It's new evolution of SEO and it's Google Author Rank. Just google it to learn more and it will show you how to connect it.

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  7. Hi Sunny, Enjoyed your hints. Because of physical problems, I'm now down to doing most of my promoting online, and there are scads of places to do that. My favs are those that are purely there to show readers what books are out there and to let writers put their books on the site free. I also blog and recently changed from blogger to Word Press for more bang for my buck. The free site is more like a website, though tough to learn the ins and outs. My website is hosted by Author's Guild, which means $90 a year membership fee but I have full rein over it. or is that reign? Depends on if you're western or not. Thanks for this post.

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    1. Velda,
      I haven't had a chance to spill some awesome promotional news for Western authors. You are going to LOVE it! One of my contacts sent me a list of Western radio stations where they are looking for speakers like you. I'll be emailing you soon.

      You're absolutely right, you can't get on the Internet without stumbling across a zillion sites just looking to promote you. Plus, the Posse constantly passes around info on review and interview sites. You have a loyal following and that's why I want you with Oak Tree.

      Delete
  8. Don't forget book fairs and book festivals. The San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival is coming up in February (West Covina, Calif.). Many times they'll give you a table at no charge (although not always). I did two vendor events last year, too. Pick and choose and research the type of crowd they expect. One vendor event was awesome, and the other featured Santa Clause. The crowd at the second one was young parents with small children and they weren't interested in books. Just a couple of ideas that give you good exposure. Oh, and don't forget blogging. Wonderful post, Sunny!
    Marja McGraw

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  9. Love this post. This industry is changing so fast that it's nearly impossible to keep up. So why bother trying? Do something new. Sunny is right - don't pay someone to do your promotions. Likely you'll never sell enough books re recover that cost. Instead, become your own marketing department. Website - check. Sign in front of house announcing that your local author has a new book out - check. Visits to the local assisted living facility to get to know the people hanging around the library - check. Be creative. If you went with a big publisher, your book would have about three months to shine or get mulched. The smaller presses have a nearly infinite timeline, and when you partner with them, you have your whole life to tell everyone about your book.

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  10. Wow, a ton of great ideas and new faces. Thanks so much all for all of the great contributions. Newbies, please feel free to introduce yourselves on the "New Members Start Here" tab, so your contact info will forever be immortalized and other members can find you. Cheers!

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  11. Brilliant post, Sunny. I especially appreciate your warning against hiring promotion experts. In all the years I've been in this changing business I've never seen an author recover from sales or royalties as money as he or she paid out to "experts." You, Sunny, are an expert we can trust!

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  12. Once again Sunny, a fine read. Your suggestions are priceless and many of the comments are gold.

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  13. Kris - Thank you so much for running my question as a post.
    Sunny - Thank you so much for all your advice. Okay, I'm working on all of the above and I promise not to hire a promotional outfit.

    Question: You mention networking. Does a "Writing Workshop" with a group of 15 writers sequestered away for a week ever lead to good networking? Are there any methods to "Estimate" the potential of fellow attendees?

    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Sara,
      First, I would research every single person you know is going to the workshop, if you can get that info. Also, research the instructors. Remember, although the workshoppers may be at your level now, if they go up the food chain, you can use the ties. And, vice-versa.

      Does using people this way sound cold and calculating? Well, yeah. I call it "tactical." I look at every person as potentially good for my career or ask myself what I can do for theirs.

      Keep in touch with the ones you bond with as they are the beginning of a fan base for your future novel.

      Delete
  14. Always a good refresher to hear what new ones you've added to the repertoire, Sunny. All are good ideas and best of all inexpensive. Thanks for all the sharing you do with others!
    Wendy
    W.S. Gager on Writing

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  15. Sunny, your post and all the comments sure give us a terrific list of ideas about marketing. Since I have, thus far, promoted eight books, I'm fairly up on the ideas listed, but always do learn something new on blogs as well as at conventions. As to buying promo supplies and business cards: I always buy (or have printed) locally if I can. My novels are set in Arkansas, and buying in Arkansas generates extra interest. Example: When I had book cover posters made for A FAIR TO DIE FOR locally (cheap, too) the printer introduced his wife to my novels and they have since bought them.

    For fans and friends of J A Jance. Have you read her book of poetry and memories, AFTER THE FIRE? Wow!

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  16. Kris,

    I can't remember if I made a comment already, so this is a second attempt.

    Great post. I am so happy that you found Sunny. She is a wonderful lady with a giving spirit. I first met her a few weeks ago. I sent her a simple, short e-mail thanking her for a very similar post on another blog. That simple action led to a very meaningful e-mail exchange about the inner workings of the publishing business. Her experience, knowledge and resources are only matched by her willingness to help neophyte writers, like myself.

    Ms. Sunny, I promise I am not stalking you. You happened to appear on another site that I visit regularly. Having said that, I really appreciate your thoughts and I thank you for pulling back the curtain to show us how the wizard really works.

    Finally, I know Lance is a big boy and needs no help justifying his marketing plan, website or anything else. However, a couple months ago I contacted him, just as I did Ms. Sunny with a short e-mail. He responded immediately and that led to a couple of ongoing conversations. I have found him to be extremely open, honest, intelligent and competent. He has responded to every request and question. I think that his marketing plan might be a little different, but I rest assured that he has a plan and he is executing that plan to perfection.

