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Old 12-02-2017, 03:36 PM   #1
Steven Lake
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Billboards

Okay, this is hopefully my last question for a while. (yeah, famous last words, lol) Anyhow, have any of you ever used a roadside billboard to promote yourself or your books, and if so, how effective was it? I'm asking as I'm considering the idea myself after a friend of mine did it for his business and found it to be very lucrative. My only issue is that I don't charge for my books. I prefer to give them away for free as this is just a fun hobby of mine. But even so I want as many people as possible to read the books. Thus my consideration of the billboard, despite the expense. So what do you guys think about the idea? Good idea or bad?

PS, the cost that I'll have to shoulder if I do this is about $500/m for 6 months for a prime location. OR about $3k. I could possibly offset that a bit by charging 99c on all my books, but I'm not sure at this point. Hence my request for your thoughts.
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Old 12-02-2017, 04:48 PM   #2
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What business is your friend in?

Where would you sell your books?

Do you have an easy to remember website?

Keep in mind since we are talking billboards, it better be unforgettable as people will have to wait till they stop to get your book.
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Old 12-02-2017, 07:17 PM   #3
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My friend was in publishing. As for the books, I sell through Smashwords and all their affiliates (including BN and apple) and also Amazon. As for the website, yes. It's in my sig and should be fairly memorable.
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Old 12-02-2017, 08:58 PM   #4
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I think the dot net might be a challenge since everyone is used to dot com.

Also is this one billboard or several?
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Old 12-03-2017, 01:37 AM   #5
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Just one. I can't afford anything more. Heck, $500/m for 6 months is about gonna break me as it is. Then again, he only did one at a time and did really good with it. That's the only reason I'm even considering it.
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Old 12-03-2017, 01:59 AM   #6
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Just one. I can't afford anything more. Heck, $500/m for 6 months is about gonna break me as it is. Then again, he only did one at a time and did really good with it. That's the only reason I'm even considering it.
Question 1: what exactly does your friend do?
Question 2: what is really good?
Question 3: What is the population that will see this billboard?

To me, a billboard seems like a total waste of money to sell books especially ebooks that are not available at the big bookstore.
Your website is just way too long for people driving down the road especially with the dot net.

As your new financial advisor: I say don't try it since it will break you. That is just too much money for very little return.

As to charging the 99 cents, that is way too little money to charge. Most 99 cent books aren't worth free. If it is a full book of more than 200 pages $2.99 is the least you should charge. If I can't talk you out of the billboard, price your book either $4.97 or $4.99. Be sure to use the 97 or 99. Both sell better than round numbers. Oh and do put them on Amazon if you do the billboard so you don't look like a scammer.
A $5 book will catch way more eyes than a $1 book.

Readers are finicky. Don't make yourself look like a cheap indie.
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Old 12-03-2017, 06:22 AM   #7
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Quote:
Question 1: what exactly does your friend do?
Well, these days he does book covers. He used to run a publishing business, which is when he did the billboard.
Quote:
Question 2: what is really good?
Well, his business went up 2-3 times what it was before the billboard and he did that easily. Probably more if I knew the exact numbers. I only know that he was raving about how much it helped him. I also saw a nice uptick in 3rd party work for him as I was a developer at the time and he contracted with me for author websites.
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Question 3: What is the population that will see this billboard?
Oh good heavens. Quite a lot actually. I had planned on putting it on the I-94 corridor between Chicago and Detroit. Even though it's 2 lanes a large percentage of the way, it gets massive amounts of daily traffic, both local and interstate. It's the busiest highway in Michigan second only to 131.
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To me, a billboard seems like a total waste of money to sell books especially ebooks that are not available at the big bookstore.
They already sell through BN and Amazon, so I think that's close enough.
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Your website is just way too long for people driving down the road especially with the dot net.
Perhaps, but the name is catchy, and if it's still too long, I can always point them to earthfleet.net which autoforwards to my site already.
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As to charging the 99 cents, that is way too little money to charge. Most 99 cent books aren't worth free. If it is a full book of more than 200 pages $2.99 is the least you should charge. If I can't talk you out of the billboard, price your book either $4.97 or $4.99. Be sure to use the 97 or 99. Both sell better than round numbers. Oh and do put them on Amazon if you do the billboard so you don't look like a scammer.
A $5 book will catch way more eyes than a $1 book.

Readers are finicky. Don't make yourself look like a cheap indie.
That's funny that you should say that as I've had the opposite results. The more I charged, the less people downloaded and read my book. When I hit $4.99, all downloads just completely stopped for several months until I reduced the price, and even then they only picked up as the price went down. When I asked people why they wouldn't pay the higher prices for the books, the vast majority said they only read free books or that, since I'm not some big, famous author or well known name, they're not going to risk even 99c on a book until I'm well known. Now I don't know if that's just because they're snobby people and I happened into a really bad lot, but that's kinda been my experience of late. And it's not because my books are bad. Everyone who reads them loves them, but they also tell me they either won't pay even 99c, or they will only if they have a good running history with the author and know their books are good, which is something I lack as I'm a good author, but very much unknown, which is probably my fault as I haven't been able to promote my books like I should the past 6 years. Of course, I have the excuse of taking care of my mom during that time.

