A Guest Post By Callie Browning
As Joe Wanamaker once famously said, “Half of my advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Cut to 2014, and this writer has realized that he said a mouthful. I promoted my book, The Shadow Guardian: Lost Dreams on Amazon from March 8th – 10th using their free days promotion tool and by the end of the first day I had seen a 600% increase over the first time I used the tool after enrolling with Kindle Direct Publishing. I could look you in the face and tell you that since I first promoted it eight months ago I had managed to get the promotion machine just right so I could see results. Or I could tell you that I had used the millions of dollars in proceeds from those months of sales to pay for better promotions.
But both of those would be the worse lies I told since I tried convincing my daughter that carrot sticks are really candy in Disney branded packages. Even at 3 years old she didn’t fall for my clumsily wrapped cellophane-and-sticker trick.
I look back at that event now and realize that the common irony in both of those situations was packaging. I had gotten some feedback, in both instances, that the packaging wasn’t good. So, in the case with my daughter I ate the carrots and negotiated with her until she ate strawberries. With my book, I got rid of the old cover and went for something that I felt reeked of freshness and a more tropical island vibe, but still felt like it held true to my story.
And like the glutton for punishment I am, I used the exact same channels I used to promote my book last time. Not because I knew they worked, but because I couldn’t afford anything better. So really I might have expected the same or worse results, all things being equal. Considering that since existing Facebook or Twitter followers already downloaded the book, only a handful of new people would bother to check it out. And not being particularly good at science, I wasn’t able to calculate what the outcome would be even with the whopping 8 months’ worth of self-publishing steel now in my veins.
Yet, I actually DID see an increase. My book rocketed up the Amazon best seller list, doing better than it had done in one day than it had done before over three days combined!
It’s all fine and good to use the channels you want to advertise your book. But the truth is that the cover is a critical piece of the advertising puzzle I had previously underestimated. With my last cover, I had gone a bit too far along the literal line and even though I wasn’t personally fond of it, I went with it anyway because I assumed that it “worked”. Turned out it didn’t. Everyone who read the book told me afterwards that the cover reminded them of the Chucky movies. Yikes.
I don’t know if I’ll ever write horrors because they scare me. Yes, my book has suspense and drama. But all good books should. But there’s much more to it than that. So why have a horrific cover on a book that’s full of fun, whimsy and intrigue? Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.
Now I know better and this is yet another lesson to file away in the massive archive I call “Indie Publishing Pitfalls”.
Callie Browning is the author of The Shadow Guardian: Lost Dreams one of the top 100 books available on the Amazon best sellers’ list.