(A relative of mine) wrote and self-published a book with Xlibris. She is a first time author, and is currently turning this into a trilogy. The issue we have now is the contact we are getting from Xlibris to spend 6,000-17,000 dollars to market the book. Do you have any comments/suggestions for us? We are in the process of getting a website together but are very, very reluctant to spend that kind of money for marketing especially when I can’t even see Xlibris as a publisher with a book represented in Ingram’s catalog! Thank you so much for any help you can give.
Xlibris is owned by Author Solutions, which has been the subject of two class action lawsuits. Allegations against them online have included complaints about their promotional tactics, their marketing products/services, and much more.
If you spend $6,000-$17,000 on marketing products and services for a book, my bet is that you will never see enough book sales directly resulting from those marketing products/services to pay what you did for them. Not even close.
I’d be interested in hearing from authors who have spent thousands at Author Solutions’ firms, including Xlibris, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, and others. You can see a list of companies involved with Author Solutions HERE.
If you have spent thousands at one of the Author Solutions’ firms, please contact me HERE. We will, of course, not publish your name or other identifying information without your permission.
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I should perhaps be the last to comment on marketing issues. I am dreadful at that. But I will note what seems to be the experience of others.
Marketing costs don’t scale well. Large publishers attempting to create a bestseller probably do get an ample return on their marketing investment, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. But smaller publishers and independent authors are likely to find, as Angela notes, that they don’t get much return on that investment. $100 spent for paid marketing might result in $10 more income. That makes no sense. There’s a threshold cost that advertising has to cross before it is effective. You probably can’t afford that threshold.
Instead, authors should look for ways to market their books where the impositions are on their time rather than their bank accounts. Look for ways to get the notice of potential readers that don’t cost money. That’ll depend on the kind of book you’re publishing, so the specifics will vary.
I will only mention one. If you’ve created a fiction series, distribute the first for free or very cheaply to stimulate interest. You might also give them subtitles that make potential buyers aware of the series and of which book to buy first. An example of that subtitle might be “Book Four in the Kitties are Cute Series.” That way, anyone who stumbles across any of your books, gets referred to the rest and particularly to book one.
Other suggestions include devoting a lot of time to the title and cover to make them appealing and coming up with the best possible keywords. Remember, most people aren’t going to find your book through ads in magazines. They’re going to find it when it pops up in search results.
One additional note. Today I got an email from Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), offering to help me “reach more readers.” Stubborn as I am, I’m not going to sign up because I see it as the entering wedge for Amazon becoming a retailer that makes it hard for a author to get visibility without paying them for publicity. That’s called an “entering wedge.” Once it starts, matters only get worse and worse.
Amazon itself hints at that when it says, “Register with Amazon Marketing Services, and take the first step toward increased sales and visibility for the eBooks in your catalog.” The flip side of that is, of course, that not registering with AMS means less visibility. Only so many books can fit on the first page of search results. To their great credit, Apple’s iBookstore has said it will never do that.
I see that search bias all the time in Amazon’s non-book arena. Amazon really does shape search results to maximize its income. Earlier this week, I needed to combine an order to get free shipping. That offered the opportunity to get a gadget I’ve long needed, a handy USB power monitor to check USB batteries, devices and cables. Amazon’s search wasn’t any help. It gave me long lists of poorly designed and dreadfully documented devices from China, all of whom were getting negative reviews. Amazon’s slice of their price must be a large one, I thought.
Some reviewers, however, mentioned PortaPow devices as the standard by which others should be judged, so I searched for that name and came up with the device that Amazon should have put at the top of their search list (91% of its reviews were five-star). Here it is:
That’s the one I ordered.
When it comes to books, you may find that slanted search results are a growing problem at Amazon. It wants those AMS books to sell and that means hiding non-AMS books. I think that’s stupid even from Amazon’s own perspective, since people who don’t find what they want typically don’t buy at all. But Amazon’s thinking doesn’t penetrate that deep. It’s pure “our customers are stupid” marketing. I certainly wasn’t going to buy those junky USB power monitors.
Whether you pay Amazon’s ‘blood money’ for greater book visibility is up to you. I have no doubt that it will get results. The real issue is whether authors should support such an Amazon practice given its long-term implications.
–Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride (YA novel)