The age of signings and physical book promotion events is dwindling if not dead. Its cost-to-returns ratio is no longer viable as more readers switch to online purchasing and to ebooks. This is especially so as publishers cut back drastically (or completely) on such expenditures. They only allocate such to the 1% of their authors with the highest (international) and established name recognition. Sometimes not even for them, and footing the bill yourself is unadvisable if you are not among that 1%.
Reality Check vs. Advance Check
This is not personal; this is business. Wasted money means publishers have less to spend in acquiring that next surprise best-seller that might be yours. And your own money will not buy your book that status through signings and the like.
We have tracked multiple accounts of (relatively) new authors making such expenditures. When verifiable numbers were acquired, part or all of their advance money had vanished, if they were professionally published. Sales did not support the approach as effective. We are talking about the vast majority of cases here, and cited exceptions do not carrying any weight as a counterpoint. They are exceptions and in the exceptional minority.
Selling Success (Do Not Buy It)
In the case of self-publishing, so much the worse, and do not be taken in by “success” stories touted through self-publishing operations for ebook and/or print books. That is a promotion for those self-publishing portals / businesses. The number of “best-seller” stories among authors with professional publishers is very low; it is exponentially lower among self-published authors. Success, like your book, is built not bought.
The book market is global and has been so for some time. Whether self-published, professionally contracted, or both, you have to think globally but sensibly. In doing so, we must face more bad news and hurdles.
The Decline of Social Promotions
The effectiveness of social systems for promotion is dwindling. Up to three causal factors may be involved:
- As more services and products (including books) are marketed online, the noise level for the target audience is rising rapidly and will continue to do so. Potential customers (readers) are increasingly ignoring anything that is not an in-the-moment want or need. They are taking steps to shut out the noise or at least filter it. They seek out long term needs/wants on their own.
- In facing consumer disinterest (through being annoyed), large companies are becoming frugal about advertising in social systems. Just the same, any social system has limits on how much advertising it willingly throws at its individual users. Your personal expenditure in promoting on such systems is a hundredth-penny to a corporation’s thousand dollars. Hence the spread of your ad will be minimal in the advertising competition.
- Some social systems free to individual users must now gain new revenue — from their users — though not in access fees as yet. Others are likely to follow this standard into the future. To encourage this, they limit the reach of your updates. This includes limits on users who chose to subscribe to your social account. You only gain an increase in spread of your news (among subscribers of your subscribers) if your direct subscribers give that individual update a thumbs-up or equivalent. The social system intends this to encourage you to pay for greater spread and bypass this social approval mechanism, though the amount of spread for the cost is diminishing visibly (on purpose).
All of this may seem like an argument against promoting through social systems. Not so, for these systems are still the major near zero-cost tool (in money) available to you. You will have to dance with these devils. Do so efficiently and lead that dance from the beginning to minimize the later costs (in time if not money); and that is the true foundation for effectiveness.
Yes, efficiency first, or in the long run you lose time for what matters most: writing that next book you must promote effectively. Most new authors get this backwards; some who are well-established got it wrong at first and learned the hard way. So how do you accomplish this correctly from the start? We will get to that in Part 2 of “The Challenge of Promoting” coming soon.