Marketing 2016–The Tangled Web & the Dog Poop

Tangled web - Guenette photo

2016 is well on its way and I am overdue for an updated, book marketing plan! I am resolved to not step into the same piles of dog poop marketing that I’ve trod on in the past. I have been slow to learn but I hope the proverbial penny has dropped.

So, here goes:

  1. I’ve decided, for the upcoming year at least, to limit sales of my ebooks to Amazon in order to enter the Kindle Select program and be eligible for Kindle Unlimited readers. Amazon is the marketing giant and to hold out against the promotional opportunities they can provide is like being a fairly useless bell clanging in the wilderness.
  2. I’ve made up my mind to keep on applying for a BookBub promotion slot until I am successful – no matter how long it takes. In the past, I couldn’t wrap my head around paying a hefty fee to give my book away but I’ve since added up all the dollars I’ve spent on marketing ideas (that were a total waste of money) and realized I could have afforded a promotion on this highly-rated-to-succeed site.
  3. In 2016, I’m going to take the dictum about the need to build an email list much more seriously. If you sign up as an email follower to my blog, you should receive an email message offering you a free ebook copy of my book of short stories. I’m still trying to work out the kinks on this but do give it a try. The sign-up button is on the right-hand bar of the page. You should be directed to email me and request either a mobi or epub file. This email sign-up means you get email notice when a new post appears on my blog. It also means that you are giving me the nod to occasionally email you and let you know that I have a new release or alert you to a sale on one of my books or the book of another author I admire.

Since beginning my marketing journey in the spring of 2012, I have been bombarded by all the newest strategies that promise to skyrocket my book through to the top of a seething mass of self-published works.

Here is what I have learned:

  1. Book contests advertised on the net that charge fees are a waste of money. My take on this could be coloured by the fact that I never win but even so, I stand by my opinion.
  2. Book review sites that charge a fee to move one up the list while claiming that one is not in fact paying for a review are a waste of money. These type of reviews can not be posted as an Amazon review because of the fee paid. The review I received was heartfelt and obviously by a genuine reader – kudos for that. On the down side, I’m assuming English was not the first language of the reviewer and the quality of the written review reflected that. It is clearly a darkly shaded nuance that this type of service is not, in fact, paying for a review. In retrospect, I would rather have not kidded myself, paid more (say to Kirkus) and got my money’s worth. Lesson learned. 
  3. Paying for a book blog tour is a waste of money. Okay, let me speak only to my own experience and preamble my comments by saying that the two tours I paid for were both under $50.00 US. I don’t know what might have happened if I’d paid the big bucks. I will say this, a fellow author shared that a recent tour cost upwards of $350.00 and resulted in minimal to zero sales.
  4. Twitter is fun but don’t expect that time spent creating book selling tweets will amount to much. I’ve said this before and I’m happy to say it again – I love Twitter. Occasionally, I tweet about one of my books but this is more for the challenge of seeing what I can say about my own work in 140 characters or less. Maybe the whole dynamic of selling books on Twitter changes when one has tens of thousands of followers. I very much doubt it but I don’t have that personal experience to call upon.
  5. A Facebook author page is a great thing to have. I love mine and I enjoy posting things that I think will be interesting to fellow writers and readers alike. Most schemes aimed at increasing one’s following on an author Facebook page seem to me to be a woeful waste of time and if they cost anything, a waste there, too. I’ve tried targeted update boosts, again at the low range of financial investment ($10.00 to $20.00). These boosts never amounted to much of anything.

So there you have it – my proactive strategies to move forward and reactions to my past efforts. My most important insight is this:

I have to keep my personal benchmarks of success in focus.

Too often, the dizzying claims by fellow authors of thousands of sales make me lose sight of the positive feedback I receive about my own books. I had a phone call yesterday from a woman who wanted to purchase yet another entire set of The Crater Lake Series. She has a friend she will gift them to. I think this is her third such gift.

I set out to write because my objective was to tell a story through the voices and experiences of a group of characters that once read, could not help but change the reader in some essential and yet possibly indefinable way. That desire may result in a body of work that never breaks through to huge sales. So be it. 

Let’s start a dialogue here. What do you think of my current strategies? What about my take on the past marketing poop? How does one balance personal benchmarks of success with the reality of selling books? Talk to me, people. Let’s pool our collective knowledge. I promise a thoughtful response.

Sunset over the lake - Guenette photo

18 comments on “Marketing 2016–The Tangled Web & the Dog Poop

  1. I think most of us are struggling with the same issues. I’m hearing that the email lists are the way to go but that means yet another thing to learn (Mail Chimp) and right now I don’t have the energy for it. Definitely, making the first of a series free helps to sell the rest.

    • Yes indeed – I hear you on the Mail Chimp thing. I’ve started and failed to master it and will have to start again. I like the first in the series free idea and if I can ever get through the BookBub process to list Disappearing in Plain Sight – after the promotion, I will consider the idea. Tinkering with the price at any point beforehand could disqualify me.

