Thursday musings: What I’ve completed, what’s next, and a small pet peeve.

Brown Photo Independence Day Twitter Post

Happy Thursday! It’s a rainy day here and I thought the picture was apt. I’m not having as much fun as they are, but that’s okay. Rainy days are good for writing, or in this case, catching you up on all that I’ve been doing.

I’m going to start with a something that has been bothering me a lot in the past couple days. All the writing groups on Facebook can provide an endless stream of fodder for any blogger, and the other day I took particular offense to one post. I won’t mention the group because I don’t to get kicked out, and I don’t want to mention the poster because maybe she didn’t know what she was doing (though I’m sure she did). At any rate, she posted something to the effect of, “Whew! I wrote two books this month! Now it’s time to relax and celebrate!”

Of course she got the obligatory congratulations, and there were some people who were a little down, because, hey, that announcement really sounds like something good. Who doesn’t want to be able to write two books a month?

The problem is, and I’m sure you know where I’m going with this is, what really is a “book?” How many words is that? You know me and my big mouth and my nosiness couldn’t leave it be and I asked her how many words she’d managed to write in a month’s time.

You know what? She didn’t answer me. It could be that she missed it. It could be she never checked that post again, because the whole point was to a brag in the guise of, “If I can do it, you can do it, too!” Or it could be she didn’t want to admit that she wrote two novellas that were about 25,000 words a piece.

Even if she did do that, it’s an accomplishment and I don’t want to take that away from her. But I think it shows complete lack of courtesy for the writers and authors in that group who struggle just to write a couple thousand words a week. Be proud of yourself, share your victories, but come on, be honest about it too. You’ll get more appreciation that way.

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This is why comparisonitis is a bad thing. You don’t know the real story. You don’t know what is really being accomplished. It could be she “wrote” 100,000 words–in dictation, and hired someone to transcribe it all. That sounds pretty cool, too, but not how the majority of us write. Be careful who you compare yourselves to. Get the real story, then mine their experiences for the real-life tips that can help you achieve your own level of success.


I took the feedback from comments on a different blog post, and I found a different photo for The Years Between Us. I think there were a few photographers who uploaded new stock photos on depositphotos.com because I had never seen this couple before, but they hit the nail on the head when it came to my characters.

After I changed out the cover and ordered a proof to make sure it looked good in print, too, I started running some ads using keywords from Publisher Rocket. The ads haven’t turned on yet, so I’m getting some impressions but not many. As I said in a previous blog post, a new cover, a fresh editing sweep, and a new blurb is the best I can do for this book. It could just be that I didn’t hit the mark, and it will never sell. That’s something I’m going to have to come to terms with, but at least I can say I gave this book my all.

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I’m not going to write it off just yet. I can bid very low and continuously run ads to it, as impressions are free and running ads as long as they don’t cost you money without return never hurts. I’ll keep you posted.


I am using COVID-19 and the #stayathome order to still go back and get some messy housekeeping done.

Yesterday I went on IngramsSpark and uploaded new insides and uploaded new covers for some of my books. I have this thing where my books need to be the same everywhere, and even though dealing with IngramSpark can be a pain, and I did three out of six books. I’ll wait to make sure they go through then do the other three. They do not have the online previewer that KDP does, so you can upload your files, but you won’t know if they pass until someone from Ingram looks them over. At least with the KDP previewer you have an idea if the file is going to be approved, or if you see a mistake you can fix it before submitting. Ingram did make some changes to their website and it’s more user friendly, but it still doesn’t work the way I wish it did.

I did my standalones, next I’ll do my Tower City trilogy. When those are all uploaded and approved, I’ll publish my Rocky Point Wedding Series there. I haven’t done that yet, though I did not select expanded distribution on Amazon. I do like seeing my paperbacks other places even if they’re not selling.

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And please keep in mind for anyone who does not know, you have to be listed in the IngramSpark catalogue for someone to walk into Barnes and Noble and ask them to order your paperback. They will not purchase a book from Amazon. You may approach the manager of your local Barnes and Noble and see if they will carry your book on consignment and then bring in your author copies from Amazon, but you’ll look more professional if you say your book is available through the IngramSpark catalogue. It is a pain dealing with them, but they will list your paperback book on all the marketplaces. You do have to buy your own ISBN though. IngramSpark won’t take the free one Amazon gives you if you go that route.

Robin Cutler is the director of the indie side of Ingram, and she did a wonderful interview with Craig Martelle in the 20booksto50k group! Take a few minutes to give it a listen. There’s some really great advice there if you’re interested.


I wanted to add a little bonus content to my Tower City trilogy. After I edited the books again (took out some telling, smoothed out the writing) I wanted to add a little something to the boxed set. I intended to write a novelette, but it turned into a 29k novella. I’ve been writing that for the past few days (ten to be exact, ahem) and I’ll spend the weekend cleaning it up and putting together a new boxed set with extra novella. Then I’ll run some ads to it and see if I can’t get some page reads. I said in a previous blog post I didn’t think my books were worth selling, and I feel better now that I’ve given them a read through and corrected a few typos and small inconsistencies. I haven’t looked at those books since I published them, and going at them with a fresh eye was beneficial.


