KDP Select/KU vs. going wide, IngramSpark and other musings

GOING WIDE VS KDP SELECT

The other day I pulled my books out of KU. For those of you who may not know what that is, Kindle Unlimited is a program through Kindle Direct Publishing that is offered to authors who don’t publish their ebooks anywhere else. They get paid from a giant slush fund for “pages” read.  Some authors think that Amazon is the best, and there isn’t anywhere else to publish. But where is there to go if you decide you don’t want to give Amazon exclusivity? Kobo, Books (aka iBooks), Nook, Google Play, and a few others that can be reached through an aggregator like Draft2Digital or PublishDrive are available for indie authors. Thank goodness indie authors have a choice.

choice street signs

It’s a little scary, since I have been getting a few page reads here and there, mostly since I paid for a FreeBooksy promo not long ago. Usually that will put my book on the radar for a while, but tends to taper off. Like today, I’ve only made $4.81 in page reads, compared to my highest day ten days after my promo, which made me $56.80. That’s just for All of Nothing, when I ran a free promo for it on November 9th. It’s been a pretty long tail, still getting page reads more than a month after my promo, but I’m thinking I can do better.

It is scary, thinking about losing even those meagre page reads, but there is one thing I have to remember: even if my books aren’t in KU anymore, anyone shopping on Amazon who wants to read my books, can still buy them. What I’ve made today in page reads would calculate into 2.5 people buying my book at $2.99. Sometimes I think authors forget about that part of it. Just because you’re not in KU anymore doesn’t mean authors can’t buy your book. That is really a powerful thing for me to remember, and it makes it easier to feel better about the decision I made to go wide.

I’m really excited about the opportunity publish my books on Kobo. Kobo is growing and right now, according to an old 2016 stat, they have 26 million users worldwide. That’s a lot of readers. And with Kobo Writing Life, I’ve heard they are very friendly and want to work with indie authors.

Some indies go wide from the start, but lots more, not knowing how or where to publish, stick with only Amazon. Neither of these paths is wrong. When I first moved into publishing, I was happy to deal with one vendor. I only had to deal with one file to format, and one upload. One price. I stuck my books in KU and mainly forgot about them as I wrote the next.

But as you publish more books, and you start to learn what other successful indies are doing, you have to think about where your want your business to go. You hear about the risks of putting all your eggs into one basket. But then you hear about authors making hundreds of thousands of dollars in KU reads. (And you also hear about how Amazon can, at random, target one of those authors and essentially take all their income away with a single push of a button.)

Joanna Penn continually says you need to think about more than one stream of income. For her that means speaking gigs, writing non-fiction, her podcast, and other things she has going on in her career, but for indies who don’t do as much as she does, it could simply mean not counting on one company for all your income.

I’ll be going direct with Kobo, since that is how you access their promotions tab. But I’ll likely use Draft2Digital to publish my books everywhere else.

If you’re interested in going wide, and you want to learn what Kobo can do you for you, Joanna Penn recently had a guest on her podcast who works at Kobo, Camille Mofidi. You can click here to listen to it. Mark Lefebvre used to work at Kobo, but now has moved to Draft2Digital. I love Mark and used to listen to the Kobo Writing Life podcast where he would frequently talk about what works on Kobo to sell books. He also wrote a book, Killing It On Kobo: Leverage Insights to Optimize Publishing and Marketing Strategies, Grow Your Global Sales and Increase Revenue on Kobo (Stark Publishing Solutions) on how to use Kobo to sell your books. Mark also did a recent interview on The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast hosted by Lindsay Buroker, Jeff Poole, and Jo Lallo. You can check it out here

My books won’t completely drop out of KDP Select until February, so I have to wait. You don’t want to make Amazon mad at you, so if you decide to go wide, please make sure that your books have completed their three months within the program. If you have several books like I do, you’ll need to wait until they have all dropped out before going wide, as their months could overlap. Plus, they don’t do that automatically–you have remember to uncheck the box in your KDP dashboard.

As for my paperbacks, I am changing that up, too. I’ve seen first hand that if you don’t use KDP Print to distribute to Amazon (or CreateSpace before) Amazon can play hardball and sometimes make your book unavailable or out of stock. To me, this would be a pain in the butt because who has time to police their books all day? I’ve published all my books through CreateSpace/KDP print, and I have found no issues with quality as I’ve heard some complain about. But I have moved my books out of Expanded Distribution on KDP Print and only use them to supply to Amazon. Then, after they drop out of their system, I’m going to publish my paperbacks with IngramSpark and use them for Expanded Distribution. The reason I’m doing this is because I want to approach my local bookstores about carrying my books.

