In 2011, when I landed my first (very modest) publishing contract, my publisher’s first piece of advice was “Create a blog. Build a following!” So, I religiously posted book reviews, author interviews, and giveaways three times a week for three years and gained nearly 3,000 followers. The problem, I soon discovered, was that just because someone follows me doesn’t mean they will ever read or even see my blog posts. Today, on average, about 40 people read each of my posts. That’s about 1%.
I’ve had a similar experience with Facebook, where my posts are seen by about 30 out of my 2600 followers each day. I even tried buying Facebook ads. (Why I have to pay FB for my posts to reach my own followers is incomprehensible to me). The results – Nothing. Just a lot of money down the toilet.
Twitter and Instagram – the same.
But what about virtual book tours, where you pay $50 – $100 for a few dozen blogs to post info about your book? I’ve tried those too, lots of times. Again – Nada.
I’ve had the best results so far with E-newsletters. Newsletters go directly to a reader’s inbox. People are forced to acknowledge its existence by either opening or deleting it. I offer a free download of one of my books when people subscribe. In the past year, I’ve managed to gather about 2800 subscribers. I started with MailChimp but was only getting a 20% open rate. Now I’m with Author Reach and am averaging about 38% open rate with 10% click rate. Not great, but not bad considering that means around 900 people are opening my emails, and abt 300 are clinking on the links. Way better results than I ever got with FB or blogger.
Here’s the big question that no one likes asking: Why do authors pour so much of our hearts and souls and time and money into social media? Let’s be honest here. The answer isn’t to interact with our fans or to share our inner minds with the world. It is to sell books. We connect with our fans and with the world because, in the end, we want to sell books.
Over the years, I’ve shelled out hundreds of dollars for online seminars about how to be a successful author. I’ve gone to countless conferences where I’ve networked with agents, authors, and publishers. I’ve built a large so-called fan base on social media. And yet the results have been dismal.
In the face of (dare I say it?) failure, I am forced to ask myself another question: WHY?
Is it because I’m a terrible writer? Do my books suck? I often think so (don’t we all?), but my books have won a slew of awards and get pretty good reviews. So, they can’t be all that bad.
Is it because there is too much competition? Definitely part of the problem. There are just way too many books out there vying for a limited number of readers’ attention.
But some authors are actually making it. Some authors are rising to the top. People are buying and reading their books by the hundreds. In a good month, I’m lucky if I sell half a dozen copies.
So, what’s the solution?
Let’s take a look at some of today’s successful self-published authors (and some traditionally published as well). They don’t rely solely on selling or promoting novels for their income. Many connect with readers in other ways. For example:
Mark Dawson has a weekly YouTube vlog called Self-Publishing Formula, where he interviews authors and discusses the business of writing and also offers several online training courses.
Susan Kaye Quinn has written and published several “How To” books for writers, such as 10 Step Self-Publishing Bootcamp.
Hope Clark, author of the Edisto Mysteries series, produces the highly successful newsletter FundsforWriters.
And Hugh Howey, writer of the best-selling sci-novel Wool, has a successful blog offering encouragement and useful tools for self-published authors.
When it comes right to it, to be a successful author these days takes more than just writing and promoting books. Success is most likely achieved when an author takes a multi-pronged approach and offers something other than great stories to their readers. They provide information and services people want.
In his book Millionaire Success Habits, New York Times author and business mogul, Dean Graziosi, says: “Sell people what they want, and give them what they need.” In other words, true success in book marketing is about building relationships. Sure, sell them your books (what they want), but first, give them something they need (information). Then, in time, your fan base will grow.
At this point, I am focusing on increasing the number of subscriptions to my newsletter, a monthly listing of cash giveaways, book sales, reviews, and more. My aim is to provide content of interest to my readers. Then, hopefully, when I release my new book later this year, some of them will order it and share the news with their friends.
Additionally, I’m developing my co-op publishing business, Skyrocket Press, which connects authors with top notch editors, artists, and designers at rates self-published writers like me can actually afford. By providing a needed service, I’m not only promoting my own books, but other authors’ books as well.
What works for you? Share your suggestions on how to better connect with readers in the comments below. I just might give some of them a try.