Confessions of an Indie Publisher – Marketing (2)

One confession I ought to make is that my marketing is oriented towards finding readers rather than towards selling books to make money. It is, of course, a fantasy of mine that one day I will be able to support myself through my writing, however, for now, my focus is on enticing readers aboard. It is possible the latter will lead to the former, but I am not convinced.

Out of interest, I’ve just done a ‘on the back of a fag packet’ calculation to see how many books I would have to sell to make a living wage. If I say a book takes me a year and a half at nine hours a week, and I want to be paid £15 an hour, then I need to earn £10,530. Add on £1000 for proof-reading and sundry resources/expenses, that’s £11,530. On average I earn about £2 per book I sell, so I have to sell 5765 for my fantasy to become true. It’s not going to happen any time soon.

So back to reality. I didn’t plan properly for the publication of my first novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect’. I intend to do a better job with novel two, ‘The Art of Survival’. I have discovered certain reviewers and websites want pre-publication copies and I will fold this into my strategy.  There is some excellent advice here:

Social media, does it work as a marketing tool?
My honest answer is, I have no idea. One ‘indie’ author I met through Twitter answered one of my tweets with the rather sharp comment, ‘Twitter doesn’t sell books, Kindle does.’ I’m still trying to fathom out what she means. I can tell you that since posting my blog posts on Twitter and Facebook, the hits on my website have increased (from a low base) four-fold. Whether this has translated into sales, I do not know. My evidence is slight; the only thing I can say with certainty is that I have garnered several reviews through Twitter and Facebook (book provided for free) and one sale through Facebook.

There’s a lot of scare-mongering about social media. Personally, I have only ever met people who are generally sensible, polite and interesting. However, I am a very tiny tadpole in a very large pool, and I am sure the more well-known you are, the more likely you are to attract people who think it is clever or funny to be abusive or worse.

What to tweet/post? Be yourself, be authentic. I’m a firm believer in authenticity sells and if it doesn’t, well, maybe I don’t want to be a part of the market. And only reveal what you’d be happy to tell a coffee shop of strangers. Be bright, don’t moan too much, pass on information/tips in your chosen area, re-tweet/favourite and re-post/share.

Most importantly, don’t make your presence on social media be all about marketing. I have met some lovely people and gained some good advice from Twitter and Facebook. I try to make my posts interesting and useful to others rather than just about ‘look at me and what I’ve done’. On the whole, I have found it a positive experience even if I don’t gain any more readers through it. Though I think I probably will gain some.

Blog tour
One person I did meet through social media is the lovely Kate M Colby After reading a few of her blog posts and having a few exchanges, I suggested we embark on a blog tour together. She readily agreed and we put out a call for fellow ‘indie’ publishers to join us. There were 22 of us in the end. We all answered the same interview questions (set by me and Kate) and had the opportunity to promote one book. The resulting posts were posted on all our blogs according to a schedule drawn up by Kate C.

It was great fun and again I met some people who I know I will keep in contact with and learn from over time. I also got an enormous buzz from doing something with another Kate who hails from Kansas, plus others from around the world – that truly is the magic of the internet. Hits (especially from the US) and followers on my blog increased during the blog tour and some of that rise in readers has been retained. Did I sell any more books? Looking at the sales for that period, I would have to say, no, certainly not immediately.

Traditional media
In the hype around social media, it’s important not to forget traditional outlets: newspapers; radio; journals/magazines; TV. I paid a PR consultant to write a press release, send it out and follow-up. I did this mainly because I felt over-whelmed by the idea of marketing and this was something discrete I could hive off to someone else. I enjoyed the process and he wrote a press release I would probably never have written.

I did get articles in local papers and also an interview on the afternoon show of the BBC local radio. Given the therapy theme in my novel, I did contact some specialist journals. I’m still waiting to see if they will review it as they have a much longer lead-in time.

I am a bit disappointed not to get more coverage. But I do think I did well given I’m a complete unknown and it was from a standing start. I do think the media could be more innovative in its arts/culture offering. To me, it always seems to be the same people who get the coverage, the people who don’t actually need it. And if five minutes of that coverage was taken away from them and given to someone like me, then it would make no difference to them and it would make the world of difference to me.

Rant over!

Next week more on marketing …..

Meanwhile check out my novel at: Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough,

12 thoughts on “Confessions of an Indie Publisher – Marketing (2)

  1. Andrew Thain

    Really interesting insights. My efforts in marketing my book involved telling some people about it, writing a blog post and then posting on Facebook.

    Needless to say, it hasn’t made me rich…

    I’m writing the next one and am going to think about using google Ads to drum up business as well.

    Having said that, with my parenting books I’m happy for them to just kick along for the time being. I’ve learnt a lot about the process and now hope to take that experience into marketing a series of non-fiction educational guides that I’m currently writing.

    Anyway, thanks for your insights and best of luck with the next book (and aiming for that dream).


    1. kateevans2013 Post author

      Thank you and good luck to you. I think there are cross-overs, but marketing non-fiction has its own quirks I would guess. Yes, definitely, any number of people have said the best marketing tool is more books. And anyway, that’s what we’re really about, isn’t it, the writing and crafting of words?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate M. Colby

    Thank you so much for your transparency in these posts, Kate E. If I can take a stab at what that rather curt Twitter user meant, I think the comment means that social media doesn’t really sell books. Social media is, in my opinion, a great way to connect with readers and other authors (which MAY translate into sales long term), but most readers don’t browse Twitter/social media when looking for books (Goodreads aside, of course). As to the “Kindle sells books” part, this author may mean this literally, but they could also mean that using strategic Amazon keywords, having an eye-catching cover, having an intriguing book description, etc. are better marketing tools than social media. Just my two cents. Can’t wait for the next installment!


    1. kateevans2013 Post author

      Thank you Kate C. I think you’re right in your interpretation of ‘Twitter doesn’t sell books’. I’m also aware I haven’t tried the Kindle giveaways yet. I’ve had differing views on whether this stimulates paid sales (which I’m not as interested in), but it does appear to boost numbers getting into readers’ hands. Being strategic about it, am thinking of going for this nearer to when the next novel is ready for publication.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kate M. Colby

        I’ve heard lots of writers have success with the strategy of making the first book in a series free. It breaks down the barrier to entry to get more readers, which later translate to paid sales in the subsequent books. Maybe something to consider?


      2. kateevans2013 Post author

        Should also say, you can’t offer free copies through Createspace and Kindle only allows you to offer your book for free over a limited number of days for a limited number of times in the year. And also want to say, thank you to everyone who has bought my book. It’s been a joy to know some people have read my book and some have enjoyed it!


  3. weifarer

    Thanks for linking to my blog, Kate! You have a great perspective on sales, social media, and blog tours. I like twitter and FB (and logs!) as a way to connect with other authors and readers. I’ve rarely found any trolls, but I have discovered lots og great advice and good friends!

    Best of luck on book release number two! 🙂


  4. Lani

    This question is definitely the biggest challenge for indie writers and there is no shortage of advice. My b/f and I like to joke, if you want a popular blog, blog about how to make a popular blog.

    Not too long ago, I subscribed to a writer’s newsletter and at first, I was pleased with the articles and such, but when his book was getting ready to release he started to really pile up my inbox. Needless to say, I was going to pre-order a copy, but I became soooooo annoyed by the overwhelming requests (and they were clever and such) that I have decided against it. I was even going to unsubscribe to his newsletter, but I decided it would be good homework for me on what NOT to do.

    So your advice, be authentic, couldn’t be more true in the age of social media and easy connections.



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