As an independent author, you probably don’t have a large advertising budget or a publicity firm working to get you an appearance on the Today show (although that would be nice). Most writers will plunge the money allotted for publication into hiring a professional editor and a creative book cover designer. Some may even hire help to format the e-book and paperback versions of their book. I agree with this strategy. If your book is not it’s best before it goes to publication, no amount of money poured in to advertising will produce sustainable sales. That being said, advertising and investing in your own success can be extremely helpful.
When Lisa Genova self-published STILL ALICE, sales were nice but not off the charts. Reviews were positive though and she was able to get the book endorsed by Alzheimer’s groups. With that kind of ammunition, she took the plunge and hired a publicity firm, Kelley & Hall, to help her with promotions. Sales grew. Her book was eventually picked up by a publisher and she hit the bestseller list. The investment she made in her book (which was no doubt significant) was worth it. The latest word is that Julianne Moore is set to play Alice in the movie. Lisa Genova is living the self-publishing dream.
Although I would love to have a publicist, I don’t and can’t justify the expense. However, even small investments can be worthwhile. The challenge is less about whether or not to make the investment but in choosing which will give you the most bang for your buck. I’ve tried to compile a list of some options partially based on my own experiences and partially based on what I’ve learned from other writers (invaluable!).
Use Amazon in any way you can: This is a mostly free option and the only monetary investment you will make might be in lost royalties. Everyone knows about KDP Select. I’ve never used it myself, mostly because I believe it works better for authors who have multiple titles out there. Also, as has already been reported on many websites, the big sales spikes seem to be a thing of the past. Listing your book for free is a great option to generate short-term interest and try to gather reviews but the longer term gains are not what they once were. However, if you are willing to take a lower royalty, you can list your book at a lower price for a short period of time. Everyone loves a bargain, right? Also, Amazon is running the Kindle Matchbook and Kindle Countdown Deals (this only if you are enrolled in KDP Select). They may or may not work for you but either way, fiddling around with your pricing my stir up some sales. If you do tweak your price, skip to the sites below and advertise if you can.
Virtual Book Tours: To be totally honest, I can’t say how much these types of tours do for long-term sales but if you get a (positive) plug on a site with good traffic, you should see your sales increase. The real key here is whether or not the sites employed by the book tour get solid traffic. I do believe that if you decide to use a book tour, you should choose an option that posts book reviews. Reviews are long-term and the more reviews you have, the better. Prices of virtual book tours vary from less than $100 to several hundred. You can create your own virtual book tour if you take the time to look at review/promotion sites and contact those sites one at a time yourself. The only cost to you will be the hours you will spend setting up the tour. Another thing to remember is that a virtual book tour can be done anytime – not just when your book is released.
Social Network Advertising: My experience here has been limited to Facebook advertising and the results are mixed. Earlier in the year, I ran some short-term FB ads and sales did tick upwards slightly. However, the gains were mostly a wash. I recovered my advertising expenses but not much more than that. Recently, I tried FB again for just a weekend. I had a significant number of clicks according to their statistics and received likes for my links but sales were not significantly higher. I didn’t spend a lot so I didn’t lose a lot. I may try again with a different ad headline but I also think many people have become immune to these ads. Twitter is allowing advertising now but I haven’t researched it. I already skim over the ads I see and never click. I think I’m a fairly normal person and my behavior is normal so I don’t know if the cost/benefit here would be worth it.
Using a Book Promotion Site: I have had success with this in the past although I will admit the cost cancelled out the increased royalties. Still, my biggest bump in sales since the initial release were using a book promotion site. Using this type of advertising also took my book to the Top 100 Kindle Crime and Top 100 Kindle Hard-Boiled for the duration of the promotion. It also generated some very good reviews. To me, that was priceless. Currently, I think this type of advertising still works but is most successful if you have a new release, sale, or special to run. Below is a list of book promotion sites TCK Publishing prepared earlier this year. Each advertising site is listed in the order of it’s positive Alexa ranking (May 2013). While we all gravitate to the sites with the highest rankings and the most traffic, they are usually the most expensive and often have a waiting list. Many require that you already have a set number of reviews and average ranking. I have used Kindle Nation Daily, Ereader News Today, and Book Goodies. The biggest spike in my sales came from Kindle Nation Daily. As I already said, some are fairly expensive but there are others you can try for very little money.
Book Bub 27,224
Ereader News Today 28,681
Many Books 35,754
Kindle Nation Daily 43,172
The Kindle Book Review 45,812
Get Free Ebooks 70,278
Author Marketing Club 95,744
Book Daily 156,047
Bargain eBook Hunter 188,755
Book Goodies 231,471
Awesome Gang 165,689
The Independent Author Network 253,883
Kindle Book Promos 431,795
Book Tweeting Service 532,402
Daily Free eBooks 736,060
Kindle Mojo 750,403
The Women’s Nest 1,020,007
Book Deal Hunter 2,297,707
Zwoodle Books 5,628,580
The bottom line with all of this is that you may have to spend some money (and time) to make some money. I see some authors are satisfied just to have their work out there in the world and I certainly understand that feeling. Still, I don’t just want my book (soon to be books) out there. I want to increase my number of readers. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing sales reported in states where I don’t know a soul. I plan to keep trying new things to reach those readers and I accept that some of those things will be successful and some less so. Either way, I will do my best to expand my brand and pass along whatever I learn along the way.
- TCK Publishing: Top Paid Promotion Sites
- E-Book Pricing: What’s the Perfect Number?
- How to sell E-books
- 13 Book Marketing Techniques that Engage Readers