Thursday, March 19, 2015

Publishing Year One: Marketing Mayhem

Once you write a book, you have to take off your writer hat and put on your business hat. This is true of any creative profession. It’s not enough to just write, revise and edit. It’s not enough to put the paint to canvas. You must go and sell yourself to get anything that resembles success.

Like I’ve said before, I wanted to create this project without spending money—at least not a lot of it. There are so many free options for advertising out there that I knew I could find success without having a marketing budget. I was confident in that. But what I didn’t expect was for free advertising options to have a little bit of class and some standards for what they advertise.

Advertising Options

The main options I looked at were the free/bargain priced ebook newsletters I subscribed to. Most of them had the option to submit your book for free and they would choose whether they wanted to promote it or not. Fair enough. The problem with these newsletters is that they wanted to make sure they were providing quality products to their subscribers (nothing wrong with that). Most of these advertising outlets have a review minimum that you have to meet before they will consider your book. Usually it is 5-10 reviews with a four- or five-star rating on Amazon, or a combination of Amazon and Goodreads. To this day I still don’t have 5 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads combined (considering some reviews are cross posted). And you have to throw out the one less-than-stellar review the book received because it didn’t reach the 4-star minimum.

So this advertising option was out. I then decided to check out my own newsletter option. But there is a big problem with starting your own newsletter. If you go through a service like MailChimp, you are required to provide a physical address that appears on each newsletter. I didn’t want to give out where I lived and I didn’t want to rent a P.O. box where I lived (because, as we all well know, I still don’t want to live here). So I had to toss that option too. 

Social media is free, it’s great and you can utilize it in a hundred different ways. So that ended up being one of my main ways of advertising Unfolding Life. Conversion numbers are really hard to get from this, so I’m not sure how well it actually worked, but I did get new followers who happen to enjoy haiku. Whether they bought the book or not is another story…

Goodreads: Offerings to the Book Gods

The last advertising avenue I put effort into was Goodreads. After all, that’s where I first discovered some of the better self-published authors, and they were doing great on the site. I already had a large number of friends/connections on Goodreads, so I took a personal approach and sent site messages out about my launch day ebook giveaway. Surprisingly, a number of people wrote back telling me good luck… but they were also telling me that they don’t read ebooks, so they didn’t enter the giveaway. 

That’s when I put into place Goodreads Advertising Phase Two: hitting up the groups. I belong to at least a dozen groups, many of which allow shameless self-promotion, providing you post the message in the right category. I went through all of these, posting messages and trying to connect with others. I got a few bites, some people telling me it wasn’t the worst they had ever read after checking out Amazon’s preview (uh, thanks?) and others telling me they would definitely put it on their reading list. I offered a number of free review copies, and some readers surprised me by saying they preferred to buy it so they could support indie authors. But let’s be honest—if their reading lists are half as long as mine, I’ll be waiting a few more years for those reviews to come in. 

Without spending any money (other than on the copy for the giveaway), I managed to get a few people interested in what I had to offer. Would money have changed that? With a niche like haiku, I’m not so sure anything would have changed. Except I would be slightly poorer than I am right now. 

Tomorrow, we’ll take on the hard numbers.

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