Over the course of the past 4 or 5 years I’ve tried all sorts of different approaches to increase readership. Virtually nothing has worked.
I’ve given books away using both read and review programs, as well as pure giveaways. One of my books was downloaded from Amazon over 12 thousand times, but I suspect that it was only read by a relative handful of folks, and the giveaway added zero sales.
Facebook and Twitter have been fairly useless as advertising media. Not only do they NOT add sales, they don’t really even generate website clicks.
Google AdWords will generate web clicks, and even sales, but the best I’ve ever done was $1 in royalties for $2 spent on ads, and that’s only around Christmas.
I’ve hired marketing firms twice (including a highly recommended one)——results: zero sales.
The read and review programs have been among the worst. On one program, people were cashing in the Amazon coupon I sent potential readers to buy other stuff.
There is no magic key. People don’t buy books because of ads or because someone writes a nice review (or even a bad review). I decided to limit what I do when it comes to book marketing, cutting my marketing budget by 90%, and basically saw no change.
My suggestion: just write your books, as you normally would. Make sure you offer a quality product, use a good editor, designer, and proof reader and don’t worry about selling books.
For those who think they’ll make a lot of money writing . . . well, you could win the lottery—it’s got about the same probability.
I do think competitions help, but you need to carefully select which competitions you enter. If you’re a small publisher, generally librarians won’t bother to even read your books—good or bad, since they didn’t come from one of the big 5 they are ignored, so you won’t be considered for the mainstream awards. In the mainstream publishing world (at least for now) editors use agents as filters and publishers use agents and librarians use publishers. Competitions offer an alternative filtering system, but the industry has not yet settled on a new model.
On formats: I’ve put books out in paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and epub formats, as well as an audible book. The epub book, which I offered through both Smashwords and KOBO was a mistake. As soon as I uploaded the book, one copy was bought and then was immediately pirated. The pirates made money on it—I didn’t. I no longer offer an epub format for my books.
I have heard that spending all day on social media pages can add sales. I haven’t seen evidence of this, but then I’m not really a social media butterfly, so take my opinion on this with a grain of salt.
One channel that (at least) offered a way to put your books into the hands of enthusiastic readers used to be GoodReads, but they decided to monetize their giveaway program to suck even more money from the pockets of writers, so I stopped using that channel. That’s really a symptom of the big industry now, which is exploiting people who decide to try writing. There are tons of folks out there telling you how they’ll “help” you. They don’t.
Just write. But if you’re writing poor quality books then you’re just making matters worse—poor quality books are why people don’t take small publishers seriously. Use an established professional editor . . . please.