Friday, January 25, 2013

My thoughts on marketing a self-published book

The easy part is apparently over.

Writing the book was merely the beginning of the process of story telling. That is, if you want other people to enjoy your imaginative efforts.
Informing the public (or marketing) is the new task at hand. If I thought writing, editing, formatting, cover design and publishing wasn't difficult enough, now try reaching people that have no idea you exist.
I am not a forceful or "pushy" individual. I repel when others do it to me and I don't want to be that type of person. I was hoping my work would be discovered on it's own. What?! That just doesn't happen. On it's own? Impossible! Books don't find their way into people's lives on their own. Someone needs to put it into view. Ah! But how?
I read article after article and blog after blog about marketing your self-published book. What did I take away from it? Still not sure. There was a reoccurring theme in most of them: Network on other book sites, promotional book giveaways, and start a blog. Twitter, facebook, Pintrest and the rest of the web social sites were all mentioned in the marketing scheme. I, however, do not spend any time on social pages. My list of friends on my facebook page are scant at best. I did not have a Twitter account nor do I feel like I have anything to say except, please buy my book.
I find it interesting that you are to start a blog to help promote your book yet don't blatantly promote your book on your blog. No one wants to read a long commercial for a book. Huh? I get it. Don't be obvious about why you are blogging. So if everyone who writes a book also starts a blog, then the white noise that is already roaring in the winds of blogger-town will exponentially become hurricane force.

The question is: How does one stand out?

I will keep asking that question and seek to answer it as I go.

So, I have this blog. And yes, it is to let people know who I am and that I exist. But I have also found this to be rather therapeutic. I do not wish to vent or rant about struggles but help those who are experiencing the same trials. It is vexing to swim in a swelling ocean of self-published literature. The sense of drowning is almost palpable.

Selling to the public:
Someone told me that "... people will buy anything you tell them to buy. It's just how you tell them." Ah! Presentation and credibility are the two main fabrics of marketing. We are an aesthetic society. We buy things that appeal to us. (Mostly visually)
In book terms, the cover is extremely important. If you get the potential buyer to pick up your book then they'll flip it over to read the description then you are half way home. There! Now we're getting somewhere. If you have crafted a good summary of your book that sucks the would-be buyer into your story then you have made a sale. To some-up: The book cover and description are vital for book sales.
That's all fine and good but the question remains: How does one stand out?
Let's assume that your book along with the hundred thousand other books that are in your genre also have great covers and descriptions. What then? We are now back to social websites and networking to spread the word. Let's face it, you're not going to self-publish a book and then walk into Barnes and Noble and find it on the best sellers table by the door.
Grass-roots projects or movements was a term I heard years ago and never gave much thought to. But now it is a phrase I use a lot because that is what you are really trying to do. If you are a brilliant wordsmith then reaching a good literary agent or publisher might not be a problem since they are sensitive to the well-written word.
I, however, am not a word genius. I write as I talk. It makes for easy reading but some people like a poetic description of the mood. Coming up with clever phrases and captivating scenes is something that is developed over time and until then we need something or someone to help us find our niche, our audience.

Kindle Select:
Yes, I belong to the Kindle Select group (for now) but have wondered why I belong. They offer the Amazon world to you and yet I am not allowed to be offered anywhere else online (in ebook format) or it violates the Kindle Select agreement. So what do I get in return from Amazon? Again, not sure. For your 90 day exclusive agreement they give five days to offer your book for free. And? Well... not sure what else, to be honest.
That being said, I think I finally understand why you would give your books away - regarding the Amazon world. I was confused at first but I think it works like this. Your book only gets noticed when people start buying it. The more people buy it - the more it gets noticed. Domino effect. But - if you don't have any sales then how do you get noticed? An excellent question. One that I asked many times. I am starting to think that Amazon doesn't look at book sales or book giveaways any differently. So, if you can giveaway a bunch of books in a short period of time through Kindle Select then Amazon sees this surge of downloads as being popular. Hence, your book will move into the "Popular" category. Once the promotional giveaway ends and your book is now for sale, your placement will remain - for a while. Now your book has broken through the sludge of obscurity and into the light of awareness. People can see you. Let's go back to the other main ingredients of your book. If your cover is good and the description is well written then you should start seeing actual sales.
This is just my observation and assessment of what I am going through with Kindle Select. If someone has a better grasp of what the Kindle Select program offers please feel free to let me know so I can post it. Also, if I am wrong about the giveaway promotion I would like to be corrected.

FYI on a personal note:
I have found it completely freeing to admit when I don't know. My daughter, on the other hand, has found it annoying. When she was growing up she would ask (almost daily) Daddy, why does this happen? or What is so and so? To her dismay, often my response was: "I don't know, Pumpkin."
A crestfallen face would appear after each reply. Then I heard the question that culminated from years of unsatisfactory answers. "Do you know anything, Daddy?" Sure, no parent likes to disappoint their children but I had to stop and tell her that if I don't know the answer then I'm not going to make something up just to look good. Once I explained my logic I noticed that she slowly followed suit. It is truly freeing. No posturing and no lying. I simply showed her that it was okay to not know everything . . . just look like you do.(that was a joke)

An update on my Kindle Select program.
My contract with KDP Select automatically renewed after the first 90 days of membership. I decided to try a strategy with the 5 day giveaway program. Instead of doing a 1 or 2 day giveaway throughout the 90 days, I thought, why not do it all at once and really try to gain some momentum in sales (or downloads). Since I had already done three giveaways before (1 day, 2 days and 2 days) I did notice a download trend on some days. The very first time I did one for 1 day, I had 118 downloads. That was a Friday (I think). I have tried most days of the week finding that weekdays had a bit more downloads than weekends. That being said, Friday was my best download day to date.

