Content Marketing, easier said than done.

woman holding coffee cup quote:One of the best ways to sabotage content is to not tie it to your goals. Know why you’re creating content. 

– Ellen Gomes

When we think of content marketing (and really, who doesn’t think about it at least once day) a lot of us probably have no idea what that is. We hear the phrase a lot, especially us authors who have a lot of content to sell and share. At least, we should have a lot of content to sell and share. After all, we’re creators, and we should be creating content on a regular basis.

I had a friend a while ago (we don’t talk anymore–she’s one of those people who have faded off) and she had this problem. She desperately wanted to be part of the writing community. Her debut novel flopped, and her self-esteem took a hit. She was never really the same after that, though she tried. The problem was, and still is, she’s not writing. So you can imagine the difficult time she has trying to fit herself into the writing community when she’s not writing. Or more specifically, she has no content to share on social media. I see her really struggle find her place on Instagram, create her Facebook Author Page, she hasn’t blogged for months, and nothing she has found works. She’ll post, delete her profile, lay low, come back, post, delete her profile, and I feel like I’m on some weird merry-go-round. I can’t imagine how she feels. And lest you think this is me just poking at her for something to blog about, let me be clear, when we were talking, I tried to tell her this. Many many times. You have no content if you’re not writing.

So what is content marketing? Content marketing is sharing content for free, to lead customers into paying for other content. Where does this content come from? See, this is my ex-friend’s problem. If you’re playing the writing and publishing game, I’m assuming you’re creating it. If you’re not, then you have nothing to share. Novels, novellas, short stories, even flash fiction. The best content can be repurposed. Blog a short story for feedback, then sell it. Give away novellas, then box them up and sell them. Take excerpts from your books and make pretty graphics. If you pay for Canva Pro, it now lets you schedule your graphics onto your FB author page and you don’t have to worry about remembering. Blog a first chapter then put the buy link at the bottom and encourage your readers to buy the book to read the rest. Newsletters too, are all about giving your readers something for free and then when you have something to purchase, they will.

What my ex-friend needs to do is stop worrying about social media and start writing.

What else can you post on social media?

*Share books you like. I’m assuming (lots of that going on here) that you write what you love to read. If you think of your FB author page as a community rather than something you have to do, it might help. Share the books you have loved, talk about why you liked them.

*Find a “calendar” of things to post. These are floating around social media–the challenges authors post for 30 days of content. Every day is something new. A selfie and five things no one knows about you. Your favorite writing spot, the pets that keep you company while you write. A favorite quote from a book. This is an example someone posted in an Amazon Ads group I’m in for Instagram. You can grab some of these ideas to help brainstorm. Some of these are more for fellow writers than readers, and you’ll have to be careful you don’t start posting more for your peers than your readers. A lot of us fall into that trap, but the writers I know aren’t the readers who will sustain my lifelong publishing career.

#autumnauthorchallenge daily social media ideas

*And of course, you want to share your works in progress. Talk about your characters, what sparked that idea. Why you’re writing what you’re writing. You can give updates on release dates, ask for reviews, if you have two potential covers for a book, take a vote.

If you’re creating content, actually creating it regularly, you shouldn’t have a problem sharing, even if it’s raw, unedited. Sometimes readers like that content best. They get in on the ground floor of a building and can watch how it’s built, from the basement all the way up to the penthouse.


These are all ideas I need to start doing for myself. Trust me, I only have 128 people liking my FB author page, and for good reason. There’s nothing but tumbleweeds drifting by because I don’t think of my FB author page as a community where readers of romance can come together and chat about books. I feel it’s a time suck, just a place where I have to go to waste time instead of writing. Content marketing doesn’t have to take long, though, and that’s something I need to remember. As long as you are writing regularly, the hard part is already done. Making time to write consistently is difficult for a lot of people because they’ve hit a snag or they’ve lost faith in their abilities. Imposter syndrome can hit hard. I’m not going to say people run out of time, because in 24 hours in a day, if you really want to find time to write, you will. If you have time to watch a television show, you have time to write.

Deleting profiles and putting them back up only to take them down again has a lot of consequences, mainly people will lose faith in your ability to stick it out for the long haul. Every time you delete your profile, you have to start from zero. It’s hard enough doing it the first time. I remember posting my very first blog post and I had zero subscribers. I can’t imagine doing that willingly every couple of months. It also hits your SEO.

woman holding a coffee cup. quote: google only loves you when everyone else loves you first. wendy piersall

Search engines like Google favor websites and content that has been around a long time and that offers current and relevant information to the person using the search bar. Every time you start over, you’re starting you SEO from scratch too, and that’s not a smart thing to do. In a private window, I searched for Chance Carter. A couple years ago I wrote a blog post about the things he’d done to his readers scamming the indie community. If you search for Chance Carter now, my blog post is on the second page of results. He was so popular he still takes up the first page of his own search results, but I find it pretty fascinating that something I wrote about him is still so popular that I get hits on that post every day, and lands me on the second page of Google results. I never would have gotten there if my website didn’t have an online history.

