My Self-publishing Model: Marketing Successes & Fails

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I very much appreciate when I find info on different marketing strategies written by other authors. So the following is a breakdown of what I’ve tried so far and whether or not it worked for me.

Goodreads self-serve advertising: I threw $20 at an A&B ad campaign that resulted in a handful of clicks and no book sales. It’s still in beta so I reckon Goodreads will improve upon it by letting advertisers target more precisely, but I find that it works a lot like Adwords, which is useless to anyone who doesn’t have a huge budget and can afford to outbid competitors. Also, I’m more and more convinced that internet ads are wholly ineffective.

Goodreads giveaway: When I first launched my giveaway I thought it was super effective. Dozens of people were adding my book to their to-read list. But when I took a closer look at the people who were adding it I found that they had 10’s to 100’s of thousands of books in their to-read list. At first I thought they were virtual hoarders and liked to collect books digitally (I’m a virtual hoarder in the video game Skyrim). Then I read about an author’s experience with a Goodreads giveaway who found that the algorithm selects winners who are active users. When I noticed that a woman joined the giveaway, added my book to her excessive to-read list, and then immediately gave it a 1 star rating, I realized that participants are mostly people who are gaming the system for free books. Out of the 10 books I gave out for free, only one person read and reviewed it while the other 9 are now being sold on Amazon. I will say that perhaps a better strategy is to have a giveaway hosted on various blogs which may result in more actual readers receiving books, but until Goodreads sorts out their algorithm I won’t be doing another giveaway.

Fussy Librarian: I ran one ad with them while my ebook was priced at $5.99 and saw no book sales, however, I did notice that everyone else who was listed had priced their books much lower or for free. I ran a second ad with my ebook priced at $2.99 and saw no book sales. Other authors from other genres have had more success, but my kids fantasy novel doesn’t seem to have an audience there.

Blog reviews: Between December 2015 and February 2016, I received around a dozen positive reviews from various Middle Grade Mania blogs, online magazines, and websites. They have generated no book sales. However, these reviews are still valuable for two reasons. 1) One blogger who rejected my request for a review was kind enough to explain that his traffic came from people who were already searching for a specific book they wanted to read about, meaning that he didn’t have an audience of book readers looking for his own personal book recommendations. So when I do eventually get the word out about my book, and people want to know more about it, they will be brought to these positive reviews in their search. And 2) all of these glowing reviews provide me with choice quotes with which to promote my book. I get to include them in posters and other marketing material. Many of these quotes have helped me get my foot in the door when reaching out to people.

BestFantasyBooks.com review: This review cost me $400. I searched to see if anyone had paid for it before and whether or not it was worth it, but I found nothing. I knew it was a risk so I told myself that if it turned out to not be worth it I would at least let other authors know. It wasn’t worth it to me. Personally, I have to say I really like the guy who reviewed my book. He was great exchanging emails with me, and he runs the site and others himself, which is admirable. Professionally, $400 is a lot of money for a self-published author, so the quality of the service matters. The review was poorly written with typos, grammar mistakes, and redundant sentences. Even though the review is considered overall positive, the reviewer is not a fan or reader of kids fantasy novels (something I did not know) and it shows. Also, there did not appear to be the professional, critical literary analysis that one would expect from paying such a high fee. However, an author of adult fantasy in the GRRM world might have better luck, but I can’t say for sure.

Kirkus review: When my Kirkus review posted on the website and in the February issue it resulted in little to no book sales, which isn’t a surprise since the audience is more industry people than readers. However, despite the lack of sales, this glowing Kirkus review has been the most valuable review. It has given my book credibility and has raised it above all the other self-published books out there. A lot more people are willing to consider my book because of this review. And it was definitely worth the $425. I can tell that a total professional has written it. The block of text is well-written, concise, tight, and still manages to dig into and convey the essence of the story in a thoughtful way. Such a short review is going to go a long way for me.

Kickstarter: My Kickstarter campaign has by far sold the most books, even after the campaign was over. It built up a lot of momentum that carried over into the following months. It’s a ton of work, but a thrill ride too. If done right, it is a rewarding experience.

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