Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 5 Marketing

Happy Monday! I hope the weekend treated you well!

If you just popped onto my blog, welcome! If you’ve visited before, welcome back!

We’ve been going through the Written Word Media Survey they conducted last year in October.

They broke down three types of authors–the ones who make less than 60k a year and have six books in their backlis, 60kers who have 22 books in their backlist, and 100kers who have 28+ books in their backlist. They broke those groups into sections on who pays how much for what.

My last blog post was a convoluted 2000 word monstrosity on how even though everyone advises authors to have a professional cover made, if you write in a genre that supports a simpler cover, there’s no reason why you can’t learn how to do them on your own. At any rate, you can read it here, and watch my rudimentary YouTube video on how to use Canva templates for an e-book cover so you don’t have to start from scratch. I hope to do a few more of those videos–if I can make a cover, anyone can.

The next installment of this blog series is marketing.

For fiction, marketing isn’t what it used to be. Even three years ago when the words “author platform” were the buzzwords in the author community, hardly anyone says those words now because nobody cares. (And this is for fiction. Memoir and nonfiction have their own rules and nothing I’m going to get into here.)

For fiction, author platform isn’t as important as a simple newsletter, and before, author platform meant your presence on everything from Twitter to Google Plus. That’s not true anymore.

If the author platform is falling by the wayside, how do you “market?” Marketing is simply finding out what kind of books people want and/or need to read and telling them about your book if your book fills that want or need. That’s it. Author platform used to do that. You would use your platform to draw readers to you and your content.

But as the survey points out, you can use promos and let them tell readers about your book. That’s a lot easier than tweeting into the void.

marketing promos

graphic taken from survey linked above

According to the chart, BookBub came in first for promos. Not everyone will be approved for a featured deal, and sometimes Amazon doesn’t like them. The too-swift uptick in sales flags their algorithms. I’ve heard from some authors that they’ve had their books frozen due to suspicious activity. They get it sorted out but it takes time and they lose sales. Also, featured deals are expensive. I know in some genres they can cost up to $600 so they aren’t an option for all authors. 

Promos like Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy work better than ads. I have found that for my own books, anyway. And as the article points out, there is no learning curve. Set your sale, set your promo, and walk away. Let the promo platform deliver your book to their readers.

Marketing-Is-Hard-graph

graphic taken from survey linked above

But what the article doesn’t say is it makes the most sense to use a promo on a book one in a series. If you run a Freebooksy promo on a standalone, yeah, you’re paying to give your book away. And contrary to that poor delusional soul on Twitter who thought being on the top 10 list of free books on Amazon made her a bestseller, unfortunately that isn’t the case. A bestseller implies you are selling books. Nice try though.

If you’re in KU, sometimes you can get some page reads from a Freebooksy on top of giving your book away because instead of downloading it for free, a reader who has a membership with Kindle Unlimited will read your book there instead.

Ads aren’t bad, but they’re complicated and keeping tabs on them so they don’t lose money is time consuming.

If you’re in KU it makes the most sense to learn Amazon ads–then you’re advertising for sales and page reads. If you’re wide and are everywhere like Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, Nook, using Facebook and BookBub ads (not the featured deal) makes sense. Though there is a way when creating your Facebook ad to choose Facebook users who like the Kindle, and that would target only those who buy books from Amazon.

I have dabbled in all the ad platforms and lost money on all of them, too. Your ads will only work if you have a killer product (cover, blurb, title, and look-inside) and it’s only after you lose money when you find out that your cover may have missed the mark or your blurb sucks.

Promos also feature your book’s cover and promos like Freebooksy and BargainBooksy gives you 130 characters or so for a short piece of ad copy so it’s worth it to take the time to write a short hook for each of your books.

Of course, the saying that the best marking marketing for your book is writing another book will never be wrong, and a steadily growing backlist will ensure your readers that you’re going to be around for a while.

Which may also take the place of author platform. Why be everywhere when you could be writing?

What can you do?

  1. Write more books. Promos only work if you have a library to offer your readers. Unless you’re looking for reviews. Freebooksy is around $100 a pop. Not in the BookBub featured deal pricing, but still spendy. Know what your goals are and make the fee count.

  2. Make sure your book is solid. It’s all a waste if you don’t have a good book to offer.

  3. Don’t be scared to stagger promos or overlap them for a longer sales tail. If you put your book on sale for .99 schedule a BargainBooksy and an E -reader News Today (also known as ENT). Authors who are trying to get in on a list like the USA today bestseller list schedule a ton of promos for the same time.

If you want to learn an ad platform there are lots of resources out there:

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For Amazon ads, the best thing you can do is follow Bryan Cohen on Facebook. Ask to join his Selling for Authors Facebook group, and do the 5 day mini challenge he’s starting on January 13th. It’s free, and he will teach you how to use the platform correctly and not go broke. Oh, but I thought you said you lost money, you ask. Yes, yes I did. It wasn’t due to following his instructions, but because an ad for The Years Between Us took off, and no one liked the blurb. So I got plenty of clicks on that super awesome ad, but no sales. I should have killed the ad sooner, but I didn’t and that’s my fault.

