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Help! Marketing ideas needed

edited July 2012 in - Writing Problems
www.alfiedog.com is going well. For those who don't know, we are aiming to be the best short story download site on the internet. We have taken on over 100 writers from across the globe and accepted over 400 stories. I need to spend some time trying to market the site to readers rather than writers and would welcome any and every suggestion you may have. If you know of readers sites / blogs etc that might accept an article from me or any other group that might be interested, please can you let me know? My vision is to create a decent paid market for writers, but to do that I need readers too. I believe passionately that writers are asked to give their work fro free far too often - or worse actually pay to have it seen, through competitions, internet sites and even magazines. No one thinks anything of paying 69p for a music download so now we need to get them thinking the same way about 39p for a short story. You are all worth it. We have some brilliant stories - many previously published in magazines, others from writers starting to make their way, who judging from their work will one day be famous. We have a particularly good humour section, a great children's section and well just about something for everyone (Except erotica or extreme graphic violence).

Any and every idea, no matter how small will be considered.


  • What's your target audience? People that like to read and have access to the internet.

    Why would they download a story rather than by a book or magazine? They might be disabled, live away from shops. They may not have the energy to devote to a novel and a short story would be perfect for them.

    How to access them? Look for websites that offer support (in all aspects) to people that perhaps can't get out like we can. They may charge for an advert, but they might include a short blurb about you and a link.

    What about hospitals? Maybe start with your local hospital's radio?
  • LizLiz
    edited July 2012
    Can you do leaflets and get shops that sell kindles to put one in with their kindle/ereader boxes for a small re-numeration? how much do those tiny ads cost in the back of women's magazines?

    What about a competition in one of the summer issues where you give away a years free reading to one lucky fiction-reader, in return for... something or other - the best idea for a story? The best idea for advertising? It would be an idea for advertising (actually lots, as all people entering would give you them, and advertising at the same time!
  • Writers, generally speaking are readers.
    Target writing groups, colleges, universities. Leaflets/posters in common rooms. Council offices whilest us hard workers are trying to pay our bills.

    Google Ads if you have a marketing budget is worth looking into, even if it is only £5 a month.
    Abuse twitter, there are plenty of indie promotion groups out there for authors. Jump on that bandwagon too.
    How many facebook followers are you off the next 100/ 1000 - offer a free download for the nth follower.
    Retweet comps.
    Hunt the story comps both work on social media - you can do that for free yourself.
  • edited July 2012
    My first point may not be popular but you asked for all input so here goes. I think the name is a hurdle. I had seen Alfie Dog around and thought it was a pet site. Then when I saw a few writers mention it on Facebook etc I assumed it was maybe for animal stories and that sort of thing. I'm not sure what the reach is to people looking for content when you have nothing about writing/stories/fiction/publishing etc in the title and web name but do have a first name and an animal.

    Okay you probably won't change that and fair enough. So I would suggest every time you mention it on any network or release you use the phrase 'Alfie Dog Short story publisher/Press' or something similar.

    My second suggestion, or rather question is are you getting your writers to push the site enough? Are they blogging every time they have a new story up? Are they doing interviews on other blogs? Are they promoting the site and other writers on there? Are they using writing groups on the web and Facebook enough to promote? Are they all on Twitter and posting links all the time? Have you developed a hashtag they should all use?

    You say you have 100 writers around the world. Well if each did a blog post that's 100 new mentions and adds to search engines. If they all did promotion in three groups, that's another 300 right there. If they all used a developed hashtag to their Twitter users then you'll get on trends and have a visibility across tens of thousands of potential customers news feeds.

    Hope any of that was a help.
  • ST, what is a developed hashtag? (in words of one syllable, as if I was 5 please!)

    I agree re the name. Sorry R.
  • edited July 2012
    Liz on Twitter when you see something like this after a Tweet #Obama2013. These all go onto a stream no matter what is written in the actual Tweet. Then the more this tag is used the higher it rises in Trending. When something Trends it is listed on everybody's Twitter feed on the planet. You can have local, Worldwide, specific Trends. The thing is even if you don't get on the Trends list it still creates a visibility.

    It's how organisations work Twitter and how campaigns grow on there too. Groups like 38Degrees use it to gather signatures for e-petitions for example. As you need 100,000 names on the government website this is a great way of directing and targeting people. Needless to say they always have more than enough signatures for each campaign. That's how powerful hashtagging can be. But even on a smaller scale it's useful.