I sincerely hope my ex-friend finds her place. We don’t talk anymore, mainly because like a drowning person struggling in the water, I didn’t want her to take me down with her. These past few months I’ve been trying to make connections with authors who have the same work ethic and visions for their writing careers as I do. Maybe one day she’ll find her path, and I hope she does. It’s hard for me to watch anyone hurting.

She will continue to struggle though, if she’s not creating. Write those books, those novellas and short stories and share them with your readers! Create your content, create your community, and you’ll find content marketing will be a lot easier when you have something, and someone, to share it with.


Sales vs. Borrows: What they mean for your business and other rambling thoughts.

Happy Monday from cold, chilly, and snowy Minnesota!! It’s not so happy for me since I had a hell of a week last week, and not in a good way. Unfortunately, I had a huge personal setback, and in the coming months I’ll be working a lot more hours at my day job. I don’t know what that’s going to mean for my writing. I type for the deaf and hearing impaired, and going from part-time to full-time may slow down my writing some. Not because I won’t have as much time, though that will be a factor, but I just can’t type that much without my arms and hands paying the price. Luckily, I’m in the editing phase of my books, but when it comes to future projects, they won’t be done as quickly.

girl looking over cliff  text: trying to figure out your path feels like a dead end at times.

That’s okay because I’m still trying to find my way in this business, and I’m wondering if I’m really going to make it or if I have the energy to even keep trying. Everyone knows that a book a year is too slow for indie publishing (unless you’re the exception that proves the rule like Jami Albright), and I’ve seen time and again those authors who are able to only release one book a year struggle to find success. On the other hand, for the past three years I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, and all that has gotten me is a big case of burnout. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed writing this series, and I can’t wait to publish them. But I’ve never made it a secret that I hate all the stupid crap authors have to do to find readers–newsletters, giveaways, author promotions, things like that, that take time to learn and author promotions are only as good as the authors and their books. It doesn’t help your career at all to join with an author who isn’t writing quality books. And because I haven’t declared a niche, it’s difficult to partner with authors who write what I do. I’m a loner in life, and I guess I’m a loner in this business, too.

Maybe, in a small way, it will be a relief to give myself permission to slow down. I could start reading again without guilt. I could watch Netflix without feeling like I should be writing. I’ve always scoffed at people who have hobbies other than spending all their time writing, like baking. I always thought if you weren’t putting in 20 hours a week writing that you weren’t taking it seriously, and I admit, I had a lot of scorn for people who let their personal problems get in the way of their writing schedules. I mean, I wrote books through a divorce, through carpal tunnel surgery, through my precious cat’s bladder surgery, through my son’s surgery on his back in February of this year. (And he’s still healing.) None of that stopped me. I love to write, didn’t let anything get in the way of the career I was trying to build. I won’t say it’s for nothing, because I have a decent backlist and it didn’t take me long to write and publish them. But if you factor in ad spend, I only earn pennies a day, and I’m at the point where I’m wondering if it’s really worth it. Publishing is like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play, but cutting down my word count to a few thousand a week sounds pretty good right about now. Yeah, I’m writing this crying my eyes out. You don’t have to tell me I need to find balance, but in a world where there are 8,000 titles published every month, it’s a bit difficult to find anything meaningful in what I’ve chosen to do with my free time. Maybe the next book I write will go on wattpad. More people will likely read it if it’s free.


Anyway, I should start a weekly “Crazy Crap I read in a FB Writing Group” segment to the blog. To make matters worse, I just joined another group, this one is called Publishing with IngramSpark, and I already hate all the stupid questions they ask that they could find the answers to if they took a minute to Google instead of asking someone to waste their time. That’s not what I wanted to bitch about however.

[Insert grin here.]

Last week there was a woman who posted that she took her book out of KU ten days after enrolling in KDP Select. Everyone told her that wasn’t enough time to make a decision like that, and I told her that a wide audience and a KU audience were different and you need time to cultivate both of them. Hopping back and forth isn’t the answer. She said her reason for going back to wide is she preferred having sales over KU borrows. Now, she wasn’t getting any borrows–if you’re not doing ads KU subscribers aren’t going to know your book even exists. So her sales dried up and weren’t replaced with KU reads. That’s common switching from wide to KU.

But it made me wonder: would you prefer a sale or a borrow? A sale gives you the royalty and the sales rank boost, a borrow will only boost your sales rank–you don’t get paid unless the customer starts reading, and even then you may only get partial royalties if they don’t finish. That’s information Amazon doesn’t share with us. It would be nice to know if out of 330 pages read, if that was one person who enjoyed the book, or several people who borrowed and couldn’t get past the first chapter then returned it unfinished.

An author who may not be confident in their book may not like being in KU. Is it safe to say only the “really good” books thrive in KU? The ones that are well-written and have a fantastic story that make the reader read until the very end? You can only reap the benefits of KU if your book is good enough for a reader to make it to the end. And forget it if you’ve written a series without a strong first book. No one will read the others, and the books will sit in KU without reads or sales. I looked up her books, and she had one book, and one on preorder. She’s searching for the brass ring, but she’s not going to find it with so few books and jumping around from platform to platform. I wish her all the best.