Seeing the benefits of going wide may take a while. But I’m in this for the long haul, and I don’t mind waiting. I need to start thinking about what I want for my business as I grow my backlist, and going wide and using IngramSpark for paperback expanded distribution feels like the right way to go. But only time will tell.

Wish me luck!

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for a little while longer. 🙂 

 

Author Interview with CJ Douglass–plus an awesome giveaway for the holidays!

cj douglass author pictureI met CJ Douglass, erotica writer extraordinaire, on Twitter, and I was lucky enough for her to agree to an interview. We chat about writing erotica, the bad rep indie erotica has in the publishing community, and her real thoughts on Faleena Hopkins!

Make a cup of coffee, grab a seat, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! In light of the holidays,  I’m giving away this super-cute mug and an Amazon gift card worth $25.00. Treat yourself to a couple of books for the holidays! Why not?

 

 

Let’s start!

 

pink panties1. For the most part, you write short fiction (novelettes, novellas). Do you think short work is easier or harder to sell? 

In my line of work (Erotica) the shorter the better! Which is what makes my recent fondness for only novellas somewhat unfortunate…

For pure smut, people seem to want to read something hot and short. Get a quick hit of the sexy and get out. I myself, though, like a little more story in there most of the time, and so my word counts have slowly been increasing. As my sales resultantly decrease. For less NSFW tales, however, longer works definitely sell better.

pink panties2. Your genre of choice is erotica. Do you find it hard to market? For example, Amazon loves to bury my erotica novellas in search results. How do you combat that? 

Amazon doesn’t let you advertise Erotica on their platform, so there the best you can hope for is to optimize your search results and pray.

There are tools for aiding in this (which I have not yet availed myself of, but plan to) but otherwise my main outreach is on Twitter. Not for advertising, exactly. I post promos, sure, but not that often. I like to put myself out there, let people get to know me – and one day perhaps those folks will check out one of my stories because of this relationship. Then another. Maybe even tell a friend!

Blogging is a tool many use – and I’m sure it’s helpful, but I just don’t have any writing energy left over for it! I do have a few free stories on my website that people can read to get a taste of what I have to offer in my paid-for work. Mostly though, yeah. Get my keywords right, and have as good a cover as I can create.

pink panties3. Indies have to push against the idea our work in inferior. Writers who publish poorly written erotica enforces this idea (and OMG, you know there’s some out there). How do you push back against this misconception? (For example, do you read craft books, have an English degree, hire an editor.) 

I don’t have money for an editor (my stories sometimes don’t make back the handful of dollars I spend on a cover image) but for anything novella-length or above I use beta readers, for sure.

I’ve spent my whole life reading and writing (I literally started reading novels at the age of four) so I have a sense of what the language should sound like. I took creative writing in high school (though my college classes were more science-based) and yes, I’ve read my share of craft books (and internet articles).

Odd as it may sound, screenplay craft really has helped me hone my skills. It doesn’t help with the prose, (that is down to my own dedication and extensive rereading and revision) but it does aid in the creation of the story itself. Indie books (not just Erotica, but all genres) tend to suffer from a lack of editing of the concepts and basic storycraft – even if it has been line-edited by a professional.

Making sure your plot and story (two different concepts, incidentally) build and flow well is of vital importance – and getting it right immediately lifts your work above the crowd (in my opinion).

Screenplays, being condensed stories, are good training in this particular art.

pink panties4. Will you ever write longer work? Perhaps a full-length novel? 

Funny you should bring that up! I’m getting a draft of my novel ready for beta readers as we speak. It’s an epic, post-apocalyptic tale – but a very heightened one, that should be fun and empowering as well as dark and depressing. I’m really excited about this book, as it’s a concept I actually came up with when I was thirteen or fourteen, and have only recently dug back out and developed properly.

pink panties5. How did you become a part of Writer Twitter? Do you find it beneficial in sales? How do you like the writing community in terms of support?

I resisted Twitter for a long time, actually. It seemed pointless to me. How wrong could I have been? I have met some of my best friends there, and the support from my peers has been priceless.

You also get a chance to connect with readers (both your own and others’) to share in the joy and to see what people like.

