The Marketing Kraken
Sanity Preservation Amid the Self-Publishing Sea
Last Updated: February 17, 2021
In an effort to be transparent about the grand, elusive, bloodthirsty deity called “Marketing,” I’ve compiled some data from my recent promotional experiments. Keep in mind that my book is very dark and very weird, so I’m sure everyone’s results would be different utilizing these methods.
Shut up, Halo, & give me the data!
Or listen to me ramble below:
Let me preface this by saying that, in the beginning, Twitter was great, and I still believe it’s a wonderful place to start and maintain a presence. The community is supportive, encouraging, and full of beautiful humans. You get street cred, like a runner for a gang, and plenty of interaction for the ravenous algorithm. However, at some point, you’ll reach a plateau, and Twitter becomes what some term an “echo chamber.” For me, most of my followers are fellow authors also hustling to sell their books (which are all incredible stories), and authors don’t have nearly as much time as readers do.
Four months after launch, I found that everyone who wanted my book had already bought it, and my KDP reports plunged into banging-my-head-against-a-wall territory. I am NOT telling anyone to stop the lifts or social media promotions—if they’re working for you, that’s fantastic, and I’m thrilled for you, truly. I’m only here to let people know that, if they’re not working for your book, you aren’t alone.
Anyway, sales have been celibate for some time now. April 2020 was a great month, but since then, prosperity has shriveled up like a raisin or a more inappropriate metaphor I’ll save for my fleshy fiction. I’m lucky if I sell a book a week at this point, so I figured I’d go all in and reinvest my total profits from both books into paid promotional opportunities. Go big, or go home, right? Or maybe go big, or go broke…
My books were cheap af in 2020, $0.99 each (ebook versions), so (at the time of writing) I only profited $233 over ~1 year of mostly Twitter promos (writer lifts, begging on my knees, sacrificing goats to our Lord Nicolas Cage, etc.). I didn’t want to waste this money, however, so I researched opportunities with good ROI. I tried to think from a small business’s perspective instead of from an author’s. The goal was to get my book into as many hands as possible—to create an army of loyal, Valhalla-bound minions to spread the word of my creepy and macabre book monsters to legions worldwide. So I ran a couple of free book promotions, one using only social media and one using the paid services, and then I compared the results (because I’m a nerd).
* Note: This data only includes 2020–2021 data for Book 1, Edge of the Breach.
Nov. 5 Free Day (Free Promo) Free marketing across Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook 93 free copies downloaded * This did not affect book sales for the rest of the month. It is also worth mentioning that I ran five-day free promotions in earlier months on social media alone and received 406 downloads in January and 654 downloads in April, so it could be that I simply exhausted those sources. Most of these downloads came from fellow authors, though, and not from readers.
On the following day, Dec. 2, I also ran a paid discount promotion through Bargain Booksy. This resulted in 35 eBook sales. I hit #3 in LGBTQ+ Horror, #11 in LGBTQ+ Science Fiction, and #49 in LGBTQ+ Fantasy—#13,442 in the Paid Kindle Store overall.
Dec. 17 Free Day (Paid Promo) Paid marketing on The Fussy Librarian 799 free copies downloaded * Limited social media marketing utilized on this day.
Feb. 16 Free Day (Paid Promo) Paid marketing on Freebooksy (Fantasy) 619 free copies downloaded * Limited social media marketing. Also sold 41 copies of books 2–4 I put on sale for 99¢/p.
CONCLUSION: Only time will tell if these promotions will yield sustained profits. I’d definitely say that these sites are worth it. I more than doubled my readership in one day, increased sales for the sequel, and expanded visibility. Utilizing these tools allowed me to reach #1 on the free charts in 8 categories, and my book hit #71 in the Free Kindle Store overall.
Depending on your goal—increased visibility (free days with Freebooksy, Book Barbarian, and/or The Fussy Librarian) or ranking on the paid sales chart (discount days with Bargain Booksy)—I’d say all are good tools to utilize. You can expand your readership and widen your audience. Of course, readers may not review your book, or they may review poorly, but these sites have custom lists tailored to genre preferences. As with all marketing, waiting for reviews and self-sustained profits feels like autopsying yourself with a broken whisk and eating your deflated lungs while you yet live. FOR GLORY!
Recommended Free Promo Services
I’ve used these in the past with good results (but this is before I started harvesting goats and data, so I don’t have sexy analytics).
I’ve combed through many of these sites and found a few great options/reviewers. In keeping with transparency, I will say that I emailed hundreds of review requests and only received about a dozen answers. So, like everything with writing, you have to scream into the void for a good while before you get a whisper back. Don’t let this dissuade you; waiting for responses is a great time for Nic Cage GIFs.
Verify Author Services’ Ratings/Validity
How to Create a Branded Universal Link for a Series
* Note: This also works with single books, if listed on Amazon.
- Make a free Booklinker account here.
- Once logged in, go to Your Links.
- Copy your US Amazon series link into the Add a Link text input. To get your series URL, go to one of your books, scroll down to Books In This Series, then click the Complete Series link.
Link Format Example: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08LY8HLSJ
* Note: remove everything after and including the ?ref (this is just URL query clutter).
- Click Create Universal Link. This will link to the user’s country, so you don’t have to worry about separate US/UK/etc. links after creating this.
- Save the universal link to use in the following steps, and prepend https://, for example:
- Create a new page on your author website with the branded URL you want for your series, for example:
- On your new page, before the closing
</body>tag, copy+paste the following (with your universal link instead of mine):
<!-- REDIRECT -->
<!-- END REDIRECT -->
- Also on your new page, before the closing
</head>tag, copy+paste the following, but replace everything in red with your own information:
<!-- TWITTER CARD -->
<meta itemprop="image" content="https://haloscot.com/img/twitter-card.jpg">
<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image" />
<meta name="twitter:title" content="Rift Cycle">
<meta name="twitter:description" content="We all become monsters.">
<meta name="twitter:image" content="https://haloscot.com/img/twitter-card.jpg">
<meta property="og:title" content="Rift Cycle" />
<meta property="og:type" content="article" />
<meta property="og:url" content="https://haloscot.com/rift/" />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://haloscot.com/img/twitter-card.jpg" />
<meta property="og:description" content="We all become monsters." />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Rift Cycle" />
<!-- END TWITTER CARD -->
* Note 1: The
og:urlis the absolute URL of the new branded page you’ve created.
* Note 2: The Twitter image dimensions are 1200px wide × 628px tall. Upload this image to your website first, then use the absolute URL in the above meta data.
- Publish your website changes, and test the Twitter card with the URL of the new page you created in the Twitter Card Validator (must be logged into Twitter). For example, mine is https://haloscot.com/rift/. The page has custom branding and redirects to the universal link, which redirects the user to their local, neighborhood Amazon. Happy coding!