Improving Marketing Strategies

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as an author is that marketing is as much of a marathon (if not longer) as is the process of coming up with an idea for a book, then writing and rewriting until it’s finally ready for publication.

Authors with marketing backgrounds excel at implementing strategies for reaching potential readers, but for the rest of us it’s a hit-and-miss process to figure out what works best. Also, in this rapidly changing world, what worked well five years ago doesn’t work nearly as well today.

I’ve been reading recommended books on the topic of ebook marketing, and found a great resource in author David Gaughran. I just finished taking his free course (I don’t know how much longer it will be free) called Starting From Zero, which you can find HERE. I’ve also read his book Let’s Get Digital. The book is an introduction to publishing, but the latter sections on marketing were so useful that I’m currently reworking my Amazon book descriptions, finding better keywords, and changing the price for upcoming promotions.

Gaughran stresses the importance of developing a website, having a Facebook page, and getting an email list going. I’ve being doing the first two for some time, but I’ve always balked at the idea of maintaining an email list, which is a huge mistake in Gaughran’s view.

Part of my reasoning was that I didn’t want to bother people with announcements to buy my book, every time I released a new one (Gaughran also used to think this way), but the other reason is that I already make announcements on my blog and other social media outlets, so wouldn’t I be repeating myself?

I’m curious if any of you use an email list in addition to your blog. As part of my book updates, I’m adding a link to my blog on my end pages (I probably should have done this from the start) inviting people to join if they’d like to learn more about my writing life and to receive upcoming announcements.

It seems like there’s always something to tweak and improve upon, but as Gaughran also notes, the most important part of your day should still be writing. I couldn’t agree more.

Author: debrapurdykong

I'm a British Columbia author who's been writing for over 30 years. My volunteer experiences, criminology diploma, and various jobs, inspired me to write mysteries set in BC’s Lower Mainland. Employment as a campus security patrol and communications officer provide the background for my my Casey Holland transit security novels. I'm also a part-time facilitator in Creative Writing Workshops through Port Moody's Recreation program. Feel free to contact me at dpurdykong@gmail.com

25 thoughts on “Improving Marketing Strategies”

  1. I don’t send out a newsletter but have been thinking about it. I found that even though I posted on my blog, facebook, Twitter etc about my book launches and signings, I still get people saying, if I had known you were going to be at… I would have come. So maybe a newsletter would have made them more aware. It’s just another thing to do!!

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  2. I used to have a very erratic and unorganized mailing list, mostly made up of my friends and relations and some colleagues from work. A lot of my relatives weren’t on social media so it did prove to be a good way to keep them up to date on my news. When I launched my most recent book, I went on a blog tour, and I thought it might be a good time to get myself organized, so I looked into Mailchimp. It has a little bit of a learning curve and you have to provide a physical address, which is visible to subscribers. But it’s free if you have under 1000 or 2000 subscribers (can’t remember which) and it provides some interesting data. And you can create some awesome looking mailouts instead of just an ordinary email-style newsletter. I put the sign-up thingy on the main page of my website and I think after the blog tour I had an additional two dozen people sign onto my mailing list. Also I try to only send out something once a month and I make it very chatty 🙂 But I’m like you – I really feel horrible about constantly telling people about my writing. That’s why I try to make it a little more chatty than a constant selling job 🙂

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    1. Thanks for this, Winona. I’m thinking about going with MailerLite as I’ve heard good things about it. But I’m still researching this. Good to know that your blog tour resulted in new subscribers!

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    2. I use Mailchimp for my ridiculously small mailing list and irregularly published newsletter. I always have a sign-up sheet on my table, and I offer a free short story as a welcome gift. I just can’t seem to get it right, though. I tried doing a newsletter only when I had a new release, but it felt too much like I was treating members like support systems for a wallet.

      Marketing and being an author really are two different skill sets.

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      1. I agree, Sharon. I used to keep a paper list and invite people who’d bought my book at Christmas craft fairs to sign up. I think I had 8 or 9 names, but I never pursued it, as a long time took place between publications and I doubted that they’d even remember me.

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      2. I use MailChimp–also about once a month. The problem with them is if you grow your email list to a point that it’s useful, they charge a lot. I’m at $30 a month–that’s too much. I’m looking to make a switch because I don’t think it pencils out.

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  3. I gave up my email list, blog, and newsletter about a decade ago when I started my author page on FB and Twitter. I had instantly more sales through Twitter than the other platforms combined. But then I write nonfiction and can target my readers with laser-like hashtags.

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  4. Thanks for the tips. Marketing is one of the most challenging pieces for me. I do keep an email list which people can sign up for on my website. http://bluehavenpress.com. I send newsletters only every six weeks to celebrate the seasonal changes through the Sabbats. I often hear back from readers that they enjoyed what I’d written.

    I don’t blog much anymore, but I do post my book reviews. I enjoy using Instagram and really show myself there (and my dog;) I post on Twitter and have a FB page but I don’t see sales through either of those sites. Most of my marketing comes via Creative Academy. I’ve been largely remiss this year since I’m writing. The hardest trick for an Indie author/publisher is juggling all those balls. I definitely need to revamp my plan as I prepare to launch Book 4.

