Despite blogging on at least a weekly basis, one of the most common questions I’m asked by new and experienced authors alike is ‘how the [expletive] do I sell my [expletive] book?’ Ebook marketing is an absolute minefield. Do authors need to blog? Do we need to tweet, Facebook and Google+, while at the same time committing to a healthy amount of writing time?
If you’re short on time, here’s the simple answer to which ebook marketing methods work and which don’t: it’s impossible to say. Okay, that’s not such a simple answer, I realise, but it’s completely accurate. All levels of ebook marketing consist of three stages: implementation, commitment, analysis. All ebook marketing almost certainly consists of willingness to experiment, too.
But anyway, why am I blabbering on about all these hypothetical situations when I could be giving you a breakdown of what works and what doesn’t? Firstly, it’s important to understand that the idea of one ebook marketing method ‘working’ and others ‘not working’ is completely subjective. What might work for Edward W. Robertson might not work for Jeff Bennington. If there were one true ‘works for all’ ebook marketing method then everybody would be rich off independent publishing. As it stands, there isn’t, so if you aren’t willing to try things for yourself then you probably won’t get very far.
What I will offer you is a rundown of what works/doesn’t work for me. Please bear in mind that these are my personal results and might not align with your particular philosophies or approaches. If they work for you then fantastic — that’s a success. I just want to give you a little glimpse into a few of the most common methods and assess their effectiveness based on results of my own. The focus is ebook marketing in 2013 but I suppose it could apply for any year in that things are pretty much changing all the time. But anyway, without further ado, my personal guide to ebook marketing.
Adverts are hit and miss, however there’s a major ‘hit’ out there in the advertising world at the moment and it’s called BookBub. When you book an ad with BookBub, they send your offer out to their one-million+ subscribers, specifically targeting readers who are interested in your particular genre. When coupled with a KDP Select promotion or discount, BookBub delivers very strong results — I gave away 40,000 copies of my debut novel What We Saw back in March and have sold around 500 since. Not only have the costs been covered but I’ve actually made profit.
Otherwise, I’ve not had much success with adverts aside from the big free book notification sites such as AuthorMarketingClub. I tried a Kindle Nation Daily package once but I don’t think it had much of an impact on post-free sales (as great a resource as their website is) and I’ve taken out another few paid ad spots but with no real results. BookGorilla are a new site that are worth keeping an eye on, so anyone willing to experiment, please leave a comment with your personal results.
If you’re going to advertise, I’d go with BookBub. Right now, it’s the most effective way to reach your target audience, make some profit, and most importantly, gain some new fans. It’s ebook marketing done right. Other advertising — be sure to research before handing over your money.
Every author should have a blog. Or so many authors argue, anyway. How effective an ebook marketing tool is a blog? Well, it kind of is and isn’t effective. Personally, I don’t sell many books through my blog, despite the hundreds of hits per day I get. But that said, the goal of my blog is not to sell my books (well, perhaps it is indirectly but I’d never outright tell you that, muahaha). Instead, I aim to offer my thoughts on the writing, marketing and publishing process for fellow authors with the occasional sneak-peek of my own work, all in a pretty chilled out and laid back manner.
If you’re going to blog, ask yourself whether you’re willing to severely commit to doing something that in the short-term, probably won’t gain you many sales. If the answer is no then maybe blogging is something you can think about a few years down the line. I know, I know — sinful words! But the truth is, loads of authors are selling books and making profit without ever having blogged in their lives. Having a solid author platform might help, but I don’t believe it’s an effective ebook marketing tool.
Shove your links in the sidebar and you’ll get the occasional clickthrough. Just don’t hold your breath.
Word of mouth
I actually find good old word-of-mouth to be one of my favourite ebook marketing techniques. It’s all fine being able to publish a book but if you don’t have the courage to tell anybody about it in ‘real life’ then when will you ever truly believe in your author status?
Next time you’re on a train or a bus or whatever, break the ice and wait for the ‘what do you do for a living?’ question. Be sneaky and pretend you don’t have a day job and, right there and then, tell that person you’re an author. At that point, the stereotypically disinterested member of public will be completely compelled that you aren’t just another ‘run of the mill’ train buddy and will probably dig a little deeper.
Before you know it, they’ll be on your website and checking out your books. There you go — free book marketing with a confidence boost on top!
Don’t shove your ‘author status’ down the lovely innocent person’s eardrums though. Be humble, keep the conversation both ways, and… yeah, you know how to keep a conversation going.
Contrary to popular belief, KDP Select is a.) not dead, b.) still works and c.) isn’t evil. I wholeheartedly believe that when used correctly, KDP Select is the most effective ebook marketing tool for new authors.
I emphasise the ‘correctly’ because I genuinely don’t think that a lot of people really get it. KDP Select is about giving away free copies, sure, but the main focus is on what happens after you’ve given those free books away. Right — giving away 100 copies is nice, but that’s hardly enough to boost your Amazon ranking and score some cash sales afterwards. How much does that require? I’ve discussed KDP Select on three previous occasions (the latest post here) but really we’re talking about the 5,000+ mark to really move the needle.
