Challenges in Self-Publishing: Marketing

September 13, 2014

When was the last time you dug around the eBook listings on Amazon? If you’re a typical reader, your answer is “never.” The best data I’ve seen suggests that you go to Amazon when you know what you want. In fact, more than half of Amazon purchases are determined before the average customer even loads up the site, and if you really dig, you’ll find that the real number might be closer to 90%, once you’ve accounted for directed sales from social media and aggregate sites.

And this groks (shut up… it’s a fun word) with most users I’ve talked to – even writers who consider marketing via Amazon a reason to drop prices and eliminate profits by trying to manipulate their listing and search functions. It’s kind of a madness in self-publishing, and definitely falls under the heading of challenges in the industry. After all, you need to be listed on Amazon, and it only makes sense to want to be found there.

This is a T-Shirt... not sure why.

This is a T-Shirt… not sure why.

Except it doesn’t.

Instead, the most successful self-publishers live in a world of perpetual marketing. Every book released is tirelessly hawked on Twitter, Facebook, and even Pintrest in the vague hope that something will trend, become momentarily “liked”, and ultimately score a place at the top of some list somewhere. As such, a sustained literary marketplace has yet to really spring up to replace the more orderly pecking orders created by reputable publishers over the last half century or so. Of course, most writers hate this kind of thing, so a lot of really good books risk getting lost.

The problem, as I see it, is twofold: writers haven’t really learned how to market their own work, and readers aren’t ready to make the time investment that content discovery requires today. The challenge is connecting writers and readers over their mutual love of the art. Goodreads has proven the most powerful platform in this regard, but even it has the problem of corralling users into a world of books they already know and writers who are already fairly well-established.

So what has worked for you? What are the marketing avenues that have proven most successful, and what platforms do you think could be developed to make content discovery easier for all concerned?

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