Sunday, December 15, 2013

Are Indie Promotion Strategies Failing?

Anyone who follows Kindleboards knows that this enormous site has become a virtual watering hole for all types of writers, particularly self-published authors. Over the past year, I’ve noticed growing discontent with sales numbers compared to the previous couple of years. It seems that giveaways and low prices aren’t helping sales as much as they used to.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the binge publishing syndrome that’s backfired on some indie authors. It’s the philosophy that publishing three or four a year will improve your odds of getting noticed and therefore improve your sales. I also reported a couple of writers’ personal experiences where this has not been the case. One of the primary reasons is that readers are understandably skeptical about the quality of books that are written and published in three months. But this isn't only reason for lagging sales.

In her blog, author Toby Neal says that traditional publishers have jumped on the deep discount bandwagon with the works of big-name authors, and that readers are right there with them. In fact, Neal clearly admits that she too purchases deeply discounted books and who can blame her for wanting to read Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwall, and Louise Penny for less than $3 or less? The downside, Neal notes, is that her sales have been cut in half since September, despite increased promotion efforts and great reviews. And this is what I’m reading on Kindleboards as well.

There might be other reasons for lagging sales. If you’re an indie author who’s looked for promotion venues, or an avid e-book reader, you’ve likely heard of BookBub. They claim to have two million subscribers who get the scoop on all sorts of time-limited free or discounted e-books. I’ve never used the site, but I’ve just signed up as a reader. Authors have complained about BookBub's strict criteria for listing books. Compounding the problem is that BookBub charges authors a lot of money (now apparently up to $500) to participate. Authors are finding BookBub less profitable and definitely less affordable.

But here’s another thought. I also read an interesting blog, more than one actually, addressing the relevance of doing the same type of marketing and promoting year after year; a similar trap that traditional publishers have been experiencing for ages. Indie authors see what others are doing successfully and the next thing you know tens of thousands have jumped on that bandwagon, making the strategy less successful. Giveaways and 99 cent books are two examples.

Promotion and marketing strategies need to change frequently. Authors need to think outside the box and come up with their own ideas, and not rely on others for their entire marketing program. Neal also offers good suggestions for improving sales on her blog. One thing is clear. Bookselling is more competitive than ever, and each of us will have to find new, creative ways to stay in the game.

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