Amanda Luedeke

July 17, 2014

Thursdays with Amanda: I’ve Done Everything to Market My Book and No One is Buying It


2013amanda2Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Ever paid for a book ad that did nothing for your sales numbers? Or maybe you scheduled some book signings that saw only a handful of people in attendance. Or you ran a giveaway only to see a few measly entries. Or you got some big-name Tweeter to give your book a shout-out, but it resulted in … crickets.

Sound familiar?

I wish I could say that marketing, no matter what the strategy, always pays off, but I can’t. Many times, authors find themselves spinning their wheels, frantically trying this or that, hoping that SOMETHING will stick. And you know what? Large companies do the same thing. Sure, they have the money that allows them to have some marketing successes, but for the most part, marketing is a gamble. It’s a risk. It’s time and investment in a strategy that no one can be sure will pay off.

If you’re a self-published author, you have a much better scenario going for you, because you don’t have a publisher breathing down your neck, waiting for those sales to hit.

If you’re a trad-pub author, well… Sure, you get a boost from store distribution and a some other perks the publisher may off you, but if sales are bad you have to deal with the fact that your publisher may not want to do another book with you right away…or they may be talking about putting your book out of print…or they may…just…go… dark…

So what do you do in this time of frustration and panic?

First, remember these things:

  1. It’s likely that your marketing efforts made your sales better than they would have been had you done nothing at all. So yeah, 2000 copies sold probably feels pretty dismal…but it’s a whole lot better than 1200 copies sold.
  2. You’re planting seeds and cultivating relationships. We live in a world in which consumers want to have a relationship with the brands and artists that they enjoy. By being present on social media and doing some other promo things, you’re getting those relationships started. Keep at it, and it will pay off.
  3. A tiny number of first-time authors see great sales. A majority of authors have to get a few books under their belt before they hit their stride and begin to see a fanbase take place. So keep that in mind when you’re beating yourself up over the small sales of your first or second book.
  4. Your publisher is not the beginning and end of your career. And neither is your agent. You may get dumped by either one if you have (and keep having) low sales numbers. But that does NOT mean you’re down for the count. Other agents and publishers may be interested in you! Remember: just because one publisher failed to give you wings, doesn’t mean that it’s a lost cause. All publishers know this. What doesn’t work for one house may work for another. And of course there is always the self-pub option should you want to go that route.
  5. You’re not alone. I think every author feels like they’re failing in one way or another. Like they’re getting the bad end of the deal or like they don’t know what they’re doing. But they don’t want anyone to know this! So when authors get together, they tend to make everything sound great. Greater than great, even. They will say things like “my agent got me blah blah blah” and “my publisher is doing this or that” and “I demanded x and they delivered” and “I found out that if you do y, then you get z!” Basically, everyone acts like they’ve got it figured out and that this publishing thing comes easily for them. But as an agent, let me tell you…every author feels a bit of panic. Every author wonders if they’re doing it right. Every author has a list of things that they’d change or would do-over or are just plain nervous about. And every author is worried about sales…maybe not every moment of every day, but even authors who are wildly successful have a fear that things will suddenly go south. It’s only human. So remember…YOU’RE NOT ALONE. Even if it feels like you are.

Feel better? I hope so. Though I know there are a few of you who are like “okay this is great and all, but tell me what to DO.” So for those of you who are practical to a fault (myself included!), here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if perhaps your marketing train is a bit off track:

1. Have I been limiting promotions to friends and family? If yes, then this is a problem. Friends and family will make the decision to buy (or not buy) your book within the first months of release. So if you are still targeting them four months after the book has come out, you’re wasting your time. It’s now time to find new audiences. New readers.

2. Have I been spreading promotions out over time instead of hitting it hard? If yes, then this is a problem. Some authors do an ad here, a radio spot there, a blog post here, an event there. This can lead to low sales, because consumers rarely buy books on impulse. Instead, they buy books that they have heard/seen/read a lot about. So you want your marketing to hit it hard, providing lots of potential touch points with your readers. This will get them to buy.

3. Have I been too quiet about my book? If yes, then this is a problem. Tell people you have a book! Most are really excited to hear such news.

4. Have I been “creating” more content instead of promoting what I already have? If yes, then this is a problem. When marketing, it’s tempting to create materials in an attempt to use them for marketing…but then you discover that you have to market the materials that you created! Videos, digital short stories, PDF downloads…all of these require their own marketing plans. They aren’t a marketing plan in and of themselves.

5. Have I been ignoring the data? If yes, then this is a problem. Sometimes it’s impossible to know what has succeeded and what has failed in terms of marketing. But by analyzing sales rankings and Google Analytics, you’ll get a pretty good idea! If you aren’t monitoring these things, then you run the risk of spending time repeating tactics that don’t work.

How do you deal with these kinds of author burdens? Any tips on handling the pressure?

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  • How essential is Facebook to a book marketing campaign?

    I recently decided to leave Facebook. I really could not tell how effective it was, and it often felt like I was spinning my wheels, because I could not tell how much it was contributing to actual sales or getting the word out. Do you think this was a bad choice? I still Twitter and blog, and I’m actively seeking author talks. I also want to start using email more effectively and exchanging guest blogs.

  • jillmariewilliamson says:

    I forget to promote my old titles. I need to do better at that.

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      I think lots of authors forget about their backlist…still, you’re right. NOT forgetting about it can really pay off.

  • Oh, I’m so guilty of ignoring data. Because it’s just so much more FUN to write than it is to track clicks, etc. Finding the right balance of marketing and writing – especially in the summer when my kids are underfoot – is so tricky for me.

    Amanda, this is such a great post. Feels like both a hug and a pep talk 🙂

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Thanks for reading, Stephanie 🙂 The data can be a borefest, but gosh, it can provide great insight. Hope you find the time to dig in!

  • Melissa Tagg says:

    “But as an agent, let me tell you…every author feels a bit of panic.” What?? I never panic. 🙂

    I was actually just talking with friends recently about that constant feeling of “I’m not doing enough.” It’s both comforting and frustrating to hear long-published, best-selling, award-winning authors say that feeling never really entirely goes away. But I think when it comes to marketing, we’re going to have starts and stops and hits and misses…and that’s okay. We just keep trucking on, building on the things that work, letting go of the things that don’t…

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Yep, the process is never going to be perfect, and accepting that is a step toward freedom AND a step toward avoiding burnout.

  • Nick says:

    Amanda – I love your posts and follow them even though I am marketing-phobic. I have a question about the first point – to hit outside friends and family… do you think a marketing person (spending the big bucks on that) or promo service (just read about a company that puts your book out on twitter, fb, and several targeted groups for $99/wait $89 for a while… it was on a writing site and sounded intriguing. Wondered what your advice is on how to market outside friends and family. Thanks!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Thanks for reading!! I think if you have the time and determination, you can find new audiences on your own. It’s simply a matter of finding where readers congregate online…specifically, readers of your genre/style. If you can take your book and from it identify a handful of reader profiles, then you can use those profiles to find people online who may be interested in your novel. This is actually a workshop that I’ve been giving at some conferences…have considered doing a webinar on the topic.

    • Nick says:

      Please do the webinar. It would be helpful to marketingaphobiacs like myself. It’s not just that I want to see God move mountains, it also feels like I’m going to do it wrong and waste time and money better spent elsewhere.

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