  2. Ann Massey says:

    Right now I’m starting to wind down after going like a bat out of hell promoting the release of my new book, The Little Dog Laughed on line – mainly through blog posts, targeted, boosted posts on my FB author page and twitter. This is what I always do, the only difference is that during the launch I increased my productivity!!! I have read several books on marketing using twitter and facebook, and incorporate the strategies discussed in the books into the way I use them. I also follow 5 very popular author fan book pages and look for ideas that I can adapt.

    In addition, I entered the book in the historical fiction category of a competition for local writers run by the State Library, organized giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads, (the latter is still in progress), and approached the literary editor of the daily paper for a review. In addition I was invited to join an author support group and garnered some outstanding reviews.

    Still to do

    Contact the Carers’ Association and offer to speak at one of their meetings- carer stress and abuse is one of the books themes.

    Turn my blog post on “carer stress & abuse” into a press release and send to media outlets that target seniors and health issues, my object being a press or radio interview.

    I am participating in a group twitter promotion with nine other authors in March, some of the participants have thousands of followers. I only have 500+ and as such will benefit most.

    Organize a KDP free days promotion.

    • Many thanks, Ann, for sharing such a comprehensive list with all of us here on my blog. What a great plan to follow the Facebook pages of a few successful authors to pick up tips 🙂 It seems obvious that you have found a plan that works for you. The other thing I notice is the diversity of your strategies. The marketing and promotional work required of a self-published author is not for the faint of heart and you clearly give it all you’ve got. Again, many thanks for all the great ideas.

  3. smilecalm says:

    wishing you success
    in business & life, Francis!
    may you be well
    & happy 🙂

  4. Gallivanta says:

    I can’t offer much in the way of comment as I am not writer trying to promote a book. However, my interest in a book is usually heightened by a newspaper review, a librarian review, or a radio interview. I am a very keen radio listener and always enjoy learning about books via the radio. I also like listening to radio adaptations of books. Another thing I have always wondered about is the possibility of selling books by chapter. Not sure how that could be achieved. Best of luck with your plans. And you may have seen this but it highlights how difficult life can be for an author.

    • Here in Canada, I do love to hear about books via CBC radio. Prior to reading on Kindle, the tried and true forms of discovering books that you have mentioned were all I accessed. My interest would be piqued and off I’d go to the bricks and mortar bookstore to get my copy. Unfortunately, many of these high-powered ways of being discovered are not readily available to self-published authors except for perhaps in very local settings. I have had books featured in the local newspaper and would love to work up the nerve for an interview on the local radio station. Thanks so much for your ideas and your well wishes 🙂 I am off to read the article you have so kindly recommended.

  5. jenanita01 says:

    I am pretty much where you are at the moment. All my efforts have amounted to nothing, those that I could understand in the first place that is. I tried Mailchimp too, which only made me feel more stupid than I did before! I have been blogging for two years now, have quite a lot of followers but no one on my mailing list. On the verge of giving up entirely, as writing is what I love to do. All this promoting will put me in a mental home I’m sure…

  6. Ditto to everything you say here, Fran. I think we’ve been more or less on the same track, and my results seem to fall right in line with yours. The only difference is that, this time out, I tried recruiting some local/regional bookstores to carry my novel, and none of them took the bait.

    I’ll also say that the Kindle Select program hasn’t produced much either. The Countdown Deals and Freebies are dependent on whatever promoting you do outside, so in and of themselves they’re more convenient than productive. At least for me.

    I guess we’re in a “throw spaghetti against the wall and see if it sticks” mode! Keep on keepin’ on …

    • Kevin, I feel as though I am always on the downward side of any promotional curve – by the time I get on board the bottom is falling out. I have just made the leap into Kindle Select with all my books as many authors I communicate with are moving out of it because the price paid per 100 pages in KENP has dropped so rapidly over the last few months. Well – a little pie is better than no pie at all – right? Here’s to throwing spaghetti and keeping at it.

  7. Gwen Stephens says:

    Hi Fran, it’s been a long while since I’ve logged into WordPress, and how I’ve missed my blog buddies. I’m back into full time work now, a decision I do not regret in the least, but it’s relegated my writing time to weekend mornings, and time spent in the blogging world even further down the priority list. I love that your marketing strategies are a constant work in progress. You take a very practical, open minded approach to trying new things, and what you learn from each experience is valuable information for your blogging audience. Most of all, I love your can-do attitude. You just keep on keeping on, and that’s so inspiring.

    • Always so great to see a comment from you, Gwen. You will be proof of that old saying about asking a busy person to do a task – they’ll schedule it in because they are busy. Whenever I get up early, I think about your blog, The 4 A.M. Writer. Many thanks for applauding my can-do attitude. I will keep on, keeping on. One thing I know to be true – the characters in the Crater Lake Series, their relationships and life situations, get to people emotionally. At the end of the day, that is all I want from my writing.

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