As for sales? It has a certain impact, for sure. I’d venture to say that a good chunk of my meager sales came from letting people know about the stories on that platform. I doubt Twitter is useful as a large-scale marketing tool for books, however. It’s more for generally making people aware of your presence than specifically selling your work.

pink panties6. You told me in a couple of Tweets you design your own covers. Can you take us through the process? Where do you find your inspiration, photos, etc. 

The process, generally, is me hopelessly moving images around in my template until something looks half-way decent! Usually, I’ll have an idea in my head – and then can’t find any images to fit that general concept. I then settle for something which is not at all like that first notion, but which suits the story anyway.

When I am planning ahead, I browse for photos (either free ones on places like Pixabay, or cheap ones at 123rf.com) first and allow them to inspire me for a good cover idea. This way, I’m not fighting a preconception, but can evolve a cover idea based on the available
images.

If I had any design training, I could tell you why something looks right in a certain place, and more easily find that balance. As it is, I haphazardly arrange elements until they “feel” right to me. I also involve my Twitter followers in the process sometimes, too!

pink panties7. You have a book titled The Cocky Author. Is this a hat tip (or perhaps a sneer) to Faleena Hopkins? Can you share your thoughts on how all that went down? 

Cocky Romance Author was the quickest I’ve ever written a story.

When Faleena Hopkins’ now-notorious copyright scandal came to light, I immediately wanted to thumb my nose at her for it – despite not generally being a Romance author. (I have since written some stories that might be classifiable under that banner, however.)
I knew if I was going to do it, I’d have to do it quickly. This wasn’t about creating a work of art; I was making a statement.

So the next day, I typed up the 9,000 word story (it was supposed to be shorter, but I found myself unable to write something without a good underlying character arc) and cleaned it up a little to post that evening. I wasn’t the first to get out a protest “cocky” story, I don’t think, but I was right up there. I made the story as cheap as Amazon would allow me to (99c) because it was not about profit, but about activism and generally making noise about this divisive issue.

It should be obvious to anyone that a common descriptive word cannot be copyrighted in this way – but it did not stop Miss Hopkins or those following in her footsteps from doing precisely that.

Thank goodness these spurious claims keep getting shut down – eventually.

pink panties8. You run your website through Wix. How has your experience been? 

Wix is a generally decent site builder, I think. Better than some I have used. I only have a free one for the moment, though I think paying for it would allow the site to be found in search engines. Hard to justify the expense for now, though. What it needs right now is an overhaul! I’m still using the very first template I threw together, and really have to get it redone. Whenever I can find the time…

I love being able to host a place that gathers together not only links to my books (Amazon does that already!) but lets me include free stories that give potential readers a place to sample my work in tales that are complete – not mere snippets of a longer story.
Whether it helps my sales or not I can’t say, but theoretically it ought to be useful for curious readers!

Thank you CJ! It sounds like you have a lot going on right now! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and explain a little bit about your writer’s life. 🙂

You can find CJ on Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads! Check out her author website for the free goodies, and as always, don’t forget to sign up for the giveaway! It will run for a little bit, so don’t forget to tell your friends.

Thanks for joining us, and check back when I talk about shopping in your local indie bookstore, and how my Freebooksy promo did for All of Nothing!

Until next time!

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Laying the Groundwork for a (Romantic) Series

Series sell. Us indies are told this all the time. Write a strong first book in a series, hook the reader, and have natural read-through to the next three or four or five plus books. While my trilogy hasn’t taken off, (i.e. I can’t pay the rent with royalties yet) I do have some read through–people I have reading book three who wouldn’t be around had the first book been a standalone.

But there are a lot of questions to consider when thinking about a series:

  • Where is it going to take place?
    You need a setting that is interesting enough that the place of your books will hold

    interesting setting

    An interesting setting becomes a character in and of itself.

    the reader’s attention for that amount of time, lends plot potential, and is a place that you won’t get sick of as an author. A detective series could take place in a large city. There’s enough fodder for lots of crime, and the possibility of cops sitting around playing poker in a city full of millions of people is low. Lots of romances take place in small towns, but if you’re working with a small town, you need to make sure your characters have something to do. A town with one stoplight, where the only gas station closes at 8pm, doesn’t leave much opportunity to use setting as a character, unless something happens like a natural disaster such as a tornado. So when you’re planning your series, you have to keep the setting in mind. Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series is based in a town called Fool’s Gold and its Mayor proves to be quite the matchmaker.