BookBub. BookBub has a newsletter they send out to all their subscribers. At the bottom of every newsletter are sponsored books. You bid like you would on Amazon, and if you win, your book has a place at the bottom of the newsletter.

Readers click and it takes them to wherever you linked the ad. The best resource I can direct you to is David Gaughran’s book. He knows how to run that platform, and I would’t try to do any BookBub ads without reading that book cover to cover. When I was wide for two months, I tried BookBub ads. I wasted the money to test ads, to test the graphic, whatever. Don’t Run Away was permafree, and I got a lot of downloads. That didn’t lead to sales of the other two books in the trilogy, and only after two months I went back to KU.

412mZB5USRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Facebook ads. Mal and Jill Cooper came out with the second edition of their book, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck! They explain the platform, what works, how to target your audience. I wouldn’t do a Facebook ad without at least skimming this book so you know what kind of ad to choose, how to put it together, and what kind of graphic to use. I haven’t done much with FB ads. Sometimes I’ll boost a post off my FB Author page. I did that a few times to announce I was back in KU, and I got a small bump in page reads for a little while. I also am boosting posts from my pen name author page to start a little awareness of the books I’ll be releasing in the spring. But nothing too hardcore.

They do include a page about Instagram ads. Since IG is owned by FB, you can run Instagram ads from your FB ad account. I never tried it, so I can’t tell you anything about my experience.

It’s best to focus on one ad platform and learn it really well. I’ll stick with Amazon Ads. Bryan is really easy to understand, and what he teaches you works. But he can only hold your hand for so long. You need to have a viable product or it won’t matter if you choose ads or promos. Nothing will work.

As for a list of Promo sites–people are so generous with what they know. A round of applause to Dave Chesson for putting this list together. 


That’s all that I have on marketing. No two books are alike, so no two books are going to sell alike. Find your audience. Are they like you? Where you do you find your books? Market your books there. Sounds simple, but in the end, it’s enough to make you swear off writing forever.

Good luck!


My next post talks about exclusivity vs. going wide and what the Written Word Media survey has to say about that!  See you then!

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Happy New Year! A quick update on my goals for 2020.

Happy New Year!

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Social media has been inundated with lists, lists, and more lists. I won’t bother with the best books I’ve read of the decade, or what all I’ve accomplished or not accomplished. I’m not going to bother ruminating about how 2019 was a dumpster fire in every way (actually, it wasn’t for me) or the million ways I’m going to make 2020 “my year.”

It’s silly to use January 1st to reinvent yourself. You are who you are, and a new date on the calendar won’t help. But that’s not to say I don’t have a few goals I’d like to tackle this year.

photo of a woman thinking

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

In past blog posts I’ve written about the slow sale of my books. It’s difficult to keep up your spirits when you work so hard for so little in return. But this year I’m going to take responsibility for some of that. Instead of being a trout fighting my way upstream, I need to stop resisting and go with the flow.

Part of that is realizing I’m not doing 100% of what I need to do to sell my books, and I have to admit that part of the reason is I’m scared. I don’t have faith in my Tower City trilogy. It’s the first three books I count in my contemporary backlist and somehow I’ve gotten it into my head that they are not good. Book one was chopped and diced to the point I probably should have written it over from the start. But the reviews indicate they’re pretty good, and I should get over the idea that they’re not. Sure, I may have gotten strong as a writer since I published them, but I have to stop thinking they’re bad books.

I have a few reviews of Don’t Run Away on Amazon, and I remember this is the first review from someone I didn’t know. It was a proud moment–there’s even a ToC in it now thanks to formatting with Vellum:

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I need to have faith in my ability and not be scared when people read my work.


I also need to start a newsletter. I’m not very active online. My unanswered notifications on Twitter are months old. I don’t update my Facebook author page, and all I post on Instagram are pictures of my cats. (As cute as they may be, they don’t sell my books, dammit!) I need a hub for my readers. Either a newsletter or an active reader group on Facebook where I’ll actually post something, probably both. I know I’m doing myself a disservice not having a newsletter. This means focusing my attention on readers and not spending time on Twitter or using Canva to make pretty Instagram posts the same 10 people will like over and over again.


This year I also want to do more networking in the romance/indie-publishing space. I’ve been writing and publishing for three and a half years. I’ve made a lot friends in that time, lost some too, and some of the writers I know have been in the same place they were three years ago. I’m constantly learning about the industry, always listening for the new thing, I like listening to podcasts and keeping up with industry news. I need to start chatting with like-minded people who understand the value in that. Who treat their writing like a business and put in their 20-40 hours of writing time a week. Writing is really lonely. You’re by yourself with a laptop for hours and hours at a time and I need to find peers who know what that’s like and still do it anyway.

group of people standing beside body of water

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

I like the phrase, “Never be the smartest person the room.” I also feel like lately I’m the only writer in the room, and it will be nice for that to change.


