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.

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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.

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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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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Wrap Up!

In this blog series we’ve been going through a survey by Written Word Media, and what it takes to be a career author. They surveyed authors who are emerging authors, authors who make 60k and authors who make 100k from their writing.

I went through their points as an emerging author who has six books in her library and I make less than $2,000 a year from my books. They went through how much authors spend in editing and covers. It’s no surprise that they found authors who put out quality books make more money.

They went through how they marketed, with easy and affordable promo sites heading the list.

They surveyed authors about being wide or exclusive and found it didn’t matter – authors still need to take time to build a readership no matter where they publish.

They also went into the time authors write, which not surprisingly, revealed at 60kers and 100kers spent the most time writing. In that blog post I tried to hammer in to the emerging authors that to make the leap from emerging author to 60ker, you still need to put in the writing work, no matter how many hours you put into your day job or how tired you are. Career money requires career time.


There are some variables as to why some authors make more than others, and the bonus material revealed some of these differences.

But first if you were curious about the amount of money an Emerging Author makes, take a look:

The difference between the emerging author and the 60ker. It’s quite a leap to be sure. If you’re single, you don’t need to make 60k to support yourself. At least in my area, you can get by okay on $30,000 a year. You’re not living in the lap of luxury, but a nice two-bedroom apartment with its own washer and dryer runs about $700/month. As an emerging author, even if I made an extra $300 a month, that’s a car payment on a newer car I desperately need. You can take a look at the graphic to check how much an emerging author makes.

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Now for some of the reasons why one author would make more than another:

  1. Audiobooks. While audio is on the rise and it’s easier than ever to hire a narrator and get your audiobook out into the world, there’s no point in spending the money if the e-book isn’t selling. It makes sense to invest in audio if your book takes off, but if it doesn’t, there’s no point in spending the money to make an audio version. So while audio is a great supplement for 60kers and 100kers, they were already selling books and the audio is a complement to their library. Also, when audio finally fits into your publishing plan, indies now have their shit together and release the paperback, ebook, and audio all at the same time.

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  2. Genre differences. I’m surprised they didn’t add this to the original survey because the genre you choose to write in is really important. As you can see by the graphics, authors made the most writing commercial fiction. Romance took the lead, and mystery, science fiction, and fantasy follow closely behind.

    Genre-Differences-768x400Genre-non-Differences-768x400
    Children’s books are a hard sell as they depend heavily on print, bookstore and library sales.

    Young adult is broken into lots of sub genres like fantasy and romance, and broken down further into sub sub genres like coming of age, new adult, or college. I don’t see many indies right now writing plain YA like Five Feet Apart or The Fault in Our Stars. They tend to lean more toward dystopian or fantasy like the Hunger Games or Harry Potter. At least, that’s what I get from seeing what others on Twitter are writing about. (Agents turned authors are the ones writing vanilla YA like Eric Smith’s Don’t Read the Comments. Maybe because they have their fingers on the pulse of the market and they’ll write what sells. Who knows.) If you look at indie romance YA, they tend to lean toward paranormal or urban fantasy. Paranormal Academy is hot right now and that usually includes a younger MC. It’s difficult to completely separate the genres, especially since indies like to mash as many genres together as possible.

    And with Amazon allowing you to choose 10 categories for your books, there’s a lot of space to move around.

    We can all agree that while you can make money writing nonfiction, it’s a lot different than writing fiction and it takes a different set of skills to market it. Authors like Bryan Cohen who wrote How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis, Mark Leslie Lefebvre who wrote Killing it on Kobo, and Brian Meeks who wrote Mastering Amazon Descriptions, all have solid foothold in the indie community and pretty much have a built-in audience. They’ve been a part of the indie community for many many years, and they have the platform required to succeed.

    In my experience many indies who venture into non-fiction write creative nonfiction also called memoir. Let’s face it. Everyone’s life is hard. I could write a book about how I survived my divorce, but that wasn’t anything special. I just joined the 50% of other American couples who also have divorced. Hardly book worthy. Unless you have something super special to say, it will be difficult to be the next Michelle Obama.

    Most emerging authors have no platform, and that’s what you need to get a nonfiction book off the ground.

