A lot of writers get frustrated and give up on giveaways, advertising, and other ways we try to get the word out about our books, because they don’t see it accomplishing enough. Whether it’s providing promotional copies through contests or sending free books to potential reviewers, inexpensive ads on the net or ‘free’ activity on social media, it is an investment of our time and/or money. And it’s reasonable to expect those efforts to yield results. But what kind of return should we look for?
Many writers seem to think they should see a direct financial profit – if they spend thirty dollars on advertising, they expect to make fifty in sales, or if they spend fifty dollars sending out free books, they hope for a hundred in royalties as a result. But writing is not a profession that sees financial rewards right away – if at all. Honestly, if you want to make money, why be a writer? It’s true some of us eventually even earn a halfway decent living from writing, but there must be a million better (and easier) ways. So first and foremost, if you’re going to write, it had better be a reward in and of itself.
That said, I want to reach the readers who will enjoy my books, and if I’m going to spend money or take time away from my writing to try to do that, I should be smart about my approach. But I don’t believe the results I should look for are an immediate increase in royalties. These things are investments, after all, and investments take time to bear fruit.
For example, what do I hope to achieve with advertising? Not that people will see ads for my books and go buy them – that’s unrealistic. Currently I’m running ads on goodreads, and for about the cost of a candy bar several thousand people (who like to read and are actively looking for new authors to try) see those ads every day, and sometimes they click on one of those ads and find out more about my books. I’m gaining something every writer, especially an indie writer, needs – notice. Visibility is vital with all the millions of books out there, and I’m getting good attention at a cheap price.
Giving away copies is even better (even though it’s more expensive, at least when providing print copies.) When I’m running a contest on goodreads, I get visibility. And whether I’m sending books to winners or potential reviewers, some of those people will read my stories and some will like them. And some of those will post reviews that help attract more of the readers who will enjoy my books.
I’m not expecting people who see my ads or giveaways to run out and buy my books – it’s enough to bring them to people’s attention or remind those who are aware of them that they exist. The more readers who know about my books, the more will eventually take a look to see if they might like them. And the more who read one of my stories, the more will like them and want to read more.
Now you’ll have to excuse me. I need to get back to writing more books for those people to read.