Now, one thing I'm considering doing, and my brother in law suggested this, is to make the first book of each series free, to draw in new readers and once they're hooked, then charge for the other books in the series, which this would be used towards new readers who've never heard of me before, and established readers who know me but have never read that particular series. But either way, my goal is to gather more attention to the books and get better known as an author. So far though that's proven rather frustratingly difficult. Hence the consideration of a billboard. I mean, I'm really just trying to find any way to get noticed and draw in readers. Again, I'm not a bad author. I just have the ever present issue of overwhelming obscurity.
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:23 AM   #8
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I have some good news and some bad news.

First the good news. I am the sort of person who will see something like your billboard ad, and assuming it sparks my interest, actually try to find it. That probably means trying to remember the title until my next stop where I can write it down.

So if I exist then it stands to reason others like me exist. How many? Well that's the question. But advertising is a numbers game. If enough people see it then the tiny percentage that are interested and convert that interest into action will add up.

The bad news. I tried searching your name on Amazon. I'm thinking I'd probably remember your name more easily than your book titles. I got a page full of results of things with "lake" in the title. I thought that might be because I was at the UK site. I tried the US site. Same thing. I say a page but actually I tried the first 5 pages and didn't find anything apart from a co-written religious book which I assumed was a different Steven Lake (actually it's not as I found out from your site).

I tried "earthfleet" - no results at all! I tried "The Oort Perimeter" and got a paperback (POD I assume?) and no ebooks.

I had better luck with Goodreads. I get to a list of your books pretty quickly. Though when I click the "Amazon UK" button I get to a paperback listing with a very basic cover, not the nice one you have on the US site or your own site.

So if you're relying on a billboard you're relying on something where your best hope is someone remembering your name or the title and finding it in a search later. One of the biggest places to search, Amazon, is not working for you right now. I don't know much about it but I guess you need better keywords etc. Are your ebooks actually on Amazon?

The other thing you could go for is to try to make your website the "memorable" thing. I'd go with earthfleet.net not the longer one. Though I do notice that theoortperimeter.com is available (and domains are cheaper than billboards). Then again if you want the first book to be your "landing spot" you might want to think about renaming it to a snappier, more memorable title.

Let's talk money. You say you're happy not to make any money off your books, which is fine, but that means we have no way to measure the effectiveness of your ads. What counts as a win? 1,000 new copies sold? 100? 1? If you were selling at a price you'd know when it had paid for itself. As it is you have to come up with your own measure.

What I would say is that if $3k would nearly break you then try to get that figure down. Is 6-months a minimum? Are there cheaper locations? I think -
excellent advice on MR notwithstanding of course - you really need to try it out to see how well it works. And to do that you need to spend an amount that won't break you.

Also does the $500/month cover the cost of actually printing up the poster? Have you budgeted for a poster design?

Also look at other venues where you could spend your ad money. Online in particular.

Hope some of that is helpful - otherwise feel free to ignore!
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:03 AM   #9
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Hey, I'm in obscurity too. We should meet up some time. ... But it's pretty crowded here, we may have to book ahead to get two seats together.


I presume the costs you give are just the space rental, production of artwork to go up onto the board is going to add even more, yes?

I was inclined to agree with Cinisajoy about much of it ... but then look where I live. You probably have the population of Australia going past your proposed billboard every day. I'd have to teach kangaroos how to read to make it worth while here.

It would be an interesting experiment if you can afford it ... but I'm really not sure you can force your way out of obscurity like this.


The whole price thing is difficult to guess at. Yes, there are a lot of people that won't even look at a new indy author unless they can get the work free. (And a lot that won't even look then.) But there are also a lot of people that think "free" is a sign of worthless. My own opinion is that price, at the level that most indies charge, is of less importance than other forms of marketing. A few dollars is effectively nothing compared to asking the person to invest their time in reading your book.

We haven't seen VyderScope (Vincent Trigili) here for a while (more than three years), but when he was here he was a proponent of the "give away the first of the series" approach. Note, however, that he has a blog article up on his site now that speaks of a mammoth effort in which he got 6 books ready (doing right all those things he'd done wrong with this first books - getting professional editing and covers etc) and then released them over a tight schedule to keep his name up on the lists for an extended time. According to the article "that changed everything" (very much for the better).

An incredible effort, but even that may not have worked if he did not already have a collection of books in backlist and with generally good reviews. That is, if he hadn't already spent so long working to get where he was when he made that effort.

Hugh Howey, on his site, speaks of a break-out book: the book that finally gets enough attention that some sort of momentum builds up and things really start to happen. The implication being that success is not something that can be forced, but something that arrives as a sort of X-factor only after you've put in the work to make it possible.

...

