As authors, we very quickly discover that we must also become marketers. Matter of fact, whether traditionally published or not, the vast majority of the marketing for our writing falls on us. That is the nature of the business. With an increased number of authors, especially Indie authors, there are also a multitude of book marketing services cropping up.
Like any industry, book marketing firms have fierce competition. There are a lot of them. Despite there being more authors than ever before, there is still a limited number of us that they can appeal to, so they do what they can to make their services as attractive as possible. After all, they’re in the marketing business, so they’re going to market their services to us. But remember, not all marketing services or firms are created equal. Below are some things to think about.
Big numbers look impressive. Any basic marketing class will tell you that. We measure pretty much everything in numbers. Here’s the problem. Contrary to popular belief, numbers don’t always tell the truth, or the whole truth for that matter (mathematicians will probably be upset about that). Question the numbers. When you are talking with someone who is trying to sell you services, it’s important to discover their success rate with said services (or if it is a newer service, whether or not you’re a guinea pig). Here are some examples:
Book Trailers: Something I’ve seen is book trailer services being offered as uploading the video to x number of sites (20, 30, 40, however many). The first question from you should be what sites they are. When marketing your book, you’re going to want to stick with your target market. A video site meant for humor is not going to be the place for a romance book trailer. Also, there are numerous video sites that don’t want any type of propaganda.
Check the rankings. No video site gets more traffic than YouTube. You can view the top 15 sites yourself: Top Video Websites. As you can see, YouTube gets 450,000,000 unique visitors per month (that’s not hits, that’s actual individuals). The second place site, Hulu, gets 40,000,000. It decreases from there. So then you can ask yourself if the extra expense for a service this firm is advertising to have a video uploaded to 50 different sites when YouTube really gets all the traffic for files like this.
In addition, forget the numbers, how are people going to see YOUR video in an ocean of millions, even billions of other videos? That’s going to fall on you to send out links, embed it in your website, etc. So, even better, you’re going to market your marketing!
A counter argument could be that the more sites your video is uploaded to, the more likely it is to be viewed. That is true. However, again, ask yourself about the theme of these sites. People go to certain sites looking for certain material. If you video is not amongst that, it’s spam and it will probably be ignored (it may even get removed). Also, even if it falls into the interest group, you may get the same handful of people getting the same video in the same searches on each site so you’re really not appealing to a bigger crowd.
Enough harping on videos as I already did that in another post. Another thing to look out for is the “exponential chances of success” angle. That’s when someone tells you that you are 2x more likely to do something or 3x more likely if you use this service. More likely than what? If you take .0001% and apply this formula, that means you have now changed it to .0002% or .0003%. Statements like this are unsubstantiated. They’re leaving a lot out.
Question when a marketing firm tells you how many clients they have or how many books they’ve done marketing for. Think about it. If a marketing firm makes the claim of having 3,000 authors as clients, then ask some serious questions. “How many of these authors have sold more than 1000 books as a result of your services?” “How many of these authors are New York Times Bestsellers or USA Today Bestsellers?” “How many repeat customers do you have?” This one is especially important. Just because someone signs up once does not mean they will sign up again. Firms interested in quick turnover money simply try to get as many people to pay their fee as possible, with no interest in return business (which means their service is probably crap). In that respect, ask “How many of these clients have indicated that they would recommend you to someone else?” There are plenty of people who sign up for marketing services, realize it’s a rip off, and walk away. They will probably lose their money but the firm depends on this client’s voice not being heard while subsequently trying to discover more hapless victims.
Question testimonials. Again, similar to the number of clients, who are these testimonials from? Are they known authors? What percentage of clients write testimonials? Are any of these clients successful as a result? In addition, since these are supposedly authors, look their names up on Amazon and see if you can find their writing and possibly their sales ranking, book reviews, etc. Names like “J. Smith” are suspect. It’s even better if they provide a link to the person’s book(s) and/or website (and some do).
Ask about guarantees. Marketers can make some bold statements but what about guarantees? You see it all the time in service agreements. “No guarantee that you will sell books.” Seriously? It’s a book marketing service that you’re raving about and you’re telling me that you don’t stand behind it? Now, this industry IS volatile, and not every specific technique alone sells books. You will need to use common sense. If you pay $1500 for a service that offers no type of guarantee, I would question whether or not you will actually sell anything as a result. That’s a lot of money to drop with no reasonable expectation of return. If you pay $20 to have your book cover image posted on the main page of a blog that has 1000 visitors a month, may actually be worth it. They have a decent amount of traffic, and depending on your royalties, you may only need to sell a few books to make that back. In the meantime, it’s one more spot that people are seeing your book.
No matter what anyone tells you, book marketing is a tough business. It’s easy to get swallowed up in all of these various offers and services. It gets overwhelming. I know, I’ve been there. Just take a step back and give your options serious thought. Shooting for that one thing that causes your book to go viral is like depending on winning the lottery to pay your bills. Not very likely. Dedication to your writing and constant vigilance is what will take you to the next level.