So everybody is talking about this. Promoting your books, but who’s really giving you good information? Links are way down at the bottom of the page.
I thought I’d take a minute to share some successes and failures that I’ve had over the last year. I promised that as I collected nuggets of writing and publishing wisdom, that I would share them freely. There’s no reason to horde the share of information.
First off, for the people out there covering everything up, I praise your efforts, but they are futile. I’m not your competition, and neither is anyone else. We all know that most self-published books won’t sell a hundred copies. That’s a given. There are a billion books out there vying for attention, another given. And there are thousands of authors out there already, doing EVERYTHING. Staring at your neighbor’s book sales isn’t going to make yours better. And whining about how tough of a market it is, isn’t going to get you anywhere. Before you even start comparing yourself to other authors, you need to make sure that you publish your book in the format that you think will help you to get the highest number of sales. Some choose paperback and some decide to go down the route of custom hardcover book printing instead. You may think that it is important to sell as many books as your competitors, but it is equally as important to make sure that you publish a book that you not only like, but love. And this could all come down to the format you choose.
So, first, some numbers. Between paperback, ebook, and audible, Finish the Damn Book is my number one seller at the moment. And this isn’t by accident or chance. Still, the number is going to look a little dismal when I pop it up here. A little over 114 copies. 25% were paperback sales, and over half were ebooks. This isn’t surprising. With online technology becoming more prevalent amongst all of society, a lot more people do enjoy reading books online. As an author, it’s important to provide access to ebooks if that’s what your customers want. When selling ebooks, it might be a good idea to invest in software from companies like FastSpring (learn more about their services here). These companies help digital sellers to create their own custom checkouts, allowing customers to purchase their books easily online. Hopefully, this will help more authors sell their books.
I’m still learning. I know about motivation, and quite a lot about the bookmaking process, but when it comes to marketing, I kinda suck, but I’m getting better, and I’m going to talk about what worked and what didn’t for me last year.
Thanks to the fact that I’ve given away tons more copies of my little yellow wonder book (at least the first half of it), it has gained it’s own little following. That number up there? Those sales are from around 60 people, so I had more sales than I did readers. At least, this is my suspicion from watching trend lines. Self-pubbed ebooks just don’t sell that many paperbacks.
As to how many copies have been given away for free, I have no idea at all. I have bitly watching some of the download links, but I’ve stumbled across sites that seem to have gotten either the free version or the full version from various places, and they’re scattering it about.
This was intended, but the reach has gone beyond my initial expectations. First, I pubbed the ebook through Smashwords, and made it free for library distribution. Some of these “libraries” are aggregators. You sign up with them for a fee, and you can read pretty well anything that you like. So my book has gotten some spread, and those readers have come back and purchased the paperback (I suspect).
Now before you lecture me in the comments about losing sales, consider how many of those people would not have ever heard of me if it wasn’t for that aggregation. In short, all of them. I didn’t write that book to make a million dollars. I wrote it to offer help to writers who are struggling to find their words because they are so obsessed with writing a perfect first draft that they don’t write at all. That’s why I added the link to the free version in the back of the book. It’s easy to share at least a big chunk of it with friends.
But I don’t want to give away my book for free
And you don’t have to. This whole escapade with dolling out free copies was only one strategy for one book, and it made me realize something. Every book, no matter how you plan to market it, needs to find it’s audience. It won’t matter how good it is if the people who would love it have never heard of it.
And the fact remains, I didn’t really start pushing that book at all until November. 90% of those sales were in the last 2 months of 2017, even though the ebook was officially out in March, I think. You don’t have to give away a bagillion books, but you DO need people to see your book, preferably people that it would appeal to.
So how do I do that?
Everyone is going to tell you, promote, promote, promote. They’ll give some good general tips, but they don’t really give step by step instructions most of the time.
I’ve talked about keywords before. Previous post of book promo. If you don’t have Keywords in your title, add them to your KDP or IngramSpark descriptions, and pick words that people actually search. I already have the other post on that, so I’m skipping it.
The most important thing is for readers to be able to find your book. AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) has been great for this, at least for Finish the Damn Book! The cover and description get me enough purchases to make the service worthwhile. So far my fiction ads rarely ever show up, but even so, Viral Spark has accumulated a couple thousand views. That’s a couple thousand people who have at least been exposed to the cover while browsing on Amazon. You know how much that cost me? About sixty cents (I had a couple of clicks in there). Fiddling with the keywords on there will also tell you a lot about what people are searching, and if they like your book or not, and you only pay for clicks. So it’s a pretty sweet deal. All of the “views” are essentially free, and Amazon places them in an awesome way.
So a couple thousand people have seem my cover, big whoop. (The number for FTDB is in the tens of thousands, and the resulting sales are enough to cover the ads). Another big avenue that people will tell you online is to get reviews. These are essentially free (especially ebook reviews), and all you have to do is write a letter. Find bloggers that are talking about books like yours, and ask them if they’d like a copy in exchange for a review. I’m not going to lie, I haven’t gotten many sales by doing this, if any. A glistening review by itself isn’t really enough, but if you find the right blog (in theory), you should see some book sales. Most book bloggers have a submissions page, so read that twice before writing them.