That is all the news I have to share–unless you want a quick update on my ads.

I lost 14 dollars for the month of April with a spend of $180.97 and royalties across all my books of $166.92.  I turned off my big spenders to see if my KU page reads would eat up the difference. Not so much, but I’ve operated in the red before. Obviously the main goal is making money, but at this point I’ll be happy to break even. It’s cool. Still learning, still playing. Going forward I won’t bid so much and hopefully lower cost per click.

I’m up for the month of May, with an ad spend so far of $41.16 and estimated royalties of $78.73. I only have two ads going right now for All of Nothing, still my biggest earner. I put up some fresh ones for The Years Between Us, but nothing to write home about yet, and Wherever He Goes is DOA. Not sure what I can do to revive that either. His Frozen Heart is going okay, and I’ll run a promo later after the last book in the series releases at the end of this month. As I said, it was an ill-timed release, so maybe a Christmas in July type thing. We’ll see.

I really will shut up now since I talked your ears off. I hope all of you are having productive days and weeks, as it seems this may not get back to normal until the fall, and maybe not even then. It’s hard to keep your head in the game, but every little bit helps!

Until next time!

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Ebook explosion 2020

2020 indie publishing predictions

We’ve reached the end of Written Word Media’s 2020 predictions. So far we’ve talked about audiobooks, author collaboration on marketing and writing projects, the organic reach that is diminishing and ways to find it again, and the necessity of running ads. We’ve explored what would happen if the big five started using KU.

I’ll be ending the series now as the COVID-19 virus has a lot of us on edge (and frankly, tired of being at home), and some writers aren’t writing much now, instead focusing on the day to day just to stay sane. It’s difficult to write when you’re worried, so I’ll hit on one more point to round out the prediction series and wrap it up until the next wave in 2021.

The next prediction that WWM goes into is that the e-book market will grow even more

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

in 2020.

When you think that over 2,000 books are published every month, it’s crazy to think that it could grow even more than that. As publishing a book gets easier and easier, and faster and faster, the number may rise, but the quality probably won’t. This presents two problems: one, you have to fight to be seen and two, you have to fight to be seen through crap.

The article goes on to say that e-book readers are younger, which is a good thing for authors who write YA and coming of age/college fiction. It used to be a struggle for authors of those genres to be seen in an online presence only able to only reach those readers through a traditional publishing channel (paperbacks and brick and mortar stores), but when teens are reading on their phones it gives authors of those genres a reachable audience.

But like all the rest of the predictions indicate, writing good books and publishing frequently will help you find readers.

There’s not much to this prediction – it’s almost a given — but it does make discoverability harder, no matter what genre you write in. The article suggests not getting distracted by shiny objects, but hopefully a writer with his or her eye on the prize has been avoiding temptation already.

In that vein, you have to think of publishing as a lifelong endeavor. I’ve listened to podcasts and read articles about 2020 predictions and discussions looking back at the past 10 years.

A good one is Joanna Penn talking with Orna Ross from the Alliance of Independent Authors, and you can watch/listen to it here:

One thing that has kept popping up was how many authors have disappeared. The indie “gold rush” such as it was started with the invention of the Kindle in 2010 and writers like Lindsay Buroker and Joanna Penn were there at the start. Both have commented that quite a few writers they knew 10 years ago have dropped out and have never been seen again. I’ve only been publishing for four years, and even in that short amount of time people have come and people have gone.

You can take a couple things from this. Of the 2,000 to 3,000 books published every month, some, maybe most, of those authors are one and done. Of course you don’t want to feel good because of another’s misfortune or bad luck, but let’s say those authors only had one book in them, or they thought publishing would be a different experience from what they had. Maybe they thought they would get rich quick and slunk away when their booked debuted at 300,000 in the Kindle Store and was buried, never to be seen again. Those authors aren’t competition for long, but unfortunately, there will always be more to take their place.

If you can publish a few times a year, build a backlist a potential reader can see looking your author page, you’ll be ahead of the curve just by sticking around.

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Photo by Malte luk on Pexels.com

2020 started a new decade and we don’t know what the next 10 years in publishing will bring. What does your next 10 years look like? Five years? Are you still in the game or did you come in like a sparkler only to fizzle and die out?

My goal is to make it. I want to work on discoverability; writing and publishing isn’t a problem. If you read my blog on a semi-regular basis you know I’d rather write with my free time over anything else. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Twenty-five years ago I majored in English and creative writing. Books are in my blood.

The e-book market will grow and continue to do so beyond this year. It’s the easiest way to publish a book. But it will be the ones who stick around that will cut through the noise.

What will this new decade bring to you?

