Thursday, October 19, 2017

Your Book Isn't Selling? It's Not Your Fault.

Are you agonizing over your labor on Wordpress and Goodreads that yields next to zero sales of your book? Allow me to share some vital data from when I gambled tens of thousands of buckeroos on a comedy convention.

I used to say without any first-hand experience, "Marketing is spending lots of money and who you know." After Comedy Con, though, I'm not just shooting my mouth off anymore. it's a proven theory.

A little disclaimer before I bring you up to speed: I have no regrets. Hopefully, this article doesn't sound bitter. Rather, I enjoyed the ride. Living up to my mantle 'Gusto', instead of just talking big about something, I actually did it and I'm proud. But the truth is my spreadsheets reflect a devastating loss that would make any wouldbe stockholder bash me on Twitter. Don't shed tears for me, though. Uncle Sam will pity me enough and I'll recoup my investments. The lesson was very worth it and you can benefit from the lashing I took.

A while back, I mentioned my hiatus for pursuing book deals. I would continue to write simply because I enjoy it--which I have. I cannot stress to you enough how you better be penning manuscripts out of sheer pleasure because if you're not dumping every bit of your 'disposable income' into promotion, odds for becoming a day-job novelist are astronomically slim. Seriously, you're more likely to be struck by lightning. This, I learned from Comedy Con.

Do you have an author page on Facebook where you post announcements about your upcoming releases? No one sees them. I hope this gets your attention. Keep reading.

In the closed-office, introverted world of an author, it's easy for us to embrace the concept of marketing, but very few of us really do that job and it's next to impossible for us to grasp what a gargantuan task it is to sell stuff. After all, we should be focusing on story telling, right?

My idea for Comedy Con came about partly because of all the conferences/conventions I visited as a writer. As some of you know, I dabble in stand-up. Because I'm too stubborn to go on the road or wait in line for stage time to chase comedic success, I suppose it just clicked in my mind one day that there are no conventions for comedy, so starting one could be my innovative approach to staying involved with my humorous passion. I mean...we have superhero, horror, steampunk, and every other genre of convention, but not one for comedy. How could this lose?

Following the format for Denver Comic Con, I contracted celebrities from well-known funny TV programs to grace this little soiree, one of them was Steve Hytner whose face is very recognizable as the character of Bania from "Seinfeld." Steve is a great guy, BTW. There was an invitation for comedic themed cosplay. We had panels about the business just like comic cons. We even sweetened the deal and threw in tried-and-true performances. There was a gameshow with $1000 in winnings up for grabs. Well...ticket sales just sat there.

Here's the funny/aggravating thing that kept rearing its ugly head: Abeit with good intentions probably, people who observed the low turnout would tell me, "This could really turn into something if you would have advertised." Their assumption that I didn't advertise always cracked me up. I proceeded to inform them, "Good point, but we had an ad on the programs for The Greeley Stampede and Greeley Blues Jam. There was a coupon for discount tickets in the Greeley Tribune. KFKA  AM and 93.5 Pirate Radio plugged it repeatedly. The Best of Greeley magazine ran ads for it over three months. I bought marketing from The Greeley Tribune which included bus bench ads and digital marketing like retargeting, Facebook, and geo-fencing. The Downtown Development Authority posted it on the city events calendar. Greeley Unexpected promoted it with ticket giveaways. Every ad had a picture of the recognizable Steve Hytner. The Tribune wrote up a very nice article about the event. Altogether, I poured about 6 grand into marketing." That litany would always leave them pale faced, and grasping for something encouraging to say.

I hired a social media promoter and that's where I learned that your postings on a Facebook fan page go nowhere unless you take out pricey ads through their Business Manager. Incidentally, I hate Facebook now...although they have a right to free enterprise, they're very misleading.

The final evening of Comedy Con, Christine Lederman, DJ at 93.5, comedian, and dear friend said to me, "It's not your fault," and those very kind words jarred me out of my self blaming. My girlfriend pointed out how classy it was of her to say that.

Some friends offered consolation to me and said, "Maybe Greeley wasn't the best place." Well, to put things into perspective, In April, Jim Belushi was at the civic center (the same theater in which we held Comedy Con) and his program sold about 1000 tickets. Lots of comedy acts come through Greeley at said venue and profit, so, why did Comedy Con stagnate? The most logical answer is: Advertising. It needed more.

Volunteers, performers, and vendors all told me they loved the idea and wanted to do it again, but I also got the distinct impression that they didn't envision what the convention was all about until they got here even though the webpage explained everything. Again, advertising. When marketers tell you that people have to see things over and over, that is true.

Maybe Steve Hytner wasn't big enough. Possibly. This is what hurts my head with that argument, though: most comic cons bring in stars that I've never heard of in their first years. However, if I play along and agree, it just proves my theory again...who you know and money. Sure, Bill Murray, for a minimum fee of about $100,000, would have filled the civic center, but I would have needed a connection to someone who knows him just to offer the deal, and I still would have had to bankroll a lot of advertising.

Some officials with the city of Greeley pointed out to me that Blues Jam only attracted a few hundred people its first year, resulting in horrible debt. Last summer it pulled over 6000 attendees. Blues Jam has become so successful that it's now a Greeley institution. Comedy Con probably just needs time to catch on. Once more, that's advertising through slow word of mouth and investment to do it over and over.

So, fellow writers, you more than likely have some idea that the book buyer's market is tough. Just how tough is it? Well, consider my experiemental event in a state where conventions are as popular as micro breweries--an entertainment weekend that for all practical purposes should have been more marketable. The advertising (both free and paid) for Comedy Con wasn't enough to get it flying off the ground its first time. How many years and dollars do you think your novel will require?

Feel free to browse the webpage. Incidentally, although I can recoup the losses, I have no capital on hand right now to try Comedy Con again and find the answers to puzzles that plague mankind.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's freaking hard to make a dent in today's over-exposed world. But I laud you in your Comedy Con efforts, Dave! Don't let the dream die....