    As Mutley mention competitions, if she asked everybody on her and all the writers and readers feeds to use a certain hashtag as part of the comp then it would grow and become very visible. It would also be bringing people into that community who had never heard of it before. Some people use hashtagging as the ONLY form of comp entry on Twitter. You RT (ReTweet) their message and use their hashtag to be automatically entered. It's simple, free, easy for the entrant and works like a charm.
  • ST - I think I'm too stubborn. I had that argument with my dad - my line went 'Do Penguin sell penguins? Do Amazon sell amazons?' You get the drift. I know you have to build brand and it is a long slow process. You may be right, but that is what it is called and to change it now would not be easy to do.

    Re the blogging and twitter - some are doing it very well, others less so. I sent a press release to use to all authors at the launch and some used it very successfully. I tweet and add a piece on Facebook daily and have asked the authors to put that out to people but it's an uphill battle. We have 112 Facebook likes for our page and 85 twitter followers so far - some are great at retweeting, but it is amazing how many authors seem to think someone else will do it all for them.

    As with Liz, please can you explained the developed hashtag thing?

    Regarding advertising - in an ideal world I would throw money at it, but given it is already costing me money to do this I need to make sure what paid marketing I do is very well targeted (thus the question about ideas). I will gather them all together and then allocate a small budget.
  • I need to read that a couple of tImes ST - I don't immediately understand. I'll look at Twitter with it as a guide to work it out. Thanks.
  • Penguin was always known as Penguin books. Plus of course - it was on a book.
  • edited July 2012
    As long as you put a hash # directly in front of a phrase it will gain a momentum. It can also be searched and have its own feed on Twitter. So if you had a Tweet like-[ New story up today 'New Beginnings' by Sheila Norton #alfiedog]

    Then no mater who the writer, story or even subject of the Tweet it would count toward your own 'alfiedog' trend and be added to that.Think of it like a company stamp on every Tweet about your writers, site, stories, news etc. A trademark for every mention of anything to do with Alfie Dog.

    Another point, which unfortunately does hit upon the name thing, is your Google presence. I typed Alfie Dog into Google and the first hit is for your dog's website. This is very confusing. The story site was third on the listand had nothing to do with fiction or writing in the text.

    "Alfie Dog
    Alfie Dog Limited is company number 07679696 registered in England and Wales. All work appearing on these pages is covered by copyright and no images or ..."

    Would you know that was about a publisher if this was the only search return you saw? Couple that with the other two above which are about an actual dog, then you can see where it starts to become muddy. Even when you do land the banner reads 'ALFIE DOG LIMITED'. Again this says nothing about fiction or writing. It could be a dog grooming business or anything. There's no mention of the words publisher or press. Just type in Ether Books, a direct competitor, and see the difference.

    Also another harsh fact, the website is uninspired. No graphics, the first page is just a list of clumped text. It seems confusing to navigate. Ultimately it feels uninspired. I hope this ins't being too harsh as I think your idea is a great one and the work you have put in is fantastic. You just need a step up now. Because what's the use in even attracting readers when they will probably leave the site without even looking through it?

    Other notes:
    Have you thought about an app? You have the option for PDF so why not?
    Have you thought about a weekly FREE story?
    Have you considered a featured writer of the week? With an author interview, blog post and social network campaign? A great way to keep the fire of interest burning.
    Have you considered story excerpts to entice readers? One of the reasons Amazon have done so well is due to the Kindle 'Take a look' sample option.

    A final mention about the name, this is from Wiki- 'Bezos (founder of Amazon) wanted a name for his company that began with "A" so that it would appear early in alphabetic order...' (A typical marketing strategy also called the ACME principal. Well you have the "A" so good start) ... He began looking through the dictionary and settled on "Amazon" because it was a place that was "exotic and different" and it was the river he considered the biggest in the world, as he hoped his company would be.

    So no Amazon don't sell Amazons like you said. However they are the biggest. They are also exotic and different. So the name is well chosen and provided a solid basis for their market philosophy and identity. Does Alfie Dog adhere to those same principals to your mind?
  • 'Alfiedog fiction' is alliterative.
  • Thanks - ST - It's going to take me a while to work though that lot. :)
  • edited July 2012
    I certain think a brief excerpt of each story would be good.
  • Liz / ST - I've changed the Twitter name to Alfie Dog Fiction and and have just tried my first hashtag thingy. I'll work on it. It's a start.
  • edited July 2012
    I'll retweet it when I'm next on, Mutley.

    Might be a good idea to send an e-mail out to all the writers who have stories on there telling them the Twitter name change and the hashtag you are going to use, and encourage them to promote it.
  • I agree with the hashtag idea for twitter, it would be great to have a designated hashtag for RTs and tweets about the site.