Thanks for sticking with me through these predictions. I’ve always been interested in the evolution of the publishing industry. If you want to read a good book about the industry, and how Amazon has impacted it, more specifically, read  The Book Business: What Everyone Needs to Know by Mike Shatzkin and Robert Paris Riger.

And you can listen to Mike’s podcast interview with Joanna Penn, here:

Thanks for reading and stay safe and healthy!


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Free, interactive way to learn Amazon Ads hosted by Bryan Cohen

I use this blog to pass along the information about writing and especially publishing I’ve heard about, information I’ve learned from, especially the free stuff since I know how difficult it is to scrape up cash for every little thing that seems to come up when you want to write and publish a book.

In Written Word Media’s predictions for 2020, one stood out among all the others–this is a pay to play industry, and there is no getting around it. (I did a blog post about that prediction, and you can read it here.) You need to learn an ad platform to make your books visible in a vast sea of other books.

Use Amazon Ads to make your book stand out!

If you think you don’t need to learn, if you think that publishing a book and telling your Twitter followers will be enough, it won’t be. Not for the kind of sales you’re hoping for. It’s tough breaking out of the friend and family bubble, but if you want strangers, ie, READERS to find your book, you’re going to need to pay to shove it in front of them. It’s that simple.

And that scary.

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Photo taken from the FB group. To ask to join the group, click here.

Bryan Cohen is a leading figure in the indie industry (he weighed in on some predictions in the Written Word Media 2020 predictions article). He runs a blurb-writing business, has written HOW TO WRITE A SIZZLING SYNOPSIS, is co-host of The Sell More Books Show podcast, is founder of Selling for Authors, and runs an Amazon Ad School. He knows how to sell books, not just ours, but his own. If you want to see his backlist, look at his Amazon author page. I met him at the Sell More Books Show summit last year in Chicago (no, I didn’t, I was too shy to introduce myself, but he seemed to be a very nice guy, and it was my fault we didn’t chat, not his) and I participated in a different ads challenge last year. It was participating in that challenge that taught me:

  • the importance of using correct keywords
  • where to find them
  • how to navigate the Amazon ads platform
  • how to bid for clicks, and how to keep them low
  • how to set a manageable daily budget
  • how to correctly identify if your ad is a money suck or if you have any ROI (in other words, are you getting sales or KU page reads?)

    and most importantly,

  • you don’t have to spend a lot of money to see results

That was one of the main concerns that people brought up the ad challenge I participated in, and a subsequent challenge I had to drop out of because I was too busy putting my series together to give it any real attention. I was part of the Facebook group, and I did pop in and encourage other authors, and unfortunately, it was a worry for many using the ad platform.

Ads are scary, and yes, you do need a little bit of cash to experiment with. But you remain in control of the ads the whole time. You can pause an ad without penalty. If you’re getting tons of clicks and your ad spend is a little too high for your liking, you can kill an ad, and that’s that.

Bryan has a new ad challenge that will be starting April 13th. While Covid-19 is heavy on people’s minds, a lot of us are staying at home, and this might be a great time for some of you to take an hour from your day for a week and learn something that could help you for months, maybe even years, to come.

The ad challenge is free (besides ad cost). He’ll walk you through how to find keywords, what to do with them, how to bid, how to set your daily budget. He shows you how to do all this for FREE, though he is transparent in that he wants you to sign up for his Amazon Ad School. Some of you may decide to do that after taking his challenge, some of you may join the challenge just for the free information. He gets it. But he also gives you enough information that you can run some low-cost ads and get comfortable with the platform without breaking the bank and without needing to pay for his ad school for additional information.

There is one caveat to the challenge, and it’s this: HE ASSUMES YOU’RE ADVERTISING A GOOD BOOK. He assumes that your cover is on point, that your blurb on your Amazon product page is hooky and well-written. He assumes your look-inside will grab a reader to want more and buy your book.

IF YOUR BOOK IS NOT UP TO PAR, DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME ON THE CHALLENGE.

People waste money on ads because their cover is on point, but their blurb sucks. Or they don’t get any clicks because their cover is too plain, doesn’t convey genre, etc. Impressions are free (which is great!), but if you end up with 200,000 impressions and no clicks, you’ll get discouraged.

The ad challenge won’t work if you don’t have a good product to sell.

That said, I’m writing this blog post specifically to ask you to join it, learn the platform, and get your books into the hands of readers. Break that Twitter and Facebook bubble, and reach out to people who read your genre. There are hundreds of thousands of readers out there and you need a way to reach them!

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Do you want him reading your book? Of course you do!                                                   Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Here is the link to sign up for his ad school: https://bryancohen.lpages.co/amazon-ad-profit-challenge-landing-april-2020/?affiliate=bestpageforward

One of the best things about the challenge is the community that it brings together on the Facebook page. We share our impressions, clicks, disappointment. We ask questions, and they’re answered either by Bryan himself, so someone else. It’s a wonderful community and I’ve met some amazing and helpful authors on there. Here is the link to the FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2230194167089012/ He’ll tell you about the group in the welcome video that’s available to you when you sign up.

