Let’s talk about the state of promotions for indie publishers, since there’s a lot of talk about Twitter and the like. 

Here’s the start..

Current Promotional Methods are Failing

This has been mentioned before, about how Facebook Advertising altered their algorithms in February. There’s also a pretty constant drop in the number of people on Facebook, as the young disappear and the old get fed-up. 

Amazon Marketing Systems (AMS) continues to be a great money maker for Amazon, but they constantly tweak Amazon itself, slowly degrading organic search. Not entirely, but enough that it’s harder for non-bestselling books to make it to the top anymore. Organic search for works drops, so you have to make use of AMS. However, because AMS is an auction based platform; the more people there are, the higher the base cost goes.

This is the same for Google Search results. I don’t know anyone who uses Google Adwords to actually drive book traffic, and that’s because Google Search is so far out and so expensive that it’s just not even considered.  

Then, of course, we have good old paid newsletters. Except in the last few years, places like Bookbub, Book Barbarian, etc. have been slowly reducing in effectiveness. This isn’t new, it’s been an on-going discussion and is probably just as much to do with the sheer number of free books many of these customers have acquired over the years.

So what else is there? Not much. Paid advertising networks have mostly disappeared because Adblockers have become ubiquitous. It’s hard for  been doing e-mail newsletter swaps, or didn’t grow them organically, then obviously your newsletter has issues. More importantly, the newsletter does not grow unless you actively attempt to grow it – and newsletter swaps, and other popular forms of newsletter growth techniques aren’t as useful anymore.

So what else is there? Not much. Paid advertising networks have mostly disappeared because Adblockers have become ubiquitous. Since most of us don’t have a website – and certainly not an affiliate system like Amazon’s – we aren’t able to hire multiple individuals to help with generating links in. For that matter, because our individual unit cost is so low, and individual sales are generally lower, there’s no real money to make for an affiliate (compared to just working with Amazon direct where you might get lucky and have someone buy a $500 office chair off your affiliate link). 

Search Engine Optimisation is both incredibly complicated, difficult and competitive. It makes little sense for the most part for your average website to try for SEO on their own site, though there’s something to be said about trying to get on various top 10 lists (both on the various other well known sites and even ward sections).  

And we’re not even going to discuss the vast majority of ‘traditional’ promotional techniques, like mass mail, tv advertising, billboards, etc. is just too expensive.

Which leaves…

Social media. That horrible boogeyman.  

TikTok, Facebook Fan Pages, Instagram and Twitter. Tumblr or Reddit.

Social media has a few advantages. Generally there’s no cost involved beyond time. It can help individuals or smaller groups have a larger and broader voice than could be expected for their actual budget. On top of that, it’s generally an accumulative advantage where those who’ve invested the most amount of time in a social media platform have the broadest reach (beyond people who are naturally good at that platform type). 

Overall, social media has been a major boon and entire ecosystems have grown up where individuals have promoted or developed themselves on those platforms, using it to grow their businesses and promotions.

Of course, TikTok is ascendent right now. Instagram is holding on but has become less useful for sales. Facebook is slowly dying as mentioned. Reddit continues to be fine, but only works in certain groups and vastly favours certain individuals especially due to the moderation policies in the subreddits. 

And well, Twitter? Twitter just got bought over and now, everyone’s looking for another option because there’s significant concern that it will devolve further. Which… is likely. 

So, failing promotional methods, failing social networks. What can anyone do about that? Well… that’s a good question. Something we’ll discuss in the next post.

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