These aren’t life shattering revelations, but they’re what I need to focus on moving forward if I want to start selling the books I spend so much time writing.

It’s not a secret that these next few months are a little hard on me. Winter in Minnesota is long and dreary. It’s hard to want to go anywhere because the temperatures are horrible and the roads are constantly clogged with snow. It takes a lot of energy just to get through a day with no sunshine, and I need to focus on releasing my wedding series and appreciating the little things while I wait for warmer temps and the sun to come back.

I do have a selling/marketing summit in May that I’ll be attending with David in Nashville, and I’m looking forward to that. No matter how long winter seems, spring always comes back around.

Just keep moving forward the best you can, and better times will come.

Tell me your goals for 2020. How do you plan to move forward? Let me know!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part four: Covers

I hope you all had a lovely holiday if you celebrated! I’m currently snowed in, and I’ve been working on some book-related stuff. I apologize for not posting last week, but let’s pick up where we left off . . .

The next installment in the Written Word Media survey looks at book covers. To recap, they surveyed indie authors to see how much time they spend writing, and how much they spend on products and services such as editing and marketing.

According to the survey, as you can see by the graphic, emerging authors do both almost equally–they design their own covers and use a professional designer. The 60kers and the 100kers use a professional cover designer way more than they design their own.

Marketing-Is-Hard-book covers 1

graphic taken by survey linked above

The article says the leap from emerging authors to 60kers is because emerging authors realize that without a professional cover, they aren’t going to sell books.

Of course, that’s true, and I’m not disputing it at all. But I have another explanation to offer. I’m not saying their conclusion is wrong. Emerging authors, after a bad book launch, probably do realize that their covers don’t cut it. But when you are an emerging author, it’s hard to know where to go for help. Quite possibly, emerging authors do their own covers because it’s quicker, easier, and they don’t have to worry about whom to trust. Indie publishing is a jungle. When an emerging author spends a couple years networking, they make friends, are put in touch with industry professionals, and can form relationships with people who know what they’re doing.

Especially with book covers, it’s imperative you find someone who knows where to find stock photos, and what fonts are okay to use and why they’re safe. There are so many people getting into the business who shouldn’t. They use free pictures from free sites like Pixabay or Unsplash and that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. I still do my own covers rather than trust anyone else. Some people are idiots, and I’m not paying for their stupidity or mine for hiring them.

I think another reason emerging authors do their own covers is because they like to be 100% in control. It feels good to publish a book you did cover to cover. Espeically if you can design a decent cover that earns you compliments. Granted, the emerging authors who can make genre-appropriate covers are few, but no one is saying they still can’t be proud. It’s a learning process.

What the survey does say though, is publishing a book with a bad cover will set you back, and you’ll end up redoing it at some point anyway. (Which is a good reason, in my opinion, not to pay for a high-priced cover. You may want to refresh after a couple of years.)

Of course, the 60kers and 100kers don’t have time to do their own covers. These guys are writing, and they probably don’t have interest in cover design beyond that it looks good and will sell their books. I would also hazard a guess that by the time you have twenty books out, you’ve developed a relationship with someone, or at least found a premade site that sells decent work.

The survey then goes into the cost of book covers. As you can see by the graph, 100-249.00 is the most popular price range for all three types of authors. $100.00 for a cover is at the lower end of the scale for something that needs lots of manipulation, and at that price, it may not include a full wrap for a paperback.

Cost-of-Covers-2

graph taken from survey linked above

The authors paying 0-49.00 might only be having the e-book cover made. Most, if not all, designers charge extra for the spine and back cover if you’re also publishing a paperback.

The genre you write in will also determine the cost. A fancy cover for an epic fantasy or a tricked-out cover for an urban fantasy or paranormal will cost more than a romance cover. There are simply more elements needed to have a girl wearing a plaid skirt holding a fireball in front of a haunted high school for an urban fantasy academy novel than for a couple kissing in field for a plain contemporary romance novel. That’s just the way it is. If you write a genre that includes any kind of magic, you’ll be looking at having a cover made (providing you have zero photo manipulation skills). You need to blend in with the other books in your genre and finding a stock photo that contains all the elements you need is probably slim to none. Especially if you’re writing in a series.

It would be to your advantage to look for a cover designer while you are writing your book if you’re writing in one of those genres. Collect covers you like for a frame of reference. Create a logline (also called a six second elevator pitch) so your designer knows what your book is about and then go ahead and start looking. Join book cover groups on Facebook and ask for recommendations. Sometimes putting your budget out there will help so you don’t fall in love with a designer’s work you can’t afford. Find out where they buy their photos of models. If any of them mention a free site, pass them by. Your fee should include the cost of a photo. Cover designers charging you for a free photo is nothing but a scam and it’s dangerous too.