You’re probably wondering why I’m pressing this so hard–Bryan is so generous, and I’m always impressed by what he’s willing to share for free. Trust me, what you learn in this ad challenge will get you started on the right path–he doesn’t leaving you hanging at all. Not like some webinars that are really just infomercials to try to get you to buy something. This isn’t like that.

I’ve had some small sales since learning how to do the ads. Admittedly, I don’t pay nearly enough attention to them, but this ad challenge will be different. My series is slowly dropping. Book one is out, and book two will be by the time the challenge starts. Book three will be available at the end of the April, and book four at the end of May. Shoving some money at the first in the series won’t hurt, not at all. I’ll share my numbers with you for the month of March:

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This makes it look like I’m losing money, but Sales doesn’t include KU page reads, and Bryan will go into that with us, so I’m not freaking out that my spend is more than my sales. But see, I have only spent not even $20.00 for the month of March, and I wanted to show you that to prove to you that ads don’t have to be expensive!

For the $19.13 I’ve spent so far this month, I’m running:

10 ads for All of Nothing

4 ads for His Frozen Heart

10 ads for The Years Between Us

0 for Wherever He Goes and the other books in my backlist

That’s not a crazy ad spend for 24 ads, and a lot of authors run more ads than that at any give time.

What I’ve made so far in sales and KU Page reads:

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So I’ve spent 20 dollars to make 20 dollars. That’s a little more than breaking even, but when you’re just starting out that’s better than losing. Since I’ve adjusted my blurb on The Years Between Us, I’ve started getting sales so don’t despair right away if you get impressions or clicks without sales. Things can be changed. They aren’t set in stone–take comfort in that. Plus you only have to run the number of ads you’re comfortable with. I dip my toes in, obviously. I don’t have time to do more than that.

Anyway, it’s late here, so I need to wrap up. I just really can’t say enough about Bryan and his challenge. He taught me so much, and I can’t wait to do the challenge again! I hope you join me!

Until next time!


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2020 Indie Publishing Predictions: Pay-to-Play and ad platform resources for indie authors

2020 indie publishing predictions

Thank you for staying with me through this blog series about Written Word Media’s predictions for 2020. I’m discussing these predictions as an Emerging Author who has less than 10 books published and making less than $60,000 a year (let’s be honest according to my 1099s I made less than $2000 in 2019).

In the last post we talked a little bit about author collaboration because there is power in numbers, though the group opportunities don’t mean much to me because I’m still building my own career in my own right. Just as I’m sure most readers of my blog are.

The next point WWM predicts is that running ads will become a requirement. This isn’t a prediction so much as it’s already a fact. You need to learn an ad platform and not be afraid to use it. Meaning, you can’t be afraid to spend a little money to make a little money.

Various people say that Amazon ads are the smartest way to go. You’re putting your ad in front of shoppers who’re already in the mood to buy books. I like Amazon ads, too, because you’re selling books to readers who do not have a KU subscription and your enticing readers to borrow your book if they do.

It shouldn’t need to be said that running successful ads means you’re advertising a quality product. Unfortunately you may waste a little money on clicks figuring this out. You may recall in a prior blog post of mine where I described losing some money in ads for The Years Between Us. My ad copy was good, my cover was good, but I was losing people at the blurb. The Years Between Us is an older man/younger woman novel, but it’s not naughty. I was marketing it as a older man/younger woman, when maybe my blurb should have emphasized the forbidden love aspect instead. At any rate, you may need to experiment. If your ad doesn’t get any clicks, but you are getting some impressions, maybe your ad copy isn’t hooky, or your cover looks too homemade or doesn’t reflect the genre clearly. In any case, the blurb cost me clicks. I should have turned my ads off a lot sooner than I did. I was optimistic and I paid the price.


Mark Coker has is own opinion on this prediction–it’s evident he hates that Amazon took this direction. He claims that being pay-to-play makes us compete against other authors. He also states that since Amazon took away the also-boughts at the bottom of the product pages and replaced those with sponsored ads, Amazon is pitting us against each other. (Amazon is always playing with their platform looking for ways to improve the customer experience. Just because they are gone today doesn’t mean they won’t be back tomorrow, or a variation of them.) My book, All of Nothing, does still have some also-boughts, and I’m happy to say that they seem to fit into the kind of book All of Nothing is.

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It’s true that when you search an author, their product pages can be peppered with ads. That’s business. It’s no different than driving down the main strip of the city and having your choice of Dairy Queen, Hardee’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, Sonic, Popeye’s, KFC, and a million other places. It’s up to their marketing team to make them stand out, just like it’s up to you to have a good cover, blurb, title, and look inside, so your potential reader isn’t lured away by a prettier cover and better ad copy.

