I have two great books published by Booklocker. The first one, White House Usher: Stories from the Inside, came out in October 2017, and has sold over 8,000 copies. My second book, a novel called White House Usher: “Who Killed the President?”, came out August 2021, and has recently topped 1,000 in sales. Not bad, but I kept thinking I just need a push, something to get me higher sales numbers. Maybe a marketing company? Ya, that was it. I could hire a real pro, someone with a proven track record, a company that wouldn’t cost too much, but heck, whatever my investment, I would certainly make it up in no time with all my new sales!
There are literally scores of companies offering impressive services, including:
- SEO (Amazon & KDP)
- Upgrading websites
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & LinkedIn Advertisements and Page boost up campaigns
- SMS Promotions on their existing client database and more
- Email Promotions on their existing client database and more
- Amazon optimization & paid Ad campaigns
Looking over that list, what’s not to like?
I started with ten companies, narrowed it down to five, then had phone interviews with the top three. They were in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York (well, technically New Jersey). All three were in the $8,000 to $12,000 range. They all mentioned great success stories, and promised to provide solid references. The New Jersey company named a bunch of famous authors that they had worked with. I obviously must not be too worldly because I didn’t recognize any of the names. I actually looked them up. Yes, they were indeed authors, but I still had no clue who they were. In any event, all three companies guaranteed exponential increases in my book sales. Yes!
I ended up selecting the New Jersey firm; all three of my final candidates were rated relatively even, but I guess I was impressed with the New Jersey firm’s claim that they dominated the New York market. Yep, that was it, anyone that could ‘dominate’ New York was enough to convince me. We then negotiated on price. I told them $12,000 was way out of the question, I could possibly afford $3,000. We agreed to try $5,000 for five months and then we would work on possible extensions. Oh, and for me to lock in that super low price, and especially with it being close to the end of the month, my payment was required that day. So, I used the quickest and most convenient payment method, my Wells Fargo Visa. Done. Paid. Locked in. Let the book sales begin!
Over the next three weeks, I exchanged dozens of phone calls and emails with my new ‘marketing’ firm. I provided both of my book’s manuscripts, credential access to my Bluehost website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon info, etc. My ‘marketing’ firm needed 30-days to prepare a detailed plan, which they would present at our official kickoff meeting.
MY NIGHTMARE BEGINS
The Kickoff Meeting began with me calling into the New Jersey headquarters and I was disappointed that it was just myself and two others, one identified as the project manager (PM). Oh, and it just so happened it was the charismatic ‘highly experienced’ marketing firm rep (salesman!) that had sold me the contract. How fortunate for me.
I realized my second disappointment when, during our initial conversation, it was obvious that no one had bothered to read either of my books, nor did they read the book summaries I had provided. They hadn’t even taken the time to visit my website.
They kept emphasizing that this was a process; it would take time. The PM actually told me: “We’re building the train tracks and, when ready, the marketing train will be on auto-pilot, steaming forward.” Uh, ya, whatever.
I specifically asked: “So, I’m curious, have you or anyone on your staff actually read either of my books? Or at an absolute minimum, have you or your staff read my Amazon reviews? Seems to me this would be foundational preparation for serving your client.”
The PM responded by telling me they would be using a proven marketing plan that had been successful hundreds of times and, at this point, specifics weren’t yet required. I disagreed of course, explaining that they needed to have a complete understanding of my “product.” Nevertheless, they promised great successes ahead.
We then chit-chatted on a variety of topics. It actually seemed to me that they needed to take time to make the meeting last twenty minutes.
I then asked: “Oh, by the way, when I looked up your headquarters address on Google Maps, it’s a residential condo building. Then, I looked up the condo associations covenants and it clearly states it’s strictly residential no commercial entities allowed.”
The PM responded: “Uh, we’re actually across the street, they get that wrong all the time.”
I let it drop, but perhaps my google map images must have been old, because “across the street” were what appeared to be abandoned warehouses. Looking back now, I’m thinking, ‘You idiot!’ Why the heck did I continue working with these people?
My first Facebook ad appeared! But, wait, the ad was misleading, it was confusing, and frankly, not acceptable. I immediately pointed out what needed to be corrected, and expressed my disappointment. No response. After several more calls, voicemails, and emails, the PM finally responded that he would have his team review the ad.
Over the next four weeks, I repeatedly asked: “What progress had been made specific to updating the FB ad, as we discussed in the emails and phone calls?”
The ad ran from December thru January, and into the start of February. Of course, I knew I had a serious problem. I continuously requested status updates on all contract items, and never received anything.
The Beginning of the End
In late January, they sent me a mock-up of what they proposed for my new website. It took me all of twelve seconds to realize they had no clue. They had built a comprehensive E-commerce site for me to sell my books. Ya right, I’m gonna compete against Amazon!? I now knew, beyond any reasonable doubt, that my ‘marketing’ firm were complete idiots!