Being that this will be my last blog post of the month, and that November is one of the craziest months of the year for me (my daughter has a birthday, Thanksgiving, and my birthday not to mention any Christmas shopping I want to do happens in November because I refuse to go into a store in December) my blog posts for the rest of the year may be a little spotty. I’ll share my stats now, and then maybe do a year-end recap toward the end of December. And no, I’m not doing NaNo this year. I never do it. I’m never in a good place in my publishing schedule to do it, and I won’t set anything aside to work on something new. This is probably the only time my tunnel vision has helped me. I don’t like working on multiple projects–I won’t get anything done that way.

Anyway, so my ad spend, while not as fabulous as it was in August (still waiting for those royalties to dump into my account) I spent $48.36 as of this writing, the 25th of October. I’ll probably spend $50.00 maybe a little more, by the end of the month. This is over ten ads. I had to stop the ads for Wherever He Goes. I lost eight dollars before I paused them. I don’t know what’s wrong with that book, but I’m never going to make it move. Maybe it’s still the cover, maybe I can’t make the blurb work, but I’m tired of trying. I love the story, but it’s not going anywhere.

For sales, I’ve made $116.99. I’ll probably make it up to $120, maybe $125 by the end of the month.

After ad spend I’ll make about $75.00 in royalties. It’s not terrible, and my next books won’t be in third person past, so it is what it is. That goes back to the burnout thing and wondering where my writing career is going. Success is a great motivator, and if you don’t have any, it’s tough to keep going.


If you’re wondering how I’m doing without Twitter, I’m doing pretty great, actually. I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would. I’ve only popped on once to follow back and someone messaged me to ask for support during a virtual author interview over on FB. If I tweet anything new, I can do it from the platform I’m on, like the WordPress reader or the Bookbub blog, and that helps too. Maybe I’ll go back, maybe I won’t. For right now I don’t see the value in it. Hopefully, that will change.

Have a wonderful finish to October, and don’t forget to vote! Do it for my birthday (November 28th)–that would be the best birthday present a girl could ask for.

Until next time!

Let’s Play a Game! It’s called, “Why isn’t my book selling?”

You can make fun of me, but I’m a part of about 40 groups on Facebook. They aren’t all about writing. Some are book promotion (bad covers), marketing (why is Facebook doing this to me?!), something about Romance (how much man-chest is too much on a cover?) general publishing (Amazon sucks!), and a little bit of everything else thrown in for good measure. (I especially like my book cover groups, and 20booksto50k never fails to amuse me).

But if you’re in them long enough, there is a common theme, and that is, I’m doing my best, why isn’t my book selling?

A lot of times that’s evident, and I’ve blogged plenty on good book covers, blurbs, optimizing your product page, and making sure your keywords and categories are correct.

But there are a couple reasons why your book doesn’t sell, and it has nothing and everything to do with all those things.

  1. You think your launch has to go as smoothly as a traditional book launch or your book will bomb. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about book launches, and while we want a good one, when you’re an indie, a book launch isn’t as important as when you’re a traditionally published author. Traditionally published books get a window of about 30 days give or take after release for it to take off–if it doesn’t, it gets moved off a prime table, possibly returned, and generally forgotten about (and that author may never get another book deal). Not so with an indie book. Yes, you can put money into your promos, beg your street team to leave reviews, but hey, guess what? You’re in control of your book and you can buy ads, purchase promos, and generally promote your book forever. My best-selling book will have its two-year book birthday on October 17th.
  2. You have no comp authors. In the words of Jane Friedman, “You don’t want to be alone.” Being alone will not make you stand out, it will make it difficult AF to fit in. If your book is so odd that you don’t have comp authors, you have no shelf to fit on, virtual or otherwise. That means you have no built-in audience, that means you have no authors to mine for keywords for ads. You wrote what you wanted to write, but now what?
  3. You don’t care about what’s going on in the industry. You’re an indie author and don’t keep up with what’s going on in the publishing industry? You want to go to a doctor who doesn’t care about the next big thing in medicine? You’re crazy. Publishing is what you chose to do, so if you’re not keeping an eye on trends, if you don’t care what COVID is doing to the printers and why Amazon can’t ship your book in fewer than 4 weeks’ time, that’s your own fault. Yes, it’s a bit time-consuming to listen to podcasts, read books on the subject of publishing/Amazon, and keep up with current blog posts from heavy-hitters in the field, but if you are not aware of the world around you, I definitely won’t feel sorry for you when you get left behind.
  4. You only have one book, and worse, it’s the first of a series. We indies did this to ourselves. Readers won’t invest in your book/characters/world unless they know you have more coming down the line. You’re better to hang on to that one book and release when you have a couple more written. If this is a standalone, you can buy ads and push it, but after you have reached readers and they read it, they have nothing else to buy, and you have to pay to bring them back into the fold after you have a new book. Marketing is a lot easier if you have a couple or three to show off on your Amazon Author page.
  5. You depend on free marketing instead of learning an ad platform. The only free thing I have seen that will make any headway in finding readers is having an active FB author page/group, and that’s only if FB stops mucking around with the algorithms. If you can entice readers to join in and give them consistent content, you can nurture a reading community, but it can take years. Spending time on Twitter might sell a handful of books during your launch because your friends are excited for you, but I don’t want to sell only a handful. There are billions of people out there. I want to sell thousands of books, and I’m sure you do, too.
  6. You don’t publish consistently. I’ve harped on here enough that you know I think writing is a business and not a hobby. If you want to look at your writing as something you do only in your free time, or something you do only when you feel like doing it (as opposed to going to your 9-5 whether you feel like it or not) then you have to realize that your success will come much slower than to those who do publish a few times a year. It’s not a bad thing truly, but you also have to adjust your expectations.
  7. You think your first book is going to knock it out of the park. Unless you’ve been writing already in some capacity for a long time, your first book will rarely make a dent (mainly because your craft won’t be optimal). Any “overnight success” can tell you they’ve been writing and publishing for years. Of course there are going to be outliers, but you probably won’t be one of them. As you write more you will get better with craft, character development, plot. Keep writing and listening to feedback and don’t give up.

