Each month, I gleefully share my screw ups in the hopes that others will learn from my mistakes. I hope you find “Do This, Not That” helpful. But am I alone in this? No. This month, I have interviewed Pamela Beason to hear what she has tried, what didn’t work, and what she would like to have done instead.
What about you? Have you rushed in when you should have researched? What have you learned from trying to promote your own books? Let us know in the comments; we can all learn from each other’s mistakes.
What She Did: She Did Not Execute a Solid Review Campaign
Pamela has been traditionally published with a nice three-book deal that launched in 2011. Those novels did okay, but it is her self-published book, The Only Witness, that is really taking off. Her sales of this novel (now the first in a trilogy) eclipsed her other three traditionally published novels.
She has had a front row view of a publisher making several mistakes with the promotion of her first books. The three biggest mistakes she now recognizes?
- Not printing and mailing out Advance Readers Copies to all of the major review and trade publications.
- Putting the book up on NetGalley but NOT LETTING ANYONE KNOW that it was there.
- Not announcing the book to the media in any meaningful way.
What She Should Have Done Instead
Knowing what she knows now, she would have questioned a lot more specifics about the marketing plan and interviewed more authors who had worked with the publisher of her first books.
According to Pamela, it was not all their fault. A great deal of it had to do with timing and the changing publishing industry. NetGalley is a great tool, but the publisher did not realize that just putting the book up there was not enough. If you are going to use this valuable and robust tool, you have to consistently and constantly be telling people that your book is there.
What She Then Did
With The Only Witness (her self-published novel) Pamela went after reviews and researched the “good reviewers” and asked for reviews. And, boy did it make a difference.
She paid Publishers Weekly for The Only Witness for their Independent Publishing Program. It ended up getting reviewed well by PW and that helped the sales and helped get other publications interested in promoting it.
She did paid advertising. Most successful was BookBub. She did two ads with them for The Only Witness.
- Her first promotion was at 99 cents and she had over 10,000 sales.
- Next time, she tried the program and offered the book for free. There were nearly 87,000 downloads.
And then? She started selling several thousand at full price. The best part is she is selling the sequel now too, thanks to BookBub.
What She Did: She Did Not Research Her Advertising Purchases Carefully Enough
As an editor as well as a writer, Pamela meets a LOT of self-publishers. She says many of them share the same qualities.
“So many writers have unrealistic expectations about what is going to happen,” says Beason, “I run into people over and over again who think that they are going to finish their book and it will be an instant success.”
Once in that camp, Beason now knows the value of researching each and every part of her business.
Recently, Pamela tried out some advertising on a popular online forum. The ad cost a great deal of money and promised to make her book the “Book of the Day.” What she did not find out until later was that each day there are over 100 “Books of the Day.” Not quite what she expected.
What She Should Have Done Instead
Beason now cautions all of us to be wary of any online site promotion if they don’t publish their statistics. Pamela tried eight or nine other online eBook promotion sites and bought advertising. Each site looked good, but there was no way to see what their metrics were. Each time, there were virtually NO downloads, sales, or title awareness success. Confused as to how so many sites could charge for advertising that yielded such poor results, she looked much more closely. Once she really looked at the sites, she saw that the other titles there were not designed or even described as well as hers.
In Pamela’s own words:
“What I should have done is spend more time researching the sites wanting to sell an ad. Spent time on the site and saw what the books look like.”
She advises – when paying to have your book promoted on a site, you want to a lot of people to see it, yes, but you ALSO want to be in good company. Always check out the other books on the site and see if they are up to a quality that you would be proud to be associated with. If you see a lot of books with poor descriptions, typos and bad covers, you don’t really want to be there. Quality attracts quality.
What She Then Did
Now, Beason advertises only with entities that publish their statistics and can show successes.
“That is the one thing I love about BookBub,” says Pamela. “You can go to the site and see exactly how many readers that they have per category.”
There are a lot of great outfits out there that will happily share their metrics and their mailing numbers. Just make sure that you part with your hard-earned money only once you KNOW the numbers that your ad will reach and know the company that you will be keeping.
- Create a review plan in ADVANCE of your publication.
- Use NetGalley and ARCs if you wish, but if you decide to invest in these valuable (and not inexpensive) tools, then promote the HECK out of them!
- Only advertise with venues that can show exact numbers, click rates and open rates. In this day and age, technology lets us all see how an ad does. Insist upon seeing numbers before you sign on the dotted line.
- Make sure your book and ads are in good company. Only agree to promote on sites and in venues where the books look professionally published and promoted.
Well, that’s all I have this time. I look forward to your comments and shared experiences. PLEASE join us in the conversation below. I look forward to meeting all of you as we continue to figure this out together!