Now everything has changed. What used to work no longer works. Quality books and reviews are still needed, but alone, they bring nothing. Most advertising for books proves to be squandered money. Most social media is a waste of time.
I now have a dilemma. I’ve co-written a powerful war novel, The Chords of War, with Samuel Gonzalez, Jr., an Iraq war veteran, published last September. The book earned honest and emotional reviews, which have moved me. Publication day brought strong sales. We landed in the top 200 books on war sold that day. Then sales went down until our Amazon ranking today at the end of March:
#1,379,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#10976 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > War
#1,238,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#10159 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > War
#35655 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary
#1,016,785 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#6543 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > War
#12245 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > War
#61830 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Teen & Young Adult
The book has just become a finalist for Book of the Year in the prestigious INDIE Awards from Foreword Reviews. How can I get more attention and sales for the book?
With all the incredible reviews, and with Veterans Day last November and Christmas and Hanukkah in December, I had hoped word-of-mouth and the holidays to carry the book high. It didn’t happen.
I’d always thought the hardest part of publishing was writing a great book. It’s not. Marketing is harder. As a writer, I want to write, which is what I’ve been doing since October, hoping The Chords of War found its audience on its own. A big audience didn’t happen. Now I have another chance with being a finalist.
Thus, I’m starting this blog. The idea is I’m going to try different things and see the real-world results by measuring my Amazon ranking and sales.
My First Foray
The thing about marketing is that it’s difficult to purely isolate one thing, but I’ll do the best I can. For instance, I’ve started with an announcement on Facebook that this book is an INDIE finalist. I did that yesterday, and I boosted it on Facebook on my author’s page for $4.16 so far (up to $10). Facebook says I’ve reached 129 people, I’ve “engaged” 19 (people who clicked on “Like"), and my Amazon ranking has gone down in all three categories (hardback, paperback, and Kindle), meaning there have been no sales in 24 hours.
From experience, it generally takes reaching a thousand people for one sale. That’s the reality of online marketing. Reaching 129 is barely anything.
Seasoned marketers will say people need to see something an average of seven times before they buy something. Let’s say you’ve never heard of Coca-Cola. The first time you see an ad for it, would you buy it? Probably not. Maybe after the seventh you would. If a friend tells you it tasted great and gave you energy, you might try it sooner. If someone reads your book and raves about it, maybe that will cause faster sales, too.
Next, I’m going to do a press release announcing the INDIE Award. It costs money to send out a press release, and each service promises results. There are free services. There are many offering results in the $20 to $150 range. And then there’s the top dog, PR Newswire, which can easily cost over $1500 per release. I’m going to try using PRLeap.com, which I’ve used in the past. I consider them pricey at $135 per release, but I found their software very friendly and their releases show up in searches on Google easily.
I’m not anticipating the release will pay for itself, which would mean I’d have to sell 22 eBooks or about 45 printed books – which doesn’t sound like a lot, but, again, this is coming from a vacuum. Ideally, this press release will generate some sales. Also ideally, people will read the book and then write a short review on Amazon, which can help. I will write a blog later this week to tell you if there are any immediate results.
It’s easy to spend more money marketing than you make back in sales. I could get a New York publicist for $6000 a month or more. Will that investment pay for itself? Probably not, especially without more awards and higher sales.
My goal here is to find things that bring a profit. I imagine this journey is much like investing in the stock market. I started out investing in stocks by taking small steps and investing in companies I knew about, such as tech and entertainment companies. If something didn’t work, I wasn’t out a lot of money. What I discovered was as you make money, you invest more and more.
Since I started White Whisker books in late 2005, I’ve come across many publishing promotions, promising riches. Writers and publishers seem to be rubes to hucksters. I will try some of the more inexpensive ones to see if my sales or Amazon ranking rise. If that works, maybe I’ll try more expensive things. I will write about all my attempts here.
Things I'm considering is taking out a promotion on Bookbub and Kindle Nation Daily. I plan soon to spend time on Kindleboards, a place readers go to find books and where writers go to talk about their books. I'll probably make the EBook a special for a day at $1.99 using a service to announce it. Sam and I will also be speaking at Santa Monica College on April 17, so perhaps we'll have a good audience there.
Write me if you have found something in marketing that works, and perhaps I’ll try it. I don’t want to do this alone. Your experience can guide me. Perhaps I’ll publish some of the more interesting notes. Write to me using the “Contact” tab on this website.
In short, I have to be Lewis and Clark heading into the Western woods. I want to learn the new publishing secrets. I will bring you along.