So what are some things you can do to make your next book sell? Besides writing a series and focusing heavily on what’s selling in the market right now, here are a couple things that you might need to do:

  1. Think of your book as a whole product. There’s a wonderful podcast interview by Joanna Penn with Suzy K. Quinn. She has a class on Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula that I can’t afford, so I jumped at the chance to listen to this podcast. She talks about looking at your book as whole before you begin to write it.
    A) Who will your audience be? (This will include genre and tropes.)
    B) Who will your comp authors be?
    C) What will your cover need to include to be genre-specific and appealing to readers?
    Taking a look at these things can help put a marketing plan in place before you even write the story.
  2. Put your artistic hat away and put on your business hat after your book is done. I know it’s difficult to think of your book as a product after you’ve finished editing it. But every artist on the planet who wants to sell their work needs to do this. Painters have agents, so do sculptors, musicians, and actors and models. They pay someone to sell their art. So do writers if they query. If you’re self-publishing, you have to do this on your own, and you need to put aside emotions and do what you need to do to sell your book.
  3. Stop thinking paper. We get really invested in our paperbacks because we love to hold the finish product in our hands, but unless going to conventions is a huge part of your marketing plan, there’s no reason to spend a lot of time on paperbacks. If doing a book signing at your local bookstore is the only marketing plan you have, you’re thinking too small. Indies sell ebooks. Online. In the past 12 months I’ve sold 7 paperback books.
  4. Start networking. I’m bad at this too, but if you network with other authors in your genre, you open yourself up to being asked to join in with promotions, anthologies, and newsletter swaps. As Jane said above, you don’t want to be alone. No man is an island, and that’s especially true in the indie business.
  5. Create a publishing plan. You don’t have to put out 6 books a year to be successful, but if you only publish one book a year, expect to have a lot slower rate of success. If you create a publishing plan with the idea you are only going to publish one book a year, then you’ll need to also create a content calendar to keep readers engaged between books. Post regularly to a FB author page, and fill your newsletter with terrific content to keep readers from forgetting about you. That might actually sound like more work than just writing another book!
  6. Start a newsletter. Email marketing is still the best way to grow an audience. Write a reader magnet for signups and put the newsletter signup link in the back of your books. You don’t need many signups to build a solid readership. I have an account with MailerLite and I need to dig into using it and building a list before my first person stuff comes out. Dave Chesson just put out a free tutorial for MailerLite and you can watch it here.

I hope these tips are helpful! I tried offer some different ideas than just making sure your cover is genre-appropriate and that your blurb is well-written. You should already have done that when you published. Selling a book is hard. The market is saturated, and discoverability is like the Loch Ness Monster–you’ve heard tales of her but never have seen her for yourself. I think she’s real though, and discoverability certainly isn’t a myth. She’s out there somewhere! Good luck!


Using the pandemic to sell books: a short discussion.

The Six Figure Authors podcast interviewed Alex Newton of K-lytics for their most recent podcast. I love Alex and his data. I’ve talked about him before on the blog. He scrapes Amazon and publishes his findings on genre trends for indies. He sells a lot of his studies, but he also gives out a lot of free information during his talks.

His talk on the podcast was about reading habits during COVID-19. Knowing what is selling is good for us indies because if we have books in those categories, we can amp up our ads, right?

A lot of people question the ethics of this practice. Taking advantage of the pandemic to sell books. But are we?

I think using an ad like this:

might be a little tasteless because while people are at home because they have to be, they might not be in the right mindset to settle in with a book. We can’t ignore the real issues of people on unemployment, or the people with anxiety who have to go to work and are worried that they’re going to bring home the virus to their loved ones.

On the other hand, you could argue that since people ARE staying home, that supplying the demand isn’t unethical, it’s just good business.

When the pandemic first started and we were ordered to shelter in place, a lot of my FB groups discussed this. Some authors even turned off their ads because they didn’t want to be viewed as taking advantage of the situation.

But the fact is, with people staying home, if they really are reading more ebooks because Barnes and Noble is closed, or Amazon wasn’t/isn’t prioritizing shipping on physical books, who is it going to hurt to keep your ads going? You aren’t raising your prices, you aren’t ripping people off, or trying to, anyway. Doing a promotion on a book in a genre that’s selling I feel is just good business sense.