What can you do if you are absolutely stuck making your own cover?

  1. Look at what makes a good cover in your genre. It’s not only the photo, though that’s a good part of it. Its font placement. Where the author name is on the cover. If there’s a tagline and where that is.
  2. What are the elements in your genre? Sci-fi needs spaceships. Fantasy–dragons. Chris Fox calls these symbols. What symbols do your readers look for in your genre? Look at what is selling on the top 100 in that genre on Amazon. List the elements they all have. Yours will need them too. This isn’t the time to be different or to “stand out.” Sorry.
  3. Realize you may be able to offer only an ebook for the short-term. Learning how to do a full cover wrap isn’t as easy as an ebook cover. You need spine calculations based on how thick your formatted manuscript is, and what you want for the back cover. Blurb? Author photo? Imprint logo? It’s best to give yourself plenty of time to practice and itching to press publish when your book is done being edited isn’t the time to teach yourself.
  4. Search stock photo sites to see what’s out there. My tips are for the person who has little to no experience with Photoshop or GIMP. The easiest way to do a cover is to find a photo that you can use without a lot of manipulation. My go-to sites are depositphotos.com and canstockphoto.com.
  5. Watch tutorials. There are a ton of tutorials out there for both Photoshop and GIMP. I have GIMP (which is a free download) on my laptop and there are tutorials out there ranging from isolating a color in a black and white photo to gradients to font manipulation. People are generous with their time–take advantage.

I’ve been told, and have seen other people be told, that if they can’t afford a professional cover, they shouldn’t bother publishing. That’s not particularly helpful, but you do have to consider what your goals are. Do you want to make covers for all your books going forward? Then you’re going to have to learn how. If you’re writing in a genre that requires fancy covers, you’ll be creating a cover to squeak by until you can afford something better.

I do everything myself, and over three years I’d like to think I’ve developed a bit of an eye. It takes a long time, and practice. Instead of watching another show on Netflix, open Canva, put on some music, and practice. Canva isn’t just a software for design, they also offer “classes” that will teach you the elements of a good cover.

I do covers in my spare time. I practice font placement, choosing a cover-worthy photo, that kind of thing. I mess around with concepts for my friends. Even if they don’t turn out that great, practice is never a waste of time. You never know what new trick you’ll pick up. I scroll through stock photos and favorite photos that have potential for future covers. Mine or someone else’s.

Cover design is a career on its own, and you can spend as much time messing around with font as you do writing and editing.

But the point is, if you put enough time into it, you can make a passable cover yourself, if the genre you write in supports it. Women’s fiction, romance. Some mystery thrillers.

If you put out a homemade cover that doesn’t meet reader expectations, or doesn’t fit in with other books, realize that’s going to effect your sales.


Here are a few covers I’ve done, both for myself and others using Canva.com. I pay for a pro membership, and if you plan on doing a lot of covers or using it for graphics for marketing materials, it’s worth the fee. They add new features all the time.

I did these for the first two of my quartet. I haven’t done the third or fourth ones yet:

When you do a series, it’s important they look like they belong together. And before I ordered the proofs, I put the covers on top of another to make sure the placement of all the elements are the same. I might do a blog post explaining how I did them.

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Daisy Parker isn’t real. I was fooling around one night and came up with it. The photo is as-is and made in Canva.

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Stealing Home is one of my favorites. I learned how to do shadows watching a webinar hosted by James Blatch from Mark Dawson’s self-publishing podcast who was chatting with Stuart Bache, a professional cover designer. They were doing a kind of infomerical for a course, and you can check out the course here. I’d never done a thriller before, but I think it turned out rather nice, and when David did a book signing at a Barnes and Noble in Savannah, GA, everyone was surprised it wasn’t professionally done. (This book is real and you can buy it on Amazon or borrow it in KU.)

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Do You Trust Me took a little work as this photograph was in color and I isolated the red blindfold in GIMP. The font needs work, but I was playing one night and came up with this in about an hour.

So far I haven’t bothered to open a premade business, or sell covers on the side. I help out my friends when I can, and I like to play when I don’t feel like writing or there’s nothing going on online (I’m not a big TV-watcher). I know what my limitations are, and when anyone asks me for help, I make sure they know it, too.

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I was playing and did this concept for a friend. While she went in a different direction, I think this is a classy cover for a women’s fiction piece. (This is a real book; you can buy it on Amazon and it’s available in KU.)

The point is, like learning craft, if you want to make your own covers to save money, keep control, whatever, you need to practice.

I did a video I posted to YouTube showing you how to use Canva template elements to start you off with creating your own ebook cover. I hope it helps!