    Also, while it is good that you post so often on Twitter and Facebook, these posts are always about a story on the site, or more stories having been uploaded- it might be an idea to include other posts which are not necessarily directly about Alfie Dog, but about short stories, maybe any short story competitions you hear of that your followers may like entering, or news about the digial publishing industry. Also, perhaps you could retweet posts from your followers that also have to do with any of these topics, or tweets from authors featured on your site?

    Oh and if you don't want to change the name at this point, perhaps you could add a slogan? Alfie Dog Limited- Your Short Story Fix. Something like that?

    I think you're doing a wonderful job and I hope you don't get discouraged! I'm really happy to have some of my stories up on the site.
  • Oops I left my computer for awhile and my browser didn't upload before I posted that!
  • [quote=Grimmy]perhaps you could add a slogan? Alfie Dog Limited- Your Short Story Fix. Something like that?[/quote]

    I agree with that, good idea Grimmy. "Alfie Dog Fiction, let us take your imagination for a walk."
  • I was working with 'Alfie Dog Limited - the best short story download site' - maybe I need to get the chalkboard out and play with some ideas.
  • [quote=SilentTony]Alfie Dog Fiction, let us take your imagination for a walk."[/quote]

    Oooh, I like that! It completes a circle - dog, fiction, imagination, walk - the walk in a circle, the idea in a circle back to the b beginning, I really don't think you'll better that. Genius. all the best ideas are a circle.
  • Alfie Dog Fiction
    'Walkies...walkies!!! Biscuit? Wanna biscuit? Stop doing th...STOP IT...stop wiping your bum on the carpet!!'

    Catchy :D
  • I like it too, has a ring to it and says so much.
  • Ok taking that idea - what about 'Alfie Dog Fiction, taking your imagination for a walk' (dropping the 'let us' which to me doesn't flow so well)?
  • Fab.
  • - or 'takes your imagination..' cut down syllables further
  • Alfie Dog - bite sized fiction

    I have to agree with all ST's comments. We had time to get to know the name, new customers won't.
  • I’ve just had a look at your Twitter stats and you’re missing out on a massive marketing opportunity.

    You only have 82 followers and worse still, you’re only following 38.

    Most people that you follow will follow back.

    If you Tweet a message only your followers will get to read it - if they happen to be around at the time.

    You’ve only Tweeted a few times.

    You need to start following more people and they will usually follow you back. Start with TBers - look who we follow and who follow us. 99% of my followers are writers and we know writers like to read and to tell others about it.

    Build up your followers and Tweet more often. I rarely see your Tweets because they are sent when I’m not around. Send the same one four or five times a day to increase your chances of being re-Tweeted.

    Look at writing blogs - who are the followers? Follow those followers. When I launched my site I spent one afternoon doing just that. I looked at Red’s, Carol’s and Patsy’s. I followed their followers, I followed anyone who made a recent comment.

    What happened? Those victims checked out my site and sent me work. Real work. Work that earns me money.

    And yes, the name is important. My name on Twitter is all about being Read and Reviewed. It’s the same with blogs. I do what it says on the tin.
  • [quote=Baggy Books]I do what it says on the tin.

    Which tin's that? The one labelled 'Fart Powder' ?

    Keep up the good work, Mutley.

    Must say some of the above comments are ideas I'd never even have dreamed of let alone been able to suggest.
  • edited July 2012
    A point on what BB was saying about having a constant Tweet stream throughout the day- use Scheduling. Using this you can have the same Tweet sent out at intervals that suit you. Adding a few different ones will not seems so much like a robot either.

    Another use for scheduling, rather than having to actually remember and be there to send them, is to reach a global audience. If I have a link I want to share I use scheduling so it reaches followers in the USA, Australia etc. You may be in bed asleep while half of your followers are up on Twitter. You need to reach them too.
  • Scheduling, ST? How do you do that?
  • It's quite simple Carol. You just write you Tweet as usual but instead of pressing send you click schedule. This may be in the form of a small clock or calender icon depending on what Twitter client you use. Once you click on Schedule (or the clock/calender) it will give a choice of what time and date you want the Tweet to be sent. Once done click SEND/SEND NOW and it will post at the time and date you added rather than immediately.
  • Ah, I see. Thanks that helps.

    I think that's available on Tweetdeck.
  • Yeah it works on Tweetdeck, Hootsuite all of them.
  • Some great suggestions there. I think you should get the word downloadable in the description or title of the site too - try to sum up what it is.

