Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Marketing Article on Blogging

The new issue of CBA Retailers magazine contains an informative and encouraging article geared toward bookstore empoyees who constantly struggle to keep up to date with the plethora of newly released books (particularly fiction). One very helpful tool, the article says, is using the blogosphere.

Article authors Kelly Blewett and Elizabeth Johnson write, "Marketing and publicity specialists believe blogs are the new word of mouth. Since bloggers trust those in their network, and the writers informally know each other, blog recommendations are non-threatening, yet powerful endorsements."

For keeping up with fiction, the article mentions the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance (CFBA), run by Bonnie Calhoun. At the time of the article's writing, membership in CFBA was up to 175 bloggers. Bonnie works with around 30 contacts at CBA publishers, booking blog tours up to a year in advance. To keep up with specific genres, the article suggests organizations such as Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy (CSFF), run by Rebecca (Becky) Miller. With its goal to "raise the profile of the genre," according to Becky, the CSFF now has around 90 members and features about two books a month. These two organizations don't see each other as competitors but rather having the same goal of promotion Christian fiction.

Jeffrey Overstreet's Auralia's Colors was featured by CFBA and is on CSFF this month. Overstreet reports his CFBA tour caused the book's amazon numbers to jump up 75,000 points. "I've done twenty-five radio interviews and have never seen this kind of spike, " he said.

For suspense novels, there's Ladies of Suspense, and for historical lovers there's the Historical Novel Society.

Also mentioned is Novel Journey, founded by Gina Holmes, which is "regularly picked up by MySpace News" and averages "20,000 unique hits a month."

For the bookseller, says the article, reading such blogs can help with handselling. For instance, if a fiction reader notes two favorite authors, the blog-savvy bookseller will be better equipped to recommend a new author in a similar style. Or if that same customers reads only historicals but needs a recommendation for a suspense as a gift, the bookseller will more likely be able to recommend a suspense title. The articles notes that comments to posts can serve as added help in giving the bookseller information.

Two negatives are noted. First, that blogs, especially those doing a tour, can repeat information on a book. (Although an easy fix here is simply to choose one or two CFBA blogs to read each week.) Second, that reviews tend to always be favorable, although Bonnie Calhoun does tell CFBA bloggers to "tell the truth [about the book] from their own perspective."

Other sites noted are Novel Reviews, Deena Peterson's blog, and for science fiction/fantasy--Stuart Stockton's site.

Blewett and Johnson work in the publicity departments of Waterbrook and Multnomah, respectively. A high five to both of them for making booksellers more aware of these sites as a way to keep up with new releases and promote fiction. It's one thing to reach individual readers, the end users. It's another to reach the bookseller herself, who is in a position to sell many books.

To subscribe to CBA Retailers, or to buy the February 2008 issue for this complete article, go here.


Unknown said...

Too bad we didn't get mentioned. For historical fiction see: http://favoritepastimes.blogspot.com

Timothy Fish said...

You state that Overstreet's Amazon numbers jumped up 75,000 points. The only Amazon number I am aware of is the sale's rank. To say that the sale's rank jumped 75,000 points without knowing where it was before is meaningless. Can you tell us more about what he means by this number?

Michael Covington said...

Hi Brandilyn~

FYI - ECPA is hosting one of its E-Seminars on February 19 titled "Hands-on Blogging - Tools for Implementation and Strategies to Optimize Your Blog's Effectiveness" with Joe Wikert, Publisher for John Wiley. Joe has two high profile blogs in the Publishing world, www.joewikert.com and www.kindleville.com. He also led a keynote session at our Pub U event this past November on blogging where we had nearly 400 publishing executives in attendence. Registration is $99 per person and all registrants will receive a free copy of David Meerman Scott's free book "The New Rules of Marketing and PR". By the way, Joe asked for a list of industry blogs for him to consider using in this webinar and of course yours was one of those that I gave him. Go to http://www.ecpa.org/webinars/webinarGreen.html for more information.

Cara Putman said...

How fun to see a blog and CFBA that I'm involved in included in the article! I often wonder how effective these blog tours are, but as long as publishers and authors think they are helpful, I'm happy to help spread the word about books I love. And like most word of mouth, I don't think we'll ever be able to actually quantify the full results of these kind of tours. But it is a way to get the word out about books to people who may not take the time to walk through bookstores and browse.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Timothy, I don't know any more than what Jeffrey said in his quote. However, I don't agree that not knowing the starting point makes the quote meaningless. If a book's sales rank is at 100,000 and jumps to 25,000 in the few days of a blog tour, that points to direct influence of the tour on amazon sales. Granted, amazon sales ranks change constantly, and Jeffrey's numbers may have gone back up in a day or two--I don't know. All the same, his overall point is that he saw a correlation between sales and the blog tour. Most of marketing is so difficult to rank--did it help sales or not? It's encouraging to see something that indicates a definite correlation.