 

Next up, the survey goes into every author’s favorite topic–MARKETING! See you then!


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Author Panels, Advice, and Mixed Messages. What works for a different author might not work for you.

A while back I joined an author group on Facebook. I’ve blogged about them before, and they are great for motivation, tips, tricks, the list goes on. They also hold a huge author/marketing conference in November and even though I haven’t been able to attend in person, I watch the videos on YouTube. It’s really interesting to hear about how some of the indies making a living wage writing speak about their journeys.

This isn’t without its pitfalls. Listening to several different speakers tell you how they made it, as you can imagine, well, you’ll get several different results.

I have noticed though, how there are some mixed messages, even among the speakers on some of the same panels.

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It’s proof that there is no magic bullet, and what works for someone might not work for you. As I watch more of the videos from the conference, I’ll let you in on some more of the things I find, but for now we’ll start with a couple that popped into my head this morning while I was in the shower mulling over part of a romance panel I watched last night.

Disclosure:
These are my thoughts on public YouTube videos. The group very generously puts them out so authors who can’t attend can still benefit from the speakers and panels. I love this, and I am in no way saying derogatory things about this group, nor am I sharing information that isn’t available to everyone who is willing take the time to watch them. 

1.  Enroll your books into KU, but take advantage of Prolific Words (AKA Instafreebie) and Bookfunnel to build your email list and take advantage of genre promos.

l hope new authors understand that your book can’t be available anywhere else if its enrolled in KU. KDP’s terms of service is a bit hazy . . . you are allowed to give your book away for free for review purposes, and you are allowed to have up to 10% of your book available in other places. If you want to ride the edge of KDP’s TOS, good luck to you. I prefer not, and when I used BookSprout for reviews, I pulled my books out of there before I enrolled in KU.
How do you get around this? Make your book available on those sites before you publish and then take them down when you’re ready to publish, or use those sites before you enroll in Select. (You can publish with KDP and not be in Select.) If you have the time, and I prefer this method, write something that is only available to newsletter subscribers. If you’re taking advantage of a genre promo on Bookfunnel or Story Origin (I have done neither), it’s better to have a book that’s wide or not in KU so you don’t have to worry about it.
As far as the KU opinion goes, Alex Newton of K-lytics did a lovely talk about who is making the money (out of any author: traditionally published, small press, indie, and other), and it’s indies in KU. Alex is funny, and you’ll enjoy his presentation. You can watch his talk here:

2. You don’t need money to advertise/launch a book, but it’s really best if you have some money.

One romance author said her books depend on Facebook ads. Another said if she’s not advertising, her sales die. But I don’t think it’s fair when an author making money tells you that you don’t need to invest in ads and that investing time on free social media works just as well. They say starting small on ads works, too, and I will spend five dollars here, five dollars there. But do I have steady sales? No. What you need to keep in mind is a lot of these authors have been writing and publishing for years. Five dollars a day here and there probably did work for them five years ago, but that’s not true today. To have a good launch, you HAVE TO be able to throw some money at your book. To have steady sales, you have to be able to invest a little. Hopefully your book is solid (good cover, good blurb, good writing on the inside) and you always make more than what you spend.

3.  You shouldn’t be wasting your time on social media instead of writing, but you should really be on social media.

This one kind of drove me nuts because what some of those authors did on that romance panel made me want to puke. I saw hours and hours of writing time go up in smoke as one author said you should start your own reader group, and join other reader groups (in your genre) to get your name out there. Mostly it was all Facebook-centered, and that goes against almost everything I have ever heard about depending on another platform for your real estate. Drive everything to your website is what I’ve been told time and time again, but a couple romance authors swore up and down that they would not be where they are today had they not joined and started reader groups.


So what should you be doing? What did they agree on?

1.  Start a newsletter. While there was some disagreement on the best way to gather email addresses (some said to do the promos like Bookfunnel, StoryOrigin, and other means that require giving away a piece of writing in exchange for an address) others said that they do paid promotions on Facebook to gather email addresses, and another mentioned adding an opportunity for your readers to have access to secret content  to the back of a book that they’ll only receive if they sign up for your newsletter. An alternate ending would be an example. Or an epilogue. No matter which way you decide to start your list, that is top thing they all agreed on.

2.  Network. So far there have been quite a few authors who said their careers wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t networked. They made friends “higher up” in the publishing totem pole, and it paid off for them. That’s not to say you’re networking to use people. People can spot false friends and you’ll be outed fairly quickly. But networking and getting to know other authors in your genre could pay off in the end with newsletters swaps, being asked to participate in a collection/anthology/promo, etc.

