A Methodical Way to Marketing (Guest Blog)

Writing takes a community, sharing ideas and supporting one another. So, when we get approached with an article that shares hard-earned knowledge, we couldn't be happier to pass that information.

Today's post is written by Joynell Shultz. Joynell writes speculative fiction, venturing into the realms of cloning, medial research and vampires (but not all in the same story). As an independent-published author, she knows a thing or two about marketing, and she is learning more all the time.

Take a read of some of the insights into marketing books that Joynell has gained over the years.

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A Methodical Way to Market Your Novel

In 2011, Smashwords published survey results titled How Ebook Buyers Discover Books, and it made me question my book marketing efforts. By knowing how readers find their books, could we approach book marketing more scientific?

Pie Chart from survey conducted by Smashwords in September 2011.

Many independent authors spend a lot of time and effort focused on one advertising strategy, such as trying to get on a bestseller list. According to Smashwords, only 3% of buyers find books this way.

So, how should you market your book? I broke this pie graph down by category, arranged by most popular method to least, and began to list ways to connect with readers in the mentioned category.

It makes sense to direct marketing efforts towards the most popular category, with the biggest opportunity to connect with readers, and the method that takes the least amount of time and money.

So, my thoughts on where to dedicate your time and advertising dollars using data and my own experiences are below…

Recommendations from fellow readers on online forums, blogs, message boards (29%)

I’ve always blown off blog tours…but here’s a big example where they may be beneficial. The key is appearing on blogs that actually have readers. A tool you can use for this is installing the Alexa Traffic Rank. My own blog ranks in at about 2 million. (I’m small, but there are a lot smaller ones out there.) Amazon ranks at eleven. My gut tells me I want to spend my effort on blog tours with a lower Alexa ranking (lower number) than my own site, with an obvious goal of hitting a gold mine ranking as small as possible. Now, this may not always be true. A blog with dedicated readers that match your genre and that are active is so much more important than raw numbers. Check out likes and comments to see how engaged the readers are.

I’ve also found a lot of readers through Facebook groups I’m active in. I’ve been staying away from the “buy my book” groups, though some authors have some success with this, but I focus on ones where self-promotion is generally not allowed. Same for Goodreads groups. I find the key to be proving valuable information and not sounding like a sales person.

Does social media fall into this category? Some, but announcing “buy my book” endlessly on twitter, probably won’t help you and just annoy your existing audience. Some authors have success with Facebook ads. I found that they suck your money away quickly.

I believe the paid advertising (newsletter subscription sites) like Book Bub fall into this category, too, but you need to be careful. For many of them, you’ll never recuperate the costs of advertising from sales, though an excellent book and cover will help. Only do what you can afford.

I look for my favorite authors (18%)

Yeah, the goal is to become everyone’s favorite author. My main blogging theme this year is finding 1000 "True" Fans as a step for people to find me…to give me the chance by reading my writing, and hopefully, I can become one of their favorite authors. A girl can dream, right?

A key point here…and in all the categories is you need to write an awesome book!

I browse randomly then look at reviews (7%)

Working on getting your book discoverable through browsing, with selecting good keywords, a desirable book topic (For example: my book on vampires is doing so much better than my book on clones. Why? Perhaps nobody’s searching for “clone books” but many readers search for “vampire books.”)

Also, this is why I send out advanced reader copies. I love having reviews on my books on launch day as a little extra to ensure readers that my book is worth spending 99 cents…or $2.99 on.

I browse book covers, and if it grabs me, I investigate further (7%)

Never judge a book by the cover, but if a cover lures 7% of readers, it’s worth spending marketing money creating one that shines. I’m still learning this, the hard way.

I read free ebooks, and if I like the author, I buy their other titles (5%)

Using services like instafreebie or BookFunnel, and cross promoting with other authors, is a way to get some free content out there. I’ve done okay with a free 10% book sample or some short stories. Right now, I’m experimenting with “free” days on Amazon for one of my full-length novels. Many authors have a permanent free book lure.

I’m finding that the problem with this is there are so many free books out there, many readers are getting used to getting all their reading needs met for free. It makes it hard to pay for an editor and a cover when you’re giving your stuff away.

Also, for this “free” method to work, you need to have more books out there for readers to find.

