Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Guest Post: Book Marketing - What Works and What Doesn't by Katie French

My guest poster today is Katie French, author and review at Underground Book Reviews. Her newest release is Eyes Ever to the Sky.

When Hugh wakes up in a smoldering crater–no memory, no clothes–a single thought echoes in his head…trust no one. Frightened and alone, with no memory of who he is, he stumbles upon a grisly murder scene and is shot by police. He wakes, only to find he can heal himself. He has superpowers and he’s going to need them. 

Desperate and bleeding, Hugh stumbles upon fifteen-year-old Cece, who’s got enough troubles of her own. Between caring for her bipolar, out-of-work mother and trying not to get evicted from her run-down trailer, Cece may be the only person struggling as much as Hugh. Drawn to Hugh, Cece finds herself falling for him. But when the real killer–a man-hunting beast–chooses another victim, Hugh and Cece realize they must unlock the clues to their past if they have any chance at a future.

Book Marketing: What Works and What Doesn’t
by Katie French

As a self-published author for the better part of the year and with three book releases under my belt, marketing has become something that A) I knew nothing about and B) something that could make or break my career. Talk about your recipe for disaster. Prior to starting my own book business (I call it a business because I treat publishing as such), I had no background in marketing or sales. I am a teacher and school counselor by trade, so if I could get by with talking about my feelings on book sales, I’d be just fine. Alas, that approach doesn’t seem to work. Instead, I attempted a series of trial and error experiments and documented the results. Below is an accounting of those strategies. Keep in mind that this is anecdotal data meant to be useful, but by no means a guarantee that you will have similar results.

Sequel Notification List or Newsletter
I saw my good friend and awesome writer, A.G. Henley, use this and picked it up immediately. She had sequel notification sign-up on her blog and mentioned it in the back material of her book, The Scourge. I have found this to be exceedingly helpful. I used Feedburner to create the widget on my website. It took a little bit of reading and tinkering, but for a girl who isn't particularly tech savvy, I was able to pull it off.

The Result- I have a sequel notification list about 80 readers long so far. This is an invaluable tool and once it is set up, it runs itself. DO IT.
[Sue's take: DO IT. DO IT!!] 

This goes without saying, but blogging is huge. It draws people to your content, your website and your books. Susan is an excellent example of a blog done right and I try to emulate her as much as possible. [Ed note: Aw, thanks!] I maintain two blogs (scary, I know). The first is a review site dedicated to Indie Publishing called Underground Book Reviews. We get a ton of hits every day (upwards of 1500) from writers just like you and I who need reviews. How many of those readers go on to buy my book? Again, it is hard to say, but it is definitely nice to be able to do an announcement post and know that at least one thousand people are likely to stumble on it that day.

My blog gets far less traffic and it is much newer. The nice thing about having my own blog is I can post any content at any time. I can do giveaways, host guest, or just ramble. The drawback is writing the content. It is not easy to find time.

The Result - Every writer needs a blog, even if you don’t update it very frequently.
[Sue's take: Do as I say, not as I do. :) Blogs aren't for everyone. But if you're a compulsive infosharer like myself, it can be a great way to feed your addiction, I mean, connect with people.]

Social Media
I was already on Facebook before I became an author, so I decided it would be easy to create an author Facebook page. I like having a separate profile for my writing so I am not inundating my friends and family who aren't interested in hearing about my book twenty-four/seven. It may be a bit more work to maintain both, but not much. I check in on Facebook a few times a day to post, respond to a few comments and get out of there. It can be a time-suck, so I keep one eye on the clock. So far I have 1020 fans. It's nice to have numbers like that when you are releasing something new.

Twitter is newer for me, and not as user-friendly in my opinion. However, I know many people prefer it as their new method of online interaction and I need to be where they are. It doesn't come as easily, but a post once a day is fine and easy to fit into my schedule.

The Result - Having over 1000 Facebook fans and Twitter followers is better than having none. I am sure the more I'm on there, the more people I will reach.
[Sue's take: I neglect Twitter in favor of FB. I'm not sure if Twitter is jealous or not. Any way you connect is good, though.]