3.  Fulfill reader expectations. They couldn’t emphasize this enough in one of the romance panels I watched. You need to make your readers happy, or it’s all for nothing. Read in your genre and understand what your peers are offering their readers. If you decide to break a trope, do it in a way that won’t piss off your readers. The moderator of that panel used the example of a billionaire romance taking place in a small town. She said she was disappointed because the premise behind billionaire romance is that it takes place in a big city. He’s usually the head of a giant corporation. If you go against this trope and place a billionaire in small town (for example, maybe he’s on the run or in the witness protection program) perhaps it’s not a billionaire romance you’re writing but a romantic suspense. Give your readers what they expect out of the genres and sub-genres they enjoy. It’s why they picked up your book. Because your marketing/title/cover/blurb told them that’s what it is. Your insides have to match your outsides.

4.  Keep in mind your competition. This is a still from Alex’s talk, and if it doesn’t give you nightmares, nothing will. You HAVE TO FIND A WAY to push to the top. And if that means learning an ad platform, learn it. If that means starting a reader group, start it. If that means starting a newsletter, start it. I think some writers/authors live in a bubble, and they don’t realize just HOW MANY books are out there.

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At some point Craig Martelle said there is close to 50 videos on YouTube you can watch from the conference last month. It will take a while to get through the ones that interest me. Follow my blog and I will keep you updated as I parse through them!


I hope you had a wonderful holiday, and enjoy this last month of 2019!

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Amazon Also-Boughts. Just a quick word about why they’re important.

Not many first-time authors know how important their also-boughts are on Amazon sales page.

I didn’t either.

When you’re a new author, and your friends are published authors, your also-boughts probably reflect that because you’ll buy each other’s books. Chances are your friends write in different genres so your also-boughts are full of steampunk, urban fantasy, and fantasy when you write romance. We laugh and take screenshots because Amazon has linked us to our Twitter friends.

That’s less than ideal because this is Amazon telling you they don’t know where your book goes on the virtual bookshelf. This is bad.

If Amazon doesn’t know what your book is, they can’t recommend it to readers in the correct genre.

This is why when someone on Twitter says they have birthday money and want to buy a couple of indie books, I get mad at all the people who try to entice them into buying their books. When it comes to Amazon, the biggest book retailer in the United States, a sale isn’t just a sale. I stopped advertising my books on writer Twitter a long time ago.

 

Why do you care what the also-boughts are on your books product page? Because when Amazon knows what genre your book is, Amazon will put your book in other authors also-boughts. This is really powerful. This is like free advertising. Amazon recommending your book on another books’ sales pages? Yes, please.

This is why you don’t want just anyone buying your books. You want readers in your genre buying your books.

This also goes for the first wave of sales that go to your family and your friends. Don’t ask them to buy if that’s not what they read and buy from Amazon on a regular basis. I know it’s hard, but training Amazon to know what you’re selling is beneficial in other ways. Mainly, ads.

Did you know Amazon won’t show your ad, no matter how much you bid, if the algorithms say no one is buying it? Amazon wants to make money. If they can’t make money selling your book, they’ll bury it.

But, you might say, they’re getting my money from ads with cost per click, right?

Yes, but that’s only 50% of what they can make if people are clicking and not buying. Amazon wants their 30% of your book royalties, too, and they go with the sure thing.

Training Amazon to know what genre you publish in is half the battle. That’s why you hear from established authors that say you shouldn’t genre-hop until you have an established audience.

Loading your book into Yasiv if to see if your book is connected to others in your genre is a good start. If it’s not, buy some promos. Your first order of business is getting readers of your genre to buy your book.

The second is to write more books.

The 3rd is to stop asking just anybody to buy it. If you’re hoping for reviews, give your book away.

You want Amazon to show your book to people who read in your genre. They’ll even email readers suggestions of books they might enjoy. We all get those emails. It takes a little work, but in the end it can be worth it.

What are my also-boughts like?

all of nothing also boughts

All of Nothing‘s also-boughts are solid. It’s my biggest seller (which isn’t saying much) but I’ve done the most ads for it.

The Years Between Us needs some work, apparently, and I’ll be doing a promo for it for my birthday coming up. I still need to change out the blurb though. This isn’t good, and I’ll be taking my own advice.

also boughts for the years between us


Want to learn more about also-boughts? Read Chris Fox’s Six Figure Author. He goes in depth with also-boughts and the Amazon algorithms.

What to hear more about how Amazon sells your book? Listen to an interview with author Russell Blake and Michael Beverly who runs AMS Ad Werks, an Amazon Ad management company. Listen to Joanna’s podcast here (or read the transcript).

Michael was also on the Self-Publishing Show with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. You can listen to the podcast, or watch them on YouTube.

 

That’s all I have for today! With the holidays coming, I can’t guarantee I’ll stay on a consistent schedule, but I’ll try.

I hope you all have a splendid week ahead!


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Launching your book. Is there anything you can do to have a great launch?

your book launch

I have to get this disclaimer out there: I suck at launches. I hit PUBLISH and kind of move on. In fact, this goes in line with what Andrea Pearson says on the new 6 Figure Authors Podcast with Lindsay Buroker and Joseph R. Lallo. She recommends not bothering to market until you have at least ten books out.