To make the most of KDP Select, you need to think about after the promotion as much as the promotion itself. As I say, I’ve discussed that many times in the past, but yes, it works, especially when combined with other promotional methods.
Also, short-term exclusivity is not evil. The next person I see trying to claim that Amazon is ‘destroying’ the ebook market is getting a firm slap to the face. Typically, the very same individuals tend to be people who have jumped into KDP Select with no research and haven’t really seen the same sort of results as those who have enjoyed success, so are just feeling bitter.
Do your research and if it sounds good to you, give it a try. If not, leave those who are enjoying success with it to enjoy increased sales, visibility and borrows.
Twitter is not the place to incessantly market your books.
It’s a place to be social and connect with like-minded authors and readers. It isn’t a place to tweet quotes from your novel every half-hour in hope that somebody might, just might, click on it.
Sure — you might get a sale or two this way. You might get a few sales. But are you really comfortable whoring your book out in such a shameless way? Do you really want to risk your entire reputation just because of a silly little Tweet?
Here’s what the reader inside me thinks when I see somebody marketing their book constantly on Twitter: I’m going to ignore that person because they aren’t interested in connecting with others. They are here to sell, sell, and sell some more. The only thing they’ve sold is their souls, or their eSouls. eSouls — I like that one.
But seriously, just don’t be a dick on Twitter. It’s fine to tell people when you’ve got a new book out or tweet about a promotion you’re running once or twice, just use some common sense. The more crap you spout, the less people will pay attention to you. As Oscar Wilde once put it, ‘the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’. Don’t be another robotic arsehole — stand out from the crowd by actually being human.
Note — sharing links directed at your target audience is fine, I believe, as long as they are mixed up with real-life stuff too. I gained a lot of followers because I used to tweet links to fellow ebook marketing/publishing blogs. I don’t do that so much anymore but it does help you gather a following.
As for sales — Twitter won’t bring you much. That’s why it’s even more absurd to keep on nattering about your latest release. Focus your ebook marketing efforts elsewhere and you’ll witness better results.
So we’re at 1,500 words and I’ve still got a list of around ten things to cover. Looks like, ladies and gents, we’ve got a new series of blog posts on our hands/I’m too busy to type the rest right now.
Next time, I’ll be talking about Facebook, Google+, Author Central and whatever else I can condense into >2,000 words.
As for how things are going — very well, thanks for asking. I submitted my Creative Writing dissertation on Monday so I’m still buzzing from the adrenaline of that, and I just sent out a copy of my new novel Killing Freedom to Brenda (my editor). Speaking of Brenda, she has just launched a fantastic redesigned website — be sure to check it out at eclecticeditor.com
Anyway, enjoy the rest of your week. I’ll have more ebook marketing stuff for you on Friday.
As usual, insightful and correct. Once again though yo downplayed reviews…
Thanks very much, Michael — I appreciate it! And fear not — I’ll be sharing my thoughts on reviews in the next instalment.
Another terrific post, Ryan. You not only have something to say, but most importantly, know HOW to say it.
Here’s my question: (I could ask Amazon & wait two days for them to respond), instead I’ll ask here: Since GoodReads, where the first volume of my series Lustmord: Anatomy of a Serial Butcher Vol. 1 (of 6) is currently available as a free download, can I leave it on there and still go with KDP Select without taking it down first and not risk getting penalized by Amazon?
The other thing I quickly realized: most of the sites that announce free ebooks are connected to Kindle/Amazon. So to promote my free giveaway on GoodReads I’ve pretty much had to get on FaceBook and announce it there on various horror movie and book sites.
What’s your take on this? Thanks in advance. Kirk Alex
Cheers, Kirk. Glad you enjoyed the post.
To answer your question, it’s wise to take down your book from any other site before entering into KDP Select. Of course, you can upload your work onto KDP’s standard non-exclusive service and have it coexist in both places. Just bear in mind that KDP Select only allows five free days per 90-day term so you’ll have to charge a minimum of 99c for your book. Otherwise, you could try uploading your book to KDP and notifying Amazon that it is free elsewhere, which will eventually lead to it being free on Amazon.
As for your second question, I think notifying target audience sites/pages is a wise thing to do (as long as it is accepted in their terms and conditions of course). I’ve done that before and had no issues! I’ll be talking more in-depth about Facebook in the next post (blogspace literally ran out before I had the chance) so be sure to head on over this Friday for a more detailed report.
Interesting to see Michael Gallagher commenting, because I’ve found a paid promo through his Kindle Books and Tips site highly effective. i’ve done two of them so far and made a major profit each time.
I agree with most of the other points, Ryan, especially BookBub – had a great result there, too.
Thanks for the comment, Tim. Although I believe they are different Michael Gallaghers with the same name, I’ve found Kindle Books and Tips to be a great site too. Always very supportive to newer writers as well, and not so draconian with their acceptance policies.
I’d better get to work on part 2 of this post at some stage!