Spreading the Word

So I have been trying to sell copies of Dissolution of Peace now for almost two weeks.  And I am discovering a few things that I didn’t expect to discover along the way.  I know I have touched on some of this before when I wrote “Is Anybody Out There?” but that was more about making a plan for marketing.  This is more about what I am learning that may surprise some of you.

I’ll go ahead and start with common questions about marketing books and give you my answer two weeks in.

Do giveaways work?

The short answer is that I don’t know yet.  I’ve done a giveaway on Goodreads for Daddy is Tired.  I did it at the recommendation of another who told me it really worked for him.  So far, I’ve not seen any boost in sales.  In fact I think I’ve sold one copy total since that give away ended at the end of September.  So I am not sure how it “works” but it didn’t for a children’s picture book.

I’m running two giveaways for Dissolution of Peace.  One ends at the end of October, the other ends at the end of November.  Surprisingly the one on Goodreads seems to be getting a lot less reaction than the one on my Facebook page.  There is one advantage to the Facebook Page give away.  Both my Twitter and Facebook followers have gone up significantly.  Though that hasn’t translated into sales.  We will see what happens come the end of the giveaways.

I did two other giveaways.  I gave away fifteen free copies of Dissolution of Peace for Kindle on Twitter, of which only one was ever claimed.  I did the same on Facebook, giving away ten copies.  Two were claimed.  Not exactly a very strong presence there.  My hope was to get twenty-five copies of my book out there and hopefully get ten reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads.  I’ve not had any reviews (from the giveaway) on either one.

Based on these numbers, you might think that giveaways don’t work.  To be honest no one has ever really told me how they work to get sales.  They just tell me it works.  So Perhaps by the end of the year I will see an increase in sales.  The giveaways don’t cost me anything.  The eBooks are free.  And the signed paperbacks will cost me less than $20 when I factor in the shipping charges.  So when you consider how little it costs, it is worth a shot.  But if you try something, like my eBook social media give away, and it doesn’t work.  Don’t repeat failure.  Even if it cost you nothing monetarily, it will cost you your time.

The good thing about Raffle Copter (which I am using to give away one signed paperback) and Goodreads giveaways, is that it doesn’t cost you but a few minutes of time.  And, like I said, I am getting new followers as result.  That may be of significant value later.

Does Posting to Facebook or Twitter work?

I suppose this is the new form of word of mouth.  Word of mouth advertising does work.  But only if it is done correctly.  But I will clue you in on some surprises I learned.

First, don’t count on people to share it.  All the people I thought were certain to share it, some who were even instrumental in helping create it, have not shared it once.  Many of these people are fellow authors, whom I have promoted heavily myself.  Of course, I didn’t promote them expecting them to do the same.  Though I did kind of hope they might.  Most of them I promoted well before my novel came out.  There are some I have even promoted their business (they are not authors) and they haven’t shared my book either.

But, there is an upside to this.  I have had complete strangers share my book, mostly on Twitter.  These are people who recently jumped on and followed me.  In fact, one person who follows me retweeted it and then five or six people who don’t follow me also retweeted it.  Facebook on the other hand has been all shares from family or friends.  I appreciate everyone who shares it, and I try to help them out when I can.  But remember, just because you help someone else out, don’t expect it in return.  The deal here is that you should share what you want and other will share what they want.  Even though it is disappointing when family and friends don’t.

Facebook groups are another way of spreading the word.  Two things to remember.  First, don’t break the groups rules.  Your post will just get deleted.  Two, don’t expect much from it.  I belong to several writing Facebook groups.  The problem is, all of them are so flooded with self promotional posts, that mine rarely stay within a readable number of posts for more than an hour.  Also, I’m not sure how many people are actually reading what others post there, versus just posting themselves.  Some even seem to post every hour or so.  Which is bullshit if you ask me.  They are spamming the feeds just to keep their book on top.  I’ll get more on spamming later.

Okay, I’ll talk about spamming now.  If all you post on Twitter or Facebook is your novel.  You won’t get anywhere.  It doesn’t take long before people tune you out and/or unfollow you.  Personally I only post about my book a few times a day.  And lately it has been cut back to just once.  I post about other topics: Jokes only I think are funny, blog posts that helped me, Plasma Frequency, the NHL lockout, and more.  I also comment on other people’s posts, try to answer comments on mine, reply to tweets, and retweet things that I liked.  All of these things make me a human being.  Not a constantly tweeting about my book robot.  I think that is equally important as getting the word out about your books.  After all, if you lose followers, what is the point of tweeting to an empty room.

Think of it this way.  If every time one of your coworkers, friends, or even family members saw you, all you said was “Buy my book.  It is on Amazon.com and it is great.”  How long before you wouldn’t see them again?  Of course you will tell your friends about your book, but I am sure you talk about other things.  The same should be the case on Facebook or Twitter.  Be a real person and you might wind up with more results and more help for your followers.

What to you thing about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising?