As I found out being $70 bucks in the hole doing Amazon ads for The Years Between Us (I still haven’t updated that blurb, dammit!) sometimes spending money on marketing and advertising is just a waste of money that you may not ever get back.

But sometimes you wanna throw a little money at a new book, and maybe if you can hit the right notes it can take off and Amazon might show your book some love. That chance is getting smaller and smaller because of the competition, but it never hurts to try. You might get lucky.

Launching can take some planning, so I’ve been mulling over ideas. Because only half the books are edited, I don’t have blurbs or titles yet, and I only have basic concepts for the covers, my launch is going to go into next year. I’m a little embarrassed since I’m 18k into book 2 of my SUPER SECRET PROJECT trilogy, and I’ve been spending more time writing that than I have working on my series. That’s what you get when you chase after the shiny objects. 

When we talk about launches, probably the top two things seasoned authors will tell you is to announce it to your email list and reach out for newsletters swaps.

I can’t do this because 1. I don’t have a email list, and 2. because I don’t have a newsletter (email list) I can’t ask around. I mean, I could ask, but I would have to be clear that I cannot reciprocate. So I’m reluctant to ask because swapping implies doing it in return at some point, and I can’t. To me it would feel like asking for favors, and I don’t like owing people.

If you don’t have a street team, email list, or friends to help you out, what can you do? The only options are then to fling some money at your book.

But first, before you shove money at it, try to get some reviews.

This is my tentative plan when I have my series ready to go:

  1. Put my book on BookSprout before I put the ebook in KU. You can publish your paperback ahead of your Kindle book. Reviewers can’t put up a review on a preorder so the way authors are getting around this is publishing the paperback before the Kindle book. That way, when you do publish your Kindle book, it will have reviews. (You may have to contact Amazon to have them linked up to make the reviews show up for both versions.)
    In a previous blogpost, I questioned the quality of the reviews from BookSprout, but you have to weigh what you need versus what you want. If you can grab four or five reviews from them at least you have something to get your book off the ground. Some readers won’t read anything that doesn’t have a review. And if you have only one book out and no one knows your name, your chances of a reader picking up your book without reviews is even lower. BookSprout will offer your book to 20 ARC readers for free. If 25% of them leave a review, you can publish your Kindle book with a few stars, at least.your book launch (2)
  2. Buy some promos. I want to have my whole series published when I do this. That way the promo for book one is actually going to be for all the books in the series, and I’m hoping for some serious read-through.
    The two places I’m going to try are: Red Feather Romance. This is a promo site run by Written Word Media who also offers Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy. I’ve tried both of those before, and I’ve had better luck with Freebooksy. But I tried Bargainbooksy on a standalone, and I’ve come to realize marketing a standalone is not cost-effective. Ereader News Today. I haven’t tried this service, but other authors swear by it. I like trying something new every time I release a book, if anything, just so I can blog about it.When you look at promo sites, make sure before you apply that they don’t have a minimum review policy. Some don’t, some do, so it’s best to be sure you don’t need 10+ reviews before you apply for a promo. It saves time.

    Also keep in mind your publication date. Popular promo sites book out a couple weeks in advance. If you’re launching  your Kindle version on January 10th, you may need to rethink it if you can’t get a promo date until February.

    This brings up the subject of release pricing. I think I’ll release the first book in the series at .99 and release the other books at 2.99.  I’ve tried 3.99 and that seems to be too high. When you’re releasing into KU, price doesn’t seem to matter as much because you’re going more for the page reads than you are sales. If you’re wide, price matters a little more, and then you have to research in your genre what other books are going for.

  3. Ads. I may still do some Amazon ads a few weeks after the release of book 4. That might keep my sales and page reads up after the 30 day drop off when I run out of books to release. I’ll have my SUPER SECRET PROJECT close to being done, probably, but that will be under a different name so I won’t have the power of this release behind it. What little power there might be.

your book launch (1)

I’m being realistic with this launch. My kind of books are not what’s selling right now. You might wonder how that’s possible, because romance is romance. But if you take a look at the top ten, only three of them are written in third person past, and one of them is from Nora Roberts. I don’t count her.

  1. Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward: 1st person past
  2. The Family Journal by Carolyn Brown: 3rd person past
  3. Crazy for Loving You: A Bluewater Billionaires Romantic Comedy by Pippa Grant: 1st person present
  4. Havoc at Prescott High (The Havoc Boys Book 1) by C.M. Stunich: 1st person present
  5. A Nora Roberts reprint from 2009: 3rd person past
  6. No Broken Beast by Nicole Snow: 1st person present
  7. Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor: 3rd person past
  8. My Big Fat Fake Wedding by Lauren Landish: 1st person present
  9. Insatiable: A Cloverleigh Farms Standalone by Melanie Harlow: 1st person past
  10. Stealing the Bride by Nadia Lee: 1st person present

You can dig deeper down the list and keep counting, but that small sample is enough for me. I’ve blogged about this before, too, how I think that 3rd person past is going out of style, and after my wedding quartet, I’ll have to decide if it’s even worth writing anymore. I mean, there’s no telling when 3rd person past might come back around. Everything circles around if you give it time. But you also have to resist banging your head into a brick wall trying to sell books readers don’t want.


