Marketing – What Works and What Doesn’t

Posted on: January 20, 2016
Marketing cover

For some authors, writing the book is the easy part. It is getting that book in the hands of paying readers that is truly vexing. Let’s face it, while we often write because we feel compelled to do so, if you want to pay the bills with your writing you’re going to have to find a way to get folks to buy it. Even landing a contract with a big name publisher is no guarantee of sales. Few authors who aren’t already household names see much in the way of marketing from their publishers.

I certainly don’t have all the answers when it comes to marketing. But, I can share with you what has worked for me and what hasn’t. I’d love to hear from authors who are willing to share their own tips and experiences, too.


Let’s get this one out of the way right off the bat. When it comes to a free resource for promoting your stuff, Facebook pretty much sucks. Their algorithms make it nearly impossible to get your posts in front of all or even most of your followers and fans. Unless, of course, you’re willing to grease the wheels, so to speak, and pay for advertising. If you have 10,000 followers, you’ll be lucky if 100 of them see any particular post of yours that includes an outside link (such as to your website or your book’s listing on Amazon).

I’m not saying Facebook is absolutely worthless, because it isn’t. It can be a great way to interact with your readers. Just know that relying upon it for marketing purposes without paying for advertising is going to get you just about nowhere.

I’ve heard mixed results from people who have bitten the bullet and paid for Facebook advertising. Some have said it led to dramatic increases in sales numbers, other have said it didn’t do a damn thing. Probably depends on how much you’re willing to spend on the advertising, I reckon.


Most have noticed a marked increase in results using Twitter versus Facebook. Twitter followers seem more willing to click a link and check out your stuff. That said, I’ve never had great results using Twitter. I mean, it costs me nothing and takes less than a minute to send out a tweet, so I keep using it. Just that, for me at least, it hasn’t been truly huge in my overall marketing strategy.


I look at Pinterest as a two-step marketing tool. Few people buy books just based on a Pinterest post. But, if you can get them to go from Pinterest to your own website to read an article or post, you can then go from there to a book sale. The key is to offer not only dynamic content on your site (more on that in a bit) but your visuals on Pinterest have to be awesome. If the photo or illustration you’re using for the link on Pinterest isn’t eye-catching, the whole thing falls apart. There are bloggers out there who are HUGE with Pinterest. Seek them out and learn from how they pin things to their boards. I’ll admit I’m very much a newbie when it comes to Pinterest.


There are a few different online tools out there for social media management. I like Hootsuite. It is free and does all I need it to do. For me, I use it for Facebook and Twitter. I have three “accounts” on Facebook – one for my profile page, one for my business page, and I also have a Facebook group. Add in Twitter and that’s four places I typically post links to articles and such. Hootsuite makes this easy. I write the post and click the accounts to which I want it to post, Hootsuite takes care of the rest. The real beauty, though, is that you can schedule posts. I’ll take 30 minutes on a Monday morning and schedule a ton of posts for the entire week. This allows you to be off doing other things while Hootsuite does your promoting for you.


I’ll be honest, newsletters can be a royal pain in the butt. Even using cool, drag n drop programs like Mailchimp, writing a newsletter takes time and energy that you’d love to use elsewhere. But, the benefits far outweigh this inconvenience. See, folks who sign up for your newsletter want to hear from you regularly. They are interested in what you have to offer. Your newsletter mailing list tends to be a very focused group of people. Not all of them, of course, but far more than you’ll find just by standing on a street corner waving a sign, right?

Another downside, though, is that most free online newsletter sites have a limit to the number of subscribers you can have before they start charging you. And, the more subscribers you have, the more you’ll pay. So, at some point you’ll need to do a cost vs benefit analysis and determine if you’re still being profitable after paying $XX for the newsletter.


Few authors don’t have some sort of web presence today, of course. But, look at how you’re using your website. Is it just a static billboard listing all of your books? If so, that’s not helping you much. Add a blog and commit to at least one new post a week, preferably more. Each post doesn’t need to be all that lengthy, either. Just new content on a regular basis so people keep coming back. Have your books listed on the site, of course, with links to where they can purchase them. The idea here is to get people to come to your site on a regular basis. The more often they see your name and your books, the more likely they are to click to buy.

A blog can be a great place to experiment with a new story idea, too. Many readers love to see the “behind the scenes” stuff so give them a peek from time to time.


Okay, this isn’t really a promotion tool sort of thing but it needs to be mentioned. If you’re not already an Amazon Affiliate, get off thy butt and sign up. Use your affiliate links anywhere and everywhere you can without violating Amazon’s rules (can’t use them in a newsletter, for example). Every time someone clicks one of your links and ends up buying anything on Amazon, you’ll earn a small percentage of the sale. It isn’t much but it does add up. It costs you nothing than your time. This is one of the ways many bloggers earn serious money. I mean, I know a guy who has been pulling in $2,000 a month just from folks clicking his affiliate links.

I look at it like this. I do what I can to get people to click from my site over to Amazon and then let Amazon work their magic. Amazon knows more about selling products than you or I likely ever will.

Another tidbit about Amazon. Always encourage your readers to leave reviews for your books on Amazon. Not only do positive reviews lead to sales but after a certain number (I think 50) reviews are posted, then your book starts to be included in those “Customers also purchased these books….” slide shows. That’s HUGE for sales.

Radio/TV/Podcast interviews

I’ve not been on TV, so I can’t speak to it as any sort of marketing tool for books. I have done radio interviews and numerous podcasts, including my own show. I’ve had mixed results. With some shows, I’ve seen a jump in sales during or immediately after. With others, not so much. For me at least, I look at these interviews more as a way to keep my name out there, as opposed to a direct method of increasing sales.

Contests and Giveaways

People love free stuff, that’s for sure. But, do contests really work as promotional tools? In my experience, not so much. Now, I do a LOT of giveaways. Every single Friday I run a small contest on Facebook and give out a book or something. I also do a giveaway at the end of each of my online radio shows. But, has all of that led to better sales? Not that I’ve noticed. What it does, though, is keep bringing people to my party, so to speak. All of these things, from giveaways to tweets, podcasts to Amazon reviews, work together. None of them will work great on their own. But, as parts of the overall puzzle, they work well.

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