Marketing has always been a challenge for independent (indie) authors, no matter which era they, have lived, or do live, in. In some measure the advent of social media has helped but as many will attest things have markedly changed and it looks like they will continue to do so.
Most social media sites, originally, distributed user posts, freely, to most of their friends and followers (known as organic reach). This was a great way for people to stay in touch and one many took too quickly. However, as users will have become aware things have changed. In 2019 companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, to name but a few, limited organic reach to the point that few of a user’s friends and followers see their posts. This is disappointing but inevitable with changing world economies: there is little doubt the changes are financially motivated.
From the start the organisations and companies providing social media and publishing services have earned income from advertising, mostly by established corporations and charitable organisations. For several years, this income was considered sufficient to support the broader aspect of enabling society to share together. They were in effect, part social service and part commercial enterprise and were seen as a valuable contributor to local and international communities. However, it appears their goals, aims, and attitudes have changed. They are now looking for increased finances and appear to be far more reliant on advertising revenue. Naturally, especially for those who have been long time users of the services, this is disappointing but, before complaining, they should bear in mind, despite original appearances to the contrary, these are commercial companies and organisations and as such have to meet various costs (salaries; property maintenance; technological tools; taxes, etc.).
The following statistics provide some idea of the impact advertising revenue is having: It is estimated, in one year, YouTube earned $15.15 (£11.6) billion in advertising revenue alone; Instagram $15.00 billion; and Pinterest $1.00 billion. Facebook’s advertising income is thought to be far in excess of these. Bear in mind, these are only advertising earnings, each receives additional income from other sources. Despite these, to the ordinary person in the street, vast figures it appears the companies require further income. This may be due to increasing costs but it must also be accepted commercialism now appears to be a primary goal.
Naturally, considering a majority of indie authors, as well as some of those who are traditionally published, tend to rely upon social media for getting news of their books into the world, the reduction in organic reach is having an adverse impact. Authors are therefore faced with the quandary of how, in the future, to make readers aware of their book(s) existence.
Despite the changes mentioned above, social media, at least for the time being, remains viable though it must be born in mind, with the constant adjustments being introduced, this is likely to change. In addition to social media, authors also have their websites and/or blogs (or at least should) and newsletters (though for several these have some drawbacks). However, not everyone wishes to subscribe to these meaning contact is probably limited to social media outlets. The constant adjustments to organic reach are consequently having a very definite impact.
Increasingly users are being forced to opt, if they are serious about getting the message out, for paid advertising or, at a minimum, to pay for a post promotion. Admittedly, there is provision for varied expenditures, though, with the auction bidding method many utilise, lesser investments tend to get lost among the more robust. It is also true, some, one off, set fees are not overly high. However, repetition is a necessity for effective advertising. Obviously, a fee is payable on each occasion. Consequently, what may have first looked like minimum expenditure can quickly escalate.
This push toward paid options is a serious issue for indie authors. Many have little or no resource to draw upon and even for those who do, the constant outgoing flow, with no guarantee of sales, will probably become unsustainable.
At present there appears to be no solution for authors. In their reviews for the coming decade many of those involved in publishing, full time, part time, professional, lay person, etc., concur authors will ultimately have little choice but to employ paid advertising for their marketing and publicity.
The situation is not helped by the fact major publishers, including the big five, are now choosing to use facilities normally the preserve of indie authors. For example, the big five are now enrolling their books into Amazon’s KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited programmes thereby diluting visibility of other authors books.
Thankfully, though reach is being increasingly limited, social media remain viable communication avenues which authors should continue to utilise to the fullest extent. However, they need to take note of the trend toward advertising revenue and prepare for it. Understandably, those without resources will be concerned but, even though it may not be as effective as they would like, they should at least consider a minimal expenditure: most sites allow for this.
Marketing, for many authors, is an anathema subject nevertheless, if they want to get news of their books out, they have no alternative but to take it onboard. This is the time for them to learn about the various advertising programmes available to them. Admittedly, a lot of these are initially confusing but the sites normally have plenty of guidance added to which, many bloggers kindly share their marketing experience, advice, and insights.
Note: This is the time to learn. The various ins and outs cannot be properly or effectively learnt in a rush.
Disclaimer: Neither T. R. Robinson nor T. R. Robinson Publications, other than being users of the services, have any affiliation with or to any of the companies or organisations mentioned. Nor do either receive any remuneration for mentioning them.