Marketing “How to Write a Poem.”

CreateSpace, How to Write a Poem: A Beginner’s Guide, marketing, Michigan, Uncategorized, Wikipedia
Towards the end of last year a friend of mine gave me a rather cool suggestion. I’d been telling him about how sales of my book “How to Write a Poem: A Beginner’s Guide” seemed to be healthy and he suggested that I send a free copy to professors who run creative writing courses asking them to recommend the book to their students. I thought it sounded like a pretty good idea so I went ahead and implemented it. Here’s what I did.
I went onto the Wikipedia website and looked up “List of colleges and universities in Michigan” (mainly because Michigan is where I live). What was displayed was a table showing the school, the location, the type of college, how many students each college had and so on. I clicked on the “enrollment” heading and that sorted the table with colleges with the highest attendance at the top. So I made a note of the top ten colleges whose student numbers ranged from about 47k to about 23k.
I then consulted the website of each institution and found the creative writing program page. After a rather lengthy search I came up with the names of the people who ran the programs in the various colleges, and after an even longer search located their contact details.
Next, I ordered 10 copies of the book from the CreateSpace website. CreateSpace is the company I use for publishing paperbacks of my books and copies can be ordered for a fraction of the retail price (if you are the author). The books duly arrived and I set about composing a letter to the various professors I had targeted. I then ordered a box of padded envelopes from with which to mail the books. I packaged up the ten books, along with the letters and took them to the local post office. The postage on each package, if I recall, was about a dollar fifty. The total cost of ordering the books and envelopes and paying for the postage turned out to be roughly $50, i.e. $5 per book.
A few weeks later I sent a follow up email asking if they had had a chance to look at the book and whether it might be useful for their students. I got one reply, from a professor from Oakland Community College who was complimentary about the book but stated that they used another title that covered poetry, fiction and playwriting.
The dearth of feedback did not deter me. In fact, sales went up about 25% from that point on. There is no way of telling if the sales boost was as a result of my marketing pitch or some other cause. The fact is, running relatively cheap marketing campaigns like this can’t hurt and there is always the chance of getting some sales out of them. There are other opportunities; after all I only chose the top ten colleges in one state. There are another 49 states out there who have yet to encounter the beauty and erudition of my book 🙂, and for each of those states there are many colleges who might benefit and therefore many more students who are potential purchasers. That’s tens of thousands of prospective customers. And that’s only one book. And only one country.
I have another book in the pipeline that could be even more relevant for students – and not just students of creative writing, but that can wait for another post….


How to write a Poem (again)

How to Write a Poem, marketing, poetry, price, sales, Uncategorized
 In April, I published my book “How to Write a Poem: A Beginner’s Guide.” I released it with a price of $2.99 for the ebook version and it began to sell steadily – by steadily I mean about one or two copies a day (occasionally three, sometimes none). The average was probably about one a day. Although fairly modest, this was pretty good news for me, especially considering that I did no advertising at all other than blogging about it and then posting a link to my blog on Facebook. Out of that $2.99 I get about $2 every time I make a sale.
So I decided to do an experiment in order to find out what the most lucrative price for the book would be. I double the price to $5.99. The first day, things continued as normal and I got one sale at the new price. The next day, same thing. One sale. Then for about a week or more there was absolutely nothing. No one, it seemed was willing to fork out six bucks for a copy of the book. After waiting and waiting, I decided to adjust the price again down to $3.99. Hey presto, it began to sell again at pretty much the same rate as before.
One of the things that I am sure helped sales was the fact that one kind purchaser gave the book a 5-star review on Amazon (see above). There are a few other books on the Amazon website with very similar titles to mine, but they are more expensive, some of them are aimed at kids and not all of them have star ratings anyway. I’m sure people must be swayed by that star rating in some way. I know I would be. The main factor, though, is that if you type in “How to Write a Poem” in the Amazon search bar, mine is the first book on the resultant list.
The next thing I will probably do is to advertise the book by posting on my Facebook page and also posting on a number of Facebook groups where you can promote your book. So far all my sales of that book have been random, serendipitous events. It will be interesting to see if there is a spike in the sales figures after some marketing activity on my part.
Anyway, it got me thinking about what kind of people are, in fact, interested in buying a book about how to write poetry. The blurb for my book runs as follows:
This is a practical book. By the time you finish reading it, you will have all the tools you need to write convincing, compelling, and beautiful poetry. Whether someone has asked you to come up with a poem for a special occasion, or you have suddenly been struck by an intense emotion and are looking for a way to articulate it, or you want to express love to your sweetheart on Valentine’s day, “How to Write a Poem: A Beginner’s Guide” provides all the necessary techniques to enable your poem to be a success.
I think there must be a lot of people who like reading poetry either because they remember poems they learned in school or because it can express certain experiences better than the reader can themselves. There are also people who like writing poetry because it is a means of self-expression that prose can’t quite match. This idea of poetry expressing emotion is not new, of course, but quite often, I think, somebody can get the idea that the stronger the emotion the better the poem will be. My own view is that writing good poetry requires training of some sort. It is only after having mastered the tools of the trade, as it were, that someone is ready to express themselves adequately in poetic form. Without adequate practice, poetry – even strongly felt poetry – can fall flat on its face.
That’s one of the issues covered in the book. But, to the same extent, the book isn’t some diatribe on highly-intellectual, abstruse or academic issues. It’s meant to be a fun book to read. It’s also meant to be a practical introduction to how you actually go about writing a poem. Hence the title.