The motto of the 20booksto50k group is a “A rising tide lifts all boats.” There’s no competition. Be the best you can be, put out the best quality product you can. If you write against the grain (the book of your heart), and/or can’t afford an editor and/or can’t find someone to trade with you, if you have to make your own cover, these are choices in situations you’re going to have to work with. Your book isn’t anyone else’s responsibility.

I don’t agree much with Mark Coker. We aren’t competing against each other. It helps to look at other authors as allies instead of competition. Make friends, not enemies, and stay in control of what you can–the quality of your own books.

I like Amazon ads. They don’t cost much money, and they are surprisingly easy to learn how to use. I haven’t ventured into the UK, or Germany territory. I advertise in the US store, and small sales I do have are because I run ads. But you may find better luck with Facebook or Bookbub ads. In my experience, they eat up money faster. We can blame, or try to blame, Amazon for a lot of things, but taking your money isn’t one of them. Except for when they do–but then that usually is due to operator error not the machine.

No matter where you advertise, you’ll need comp authors and their book titles. You need these because in Amazon’s case they’ll be your keywords, in Facebook’s case they will help you find an audience to target. That’s why it’s important to know what genre you’re writing in, and what books fit with yours. Always stay up-to-date with what’s happening in your genre. Keep an eye on authors who are doing well who write the same kinds of books you do.

Take time to learn how ads work. There are a lot of free resources out there. All they take is a little bit of time to listen to a podcast or to read a book a generous person (usually an indie author himself or herself) has taken time to write for the rest of us. Going in blind is silly and will cost you money. As a writer, you should be used to researching. This isn’t any different – you’re only researching wearing your businessperson’s hat and not your writer’s hat. I’ll list them at the bottom of the blog post.

When it comes to this prediction, the future is now. You won’t get far without some kind of paid advertising. You won’t have a launch, strong or otherwise, without ads, and they are especially important in keeping your book in front of readers if you’re going to take a while to release another. Jami Albright has said she wouldn’t make the money she does releasing one book a year without depending on ads.

They are a huge piece of the indie–publishing puzzle.


Resources

Amazon

Bryan Cohen hosts an Amazon ads challenge every once in a while. The next one is scheduled for April 2020. In this ad challenge, he teaches you the fundamentals of Amazon ads: where to find keywords, how much to bid, what to set your daily limit at. Ultimately, he wants you to buy his Amazon Ads course, but in the challenge, he’ll teach you beginning information for free and it’s enough to get you started. It runs for a week, then a week after that he closes down the information. If you miss participating, you have to wait until he does it again. Eventually he may stop doing the ad challenge and think of something else to advertise is Amazon Ad course.

Follow Bryan on Facebook. This is his Facebook group for his business, Selling for Authors. Join his group for lots of Amazon ad tips, blurb help, copywriting tips and more. This is where he’ll announce a new ads challenge. You can request to join the ads challenge group here. He may not approve your request until the ads challenge opens up again. He’s very generous with his time, and if you have a question, he’ll do his best to answer it. He posts a lot of info on Instagram, too. I would follow him there, as well.

Dave Chesson has made how-to-learn Amazon ad videos. You can access them for free and watch at your own pace. He teaches you the same as Bryan: how to find keywords, how much to bid, how much to set your daily limit. His way is a little different from Bryan’s methods. Though like Bryan, he wants to sell you something and Dave wants to sell you a Publisher Rocket, a software to analyze what the competition is doing, how much they’re making, how many books are selling. It’s also a keyword grabber, though both gentlemen kindly teach you how to find keywords for free. I have Publisher Rocket and it’s worth the money.

Reedsy also has a course that is delivered in chunks to your email. Taught by Ricardo Fayet, this course is free, and you can sign up for it here. 

Facebook

There is only one free way to learn Facebook ads, that I know of, that’s signing up for the email class by Reedsy. Otherwise, you need buy a book explaining how to do them, or take a paid class. I recommend you do something before diving in because Facebook loves to take your money, and if you don’t have the proper audience targeted, or your ad isn’t put together correctly (bad graphics, bad ad copy) you’ll be broke and your ads won’t attract any engagement, never mind convert to sales. Mal Cooper is the powerhouse here, and she has an updated Facebook ads book available (you can even download the ebook version for free though I would encourage you to throw her some coin for being so great!), and she was just interviewed about Facebook ads on the 6 Figure Authors podcast. You can watch it here.


Bookbub

41hhK-35Z0L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_As with Facebook ads, free ways to learn the platform are scarce. To be clear, Bookbub ads are not the same as being approved for a featured deal. Those are expensive and you have to submit and be approved. Bookbub ads are what they sound like — ads you make yourself using Canva or BookBrush that are placed at the bottom of their newsletters they send out to their subscribers. The only authority I know of is David Gaughran. He wrote a book about them, and you can find it here. In partnership with Reedsy, he also did a course that is delivered in segments for free to your email address. You can sign up here.

