Advertising and Self-publishing

The lovely aspect of self-publishing is that you get to be your own marketing team. Until I released The Clique, I wasn’t entirely sure what that entailed, and I’ve had a few rough lessons since last month. Some ideas worked, most were monumental failures—but that’s alright, since I’m all about learning from the past. The following is an attempt to do just that, and to cull the successful strategies from the unsuccessful:
• Listing a giveaway on Goodreads. I would classify this as a modest success, since it did seem to drive a few downloads, but unfortunately not enough to make it cost-efficient. The reason I would still classify it as successful is because the giveaway was running during the worst times in terms of Netgalley reviewers (more on that later), so that likely scared away at least a couple of readers who noticed the novel and were considering purchasing it.
• Personally contacting reviewers. This was probably the most effective strategy, and I almost wish I’d spent more time seeking out reviewers the old fashioned way than settling for Netgalley; partly because the reviewers I reached out to were so very nice, and partly because the reviews focused on positives as much as negatives.
• Paying for a Netgalley post. To be honest, I don’t think I’m going to opt for this again. I’m just thankful it only cost me forty dollars… I think there were maybe three reviewers of eleven who mentioned the positive aspects of The Clique, and the rest made comments about ‘wanting/expecting a different novel.’ I normally don’t have a problem with bad reviews, but it irks me when a review’s main complaint doesn’t seem to speak to the novel, but the reader’s expectations for it. I’m going to stop myself here, because otherwise this could quickly become a post about Netgalley reviewers and how overly harsh reviews could harm the long-term market.
• Offering an Amazon gift card giveaway to promote my novel. Another one I won’t be doing again. It didn’t seem to drive any sales, and I’ve since realized that the viral capability of giveaways is hindered by their very nature. After all, what rational person would share a giveaway with others when they have a better chance of winning if they keep things quiet?
• Character profiles/interviews/etc. (any post that wasn’t a review). When I first started blogging, I used to seek out guest posting opportunities, since that’s what so many successful bloggers advocate. However, after about four or five, I discovered that—the truth is, most of the time I ended up providing content with little to no personal benefit. I think the same can be said of any blog post that didn’t directly sell my book, although I’m still thankful to everyone who hosted a post of that kind. It boils down to a simple rule of sales: you have to catch buyers at the right time. Readers who click on an interview probably aren’t looking for a new book to read, but a quick post that might be entertaining.
• KDP Select free promotion. Believe it or not, this has been the main vehicle of sales/KULL ‘borrows.’ I gave The Clique away for two days, managed to give away a couple hundred copies, and since then I usually have about a borrow a day. I’ll refrain from commenting on the untenable nature of free downloads driving free ‘borrows,’ but suffice to say I’m still thinking about other ways to advertise beyond giving my book away.

In all, I think it’s best to view my efforts so far as a learning experience. In many ways, I’m just happy to have others read my work, especially those who seem to enjoy it. But I’m obviously light-years from being able to support myself by writing (unless I figure out a way to survive on a dollar or two a day, or manage to write over a hundred novels before I graduate college).

8 thoughts on “Advertising and Self-publishing

  1. I am also struggling with marketing. I’ve tried everything and am very well near using GoFundMe to try to get some money for a marketing package through a publicist firm. People love free things, but I can’t afford for it to be free :/

    1. Yeah, exactly! I’m starting to think the whole concept of free ebooks is destroying the self-publishing market, since it seems to have gone from an ‘oh cool, it’s free!’ to ‘why should I download your free book?’ situation.

      1. Self-Publishers rarily get the respect of the electronic age. I’ve read so many articles about publishing with eBooks and, to be honest, if it weren’t for the ‘hooray! you didn’t kill a tree’ aspect, I probably wouldn’t push it as much. eBooks are easier and cheaper, but if you’re self-published, it’s hard to gain any interest. The lucky ones (i.e. E.L. James) get snatched up and propelled forward that the majority of their readers aren’t aware they started as self-pubbed. It is definitely just as much of a fight as it is to be traditionally published. I hope no one ever sees this as the “easy way out.”

      2. ^^^ I completely agree. I think the only side of it most people see is the ease in posting to Amazon, but with promotion, cover design, sending out to reviewers (at least half of whom don’t even accept novels from self-published authors), it’s starting to seem like more and more of an uphill battle to me. Plus, the fact that I can go on Goodreads and work my way through the glut of self-pubbed authors going through the same struggle… Books have always been a top-heavy industry, and as much as the average reader seems to think self-publishing was a game changer, I’m not entirely sure that’s true. EL James is a really interesting case, for exactly the reasons you mention. I think that, if Random House hadn’t noticed her, she probably would have been in a similar situation to the rest of us. Almost makes me wonder whether I should go back to the old manuscript-querying process, even if it would result in a much smaller royalty.

      3. EL is getting much less royalties than she ought to, and way less than random house. It just bothers me that someone would make more of a profit off my work than I would. Although, there is the drive that Random House does with the marketing and the fame/publicity she is getting. Would it all be worth the smaller percentage of royalty? I’m with you. it is almost worth the struggle for traditional publishing, but if I hadn’t self published, I would have the small little following that I do have. I’m torn and frustrated.

      4. Oh gosh, so sorry for the late reply! For some reason I didn’t get the usual email notification.

        That’s the kicker, isn’t it? The low royalties seem to result in a less-than-livable wage for most traditionally published authors, and then publishers expect their first timers to do a lot of self promotion anyway. Add on an agent’s 10-15% and a self-pubber would only need to earn a fourth as much as EL or another famous author to make the same amount.
        What I’ve been tossing around lately is the idea of getting a decent library of my books out there, and then getting one traditionally published in the hopes that it might drive sales of the others. But in the meantime, I’d still be running into the problem of advertising each new book while I built up a following. I don’t know if there’s an elegant solution, since it really seems like a classic supply and demand problem (a glut of self-published authors vs. a small market of readers willing to take a chance on them).

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