The new trick that I’m trying with Viral Spark involves several promotion tactics, and I actually wanted to write this post on one in particular (links are at the bottom of the page). NOTE: what I’m about to say is bad form, you shouldn’t tell people about upcoming promotions until the promotion starts. But to make this work, I kind of have to. I’m going to be putting the Kindle version of Viral spark on a 99 cent sale at the end of the month. There are a bunch of free promotion sites out there (like, actually free, not sign ups or sneaky attempts to sell you something) that I wanted to share. Mostly these are tweets, and we all know about how far a tweet goes, but it’s still exposure. It’s a push. If I get some good results from these, I’ll be sure to post them.
I also recently dropped 150$ on booksgosocial. While this hasn’t been overwhelming so far, they are in contact with me, and they’re putting the word out. I’ve told them about my 99 cent deal because they change strategies for that. For better or worse, I have them for 3 months, and they’re making a cool YouTube trailer for me. When the three months is up, I might list a little report.
I’ll probably sign up to another paid site or two when I run the promo deal. I want to throw as much energy as I can at that deal. The goal, again, isn’t to make a million dollars. It’s to find readers. To find people who like my book and my writing style, and they aren’t easy to hunt down alone. The free list represents an hour or two of filling out online forms, or sending some simple query letters. The best part, my inbox has NOT been flooded with spam, as I expected. These are legit sites that will put a bit of wind in your sails, and I’ll be hunting for more tonight. I’ll also be posting on Goodreads (assuming that it will cooperate with me, VS has been notoriously difficult because of everything getting linked to the old novella series) and I’ll see what I can do with Kindle specific promotion sites.
That’s another part of my VS strategy. It’s KDP exclusive. While this prevents the little bookstore thing that I did with FTDB, I sell more ebooks on Kindle than any other platform. If I decide to make VS a loss leader, then I may try Smashwords-ing it in the future, and killing the Kindle exclusivity. Still experimenting over here.
You can’t really MAKE buzz happen, it just happens, and it’s caused by readers. I love it when readers reach out to me with stories about how Finish the Damn Book! helped them out. That to me is better than selling 1000 copies. And it means that they liked the book. At that point they are happy to share it on social media and talk about it with their peer groups. As far as I can tell, buzz happens when you do two things: 1) Get people to try the book. 2) The book is awesome. If you are getting some sales, but you don’t see buzz happening, then it might be time to concentrate on the next book instead of continuing to push the present one. Blog reviews and Amazon feedback will indicate how much people are liking your book, but you have to get them to try it before they can talk about it.
Getting them to try it means putting it out there. Spreading it around to the right genre. Mentioning it to your own book groups and such on Facebook (I’m in a lot of sci-fi groups for fun, but rarely ever mention my book in them. Do it when it’s relevant, not when it’s annoying). I do blab a bit on my own pages, but if I do something awesome in the Kerbal Space Program group, a couple people are going to click on my profile, then they see the book. If they are readers of sci fi as much as they are gamers, they might give it a shot. Or, more rarely, they may leave a comment on your group message that says “I didn’t know you wrote a book.” Then a bunch of people might look. Social media can be helpful when used properly. I’ll let you know when I figure that out.
Crappy Books Don’t Sell
Sorry, this is the reality of it, and you’ll have to face it as a writer. Not everything you write is going to be liked by everyone, but if you are getting a good response, then it’s worth seeing who else might like it. I can’t tell you how many times during the process I thought my twitter following was simply going to walk because of the abrasiveness of that little yellow book. It was a gamble, and I think it always feels like a gamble. Hugh Howey wrote something on his blog about feeling as if he were doing something dirty each time he self pubbed a book. To paraphrase: “There’s my book, it’s right there next to all of these REAL authors’ books.”
Be prepared to get a negative reaction. It’s just an indicator. If you were planning a whole series, but everyone hates the first book, then you’ve saved yourself a lot of time, and as Edison would say, you’ve “gotten rid of a lot of rubbish.” (To his son while his factory was burning to the ground) You don’t have to write that series now. AWESOME! You can write something else and make NEW characters! Eventually, you will write something that people begin responding to immediately, and at that phase, each little promotional campaign will feel less like work, and more like blowing on some hot coals under a bed of kindling. Soon you’ll get a flame. Then, hopefully, a roaring fire. Just keep plugging.
If you are planning a sale soon, I recommend the following sites get added to your promotion:
(If you run a site like this, please don’t email me begging to add you to the list, I can’t keep track of everyone, just be awesome, and let me see what you have to offer. Places I like will be added to my various listings organically)
- bookoftheday.org – One day promotions
- blog.booksontheknob.org – they do reviews too!
- booksliced.com – query letter through the contact form
- ebooklister.net – (You have to sign up for their mailchimp list, but it’s actually pretty awesome and not super spammy)
- ebookskill.com (read the signup form carefully before you check boxes)
- ebookbandit.com (expect a friendly email if they put you down for a promo 😉 )
- awesomegang.com – they do author interviews too 😛
*note* there were a couple of sites that didn’t make this list on the grounds that they were a horrible pain in the butt to navigate. That’s not to say the process is without some work, but it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes on each site if you keep your information handy. I have a text file with the book blurb, author bio, links, etc. to make the process easier.
I might add some more before morning. I need to go back to the searching tonight. They aren’t magic, but people you otherwise can’t reach WILL see your book. Remember, if someone doesn’t know your book exists, they’ll never read it. For an exhaustive list, and a place to start with good deals about each promoter, check out readersintheknow.com/list-of-book-promotion-sites.
Thanks for reading, I know this was a long one and it’s probably riddled with typos, I just hope the information was helpful.