According to a survey taken last May, half of self published authors earn less than $500, suggesting that most struggle to sell. As a person strongly considering self publishing, I found this article to be somewhat discouraging. We know that before you can make a sale, you first must have the public’s attention. And from my short and very limited experience marketing my children’s audiobook “Sometimes the Beach…” I can tell you that getting the public to notice your work is not easy, especially for new, self published authors. But why is that? Is it because of quality? In my case, I spent years getting my book edited, critiqued, polished, and prepared for public consumption, so I doubt quality is the reason. And I’m not done yet, I now have to find an illustrator to complete the picture book. In the meantime, I would like the public to enjoy the work I do have, a finished audiobook. But the public doesn’t know me, and if the public doesn’t know me, then I too will struggle to sell.
I thought about this for a while, the struggles of self publishing authors, and it led me to ask the following question: “Do writers spend too much time around other writers?” What I mean is, the audience writers want to target is readers, but how much time do writers spend around readers? Writers spend lots of time in critique groups, writing groups, webinars, and other social gatherings for writers. Critique groups are a wonderful way to get your manuscript polished. You can draw from the talents and experiences of others to improve your work. However, critique groups are not your target audience as a writer. Everyone there has their own book or manuscript they want sold, they aren’t looking to buy, they are looking to create, edit and sell.
Then there are social networks. Marketing 101 says join social networks, Twitter, Facebook, Google+! Join and market your book. I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and Google+, and one thing I’ve noticed is writers tend to flock to other writers. For example, on Twitter, if you mention that you are a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and you follow those groups, then Twitter will continually suggest other writers who are SCBWI members to you for you to follow them. The more writers you follow, the more writers will follow you, and the more Twitter will suggest other writers for you to follow. Right now, I have a little over 500+ followers on Twitter, but most of them are fellow authors and writers themselves. And everyday I get emails telling me that more writers are following me. But writers are not my target audience. Writers are busy promoting their own books, not looking to purchase mine. So everytime I post a tweet about my audiobook, do any of my followers really care?
Facebook and Google+ share the same problem. There are plenty of groups on Facebook and Google+ for writers to gather. But writers join these groups, not readers. So what happens when you share a link to your new book is it often gets lost amongst the other links of other books from other authors, or postings about webinars and writing tools. Some groups even discourage you from sharing links, as they want to cut down on SPAM and self promotion. So you can literally spend days on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and never really reach your target audience, the readers.
I mentioned Youtube as a social network, and it is to some extent. There are plenty of authors who release book previews, audiobooks, or even interviews on youtube in hopes of reaching their target audience. My experience is, while you might get a few views here and there, Youtube viewers have a shorter attention span for books. Consider the most popular videos on youtube, videos about books don’t even make the list.
So where can a writer go online to meet readers anyways? I asked this question on Facebook, and someone suggested Goodreads.com. So I signed up, and guess what? Goodreads wanted to link all my Twitter followers and Facebook friends to my Goodreads account. So now, I have all those writers from Twitter connected to my Goodreads account, but no readers. And since my book is an audiobook, I can’t even list it on Goodreads.com, I need to have it published with an ISBN number first.
I even tried googling “readers meet writers” to see if there was a forum or a site where we could mingle. I came across one site in development titled readersmeetwriters.com. According to the site, this is what they hope to offer:
A writer can post a synopsis of each work for public view and provide information for readers to purchase a complete work. Readers may search the available works by language, genre, area of interest and author’s name, if known.
That sounds interesting, and it might be a good resource once it is complete. However, in the meantime, self published writers need ways to reach readers with their work.
I will conclude this article by naming a few ways self published writers can reach their target audiences. One way, I believe, is to befriend book bloggers. Book bloggers have a lot to offer writers. They can write book reviews, conduct author interviews, post links to your download or purchase page, and create awareness amongst the public about your work. For children’s authors, there are plenty of Mom blogs, parenting blogs and other blogs where your target audience resides. For audiobook authors, podcasters might also be a choice for book promotion. However heed this warning. Bloggers and podcasters are like everyone else, they don’t like SPAM. Don’t just throw your book in people’s faces and beg for reviews. Develop RELATIONSHIPS, they will be more beneficial anyways down the line. Get to know bloggers on a social level, make them your Twitter followers and Facebook friends. It’s always easier when people already know you and like you, for you to ask them to consider reviewing your book and sharing it with their audience.
Another tip is to promote at farmer’s markets, book festivals, schools (if you are a children’s author), etc. Define who your target audience is, then go where they go, hang out where they hang out, and network, make friends. Get out of the bubble of writers and into the circle of readers. Offer free books to those who will review your work. Host contests with autographed books as prizes. Network with teachers and librarians (if you’re a children’s author). And remember this keyword: reciprocity. Promote others on your own blog. Post their links. Find ways to help others within your target audience, and in return they will help you.