Sunday, June 2, 2019

Book marketing 101: Why not to sell to other authors.

I'm a member of a bunch of indie author groups on Facebook, so I see this a lot: An author puts their book on sale and, with dreams of shooting up Amazon's bestseller list dancing in their head, immediately posts about the sale to every author group on Facebook to which they belong.

But a lot of these groups don't allow marketing posts at all. Or they limit the posts to certain days in threads specifically set aside for that purpose. Groups always, always post their rules -- either in a pinned post at the top of the discussion section, or in the About section, or (ideally) both. And still it happens.

I had to spike a buy-my-book post this weekend in a group where I'm an admin. I was in a good mood, so I tagged the author in a new post and explained what had happened to hers. Her reply was along the lines of: "But it's a free book! We can't post those in here, either?"

Well, no. You're still asking people to buy your book. It just so happens that the current price is $0.

Then it occurred to me that maybe folks don't understand why so many author groups ban buy-my-book posts. I'm sure a lot of folks think it's because the ads would clutter up the discussion, so that eventually, actual discussions would be lost. And yes, that's part of it. But the other part is that marketing to your fellow authors is not going to do your career much good.

What every author dreams of is a huge, dedicated fan base, made up of readers who will buy their newest book as soon as it comes out. Right? Well, the way to find these superfans is not to hit up a group of authors. Yes, authors are all readers (or we should be, which is a topic for another day) -- but we read, and write, in all sorts of genres. My books are mostly urban fantasy. Laurie Boris writes mostly literary fiction. Chris James writes sci-fi thrillers. K.S. Brooks writes both thrillers and children's books. Shawn Inmon writes speculative fiction and memoir. Leland Dirks writes contemporary fiction, often co-writing with his dog Angelo. J.D. Mader writes gritty urban thrillers. All of these folks are kickass writers, by the way, and if you haven't read their stuff, you should. But we'd have a tough go of it if, for example, we traded newsletter mailing lists to try to drum up more readers for our own work. Our fandoms might overlap, but not by a lot.

Even if you do make fans out of a bunch of fellow authors, it won't help you much at Amazon beyond that initial sale. Most indie authors are leery of writing a review for another author because the Zon has a habit of deleting such reviews -- especially if they can figure out the authors know one another. (You can still post a review of a pal's book at Goodreads, as far as I know, but getting involved at Goodreads opens another can of worms. I think a lot of authors are still steering clear of it, lest they say something that enrages somebody and cause their books to be showered with one-star reviews.)

And yes, putting your book on sale for free is still selling your book.

All that said, there are Facebook groups for readers looking for their next good book. Those groups would love to have you post there. There are also a host of websites and newsletters dedicated to book marketing; many of them cost money to advertise on, and some don't work as well as they might. The best way to find out what's working right now is to check out indie author groups on Facebook like 20 Books to 50K. Just don't post a buy-your-book ad there.

And as always, I recommend as the best website for indie authors.

These moments of bloggy advertising advice have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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