Hazel Buchanan

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Welcome to the marketing forest maze

Posted by Hazel Buchanan on 19 March, 2016 at 7:35

From the formatting jungle to the marketing forest maze. (And, believe me, I'd happily go back.)

The good news is that, having finally finished formatting my ebook for KDP (with quite a bit of help at the end from Calibre), it's actually out there. From 1 March, Surviving Anna has been available to purchase in digital form. And a few people have kindly downloaded it - 29 to be precise, at the last count. So, no, it hasn't exactly gone viral. But, as everyone I speak to consistently points out, I've got to be patient. (The 'p' word again. It's really not my favourite.)

Since 1 March, I've been torn between two competing tasks: continuing to prepare Surviving Anna for its print form, and marketing the ebook. (There is a reason why publishers exist.) Over the last few years, I've read quite a number of articles about self-publishing and marketing. In fact, until the beginning of this year, I had read enough to convince myself not to venture down that path. The knowledge isn't buried way down deep in my heart of hearts - I'm fully aware, and always have been, that I'm a writer not a marketer. I'm certainly not given to self-promotion. But there are some, no doubt well-meaning and positive-thinking, people out there who insist on voicing the view on the intimate worldly-wise-web that writers, simply because they are writers, ought to be able to brag about themselves and their work in such a way as to attract an audience of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands.

Curiously, if you listen to most book sellers and publishers, not even the experts are reliably able to do that.

So, marketing my ebook… Where do I start? My Amazon-retailing son made a few helpful suggestions, one of which was to investigate pay-per-click, an Amazon advertising promotion which involves authors bidding against each other in an automatic auction situation, which to be honest I don't entirely understand. I have signed up to it nonetheless, since it seems to be one of the few benefits available to me after enrolling my ebook in KDP Select. So far, it has yielded me 958 impressions - which I believe means my advert has appeared on potential customers' browsers 958 times. From that, I have achieved 3 clicks - so 3 people have investigated my advert further - and zero sales. Not a great outcome so far, but it has only cost me $0.06, so I'm not really complaining.

One of the keys to successful selling on Amazon is attracting positive reviews. Once I've amassed a handful of these, I can start more actively promoting the book to people I don't know rather than simply to family, friends and acquaintances. Amazon hinders that process to some degree by imposing some quite restrictive rules on who can upload a review. Close family is definitely excluded, which, I guess is fair enough. Potential purchasers could be forgiven for thinking that my own mother's review of my book may not be totally unbiased. But in a, perhaps understandable, overreaction to the fake paid review scandal of 2015, Amazon seems to have adopted a draconian approach to book reviews that particularly impacts indie authors and self-publishers, who obviously do not have access to the same resources as large publishing houses. Essentially, any customer who reviews a book on Amazon is likely to have their opinion removed if Amazon can link them in any way at all with the author. Not only that, but if multiple reviews are put up using the same IP address (eg same home wifi), they will all be taken down.

Taking the advice of other self-publishers faced with a similar problem, I set myself the task of soliciting at least half-a-dozen reviews from total strangers. Having trawled through various lists of bloggers and Amazon top reviewers who are willing to provide an honest opinion in exchange for a copy of a book, I sent out the first ten requests to reviewers I thought might be interested. Only one deigned to reply. And she was too busy.

Another day, another directory of book reviewing bloggers. Wading through the list, it dawns on me that 85% of them will only read fantasy, romance, YA or sci-fi, and of the remainder at least 50% are not currently accepting submissions. After several hours of reading the assessment policies of self-annointed reviewers - who cover the whole gamut from highly experienced and co-ordinated groups with easy-to-navigate websites right down to the fantasy devourer who can neither spell nor construct a grammatically correct sentence - I end up with a list of 5 or 6 who might be worth contacting. The experience leaves me so cold, I have to leave submitting my request for another day. At this stage, if I manage to gain one review from the hours I have spent searching for prospects, I reckon I'll be doing well.

A further frustration is that even though I am using the Amazon platform to sell in the USA (amazon.com), the UK (amazon.co.uk) and Australia (amazon.com.au), I need to get multiple reviews in all three locations, as reviews written in one country do not show up in another. So far, 5 kind souls have come up with the goods. A few others have promised, and several say they are waiting for a print copy because they don't get on with Kindle. A couple have even told me they would like to review the book with their book club later in the year… Later will be great. I appreciate everybody's interest. I understand their reasons. And I know just how busy many people are.

But I want reviews now!!!

And sales! Sales would actually be awesome. Sales would make it all worthwhile.

Which brings me back to marketing…

Categories: Getting Published

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