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.

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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

Competitiveness. Let’s Not Talk About It

The other day, I got into a little spat with a couple people in a Facebook writer’s group. Someone announced that they had just published their book. There were a lot of congratulations, but there was one woman who felt the need to edit this person’s post. Yes, there was a typo in it. But it was clear this person hit the comma on their phone instead of the spacebar. No harm done, right?

The fact that she called him out on it wasn’t really what bugged me–it was the fact that her own post had a typo in it. All this poor guy did was post he’d published a book. That’s all. So why the need to attack him? I usually let this stuff go, but the fact she did it with a typo herself made me jump in.

typos_LI (2)

But like all good catfights, it didn’t end there:

i'm going to hell_LI

Did you notice that the person corrected her typo? I wanted to tell her that correcting her typo didn’t make her comment any less bitchy.  The person correcting my comment was someone different, but I like to think I got the upper hand there, too. Know your grammar before you begin correcting people, or you’ll just look like a fool, and yes, it is damaging to your online presence.

I’m trying to figure out why people need to be so callous. It came to me in the shower (where all good ideas do).

We jump on each other because we’re insecure and jealous. These people probably haven’t published anything, and they felt threatened by this person’s announcement.

Does that make it okay? No of course not, but I think it does point out something no one likes to talk about: competition.

Writers support each other, that’s a given. When we’re writing.

But what about when we’re trying to sell our books, novellas, shorts? What about when we try to market our blog posts?

There are only so many publishers/agents/bookshelf space to go around. Whether we like it or not, we are competing for prime real estate.

So when we feel like people are “ahead of us” in some way, be it a new marketing trick, or what????!!!!!! . . . they just put out another book? It can feel disheartening, and it can make some people, not very nice frustrated.

But you know what? It’s okay to have those feelings. We all feel them. Yes, I support all my writer friends; yes, I want their books to sell.

But.

I want my books to sell, too.

Maybe, maybe you can even admit, you want your books to sell more than you want their books to sell.

You can admit that–in a dark little corner of your soul. It’s okay. It’s natural that if someone is choosing between your book and someone else’s you want that person to choose yours.

But it’s what you do with those feelings that matter.

Don’t: attack people online; in the end, it only makes you look bad
Don’t: not write because you feel it’s hopeless
Don’t: stop supporting your friends because they make you feel inferior with their progress or sales

Do: turn those feelings into productivity and work harder
Do: trudge through those feelings and support your friends anyway (Jennifer Probst has a wonderful section on this in her book Write Naked which you can find here.)
Do: keep those feelings to yourself, or confide in someone you trust who won’t turn on you or blab behind your back.

The guy who was put down in that thread PM’d me to thank me for sticking up for him. I have been known to stick my nose in a few places where it doesn’t belong because I’ve been on social media long enough I don’t give a f*ck what people think of me. If I see nastiness, for the most part, I’ll call you out. There’s no need for it. We all have one goal: for people to read our work. Being nasty online is counterproductive to that. You can bet I’ll remember those two women, and if they ever publish anything I’ll look the other way.

Speaking of memory, I remember Rebecca Thorne posted a little something about this during her experience at the Dallas Writer’s Conference in 2016. Must have stuck with me to remember a blog post from over a year ago, and you can read it here.

After I defended my use of and at the beginning of a sentence, I left that group. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life–and I certainly don’t need to waste my valuable time defending idiots who just won’t get it anyway.

You can be supportive and still want to do well for yourself.

And for those other two, karma’s a bitch, baby.

karma

 

Let me know what you think!

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Five Reasons Why I’m Not Marketing My Books Right Now

As always in conversations about self-publishing, the subject of marketing your book comes up. I hosted a Twitter chat last week on Self-Publishing, and people wanted to talk more about marketing than anything else.

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I get this. I mean, we all want people to find our books; we write so people can read our work. But when people ask me what my plans are for marketing my books, I have to tell them, I have no immediate plans.

And here’s why.