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    1. I’ve seen your great photos on Instagram, Wendy, but I’m not much of a photographer, so I often don’t contribute there. Which email service do you use? I’m learning quite a few things on Creative Academy since I joined six weeks ago, but I find that David Gaughran’s tips are most helpful for me right now.

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    2. I think the small indie / self-published authors like us have a very tough time of it unless we’re brilliant at marketing and self-promotion and have access to a lot of really good sales opportunities (ie, at craft fairs and book festivals, etc). Authors who have the support of a bigger traditional publisher (or even a bigger indie press) have the support and backing of the PR arm of that press, so that automatically gives them a marketing boost, even if they have to do the bulk of the PR themselves. I don’t consider myself a good marketer – I have great ideas but the follow-through would take up the bulk of my time and I honestly don’t want to spend the greater part of my day on Twitter, FB and Instagram, posting and reposting. I know you can schedule tweets and FB messages to go out at a certain time. But do I want to do that? So I think that as a self-published author I have to accept the fact that my sales numbers will be small, and that I will win readers one at a time by way of whatever function or outlet I can reach them through… and I’ll continue to try and get exposure through things like interviews and readings and appearances. I’ve got an Excel spreadsheet now so I can keep track of everything that I’ve done to support my latest novel. I’ll be relying on that for the next one, next year.

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      1. So agree with your comments, Winona. And do keep records! I keep stats to figure out which event or promo campaign was worth my time and money. And in these COVID days, who knows if what worked a year ago will work today?

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  5. I know! Let’s invent a place where people can go look at all the books in print and authors can go in person to meet the public wanting to meet them. … Oh, wait. We already did that. And let Amazon kill it. (Feeling snarky this morning, it appears… :)) I wish you Marketing luck!

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      1. I think we have to realize that the rise of Amazon and the death of the brick and mortar indie bookstores is similar to what happened to the music industry before us. Digital downloads marked the death of the brick and mortar record stores, and the music industry found itself struggling and the traditional record labels made less and less money. So now we have online streaming and the continuation of digital downloads, and all the recording artists make fractions of a penny on a download, and the record labels have gone through dramatic restructuring, and the only way musicians make money these days is by touring. They make money on the tickets and the merchandising. And as a result of the digital availability of their songs, there has been a rise in the number of musicians who are producing themselves (because you can do anything with software) and making their music available on places like youtube and streaming services. Whether what gets put up there is any good is debatable. In the past, the gatekeepers were the record labels – the same way that in the past for writers, the gatekeepers were the publishing houses. They more or less guaranteed a certain product quality. Now it’s a free for all. Which makes it all the more difficult for good writers (and musicians) to be seen and heard. Does quality automatically rise to the top? Good question. I can think of a few very popular music acts that I shake my head at and wonder what on earth makes them so popular? And to be honest I have the same reaction to a few “best selling” authors too. It’s a strange new world.

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  6. I too struggle with the efficacy of email lists. I have quite a long one for my teacher books and really haven’t seen much of an impact on sales. And, when you get long email lists, the services start charging a considerable fee for them. I pay $30 a month for a weekly newsletter that probably doesn’t bring in that much revenue. I will enjoy reading other readers’ experiences.

    BTW, I’ve missed so many of your posts. Somehow, my WordPress won’t deliver blog posts to my email anymore. I spent about a week trying to figure out if I unsubscribed or they went to spam and now solved it by reading blogs through the reader. Not my preferred way, but oh well!

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    1. Thanks for the info about mail lists, as I’ve often wondered if they pay for themselves and it’s partly why I haven’t set one up yet. Another thing to take care of and another fee holds little appeal, but we’ll see. Sorry that you haven’t been getting my blogs. I don’t understand WordPress that well, so I’m not sure what’s been happening. But glad you found me!

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    2. I had a very long email list when speaking in the education sector. I sold far more books at the events than I ever sold through any other mechanism. The ROI for my email list was terrible and after about three years I closed it down.

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  7. Well… what a timely and interesting blog post, Deb! I could have written it! 🙂 I’m currently reading “Let’s Get Digital”, in which Gaughran encourages us to take that free marketing course. The resources page on his website is helpful too.

    And, I’ve been “ignoring” his strong recommendation to start a newsletter (list) as well! My reasoning is the same as yours: I post updates of my writing progress (and anything else) on my blog already, for which people (readers) can sign up via email.

    Also, I’m only on my first book and have no idea if and when another one will be published. David has fantastic information, but I feel that we have to figure out for ourselves what works and what can wait. I’m looking forward to reading the last section in his book, about marketing. I ought to start with that process as soon as possible!

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    1. So glad you’re reading David’s book, Liesbet as I found it really helpful. And you’re right, we have to find our own path and what works best for us. I’ll be really interested to see how publishing and marketing works out for you.

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  8. Thanks for this,

    I use Getresponse for my small mailing list and regularly published newsletter.

    I also used to use MailChimp but had issues with them, so i switched to Getresponse and is quite happy with it.

    I agree Marketing and being an author really are two different skill sets.

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