    And maybe work out why the dog's website is listed higher than the fiction website. I assume it's because it's getting more hits? Why is this?

    Have you thought about podcasts? Maybe one for the future. Have a look at Cast of Wonders.

  • I've just Googled short story download and you're almost at the top of the first page, which is brilliant!

    From your website stats, can you see any trends with how people find the site?
  • Also can you download straight on to a Kindle? When I want to download books or stories I go on to the Kindle store. I don't tend to look at websites. Can you get your stories into the Kindle store, or does it work another way if you're on your Kindle? I couldn't work out how the stories are delivered or what format they appear in when you get them.
  • The three I bought were just PDFs that I saved to my lappy.
  • Alfie's blog has a new post every day, so I suspect that is why it ranks higher compared to the short story site which doesn't have the same amount of activity.
  • This is great - so much - I'm going to be busy

    Blog has run every day bar one for six years! Website since Feb - launched sales May - it takes time.
    With twitter I was only doing one a day as I get annoyed by people tweeting all the time - ok - I'll do more. I take the point. Didn't know how to schedule - will learn. I'll follow loads too - I suppose I thought that was pointless as for the most part I don't have time to read their tweets, but again take the point.

    To get stories onto kindle you can forward them from the email linked to your kindle to your kindle email address and then they are there. It's very easy. I've done loads so I can see what things look like. I don't think you can download straight to your kindle as I couldn't find how to see general websites - I may have been doing it wrong.

    Ok - back to work and keep the ideas coming - it will take me a while to work through them all - but I will. THank you.
  • Is the Alfie Dog blog getting more hits because younger people, children are viewing it? Do you have any stories for children to download on the story site?

    Maybe you should have a childrens section on the story site and Alfie Dog blog could write a blog post to say when a childrens story has been added (sorry, don't know where the apostrophe should go in 'children's')
  • I wouldn't worry about people getting annoyed about too many Tweets.

    If someone Tweeted continuously for an hour I'd un-follow them - simply because it clogs up my feed and I miss ST ranting about football. One guy I was following kept posting blurb from his novel - "will James find the answer and save his brother" or something like that. Eventually I replied saying "Hope so, won't make much of a novel otherwise". He didn't comment.

    You have to bear in mind that Twitter is 24/7 and it's unlikely anyone will read all your Tweets all of the time.

    If you Tweet about an author who is on Twitter, don't forget to use their Twitter name - they will get an alert and probably re-Tweet.
  • [quote=Baggy Books]it's unlikely anyone will read all your Tweets all of the time.[/quote]

    I don't think anyone's ever read any of mine bar you once BB, and I don't know how to find any tweets I might be even remotely interested in.
  • It's all about networking. I read some snippets that make me smile. You get free books advertised, so I normally buy them. I don't know why because I haven't got time to read them.
  • edited July 2012
    I think we're all learning things we can use.
    And we can apply it to the OWC Anthology when it comes out.
  • Yes, I was just thinking that this thread is very useful - so many ideas for all of us to use!
  • [quote=Baggy Books]It's all about networking. [/quote]

    I know yet I approach people when I see something but never hear anything back. :)

    Guess I should buy a stronger deodorant or change me socks more often. :)
  • Well, I've made a start - increased those I'm following on Twitter and now getting more following me (it will take me a while). I've started a new page on the site called Alfie Dog Bites - which will be snippets for writers and infor for readers - author profiles, reader reviews etc. I've got some work to do on it to get a menu to go with it, but it's a start. I've written 2 guest blogs today, set up tweet deck and still read and edited a whole pile of stories. I'm now a little tired but optimistic - thank you.
  • Well done, these actions will become the strong foundations that any successful business needs.
  • Ask your contributors to blog.. guest style - include a link that wink from the blog to their story to help promote.
  • I hope you have noticed I have been taking all your advice very seriously. Twitter numbers growing fast. #alfiedogfiction being used widely. New blog on the site with a mixture of info, writer tips, author profiles - trying to capture both readers and writers. More frequent twitter posting, linked in posting, more on facebook. Changed the front page to one I can keep fresh and cover special info. I've added follow buttons to the site too. I cannot get scheduled post to work in tweetdeck and I can't get my rss feed to feed - but Rome wasn't built in a week!

    I can honestly say I am worn out - and am taking a day off tomorrow to go to see my parents. I'm just trying to convince my husband that he doesn't mind me working on Sunday instead (our wedding anniversary!)

    Thank you all- and any more ideas - keep them coming.
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