Indie Book Promotion-What Not To Do

It’s a little frightening, really. When you Google “tips for Promoting an Ebook,” the thought that something that worked as well as early as 2013 is outdated now. The indie book publishing market is evolving at a frighteningly rapid pace, and to keep up, you can’t take a bicycle. You have to take the express train.

When i first published “Ice” in September of 2014, oh, you would laugh at how ignorant I was. here was the first in a long of of “don’ts” that I am guilty of:

1. Sit back and twiddle your thumbs and hope your readers find you-I’m a notorious procrastinator, and I just assumed that if I had an ebook on Amazon, it would get downloaded at a breathtaking pace. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You know what they say…oh wait, I’m not done yet HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Ok, that’s better. As I was saying, you know what they say about ASSuming. So my next step:

2. Post a tweet or two and wait for the magic to happen.-Ok, I’m going to have to stop for a second because I’m in serious danger of busting out laughing again. You know how it is. You’re scanning Twitter and you see a tweet about a book. You think “that seems interesting. Wait, did I remember to pay the Visa bill?…” I made the mistake of ASSuming that an interesting tweet will automatically make people think “OMG, I have to have that book right now! Screw Visa! Screw my credit score! I have to have that book RIGHT NOW!” Sure I got a lot of favorites and retweets, but, unfortunately, retweets and favorites do not equal sales. So, what’s next?

3. Tweet the hell out of it.-Nope. Carpet-bombing Twitter and other social media sites had little effect on my sales but did a lot to annoy others. (And I still do it. Will I eva loin?)

4. Paid services, maybe?- I can’t speak for the success of many of them, mostly because my broke behind can’t pay $50 for a single mention in their sea of others. And some others have such restrictive requirements and/or such a long waiting list it’s like “Why bother?” I can tell you that Bookdaily sure ain’t worth the $50 a month. Which brings me to my next don’t:

5. An Email list, maybe?- As an Bookdaily author, I also get their emails. Guess what I do with them? I suspect most folks do the same, especially if they are free members. Do you really think that people are sitting there, anxiously awaiting the emails from BookDaily (or any other emailing list) to see what’s featured? Ain’t nobody got time for that. (another throwback from 2013. Damn, I’m starting to feel old.) People are busy. They are going to scan their inboxes and look for the important stuff. Things like “YOUR VISA BILL IS 30 DAYS PAST DUE’ are probably going to get their attention faster than my gorgeous cover and expertly-written blurb. Once the dizzied, panicked feeling subsides, they are probably going to delete everything else. Plus, you know how when you get the same email every day you tend to ignore it after awhile?

6. Sneaky mentions of your book into everyday conversations.-One site I read suggested that you set the autoreply of your email to “Working on my book-get back with you ASAP.” Well, maybe, but the people who email me already know I’m working on a book and the other is my work email (gotta keep the day job. The yungin’ still needs to be fed).  And go ahead and be honest. You’re not going to buy “Ice” after reading this blog, are you? Darn :(.

7. KDP Select- This might as well stand for Ke$ha Dance Party, because it’s soooo 2011. It may have been great back in the old days, when we still used MySpace. The concept was that people would download your book when it was free, get totally into it, and leave a smashing review. The reality was that people would download your book when it was free, remember that they had to pay the Visa bill, and forget your book was in their Kindle. In any case, neither of my free promo periods resulted in a single review in spite of over 1,000 copies being downloaded.

8 Book trailers?-Maybe. I haven’t tried this, so I can’t speak for its success. But my spidey senses are telling me a book trailer would be competing with a gazillion videos of cute kittens and wiggly babies. Plus, you have to have videos that are interesting enough that viewers will watch them til the end, and unfortunately, the Gem Sweater Lady set that bar hopelessly high. They cost a lot too, unless you are tech-savvy and can make them yourself (not I).

So, is there ANY hope at all for an indie author who has a yungin’ to feed and is 30 days past due on the Visa Bill (*whistles*)?

I have noticed that I had a spike in sales after a successful review exchange (which, please don’t argue with me over the pros and cons of review exchanges. I made a lot friends that way, which are waaay more important to me than sales. Yeah, go ahead and groan, but i mean it.). Here are my theories, which may lead to some new and creative ways to market until 2016 gets here.

A review exchange works because another person (not me) is representing him- or herself as a reader (not a fellow indie author) and talking me up on social media, a blog, a website, or my word-of-mouth (does that even exist anymore?) to friends. To test this theory, I chose a book that I reviewed in the past and asked the author if he would like for his book as Book of the Month. I then proceeded to scream his name (wait, that sounds wrong, let me backtrack) scream his title on the four winds of social media and invite people to join my Book of the Month club, where this title would get a month’s worth of undivided attention. I was surprised myself at how well my idea caught on. People are enthused and I was even able to gain a club co-sponsor. And the happy guinea pg, er, author is reporting better than ever sales. Soooo, my advice would be to:

1. Enlist the trust of a few supportive, gregarious friends. Instead of tweeting the hell out of your book and getting a warning from a Facebook group moderator (which has never happened to me. No, sir. Not ever.) have your friends scream your name  title on the four winds of social media (even better if they actually read the book hehehehe).

