Every day, I see a slew of writing-related ads. Some guarantee that if you sign up for a “free” course (don’t read the fine print) you’ll sell a zillion books. Some offer to tweet for you and post Facebook ads for a (small/medium/large) monthly fee. There are publicists for hire, who promise to increase your visibility and help you sell more books. Then there are the thousands upon thousands of books on the craft of writing, often from people you’ve never read or heard of. There are also those offering editorial services, some of whom have no success to speak of in the book business. Finally, there are publishing companies that for $15-$20 grand and up will publish and promote your book.
Many of these ads and the people associated with them make me angry. I’m not saying there aren’t good folks out there who can genuinely help improve your writing and increase your sales. What I am saying is that those who can truly do so are few and far between.
But before we go any further, let’s be clear about one thing: You should NEVER pay to publish your book. The only exceptions are if you just want to do it for your family and friends, or consider it a lifelong goal no matter the cost.
With regard to editorial services, the overwhelming majority of writers use an editor. Well established authors use editors provided by their agents/publishers. Other authors, especially if they’re at an early stage in their careers, hire an editor for content and/or copyedit purposes. This is often crucial to the success of a book, for nothing turns readers off like disjointed plots, weak characters, grammar mistakes, and typos. In my humble opinion, if your book isn’t as close to perfect as you can get it, you have no business trying to sell it.
But it’s important to realize that an editor will not rewrite your book, nor can he or she guarantee it will get published. Furthermore, many editors charge the same fee regardless of how much editing your manuscript needs. I understand the reasoning here, from the perspective of the editor: some manuscripts require more work than others. Editors feel that by charging everyone the same rate, often a flat fee per page, everything evens out. And it does…for them, not the writer.
Beware of editors who offer little feedback. From the outset be clear as to the type and amount of feedback you expect. Here you really can’t be too cautious. Most editors will provide a sample edit of a chapter or a few pages. This is great; just make sure you’re satisfied with the sample and hold the editor responsible for being as diligent throughout the entire project.
Once you’re published, there are a plethora of services that offer to plaster social media with ads about your book. In my experience, ads on Facebook and Twitter do poorly. I have over 20,000 followers on Twitter and I could probably count on two hands the number of books I’ve sold that way.
Facebook and Twitter ads, however, provide some visibility. But I recommend you do your own posting, especially since you probably won’t sell too many books this way. Learn to use Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, or a similar program that will help you do it yourself. The same goes for publicists. Unless the person is well established—and if he or she is, you can expect to pay out the wazoo—you can do many things a publicist does. You can contact radio programs and blogsites, send out review copies, schedule some appearances and signings at bookstores, etc.
I’m skeptical of people who offer courses/insider tips on writing/marketing, especially if they charge for them. I don’t believe there are any tricks to writing/marketing. In fact, everything I’ve learned in the past several years can be summed up this way: Write the greatest book you possibly can—good is no longer enough—and then start writing the next one.
How do you write the greatest book you possibly can? Well, you start by reading great books—and poems, and stories, and plays, and screenplays, and non-fiction—and writing as often as you can. In terms of books on the craft, there are so many I fear some authors are trying to cash in on the insecurities we writers have by writing books that allegedly help, but often divert us from the one thing that will definitely improve our writing—namely, writing. That having been said, there are a handful of writing resources I wouldn’t do without. If you’re interested in hearing my recommendations, please contact me and I’ll be happy to share.
Okay, without further ado, I present my #1 tip for authors trying to market their great books and for readers who want to read them: BOOKBUB!
If you are a reader, you should really consider signing-up for Bookbub. It’s free, and every day you’ll receive an email blast letting you know about great discounted e-books in your chosen categories. You can get books for free, $0.99, $1.99, or $2.99. As a reader, I think it’s the greatest thing since pizza (or whatever food happens to be your weakness).
If you’re an author marketing a book, I don’t think anything beats Bookbub. You have to apply to get accepted, but applying is free. It’s tough to get approved, but you can keep applying if you get rejected, and you only pay if you’re accepted. Costs vary according to your genre and the price at which you want to sell your book (the free option is the least expensive, followed by $0.99, $1.99, and $2.99). Click here for a chart that gives you a general idea of the cost. If your book is accepted as a featured promotion, it will appear for one day in Bookbub’s daily e-mail blast. In terms of marketing / advertising it is the only thing that I’ve found truly effective (and I’ve tried just about everything). Trust me when I say the results, in terms of sales, will probably astound you.
