July 6, 2017

Book Promotion: Getting Out the Word

Product tag with text: Book Promotion Beyond "Buy My Book!"

Many groups and forums for self-published authors compare notes on what works (or doesn’t work) for promoting our work. For every author who seriously studies the most effective methods of promotion, there are probably 10 others who—if they promote at all—try various (and maybe random) things in a “see what sticks” approach. *smile*

At the same time, many well-established authors advise that we should all chill, as it can take 5 or more books in a series before it really catches on with readers. So they say we shouldn’t worry about promotion until after we have a backlist.

I’m not a promotion expert—at all. I’d say I’m somewhere between a newbie and a random “see what sticks” kind of promoter. *grin*

I haven’t done much promotion because I understand the point of saving our money until we have more to sell. However, I figured I could still share the few things I’ve tried so we all have another data point to consider.

My Experience with Promotional Efforts

Here are some of the things I’ve tried—in addition to the obvious tactic of notifying my newsletter subscribers of each new release—along with how they worked for me:

  • Posting in “Reader” Groups on Facebook:
    In my experience, this approach is close to worthless for reaching non-authors, as most members are authors rather than readers-only. Not that authors don’t read—far from it!—but that’s still a different target audience than implied by the groups’ titles. Also, authors tend to join many of these groups, which leads to them turning off notifications of new posts, so our posts are rarely seen by anyone, much less by readers-only. That said, it’s free to try. *smile*
  • Taking Advantage of New Release Notifications:
    Some platforms—such as BookBub, Amazon, or Goodreads—notify readers who follow an author on that platform of a new release. These can be effective for reaching readers who love an author but haven’t subscribed to their newsletter. However, we might not gain many followers on these platforms unless we promote them—effort we could put to promoting our newsletter instead, where we have more direct control. Like above, these are free to take advantage of, and a notification from a well-known site can be effective, so these can be a nice bonus but not something to rely on too much.
  • Advertising on Book/Review Sites:
    I’ve never had luck with this method, but the sites don’t seem to have a shortage of advertisers, so it might work for others. I’m sure an ad’s success depends on the site and the style of advertisement. For me, these were too expensive to be worth the exposure.
  • Advertising for Promotional/Sale Event:
    Some sites post or send newsletters out to readers who want to know of sale prices or promotions on books, and we can pay to have our low or sale-priced book included. BookBub is the biggest of these sites, but I hear of new ones every week. I haven’t run a BookBub, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some promotions I’ve run and disappointed by others. In my experience, how effective these are greatly depends on the site and their reader base.
  • Cross Promoting with Other Authors:
    Cross-promotion encompasses a couple of different styles. One use of the term refers to authors promoting each other in their newsletters (commonly called a newsletter swap). This style of cross promotion is free but could imply that we’re personally recommending a book if we’re not careful with our wording.
    Related to the previous bullet point, another style of cross promotion is to pay for inclusion in a cross-promotion event, often organized on Facebook. The money is used to organize and perhaps add a giveaway component to bring readers to a central landing page listing all participating books. In addition, participating authors are expected to help promote the event to their readers.
    For both styles, I’ve had great successes and total duds. Like above, effectiveness depends on the organizer’s reach, readership base of participants, compatibility of participants (such as the same genre or subgenre), etc.
  • Signing Up for Blog Tours:
    Anyone can create a website and post book covers or new release blurbs, even without any traffic of readers. So the effectiveness of blog tours greatly depends on the quality of sites involved. Some tours focus on quality sites with posts of interest to readers, such as interviews or book reviews. Other tours seem to post mostly to sites that include a cover and blurb for a dozen books a day, which wouldn’t be as interesting to readers and would likely lose our book in the crowd. For me, blog tours haven’t seemed to be worth the money, but as always, results will vary.
  • Attending Book Signings:
    Participating in a narrow book signing event might work better, but in my experience, big book signing events tend to result in readers heading home with more books, download codes, etc. than they can pay attention to. At the large event I attended, my download codes were trackable, and only a tiny percentage were redeemed. If providing print books or creating download codes involves a non-insignificant expense, we might not find this method cost effective.

These are just the methods I’ve tried in some way or another. I have yet to try any of the bigger money or trickier options, such as BookBub or Facebook ads.

Track results from promotions to learn what works. Click To TweetI’m sure others could have very different results, depending on their cover, genre, branding, story, sites tried, advertising graphics, target audience, advertising settings, etc. Every aspect of the situation comes with a YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) disclaimer. My point isn’t to direct people toward or away from any methods but simply to share my experience and give authors another data point to consider when making their promotional decisions.

