This is a continuation of Part 1.
I’ve already discussed ways that I’ve tried to promote my debut novel using avenues like newspaper and print, paid Facebook ads, Book Review Sites and infiltrating the elite group of Amazon Top Reviewers.
With more than one way to skin a cat (or get eyeballs on your book), I’ve never been shy of trying new things.
I’ve written about this in a previous post. For newbies, Goodreads is like a Facebook for book lovers. Members can share their favourite books, write reviews, interact with their favourite authors over Q&A’s and enter competitions to receive free books.
This is an opportunity for indie authors to build a network and promote their work (in theory). I created two Goodread Giveaways for the month of March. In total, spanning across two windows of 8 days each, I received over 2,000 entrants to my giveaways – people who expressed an interest in reading my book Pathfinders.
Of course, because entry is free, there is nothing to prevent readers from entering as many giveaways as they like. While the lucky winners are presented with a free book (expenses assigned to the author who also ships it), they are under no obligation to write a review once they have read (if they have read) the book.
I have since received three anonymous ratings on Goodreads. I have no idea who they are from. 5, 5 and 4 stars respectively.
Every subsequent giveaway of Pathfinders which I create will notify by email those who expressed a prior interest of the upcoming competition. That mild interest doesn’t necessarily equate to sales.
Was it worth it? – Not yet. However, my network was small and I have added a few friends (winners) since and began to flesh out my profile a little more. I’ve yet to receive any solid feedback as to whether it is worth continuing the giveaways but at the relatively small cost incurred of shipping a book, it’s worth exploring further.
KDP Select Promotions
My online research ahead of Pathfinders‘ release suggested that the exclusivity with Amazon was worth it based on the promotion through Kindle Countdowns and KDP Select. That was one of the factors that made me throw my eggs in one basket as opposed to selling across a range of platforms.
For the first three months of a books life (and every three months thereafter if you opt it), you have five promotional days to allocate, however you choose. These five days will shine light on your book, promoting it as free to extend its reach across the myriad of options that already exist.
I had also read that this is a debut authors dream. Without credibility or previous work, it can be the best way to shift a lot of free copies especially around launch date and start working those algorithms to move your book up the rankings.
I used up four of my allocated five days straight from the off. I wanted it to coincide with my Facebook paid advert and my Goodreads Giveaway hoping that the momentum would snowball before the price flicked back to normal, and I could make a tiny ripple in the heavily populated sci-fi genre.
There were over 200 free Kindle downloads of Pathfinders during those four days. I read somewhere that each free download is the equivalent of 0.1 books purchased. Most importantly though, would be the reviews that I would receive as a result of those downloads.
I can account for all twelve reviews on Amazon so far of Pathfinders, either because of Advanced Review Copies (ARC’s) I’ve sent out, personal messages sent through Facebook by those who wrote the reviews or those who know me through this blog.
Was it worth it? – I reckon so. The painful truth is that I haven’t sold many books. I set a target of 50 for the first month which I thought was more than achievable. I actually sold around 30 which is very discouraging considering the financial cost and energy spent. Although it pained me to make it free for those four days, and not receive a single review in return, I understand that as an indie author I need to earn my stripes and start building my readership.
Giving my books away for free, or cheap is important to start driving an audience that will invest in future books. No one said it would be easy.
I’m almost too embarrassed to write about this.
I only picked up Twitter again this year because I had heard it was a wonderful tool to build connections and if used effectively, can be a super tool to sell books.
After syncing the publication of my blog posts with appropriate twitter hashtags, I started to get random follows. This seemed to coincide with posts/tweets I wrote about self-publishing. Seeing who these people were, I noticed that I was being followed by authors, usually indie authors like me.
Banding together, it seemed like a great way to encourage one another as we promoted our own work and information about the industry in general. I followed back, got a few retweets which was encouraging especially seeing that those who RT’d had followers in the thousands.
To cut a long story short, soon my twitter feed was filled with self-promotion, retweets, badly edited quotes…you get the picture.
But there were a few self-published authors, who like planetary bodies, were centre of this twitter solar system posting tweets on a frenzied, almost by the minute basis. Looking at their profile I could see that although they had 24,000 followers, they were following 22,000. Yet…they were ‘Amazon Bestsellers‘ and had co-authored books with self-publishing superstars.
In a moment of weakness, and despite every fibre of my solid marketing brain saying otherwise, I shamelessly began adding fellow authors and people aligned to science fiction groups who I thought would hoover up Pathfinders once it appeared on their newsfeed.
This is how many of the indie authors build their following on Twitter. Four hours later and my Twitter following had more than doubled. Follow me – Follow you syndrome. I had to take a bath after that. My newsfeed was an absolute mess with rubbish – recycled messages that added no value at all to my life.
I was planning to dedicate a month to this pursuit, detailing the experiment on my blog but I quickly got depressed and thought, ‘I don’t want to stoop to this level’ and quickly cleaned up my following list.
Was it worth it? – No. My twitter feed is streamlined again. I don’t want to spend hours of my day on it. I’m selective about who I follow now, and I think if you look at the SERIOUS authors out there, you’ll notice that they don’t shamelessly promote themselves, nor have a follower:following ratio of 1:1. I’ll still use twitter but I want to add value instead of noise.
Increased Blogging Activity
I wanted to ramp up the frequency of my posts while maintaining the standard.
In 2015, I averaged 4 blog posts every month. Let’s say 1 per week. By no means terrible, I felt I could do better. One of my primary motivations for starting a blog was to drive more traffic to my site, subscribers who may be future readers of my novels.
In the first three months of 2016, I have created 36 posts – an average of 3 per week. This spurt in activity has seen my traffic increase, though I’m small fish compared to some of the heavyweight bloggers.
This is no surprise. My Inbound Marketing background explains that the more (keyword optimised) pages you have on your website, the easier it is for your target market to find you online.
Was it worth it? – Of course. Has it reflected in any sales? A few blog followers have purchased the book based on what they know about my journey charted on this blog. Older posts will continue to drive traffic and with it, sales. I’ve also enjoyed some of the avenues my blog has explored this year.
On the professional networking site Linkedin, I have a network of over 1,000 people from all walks of life. Some of those connections are almost a decade old when I was entrenched in sales. Others are relatively new, since I opened myself up to freelance opportunities.
I have written a few blog posts on Linkedin, but haven’t had much traction. Conscious of always trying to provide value, I’ve written four posts about Inbound Marketing and one inspirational post about escaping the rat race.
While the first effort (‘Voices the nibble on your Soul’) was well received and inspired former colleagues to praise my career change, subsequent posts gained less traction – I suspect with my contacts unsubscribing from my posts.
So far, I’ve found that the platform for blogging on Linkedin isn’t as formidable as WordPress.
Was it worth it? – There were a few promises from old friends saying they would buy the book, but I didn’t see evidence that they followed up. I’ve used some of the content on my WordPress blog to reformat and package on Linkedin. I didn’t want to create original content without knowing if there would be an audience for it. This was a low calories approach to testing the water.
It would appear that if you aren’t a Linkedin influencer like Branson or Tony Robbins, or talking about tech/recruitment or sales, then your message won’t be seen.
While some of the avenues I’ve explored to promote my book have met dead ends, I’ve learnt not to repeat the same mistakes in future efforts. I have other plans afoot which I’ll roll into ongoing promotion of Pathfinders and a second novel called Sigil in June.
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?