  1. I don’t have enough content.
    You don’t need a marketing plan if you have no content. (Good grammar for a writer, huh?) Various numbers come up, but I follow @BadRedheadMedia‘s #bookmarketingchat on Twitter, and in one of her tweets, she said your career doesn’t start an upswing unless you have 6 to 10 books published. That seems like an impossibly high number, and when I first started in self-publishing, that number was 3 to 5. But with all the new writers publishing books, it’s harder and harder to make a name for yourself, and I believe that number will get higher as the market floods even more.
  2. I don’t want to throw money at one or two books.
    This kind of goes hand in hand with number one. I do have content, but not enough to warrant paying for any kind of marketing. Even if you were to stumble upon a plan that works and drew people to your book, after you draw those readers in, they’re done. They have no backlist to read through if they like your work. I’m too poor to start over every time I publish a new book. When you spend on an ad to market one book, you’re actually advertising your whole list.
  3. I genre-hopped.
    I wrote a Romantic Fantasy for my first go at publishing. I wrote it expressly to experiment with publishing, to get a feel for the process. On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton is two different novellas of the same story, one told from my male main character’s point of view, and one told from my main female character’s point of view. Summer Secrets is six novellas. The story is about six couples told in chronological order, and I published them together so readers would be forced to read them that way. These are Erotica and not my genre of choice. Since I’ve published those, I’ve settled into Contemporary Romance, full-length novels at that, and I don’t want to spend money on books that are not in my genre. When I market my books, I’ll market books that will be the foundation of my writing career. There is no point in marketing books in a genre I won’t write anymore.
  4. I’m researching how I want to market my book.
    I’m reading books right now on how to run Amazon ads, how to run successful Facebook Ads. I read a book on how to use Goodreads as an author. Marketing takes time and money—I don’t want to try these vendors without knowing what I’m doing. I talk to people who have tried various things and they say they don’t work, but they didn’t take the time to figure out how they work so they don’t waste money. It’s important to know what CPC (cost per click) is, what RT (not retweet, you tweeters) Read-Through means, and how to calculate ROI (Return on Investment, not a weird spelling of your sister’s boyfriend’s name). Knowing this stuff puts you ahead of the game, so you’re not wasting money on tactics that won’t work. Here’s a tip: If a person put together a class, say Mark Dawson and his Facebook Ads class, then that way of advertising is complicated and investing a few hours of your time to learn how it works and maybe learn some insider tips can only help you.
  5. I’m networking.
    Yes, networking is a part of marketing. When you hear that you should start networking a year before your book comes out, that’s not a lie. Some suggest even longer. You need to get to know book bloggers—be a blip on their radar as an acquaintance, even a friend, before you have a book to peddle. There is nothing more irritating than having someone introduce themselves to you for the sole reason to ask something of you. Follow them on Twitter, like their FB page. Wish them a nice day, or a great weekend. Listen to podcasts by successful indie authors, like their FB pages, follow them on Twitter, read their books. Become involved in the indie-publishing community. Everyone knows everyone in this business, and you want everyone to know you. I listen to The Sell More Books Show podcast, and Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen host. Bryan Cohen wrote a book, How to Write Sizzling Synopsis, which I bought to support him since I love the podcast. It’s a wonderful book, and I’ve written Don’t Run Away’s blurb with his tips. It took me 15 minutes. It was fabulous. One day I was listening to their podcast, and they had a guest, Michael Cooper. Coincidentally, I was reading his book about Facebook Ads, because someone in Brian D. Meeks’ Amazon Ads Facebook Group recommended it. I’m in his group because I read his Amazon Ads book, and he runs a Facebook group for his readers who want help with their ads. Funnily enough, it wasn’t that long ago he did a guest spot on Joanna Penn’s podcast, to talk about his book. Everyone knows everyone. I’m not suggesting you get to know people just to use them. But if you get to know them, even peripherally, (I tweet and blog about their books all the time; well I tweet and blog about any books I like all the time) then maybe one day when you cross paths, they’ll already have heard of you and will be more willing to help you out, by say, inviting you to be a guest on their podcast. Networking, letting relationships grow naturally, organically, takes a lot of time. Start before you’re desperate for publicity.

Those are my five reasons I’m not marketing right now. I’m writing books to have a decent backlist before I throw money at anything. When readers find me, I want them to ask, “Where has she been all my life?” not, “Oh. She only has one book out?” I’m learning how to market, where best to put money so I don’t waste it. As I do that, I’m getting to know the heavy-hitters in the indie publishing world. Even if you’re not so keen on getting to know them, you can at least study what they do in their careers, what makes them successful, so you can duplicate it.

How long will I “prepare” before I actually punch in my credit card number, or submit my book to a blogger?

It depends on how fast I can write.

Check with me next year.

I Googled “How many books does it take for an indie author to start their careers in 2017?” While I didn’t get a straight up answer, the Google spit out some interesting articles that you can read here and here.

Tell me what you think!

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