My #Marketing Ideas

I have been an independently published author now for nearly four years, and not until 2010 did I really do any kind of promoting/marketing for my novels, mostly because I had no idea where to start. Since about late 2009, there have been all sorts of assorted experts in the field all over the internet who have popped up with a book on the subject, and if you buy their book, they’ll tell you what the secret is to selling thousands, or millions even, of books. I think what works for one author doesn’t necessarily work for another, so if you’re willing to waste $2.99 or $4.99 or $6.99 for someone to make money off of your naïveté, then go right ahead, since I was one of those people who has done that more often than I’d like to admit.

When I first published in 2008, it was suggested by iUniverse (now I go through Createspace, best money I have ever saved!) that authors create a website to promote and market themselves. So, I found Geocities, created a very basic site, posted the novel cover, the description, and the link to purchase, then forgot about it. When I finally remembered I had it, Yahoo apparently had shut down Geocities, so I searched for another server. Eventually, I came across Freewebs.com, now known as Webs.com, and that’s where I now have my website hosted, and trying to build my “brand,” whatever that really means. Since then, I’ve gone from idea to idea, gimmick to gimmick trying to promote and market my novels. Some have worked, and some haven’t, but here are my top 10 ideas. Your experience may vary.

1) Websites/blogs — With a website, you should know some html, or you can plug in whatever others have built for such a need, and then you can customize it to your heart’s content. You can add videos, pictures, links, etc. The suggestion from across the vast wasteland of the internet is to do SEO (search engine optimization), build back links, trade links with others, or pay for thousands of hits so that your Google Ranking will bring people to you. Let me tell you, that’s mostly nonsense, your site will be listed in Google, Yahoo, and Bing within a matter of days, but you can submit to directories, but I’ve never actually seen a hit from one of those. Only hard work on your part in promoting yourself will people begin searching your name, names of your novels, or similar sounding names before you notice hits to your site. As for a blog, if you want to keep it updated every day, you can submit it to RSS feed sites and link up with others who have sites. With some blogs, like Blogger, your feed will be seen on the side panel of the blog (if they’re on Blogger) that you’ve linked to. A website/blog is good for having a place for readers to come to find out what you’re up to, or if you have a new novel on the market. Plus, if you’re in the market for a job, it’s something potential employers will see, showing them that you have some skills and creativity (or, so I’ve been told).

2) Social Networking — What did we do before Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and all of those other social sites? To be honest, I don’t remember! ha ha. Anyway, I do know that if you join every forum involving writing, e-books, and marketing, you’ll never write, you’ll just be talking about writing, and getting to know other indie authors who are also talking about writing. Facebook is useful for authors in that they give us the ability to have a page for ourselves and our work. Thousands, and maybe even millions, of users can eventually come across your page, they can like it, and even share it with anyone in their social circle. Twitter used to be useful in my opinion, but there are way too many voices out there now, and one can get lost in the “noise.” My best advice for social networking is to do it in moderation, otherwise, you’ll never get that next book written.

3) Press releases — I use free sites like Prlog.org, which is good for visibility, but I really don’t know if it results in sales. Doesn’t hurt to try though, and it’s free. If you want to pay for high visibility, try PRWEB, but it’s really expensive if you’re on a tight budget.

4) Libraries — I used to work in a library, so I know something about this. A lot of indie books go almost directly to the Friends of the Library Bookstore, even though the Acquisitions Librarian “promised” that your books will get on the shelf, eventually. Although, it could’ve been just the one I worked with, because he wasn’t too particularly thrilled with putting my novels on the shelf. My suggestion is to get to know the library staff, usually the poor souls stuck at the Circulation Desk. Sometimes they get to sort through all the donations, so if you let them know that you really, really want your book in the library, they will mark your book for the acquisitions librarian, who will set it up for circulation. Be patient, books arrive at the library from B&T and Ingram every day, so it may take months for your book to show up in the catalog.

