Effective book marketing will cost you money and time.

Robert Chazz Chute
Robert Chazz Chute

I sent a close friend the gift of an ebook hoping that he would read it, enjoy it, possibly review it and maybe even spread the word to his vast network of connections. Instead, he sent me a scolding reply: “You’re paying people to read your books!” And by people, he meant him. Ouch. In my defence, I don’t know that he’s read it yet, so that’s my double fail.

Before anybody thinks he’s harsh, a little history and context: I understand that he felt fine paying for the book himself. Also, I got him his first job in book publishing. He’s still thinking about publishing from that perspective. I’m sure he didn’t want to sound mean. I caught him on a bad day. Also, I’m sure he’s worried about me and that’s why he was so undiplomatic and reactive.

However, he’s only thinking of me as a friend and writer. I’m also a publisher.

Publishers have a long history of sending out Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) to key reviewers, the sales force, bookstores and media. That doesn’t require an apology. That’s business and doing less is hiding your light under a shitstorm called, “Everything else that exists to read, do and enjoy.” Yes, you’re even competing against sex! Clearly, books are doomed!

How many ARCS go out from traditional publishers? Hundreds per book. I can’t afford to do that, but I do send out some that way. I wasn’t paying anyone to read my book. I was paying for advertising and promotion (to the wrong target, I found out.) You can do the same thing for free by emailing a pdf, though if they can’t instantly stick it on their Kindle, most people won’t bother with it. Chances are good they won’t get around to reading it even if you make it very easy for them so avoid handicaps where possible. That’s why I prefer to use Amazon’s gift option where possible and within budget.

About sending copies to book blogs:

TPOD season 1 ecoverCheck out the book blog first. Review the reviewers and their guidelines before you send anything. Many book blogs are awesome. However, I’ve encountered noobs whose site is nigh-illegible, their traffic is minuscule and their reviews give spoilers without warning. I’d rather let a blindfolded med student practice minor surgery on my tingly bits.

Services to invest in:

In the previous post, I mentioned Bookbub is a worthwhile investment. The cost of advertising with BookBub varies depending on genre. Horror and science fiction is $70 to push a free ebook. Find the full range of pricing here.

I also mentioned the Author Marketing Club. That costs $105 per year for an annual membership and it’s worth it for the tools and seminars. My book descriptions look better than ever, for instance. The free submission tool got This Plague of Days at number one in Dystopian and Post-apocalyptic. The book sales widget looks awesome.

Where can you cut corners?

Anyone reading this is probably working on a shoestring budget. To make any money, we have to keep our expenses down to nothing or close to it. We blog and tweet and use Pinterest and Facebook and do Google+ and throw Tumblr in the air and shout out of windows because it’s free and we’re trying to engage new readers. I’ve used Fiverr for videos* (see my video/book promotion strategy here) and free apps from Apple and the Chrome Store.

We get what services we can for free where and when it makes sense. We swap services and cooperate and consult and promote each other for free. We learn to format books and publish DIY wherever we can so we can keep something of what money might trickle in, knowing the odds are heavily against us. (That sounds bleak, but more indie authors are making a living from their efforts than the traditionally published so it’s not all bad news.)

About ineffective promotion services:

Lots of advertising isn’t worth the expense. Some sites say they can promote your books and they’ll do so for a fairly low fee. However, you won’t get even that small fee back. Before you go with another of those sites, review the promoters. Reach out to the indie authors you know. Use your Facebook connections to gather intelligence and ask about other authors’ experiences and results. This is most valuable if their books are similar in genre, quality and look to your own. (In other words, don’t blame the book promotion service when a bad cover sunk the author’s efforts.)

I’m always looking for ways to save money so I can put it into pushing books. The other day I realized I was the only 48-year-old walking around a bookstore in old jeans with ripped up hems. I don’t buy new pants! Think what Bookbub advertising I could buy for the price of a couple of pants! And you know what? I wish I had a bigger budget because however you promote your books, you pay. (And I want new pants. I rocked this look in college but it doesn’t fly now.)

If you don’t pay in money, you pay in time.

Without the cash, you lose time with your family (okay, not always a bad thing). You will lose time going to the gym and end up paying with your health. Time is more important than money because you can make more money but the waking hours are all you get. Worse, if you aren’t careful, marketing cuts into writing time. Be careful. Hemingway was Hemingway, but he never had to share your problems.

Expect to pay something.

Can you go viral and pay nothing and still be successful?  It could happen, but to expect it is stupid. That’s not a strategy. That’s hoping something will happen to you instead of making it happen and that’s not the way to bet. Use AMC and Bookbub now at least. Then be clever and different and promote your brand with long-term strategies that will make a career.

Should I set a budget of $10,000 for a book promotion budget?

I’m not buying new pants. 

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a podcaster and author of the Hit Man Series and the serial This Plague of Days. Find out more at AllThatChazz.com.

Please click on the book cover to read more about Robert Chazz Chute and his novels on Amazon.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Caleb Pirtle

    Writing books and publishing books is indeed a business. It’s time indie writers stopped apologizing for being self-published and look upon themselves as a small business owner. They manufacture a product. They market the product. They sell the product. And it costs. Get ready for it. Great post full of solid information that everyone in the writing game needs to know.

  • Chazz, I couldn’t agree more. If an author isn’t marketing and promoting his work, it will languish in obscurity. It is a never-ending cycle of discovering the promotional opportunities that work and return enough sales for the author to more than break even on the deal. On Bookbub, I agree it is the best thing going right now, but it is becoming more difficult to get a slot on the site, and an author can only appear on it once every ninety days (120 days if the author is pushing the same book as the last Boobbub run). So, one of the big challenges we face is how to fill in those periods between Bookbub runs. Great stuff in this post. SW

  • Chazz

    Caleb and Stephen,

    Thanks for reblogging my post here and your thoughts. Many of my author friends have experienced a slow down in sales of late, but I expect we’ll begin to see the rebound in September, especially as our promotion efforts ramp up with our new tools (like AMC and Bookbub, when used strategically.)

    We tread such a fine line. We don’t want to spam anyone, but it doesn’t pay to be timid, either. When I wrote my writing and publishing guides, the one thing that always holds as a long-term strategy (as opposed to a short-term tactic) is: Write more books to enhance discoverability. That’s still true. Tactics come and go and tools ebb and flow, but we all have to make sure we make the time to write more and write first.

    I hope this post has helped someone (for I know several) who still cling to the vague hope that they will write one book and it will market itself.

    ~ Chazz

Related Posts