Monday, 16 March 2015

Advertising your eBooks? My experience as a Self-Published Author

Since I published my first ebook, HYBRID, in 2012 I have been plagued with the writers curse... "How to get noticed?"

Some self-published writers seem to effortlessly get to the top of the charts and I am constantly in awe of them!

Let's explain for those who do not know what a self-published writer is nowadays!

In my mind, a SP writer is someone who has published their work themselves.

They have arranged for the formatting, covers, proofreading, etc by themselves and then gone on to publish via Amazon, Smashwords, etc. They might have paid for some of these services, but ultimately they made all the decisions.

If you have an agent, publisher, or have paid a publisher to do the work for you, then in my books you have not self-published. When you get an agent and publisher who does it all for you and pays you an advance (amazing this) you are traditionally published. If you paid someone to publish it all for you then you are bracketed as using a "vanity" publisher.

Sorry, but this is the way I see it. I understand that you are a writer and might not want the hassle, but then you are not a SP author.

I pride myself in having done most of the work myself. I have been fortunate to have amazing help from people willing to proofread my books, and only recently paid for covers (thank you Shutterstock!) to use for my trilogy for the first time. This will hopefully prove to be a worthwhile investment. BUT, I have spent hours figuring out how to do everything and do not think I did it for vanity! It was a self imposed challenge.

My new covers - what do you think?
This being said, I want my hard work to be seen and to get some feedback for it. This is where it gets hard. Having not used any services there was no one to promote me. Ultimately, paying people to do things for you might get them to spread the word. At least, I'd like to think this is the case, but I do hear of many authors who have paid a lot of money and see no results.

So, the question... how is it done? How do you get seen?

This is my take on "success"...

1) Write a fantastic book. 

Make it different from the rest or follow the trend, and get readers of certain books attracted to yours. For example, for Twilight, Fifty Shades, or Harry Potter fans? A lot of readers like books that are formulaic.

2) Have a Book Launch (either a real one or virtual)

When I finished my trilogy, I held a book launch in Gibraltar and gave a talk on my experience. It was fantastic.

I sold lots of paperbacks, got my name out, was featured in magazines and the local newspaper, and had a ball!

I blogged about it HERE!

I was lucky though - people in Gibraltar are amazing and I have contacts. My dad knows many people...

3) Spread the word via Social Media and hope your friends, family and followers will tell others about it.

This tends to work well at the beginning, but fizzles out fast in my experience. You don't want to annoy close acquaintances by constant promotion. I find Twitter is the only place I tend to schedule posts. I have so many followers that I figure if it annoys anyone they'll simply unfollow me.

I suggest you use something like HOOTSUITE to schedule and CROWDFIRE to keep tabs on followers.

Facebook has a lot of groups that allow you to post your work. How effective this is is questionable. But, you never know... it might lead to some success. I think the reader groups are a better way to make friends and promote. If you are a writer you should be a reader too. If not, are you mad? Ha!

4) Use the Amazon threads to promote your work.

The discussion threads used to be a good place to advertise. Of late, I fear this is no longer the case. Too many promos going on.

5) Advertise with successful companies

In 2015, my plan was to let things go. To stop trying and give up. Then I decided to reinvest some of my takings.

Bear in mind that these promotions were to promote a FREE ebook - that's right, I give it away and then have to PAY to get it noticed! 

I have heard that BookBub is the place to go, but I never get in! I think they favour KDP promotions, or books with lots of reviews. I think this is unfair since the whole point of a giveaway is to get more reviews. But, they have a reputation to uphold so have the right to be picky. Saying this, I have seen some featured which are not the best books! They don't read them - the expression judge a book by it's cover comes to mind!

So, I tried FreeBooksy on a paid promotion. I had got featured on there last year by chance and had success. This worked a treat and my free eBook soared up the US Amazon charts. Since I also publish on smashwords, I also saw a huge increase in downloads via Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc. I do have sales for the next books in my trilogy here too which is great. It is not cheap - $100! But, I think it was worth it and the customer service is fantastic. I am trying another in April for $200 - Eek! A series promoter... I'll have to let you know how it goes!

I have also tried a paid promotion for a free eBook feature with Facebook (£5 + £13), AwesomeGang ($10), Bookgoodies ($30), and KUFads (£10 - Book of the Day). All of these were a complete flop! I might as well have given the money away to charity...