He’s very generous with his time, and he includes links in the book to a forum where you can ask questions. He’ll answer or someone else will help out. The book is a year old, so if you have a question and you search the forum you might find your answer without having to ask. But Bookbub is good for discounted books only. That’s the basis of their whole platform and they’ve trained their readers to look to them for deals. Don’t advertise a full-priced book there. You’ll get plenty of clicks and no sales.

The pros say to choose one platform and get really good at it.

Good luck!

PS: Since I love throwing podcasts at you, this is one by Joanna Penn with Russell Blake and Michael Beverly. Michael founded Adwerks, a business that runs Amazon ads for indie authors who don’t have the time to manage them on their own. They are a wealth of information on how the Amazon ads work, and they give you a peek into the mysterious Amazon Algorithms. I highly recommend it!


The next prediction that Written Word Media talks about is the Big Five putting books into KU. See you there!


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Where Did Organic Reach Go? (And what you can do to find it.)

2020 indie publishing predictions

The reason we’re so crazy about marketing is that organic reach is disappearing.

What is organic reach? It’s when someone finds what they need without the company or publisher spending money on advertising. When people talk about ads and marketing  and say organic reach has disappeared, they mean free advertising.

2020 indie publishing predictions-2


Click on the graphic to read the entire article.

Free platforms on social media. Free exposure. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see an author in one of my writing groups ask how they can find exposure for their book without spending any money.

Twitter has promoted tweets. Facebook makes you boost posts on your own page so everyone will see it. Instagram (in conjunction with Facebook) will promote your posts. Authors are clamoring for attention, and if you can’t, or don’t want, to pay, your post will get lost in the fray.

Is there anyway for an author to find free traction? There are some ways to get around disappearing organic reach, but they take a lot of time and work, and there are no guarantees you’ll see results.

  1. Look for other websites that pertain to you and your genre, and ask them to interview you or ask if you can write a blog post about your book. That’s free. Check the blog for the kind of content it offers and ask to contribute. Everyone is looking for quality content. You’re helping them, and they’re helping you. But make sure they have a good-sized audience or you’ll be wasting time.
  2. Simply ask. Ask for a retweet or ask for a share. If you’re blogging, use hashtags on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to tag your work when you and others share your post. I can get quite a few eyes on a blog post on a Monday using Rachel Thompson’s #MondayBlogs hashtag on Twitter. That’s for my blog, though. I don’t push my books on Twitter, and she has a strict no self-promo rule. Research hashtags and use them appropriately on social media platforms.
  3. Network. People don’t like to network because it takes time to build relationships. It can take years to build a foundation in your genre. Join groups that read the genre you read and write in. After you establish trust and made friendships, you can say, “This month’s selection was amazing. I have a book I just launched that is similar if anyone wants to give it a try.” And that’s it. Taking years to build a group only to be able to say one or two things about your book is a huge time suck. But if you can’t spend the cash, you have to spend the time.
  4. Ask your local newspaper or area magazine to interview you. I’ve even seen local authors on my local morning news program. Who knows who is watching at 5:30 AM but if you can’t spend money on ads and promos, every little bit helps.
  5. Send out a press release. There are press release templates online. Explain what your book is about and send it out into the world. You can find a list of paid and free places to submit a press releases here. You can Google a list of press release templates, and Word has a press release template you can search for in their templates menu.
  6. Write for Medium. Instead of blogging, write on Medium and build an audience there. This is especially ideal if your book is nonfiction. Then you can write short articles on your topic. If you don’t know how to go about it, but it sounds interesting you to you, check out Make Money on Medium: Build Your Audience and Grow Your Income with Medium.com.
  7. Start a newsletter. Start it now, even if you don’t have a book out yet. Some email aggregators don’t charge until you reach a certain amount of subscribers. It can take a while to build your list, but the sooner you begin, the better off you’ll be.
  8. Contact your independent bookstore in your area and develop a relationship with the
    68439602_2590399361023194_7744828669033447424_n

    Photo taken from Black Birch Books’ Facebook Page.

    manager and staff. A good example of this is Dave Koster. He has a relationship with Black Birch Books in his city. They carry his book and have hosted book signings for him. He gets to post about it on social media to build buzz, and he’s making local connections. If you don’t have money to spend on ads, or don’t want to take the time to learn how to use them properly, you will have to do the footwork to try other things. (To take a look at Dave’s book on Amazon, click here. If you want to follow him and his publishing journey, click here and follow his blog. He has another book coming out soon!)

 

A lot of the 2020 predictions are based on the fact that organic (free) reach is gone. Everything is pay to play, and this isn’t going to change. How much money do you think Amazon makes double-dipping their authors by charging to sell their books and charging them to advertise? The more important question – how much do you think Amazon makes off indies who waste money on their ad platform because they don’t know what they’re doing?

