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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Takes Money to Make Money

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 15 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

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Some of you might know, last year I made the transition from being a traditionally
published author to being indie published. I had the good fortune in 2008 to get signed by a major publishing house who pretty much took care of all of the marketing and publicity tasks and expenses, 
leaving me pretty much free just to write. I'm not saying I didn't do any marketing, but it was mostly responding to things they set up. 

And the best part? It didn't cost me a dime. 

Needless to say, that's not the case anymore. As an indie, it's all on me: the writing and all those tasks my publishing team used to do for me. It's added a lot more chores to my To-Do list. But more than just the extra time involved, I'm finding something else an even bigger challenge.

I've discovered I'm a cheapskate. 

I don't like to spend money (I guess I'm supposed to use the word "invest" here, not spend). I'm perfectly willing to work hard and "invest" my time (sweat equity) toward the cause, but I hate spending actual dollars on things like marketing. Can any of you relate? I tend to view my book sales as "my money," and anything that lowers or takes away my money is a bad thing.

I wrestled with this issue for almost all of 2015. It was a fairly good first year as an indie. I was able to publish 2 full-length novels (When Night Comes and Rescuing Finley) and 1 devotional (Perfect Peace) And I made enough income from them to keep writing fulltime, which was my main goal (although things got pretty tight a few times). 

In November, I began to read some things about marketing your books which began to chip away at this reluctance I've had to spend money promoting my books. The basic dilemma here newer books are no longer available in retail bookstores (and less and less people are even buying books there). If people can't see my books on the shelves, how will they even know they exist? 

Sure, I can get the word out to my followers on social media, but once that's accomplished, how will I get the word out to anyone else? 

I have a high degree of confidence that if readers cross paths with my books (somehow check them out on Amazon or my website), a significant number will buy them. I've put in all the hard work to create books lots of people want to read (this isn't really's proven out by the thousands of books I've already sold and the hundreds of great Amazon reviews I've received). 

Judging things by this scale, my 2 new indie books are right up there with my
traditionally published ones. In the past year, 
When Night Comes has received 223 Amazon reviews (avg 4.5 Stars) and Rescuing Finley (only out 6 weeks) has already received 38 reviews (avg 4.7 stars). 

But I've realized...the simple fact remains: If readers don't have any way of seeing my books, they can't possibly buy them. This has led me (forced me?) to accept that I have to create a budget for marketing and advertising. I have to spend money if I want to make money. 

So, I have. And guess what? It's working. I'll share some of the numbers with you. Last year, I (reluctantly) spent about $1,267 on advertising. I made $5,700 in sales off that advertising (not all I made, just what's directly connected to the ads). That means I made $4,333 that I'd have never received had I not spent the money for the ads in the first place (not to mention all the first-time readers I may have picked up). 

They say in advertising, a 100% return is money well spent. Meaning, if you spend $100 and make $200, it's a good ad. Keep using it. The right way to think of it is: I needed to spend that $100 to make $100 more. I could have played it safe and not spent that $100, but then I'd have nothing (kind of reminds me of a parable in the Gospels). In my case, I did way better than 100% last year (made almost 400% off my advertising efforts). 

So this year, I've decided not to be so much of a cheapskate, but to grow and learn how to become more effective at spending (investing) some of my book sales, so that I can earn a whole lot more in book sales down the road. 

Don't know if this helps anyone, but I know I wished someone would have shared this with me a year ago.


  1. As an Indie, I've been struggling with this same thing, Dan. I too am 'cheap', and hated to spend money on advertising, not knowing if I'd see any profit from it. You have convinced me though that I need to spend (at least SOME) money to make the sales, so I too will be doing more advertising in 2016. Thank you for the encouragement!

  2. I'm with a small press and must do my own marketing. I'm curious what paid routes had the best return for you. Will you please share?

  3. Good advice, Dan. I'm like you and reluctantly spend that money, but it's been worth it.

    Kimberly, I know I'm not Dan, but the top two places to advertise books are probably and After those two there are a ton of littler sites that are probably about equal. Digital Book Today, Free Kindle Books and Tips, Kindle Nation Daily (only use their email blast one), BookSends, and on and on. Hope that is helpful.

  4. Dan, thank you for speaking straight to the point. Some of who are new to indie really need to see the stats. I haven't made much on my trad-pubbed books lately, and they're going out of print, so the marketing budget is very low, but I see how it all works together.

    I'm with Kimberly: would you be willing to share some of the best ad sites with us? I appreciate the input from Lynette Bonner as well.

    Great post. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. Ruth, you are most welcome :)

    Kimberly and Janice: like Lynnette said, I've used many of the paid newsletter services (where you discount your book and pay them to notify their readers via email). BookBub is by far the best but hard to get with since they're so popular. Some other good ones: Ereader News Today (ENT), Many Books, Booksends (if POI is included). In the last 2 months I've been learning how to do ads through Facebook, which has been very profitable, but difficult to learn. For some reason, the process is overly complex (actually took a course to learn how).

  6. Thanks, Dan and Lynnette. I've tried FB ads, but you are right, it's complicated. I recently had one approved, it started to go out, then FB cancelled it stating there were too many words vs. the pics. I haven't tried since. It's good to know that FB ads work though. Thanks again!


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