The advertising cycle of doom

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Making a living is hard these days, no matter what business you’re in.  Books are a luxury item and as an author, making sales has become difficult, and many are resorting to all sorts of techniques in order to gain some visibility.  Those with money to splash around or working spouses to sting for money, can pay for online advertising.  The best known (which I won’t name as I don’t owe them any free advertising) is a site where you pay for them to add your name to their mailing list.  For those willing to spend a lot of money, this can create a spike in sales for a day or two.

This particular site charges a lot of money for the honour of being included in its list, and it requires that your book already has a lot of glowing reviews, or you get turned down flat.  Seems funny to demand that so many reviews be already in place, as I would think that if you had that many reviews already, you’d be less likely to need help getting visibility.  Ho hum, I guess I’m missing the point.

I can’t afford this site’s services, and don’t have the required truck-load of reviews anyway, so it’s off my radar.  I have to rely on ways to advertise for free, which tend not to have the same punch as paid for services.  It’s a vicious circle, if I could make more sales, I’d have more money to spend on better advertising, but in order to make more sales, I need better  advertising.

I’ve tried everything I can think of.  I’ve set my books as free at Smashwords, but as people never buy at Smashwords, no one downloaded them.  I can’t have them free at Amazon, because I’m in the UK, so they can’t be less than 99 cents there, where everyone buys their books.  American authors can list their books free there, and because so many are doing so, people get them and ignore mine.

People want everything given to them free these days.  Once, when I had advertised one of my books that I had just published, one gal posted “Let me know when you’re giving it away free, and I’ll download it.”  But when I did put them all as free, no fucker downloaded.  Make your damn minds up!

I find people are always encouraging, but won’t actually say they hate my books.  I’ve had people tell me they can’t afford to buy books, then they post in groups about how much they’re enjoying this or that book, and when I look for it on Amazon, it’s not free.  I’ve had people say “oh I don’t like sci fi,” then they post a status about some book or author they like, and it’s hard core sci fi.  Then there’s the “I have so many books to read, I can’t add any more yet,” and then their next post is about another book they’ve bought.

I don’t know what the answer is.  Well actually I know exactly what the answer is.  It’s money, and lots of it.  Get a truck load of money and pay a marketing firm a fortune to promote for you, then sit back with your coffee and wait for the tidal wave of adulation to hit.  Until I have the means to go down that route, I’m stuck with books I can’t even give away for free, to people who won’t admit they hate me/my work/everything I stand for/the colour of my hair/my choice in footwear/whatever else.

People don’t hate sci fi, people love sci fi.  All of the most successful movies are sci fi and many of the most successful books are sci fi/fantasy.  There are huge fandoms dedicated to Star Trek, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, Harry Potter etc, all sci fi/fantasy.

No one likes to be told that their work is shit, it’s a blow to the ego.  In a way though, I’d prefer it if people were honest.  At least if I knew why they hate it, I’d have a chance of changing something.  I admit, I haven’t the first clue how to beat this or proceed.

Well done to those who have the money and friends to create a huge spike in sales for a day or a week.  Remember though, that this kind of quick sudden spike in sales isn’t the kind of presence or visibility that lasts for years.  Making 20k downloads in one day due to paying hundreds of dollars for a slot in an advertising site’s email list, will bring you a bonus that month, but five years later, no one will remember, or give a shit, who you are or what you did.  People might still know who I am in five years, even if it’s of the “oh she’s that woman who writes shit sci fi,” variety.

I’m glad I decided a little while ago, to slow down my attempts at marketing/promotion.  The constant work and ensuing disappointment creates emotions I don’t like feeling all the time.  Without the stress of wondering whether this book will be the one that becomes popular at last, I can just write what comes and be creative in the way that feels most natural, instead of changing things to try (and fail) to make them saleable. My local library lets me give them paperbacks, so I can continue to do that.  I also have the knowledge that well known and well respected places like The British Library, the Bodleian Library, Oxford University Library and Cambridge University Library, all have copies of my books.   Not because I asked them to take them, but because they asked me for them.  How many of the “look at me aren’t I successful” party on facebook can say that?

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10 comments

  1. I know exactly what you mean – I write sci-fi. My first book has been out for over a year and my second for just over six months. I don’t have a whole heap of reviews because I didn’t cheat and drag all my friends in to write any. Nor can I afford advertising.

    One point, however. I am with Amazon, too, and although you cannot put a book out for free, you can once every three months for 5 days, offer your book free.

    I do that with my first book only as a promotional giveaway to encourage people to get into the series. I don’t get a lot of downloads, but I do get some.

    Finally – please, no, ignore ANY person who says they don’t like (or even hate) your book. They might be being honest, but it can only be from their point of view and if they don’t “get” where you’re coming from through your work, they will never make a good fan base.

    Write what you love, and genuine fans will find you, even if it’s slowly, one by one, through word of mouth.

    I admit, that’s what I’m counting on, and it is working, although very, very slowly. Book two has helped a tiny amount. I’m hoping that book three(out in 5 months) will improve things a bit more. I just hope I’m still alive when it all takes off enough to amount to something (like apart-wage!). 🙂

    1. Hi AD thanks for commenting. In order to have free days at Amazon, your book has to be in their KDP Select programme, and mine aren’t. I’ve never enrolled any of my books in that programme, I don’t like giving Amazon the monopoly.

      1. What you say makes perfect sense. I should branch out, myself, I’m only with Amazon and Kindle – I don’t know what others are as easy to self publish on and don’t require an up front fee. I’m sort of feeling my way, one step at a time, and I do tend to stick with what’s comfortable (chicken, I know).

        🙂

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