As a first-time independent author/publisher, there has been a lot of trial and error as I publicize my novel. What has worked? What hasn’t? Well, pull up a seat and listen to me blather as though I’ve actually learned something.
Facebook. Seems to work okay. Not great, but okay. For the most part it’s mobilizing an established base rather than reaching new readers, but every now and then someone sticks. Various Facebook groups give me exposure, but most of those groups are authors pitching to authors. Kind of a circle-jerk, if you’ll pardon the expression. Now, there’s a “Review Seekers” group that I joined, which ostensibly puts me in contact with folks who want to read and review my work. I gift them a copy of my novel, and they… disappear into the woodwork? I’ve only gifted about three copies to this group, but none have yet posted a review. Then again, it’s only been three weeks, and it isn’t likely they dropped everything to immediately read and review. Perhaps they will, perhaps I got taken. Time will tell.
Update: one reviewer has now responded (positively, too!), so it looks like it may be good means of building up reviews.
Twitter. So far, it seems completely useless as a marketing tool. Again, it’s authors pitching to authors, people building up lists of 90,000 followers – few of whom actually follow. They do it by following the same 90,000 themselves, building the list with follow-backs. No way are they reading tweets from 90,000 accounts! There’s no value here, save having tweets archived in the event someone searches for them. Maybe big-name authors and celebrities find that their followers read their tweets, but for a small fry like myself, it’s more distraction and waste of time.
Blog. Not many people have found their way here yet, but the search engines do, and that helps people find me when they want. If people are interested enough to seek me out, there’s something for them here. It’s worth the little time it takes to post an update every few days, and it serves as a central communications point if someone should wish to reach out, join the mailing list, etc. It also serves as a chronicle of my experience – maybe some other aspiring author will be spared missteps, or get some good ideas. I trolled other authors for ideas; it only makes sense to provide something for other authors.
Publicity. Ah. Now here we have something. I can’t say how many readers have come from placement of promotional articles around the Internet, or author interviews that genre sites were willing to post, but they probably send some. Even if they don’t , it builds credibility when other people write about me or my novel, not just me parading around with a “please notice me” sign like so many other authors (see, Twitter, above.)
Google AdWords. Officially, the jury is still out on this. I ran an AdWords campaign for one week to see if it would juice sales. Maybe it did. Google certainly tracked plenty of clickthroughs on the ad, but they didn’t seem to translate to any decent conversions to sales. My sales were hitting about six copies per day, and suddenly bumped up to ten. I stopped running my AdWords ad, and sales the next day are sitting at six, with two hours left in the day. Was AdWords responsible for the four extra sales? Or was it just a fluke? Maybe today was just a slower day. There isn’t enough data to be sure. I’m going to hold off running AdWords for another week, then run it a week – eventually a pattern will emerge. What I can say is that even if Google AdWords is responsible for boosting my sales, it isn’t doing it enough to be a viable sales strategy, at least at this time. But to get initial eyeballs on my work, to generate word-of-mouth, it may just prove to be invaluable. Costs are easy to control, too.
Reviewers. Heck, I’m still trying to get people to leave reviews on Amazon. I’ve got
three five 5-star reviews on “COR: Genesis“, and no doubt they help. I’ve read that twenty one is the magic number for reviews to be considered “credible”. I would strongly suggest lining up some honest reviewers before publishing, as some of these reviewers report having over 100 titles to read before they can get to mine. That’s a long wait. Otherwise, you’re like me, and mostly at the mercy of a reader getting a crazy idea to leave a review. I think they likelihood of that happening is increased if they either loved the book or hated it, which means it may not be a great barometer of the average reader.
Word of Mouth. There is no better publicity than word of mouth, from people you don’t even know. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to track. An ego search on Google or Bing might turn something up, but that’s hit and miss, buried in search results.
Ultimately, I can’t control my message in the wild. People are going to see it or not, like it or not, and talk about it… or not. I can skew the odds in my favor, but there is no magic bullet for marketing. So how did I go from two or three sales a day at launch, to six to ten a day after three weeks, and how to I get up to twenty or thirty daily sales ASAP? I think by doing the only thing I can control – writing a damn good book, treating it with the respect it deserves, making it the quality my readers deserve. Then don’t worry about it and do it again with the next book.