I have not done much in the way of promotion.
This is something I continually run against when I’m out and about reading blogs. Others say how much hard work goes into self-publishing. They say the writing is not the hard part, the promotion is the hard part. You need to work hard to get your name out there and get your book visible over the crowd.
Well, having lurked on the Kindle Direct Publishing forums and being on twitter where I can see some authors in action, I am beginning to think that over-promotion is another sign of an absolute rookie.
Don’t get me wrong, some advertisement is normal and reasonable. Contests, blog hops, offering free ebook files, and signing up for reviews– this is all a normal part of the process. I’m talking about those writers who do nothing but flog their one book everywhere, then can’t understand why it hasn’t sold.
As of right now, I’m selling very weakly, but still somewhat steadily, and I haven’t done much of anything to say, “buy my book!” So far, all I’ve done is put a sample on Indie Snippets, posted a little something on Indie Books Blog, and done a couple of #novelines on twitter. I’ve sent out two emails to reviewers, but that takes a while if they decide to do it at all.
All of my promotion is saved for the weekend or off hours. They’re things I can do while I’m watching TV or when I have downtime at work. It isn’t something I’m working incredibly hard at, and you know what? The book really is selling itself. Actually, the readers are the ones selling it.
Now reviews on the book page do not always sell a book. Readers don’t trust those, and I don’t blame them because so many authors swap reviews. On the forums, I’ve seen people complain about bad reviews and ask others to vote them down. That has gotten me curious, so I’ve done the “look inside” on Amazon and read a portion of this supposedly awesome story that wasn’t worthy of a one star only to find that this story with tons of four and five star reviews has some very clear issues. (At this point, I just back away, having learned all sorts of valuable lessons about my fellow “indies” and how some of them roll.)
But I will say that when I get reviews from people I don’t know, my sales spike. So far, I’ve gotten got two reviews from people I am sure I don’t know that were positive. I then had a few extra sales. I imagine that on my own, the book does one or two sales a week. But last week, when I got a review, I sold about four. That is probably the effect of the reviewer telling someone, “You have to buy this!”
So what’s my point here?
Books are not like movies. Publishers have sort of twisted the business model until we’re using the same one that is used for summer blockbuster movies. If you don’t sell a lot right out of the gate, you’re doomed to failure and your book will disappear. This is something I think that authors have adopted, and so the over-promotion is an attempt to not fail.
The best promotion is just being yourself and doing your thing. There are a lot of ways to passively advertise yourself and your book without actually doing so– like putting links in bio pages and in forum signatures. Don’t bother hanging around writing forums. Do you like video games, painting, taking pictures of abandoned buildings? It helps if your extra hobby is something that’s inspired your writing, but it is not required. People will check on links if they’re engaged by the person.
And as always, trust the reader. I dread the day I get a bad review. While I know I’ll probably be red in the face and needing a lot of chocolate, I am going to read it. This doesn’t mean that I have to accept the review. I can choose to use my own judgment and ignore it just like when I get back suggested edits.