AT THE START of February, a month before the launch of my debut novel, I put on my marketing and sales hat to figure out ways to drum up some publicity for the book.
While I have a decade of experience selling other companies products, I was having trouble finding that fine line between offering something of value in a non-pushy manner, and shamelessly whoring my wares across social media.
Selling IT software in the past, I wouldn’t baulk at the idea of cold-calling, mass-emailing, creating a barrage of noise in the hope that someone noticed. Now, with my own product, I’m a little more careful with my approach, namely that I want the product to speak for itself – but how to get eyes on it without being a pest?
Here are some of the channels I used for the promotion of Pathfinders, and whether I feel (one month later), that it was worthwhile or not.
I contacted five different newspaper publications ahead of the release. I figured that ‘Self-Published Author Releases Debut Novel‘, wasn’t particularly original and could apply to thousands of others in my field, so I looked for a different angle.
On my blog, I received considerable interest and commentary around my Hallucinogenic Jungle experience in Peru. It was a life changing moment for me, and I felt it made for a good story. Emailing the editorial teams of several broadsheet newspapers, I received one response – The Belfast Telegraph, which happens to be the biggest daily newspaper in Northern Ireland.
They were interested in my story and asked me to write a piece. The work was unpaid but I was happy to comply and hoped that the exposure and interest would generate some sales.
Was it worth it? – The article was released two weeks before my book release. It didn’t link to my website or the Amazon Book Page, which would have significantly improved my SEO ranking on search engines which was frustrating. Although it was the most read article for several days on the Life section of the paper, it didn’t impact on pre-orders for the book. HOWEVER – for my career, it’s a string in my bow, but for the purposes of whether it helped ship books? So far, I’d say no.
I pumped €100 into a Facebook Promotion Ad which ran for four days. This coincided with the digital release of Pathfinders on March 1st when the Kindle version was free to download (for the first four days of the month).
I tailored the ad toward Facebook users who would be interested in this genre of book, namely anyone who would have stated in their profile that they were fans of the movies ‘Inception‘, ‘28 Days Later‘, the books of Richard Matheson etc.
You can see the results of that ad in the image below.
Was it worth it? – While I’m happy with the exposure it received, I didn’t get the traction that I had hoped. Especially considering the book was available for free. Overall, there were around 200 downloads of the book but it’s hard to know if that was as a result of the Facebook ad, or it being enrolled on KDP Select. All in all, a little deflated by the return.
Book Review Sites
All authors need those important book reviews, especially when it is the first novel. I researched which sites, genre-specific, would accept Pathfinders ahead of its release.
I was disheartened to find that many sites had closed their doors to reviewing new books – a backlog of books yet to review which made the task even harder. Staying clear of new sites fishing for free books, I was more interested in sites that had a follower reach of more than 100 on either their blog or social media feeds, and had been doing reviews for at least six months.
I contacted twenty-five such sites which ticked the boxes, namely that they were;
a) accepting entries
b) accepted either Kindle or paperback version of the book
c) had a significant following
d) was willing to share the review to Amazon (at least)
Of the twenty-five, I didn’t get a positive response. In fact, I didn’t get any response.
Was it worth it? – No. Although I haven’t entirely given up hope that there are genuine sci-fi/thriller book review websites that would be willing to accept a self-published story that has been professionally edited. Though for the life of me, I have yet to find one.
I believe that my novel Pathfinders is good. Admittedly, I might be a bit biased, but I wanted to communicate that it could certainly hold its own to people who chanced upon my book page for the first time.
I didn’t want them to see a wall of reviews from nameless ‘Amazon Customers‘ that fawn over it. Nor was buying reviews or getting friends en masse to write fake reviews ever something I was going to consider.
I had read somewhere that a review from an Amazon Top Reviewer would lend more weight, and therefore more eyes to your product page. I wasn’t sure if that is right, and even now I still have doubts.
Nevertheless, I spent probably twelve hours over two days trawling through the profiles of the Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer List. I was looking for five things:
- Have they been active in the past three months? i.e. posted a review?
- Do they review books? Importantly, SELF-Published books?
- If yes, do they read in the sci-fi/thriller or horror genre?
- Have they written a book review in the past six months?
- Do they have an email address in their profile?
This process was incredibly tedious, but in the end I whittled the list of 1000 down to 130. What followed next was a customised email (which I’ll explain in a future post) to grab their attention and differentiate myself from the hundreds of requests the reviewers would ordinarily receive.
Was it worth it? – 5 out of 130 reviewers got back to me and asked for a copy of my book. I wasn’t too dismayed by this result. 5 reviews from Top Amazon Reviewers could really help to shine the promotion spotlight on my first book. 2 of those reviews have been written (see image above) and are tacked onto the Amazon US Book Page, while the other 3 pending reviews seem to have fallen through the cracks.
Time will tell if the two reviews will influence future buyers. At the very least, those are editorial reviews/tag lines that can carry weight in future promotions. Co-incidentally, out of four reviews of the book on Amazon US, two are from Amazon Power Reviewers – quality box ticked, now how about quantity?
In Part 2, I will discuss my marketing results from using Goodreads Giveaways, KDP Select Promotions, Twitter Blitz, Increased Blogging Activity and a Linkedin Promotion.
I would love to hear from other authors and the tactics they’ve used. What channels have you found most effective to get your book out there?