Writing New Content
Nothing drives people to your work better than liking something else you wrote. I am sure you've heard the more you can publish the better. I'd like to think that the more WELL-WRITTEN work you can publish the better. Sure, you can churn out content like a madman, but all these suggestions cannot make a bad book into a gem. Marketing a bad book will only make it fail faster. So, write good content and write it fast. (Ha! That's like saying, just don't eat the cake to someone who wants to lose weight.)

The Result - My new novelette is ranked #5 free sci fi short stories and The Breeders continues to sell well (about 6000 on the Amazon rankings today). I launched a new book a few days ago and the sequel to The Breeders should be ready in September. The bottom line is if you want to make it as an indie author you have to write a lot. No excuses. Then you will see results.
[Sue's take: Writing the next book is always your best marketing!]

Give your Book Away
The brain child for using this technique came when I began working with my super agent, Amanda Luedeke. She suggested that I try to increase sales numbers and rankings before we went to submission on The Breeders. I am always game for something that will make more money and create more visibility, so I told her I was up for any idea she had. She suggested a five day giveaway through KDP Select. If you haven't heard, KDP Select is Amazon's book sharing program. If you opt in to KDP you agree to offer your e-books nowhere but Amazon. The upside is Prime Members can borrow your book for free. The down side is that Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Apple customers get no e-book love. I opted into KDP pretty early on in my writing adventure. It was clear from the start that Amazon was where I was selling and nothing was going on anywhere else. KDP worked well, allowing people to try my book for free through Amazon Prime. And I get paid a hunk of the money Amazon shares out for its KDP authors (roughly $2).

Another thing KDP offers are promotional days where you can set your content for free. I had tried this before and given away a good number of free books. Each time I saw a little spike in ratings that would eventually slide back down. I had never tried a five day giveaway before, so I decided it was time and started to plan.

The interesting thing was we were approaching Christmas, a booming time for ebooks. Everyone gets sparkling new Kindles or Amazon gift cards in their stockings. I thought it might be a good idea to run the giveaway the week before Christmas and then return my book to $2.99, on the 23rd right before the sales boom. So, I set my five days up and held my breath.

The result was tremendous. I gave away 2200 books in 5 days. I got a ton of reviews, sequel notification emails and Facebook friends. My book rating sky-rocketed (from 15,000 to 6,000) and I began selling quite a few more titles each day. I went from selling five books a day before Christmas to selling 15 a day after the promotion. And the wave still hasn't peaked. This month I am selling twenty books a day with little to no promotional leg work.

So, the result is free days work, especially when they are timed right. Now, I know you'll have to wait a whole eight months before you can take advantage of the Christmas boom, but I think that any special event will help (i.e. the release of a new title or a marketing promo you are running). The free books you give away will likely translate into sales that will quickly make up for any lost revenue on those free days.
[Sue's take: Free definitely works, one reason I've decided to go permafree with Open Minds. Whether you use KDP or price-matching, getting free samples of your work into people's hands will drive sales.]

So, there you have it: five marketing strategies and their pros and cons as I see them. I'm always reading, tweaking and revising and I'd love to hear from some of you as to what works and what doesn't in the comments below.

Thanks so much for the tips, Katie! And best of luck with Eyes Ever to the Sky!


  1. Great info! Thanks. I really need to work on my facebook page.

  2. Great advice, Katie. I'm glad the subscriber list is working for you, too. That has definitely been the best thing I've done in terms of growing a readership. To give credit where credit is due, I got the idea from Susan Ee - author of the awesome Angelfall. I just switched to Mail Chimp myself, and it is SO much easier than managing the list myself. Now I'm looking forward to using it to get new release info into my readers' hands. Invaluable!

  3. Thanks for all the great marketing tips. Whatever way you get published, these sound like really useful tips. Good luck with your book.

  4. Awesome tip! Thanks. Wonderful thoughts, and now I'm frantically making notes of a few more marketing things on my "to do" list.

  5. Fabulous info, Katie. I think the newsletter is SO crucial for today's authors. I'm still building my list, but having a link to it at the end of my books definitely helps.

  6. Great information, Katie. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  7. great tips. I need to set up that sequel notification tool.

  8. Congrats on your success! How do I set up a sequel notification tool?