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Thursday, March 20, 2014

You Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em: Marketing & Advertising for the Indie Author, Part Two


By: Heather Day Gilbert

Last month, we looked at social media and personal ways to reach readers. This month, we're focusing more on paid advertisements and no-cost ways to get the word out on your novel.

As we did last time, I'll link to the contributing authors and their sites/books. Hopefully these posts will help as you make decisions on when to spend your bills...and when to "hold 'em." This series is by no means exhaustive, so if you've tried alternate ways of marketing/advertising, please comment below!

The consensus seemed to be to do as much or as little as you can afford.

Bookbub was consistently mentioned as being worth the advertising cost, but you have to make sure your book is at a competitively low price (say, 99 cents; or even better, FREE, which can seriously bump sales/reviews afterward), and you've categorized it in the right genre. ENT (E-reader News Today) is another site like this. Just know that these sites generally require a minimum number of Amazon reviews and are more selective about what they will pick up.

—Authors also said that although you might not get fast returns from paid ads, the result of consistent exposure to a book ad might pay off later. I have mixed feelings on Facebook ads, since in the interests of experimentation, I paid $30 to boost a Facebook post advertising a radio show I did with blogtalkradio. I was able to target it to the US, Iceland, and Norway (Viking haunts). I will say I might've gotten a couple new followers and a couple book sales, but I don't think I boosted the right post. It's probably better to boost one when your book is on sale for 99 cents or free. If you've done a paid Facebook ad, please comment below with YOUR results and suggestions.

This idea brought mixed responses; namely, that judges are quite subjective and feedback can run all over the board. If you're only looking for exposure and not feedback, I'd recommend free online contests, such as reader's choice awards or e-cover art awards. With these contests, you gain some exposure but don't have to pay to enter. As an indie, I have to ask myself why I am entering award contests, when my readers really don't care if I have awards in my bio or not. For me, it's not worth it to pay to enter contests at this point.

However, as of March 6, ACFW has announced that indies can be eligible for Fiction Finder and the Carol Awards (in 2015). Although there will be minimum requirements to meet, I feel this is a huge step forward for Christian authors as a group. I hope more contests open doors to self-published novels and novels produced by smaller houses. I think this will bring a wealth of previously undiscovered gems onto readers' radar. I could definitely see the benefits of entering a contest like that.

I think the key with contests is entering ones you know will reach your demographic/readership. For example, enter mysteries in a mystery contest, Christian fiction in a Christian contest, etc.

Sites such as The Fussy Librarian and eBooksoda deliver book recommendations to readers directly via email. Both are just getting off the ground, but I've already gotten feedback that one reader found my book through eBooksoda. They are choosy about genres they accept, but it's worth checking into.

Radio interviews and vlogs are another great way to gain exposure and connect with your readers. It's easy to set up a YouTube channel, so your vlogs can be centralized in one place.

I quickly learned that only certain book review sites will accept indie novels. Most larger sites work directly with publishers. But if you poke around the internet and watch who's reviewing authors in your genre, you can find individuals or sometimes larger groups willing to exchange a review for a free book. There are a couple Facebook review sites for Christian authors to connect with reviewers: Crossreads Reviewers and the recently established Christian Fiction Reviewers. An excellent post I recently discovered on all the ins and outs of finding reviewers was here at The E-Book Author's Corner 

There are also author co-ops that utilize NetGalley. I paid an author friend to use her slot for the month of February. I would just give the caveat that if you go with a co-op, make sure your genre matches what your group usually distributes to readers. I didn't garner large numbers of reviews, but I learned that one library might purchase it, so that was a win for me. I'll probably try this route again.

I have mixed feelings on authors doing freebies. I know it can generate early release buzz, but then again, you run into readers who aren't in your target audience and might give lower than average reviews. I'd love your thoughts below on freebies (as a reader OR an author). I have found some favorite authors via free Kindle downloads, but that generated no income for said authors. However, it did generate a loyal influencer who will spread the word and buy all the author's future books. Therefore, I am planning to do this at some point, if I choose to go with Kindle Select.

Nowadays, you don't have to look far to find the latest book giveaway, often complete with a free Kindle/ipad/mp3/Amazon gift card. I wonder about the effectiveness of these costly prizes. Yes, they draw a lot of attention and plenty of entries. But do they pay off in the end? 