Mark Coker accuses Amazon of stealing the author platform, that we need Amazon to sell books, but I don’t think that’s only an Amazon problem. Facebook makes you boost a post in your own group or not everyone will see it. Some of Kobo’s prime promotions are paid or you aren’t eligible. They have free ones you can apply for too, but as you can imagine, they are very competitive and difficult to secure. Amazon isn’t the only one making you pay for exposure, yet they seem to take the most heat for it.

2020 indie publishing predictions-3

If you’re going to depend on free marketing when you publish, start building your platform long before your book comes out. Have all your social media intact in the niche or genre you’re writing in. Every little bit helps, I just can’t promise you how much.

Some other blog posts on organic reach:

https://www.tckpublishing.com/why-authors-should-not-use-social-media/

https://www.janefriedman.com/author-without-social-media-presence-now/

 

Do you have other ideas for free exposure? Let me know!


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Indie Publishing Predictions for 2020: Audiobooks

If you read Mark Coker’s predictions back to back with Written Word Media’s, you’ll see they have two very different ideas about what audio is going to do this year for us indies. According to Mark Coker, audio for indies has come and gone. According to Written Word Media, audio will continue to grow and more indie authors will invest.

Which is it?

I guess the more important question is, do you have the money to care?

Audiobook creation is expensive, and there are a couple of things you need to weigh before choosing to spend thousands on an audiobook.

  1. Where? Amazons ACX will trap you in a seven-year contract, and you do not have control of your own pricing. Seven years is a long time. You can create an audiobook through ACX and opt out of exclusivity to Amazon, but your royalties are lower through Audible. Findaway Voices is another place for audiobook creation, but once again, if your audiobook is wide, you’re looking at lower royalties from Audible, though there are more places to sell audio than ever before.
  2. How much will it cost? Lots to consider here. How long is your book? I’ve heard you want to give listeners their bang for their buck. Credits on Audible will buy any book, so listeners are more inclined to spend their credits on longer books. But for indies, these are more expensive to produce. It makes no sense to pay a narrator to narrate your novella because production will be cheaper for you. Audible subscribers won’t waste a credit on it.
  3. Distribution and marketing. You decide to go wide with your audiobook and opt out of exclusivity with ACX (Audible). That’s cool, but if you’re strapped for cash and you were searching couch cushions to pay for your voice actor, you won’t have money to market your audiobook. If you can’t market it, no one will know about it. Kind a like your ebooks, huh?

Written Word Media predicts the audio market will grow. Mark Coker says the audio market will become saturated and indies just starting out have already missed the boat. What does that mean? Audio will likely remain out of your reach until you start making money on your e-books. If an average indie can’t make a regular income until they have 20+ books published, audio in the near future isn’t likely.

Finding a narrator who will do a royalty split with you instead of being paid upfront is getting harder and harder. As Bryan Cohen, on a recent episode of the Sell More Books

woman inside studio

Voice actors have their own audience and have to take care of their own reputations.                     Photo by The Teens Network Daytime Show Studios on Pexels.com

Show says, voice actors are becoming savvy. They know they won’t earn their time/money back if they do a royalty share and will only do work paid upfront. Voice actors have their own wallets and reputations to look out for. If your e-books aren’t selling, you’ll have a difficult time finding a reputable narrator to work with you.

What does this mean for an indie starting out? For audio, at least for now, we feel rushed because we are. If the audiobook industry is saturated now, what will it look like in 2025? There’s no way to know, but you’d be better off writing than worrying about trying to find a foothold you can’t afford.

What if you really want to get in on the action? You don’t have to be completely left out, but even if it doesn’t cost money, it will cost you some time. As an emerging author, you have to decide if it’s worth it, or if you’d be better off writing.

  1. Do live recordings. Go on Facebook or YouTube. Save the recordings and post to your social media and blog. True, you’re not going to make money with free recordings, but at this point you’re building your back list and audience and/or hoping for a newsletter subscribers. My son is listening to free Witcher readings on YouTube. Sometimes it’s not all about sales but exposure, which at this point is what you want.
  2. Create your own. Joanna Penn used to narrate her non-fiction in a closet. Winter jackets can create a soundproof room. But you’ll still have to figure out some kind of editing software because a listener isn’t going to want to hear you flubbing every other line. (By the way, ACX and other platforms have quality control. Even if you happen to have the patience to read your whole book aloud, that doesn’t mean it’s good enough for sale.) Narrate your book in chapters and put it on Patreon, or hope for traffic on your blog. You don’t have to be left out of the audio loop, but you’ll be going about it in a different way.
  3. Explore AI. Audiobook distributors don’t accept text to audio files right now, but that’s not to say you still can’t create an AI file. Be careful using text to voice software because sometimes they aren’t available for commercial use unless you pay their fee. I tried to find something to link up to this blog, but the voices  sounded bad, or the fee was too much to bother with, usually both. Maybe you’ll find something if you decide to go this route.
  4. If you want to offer different mediums, publish your books in Large Print and hardcover. Find someone with Vellum; Large Print is a formatting option with that software. Adjust your cover to a larger spine, and you’re done. KDP has a Large Print box you can select when publishing, and your book will be labeled that way on your book’s product page. Pretty simple to offer your book in a different way. If you buy your ISBN numbers, you can publish your book with a hardcover on IngramSpark. Not necessarily a HARDCOVER that requires you also design a jacket, though that is an option, but you can publish your books with a harder cover like a children’s book. You don’t have to offer audio to sell your books in different ways.