Now, you might write in a genre that has fallen to the wayside and maybe you don’t feel that marketing your books would do much good right now, and you may be right. But you don’t necessarily have to blame the pandemic, either. All genres, subgenres, tropes, and trends have their day in the spotlight, pandemic or not, and those books might always take a little more push to make sales.

Anyway, I haven’t done anything to my ads outside of turning off the ones that were losing money. The pandemic doesn’t seem like it has done much to my marketing attempts. One of the best things I ever did was swap out my cover for The Years Between Us and that had nothing to do with the pandemic.

At any rate, if you want to watch Alex’s talk (and I recommend you watch it as he throws up a graph or two once in a while) you can watch it here and come to your own conclusions. For me, I’ve been too busy to put up more ads, trying to get through my backlist checklist and start on my first person books again. But it might be advantageous for me to do so.

Let me know your thoughts!

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.

magic spell

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.

2019-11-24

 


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 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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Market or Write? If you have only one book written . . . write another book!

When I did Bryan Cohen’s 5-day ad challenge, he did some Facebook live events where he would help us in real time with any questions we had. While this challenge was tied-in to him selling his course, I still can’t believe all the work he put into the free mini-lessons, and I’m very grateful.

Anyway, I would watch along with everyone else, picking up tips where I could that would apply to my own books.

After a few of these videos, I realized something . . . so many people were worried about the fate of their ONE BOOK.

Don’t get me wrong, having written and published a book is fantastic. It’s a feat many people say they want to do, but hardly anyone does. If you’ve done that and are trying to sell it, you’re already one step ahead of 98% of everyone who wants to write a book but never does.

The problem with this, though, is that if you’re only selling one book, if you’re taking courses, learning ad platforms, listening to podcasts about book marketing, doing anything that takes away from writing your next book, you’re BEHIND 98% of the writers who are concentrating on building their backlist.

I keep up with publishing news and what’s changing in the industry; which small presses are closing, what Amazon is up to, what Draft2Digital is offering next. Ads are a little bit different. What you know today might might be different than what you need to know tomorrow. In fact, as an example, Amazon changed the way their ad platform looks right as Bryan was done with his 5 day challenge! What he taught us was still invaluable and we could put that into practice, but his segment for visual learners was almost irrelevant the minute the course was over. Anyone watching the videos would be confused because the platform doesn’t look like that anymore.

One day after his course ended! Jeez.

What I want to explain going into that is, if you’re learning an ad platform for one book, you’re wasting time when you could be writing another book because by the time you need to know it for book two, it could be already changed.

But, you’re saying, maybe it’s not a waste because their book will sell with ads.

Sure, maybe it will. If you have a solid stand alone with a good cover and a good blurb, you might make some sales. 

BUT, raise your hand if you have only one book in your backlist that

  • is a novella
  • is the first in a series but you don’t have any of the others written yet (and have no idea when you will)
  • is a mishmash of genres and you don’t know who your audience is
  • is written in a genre you’re not sure you’re going to stick with
  • your book is wide

If you have an only book that is any of those above, you are better off leaving ads alone and writing another book.

the best marketing for a book is to write another.We’ve all heard that writing the next book is the best marketing there is for the first one. It’s not just the writing, it’s social media/networking, too. When you’re on social media sharing snippets, you’re blogging about your writing process, who your characters are, etc, you’re doing more than promoting one book. You’re laying a foundation of being an author. Readers will know that you’re planning to write for a while and they’ll feel more comfortable investing their time in your book(s).

It would be interesting to know how many books on Amazon are singles and their authors aren’t planning on anymore. They’ve walked away for various reasons. Maybe you don’t plan to walk away, but a reader isn’t going to wait three years for a book 2, either.

The number of books you need to make traction rises every year. When I started out it was three. Now, the latest statistic I’ve heard is 6-10, and that was last year. This year? I’ll safely assume that you need 10+ books in your backlist before you see any kind of movement toward actual sales. Learning ads is a big part of this, of course. But the time you spent learning and the money you spend experimenting could be going toward your backlist.

I’m a member of the 20booksto50k Facebook group. Michael Anderle came up with the idea that that if you have 20 books in your backlist you should be able to make 50k a year in sales. He does some math, and I won’t get into that now. It’s an easy concept to buy into. I rather like thinking that after my quartet comes out and I’ll have 10 books in my backlist, that I could potentially make 25k a year in sales. That would change my life.

It’s definitely something to work toward.

But you can’t make that a goal if you’re going to waste time marketing one book.

james scott bell marketing

Click on the photo for a link to the book. It’s a good read and worth your time. 

James Scott Bell has a great book out right now called Marketing For Writers Who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind. In it, he talks a lot about marketing books, (and I did say this in my review on Goodreads) and he does spend a great deal of time talking about writing. Write the next book, and the next and the next and the next. In my review, I pointed out, well, you gotta learn how to market at some point, or you’ll have a big backlist and no one reading it.

I think that’s true. Natural momentum only goes so far.

