I’ve been taking part in #HistFicMay where historical fiction authors are invited to answer one question a day about their work. Yesterday’s question was: ‘How do you advertise your book?’

I’d been thinking about blogging about marketing for a while and this question, the day before my weekly blog post, has rather focussed my mind.

I’m self-published, so all the sales efforts for my books are down to me. The bad news is that this takes a ridiculous amount of time and energy. The good news is that (having originally been published by a small press) I know that an indie author will do a better job selling their books themselves than most publishers will do for the vast majority of their writers.

So what do I do?

Let’s start with what I don’t do. I don’t advertise. Historical fiction that isn’t Tudors or Regency Romance is a bit of a niche market. Unless a major publisher takes me up and decides to promote me heavily, I’m never going to sell thousands of books. (That’s why so many writers hold out for publishing deals, hoping against hope that they will be one of the lucky dozen or so that their publisher chooses to put serious money behind.)

About 80% of my sales are on Kindle and most of my books are just £3.99 so any significant advertising campaign is unlikely to pay for itself. I used to work in adverting and an insignificant advertising campaign is simply a waste of money. (Something I’ve confirmed by dipping a toe into Facebook and Amazon adverts.)

Social media

I do make an effort with social media. I post regularly on Twitter (I’m still not calling it X) and I have an author page on Facebook. I have an account on Bluesky too, but, sadly, the platform never really took off.

I don’t expect someone will see a tweet and rush to buy one of my books. I’m hoping that my social media efforts will drive people to my blog. (Well, you’re here, so presumably it works sometimes.) Then, with luck, you might explore my website and buy a book.

The website you’re on right now

I’ve put a fair amount of effort into my website, so I hope it sells the odd book. I’ve trialled selling directly (look at the bottom of my landing page) but so far with zero interest. This is largely my own fault because I’ve downplayed the offer in case it doesn’t work out on a practical level and I end up annoying a lot of readers and maybe losing money. Still, the offer is there so do feel free to take it up.

The main thing I do on the website is blog. I’m pretty religious about blogging every Friday. I enjoy it, which is a good thing because it takes quite a lot of time. Some blog posts get hundreds of viewers (over 450 when I reviewed Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, for example) while others pass almost unnoticed. I’ve looked for patterns so that I can just concentrate on the things that people will read but there honestly don’t seem to be any. It would help if I got feedback from people commenting on my posts, but generally they don’t. I just shout into the void and hope somebody is listening.

Free offers

I do run the odd Kindle giveaway. Many people speak highly of these and they have the advantage they don’t cost anything. The result can be one of my books appearing briefly in the bestseller list except that, given that they are free, I don’t feel that they have genuinely been ‘sold’. I’m not even sure that they have been read. I am certain I am not alone in having books on my Kindle that I picked up because they were free and have never got around to opening.

What I do find depressing is that even when people do read free books, they seem reluctant to review them. Surely that’s the implicit deal between the author and the person they give the free copy to? I do post a line or two on Amazon for every free book that I read unless I really can’t think of something kind to say about it and that’s rare. It would be nice if everybody else took the same approach.

Still, free offers cost nothing and can do no harm, so why not?

The best way to sell

What I have discovered is that the best way to sell a book is to write another one in the series. At the moment, I’m trying to write another adventure for James Burke. Unfortunately, I find myself spending more and more time procrastinating with tweeting and Facebooking and, dare I say it, writing this.

Going forward

I keep saying that I’m going to cut down on my blogging and, reading over what I’ve just written, I think I really have to make an effort to do so. So I will continue to blog on Fridays but maybe not every Friday and the posts might be dug out from years ago when most of you weren’t reading it anyway or may be just some pretty pictures or a few words of wisdom. It’s quite likely that shorter posts will be more appreciated. And I will be cutting down on Twitter. I’m sticking with #HistFicMay until the end of the month but after that I’m going to try to have some tweet-free days each week. I already hardly tweet on weekends and I think I’ll cut out Wednesdays too. That way I might even get a book written.

Tell me I’m wrong

I know that there are people who will say that I’m taking a negative attitude and that I really should make more effort to sell, rather than less. You may be right. I’m happy to be persuaded.

Feel free to respond to this blog and I’ll take all your comments on board. After all, if many of you do reply it will prove that I’m not screaming into the void at all.

Prove me wrong.

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