Question: what terrible thing happens if you don't advertise?"
Unless you tell the world, loud and clear and repeatedly, about your accomplishments, no one will know you exist. Moreover, few if any will seek you out based on idle curiosity. The world will not beat a path to your door no matter how grand and glorious your writing. To get them to come, you need to get their attention and pique their curiosity. And while a lot can be accomplished through Guerilla Marketing, in the end you need to tap into the mass market through 'media outreach' - advertising.
Advertising in the genre is available in three media: PRINT (the two paper monthly magazines), THE WEB (various webzines and independent efforts), and RADIO. This last option is where an opportunity can be found.
National advertising, as a rule of thumb, is prohibitively expensive. You also need to understand that an ad placed in any medium will only produce a small percentage of responses - what is known as 'click-through' on the web. So, as you can see, the numbers just aren't there. One exception does exist, however, which we will cover in this topic.
Krypton Media Group, Inc.
13636 Ventura Blvd, Suite 338
Sherman Oaks, CA 91432
Krypton Radio is, effectively, a webzine, distributing over the internet. As such, they have a world wide reach (55,000 listeners a month in 196 countries, according to their current Rate Bulletin, with excellent demographics). What makes them unique is they do their thing audibly, rather than in print. They also have a web site, so you can have coordinated audible and print advertising:
They also provide a range of tech support, such as recording your ad for you, which helps create a positive, professional image. As a media specifically targeted to the genre market, there is much to love, and at a reasonable price.
What kind of a deal can you get from Krypton? Lets look at the numbers:
Assume you have a download Kindle novel on Amazon. Your retail is $2.99, which means you get a bit over $2.05 a shot. A modest ad on Krypton sells for $45. The math says you need to sell 22 downloads a month to break even. This might be a bit ambitious for a single offering, but when you spread that out over a dozen titles plus an occasional Trade Paperback sale, the 'front' becomes far more bearable. Of course every sale after that is gravy.
Now compare that with their return on investment:
Assuming a monthly audience of 55,000 (from their Rate Bulletin) x 3% click-through = 1,650 click-throughs. Assuming 5% wind up buying, that comes to 83 sales. At $2.05 per download that comes to $170.00. Minus the $45 ad rate, your net is $125 a month.
Admittedly Larry Niven does better on his sales, but you aren't Larry Niven, and that is essentially free money dropping into your hand like Mana from Heaven. And other people do all the work. Imagine that.
From this we see that radio advertising is most effective when you have several titles to offer. It will take you a while to build up to that level, but in the mean time dropping a few radio spots will help establish your stage presence, will get your brand out there, and will be at least partly offset by limited sales. Don't be afraid to absorb some 'loss leaders' in the near term. It will establish you for later when your growth catches up.
You can promote various works or subject matters (adventure, fantasy, military sci fi) or aim for a time-based strategy ('Books make great Christmas stocking stuffers!') You can use advertising to spot-promote a new title, thus giving it a good send off as well as generating buzz about you and your writing in general.
Moreover, once people are aware of your web site and have sampled your writing, you can noodge them to come back to sample it again - the all-important 'repeat customer' which is the true metric of your marketability. Repeat customers are your most valuable marketing tool, since it shows you how well your work is being received, shows long term sales trends (if your repeat sales are dropping, you know you need to rethink your marketing and/or writing), and clearly indicates which of your works are winners or losers.
Krypton's Ad rates vary widely from the most economical to some serious 'Tiffany pricing'. These prices come with more or less desirable ad placements with corresponding effects. As such, you need to craft a strategy based on what you are willing to spend and what you hope to achieve. The more expensive ads can be useful for building your brand and in giving you a strong stage presence. The least expensive ads give you your best shot at recovering costs for the budget sensitive. Both posted ads and radio spots can give you various coverage effects, which you will need to explore.
There is also the question of your objectives. Do you make a modest effort to generate cash flow, or do you splurge all your sales income for maximum brand growth? This is a complex topic, so you are probably wisest to start off small and build up to the point where the investment starts leaving the return behind. Finding that 'sweet spot' will be an early goal in your ad campaign.
Once you have enough titles to make the effort economical, you'll start running into the space limits of a small ad/a brief audio blurb. It really isn't practical to discuss the features of your various offerings in the space provided. The better strategy is to use your ad to direct the reader to your web site - click through - where you can take the time and screen frontage to state your case in detail.
Practice variety in your ads. The 'same-old-same-old' is...the same old. Your ads and spots will get stale after steady viewers have seen them dozens of times. Advertising is a dynamic process, so keep putting out a steady stream of posted ads, radio spots, and especially web site material. Focus on your subject themes and your timely offers, get creative in asking your readers for their opinions on your materials. Promote your attendance at conventions. If you are smart enough to create interesting Spec Fi, you should be clever enough to promote it properly.
Above all, remember two trueisms of being in business (and as a self-pub / small press author, you are a businessman):
First: 'You have to spend money to make money'.
Second: 'You have to choose between having part of your dream, or 100% of nothing'.
Invest in yourself. Invest in your ideas. Otherwise no one will know you exist. Free marketing opportunities are all fine and dandy, and you have to expect to put up a lot of 'sweat equity' in your marketing. But when push comes to shove, be prepared to spend money (wisely) to get the return your writing deserves.
Your other primary source for advertising is the array of internet webzines devoted to the genre. This is a major can of worms since it is easy to look 'professional' on the net while the actual potential of any given site is the question. There are too many prospects (both good and bad) to cover here, so your best course is to look them over at
Copyright And Copy Wrong
Your Web Site
Contracts And Other Snares
Who Do You Trust?
Crunching The Numbers
Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 1: Conventions
Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 2: YouTube
Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 3: Networking
Guerillas In Our Midst - Part 4: Advertising
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