Poll

How many charities should this event support?

Let every author choose their favorite.
2 (33.3%)
Focus all our efforts on promoting one charity.
2 (33.3%)
Have a pre-selected short list of charities for authors to choose from.
2 (33.3%)

Total Members Voted: 6

Author Topic: After Action Review: Veteran's Day Author Charity Drive (all feedback welcome)  (Read 1136 times)  

Offline ThePete

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(Feedback from non-participants is also welcome. For the background on this event, you'll find all the details here: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,199976.0.html)

Ok, time to take a long, hard look in the mirror so we can blow this thing out of the water next year and raise a cool $100,000. Don't worry about hurting my feelings. I already have to go through doors sideways to squeeze my ego in too! You can't hurt it!

Every aspect of this promotion, from the smallest minutia to the general strategy, needs to be examined. My one caveat: Let's not just go on and on about how we should have started earlier. That issue is fixed. :D I've already begun lining up sponsors for next year. Instead, let's focus on the nitty gritty details about what, exactly, we should be doing or not doing.

Here are my initial thoughts below. We'll add/subtract to this list as the discussion evolves so we can keep the ideas in just one easy-reference post. Thanks again everyone!

Let's start with our strengths:
- The event is extremely popular among sponsors of all stripes. Best advertiser engagement I've ever seen. I occasionally heard (usually personalized) "Sorry, however..."'s, but few venues failed to respond at all. Had we an extra week, we would have seen traffic increase by orders of magnitude.

 - Fantastic author participation in promotion. Almost every author helped in some way to promote. Not just a quick tweet, but sustained efforts. Susan Illene even put money into FB ads!

- This pitch has mass appeal. The exact opposite of book-selling 101... this event has no niche. Or more accurately, veteran authors helping veterans builds it's own damn niche wherever it pleases! :) I can't tell you how many emails I received saying, "I never bought an ebook until today!"

Opportunities for Improvement:
1) Advertising window. Eyes-on-advertisements window far too short. The bulk of our social media pinned posts, the ace up my sleeve, weren't activated until the afternoon on Tuesday. While traditionally the sweet spot for engagement, this was poor timing for a holiday.

2) Self-published bias. I did not anticipate the lack of access to sales reports for trad published authors. This led to quite a few missed opportunities. My workaround of pledging a flat-rate donation for the day came too late for many of them to participate.
Several headline acts, some really big names, expressed interest but we lost them in the endless back and forth between me, the author, the agent, the publisher, their spouses, their dog, etc... Had we approached them in the first place armed with a simple plan to pledge a fixed amount, we could've skipped the middlemen.

3) Challenge page: Amateurish layout, poor internal navigation. All equates to missed sales. Hosting was something I should have delegated. A big mistake on my part.

Corrective Action:

1) Make this a week-long event. But do we start or end on the holiday? My gut says make Veteran's Day the midpoint.

2) Approach them with our refined message. Do some name dropping. That turns some people on for some reason. "We can do for you what we did for..." Goal is to get an immediate commitment and keep the flappers out of the process.

3) More modern site theme. Perhaps three columns to reduce scrolling? What information should be included or dropped? I'm working with someone now for a new, more polished site. I'll foot the bill for hosting. Least I can do.

Additional Improvements:
- Expand event to Memorial Day week as well? Is twice a year over-saturation?

- Include all books, not just one, by an author in the pledge? Stinnett's idea. Pros: Much stronger hook and more money raised. Cons: Likely fewer authors participating.

- Objective-oriented marketing task forces. Instead of everyone running off and doing their own thing (incredibly productive in some cases, but could be improved), we'll organize. One team responsible for enlisting blogs, one begging for free ad space from companies, one waving their hands at bestselling authors, one just chatting up FB page admins, etc...

- Dedicated website to event instead of just a page on my blog. Also helps to become a vetted partner for the larger charities.

- Richard Fox: Add a shared Google docs sheet with prospects, enablers and sources for engagement. This FB page, that media outlet, well known blogger, etc. Then pin the rose on someone to engage with that outlet for support. This stops four different springbucks from sending the same pitch to the same source, poisoning the well.

- Multiple: Expand the role of author live events around Memorial/Veteran's Day. Promote them hard and get more authors to participate, either online or in meatspace.

Undecided/being debated:

1) Promote one charity/everyone's favorite/ or a short list to choose from?
2) Best layout for challenge page?
3) Should there be a cap on how many authors can participate?
4) Make this a week-long event for Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, or 3-day event.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2014, 02:32:04 AM by ThePete »
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Offline richard.r.fox

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Re: After Action Review: Veteran's Day Author Charity Drive
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2014, 02:07:43 PM »
Improve:
Add an excel (or what ever it's called) to Google docs and have participants/enablers list sources for engagement. This FB page, that media outlet, well known blogger, etc. Then pin the rose on someone to engage with that outlet for support. This stops four different springbucks from sending the same pitch to the same source, poisoning the well.