But, are people really flocking to read a title from a very talented but equally unknown author just because I told them to? Maybe it’s my magical power of persuasion? (Please buy “Ice.” Reading it will not only entertain you, but it will cause the acne on your butt to clear up). Or not. it could be the fact that I have offered to enter every valid reviewer into a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift card. So Tip #2.

2. Via your friends, offer some kind of incentive.- you can get creative with this, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be money. Are you bribing people to read your books? Absolutely. But be honest: do you get up every morning at 6:30 because you just can’t wait for an exciting day of grumpy customers and computer glitches? Just sayin…Just about everything people do is either to gain a reward or avoid punishment (whether extrinsic or intrinsic), so why not use any kick-in-the-pants method you can (legally and ethically) use? Provided it doesn’t actually involve kicking someone in the pants. They may not appreciate that.

But are people really flocking on my book of the month bandwagon for a slim chance of winning a measly prize? Hmmm.

3. People are joiners by nature so if you have someone scream your name title on the four winds, the group mentality may take over- So instead of having people promote your title per se, create a group for your book, and have your friends invite others to join it. Then the friends should invite their friends, and their friends, and their friends, and on and on. You can even offer some kind of incentive once the group reaches a certain member ship. The goal is to…

4. Create a captive audience-This is why Superbowl commercials are so memorable. The commercials themselves are goofy, but the viewership of the Superbowl gets attention for the product that it wouldn’t otherwise receive (and why people are still taking about Janet Jackson’s nip-slip). By having people join a group, you can create an audience that you can say “Hey! Check this out!” to. They may or may not buy your book, but they may be kind enough to refer your book to someone else. And you can then start getting them interested in your next book.

5. You have to continue to keep them interested, but not in a pushy way.- The fact that your friends have enjoyed your book so much that they are creating a group for it (hehe) gives your book that special “handpicked” feel. Would you have bought Divergent if you didn’t see a display of it every two seconds or hear you friends rave about it? Possibly, but the chances are greater that someone will buy your book if it passes the awesome-book-clearance-test (that is, someone on the internet says it’s an awesome book). But humans have an attention span that lasts as long as Lindsey Lohan’s periods of sobriety, so you got to keep giving them fresh material to keep them interested. Start having your friends post about your next book (which I should be working on, but I’m a notorious procrastinator) by giving sample chapters, teasers, book covers, giveaways, whatever works (I know nothing about releasing a second book, so I’ll save that for another post).

6. But you are asking your friends to do you a ginormous, possible career-changing favor. What’s in it for them?-A steak dinner at Longhorns? A diamond ring? Your undying gratitude? You’ll have to work that out with your friends, but in any case, NEVER forget to show your appreciation for those who support you and speak on your behalf. People remember things like that.

Now, please go buy “Ice” while I deal with this 30-day past due Visa bill and fix my yungin’s bottle. Aww, look at the wiggly baby….


7 comments on “Indie Book Promotion-What Not To Do

  1. My current plan is to hold hostages until 30 million copies are sold, but something tells me that may not be the best marketing strategy. You wouldn’t have any suggestions, do you? Keep in mind I’m broke as a joke.


  2. Jessica, your plans so far have been really inventive.I’m sure you’ll think of something really creative before your next book is ready to be published. What is your view of street teams?


      • Street teams are organised by various authors to promote themselves. They offer rewards such as goody bags and free books to their followers who win a promotion challenge. A challenge could be for each follower to get as many likes on their facebook page as possible. The one who has the most friends ‘liking’ wins the prize. There is a lot of controversy over their use and they were very popular in the 1970s, promoting music. I’m not quite sure which side of the fence I sit on this one. Those against street teams argue that the more successful the author becomes, their hard working followers feel their success is partly down to their efforts. If they then feel one of the members of the street team is receivng more praise or attention from the author than they are, they can become agressive and difficult to manage. Just as they’ve helped your success, they can easily cause it to crumble with their write ups and reviews. Another thing that happens is members writing reviews, just because they’ve prlmised the author they would, when they haven’t even read the book. Google street teams, there’s lots of informaton out there.

        Thank you for accepting the award. The requirements are on


  3. I’ve just been nominated for the ‘Amazing Blogger Award’ and in turn i’d like to nominate you. If you’d rather not do it, it’s fine. I know awards can be time consuming and you have so much going on. Cheers!


  4. That’s kind of the idea I’m working under. Authors promoting each other seems to work a lot better than self-promotion. Ian knows that he is a test subject in my experiment, but he’s happy with the sales he’s made. I can foresee a lot of problems with it (like you mentioned, writers who are not living up to their end of the bargain). Americans especially expect to be rewarded for everything they do (the joy of reading isn’t enough anymore; they have to be coaxed), so that’s why I offered the extra incentive. i say if it works and it’s ethical, use it.


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