5) Book trailer — You can do it yourself by downloading Microsoft’s Live Movie Maker for free. It’s fairly easy to use once you get the hang of it. Of course, if you want something like the “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” trailer, then you’ll have to spend a lot of money for someone else to do it or have taken a video course in college yourself. Once you’re done with it, upload it to Youtube and a few other video sites. Very useful in the fact that the reader may get your book cover and the idea impressed into their heads, and then might eventually buy a copy of your novel.

6) Guerilla Marketing — Basically, this is putting bookmarks or business cards in books at stores like Walmart, B&N, and maybe Half Price Books (if you have one in your area), or even at the library. I have also put bookmarks in those envelopes that have the paid postage from the credit card companies and other spam mailers, and sent it back to them. You can do this for everything you mail out.

7) Bloggers — There are bloggers who will post your novel, review it, help with a blog tour, or give you an interview that will be posted on their site. Some require you to pay for the exposure, and some are free. Even if you get no returns on it as far as sales, it’ll be on Google and other search engines for as long as that post is available. So when someone does a search, that’s another impression you get, and it might even get you some sales out of it.

8 ) Paperback book giveaways — When you first finish your book, have it uploaded, and then available on Createspace, you can then contact some bloggers, or go to Goodreads and post your book giveaway. With bloggers, they can target specific readers who actually want to read your novel. I’ve received a couple of great reviews that way. With Goodreads, people will sign up for the giveaway just because it’s a freebie, not really caring about the genre. I had one person return a book because they thought it was something else, and others who reviewed, who didn’t like that genre, and thought Goodreads required a review. Remember to be choosy about doing paperback giveaways if you want specific readers that are looking for a specific genre.

9) Free e-books — One way to get your novels seen is to give away free copies of your e-books, usually with a coupon from Smashwords. If you want it free on Amazon, set the novel free on Smashwords, distribute it to B&N even if you’re using their publishing platform, and then wait for Amazon to price match. You’ll get a few thousand downloads for a week or two, copies into hands of people who normally wouldn’t have known about you and your work, and possibly some good reviews out of it. You may also get hit and run reviews that aren’t exactly glowing reviews of your work, mostly on Amazon. These are usually 1 star, they question your writing skills, and sometimes even your IQ. The advice to authors is never to respond, be above it all, and have a thick skin. There are instances of authors responding to their critics, and it developed into a clusterfark. Never ever a good thing.

10) Ads — Unless you have a lot of disposable income, creating ads on Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other sites is a complete waste of your time and money. But, if you get a free coupon for one of those sites, then knock yourself out. I have also advertised on Craigslist and other classifieds all over the States from time to time, and I get the occasional hit to my website from those sites, but I don’t know if they actually result in sales. Mostly, it’s about being visible, and that’s not really a bad thing.

Finally, marketing your novels comes down to hard work, time, and sometimes spending money to make money. There are times you may want to give up, but being persistent will get you and your novels seen, and you’ll see success. These ideas are only some that indie authors may or may not try to promote their books, and it’s really an experience may vary kind of thing.

My interview on Two Ends of the Pen

Here is the interview Deb Martin of Two Ends of the Pen did with me:

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
My very first novel that I actually finished writing was the novella Out of Time, a time travel adventure story. I wrote it off and on for about 10 years, started from a couple pages long to where it’s at now, about 30k words.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon? No. Back in the late 90’s when I was seriously thinking about publishing any of my writing, I decided I’d rather publish my own stuff. I looked into vanity press, but, that was way too expensive at the time, and I didn’t know enough about self-publishing like I do now with Createspace. In 2008, when I had money, I published Out of Time first through iUniverse with the basic package they had. I uploaded it to Kindle myself, mostly just to see what would happen, since at the time, I thought e-books might be a fad. Little did I know!

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
I prefer having control over my destiny, as it were. I figured self-publishing was faster, and preferable to receiving rejection letters six months later, with the generic reasons why they wouldn’t publish. I just happen to like doing everything myself, at least I can see tangible results.

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books? Probably not. Besides, I think traditional media is going the way of the dinosaurs.

Did you design your cover art? If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?

My first two novels I published through iUniverse and Virtualbookworm, so I used what they gave me. Once I went to Createspace, I created my own covers. I did have help from another author who tweaked them for me though.

