writers / writing

#IWSG–None of My Marketing Seems to Work

writers groupThis post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s insecurity – None of my marketing seems to work.

This is for my non-fiction books. Not to say they aren’t selling, but I’d like to increase that and have failed miserably in doing so:

  • I’ve tried all sorts of SEO on the website to increase traffic, both paid and free, to no avail.
  • I signed on to Google’s Adwords (where they show those text ads next to search results) and spent a ridiculous amount of money, to no avail.
  • I signed on to Amazon’s version of Adwords–got no increased traffic.
  • I sell all my books on Google Play–which I thought would easily compete with Amazon. It’s not even close.
  • I’ve tried a wide variety of those ‘list your books for free on our marketplace’ sort of sites. Nada.
  • I’ve made all sorts of changes to my social media platforms (I have a ton of them–which takes lots of time to manage) with nothing to show for it.

What does work:

  • Amazon
  • Teachers Pay Teachers
  • word-of-mouth

There are a lot of active approaches I could try–

  • presentations
  • book signings
  • seminars

…but they require much more investment of time with no assurance of either success (will anyone show up?) or results. I seem to have stagnated. I’m frustrated.


I will soon (maybe six months) start marketing my first fiction book and want a better feel for what works. What’s been most successful for you?

More IWSG articles:

Am I good enough? Does it matter?

Am I a Storyteller?

When does technical become boring

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


77 thoughts on “#IWSG–None of My Marketing Seems to Work

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  16. The talented and successful writer Stephen Pressfield said in his latest post he sometimes has trouble giving away books. He has worked the blog angle and joined up with other writers to self promote one another. They give a lot for free and have earned trust with readers so they are able to run a successful publishing co. of their own. You probably know about Irish Books. But possibly teaming up with another writer and going after the market together would bring greater attention and readership.

    Liked by 1 person

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  20. Since I haven’t finished my book yet, I don’t have any experience with marketing. I’m hoping you can figure it all out and tell us what works by the time I’m ready to publish. 🙂


  21. I can’t offer any advice on making sales because I am still working on my first first draft, but I am more likely to buy a book when I can meet the author. Usually they have such a passion for the characters I feel compelled to spend some time with them. Good luck from an IWSG blog hopping friend.


  22. Nothing online works for ‘quantity’ sales for me. Maybe 2 or 3 here and there. What works for me is when I lead workshops or speak or attend networking events in my area. The big deal for me is always any kind of media appearance. If I am a guest on a radio show at least 100 books, TV much, much more. Getting to that point has taken 3-years and a lot of learning and support.
    I post a lot about what got me there on Wednesdays, if you are interested go back some Wednesdays on my blog.
    I have had luck with author events in book stores too.
    Good Luck!


    • I’m so glad you shared that. It’s the piece I want to avoid and wish wasn’t as effective as I fear it is. I could easily present at events, but have not done so. I’d like to check out your Wednesday blog posts, but your avatar doesn’t link to your blog. Can you add your website address?


  23. I’ve tried a little bit of just about everything and I’m still figuring things out. I am comfortable with my blog blitzes, giveaways, newsletter, social media presence, bookmarks, review copies, and whatnot. I’d like to get out more physically, since I’ve only done a few conferences and book signings–but that gets expensive with traveling and it’s a huge time commitment.


    • I agree with you there Medeia. I’ve used all the methods you mentioned, and will continue to, but like you, the money and time commitment is a huge burden for me also. Which is why I’ve decided to put that expense toward a book publicist. A professional who has the know how and contacts, but more importantly, the time to think up and plan marketing ideas and events on a continuous full-time basis, so all I have to do is show up and perform. To really do marketing properly would leave me no time to write.


  24. Jacqui, I share your experience and your frustration. I’ll continue to list my novels on book websites, but decided to put the budget I spend on paid advertising toward hiring a book publicist who has the marketing experience I do not, and is plugged into the marketplace in ways I am not. I believe this expense to be as necessary as it is for professional editing and cover design. So I’m currently in the market for an independent book publicist and I’ll pursue that avenue going forward. I’ll keep you informed on how it’s working out. Btw I think you already have a solid fan base anticipating release of your first novel. Expanding visibility and sales in the larger market will be the challenge.


      • Will do. I truly lucked out with my editor and cover designer, and I’m hoping for a hat-trick with a publicist. The marketing piece is one of the few advantages of having a traditional publisher. I have a friend in the profession who must remain anonymous since unfortunately she is not independent, and I would have to deal with her firm, and fees beyond my budget. But she has been extremely helpful in offering me advice and guiding me through the marketing thicket. I trust her advice and input and will continue to run ideas by her, but I really need someone in the profession with media contacts to plan, initiate, and quarterback, even though I understand I’m still the one who has to run with the ball.


  25. Hi Jacqui,
    Selling is frustrating. I have a problem with promoting my own work and I haven’t really started yet, because my book is not yet finished. But there are a few things I’ve learned from looking at the market and they are that 1.) Book reviews by different book reviewers on their websites before your actual launching day brings some activity. Ask them also to put their review on Amazon or Google.
    2. Is it still possible that you put your books on Amazon and not just on Google. The more choices that you offer your readers to buy your book, the more chances you have to sell. I would think having only one avenue would block your opportunities.