I sent a terse message to the PM, telling him to drop the website from the contract. I’d handle updating it myself. I then said: “From my Amazon Author Central account, I monitor my Amazon rankings, and am very disappointed to see the paperback version of my mystery novel has reached an all-time low. To me, this is not an encouraging trend, especially given that I paid more than I could afford for marketing. So, this leads me to again ask you questions you never answered: Share with me how do you define the success of my marketing campaign? How can you tell if we’re on the right track, what measures and indicators do you use to determine effectiveness and ultimately the success or non-success of the campaign? Additionally, please use the standard form I have provided below in order for you to provide me with a formatted and complete status.”
Emery – Marketing Services – STATUS REPORTING FORM
Status Reporting Period: 10 /27/2021 – 1/7/2022
SUMMARY OF EFFORT: Standard marketing services to include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & LinkedIn Advertisements; and Page boost up campaigns for WhiteHouseUsher.com (including a facelift), and also handling Amazon optimization & paid Ad campaigns.
TASKS / STATUS
- SEO (Amazon & KDP) – STATUS?
- WhiteHouseUsher.com facelift – STATUS?
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & LinkedIn Advertisements and Page boost up campaigns. – STATUS?
- SMS Promotions on our existing client database and more. – STATUS?
- Email Promotions on our existing client database and more. – STATUS?
- Amazon optimization & paid Ad campaigns – STATUS?
- Contract Signed – 10/27/21
- Facebook ad
Key Risks and Mitigation
Issues, Concerns, and/or Comments
I sent the above form several times, and never received any response.
February 1, 2022
I requested termination of the contract. This request resulted in an email from the project manager stating nothing more than: “doing our job and getting results that translate very well for your campaign.”
I never saw any evidence of anything close to: ‘getting results that translate very well for your campaign.’ Once again, I officially expressed that I was beyond disappointed in the PM’s lack of management and lack of results for this effort as well as the PM and marketing firm’s continued failure to perform at even a minimally acceptable level. I stated very clearly that the PM and marketing firm have been consistent with only one thing, and that was continuously affirming to me that the PM and marketing firm are not equipped nor capable of providing professional marketing services, and have failed to meet any and all of my expectations. I concluded with: The PM and marketing firm have left me with no other option – I am forced to request cancellation of my contract and full refund of $5,000 – Effective Immediately:
Termination for Non-Performance For the reasons cited within this communication, specific to PM and marketing firm’s failure to materially perform in accordance with the terms and conditions of contract signed on October 27, 2021, THIS COMMUNICATION SERVES TO INFORM the PM and marketing firm THAT I CHRISTOPHER B. EMERY WILL NO LONGER REQUIRE THE SERVICES OF PM and marketing firm AS OF FEBRUARY 28, 2022.
In Detail –
1) The only thing the PM and marketing firm have accomplished that I have been made aware of is: Three consecutive poorly constructed ads on Facebook. I have notified you (PM) multiple times of my displeasure with the Facebook ads. Not only are they poorly written, but they also contain erroneous information, and are confusing viewers.
2) I have not seen any other work or progress on any of the items as stipulated in the contract.
3) I have repeatedly asked you for status and, during the rare times you responded, you never fully provided status or answered all of my questions. The only official status you have provided have been two, all too brief ‘regurgitations’ of the Facebook generated ad statistics.
. . .
Folks, I consider myself to be slightly above average intelligence. But, wow was I ever an idiot when it came to this ordeal. Thanks to the Wells Fargo Visa Claims process, I was able to file a claim against the marketing firm, and although the marketing firm protested, my written evidence was overwhelming and after 45-days, Visa ruled in my favor. I was credited with the full amount.
I’m sharing this experience in the hopes that you avoid any possible scenario even remotely similar to this.
I know there are reputable marketing firms out there, I also know that they far exceed anything that could ever work with my budget. There are many ways to do marketing. Booklocker’s folks has lots of great suggestions, and the web is full of many more. Good luckk in your efforts and always: Keep Writing!
- How to Turn Your Customer Testimonials into Marketing Memes! – by Angela Hoy
- How to Go Broke AFTER You Publish Your Book! (Hint: Buy your publisher’s worthless marketing products and services…)
- What’s a Book Marketing Cheat Sheet?
- The Biggest Marketing Mistake New Authors Make!
- One-Shot Book Marketing Does NOT WORK – But THIS DOES! By Angela Hoy
Chris Emery grew up on a farm in central Maryland; he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland. Chris has more than 40 years of information technology experience, including 25 years with the federal government. He has been the head of software applications development, a Chief Enterprise Architect, and a Chief Information Officer. Chris, Federal government career began with the Reagan White House, Office of Administration in January 1986. After eight-plus years at the White House, he returned to the private sector then later rejoined the federal government in senior information technology management positions, working for the US Congress, Departments of Treasury, Homeland Security, and Justice. Chris lives in Washington DC.
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