The Great Promotion Hoax - Indie Pub It
Indie authors in general seem to have got hold of the idea that the more they promote, the more they’ll sell. It makes sense in a linear logic way: Everything else in an indie author’s career is under their control, therefore the more promotion one does, the better.
As a result, I see authors blowing a gasket and piddling away their precious time sending out endless tweets, posting on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, doing blog tours, blogging their guts out, and even more. Many are trying to court traditional media with a blizzard of press releases, hoping for an interview, or public appearance that will pave their way to fame.
We’re constantly told that the social networks are the place to find new readers, and that promotion is every author’s responsibility. The second point is true: For both legacy authors and indie authors, any promotion around their book title will most usually have to be generated by the author. For legacy authors, the publisher won’t spend the money. For indie authors, there is no one else, unless you shell out thousands for a publicist.
Traditional promotion doesn’t work
The aim of just about any type of standard promotion you care to name is to familiarize the public with the author’s name, and the name of their latest book. Traditionally, this sort of promotion (adverts, blog tours, hanging out on social networks) is intended to be a high-saturation campaign, where the public sees your name not just once, but hopefully the magic seven times, which will implant your name and your book in their consciousness and compel them to act. (That is, buy your book.)
Can you see the problem with this traditional approach to promotion?
The percentage of readers to non-reading public is small and the number of readers interested in your genre of book are even less. Of the, say, five hundred people who read your post, perhaps only five of them would take any serious notice. Traditional marketing considers a 1% response rate fantastic. At this point, they haven’t even bought your book! They’re just seeing your name swing by.
Even if you found a pocket of 100% pure readers to talk to, who like your genre, you’re still only looking at a 1% response rate from among those readers.
Most readers are inured against author promotion. They’ve seen too much of it, a lot of it badly handled, in-you-face, buy-my-book messaging, to the point where they mentally switch off as soon as they think you’ve got a message, no matter how subtle you are.
That leaves you with the often-touted relationship building, instead. “Be a friend!” the experts cry. “Let readers get to know you, first.” That’s great if you have all the time in the world, but most authors have day jobs and are writing on the side. Spending hours wooing readers is a total time suck.
Even if you have the time (or make it), you’re blowing it on the wrong objectives. Most traditional promotion, including social networking, at best lets the reader know you have a book out that they’re interested in. They still have to click through to the book site, and buy the book. It’s a two and sometimes three or more step process which at any point, the reader will lose interest and drop out of the engagement process.
Number (3) is the fundamental flaw of traditional promotion. It all happens outside the bookstore, using indirect methods to coax people into following through and buying your books. It does work, but it relies on massive numbers for a small ratio of return. The more readers you can get in front of, the better your results. But no indie author with a normal budget can reach the sort of numbers that makes traditional promotion worthwhile in either money or time. The rate of return is too close to zero.
Then what is left? If you’re thinking that leaves very little an indie author can do, then you’re still mired in the old way of thinking about promotion.
Shift Your Focus
Instead of thinking about finding new potential readers and coaxing them into buying your book once they’ve got to know and like you, turn the process around. Turn readers who have bought your book into fans who buy everything you produce.
This is the logic underpinning the “1,000 True Fans” theory originally proposed by Kevin Kelly on his Technium blog, way back in 2008. You don’t need to reach the masses (which is the point of traditional saturation marketing). You just have to reach enough fans to make a living, as long as they are true fans who buy everything you produce.
You build true fans from readers who have read your books. You find more readers to buy your books where they buy all their books: bookstores. Anyone surfing through an on-line bookstore is eager to buy. You want them to buy your book rather than anyone else’s.
So your marketing and promotion should focus on three things:
Raising your visibility in the bookstores so that readers find you.
Creating quality books and the meta data that sells them, so these readers will buy.
Converting readers to fans once they have bought.
Everything else will take care of itself. Once you have fans, they will generate word of mouth (the most precious commodity out there, and it is impossible to self-generate).
But you also need to keep your fans in the loop on new products -- this is a good purpose for blogging and newsletters. Consider it fan maintenance. Make sure your newest readers have a direct link back from your books to your communications tools (blog, newsletter) so you don’t lose them. You can be charming and witty and just-plain-folks. You can be 100% yourself. You can get to know the readers and they can get to know you, because by now, they care to know. They’re receptive and listening.
Once you have quality books and your platform on the bookstores is polished and shines, the readers will buy your books when they find you. This involves spending time making sure your product description, reviews, author bio, etc., are perfect. Make sure the blurbs pull readers in. It means spending time maintaining your books and their linkages.
It should go without saying that your book itself should be the very best you can produce. Once a reader has bought your book, your story telling ability (or narrative prose) should sell them on the next book – and there should be direct links to the next book.
Raising your profile on the bookstore sites so that readers find you is the key. We’ll consider all the various means available for raising your profile, next month.
Columnist: Tracy Cooper-Posey writes erotic vampire romance series and hot romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. She published 35 titles via legacy publishers before switching to indie publishing in March 2011. She has published 26 indie titles to date. Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated four times for Book Of The Year. Byzantine Heartbreak won the title in 2012. Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a former professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com