Self-published author Marisha Pink describes her creative use of digital technology to make Finding Arun, her new book, stand out worldwide in a crowded marketplace, while also raising her profile with independent bricks-and-mortar bookstores.
This Christmas I’m experimenting with Arun Advent, a digital advent calendar app for iPhone and iPad, to promote my debut novel, Finding Arun. I wanted to do something fun and festive, yet it was only at the start of November that I hit upon the idea of facilitating a daily book giveaway through a mobile application.
Mobile and tablet usage is rapidly growing, and an app is a great way to connect with readers frequently, without having to rely on them to make repeat visits to your website. Compared with a printed advent calendar, a digital version is cheaper to produce, easier to distribute, and offers the possibility of extending giveaways to international readers.
How The Book’s Advent Calendar Works
The advent calendar’s windows each conceal a clue pointing to an independent bookstore in the UK and Ireland, where a signed paperback copy of Finding Arun has been hidden. To win, readers must simply guess the name or location of the bookstore and, if they are the first to reach the store, they can claim the book for themselves. Stores are participating in London, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford, Nottingham, Sheffield, Brighton, Leicester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Swansea and Dublin.
The app contains a ‘Buy’ button linked to iTunes for ebook sales, but partnering with independent book stores has been a great way to tap into existing communities of readers. Word-of-mouth is a powerful sales tool at the best of times, but endorsements from store owners who know their customers well has even more impact. I supported the shops with in-store and online marketing materials, and I have also been conducting press outreach online and offline at a local, national and international level.
The Power of Originality
The campaign gained initial support because of its originality. Demonstrating my commitment to marketing, even as a small publisher, has definitely positioned me as a serious professional in the minds of bookstore owners. This can only make them more amenable to future discussions about stocking my titles.
A second daily clue offers readers the chance to win a signed ebook. Each day the clues point to different pages of my website where Festive Arun – an image of the boy from the front cover of the book themed with a Santa hat – is hiding. To win, readers must be the first to post a link to the correct page on Facebook or Twitter, using the hashtag #FindingArun. Not only has this enabled my international readers to take part in the giveaway, it has created a valid way for advocates to advertise the book on my behalf.
Social Media Support
Social engagement is a crucial aspect of any digital campaign, and the app makes it easy for readers to share the download link via text, e-mail and social media, through a ‘Share’ button on the main screen and a ‘Share’ option behind each advent window. Clues are presented as images or video and are pulled into the app via an RSS feed from my website. The videos are hosted privately on YouTube, and after each day has passed I make them public. Video is becoming an increasingly important medium and as Google moves to improve the way that videos are indexed, such tactics can only help to increase online visibility in search engine rankings. I’m also going to experiment with posting image clues to Instagram and Pinterest to see what, if any, effect this has.
I’m constantly promoting the giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, using Twitter in particular to identify and engage with local media and arts interest groups within each city. There are links to all my social media profiles within the app, and I am hopeful that this will help forge connections with new readers beyond the lifespan of the giveaway.
It’s too early to tell just what effect this campaign will have on my book sales, but there have been some positive early signals. My Twitter following has shown a steady increase over the last few days, and with followers located all over the world, it would seem that my geographical reach is expanding. Perhaps most exciting, though, was the request from Book & Kitchen, one of the participating stores, to stock copies of Finding Arun. Like most self-published authors, seeing my book on the shelves of a real store is a dream come true and, if nothing else, it’s proved to me that getting creative with your digital marketing strategy really can help you to stand out from the crowd.
The Arun Advent app is available to download from Apple’s App Store now and Finding Arun is available to buy online, in paperback and ebook, from all major retailers.