June 19, 2021, 10:19:01 AM

Author Topic: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing  (Read 1538 times)

Offline Eli_Freysson

  • Master Namer
  • ******
  • Posts: 2355
  • Gender: Male
    • Eli Freysson's author page
Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« on: October 20, 2020, 01:47:31 PM »
I really don't.

I have self-published seven books on Amazon, and now one novella, and I remain utterly obscure with no steady reader base. Back in the day I tried Goodreads ads and Goodreads giveaways and Facebook ads and Amazon ads and a book blog tour service and getting directly in touch with bloggers and KDP free promotions...

None of it ever made any difference, even though clearly sometimes it does or else these services wouldn't exist.

This spring I opted to finally sign up with a newsletter service, then published my fantasy novella in the summer, in the hope that it would earn me the beginnings of a reader base in time for my upcoming sci-fi release. It didn't earn me a single subscription, even though a free promotion earned me well over a thousand downloads. I did what I felt was fairly exhaustive research on how to properly do an Amazon ad campaign: It got me loads of views but no purchases. Just yet more money out the window.

I did shop around for book bloggers, and actually got in touch with two who were willing to give the novella a review, but it turns out they won't get around to it. Let me be clear: I'm not being angry with them. I understand that book bloggers have an endless flood of material to cover.

Currently I'm still sitting on my next manuscript and I just got in touch with a service that will hopefully get me a pretty nifty cover for 150 dollars. There is nothing stopping me from just releasing it in November, announcing the fact on a couple of subreddits, and leaving it at that. Honestly, I'm much more tempted to just do that rather than spend six months between announcement and release on remedies that experience tell me just don't work.

I don't despair over my writing career as I used to, since pure blind luck landed me that upcoming release in Romania. But it's all a very slow process and I fully expect the process of getting into other European countries to be at least as slow.

Look, I'm sorry for rant-whining, but it gets really hard to feel like even bothering to try.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!

Offline ericlewis

  • Tribute
  • **
  • Posts: 22
  • Nihil debetur, nihil debens.
    • ericlewis.ink
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2020, 03:06:20 PM »
I spent a lot of money on ads and promoted tweets and things like that, and it didn't have any effect that I can see. The one thing that has worked so far is a deep discount on the ebook combined with a BookBub listing. That gave my amazon ranking a few days in the three digits range, about a week in four digits. But it was my (very small) publisher that arranged that for me, so I wouldn't know how to go about it for a self published book.
"No one gets what they deserve in life, except by accident."
--Spymistress Vinian, The Heron Kings

Online Magnus Hedén

  • High Lord of commas and Grand Master of semicolons
  • Mistborn
  • ******
  • Posts: 642
  • Gender: Male
  • My name is Magnus. I make stuff up.
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2020, 04:58:43 PM »


That's exactly how I felt when trying to push my writing on people (which is what it felt like to me, an introvert). I've stopped for now as I'm dealing with the more fundamental problem of actually finishing a novel, ADHD be damned, but back when I was trying to garner support for my Patreon I found the task excruciating. You have to put tons of time and energy into marketing your writing (and yourself) and there's absolutely zero guarantee of any return on your investment, and that's even before we're talking about putting money in the mix. I think paid ads are an even bigger risk unless you can find a way to get those ads to show in exactly the right place, which requires -- you guessed it -- lots of time and energy, doing research on how online ads work and maybe even heading into the SEO swamp (here be monsters).

I believe a big part of the problem is that both the writing business and the attention business of social media are very much winner-takes-all type markets. A few prominent actors find near immeasurable success with viral marketing -- through hard work no doubt, and perhaps combined with ingenuity, but most assuredly also with a healthy dose of luck.

I think people massively underestimate how big of an impact luck has on the process. There's no certified method of reaching literary fame/success (or becoming viral). If there was, everyone would be doing it, and then it would no longer work -- back to square one.