 

  • How many people are you going to start with at first?
    A series will evolve and change as you write (new characters will be introduced, for

    group of people

    Plan your characters.

    instance), but when you sit down to write the first book you’ll need to keep in mind where you want the first few books to go so you can lay the groundwork. Weaving future plots and characters into current narrative will clue your reader into the fact that yes, there will be more books about the characters they will come to care about, and yes, they will want to read the next and the next and the next. But you can only do that when you know what’s going to happen in the first handful of books. It can be a woman and her three best friends, or a guy and his two sisters. Nora Roberts does this well, and my Four Bridesmaids Quartet I’m planning is modeled after her Bride Quartet. (I’m not copying her–I’ve read Nora since I was a teenager, and I admire her plotting skills and the construction of her books. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today had I not read so much Nora Roberts growing up. She’s definitely influenced my writing for the better. :))

 

  • What are the characters’ backstories?
    Your characters’ backstories need to be related to the plot somehow. Say your three sisters had an abusive mother and their relationship with her bleeds into their relationships with their boyfriends. If you go bigger (a longer series) and it’s your town that has the problems, like a tornado, or hurricane, or a flood, your characters need to have personal problems associated with the town to create conflict. A popular romance trope is a stranger comes to town, and he’s got a ton of secrets. Only the widow in the falling down ranch house can breech his rough exterior to his secrets beneath. But he’s he’s also an electrician and can help rewire the school after the fire! That helps the town accept him and he feels like he belongs and he stays after he falls in love with your FMC (female main character).

 

  • What is your plot?
    Is your main plot going to be wrapped up in each book (like the detective solves the crime, and the next book would be the detective solving a new crime?) or is your main plot going to arc over a few books? If you’re hoping to write so a reader can pop in at book eight and not feel like they’ve missed anything, you’ll need to wrap up the plot at the end of each book while foreshadowing your next story. This is why it’s always best to know what your next book is going to be about so you can weave in those clues.

 


Publishing Your Series

The bullet points above are the writing part of it, but before you begin a series, it’s best to have some kind of idea about publishing.

  • Your publishing schedule.
    As an indie, you have complete control of your publishing schedule. Are you goingwaiting for a series to publish them as you write them, or are you going to save up a couple and publish them together? A week apart? Two weeks apart?In this case, being an indie author is definitely a perk. You don’t have to make your readers wait a year between books like the traditionally published authors do. But because of impatience, many indies publish as they write, without a thought as to making a reader wait for the next book. I haven’t met one author who likes to sit on books. (But I have heard of plenty of stories about the benefits to the authors who do.) The minute the book is ready, they hit publish. But what does this mean if you’re writing a series? How fast can you write the next book? Do you do this full-time and can publish the next one in two months, one month? Do you have a team that will edit and format and do your covers for you? What is the point of publishing a book one if it’s going to take you two years to publish the next?

 

  • Consistency.It’s really hard to go back and make changes to a book that’s already been
    changes

    This is a pretty kind of change. The kind made to your book after already publishing isn’t this pretty, and it’s time-consuming.

    published. Not that it’s hard from a technical standpoint–just make the fixes and upload the new file. But what about those readers who have read it already? Your plot and characters are already in their heads, and you want to ask them reread your book for the new information so the next book will make more sense? Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. If you write a book one, and something happens in book two to make your consistency fade away like fog in the sun, you’ve got a problem, if you’ve already published. But if you haven’t–good news! Just make the changes. As you add to the series, this isn’t realistic, I know that. You’re not going to sit on seven books. No one would. But in all practicality, sitting on two or three books to make sure your plot is going smoothly and you don’t have any big plot holes or changes that need to be addressed is pretty darn smart.

 

  • Covers 
    If you’re doing your own covers, or if you’re going to be buying premades, orbride_quartet nora roberts working with a designer, it’s very very very important that your covers not only fit the genre, but that your series will look like a series. That means your author name looks the same, that your pictures you choose are cohesive. It means that the series name is on all the books.Here’s Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet I was telling you about earlier. It’s a lot easier to plan how your covers will look–at least the first few, if you wait to publish.
    It’s also helpful with titles. If you’re doing a trilogy, or a quartet, or even a quintet, it will give you a chance to think of titles that match the theme of your plots.

 

After my May/December romance, I am going to write a quartet. Yes, I will wait to publish until they are all done. I will do my own covers, and I’ve already thought of titles that will match the theme of the books. I have my town chosen, I’m mulling over characters now. It will take a lot of patience to write this series, but as I stated at the beginning of the post, series sell. I’ll have a trilogy and three standalones in my backlist, and it’s time for another series.