Well, that’s it, friends. There you have my #1 tip for writers and readers and it hasn’t cost you a penny.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear about your writng/reading/marketing experiences!
All the best,
I had two books published in 2014. Conversations Among Ruins (CAR), a work of literary fiction, was released on August 13 by All Things That Matter Press. My religious thriller, The Brothers’ Keepers (TBK), became available on October 1 through MuseItUp Publishing.
Both books have risen and fallen in Amazon rankings, which can jump hundreds of thousands of places when someone buys a book. TBK seems to be selling better than CAR, at least according to this very crude measure.
I’ve received one royalty check for CAR. (Just to let you know, I’m not planning any trips to exotic locales.) I really won’t know how TBK is selling until I get my royalty statement from MuseItUp.
Overall, the results have been a little disappointing.
The fundamental issue is how to increase awareness of my books among the veritable sea of books published every month. Outside of the people I tell by word of mouth, and the efforts I’ve taken thus far, I really have no idea how a person is supposed to come across them.
So, what have I done in order to promote sales? In addition to telling everyone I know about the books and encouraging people to write reviews, here are some of the steps I’ve taken:
- I post free ads in Facebook reading/writing groups—this seems to have some limited success. I do notice a correlation between posting in the groups and sales, but as we all know, correlation does not prove causation.
- I hired a publicist—this has had some limited success. I’ve had a book launch at a local bookstore and I’ve seen small reviews of my books in the local paper and other publications. I have more engagements coming up this year, so I will let you know how they work out.
- I ran a giveaway on Goodreads for CAR—this seems to have had no result. The person who won a copy of the book has yet to post a review, and though hundreds of people added the book to their read shelves, I haven’t seen any indication that more people are reading the book now than before. I can’t hold a giveaway for TBK since it is still available only in e-format.
- I tweet about the books—I try to do this in moderation. It is important that ads you post on Twitter for your own books are balanced by tweets on other topics. It is my sense that I’ve sold more books through Twitter than through other means, but it is a hard claim to verify. I am basing this observation on the positive feedback I receive from my tweets, including retweets, and the number of followers I have.
- I’ve hired Goddess Fish Promotions to do a book/blogging tour for TBK—this is scheduled to happen in February, so I’ll let you know how this goes. Depending on the results, I’ll consider doing a tour of CAR.
- I’m running a paid Facebook ad—I have yet to see the results of this effort, though the ads only starting running a few days ago. I have had some clicks to my website as a result of the ad, but can’t really see any conversions into sales (at this very early point).
- I continue to write—this is what I’ve heard is the best means of selling more books: writing more books. And not just any books, but quality stuff.
It is still early to gauge the effectiveness of these efforts: time will indicate their success or failure.
I would greatly appreciate any insights into the best way of increasing the visibility of one’s books. Some of you reading this blog have much more experience than I do when it comes to marketing.
I remain hopeful things will improve in the future.
All the best,
I really don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to marketing my books.
Sure, I have a social media presence, including many Facebook friends and several Twitter followers, and I make the rounds of the free publicity groups. I’ve listed my novel on iauthor, and I’ve arranged for several blog interviews, mainly through my writing friends, who have been kind enough to host me.
Still, I’m not sure this is enough. I want to make sure that my marketing is as wide and deep as I can make it.
So, what’s a person to do?
Well, you know the old adage, weather is local? At some point it occurred to me that my thinking on advertising might benefit from such an approach.
The first thing I thought of was how can my book connect to the world right around me, that is, in my own community?
With Conversations Among Ruins that is a relatively easy question to answer. You see, I wrote the book with the goal of helping people who might be struggling with an addiction to alcohol or other drugs as well as those who battle mental illness, and especially for those who suffer from both, that is, those who are dual diagnosed.
That led me to believe that there are several local groups/organizations that might be interested in the book, the regional office for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), for example, and detoxes and rehabilitation centers in my area. Given the fact that mental illness is a very relevant topic, I also thought the book’s topic might appeal to local radio stations and newspapers.
This having been established, it dawned on me that I had little idea how to contact such groups. Well, I might have some idea of how to do so in some cases, but the thought of the time and effort involved left me worried. How was I to have time to write and market?
