Sunday 2 April 2017

How much is too much when it comes to promoting a book?

My sales have plummeted over the past few months – I'm not sure if I'm relieved or worried that I am not the only one to notice this downturn. It would seem that a few years ago, when I started this self publishing lark, there were around 400 000 new titles put up on Amazon each year but now there are more than two million. Unfortunately, the surge in sales caused by the arrival of the Kindle in the UK, then again when KU started and thousands of people joined the subscription club, is long gone. Everybody who wanted a reading device has got one and ditto joining KU.
This means the pie (amount of sales) is now being divided into smaller slices. My author ranking remains the same as it was, but I am no longer able to get a bestseller flag for new titles – something that happened automatically in the past.
Before things changed I didn't buy in promotion or pay for advertising when I released a new book – all I needed to do was send out an email to my subscribers list and post on the various loops and forums I belong to. Now everything has changed – and not for the better. Therefore, reluctantly, I decided to be more proactive with my books.
I bought in two free book promotions which cost me £75 each with BookSends . One was for the first book in the Duke's Alliance Series, A Suitable Bride and the other for Hannah's War. I also did two BookBub ads at the cost of £35. I recovered the costs of my promotions and editorial and cover costs within three weeks.
I don't know which of these made the most impact but sales of all my books picked up – strangely the Nightingale Chronicles – my Victorian saga series – did really well.
My sales returned to pre-slump levels after about five weeks. This meant the cost of the promotions was covered plus quite a lot more. However, as things are now back to pre-promotion levels  I've once again bought into several different promotional things for the first book in my World War II series, Ellen's War, Blue Skies and Tiger Moths.
I have purchased a ninety day promotion with Self Publishing Showcase for £80. I've also got a brilliant package from Books Go Viral - cost £125. I have a Thunderclap campaign (free) running and a professionally designed ad for BookBub which I shall run a month after the book is released on 26 April. This was set me back a further £60. 
Out 26th April
As the cover for Blue Skies and Tiger Moths was shot for me (again the brilliant JD Smith organised it) that is an extra I don't usually have with my books. Therefore, it's going to take me a long time to recoup my expenses. I also have a paperback copy available – nobody will buy it apart from me – so that's money I can't recoup from sales. 
I know several writers that have their books brought out by professional companies that provide the editorial services normally given by traditional publishers and I think this costs around £1500. Obviously I don't spend anything like that, but I wonder if the benefits of having a large company behind one's work would justify the extra cost.
The holy grail of book promotion is, of course, getting a BookBub one, but they are very difficult to get . I had one last year and the knock-on effect was amazing. I've tried several times since but been turned down – I think only 12% of applications are successful.
My writing expenses are going up because of the money I'm putting into promotion and marketing whilst my income is falling. At what point do I decide to let the market dictate and just concentrate on writing and producing the best books I'm capable of? I have a good writer friend who does no promotion and isn't in KU and her sales are rising - we write similar things - but she published through a company who puts her books on all platforms. Maybe it's time to consider that route.
I would be interested to know your take on this  – is it a temporary glitch that will pass or is it going to get worse? If the latter, then is there anything we writers can do about it?

Blurb for Blue Skies & Tiger Moths
Ellie Simpson is a flying instructor and good at her job but war is coming and when it does she will no longer be able to do what she loves most -fly. The arrival of flying officer Gregory Dunlop, and the nephew of her boss, Jack Reynolds, in her life only complicates matters. When she can no longer take to the skies in her beloved Tiger Moth she decides to join the WAAF. Then tragedy strikes and she has to rethink her life.
  CLICK HERE to preorder.

Fenella J Miller


  1. What an interesting, and informative post, Fenella. Many thanks for taking the time to write up your experiences in the detailed way you have. I wonder if your membership of KU, and your friend not belonging to KU, is significant, given that her sales are rising. Could KU have a negative effect, I wonder. Good luck with Ellen's War. :-)

    1. Thanks for dropping by. My quandry is that 65% of my income at the moment is from KU.

  2. THanks for sharing, Fenella - it's a big roller coaster ride - especially if you start messing about with advertising on Amazon and FB! I've given up (for a while) with the latter and am having some limited success with the former. But it's all a hard slog!

    1. Isn't it just. Had no visible success from FB and no clicks at all from Amazon.

  3. Thanks for sharing this info. It's interesting to know that you recouped the money spent on some of the services. I often wonder if it is worth it.

    1. I'll let you know if the promos etc work for Ellen's War. I've priced this book higher than all my others as I price by length. £2.99 seems reasonable for an 85K book which took a lot to time and research to write. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Interesting post, Fenella, especially as I've noticed a distinct slump in sales since January. I'm self-published too and my two books were selling steadily until then. I don't have a big budget so big promotion stuff is beyond me.

  5. Thank you for commenting Anne. I know I am lucky yo be earning so much but up until December the trend was up -since then it's down. Thunderclap is free -why not try that?

  6. Interesting post, Fenella. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I heard that BookBub looks more favourably on you if your books are available on a wide platform. I moved from Amazon only and began distributing through Draft2Digital. Since then my sales on Amazon have completely plummeted. I'm thinking of moving all my titles back.

  7. Helena, that's interesting. I was thinking of doing the same but 60% of my income is form page views so it would be a big gamble. You are the third person to say this so I shall remain where I am and keep everything crossed this next book jumps my sales back to what they were six months ago.