Are you writing a series right now? Are you publishing as you go? How much time is between them? Let me know!

 

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Happy November!

Happy November

 

November is finally upon us, and that means we only have 61 days until the New Year!

I’ve been moving steadily along with my goals. In fact, I disappeared from social media for a bit while I released my new book, All of Nothing.

Here’s the lovely cover:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

I did the entire cover in Canva, and I bought the photo on Canstockphoto for seven dollars. It’s not very fancy, but I do take pride in the fact that I did it myself. and it printed just as nicely as it looks online. It’s in KU, and I’m running a free promotion on it November 9th. It will be included in the Freebooksy newsletter that day. Because  I tried a Bargain Booksy on Wherever He Goes that didn’t do too well, I’m also putting that book for free that day to see if I can’t piggyback some downloads from All of Nothing‘s promotion.

As an early birthday present, a dear friend of mine gifted me a Mac and the formatting software Vellum. I was very excited in that since I had been doing all my own formatting, I could replace the interiors of all my books, and that’s what I’ve spent the last three days doing for Summer Secrets, my erotica novella series, and my Tower City Romance Trilogy. Because formatting is so easy with it, I put together a box set of my trilogy, so that is finally being offered on Amazon as well.

Nothing is ever easy though, and since I was doing the covers and insides, I went ahead and moved my trilogy over from CS to KDP Print. I hadn’t done that yet, so I wanted to get it all out of the way.

The second book in my series got lost in the conversion, and it took KDP four days to find it. It was over the weekend, and they did eventually restore it, so I was grateful for that. 🙂 If you haven’t moved your books over yet, I recommend you do so. My book was still for sale on Amazon, so it didn’t completely disappear, but it’s better to get all that taken care of sooner rather than later.

But I did redo the covers for Summer Secrets, being that I’m a bit better at covers now, and I redid the box set I created, inside and out. Though someone pointed out a typo on the first line of the first paragraph, {rolling eyes hard here} I’m still very happy with they turned out:

 

 

It wasn’t a big change, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, nonetheless. I didn’t get so different with my trilogy, so I won’t post them here. But I did redo them in Canva, which gives them a higher quality than when I used to do my covers in Word. A very warm shoutout to my friend Aila Stephens who told me about Canva so long ago. She’s just starting up a blog series about covers herself, so make sure you follow her blog for indie tips and publishing tips!

Anyway, so next up for me is my May/December romance that I’m already 8,000 words into. I’m so excited for this book! I’ve been thinking about a May/December romance for a long time now, and I was delighted when a plot popped into my head. All of Nothing is over 80,000 words long, and I don’t think Matthew and Zia (my book doesn’t have a title yet) will end up being quite so long. But I’m still excited to be mulling subplots and backstory as I get into writing.

 

This kind of sums up the whole story, and as a contemporary romance author, you know I’ll always dish up a nice happily ever after. I just make my characters go through hell to get there first.

In other news, I’m going to submit All of Nothing into the RITAs, a contest sponsored by the Romance Writers of America. The contest is open to both trad-pubbed and indie-pubbed authors, so in reality, I know I don’t stand a chance. But if my book could move on to a second round, or if the judges have some good feedback for me, I’d consider it a success. At any rate, it something I’m going to try, and I think All of Nothing is a solid book. It’s getting good feedback already, and my betas didn’t have anything bad to say about it. So, wish me luck!

Along with entering the contest, you also have to judge books in the first round, so I’ll be needing to dig out my Kindle and settle in for some serious reading coming up. Which suits, because I’m going to have carpal and cubital tunnel surgery on my left hand/elbow in the middle of January. I’m going to try to get Matthew and Zia at least written by then, so while I recover I can do some small edits. It will do me good to rest my hands while I help in the judging of the first round. I’m very much enjoying being part of the romance writing community!

What else is going on? NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! I won’t play, I haven’t played for a couple years now, but I may meet up with my group. Sometimes it’s nice to see people in person, talk shop. Catch up. I used to work with a couple of the members, so it will be fun to see them, too. But after the colder weather hits (I’m in MN) it gets harder to get out of the house. Even for pie and coffee at the local coffee shop.

I guess that’s all I have to report! I hope you all are doing well, and tell me what your end of the year goals are! Remember, you have 61 days! Do your best!