Michael, thank you so much for this info on the ECPA seminar--and for mentioning my blog.

Timothy Fish said...

If a book is at 100,000 and jumps to 25,000, I would say that's nice. If a book is at 80,000 and jumps to 5,000, I would say Wow! But if a book is at 160,000 and jumps to 85,000, I would just yawn. Why? Because any book that has sold one copy during the last hour will have a rank that is lower than 85,000. You can look at my article on How Amazon.com Sales Rank is Calculated for more information, but there is a whole lot less movement in the lower numbers than what there are in the higher numbers.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Thanks Brandilyn for the info, and the shoutout. We all appreciate it!

To answer Timothy's question, that's just what happened. Jeffrey's book hovered around 85,000 before the tour. Right now, it's around 90,000.

He also added that he had done 25 radio interview and had never had that kind of spurt with any of them.

There will always be questions as to the effectiveness of any internet media campaign because there is no direct way to tie it to sales. But when you have a minimum of a 100 people spreading the word about a given book, the exponential compounding of the numbers gives you exposure in the thousands!

Author Sue Dent said...

Well, yes blog tours are nice for authors and I do understand who the audience is here but being an author whose publisher isn't affiliated with CBA or ECPA, but is a traditional Christian Publisher, I'd like to point something out. While it's nice to have blog tours like Rebecca's who recognize ALL Christian authors despite their affiliation or lack there of with CBA or ECPA, it's a bit disconcerting to have the major blog tour, that being CFBA not accept nor recognize ALL traditionally published Christian authors. So kudos to Rebecca. And as it stands, once again Christian authors who choose to affiliate themselves with CBA or ECPA get even more of an opportunity to get out there! It really is a shame because CBA and ECPA authors are only a fraction of the Christian market place.

T. Forkner said...

This is great news and encouraging to hear.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Sue, as a member of the CFBA you know our policy. It is stated on the front of our website, and always has been.

We only tour CBA (Christian Book Association) books. We do not tour self-published, independently published, POD, e-books, or any other type that is not mainstream publishing house Christian fiction.

Everyone can not be all things to all people. We have our niche, just like others have theirs. And even with what you consider a limited spectrum, we are booked almost a year in advance, and I turn down a half a dozen tours a week.

Sorry, but you can be as disconcerted as you want to be but it still won't change the rules.

Anonymous said...

I'm only a member of the CFBA because I signed up when it was clearly not exclusive to any one part of the Christian Industry. Now that it is, I know longer participate. I think it's important to help all Christian authors and there is at least one other blog tour that does that, picking up where T. L. Hines left off.

cyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Oh, good grief! I said I "know" longer participate instead of "no" longer. Sorry about that. But no, I wasn't aware of any such stipulation when I joined. Perhaps it was because I didn't pay attention. That's certainly a possibility. And then my book toured so that sent the message home for me. But then I was turned down for my second book. That's when I started wondering. Okay, so they only tour CBA/ECPA authored titles. No biggee! But yes, I'm disheartened. Now, unless this has blatant misspellings, that's all I have to offer.

cyn said...

Seems I inadvertently deleted my response to Bonnie Calhoun's post! Oops.

Members of the various blog tours need to be thanked for all the time and effort they put into touring the novels. The numeric impact of blog tours can be debated but we do know that word-of-mouth from readers/ reviewers is priceless.

RE: Sue, as a member of the CFBA you know our policy. It is stated on the front of our website, and always has been.

Actually, no the policy has not always been obvious to all, including blog members. How do I know this? because of all the research I did on the CFBA site and blog (and through googling) to ascertain the policy. I did suspect that the CFBA was ECPA-exclusive (I use ECPA as it is the publishers' organization as opposed to the CBA which is a booksellers association). However, my suspicions were only confirmed a few months ago by Bonnie herself. It was only after this that I found the statement on the bottom of the website. Yes, it could have been there all the time and I didn't see it.

Now, I do have to say that I am not the only one who thought that perhaps the CFBA toured all quality Christian fiction (and non-fiction in the case of Sally Stewart's guide). On a blog post a month or so ago, I had a couple of CFBA members argue this point! They stated emphatically that the CFBA was not exclusive. I pointed them to the statement that says CBA only. They were surprised to learn this, and a bit dismayed to boot.

So yes, I now know and I assume Ms Dent also realizes that the CFBA is ECPA-exclusive. But how many members (especially the authors who are hopeful that one day their book will be toured) actually realize this? I hope all of them do.

Kelly and Liz said...

Brandilyn, thanks for the kind words. It's so fun for us to see the article featured on your blog. We hope the content of the article was useful and interesting to your readers and will continue to spark lively discussions. Thanks again!

Karen said...

It's nice to see Spec Faith mentioned on there and all those other book tour groups.

Thanks for sharing the news.