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When I am not writing, I do endless research into marketing and the possibilities available to writers.

Recently, I have had several queries from writers asking my advice about various promotional companies and websites that offer services for authors. They are invariably costly and let’s face it, us writers aren’t known for bringing in huge salaries. Some don’t deliver at all whereas others do what they promise, but in the great scheme of things, that won’t be enough to get you fame and fortune.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a post I wrote for Indies Unlimited a while back but which is still relevant. There are more posts from me on the site and some newer ones that look at other ways of promoting your books. See whether you agree with what I discovered. Things have changed since I wrote the article below and I am working with another PR company. They had better be good or they’ll end up being written about here and on Indies Unlimited. (Don’t worry Ben – I have faith in you.)

To pay or not to pay, that is the question

When I finished my first novel, I foolishly believed that my work was over. I’d get it published, sit back and wait for the sales and no doubt, the film offer from a top director to turn it into a box office success.

The reality is somewhat different as many of us indie authors and indeed published authors have discovered.

But just how do we keep people interested in our work, long after it has been published and is gathering virtual dust on Amazon Kindle virtual shelves, or indeed in the garage where there are several cardboard boxes filled with the said novel, next to the barbecue set that comes out once a year?

You may be tempted to try any one of a number of sites to have a ‘professional’ help promote you. Don’t be too disheartened but I have discovered, to my cost, that many of these sites that offer to promote your works are actually pointless. I’ll confess that in my exuberance to become an established and well-recognised writer I have blown my son’s inheritance and tried a lot (yes, I mean a lot) of these sites which promise to get you and your novels exposure.

Now, these guys aren’t exactly ripping you off. They do what they say they will do. They do a decent job of displaying your wares and write nice words about you. They ‘shout  out’ about your work on Twitter to their legions of followers or facebook. They promote you as best they can, however, think about it…who are they promoting this stuff to? Probably other muppets like me who signed up to be promoted!

It gets worse now before it gets better, so stick with me on this.

I tried iBookPromo who made a wonderful advert for my book to push it to directors. Result? Nothing. No Martin Scorcese. No one.

I placed my book on various promo sites paying for advertising space. Did that work? No.

Next, either because I was having an off day, or I had in fact lost my marbles completely, I resorted to paying for a month of advertising on Facebook.  Sales = zero.

Being a Brit I was desperate to get US sales. I must have had too many glasses of Chardonnay when I made the next move – yes, I hired a PR company. (I can hear you inhaling in disbelief). I used our holiday money to promote my book, convinced it would pay off.

Well, I had a ball. I was a media darling. I was instantly in demand, catapulted to fame and was invited onto numerous radio shows. I had massive exposure on various websites. It was huge fun. Did my sales increase? No. No, I tell a lie, I sold two copies on Kindle thanks to the campaign.

Now there is a positive ending to this sorry tale. In spite of all the goofs I actually discovered a magical place where you can get exposure for your books for no cost. Your book sales will increase. You only need to be courteous and friendly.

While I was weaving about in ‘La La land’ I also sent copies of my book to various book blog sites. I had visited these sites when I was writing my own blog and had cultivated genuine friendships with the reviewers. I sent out emails asking if they would be interested in reviewing a book by me; most graciously accepted.

A reviewer on these blogs is an important ally. If they like your work they will write a good review. If they write a good review it often gets tweeted or mentioned somewhere in cyberspace or on an influential site like ‘Goodreads’.

Last week, unbeknown to me until my Google Alert went off, a ‘small’ book blog gave Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines a terrific review. Sales rose that same day propelling the book to #1 in the Kindle charts (category ageing) and it stayed there for four days.

So, save your money and cultivate your on-line friendships. They are far more valuable.

Article first posted on Indies Unlimited June 2012

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