2019 is right around the corner! What do you have left to do in 2018_

 

Drop me a comment, and have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

October through the end of the year goals.Whatever.

Everyone is doing October/end of year goals, so I thought I would, too.

I don’t have many.

  1. Finish All of Nothing. This includes finishing the editing, writing the blurb, doing the full cover for the paperback, formatting for both Kindle and paperback. Sending it out for betas and hopefully publish by Halloween. It was my target goal from the beginning, with Thanksgiving being the ultimate maximum amount of time I wanted to take. It looks like Halloween is more than doable–at least for the Kindle. Using KDP Print for the paperback takes longer, just for the simple fact ordering and waiting for a proof is a lot more time consuming than it used to be through CreateSpace. If you’re launching a paperback by a certain date, be prepared and give yourself plenty of time for the KDP Print hassle.

    Here’s the working cover I made in Canva. We’ll see if I stick with it.

    allofnothing
    Made with a Canva template and a photo I purchased from CanstockPhoto, it’s a simple cover which I hope conveys the darkness of the story.  No chick lit for this author. 😛

  2. I have 2,000 words into my next book (a beautiful May/December romance that will be a counter to the dark romance I’m editing now) already written, and a few pages longhand that I need to type up. I would at least like to get the handwritten stuff typed up this month. I would love to get the whole thing written and published by March of next year. I have a bookselling summit I’m attending in May, and the more in my backlist, the better.
  3. I did a Happy Book Reviews feature for Wherever He Goes that I am not terribly impressed with. I’ll do a full blog post on how it turned out. But for now, it’s safe to say, don’t waste your money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  4. In my other blog post about marketing, I said I was writing a non-fiction book on self-editing. I’m going to be working hard on that in the coming months, and hopefully have that ready to go by no later than this summer. My fiction comes first, and I want my new book to be ready by the summit, but depending on my health (see number 5) I’d like to get the editing how-to book done by June.
  5. I have carpal tunnel and I’ll be going for a nerve test this Thursday. My carpal tunnel runs from my elbows into my neck, shoulder blades, and back. Meaning, I’m in a ton of pain a lot of the time. I let it go too long. I know. And I’m paying for it now. But the truth is, I’ll more than likely be having surgery and the recovery time for both arms will set me back. I know voice-to-text can be a life-saver to some, and I may still be able to blog that way for a bit, but chances are, I won’t be able to work on my fiction for a while. The break is much needed, but not that wanted. We’ll see how it goes.
  6. These are lofty goals when I have a new kitty to play with! My husband moved out, and the kids and I replaced him with a new kitten named Blaze. It wasn’t really like that (LOL) but it’s hard to resist playing with her, or snuggling with her when she’s sleeping. She’ll be a good recovery pal. Here’s a pic:

    blaze
    It’s tough not to share pictures of her all the time, so if you follow me over on Instagram, you can see a lot more of her. 🙂

Those are pretty lofty goals for the next few months, but I’m hoping it’s nothing I can’t get accomplished. All of Nothing is the big item on my plate right now, along with keeping this blog going with indie news and writing tips.

Also, since I will be working on my editing book, if there is anything you struggle with when it comes to self-editing LET ME KNOW! I would love love love to include anything and everything indie writers struggle with.

Happy Fall, Everyone!

book and fall leaves

Marketing Our Books. It Sucks, so Let’s Talk About It!

Marketing is different from branding. Marketing is the act of pushing your book/brand/product out into the world.

social-media-1795578_1920

 

I think this is one reason indies get branding and marketing confused. We’re often told to start marketing ourselves before we have a solidified brand, or before we’ve published a book.

Build your brand (remember, that’s who you are as an author) by blogging, tweeting and posting about what interests you. You need to build your brand, then market that brand.

What can you do to prepare to market your brand?

Start a Blog 

But who are you blogging for: readers or writers? They usually are not the same audience. Joanna Penn is a good example of this. Joanna Penn writes non-fiction to help indie writers like herself. Her blog contains information for indies. But she also writes paranormal thrillers under JF Penn, and JF Penn writes a blog for her readers about her books. Right out of the gate I’m going to guess you don’t want to run two blogs. So choose who you are writing for. Then when you have a following you can use your blog to market your book by posting snippets of your WIP, short stories, etc. Hopefully, you’ll be cultivating your blog followers to want to buy your book when it comes out.

 

Tweet

Tweeting is easy, but again if you dive into Writer Twitter you won’t sell many books. Writer Twitter is helpful to your author brand if you can cultivate a helpful image. Offer to beta read. Retweet helpful articles about the publishing industry. Follow agents and retweet their query tips.  Network with others. Make writer friends.

