Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Year Of Trying (Or An Introvert's Feeble Attempts At Marketing)

After my debut year, I have to admit I was a bit down on the, er, seemingly downward trajectory of my writing career. My publisher wasn't interested in anything else I was proposing to them. My book just wasn't selling well enough to convince them to want more from me. I have a novel that's been on sub almost a year in the US without any signs of a sale (Can I be done with year long failed subs? Because seriously, been there, done that.). Luckily my UK publisher still liked me enough to buy two more books from me, because that's been a bright spot in an otherwise "meh" debut scenario. Add in my adventures in indie publishing and it's all turned out pretty okay.

Despite difficulties and feeling like an overall failure, I decided to keep trying. In January of this year, that's what I resolved to do, I guess. Not officially with a New Year's resolution, but I determined I needed to at least TRY. I wanted to give up so badly. It felt like everything I tried just didn't help anyone see my books or care about them. So why keep screaming to the void, you know?

I was clearly bad at marketing so I wanted to throw in the towel. Marketing is uncomfortable for me—it always has been because I don't like standing in spotlights let alone shining one on myself. That was a big part of why I tried so hard to get published traditionally: I hoped they would market for me. And they have done some, but not nearly what I imagined in my newbie head. So much of it is still on me.

I am still pretty miserable at marketing (I might always be), but I have tried new things this year and some old things, and because I'm a hybrid author I can see more easily what makes a difference in my sales and what doesn't. I'm glad for this because it helps me know where to put my effort, and as the anxious person I am I can better plan what I can handle.

First, I've found doing conferences is pretty beneficial for me. While they take a toll on my mental health and I have to be careful to avoid things that trigger my panic attacks, I always see a bump in sales when I do a conference. Not like I am suddenly selling like gangbusters, but it does HELP. Especially in finding new readers. Signing events also help, though not quite in the same way because most signings are attended by people who already know you. But it's a good chance to meet readers and see their excitement and connect with them.

Another note on events: I've been surprised at the impact of non-writing-specific events. While I may not have as many book sales as at a writing conference, I see a lot of new faces and some of those faces stick around and become readers. It's also been fun because I get to share my other interests, like anime/esports/video games/art, at these other events. It's refreshing.

I've also seen how promotional sales can be a huge help in breathing life into a book. When TRANSPARENT went on sale for $1.99 this last April, it saw a higher rank on Kindle than it did when the book debuted. Not like I became a bestseller, but the book has had a new pair of legs and sold a little better than it would have if that sale hadn't happened—it was all but dead before that.

What has surprised me is the impact giveaways seem to have. While sales seem to TANK a bit during a giveaway (I think because people may hold off buying should they happen to win), there is a bump in "visibility." I usually gain more followers and have more people talking about the giveaway online. So it's a matter of possibly sacrificing some sales in exchange for expanding visibility.

Sadly, I'm seeing less and less impact from my blog and longer posts like these. I've jumped on Instagram and Tumblr this year for the first time and seen some new life on those sites in comparison to the blog scene and even Twitter. I've been surprised to see my covers and other images about me and my books on Pinterest, even. It seems like many writers and readers I know are experiencing social media fatigue, and it feels like promotion online is reflecting that. It's almost like white noise, and I don't see a ton of impact from my daily social media pursuits. At least not like it used to be several years back in the height of blogging.

I'm not really saying you need to do any of this as a writer, but I guess I'm just telling you what I've found because I've been kind of surprised that my TRYING has actually yielded some RESULTS. It's been nice to discover that, to see those bumps in sales through my indie books and knowing that likely applies to my traditionally published books as well. It's so easy as an author to feel like all the effort you put in does nothing, but that's not true. Maybe your marketing attempts won't do as much as you hope, but this year I've learned that your marketing will do more than if you had done nothing at all. That's an important lesson for me, and maybe it'll be one for you, too.

So if you are tired of trying, if you think it makes no difference, I'm here to tell you that it DOES make a difference. So keep going. Even if it's hard sometimes.


  1. Blogs seem to be in a weird place right now, especially when it comes to longer posts.

    My take? People are so dumb!

    As for the self pubby marketing, ust get out there and be...be orange.

  2. My husband has a friend who has done well with self publishing, and one of the things he had done is have a note at the end of his books asking readers to leave a review if they liked his book at Amazon or goodreads. With all the reviews, his sales help fuel themselves. Also, he's offered his first book in the series for really cheap, had a fan post about it on slickdeals, and then had enough people give it thumbs up to getit to the first page. That seems to translate into people buying the next book in the series. Or at least some of them. Unconventional, but it seems to be effective.

  3. I love author blogs. It saddens me to see them dying off and I hope all my favorites keep fighting the battle, even if it's a losing one. You don't get the same depth from facebook, twitter, or tumblr.
    As readers, what's the most helpful thing we can do for our favorite authors? Goodreads reviews? Independent blog reviews? Word of mouth?

    1. Eliza, every little thing helps, but reviews on Amazon and B&N actually are the MOST helpful when it comes to places you review. Even if they are "bad" reviews, the more review a book has the more a book gets noticed on those sites. On Amazon, I believe it actually improves your algorithm and makes your novel show up more in searches and suggested buys when you have more reviews. Personally, it has been little frustrating to me to see I have quite a few reviews on GR and not nearly as many on Amazon. While GR is great, it reaches kind of the same reading community, whereas Amazon and B&N reviews reach and more general public.

      And I'm not kidding about have the "bad" reviews, either. Like on some of my newer titles, I only have a handful of reviews and the majority of them are 5 star and that comes off looking FAKE even though it's not. When a book has a variety of reviews and lots of them, people see it as more credible.

  4. One of my friends has been in the traditional side of things but went fully indie because she was tired of being handled. She's found that sales tend to go up in things she does online- commentary on popular facebook threads, but not in terms of hyping herself, just in terms of smart aleck comments. It makes people look at her profile, see that she's a writer, and seeking out her work.

  5. I'm 3/4 of the way done with my novel, so this info is helpful. Thanks.

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  7. I've been doing some research on marketing since I'm preparing to put out my first novel, so it's great to see some advice from people who've BEEN there, especially people seeing things from both the trad and self publishing side.

    I'm kind of surprised about the blog thing, because all the big author and writer blogs I've been reading still suggest that blogging is a huge thing. o_0 I guess I'm just not seeing that.

    I am pleasantly surprised to see that conferences, writing or not, are good too, since I'm intending to attend a lot to get my name out there. =)

    Thanks for the informative post!

  8. Natalie, I always appreciate your blog posts because they are so genuine. You are so open about your struggles (and accomplishments too!) and I am much the same way when it comes to my blog. I've learned a lot from you from all that you've shared in your author journey and I'd love to continue reading more blog posts from you in the future! :)

  9. "Natalie Whipple" has been included in our A Sunday Drive for this week. Be assured that we hope this helps to point even more new visitors in your direction.


  10. You are a constant source of inspiration to me; I just want you to know that. <3