I'd say, if you were going to try this billboard thing, and you want to give it the best chance of doing something positive for you, then you need to align it with something significant in your publication schedule and other marketing. (The downside being that you will never know if it was the billboard that made the difference. )
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Old 12-03-2017, 12:01 PM   #10
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Forget about billboards.

Go the Indie way.
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Old 12-03-2017, 12:21 PM   #11
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Off topic: VyderScope is still on Facebook and posts once in a while.
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Old 12-03-2017, 12:37 PM   #12
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Steven: Amazon is the big bookstore.

Now as to your friend: it seems everyone and their elephants wants to write a book these days.

Note: my pricing scheme was if you do the billboard, since people will think guy is a big seller to afford a billboard.

You said I-94. Just looked up the distance between the two cities. That is a long way to remember something since there doesn't seem to be much between the places. If that interstate is anything like I-90, you will definitely need something catchy.

Oh and just a little food for thought. 2 is twice one. 3 is 3 times one. Just add zeros. So your friend could have gone from 10 to 30. 100 to 300. 1000 to 3000. My guess is the middle one since I doubt your friend could do a good publishing job for 3000 people in a month unless he had a staff.
Also if he was doing so good why did he switch careers.

Once again, your financial advisor says I don't think this is a good expenditure. There are other methods to selling a book. Not near enough buying eyes.
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Old 12-03-2017, 05:58 PM   #13
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These sorts of undertakings have to broken down completely. Hidden costs? $3K for six months. Does this include art work, printing etc. How many books would you have to sell to cover the cost (taking into your hourly rate as well)? This is a very expensive fun hobby (although, having said that, I'm a strong believer in "if you're enjoying yourself, go for it"). Although, unlike a collector or car/stamp/matchbook enthusiast, you may have nothing to show for it at the end of the three months.

What do you want/expect to get out of the whole experience?

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Oh and just a little food for thought. 2 is twice one. 3 is 3 times one. Just add zeros. So your friend could have gone from 10 to 30. 100 to 300. 1000 to 3000. My guess is the middle one since I doubt your friend could do a good publishing job for 3000 people in a month unless he had a staff.
This reminds me of the "marketing" dept in my previous life. They were pushing to keep using an expensive, yet largely unused, website live because after some TV ads their hits "quadrupled".
They sure had though. They went from 10 hits per week to 40 (yes, those are actual visit stats and we knew that most of them were, indeed, the marketing people). It would've been cheaper just to take the whole audience of the year of the website out to dinner than maintaining the site.
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:31 PM   #14
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I think latepaul's research offers lots of insight into the problems you may be having in marketing your books. Basically, no one can find you!
You need to be visible on the web and your books need to be very easy to locate and download. I haven't tried to find them.

Just tried to find your kindle books on Amazon. All I found were two books of short stories with very uninspiring covers. No novels. It was unclear whether one of them was an anthology of which you're the editor.

Maybe focus on your online presence. Do you have a Facebook page? Is this full of information about your writing and links to your books?

If you do want to do 'real world' advertising, why not go round a few neighbourhoods handing out fliers? Perhaps ask (and pay) some shops to show the US equivalent of an A4 poster in their window which you can design and print yourself. (I've done both of these for lost cats.)

Spread the word. Maybe join a few book clubs in your town and take some POD paperbacks to give away to the members. Give a copy to the local library (they might put it in the bin, but it's cheaper than the billboard.)

I'm not anti having books up for free, but after reading a few freebies I've developed a poor opinion of them and stopped downloading free Amazon books. Are you sure that those who download your zero priced books are actually reading them. (It's a sad fact that people value things more if they've had to shell out money or effort to get them.)

Good Luck.
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:31 PM   #15
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I think latepaul's research offers lots of insight into the problems you may be having in marketing your books. Basically, no one can find you!
You need to be visible on the web and your books need to be very easy to locate and download. I haven't tried to find them.

Just tried to find your kindle books on Amazon. All I found were two books of short stories with very uninspiring covers. No novels. It was unclear whether one of them was an anthology of which you're the editor.

Maybe focus on your online presence. Do you have a Facebook page? Is this full of information about your writing and links to your books?

If you do want to do 'real world' advertising, why not go round a few neighbourhoods handing out fliers? Perhaps ask (and pay) some shops to show the US equivalent of an A4 poster in their window which you can design and print yourself. (I've done both of these for lost cats.)

Spread the word. Maybe join a few book clubs in your town and take some POD paperbacks to give away to the members. Give a copy to the local library (they might put it in the bin, but it's cheaper than the billboard.)

I'm not anti having books up for free, but after reading a few freebies I've developed a poor opinion of them and stopped downloading free Amazon books. Are you sure that those who download your zero priced books are actually reading them. (It's a sad fact that people value things more if they've had to shell out money or effort to get them.)

Good Luck.
I just want to add to your free book comment.
I did two small studies on freebies. The first one worked out better than the second one but not by much. The first one came out to be 75% of the freebies were not worth the download time. The second one came out to 90% not worth it.
Note: I am not talking plots. I am talking actual errors. This was across all genres.
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