It's perhaps a bit demoralising to chalk it down to the winds of fate, but one thing is certain: those winds will never lift you up if you don't put in the grunt work.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2020, 05:00:49 PM by Magnus Hedén »

Offline Skip

  • Writing Group
  • Chrestomanci
  • *
  • Posts: 704
  • Gender: Male
    • Altearth
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2020, 05:59:38 AM »
Marketing is difficult and disheartening. I can't claim to any notable success, but I do sell a few books a month and I do get subscribers to my newsletter. I even get an open rate well above one percent! *shuffle, snort* I can tell you what *feels* right to me.

1) I do have a newsletter. It goes out six times a year. I can't really support anything more frequent. It always has a bit of history, a bit about Altearth, plus a paragraph or so about a favorite book and a favorite album or song. To date I've had one special edition in which I promoted an Amazon freebie. Likely I'll do that more often.

2) I have started running the Countdown Deal and the Free promo every quarter on each title. I always get a bit of a bump. More recently, I ran a Fussy Librarian promo in conjunction and that produced even better results. By "even better" I mean I just about paid for the cost of the ad.

3) I don't try to sell my books. I participate in communities. I learned to love forums a long time ago (all the way back to Bitnet and Compuserv and bulletin boards), so it's a natural for me to hang out here and in similar communities. I can't prove this leads to sales, but it's pleasant company and it surely can't hurt.

And that's really about all I can offer. I don't try to make a living off writing. My ambitious goal is to make enough to cover costs. I'm sure now that merely writing and publishing won't achieve that. I need to sell not just a few books but a few dozen books a month, and that won't happen without I do some marketing. I try to find things that feel like they would appeal to me as a reader. Hence the newsletter, the communities.

When I'm feeling discouraged (which is usually when I'm thinking about marketing), I try to remember this: my books are deep in the churn, unlikely to rise higher in any significant way. But if I had tried traditional publishing, my books would still be lying in a slush pile somewhere, unread by anyone.

So, I've already won.

Visit Altearth

Offline CameronJohnston

  • Great Old One
  • Auror
  • ***
  • Posts: 1175
  • Gender: Male
    • Cameron Writes
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2020, 10:36:55 AM »

3) I don't try to sell my books. I participate in communities. I learned to love forums a long time ago (all the way back to Bitnet and Compuserv and bulletin boards), so it's a natural for me to hang out here and in similar communities. I can't prove this leads to sales, but it's pleasant company and it surely can't hurt.

THIS. So much this. Most of the people I see doing well from self publishing are friends with a lot of other self published authors, taking part in groups, forums etc. Supporting other authors, signal boosting etc leads to them wanting to do the same for you.

The Traitor God & God of Broken Things

Offline eclipse

  • Warning: this topic has not been posted in for at least 120 days.
  • Elderling
  • ****
  • Posts: 5204
  • Gender: Male
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2020, 06:06:44 PM »

3) I don't try to sell my books. I participate in communities. I learned to love forums a long time ago (all the way back to Bitnet and Compuserv and bulletin boards), so it's a natural for me to hang out here and in similar communities. I can't prove this leads to sales, but it's pleasant company and it surely can't hurt.


I’ve read a lot of (active) members books here on this forum including Skip’s  he probably doesn’t know that I’ve read his work.

According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Offline Christopher C. Fuchs

  • Coreling
  • ***
  • Posts: 34
  • EARTHPILLAR Novels & Half-Tales
    • Earthpillar
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2020, 04:28:36 PM »
I believe a big part of the problem is that both the writing business and the attention business of social media are very much winner-takes-all type markets. A few prominent actors find near immeasurable success with viral marketing -- through hard work no doubt, and perhaps combined with ingenuity, but most assuredly also with a healthy dose of luck.

