KP Kollenborn – What I learned from the first year of marketing

What I learned from the first year of marketing

by KP Kollenborn

Prior to publication, I had already established one blog,, one Facebook fanpage and Twitter just two years before marketing my book, but once I had something worth marketing, my followers dramatically increased during November 2011- June 2012.  Because I understood the difficulties of reaching out to an audience I still had yet to find, (especially with historical fiction where the premise is about friendship between two Japanese American boys rather than a romance or a thriller,) I set my goal to sell a 1,000 copies. I did hire an editor; unfortunately there still are problems I know I need to address. Yes folks, this is all part of the learning experiences of indie authors!  And although I managed to format my ebook, I broke down to hire someone to help format my soft bound book because I struggled with Microsoft Word to segment my novel into five parts with 9-10 chapters inside.  I found GoPublished  which is the most cost effective formatting without loosing efficiency and professionalism.

Along the way, through trail and error as I experimented, I’ve gathered a list of what I used, what worked best and what didn’t.  Below is a list of strategies I  had used as a means to market my first novel. To simplify things, I’ve decided to rate the list as it seems fitting as to how authors’ books are rated:

Kirkus Reviews

2 out of 5 stars

For the price of $425 to stamp a name brand in order to acquire credentials for your book, I would say use your money elsewhere to benefit your marketing budget. It doesn’t provide the exposure as it claims in their statements, and you’re playing Russian roulette when assigned to a reviewer who may not even finish reading your book and then leaves a compromised review.  I’m not the only one with this complaint, as you can read here: Writers Beware the Kirkus Indie Review

Publishers Weekly

1 out of 5 star

They only select 25 DIY out of 200ish to review and feature your book. If your genre is very selective, the odds of PW selecting your work is very slim; otherwise your book becomes lost in the slush pile PW establishes on their quarterly DIY section. If the price were only $50 or less, it might be worth the gamble, but not for $149.  Writers Beware of Publishers Weekly.

The Bookplex

5 out of 5 stars

Highly recommend! Amazon accepts their paid reviews, and the affordable pricing is well worth the 5-10 reviews you will receive on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and even the reviewers’ blogs if they have blogs.  Their reviewers are bona fide readers who enjoy reading a good book, not critics who feel superior.  They do provide fair and thoughtful reviews, so don’t expect all 5 star reviews because we live in the real world.

Self-Publishing Review

4 out of 5 stars

If you’re looking for an extremely affordable credential, this is the spot.  They are a medium size format.  Their reviewers are also self published writers, editors, and bloggers whose background compliments the indie author industry.

Blogger Book Reviews

5 out of 5 stars

I am so grateful for the support of bloggers who support indie authors. To read about how to acquire book reviews, check out my article: The Low Down of Book Reviews for Indie Authors. To see the list I’ve collected, click here and scroll down to the bottom for book reviewers.


3 out of 5 stars

A wonderful place to set up your author’s page and load up your book(s).  It’s a great resource for exchanging ideas and thoughts.  No spamming.  The best feature is the book give-away.  You have up to 6 months to give-away a physical book as a means to generate a buzz and accumulate reviews about your newest release.  When I mailed off the winners copies, I included a letter thanking them for entering and congratulating them for winning.  I also asked them to leave a review if they would like to do so (which all did.)  How many books you want to give away is up to you, but the more you send out, the more reviews you collect. Author Program. And this is an excellent article: 5 Ways Writers Can Get the Most Out of GoodReads.


2 out of 5 stars

I’m still not sure about Smashwords.  I do love what it has to offer: It offers different outlets- Apple, Kobo, Diesel, Sony, Baker & Taylor, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, (although with Amazon and B&N it’s better to directly upload it yourself because you’ll upload immediately and will receive a higher royalty percentage.)  I do like that you can download epubs and mobi conversions that are ideal for submitting to reviewers  that way you don’t need to find and download programs to perform those tasks. I also like that Smashwords will assign a free ISBN for ebooks needed for libraries, Apple store, and Baker and Taylor.  Here are the problems I have with Smashwords: First, it took anywhere from a month to three months to upload the files, and my book never made it on Apple or Baker & Taylor.  Second, my sales are 1/5th compared to that of Amazon.  I have read, however, Smashwords does well with authors OUTSIDE of the U.S., and for those in the U.S., certain genres like romances, paranormal romances, and erotica have done well.

