Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Week of Self-Published Authors: Matthew Keith on Marketing

For me, there is no aspect of being an author that is more frustrating than marketing. I don’t like it and I don’t want to do it. I want to write, not be a salesman. But I’m an Indie so I have no choice. I’m sure most of us feel the same way.

Every author in this week’s segment is going to share some of their techniques, and I really believe this part of their interviews will be the most valuable.

Before I get into talking about the different companies I've used and strategies I've tried, let me start by saying that the number one way to generate more sales is simply to write more books. I know struggling authors hear that a lot (I do!) and it sounds kind of trite when someone tells you something so obvious, but the fact is it's a lot harder to find a new reader to try your books than it is to get a current reader to read a second or third one. I am far from a success story, but I do have fans who've read all my books and I know if I had more they'd buy them.

So. Besides the obvious, here is my personal list of sites and strategies.


Google Adwords was awful. Not only did I pay for something that produced no results, I was badgered by their staff to spend more with the ‘promise’ that ‘it might help if I did.’ 'Nuff said on that subject.

Goodreads ads more or less work the same way Google Adwords do, but I tried it anyway because the only reason people go to Goodreads is to look for books. Makes sense right? Guess not. My Goodreads ad has displayed to over 25,000 readers. I’ve changed the verbiage nearly a dozen times and still have 90% of the money left of the original account balance (they make you pay up front) because only 9 people have clicked the link.

Facebook. I know a lot of authors will disagree with me, here. I’ve used Facebook quite a bit in the past. I have my own personal page, an author page, I've joined many groups, linked my Amazon product to posts and tried to be witty, clever, and charming… none of it ever produced tangible results. And I'm pretty frikkin charming. I’ve used bitly to track the number of hits on the links I’ve posted and it has been less than 0.01% click-through. For the time I have to invest on Facebook, it’s a waste. Yes, you can create exposure on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter... you can sky-write your message if you really want to. But always ask yourself this question when considering any advertising: if writing more books is the best investment of my time, what REALLY is my ROI from the time I spend on social media? Personally, aside from one strategy which I've detailed below, I feel the return is in the negative.


EReaderNewsToday. They’re pretty wonderful. Of all the sites that charge self-published authors to advertise, their deal is the best in town. They have millions of subscribers and only charge if you sell books. Their fee is 25% of royalties on sales coming from their page. So if you're selling your book for $0.99 on Amazon, your royalties are $0.35, of which ENT takes $0.0875. You never lose money by advertising with them because even if you don’t sell a single book, 25% of $0 is $0. They require that you discount your book, but I always sell at least a couple hundred copies when I advertise with them. Great exposure and you can't beat the price.

Price-bouncing: This is my term, not an official one. I noticed that every time I change the price of one of my books on Amazon I see a boost in sales. It doesn’t matter if I’ve increased or decreased the price—I get a bump every time. I don’t know why. I assume it’s because Amazon has a list or sends something out or … something. I have never seen any notification come through my inbox for any 'newly-changed-priced-books' or something crazy like that, but honestly... I don’t care what it is they do. I just know I see more sales as the result of changing my price, so I do it often. Takes all of a few seconds and I usually sell between 12 and 20 the first six hours after the price has been updated. Try it. Try increasing your price for a day. Sounds counter-intuitive, right? I thought so too at first.

Zero Pricing: Seems a little ridiculous to set your book to $0 if you're trying to earn money, but it helps in a number of ways. First, it creates immediate exposure. The first time I set one of my books free, it went to #1 in free books for 4 genre categories. Over 2,000 downloads in less than a day and I didn’t have to advertise anywhere. I’ve also gotten many reviews by making my book(s) free which, to me, is worth giving away hundreds of copies because, as we all know, reviews sell books. And, after setting the book back to full price, I always see consistent downloads up and above my norm for weeks. Making it free creates buzz—and that's always a good thing.

Twitter and Noisetrade Co-op Advertising: This one is (so far as I know) my strategy alone. I love it because Twitter is such an easy tool to use for building followers and it takes very little time. It's not like Facebook. On Twitter, you can find thousands and thousands of followers with minimal effort. 

Now, as far as Noisetrade... I'm guessing most authors aren't making use of Noisetrade yet. Until recently it was a platform specifically created for musicians, but they've branched out into books. Here's how it works: you upload your book to Noisetrade. It becomes available, free, to anyone who wants it. But here's the kicker... in order to get the book, they have to provide their email and that email is given to you. People who download your book can also 'tip', of which you get 80% but most people don't tip. The real value is the email address. It's a direct link to a reader who you know enjoys the kind of books you write.

So. On Twitter, I do a search for 'avid reader' or 'bookworm' or ... you get the picture... and follow every single one I can. When they follow me back, I send them the following message: 

InsertTwitterHandleHere Thanks for the follow! Find the first book of my YA Adventure trilogy FREE on Noisetrade

I use a bit link so I can track click-throughs, which have consistently averaged 24%. I direct them to Noisetrade because it's a great way to get them to try my work, it represents me with a professional look, and if they download the first book of my trilogy (and like it) they're likely to buy the other two. 

For every "thank you" tweet I send, Noisetrade downloads have averaged just over 5%. Currently, I have 378 email addresses from this campaign, and to me those are worth more than gold. Every time I release a book or one goes on sale you can bet those people are getting a personal message.

BookBub, SweetFreeBooks, Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, Book Goodies: I would be remiss if I didn't mention them. All of them generate sales, but all of them also charge a flat rate whether you sell enough to cover it or not. Self-pubbies, like me, we're not rolling in the money. To me, it just doesn't make sense to spend $50/$100 or even more on an ad that isn't going to net you more than that in royalties.

These are the strategies I use (and don't use). As you'll read over the next few days, every author advertises differently. My suggestion? Find the strategy that works best with the time you're willing to spend and the money you're willing to invest.

And if all else fails--write.


Huntress said...

I am in the earliest stage (research) of self-pubbing a short story. These posts remind me of a quote from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:
"I could eat this up with a spoon."

Very timely.

mshatch said...

I concur! I pubbed my first with a small pub and would love a traditional deal (agent, big six...) but I'm always thinking about self-publishing so these posts are awesome!

Liz A. said...

I had heard the "write more books" advice. But I had not heard of Noisetrade. I'll have to check them out.