A marketing lesson for self-published authors

Even though you don’t know if the seed will sprout, you should still plant it. That’s the lesson I learned recently in my self-publishing journey.

My first self-published book

In October 2019, I published my first book: Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide & Journal. I followed all the advice from the “experts” on how to promote my book.

My goal has never been to earn a top spot on any lists, but rather to get the book into the hands of as many people as possible who are looking for tips on discovering some of the many natural wonders in Arizona.

Any good marketer knows that one of the simplest ways to get free publicity is to send a press release to media outlets.

I sent out press releases a few times within the first year that the book was in print.

The result? Nothing. At least not right away.

My last attempt at a press release was in October 2020. Rather than follow the traditional who, what, where, why format, I tried a different approach. I repurposed one of my blog posts as a story that could be published as authored content by any of the publications that chose to run it.

Still nothing; until seven months later.

I was more than a little surprised when, a week into the month of June, I noticed book sales were on pace to be stronger than any month since December. Summer months in Arizona are generally so hot that people don’t like to travel here during that time of year. As a result, my book sales and blog traffic usually slow to a crawl in the months of June, July and August. I had no idea what was driving the extra interest in June and frankly, I was too busy to delve into it and find out.

Sales spiked unexpectedly

A few weeks later, I happened to search my name on Google and saw a result that I had never seen before. Although the source was a new one, I recognized the headline: 8 Free and amazing places you should add to your Arizona bucket list. It was the headline of the blog post I repurposed.

It turns out that a hyperlocal newspaper in Phoenix called CITY Sun Times published my article on May 30. Sales began to spike a couple of days after that.

One of the drawbacks to media publicity like that is you lack the ability to track clicks and sales like you can with other forms of marketing. Therefore, it’s hard to determine exactly how much lift I received from the article. But, who can argue with free publicity?

When I compared year-over-year sales, they were roughly 225% higher for the week immediately following the article in the CITY Sun Times than for the same seven-day period a year earlier. In fact, more books were purchased in that week than in the whole month of June in the prior year.

After sending at least three press releases to over 75 media outlets in Arizona and not getting anything published, I had pretty much given up on the practice. All it took was one publication to run my story to restore my hope in press releases as a viable marketing tactic.

The takeaway

Here’s the moral: When you feel like the stuff you’re doing to grow your business is a waste of time and energy, do it anyway. You never know when the seeds you planted are going to sprout and grow.

The whole experience has me considering what other nuggets from my blog that I can package into other press releases in the future.

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