The struggle is real. We authors like to spend our time writing, not marketing. I get it. I’d much rather be at my standing desk deciding how my suicidal character offs herself or designing a new world for my dragons to romp in than spending my precious time marketing.
But the hard truth is we self-published authors have to market our work, and to a degree, ourselves. Sure, you could have written the next Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it’s irrelevant if no one knows your book exists.
I have self-published ten books over the past sixteen months, and I’ll admit I haven’t spent enough time marketing them, at least not until recently. A few months ago I dipped my toes into the Amazon Marketing Services world by running a few ads, and I am also contemplating experimenting with Facebook ads. But these marketing options cost money, and that’s something I don’t have an abundance of at the moment.
Most of us Indie authors work on a shoestring. Our slim budgets are first allocated for hiring an editor (you do have an editor, right?) and a good cover designer (you do use a professional, don’t you?).
So when it comes to marketing, what’s an Indie author to do?
After a little brainstorming before my last nonfiction release, I decided to run a marketing experiment that wouldn’t cost me a red cent. You see, I’ve been curious about the strength of the connections I’ve made as an author over the past year on social media. I’ve also wondered whether listing a free book promotion with the online book promo sites is worth the effort.
This experiment was designed to find out more about each of these inexpensive marketing avenues.
First, I would run my free book promotion on Amazon for two days and ask people I had made connections with via social media over the past year to download and/or share the information about my promotion to their friends and followers on their chosen social media platforms.
Then, a couple of weeks later, I would price the book free again for two more days, but this time I would tell no one. This time I would submit my free book promotion to some of the online book promotion sites, like Awesomegang or ItsWriteNow, and let them notify their subscribers for me.
Now, my goal was to spend no money during this phase of the experiment, but after seeing how long it took to submit to each site individually, I decided to cough up $29.99 to use the BookMarketingTools’ free ebook submission tool. This tool allows an author to upload their information once, then submit to over 25 book promotion sites in five to ten minutes. Sound too good to be true? Keep reading.
I started the first two-day promotion by sending three tweets a day announcing that my book was currently free (at the time of the experiment I had roughly 2,300 Twitter followers). Then I posted an announcement to several writing groups I’m part of on Facebook and asked for people to help me get the word out about my promotion.
For this experiment I did not email my author mailing list; I relied solely on word of mouth via Facebook groups and Twitter.
What happened was this:
- My book was downloaded 120 times.
- The book ranked #1 New Release in Philosophy and Spiritual Growth, #1 New Release in Health, Fitness, and Yoga, as well as #6 in Short Reads, Health, Fitness, and Dieting.
Well over a week before the next two-day book promotion I submitted to 26 book promo sites with the BookMarketingTools’ submission tool and an additional 11 sites on my own for a total of 37 sites that would potentially announce my promotion to their subscribers.
What happened was this:
- My book was downloaded 95 times.
- The book ranked #1 New Release in Philosophy and Spiritual Growth.
If you want to be successful with the book promo sites you have to be willing to pay to play. You can, indeed, submit to them for free, but they will not guarantee a listing unless you pay anywhere from $3.00 to $70.00.
Out of the 37 sites I submitted to, I only had six confirmed listings. And out of the 26 I submitted to through BookMarketingTools I had only one confirmed listing. Yeah, too good to be true. Ouch!
To be fair, I will say that you might have better luck with the promo sites if you write fiction. The most listed books on the promo sites tend to be in the cozy mystery, romance/erotica, and sci-fi genres. My experiment was run with a nonfiction book about yoga.
Social media can be a valuable tool when it comes to launching a book, not by constantly blasting your book out, but by making real connections with real people. I have no real way of knowing if my tweets produced any downloads (although I did get quite a few retweets), but out of the nine Facebook groups I appealed to, several people in five of the groups responded positively, both with downloads and shares.
Those five Facebook groups happen to be the ones I’ve spent the most time in, interacting with other writers and developing relationships with people who struggle with the same things I do. We teach, encourage, and inspire each other.
I believe these people were willing to help me because I’ve had personal conversations with them about the ups and downs of writing and the challenges of publishing. And I’m pretty sure these Facebook writer friends of mine know that I would welcome the opportunity to help them as well.
My biggest takeaway?
We authors have to be willing, no, eager to be all in. We write to be read, right? So we have to wear all the hats, especially the marketing one, even if we don’t like it.
Face it, I wouldn’t have had 215 downloads of my book and a few #1 New Release rankings had I not done some kind of marketing!
So, can a strapped-for-cash Indie author effectively get the word out about his book? After this experiment, I believe the answer is yes, especially if he builds on current relationships in the industry and actively works to cultivate new ones.
Now, I’d love to know what types of low-cost marketing you’ve experimented with. What was successful, what wasn’t? Do you actively participate in the writing community? Are you all in?
K. Kris Loomis is the author of After Namaste: Off-the-Mat Musings of a Modern Yogini as well as several other nonfiction books about yoga and meditation, a travelogue about her time spent living in Ecuador, and a collection of short stories, The Monster in the Closet and Other Stories.
When Kris isn’t at her standing desk writing, she’s usually off playing chess, folding an origami crane, or practicing a Beethoven sonata on the piano. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.
You can find out more about Kris by visiting her author website, www.kkrisloomis.com, or by connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram @kkrisloomis!