And while I’m happy to spend some money on ads, to try them out, get a feel for them, I have six books in my backlist, I have 4 more coming out in the next couple months, and I’m 30,000 words into a secret project.

My writing time is not taking a hit.

It’s a mindset. There’s no harm in getting your feet wet. There’s no harm in being curious. But when you publish a book you’re not a writer anymore, you’re a business person filling a need (readers of your genre). Remember that when you’re selling one thing in your store, and you’re spending money on ads.


That’s all I have for today! Likely, my blog posts will be hit and miss for the rest of the 2019. I’m editing my quartet and books one and two will be off to the proofer soon. I have three and four that I’ll be diving into soon, and my secret project is well under way.

I love to share whatever is on my mind, though, and I’ll try to keep up my posts!

I’ll be updating you with my Amazon Ads adventures over the weekend. Let’s just say . . . it’s been quite a ride, and not all together inexpensive, either, but that’s what you get, I suppose.

All of Nothing ebook coverI can share this little bit with you . . . All of Nothing, before I started Bryan’s 5-day ad challenge was at 81,xxx (dont remember the exact number) in the Amazon Kindle Store. Since promoting it with ads since September 20th, it’s at 16,399. I know rank doesn’t mean much, not really, but it is kinda cool to see people are reading it.

I think the new blurb and cover have made all the difference!

 

Until next time!

 


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How Do You Make Your Book Stand Out?

We all want our books to stand out, and we all go about it in a different way.

Some spend hundreds of dollars on a cover. Some spend hundreds of dollars on a developmental edit to make their story and characters the best they can be. Some authors do fancy formatting.

vellum formatting ad

This is a picture of a formatting sample using Vellum. For more information on the software visit www.vellum.pub

Some authors do all of that.

Some authors do all of that and invest hundreds, even thousands, in ads.

Experts in book marketing would say you need to do it all to help with discoverability.

Readers may say to make them happy, all that would be a given.

And I’m not disputing any of that.

What I’m talking about are the extras.

Some traditionally published books have them already.

Say you have a baker for a main character. Some authors will add their own baking recipes to the back matter of the book along with a short explanation of the family history behind it, or a funny story.

Maps are always popular–especially if you’re world-building like in Game of Thrones. I know that I looked over the family trees a lot when I was reading them to remember who everyone was, and who the members of the families were.

In some contemporary romances, I’ve seen maps of towns where a series takes place.

I’ve never tried a recipe I’ve found in the back of a book, but I could see the appeal of adding a few. You could encourage book clubs to have a baking/cooking night along with their book discussion. Hey, even suggest what kind of wine would make a good accompaniment.

Some writers will add discussion questions. I’ve seen this a lot in traditionally published books, even in “lighter” books where I didn’t think a discussion was necessary. I wanted to add discussion questions to All of Nothing, but I forgot. They may have been a nice addition to The Years Between Us, too, but again, being excited I was finished with the book, I forgot to write them and add them into the back matter.

Something I have seen added to books are playlists consisting of the songs authors listened to while writing the book. I found in one “look inside” of a Kindle book, the author included the actual YouTube links to songs she wanted you to listen to get you in the mood to read the following scenes.

I caution against this for one, you need to make sure the music is free of copyright, and two, you never know how long those links will remain active. If the links are ever broken, will the author know? Or care? Will she edit the book to take them out or replace them? I don’t like to go back and go back fixing things. It’s always the next book for me. I wouldn’t want to keep an eye on my backlist like that. It’s bad enough keeping my own front and back matter up to date.

I’ve also seen back matter that included an interview or question and answer session between an unknown interviewer and the author. I think it was in the last Twilight book Stephenie Meyer answered questions. This could be an interesting addition to back matter as well.

In The Years Between Us, Zia held a showing at a gallery. I created an invitation for the showing in Canva and included it in the front matter of the book. It shows up black and white in the paperback and simple e-readers, but it will show in color on a tablet.

 

 

In this vein, I think I’ll make Marnie and James’s wedding invitation and include that like I did Zia’s gallery showing invitation.

One of my characters, Autumn Bennett, who will be my female MC in book four of my series, is a writer for the town’s newspaper. She writes for the Lifestyles section, but also blogs for their website. During the course of four books, she’ll blog about the wedding, and interview the bride, groom, and guests as human interest pieces. I’m thinking about creating those blog posts and offering them as bonus content in some way. That would be no-brainer newsletter content, but I don’t have one and I don’t want to start one right now. So I’ll be thinking how I want to share that content.

The real question that comes from all this, is . . . is it worth it? Playlists, poems written by your characters, invitations, motivational quotes, even pretty chapter headings–are they all worth it?

They may not be, money-wise. The more photos a Kindle file has, the more Amazon charges you to deliver the file to someone’s Kindle. Those pennies add up. (Hat tip to Mark Leslie Lefebvre for doing some quick math in Killing it on Kobo, as Kobo does not charge that delivery fee.)

Also, if the photo is a spectacular array of color, only a fraction of your readers will be able to see it in color.

Indies are constantly fighting for discoverability and adding bonus content like that hasn’t taken off quite yet. I think mainly because formatting extra content is so time-consuming–especially for a newbie author. And adding extra content would make it more expensive if you hire out formatting services.

