By Jenny Kate
Here’s the deal. There are 250,000 authors signed up as Draft2Digital authors. Writers upload roughly 50,000 books a month to Amazon. If you want to make a living selling books, you must market your work. There’s no way around it.
Ten years ago, I would have told you 10 minutes a day was plenty of time to spend on your marketing.
In today’s climate, you’ll more than likely spend as much time marketing as you will writing.
It’s where you focus that marketing time that matters.
Return on investment is not just a buzzword. It’s how you figure out what to spend your time on. If you post away on a Facebook Page and don’t pay to boost any of your content, the likelihood you reach anyone is next to none. That makes the return on your time investment next to nothing.
It’s the nature of modern social media. Organic growth has basically gone the way of the dodo bird. Social platforms have figured out how to make money and they aren’t going back.
If you blog but don’t put time into SEO and quality content, your blog won’t go anywhere.
If you have a newsletter but rarely send out email or just include buy links, that won’t help you.
If you create ads and put them out but you haven’t done the market research to know if it will resonate, it’s wasting time.
So, what should you spend your time on?
Things that work. It’s that simple.
Let’s start with social media.
If you spread yourself too thin, nothing will work. That’s why when people ask me if they should be on every social outlet, I give an emphatic “no.” You need to be on a social platform you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, your followers will feel that and it won’t be fun for anyone.
Pick one. One that you like. Then study how to make it work for you.
TikTok is the hottest thing right now and it’s still the wild west. You hear of people making bank using TikTok. Should you be on it?
Do you want to learn a new platform?
Do you have the time?
If you answered no to either of those, then don’t.
If you answered yes, then go for it.
TikTok has about a year or so left for organic, free growth before they figure out a way to monetize it and it will go like all the others.
But remember, there are two great reasons to be on social media and it’s not selling books. It’s reader groups and email lists. You can build a following that can translate into street teams and superfans. Those folks will give you their email addresses and that’s where you make bank.
So be very deliberate about which platform you decide to use because it can be a colossal time suck.
Next up is your newsletter.
The reason you want a newsletter is because you own the audience. If you have every email address of every follower you have from your Facebook Page, then you wouldn’t need Facebook. And no one can take that list away from you. Ever.
Email open rates blow social media view rates out of the water, even with a social ad buy. The only social media outlet that allows you to see everything is Twitter. All the others have algorithms that aggregate content based on certain criteria. That means most people won’t see what you post unless you boost it.
Email, however, is shown to everyone who signed up. They told you they want to see your material. The only algorithm you have to beat is the one that calls your email “spam.” Easily avoidable if you don’t sound like a used-car salesman.
Spend time creating quality content and send it out once a week or every other week. That’s it.
Develop your ads skills.
Whether you focus on Facebook or Instagram ads, Bookbub or Amazon, learn what makes a good ad. Just because you like your book cover, doesn’t mean it will resonate with readers.
Ad copy is not prose. It’s marketing and that’s an entirely different skillset to use.
And audiences? Are you sure, absolutely sure, you understand who your reader is? Because if you don’t and you advertise to the wrong audience, your book will not sell.
What is your ad budget? Is it enough?
Do you know who your comparative authors are? Build that list before you get started.
Think about the platforms. Amazon wants to sell products. That’s its only objective. So if you only have one product (i.e. book) to sell, its algorithms aren’t going to help you out much. Wait until you have at least three or four books before trying to navigate the Amazon behemoth.
Facebook or Bookbub ads work better for authors with fewer books. I like BookBub’s platform because it’s super simple. Facebook is a little harder but not as hard as Amazon.
Before you even think about ads or any other marketing, ask yourself if you even have product to sell. Are you books finished?
Do not replace your writing time with marketing time if you have no products to sell. I would have told you differently years ago, but not now.
The market is too much like a three-ring circus for you to make a dent without a product. Concentrate on writing the best book you can. Then take the time to learn the marketing.
And make that marketing a priority part of your day. The more you plan out your content or ads, the less time you’ll have to spend in maintenance. That’s how you balance between writing and marketing.
Jenny Kate is the author of “Social Media for Authors: Marketing for Writers Who’d Rather Write” and “Ads for Authors: Advertising Basics for Writers Who’s Rather Write.” Her most recent book, “Instagram for Authors: A Quick Primer for Busy Writers” published April 8, 2022. Find her at www.thewriternation.com