Guest Post: USA Today Bestseller Ann Gimpel on Marketing

April 07, 2018

We've all struggled with marketing, so why not hear from an author who has a decade of experience under her belt. Ann Gimpel is a USA Today Bestseller, and the author of more than 70 books. I've had the privilege of working with Ann for a number of months now, and you'll not find another big name author so willing to share her knowledge. Here she is with her advice on marketing... 

What I have to say relates to all authors, though. Even if a newbie gets lucky and lands a trad deal, the trad pub will do less than nothing for you. So you’ll get far less money per book sold and be stuck with all your own marketing costs as well. Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt.

One thing I didn’t realize when I started in this business a decade ago was that writing would actually be the least of my job timewise. Too bad, because it’s the part I like best.

Over the years, my single strongest marketing tool has been and continues to be my mailing list. I’ve built it mostly organically, and it’s close to 50K subscribers. Because I started a while back—six years ago—I was able to build a successful list that works for me. It’s much harder now. If you don’t already have an active list, I’m not sure now is the time to start one.

Why you might ask? Well, because everyone and their dog jumped on the newsletter bandwagon. You don’t have to dig too deep to find newsletter building “opportunities.” None of them mention the deep and pervasive newsletter fatigue out there in readership land. Unless your name has become familiar, no one wants your newsletters. In fact, they don’t want half the newsletters cluttering their inboxes and are unsubscribing in droves.

Even with my longstanding list, I see a couple hundred unsubscribes each time I send, which is twice a month.
I took part in two small newsletter builds this last year, and I won’t be doing any more. I’ll take the folk on my list and the ones that trickle in from signup tabs on my websites and my blog and be happy with them.

Speaking of websites. You NEED A website. Preferably a professionally designed one that’s eye catching and organized in a logical fashion where finding things is easy. You do not need a blog. I still have one, but it’s a holdover from 2011 when I started it.

You also might want to consider setting up your own online store. Mine is set up on Ecwid. It has its own URL, and I make money selling direct. It also offers the opportunity for me to give coupons to my newsletter subscribers independent of the books’ prices elsewhere. As you hunt for an online store steer clear of Gumroad. They never paid me. You want a store where the money flows direct to you without first stopping at the vendor.

My websites ( and my online store have the same design. You want to come across as a professional, not as someone who schlocked something together.

Beyond newsletters, boxed sets used to provide an opportunity for readers to sample new to them authors. Back around 2015, they actually boosted your readership. But they too have fallen fairly hard. For one thing, readers are sick of them mostly because the story quality has been so inconsistent. For another, a few unscrupulous set organizers learned to game the system, so their sets always hit the USAT list. Beyond that, readers have grown weary of million-word tomes. They might read the first couple of stories, but the rest never see daylight.

The “new” solution is shared worlds. I’m not talking about Kindle Worlds where you sign away your rights for 70 years, but a shared world where you band together with other authors and write books in the same world. I’ve been part of a few of those with two more upcoming before the end of 2018.

This is getting long, and I want to touch on advertising sites. Most of them won’t return your ROI. A few that used to be wonderful aren’t anymore. I believe that’s because the ad services are also newsletter based. Remember that newsletter fatigue factor I mentioned earlier? Well there’s also newsletter overlap. The pond is only so deep.

The collective wisdom once upon a time was readers needed to see YOUR book at least seven times before they click on it. This is no longer true. You have one chance to hook that reader and it’s the first time your cover—in thumbnail size—scrolls past.

Ad sites I use include Bookbub, ENT, Bargain and Free Booksy, Book Barbarian, ILVN, Robin Reads, and Read Cheaply. Lots more are out there. And much of how your book will do is luck of the draw. Even BB, though, which has always been the gold standard, has fallen off. My last couple of BB Featured Deals I made my ROI back (whew since it’s expensive), but not a whole lot more. The thousands I used to plan on plus a long sales tail have dried up. And not just for me. This is the consensus pretty much across the board with the odd exception.

The bottom line take home message is that nothing remains the same in this business. Things that worked a year or even six months ago might quit working and you have to look for something new. Publishing is a cutthroat business. Authors are no longer the valued, “golden” children. Be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself. I’ve seen this business break a whole lot of people.

On the plus side, if you choose carefully, there are a lot of warm, wonderfully supportive authors out there to bond with.

Thank you to Ann for taking time out of her busy schedule to write this guest post. Make sure to check out her website and social sites too!

About Ann:

I'm basically a mountaineer at heart. I remember many hours at my desk where my body may have been stuck inside four walls, but my soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry.

Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), I finagled a move to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. Stories always ran around in my head on backcountry trips, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made me fear for my life, sometimes for company.

Eventually, the inevitable happened. I returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. It wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. I learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel, and I've been writing ever since.

In addition to turning out books, I enjoy wilderness photography. A standing joke is that over ten percent of my pack weight is camera gear, which means my very tolerant husband has to carry the food -- and everything else too.

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