In this post, I’m continuing my conversation with Meredith Sandland & Carl Orsbourn (Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food). Their book explores the massive disruption facing American restaurants through first-hand accounts from food industry veterans and start-up entrepreneurs. Here, I talk to Meredith & Carl about paid marketing support. What did they pay for? How did it work? Is it worth it? And, most importantly, is it effective? Their insight is incredibly useful for authors about to launch their projects.
Alongside your own marketing strategies, what help did you bring in from the outside to assist with marketing and publicity?
Meredith: We did pay our publisher to help. But that was limited in its fruitfulness … That doesn't mean there isn't a way. I think we're still searching to find the right thing.
Traditional publishers, in my experience, quantify their marketing efforts by activity, not outcome.
Meredith: They can't guarantee that you're going to get a placement in XYZ magazine or whatever.
Carl: Also, coming from a traditional publisher, [a publicity campaign] becomes a bit like a spam email, because they're doing it all the time, for so many other books. So, when it's coming from the same source each time, exactly how credible is the information they're sharing, if there is such a high volume of it for so many books? I don't even know, if you had the best kind of email marketing campaign coming from a publisher, how effective it would be, because people on the other end receive so many other emails.
Yes, unless there are those relationships in place that give it some meaning, nothing’s going to come of it.
Carl: We have got support in the sense of helping us with content, and trying to continue to grow our presence. A digital assistant helping us post various blog articles or Instagram pictures, things like that. That's largely to help Meredith and I with time management. Competence is not something that we found to be affordable, so we haven't gone out and found a digital marketing or PR company.
Yes. You either pay the big bucks for someone with that competence or, as you say, you’re working at a more granular time management level, with someone to help you post and get things out there. There's almost no middle ground of some affordable option.
Meredith: I guess the takeaway there is, there's a lot of effort, and your publisher is going to say, “Oh, we're going to do all that for you, we're going to reach out to all these people,” but no one's going to get back to them. But the one-to-one connection of the author going to the editor or writer at a certain type of magazine, the author reaching out to the relevant conferences, is much more powerful than the publisher sending a form email to those outlets.
The other thing that I would say is that we have been told by many people, appearances drive book sales. This is true in a nonfiction business book [as well as fiction]. When you go talk about your book, people buy the book. And whether that's buying it directly from you, buying it from your website, following up later or buying it on Amazon—there are lots of different ways that happens. But the more often you speak, the more book sales you have. We've been at every major conference in our industry, and those kinds of things really do drive book sales. Again, that's a bit of a slog because it takes a lot of time on part of the authors. You have to be willing to go to these things, to think about what you're going to talk about, you have to put together materials, then travel, then give the speech
Carl: You also have to get the invite from a potential sponsor to come and talk… we haven't paid to go to any one conference. If we did, we wouldn't be able to make it work. So again, it is about using your contacts to be able to say, “can we help to facilitate this session or be a panelist or moderator, in some way?” Then from that, they will cover the cost of us attending, and traveling expenditure as well. All of those factors have to play into it because otherwise it just wouldn't make sense.
Meredith: You would never, never in a million years pay a $1,000 registration fee to attend a conference to help to sell books. You're not going to make money on that.
Carl: The only reason we are going to Madrid is that we like tapas! We're going to lose money for it.
Meredith: The tapas, yeah! But the [event organizers] are paying for our registration. They're paying for hotels and flights. We wouldn't do it if we had to pay for all that stuff. It would not make sense.
Yes. It's also your time. You have to think, I'm going to spend X number of days traveling to this event. Is there one thing you would tell people that it may not be worth your while to do or pay for?
Meredith: I personally am really struggling with the value of Amazon paid search results. It is not clear to me that they drive incremental sales. They send you a report that says how many people clicked on or bought this, therefore this is your advertising percent of sales, your cost per click. And it all looks wonderful. But I'm not convinced they're incremental sales. I think there are people who are looking for the book anyway. I'm sure you've had the experience on Google when you type in exactly what you're looking for and the first link that comes up is always the thing that you were looking for. But it's the sponsored link and you were looking for that anyway. So I'm not convinced that works or that it's worth your time.
In my next post, we go into how the pandemic affected the development of their book. We find out how Meredith and Carl managed this—and what they learned.
For a free copy of my guide, “6 Steps to Writing a Book Proposal That Sells,” visit my website and scroll to the Sign Up for Your Free Download panel.
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