Tackling Book Marketing the Hard Way

I recall the first time I indie-published a book on Amazon. After months of bleeding words onto the written page, reading, rewriting, editing, designing a cover, crying in frustration, cursing at my monitor when Amazon asked questions about things mysterious to me, and then finally clicking the coveted “Submit” button…nothing.

It just sat there.

How can this be? I screamed to myself in the wee hours of the morning, my fingers sore from checking my stats every five seconds for a week. I had done everything I had ever been taught in those creative writing classes I had taken in college. I had jumped through Amazon’s hoops, Googled those baffling cyber-jargon words so I could click the appropriate box and not inadvertently shoot myself in the foot, and I had even purchased a mini-course on cover design to assure my cover was just so. I had done everything I thought I was supposed to do, and yet; zero sales.

Imagining that it was just a matter of getting someone to read the book to get it to take off, I signed up for KDP select and dropped the price to FREE. Two hundred downloads and four rather insulting reviews later (plus a few generous five stars that likely came from friends), I was disheartened, to say the least.

I could have given up right then. That would have been the sane choice. I could have washed my hands of the whole thing and walked away with the knowledge that I had, indeed, achieved a life-long goal and written and published a full- length novel. But oh no, not me. I was born on the cusp between Taurus and Aries. The Bull and the Ram. “Quit” is not even in my vocabulary.

So, I went on a mission to discover what it takes to be successful at this thing called indie-publishing because it was plain to me now, that merely writing and submitting the manuscript to Amazon was not enough. Much to the chagrin of my fragile writer’s ego, the world was not clambering to read the pearls dripping from my mind to the page.

Over the age of fifty, my internet skills were, and still are, quite limited. Years ago, when the internet was first becoming a thing, a much younger friend had dragged me kicking and screaming to the public library and walked me through the steps of setting up a Yahoo email account. I thought it was pretty much the stupidest thing ever. Why on earth would I want to drive to the library every day to stare at a computer screen and read emails? I had better things to do. You know, shovel horse manure out of stalls, pull weeds out of the arena, shove needles under my toenails…

But, my friend was not to be deterred and she nagged me…relentlessly…until I gave in and started going to the library once a month to read whatever ridiculous thing she had sent me. And little by little, I became more comfortable with the concept.

Now, almost two decades later, I have discovered the power of email. (So I’m a slow learner. Chalk it up as the other side of the Taurus-Aries cusper: change comes slowly…)

After almost two years of signing up for every free book marketing course and webinar that passed in front of my face, two things are certain: An author must have an email list, and, beware of shiny things because they often have insidious viruses attached to them. (I have the crashed pc’s, fried motherboards, and vanishing account books to prove it… Okay, I don’t have the account books anymore, because they vanished!)

Well then, I said to myself. I can build an email list. How hard can it be? You guessed it. About as hard as climbing Mt. Everest naked…armless…and blind- folded.

Winging it, I spent a year trying to bull my way through it and had a dismal twenty-one emails on my list; which included my webmaster, a handful of supportive fellow writers, and a few of my friends.

So, I grudgingly admitted I might have to pay for a real online book marketing course, or twenty. But, being a frugal Taurus (aka; poor), my options were limited. I bought a lot of those appealing $27 courses that seem to be all the rage these days (apparently $27 has some kind of magical appeal that entices people to click “buy,” and I guess it works, because I did…). I picked up a few useful tidbits, but mostly I found those mini-courses came with a caveat: We’re going to share just
enough to show you how much you still don’t know so we can sell you our $1000+ course next.

Ugh.

Rolling up my sleeves, and now with two new published fiction works sitting out there on Amazon doing only somewhat better than that first effort so many years ago, (that I have long since un-published as a matter of self-defense), I set out to find just the right long course. I’m happy to report that the best of the best big courses offer free mini-course teasers and webinars which give writers the opportunity to try out their stuff before we invest two or three months rent and resign ourselves to eating Ramen noodles for a year (or take up gardening, as I did, to make up for the reduction in my grocery budget every time I bought another $27 course). Three of those courses rose to the top of my list of options: Mark Dawson, Nick Stephanson, and Chandler Bolt.

