by David Gittlin
Comparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process. The second step, creating an attention-getting book cover, offers its own unique set of challenges. However, the most intimidating and difficult undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—marketing. The word strikes terror in many authors’ sensitive little hearts because they want as little to do with the outside world as possible.
The most intimidating marketing question is: “Where do I begin?” Guess what? There is no tried and true answer. Like they say in the movie-making business; “Nobody knows anything.” You have to experiment and determine what works best for you and what doesn’t. And you have to use your creativity, just like you did when you wrote your book. In this blog, I’ll let you in on some of the advertising methods I’ve tried and the results I’ve had. I’ll try to save you time and money.
There are more than seven billion people alive, but how many of them read regularly? Better yet, how many of them are looking for your book? Answer: None—Zero—Zilch—hence the need for marketing. Obviously, I found it useful
to shove this thought into the darkest corner of my creative attic upon beginning the journey of writing my first novel.
As I neared the climactic scenes of my first draft, I noticed it became harder to write. After a good deal of soul-searching and hand wringing, I diagnosed the problem. My writer’s block stemmed from the nagging thought that it was almost time to say goodbye to my family of characters and their world. I left them with a heavy heart in a rich, far-from-perfect world far superior to my ordinary life and the terrors of self-promotion. Inevitably, we all reach the point where we realize there’s no choice except to let go and face the music.
So, after completing your final re-write and the inevitable tweaks that come afterwards, it’s finally time to upload your book to online retailers. Next, you announce it on your blog, your author website, your book’s Facebook page, and your You Tube channel.
Now what? Gulp…
This is the seriously hard part—driving people to these outposts in cyberspace.
Let’s take a look at what has worked for me and what hasn’t.
To promote my first novel, Three Days to Darkness, I started by placing an ad on Book Daily. According to the website, your book is featured for one day per month on Book Daily’s E-Zine. Your first chapter is e-mailed to a combined audience of 25,000 readers (many of them authors). They e-mail your chapter to a subset of readers by genre on three consecutive days during the month. With each exposure, your book is piggy backed with five competitive books. The ad costs $49.00 per month. I sold two books the first month. Looking back on this from subsequent experience, maybe I should have hung in there for a few more months. But six dollars in sales versus a cost of $49.00 per month didn’t make sense to me at the time. So, I cancelled the ad. You might have more success than me with this method.
I’ve experimented with ads on Facebook. I’ve racked up tons of likes and very few sales. In my humble opinion, paying for ads on Facebook is a total waste of time and money for self-published authors.
Press Releases I’ve created and distributed press releases on PR Web with a target audience of 30,000 journalists and bloggers. The idea is to drive traffic to your websites and generate publicity on major news sites and search engines. You can participate at various cost levels starting at $99. The more you spend, the bigger the audience. I participated at the second highest level at a cost of $289 per release. (The highest level currently costs $389). To add interest to the releases, I created a book trailer video. (A simple book trailer without actors will cost anywhere from $250 to $300 from a reputable company).
Bottom line, I could not relate any book sales to my press release adventures. Honestly, I don’t think relatively inexpensive press distribution companies can effectively impact major news media outlets. They boldly claim that they can, but I I don’t believe them.
Experience has taught me that it simply costs too much money for independent, self- published authors to reach news publications like the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and similar publications in major metropolitan news hubs. These are the media you have to reach to get any action. You have to hire a very expensive PR firm to break through. There are very expensive news distribution services you can use, but in many cases, you have to be a legacy publishing house, or an accredited book critic, or PR firm to have access to these services. So, save your money.
A word about book trailer videos: they’re nice to have but they aren’t essential to your marketing campaign. When I first started marketing my books twelve years ago, the pundits all said that you were dead in the water if you didn’t have a book trailer. As it turns out, this is baloney. Book trailers are a nice addition to your marketing package, but they aren’t powerful generators of sales. I made trailers for my first novel and my second one, “Scarlet Ambrosia–Blood is the Nectar of Life.” I had fun making them and they didn’t cost too much. The second trailer was better than the first because I learned from the first project. But here’s the thing: if you have a limited budget, use it where it will do the most good. I’m getting to that. Stay with me.
If you can swing the cost, make an audio version of your book. As you are no doubt aware, people don’t read as many books as they used to. Audio books are getting more popular every day. I used ACX to make the audio book for my third novel, “Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.” I liked using ACX and they are part of Amazon. I signed an exclusive agreement with them, which means I get a bigger royalty (70%) on each audio book sale. With this agreement, your book is automatically uploaded to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. The downside is, you don’t get exposure on sites like Hoopla, Overdrive, and Bibliotheca, which serve libraries. ACX offers a non-exclusive agreement wherein you can distribute to any platform and get a 25% royalty.
If you hire a narrator for your audio book, which you can do through ACX, a good one will probably cost you between $100 and $150 per finished hour. Your narrator does the narration and all of the production work. You direct them and approve the finished product. I had a great time making my audio book with an amazing woman who did a fabulous job. In addition to doing voiceover narration and production, she travels the world singing in a choir and performs solo as a soprano. I found her through ACX.
Sponsored ads on Amazon.com are the most effective marketing tool I’ve used so far. If you have a limited budget, this is where to spend it. The ads are easy to create. You set your daily budget, write your copy, set your campaign dates, and off you go. If the ad doesn’t work, you can scrap it and try different keywords. You can see which keywords are working and which are not and adjust accordingly. Best of all, you can see how many books you’ve sold and how much
it has cost you to sell those books. There’s no baloney and no guesswork. And, let’s face it, most of the books people buy are sold on Amazon. To create a campaign, sign in to your KDP account, select the book you want to advertise, click on the three dots to the far right of the book, and select promote and advertise.
I hope you will find these tips helpful. I wish you all the success in the world, and keep writing.
Guest post contributed by David Gittlin. David has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.