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I'm going to break this up into two posts. Today's will break down the way I advertise and why. The next one will be a list of all the advertisers I don't use as well as the ones I do use, and how often.
For any author who has been in the business for a while, there are no smoking guns here. For those of you with marketing degrees or backgrounds in the field, no revelations. Some of the way I advertise is Marketing 101, some not. Some I'm still learning. In no way would I call my strategy "The Way to Do It" -- but it is the way I do it, and I promised I would share it.
There are three main facets to my advertising strategy:
- Have a series to work with.
- Be willing to give the first one away.
- Be consistent. "Overkill" the message.
Some authors will never have a series, I know that. It's just not the way they write, and not what they want to do, and of course that's fine. For my strategy, though, I feel I need a series or it wouldn't work. Currently, I have five books on Amazon. Four of them are part of the same series.
Important fact, here:
- I sell no less than 500 of the second, third, and fourth books in the series every month.
- I sell no more than 20 (per month) of the one that is not part of the series.
My horror book, Sway, which I feel is one of (if not the) best of my books, barely sells. But the others do very well.
The first book in my series is my flagship, it is the rock upon which my entire campaign rests. I only pay to advertise it. Not a single other one of my books gets a nickel thrown at them.
And it's free. Not $0.99, but absolutely FREE. "Try-it-before-you-buy-it." I know a lot of other Indie authors use this strategy, too. The reason is because it works. By doing this, I believe I'm sending a message that says I'm confident in my work, confident readers will enjoy it. So confident, in fact, that I'm willing give away something I spent 21 months working on to prove it.
Now, I know there are a lot of readers out there who will download any book that's free just because they can. In fact, I have found that to be true of the majority of people who download the free version. I also know that there are many who won't like my book. Hey, that's okay. I don't like McDonalds much, but they're doing just fine without my $1. My stories won't be everyone's cup of sweet tea, and I know it. In fact:
- In FREE downloads vs. purchases of the other three in my series, My ROI is only 5.57%
Sounds awful, right? It's not. As of 7/31/14 I've had my first (free) book downloaded 43,511 times. Now, again... that sounds awful, right? Well, it's not. Because those downloads occurred in a short, three month span. Do the math. Compared to "pre-free" times, before I made Book 1 free, (basically, any time before 5/1/14) I'm rolling in sales.
Now, don't get me wrong. "Rolling in sales" is a relative term. I did say compared to pre-free times. I still have a day job out of necessity. But in the three months since I began operating in this way I can see light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not a train. All I have to do is write three times as many books as I have now, have them all part of a series, and I can write full-time. Ten more books. Last year I churned out four. Not sure if I can keep that up, because I'm really burning the candle at both ends, but if I can I'll be a very happy camper. And honestly, two years of hard work in exchange for who-know-many-more of doing what I love... SOLD.
So--I have a series, I give the first book away free, and then finally I make sure I'm consistent in the message I deliver. In my case, the message is, "Hey! I have this series, and the first book is FREE" Pretty straight-forward, right? It is, but it's the easiest part of the strategy to let slip, and is just as important, probably more important, than the other two facets of my strategy.
I advertise through various book selling sites and blogs roughly once every 15 days. I say "roughly" because there are two that provide pretty amazing results and I don't need to follow their ad so soon after, they sustain themselves for over 30 days. I work off a six-month rotation using ad sites that have yielded positive results in the past. It took a while to get that rotation set in stone--a lot of sites out there promise great results but don't deliver, and I think I've probably tried the majority of them. In the next post, you'll have the benefit of being able to avoid my failures, because I'm going to list all the sites I've advertised with that didn't work.
So that's it. That's my strategy in its simplest form. Sure, I post on Facebook and Twitter now and then, I post on this blog, and I send out New Release emails to my subscriber list, but that's just when I need a break from writing. Nothing to it, right? No smoking gun, I know.
So how come every Indie author doesn't do it? They should, because it works.
Questions/Points to be Made?
Let try and address a few I know will come up.
"This is all great, but I don't have a series." Even for those who don't have a series but have numerous books all in the same genre, I believe this could work. Choose the book that best represents your work and make it free.
"I just can't stomach giving away something I worked so hard on." How much are you making now? A little? Nothing? Wouldn't you rather make a lot more? I was selling less than 15 books a month before I incorporated this strategy. And part two to that: why did you write your book, if not for it to be read? Isn't that, really, the greatest gift to any author? To have fans who appreciate your words?
"I don't have multiple titles." Then why are you wasting your time browsing blog posts for get-rich-quick schemes? It's not going to happen. Get back to writing and come back here when you have more titles.
"I can't afford the ads." Let me tell you: you may have a bestseller sitting on Amazon right now, but no one is ever going to know about it if you don't advertise, and advertise often. You can't afford not to advertise. Social media isn't a complete waste of time, but it's damn near.
"Matthew... over 40,000 people have downloaded your free book. Don't you think you've peaked? How many more people are there?" I write young adult science fiction. Hunger Games (just the first book) has sold 28 million copies. That means I've reached 0.1% of my potential audience so far, and mine's free. I'll happily keep plugging away.
"Okay, okay. So what companies do you advertise with?" I'll get to that in the next post. Maybe tomorrow, probably more like the middle of the week, because I've got some writing to do.