Indie author’s challenges: book promotion and marketing

I don’t think I’ll deviate too far from the truth if I say that the phrases “book promotion” and “book marketing” never fail to send chills of dread down indie authors’ spines.

It’s not that there aren’t options available to showcase your books to the world. Options are plenty. The main stumbling blocks are money and effectiveness. The first you might be unprepared to spend considering that the second is not guaranteed.

It is not only my firm belief but the opinion proved by experience in promoting my books that if you don’t try, you won’t get any results. That much is absolutely guaranteed. Without promotion, people won’t download your books, even if they are free. As I wrote in one of my previous posts – Five things that newly-minted indie authors can get shocked about – Amazon is a bottomless pit, books simply get lost in not to be found by anyone who doesn’t specifically search for your book inserting a book’s precise title and author’s name in the search line.

It is a different thing altogether that any attempts don’t guarantee you a bestselling author’s status or truckloads of sales. So, when making a choice, it really narrows down to how important your writing is for you. For me, it is immeasurably important, and the reasons for that go beyond my love for books and writing stories.

In this post, I’ve listed all book promotion methods I’ve personally tried. My experience in using them is strictly subjective. What didn’t work for me, might work brilliantly for a different genre or author.

1.       Free book promos

Since I have a trilogy published, I see the perfect sense in offering the first book for free from time to time. And even before I published books two and three, free book promotion always brought at least a few reviews, which is, in my view, better than zero.

The thing with free book promotions is that if you don’t pay to advertise your promo, you will get only a handful of downloads. And here, the question about effectiveness pops up. There is no other way to find out advertising on which platforms works for you than to check them. It takes time and money, and there is no way around it. Besides, you have only as many days you can offer your books for free as platforms like Amazon allow by their rules. Besides, book promoters have their own rules as well. So, you have no other option than to balance between the two – keeping in mind your budget – and check them not one by one (although it is the only way to get “clean” results on effectiveness) but by making stack promos by choosing a few providers for each promo.

2.       Discounted book promos

For me, this option so far has worked only in combination with free book promos. From time to time, I make a sale offering book one in the Neglected Merge trilogy for free and books two and three for 0.99c / 0.99p.

Thanks to book promotion sites that advertise free/discounted book promos, during such campaigns I get a few dozen of 0.99 sales in addition to hundreds of free downloads.

3.       Book fairs and giveaways

To be honest, I have no idea if these work or not. I do occasionally participate in them for the sake of “doing everything I can to promote my books”, but I haven’t so far seen an increase in book sales. I did notice an increase in KENP reads during at least one of these fairs, but I can’t be sure the increase was the result of the participation in the book fair since they don’t offer any statistics.

Fellow indie authors, if you have a successful experience with book fairs, please, share the contacts of organizers with me. It would be much appreciated. You can reach me through any of my social media accounts.

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

or via good old email: eve.koguce@gmail.com

4.       Amazon ads

I haven’t had much success with Amazon ads, and this is a shame really. I see it as the most direct way to put your books in front of those readers who are most likely to buy them. Alas, due to many reasons, it hasn’t worked for my books.

Two positive things I’ve still drawn from the experience with Amazon ads are the increase in KENP reads a few times and the realisation of how huge the book market is. Now I can also answer the question people ask from time to time: why didn’t I consider writing in Latvian and trying to get to the Latvian book market. Over the approximate year and a half I’ve been using Amazon ads – turning the campaigns on and off – I had 1 126 977 impressions. I’ll transform it into words. One million one hundred twenty-six thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven. The population of Latvia is 1,9 million. There is no way I could find over million people potentially interested in books in my country.

It’s a different thing altogether that out of that million there were not so many sales. For me, it means I have to try harder to find an audience for my books. As someone with a degree in Marketing, I see clearly that in this particular case, it’s not Amazon’s fault that people who see my books, don’t buy them. It’s my fault – although I don’t regret it – that my books don’t fit neatly into the most sought-after categories like contemporary romance or crime fiction.

5.       Book promotion companies’ services

Similar to Amazon ads, in my case, this option turned out to be a complete failure. It was even more disappointing since the idea of someone else doing promotion for me was so incredibly sweet and alluring. I know that many indie authors will agree with me. I haven’t met many creative people who enjoy the business part of the process.

I won’t claim that the company hasn’t done everything for me that it usually does – and successfully – for its clients. The company is a reputable one with tons of experience in promoting books. I’m sure that they applied all the methods they use to bring results to their clients. It’s a pity these methods had no effect on my book sales.

I think that the reason for the fiasco is the same as for the poor performance of Amazon ads. The Neglected Merge trilogy doesn’t fit into regular categories, which makes its promotion too difficult, even for specialists.

Of course, my cool attitude doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel disappointed. I did. But I’ve drawn the conclusion from this experience, and I’m a strong believer that experience is a value. I plan to write, publish and promote more books for as long as I have the resources – creative, emotional, and financial – to do it. So, I treat every failure as a lesson, based on which I adjust my plans.