I’d heard of publicists, of course, but I always thought they were beyond my financial reach. I recall reading some place, probably on Poets & Writers, that a publicist ranges between $5,000 and $50,000. Right, I thought. I might just as well strap cardboard wings on my arms and try flying to the moon.
But I decided to look into the matter anyway.
What I found is a local publicist with great community connections that can help build a grassroots presence for the book.
For relatively little money, this publicist assured me that she could do the following things: 1) create a sell sheet, with my input; 2) create a press release; 3) schedule signings at local bookstores; 4) contact NAMI and other mental health and substance abuse facilities; and 5) contact local media, both newspapers and radio.
This experience is opening my eyes. I’ve come to believe that a good publicist with strong contacts in your community might be the best way to go.
I encourage you to check into this and to please let me know how you make out.
I am new to the world of having a publicist as well, so I will continue to write about my ongoing experiences.
All the best,
I haven’t posted in a while and I’ll tell you why. My novel Conversations Among Ruins became available on August 13, and I’ve been pretty busy with marketing and promotion. I’ve also been engaged in marketing efforts for a second book, The Brothers’ Keepers, which will be released as an e-book on October 1.
That’s not really a good excuse, though. I need to stay in touch more often, and I will try to do so in the future.
I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve been doing, and what I hope to do, in terms of marketing. I share this because I don’t believe marketing should be mysterious. I think we all can benefit from sharing our experiences and discussing what has and hasn’t worked.
First, I have mentioned the book to my friends and have secured reviews from other writers, as well as from the Readers’ Favorites review service.
Second, I’ve been posting beautifully crafted ads, compliments of my girlfriend, on a variety of Facebook sites that allow for free promotion. Truthfully, I’m not sure how much such postings help, and I’d love to hear your comments on this matter.
Third, I’ve scheduled blog spots with some of my writing friends, who have been kind enough to interview me and allow me the opportunity to talk about my book. I may at some point consider doing a book blog tour, using Orangeberry Book Tours, or a similar service.
Fourth, I’ve been e-mailing radio/blog sites to see if they would consider having me as a guest on their show. So far this has yielded an interview in late September on the Lina Jones Diamond Network, which I am really looking forward to.
Fifth, I’ve engaged the services of a friend, an Internet marketing specialist, the same person who designed my website and made this blog possible, to help me with tweets and Facebook posts.
Finally, I’m meeting with a publicist on Tuesday, to see what she can offer in terms of promoting the book. (I’m sure she can offer a lot; I’m just not sure I can afford her.) I will let you know how that goes.
I offer this to you so that you can see some of what I am doing to market my book. I am too early in to gauge the effectiveness of my efforts, but I want you to be with me from the get-go, so we can discuss what does and doesn’t work.
What I am beginning to realize is that marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I am in this for the long haul and the long haul consists of writing more quality books in the hopes of attracting more readers.
I would like to hear from you, especially regarding anything you’ve found particularly useful in terms of marketing. A couple of other things I’ve considered are taking out a Facebook ad, and holding a giveaway contest. Your experiences with such things are greatly appreciated.
Most writers I know don’t want to deal with marketing their books. After all, writing is hard enough and the energy it takes enormous. How can we be expected to market a book we have spent a year or more writing? After all, isn’t that what publishers are for? And then just how are we supposed to market our books? Should we do readings in bookstores? Arrange for blog tours? Provide a lot of free giveaways? Hire a marketing company? After we’ve worked so hard on a book, we are entitled to good sales, right?
I think variables of the marketing equation often overlooked are the considerations and choices we make prior to writing a book.
Some books, by their very nature, have much wider audiences than others. I don’t think it is a level playing field once a book is published. I believe that some have an advantage given their subject matter and of course the quality of writing that goes into them.
If we want our book to sell we need to put a great deal of thought into how it fits into the existing market. We need to make sure it stands out from similar books, and that there is a demand for such a book in the first place. In short, we need to do research prior to writing if we want to come up with a book that sells well.
I also think that in this Internet-based world, the emphasis is all too often on the number of books one can publish than on the quality of any one of them. Quality suffers because of quantity, no matter the product. It seems to me we have an obligation as authors to provide the consumer with the highest quality product we can, and that often takes time developing a concept for a book and actually writing it.
So here’s to fewer, better books.