There are a couple of problems that every author faces.
1. There are a lot of marketing strategies out there.
2. An author can’t predict which marketing strategy will pay off.
3. What works for one author might not work for another author.
4. While marketing, an author needs to devote time to writing the next book. The book is the best marketing strategy any author has because authors are in the business of selling books.
An assistant who knows what they’re doing will charge between $15-$20 an hour, and since they do know what they’re doing, they’re worth that price. The learning curve is steep in this business, regardless of whether you need someone to upload books for you, maintain ads, or work on your blog/website. Authors who can afford assistants are often more productive than those who can’t because they can focus their time on things they know will pay off.
But alas, we are in the real world, and a lot of us can’t afford an assistant to do the things that might not pay off. As a result, a lot of us will end up wasting our time at some point in our writing career. The only things we can do is hedge our bets and do those things which have the best chance of success.
So what do we do in a sea of uncertainty?
This is why it’s best to be as wide as you can with your books. You never know what will take off, and you never know when it’ll take off. You might be doing well on one retailer one month but do better on another retailer another month. One month, you’ll see a nice boost in sales on one book then another boost in sales on another book. One month, you won’t sell anything in paperbacks, and suddenly, you’ll see some sales in paperbacks. I had given up on paperback sales until I saw some money coming in at D2D on the paperbacks I put up over there a couple of months ago. People said AI audiobooks would never sell because people will only listen to human-narrated books, but I made a few bucks on those AI audiobooks on Google Play. Granted, paperbacks and audiobooks do not sell as well as ebooks, but they do sell. Every little bit you make will add up. At least when you already have the book done and out there, it stays there. Once in a while, I’ll get a comment from someone who just now found the books that I published in 2009 and 2010. The world is a big place, and there are a lot of people who have never seen your books, no matter how long they’ve been available.
I’ve been publishing since 2009, and it’s a roller coaster. If you think this business is going to be steady, you’re wrong. Anyone who tells you that you can expect your income to always go up either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or is lying. Sometimes income even goes down. You can do things to give you an advantage, but you aren’t guaranteed that those things will work.
That’s why some things you do will be a waste of time. It’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what will stick. If you can get something to stick, then you want to do it again to see if it’ll pay off. If it does, then you have something worth devoting more time into. If, however, it doesn’t stick, maybe you want to try it again, just to make sure. Sometimes what looks like a failure is just a delayed reward. It can be hard to know in this business. But if it’s still not sticking after a few tries, then it’s best to try something else. For example, I took a couple of weeks out of my schedule to make a Payhip store so I could sell ebooks directly to people. This has turned into a huge flop for me, even though it’s worked out great for other authors. I tried running different coupons, but nothing worked. Over the past two years, I saw one sale. That was it. Doing all of that work on Payhip was a waste of time. I keep the site up, though. I went through the trouble and work to put everything there. Maybe someday it will pay off. For now, it hasn’t. Another example, so far I have received 0 sales from the AI audiobooks I’m putting on Kobo. I’m only continuing to do it because I can upload the files while writing, but if I couldn’t write while uploading the files, I’d stop and move onto something else. I’m all for exploring your options because until you try something, you don’t know how things will pan out, but there has to be a time when you decide enough is enough.
Choose the things that interest you.
There are a ton of things you could be doing to get your books out into the world. It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a brand new marketing trend that sparks through the writing community like wildfire. Since you are limited on time, you need to pick which strategies you’re going to go with. I suggest you go with the ones that most interest you.
For example, I have no interest in podcasting. I’d rather share what I learned as an author through a blog. Writing is a lot easier for me than speaking. When I speak, the ideas just don’t come out as easily. I communicate faster and more effectively when I type things out. But other authors do very well by speaking their thoughts out. For them, speaking makes more sense than blogging. I’ll throw in another example. Some authors love running Amazon ads. Their favorite part of the day is checking on keywords and seeing how those keywords are doing on getting clicks. To me, this is a form of torture. But these authors would rather be checking on their ads than blogging like I am now.
Just because someone else has huge success in one area, it doesn’t mean you have to do it if it’s something you’re not interested in. If you can afford to hire out for stuff you don’t like, do it. If, however, you can’t afford it, there’s no sense in doing it. You have plenty of things out there that you can do. And let’s say what you pick does end up being a waste of time. At least you enjoyed what you were doing. Granted, you probably will want to quit that once you realize it’s not paying off. Just choose something else that interests you. Also, you don’t have to be tied into the same thing year after year. Let’s say you did enjoy doing something for a while but then lost interest in it. Let’s say you want to try something else. You can. The beauty of this business is that you can be flexible.