Back to the update:
In deciding to run the full 5 day allotment, I began it on Tuesday so that it would end on Saturday. This would also give me some further data regarding the better download days.
Tuesday, the first day of my giveaway, started very well. By noon I was at 38 downloads. By midnight, EST, I was at 90 downloads and by end of day, which is on Pacific Time (3:00 am EST) I had 102 downloads. A great start. One hundred downloads a day was what I was hoping for. When I checked the download stats on Wednesday, sometime around 10:30-ish am, I was still at 102 downloads. Noon came and went and I was still at 102 downloads. What the...? Seriously? No downloads? Curiously, I went to Amazon and tried to find my book in the Kindle Free section. Couldn't find it. I narrowed the search. Nothing. I spent (or wasted) a couple hours scouring pages for my lonely lost book. Nothing. It just wasn't there. Maybe something's wrong. I went to the Secret Teddy Society Amazon book page directly and clicked the download button. Boom! It worked. Okay, so that seems to be working. What then? Why was no one downloading my book? I panicked and quickly wrote a letter to Amazon asking if there was a problem with my account or is there some other reason why people aren't able to find it. I received a relatively prompt response saying that there was no problem with my account and that the book was searchable. First off, I do appreciate their same day response. That being said, when I read the part about being searchable I knew there was a miscommunication. I already knew that you could search for my book if typed the name into Amazon. I wanted to know why I was not listed in any of the Kindle or Amazon Free ebook categories?

After another day of only a few more downloads, I decided to contact Amazon again to clarify my concerns about the display of STS.

My note to Amazon: (Sent Feb. 14th 2013)------------------------


I am curious about something. I am currently in the middle of a 5 day book giveaway for my book Secret Teddy Society: Breaking The Code. On the first day (Tuesday), I gave away 102 books. That was consistent with my previous giveaway results. However, I noticed that Wednesday I gave away 10 books and at this point, Thursday -noonish, I have given away 2 books. That's 114 total in two and a half days. (Sorry for the long-winded question) When I go to Amazon books and search for the book in all the proper categories, I don't see my book listed at all. In fact when I narrow down my search even further, I still don't find it listed. I went through every page. I am curious, does my book not fit a particular parameter that is required? I submitted a query yesterday and received a response. Thank you! However, their comment was that my book was searchable. I can only assume they meant, if you know the name of the book and what you're looking for. But if you simply want to view the books that are Free in a particular category then I am not sure how it works. Also, I don't understand how I giveaway 100 books in one day and only 12 books in almost two days?
I am only concerned that I need to do something more on my part to be seen on Amazon. I do not have a fan base nor do I have 1,000 facebook friends. To belong to the Kindle Select program is causing doubt for me. I am still not sure what advantages this gives me. For 90 days of exclusive ebook sales, KDP Select allows me to have five days to give my book away? I am not eager to give my book away but I need to be seen on Amazon. I don't see Amazon helping to promote my book for such exclusivity. (I also understand they can't promote every KDP Select book)
Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Making people aware of the STS in an ocean of self-published books today is daunting. I know you must get this question many times a day, and for that I apologize for being one more annoying writer. I need help.

I am not angry, bitter or upset and I do apologize for the intrusion, but I am still trying to figure out how things work in the world of publishing and marketing.

If you are still reading, thank you for taking your time. (a little humor)

I look forward to hearing from you and any assistance you can give.

Sincerely, Jim Gilmore

Response from Amazon:--------------------------
Hello Jim,

I'm very sorry for any frustration this issue has caused.

We'll need a little time to look into this concerning your book no being shown on the free promotion browser search.

We'll contact you with more information by the end of the day on Monday, February 28.

Thanks for your patience.


My note was sent on Feb 14th. Two weeks to look into why I'm not showing up on Amazon browser searches? I am going to guess what they will find. Nothing. There will be no problems on their end and that I was doing something wrong on mine. In the end it doesn't really matter. My promotion is over and it was not a success. I gave away a total of 145 books in 5 days to people that may or may not read it. Not good.

There was something else I discovered about the Free ebook giveaway.
Last week, I finally started getting some reviews on Amazon from people that had either purchased the paperback or downloaded the ebook. I was delighted to have someone finally review it - good or bad. I just wanted to know that someone had read it.

A review from England: "This was very different book, I was sure I wouldn't read much of it, started it for curiosity really but enjoyed it and was enthralled with the story. I would definitely recommend it. Give it a go, you'll get hooked!"

That was lovely. I couldn't have said it better myself. But as I read it something jumped out at me. They said, "...I was sure I wouldn't read much of it,"
Why were they so sure? Because they downloaded it for free. (aside from it being a teddy bear book) They weren't invested in the book at all. I am delighted that the book kept their interest till the end, but it did make me aware that people are simply downloading free ebooks just to get free ebooks. Whether they plan on reading them is not the point. They want free books. I want readers. I was also worried that giving my book away meant the loss of potential sales. I'm now thinking that it won't hurt it much at all because those people probably wouldn't buy my book anyway. Unless it was highly recommended from a friend or they love teddy bear stories.

I will post the response from Amazon when it arrives.

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