This post is part of my goal to document how I got to where I am today as a self-published author. I’m always learning in this self-publishing journey. I’ll share successes and failures, in hopes that it inspires others who are in the midst of similar journeys or starting one. I don’t claim to have all the answers, or to even be right. I’m simply sharing my experiences in an effort to show that success isn’t instant, it’s being willing to try something, to learn from it, and having the guts to try again. It’s about adjustment and growth, and a willingness to fall flat on your face, but to get back up again.
I believe in my books and I believe in myself, so I thought I would try my hand at online marketing. Now it’s been two years since I started my self-publishing adventure, and I can honestly say that I have yet to figure out this whole book marketing thing.
I’ve dabbled, and I should probably concentrate my efforts in one spot, and keep at it until I have a breakthrough, but I keep trying many platforms in hopes of finding something that clicks – either with me or with readers.
I am not yet the master over any of these avenues, and maybe never will be. What successes I’ve had with these platforms has been relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, and on the surface it’s really disheartening. On the other hand, I know every little bit is helping – I’m learning, I am getting a little exposure, etc.
I often wonder if paying someone to do my ads and ad targeting would help me. I bet it would, but I’m a little gun-shy now after so many failed attempts on my own, and reading and seeing many people offer up “magic solutions” to “boost sales.” Whether you’re writing, or marketing, or anything else in life, the “magic bullet” isn’t a cure-all for success.
I’ve attempted them multiple times, usually after an author has shared that a key part of their success in sales is attributed to Facebook Ads. I read about what worked for them, and try to adapt it for my books. I create a campaign and I tweak, but so far I haven’t been able to duplicate their success.
Key takeaways: Boosting a post never works, and creating an ad sort of works. It might work better if I knew what interests to target. As a middle grade/young adult author, I want kids and adults to read and enjoy my books. Adults are the gatekeepers, and the ones with money. So how to reach them? How to get them interested? I have tried to maximize the number of people who’d see the ad by focusing on broader interests, and I have tried to target a key group of people by narrowing my targeted interests to specifics. Results in both cases are blah and Facebook loves to say it’ll reach a certain number of people and never come close to their own numbers, but hey I can boost and add more money to the campaign to reach the original number of readers they had told me I would!
One day in the recent past, I myself was a target of a Facebook ad (aren’t we all?), but this one in particular caught my eye. I had seen a lot of Kindle Unlimited ads, but this was more specific. It was for a totally free book. I used the button to the right of the ad to see why I was targeted and thought I could perhaps replicate that. So I created a graphic and targeted people interested in free ebooks/Kindle books, with an added focus of children’s literature. Result? My share to my Facebook friends resulted in an organic reach equal to the paid reach. Bust. (And yes, my book was actually free during the promotion.) No visible uptick in sales; sales stayed about the same as the previous free book promotion I had run.
One thing I haven’t tried, but will try, will be for my next local book reading. I plan to create an event on my page and then promote the event, targeting a radius around the event location. I will let you know if that works or not.
Who better to sell a Kindle book to someone shopping on Amazon or reading their Kindle than Amazon? Sounds like a marvelous idea! Results – meager would be stretching it.
Key takeaways: These ads don’t work nearly as well as I thought they would. Again the fault could be with me, but I haven’t really heard of an author using the Amazon ad network and gaining a lot of sales. It’s probably been done. I’ll have to try again after more research. My attempts weren’t that stellar, and it’s costlier to promote on Amazon than on Facebook. I also attempted once to advertise during a free book promotion. As far as I can tell I didn’t get any more sales with the Amazon promotion than I would if I had left it alone. At the moment, I’m more inclined to keep trying with Facebook, so I’ll focus my efforts there.
What has Worked
I saw a big boost in sales when I pitched to websites promoting free books to their subscriber lists. It took a little legwork, but it wasn’t difficult to do. I need to try a few of these again, especially the ones that turned me down the first time, like Bookbub, and to research around and find others to pitch. I had a very good experience with Reading Deals. I will reach out to them again when I am ready to do another round of free book promotion.
Last thing of note: My advice with any free/discounted book sales, no matter the marketing around it, keep them short, because the majority of your sales happen in the first two days and sharply, dramatically fizzle out after those two days.
As an author do you have any favorite promotional websites? How have you used Facebook to reach potential readers? What have been your biggest successes and fails in book marketing?