Approach mailing list services (midlist, pixel of ink, etc) and see if they'll do a veteran's day charity mailer. One email blast listing books/authors pledging royalties. This is tricky and would need engagement well in advance. Maybe participating authors pay to be on the mailer, but the engagement would make it worthwhile.

Make it a three day event. This could synergize with Kindle promotion days.

Sustain: The Google hang out Clark Chamberlain hosted was awesome. Get a couple more authors in there and broadcast it to readers for more interaction. I'm having Jerry Lewis flashbacks, but we don't have to go that far.

MTF


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Offline ThePete

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Forwarding an idea from an author not on Kboards:

He's talking about the live Google hangout event and the associated FB page. They generated a lot of reader interest. Especially at the last minute.

One thought I had was having these live events setup at local libraries where the author lives so that it can bring in a crowd and is broadcast live.

How many authors are interested in broadcasting such a live event? Doesn't have to be in a library. There are quiet a few venues suddenly open to you if you're pledging your royalties to charity.
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Offline ThePete

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Improve:
Add an excel (or what ever it's called) to Google docs and have participants/enablers list sources for engagement. This FB page, that media outlet, well known blogger, etc. Then pin the rose on someone to engage with that outlet for support. This stops four different springbucks from sending the same pitch to the same source, poisoning the well.

Approach mailing list services (midlist, pixel of ink, etc) and see if they'll do a veteran's day charity mailer. One email blast listing books/authors pledging royalties. This is tricky and would need engagement well in advance. Maybe participating authors pay to be on the mailer, but the engagement would make it worthwhile.

Make it a three day event. This could synergize with Kindle promotion days.

Sustain: The Google hang out Clark Chamberlain hosted was awesome. Get a couple more authors in there and broadcast it to readers for more interaction. I'm having Jerry Lewis flashbacks, but we don't have to go that far.

MTF

Great points, Fox! The shared prospect list is a must-have. We'll also definitely need to promote and expand the live events more. Only thing I'm not sure about is a three day promotion. Still feels like a time crunch, but we'll get everyone else's thoughts on that. It's a reasonable compromise...
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Offline DennisNappiII

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I'd first like to thank you for putting this together, and for inviting me to participate. Although I am disappointed with my sales (5 eBooks @ $0.99 for a total earned of $1.75), I had a great time being a part and spreading the word about StopSoldierSuicide.org

I had a great discussion during the first hour of the Google Hangout session, and was also a guest on a local Internet radio show last night talking about the event. I promoted as much as I could - a segment on my weekly Podcast, a blog article, and countless Facebook and Twitter posts, Memes, and conversations.

I think extending the event to a week (or maybe 3 days) is a great idea.
As for promotion, I have a few ideas:
  • I host a weekly Podcast and would be happy to have several authors on prior to the event as a build up. The interviews (mp3 & YouTube) can then be played/posted in a variety of forums to help create a buzz.
  • I loved the Google Hangout, and Clark did an excellent job at organizing and interviewing. Maybe next year we can include a schedule of guests and even play special promotional videos/commercials for our guests to view.
  • The Facebook page was a great idea, and we should continue to build a following throughout the year. I also thought the commercial was a great touch and we should try to create a few more with some interview clips of veterans and soldiers to capture the "hearts and minds" of our supporters.
  • As for the promotional page - is there any way we can coordinate with our various vendors to track real-time purchases and the amount of money raised for each charity? This would be a great motivator for potential contributors and supporters if we could have a page dedicated to donations.
That's all I have for now, but if any more ideas come to me I'll send them your way. I am proud to have been a part of this and will gladly contribute more time and effort for our next event.

All the Best,

Dennis

Offline Wayne Stinnett

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Some great ideas here. All of them. Thanks for taking the helm on this, Pete. You did an awesome job, for what little time we had. I would have helped more, but was winding up preparations for a BookBub promo which starts tomorrow night and planning a promo trip to Florida. I got the call today, about a dozen Wounded Warriors will be sitting down with me on Sunday afternoon, at the beach, to celebrate the promo (the BB ad is on Sunday), watch the numbers tick upwards and talk about writing and publishing. I was able to maintain a pretty steady campaign on Twitter and Facebook, but not until the afternoon. Too many appearances to get to in the morning.