Lately I've been reading about critical theory and its ideas about mass culture. It seems a double edged sword. Prior to the advent of mass culture, there was no concept of making it big like there is now, and no opportunity to do so. Today, mass culture provides opportunity to make it big, but only for a relative few because people have finite attention. I agree with others that finding your niche community and being successful/valued there (vice making it big) is probably what matters in the long run.
"Top 5 Novel of the Year" --Liviu Suciul, former co-editor of Fantasy Book Critic, review for my debut Lords of Deception (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3016003847).

Online ScarletBea

  • Welcome party and bringer of Cake. 2nd-in-Command of the Writing Contest
  • Administrator
  • Big Wee Hag
  • ***
  • Posts: 13411
  • Gender: Female
  • Geeky Reading Introvert
    • LibraryThing profile
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2021, 04:42:59 PM »
@Eli_Freysson I'm bringing this thread back because I saw a link to this article on @Peat's blog and I thought it matched a lot what you've been saying (in here but also other threads).

https://www.kacencallender.com/post/wip-social-media-expectations

And I'm opening up the discussion too by telling my experience as a reader.
I'm not on Twitter but I like to read the tweets from certain people/certain authors: most of the time, I get annoyed/anxious/stressed with the amount of "look at this book, it's amazing, you've got to read it!" that's out there, and a recommendation here on the forum, or from a forum member, is far more likely to get me to pick up a book.
There are far too many new books out there (even excluding the self-pubs ebook-only!) for me to read them all, and while I feel for the authors, and want to support them, nobody can read (and like!) everything!
At home in the Fantasy Faction forum!

I'm "She Who Reigns Over Us All In Crimson Cheer", according to Peat!

Offline Peat

  • Master Namer
  • ******
  • Posts: 2246
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2021, 07:36:13 PM »
That Callender article is certainly very sobering stuff. And I've yet to see any author disagree with it.

I think there's two big takeaways from it.

1) Selling off your personality and personal connections and "brand" will only ever get small returns. It might be the best game in town for non-major authors sometimes, but it's still only worth doing insofar as you find it fun.

2) The amounts of publicity and promotions and what not taken to achieve real cut through as an author is huge. There's a reason people can spot the next big sellers by the publicity budgets. So if it's not getting a huge amount of cut through - keep going. Volume is probably the name of the game here, and at the start it's super slow.
This is the blog of Peat - https://peatlong.wordpress.com/

Offline cupiscent

  • Writing Group
  • Master Namer
  • ******
  • Posts: 2039
  • Gender: Female
  • an nonsense
    • viscerate.com
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2021, 12:18:34 AM »
I was pondering how, for me, I probably won't even look up book details of an author going "read my book", unless I'm already interested in what that author has to say (from their social media or other hearing-from-them sources). But if three different authors whose work/views I like say, "Oh wow, this book from another author, I love it!" then I will almost certainly have a look at that book to see if I like the look of it and/or can get hold of it.

I appreciate that that is absolutely not any sort of significant sale-generator in terms of traditional publishing. But I wonder about the significance in terms of self-and-indie-publishing. I do not know about the purchasing habits of readers in that side of the market. It might be that that sort of community-recommendation / word-of-mouth really does start generating enough of a little sales push to start getting the book attention on the algorithms and whatnot.

Offline Skip

  • Writing Group
  • Chrestomanci
  • *
  • Posts: 704
  • Gender: Male
    • Altearth
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2021, 07:58:23 PM »
I read the article but couldn't find any point of connection. I don't view participating here and in other communities as a form of marketing, nor am I drained by it. It's actually really important to me because it's where I can talk with my own people. It's fun. It's rewarding.

I'm pretty sure if I viewed it primarily as a way to sell books, I would have a much poorer opinion.

I have an email list that gets read by a mere handful of people. I wish there were more, but it grows (slowly, slowly). This isn't a way to market, either. It's a way for me to talk about Altearth and share a few side-topics like books and music. It's not a burden. It doesn't drain me.

I know the experience is different for other folks. I try not to scoff or scorn; whatever they're feeling is real for them. I do think it's sort of too bad they can't see the fun in all this, but I'm aware that mileage varies. Me, I go way back in online communities, back to BBS boards and Compuserv and Bitnet. So all this feels natural.

