PUBLISHED APRIL 2017
by Rachel Rueben, YA and romance novelist
Indie authors must put their time and money into marketing initiatives that yield results in a constantly changing publishing market.
Over the past 10 years, publishing has evolved into a very profitable business, with the five biggest publishers reporting a profit margin of 10 percent. And according to Author Earnings, in 2015, self-published authors had taken 33 percent of the e-book market. However, the tables were turned in 2016 when self-published authors lost a little bit of their grip on this market—not to mention several major publishing companies actually reporting losses. It’s now more important than ever that indie authors spend our time and money where it matters most.
Things will only continue to change as the market ebbs and flows, and we need to be able to adapt no matter the disruptions to the market. What worked in 2007 won’t necessarily fly in 2017, so I compiled a list of just a few of the things that used to be marketing truths but are now myths.
Myth: Post an eye-catching photo with social media posts.
The old advice on social media was to post a nice text quote along with a photo, and it worked pretty well.
Truth: Now the advice is to write your quote directly on the image itself because when you share a post, sometimes the original text gets lost or relegated to tiny font at the bottom.
Myth: Purchase banner ads.
Back in the day, banner ads were the way to get your product noticed, but now with ad blockers, nobody even sees them anymore. Today, the click-through rate of a banner ad is around 0.1 percent, down from 50 percent in 2000. Sadly, websites like Goodreads offer banner ads in their expensive marketing package, which can cost $6,000 or more.
Truth: Most indie authors agree that the best places to advertise books are in discount newsletters like
BookBub, Bargain Booksy, and Free Kindle Books & Tips.
Myth: Perma 99 cents is the way to go.
A few years ago, the advice was to lower your price as much as humanly possible, which is what many indie authors did. As you have already guessed, this doesn’t work anymore. The new advice is to try price pulsing. That’s where you lower your price for a limited time, and then set it back to a more reasonable one.
Truth: The feelings are mixed. Many say you have to promote the lower prices, but if you’re selling a book at 99 cents, promotion may not be wise if you’re on a low budget or just low on time.
Myth: Black hat marketing works.
This means anything shady like buying reviews or even buying your own book in bulk. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the marketing business, but with technology, most people can easily spot a fake. Not long ago, President Donald Trump was busted buying his own books during his campaign. Also, several Christian ministers were found to have contracted a service that promises to help authors get on the bestseller list by buying large quantities of the author’s book. They might have gotten away with it if they hadn’t used money from their own congregation to do it. Same goes with social media. A few celebrities were busted buying fans a few years back and were exposed by a major media outlet.
Truth: Your money is better spent advertising or hiring a good book publicist.
Myth: You need to be everywhere on social media.
It’s old advice that’s still being repeated, but it’s just not true and never really was. Your goal on social media is to build a community, which means conversations and engagement. You can’t do that everywhere because you only have 24 hours in any given day. So it would be wise to just pick one or a few social media sites where your audience is going to be and set up shop there. If your book is for young adults, try Snapchat, Instagram, or Tumblr; if it’s adults you’re targeting, try Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Truth: Follow your audience.
Myth: Spamming works.
For those business owners who are too lazy to build their own e-mail lists, there are services that are more than willing to sell you e-mail addresses. Sadly, these people aren’t interested in your book, and sending unsolicited e-mails goes against the CAN-SPAM Act, which can result in a fine of $16,000. It’ll also get you banned from e-mail marketing services like MailChimp or AWeber. As if that weren’t bad enough, according to law enforcement and online security firms, the average spam campaign is often a front for organized crime, which is why most e-mail filters send these e-mails straight to the trash bin.
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the few books out there that list so-called promotional groups on Facebook and Goodreads. I’ve personally tested them and found them to be a complete waste of time. If you look closely at these groups, you’ll discover that they’re nothing but spam pages with author after author dropping links and yelling, “Buy my book!” This is pointless unless your book is for authors who desperately need to learn about marketing books.
Truth: It’s illegal and ineffective.
So, What Does Work?
Funny enough, it’s common sense that will help you sell a book successfully. No tricks; just hard work and persistence. Oh yeah, and time. Some tips:
- Write a book people want to read.
- Edit professionally.
- Get a nice (industry standard) book cover.
- Start building your platform.
- Invest in your education. Take courses and read books on marketing, publishing, and editing.
- Join a network of professional authors. There are Facebook and LinkedIn groups as well as associations like IBPA that help educate and support self-published authors.
There will be more changes on the horizon in 2017—that’s inevitable. But that doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Instead of seeing self-publishing as a disadvantage, see it for the opportunity that it really is. As more and more indie success stories become commonplace, it will light the fire in some of us to go beyond what we’ve ever imagined.
Rachel Rueben is a YA and romance novelist as well as the chief blogger at WritingByTheSeatOfMyPants.com where she writes about all things self-publishing. This article was derived from a blog post on her site.