I think that with just a little more time to chase down all the loose ends, next year's will be a huge success. I like the idea of doing a live internet feed. I intend to talk to my friend Sunday, who runs Homes for Warriors, about doing exactly that. A live feed with those hard chargers, talking about their experiences and plans for the future. One of them suggested the other day that my MC should take a group of Wounded Warriors on a fishing trip and get them into a tight spot with some bad guys. One guy laughed and said, "Yeah, have the bad guys grab my legs to pull me down the steps and my legs come off." The moral among these kids blows me away. I'm already looking at the plot for my WIP to see where I might work something in.

Rest assured, you can count me in next year and I'll clear my calendar. Also, I'll work on Sonja throughout the year for a mention on BookBub.
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Offline Piers Platt

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Stray thoughts:
-I lean more towards once a year / max of 3 days, but that's purely based on gut and may be totally wrong
-Would love to participate in a hangout next year, just need to block my calendar in advance
-Love the ideas of dividing and conquering on prep tasks via a google spreadsheet, and approaching advertisers as a united group to hammer out a promo plan

Crazy ideas:
-What if we all decide on a single charity (or one per day, maybe), and work closely with them to leverage their own fan / subscriber base as part of the promo?  Would imagine the big names have pretty broad reach on social media, and email lists as well
-I'm all for inclusiveness, but I think our page probably got a bit big / long...can imagine folks landing on it and getting overwhelmed at the choices.  Part of that could be fixed with some reformatting, but we might also just pick / vote on what our biggest sellers are likely to be, and cap the number of books being plugged at 10-15.  I'd be happy to support the promo even if my book didn't make that list.
-To that last point, really crazy idea: instead of selling multiple books, what if we made a multi-author combo pack?  10 books for $10 or something like that...not only is it a great deal, it all goes to charity, and with some promo juice behind it, that thing could make the Top 100 and start generating its own momentum.  Would probably rule out some of our traditional published brethren from participating, though.

 
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Offline ThePete

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is there any way we can coordinate with our various vendors to track real-time purchases and the amount of money raised for each charity? This would be a great motivator for potential contributors and supporters if we could have a page dedicated to donations.

@ NappiII: That would be a powerful tool, but I'm not quite sure how to set it up. Few trad published authors have access to their daily sales. The most they can do is shoot a request for the publisher to send them the daily sales. That could take days just to hear "no." Direct published authors could, but it'd probably be too much of a time commitment to check sales constantly and repost them. I love this idea, just not sure how to make it work in practice. Hmm... BTW, your efforts weren't in vain. From what I'm seeing, stop soldier suicide will come in a close second to the WWP in donations. Much of that is thanks to your promoting!

@Wayne: That's funny! Good luck with the promo. I'd love to do a live tour, especially one with wounded warriors. One of these days... But yeah, just organizing earlier will increase our traffic 10x fold, easily.

@Platt: A lot of great food for thought here.
1) I'm really torn whether to focus all our efforts on one charity or among everyone's favorite. I think letting the author pick their own increases their engagement. Plus, the more organizations involved, the more general interest. A third option is to let authors pick from a short list (~5) charities who we're vetted partners with. What does everyone think? I'll add a poll.

2) Limiting total authors. I don't want to do that. A press release saying "100 veteran authors..." gets more attention than "10 vet authors..." On the other hand, we do need to keep the list manageable. I think the solution lies with page layout. So, what's everyone's idea for the ideal site layout?

3) Author multi-pack. That's an idea with some real merit. We had one multi-pack with all royalties permanently pledged. Even though they were almost always in the middle of the list, that was the most-clicked book. They had about 83 sales on Amazon, if I remember correctly. If anyone else is interested in this, I can start a separate thread. Since I have no experience with that type of project, I'd love to partner with any authors that have done something similar. This could be a good way to promote the event and vet authors in general year-round. More I think about it, the hotter it sounds!
« Last Edit: November 13, 2014, 02:05:12 AM by ThePete »
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Offline Wayne Stinnett

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What if the landing page was all just about what the promo is, a big headline and bullet point genre links? That way people can click on their favorite genre and have a less overwhelming list of books? I still think the number on each genre page should be limited to no more than ten, maybe even as low as five. Too much choice tends to push people away. There's a reason BookBub only lists one or two recommendations per genre. Charging a fee to promote would raise the necessary money for advertising that isn't donated and limit the number of submissions. Think about it, we got 43 in just a week. How many will submit with a month long planning session? Hundreds. A lot less though, if the price of admission was $10. My book got a boost in rank from 10K to 5K, I'd gladly pay ten bucks for that alone.

