Marketing strategies for indie authors: what works and what doesn’t

writing-blog-post

In the last few months I’ve tested a number of marketing tactics to promote my YA novel, One Night. I will continue to update this post with results in the future. Below is my analysis of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing indie or self-published novels. Traditionally published authors may find this post helpful, too.

MARKETING EFFORTS THAT ARE WORTH MY TIME

Email newsletter

Details: Once a month I email my subscribers with updates on writing, what I’m reading, contests, and recipes. Each month the content varies and I don’t include all of the above every month. But I do make sure to send them something.

Does it work in terms of selling books? Yes, I have seen sales as a direct result of emailing my newsletter subscribers. My list is small, but becomes more powerful as it grows.

Is it worth my time? YES

Other paid advertising

Details: I have tested Free Kindle Books and Tips, Ereader News Today, and BookBub (international deal only).

Does it work in terms of selling books? Yes. I saw the most sales from Bookbub – 148. The results for FKBT & Ereader News Today were dismal, at 7 sales each.

Is it worth my time? Bookbub is. The rest are not.

Blog tours

Details: I booked a blog tour through YA Bound Book tours.

Does it work in terms of selling books? No.

Is it worth my time? Yes. I received a lot of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and would do it again.

NetGalley

Details: I signed up for a one-month slot in the NetGalley co-op through Patchwork Press. It was a steal at $50 compared to the regular NetGalley rate.

Does it work in terms of selling books? No.

Is it worth my time? Yes. I got a number of good reviews on Goodreads and exposure on blogs.

Live events

Details: I’ve done an in-store book signing and have also participated in a Local Author Fair.

Does it work in terms of selling books? Yes. Sales were not through the roof but they did happen. For the people I didn’t sell to, I made sure to give them a postcard or magnet with my book’s info on it. Going forward I will not do a signing where it is just me. I met a lot more people when I partnered with other authors. Plus it’s more fun. I will do speaking events, however, or other events with a guaranteed audience.

Is it worth my time? Yes.

Telling everyone I know about the book

Details: When I launched my book I emailed everyone I knew – friends, family members, work colleagues, old teachers.

Does it work in terms of selling books? Yes. For example, my sister posted on Facebook about the book as well which led to an immediate sale.

Is it worth my time? Yes.

Goodreads’ giveaway

Details: I have given away two copies of my book via two Goodreads’ giveaways.

Does it work in terms of selling books? Not sure.

Is it worth my time? Yes. It’s easy to set up, gets eyeballs on the book, and the only cost is postage to mail the book to the winner

Posting on social media

Details: I try to be active once a day on Twitter. I prefer Twitter over other networks. I also post about once or twice a week on Instagram. I post on Facebook maybe every two weeks.

Does it work in terms of selling books? Not sure.

Is it worth my time? Yes. I think this is a long-term sales play and a good way to connect with readers.

MARKETING EFFORTS THAT MIGHT BE WORTH MY TIME

Library outreach

Details: I called many libraries to try and schedule events/promote my book. This did not work. Calls were either not returned or a million excuses were given for why they couldn’t help. What I tried next was walking into the library and donating a copy of my book.

Does it work in terms of selling books? No.

Is it worth my time? Maybe. My book is now available in a few libraries. One can only hope that it is being checked out.

Guest blogging

Details: In the past few months I’ve guest blogged at Jane Friedman and Teen Librarian Toolbox.

Does it work in terms of selling books? No.

Is it worth my time? Not sure. I think this is a good way to get my name and book cover out there to a good audience, but the referral traffic to my own site hasn’t been huge.

Blogging on my own site

Details: I try to write a new blog post once a month.

Does it work in terms of selling books? Hard to tell.

Is it worth my time? Not sure. What it does do is give me something to post on Twitter. I get a lot of referral traffic to my site from Twitter when I share helpful blog posts.

MARKETING EFFORTS THAT ARE NOT WORTH MY TIME

Facebook ads

Details: I have tested spending less than $100 in Facebook advertising.

Does it work in terms of selling books? No, not for me. I have targeted ruthlessly, getting as specific as fans of John Green who live in specific zip codes, specific ages, and times of day. It leads to clicks but not sales. I suppose if I had a budget of $100K it might possibly work, but if it’s not working on a small scale I don’t think it will work on a big scale.

Is it worth my time? No

Emailing random book bloggers

Details: For a few months, I have reached out to as many book bloggers as possible when I have time.

Does it work in terms of selling books? No.

Is it worth my time? No. While some bloggers I’ve emailed have reviewed the book, it’s less than 1% of them. I have wasted way more time emailing bloggers than the results are worth.

Paid publication reviews

Details: I signed up for a paid review from Midwest Book Review & Portland Book Review.

Does it work in terms of selling books? No.

Is it worth my time? No. Though I got some decent blurbs to put on my web site and sales pages I don’t think this was a good use of my time and/or money.

Releasing a nonfiction ebook

Details: I put out a guide to self-publishing, for free on Amazon, iBooks, etc. and included a preview chapter of One Night at the end.

Does it work in terms of selling books? No.

Is it worth my time? No. I have seen this strategy work for other authors, but it did not work for me.

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2 thoughts on “Marketing strategies for indie authors: what works and what doesn’t

  1. Hotdogtopus says:

    Very interesting and thanks for sharing. It’s interesting how some activities could be useful even if no sales result. I do not believe Goodreads giveaways have ever helped me to sell more books, even though they have resulted in many good reviews. I’ve been thinking about paid ads, but it’s difficult when the prices of ebooks are so low.

    Like

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