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.
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.