Anyway, I’ve talked enough about my launch plans. It seems the best plans will incorporate a little teamwork by way of newsletter swaps, but it puts you in a hard place if you don’t have one of your own.

If you find this is the case, you can be stubborn like me and keep doing what you’re doing, or you can start a newsletter, and realize that it’s going to take you a couple years to build a list of readers where you can tell them about your releases and other books you enjoy. Also, there’s no time like the present to reach out and make some friends in your genre. If they’re your friends and want to help, maybe they won’t ask you for anything in return. Some people out there are still nice. Just be careful not to take advantage.

Got any other launch ideas? Let me know!


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Amazon Ads: Bad news.

Amazon ads and bad news probably go together in sentences from a lot of indies. I’m no exception, but not through any fault of my own. Kinda.

When I did my last update, I was breaking even, and pretty happy with that.

After some ads took off and ate up all my money with no return, I had to pause them. I was 70 dollars in the hole, and I had to try to figure out why.

The culprit was easy to spot.

ads.jpg

These are my ad results for The Years Between Us from September 20th when I started Bryan’s ad challenge to today October 19th when I’m writing this blogpost. The numbers look impressive. Look at those impressions! Look at all those clicks!  I mean, in all the times I’ve tried running ads, I’ve never had results like this. These tell me a couple things:

  1. Bryan’s advice works. (My keywords were good.)
  2. My cover is good.
  3. My ad copy is fabulous.
    They fell in love.
    The wrong person found out.
    Now he’ll do anything to protect her.
    Even if it breaks her heart.
  4. My daily spend was good enough for Amazon to show my ad around.
  5. My bid for clicks was high enough for Amazon to show my ad around.

But.

My ads, in roughly a month period, generated only $26.57 in sales and KU page reads with an ad spend of $95.52. That’s not good. (The sales column above doesn’t include KU reads so that’s why the numbers are different. The Amazon ad dashboard does not include them and BookReport does.)

book report results for the years between us

You have to be honest ask yourself why that is.

In my case, I’m sure it’s the blurb. I have a good number of clicks. I should have made more than $26.57. They liked the cover and the ad copy enough to click, but they got to the blurb and it turned them off.

That’s the only thing I can think of.

This is the blurb without having to click READ MORE (or above the fold, as they say):

Zia Bishop is in love with an older man.
On the night of her high school graduation, she persuades him to take her virginity, and the wrong person discovers their secret.

Matthew Harcourt knew he should never have made love to Zia, his best friend’s daughter.

And I guess that is enough to make people turn away. Now, this story is not naughty. It’s not dirty. If it was, then I would have used a grittier, sexier cover and marketed it as a “Daddy’s Best Friend Makes Me Wet” novel.  This is a pretty romance, with the bulk of the story taking place when she is 25 and he is 50. Still a wide gap, but maybe it doesn’t sound as weird when she’s 18 and he’s 43.

So, I paused all my ads. I’m going to rewrite my blurb, focus on a different aspect of their relationship.

The first page introduces them at her high school graduation party. So I could still lose readers if they borrow it in KU and decide after five pages they don’t want to read more.

If that happens, I may need to change the cover and target readers who will read OM/YW (older man/younger woman) romance and hope they like the softness of it, or pull it from KU and see if I can find a way to get more reviews, though I’m hesitant to try Booksprout again. If nothing works, I may just have to write off The Years Between Us completely and just forget about it.

There are things I can do, and everything needs to be tested to find out what works and what doesn’t. The blurb is the easiest experiment, so I’ll try that first.

Everything in stages, but that’s the plan so far.

The point is, there are steps I can take to try for sales, and if you find yourself in this position, you need to make sure you are constantly checking on your ads so clicks don’t eat through all your cash.

I should have paused my ads earlier, but seeing those results was pretty amazing. I have a little money to experiment, and I wanted to see what would happen. Sometimes page reads can come in later. In the Kindle Unlimited program, readers can borrow up to 10 books at a time. The Years Between Us could be sitting on quite a few Kindles waiting in a reader’s queue. But I’m not going to let clicks eat up my ad dollars if I don’t have proof of that.

All of Nothing is still making me some spare change every day, so I’ll keep my ads paused until I make up that ad spend money.

Then we’ll try again.

How are your ads doing? Let me know!

Want a list of older man/younger woman books? Goodreads has a shelf of recommendations. 🙂

Until next time!


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