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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Has Marketing Lost its Effect?

I've been in the self publishing industry a good couple of years now and one concept that's always baffled me is the issue of marketing.

When I published my first book, marketing it was all I could think about and I consequently felt overwhelmed by the contradicting plethora of advice on the internet. I spent months and months and months reading so much information and when I put it to practise none of it seemed to work.

So then I changed my tactic. Instead of spending my time doing all these marketing efforts with no real results, I started to follow writers like J.A. Konrath and Bob Mayer who have been in this industry for decades to see what advice they could give.

And they said one pivotal thing: no matter what you write and who you write for, the best marketing technique is to write another book.

When I read that advice it felt like a huge cloud had been lifted. Finally something I could do and I know I could do well and that is to write my next book. It sounded so simple.

Now four years on I have just finished my third book and for the last several years, I've always promised to put my writing first over any aspect of marketing. I really do believe that Amazon and other retailers have so much control over how our books sell than we'd like to think. I spend time in the Kindleboards writers' forum to hear other authors mention the direct impact Amazon's algorithms have had on their sales. No matter how much marketing they do sales seemed to be stuck at a certain number.

So many writers spend so much time trying different marketing techniques trying to keep up with these pesky algorithms. But not many of these writers can measure the effects of their marketing efforts with much success. Even writers like J.A. Konrath say that when they spend time promoting sales results often aren't instant. It can take weeks if not months for promotion to have any effect and I think that this is what makes it so difficult to have an accurate measure for these results.

One thing I'm not knocking is paid advertising. However, I still have to try that but I've spoken to many writers who have said that this method has had spectacular results for them. Maybe because it's paid - I don't know. But one thing I do know is this. Self publishing has become so popular these days anyone can put their rubbish out there and it takes a lot for any book to become visible.


  1. A very positive and heartening post for many writers. I'm sharing it on http://www.facebook/com/RethinkPress and on twitter @rethinkpress. I often share your blog posts, and I have one request/suggestion: would you be able to start each of your posts with a visual image (easy to upload something online or from your own files)? Selfishly, this makes a link to your blog look much more attractive on our FB page; and for you, research shows that people are much more likely to click through to the blog if the link shows an attractive or intriguing image. At the moment what comes up is the cover of one of your two books from the sidebar. People are very resistant to clicking through to what looks like a selling site - it will lose, rather than gain you sales. And as I link quite often to your very good posts, our followers have seen your book covers many times and are probably less interested each time. Best wishes, Lucy

  2. Hi Lucy,

    Thanks very much for the comment. I will look into uploading an image this weekend. Have you any suggestions? Thank you so much for sharing my blog.

  3. A really heart-felt post that echoes my own feeling.Can someone PROVE that marketing a certain way helps? My own experience stems from face-to-face contact, and even that's a bit iffey. That's why authors do the bookstore "Events." Still, focusing on the thing you do best--writing, and the readers you actually know, makes the way forward a little less foggy. Tally-ho!

  4. The real answer here is: It depends. The hardest thing is carrying coals to Newcastle. Selling snowshoes to Eskimos is another proposition entirely. I, like you, spent weeks just reading everything I could find about how to be successful online. Most of it was common sense: website, blog, social media, quality product yada yada yada. I did all of those and I did sell a few copies of my first novel. A few. I couldn’t tell you the actual figure but it was probably something like thirty or forty. But that was the first book and it wasn’t even out as an ebook at the time. The reviews were all good. I wasn’t disappointed. Now I’ve just published my fifth book and I think I’ve sold two copies since May. I’ve just devoted the last week to promotion, just trying to get a few people to agree to review my short story collection. Seventy-one e-mails sent. Seven asked for a copy. Ten percent! Better than accepted. Now, of course, will all of them actually get round to doing a review, will the book be for them, how many people will read their reviews and (bottom line) how many sales will I get? I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be enough to cover the cost of the books and the postage (£4.50 a pop to the States is not cheap). But what do you do? You gird up your loins and get on with it. I’m under no illusions though. I’m not selling what people want to buy. The stats speak for themselves. Top of the list for adults: romance. Top of the list for kids: fantasy. Even general fiction is way down the list which never ceases to amaze me because when you walk into a bookstore the biggest range is the general fiction shelves. Someone’s clearly writing the stuff and someone else is clearly reading it. But who? And woe betide you if you write something that doesn’t fit neatly into one particular genre. The real problem is simply this: There are too many books out there. Just look at the number of review sites who’ve stopped taking requests because they’re already months (if not years) behind. At first it seemed like such a good idea, all these books for free, but you really can get too much of a good thing and when you add in the mediocre and the crap, well, what can I say? The floodgates have opened. At least you’re marketing to a clear demographic. That helps. There might simply not be as much of an audience out there as you hoped.

  5. Hi Helen, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I never really do face to face marketing - maybe that's something I'll have to try.

    And Jim,

    Yes I agree entirely with what you say. You can be the most efficient marketer but if people do not want to buy the books then you're not going to make many sales. For a book to sell is has to be what people want to read.