Retailer recommendations (including “people who bought this bought that”) (5%)

This is a reason to pay for advertising even though you’ll lose money, and also an argument for discount pricing. It gets your book on other book’s also-boughts and you end up with more visibility for surfing customers.

Personal friend/family member recommends it to me (4%)

Yeah, I’d think this category would be higher, but how many of your friends and family love the same genre as you? But, there’s still a 4% success rate here. Again, the key is to write and awesome book and get it in reader’s hands with hope they recommend it to everyone they know.

I’ll sample anything, and if it grabs me, I’ll download/buy it (4%)

Make sure your first pages are amazing! I read the first few paragraphs in a sample before I download to see if it grabs me. I frequently find the writing style does not match my reading habits, the grammar is terrible, or there is way too much back story. Tip: It’s worth hiring a professional editor!

I browse paper books at brick and mortar bookstores, then search for the ebooks online (4%)

Good luck. The benefit of being traditionally published or publishing though a wide distribution channel is getting physical copies of your books on bookshelves. I have no secrets to wide distribution since I haven’t tried it yet.

One option would be to approach your local bookstore. Many times, they’re happy to host a local author’s books.

Another tip is to look for alternative venues. I sell my books at my parent’s zoo. Not a traditional bookstore, but I move copies. It’s true that people like to pick up and see your book…and love local authors. (I’ve seen local books at coffee shops and other little boutique stores.)

Bestseller lists for my favorite genres/topics (3%)

I would have expected this to be much higher. Focusing on all the other methods, hopefully get you on the bestsellers list. Here is another argument for discount pricing, at least initially, to build your ranking up.

Also, if you sell enough books, at some point the retailer you publish through (such as Amazon) may pick up your title and start doing some advertising for you.

Reviews/recommendations from traditional media (newspapers, televisions, magazines) 3%

Oh, the power of a press release, especially if you ride out that local author angle. This is worth experimenting with. I’ll be keeping this in mind with my next release. It may be only 3%, but it should be an easy thing to do.


Overall, I think marketing is a multifaceted avenue. Working down from the top of the list and approaching marketing from many angles will help find readers.  A common theme with any type of book marketing is that it’s worth doing the best you can with the following:

  1. Write an awesome, awesome, awesome story. (If your story’s bad, it won’t go far in any category above.)
  2. Have it professionally edited. (If people are turned away in the first few paragraphs/pages, you’re out of luck.)
  3. Get a fabulous, eye-catching, genre specific cover. (No matter what, a cover makes people at least look at your book.) Also important is crafting a stunning blurb.
  4. Write more books. This keeps your fans happy and helps you build more.

Good luck! Before publishing their first book, most independently published authors had no idea how much of their time would be spent marketing their finished book. Taking a methodical approach to marketing can help minimize time invested and maximize benefits. I’m far from knowing the magic bullet, but I keep trying things, hoping for some long, sustained success. I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with many different ideas to promote your novel, and if you know the trick, please share. I’m sure everyone would love to hear.

About the Author

Joynell Schultz spends her days working in a “reliable profession” as a veterinary pharmacist, which pays the bills, but isn’t nearly as exciting as creating alternative worlds writing speculative fiction or blogging about her journey. While shivering through the long northern Wisconsin winters with her husband, two children, and numerous pets, she enjoys reading, writing, and planning her next vacation.

Her book, Love, Lies & Clones, is a futuristic thriller, touching on cloning, medical science, and love. You can check out this book, and her others, on her Amazon author page or by visiting her blog.

Guest Blogging for Black Wolf

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  1. I approached one of the local locations of a chain bookstore. Their process for accepting a local author includes the author, not the local location, sending the book to their national headquarters and if you’re lucky — BAM! — they’ll approve it for their shelves. I have much better luck with local stores, both new sales and used sales. Interesting that the word “library” doesn’t appear in this at all.

    • I have to admit that for my personal work, I have given up on the local brick-and-mortar stores. Within New Zealand, getting into local bookstores has always been difficult — they want traditionally published only. And don’t even get me started about the traditional publishing arena in New Zealand. But for writers in New Zealand, focussing on just New Zealand sales is career suicide. The real markets for genre fiction are USA and UK.

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