Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Marketing Tips for Indie Writers


Since marketing and sales tips are what I get asked for most frequently, here is my advice. 

As mentioned in my unrealistic expectations post, none of this will turn your book into an "overnight success" but if used wisely, it will help you build sales over time.

These are generally ranked in order of importance, most to least.

First of all, your Amazon (or other sales) page is essentially one big advert, so make it the best it can be. Have a quality product so that the look inside feature doesn't turn potential readers off (hire an editor or proofreader if you need to). Be certain that the cover is the best it can be since this is what will tempt most readers to click on your page in th first place. Work and re-work your blurb until it is short, professional, interesting and most importantly, will make potential readers want to know more. And please do your best to make sure there are no errors on your page and in the blurb; we're only human but it can turn readers off.


Secondly, write another good book. The more books you have out there, the more chance you have of someone discovering one of your books and if they like it, they might well check out your other books too. Associated sales can make up a large chunk of your income.

Third, promotion never stops. I have reached the point where I make bestseller lists (and fingers crossed that it continues) but I still tweet excepts of good reviews, link to them on facebook, join relevant groups on FB, post promo tweets under the existing book hashtags (such as #SampleSunday and #WeekendReads). I post chapter one of a new book to my blog as a sample, with links to buy at the end. My website has a mailing list option so readers can sigh up for updates. 

I did used to make good use of the free option on the KDP Select program (and probably will in the future too). By that I mean that you need to promote that it's free. Contact kindle freebie blogs, twitter freebie accounts (a common tag is #freeebooks), post it to facebook voucher/coupon groups, general freebie/coupon/voucher websites. The more free downloads you get, the better the word of mouth will be and the more reviews and word of mouth sales you might get. 

I think it was freebies that got me the readership that I needed to make it to the best seller lists

Next, contact forums, blogs and groups in your genre and ask them to mention or review your book. 

DON'T SPAM! To be sure that you aren't considered spam, contact the admins and ask if you can post a promotion for your book, or ask them to consider posting a link to your book. If there is no admin, post and ask other members if it's allowed. I sent a private message to one FB group owner who had a historical western group and asked "would you consider" my book (but I didn't say in what capacity she should consider it). She came back and said they didn't do reviews any more but would post a link for me, for which I thanked her. 

Don't become a pest! The golden rules for promotion are-

1) Ask (unless its twitter or your own FB page)
2) Post 1 maybe 2 links or posts 
3) Then leave it be. If you make a nuisance of yourself you will turn potential readers off.

These next tips are the ones i believe are least effective, as least for me.

If you have any contacts in the local press, ask them if they can run a story on you, or get their book reviewer to read your stuff. If you have an interesting or unique story, contact local papers (or even national newspapers if your story is interesting enough) the worst they can say is no.

Enroll some paperback copies (if you have them) into BookCrossing or similar and "set them free". 

If you do have paperbacks, contact local shops that specialize in your genre, or small independent book shops, and ask if you can do a reading for them, or even if they will consider stocking your book. if it's only on Kindle, have some posters or leaflets printed and ask if you can leave them in the shops. 

Marketing opportunities are endless but they are also time consuming, so direct your efforts to where you believe they will bring you the most return. 

Things that will NOT work
1) Publishing your book and not promoting it
2) Press releases. Just don't waste your time
3) Paid for advertising, online or in print
4) Blogs. I don't know that my blog posts here has got me a single sale. My chapter excerpts have (I can see by the link stats) and some readers like the additional info on my books that I post here, although by then they have generally bought and read the book. In my humble opinion, general blog posts just don't give you the necessary return for the effort required. 
5) Blog tours. As above, they just dont give the returns you need for the effort (and cost) you put in.
6) Book trailers. 

And finally a bone of contention, reviews.

Many people will tell you that you need good reviews to succeed. I disagree. Reviews might help some readers decide but my last 3 books reached the top 10, without a single review on their pages for up to 2 weeks. For some of my books, I've been unlucky enough to have a 1 star as my first review, yet sales didn't die off (although they may have dipped for a time). 

The truth is, most people aren't used to having ample access to book reviews, they're used to walking into a book shop, browsing and then buying the books with the blurbs that most appealed to them. Amazon and book review sites have been around for perhaps 15 years and popular for perhaps 10 years, but the majority of readers have been uing book shops for decades longer than that. Over time it may change and people might put more stock in reviews but for the moment, no or negative reviews haven't affected my sales. 

The next point is your books rating. Mine go between 3 and 4.8 stars on Amazon and honestly, the 3 star books sell better than the 4+ star books and the 4+ star books are usually my earlier works, which I know aren't as good as my newer, lower rated books. My best rated book with 4.8 stars is hands down my worst seller. I get maybe 4 sales a month on that one, maximum, despite it only having 4 and 5 star reviews. 

What have I learned from this? That not all 5 star reads are good quality and that not everyone wants a quality read; many readers out there just want a little escapist entertainment. 

Thats the reason why so many big budget films follow a formula, why formulaic TV shows are consistently watched and why (in the UK) our soap operas are consistently in out top 10 programs. People want to watch something they're comfortable with, or that they know has a happy ending, or that wont require taking notes to keep track, nor move so slowly that they are inclined to nod off. 

People want to be entertained but not necessarily (or certainly not always) made to think or concentrate too hard.  Tell a good story and some people will like your book. 

Some people will hate it too. Have you loved every film or TV show that you've ever watched and every book that you've ever read? Even if you love police procedurals, that doesn't mean that you will automatically love or like every police procedural? Does that mean that the ones you don't like are inherently bad, or just that they aren't to your personal taste? 

Sadly your book wont be to everyone's taste and some of those people will slate it in reviews. I once heard of a reader however, who bought a book based only on a one star review. Among other things, the reviewer gave it one star because didn't like all the sex in the book, but the reader thought that lots of sex sounded just up her alley. 

So even negative reviews can help your book sales and I think that most people know that on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, reviews are just opinions and opinions are like arseholes; everybody has one and some of them stink.

So that's my advice on how to make sales but a final word of caution. Use your time judiciously

You can literally spend weeks marketing your book but on the whole, that time is often better spent writing a new book. The more books you have, the greater chance you have of one of your books appealing to a potential reader. If they like one book, a lot of readers will look through your other books. 

So always consider the time requirements of a marketing attempt before you embark on it. Visiting book shops for example, is very time consuming and not likley to give a big (if any) pay off.



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