Is Marketing Now More Important Than Your Book’s Content?

With a slew of self-styled “marketing gurus” with all sales guns pointing to the vulnerable self-published author, who’s to be trusted in this newly-grown jungle of book “experts”?  And now Chelsea Peretti is doing book signings without a book. Is this a trend for marketing over content? Does it actually matter if your book is good quality or not? SPR’s Naka Jackson, a lit postgrad, decided to take a look at the people behind the top five guides on Amazon today to see if their own advice is selling their own novels.

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Reference > Writing, Research & Publishing Guides > Publishing & Books

indie author power pack1. The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish and Market Your Book
by Joanna Penn, David Gaughran, Johnny Truant and Sean Platt
Rank:#487 Paid in Kindle Store

Verdict on earnings: It’s a sad day for self-publishing when books go on sale for less than 35 cents each in a box set. This price point means each author with be taking home around 8 cents a sale after Kindle expenses, and before taxes – and that’s before marketing costs.  But maybe bundling could be the way forward, as this book is #1 in its category, and its current (best) rank of #487 overall suggests sales of 200 a day since the beginning of November when the book released. So 6000 copies a month at 8.25 cents each? Around $500 a month per author.

Verdict on the books: The three books concentrate on digital marketing for writers who already know how to write, so buy this if you are confident in your product and want to get into marketing your book in a fast track style, what Michael Bunker calls “grinding.” The book opens with the lines, “We know what the author journey is like, because we’re authors too.” The question is, is this really enough to write a book about it?

Verdict on the authors: All four authors have many books out, and all have authored both non-fiction books and fiction books. All write fiction books and have an understanding of the process ground up. All have a passion for the self-publishing industry. They are known, solid and trusted bloggers in this industry. However, their own fiction rank figures vary wildly from book to book therefore how much of this advice is “best guess”, or down to the quality of the writing, is unquantifiable.

Examples of books (Taken from most recent book on Novel Rank):
Unicorn Western 2 by Johnny Truant – Best Rank: #643,786 (0-1 sale a day)
A Storm Hits Valparaiso by David Gaughran – Best Rank #472 (100-300 sales a day)
Pentecost by Joanna Penn – Best Rank #231 (100-300 a day)

2000 to 100002. 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
by Rachel Aaron
Rank #4,682 Paid in Kindle Store

Verdict on earnings: Rachel Aaron has sold over 100k copies of this handbook and counting, with a solid rank for over two years. Her fantasy novels, of which there are many, are priced reasonably and she has a strong fanbase for her work, relying on dedicated readers for sales. Based on her current rank, Aaron is taking home between $3000 and $5000 a month at the current time for this one title.

Verdict on the book: If you are looking for a way through to be a good artist with your work, this book builds stamina and craft. If you want marketing techniques, not so much. But her solid place on this list shows that writing well can be the key to selling copies. Wow, WHO KNEW? A genuine writing guide, short and to the point.

Verdict on the author: Rachel Aaron I like. She’s a fiction writer who has none of the snark and gloss of the self-styled writer’s marketing guru.  Her fantasy books are original, and sell very well, and her theory is to write good stories and the books will sell themselves.

Examples of books (Taken from most recent book on Novel Rank):
The Legend of Eli Monpress – Best Rank -#9 (2000-3,500 a day)
The Spirit War – Best Rank – #3,460 (30 -55 a day)
The Spirit Thief – Best Rank – #5,414 (30 a day)

Maps and Legends3. Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands
by Michael Chabon
Rank #6,077 Paid in Kindle Store

Verdict on earnings:
Chabon is currently pulling in around 9000 books a month on Kindle alone for this one title, giving him around $3000 take-home.

Verdict on the book: This isn’t a self-help book about marketing, this is about writing, and comics. A collection of essays to help inspire any would-be writer, this is a beautiful guide on what it means to write and the romance that got you here in the first place. Really, what it’s all about.

Verdict on the author:Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, Werewolves in Their Youth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Maps and Legends, Gentlemen of the Road, and the middle grade book Summerland. Of course he knows what he’s doing.

Examples of books (Taken from most recent book on Novel Rank):
Wonder Boys – Best Rank -#216
Telegraph Avenue – Best Rank-#25
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Best Rank-#5,146


antiprocrastination4. Anti-Procrastination for Writers The Writer’s Guide to Stop Procrastinating, Start Writing and Create a Daily Writing Ritual
by Akash Karia
Rank: #7,364 Paid in Kindle Store

Verdict on earnings: His rank indicates this book sells between 10 and 30 books a day at $1.11 each. After Amazon fees, Karia is taking home an average of $300 a month on this title.

Verdict on the book: If you want to sell fast and make quick money and have no interest in craft beyond moving units, maybe this is the book for you. The fact it’s #4 in the list indicates many people want that. Which is a huge blow really, as more low-quality books flood the market every day, and this generic book may help you churn it out, but that may not be a good thing. There’s a new breed of marketing guys spouting products galore, and they are headed to the self-publishing market like a rash of goons. Where SEO “gurus” used to graze, this new breed of “expert” is hunting down those book gazelles who have money, time and no knowledge of what to do in the digital age with their self-published novel.

Maybe stop procrastinating by reading books like this, and get writing.

Verdict on the author: Akash Karia is a pure marketeer. He writes about marketing, and markets that. Then he writes about how he marketed it. And markets that.He’s even done a TED talk about it. And has that on sale as a book, too. There’s no evidence he has any idea of how to shift a fiction title, let alone anything in a niche market.

No examples of fiction.

30 days in the word mines5. 30 Days In The Word Mines by Chuck Wendig
Rank: #10,818 Paid in Kindle Store

Verdict on earnings: The rank of the book suggests 10 books a day are shifting. That’s 3000 a month, so at $3 a pop, Wendig is taking home about $3000 monthly off this title alone.

Verdict on the book:
The snark of the industry, you either love or hate Wendig’s hard-hitting macho style. If he doesn’t get your writing, nobody will.

Verdict on the author:  Wendig has been a fixture in the scene of self-publishing from the beginning and writes fantasy novels as well on books on how to write. His fiction books are fairly well-received, with some of the fantasy novels dragging in the weeds of the 200ks. However, overall Wendig can be trusted as a notable and successful fiction writer with chops.

Examples of books (Taken from most recent book on Novel Rank):
Blackbirds – Best Rank – #591
Mockingbird – Best Rank – #19,171
The Blue Blazes – Best Rank – #47

The verdict seems to be that those writers with solid experience are doing the best with their own fiction books, and therefore it’s great to know that quality literary craft is still the mark of a truly bestselling author with staying power over time, instead of the speedy writing-selling model. It kind of boils down to the fact that those who write, write, and those that can’t…

  • An eye-opener on the marketing business. How on earth can I get the same results with my four books? Two memoirs, a travel journal and a memoir based fiction- http://home.earthlink.net/~schaefer234 Marketing locally is easy, fun, but slow-and I get rave reviews. My market is geared toward the mature reader as well as younger folk with an interest in World War II, the 1950s, the Berlin Wall, California and western travels. The national and international market is our there somewhere! Jill Schaefer