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).