In one of our recent video chats, I said that indie authors should not pay for advertising. Susan disagreed with me, and cited her own positive experience with advertising.
So, let me correct myself: I wouldn’t say that indie authors should never pay for advertising. If you have the funds and the inclination, by all means, pay for advertising. As Susan explains, it absolutely can work.
I’m writing this for a specific group of authors: those who don’t really want to advertise, but feel like they ought to. I’m not saying you absolutely shouldn’t; I’m just giving you permission not to.
Advertising is key in markets where there are a few big firms that are competing against each other. (The technical word for this is “oligopoly.”) Coke vs. Pepsi, Sony vs. Microsoft… big companies that compete with branding need advertising.
We in the indie book biz are not big companies. Advertising is important in markets where there are a few sellers and a bunch of buyers. I don’t think anyone can claim that describes the indie book market.
Obviously, getting readers is important. But what’s the best way to do that? I’m not convinced it’s advertising. I’ve had a lot more success finding readers from people who read my blog than I have from advertising. In general, social media has proven to be a far better way of reaching readers than advertising has.
And there’s another issue with advertising books: the most successful ads will tend to be for books that have the most eye-catching covers. And while many indie authors are capable of writing better books than the big publishers sell, they are not always able to afford the same level of cover design. So, unless you happen to also be an excellent designer yourself, or know someone who is, the deck is always going to be stacked against you in advertising your book.
Again, if you have the funds and feel confident that advertising is something that will help sell your books, then you absolutely should do it. I’m just saying that if you’re hesitant, or if you don’t have a lot to spend on it, don’t feel like you have to.
I think a lot of this goes back to one of the other things we’ve talked about … what is the author’s objective. As we discussed, I tried some promo sites for Bridgeport and it worked out for me. I tried it with other words since, and it hasn’t. One of the issues I have with the promo sites I’m aware of is that they require discounted or free to promo your book. So, basically it’s just another way to drive down the prices of indie books to a point where, even if you get readers, you don’t make much money. And isn’t that the point of advertising? Not just readers, but also … profits!!
If I end up self-publishing The Dime (which is likely), I plan on a mix of things. More of a social media effort, more of an effort with local resources, and more promo sites. I would really like to see if it’s possible to do a mix of things and get more readers.
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I admit, I’m prejudiced against advertising, especially the intrusive sort (I’m looking at you, WordPress!). As someone who pays WP not to paste ads on my blog, I hesitate to inflict ads on others (and pay for doing that). Remembering what Susan and Mark said, it does make some sense, but I’d have to drag myself into advertising kicking and screaming. And I’d rather not do that, so your reassurances are most welcome, Berthold.
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I’m experimenting with Amazon advertising. A minimal outlay has shown real uplift in sales. So worth doing, but you do need to get help to do it properly. (An earlier self-guided attempt meant a small but significant sum totally wasted.)
As for covers: I have a wonderful cover designer who charges well under £100/cover. Regardless of whether or not the covers pay for themselves, I like seeing my books looking professional and aesthetically pleasing.
If you are happy just to write and getting read is no big deal, then don’t advertise. If you want readers, it can help. And, to put this in context, I wrote a book (Back Home) that received some lovely reviews. I was very proud of it. Its publisher gave it no support and I doubt if it’s sold 50 copies. I cried myself to sleep over that. This summer I will republish it with proper support. I am reasonably sure that its going to get some sales. (Please note that until I republish it, ‘Back Home’ is no longer available. Wait until summer!)
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Ooh, sounds good. I’ll look for that in summer. Thanks for the comment! 🙂