Marketing and support services for authors – a survey
Dorothy and I have been talking at some length about her plans to set up a consultancy service for writers in relation to marketing and author support. Unfortunately, based on market research she’s done so far, it seems that many authors aren’t clear about what assistance they want, don’t know how they want it to be delivered, and aren’t sure whether (and/or how much) they’re willing to pay for it. Accordingly, we decided it would probably be best to lay out the problems here, and ask all our members and readers to respond with their ideas. If we all put our heads together, we might come up with something workable.
Many authors complain that their books don’t achieve the sales success they’d expected or hoped for. The reasons for this often are not clear. In many cases it’s simply because the books are poorly positioned and/or poorly publicized – which is where marketing comes in. Let me give you some examples from my own experience.
- I took a SWAG as to what keywords to use for my first two or three books (essential to help potential readers find them when searching for books in their areas of interest). They sold reasonably well, but could have done much better. This was proved when Dorothy (who understands search engines and optimization very well) analyzed the keywords I was using and pointed out that books on similar subjects were using keywords more closely tailored to the book and to potential readers’ tastes. After she modified my keyword selections, my sales went up by over 25% across the board.
- I was mainly publicizing my books through my blog and through asking friends to mention them on their social media accounts. This had some success, but again, not as much as I would have liked. Dorothy investigated the major marketing services available (e.g. BookBub, etc.) and Amazon’s internal marketing offerings (Kindle Countdown Deals, Free Book Promotions and Advertising for KDP Select). She then used several of these tools and services to publicize my more recent releases, with greatly improved results.
Those are only a couple of the areas in which Dorothy and I have worked together to investigate and analyze options for improved market penetration.
The trouble is, many authors don’t analyze such factors at all – or, if they do, they regard it as a burden on their time compared to the job of writing the books and getting them out there. I’ve seen a lot of advice on the Internet along the lines of “If your latest book doesn’t sell, perseverance is the key! Get stuck into writing the next one!” Unfortunately, while that may be a good creative strategy, it’s a very poor business strategy – and we’re in the business of writing. If we don’t analyze where and how we’re going wrong, marketing-wise, how will we ever put things right? Furthermore, actually conducting that analysis involves giving someone a fair amount of information about what you’re doing – either gathering it ourselves (which may take a fair amount of effort), or giving others access to our Amazon account and/or other outlets’ accounts so that they can gather it for us (which is a security risk if we don’t know the person involved). Many authors don’t want to ‘give away their secrets’, even if that’s the only way to get an objective analysis of where they are and how they can improve their marketing.
So, dear fellow authors – what do you want? We really need your honest, in-depth answers to the following questions.
- What author services and marketing assistance do you, personally, need?
- What author services and marketing assistance are you, personally, willing to pay for?
- How much are you willing to pay? (Think in terms of either an hourly rate, or a ‘package price’ for a marketing support deal for a single book – input on cover design, genre and keyword selection, marketing and publicity, etc.)
- What do you not want in the way of author services and marketing assistance? Are there things you simply insist on doing for yourself, or in which you want to retain a right of veto? (It’s no good paying someone to come up with an idea that you will then reject – neither of you will be satisfied.)
As an example, let me tell you what assistance I’m willing to pay for in terms of author support and marketing:
- Manuscript pre-publication preparation and formatting;
- Cover image selection, layout and design;
- Composition of blurb, selection of cover reviews and advertising copy;
- Genre and keyword positioning;
- Publicity (selection of channels and tools for marketing and advertising);
- Analysis of sales and fine-tuning of market positioning based on performance;
- Ongoing analysis of the genres and markets in which I operate, so as to revisit earlier books and modify their marketing elements as necessary to accommodate changing trends.
To do all that, I’ll happily pay $500 to $1,000 per book, in advance, and regard it as cheap at the price. It’ll pay for itself before long, and my overall sales will be all the greater thanks to such assistance. For the lower figure, I’ll have to deal with some of those areas myself; for the higher sum, I’ll generally expect all of them to be covered by the consultant. In either case I’ll have regular discussions with the person(s) doing the work, including the right to veto elements that I don’t like; but I must, in my turn, respect their professional expertise, and acknowledge that they may know more than I do about what works, or doesn’t work, in particular areas. Therefore, selecting the right person is critical. (I selected the best . . . in fact, I married her!)
What say you? What areas would you like to hand off to a consultant or assistant? How would you prefer to handle market research, positioning, etc.? Please let us know your perspective in Comments.