I haven’t done anything with audio yet. Anyone who knows me knows my favorite part of all this is the actual writing and anything that takes my attention away from it I have no use for. The pragmatic side of me knows I need to explore more ways to sell books, but my stubborn side says screw it. I can’t afford audio, and even if I could, my books aren’t selling well enough to warrant it. Maybe in my case, Mark Coker is right – I missed the audiobook opportunity. Or maybe something else will come along. At some point AI text to audio will be acceptable. Us poor indies can wait for that day.

In the meantime, keep writing. You can only have an audiobook if you have a book in the first place. When it comes to this prediction, keep your eyes on your own paper and don’t worry what other indies are doing. As an emerging author, you can only do what your situation allows you to do.

As for me, I don’t care. I can’t afford audio. I listen to my book through Word’s text to voice during my editing process so I know how it will sound spoken aloud if I can ever afford it. At least lay the groundwork for a successful audiobook in case the opportunity ever presents itself.

For more resources on audiobooks, Joanna Penn is coming out with Audio for Authors, it’s on preorder right now, and you can take a look at it here.

She is also interviewed by Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea on the 6 Figure Author podcast, and you can listen to it here.

If you’re interested in tips on how to vlog, or do live videos, in the past I’ve recommend Amy Schmittauer’s book, Vlog Like a Boss. She gives you lots of practical tips for looking and sounding good on camera.

Next we will explore Written Word Media’s second prediction – indie authors and organic reach.

See you then!


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Formatting Your Book Descriptions on Amazon

When you add your book’s blurb to the description field on KDP while publishing your book, you may add spaces between the sentences/paragraphs only to find after your book is published they didn’t take on your Amazon’s product page.

Anytime you hear advice about your Amazon product page, you hear that a lump of text is not conducive to sales. Meaning, readers aren’t going to wade through a huge block of text to figure out what your book is about.

I didn’t use a generator for one of my paperback books, and this is how the description looks for the second book in my series:

Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.06.10 AM

That doesn’t look good. Maybe the first sentence is enough of a hook for potential customers to keep reading, or their eyes will glaze over before they even read the first word.

It’s also confusing because when you do the description for your KINDLE book, usually the spaces will stick. And that makes things weird, too, because now your descriptions for your KINDLE book and your PAPERBACK don’t match.

How do you want your description to look?

Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.06.46 AM

This is my description for All of Nothing. I used an HTML generator to make the spaces between the sentences and the paragraphs, and I also added bold which is eye-catching to a potential customer.

How can you do that?

Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur has a FREE Amazon Book Description Generator, and all you have to do is copy and paste your description into it, and generate the text with HTML code for spaces, bold, italics and more. Then you copy and paste the new generated code into your KDP dashboard under your book. KDP makes making changes a headache, and some authors get confused with the process because KDP calls making changes “publishing” but it only takes a day for the change to go into affect.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to https://kindlepreneur.com/amazon-book-description-generator/
  2. Paste your unformatted description into the box.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.29.07 AMAdd the spaces you want and the bold, italics, or other formatting to your text. This is where you make it look like what you want it to look like on your Amazon product page.

    Like you would in Word, highlight the text you want to change, then click on the Style and Structure to apply the formatting.

    Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.40.53 AM

  3. Then click GENERATE MY CODE. Your description will have a ton of HTML attached to it, but you want that. KDP will read it and put up your description the way you want it on your product page.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.44.07 AM
  4. Go to your KDP account, find your book in your BOOKSHELF, and click on edit book details. This generated code works Paperback only. If you try to use it for your Kindle book, you’ll receive an error message saying invisible characters cannot be accepted.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.36.04 AM
  5. Delete the description you already have there, and paste in the HTML code you generated from Dave’s description generator.Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.36.47 AM
  6. Go through the steps to re-publish your book. The changes take affect in about 24-36 hours depending on how fast KDP gets around to it.

Then your description will have the spaces and bold that you want to catch a potential reader’s eye when they browse your product page.

Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.50.11 AM

This is the description for the first book in the series. It looks like I missed some spaces between periods. But the bold and the spaces between lines and paragraphs look better than the block of text from book two.

Of course, the actual writing of the blurb is another headache that I won’t get into now, but with Dave Chesson’s Amazon Book Description Generator, at least it will look pretty!

Thanks for reading this tip, and I hope you can make it work for you!

Until next time!


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