    And 3.) Blogtalk radio shows. There are quite a few blogtalk radio shows where a moderator interviews you and you talk nuts and bolts about your book.

    Like I said, I haven’t finished my book and I haven’t tried these avenues for myself but I do know writers that used them and I have written a book review for them for their launching day.

    Above all, don’t give up and I hope these are some ideas that will highlight other avenues that you haven’t used yet.

    Pat Garcia


    • Not to be depressing, but I’ve tried all of those. I was quite excited about the Blogtalk radio options–did two of those and a few newspaper interviews (including the Washington Post). Nada. Sigh.


  26. Marketing is tricky. What works for one author may not work for another. There is no one right marketing strategy either. It’s all just a guessing game. We try this and that and may never know what truly works and what doesn’t. We just have to keep on doing whatever we can. Good luck!


  27. From what I’ve observed from others who seemingly have success – NOT from what I’ve done – they have first developed a network with their blog to create a buzz/interest:

    given away free PDF copies to their following for a LIMITED 24 hours or so
    posted chapters/excerpts to give people a taste
    done “post-a-comment-below-to-enter-free-drawing
    had other bloggers announce their contests
    used e-mail lists to announce their new publication for a special reduced price

    There are other things but those are just a few off the top of my head. It’s essentially about people who already know you and like you to help spread the word. AND THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO KNOW AND LOVE YOU. Kinda like “trust the reader”.


  28. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, so it’s hard to say what works there, but I find social media is huge for fiction. Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, guest posts, interviews, etc. are great for reaching an established audience. As a blogger, I know book tours have brought in a ton of traffic, and I’ve heard from the authors that those tours have boosted sales as well.


    • My experience with social media is it’s great for connecting to and interacting with my readers. And it is one form of ‘word-of-mouth’. As such it does generate interest, and sometimes contributes to sales, but in a limited fashion, and with limited value for sustained marketing and sales growth. I’ve done successful blog tours with the release of each of my novels, and while this generated awareness and interest, it hasn’t generated sustained sales growth beyond the initial release. Social media is only one aspect of a comprehensive marketing plan, and a limited one at that.


      • Jacqui, I’d have to say the blog tour is the best online eyeball multiplier for generating “buzz” about a new release. But like all online and social media venues, blogs have a limited ability to “push” a book on a long term basis. You need to be active all the time on many blogs catering to your audience, but in my experience this is only ‘promotion’, meant to stimulate awareness and interest, but blogs do not facilitate active ‘marketing’, or directly translate into sales. Certainly not sustained long term sales.


      • Michael, that’s interesting, because I would have said the contrary. I mean, I would have said that social media and especially blogging, would have facilitated selling books in the long run.

        I don’t have anything published yet, so I can’t say based on experience, I’m just speculating. But then, what would you say is the difference between creating awareness and selling? I would have said that awareness creates selling… if in an indirect way.


      • Jazzfeathers, it would seem that way intuitively, but this is a point of frustration and misunderstanding when it comes to online book marketing. There certainly is a difference between awareness and selling, and awareness by itself, doesn’t necessarily translate into sales, as you’ll discover when you publish and begin marketing your book. In my experience, and the advice of people better versed in online marketing than I am, you design a social media strategy to create awareness and interest in your brand, and funnel that interest to your website or blog, where you want to accomplish two things:
        1. Close the deal by turning interested visitors into actual buyers;
        2. Create a subscriber mailing list. The mailing list is your most important sales tool, especially for future sales.


      • Jazzfeathers, think of it like owning a store. The awareness and interest you generate get potential buyers into the store, but they can still leave empty handed unless you convince them to buy something while they’re in the store, and to leave a contact so you can alert them to sales promotions, new products, and turn them into repeat buyers.


  29. I’m not going to lie, marketing is the hardest thing about self-publishing and most of it is a ‘suck it and see’ kind of thing. I’ve never tried a book signing because I’m terrified nobody will show up! I’m also not great at selling my work. I’ve found that giveaways work well, and using the wonderful community we have here to share cover reveals, releases etc. But marketing and promotion is my kryptonite – I’m terrible at it! 😀


  30. I haven’t been able to come up with a strategy for my paperbacks, although my western/historical about Bass Reeves seems to do well, but the Kindle versions are doing better across the board since I adopted what I call the Walmart strategy – that is, I offer a few freebies every month (I have 59 Kindle books on Amazon, so I have lots of choices). Each week, I offer a different book free for 5 days under KU. By offering some of my backlist free, I keep interest stoked in them, and it seems to encourage people to look at others in that same series, so my sales went up a bit after I started it, and have remained fairly stable. I’m also seeing more reading through the lending library and Amazon Prime program, although it’s too early in the new ‘Pages Read’ stats to really say for sure. It seems counter intuitive, I know, and many authors resent giving their work away, but it does seem to have worked for me so far.


    • I like that. I have monthly specials, but not often free. I’ll try that. Unfortunately, I don’t have books on Kindle because mine are too pricey. Kindle wants them priced around $9.99 don’t they?


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