We all hear that we need to invest in our business. To different people that can mean different things. When it comes to being an author running a book business, there are a lot of different ways to shove resources at your books.
Money. When you’re an indie author, there are a lot of places your money can go. You have to decide where that money goes and prioritize that spending. ISBNs are not cheap in the US, book covers can be expensive, too. Subscription services like Office 365, Canva, WordPress, and Bookfunnel, just to name a few, eat up a lot of my business money. Then on top of that you have ads and promos, an email aggregator for your newsletter. The list is endless. But you have to put some money into your books or you’ll never get to a place where you can sell them.
Education. One of the things I didn’t realize when I started publishing was all that I was going to have to learn. Back in 2016 we didn’t have Vellum for formatting, and I didn’t start using Canva for book covers and graphics until about 2018 when my friend Aila turned me on to it. Like most software, I didn’t like it right away because I didn’t know how to use it. Now I love it, even though I still don’t know half of what it can do. The same goes for my Mailerlite account. I watched several YouTube videos to learn how to set up an automated welcome sequence, and I had a heck of a time figuring out landing pages and how to connect my Mailerlite account with my Bookfunnel account.
Some things you can find out on your own through free resources, and there are some things you might want to pay for. I always start with the free stuff first and move on to paid classes if I don’t learn what I need to know. There is always someone selling something, an Amazon Ads course or a book marketing course that promises you you’ll sell 1,000 copies of your next book. Around the holidays, especially Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I have terrible FOMO because a lot of that stuff goes on sale. I’ve wasted money buying classes I shouldn’t have. I paid $49 for a ticket to Mini InkersCon hosted by Alessandra Torre that I never attended, and I paid that much for a virtual ticket to the 20booksto50k Vegas conference back in November. I didn’t attend live so that was a waste of money as later, they put a lot of the speakers on YouTube for free. I regret not trying to attend as I missed a wonderful talk by Melanie Harlow that would have been worth the entire price of the ticket. There are a lot of craft classes, book cover design, and editing courses. I have to admit, I’m kind of a class junkie (if you didn’t know that by now) and I have classes I bought through Mark Dawson’s SPF that I haven’t finished, and also classes I purchased through Jane Friedman I have saved on my computer. I have always loved school (I would love to try to get my MFA before I die) and I’m always $50 away from my next class. But I think the idea behind a class is you have to be open to learning what you don’t know. I’ll end this section with this Tweet from a few weeks ago. Learning is vital to your business and you’ll fall behind if you think you know everything there is to know.
Time. Time is precious, and you’ll waste a lot of it doing things that don’t help your book business grow. It’s up to you how you want to spend your time where you think it’s best for return on investment. You can say you’re “networking” hanging out on Twitter all day, but be honest. Are you networking or scrolling to waste time? Is there a better place to network? A Facebook group with authors in your genre, perhaps? If you’ve hit a hard spot in your WIP, it’s easy to find something else to do, but when time is a limited resource because we all have more on our plates than just our books, you’ll find you can be stuck in the same spot for a lot longer than you’d like. Marketing shouldn’t take up that much time–you can’t forget that without books (product) marketing doesn’t mean much. In Elana Johnson’s book about writing and marketing systems, she recommends keeping track of where you spend your time. You may realize that getting out of bed a half an hour earlier, timing yourself on Social Media, or skipping another episode of your favorite show can open up the writing time you need to move forward.
What else can you do with your time?
1. Classes, like I said above. It does take time to do watch the classes and probably the main reason I have so many unfinished. I’d rather write.
2. Read in your genre–with intent but also to fill your creative well. Reading in your genre is really important. Not only do you see what’s selling, but you’ll learn what reader expectations are and how your comp authors are delivering it.
3. Sleep. That sounds crazy, but you’re not going to get good words down when you’re tired.
4. Practice. If you’re taking a class about book covers, you need to practice those skills. I watched a lot of videos when it came to learning Vellum, and the first couple of books I formatted weren’t only to publish but to learn the software. Even if you take an ads course, you still have to put your knowledge into practice on the actual platform. These platforms don’t make it easy, either, when they’re constantly changing their dashboards. It still takes me a while to properly set up a Facebook ad, but without ads, no one will know about my books, so that’s a return on investment I can get behind.
My friend Cara said I could use her response to my tweet in my blog, and this is what she said when I asked what investing in your business means to you:
Effort is a big one, and something I didn’t consider. It takes a lot of effort and energy to keep going, especially when you’re not seeing the results you want. As I just started a new pen name last summer, I’m no stranger to the amount of effort and energy you need to start over. Unfortunately, it can take a while to see if those decisions will pay off.
Sometimes we have to experiment with what will work and what won’t and be willing to let go the parts that aren’t working and try something new. I let go of Twitter a long time ago, and I’m glad. Now when I tweet about my books and get zero response, I can feel good knowing I have other ways of finding readers.
I did a little experiment myself this month and put Rescue Me on sale for .99. I ran an FB ad to it, and while I’m two days short of the end of the month, I’ll tell you how it went. This is my FB ad:
This is a standalone without any read-through potential unless they go on to read my duet or my trilogy. A .99 book on Amazon will only earn you .34 per book, so after you pay for a click (my cost per click is .14 on this particular ad), the ROI may not be that high (in this case, .20 per sale). Kindle Unlimited is good though, and if I get page reads for the entire book, I earn approximately $1.32. As of Sunday morning, I spent $72.20 on that ad. I’ve been running it for the entire month of February. Between sales and pages read, I’ve made $97.99, ($24.98 sales/$73.01 pages read) for a return on investment of $25.79. Maybe you don’t think it’s that much. Maybe you think it’s not worth it for only 25 bucks, but that’s where you have to think about what you want for your business, how much you’re willing invest, and what kind of resources you’re investing (for example, time to learn the FB ads platform and money for the clicks). There’s more to a sale than the royalties you earn. You could get a review, you could find a new fan. You could get a new subscriber to your newsletter. If anything, you’re finding out what kinds of ads work and what kinds of ads don’t. I would have made 0 royalties if my ad didn’t work. So, was it worth it to me? Yeah. But I won’t leave Rescue Me on sale forever. Maybe I’ll try this experiment with the same type of ad for Captivated by Her. There’s read through potential for that book as it’s the first half of a duet.
I also paid for a Freekbooksy for the first in my Lost & Found Trilogy, but I’ll wait to update you on how that went. It’s only 4 days old and I’m $23.00 shy of earning my fee back. I can run down how my February did as a whole, but let me tell you–I forgot I was running Amazon Ads in Canada. Bad move. They really took off and unfortunately, they didn’t have the sales to go along with them. That was my mistake and I’ll have to eat the ad cost. There’s a lesson to learn every day.
Thanks to Cara Devlin who said I could add her response to my tweet in this blog post. Her covers are gorgeous and if you like historical romance, check out her books.
Have a great week, everyone!