6) FREE eBook promotion

As I have said in 5) I have paid for promotions to increase the visibility of my free ebook, HYBRID. Some of you might be asking how it is always free. Well, Amazon have a price-match policy. I have published my book via smashwords for FREE, which distributes to Barnes&Noble, Apple, etc. when Amazon see it is free they match it. You might have to inform them via their website though if it does not happen automatically.

This is a good idea if you have a series, or if you have many books to promote and want to offer one of your older books for free.

Again, the effectiveness of this is dubious now. When I first published in 2012, free eBooks were snapped up like hotcakes! However, with the constant offers via Amazon or mainstream publishers, us SP authors are no longer as attractive.

Readers are no longer attracted since they have had bad experiences with free eBooks. I admit this also happened to me, and many free ebooks I download disappoint me. Saying this, because it is free I am ruthless. I simply do not read it!

This is the downside. A free ebook will not inspire readers to review. I find myself more willing to review something I have paid for. Weird but true. So to all you readers out there, please review free books! (Like that's going to work!)

I do have a great site to recommend, which allows you to place your book for free. It may not work but it's free to try - Author Marketing Club

7) Sell your paperbacks at local events

I have tried this a few times. The first few times it was exciting, but I am not an aggressive salesperson! If you are you'll do just great :)

8) Participate in Reader forums like Goodreads

This is a great way to sell books, especially if you were a reader before you wrote a book!

Again, I have not found the confidence to pull this off well yet. But, I know others do a super job!

9) Write Another book

This is my worst offence at the moment. So I wrote a trilogy... and? You have to keep on writing to sell more books. If readers like what they see they will want to read more of your work. If you procrastinate and publish nothing new then what's the point?

Saying this, I also wonder what motivates some authors to continue. If you can't sell the books you have why publish?

My husband tells me I am too vain! I think maybe he has a point. I need some feedback or sales to make me believe that I am doing a good job. How sad am I?!

Ultimately, I have never continued with something that I have seen limited results for. I want to succeed. If I can't do it via writing I'll find something else to do with my time.

10) Think about why you write...

BUT, the truth is I NEED TO WRITE. I will always write... I know this now.

Today, I continued writing my next book and felt like writing this post. So I did. Sometimes, you have to vent in the direction your mind goes.

If by writing an idea down you find some peace or escapism from the world around you then you have succeeded no matter how low your sales are. I'll just keep telling myself this...

Thanks for reading & I hope this helps in some way.

All the best,

*~Okay, so now I can pitch my work!~*

HYBRID (The Evolution Trilogy) is FREE



Get the entire trilogy (and prequel, EMILY) in a boxset via Amazon only


  1. That's all very interesting, V. I don't think having an agent is vanity publishing, though; agents are there to find publishers for you, as an alternative to self-publishing. But anyway, let us not split hairs!

    I wrote 9 or 10 novels before self-publishing; people reading/liking/buying wasn't an issue, then, but I do see what you mean; I would imagine that if I had written two parts of a series and they hadn't sold, I maybe wouldn't write the third. Getting sales changes you, I think; your criteria alters.

    It's interesting re the free/review thing. I do have reviews from free promotions, and I have reviewed books I've got free, too - to be honest I have so many books on my Kindle that I can't remember what was free and what wasn't; I just download as I see those I fancy, whether they're free, 99p or £2.50 (I won't go over £2.50 for a book from a self-pub I haven't tried before). So if I like a book, I finish and review it, if I don't like it I stop reading and it doesn't get a review, end of story. However - the sad thing is that it doesn't occur to most non-writers to review. You know, when you get that person on Twitter who says "I read Hybrid last week, really enjoyed it" and you wait to see if they're going to review... and they don't...!!!

    You're absolutely right, though. Getting noticed is getting harder and harder. It's getting to be a case of so many books, so little time. Everyone has TBR lists as long as their arms. You can only read one book at a time, after all!!!

    1. Tell me about it... one of the things I don't like about the kindle is when it tells you that a book is going to take 12 hours to read! I'm like, really? Ahhhhh! :)

  2. Hi Terry!

    Thanks for commenting... I might need to rewrite bits of this post.

    What I meant was that if you pay a publisher to prepare your book for publication then it is vanity publishing. Traditional publishing is of course via an agent and/ or publisher.

