Promo Is Killing Me!

I’d like to speak to my fellow writers...

Before I get started, let me say right off that I’m much more interested in gaining readers than making a ton of money. I realize I’m probably never going to make a fortune as a writer. What I’m looking for is the number of copies sold, so I will know how many books got into the hands of readers. I spent some time recently getting my information together to prepare my taxes for 2013. After I had tallied my royalties and promotional expenses, I realized 2013 was the first year of my writing existence that I’d made a profit. (Sorry—the accountant in me was just showing...) It surprised me how many books I’d sold. I was much more successful last year than I had imagined, so my goal this year is to at the least double the net amount of books (total copies “sold” less copies I gifted for promo purposes) I sell for royalty.

A new year has begun, and as writers we are all probably reevaluating our writing careers and refocusing our promotional strategies. At least we should be if we are determined to stay in the business, so I’m asking my fellow writers to help us help each other by answering a few questions about our marketing strategies in 2013. What worked for you and what didn’t?

Did you use twitter as a primary marketing tool?

If so, do you think this kind of exposure generated any sales? To me, it seems the majority of my followers are other writers. Are we even reading each other’s tweets? How often do you purchase a book based on a random tweet from someone you don’t already have a connection with?

Do you advertise on sites like The Romance Reviews, Night Owl Reviews, Story Finds, or Chick Lit Plus?

If so, how effective has this been in generating sales? Personally, I haven’t experienced increased sales from this kind of exposure. Does anyone pay attention to the ads on those sites? I’m guilty of just going on those sites and making sure my ad looks right. How often do you purchase a book based on an ad on one of those sites? I have. I thought Sharon Buchbinder’s book Obsession looked interesting, so I purchased a Kindle copy.

Do you promote your book on Facebook group pages?

If so, do you think you’ve generated any sales through this kind of exposure? I promoted heavily this way in the last half of 2013. I haven’t been able to tell if any sales were made due to this kind of exposure. Personally, I have purchased two books that I thought looked interesting based on the author’s promo on one of these sites.

Do you guest post frequently on other people’s blogs?

Does this kind of exposure generate sales? I have backed away from blogging this past year because it has been very frustrating to me due to the very slim number of commenters on blog posts. To me, blogging has become time consuming and generates very little sales activity. What has been your experience?

Do you ever purchase and review books from authors outside your author connections?

If so, how do you find new authors to read? In 2013, I bought some books from authors I wasn’t familiar with. Some of those books have been enjoyable reads and I went back to the author for another read. I also started a book review site, which has introduced me to some excellent authors.

Click on image to go to review blog!

My time is so limited these days, and I want to make every ounce of promotional energy count. So what say you, fellow authors? What has worked for you? Or are you just as frustrated as I am with your promotional efforts? Any and all feedback will be much appreciated!


  1. I know you're looking for answers, Denise, but I don't have any.

    My debut novel just released a few weeks ago, so at the bottom of the learning curve, but I've asked myself these same questions. I feel that blogs of my own, guest blogs, Facebook posts, etc. are all reaching other authors only. I can't see how they are going to make sales for me.

    I'm interested in advice from other writers, too.

  2. As a reader, I make use of my local library, because I prefer the feel of a real book. I browse the shelves at random because you never know what you find. Beyond that, I pay heed to reviews on Goodreads. As an author, I feel that promotion is a lot of effort for little visible reward. However, if I did nothing, my sales would probably be zero.

  3. Promo is the armpit of the writing profession. Like all authors, I'd sooner be writing and, in most cases, do just that. I promoted like crazy for my first few releases. I dedicated 4 hours a day for promo--I'm retired so I have time. I nearly wore myself out between blogs, facebook and twitter and saw very little results. I hired book tour companies and saw zero results. I paid for one add and saw no uptick in sales. So, I kept writing.

    I had 8 titles with a smallish ePress that did nothing to promote me. My 9th title went to HarperImpulse and my 10th to Random House. My editor at HarperImpulse (HI), tweeted 3 times a day for me the first two weeks my book was out. I get maybe one tweet a day now. She posted on facebook and mentioned my title at conferences. Her backing helped my sales.

    My book at Random House does not come out until the end of August. My editor there is already starting to tweet about me. She's including me in her listing of "gr8 authors to watch" so I'm eager to see how her promo will work with Random House throughout the process.

    Their help means I have to spend less time in promo. Even so, I try to hit all the high spots.

    I try to ask readers how they buy books. How they chose. Few buy from a tweet. I know I don't. Still, I tweet but more for others than for myself--just like a certain sweetheart who often retweets my tweets (a-hem). I mention my books on facebook, but also mention other authors. I blog, but love having other writers over to my spot to promo their stuff. Goodreads scares me a little, if I'm to be honest. There's a lot of nasty trolls over there and they're so easily offended. But I decided just this morning to force myself to get over those negative feelings and start using it. Many writers use Pinterest...and I groan thinking about another learning curve.