This is also helpful if you ever decide you want to dive into non-fiction to help your fellow authors. I’m currently outlining a self-editing book. If there is something you know about the publishing process and you can help others by writing a book about it (you just might want to someday!) Writer Twitter is the perfect audience for a helpful resource book! 

My favorite indie nonfiction books:

favorite non-fiction indie authors

 

Join Goodreads as a reader.

Read books in your genre and join discussion groups. This can take years, but the idea is that your friends on the platform will organically want to read your book after your release. If you read the study released by Goodreads about Celeste Ng’s book Little Fires Everywhere, it explains why and how her book was so successful. One of the points was that she was an active member of Goodreads for 10 years before she published. Her network helped make her book popular.

 

Join Instagram

This platform is the only one where I get personal. I’ve posted selfies. Pictures of my cats. Things that are interesting to me. And as my numbers grow I do post graphics with a line or two of my WIP, to build buzz for my books. I don’t do it often, maybe one photo ten will be something about my book.

Instagram is a good example of both branding and marketing. My photos allow my followers to get to know me. Chocolate. Cats. Books I’m reading. Pretty scenery. I’m a  chocolate-eating, coffee-drinking writer who loves to read. I hope my Instagram reflects that.

For a good list of writer hashtags you should use when posting a picture, look here.


Start a Facebook group for readers who love your genre.

Because not only do you write [insert genre here] you’re supposed to be reading it, too. Announce a book every couple months then talk about it. Authors these days, if you tell them their book is featured, may even participate in a question-and-answer discussion. If you read indie, that’s a win-win. A win for the indie author because it gives them exposure. A win for you because you’re networking and supporting a fellow author.

These types of marketing ideas are connected to your brand. You are a nice, friendly writer who writes yummy books your readers will want to devour, right?  Right. 

There are other marketing strategies that don’t take so much time and/or participation:

Pay for promos. Pay for Amazon ads. Pay for Facebook ads.

After you publish, use your promo free days if you are in Select to build buzz, or if you’re wide, price a prequel novella to a series permafree.

If you’re just starting out, you may not have a series, or a novella for that matter, which brings me to a good point: it’s easy to get caught up in all of this brand-building and not have time to write a word. Remember, you don’t need a brand if you don’t have something to sell. Get your book written. Blog about it – post snippets. But in the end, the following/readership you’re building will eventually want to see some progress. Namely a book they can buy to support you.

So where do I fall in all this? I don’t market much. I play on Twitter, but as I said, Twitter doesn’t sell books. I buy a promo here and there. But to be clear, even though I have my trilogy and a standalone, and another standalone I hope to release next month, I still consider myself a baby in this industry. I do very little with my author page on Facebook. I’ve heard popular indies post two or more times a day

I’m liking Instagram more. I bought the Canva app, and I’m playing with that so I can post cuter graphics on the platform. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet, as it’s a little different from the desktop software.

The strategies I’m living by right now?

Blog. I like to help; it’s part of my brand.

Write. There’s no better marketing for your book then releasing another.

I’m going to keep studying. I read a ton of self-publishing books. Marketing books. Editing books. That may not do too much for me marketing-wise currently, but they’ll help me write better books and market them more effectively in the long run. And anything I learned I pass on to you. 🙂 

Throwing money at, and trying to market, one or two books won’t do you any good. Fiction is a long-term game, and your focus should be on building your backlist.

But by the same token, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there’s no harm in building your brand. Eventually, you’ll want your brand and your backlist to meet where your marketing efforts will do something rather than waste money. I’ve been publishing for two years and still at the foot of the mountain. I won’t reach the top for a long time.  But that means I won’t stop trying.

author platform

 

It will take a while, but you can do it!

Tell me what you think.

 

Happy writing and book selling!

Branding. What Does it Mean for You as an Author?

There are a lot of questions about how marketing and branding are different and how they are the same. In this two or three part blog series, I’ll explore what branding and marketing are, and how they work together.

What is branding?

What do you think when you think of a brand? Sometimes you think of a logo right away.

Starbucks mermaid.
The Nike swoosh.
The golden arches of McDonald’s.
Verizon’s red check mark that looks like a V.