    If you pay for/ or do all the components separately, put it all together, and then publish it yourself then you are self-published.

    I know there are a lot of things I could have done better when I started, but I did not know any better. I feel a bit sorry for anyone coming in now. My advice is try to get an agents and a book deal before you go it alone.

    Anyway, you are a fab author! No idea why you have not been snapped up yet!

    Speak soon, Vanessa :)

    1. Oh, I get what you mean now, sorry!

      As for being 'snapped up' - you have to submit to be so, and I've only ever submitted You Wish and Kings and Queens to agents. Both of them got past the initial sample chapters stage to have the full MS read, but both times I was advised to re-write and resubmit - ie, change it into a different book. Wasn't prepared to do that. But thanks so much for the compliment. Getting an agent is really difficult - out of the thousans of submissions they receive per year, most agents take on less than 5.

      Yeah, yeah, there are a whole bunch of things I would do differently if I had my time again, too!

    2. I agree. I have not submitted my book to anyone since 2012 when I decide to self-publish. I might try again with my next novel, since it is a story that would appeal to many. You never know! :)

  3. Help! I'm feeling a little depressed because I don't want to think about the massive task I have taken on. It's such a mammoth feat to write a book and then you have to sell the thing. Well, I am selling mine slowly but I'm sure if I stop trying, then it will stop selling. I have a theory about why it is so, so difficult for writers to get noticed. Ebooks don't disappear. They stay in print, possibly forever. Each day new ones are added to Amazon etc and in a way this is not a good thing. How can anyone find anything? I noticed that there are 400,000 books available on Kindle so if you've ever been in the top 5,000 you are doing well.
    And, Vanessa, I don't think your husband is right. It's not vanity. It's just that publishing a book makes you feel very vulnerable and each accolade boosts your confidence. But you need constant top-ups or you get low again. We become like actors who need applause or they think no one loves them. Not sure why we do it, really!

    1. Linda, it's even more than that. There are something like 2 million Kindle books on Amazon UK alone. If you're selling and getting read outside friends and family at all, you're doing pretty well!

    2. As an author, I totally agree with you. As a reader, I love the promotions and free books. That's the trade off. I am able to read so much more than than I use to, and this is great. the question is how to find the books in the first place. Then again, think about how I came across yours! You were one of three people to send me a link when I requested a book to read on Twitter. I am so glad you did... but, the thing is the chances are there, like I have said in this post. If you are ruthless or determined enough then you will succeed. I have seen many authors do this. Review exchanges, constant promotions everywhere, attending reader groups. It can be done. I personally don't have the energy to do more than what I have done already :)

  4. I think if we manage to sell books then we should be happy.

    My biggest gripe is seeing some of the books in the top of the charts! HOW do they get there? I have read some of them and they are not ones I would think were worth of the "top 100" calibre... just call me the green-eyed giant!

    If I ever get into the top 100 FREE charts (I was close once) I will give up chocolate for a month - trust me, this is REALLY hard for me! :)

    1. Vanessa, I know exactly what you mean - I just read a book that's at something like 400 in the whole chart, and was Richard and Judy's pick, or something, and it wasn't that great. I've read better by self-pubs. Yes - it can really get to you, so I think you have to just try not to let it and do what you do anyway! That's what I and a couple of other writers (who are both brilliant!) were assuring each other earlier this week, anyway.... grrrrr!!! :D

      I have been at #1 in the free charts which got me to #24 in the REAL PAID chart, once long ago when there were hardly any Kindle books!!!!!!! But it didn't do me that much good in the long run - I just caught the end of it being easy. I think the bubble burst with the free promotions about two months after I had that success. I don't write mainstream so will never be likely to achieve anything like that again!

      The best thing ever is someone who has no agenda telling you that they loved your book and are really looking forward to the next one - I think we have to keep reminding ourselves of that xx

  5. I am reading one that was no.4 in the UK free charts and I do not understand how that happened! Well, I do... I suspect Bookbub!

    Well done for having had that level of success in the past. I missed that bubble by a whisker!

    I agree. Over the past few weeks I have had so much positive feedback that its given me hope. It has not reflected in loads of sales, but that is the way things are at the moment.

    We have to keep smiling and remembering what we do it all for. What was that again? Ha ha! :)