Before I start I will acknowledge that everything I do whether by accident or design that makes people aware of my books, which certainly includes this blog, is a form of advertising. What follows is merely based on my personal experience and nothing more.
Supposedly back in the electronic self publishing days of yore (about three years ago at most) the $0.99 book was way to get ahead. A handful of writer sold vast number of books and made substantial amounts of money. That can probably be attributed to the ereaders, after their initial spluttering start, taking off. Thousands of people had Kindles and frankly there is nothing more sad or pathetic than an ereader with no books on it. The $0.99 books are still around and some of them I would guess are making good money but the days where that is all a books needs are in my opinion over*.
So presumably some kind of advertising is now needed?
I have my doubts.
When it comes to self publishing my guiding star has always been minimize costs, combine that with my cautious*1 attitude to money and what you end up with is no formal advertising. This blog only started about a year after my first book came out and while I got as far as opening a Twitter account I’ve never written anything on it*2. Heck, I only join Facebook less than two years ago. Self promotion as those who know me out in the real world is not in my nature. My books have nonetheless sold and while it is hard to get any solid information regarding an overview of the world of self publishing, what bits and pieces I’ve come across suggest I’m pretty much average in terms of money made.
In the past I’ve heard traditionally published mid-list authors complain about the lack of advertising support they get from they publishers. I also know that they only advertizements I’ve ever seen for books outside books shops were for the Dan Browns and J.K. Rowlings of this world. The problem with advertizing is that it gets really expensive really fast and frankly most of it won’t work*3 . For it to have any hope it will have to be targeted at the group(s) of people most likely to be interested in your book in the first place. Which immediately begs the question, do you know who these people are and how to reach them? Until you work in advertising the answer is probably no. Even if you do work in advertising the answer is still at best only probably only maybe.
So while it is certainly possible to spend a lot of time and money on advertising. The more you spend, the more a title has to sell just to break even. Plus time spent on advertising it time you can’t spend writing.
Before I self published I was of the opinion that the definition of a successful first book is one that paves the way for a second. Two years into self publishing experience has not indicated that opinion was faulty. The best advertisement for one of your books is another. Blogs, websites, twittering, etc, etc have undoubtedly their place, most of the people who come to this blog are looking to see when my third book is out but even though the financial costs of these are minimal they do have a time cost. The accountancy term that can be applied is opportunity cost. Time or money spend on advertising is time that can not be spent on anything else. Which is why I think any author has to take a cold hard look at any advertising possibility and ask themselves whether it will pays its way.
But as I said at the start this is just one persons perspective and as with everything in the modern world of publishing, what is true today might well be obsolete tomorrow.
*. I’ve noticed the price of Indie Ebooks in slowly creeping upwards, which sort of flies in the face of the critics claims that they would devalue literature.
*1. Sure, lets call it cautious.
*2. And likely never will.
The Job Offer, currently only available on Kindle.