I say all this by way of encouraging folks to think about being online in ways other than that put forth in the article. Maybe it'll be a fit for you as well.
Visit Altearth

Offline Skip

  • Writing Group
  • Chrestomanci
  • *
  • Posts: 704
  • Gender: Male
    • Altearth
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2021, 08:06:30 PM »
And more to the point of the OP:

I have a bit of confirming evidence about marketing. I ran Amazon ads for much of last year. I took a look in November and saw that I was spending more than I was earning. Not by a lot, but the dollar amounts here are only in the low hundreds. As an experiment, I stopped the ads at the end of December.

Plummet.

I went from selling a dozen or two books a month (or less) down to selling nearly nothing. Perhaps even more importantly, my KENP page reads dropped to almost zero. No one is reading my books.

So. I'm not in this to make a living from writing. I have that luxury (I'm retired) and I know full well that others very much want to achieve that goal. Other people have advice for that path.

But for those of us who simply want to know that people are reading our stuff, there's this to consider. I can lose fifty or a hundred dollars a month and that will mean a couple to several thousand page reads (I have four books published) and maybe ten or twelve sales in a month. It really does vary, but that's a rough average. Or I can lose zero dollars and nobody reads my books.

I'll be re-starting the ads. I'll be twiddling with the ad parameters, just to see if I can tilt the scales more in my favor (i.e., more people reading more of my books).

Lastly, this all is different with different numbers. If I have to spend a thousand dollars a month to generate a thousand dollars in sales, that's another matter entirely. Because, as I said, things change and one can easily end up with a month with no sales. At a hundred dollars I can take that hit. At a thousand dollars I can bear it, but it will bring worry and stress, and at that point it's not worth the risk.

Visit Altearth

Offline Eli_Freysson

  • Master Namer
  • ******
  • Posts: 2355
  • Gender: Male
    • Eli Freysson's author page
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2021, 09:01:51 PM »
@ScarletBea, sorry for being slow in responding.

Yeah, that pretty much sums up my experience, and why I've basically stopped. I find social media an awful, soul-draining experience, and not worth gaining a few extra sales per month. At all.

And @Skip, as I said in the original post, I did try Amazon ads and they. did. nothing. And that was with me researching fairly extensively how to do them. I might as well have thrown money out the window. I have lost any and all faith in paid-for marketing. I've tries basically all of it, and not only has it not been worth the money, it has had NO effect at all.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!

Offline slarken

  • Seeker
  • *
  • Posts: 7
  • Gender: Male
    • Steffen Larken - Epic/High Fantasy Author
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2021, 09:24:38 PM »
@Skip, @Eli_Freysson and anyone else who might be having problems with Amazon Ads...

You shouldn't be losing money. There are ways to avoid that. I would highly recommend you join Bryan Cohen's free 5-day course which he runs 2 (or maybe 3, I forget) times a year. Next session is coming up in April. You can join here:

https://bryancohen.lpages.co/january-amazon-ad-challenge-2021-ov4/

Ignore the "January" part, it'll still sign you up for April.

It's free and, honestly, you'll learn A LOT. Amazon Ads can be very tricky and a money pit if you're not careful. Bryan will show you how to avoid that and get better results from your ads.

And no, I don't work for him LOL. I just was very impressed by the course, and plan to take it again next month.

Offline cupiscent

  • Writing Group
  • Master Namer
  • ******
  • Posts: 2039
  • Gender: Female
  • an nonsense
    • viscerate.com
Re: Marketing - I have no idea what I'm doing
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2021, 10:45:33 PM »
This reminds me that a recent episode of the Writing Excuses podcast was on "Smart Promotion" and as I was listening to it, I thought of this discussion and how various of the things raised in the podcast (especially how Amazon models and other aspects have changed over time) might be of interest to people!