Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why I have stopped online marketing

In the last year, I have done two blog tours, interviewed more than 50 writers for this blog, gathered more than 2,000 followers on Twitter, and made more than a thousand friends on Facebook. I have also made use of social networking sites such as StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, and a handful of other sites. I've made use of Amazon's KDP Select program and various other online marketing tools. I've post at a dozen or more various online boards, a few of them on a regular basis. I've blogged and blogged and blogged, with the posts drawing the most attention (by far) being the ones I wrote about weapons (mostly guns and swords).

During that time, my sales dropped, dropped, continued to drop, bottomed out, tanked out ... whatever you want to call it. Across the board, at all sites where my books and e-books are available.

For a while there, I was fearing I would have to enter the workforce once more, which is not appealing for a variety of factors, a big one being the state of the economy.

Then, a few months back, I decided to hang it all up and to stop my efforts at social marketing and most of my social networking.

Since then, my sales have jumped. Oh, my numbers still aren't as good as they were a year ago, but this month is better than last month which was twice as good as the month before. Across all venues.

So, all that online marketing, it didn't work for me. Obviously.

Social networking and marketing works for some authors, apparently, but for me? Nah.

So, I've given all that up.

Oh, I'll still post on Facebook from time to time, and I might even put up a tweet every once in a while. Maybe I'll even leave a note on an online board from time to time. The difference will be, I'm only going to do so when I truly feel I have something to say or add, and only when I really want to.

This has taken a lot off my mind, and I write more.

Another benefit I've found is that by staying away from most of the boards containing writers, I see and hear a lot less bitching, whining, and conspiracy theories. Which is like balm to my soul. It seems all writers do is whine, especially indie writers. It's a rare thing that I see long-time professionals constantly griping, though it does happen from time to time. But I see this mostly in indie writers (of which I'm one, and yes, I suppose one could argue that I'm whining here ... deal with it).

Any way, if one's sales are not what one wants them to be, I suggest experimentation. Which is what I did. Social marketing works for some. Giving away freebies works for others. Simply writing the next damn story or novel and getting it out works for others (and seems to be working best for me, along with a combination of freebies).

Concerning e-book freebies, I'd like to add that I don't care for them and feel the market is glutted with them, but yes, I have to use them. It seems to be part of my marketing efforts, whether I want them to be or not. I have bills to pay, today, not next year, and the long-term approach didn't seem to work all that well for me, though it is the approach I would prefer to have. Such is life.


David J. West said...

Just wanted to add my two bits from observation (not experience)

I have a very good friend who went indie a couple years ago (I'm only just about to dip my toe in the water, though I've been planning on it for a long time)
and she swears all the online marketing, social networking and promotion you can do is virtually worthless, it all comes down to having a back catalog and just doing the work and writing the next book.

Granted, she writes YA fantasy, not my (or your) genre at all, but I don't think that is making a difference.

I think she is right and it is about writing your stuff and doing your own thing.

I'm particularly interested now Ty, in the theory of did your marketing actually hurt sales? by proxy or coincidence?

I may very well be bitching about lack of sales myself 6 months from now, but I'm sure going to try not to.

Ty Johnston said...


David, I see nothing wrong with writers whining about sales, but when they all get together on public forums, it starts to look like panic. For instance, every month, on various boards, there is always a post titled something like "is such-and-such a month the worst sales month ever?" Or, "my sales have dropped this month!" It happens. Writers need to deal with it, at least those with goals.

Writers doing a little bitching among themselves, that I think is perfectly reasonable. Complaining among other writers on a small scale on Facebook, for example, I don't find annoying, nor even on blogs (unless maybe it's a blog with a HUGE following, such as Konrath's).

I'm not sure yet whether all my marketing efforts actually hurt my sales, but I think it's obvious it didn't help. Marketing did take away from my writing time, though. Personally, I think the e-book market is finally leveling out some but will continue slower growth in years to come. I also think it likely Amazon will re-work its Select program in the near future (maybe after the first of the year?) and we can expect other, similar things to happen with Amazon, Kobo, etc. I truly hope Amazon and others step back from their attempts at exclusivity, because I feel that hampers the sales of the indie writers as well as for the companies themselves; having one's e-books across as many platforms as possible might or might not help sales, but if nothing else it is free advertising.

Keith said...

I hate to hear your efforts didn't seem to help. OTOH, I'm glad you're getting more writing done. I think Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are right: the best marketing is publishing another book. Keep up the good work.

Charles Gramlich said...

I spent a lot of time working on a humorous ad campaign for november and posted it on facebook and on my blog. Results. I sold one copy of a book that wasn't part of my advertising plan. I'm coming around to your way of thinking. gonna start cutting way back on online presence. Will give me more time to write.

David J. West said...

I hear ya, I don't think the other venues are anything to laugh at.

Not overtly trying to plug myself - just keeping on the discussion; but my latest collaborative effort with seven other writers - Space Eldritch, has so far taken in at least a sixth of our sales from Smashwords (enough to actually get a mention on Galleycat about being a bestseller there) and I am not turning my nose up at the distant third of the Nook either.

Sales are sales, and I believe in letting people get the format/system they prefer.