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« Book Trailer of the Week | Main | The Doctor is In »

February 01, 2007


JA Konrath

Hi Greg--

I understand the practice or roadblocking, but question its effectiveness in regard to sell-through.

I've sent people to this blog, and I have no doubt you'll get some traffic. But there's a large difference between a radio ad and a blog entry.

A blog entry informs and entertains.

A radio ad annoys.

A blog entry is active--people seek it out.

A radio ad is passive--people tune it out or even change the channel.

A blog entry doesn't sell anything, it offers something.

A radio ad sells something, and the pubic mistrusts ads.

A radio ad isn't cost effective--the attributable sales are miniscule and don't justify the high price.

A blog entry is free--it only costs the time the writer took to post it.

A radio ad is temporary.

A blog entry is permanent, and can have more links coming in over time.

And last but not least, what's the point of getting website traffic if it isn't somehow geared toward sales?

When MJ posts a blog entry, she's spreading goodwill, offering her expertise and information as a service. Her name is associated with a positive experience, and a percentage of the people who like what she has to say will further investigate her books.

Even though her books are still in the sidebar, I'm not sure that a guest post affects surfers the same way. These are your words, not hers.

If the purpose of this blog entry is to generate agent interest for your book, I believe this is a smart approach. But that's not because you provided an ad for your book. It's because you provided intelligent content, proved you can write a coherent sentence, and are savvy enough to get a column on a blog widely known in the industry.

That could send agents to your book website, in the same way it sends surfers of my blog to check out my books. But it isn't an ad.

I spoke with Stephen Dubner (Freakonomics) and he talked about the importance of blogs in promotion, and free gave copies of his book to 100 influential bloggers before the release date. I'm guessing it helped his sales.

But in the case of blogs, loyal blog readers tune in for content, and the bloggers who wrote about Freakonomics provided content in the form of a review and/or endorsement. People don't read blogs to click on unrelated banner ads.

In the case of radio, loyal listeners also tune in for content, to hear music or the DJ. People don't listen to the radio to hear commercials.

In contrast, if a radio personality pimps his own book (like, say, Mitch Albom) then the commercial becomes part of the show and is very effective (I believe Mitch would concur.)

Always fun to read your stuff. :)

JA Konrath

Allison Brennan

I love your web page. It's one of the best I've seen out there.

Not that you were asking for advice, but I can't help myself. :) Since you mention agents on your web page can "download" your partial, I'd also add that they can request it emailed as a Word document and/or you'll mail a hard copy to them. Many agents (believe it or not) will not read material on a website, even if they check out the site off the query.

Good luck!

Matt Jarpe

Cartoon Network tried some viral marketing here in Boston yesterday with little light-bright displays of a cartoon character named Err. The ensuing Homeland Security chaos gives a new meaning to roadblock advertising.

I do like the idea of making coordinated marketing events. I only hope I can convince reviewers and bloggers to hype my book on August 7 when it comes out. Well, first I've got to hope that they will agree to hype it at all.

gregory huffstutter

Allison – Thanks for the tip on making it easier for an agent to request a partial. I’ll be sure to tweak my website.

JA – I absolutely agree that blog entries can be more persuasive than radio commercials, longer lasting, and more cost effective.

However – and this will be the topic of future columns – the chief difference between the two is audience potential.

Even the most popular writing blogs have a maximum audience of under 5,000 unique visitors a day. But if I bought one radio commercial in Chicago doing a 1.0 rating (the topic of rating points will also be discussed in future columns), my potential audience is 71,000 listeners.

Yes, there is more waste in radio. Yes, it requires more of a leap to convert listeners into book buyers. And if I had a novel coming out next month – with a limited marketing budget – I probably wouldn’t rush out to buy radio commercials.

But if I had a million-dollar budget, and wanted to raise awareness of an impending release, I think radio CAN be used effectively, even in bookselling.

The trick is to entertain as you inform. Can that be done in a :30s or :60s radio commercial? I came up with this idea during my half-hour drive to work… you be the judge:


[Sirens blaring in the background, sound of automatic window]

COP: License and registration.