I tried Mark Dawson’s course first because I liked the idea of Facebook marketing. By then, I had become a Facebook addict and thought I was choosing the easy marketing route because it’s something I’m familiar with. And, I found that while the information he provides is excellent, his teaching style made me want to shove knitting needles in my ears. He rambles. A lot. Which results in really long videos. He also goes off on side-tangents that left me furiously scribbling notes in an effort to keep up, only to have him say, “But you don’t need to worry about that right now.”

That said, if you like a lot of details and want all that other information that you might need someday, just not right now, you might like Mark’s course. He certainly seems to have a big following and a lot of success, and as I said, he does provide a lot of good information, particularly about Facebook Ads. But, if you’re like me and you want someone who will cut to the chase and lay out the important parts in step by step bite-sized pieces, you may find yourself getting too annoyed or overwhelmed to pay attention anymore. I did.

I moved on to the next one: Nick Stephanson. Nick occasionally offers a free mini- course that focuses on setting up a Mailchimp account and designing a landing page. I loved that course! With short videos that showed step by step what to do, provided brief explanations for why it’s important, and some nice cheat-sheet downloads, I learned a lot and my email list grew to sixty-seven by merely tweaking my landing page to improve its appeal.

But alas, the cost for the big course was far outside my reach even with the payment plans offered at that time. So, I moved on…

I found Chandler Bolt’s free offerings almost as appealing. Providing similar step by step instructions with only occasional side rambles, I decided this course was an equal option to Nick Stephanson’s course, with the price being similar, except for the fact that Nick focuses on fiction authors while Chandler covers both fiction and non-fiction. I also found myself struggling to pay attention at times as Chandler’s teaching style didn’t click as well with my learning style as Nick’s had.

And, I admit, I just like Nick’s voice and accent better.

(I am reminded of how we equestrians occasionally hire horse-shoers based on the view-ability of his derriere. After all, that’s what you’re going to be having a conversation with while he shoes your horse. But I digress…)

I found myself gravitating back to Nick’s course, peaking longingly over the edge of my desk, drooling over the steady stream of enticing emails he had continued to send me just often enough to keep his course in front of my face, but not so often as to tempt me to click the spam button. And of course, I watched every new free webinar he offered in the process.
And then one day, he sent out an email with a new payment plan. Oh so tempting, but still out of my reach, given recent changes in my financial situation. Whimpering, I decided to click reply. I thanked Nick for offering a longer plan with lower payments, but alas, I still could not afford to sign up.

Nick listened.

Within days, an email arrived offering a twelve-month payment plan that I could afford.

I think I hurt myself in my rush to sign-up, even though my work schedule would not allow me to focus on the course for at least three months. Sneaking a peek here and there between a multitude of demanding distractions, I loved the brevity of the videos that cut right to the point in a way that was easy for me to follow and implement. I was added to the private Facebook group where I am able to connect with other students, and later I jumped on the offer to join the students-only Dream-Team Network where Nick’s students work together to help each other market their books. My first effort there resulted in over four hundred new emails on my list…and all I had to do was sign up to share one of my books for thirty days.

In the midst of everything else going on in my life, I have slowly worked my way through about half of the course, so far. The course is huge. Between the fifty-nine videos in “Your first 10,000 Readers,” the eighteen videos in “The Author Marketing Machine,” and the seven videos in “The Dream Team Network,” it would be impossible for me to review the whole course in just one or two blog posts. So, in my next post, I will try to provide a general overview of the parts of the course I’ve completed so far (without violating my student agreement, of course!), with further reviews in the future as I continue to work my way through the remaining modules. So, stay-tuned!

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