Book Marketing Still Confuses Me

2024 marks the start of what will be the fifth year since I released my first fantasy fiction book The Ascension Legacy - Book 1: The Shamed Ranger. Since then, I've released four of the other remaining five books in that series (A Legend Confirmed, A Hidden King Found, A Fallen Hero, and Conquest & Conflict). But despite my continued efforts to release new content and to complete the series, I have actively engaged in marketing my books since Day 1 only to find little success.

But before you think I'm about to cry "poor pitiful me", let me clarify that my marketing efforts have been limited to small things. It takes a small sum of money to bring a single book to market and I'm trying to bring a minimum of 6. The constant cost of editors, ISBN registrations, proof orders, etc. can easily eat into a budget that leaves little for things like marketing. I knew that going into this and the plan has always been, get ALL of the books from the series released and then dive into the deep-end of the marketing pool.

However, even with what few things I've done over the last few years, I've not figured out the best approach. Sure, there's tons of people who will sell you their "fool-proof book marketing strategies" but often they don't amount to much from what I've read. Most of them sound more like ways for others to profit off our ambitions. I won't say they're a scam because they might contain useful information to some people but I wouldn't know because I'm not going to buy one.

I've considered hiring a social media marketing firm to do some adverts for me online but most of them want a few thousand dollars for one campaign or a monthly subscription of a few hundred dollars a month. And if I'm honest, while I appreciate the time I was able to work with the folks at Snow Tree Media and learned a lot through those interactions, their efforts didn't exactly net me a noticeable number of sales above and beyond my usual quarterly figures. They were knowledgeable and I trusted their work and advice but they didn't generate anywhere near the sales needed to justify their expense back then. What's the value to a group like that if I'm still paying out of pocket or having to do a lot of heavy independent marketing on my own just to raise the money to pay for their effort? Know what I mean?

I've tried running ads on Facebook. More often than not, the ads just have trolls commenting on them and very few people buying anything. The ads might get a few new followers to my page but that's about it. The ads result in almost no discernible sales bump when compared to quarters with no FB ads running. Maybe its how I construct the ads? Maybe its just a lack of interest in the genre? I can't say. Why my ads are failing are the big mystery to me that I don't know if I'll ever truly be able to answer.

Instagram is something of an unknown to me. I post on IG but don't know the first thing about actually using IG. I get tons of DMs from people wanting to promote my book to help get me followers and sales but most people I've talked to said those were usually not worth the cost, even if only a few bucks. I have tried using a variety of hashtags to get my posts more attention but I still haven't found that magical combination.

I did try running a newsletter for a while but gave that up after the first few months. There just wasn't much between monthly mailouts to add in the next newsletter. I did a few marketing swaps with other newsletter providers but that didn't do much. I couldn't even get the people whose books were promoted in my newsletter to sign up for my newsletter. My subscriber list was woefully small. I wasn't reaching anyone there.

Outside of that, I haven't really done much. I've been a guest on a few podcasts talking about my books. I've been to a school to talk with some students about storytelling and world building. I've given out a few free bookmarks with Book 1's cover on it and a QR code that'll take you to the book's Amazon page.

And that's about it.

People have suggested a few local book signings but between COVID and the cost of acquiring enough books to do a signing, I haven't really gone down that road yet. I'd rather hold that money to fund the next book's release. Maybe when the series is fully released then I can look at doing a signing.

I know there are other ways to market my books but I haven't found them yet or can't afford them yet. I want to enter my books into contests but that also takes money. I know the old adage goes "you have to spend money to make money" but that implies that you have the money to spend initially and to date I do not. Maybe that's the missing link in all of this and why marketing my books has been so difficult.

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