I was lucky, and I formatted The Years Between Us with Vellum. The software inserted the invitation with no problem, especially in the paperback. I didn’t have to worry about gutters or margins. All I had to do was make sure the invitation was 300 dpi for printing, and I did that in GIMP.

Vellum even allowed me to add the pretty chapter starts to Summer Secrets that I tried to do the first time around. I was too new and lacked the experience to insert them using Word and CreateSpace.summer secrets chapter starts

I also carry that image onto the back of my paperback books, and I’m really proud of that, too.

Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3 New Cover

But when it comes down to it, should you take the time to offer more content? Could that time be used to make another editing sweep, or start a new book?

Readers may appreciate the extras, but only if they enjoy the story.

The book’s recipes won’t matter if your baker’s story falls flat (pun intended) and your reader doesn’t make to the end to see them.

What readers want is a good story that pulls them in, and characters they’ll grow to care about.


 

As a side note, while I was typing out this blog post, I came up with another reason why indies don’t want to offer bonus content to the backs of their books.

Indies focus on a CTA, Call To Action. Indies want their readers to leave a review, or sign up for a newsletter, or buy the next book. Back matter is valuable real estate, and I don’t think most indies format their books with a lot of gunky back matter to get in the way of their important call to action.

And for what it’s worth, you need to be careful how much extra “stuff” you put backBe careful when considering adding bonus content to your book. there. We don’t hear much about the bookstuffers anymore, those pesky indies who would load up a Kindle file with 5-10 books to make a crap-ton of money with the KU page reads. But even if we’re not hearing about it much right now, it’s still happening. They know it takes a while for people to catch on to their new pen names.

Anyway, I wouldn’t want you think that offering bonus content was a fabulous idea and to get in trouble in any way for it. Offering a bonus novella in the back of your book, or offering the first half of a second book in a series, is too much. Put the novella for sale separately. Only add the first scene of the new book. It’s just a word of caution. Bonus content can be taken too far.

Please read KDP’s guidelines for adding bonus content.

While adding character profiles and outlines of the book before it came to fruition can sound like a great idea, keep in mind that as the guidelines states, it should enrich the reader experience.

I think that’s sound advice, especially since the reader experience begins with the story.

If you can hook them with a fantastic story, then all that extra content will be exactly that . . .

A bonus.

And maybe they’ll leave a five star review, too. Who knows?

My Promotion for All of Nothing with Freebooksy

It’s rather counterproductive to pay to give your book away. But Freebooksy isn’t the only place you can do it. There are numerous places to promote a free book, but I like Freebooksy because they seem to have the most reach. 

What can you hope for when you do a promo for a free book?

  1. It will drive traffic to your other books. This makes a backlist key.
  2. That someone will actually read it and post a review.
  3. It will boost your KU reads if you’re in Kindle Unlimited.

I guess that’s it. Mainly, you’re hoping for reviews and that people will like you enough to pay for your other books. Sometimes you get a bump in KU reads, but you definitely don’t have to spend what Freebooksy charges you for that. 

I ran a different Freebooksy ad a few months ago for Don’t Run Away, and you can read about here. Anyway, this ad did better in downloads, but we’ll see how it does over all, since Don’t Run Away is the first in a trilogy, and I got some decent read-through for that book with the ad. It came later, as some people take a bit to read a book or two or three, but after a few months, I was pleased with the results.

Anyway, so I also put my book free for the next day, in case there was anyone who maybe opened their email late and went to see if maybe the book was still free. I gave away 5,351 books on the real free day, the day the promo ran, and 867 books the next day, for a total of 6,218. (Too bad those weren’t sales.) I’m hoping that some of those will turn into reviews, but I may not know that for several months. Here is the graph of the downloads and what I got in KU reads from the date of the promo, until today, 11/17:

As you can see, there was a pretty big bump in KU reads for All of Nothing, but the promo did nothing to help with sales after the promo was over. That’s just for the one title though. Do we see a bump in sales for all my titles? Did the promo increase my visibility at all?  Let’s look:

Nope. But that’s okay. You have to start small, and for an indie, I don’t have many books out, anyway.

Everyone wants to know how much cash that equals out to, and let’s just say, I spent $100 on that promo, and I’ve only made a little over half back. I might, in the long run, but for right now, 8 days after my promo, that’s a no. 

Here’s what my promo looked like in the newsletter.  I was pleased I was at the top:

I love my cover; I loved the blurb I had to abbreviate from the longer one I have on Amazon. I’m really proud of this book, and I think it showcases how far my writing has come since I released 1700. 

If you downloaded All of Nothing, thank you! If you downloaded it but haven’t read it yet, I would love to know your thoughts when you do! And if you’ve read it, I would really appreciate the review, like this lovely one I got on Amazon:

We’re not supposed to respond to reviews, so reader, if you happen across this blog post, thanks for taking the time to review! I appreciate it. 