6. Facebook and Instagram Ads

Neither has worked for me. To be honest, I haven’t been too active in testing this promotion method. I just ran ads for a couple of days when I had free/discounted book promos. But since they don’t offer any statistics besides the number of link clicks, it’s impossible to track ads’ efficiency. As I said previously in this post, for book promos I always use book promotion website services that offer advertising through their newsletters and social media. The only plausible conclusion I can draw based on my experience is that if there were any downloads/sales from Facebook/Instagram ads during promos, the number was insignificant, for when I didn’t use them, the number of sales/downloads was more or less the same as when I did.

7.       Social media

Social media is where people can see not only books but also their authors. For indie authors, it is a crucial factor, a competitive advantage I’d even say when it comes to a reader making a decision to buy a book.

Nowadays, not every traditionally published book gets vastly and professionally promoted. Only much-anticipated books like famous people’s autobiographies or established authors’ new releases are advertised on a grand scale. Big publishers’ goal is to earn money not to spend it. So, it makes sense they invest in what will bring them a return on their investments.

Social media in no way is a panacea for indie authors’ book promotion struggles. No matter how many followers you’ll gain and how actively your posts/tweets will be liked and commented on, it doesn’t guarantee any book sales/reviews. But it does guarantee you some. That is if you are open, active, friendly, and ready to share something interesting with the world.

To sum up, the following book promotion methods brought the best results (warning: I’m not on a bestsellers list yet!)

–          Free book promos

–          Discounted book promos

provided that these promos are advertised through reputable book promotion websites with extensive newsletter subscribers’ lists and/or considerable social media following. 

I will continue taking part in book fairs and giveaways, so my books are visible somewhere outside Amazon.

And with my next books, since the next three ones I plan to publish are a bit more along the general lines – if we ignore the fact that they are set in Latvia 🙂 – I will try Amazon ads again.

I don’t see any added value to trust my books’ promotion to a specialised promotion company.

I’m still indecisive about BookBub. I know that this resource has by far the most extensive subscribers list and gives the highest results in terms of free book downloads. I did try to submit a book deal twice and received rejections. After that, I had time to reconsider the possible gain from a BookBub deal campaign. Throughout the year I get considerable results in terms of book sales/downloads using smaller promotion services providers. Besides, I’ve read that BookBub gives preference to the books that aren’t exclusively sold on Amazon. At the moment, Kindle Unlimited constitutes roughly half of my book sales, so since it’s very difficult to get accepted by BookBub, I will leave this marketing tool for further consideration.

I hope my experience can be of use to those indie authors who are at the beginning of their journey and feel as confused in the sea of information about book promotion opportunities as I was when I had published my first book.

6 thoughts on “Indie author’s challenges: book promotion and marketing

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    1. I am really glad. Thank you for your feedback. I’ll continue sharing my experience. When I was looking for information I found almost solely rather misleading advice.

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  1. Some great inputs here!

    In some cases, I’ve had different experiences. Facebook ads work well for me, even though I have a cross-genre series (or maybe because of that… my books are historical fiction + modern thriller). Both in sales and for building email lists. Speaking of which, I think that is a major aspect of marketing. Sites like Bookfunnel (using reader magnets) and Booksweeps can help supplement organic email lists. I find that to be a natural lead into my series. Nailing the ad creative can be challenging.

    I would also keep the Bookbub feature deal in play, though it’s hard to get. I am Amazon exclusive and was accepted (after multiple tries). It was by far the most effective marketing campaign I have ever done. I had 20K+ downloads, and the impact on books 2 and 3 in my trilogy was amazing (I put book 2 on sale for $2.99 during the giveaway). The best part was my KENP reads tripled after the deal (it ended on 7/4, and I am still enjoying the “afterglow”). The KU downloads really help with rankings, and I hit #1 in several prime categories because of them. Lastly, I have picked up 150+ reviews on book 1 since the deal. In all, I’ve made back at least 4-5 times my investment. I will repeat it, but most likely as a sale and not free download.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, definitely helps triangulate when I am stumbling through my campaigns!

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    1. Thank you so much for your feedback! It’s extremely useful. This is exactly the kind of information indie authors need.

      I’ve heard from other authors about Facebook groups and ads being an effective tool for them. I guess it depends heavily on finding your audience. And it’s upsetting that I haven’t been able to grasp how to do it yet. I’ve also heard that it depends on the geographical aspect. Since I’m not anywhere near my potential audience geographically, it is challenging to say the least.

      I realise that BoobBub is hugely effective, and I do think about trying it again with other books. Still, I have my reservations since even my next books won’t fit neatly into the pattern that can bring excellent results in terms of sales.

      Thank you again for sharing. This is exciting to compare my own with other authors’ experiences.

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  2. I realized that promotion is such a big part to get your book out there. It’s a constant. Offering promos every so often and circulating around finds new readers but you really need to work for them. Even if it’s for free!

    Liked by 1 person

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