Free to Eff Off

Unfortunately, my post today doesn’t hold any answers. Usually, blog posts surrounding a certain aspect of self-publishing offer the hint of a solution, like smelling something tasty in the oven. If you just wait, or read, you will get that wonderful treat. Well, I’m turning that oven off right now. I don’t have the answers, which, admittedly, is the problem.

Ever since I decided to self-publish, I have dedicated a lot of my time into researching marketing strategies for authors. I’ve read multiple books, more blog posts than I can remember, and I’ve listened to podcasts and interviews galore. A fair number have great advice (especially the books) and a large percentage have nuggets of truth.

The problem I find here, is that these nuggets of truth often involve the phrase “once you have multiple books,” and the most common advice: “Give it away free.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful advice, and completely true. People love free samples, and many readers will be me much more willing to take a chance on an author they’ve never read before if they’re not having to fork out for it. I understand it, I even subscribe to it as a reader… But as an author with only one book out… it sucks!

The most common advice I hear about marketing for authors is to make the first book in the series free (or incredibly cheap,) which will entice readers and drive sales for the rest of the series. When you’re releasing a new installment of said series, make the first one free. By making a book free, you receive visibility from Amazon ‘Free’ listings, and the like, which in turn pushes readers towards your new and full priced release.

Now, this makes complete sense, and is a wonderful sales plan. However, it is also mostly irrelevant when you have just released your first book… the time when you need new readers most.

The other problem is that the most popular and useful marketing websites for eBooks (Bookbub is a good example here, though not the only one, just the one I can remember the name of right now,)  will only accept your book if it is free or ‘dramatically discounted’. By this, it means that if your book costs more than 99p, you’re not going to get in. These websites receive a barrage of books to market every day, and I know multiple authors who have been turned down multiple times. So, even if you reduce your book to the lowest paid rate, you still might not get the attention you wanted.

Of course, these aren’t the only issues that require ‘free’. Goodreads giveaways, while creating a lot of ‘to reads’ for your books, and a great amount of excitement when you realise over 1,000 people have requested a copy, cost the author money. The books on Goodreads giveaways must be print copies, which means that the author not only has to pay for the copy, but also has to pay for shipping. If you want maximum exposure, your giveaway has to be worldwide, which can result in some heavy postage costs. I gave away ten copies, and at £9 postage a time for anywhere outside Europe (which was about 60% of my winners) the costs rack up quickly.

I’ve seen blog posts recommending only giving away one copy in a GR giveaway, but when you’re looking to grow your reader base (and entice reviewers) this can be slightly counter productive. The entries to sales (for people who don’t win) is minimal.

So, I think that’s what I’m after right now, a set of marketing strategies that don’t involve making my book free and don’t cost me a lot of money. Whether I can find authors discussing first book promotion techniques, or whether I start working on it myself through my experiences, I would like to see this. At the moment, the only option is social media – whether through blogging and guest posting, or facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc. Otherwise, you’re looking at forking out a lot of money – money you probably don’t have because you spent it on making sure your book is as good as it can be.

Or you could sleep with a celebrity. – Still working on this one.


NaNoWriMo Word Count: 25,755


About chelecooke

Self-Published author of the Out of Orbit series and the Teeth series. UCL Residence Assistant, obsessive cross stitcher, avid reader and TV show watcher.
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