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    1. In Lance's case, we're not talking about a marketing plan, but visibility. The best marketing plan does no good if people haven't heard of you or readers find you hard to reach. As an acquisitions editor, I was curious as to whether he had a manuscript to pitch. But, I'm not going to be treated as a fan and asked to leave messages on his "Wombat Burrow." I'm not going to try and guess his last name. I'm not going to sift through google hits to try and find a website. And this is me trying to possible do something for his career! Can you imagine any other acquisitions editor or industry person who would take that kind of effort?

      This is not an attack on Lance (although my words are blunt) but he asked what else he could do. Well, a lot, actually. Will he take any of my advice? Debatable. I find people generally like to keep doing what they've been doing and then wondering why it doesn't work. That's human nature.

      And you, Rob, are not a stalker. Or, if you are, you are the nicest one I've met. Your initial email hit me on the right note and I felt you were worth paying attention to. Elise--I nearly bypassed reading her blog about the decision to self-publish, but something stopped me. This industry can be pure Karma.

      Delete
    2. Ms. Sunny,

      Thank you for making yourself available to common people like myself. I am a big fan of “Good Karma” I do try my best to behave with dignity and a sense of grace. You are a lady that leaves dignity and grace in your wake. Again, I believe that Lance is a big boy and is doing what he thinks is right for him. Since you brought it up, what would you suggest someone like me do to get a publisher’s attention?

      I have a blog with my full name and I have a mechanism to contact me. I don’t want to treat a professional like a fan. My goal would be to attract the attention of the big wigs in the publishing world and treat them appropriately. How does one do that?

      One more question. I did a Google search for small publishing companies like yours. How do I sift through the all of the hits to find respectable companies like yours?

      Delete
    3. Nobody has ever accused me of being gracious or dignified. I'm stunned.

      Rob, don't you think you HAVE a publisher's attention? Although we're swamped and our line-up is filling fast, I've already offered to look at Kris' novel and would be willing to take a gander at yours. Just waiting for you to ask.

      One dubious way to find a publishing house is to go to Predators and Editors. However, my publishing house is on their shit list. One mistake 20 yrs ago by the current publisher's husband (now dead), a complaint filed by a man later sent to a state mental hospital for threatening Bill Gates
      life and we can't find any way to remove the black ball. Once you're on the list, you're on it for life. Of course, they're always being sued for the practice; we just let our track record and authors speak for the house.

      Another thing you can do is contact authors from different houses and simply ask if they are happy with their publisher. Doesn't hurt.

      There's always a risk. Make it a calculated risk. Also, don't think of this as the only book you'll ever publish. If that's the case, you won't have a career anyway. Let it go. I see too many authors holding on for dear life, incapable of making a decision. Just jump in the deep water and swim! As I always say, "You can't promote what doesn't exist." People aren't going to judge you for making a few mistakes.
      Read my post over at Novel Spaces:

      http://www.novelspaces.blogspot.com/2012/12/are-you-holding-your-novel-hostage.html

      In fact, become a follower of that blog. I post on the 14th of every month, it's always industry stuff. From this little dialog I'm conjuring up a blog titled "The Invisible Author." Yeah, let's talk about visibility.

      Delete
  17. Great blog post, Sunny! I learned 3 new things in the article itself and 3 new things in your answers to comments. xoxox. You're the best.

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  18. Wow, great post Sunny.

    As a self published author myself it's always good to come across different, tried and tested ways to market and promote my books.

    I love your honesty, some people call it being blunt, but a fact is a fact, I always say. :-)

    I will look out for your posts in future.

    S J Wardell

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  19. Brilliant post Sunny,

    As a self published author myself it's always great to come across different, tried and tested methods of marketing and promoting my books.

    I love your honesty, some people call it blunt but, a fact is a fact, as I always say. :-)

    I will look out for your posts in the future.

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    1. I can make it easy for you to follow my posts. Just contact me via my website and give me an email address and I'll add you to a list of folks who like to read my blogs. If you want to learn venues for your own marketing, I can put you in the Posse and send you Friday Round-Ups. Lots of websites for interviews and reviews found there. Just let me know what you need.

      Delete
  20. Checked out your profile. You write gritty, so I know you can take it gritty.

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  21. I agree with Marta. It's not just the post, but meaningful responses that are full of helpful information and inspiration. Thanks again, Sunny!

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    1. To be honest, I have been thinking of creating yet another post on the subject, in which I would compile Sunny's initial thoughts AND the ideas from responses into one giant list. Would this be helpful to people?

      Delete
    2. I think so. Just recently Sunny sent out a list to her Posse with a few amazing resources to create a platform for new authors, showing how to build a fan base even before a book is accepted for publishing. Other resources are directed at marketing for published authors. It's all vital and helpful information.

      Delete
  22. Great information. Thanks for providing us such a useful information. Keep up the good work and continue providing us more quality information from time to time. Internet Marketing

    ReplyDelete
  23. I've tried some blog tours,which have brought me a good number of reviews on Amazon, but not many sales, based on rank.

    online marketing course

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    1. Thanks Mohamed, I've done some blog tours as well and I thought they were useful indirectly for generating buzz, but maybe not as clearly for direct sales.

      Delete