Alright, last week I tackled the most common (and in many ways, the most effective promotional tactics that indie authors use. This week, I’m going to list and discuss some more generic websites and other types of promotional tools.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

In terms of SEM, there are two major areas – getting good Search Engine Rankings on Pages (SERPs) or paid advertising (Google Adwords, etc.).

Google Adwords is another money killer. I’ve not heard of any major (i.e. 6 figure author) be a big proponent of it. I know, from my own experience, that it is often quite expensive. The biggest issue with Adwords is that you cannot track sales direct when you send over, so you can’t tell if something is converting.

Now, if you had a website that sold your products (i.e. you were wide and set up an ecommerce store) and had links, this might work. However, I’ve not tested this yet and don’t know of any who have done so – and talked of the great results.

Adwords will eat your capital up, and is even more finicky than Facebook Ads. I would be very, very careful about touching this.

For getting good SERPs, you need to start doing Search Engine Optimisation. I’ve written about that before.  I might be rather dismissive about it, and that’s mostly because unless you are gearing your entire strategy around developing a blogging / website platform, the amount of time you’ll need to develop a good website to rank would (in my experience and view) be better spent writing.

Mass Media Paid Advertising

In general, the answer is no. You’re welcome to check the cost, but even at the lowest levels – and you can look at books like Guerilla Marketing to figure out how to lower your cost – the cost is prohibitive for most beginning authors. 

It’s worth noting, it’s not just the cost of the paid advertisement, but the cost of the creatives and the time finding the right locations and negotiating yourself a placement. 

On top of that, it’s worth considering your demographics. Many mass media advertising is not targeted enough, so you’ll be ‘wasting’ a lot of funds when you do this.

The small caveat I might have is magazines as some are very specific in their demographics and topics. For example, a gun magazine for a high action, very well written and research action book. Or maybe a history magazine for a historic fiction work. Etc. 

Youtube & Book Trailers

Youtube channels take forever to build out. They can be nice secondary source of income (via advertising when you reach the threshold to become a partner), and if you are inclined to this, you can generate some fans. The biggest issue here, like with book blogging and the like, is consistency. 

For Book Trailers, I’ve yet to see anyone do really, really well at this. Again, the time taken and the cost generally do not pay back. This might change depending on your demographic, which is why research is worthwhile. But, in general – just no.

Public Relations

I’m wrapping book reviews in large newspaper, book bloggers on the internet, youtube book reviewers and news appearances under this. I’m also including book tours, bookstore visits, school visits & readings, etc in this.

On a strategic standpoint, Public Relations (PR) can both generate a significant amount of buzz (worth more than the equivalent in paid advertising for your time spent) and have greater impact. However, for the most part, PR is about generating awareness at the top-end of the sales funnel.

It will not, for the most part, generate sales immediately.

Brandon Sanderson in his publishing youtube series discussed how, in his book visit where there were 2000 people coming for the signing, maybe 10% would buy a new book from the store. That means 200  new sales (at best). Counter-balanced against that is the expenses of the visit, hotel fees, assistants, time taken for travel, etc.

The point of PR is not to generate sales, but to generate awareness and long-term fans. So, while I’d add it to any toolbox, understand that this is something that needs to be done on a consistent and regular basis, but not with the expectation of immediate growth or change in sales.

For PR, the most important aspect is that what you pitch should be NEWS (New, Exciting, Weird or Sex). If you angle your pitch around any of those things, it often helps to convince editors & journalists.

Side note about generating PR – you will often find that local newspapers, bookstores, etc. will be much more open to local authors. 

In addition, there is a secondary affect of having generated a high local presence, over and above sales, in that it opens you to new funding sources – grants, membership on boards or grant committees, school visits, etc. 


Can be very useful for social proof. I’d recommend doing so, if you can, but do research that such awards have some meaning.  There are a ton of ‘scam’ awards that are more ‘pay to play’.

Conventions, Farmer Markets & other In-Person Sales

Generally, can be useful for generating small amount of sales and a low-level of familiarity and income. Again, like many things, repetition often helps. 

Realise that in-person sales is a skillset that must be learnt and built. You’ll need to work on your booth / table, merchandise properly, be ‘on’ and friendly and work your pitch and sales technique to generate the best return.

In turn, you’ll often only find that your daily sales is in the low single or double digits initially. It might never go more than that. Whether it’s better to be writing (or relaxing); is up to you. It can often be easier to build real fans (as people put a face to the author); though again, this might not be something you choose to do.

It is viable, but is a lot of work. And if you are looking at conventions outside your hometown, the direct $ return is often not there.

Alright, I think I got most of the things. If I missed something, let me know. This is mostly a strategic discussion, so I’m trying not to get too deep into the weeds of specific websites or locations.

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