Monday, 28 April 2014

#Marketing: More important than #Writing?

To be honest I wonder if that has always been the case. There are many, many authors out there all clamouring to get their works in front of as many readers as possible. Sometimes if feels like there are more authors than readers on many of the social networks, and that's a pretty depressing situation if you are trying to persuade people to buy or even just read your books. The situation only seems to be getting worse as more people try their hand at self-publishing.

It seems that everyone and their dog has written a book and wants me to read it. The quality threshold enforced (to varying degrees!) by traditional publishers no longer applies and now it is a minefield for readers. Ratings and reviews can be, and often are, faked. This has led to a slightly distorted experience for both readers and authors. For example I've found that having a single good review is worse than having no reviews, as people seem to assume that the good review is just written by me. It went from a few sales per week to almost nothing at all as soon as the review was posted. (See more...) I suspect that potential readers assume that a single good review was probably posted by the author.

I know some readers simply won't bother with indie authors because they have been burnt in the past by poorly written or unedited work.

Marketing is a tricky and ever changing area that independent authors simply must learn if they want to sell books. Sadly it seems that charisma, marketing and salesmanship have become more important than the actual quality of writing. Just coming up with a good story and writing it well just aren't enough, if they ever were. It often appears that skill with social networking is vastly more important than any literary abilities.

I don't actually have statistics to back this up, but it certainly appears every month sees more and more budding authors entering the market and trying to sell their wares to a market which is simply not expanding as quickly. Standing out from the crowd keeps getting more difficult and simply writing better probably isn't going to make the difference.

If you want to sell your own books you either need to work extremely hard or have a lot of luck. I don't believe in relying on luck. Long before you publish your first novel, it is important to grow an online following on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and as many other suitable social networks as you have the time to work on. Especially at first your efforts will seem like a waste of time. Having a few dozen or even a few hundred followers is not going to make any difference. Ideally you want to be able to measure your social following in 1,000s or 10,000s.

If you post a link to your latest release on your profile/stream/feed don't expect 100% of those followers to immediately click on it. If you get 20% to click the link you are doing very well. Most people I've spoke too reckon than between 5% and 10% is much more usual if your followers have chosen to follow you because they are interested in your work. If you have gone on Facebook and joined posted "Follow Me!" messages in loads of the groups dedicated to building followings as fast as possible, then your click through rate is probably going to be closer to 0.5%.

Now factor in how many of those people will actually continue on to purchase the book (10% if your blurb is excellent and cover eye-catching) and even thousands of followers will only lead to a handful of sales. If you have followers measured in the 100,000s then decent sales will follow.

Of course it's not this simple. There are many factors that affect your sales, but if you have not thought through and prepared your means of promoting and marketing your novel, then just being an excellent book is not going to make it a best seller.

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