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Rogue Marketing

“Anybody can write and publish a book these days; selling books is a whole ‘nother ballgame.” I share these pearls of wisdom with all the authors I help. I say it for two reasons: A.) It is possible for anybody to publish a book these days, and B.) It is challenging to sell those books!

After publishing my first two books for children, that truth hit home with me personally. Marketing and selling children’s books is a daily grind; it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Some days, when my books are selling like hotcakes. I say to myself, “Self, you’re the greatest writer in the world.”

Some days, when nothing sells, I’ll say to my wife, “Wife, I’m quitting. I really didn’t want to work this hard anyway.” She’ll just shake her head, laugh and say, “You can’t give up now!” I don’t dare complain to my daughter, whose son is the co-creator of the series. She’ll just chastise me and tell me I need to have a more positive attitude.

Over the last few months, I’ve tried a lot of different marketing strategies. I’ve tried Facebook ads and Google ads. I’ve paid social media influencers to review and promote my books, and I use the term ‘influencers’ loosely. To be fair, the people that I’ve hired have all done a great job of reviewing the books and sharing them with their followers. None of these strategies, however, have translated into any noticeable bump in sales.

Any small business owner is concerned about acquiring new customers. Tracking and managing customer acquisition costs is critical to the bottom line. If you pay others a lot of money to promote your product and don’t actually acquire new customers, that money is wasted.

What I’ve discovered is that my best marketing strategy is...ME! I know my books are great for kids. They’re wholesome, humorous and fun; they’re beautifully illustrated, and they teach implicit lessons to kids (and adults). I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from people who have gotten to know Burgerhead and Mean Jerry. I’ve never held a sales job before, but I have no problem promoting and selling books that I know are awesome!

Sadly, during COVID, there have been no opportunities to do in-person events. Bookstores aren’t hosting book signings; schools aren’t hosting author presentations; book fairs and craft fairs are few and far between.

That’s why I’ve embarked on a new strategy that I simply call Rogue Marketing. Here’s how it works. I designed and created some promo materials to use at in-person events. I also printed bookmark-sized cards (2¢ each) that show pictures of the books, company and contact information and a handwritten note from me.

I’ll do one of two things now. I’ll set up a table next to the walking path that goes past our place, or I’ll walk the beach and talk to random strangers. I look for families with young kids. I try to ascertain which parents look friendliest (most vulnerable), approach them and say, “Hey, do your kids like to read good books?” This is the perfect hook for starting a conversation. What parent is going to answer ‘no’ to that question? (Actually, one did.) I hold out my card, giving them no option but to take it from me. Most of the parents I’ve talked to say, “Yes, my kids like good books!”

“Great! You’re in luck!” I’ll say. “My name is Dan Madson. I’m a local author and I write children’s books. I’ve just started a great new series of books for kids featuring two characters named Burgerhead and Mean Jerry.” That’s when the magic happens. As soon as they hear the names Burgerhead and Mean Jerry and see pictures of the boys on the card, they smile or laugh and say, “That is so funny! Burgerhead and Mean Jerry!” 99% of the people I’ve talked to have been very appreciative. They’ll say, “Thanks so much. I definitely will check these out! My kids love to read fun books like this!”

Starting this past Monday, my goal was to hand out 20 cards each day to random strangers. Yesterday, I grabbed a stack of cards and headed out to the beach for my second day of Rogue Marketing. As I walked the beach, I noticed a splash of color in the sand next to the water. There lay one of my promo cards from the day before, crinkled and dirty, half covered by sand.

As I wiped a single tear from my eye, I realized that was one customer that won’t be buying my books and another 2¢ squandered.

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Karen Piro
Karen Piro
Mar 24, 2021

Love your marketing creativity! Bravo! Great ideas! I once heard that “nothing worthwhile is ever easy”! What you are writing is worthwhile and the kids love your books! Glad you are thinking outside the “book”! Ha Ha!


Dan, keep at it. Your story reminds me of going door to door doing mission work. Got to make a lot of contacts before you find a couple genuine leads (and that means an occasional wasted brochure or two). But anything of value, like your books, is worth the effort.

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