Friday, May 24, 2013

Promotion and the Indie Writer

What I'm about to say flies in the face of of pretty much every piece of advice out in the blogosphere for indie writers--too much promotion can kill your book.

Back in 2011 (yeah, the good ole' days, LOL), I was one of those writers who flogged the hell out of my urban fantasy books. I got a few sales that year, as in $180 $130 worth, but nothing spectacular. [Sorry for the typo; it was 180 books.]

That same year, a friend who was copy-editing Zombie Love said, "You know, that sex scene between Sam and Duncan is really hot. You should try writing erotica." So in February of 2012, Alter Ego put up her first erotic romance novella.

Other than exchanging samples of A.E.'s first story with copy-editing friend's erotic novella, I did very little promotion. I set up a website and a FB page linked to Twitter. I'd announce when a new story was available. That was it.

A.E.'s sales took off.

Some of purchases were because of the popularity of the genre, especially since the FSoG phenomena was still climbing. But that wasn't all of it. Basically, A.E. wasn't screaming "BUY MY BOOK!" from the rooftops like I was.

About the same time, I was inundated with Twitter followers, who would unfollow me if I didn't follow back within two days (or in some cases, two minutes). If I did follow someone, all they talked about was their SINGLE book. Indie writers would leave comments on my blog that had nothing to with my post, but plugged their books. Some of the folks in the grassroots marketing group I joined were sending out twenty or more items a day, and if I didn't re-tweet/re-post EVERY SINGLE ONE then I wasn't being supportive enough.

It got pretty damn annoying. So annoying, that I did very little social interaction or social media for several months. I stepped back and took a hard, HARD look at my own behavior. If what other writers were doing irritated the hell out of me, what was I doing to potential readers?

So I stopped being an obnoxious indie writer on all social media. Other than making the novella Zombie Confidential perma-free on retail sites a year ago, I stopped all promotion for my urban fantasy. Funny how sales picked up a few months later.

So what am I doing instead? I'm spending that former promotion time writing. I'm getting better at storytelling because like the old saying goes, "Practice makes perfect."

Okay, maybe not totally perfect. I can already see that Blood Sacrifice will be a much better book than Blood Magick, but by no means is it perfect. Otherwise, I wouldn't be rewriting it after ripping the first draft apart, but I'm getting to the point were I'm catching mistakes and flaws before they happen.

So what does better writing have to do with promotion? Your writing and storytelling abilities are your primary selling points. If someone likes Book A, they will buy the rest of your books. Also, putting out a new book and simply announcing it is the best advertising you can do.

How do I know this? A.E. released the fourth book in her BDSM series on May 8th of this year. Sales for her were averaging 3.1 books per day. Average sales for the last two weeks shot up to 9.1. Not all sales can be attributed to just readers waiting for BDSM Book #4. People are going back and buying the other three books in the series. And when they devour those, they are downloading A.E.'s non-BDSM books as well.

So what's the moral in all this? It comes back to the fabulous Wil Wheaton's Philosphy of Life: Don't Be a Dick.

Don't flog your book to death. Don't annoy your readers. Write more. Write better. Stay cool. Have faith in yourself and your storytelling ability.

Oh, and eat more chocolate!  ;D


  1. Yep, yep. I never did all that much promo, but I'm doing a lot less now, and writing more. I fully expect sales to pick up as I get new stuff through the pipeline. I've never believed that flogging the same stuff over and over in the same venues would do anything but tick people off. I figure, anything I'd be annoyed by, a bunch of other folks would probably be annoyed by too. Simple, right? [wry smile]


  2. I think it's too simple, Angie. People are still looking for that magic potion or ultimate secret to wealth and fame. It never crosses their mind that they're acting like dicks because all the other writers are acting exactly the same.

  3. Exactly -- everyone wants that secret handshake or magic formula. This other person's book is selling gangbusters and their book is selling four copies a month, so obviously there's something they need to be doing.

    Sort of the literary equivalent of security theater. [snerk] We have to be seen to be Doing Something!! whether that something has any actual benefit or not.