Would I consider the promo a success? That depends on what your version of success is. Giving away 6,000 books made good for my ranking:

But as we all know, free doesn’t mean too much. But all in all, I’m happy with the promo. I do want to try a Goodreads giveaway at some point, and they cost as much (or as little) as the Freebooksy ad. Maybe I’ll try it with my next book. But I have to pace myself since I won’t be publishing anything for a while as I write my Bridesmaid Quartet. I’m going to rapid release those, and I won’t be publishing them until all four books are done.

I would recommend doing a Freebooksy ad. So far I’ve liked the results of mine.

Until next time!

Results of my ad with Freebooksy

I figured with a few books out now, I should do a little marketing. I’ve been against it, claiming I needed a backlist before I started putting money into my career, but I thought since my trilogy was done, I could do a little promotion.

I’ve heard about various book marketing websites where you pay for exposure, and that’s what Freebooksy is. Essentially, you’re paying to advertise your book in their newsletter for one day. There are other promotions run by the people of Freebooksy if you don’t want to to go free with your book, but I did because 1) it didn’t bother me to give my book away and 2) I was hoping for a little read-through since the other two books were available.

My trilogy is enrolled in KDP Select, and I had never used any of my free days for any of my books before, so I went ahead and chose five days for my book to be free, then I went on Freebooksy and chose a day that I wanted my book in their newsletter. In the future, if I do this again, I’ll plan ahead to give myself time to promote the promotion.

A rep reached out to me, and she was very nice, but she wanted to put my book in the sweet category romance newsletter. I replied that it didn’t belong there as the book had four open door sex scenes. I’m not sure why she wanted to do that, unless she mistook my cover. Nikki and Dane do look cute together, but I didn’t choose to put a steamy couple on the cover because there is a fine line between contemporary romance with sex, and erotica. I didn’t want anyone mistaking my trilogy for erotica. I’ve written erotica, had my “taste” so to speak, and I’m more comfortable writing contemporary romance.

Anyway, this is what the ad looked like that went into their newsletter:

freebooksyad

You’re the one who writes the blurb, and I was afraid I didn’t spend enough time on it. You only get so many characters, and it’s difficult to try to convey what the book is about and still make it interesting in that short space.

My book was free from February 6th to the 10th. I started getting downloads even before my book went out in the newsletter. In total, while my book was free, I gave away 4,458. Between February 6th and today, February 15th, I have sold fifteen of Book 2 and six of Book 3, so you can see there was a small amount of buy-through (not necessarily read-through), and I lowered the prices of those books to .99 to go with the free promotion. Also, my page reads for Kindle Unlimited for all my titles went up from 0 to this:

page reads for KU

It’s not the best, of course, since even all those lines only represent $25.00 in sales. If you do the math, that’s a horrible ROI, at least, on paper.

Return on investment comes in many different forms, monetary being only one of them. I’m hoping now that I’ve given away so many books, people will remember my name, I’ll begin to foster some lifelong readers for future books.

My sales ranking did go up for a little bit, and I can give you a snapshot of those, though I didn’t take a picture every time my book moved up in ranks. And as everyone congratulated me, going up in rank in *free* books looks nice, but it’s not the same as going up in the paid lists.

awesome stats!3

These are the best stats the book got. I don’t know if it did much more than earn me a few bragging rights, but there it is.

Amazon did a nice thing, too and put my books together in an ad on my Author page.

tower city box set

You can’t buy them that way–I haven’t created the box set yet, and that is on my to-do list after I figure out my stupid cover for book three. (Yeah, still wrestling with it to get it exactly how I want it in paperback.)

If you were to ask me the best part about this whole promotion thing, I would have to say that it’s that people are starting to read my work. We all want people to read our stuff, but when they actually do, it’s nerve-wracking. So far I’ve been getting decent reviews. They’ve been saying my editing is solid, and there hasn’t been a complaint about formatting, which is a relief since I do all my own formatting myself.

criticism-3083100_1920

Overall, I would say the experience was a positive one.

If I were to give any advice to someone doing this I would say:

  1. Have more than one book out. I did prove that if you spend money advertising one book, you’re really advertising your whole backlist. Not many people bought books 2 and 3 who downloaded book 1, but it was enough I was happy they were available.
  2. Having a good cover is no joke. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when no one is looking at your books, but the minute you realize people are going to be choosing your book among a selection, suddenly you’re hoping it’s good enough. Be sure it is.
  3. Have a decent blurb. I shortened mine from what I wrote for Amazon, and I worried I didn’t spend enough time on it. Had I spent more time on it, maybe I could have gotten even more downloads.
  4. Have people willing to spread the word. I don’t know how many downloads came from my Twitter followers, or my followers willing to tweet about it. I don’t know how many downloads came from the people who liked my FB Author Page. I was also naughty and told everyone on my personal FB page that my book was free, and I know it’s against TOS to do that. I only did it once, on the day the newsletter went out. And I was lucky a few people shared that post.

I won’t be doing this again anytime soon, but it was fun to try something new and to get my feet wet. A little snowflake can cause an avalanche, and I’m hoping this is true in my case. But now that my trilogy is over and done, I need to relegate it to my backlist and move forward. I’m 31,000 words into a new WIP, and I can’t wait to share with you!

Happy writing Vania Margene