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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Behind the Curtain of the Magic Appreciation Tour


You may remember me telling you about Daniel Marvello's Magic Appreciation Tour a while back. I asked Daniel to come and tell us how it was going once it had been running for a few weeks as it's a model I'm interested in, and that I think may work for other genres. So, here he is :-)

I met Sarah through Rachael Harrie's Platform Building Campaign last year and we've stayed in contact since then. The Campaign was supposed to help us make new friends and build a following, and I must say it accomplishes that goal. Thanks for inviting me to guest post on your blog, Sarah!
Sarah asked me to share my experiences with an experiment I started a couple of months ago called the Magic Appreciation Tour and Book Sale. The "MA Tour" is a Web site dedicated to magical fantasy books and authors, and I'm "the man behind the curtain."

Why the Magic Appreciation Tour?
The idea for the MA Tour came about one day while I was thinking about unobtrusive ways to market my book. I needed to find a way to get my book in front of readers. However, every social network I'm involved with takes a dim view of self-promotion. As Joe Konrath says, "It's about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell." I didn't want to be that guy who never shuts up about asking people to buy his book.
While researching marketing options, I found an interesting site called the 99-Cent Network. However, the site has no particular market focus and finding books in a specific genre was painful. Their registration form didn't even have "fantasy" as a category! I was going to give them a try anyway after my book was done, but they switched to a paid model almost the day I registered. They wanted $25 per month to put my book on their site. At 99 cents, I'd have to sell 72 books every month just to break even on their fees. Scratch that idea!
What I needed was a place to offer my book that was specifically oriented toward the audience I wanted to reach, in my case, fantasy readers. It comes down to basic marketing theory: identify your audience and then find ways to reach them. I had no luck finding such a place, so I decided to create my own.

Creating a Venue
I knew I was in for an uphill battle. Attracting an audience to a brand new Web site takes effort and time. But I'm in this writing thing for the long haul. It's not like my book was traditionally published and has just six weeks to sell or be taken off shelves. It's out there and it will stay out there. Plus, more books are coming, and by the time they do, the MA Tour may have gathered some steam.
The basic premise of the site is that it is a resource for readers to find fantasy books. But not just any fantasy books. Taking marketing theory a step further, I narrowed the focus to books that contain magic (like mine.)  
I wanted the book listing page to reflect the best attributes of the book sites I've visited. The cover thumbnails are generous, a short blurb is right there next to the cover, and links are provided for readers who want to learn more about the author or buy the book. The author page lists all of the authors with a photo and bio, and it includes links to their blogs and books. I'm very happy with how quickly a reader can size up a book and then take action to learn more or buy.
But I needed more believers like me. I set up a basic Web site and started calling for authors through Twitter, Facebook, and Google-Plus. My efforts brought in a few authors, and those authors brought in more authors. I'm pleased to say we now have 19 authors and 30 books. That may not sound like a lot, but I think it's a great start.

How Authors "Tour"
In the spirit of the Platform Building Campaign and the various blog tour services, the "tour" aspect of the Magic Appreciation Tour is designed to help authors network with one another and share audiences. It has two tools to facilitate this: the author page itself, and the Post Exchange.
The author page is not only a resource for readers, but for authors as well. Authors can quickly see who else is touring and click links to visit their blogs. Like the Platform Campaign, we can follow each other and comment on posts to show support.
The Post Exchange is essentially a blog tour dedicated to MA Tour authors. An author submits a blog post offer and requests a blog post in exchange. I match authors up according to the type of post they want to do, and connect them via email. Once the post goes live, I add a link to either the book listing or the author listing on the MA Tour site.
The relationship between the site and the author blogs is symbiotic from a search engine standpoint. Author blog links to the MA Tour site give it more authority, and the site's links back to them give them more authority. That relationship will only get more powerful over time.

How Are We Doing?
I'm pleased with how the MA Tour is progressing. We are only in our second week, and we've had 20 Post Exchange submissions, which translate to 40 blog post pairings. Our authors are meeting, networking, and sharing audiences.
I've personally made several new author friends, which makes me happy. Being a magical fantasy reader myself, I've enjoyed finding new books to read by the participating authors. You could say that I'm my own best customer!
I don't know about the other authors, but I've yet to see a bump in sales beyond those I know are going to other authors on the tour. But these are early days. Like books themselves, the site will take time to gain traction.

What's Next?
Judging from the stats, readers have not found us yet. But that isn't a surprise. The site is brand new and the benefits from touring are rarely immediate. This kind of marketing takes time to bear fruit. Also, I'm just getting started with spreading the word about the site at other places where fantasy readers gather. Telling readers about a free resource isn't the same thing as telling them to buy your book.
From a site standpoint, the next step will be automation. Everything from registration to the Post Exchange can be folded into a membership site where authors have full control over their listings and can pick-and-choose their own blog post pairings. Automation would also have the benefit of replacing the manual processes I'm doing now. I hand-code every book listing and author listing, and I'm managing the Post Exchange in an Excel spreadsheet at the moment.
At the same time, my wife has expressed interest in using the MA Tour model for other markets. Once the system is automated, it will be fairly easy to run multiple sites like the Magic Appreciation Tour.
Overall, I'm very pleased with how the site is working out. We have authors, we have books, and we have participation. The rest is just a matter of time and perseverance.
If you'd like to learn more about the Magic Appreciation Tour, visit the Web site at www.MagicAppreciationTour.com. To learn more about Daniel Marvello, visit www.DanielRMarvello.com.