But brand is just more than a cute logo. What do you think of when you think of Starbucks? Pumpkin spice lattes. Fairtrade coffee. Maybe sensitivity training after that one barista called the cops on those two black men who hadn’t gotten around to ordering coffee yet because they were waiting for a friend.

As a business, when people see your logo, or think of your brand, you want them to think about good things. Pumpkin spice lattes. Good. Fairtrade coffee. Good. Racist employees. Not good.

McDonald’s has yummy fries. Cheeseburgers. Heart attacks and obesity. Shake machines that never work. Probably every big-named brand will have some things that will mar their reputation.

As a person, you have a brand whether you realize it or not. As an employee, are you dependable? A team player? The person your boss knows will stay late? Or are you a slacker? No one wants to work with you on projects because your coworkers know you won’t pull your weight.

You have a brand as a friend. Are you always late? Maybe it’s so bad your friends tell you a different time than when they show up because they’re tired of waiting for you. You have a brand as a bad friend. Or maybe you always buy the drinks when you go out for dinner. Good friend. Good brand.

These brands associated with you take years to cultivate, years of the same behavior. That’s why creating a brand as an author is difficult and confusing. It takes years.

branding a heifer

Author branding doesn’t have to be this painful! Poor cow! 

It’s also why thinking about your brand when you are just starting out is important, because once people start to think of you in a certain way, it’s hard to change their minds.

What do you want your readers to think of you in relation as an author?

You don’t want people to hear your name and have bad thoughts associated with you and your author brand or books.

Examples of bad things people can associate with your brand (YOU):

  • She fights with people who leave poor reviews
  • He doesn’t put out books in a timely fashion. She makes her readers wait.
  • Her books are full of typos
  • She’s not friendly or supportive of other authors in her genre
  • She complains a lot online. ie, she’s a whiner
  • He doesn’t seem friendly, and fans are hesitant to reach out

The way you are perceived by people who pick up details about you, as an author, is your brand.

If you don’t believe me, think of some big-time authors:

Stephen King
His brand is horror. Other things I think of when I hear his name: He hates Trump. He got hit by a truck and almost died. He probably didn’t intend the latter, but I read about it in his book, On Writing. The former wouldn’t surprise him—his tweets are full of disgust for our President.

Nora Roberts
Contemporary Romance Author
Redhead
Maybe you think of her pen name, JD Robb
Prolific. She always has a new book out. And it’s always a bestseller, too.
I’ve read a lot of her books, and I know she loves Ireland. Lots of her books are set there. It’s part of her brand to me.

JK Rowling
Harry Potter, naturally
Billionaire, philanthropist
Maybe you think of the Harry Potter theme park. Maybe you’ve been there.

EL James
Overnight success
Poor writing
BDSM
Twilight fan fiction
Bitch

Her brand is less than favorable. Be it jealousy, or whatever else, maybe the way she behaves in interviews, rumors of the way she acted on the set of the 50 Shades movies, no one likes her. She’d have to hire a good public relations firm to fix her reputation–if she cared what you thought.

You really don’t want people hearing your name and thinking “bitch” or “asshole.” No matter what area of your life you’re talking about.

First and foremost, write good books. Your brand won’t matter if your product sucks. You’ll have a great brand with nothing to sell.

Be friendly online. Be professional. It won’t take much for people to associate you with being a nice person—if you really truly are a nice person. Help people. Stay away from drama. Don’t interact with trolls. Don’t defend yourself and your books if someone gives you a one-star review.

Maybe look at creating a logo. Some authors’ trademark is simply having their names look the same on all their books. I suck at this because I have fun designing my own covers. But that’s a conscious choice I make whenever I release a book.

melissa foster books

 

Maybe my imprint will catch on. I could make a different logo with a free logo maker, but I don’t want to give people too much to remember.

When people hear my name I want people to think Contemporary Romance. Well-written books. Happy endings. Friendly, cheerful. Awesome blogger. Maybe people will think about my cats because I post pictures of them on Instagram from time to time. These are all good things.

That is author brand. It takes time to build. You have to start slow and you have to do it right.

That’s why publishing just an “okay” book your first time out is a bad idea. That “okay” book may not be enough to impress your readers and they won’t give you another chance.

Wow them from the get-go. In every aspect!

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

You-will-never-get-a-second-chance-to-make-a-first-impression-1

And if you have to turn your brand around, that makes the marketing part of it that much harder and difficult for you.

This blog post is already close to 1,000 words, so we’ll visit Marketing in the next post, and talk a little bit about how to combine Brand and Marketing!

See you next time!

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