Amazon Selects

3.0 out of 5 stars

Now to be fair, I recently joined Select and only have one book.  Other authors who have multiple books have done fairly well with this program.  I can understand that.  Once you gain a fan base, readers want to read more of your writings.  Despite having only one place to sell my ebook, (which sounds like jail,) I have to admit that when I offered my book for free for the Christmas holiday, I sold A LOT OF BOOKS.  I like this feature for available exposure.  Now, in order for this program to work, you need to list it on sites where they advertise your free ebook. If you would like to read more about this feature, check out my “Articles on Marketing”” at the top.  And for 99 cents, here’s the largest list I found: Kindle Ebook Marketing Directory

Barnes & Noble

1 out of 5 stars

As dismal as my sales appeared with Smashwords, they are even worse on B&N.  But the listing is free, and it’s at least another outlet.  Some authors have claimed to have fared well, and again, it’s all genre based- which seems to be dominated by romance. And if you want to offer your book for free as a promo gimmick for a few days like Amazon, you would need to do so via Smashwords, and there is a little bit of a delay before it shows.


5 out of 5 stars

Createspace has the most affordable POD to date- comparable to Lulu, Blurb, Bublish, Wordclay, The Book Patch, etc. If you are on a tight budget, Createspace will provide a FREE ISNB and the most cost-effective printing when you need to buy your own books for promos.  Also, with a cheaper wholesale, you can competitively compare your book within your genre.  I started with Lulu, and although they have excellent customer services and products, I had to pay twice as much for my book.  And for $25, Createspace offers an extended distribution to other online bookstores to include Barnes & Noble, Alibis, Books A Million, and many smaller distributors. Plus with Amazon offering free shipping on their Prime program, it encourages readers to purchase via Amazon instead of other stores.  Although 90% of my sales have been ebooks, to offer physical copies has been helpful with give-aways, (especially on GoodReads,) and for those who do prefer soft bound to that of ebooks.


4 out of 5 stars

I have four blogs; the two I use mostly are about my passion of history and sharing what I have learned about writing and publishing-this blog.  The other two blogs focus on my published book, Eyes Behind Belligerence, and my next book, How the Water Falls to be published by 2014.  It’s difficult to calculate direct sales from my blogs, but the hundreds of hits I get on a monthly basis has helped expand the exposure of my name and themed interests.  Not to mention I love sharing and have a strong belief in paying it forward. Tips for blogging

Author Interviews & Guest Blogging

5 out of 5 stars

Finding other bloggers who not only provide book reviews but allow interviews and guest blogger is a fantastic way to grow your marketing.  If you can coordinate at least several within the same month, you will see increased traffic toward your social media outlets and will help keep your sales steady.  It can be time consuming, so pace yourself, and I wouldn’t recommend doing so every month because you will burn out.  Either every other month or quarterly intervals, depending on your stamina level. The best results I got were from these guys to start off with:

Devils Review
Kindle Mojo
Dan O’Brien Project
EPN News

Facebook and Facebook Writers Groups

4 out of 5 stars

Depending on the month, I got an average of about 10% of referrals to my blogs and website via Facebook.  I use both my personal page and business pages, ( pages to include author and book pages.)  But since Facebook had changed it’s system- again- the last few months of the year I had noticed a decrease, so 2013 very well may have different results. The events page invitation is a great way to invite your friends, however.  Although most groups have authors post their books for sale, but every once in a while either a blogger, another writer, or some other promo person will post a request seeking other authors for interviews or offer free resources to help market your name or book.  I think of it as classifieds, therefore several times a week I’ll scroll through to see what’s going on.  In the meantime, sometimes I am able to answer a question or share some advice to others. You can find a short list at the very bottom of my page here.

