Indie writers are actually in the business of selling books. It happens to be books they’ve written, but it is still book peddling.
For an indie author the first step of producing a book is, of course, writing the book; but also having it edited, cover designed, building the structure of the book (e-book, paperback, hardback, audio) and then having it produced (printed, file creation etc.)
Next step in selling a book is that old bug-a-boo marketing. Writing this blog about indie authors and the process of writing, I have covered marketing on numerous occasions. Usually complaining about the time and money involved and the inability to predict results. Just because you can write a book does not mean you know diddly about marketing that book. My approach to all marketing is trial and error with a great emphasis on error. Half of my time devoted to being an author is spent (or wasted) dealing with the marketing aspect of book sales.
I have a web site, blog, newsletter and a data base of email addresses. Also I participate in other blogs, share marketing ideas with people in the industry including other authors. I place ads on Amazon, Facebook, Bookbub, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Bing; have also ran ads in some trade publications. I pay to have ads run on Twitter or Facebook by third parties. Also I giveaway thousands of e-books, utilizing web sites who market the free books to their audiences—I pay for that privilege.
Generally, I design my own ads (probably a mistake—but I do not need another fee to pay out). I subscribe to various software sources to construct these ads. I will spend several days out of every month designing and placing ads with questionable results. On occasion I will feel rebellious and decide I’ve had enough of this nonsense and will stop placing ads and giving away books. Sells go to zero pretty damn fast. Marketing with all of its complications and headaches is a necessary evil.
The results of all of this marketing effort is book sales. That was the primary goal and at some level it works; not as well as I would like, but it works. The other result is book reviews. Reader reviews have some impact on sales, because other readers read them and also because Amazon likes them. But reader reviews are a double edge sword. Some reviewers seem to have anger issues.
Probably one of the most popular and acclaimed books ever written was To Kill a Mockingbird. On Amazon it has 18,800 reviews (wow!) with 3% of them 1 or 2 stars (there are no zero star reviews –it is not an option with Amazon). Okay 3% bad reviews that is not a big deal—right? That 3% for To Kill a Mockingbird is over 500 readers who said this was a bad book, not worth reading. And none of those 500 received the book in a free book promotion—because the To Kill a Mockingbird people don’t have to do that to find readers.
Marketing books is a chore. I will spend as much time marketing, promoting, advertising, hawking my books as I do writing them. Writing is what I do and what I enjoy. I do not like marketing.
In my previous life as a financial analysist I was asked by my employer (a very large department store) to analyze their advertising/marketing efforts and establish a method to measure the results on a cost/benefit basis. My first suggestion during a large meeting with the top executives was to not advertise for a period of time to establish a floor to measure marketing results against. You could only measure results if you know what the results would be with no advertising. All of their attentive faces turned a ghostly shade of white. It was a while before anyone spoke. The CEO thanked me for my suggestion and sent me back to the accounting department to measure less important things like ROI. The next month they increased their advertising budget. Better to overspend than to run the risk of no customers.
I could take my own advice and stop marketing for a couple of months and then would have the data to measure the impact of advertising. It would cut my workload in half and relieve me of all this self-doubt about my marketing skills. On the other hand, I think I know the results. After some thought I have decided to double my marketing efforts for next month. Better to have some books sales (with a few less than perfect reader reviews) than to become a private indie author writing only for myself. Although if I was the only reader, my reviews would be glowing—unless I was having a bad day.