This is a follow up to my “nothing works” series on marketing your independent or small press book. Nothing Works was a series of three articles in which I talked about the many marketing methods I tried to get attention for my novel Angel, which was published in late 2011. The novel came with a $1,000 advance, and I put about $2,000 into promoting it over the past couple of years. I did “virtual book tours,” which were the most satisfying promotion but failed to create any spikes in book sales, print advertising, blog advertising, interviews and just about anything you can think of besides sky writing. (Hmm, sky writing. Now there’s an idea.)
The articles do a pretty good job explaining exactly what I tried and how each method ultimately had no measurable effect on book sales. The reason I decided to chime in again is that a strange thing happened. After writing in great detail about how nothing works, I gave up on promoting the book. I just got my most recent royalty statement an it seems the sales on the book have held steady. In fact, they are one or two books up from the quarter in which I promoted the heck out of it. So doing nothing seems to be as effective as doing something.
The only thing that I can come up with to account for the fact that deciding not to promote at all led to no drop in sales is that it is only word of mouth that sells books and that word of mouth isn’t something you can create through promotion. I did a bit of math and if my book continues to sell at its current rate I will have earned out on the advance in about 2018.
The not doing anything marketing method has worked for my blog as well. Yesterday Word Press notified me that it was my two year blogging anniversary, so I decided to do some analysis of my stats.
I see a lot of articles on building a writer platform and how to drive more web traffic to your site. I created this blog initially with the intention of writing things that were related to my novel. Although I hate to think about writing in terms of branding and so on, I was aware that I needed to have enough focus to give an audience a reason to “tune in” as it were. I have a blog that is dedicated to the topic of my non-fiction book Broke is Beautiful. It started as a platform for the book before that, Schadenfreude, Baby but I changed its name and focus when I had a new topic to discuss with readers. I assumed that people who were interested in Broke is Beautiful would be interested in the topic, not the author.
My problem, as an author, is that my books are highly eclectic. On the non-fiction side, I have written on a wide variety of topics and I can’t assume that a reader who is interested in my book on Elvis impersonation will also, necessarily, care about the 100 Most Dangerous Things in Everyday Life. Shifting to fiction really threw a spanner in the marketing works.
So what began with a certain focus has evolved into a place where I write about topics that happen to catch my interest. My interests relate to a lot of the fiction and non-fiction projects I am working on, of course, but not to any particular book that I am plugging.
In spite of this, the number of readers of my posts has steadily grown. When I started, I was lucky if three people read one of my posts. Now I get 20 or 30 on a typical day with occasional spikes up to a couple of hundred in a day. I do nothing to court readers of this blog. I just write.
When I look at the stats on the site, I realize that longevity is the key. The people who read posts are not necessarily followers. The posts that have been seen most frequently are accessed by people who go looking for something using a search engine. My old post on Lord Alfred Douglas is accessed by someone almost every day. This is because people are interested in the poet, not because they are interested in me. What seems to happen, though, is that at least a certain number of people who find articles this way click around to see what else I have written and find enough that is of interest that they decide to follow or to check in again. The number of visitors who come to my blog by accessing the front page has grown consistently.
Essentially the only thing that has worked for me when it comes to getting attention for my writing is not trying.
As a marketing strategy, I have to admit it’s kind of lame.