47 comments:

  1. This sounds pretty sweet; congratulations on your success so far!

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  2. What a great thing to get involved in!

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  3. Thanks, Jamie and Jessie! If you know any magical fantasy authors, send them my way. Something I failed to mention is that it doesn't cost anything for authors to register. Doh!

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  4. This is such a good thing that Daniel is doing to organize everyone.

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    1. Thanks, Michael. Some days I don't feel very organized, but things seem to be going pretty well.

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  5. It sounds like a great site!

    I'm off to check it out. :)

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    1. Hey, Golden Eagle! I haven't "seen" you since the 3rd Campaign. I hope things are going well for you. Let me know what you think of the site.

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  6. Replies
    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I've learned to define "success" incrementally: I think it is important to derive satisfaction from the little "milestones" along the path to the ultimate goal. It keeps one motivated. ;-)

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  7. Replies
    1. You got that right! I'm also involved with the Self-Publishers Online Conference, which happens in May. Once that's behind me, I'll start in on automating some of the processes that are manual right now.

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  8. It sounds like a great idea. With author's books appearing together on the site, it give's the author/book credibility and has the potential to be a great resource for authors and readers alike. Will there be a review system?

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    1. I may institute a review system at some point, but for now, reviews are just one type of blog post that authors can choose to offer/request through the Post Exchange. Once a review is published, I post a link on the MA Tour site, but only if the reviewed author requests it. Yes, that does mean that the site only links to reviews that are mostly positive, but I'm okay with that. Readers have plenty of other ways to get reviews of the book before buying.

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  9. Great idea Daniel. Yes, there is blog tour fatigue on blogger, twitter and facebook. There are other opportunities like yours but they are hard to find.

    Great post Sarah.


    Denise

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    1. Very true, Denise. I'm not trying replace blog tours, but I am giving authors a manageable alternative. The problem with blog tours is they cost money (sometimes a lot), and you have to commit to a killer posting schedule. The Post Exchange costs nothing and lets authors tour at whatever rate is comfortable to them. Some of my authors have done only one exchange so far, others have done as many as three.

      The other thing is that blog tours don't necessarily put you in front of your target audience, whereas all authors participating in the Post Exchange are sharing audiences with other authors in their market.

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  10. This is a great idea! So glad it's already working out. Hopefully the readers will be coming soon. :)

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    1. Thanks, Lydia. That is my fervent hope as well!

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  11. What an awesome idea. :) I'll check out the links.

    I tagged you on my blog, Sarah.

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    1. Thanks, Medeia. Feel welcome to give me your impressions.

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  12. This is great. Such a clever idea!

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    1. Thanks, Lynda. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

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  13. Fantastic idea Daniel.. And Super Good Luck with MA Your.

    Sarah ... Rocking post, cheers:)

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    1. Thanks, Mark. I welcome all the luck I can get!

      Well, I just got another registration, so I'm off to add her to the site!

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  14. What a cool thing to be involved in.

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    1. Thanks, Jolene. I never thought much about the "coolness factor," but that does seem to be one of the things that helps one gain traction these days. I hope others share your sentiment!

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  15. Sooooo great. Love it, Sarah and Daniel! I love how great/supportive/closely knit this community is :D

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    1. Me too, Morgan. When I did the third Platform Campaign, I was blown away by the enthusiasm and support I saw and experienced. I'm very thankful for people like Rachael Harrie and the generous souls who help her put on her campaigns. The MA Tour is my way of giving back a little.

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  16. This sounds like a wonderful idea. I really hope it goes well. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Misha. I think we all have our fingers crossed.

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  17. Replies
    1. Thanks, Patsy. It will be even more interesting if it works! ;-)

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  18. A very interesting project, Daniel. Finding our audience can be quite a task. I'd be interested as to how it continues to progress.

    Waving at Sarah.

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    1. Thanks, M Pax. If you can stand the idea of following another blog, I do a weekly post over on
      magicappreciationtour.wordpress.com
      that gives the latest tour news and other information of interest to magical fantasy writers.

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  19. I like the sound of the project...has a lot of potential.

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    1. That's the way I see it. The challenge is keeping everyone fired up about it. Rachael Harrie has that wired, and I may have to take a page or two from her book, so to speak.

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  20. This sounds like a great idea. Best wishes.

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  21. I've been following the progress of the MA tour for a while now. Congratulations. Makes me jealous that I don't have a published book with which to join. (yet)

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    1. Thanks, Ken. You'll be welcome to join us when you are ready!

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  22. A fantastic idea Daniel. I'll post a link to the site in my sidebar, and hopefully some day I'll be able to put my own book up on the site.

    ......dhole

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    1. That's really nice of you, Donna. Your book will be welcome. If you want to get "fancy," you can display one of our tour badges. They come in three convenient sizes:

      http://www.MagicAppreciationTour.com/Badges.aspx

      I'm also available for interviews and guest posts.

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  23. Replies
    1. Thanks, Charmaine! It has been fun.

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  24. Sarah, thank you for inviting Daniel to share all about the magic appreciation tour.

    Daniel, it's good to hear that you're pleased overall with how it's working. Good luck with automating the system!

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    1. Nice to see you again, Rachel, and thanks. I have everything I need for automation except the time to do it! However, the delay is helping me refine how things work. I find automating a process you've already streamlined by hand often works out better in the end.

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