In today’s post, I want to do something a bit different than usual. I want to address one of the main problems indie authors have with book marketing by telling you about my own experience, and answering the question: “Is a Fussy Librarian promotion worth it?”
As every indie author soon learns, being a successful writer is less about how good your book is and more about how good you are at promoting it. I have to admit that this is an area in which I find myself constantly struggling. For years I was under the impression that good, clean, hard work speaks for itself and that after a great editing job, a good cover design, and a little bit of marketing here and there, readers will find you.
While this may still happen for some authors at some point, in the large majority of cases, I have found that books (especially self-published books) are too easily lost in the flood of other books that are out there on the market. You publish a novel and it is immediately swallowed up by the ocean of other novels in your genre (the fact that I write in some of the overly saturated romance subgenres doesn’t help), and ends up all but hidden from the view of a potential buyer.
I have spent months trying to figure out how to make my books float to the top, and from now on, I am going to start sharing what I learn during this ongioing process in the hopes that my experiences can help someone else.
Free Promotion versus Paid Promotion
One of the first routes people take when they want to get exposure for a book is to have a sale and book various promotions to get the word out about said sale. A quick internet search will turn up dozens of free book promotion sites, such as Bookangel, eBookLister, and BookoftheDay.org, and these are fairly easy to register for. Most of them don’t have many restrictions, and many of them have multiple spots open per day, so there is little chance of being rejected. Each site usually sends out an email blast to readers every day full of the free or discounted books being advertised by authors. Most of them also put your book on the front page of their website so visitors can easily see it.
This is all well and good (and I will go into more detail about it in a future post), but there is one problem with these free promotional sites: nine out of ten times, they don’t work.
Over the past few years, I have booked multiple promotions with these free websites, and the results have been pretty dismal. I have heard of some people having success, but for the most part, the general consensus seems to be that you get what you pay for, which is nothing.
I struggled with this for a long time, because like many others in my chosen career field, I just don’t have the money to create a big book marketing budget. I kept thinking that there has to be a worthwhile way to promote a book for free, and I will continue to search for one. In the meantime, though, I decided to break down and try spending a little bit of cash on a site that I have heard some great things about: The Fussy Librarian.
Why The Fussy Librarian?
The Fussy Librarian is a website that offers some fantastic resources for both authors and readers. I have been subscribed to their weekly author email for several months, and they send out some great tips and links to articles that are useful to writers in all genres. The “head librarian,” Jeffrey Bruner, is extremely knowledgeable, and this gave me great hope for advertising with his site.
The Fussy Librarian is mainly geared toward sending avid readers/subscribers daily emails featuring the best book deals (including both free and bargain books) in whichever genres they choose. You can sign up to recieve emails containing historical fiction novels, contrmporary romance, or even non-fiction books, or you can just sign up to recieve a list of all the books they are promoting that day. The emails look fresh and clean, and overall it seems like a great site.
The Fussy Librarian Pricing and Requirements
As I said, I was looking to throw a bit of money at my book promotion problem, and The Fussy Librarian seemed to be the most cost-effective option for my nearly non-existent budget. The price of a book promotion varies based on genre and whether your book is totally free or just on sale, but the highest price on the list is $35. Here is a breakdown of the pricing from the website:
My latest novel, Love and Squalor, is in the contemporary romance genre, and I was putting it on sale for 99 cents, so my cost was $18.
When it comes to requirements, The Fussy Librarian is a bit “fussier” than its free counterparts. Here is a quote from the website:
In order for your book to be accepted for promotion, “you need to have at least one book with 10 reviews from Amazon. If you’ve got 10 to 19 reviews, the average rating must be 4.0; if you have more than 20 reviews, the average can be 3.5 (to account for how having an abundance of reviews can sometimes drag your average down). It doesn’t have to be the book you want to promote.”
In other words, even if you are promoting a book that has just been released, you can still do it, as long as one of your other books has 10 reviews.
This part was a bit tricky for me, as I had had quite a few people read that book (as well as Chase and Charlie and Portrait of a Sunset), but not many of them had left reviews. Over the course of a few months, I managed to get ten honest reviews (more on that in yet another post), and I was able to secure the promotion, which lasts one day.
I had heard several authors rave about The Fussy Librarian, so I have to say that I was feeling pretty excited when the day of my promotion came. I was certain that this would be the thing that shot Love and Squalor up the charts – or at least put it under the eyeballs of a few hundred more people. I didn’t schedule any other promotions that day so that I could get a pure result, then I waited for the sales to roll in.
The email blast went out in the late morning, and I opened it with anticipation… only to have my spirits plummet.
My first thought was that my book wasn’t on the list, that they had accidentally left it out. Further scrolling, though, revealed that my book had not been forgotten, but that The Fussy Librarian truncates their emails. There were around 25 book slots in the email I recieved, but they hid all but the first 9-10. The rest could only be accessed by a link in small font that says “[message clipped] View entire message,” which, as all of us frequent email-readers know, hardly anyone ever does. When you read an email (especially a promotional email or a list), you read it fast, skimming for pictures or titles that jump out at you. If you get the same type of email every day, you don’t take the time to click “read more,” you just read what is right in front of you and move on.
As disappointed as I was by this unfair and (I assume) arbitrary placement, I decided to go to The Fussy Librarian website itself to see if my book was there. And what did I find? This:
Coming soon? This website has been in operation for years!
So, at the end of the day, my book was just as invisible with the promotion as it had been without it.
So, Is a Fussy Librarian Promotion Worth It?
At the end of my promotion, I had sold two copies of Love and Squalor, and only one I can directly and unequivocably attribute to the Fussy Librarian promo. So, my answer to this question is a loud and resounding NO. A promotion with The Fussy Librarian is not worth it.
The $18 I spent on this promotion could have been saved to put toward a different, more useful promotion in the future, and I walked away from this experience extremely disappointed. I am sure that the people whose books were higher on the list in the email came away with better results, but for those of us that got hit by the truncation, the money spent on this promotion was good money down the drain. Since the placement of your book depends on your genre and the rotation they choose to use that day (I assume), my opinion is that it is better to save your money and try for something with a better return on investment.
Have you run a promotion with The Fussy Librarian? Do you agree with my assessment or did you have better luck? Let me know in the comments!