Experiment in progress

Like virtually everyone in the writing world, I’ve been following The Business Rusch for a while, with varying degrees of optimism and trepidation. Kristine Rusch has a largely pessimistic take on traditional publishing, backed up by an impressive amount of business and writing experience, and she’s been developing the thesis that the day is fast approaching when most writers will be better served by self-publishing than traditional publishing. Her most recent salvo on this front was Writing Like It’s 1999, in which she suggests that the publishing business is becoming more like the music business, in which a tiny number of top-tier artists make millions, and everyone else gets screwed. Hooray for us, we’re playing with the big boys now.

In that vein, I also read about an established SF writer doing an experiment self-publishing one of her books as an e-book, with disappointing results. Here’s the money quote:

I signed up with Amazon, B&N, and Apple’s self-pubbing programs, put together a cover, and put it out there. I’ve since also signed up with Kobo and ePublishing Works (an aggregator which can get it on Sony’s ebookstore), so the book should be in those places Real Soon Now. I broadcast the news on my blog, to all the fans who have ever sent my a nice e-mail on my books, and on Facebook. I put in a couple guest interviews on posts where I flogged the book. I asked everyone I knew to mention it.

Let me tell you this about my experience with self-publishing: it’s damned difficult to break out past the circle of your friends and family. That’s evident from sales, which over the first month, totaled a grand 25 copies.

I am totally blowing the e-publishing world wide open. Amanda Hocking, look out!

I read this thinking, “Yeah, that sounds familiar.”

See, my horror ebook The Taint, while not self-published, is published online and seems to have fallen into the same trap. The sales of the book were pokey from the start, and as the months since the release have passed new sales have slowed to a trickle, much to my disappointment. And this was with the support of the Lyrical Press team, who I don’t fault in this at all, since they provided me with tons of pointers of ways to promote and got me a review in at least one venue that I would never have heard of otherwise. And the promotion that did happen seemed to have worked, since I got the most sales right after the book came out, when I was heavily invested in promotion for a few weeks. But this rumination, in conjunction with Rusch’s writing got me thinking: maybe I can do something about this. The internet is nothing if not an advertising platform—so what if I just tried buying an ad to promote my book?

The advantages of doing this online is that online advertising is cheap and measurable. I decided to make my initial foray into the advertising world with Facebook ads, and Facebook provides me with a very comprehensive set of metrics telling me how many impressions my ad has gotten (how many times it’s been shown), and how many clicks have resulted. At the end of the month I’ll get my royalty statement and I’ll be able to discover exactly how many sales resulted, and determine whether my brief ad campaign actually paid for itself in terms of increased sales. And the cost of the experiment was relatively trivial.

The ad went live two days ago, so I don’t have anything to report yet. I intend to blog the results as they come out, though. Watch this space for future updates.

Update: Results are here.


  1. Hmmm. Interesting experiment. I haven’t seen your ad on FB yet. I wonder what makes it pop up, although to be honest, I avoid looking at ads as much as possible.

    I’m taking serious steps toward self publishing Shipbuilder, for the simple reason that I want it available for the Titanic’s 100th anniversary. So I’m following all this with careful eye.

    1. Well, the ad is targeted for people who like horror, so I doubt that it would show up for you unless you’ve listed “horror books” as an interest. The whole point of doing the ad, after all, is to publicize to people who aren’t already on my friends list.

  2. That makes sense. And no, it wouldn’t show up on MY FB page. Pretty sure I don’t have horror books listed as an interest…

    Still – I hope the ad works for you. Good luck with it!

  3. The SF author has a lot to learn if he really expected his ebooks to take off like a shot. Three days and he’s complaining already?

    Just a note on Facebook ads, from an interested bystander who reads a lot of blogs. I’ve seen more than one post stating that, while the author’s Facebook ads got plenty of hits, that didn’t translate to sales. Of course, there may be others for whom it worked wonderfully well. But the best advertising, at least to start with, is free advertising.

  4. Pingback: J.S. Bangs

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