- Nobody knows who you are.
- Nobody has read your books.
- Nobody has reviewed your books.
- Nobody is buying your books.
Now you might think "Wait, that is 4 things!"
Except it isn't. This is a Catch-22 situation. That makes it a singular problem.
Authors who self-publish are stuck with the current system. They post ebooks on Amazon Kindle (and/or Kobo), and then nobody reads your books unless they buy them, and nobody buys your books until they read a review, and nobody reviews your books unless they already read it. It is the old 3-way catch 22.
To make matters worse, nobody knows who you are so they are really taking a chance at wasting their money when they buy your book. And even if a random person does take that chance, there is no guarantee they will post a review.
So how do you get out of this situation you are in?
#1. Paperback Publishing
It would help if you were actually published by a conventional publisher. Having physical books to sell certainly would help. You could do book signings at local bookstores. If your books later become more successful you could travel to various English speaking countries and do book signings overseas. If you became really successful (like George R. R. Martin or J. K. Rowling) you could even end up doing book signings in non-English countries because your books have been translated into other languages.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves here. Getting a conventional publisher to even sit up and take notice of you is a difficult task by itself. So for the remainder lets assume you are happy with online publishing instead.
You really need to advertise and market your work. For many writers this means they are self-marketing, which is often poorly done and it will feel very defeatist if they spend a lot of time marketing themselves but don't get any actual sales. eg. Lets say they only promoted themselves on Facebook and Twitter, didn't really know what they were doing, and ultimately just wasted their time on social media.
If you do decide to do Self-Marketing, you should really track the number of hours spent doing this and calculate a "wage to yourself". eg. $15 per hour, to give yourself an idea of how much time you are spending by giving that time a monetary value.
#3. Hire Someone Else
You should seriously consider hiring someone else to do your marketing for you. eg. designSEO.ca. This saves you time personally which is better spent writing or spending time with your family, and it allows you to know that your marketing is being done by a professional. Now this doesn't mean you should cease self-marketing, by all means you can and should continue to self-market if you have extra time to do so.
All of this ultimately means you should decide what kind of budget you want to spend on advertising. See below.
#4. Annual Marketing Budget
Your annual marketing budget should be tied to your sales, but since you have zero sales during the first year you have to make a gamble. All advertising is effectively gambling. So what is a good amount to start with?
Well, lets answer this question by asking yourself: "How much money would I hope to make in my first year of advertising my work?"
If your answer was $2000, you should probably set a budget of $666.66. For the sake of even numbers we shall say $660. Roughly one third of your hopeful payout during the next year.
$660 should be more than enough to get 22 good quality links on various websites, at a rate of $30 per link. For best results the links should be accompanied by honest book reviews (hopefully also positive book reviews). You really should not be paying for a book review / advertising that is anything less than 4 stars out of 5.
Notice also that this method of budgeting scales based upon your income in the future. If you are making $200,000 per year, you could in theory spend $66,660 on advertising the following year... but by then you probably don't need to. You could spend perhaps $20,000 to to $50,000 per year on advertising and be quite content with your results. You might eventually cease advertising entirely, relying entirely upon the fact that you now have some name recognition.
#5. Judging your Results
If you manage to make anywhere from $650 to $2000 (or more) then your marketing campaign was technically a success. You might have only roughly broke even if you got less than $660, but the marketing campaign is technically working. The 2nd year you might make $1300 or more and the 3rd year you might make $1950 or more. So while that isn't the amount you hoped for, it is still technically progress as you build name recognition online.
If you made $200 to $650 then clearly the advertising is working, but not as effectively as you might have thought. You need to retune your advertising to make it more effective. This doesn't mean you should stop completely, it simply means you need to figure out what is turning away customers. Is your book cover depressing? Is your plot boring? Something is wrong and you need to rethink and retune.
If you made less than $200, something is definitely wrong. Rethink everything. Take a hard look at everything, ask other people what they think you might be doing wrong, and take their advice seriously.
#6. Evaluate your Marketing Strategy vs Success
Even if you are succeeding in your goals, you should also pause to reevaluate what is working and what is not once per year. You may have learned new ways to market more effectively and then implement them. If you have hired someone else to do your marketing for you, then this is a good time to sit down with them and have a friendly chat about the best ways to make improvements.
Book sales are not the only industry that can benefit from this style of budget marketing. For example, if you were a professional painter and making $30,000 per year, you might consider spending $3000 per year on marketing your work.
The difference is that a painter wouldn't be spending that $3000 on online marketing, they would instead be spending it on gallery shows. Having an one week gallery show might cost $600 to $1000, so depending on what they are doing they might be having 3 to 5 shows per year based on that budget.
The more gallery shows the artist has, the more famous they become - assuming their paintings are good - and consequently the more sales they get, and the higher prices they can command. The beauty of gallery shows is that buyers go there, look at art, can see the physical art piece, and if they really like it then they purchase it. Some art collectors will even purchase art pieces as investments, knowing that if an artist is more famous that they can resell the art piece later on for a hefty profit.
The names of the artists below aren't particularly famous, but their paintings are still priced at $8,300 and $12,000. So even lesser known artists can command some serious prices.
|Duane Nickerson's painting for $8300.|
|Jennifer Walton's painting for $12,000.|
|Michael Snow's poster - Not for sale. I included this for fun because Michael Snow is actually very famous. His works are usually in museums. This is just a poster however.|