Probably I write 1/3 of the posts here on the subject of marketing/promoting. It's much on my mind, especially right now, as I try to decide when/whether to bring out the first of what will be six historical romances. As I more or less map out the sixth (still unwritten) in my head, I am also thinking how the heck do I get any of them seen by readers who are most likely to enjoy them? The truth is you can write a masterpiece (not saying mine are) but if you can't get them seen, they go nowhere. It's like Cinderella sitting at home waiting for a prince if she does nothing to get herself seen.
When I got into ePublishing in December 2011, I knew marketing would be the problem. For awhile I thought I had a solution with Amazon's Select program where you give away books as a way to introduce yourself to new readers. I would say that spectacularly didn't work. While I gave away thousands of books, the sales didn't do enough to keep me visible on Amazon's product lists. I had readers say they'd just wait for the book to be free as that's all they were taking. Free books didn't lead to many reviews; so I got out of Select and won't put the historicals into that system.
If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you've read my whining regarding hating marketing something most creative people do not want to be doing. But, if you do your own work, paint, sculpt, photograph, write, create music, and want your work seen, you know about the problems of marketing/promoting.
To get something seen in the world is a business and has its own skill set. Because of this issue and my own uncertainty on how to resolve it, I've put off releasing the first historical since it was readied last September. I've thought through various options for how to proceed while I have written more books.
One possibility is I could submit the historicals to publishing houses. I never have. At this point, I don't want to go through a publishing house even if I could get the books accepted. There are a couple of reasons. The main one is I don't see how they can do a better job marketing. They could pay for ads. They do for the big writers but would they a first timer? Unlikely. Their reputation might sell books, but the ones most likely for that (Harlequin) wouldn't accept manuscripts to even consider the length of mine. I am not willing to chop the meat out of mine to fit their length requirements.
If I found a publishing house that did accept a book, they would also put it onto eBooks, and I'd get a fraction of what I get by being my own publisher. The books might make it into bookstores for awhile, but they move through there pretty fast from what I've seen. Yes, I'd get the prestige of having a book accepted but what do I care about that?
So I am back to the problem-- how do I put out my first historical and get it seen before it falls into Amazon's black hole?
Some writers (likewise painters, sculptors, etc.) enter contests. That are a few pluses if the contest is by a respected group as you might also get a bit of a critique even if the work didn't win. On the other hand, who follows the results of these contests except those in the groups? A win there is something that would look good on a webpage if the webpage reaches very many people. How much faith a reader puts into buying a book based on having won a contest would probably be proportionate to what they felt about the group putting it on. Was the contest won solely by ability or by popularity, i.e. networking? I have no idea as I've never entered one nor have I ever bought a book based on its having won a contest. If the contest had as a reward a certain amount of free promotion then that might be of value, but I don't think most offer more than the initial release of the results-- and release to whom?
Reviews are another way some indie writers go. They submit the books to various online sites that do reviews. I might give that a try, but the question I have there is similar to the contests-- how many people read or buy books based on those reviews? Who even knows they exist? Are they mostly read by other writers and wantabe writers? Now that is a market but not really large enough to keep a book afloat.
Personally more troublesome is I have read the reviews, looked at the books and don't see my books fitting well into those getting the highest ratings. Clearly I am on a different wavelength-- not better (nor do I think worse), just different.
It might come back to this thing I read earlier-- romance readers and reviewers are looking for new versions of what's already been out there. They want good writing, exciting characters, different settings, but basically similar plots. Although I am writing historical romances, I don't see them as having the plots that fit the existing niches. Still I might give it a try although I am still arguing with myself over it.
There are millions of readers online and buying eBooks, but they more likely to find their books by reading reviews in newspapers or by word of mouth. An indie book is not getting a review by a newspaper; so that leaves word of mouth. There are indie writers who have found ways and gotten seen by the mainstream. I think the main thing is to have the work showing up a lot of places that aren't limited to writers because much as I enjoy talking to other writers, seeing their work, I am not their main market either. I've written about a few ideas I've come across. Another is in the next blog.
It's rhododendron time in the sun in my part of the Pacific Northwest.