Crossroad Press, publisher of my first novel, DIABLERO, and of my coming young adult sci-fi thriller, CHLOE JOHANSSON and THE GOD PARTICLE, has been around now for several years and has published something in the vicinity of 600 titles. So if anyone knows about marketing in this age of e-books, it would be author and publisher David Niall Wilson.
How should authors promote their books – specifically eBooks – is a question that – as you might imagine – is very near and dear to me. I’ve studied it. I’ve lived it. I’ve come to some conclusions, and while I’m sure some will come as no surprise, and some will irritate, frustrate, or anger a few readers, I’m going to pass on what I’ve figured out so far.
Selling your eBook is no different than selling a traditional book. Famous authors sell a lot of eBooks. Midlist authors sell more than most, but less than famous people. So it goes. The only advantage that eBooks have is the Internet, and the Internet is not ‘easy’.
There are now thousands of newsletters, groups, message boards, blog rings, etc. dedicated to “marketing” your eBook. There are a sackful of social media sites and ‘tools’ people will push as ‘the’ way to sell your books. They will offer to doctor up your SEO. They will talk about Facebook and Twitter campaigns. They will set up blog tours for you.
Here’s the truth. ALL of the things that you have heard of can sell books, but the key – the simple key that is always missed – is that whatever you use to promote your work has to reach people who are readers. Most of the above-mentioned tools and methods are best at connecting you to thousands of other authors trying to sell their books, but very few of them are buying books. You might get into a reciprocal setup where you all buy one another’s books and review them, but that is the equivalent of a circle jerk, and won’t do a thing to promote your book.
Here’s the simple truth. The only thing that will sell eBooks is getting a clickable link in front of a large number of people who a: read books and b: don’t know who you are. Your Facebook feed is seen by … your ‘friends’. If you are an author, it probably has a fair number of other authors and publishers on it – but a limited number of people who are your fans, or who read regularly and are there for books. It’s not an effective tool for selling books unless you find a way to draw people to it who are only there to read.
Your Twitter feed – if you are outgoing, charming, handsome, beautiful, funny, etc – you may be able to use it to raise your number of useful followers. If you can engage famous people and get them to promote you in any way, retweet your promotional links – that can work too. If you are just a regular Joe, don’t have a lot of time to hang out on line and create a “personality” – again – it’s a very limited tool and not that useful in selling books.
THE most useful promotion on the Internet is simple to define and very, very difficult to achieve. The best way to sell eBooks is to get a one-click-to-buy link either visible on a major retail site, or on some other site with heavy traffic. Yes, I realize this means that it’s just as hard to sell a ton of copies of an eBook as it was to sell traditional books. It’s the truth, and I think, the first thing I said.
My suggestion is this. With patience, and care, you build your presence. You write. You write steadily and do not spend more time promoting things you have already written than you do writing new things. Keep a steady flow of new material out there. You have a blog or a website – depending on your skill level. Keep it populated with new content. Write about yourself and your work, even if no one seems to be paying attention. Link those posts to your Twitter account, and your Facebook account. Use tags and key words on your posts so that people find them. Make sure there are links to buy your books on your website, synopses of the books, maybe a few sample chapters. Do NOT make the whole site nothing but a static advertisement, make it someplace people might return to. Make sure it has the RSS feeds and a newsletter form where people can subscribe.
If you use Facebook – have one page for your personal contacts, and one page for your author’s page. Don’t put the same content on both. Don’t make new pages for your new books…use the one page, and build the following for that. Do not invite everyone to events every time you release a book, etc…only the same people who see your feed see those, and only a small number of them will opt in- just post your material on your author’s page.
Twitter – the same. You have already set up blog posts to populate it, but you have to seek out interesting people, talk with them, get them to acknowledge you and talk back – build a network. If you do this well enough, after a while, you’ll see the numbers of your followers grow. One of the best ways to find interesting people to follow is to go to the Twitter page of people you admire – and see who THEY follow.
Spend some time on each site every day, but not so much you don’t have time to write. If you are talented – if your books are good – you will gain traction. Always look for ways to get that treasured one-click-to-buy link in front of as many people who have never heard of you as possible. Don’t waste your time marketing over and over to the same tiny pool of people…and write. Did I mention that? Spending a year selling the one book you wrote is a recipe for failure.
If you get help, or pay for help, check that help out carefully. Ask them to prove results, and not just in numbers of possibly fake friends or followers, but in sales. If a new promotional tool (that costs nothing) becomes available – try it – give it an honest evaluation. If it works, great. If not, move on. Don’t listen to gurus. Most of them don’t really know why they sold a lot of books, but are perfectly willing to sit on soap boxes and explain it – OR – they tell you things that are only part of the picture without explaining the contacts that got their one-click-to-buy links in front of a lot of people.
Trust your instincts. Be patient. Write.
I hope this has – in some way – been helpful.
David Niall Wilson