Staci Stallings, co-founder of CrossReads, shares that CrossReads offers a $50 Amazon gift card with their Book Blasts twice a month, which links readers back to author sites and social media outlets, resulting in solid increases in an author's audience. However, an uptick in sales on featured books tends to correlate closely to the book's price point, with 99-cent and free books getting the most boost.

I've had mixed success with book giveaways on blogs...I would say 8 out of 10 winners will review my book and spread the word. But much of this just depends on how your particular book resonates with that particular winner. I've decided not to spend my profits on electronic incentives for giveaways. 

I'd also like to point out the importance of following through on your giveaways. I think many of us have had experiences where we've won a book and the author never made good on sending it to us, or finally it showed up five months later when you'd forgotten all about it. Now, maybe I'm just a gal indoctrinated with Southern ideas on courtesy, but I believe if you promise something and don't make good on it, you look like a liar. In other words, it'll reflect very badly on you as an author. If there is a good reason why you can't get that book out, offer a gift card or alternate gift. But at the very least, contact the winner and apologize.

As I've said in previous posts, Goodreads giveaways are a great way to get many people to add your book to their To-Read list, thus increasing your visibility on Goodreads. Some of those people will eventually buy your book, even if they don't win. But I'd just advise to offer at least three copies of the book and let your giveaway run a month so it will reach more people who might potentially share it with others and review.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't share this link to an older Author Media post on this very topic: 89 Book Marketing Ideas That will Change your Life. I have a feeling I'll be reading over and pondering each one of these options.

A huge thanks to the authors below, who contributed to this series. Names link to their author sites, titles link to their most recent books on Amazon. Thank you!

***Would love your thoughts/experience with advertising hits and misses. This is a place where we can help each other get ahead and make the most of our advertising budgets!***

Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as TwitterPinterestYouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God's Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. She plans to release her contemporary Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, on West Virginia Day: June 20, 2014.


  1. Loved the post, Heather and so appreciate you sharing what you've gleaned and learned! I caught a couple ideas I haven't utilized yet that's giving me the push to move forward (yet again! lol). Thanks much.

    As far a freebies go, I do think it will garner you fans for your books. Use wisdom when giving, but do search and weigh the rewards along w/the expenses. I've found people I've given to (for the most part) are super excited to get the free book and thrilled when I tell them what's coming next. :)

    I wouldn't rule FB ads out, but haven't found them super beneficial yet, and I've used them numerous times. FB is good at letting me know how many I've reached but haven't seen too much of an increase in sales. Still, persistent ads over time has to gain some attention. Perhaps that's what we should be looking at??

    1. Thanks for sharing, Carole! I do agree--freebies (especially for that debut novel) and giveaways are a great way to get the word out. I'm a little hesitant about giving away free to anyone, not just targeting my reader demographic, but I'm probably going to try it at some point in the future. I think giveaways on blogs, etc, is a great way to go b/c you really are targeting your audience that way.

      And yes, FB ads...just not sure on those yet. But hey, at least if we pay, we know people will see what we post on our author wall (as opposed to regular posts, which sadly don't get out to all our followers!).

  2. Hi Heather -
    Great post. I haven't heard of eBooksoda, but I'll have to try them. BookBub has been the best. I also place ads at Goodreads in conjunction with my 10-book giveaways before and during launch. That's an effective way to get book covers in front of readers. Last month I bought a "Thriller of The Week Spot" at Kindle Nation Daily. It was pricey, but really worked well. (Not as good as BookBub though.) Book Viral is another new and up-coming spot, especially if you want readers from the UK. Book Sends is good too. I think FB is good at getting the book covers in front of viewers, but I worry that they're spamming the people I know--whom I fear are sick of reading posts about my books.
    Glad to see you in the blogosphere, Heather!

    1. GREAT input, Michelle! Thanks so much for stopping in. You are an indie whose covers we recognize quickly b/c your marketing has worked! (Don't worry, we're not sick of it). I'd never heard of Book Viral, but UK exposure is AWESOME. I'm telling you, I really hear nothing but good about Bookbub, so it's definitely something worth looking into! Thanks again for the tips!

  3. Hi

    I've tried Bookbub twice and been rejected each time. They're very selective as to the types of books they promote. O

    1. I'm so sorry. I know it does help to have about 20 reviews or maybe even more, although I don't think it's a requirement. I haven't tried it myself, so I don't know the ins and outs yet. Have you looked at ENT as well? (link at the start of the post)? Not sure their requirements.


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