First of all, PPC advertising works on a the principle that a site puts up an advertisement and when someone clicks on it you pay a per click fee.  Many places let you bid on the per click rate.  Lower bids mean you are not shown as often as larger bids.  You can usually choose who you target and even set up limits per month.

Right now I am using Goodreads.  From all the research I have done, Goodreads is supposed to be better at targeting readers than Facebook or Google PPC ads.  I have three ads.  One for the Paperback targeting US readers of Science Fiction 16 or older.  One for the Kindle Version targeting US readers of eBooks and Science Fiction 16 or older.  Last, I have a Paperback/Kindle ad targeting UK readers of science fiction 16 or older.  All three ads are in one campaign.  I pay 20 cents a click  for one, the other two I pay 10 cents per click.  I started the ad on the 16th in the evening.  So in about four days I have had 3,500 views.  Views just mean it came up on the page, it doesn’t mean anyone actually saw it.  Of all those views I have had two (2) clicks, both in the UK.  And both UK clicks resulted in zero new UK sales.

The good news is you can change your ads any way you want until you find one that gets you more clicks.  I recommend you send the clicks to Amazon or Barnes and Noble for sales.  This is because it eliminates extra steps to get your book sold.  The real trick if making an ad that really catches readers attentions.  Though part of this falls on Goodreads.  Frankly they put the ads in a terrible spot.  That even on my large screen, I have to scroll down to see them.

The bad news is, I dumped $90 into this PPC campaign based on recommendations from others that Goodreads PPC ads really jump started their book sales for the first 30 days.  At this rate, it will take me a long time to burn up $90.  So learn from my mistake and start with a smaller number.  Then once you find an ad that gets you a lot of clicks, you can increase.  Another tip:  Keep in mind how much you make in profit on each sale.  If you make $0.30 per eBook sale and you bid $0.30 cents per click.  Someone would have to buy on every click just to break even.  $0.10 is the lowest you can bid on good reads.  So if you book is less than $1.99 you’re expecting a lot for the ad.

Here is the thing, I think PPC can work.  But you have to stay on top of it.  You have to find an ad that works, and that means watching the numbers and changing the ad until you get clicks.  And then hopefully clicks will turn into sales.

What about website advertising?

I don’t know.  I haven’t tried it yet.  I contacted one site that had a really good deal with a few questions.  That was a week ago and they never answered me.  So I’ll continue to look around.  The think on website advertising is you want to find a site that attracts readers of your genre.

What about print/magazine advertising?

Although I have not tried it.  I know this works.  If you put your book in a fiction magazine for your genre you will get the word out there about your book.  The readership numbers matter.  This is why if you want to advertise in some of the bigger science fiction magazines, you will pay a lot for it.  Smaller presses charge less, but you get less readers.

Book Reviews / Author Interviews?

I’m in the process of getting a few book reviews.  But finding sites to do it is a lot harder than I ever thought.  Many have “closed” because of overload.  Many more have lengthy lead times.  One who has accepted my book has already told me it could be 8-12 weeks.  Another is reading it now, and two more have put me on “the list”.  But these book review sites have readers.  I don’t agree with paying for a review.  The most I am willing to do is provide a free book.

Author Interviews.  I have not done any of these yet.  And it seems that the only places I have found that do them, charge for them.  So I don’t know.

It the end, blog reviews and author interviews are another form of word of mouth.  Word of mouth works, it is proven in multiple industries.

Amazon or Goodreads reviews.  The thing with these is to be prepared to have to beg for them.  Just getting people to like the book or add it to a shelf has been nearly impossible.  Then asking people to do the Tags thing on Amazon has been impossible.  Over all it has been a nightmare.  But the truth is, people don’t buy things on Amazon that haven’t been reviewed.  And the more reviews you can get the better people will feel about paying for your book.  But it takes time.  People have to read your book.  And after they read the book they have to feel the need to go back to Amazon (or Goodreads) and rate it.  Many readers aren’t that motivated to do all that.  If they are active on Goodreads, that site does a good job of integrating at least a star rating into the experience of the reading progress.  But there is nothing to encourage someone to go to Amazon.com and review your item.  The encouragement could be that the book was so good they have to say something or it could be it was so bad they had to say something.  More often they have to be encouraged by someone to do it.  That someone being you.

So does marketing work?

Many authors will tell you that they have seen no benefit in marketing.  This is because, like me, they have a preconceived notion that buying an ad automatically equals sales.  Or that all their friends and family will share their book.  Or that giving a few books away will mean that everyone who didn’t win will go buy it.  The truth is far less.  Advertising takes a tone of work and it takes a lot of time before it really takes off.  The truth is most of us are not marketing geniuses and advertising becomes a trial and error.  And since books vary as much as their authors, it is also possible that what you try won’t work for you but will work for me.

The best thing to do is to keep at it.  Spend just a little money until you know what works.  Invest your money wisely.  As I learn more about what works for me, I’ll share it with you all.

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