I read an on-line article by another author recently and nodded and uttered expletives throughout; this was exactly what I had been going through for almost three years. Initial optimism, followed by many hours of hard graft and no little expense, trying to make a measurable impact. This author had tried pretty much every avenue; had their fingers burned by false gods and as I read further, I was amazed that we hadn’t caught sight of one another in the past as we battled against the odds.
As a pensioner on a fixed income, Return On Investment is more significant for me than it may be for those younger writers looking to make a career out of this game. Every one of my marketing pounds is carefully targeted and wherever possible I look to ‘build my brand’ for free or at least on a shoestring. I’ve looked back at my outlay since I started writing fiction in early 2013. It’s over £2000 on my website, book tours, and third party ads and promotions. In other words, my ‘hobby’ costs me around £15 per week.
I looked too at some of the features this writer suggested were ‘things you should have’: – a compelling synopsis; a good cover, and a decent quantity of good reviews. 1. Okay, there might be a few flaws in my material, but we’re in the right ball park. 2. My covers aren’t too dusty and 3. Woah! He has well over 400 reviews on the first book in the series… How on earth do you get 400 reviews?
I’ve got 85 reviews across all my titles in 3 years. They average around 4.8*. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve sent about 300 free copies of my books to reviewers. As for the third party promotions and ‘fishing expeditions’ for reviews; whether they were via Reader’s Favorite, Story Cartel, Ask David, or Goodreads plus any of the various book tours I’ve paid for, I haven’t managed to get reviews from more than about half a dozen ‘real’ readers. My reviewers are over 90% ‘book people’ (writers, bloggers, reviewers).
My paid marketing with Books Go Social (largely using Twitter) has certainly got the word out about my name, my books and my brand. My latest book was circulated to BGS members late last month, as a ‘freebie in return for an Amazon review’. Sadly, the take-up was poor and with the best will in the world I can’t see 50 reviews for one of my titles, let alone 400, anytime soon. In fact, 25 is probably a step too far.
I think that a lot of what I’ve experienced is the same as the vast majority of indie authors out there. The difference is ‘visibility’.
I’m a Long Distance Author along with many others; I believe that I’m doing all the right things (within my budget limitations) but I’m so far away from the camera that you have a job to see me!
How do you get a decent quantity of good reviews? The BGS Review initiative is working without a doubt, but they’re pretty much all writers, bloggers and/or reviewers; the real upsurge in numbers can only come from ‘real’ readers. When I look at what reviewers say about my books it’s very gratifying; there are lots of positive comments. It might sound daft, but I’d love to get a dozen one-liners suddenly appear from people I don’t know that say ‘Loved it’, ‘Easy read’, ‘OK; glad it was free’, even ‘It sucks’. That’s what bulks up the ‘decent quantity’ and helps to move you up the rankings.
Fair play to those indie authors that can actually SELL books in large quantities, they obviously have a few more boxes ticked than the majority of us. Statistics show that Amazon (almost 50%) and Friends & Family (35%) were the big influencers on readers picking up on a series, or a new writer to follow. Only perhaps 2-3% is as a result of those third-party promotions. The rest is blind luck. So how on earth do you get your name to stand out from the multitude?
“I’m ready for my close-up Mr. de Mille” as someone once said, but without a miracle I can’t see any chance that he’ll hear my wee, small voice. All writing and book promotion has been suspended, or reduced to a trickle due to illness this month. I haven’t yet recovered enough to have the energy to tackle the problems outlined in this blog post.
The ‘black dog’ of depression that accompanied my illness is still sitting on my shoulder telling me to “Forget it, find another hobby. Nobody will notice if you walk away. You’re invisible. You’re a Long Distance Author.”
It’s hard to argue with the logic. No matter how good your characters and story-lines are, based on the reviews from the couple of dozen people you’ve got the message through to, you’re not reaching the people that count – the real readers. Money wouldn’t guarantee that, if third-party promotion can only influence 3% of the decision anyway. Nothing can guarantee it. So what’s the alternative? You could rely on sheer luck; hope that a few hundred readers suddenly stumble across your books when searching for a similar title or author name.
That’s my best shot I reckon; and it won’t cost me anything.