How did you feel when you got your first sale? Are you pleased with sales so far?
My very first sale was from a short story I wrote in high school back in the early 90’s that won in a contest that I wrote through Creative Writing class. I was thrilled with that, until my mom decided to use the money to create a frame for the check stub, and a little blurb about it that she mentioned to our newspaper. Anyway, in the here and now, I’m pleased with my sales so far, they could be more, but I just have to keep working at being seen.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I’m on places like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Goodreads, Shelfari, Linkedin, I have a blog and a website, forums such as Kindleboards, Nookboards, Mobilereads, eBookgab, and trying to promote on the Amazon message boards.
Author website: http://cliffball.webs.com
Author blog: https://cliffballauthor.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/cliff_ball
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cliff.ball.author

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale? Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Sony, Createspace, Diesel eBooks, Kobo, Borders for my e-books.

What’s next for you?

I’m actually trying to bring up my GPA by getting a 2nd BA so I can get an MA in Creative Writing from the University of North Texas, at least that’s the plan. I’m also trying to write an alternate history novel where the US establishes a moon base in 1979 when a different President is elected in 1976, and then he has the US set a goal of a Mars Base by 1989. The Russians see this, so they decide to create an interstellar starship so they can one-up the Americans. All sorts of real life events get in the way, like the Revolution in Iran, but that gets squashed by US Special Forces rescuing the hostages. The President in 1981 gets assassinated by those who take revenge for the failed Revolution. Al Qaeda comes along later, and blows up a cargo ship to the moon, tries to blow up the sealed habitat on Mars, and then blows up the space station in Earth orbit in the 2000’s, and so the US President orders Osama bin Laden to be taken out, and that’s the last of Al Qaeda. Eventually, US and Russia join forces to explore the galaxy, where they find the long lost Russian interstellar starship.

More details on my new services

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I just wanted to go into more detail about my new venture, Digital Writing Services.

Having done some research of my own, mostly as an Independent, self-published author myself, I’ve seen what I think are some massively over-priced services for proofreading and editing. I decided on $1 a page because it makes sense to me, anything over $3 just seems like price gouging to me. Then, you get all these convoluted prices when it comes to word count plus page count, with me, it’s straightforward, especially since I suck at math. I also enjoy proofreading and editing, which might be weird, but that’s just how I am. You will know that I’m passionate about what I’m doing and will do my best to offer you the best service possible.

Secondly, for $10 a year per novel, an author can get their novels posted on my website, the link called Author Showcase. You will have a main page, with links to your website, social networks, and bio. It will then link to another page with your novels posted there. You just provide blurbs/summaries, any reviews you may have, and where the novel can be bought online or offline. If you choose to not continue with this after a year, you can unsubscribe through Paypal, since all purchases will be through Paypal. I wanted to have readers looking for undiscovered authors or semi-discovered authors and they can find something new and exciting to read. I am also offering PDF conversion for $10 per book if you need the service, so that you can upload to Kindle, Smashwords, or wherever you want your book as an e-book.

Third, if you know anyone who is a college student that needs essays and research papers proofread and edited, I offer that for $5 per paper. My requirements will be that those essays should already be formatted to MLA, APA, Chicago, or Turabian style.

The site also has forums that anyone who signs up to be a member, which is free, can go to talk about books, publishing, or anything within reason. The blog has a feature to where anyone who is a member can post their own blog posts. Post about your latest review, talk about what inspires you, etc. Check out the links page where I have compiled a big list of useful websites. Feel free to suggest any I may have missed. I will also offer book reviews at a future date, with the price set at $50. This includes posting the review on blogs, social networking sites, press releases, every online bookstore where your book is sold, and bookmarked on Digg, Stumbleupon, etc

I wanted a website that was interactive, but due to my lack of programming skills, patience, and open content stuff is just above my head, this is about as interactive as it gets for now. Once I think this venture is successful, I’ll get someone to build something on WordPress or Joomla, and hopefully realize exactly what I want. Remember that Digital Writing Services opens for business on May 17th. Hope to see you there!