    So what am I doing? A little of most everything that doesn't cost me a lot of money. Am I selling a lot of books? (bangs head on laptop) No. But I'm having fun writing...AND I'm meeting the nicest, sweetest of souls who also write. For a retired grandma, that's not too bad.

  4. Hi everyone, I'm a debut author like Monica and am finding getting real exposure for my title is really, really hard. My publisher is the digital arm of Harlequin (Escape) in Australia and they have down a bit of promotion; book giveaway, blogs etc. My book went live on 1 January and my rankings on Amazon on average haven't been dismal though they have plummeted a bit the last day or two. I think the best thing to do is get more books out there, build your brand and readers who read your first book(s) and liked them will read your next releases. I tend to read the books of authors I've read and liked before.
    Great blog Denise and a big wave to the lovely Vonnie.
    Georgie xx

  5. It is so hard to figure out what works… And honestly I don't know if we could ever really know what works and what doesn't. I know as a reader if I see an ad or a review about a book I don't necessarily buy it right away. I may download a sample on my kindle but I usually don't and wait until I am looking to read. I have been tweeting more and trying to participate in FB groups but it is very difficult to find time to properly devote to promotion...

  6. It's just so hard to estimate what helps sales. All the above respondents have been through the same experiences as myself. I don't tweet, but I use FB a lot. I belong to about 31 groups but most of them are for writers rather than readers. Sales? They come and they go. So this year I've decided to continue with blog marketing and FB marketing but nothing else. It's too time consuming with no results. I'm a writer. I'm gonna write.

  7. All of the above you mentioned, Denise, serves one purpose really--to connect with other authors. In fact, I'm 99.9% sure we met through Twitter.

    Why does connecting with other authors matter? Plain and simple, all authors have fans--some more than others. Those fans like to read, and more than likely, they want to read more books similar to the books they like from their favorite author.

    As an author, I can write three to four books a year. Many of my readers devour three to four books a week. It only makes sense that if they like me, they'll like books that are similar to mine.

    Ever buy a book off that line of books below your book on Amazon? Ever get an email from Amazon... "If you liked...check out what other readers buy..."

    In this great big world of books, connecting with other writers is our best chance at meeting new readers. IF...they are the type of authors who share the love...and...in the meanwhile, you'll meet some of their fans who will become your fans. And real avid-reading fans will also share the love. And don't forget...authors are readers first.

    And they'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends...

    My suggestion would be not to kill yourself promoting...but to spend a set time every day 'connecting'. Those connections 'WILL' pay off--in readers, which as you said, and I agree, is the most important asset for all authors. As far as I'm concerned, readers are worth their weight in gold. :)

    I hope this new year is your best ever... And as always, I'll be here to help spread the word for you, my friend. <3

  8. I like Twitter and I think it helps a little with sales. Writers are usually readers, so if most of my followers are writers, that's okay too. I've bought a number of books I found through Twitter.
    I'd rather be writing, but I also want to get my books in the hands of readers. Unless your book struck a public nerve and makes headlines, promo is a necessary evil. We all have to work at it, no matter how we're published. Good post and questions, Denise.

  9. I lost my publisher back in September, which meant the rights to cover art on my books reverted to their original sources. Had to scramble to get my novels redone and released in second editions. This time I self-published via Amazon's Createspace and designed the covers so the whole package belongs to me. Marketing is hard. No doubt about it. But I've already danced rings around sales via my publisher in the last six months I was with her. I'm finding good results in a daily Twitter feed. But don't just tweet your books. Spread the love around. I've found that tweeting the work of other writers/authors results in re-tweets about my books. Goodreads.com and WritersDen.com are also good vehicles. Kindle promos are great to utilize as well. I also blog from time to time, but mostly book reviews which I post all over the net. These got noticed in October and I coveted a featured reviewer spot on Murder by 4. I've also been invited back to post the occasional review which means the site includes a brief blurb about my work. My next thing to try is a paid ad on Goodreads. We’ll see what happens there. Good luck to you all in this business we love so much! Staying in a positive frame of mind is key.

  10. Promo is the hardest part of this being published journey. It's difficult to track and quantify sales. Was the sudden blip in sales due to the tiny ad you paid for, or was it something that Amazon did behind the screen? Hard to know. After my series with TWRP (where all 3 books had different results) I decided to place my single title RS back into KDP select and will monitor the results closely. I'll assess the benefit of free days, and then make a decision of yes or no for following books. However, I've always been told that back in the day of publishing with a big house, it took at least five books before you began to see significant results. It does take a while to build that readership. I'm thinking in this new day of everything electronic, KDP free days, and tons of giveaways, (readers snatching up free books but not even reading them) it might take as long as ten books to obtain anything worth calling a following. Connecting with readers, preferably face to face is most likely the best way to build your following, but that requires a large investment, a lot of reader oriented conferences, a lot of travel, and again that takes you away from the writing.
    Good questions, Denise, there is a lot to think about. : )


Thank you for leaving your comments. I love hearing from my readers and appreciate the feedback.

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