As a new author, I jumped head first into self-publishing with my first two works. As far as mistakes go, I tend to think that I made every one that seasoned authors warn new authors about, and like many, I didn’t realize how challenging marketing would be.

Here are two versions of my marketing history:

Scenario 1: I wrote a book, posted it to Amazon, and expected my work to speak for itself. After all, I put a ton of effort into writing, and editing. That idea quickly vanished and I found myself searching high and low for ways to market my material.

Scenario 2: I wrote a book, found a publisher, and expected help with events and getting the word out from my new business partner. I had a publisher! Again, the idea quickly vanished and, again, I found myself in a marketing quandary.

So what is a new author to do? There is no silver bullet for this beast. I’ve tried google ads, Facebook ads, Twitter ads, lots of ads. Whenever I’m tempted to write an ad, I have to put the situation into perspective. How many times have I clicked on an ad and actually bought a product? For me, the answer is: close to never. I don’t believe ads work to sell books. I do believe that ads help build a following.

Strategic Advertising

Instead of targeting an ad to buy a book, I’ve been targeting to build an audience. I primarily use Facebook to build my platform. Periodically, I place $5.00 to $10.00 ads with the goal of gaining followers. The more followers I gain, the more I can reach them with free posts to my Facebook page. Are people more likely to buy from someone they don’t know through a random ad on Google, or are they more apt to buy from an author they have chosen to follow?

Rather than spend money on marketing, I now look for creative ways to reach my targeted audience. At first, I was thinking too big. Ads people can buy are a massive audience, and people seeing the ads are inundated with competing advertisements. I’ve shifted my efforts to reach people closer to home. I’m targeting my effort by honing in on people that are interested in my work, rather than casting a small net in a large ocean, hoping to get a fish or two.

Advertisement Alternatives

I’m looking to libraries, and looking to hold events. I can talk all day about my publishing endeavors, and it’s a chance for me to connect with people while showcasing my work. Instead of spending money on ads, I’m spending on marketing materials such as pens, coasters, and bookmarks, all with images of my book and my website address printed on them. I use these for incentives to help promote my work.

Instead of spending time on advertisements, I now spend my time researching ways to get my book out to bloggers and review sites. The more reviews I can get for my work, the more my writing will be visible to others searching Amazon for their next read.

As an author striving to get my material out to the world, I am faced with countless sites offering services for marketing and promotion. I tend to believe that it’s not the authors making money, but rather the companies and individuals offering services to the authors who hope that by paying another party, their work will get noticed. My advice to other new authors out there: don’t fall into that trap! Find ways to reach your audience that won’t cost a large sum of money. I have yet to read about a pay service that will guarantee sales.

It used to be that publishers took care of marketing, but I believe that to be less so now. More and more, authors need to handle their own marketing, and much of that marketing is about connecting to readers and building a foundation for future works.

A version of this post originally ran on the Hometown Authors site on July 31, 2018.

I am very excited about the thought of releasing my book “Conduit” on Amazon in the very near future. Yes, a little nervous, OK a lot nervous, but still excited. I hope that people will enjoy my story as much as I enjoyed writing it. So with my energy high, I made the mistake of opening up my web browser and searching the internet for self publishing tips. Of course I was bombarded with different viewpoints from those expressing how wonderful self publishing is to those telling me only losers self publish. Of course on the one site explaining how I’m loser for self publishing my book, the thought ran by of posting a note explaining how some very famous authors started their career by self publishing but I forced myself to close the window and vent silently causing some indigestion.

Knowing self publishing my story was not going to be easy, I still made the decision to go for it. I had read some articles before making my decision, but not a lot. Just enough to get me knee deep in it. That’s the way I tend to do things. I dig myself a hole, seeing how far I can go and then, in between panting for breath, look up wondering how I’ll get out. I do end up finding a way out at some point, but I always find myself thinking that I should have listened to more advice. But where’s the fun in that?

At this point, I have my story ready to go. The cover is almost ready. I have a website with a blog, a facebook page, and even a google page (which I haven’t had any time to add anything to). In between thinking about how to manage all of these things, I’m thinking about how much more I can spread myself out. After all, who doesn’t want to hear from me? I need to get to everyone! Next up, Twitter so I can tweat like I’ve never tweated before! Watch out Twitter! Oh, I can’t forget I’ll need an Amazon page too.

So here I am, sitting in that hole I dug, taking a breath for a moment, my trusty shovel propped up next to me while I sit and stare up a the clouds above.

I understand now why so many people have tried the self publishing venture and gave up at some point along the way, running back to trying to get a publisher to notice their work – all to finally give up on their dream completely. The fact is though, even if an author finds a publisher to publish their work, this day in age an author cannot afford to skimp out on social applications, or at least new authors can’t. There is still a lot of work an author needs to do even when working with a publisher. Many publishers scour the internet to research authors submitting work, to make sure they have a web presence. My argument to those who shun self published authors is this: Neither route, self publishing or traditional publishing is a walk in the park. Publishing traditionally means that the author may get some boost in marketing power, but self publishing means most profit goes to the author.

There. I’ve proved to myself I’m on the right track. Maybe if I keep digging, I’ll find my way out?