So, you’ve been clicking refresh on your book sales report page, as the minute’s tick by a simple account practice has become a form of torture. When you imaged the launch of your first book, you didn’t imagine struggling to make sales. You imagined the opposite scenario. If this is something you can relate too then, this blog post is for you. That moment when reality falls significantly less than expectations is disillusioning. This is often the reality of many first time authors. Over time, I’ve become aware of the reason why this situation occurs. It comes down to the goal you set for yourself as a first-time author. In light of this, I have an important question for you. Are you setting the right book marketing goal as a new author?
The Truth About Marketing Advice
A couple of weeks ago, I read a publishing success story on the Indie Author Alliance where Author Richard Lowe Jr, mentioned that 90% of book marketing advice is outdated or doesn’t work. The reason for this is because people follow marketing strategies instead of principles. A marketing principle is evergreen whereas; a strategy is simply a fad. The thing about a fad is, it changes rapidly because new and better ideas are created and shared. But, I’m not here to lecture you on the basics of marketing,
Good Advice, or Not
The great thing about the indie author community is, most people are happy to share what they know with others who are on a similar journey. Successful indies authors who are passionate about certain business principles tend to share advice from this place. This advice often sounds great and usually is to a certain degree.
Many popular bloggers within the self-publishing world will often tell readers to go wide and not be dependent on one revenue stream. This advice to go wide is given with great intentions and is appropriate in certain circumstances. But, is going wide an appropriate strategy for an author with one book and no audience?
The Myth of Going Wide
So, why go wide and not distribute to one platform and be apart of a programme like Kindle Unlimited? The idea behind going wide is, to not put all of your eggs in one basket. It’s a dangerous game to play in business if you only have one source of income. It’s a risk and not one I recommend playing in business. It’s hard setting by up an income stream in business.
This leads me to ask an important question; Is publishing one book, a business? No, in order to have a sustainable business model you need a product or even better, products, buyers, and a means of distribution. Just like every new business the first time author faces one huge hurdle to selling books. This hurdle is obscurity.
Obscurity is Your Enemy
Obscurity is the one thing that stops you from getting your book into the hands of readers. Simply put, if no one knows your book exists and is a great read, then no one will buy it. I know this sounds basic, but I found this out the hard way. I didn’t just make this mistake once. I made it twice.
In 2014, I published a non-fiction book as a pilot product. I wanted to road test the self-publishing process, collect results, learn, and perform better the second time around. So, I researched the topic, wrote the book, edited the book, designed a cover and pressed publish. I’m now a little embarrassed to say that’s all I did, apart from creating a series of promotions on Twitter. I did get a few sales, and now and then someone will buy my book, but that’s it.
I did a similar thing with the second book in the non-fiction series. I didn’t learn the lessons from the previous book. But, this time I released the book at a time when I knew people would most want the information I was providing. I sent an email to my list and started a Twitter campaign. I left the marketing until after I released the book. And, I made another fatal mistake. I focused on income generating activities and not defeating obscurity.
My New Approach
Thankfully, these lessons haven’t been totally lost on me. I changed my approach to how I market my James Lalonde Thriller Series. I decided to write Silence, the prequel novel to my James Lalonde Thriller Series after I finished writing Immunity. I’m also creating a free novella for the readers of my blog. Hitting the publish button and expecting the best didn’t work. So, I created more stories to give away for free that are just as good as Immunity.
Setting the Right Book Marketing Goal
So, how do you overcome obscurity? You need to get to get your book in front of readers and chase the holy grail of book sales, a reader review. Not, an ego stroking 5-star review but several honest reviews from readers. Getting reviews should be your goal when you first hit publish, not sales or breaking even on the cost of publishing; reader reviews should be your goal. I know what you’re thinking. I’m struggling to get people to buy my book, therefore, getting a review is out of reach. You’re not going to like what I’m going to say but, I’m going to say it.
Give your book away for free!
This may mean pricing your book for free until you get your first 100 reviews. Why? Who doesn’t love a freebie, especially a well-written freebie? Obviously, the majority of people who seek out free books may not buy your future full priced books but some will. If you give away a book that’s well written and if value then, a small percentage will leave a review, especially if you politely ask at the back of the book. This is what you want. These freebie seekers to leave a review and tell other readers about your book.
Why is this important?
A review is considered social proof. It let’s other readers know if your book is worth fourteen hours if their time. And, the more reviews your book has, the easier it will be to develop the know, like and trust factor. This marketing principle is what tips someone from browser to buyer. It’s the trust that they are buying a good product and reviews from other readers gives browsers this assurance.
The Worst Case Scenario
Asking for and receiving reviews is a scary experience. There’s no prettying this up. We all jump to worst case scenarios and hide behind our computers dreading the one-star review. The truth is, there will always be that one jerk that believes that error one page 115, that no one else saw, completely ruined his reading experience, and believes everyone with an internet connection needs to know.
Handling Negative Feedback
So, how do you handle that one-star review when it comes? Firstly, I want you to remember that writing is art, and art is subjective. There will always be someone who doesn’t appreciate your book or to put it bluntly, thinks it sucks.
Look over the review and consider if it’s offering something constructive. Are the reviewers complaining about plot holes, inaccuracies, or the level of editing? This type of feedback is great. It’s not great that it’s on the internet for all the world to see but, you can take action with this feedback.
Or, does the reader hate the genre you write in? If you’re getting a few reviews like this, you might want to reconsider the book’s genre. The genre or category is simply an indication of what your reader should expect from your book. Make sure your cover, blurb and online store category all convey the same message, the book’s genre. This will help people make better book buying decisions and steer the right readers to your books.
So, are you setting the right book marketing goal as a new author? Are you listening to all the advice to not put all your eggs in one basket and publish your book everywhere? The next time you read a piece of marketing advice, including my own, you need to ask yourself an important question. Is this appropriate to where I am at in my author journey?
I wish you all the best in your author journey and overcoming obscurity. Go after your first 100 reviews and don’t be afraid of giving away books for free.
As always, I have to ask. Have you set the wrong book marketing goal as a new author? Which one of these tips did you find most helpful? I want to hear from you. Let me know by sharing your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing with such enthusiasm.