Online Selling & Promotion – My Experience So Far

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From my October 1 article which I titled E-Selling: Rowing Upstream With One Oar:

I’m going to follow this up with some more articles describing my first-hand experiences trying to tackle this new world of e-selling on a budget that wouldn’t cover the bar tab in my previous sales experience. You could all save me the trouble by getting everyone you know to buy my book.

Well, you failed, because after clawing its way to Number 35 on Amazon’s Best Seller list in its genre, my book has slowly settled back and rests comfortably outside the top 100. Sales are steady, although steady at a pace below what I’d hoped for by this time.

I’ve got four things to talk about, and if they don’t fit into this article, there will be another. Hope for brevity on my part.

  1. What works.
  2. What doesn’t.
  3. Votes still being counted.
  4. Haven’t tried yet.


There are a couple of things to remember as you evaluate the value of my experience so far. First, the book is currently only available as a self-published e-book. Forget all the hype about the paradigm shift in publishing that lets unknown authors break through. This category is still the pond scum of the publishing world.

The corollary is that I have absolutely no name recognition, no “platform” as they call it in publishing. Trying to get noticed in the 300,000 books published this year without that requires me to murder someone to get my name in the news.

What works

Personal contact. Surprise – this is the thing that works best is whether you know the person or don’t. Personal, individual emails, LinkedIn Inmails, Facebook messages, etc. That’s not e-selling, that’s just plain selling.

Clever and targeted. The other thing that works are clever campaigns directed at a specific, targeted audience, general a small, carefully segmented one. Sort of like personal contact except with a specific group instead of an individual. Sort of e-selling, but more like e-enabled selling.

What doesn’t

Blast emails. Another surprise – they don’t work. Not even well-crafted ones to quality lists of people whom know you. I think e-mail servers are just too good at filtering out anything that remotely smells like spam. The most successful campaign I ran had the subject line “New book announcement from John Darrin, whom you know. Really. You do.” And even then only 24% got opened and 2% clicked through.

Level 2 contacts. Your friends and family past the first level might as well be strangers. They’re not paying any attention.

Press release. Do you know how much it costs to issue one press release? More than I spent on everything else combined. And one never does it. Yeah, it’s nice to see your name on the Washington Post’s web site for something other than an arrest, but it doesn’t sell anything.

Book promo sites. The small ones are a waste of time and effort. I haven’t yet tried the big ones because they charge for the service. I’ll let you know when I scrape together the $2,400 necessary to get on the three best ones. Don’t hold your breath.

Sorry, looks like your hopes for brevity were dashed. I’ve still got two topics and I’m out of space. We’ll let some time pass and see what happens with the campaigns still in progress and the ones I haven’t tried.

Again – buy the damn book and get everyone else to and you won’t have to sit through another one of these.

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