#26: No Free Ride
By Steve O'Keefe
Since the last installment of the "Notes"
I've kept up my rather
fruitless efforts to score free publicity for NaNoWriMo Notes: An Exercise In
in its brand spanking new book
form. Now I hadn't
expected it to be easy to find free listings for the book, or places willing to
post my press release out of the kindness of their hearts, but I had not
expected the amount of duplicity I would run into.
How many ways did you
think free could be modified? In my mind it's sort of like being pregnant;
either you are or you're not. Well the same applies to the word free, either
something is or it isn't. Imagine my surprise when I found out I'd been serving
under a misapprehension for all these years.
It turns out there are
various degrees of freeness applicable on the Internet. After doing my requisite
Google search for sites offering free listings for press releases, I picked out
five of the
most appropriate ones (based on quick visits to each of their home pages) and
prepared myself for the tedium of registering at each of them.
It was the
usual drill of filling in the information each site considered essential to its
wellbeing to know about you. Once that was done, and the level of registration
checked, you could kick back and wait for the email telling you that you had
successfully filled in all the little boxes. At least that's the way I've been
used to doing things like that.
The first email I received from one company was an
apology telling me they no longer offered a free service and asking if I would
like to upgrade to the next level? This was of course after they had hooked me
in through Google claiming to be free, and saying all over their website reduced
service was available for free: such lovely people.
It was actually quite
special the number of sites that would somehow or other manage to get a listing
in Google with the word FREE trumpeted in loud letters. It got to be less and
less of a surprise when I would get to the site and discover the only thing free
was going to their site. On others the free bit applied to the fact people were
allowed to read through their database of press releases for free, or just be a
member and not do anything.
I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised,
seeing as how that's normal when you look for anything free on the Internet.
There is not always a catch, like attaching adware to the free product that
cripples your computer; it's just the sites that yell free the loudest usually
charge the most for whatever service they are offering.
Then there are
the sites that do have a genuinely free service, which they explain right up
front does less than the service you would pay for, which is cool and makes
sense. If you are willing to pay money you should be entitled to better service.
What I started to get bored with really fast was their insistence on telling me
how lousy their free service was.
As soon as I had finished filling in
their registration form, they opened a new window telling me how little they
were going to do for me. When they sent out the obligatory, "verify your
account" email, they reiterated I might as well not even have bothered
registering with them based on the fact their free service is
Now I understand offering a free service as an enticement to
upgrade to something that does more, I can even understand pushing the free
service in your keywords to act as an inducement for people searching for your
service. Those are both standard business practices and the former can be seen
as a way to provide the client an opportunity to test what's on
But if you use free as your hook and as your test package, what
kind of impression are you going to make on potential clients if you keep
degenerating the offer. Saying you could be doing more, in a faster manner, for
ten dollars is a lot different from saying we're not going to do squat for you.
What kind of confidence is the client going to develop if the company tells them
the service is shit after inducing you to sign up because they offered it for
I do know if I decide to spend money on some online publicity it
won't be through any of the services that acted like that. So far from what
research I've conducted even if you have money to spend on publicity, you are
more likely better off conducting the campaign yourself.
Create some banner ads you can place on web sites
that utilize your cover art from the book and have some eye-catching text.
Lather your own website with stuff, don't overdue it on each page, but make sure
each page has at least some mention of the book and a link to where it can be
purchased, even if it's only a button.
Create a special page for your book and put a fancy ad on it that ...
links to where it can be sold. If, unlike me, you can figure out how to turn the
jpegs of your book's artwork into gifs then you could even have an animated
banner. (Are they supposed to be transparent or not? Why does background colour
keep leaching into the new layers? Why did they turn greyish-green when the ad's
base colour is orange-brown?)
Make stationery with your banner ad on it
if you have the capability (if Outlook Express does I'm sure everybody does) so
everyone you mail knows you have a book for sale. Include a link to your
storefront in your signature, making it obvious where the link is
Word of mouth on the Internet is a far more powerful tool than it
ever was in the real world, because now instead of everybody maybe telling one
or two people, they have the potential to reach hundreds and each one of the
hundreds they reach has the same potential. Each time I've had a post or a page
from my blog mentioned on a forum, my traffic has increased.
That's not just the one-time blip as people descend to
see the mentioned article or photos, but a real increase in numbers. That
happens all the time; it's how publicity really works on the Internet, not
through any of these formal sites that charge you x amount of dollars so your
press release can be posted to the wire service or one of their listings.
When I used to do publicity for my theatre company, back in the bad old
days of snailmailed press releases and flyers mailed out to the world at large
through mass postal mailings, statistics showed we could expect between a 1% and
3% return on all material sent out. I wonder if anyone has done that sort of
statistical analysis on these sites that post releases for you.
some of the listings these companies use, and you have to want to read them to
notice anything. No causal eye is going to be attracted to anything they list.
The best publicity you can get will be whatever you can generate on your own. At
least that's the case if you are a publishing company of one like me with a zero
I've sold one copy of the book since I offered it for sale, and
that was through me telling somebody about it. He didn't have to buy it, but he
decided to, for which I'm grateful. Then again, nobody else has to buy it either
but I hope they do. He lives in Virginia and I will probably never meet him, but
we correspond by email. I fully expect that's how whatever sales I make will
occur, either me telling somebody or somebody who reads it and likes it telling
somebody else and so on.
I spent a couple of weeks searching around, and
now it's become obvious, the best way I have of telling people about
NaNoWriMo Notes is on my own, via my website and other word-of-mouth
vehicles. Unless you have the money to place banner ads on high traffic sites,
and see little or no return on them, there's not much point in using any of the
web services available. Free or otherwise, they just don't seem to offer much
that I can't do as well and offer no better guarantee or returns.
Email this • Subscribe to this
Richard Marcus is
a long - haired Canadian iconoclast who writes reviews and opines on the world
as he sees it at Leap In The Dark