Playing The Long Game In Self-Publishing Book Sales

 

Playing The Long Game In Self-Publishing

Use the long game for exposure and promotion of your books and ebooks

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, in particular, are the go-to platforms for self-published authors trying to promote their books.

I see streams and streams of tweets and Facebook posts every day by authors either plugging their books directly, or posting regular writing updates, and in some cases, even posting inane trivia in order to keep being noticed.

This can be effective to a degree, but it takes an awful lot of time and effort to keep posting day in and day out. In effect, it is a 24/7 undertaking to maintain a regular flow of self-promotion.

Even with the aid of some automation, it is still hard work to schedule and calculate when the peak times of the day are, or which days of the week are better, on top of deciding which posts perform the best, and then entering them all into a scheduling or auto-feed programme.

Of course, monitoring and replying to posts and messages cannot be automated, so there goes a lot more of your writing, and free time.

Social media book promotion has a very short active life so is not playing the long game

The other problem with social media is that it is all so very instant, and once a Tweet or Facebook post has dropped off the bottom of a users stream it is dead, gone and forgotten.

Here are four recent examples of my own Twitter and Facebook posts to illustrate how they can attract attention but are so short-lived that they need to be re-posted over and over again to keep attracting shares, re-tweets, Likes and clicks.

Look at the graph in the image below, and see how the attention peaks immediately at the time of posting and then quickly fades to nothing over 24 hours. Also, look at how many impressions there are for each post, yet how few user actions there are. Another useful statistic from these examples is that image posts definitely gain more user actions than text.

self-publishing the long game - twitter statsthe long game - twitter stats 2

the long game - facebook stats

the long game - facebook stats 2

Social media is a very good short-term method of attracting attention, but the benefit of a post is lost extremely quickly.

Search engine listings of your books are the long game as they last for (almost) ever

A far more effective, long-term approach is to use old-fashioned web search via Google, Bing and Yahoo amongst others.

Yes, it takes longer to get listed and indexed and you need to post content, but once your content is listed, there is nothing more you need to do, as your posts will be working for you for years, 24/7, and your page views to click rates will be much higher than what you can achieve from social media.

All you need to ensure is that your book buy links or widgets are on either the sidebar or perhaps in the header or menu of every page of your blog.

Your well written and informative blog content is what is known as ‘hook bait’. Yes, it’s an awful expression, but true in that you entice your visitor to your content via their own search phrase, but have the expectation that some will click on your book buy links.

Exactly the same aim as on social media, but with no effort at all on your part once your content is indexed by Google.

The most effective content is, of course, well-written and informative blog posts, and every post you write increases your search discoverability. The images below give a couple of examples of how attracting visitors via search is far more effective than Twitter or Facebook.

The first image is the search result for an individual blog post over a 60 day period. This particular blog post is now over four years old, so imagine how many times it has been read since it was first posted.

The key numbers are that 1,215 individuals read this post, and the average time on the page was around a minute. One minute is plenty of time for a visitor to read the content and to discover that I’m an author and have books available online.

playing the long game - google stats

These two images below are overviews in different views of two of my blogs for the last 30 day period. In the first image, the key numbers are 3 page views per visit, and 57% new visitors.

It also has a low bounce rate, which means that only 18% of visitors left after viewing only one page for less than 30 seconds. The second image shows an even better engagement rate, as this blog averages nearly 4 page views per visit and an even lower bounce rate of 13%.

playing the long game - google stats 2

playing the long game - google stats 3

What search is not good for is attracting visitors to static websites. In my own case, my website consists of only a handful of pages that are rarely updated, and because it is purely about me, it is not very likely that people will enter search phrases that will find my site, as the image below of visits over a 30 day period illustrates.

If I wanted to promote my own site, social media would probably be a better means, although quite honestly, static websites have very limited appeal to people now.

playing the long game - google stats 4

From the few examples I have included in this article, it is easy to understand why search is so powerful in attracting traffic continuously over a long period. Yes, it takes a little time and patience to get listed and indexed, and there is a learning curve involved, particularly if you decide to add structured data to your blog posts.

But once the work is done, you don’t need to lift a finger to get traffic and to get noticed. In my mind, this is a much better means of selling books than living on Twitter and Facebook 24/7.

If you don’t want to set up and maintain your own blog, another way of achieving search listings is to guest on other people’s blogs.

Contact book bloggers to see who may be interested in either doing an author interview with you or a book review. You could also contact book and publishing related bloggers to see if they accept guest posts.

The one question you probably have is, ‘Yeah, ok. But does the long game sell books?’

All I can say is that this month is historically one of the quietest in the year for book sales for me, but my sales have still been steady and regular.

So I would say yes, and that they were more than likely gained via my indexed pages that have been listed for ages, rather than from any one particular post or tweet on social media.

Of course, some may well have come from them, but I have never noticed a sales spike due to my increased social media activity. Don’t worry, I have tried!

Social media is just one ingredient in the mix, but it may not be as crucial as you think in selling books. However, it can be a very productive tool to use to get blog traffic to a new blog post, while waiting the weeks for Google to index it.

My belief is that indexed pages are my investment account to ensure my future book sales. What I have written in this article may not be indexed fully for a couple of months, but in five years time, it will still be available to be found in Search engines. The longevity of search is the big winner over social media.

As a last note, I do have to say that social media, used well, can have an instant and positive effect on books sales, but this is generally only for the short term, as user interest wanes if a campaign lasts too long and becomes repetitive.

It is also very restricted promotion because it is only being seen by the limited number of followers, friends or Likes you have.

It is also unlikely that anything you post on social media will be indexed, so it is lost forever. This is why blog posts and search are far more effective in the long term, as it is a means to continually attract new visitors and potential buyers for years, and by an unlimited number of people.

Self-publishing ensures that your books will always be available, and need never go out of print. By spending the time now in gaining search engine listings, you will be investing very wisely in your future book sales.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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