    When you’re an indie, it makes a difference what you choose to write, and, not only that, what you keep writing. Genre-hopping has never done an emerging author any favors, either, something I am finding out subgenre-hopping under my Coming soon!-2contemporary romance umbrella. From what I can see, the most successful indies stay within the same sub-genre like Aidy Award and her curvy girls or Alex Lidell’s academy books. Even Jami Albright writes romcoms and makes a killing with her Runaway Bride trope.

    Mystery, too, is seeing more segregation with subgenres, and authors who choose to write run-of-the-mill detectives might always want to stay with that, only moving the setting to other states, different police departments, and other tragic backstories.

    Indies do like to go their own way, though, and I like to write the stories I like to write as well. Hopefully we can all find a happy medium between writing what we want in writing what sells.

  3. The last point they went into was if the authors had a job outside of their writing. It’s not surprising emerging authors worked. Bills need to be paid somehow. The problem with needing to work is that sometimes your day job is so emotionally draining you don’t have any emotional energy left to write. I’m lucky that I can write and read at my job and that it isn’t emotionally draining. But I do trade that luxury with a lower wage and only because I have help paying bills can I continue to do so. I’m working hard to write as fast as I can to build my backlist so I can eventually hop from emerging author to 60ker. Eventually the sacrifices I’m making to put so much time into my writing will pay off. I’ll make sure it does.

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Even though they did add some additional data, they did leave out some other variables that I find are important in making an author successful.

  • Newsletter. The survey mentions newletter swaps saying that swaps aren’t an effective marketing tool. But that’s only swaps. Swapping implies an author has one to begin with, and I’m willing to bet there is a large gap between emerging authors who don’t have a newsletter and the 100kers that do.
  • The cost of ads. While the survey did go into how authors promoted their books, it’s not often authors reveal how much they’re spending on ads. If you make $50,000 a year but you’re spending $10,000 in ads you’re still doing well obviously, but the amount that author is claiming to have made is a bit deceiving. Bryan Cohen, when he does his mini ads courses, says any profit is good profit. At the core that is true. But if you have to babysit your ads so you make $2.00 for every $1.75 you spend, at some point you have to decide if you’d be better off writing. Ad creation takes time, especially when you need to take the time to write (or learn how to write) catchy ad copy. If you start a newsletter and add the link and call to action in the back of your books and pay for a promotion now and then, you may find that a bit easier, and a little less terrifying, than learning an ad platform and watching your ads like a hawk so overnight you suddenly aren’t $50 in the hole because people hated your blurb.
  • Writing in a series. I hate to keep harping on this, but this is also another component that the survey didn’t go into. Readers like series. They get invested in the outcome. They fall in love with the characters they follow through all the books. 60kers and 100kers know that and they capitalize on it. Emerging authors write what they want, and that isn’t always a series. But I would’ve liked the survey to ask its authors how many emerging authors versus how many 100kers write series. I doubt I would be surprised by the answer.
  • Frequent publishing. The survey didn’t go into how often authors publish. It stands to reason that the faster you put out books, the faster you can make money. But emerging authors have a hard time with timely output. They have their jobs. They are probably still learning craft and the critique partner/beta-reading stages they go through slow them down. Besides Jami Albright, I haven’t heard of an author who is not prolific making $60-$100,000 a year. And she admits she has to rely heavily on ads and other marketing techniques between releases. She knows her limits and embraces them. But you have to wonder if she could write more than one book a year, what that would do for her bottom line. I write as fast as I can, but I am not 100% confident in my ability. So the beta-reading stage slows me down as well, as does making sure of consistency and wanting no potholes in my stories. Maybe one day I won’t need so much reassurance. But I’d rather do it right the first time than pay for my haste with bad reviews.

In conclusion, the money is out there. There are different paths to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But whether anyone wants to admit it or not, some paths are easier than others. Write commercial genres. Publish quality work. Publish often. Start a newsletter. Use promos like Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy to promote your work.

If you’re not doing these things, success may take longer to come. We all make mistakes and maybe telling your story the way you want to tell it is more important to you than money. That’s cool too, but be honest. Writing the story you want, with no editing, using a cover that’s not professional, and tweeting it out day after day won’t earn you any sales. So no whining when it doesn’t.


Thank you for joining me in this blog series where we broke down the Written Word Media Survey and the bonus material they later released. I hope the information given can steer you in the right direction to a productive and lucrative writing career.

Thanks for reading!


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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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