Ideas I tried that didn’t work

(from Michael Stanier’s article)
1. Hiring a PR agency
Ask any author and they’ll tell you what a disappointment PR has been for them. I’d experience that with Do More Great Work, where the PR support I got was random three-minute radio interviews with confused radio DJs who hadn’t read the book and didn’t care.
I was determined not to waste money on this. Until I weakened. FOMO? Perhaps. But I hired a PR person for $3,000 and got the predictably disappointing results. One morning TV show in Toronto (glamorous, but I’m pretty sure none of my target market watches TV at 9:30 a.m.) and a few radio and podcast interviews. One of my most expensive efforts with the least results. Pass.
Cost: $3,000
 
2. The Twitter Thunderclap
Thunderclap is a clever way to coordinate your social media bang. The idea is that you ask people to sign up to support your campaign – in our case, the book launch on February 29. What then happens is that a message created by you gets sent out at the same time to everyone’s Twitter account. A mighty thunderclap of social media, echoing around the world!
We had a bunch of generous people sign up – 223, with a social reach of 589,000 – and we Thunderclapped on February 29. And it didn’t seem to make much difference. On reflection, I realize now that it gave people a very low commitment option to support the launch. People who might otherwise have mentioned us on Facebook or on their blog or (the best option) to their email list quite reasonably took the easiest way out.
Cost: $0
3. Book-launch bonuses
As part of the launch week, we offered bonuses to people willing to bulk-buy the book.
My vision was that hundreds of teams and organizations would buy copies of the book, I’d deliver one workshop and some webinars, and that potentially we could talk to the others about coming in to deliver paid workshops for them. In other words, a clever way to start some sales conversations while also selling loads of books.
What did work was the PDF giveaway for a single purchase. I know people appreciated that, and I think it was a quick, easy win that encouraged people to buy the book.
What didn’t work were the more elaborate giveaways. As it happened, only four organizations bought more than 98 books (and a big thank-you to them!), and none of them turned into Box of Crayons clients. And we failed to make the most of Lee Crutchley’s fantastic postcards that we commissioned for this purpose.
Cost: A day of my time to run the workshop; three 60-minute slots to run three webinars; $5,000 + printing costs for the postcards.
4. Giving the book away in bulk
One maverick publisher I spoke to (who asked to remain anonymous) said that part of the success he’d had with his bestselling book was due to his commitment to give it away. In fact, he said that in the seven years since first publishing the book, he’d given away more than 50,000 copies, to targeted conferences, to online communities and so on.
I thought I’d try that and so set up a PDF download on Gumroad so that I could offer free and very inexpensive versions of the book. I was speaking at the big ATD conference (North America’s biggest conference for training and development, with more than 10,000 attendees) and paid $5,000 to put a flyer in every attendee’s swag bag, offering a copy of the book. I actually split-tested this: 6,000 of the flyers offered the book for free, and 4,000 offered it for 99¢. Part of the genius of this idea was that the front page of the download asks people to consider giving the book a review on Amazon, so in my imagination, we’d give away a ton of books, resulting in many reviews on Amazon (hello, target of 1,000!) and maybe even some sales inquiries about our programs.
Turns out people don’t read flyers in the swag bag. We had a little more than 100 or so people download the book, equally split between paid and free. And none that I know of turned into clients for Box of Crayons.
I do think there’s something very smart about giving the book away, particularly if your goal (like mine was) is to have it considered a classic. And if, like me, you’ve got a way of earning money that the book helps promote. But I haven’t really figured it out just yet.
Cost: $5,000