I'll side with the Eltee on a limited time frame, as well. I like three days, the day before and the day after Veterans Day. I also like the idea of a central donation recipient. Maybe one can be chosen and each author pledges half their royalties to it and the other half to the Veterans charity of their choice. Have you guys ever heard of Veterans Writing Project? http://veteranswriting.org/ It's a 501c3 that encourages Vets to write about their experiences as therapy and a possible source of income. I only discovered this organization recently and will be talking about them on Sunday to a group of injured Vets. A charity like that would be perfectly in line with what we do.
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Offline susan_illene

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I like the idea of doing three days instead of one and possibly having a fee to participate (an amount like Wayne suggested).  Not sure about putting all the books an author has into the fundraiser.  That may turn a lot of writers off since many of them derive part or all their income from their sales.  Not to mention it would be that many more books you'd have to list.  It would be better to leave it up to the author to choose whether to have one or more of their novels in the fundraiser.

Organizing everything much earlier, having a dedicated website, and delegating tasks are all great suggestions as well.  I'll look forward to participating again next year!

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Offline ThePete

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Just a head's up, we raised $2,700.34 for veteran's charities so far. There are still a few stragglers that haven't reported yet (they do have 90 days after all), but all the authors of the most heavily bought books have sent their confirmation numbers. Quiet a few of them are rounding up their donations to the nearest $100.

Great job everyone!
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Offline CEMartin2

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I'm a straggler! How do I figure out how many I sold on a specific day? I meant t stay up until midnight the night before, do a count, then repeat te midnight after. I fell asleep. I have figures from morning to morning, and was just going to round up to $50... I don't think I sold even $20 across ALL my books, all platforms...

Offline Vinny OHare

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Just a thought but what about doing a Google Hangout a few days before so people can find them on YouTube. Even if there is one the other author can embed the video of the hangout on to their pages by the time the event happens.

Offline Wayne Stinnett

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Just a head's up, we raised $2,700.34 for veteran's charities so far. There are still a few stragglers that haven't reported yet (they do have 90 days after all), but all the authors of the most heavily bought books have sent their confirmation numbers. Quiet a few of them are rounding up their donations to the nearest $100.

Great job everyone!

Not sure if I let you know, Pete, but my sales totaled $58.47 and I'm rounding it up to a refrigerator. Met a young Marine Wounded Warrior today. He, his wife, and their three dogs are staying with an elderly aunt and uncle. He laughed off the fact that he was going to the commissary twice a week because the aunt and uncle have a really small fridge. I pulled the Homes for Warriors administrator aside a little later and told him to buy the kids a nice fridge and I'd add the cost to this month's donation.
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Offline Wayne Stinnett

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I'm a straggler! How do I figure out how many I sold on a specific day? I meant t stay up until midnight the night before, do a count, then repeat te midnight after. I fell asleep. I have figures from morning to morning, and was just going to round up to $50... I don't think I sold even $20 across ALL my books, all platforms...

Martin, use the numbers from the graph on your Dashboard. While not completely accurate, as if reflects orders and downloads, versus transactions completed and borrows read past 10% which are located on your Month to Date Unit Sales.
NINC President-Elect. My Amazon Bestselling, twelve-volume Jesse McDermitt Series and the spinoff,  four-volume Charity Styles Series, also Amazon Bestsellers, are available in ebook, audiobook, and paperback, with many more exciting adventures to come. In my motivational non-fiction, Blue Collar to No Collar, I provide tips, advice, and strategies for new authors, and is also available in the same formats. Don't forget to visit the Ship's Store for Jesse McDermitt swag.
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Offline ThePete

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@ Martin: The delayed reporting is my fault. Next time I'll have a simple form on the website. I've got some folks emailing me, some PM'ing here, Facebook, Twitter, Google... a little scattered, to say the least! But I got your email.

@Wayne: Now that is awesome! Shows you the value of being so hands on with your charity. You aren't just cutting a check, but directly solving problems. Impressive!

@Vinny: That's a great idea! Thanks. We've got a lot of suggestions to improve the live event and I think we can use them all. They aren't mutually incompatible. We can do so much more than a simple author chat. This hands-on, interactive touch is a huge, barely tapped resource!

@ Susane: Yeah, that was my worry too. That we'd have less participation with every book included. The easy way is to make that optional and just add a little info tag on their book profile if everything's available.

@ Everyone: How much interest do we have here in a boxset of stories, with royalties permanently donated to charity? This is just a preliminary feeler. There a lot of details and potential issues to hammer out, but the theory is promising. The one collection we had in the Veteran's Day challenge had the highest click-through rate... and I didn't list price on the promo page. If we do this, we'd probably have multiple genre-themed collections. At least romance and sci-fi, maybe even post-apocalyptic (ok, zombies)? Got to see how much interest we have.

Most importantly, what type of escape clauses would you want available? Under what conditions should we unpublish the collection if sales flatline? If a majority of contributors vote yes or if we fail to achieve X average rank over a certain time period? Maybe I should start a new thread on this...
« Last Edit: November 17, 2014, 08:25:15 AM by ThePete »
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