Every day at least one solicitation for a book promotion service pops up in my email messages. All promise wonderful levels of exposure to tens or hundreds of thousands of potential readers, mainly through Twitter and some through Facebook. Then there are the newsletter-based book promotion services to which potential readers subscribe for easy notification and access to books that are newly released, free, greatly discounted, or all of the above. Finally, we have digital book tours which combine Twitter and Facebook announcements with promos on their websites and on bloggers’ sites for more targeted advertisement.

I’ve used many of them, such as:

  • Awesome Gang Books (http://awesomebookpromotion.com)
  • BookTweep (https://booktweep.com/book-marketing)
  • Hidden Gems Books (https://www.hiddengemsbooks.com)
  • Paranormal Romance Lovers (http://paranormalromancelovers.com)
  • My Adult Book Place (https://mybookplace.net)
  • AuthorWeek (https://www.authorweek.com)
  • BookGoodies (https://bookgoodies.com)
  • And more.

Book promotion services range from less than $20 to well over $100. I’ve even hired a “book marketer” through Fiverr who promised extensive social media promotion which delivered nothing but disappointment.

What can an author expect from these services? Depending on the plan (basic to premium):

  • A certain number of tweets promoting your book over the course of the promotion (usually one day to four weeks)
  • A certain level of audience exposure (from 25,000 to 450,000 recipients, some boast over 1 million)

Overall, none has proven its worth. Only once has a book promotion exceeded, much less met, expectations of breaking even. In speaking with a colleague with whom I collaborated on a collection of stories, his experience echoed mine. We published primarily in different genres, so we weren’t really competing against each other for the same readers.

I also hired a social media marketing consultant to assist with book promotion. She did an excellent job of expanding my social network through Facebook and especially through Twitter. She performed website and book sales analyses. In short, she did everything–and more–that she promised, but book sales still floundered. The ambition of social media marketing generating sufficient book sales to at least pay for the service turned to ashes. I hired a public relations firm on a 3-month contract to boost book sales. The result … crickets. That poor decision wasted a lot of money. The agency’s representative was so embarrassed by the lack of results that she offered an additional month of service at no charge. I don’t know what that free service entailed, but the result was the same: nothing.

What’s an author to do?

The advice is to focus on quality. The author must make sure that the content is professionally edited and meets professional standards. Check. The author must make sure the cover design appeals and is suitable for the genre. Check. Stiff competition–over 1 million new titles uploaded every year and mine is just one of those–pose astronomical odds against success. Not only must my book compete against the huge glut of books published that year, but it must also compete against the avalanche of books published before it and competing against it for market share.

It hurts to admit that well-written content, good editing, and appealing cover design aren’t sufficient to propel a book to success. My best sales come from on-site events unrelated to book promotion: i.e., arts and craft shows. I haven’t the foggiest idea why, but I’ll take that success wherever I can get it.

I’ve attended a couple of webinars targeted toward indie authors trying to promote their books. They were basically sales pitches for more expensive workshops or services. If I sign up for an informational webinar, then I want information, not a sales pitch. If I deem from that webinar that the consultant’s service will be beneficial, then I’ll sign on as a client. But don’t try to sell to me straight from the get-go. That’s just annoying.

I’m not a marketing professional or expert. As a matter of fact, I thoroughly dislike marketing. That dislike and ineptitude in no way disregard the importance of marketing. Apparently everything I’ve done doesn’t work. What does work?

I wish I knew. Maybe my stories just aren’t that good. Maybe I just haven’t found the right audience. Maybe …

In the meantime, I’ll continue to hurl my ambitions (and money) at some of the same old tactics in the very definition of insanity of doing the same thing and expecting different results. I keep hoping that something will stick, something will spark.

Until then, I’ll continue to write and hope to achieve every author’s dream: bestseller status.