Home > Uncategorized > Social Media Publicity Gambit Floundering

Social Media Publicity Gambit Floundering

John (not his real name) gets about six visitors to his blog every day. Despite some rather dismal stats, John is currently reading book number ninety-four as a member of numerous blog book review programs he’s signed up for. It’s doing wonders for his personal library, though the manager at his local Parable store is kinda wondering what happened to him.

Nobody ever really asks for stats. Only one organization, Graf-Martin in Canada had the good sense to ask bloggers to share the size of their readership. There isn’t a single book publicity program for bloggers that teaches them how to ‘tag’ their stories to attract additional readers, or how to register their URL with search engines. So bloggers of all shapes and sizes enjoy a bounty of free stuff in the hope that it will do something to spark sales, including people like John who intersperse the book reviews with pictures of his new truck, which isn’t really new, but is new to him.

As someone who has benefited greatly from these programs in the past five years, I wish to herewith advise Christian publishers everywhere that you are totally wasting your money.

Meanwhile, as I’ve mentioned here many, many times; retail frontliners have an almost zero chance of every getting one single free book in the course of a year, unless they attend a trade convention. (Though in fairness, David C. Cook Canada has a program with Baker Books that allow staff to share advance copies, but sadly — for me anyway — the program is almost complete devoid of non-fiction titles.)

But things are about to get worse — far worse — for blogs like my own Christianity 201 (which publishes excerpts of books I’m sent ) and Thinking Out Loud (which publishes reviews of books I’m sent) and Christian Book Shop Talk (which concentrates on the trade and marketing angle on new titles) as the programs are cutting back.

First of all, it’s becoming just about impossible to get an actual print book sent to a Canadian address. Since I don’t have any interest in reading electronically, I’ve already told a couple of the publishers to take a hike. Shelf-naked I came into the book business 37 years ago, and shelf-naked I shall leave.

But now Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program has handed me the greatest insult of all. They suspended my account because I haven’t reviewed any of their books in over 90 days. Here’s a suggestion, Thomas Nelson: Publish some decent books every 90 days. Seriously. (I did in fact offer a title I would be willing to be consider, but was told yesterday, basically, ‘Tough luck, you missed out;’ despite my attempts to parade out my reader stats as a kind if trump card.)

You know what? The social media promotion gambit was an idea that had merit. And my store is filled with dozens upon dozens of titles that I would never have carried were it not for the buzz that was created in the Christian blogosphere. Furthermore, many of the authors were originally nothing more than bloggers like myself, and through their various iterations online — blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — I feel like I really know these people, even though we’ve never met. Heck, I can name their spouses, their children, their favorite restaurant.

And now, as the industry contracts, industry hirelings who know neither the publishing industry they work in nor the Christian blogosphere where they are paid to toss out freebies are suddenly all busy shooting themselves in their collective feet.

So to the golden age of social media publicity in the Christian publishing industry — 2007 – 2012 — I say, Rest in Peace.  You were Christian publishing’s last great idea, and last great hope; and your loss is about to be reflected by sales at both physical and online sellers.

~Paul Wilkinson, former book reviewer


For the record, Thinking Out Loud is currently ranked #7 out of all Christian blogs in North America for incoming links from Google, the number one search engine.

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  1. February 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I noticed this trend as well and agree 100%. It is difficult enough with Christian bookstores closing and losing marketing share to the amazons of the world. This seems like it will be one more nail in the coffin of Christian publishing.

  2. February 15, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Well, Paul, for my part I am trying. I’ve just finished circulating the UK bookshop chains with my “Sale or Giveaway” offer of one free book per shop, to be displayed for 3 months and replaced once only if it sells or else be given away to anyone they choose. So far, I’m delighted to say that one major chain has accepted, one small chain has refused and I’m still waiting to hear from the rest.
    I’m sending a PDF version with the offer, so that shops can review it before deciding. I haven’t yet worked out a strategy for managing a similar offer on your side of the pond: but if you’d like to review it and just have to have a hard copy, let me know and I’ll try to sort something out.

  3. February 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    One parallel issue that I did not get into here is the demise of contests where readers can win copies of books. It’s strange how Canada is no longer considered part of the print promotional machinery, but the publishers insist all books sold in Canada be priced according to the U.S. dollar SRP. In other words, we’re part of the U.S. domestic book market when literary agents consider it advantageous, but we’re part of the foreign market when it comes to those same publishers doing anything beyond the rock bottom minimal effort.

  4. February 20, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Making connections with authors using social media, blogging book reviews of works publishers send to you, using the internet to foster your business in the real world, all of it seems very forward thinking to me. And then I came to this statement: “Since I don’t have any interest in reading electronically…” This reminds me of my dad, who insisted on taking his check to the bank because he was scared of direct deposit.

    There will always be a market for physical books, just like the people that never stopped buying records. Yeah, they still make those, but what you don’t find is a retail outlet for them on every corner. My wife enjoys the feeling of turning a literal page as opposed to a virtual one. If you cannot embraced electronic print, you may someday run out of anything to read. I myself do not own an electronic reader, but consumer voracious amounts of blogs, newspaper and magazine articles online. The electronic apocalypse is coming for us old friend.

    • February 20, 2013 at 9:35 am

      Compared to, for example, the people in my church; my wife and I fairly immersed in new technologies. I just happen to prefer holding a printed book in my hand. (Granted, I don’t text!)

      The other thing is that the publishers aren’t really ‘giving’ you anything when they send you an electronic book file, since all you have is ‘license’ to use it, you don’t actually own it. So I am being asked to put some time and energy into writing a review — in my case most reviews land on three different blogs — and then don’t really get anything in return.

      But your statement, “If you cannot embrace electronic print, you may someday run out of anything to read;” is already partial reality.

  5. February 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    RE: “There isn’t a single book publicity program for bloggers that teaches them how to ‘tag’ their stories to attract additional readers, or how to register their URL with search engines.”
    Good suggestion, Paul!

    If it is okay to “borrow your suggestion,” we will incorporate that idea into our program http://www.grafmartin.com/index.php/grafmartin/services/ Thanks.

    We hope that you will still consider reviewing for us – as a top ranked blogger! (Because we do track these things). 🙂

  1. February 20, 2013 at 6:25 am

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