Part of being an author is marketing. Both traditionally and independently published authors have to deal with a lot of our marketing efforts. We have to maintain websites, keep our social media accounts updated, speak at events, and just generally sell our writing—our voices. By nature, a lot of writers are naturally introverts, which creates a bit of a dilemma when we’re required to promote ourselves.
Indie authors face the unique challenge of marketing with little-to-no budget. And unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, even some traditionally published authors face the same problem. We must handle a certain amount (or all) of our marketing on the budget set forth by our day jobs. That’s right—most indie authors have a day job to pay the bills and write during our limited free time. Some might be fortunate enough to have a spouse or significant other who can pay the household bills and allow the writer to pursue their craft full time, but this is rare.
So, what do I do to advertise? I maintain my website and try to publish blog posts regularly. I try to post regularly on my Twitter and Facebook pages. I review all the books I read on Amazon and Goodreads. (How can I ask for reviews if I don’t write them myself?) I’m still resistant to starting an author Instagram, but that might be something I do soon. I hold book signings at a local indie bookstore during some of the quarterly art walks (when there are more people downtown) and hold sales on the Kindle versions of my books periodically.
I rely on word-of-mouth and book reviews more than anything because that type of advertising is free. It’s one of the reasons I am often asking people to post reviews of my books on Goodreads and Amazon. Those reviews are extremely important for authors, especially indie authors like me. My advertising and expense budget is tiny. Less than $500 per year.
What do I get for that $500 per year? I get postage to send out free review copies of my novels. I pay for those copies of the novels because those aren’t free. I pay for food to have available during book signings. I pay for business cards to hand out to potential readers. I pay contest-entry fees to get my name out there. I purchase Facebook advertising in limited amounts to promote blog posts to send more readers to my website. I also use the money for business-related meals, such as a meal to discuss my website updates or meals to thank my beta readers, who work for free because they enjoy my writing and my friendship.
Last year, I attended a book festival called Books in Bloom in Eureka Springs, AR, that I also plan to attend this May. I applied to be a featured Indie Author at the festival and will know if I make the cut sometime in April. Although I also applied last year and didn’t make the cut, the experience was still beneficial, and I was able to hear one of my favorite authors, Wiley Cash, speak. Regardless of whether I am selected to participate this year, I will attend if I am able. Part of my budget pays for the gas to drive there and back.
I also speak or appear for free to get my name out there. So far, I’ve spoken at the Dardanelle Library, the Dardanelle Boys and Girls Club, ATU’s Homecoming Author’s Forum, and at ATU’s Writer Series at the Library. Next up is participating in a book fair on Saturday, March 14, 2020, as part of ATU’s Women’s History Celebration.
The royalties I bring in for my novels go back into my business, which is Luminesce Publishing. So far, my expenses exceed my earnings. Maybe that will change someday, and maybe it won’t. All I know, is that my goal for success is different than anyone else’s goal. My goal is to produce quality writing. Even if only a handful of people read it and enjoy it, my goal is met. I’m not seeking fame; I’m seeking fulfillment—and I have that.
-Brandi Easterling Collins