Book Marketing through the Holidays

sale-1430736-mMost of you know that a writer’s biggest obstacle to success is discoverability. To overcome this, I’ve been doing quite a bit–with mixed results. Here are my efforts, in no particular order:

99 Cent Sale: I ran a 99 cent sale for Season of Lies in November during the start of hunting season (it’s a hunting-themed thriller). While there are tons of “free listing” sites, the 99 cent sale sites aren’t as plentiful. I submitted to two or three of them, including eReader News Today and Pixel of Ink, but wasn’t one of the lucky few picked up–the competition is fierce. In order to “secure” a listing, you have to pay many of these sites. Yet at 30 cents’ margin, you may not even break even. I also tweeted and blogged about the sale, had my friends tweet and FB, etc., but to no avail. Bottom line: if no one knows about the sale, then no one buys. If I publish a new book in a similar genre that brings a lot of customer traffic to my author page, I may try it again. But doing a sale out of the blue? No. Result: Not Worth Repeating (unless I bring my *own* traffic)

Customer Reviews: This is a biggie. Season of Lies has 25 reviews and a 4 star rating. I’ve read that Amazon algorithms kick in at 25 reviews, and they help promote your book at this point, recommending it to readers. From what I’ve seen, this is likely true because the book continues to sell (though sporadically) without too much effort on my part. (but not during the stinking 99 cent sale!) As for putting a link in the back of my books asking for reviews? Hasn’t made much of a difference as far as I can tell. I’ve reached out to a few Vine Reviewers. But they, along with the rest of the blogosphere, are inundated and taking fewer and fewer requests. Result: Worth Repeating (but difficult to achieve)

Book Reviews: I’ve gotten several book reviewers to write about Doom & Gloom. The most recent posting was a week or two ago (at this writing). The results? Little to no movement in sales. But I will still continue to solicit book reviewers for their in-depth opinions. Why? Because I believe it increases the number of times a potential customer sees your book, and it lends credibility to me, as an author. The only drawback is that most bloggers have a TBR pile the size of Mount Rushmore. Result: Worth Repeating (but long lead times exist)

Google Adwords: OMG. Where do I begin? It took me a couple of days to figure out how to schedule the adwords, create my campaigns, make ads, etc. Then, because my bid was a paltry $1 per click, my puny little text ad usually got served on page three of customer results. And I didn’t even come close to bidding enough to get my graphic ads served. I could’ve upped the bid, but why? A click-through isn’t a sale, and a bid of $2 or $3 would’ve been break-even IF I was lucky enough to have them buy at the end of their click. Result: Not Worth Repeating

Goodreads Ads: A friend of mine has had tremendous luck with this. I haven’t. I put out ads for both Season of Lies and Doom & Gloom. Neither moved any books, and basically set me back $20. Result: Undecided (I may try a different book at a later date)

The Fussy Librarian: This is a relatively new curation site that offers book recommendations to people. I think they have around 5,000 people on their mailing list. You have to have 10 reviews and a good “star” rating, but they’ll accept you right now for free (unless it’s in a tapped-out genre). They accepted Doom & Gloom and sent out an email about it to their customers on a Saturday, a tent-pole kind of day. Nothing. Zip. Nada. No movement in sales. BUT, I liken it to a book review. It’s another customer touch that may one day lead to a sale. Result: Worth Repeating

Switching Genres: The most lucrative genres right now are romance and thriller/mystery. It’s not impossible to sell books outside of these areas–a lot of people are doing it–but reader pools for other genres vary greatly in size, selectiveness, and reachability. Right now, I’ve got two young adult novels and one middle grade novel. In these age groups, kids select their own books. Marketing to them online is difficult, and marketing to their parents doesn’t guarantee a sale. So I thought I’d give a new genre a try under a pen name. It’s still early in the game for this fledgling book (only published it a couple of weeks ago), but it’s proven to me that switching genres doesn’t automatically mean more sales. It’s still a long haul uphill (both ways) in the snow, no matter what you write. At this point, you’re either shaking your head in agreement or shaking your finger in admonition. It’s okay. I can take it. BUT, I had to write this book, if only to prove something to myself. If sales pick up, I may continue to write under this pen name. If they don’t, I’m cutting bait and moving on. Result: Undecided

I’ll be trying out Amazon’s new Countdown Deals program during the holidays, and I’ll be buying a small ad on a popular industry blog to see if that works. I’ll post these results when I get them. For now, the only tried and true method for getting more sales is publishing more books. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got another novel to write, preferably before the mad-rush holidays are over.

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Your turn. Has anyone tried out the Countdown Deals program? If so, what were your results? Anyone else have any other marketing ideas to share? Websites to share?

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