DRIVER: Man, I’m glad to see you. I’m totally freaking out right now…

[Sound of radio performer coming from the car stereo]

COP [In panic, pulls weapon]: Who’s there? Somebody else in your car?

DRIVER: No, no… that’s just my audiobook of JA Konrath’s “Whiskey Sour.” It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s about this insomniac Chicago homicide detective Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels chasing after a crazy serial killer… You know, I told my wife I was going to the market for a gallon of milk just so I could listen to the next chapter… next thing you know, I’m on the highway, gripping the steering wheel, driving and driving…

COP: You have any idea how fast you were going?

DRIVER: Not really. See, there's this scene where the serial killer – the Gingerbread Man – tampers with a bag of Halloween candy and – oh – just picturing it makes my foot want to stomp on the gas…

COP: [Conspiratorially] Don’t tell my partner, but I’ve read every Janet Evanovich book she’s ever written.

DRIVER: Then you’ll totally love JA Konrath. I’d let you borrow my audiobook, but Jack’s down in the sewers with the Gingerbread Man… oooh, I’ve said too much already.

COP: Afraid I’m still going to have to write the ticket. In Wisconsin, we’re serious about our speed laws—

DRIVER: Wisconsin?!! I live in Colorado. Oh, man… my wife’s gonna kill me…

ANNOUNCER: JA Konrath’s “Whiskey Sour.” Now available in audiobook at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and wherever fine mysteries are sold. Just be sure to gas up before you turn it on.


Makes me want to buy it, and that's just a print ad! Then again, I have a really good imagination...


Interesting post. I also wanted to comment on your website: Fantastic. (And as a fellow Ad Woman, I'm very picky about such things.) Your site makes you look as if you've already arrived. Kudos.

Allison makes a good point. Most agents probably won't go to the trouble of downloading your partial. I suggest enclosing a few sample pages with your query.

Good luck with the agent hunt.

JT Ellison

Gregory, I have a question. What's the advantage to roadblocking versus buying several ads on the same station? Would you need to roadblock several times to truly make an impact?

gregory huffstutter

Great questions... why don't I tackle them in my next column on Feb 15.

Thanks for the website thumbs up. One side benefit of working in advertising: access to talented art directors. And to quote the legendary football coach Paul Brown, "When you reach the end zone, act like you've been there before."

wendy roberts

I remember seeing the same book advertised in 3 different locations, (2 publishing mags and an online newsletter) it made me buy the book. I've decided to try the same approach with my book being released end of this year.

Joe Moore


Beautiful website!


JA Konrath

>>>Makes me want to buy it, and that's just a print ad!did you buy it? Did it make you visit Amazon and add it to your cart, or hop in the car and visit Borders, or seek out my website to learn more?

>>>I remember seeing the same book advertised in 3 different locations, (2 publishing mags and an online newsletter) it made me buy the book.<<<

What was the book? Did you order the book without looking at it first? Is it something you would normally buy anyway? And why did you buy this book after 3 ads, but haven't bought the 17,000 other books which you've also seen ads for?


I think it's a tipping point phenomenon. We may not think ads are working on us, but they kind of prepare the ground, making us more receptive when we see a review or a
book in the front of the store.

gregory huffstutter

I'll also discuss this in future columns... but I don't believe advertising has an insidious, powerful hold on people, forcing them to lay down their credit cards (too bad, it would make my job so much easier).

What advertising does do:
1) Alert people you have a new product they might be interested in
2) Keep your brand/offer/message 'top of mind' for returning customers

Think of it this way... if you watched the Super Bowl yesterday (sorry 'bout dem Bears, Joe), you saw lots and lots of ads for Bud Light. Did that suddenly make you rush off to pick up a sixer of light beer?


But in the next week or two, there will be hundreds of thousands Super-Bowl watchers -- some already predisposed to light beer, especially after the holidays -- walking the aisles of their local grocery stores. So if those consumers are deciding between Michelob Light, Coors Light, and Bud Light, MAYBE that warm fuzzy they got from watching the "Rock, Paper, Scissors" commercial will make a higher percentage favor Bud Light that week.

And if I worked for Anheuser Bush, I'd probably know the exact percentage of incremental lift needed to justify the expense for those $2.6 million dollar ads.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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