Writer Wednesday—Cost vs Sales

I’ve been involved in a few online discussions recently about marketing effectiveness. Everyone has an opinion, and some have experience, and some just won’t even try.

Let me explain:

As an author, you have to promote your books. Who better? You wrote them, you know them intimately, and you have a voice. If you don’t do this, no one else’s efforts will be effective. You can’t hide; you can’t shrug it off. If nothing else, you owe it to the people who helped you write and publish those books.

Beta readers, publishers, friends and other writers who gave good or bad advice—all of these people have a stake in your books, either money or time or both.

And now you’re just sitting there, waiting for sales?

“But what can I do?” you ask.

Be consistent. That is the single best piece of advice I can give you.

If you blog every day for a month, and stop cold, you will lose readers and fans and potential book-buyers. If you post on social media ten times a day, that could happen too—people do get tired of seeing the same things all the time.

You have to find the happy medium and you have to stick with it. Post links to your books a few days a week; post personal/author/writer updates on most days. Blog consistently too, and post those links.

Side note: “consistently” in the previous sentence means on a regular basis, whether it’s twice a week or four days a week or whatever; make your content relevant to your career as an author and to your books. Have a topic, a subject, a theme.

Don’t stop, don’t take a break. You can’t afford to, unless it’s an actual vacation—I don’t usually take those—and you announce it ahead of time. I still think you could throw in a few updates, even on vacation.

Do small business owners take vacations? Not usually. They’re busy building their businesses. They work fifteen-hour days. Do you have a full-time job? That’s eight hours or so. You should at least treat your career as an author as a part-time job, so spend a couple hours a day, every day, on writing and promoting.

Promote your books every single day, in some form or fashion.

Be judicious.

Always check out websites and social media pages and Twitter feeds to make sure you’re getting bang for your buck—in this instance, “buck” means your time, because here I’m talking about free stuff.

Go to Alexa.com. Type in a site. See what their visitor count and bounce rate are. Decide if it’s worth your time to list your books. Talk to others on the site and see what their sales have been in relation to their listings. And of course, make sure it’s a legit site in the first place.

As for social media, it doesn’t matter a lick how many followers you have unless they’re engaged with your site and seeing your posts. All those “like me and I’ll like you” are pretty worthless. Sure, you can like a page if you’re interested, but all this will accomplish is to raise numbers that mean nothing and, on the flip side, will clog up your newsfeed.

Twitter, too. SO MANY people have Twitter accounts and barely use them. SO MANY spammers are on Twitter. Don’t follow them just because they follow you. Again, it clogs up your feed.

Join groups—not all, not ones with six members, be judicious. Be choosy. Join the ones who seem to know what they’re doing, and not even all of them. There’s a lot of information out there; pick the best. You can’t follow them all; it’s a time suck.

Or maybe you can get on a podcast or TV or radio show or blog. Great! But how many people watch/listen/read it? Something to consider . . .

Should you pay for promotion?

Some authors do, some don’t. Be careful. Re-read the section above. All businesses pay, at some point, for advertising. Authors are notoriously broke, but so are new business owners. You have to weigh the cost for the value.

Be judicious. Try a promo site for a month. Watch your sales during that month and the one after. How effective was the promotion? If it worked, do it again. If it didn’t, try something else.

A paid site came up in conversation this week. The cost was $15, reasonable even for most broke authors. The cost was for an email blast was sent to 110,000 potential readers. That breaks down to .0001 cent per person. That is a phenomenal example of cost effectiveness:

  1. You don’t personally know 110,000 people
  2. You likely won’t ever do an event that 110,000 people attend
  3. It would cost you $3,300 to purchase postcards to send to that many people, without even knowing if they were readers or might have an interest in your books. And that’s not counting postage.

Yes, it’s true that you might have to sell seven or eight books to break even, but if even far less than 1% of those people bought your book, you could easily do it. And they might not do it right away—it might be next month before they get around to it.

Once upon a time, we had a cleaning business. We placed a classified ad; cost was around $20, if I remember right. My husband was against spending the money, and he felt justified when we got not one single call about our services.

SIX MONTHS LATER a lady called and hired us to clean once a month at a rate of $100. We did that for two years. $2400 earned on an investment of $20. Not only that, but she told her sister about us: another job, weekly, at $50. Total of $5200. And, she hired us to work at her business, renovating and cleaning.

My point is that, with any kind of advertising, you may not see immediate results. Look at the big picture, six months, a year.

This book writing stuff, it’s a career, not just writing and selling books.