Hard Lessons Learned-My Experiences as an Author

Writing, like anything worth doing in life is challenging and filled with daily lessons.  One lesson became painfully obvious despite my many attempts to ignore it. I am on my own when it comes to marketing. I research quite heavily on how to market a book.  Many people suggested outsourcing marketing such as hiring bloggers to share or review your work.  There are an innumerable amount of people and “companies” on Twitter who are willing to Tweet books and/or put you in their email list to their “many” followers.

Like most authors trying to build a brand, I’ve had a hard time with marketing.  The feedback I’ve gotten on my books from people I trust has been largely positive.  However, giving out books for reviews rarely produces any reviews at all.  So many people say they would love to write a review but when it comes to committing, they simply don’t show up to prom.  To further that metaphor, I’m left alone on the dance floor without a date that swore to Heaven she would show.  This is even after treating her like a princess and picking her up, she just slips away quietly right after we enter the school.

I feel like everything I’ve done as far as marketing is concerned is met with similar results.  My wife and I tried to hire a marketing team, but even with the prospect of paying company several hundred dollars they still took weeks to respond and never met their deadlines.  It’s beyond infuriating when I’m told I will get a response by Friday of this week and I don’t hear anything until four weeks have gone by and I contacted this person’s boss.  After this I felt depressed.  I am still learning how to find my audience.  I need someone to come along side me and work with R. Michael Books long-term.  I also got desperate.  Desperation never results in good judgement.

I decided to reach out to a blogger who writes book reviews who initially contacted me.  I researched this person and could not find anything bad about her and her site was professional and looked legitimate.  I did research on whether authors should pay bloggers and one site suggested it is a good way to get exposure as did a few others.  In my desperation I became convinced and decided to hire this blogger. She seemed professional and was always kind in her emails, so I ignored my reservations.  She did produce a review on her blog, but it was obvious that she hadn’t read my book.  It was just a bunch of flowery platitudes that were carefully crafted to stroke my ego, most likely in order to win a repeat customer. I decided to dig deep into Google and try to find ANYTHING I could about her other than what her website says.  Lo and behold I found a KDP thread where a few authors detailed a similar experience with this blogger.  I then carefully read through her blogs and they were all the same.  Overly flattering to the author, she was reviewing.

I tell of this experience because I learned a few things.  NEVER pay for a blogger to review your work.  No matter how reputable he/she may be.  The blog I purchased wasn’t technically for a positive review, and the site owner claims to only charge to help her family.  I also know as someone who has a few websites that they are expensive to keep operational.  It is frowned upon to pay for reviews in the literary world.  I honestly didn’t realize that until it was after the fact and I did more reading on the topic, which meant going more than a few pages into Google.  This review is utterly useless due to the nature of how it was designed to flatter me more than actually giving an honest look at my book.  Initially I justified this in my mind because there are large companies that review books for several hundred dollars.  Well-known companies and I found it odd that paying them is considered professional but not a blogger.  Honestly, I don’t think either are all that helpful.  As authors when it comes to getting reviews and selling our books it is based on time and hard work.  Throwing money at the situation doesn’t solve the problem.  I’ve learned my lesson, and if you are an author too, learn from mine as well.

A New Marketing Approach

I’ve said it before, and it still holds true, marketing isn’t my strong suit. The idea of convincing someone else to buy something is difficult. However, after giving my current modes of marketing some time, I’ve decided that this year is when I need to shake things up a bit.

It is time I finally paid for advertisements, but that is a project in and of itself. Finding what works, what doesn’t work, how much the ad bid should be and everything else that goes into it is something that takes time. Along with that I’ve been searching for independent bookstores to sell my works. Along with that I’m rethinking my approach to social media, and even deleted some accounts. I realized I relied too heavily on social media, when it is in fact best for growing an author’s brand, not driving sales.

The final part of my new marketing plan is to seek out more reviews. That I the tricky thing. I have given away several copies for free in exchange for reviews, only to never actually receive the review. I hate beings nag, or sounding desperate so I sent reminders out once, and that was it. If anyone on here has advice on how to get people to write the reviews they promised to give, please let me know. Also, if there are authors that read this, I will do a review swap with you. That way we both benefit from each other’s time. You can contact me in the comments or via email: goandria@outlook.com

A Note on Marketing

I have said before that marketing isn’t my specialty. Honestly, I need help, as in a professional to come along side me who is honest. I have had friends and family come along side me and give awesome tips, and combined with my own research I’m fairly well-armed. However, that doesn’t mean that I always know how to implement what I learned, and even when I do it doesn’t seem to work very well. I’m willing to pay someone to help, but frankly I’m very suspicious of all the book marketing sites on Twitter. It is particularly alarming when someone clams to be awesome at marketing and when I check out her amazon page she has less reviews than I do and hasn’t sold a whole lot more than me either.

Sadly, this is something I have found to be rather common on Twitter. Hundreds of people or companies claiming they can sell books grunted, but there is very little information on how they are going to sell the books. Meanwhile I’m trying to improve my writing and marketing skills all at the same time. It’s been a fun journey, but I think the time is coming where I am going to need to get even more serious about marketing. Like anyone learning the ropes I made several blunders. It isn’t easy convincing total strangers they should by a book from someone they never heard of, and that is completely understandable. You don’t know the quality of the book I wrote or anything really. You can read the blurb and check it out on the website, but you won’t know how good it is until you buy it.

The other issue with book marketing is literally every author has a “formula” that sells books and as one can imagine the information often contradicts between sources. It is horribly confusing and at the end of the day all I can do is see what works and what doesn’t. So if you are an author like me, hang in there, selling our books takes time and it is often a painfully slow process.