My Current Promotions

If you’d like a closer look into what you can learn from my example, I’m currently involved with a couple of events:

  • My Blogiversary Post:
    Although my blog is focused on writing-related topics, my annual blogiversary also gives me a chance to reach out to readers, as some of the suggested prizes are appropriate for readers as well—such as signed print books from me. *grin* This is the one blog post a year that I pass on to my New Release newsletter subscribers.
  • Fourth of July Advertising Event:
    Earlier this week, I included my freebie Unintended Guardian in a small promotion event. The price to participate was extremely low, so it was easy to justify even though I knew it wouldn’t drive much traffic. This promotion did perform 3 times better than the last similar one I participated in with this organizer, so it’s hard to predict even with a “known” situation.
  • Newsletter Swap:
    In the past week, a couple of authors have promoted my books to their newsletter subscribers. As an example of why effectiveness can’t be predicted, two newsletters promoted the same book (meaning my content wasn’t a variable in download numbers), the authors are in similar genres, etc. In one, more than half of the readers who clicked on the link downloaded the book, while in the other, only a bit more than a third of the clicks resulted in a download. Every author’s reader base is unique, so even when all other variables are similar, we never know what’s going to resonate with another author’s readership.
  • “Free for All” Giveaway Event:
    This advertising/newsletter cross-promotion event focuses on free books and includes a giveaway of a Kindle to help bring readers to the the landing page of all participating books. These events—when run by a good organizer with their own reader base to promote to (in addition to the participating authors)—can result in a lot of downloads or newsletter subscribers. The giveaway aspect helps as well, but depending on our newsletter strategy, we might not appreciate a bunch of freebie-seeking subscribers who might not care about our books.
  • Beasts & Magic BookFunnel “Bundle”:
    BookFunnel is a site like Instafreebie, which gives readers a free book in exchange for their email address, allowing us to collect newsletter subscribers. “Bundles” are essentially a shared landing page for several authors to help with cross-promotion. This is my first time trying this method, and the one-week event just started yesterday, so I’ll have to do a follow-up post to let you know how it works. *smile*

Whatever we do for promotion will likely be a matter of trial and error. Keep track of every promotion you do—and most importantly, keep track of the results.

I created a table which lists:

  • promotion date (or date range)
  • which book I’m promoting
  • cost of promotion
  • type of promotion (advertising, cross-promotion, newsletter swap, giveaway event, etc.)
  • promotion organizer
  • promotion results (number of sales/downloads/subscribers, etc.)

A promotion technique that works great for a different author might not work for us because our readership is unique. Learn what works to attract your readership. Learn what resonates with your potential readers. And build on what works for you. *smile*

P.S. And don’t forget to enter my annual Blogiversary contest!

If you think about source or style rather than the advertisement/content itself, what type of book promotions tend to work on you as a reader? What type of book promotions don’t work on you as a reader? As an author, what’s been your experience with running promotions? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t worked for you?

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Comments — What do you think?

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Clare O'Beara

I hand out bookmarks with my covers on them. My husband makes them and we have a few different ones as I write in a few genres. I leave them out at conventions and I hand them to anyone getting into conversation with me. The bookmarks also contain my web address and QR code for my site. Readers have on two occasions I have seen, scanned the code, gone to the site, clicked on a cover, gone to Amazon and bought the book. This takes seconds.


Thank you for joining me!

Sieran Lane
Sieran Lane

As a reader, I find cross promotions most interesting! Related to your previous post on freebies, I find that I am most likely to READ (as opposed to just buying /downloading) an ebook if I pay for it. I.e. A book I paid for 99 cents (USD) would be more likely to grab my attention when it comes to which book I choose to read next. I tend to treasure free books less, and they come lower in my “which book to read next” priority list. Unless the free book in question is the first in a series, where the sequels all cost money. Back to cross promotions, I have bought a number of books that were promoted by authors I was subscribed to, via these authors’ newsletters. Of course, these books had to be in the same genre (usually gay romance) as the author’s usual stories, and the author had to have read and enjoyed the books they were helping to promote, or the author has to at least know those authors personally (e.g. as a friend.) Nowadays, I’m trying hard to save money, so I usually only buy 99 cent ebooks. (There are quite a lot of these books recently! Discount offers are great.) For anything more expensive, I either ignore them or put them on a wishlist. But sometimes I’ll buy them right away if I love the blurb. If I encounter a book over $4 CAD (about $3.11 USD) that I really want, I will most…  — Read More »

anne gallagher
anne gallagher

I have never done a promotion for any of my books other than to put it out on my blog and Twitter. Needless to say I am not a millionaire, but still make a decent living. That being said, with 19 books under my belt, the most important thing was to just write a damn good book, get a few reviews posted and leave it be. (Of course, this was when Amazon was still being friendly to indie authors.)

However, with a new series in the works under a new pen name, promotion is going to be key. Thanks for all your ideas. I like cross-promotion the best.

Susan Gourley

I think the most frustrating thing about book promotion for me is that sometimes something works and then the next time it doesn’t which you mentioned a few times. Hit or miss.


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