Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Permission Marketing

We're now at the one-week mark -- one week from today, and Don't Hex With Texas is released into the world. In past years, I'd be having anxiety attacks, but I'm pretty zen about it this year. I think I've learned by now that there really isn't much I can do at this point. All the things I've stressed out over have been more to make me feel like I'm doing something than to really and truly have an impact on book sales. So I haven't been frantically mailing bookmarks to go in conference goodie bags or sending them out to booksellers. I've only got a couple of local booksignings scheduled instead of spending a month driving around Texas. I haven't done any kind of major media push (though I have done several interviews). I haven't even bought any ads in anything.

Now, watch this book be the one that sells better than any of them. I'd then feel extraneous, except for the fact that I am the one who wrote it, which should count for something.

I guess part of the reason I haven't been stressing is that I've been sidetracked by the new idea. Then there was buying the car. And then this weekend I'm going to Austin for the Nebula Awards. Plus there was new stuff for Sci Fi Friday. That all adds up to, "Oh yeah, I've got a book coming out, don't I?"

Normally, I really do enjoy the marketing and the strategy behind it, as that's one of my comfort zones, so it's a big switch to not focus on that. I'm still reading a lot on the subject and trying to glean ideas, and a few things lately have started me thinking. I'm just not sure what I'll do with the thoughts. One of my favorite blogs to read is the one by marketing guru Seth Godin. He talks a lot about what he calls "permission marketing," which is what happens when customers give you permission to contact them by giving you contact information like an e-mail address. What you do with that information and permission can make or break you.

Amazon uses this rather brilliantly. If you buy a book from them, or a TV series box set, you'll get an e-mail from them when the next book by that author or the next season is ready to pre-order. That's a service that benefits customers as much as it does Amazon, since they've already shown they like that sort of thing, and they might be interested in knowing that the next thing they'll like is available. With this service, you never have to miss out on the next book in your favorite series. You don't mind getting a marketing e-mail like this. I saw another great example of this yesterday, when the hotel where I'm staying this weekend in Austin sent me a confirmation e-mail that contained a handy link to get directions to the hotel, a list of nearby restaurants, a list of local events during my stay, information on parking and the weather forecast for the days I'll be staying there. Everything I needed to know to plan my trip is all there in one e-mail. I didn't mind getting that e-mail because it made my life easier.

And then there's the dealership where I bought my car. They've started spamming me with info on their current dealership incentives, whatever sale they have going on, and lists of used cars they have available. Hello! I just bought a car a couple of weeks ago. Am I likely to be in the market for yet another one so soon? Meanwhile, letting me know what deals are available now is likely to trigger buyer's remorse on the car I bought from them, because it makes me wonder if I missed out on something by buying when I did. They got my contact information, took that as permission to contact me, and then had no idea what to do with it. It doesn't work like books, where if I've read one by an author I might be interested in another one by that author, even if it's only a week later. If they want to stay in touch with me, what they should do is not contact me for a few months, then when it's time for my first oil change, they should send me a coupon for something like a free car wash when I get my oil changed, or some other nifty little thing that would give me a reason to go there instead of to my neighborhood place. But don't try to sell a new car to someone who just bought one, just because you happen to have their e-mail address. Saturn did a cute thing where they sent your car a birthday card every year. It was a fun reminder of buying the car and a good way to reinforce their brand without being obnoxious.

I probably err on the side of caution in my "permission-based" marketing. I try to focus on the things I'd want to know about an author, so that means my mailing list and Amazon blog (which I think is a little intrusive) is pretty much limited to important news about when a book will be available and where I'll be appearing. If anyone wants to know more about me, they can come to any of the places where I post a regular blog or to my web site. I don't really want more than that in regular e-mails from any author, and I also get more than a little irked when I get subscribed to some author's mailing list, just because I've had some communication with her in the past. There's a current trend that's about to make me unsubscribe from every writing-related e-mail list I'm on. It's all the "I'm blogging here" or "I blogged about this" posts. If you're on a writing-related list, especially one related to a writing organization, it's for the purpose of discussing writing, so if you've got something to say, say it and discuss it on the list. Don't post a link to where you're blogging and ask everyone to go there to discuss it. It's one thing if you're in a debate about something and want to drum up comments to support your side of the argument (say, getting the people on a chick lit loop to come help when you're being attacked by obnoxious lit fic people). But I'm on digest for most lists, and the topic list at the top these days is mostly just a list of "I'm blogging here today" posts. It's getting to be kind of like putting out a news release to announce that you've put out a news release.

That said, if you're interested in doing a blog interview with me or having me (or a character) do a guest blog, let me know. I promise not to spam the universe with posts about what I'm blogging about and where. However, I can't promise prizes this time because I don't know what my next book will be and therefore I haven't been able to beg advance copies from anyone. I guess the prize might be that if enough people read about the books, enough copies might sell that we might get book 5. Yay?

And now I need to track down a MIA hairstylist. I am WAY overdue for a haircut, and now would be a good time, with the Nebulas this weekend and the new book next week. I'd finally found a stylist I ADORE who can work with my very difficult hair. And now she's vanished on me. The last time I saw her, she was setting her own appointments, so you called her cell phone and left a message. I got her voice mail last week, and it was definitely her, but I still haven't heard back from her. Panic time. I don't want to have to find and break in a new stylist at this crucial point.

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