Book Promotion: Do This, Not That — Interview with Pamela Beason

by | Jul 6, 2016

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?

  1. Not printing and mailing out Advance Readers Copies to all of the major review and trade publications.
  2. Putting the book up on NetGalley but NOT LETTING ANYONE KNOW that it was there.
  3. 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.

To recap:

  1. Create a review plan in ADVANCE of your publication.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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!


tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Noelle A. Granger

    Really informative with great information. I am not very good at the marketing part of my work as an author and I am very leery of people that have contacted me promising to get my book sold. i usually look them up on line to see what their customers have said.

  2. Yecheilyah

    Very good advice! Quality attracts quality! What I loved the most, and what I’ll now be paying attention to is:

    “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.”

  3. Kristen Steele

    If you decide to spend money on advertising it’s important to make sure it will be money well spent. Be very wary of any advertising outlet that won’t give you #’s. There are plenty out there that will.

  4. Rhett Bigler

    Good post. This mirrors advice I’ve read elsewhere, most notably in David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital.

  5. Wendy Raebeck

    Just want to share appreciation for Pamela’s candor and directions. So tired of ‘You’re a rock star, the world is waiting for you, just buy this tool or instruction.’ Maybe I’m finally ready to pay Publishers’ Weekly and Kirkus for reviews—I know the libraries like those. Hope it’s not too late—already releasing my 3rd book, (Expedition Costa Rica).

    I still haven’t done ARCs since they seem like kind of a time drain right at the high moment of having a book finally ready… Just seems weird to send them out and then…wait…

    Anyway, ‘how not to’ is always welcome in my inbox. Thanks so much, Pamela and Joel.

    • Amy Collins

      Hi Wendy, Before you pay Kirkus, call a few libraries and ask them what they think of Kirkus Discoveries paid reviews. I have heard mixed opinions from librarians. Some will consider them…. most won’t.

  6. Jackie Weger

    Huzzah! Pamela nailed it! Every book promotion site need to read this in addition to every indie author. It is always Author Choice where to promote and with whom…but I am royally sick of promoter who announce subscriber lists of 15,000 or 100,000 and charge upwards of $100 to promote a book, but do NOT tell us open and click through rates. We need that transparency. Transparency is honest. My eyes were opened in June 2016 when I bought promo [70$] with a site I respect and boasts above 200K subscribers and over 100,000 in my genre-romance. Promoted my new release with the site~99c. 83 downloads. Huh? I promoted the release to only one third of my own newsletter subscribers (2800) and within hours saw 350 click throughs and 144 units downloaded. Two days later, I saw 950 click throughs and another 654 downloads of my new release. Something is skewed. I, too, promote with Bookbub. I know my promo dollar is well invested and what to expect. Bookbub tells us right there on the pricing page. Credibility is everything today. Doesn’t hurt a bit. I am learning that many promoter subscriber lists are author top heavy. Other authors are NOT my audience.

    Pamela is exactly right when she urges the author to check the books on a site. Many sites curate legacy published best sellers off of Amazon and put them on their sites as if the authors are clients. NOT so. Once I learned of that practice, I started checking the stats of indie books promoted. Whoa! A whole different story. None were making lists, not even in the Kindle Store. I do not mind paying for promotion. But the fee needs to reflect reasonable expectation of downloads, NOT the # of subscribers. One promoter whose reputation is now sinking to China also charged me and dozens of other indies $70 for a special promo. Not a single one of us saw a download. When I talked to the promoter, she told me, “You have to write a better book.” Geez, the book is sitting on Amazon with above 575 reviews w/a review rank of 4.5/50. IMO that’s a book. The same book in a Bookbub promo garnered above 75K downloads. Go figure.

    Kudo’s to Pamela for this blog. It is true our indie universe is changing. Readers are far more savvy. Promoter subscriber lists are tired. The smart indie author is searching ways to self-promote and leaving out the middle man. We’re learning. We’re doing it. It only cost me $47 a month for my newsletter server. If I can sell 500/1000 books a month via my newsletter, that’s a lovely ROI. Those numbers won’t make a best seller list, but it is a comfortable seat in the lap of the indie gods. I’m good with it.



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