Exposure. The decent kind, not the indecent kind.
That’s what every creative is after these days, whether independent or not. The game we’re all trying to win is discoverability. How do we get noticed among the hundreds of thousands of other works out there?
In the world of independent publishing, this wasn’t so difficult ten years ago. You could upload a Word document to Kindle Direct Publishing, and voilà, readers bought it. And if you made your book free, it would be downloaded thousands of times because folks were enamored with the Kindle and were compulsive about filling the device with more books than they could read in a lifetime.
But things are different now. A few brilliant authors got their rights back from publishers and armed with a backlist catalog, took advantage of the “Kindle Gold Rush.” There ain’t no more gold in dem der hills.
Many of the creatives I know believe we’re in a “pay-to-play” era. They believe that without paid advertising, it is impossible to show your books, songs, or works of art to the right people. I agree.
However, I think the bubble is about to burst.
I recently ran some Google Ads, the first time in 8 years I’ve done so. I lost money, which is no surprise because I can only spend $10 or $15 a day, not thousands every month like some corporations. I can’t compete for those clicks. I don’t know the technical intricacies of the ad platform, and I don’t have the money to spend learning it, so I’m taking my ball and going home.
The problem is that if you don’t use paid advertising, what can you do? You either hire a firm to create and run your ads or run them yourself, probably at a loss if you’re like me. The other option is to hope for organic discovery, which is about as likely as walking down the street and “discovering” a one-hundred-dollar bill.
Or maybe, wait it out.
There are only so many clicks available for any given keyword or ad. Only so much pie to eat and we can’t all have a slice. And, we’ve become desensitized to online paid advertising, which means it’s harder to get attention, even if you occupy that first page of Google search results.
That all means the bubble might be ready to burst. The current race to the top of AMS Ads’ CPC rate is about to end. There’s not many of us who can afford $1.00 or $2.00 per click, let alone $5.00 or more. For most of us, paid advertising will be something we can’t afford, on multiple levels.
When that happens, the companies with deep pockets will take over, and then, online advertising will become just as ineffective as highway bulletin boards—things that most people ignore 99% of the time.
The silver lining is that we might be entering the golden age of content marketing, that special kind of marketing that got a bad rap because it’s forever been associated with sleazy internet marketing.
Blogging, YouTubing, podcasting—these are all shining examples of authentic content marketing. Podcasting, in particular, is seeing double-digit growth every year. These forms of media are free, and they build trust between creator and consumer, which is probably the only thing that will drive sales in the coming years.
Consider this: Instead of investing your money in paid ads, invest it into your own content marketing where nobody can be you, nor outbid you for search ranking. It’s a long-tail game but one where we can all win.
Each week in this blog series, I’ll discuss what it means to live the author life, delving into topics about mindset, craft, audience, finance, publishing, self-improvement, spirituality, technology, and more.
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