3 out of 5 stars

Again depending on the month, I get an average of about 5% of referrals, but what I like about Twitter is that it establishes these 3 elements: 1.) Connecting to other indie authors and see how they are communicating on Twitter to grow their audience; 2.) Finding more book reviewers to connect to; 3.) Finding indie book stores to connect to.  I have collected a list of hashtags for authors to use for Twitter: Twitter Hashtags


5 out of 5 stars

This was awesome force to utilize a way to schedule my posts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can login on any computer and do not have to worry about downloading a program to use it.  I usually set up my posts on Sunday, and allow them to go out for the rest of the


3 out of 5 stars

Much like Facebook and GoodReads, it’s a good place to share comments and interact with fellow writers.


2 out of 5 stars

I haven’t had much success with my newsletter thus far. I’ve noticed that unless you’re constantly providing freebies, people won’t sign up or hardly will read your emails.  About 3% of people who had signed up will check out my newsletter.  I know the ultimate goal is to announce your next event and release of new books; however, with one book right now it’s a hard sell.  I will need continue to improve my content and database. I use MailChimp because it’s super easy to use and it’s FREE up to 2,500 followers.

Press Releases

1 out of 5 star

THEY DO NOT WORK.  Authors who specialize in self-help, advice, how to, etc. have claimed that press releases work for them.  For the fiction sector, it’s a bit more challenging.  Unless you’re well known, the unknowns rarely get a second glance.  Even John Locke of Donavon Creek series, not the 15th Century philosopher, admitted that press releases didn’t work for him, either.

Website and Book Trailer

3 out of 5 stars

Although I only get a handful of hits, nevertheless, by having a website establishes professionalism as a published author. Book trailers will not necessarily increase your exposure, however it a cool feature to compliment your website.  If you can’t afford one, then don’t worry about it. Websites for Indie Authors

Book Club Reading List

1 out of 5 stars

For $39.95 you list your book with them, they send out a newsletter and press release to their audience.  I was intrigued by the idea, and the cost was worth the gamble.  Sadly, I had a few people look at my book, and no buys. They are fairly new and in order for them to grow they want you to back-link their site.

Indie Author Land

3 out of 5 stars

A free place that supports indie authors and I have noticed some sales that it came from that week of publication.

Indies Unlimited

3 out of 5 stars

Another free place that supports indie authors.  I didn’t get much traffic, but I believe the main reason is due to my genre.  They focus more adventure, romance, mystery, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and biography.  I do appreciate having an opportunity to market my book at any

Hand out Cards

3 out of 5 stars

Hand out business cards and postcards, (postcards to include your book, book reviews, where to buy your book, and website.)  Keep these with you in your purse or wallet.  If you strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger, just hand them a card.  ”In case you may be interested.”  The most cost effective printing I’ve found is this one, (and yes, cheaper than Vista Print.)


Persistence pays.  Even with bad reviews and low downloads during slow times. My first year I’ve sold 3,248 copies, and gave away 40.  Very, very rarely will an author hit it big on their first round. Many authors, whether indie or traditional, have often stated it was either their third or fourth book before they started gaining recognition.  And sometimes it wasn’t until their seventh or eighth book before raising brows. The best part about being an indie author is the absolute control you have in managing your book(s); and you don’t have to worry about either a publisher or agent dropping you due to the amount of sales you have accumulated.  Ask, politely and without stalking or begging, to acquire book reviews and to also buy your books.  If you don’t ask, you won’t know.  And don’t forget to read “Self Publishing Info” and “Articles on Marketing” to get you started with promoting yourself and your book(s).

Things I plan to try for 2013:

*Book Signing

*Virtual Book Tours


*Comment more on other blogger’s sites

*Fine-tune my newsletter, Pinterest, & LinkedIn

*Finish my next book

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Historical Fiction

Rating – R (strong language)

More details about the author & the book

Connect with KP Kollenborn on Facebook & Twitter


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