Where do you find readers for your books? Part Four

finding readers for your books blog posts part 4

This is just a quick blog post to finish up the series. We talked about cheap promo sites like eSoda, starting slow with Amazon and BookBub ads, and saving up for giveaways like Goodreads, if money is tight.

This last blog post will be a catch-all of things I’ve blogged about in the past such as going wide, going local, things like that.

Going Wide

You would think that only selling your book on one platform would be limiting. And again, this goes back to what you want for your business. If your books are hot, and they are in Kindle Unlimited, are you okay with trusting Amazon with your sole income for your books?

I have 5 contemporary romance books out now, and I recently pulled them out of Select. As my backlist grows, I will feel more comfortable with my books being sold many places. This is a good move for me now because I’m not making that much money on KU, so I don’t feel bad about leaving that income behind.

I’ve listened to a few podcasts recently with Mark Lefebvre who used to head Kobo Writing Life and is now working at Draft2Digital. There’s great things going on in the great wide world of indie-publishing, and I don’t want to be left behind.

Going wide is a different animal than just staying on Amazon, and Mark even said to expect to wait 6 months to a year to find any traction. As I’m building my backlist, I don’t mind waiting.

Kobo has over 28 million readers.

An Author Earnings report indicates that iBooks may be back in the game.

This isn’t a blog post to convince you to go wide. I’m just saying, eventually, if you want to reach more readers, moving your books to other platforms and using the promotional tools they give you (like Kobo’s promo dashboard) may be something to consider.

Looking Local

think local

We always think big when we think of marketing, but you can do something simple like go to your indie bookstore and ask them to carry your book. Or send a book to the Lifestyles section of your town’s newspaper and ask if they would interview you (and/or what it’s like to be an indie author) or review your book. If you have an area magazine, ask to be profiled. Maybe ask if you can teach a class at your local library on how to self-publish.

Writers are introverts by nature, but asking your library if they can carry your book in the local author’s section could be a chance at marketing for you. (Having a photo taken while you’re standing in the stacks holding your book? Cool!)  At least perhaps a chance at a signing and photo op. Even Joanna Penn said if you have a signing and no one shows up, take a ton of pictures. You’re getting some photos for marketing out of it, anyway.

It takes baby steps to market your books, and remember, throughout all this, always be writing more books.

This blog series was intended to help you break out of Writer Twitter. Auto DMs saying take a look at my book and tweeting about your book all the time isn’t going to make your career.

We’ve all been warned to not build your author platform on someone else’s real estate–meaning, get your own website so you are in charge. A Facebook Author page, or even a group is great, but you are handing Mark Zuckerberg control of your author platform when you use Facebook to promote your books. The same with Twitter. Instagram and Pinterest are fun to use, but they should make up a minimal part of your platform.

I didn’t add blogging as a free way to sell books, mainly because blogging takes a long time. I’ve blogged for years and feel like my blog is just gaining some traction. That’s partly my fault, since I know I don’t blog nearly enough. But on the other hand, I have five books published I’m proud of, another in editing, and 30,000 words into the first book of a four book series (all this in two and a half years). Could I do all that if I blogged all the time? Probably not.

Newsletters are the same. All the big indies still swear by them. But they take years to build (if you do it the right way) and should be part of building your author platform. I attempted to start a newsletter a long time ago, but the fact is, I don’t know what to put in it, and even though MailChimp is free (for the first 2,000 subscribers) you still need to pay extra for certain features. (Like an automatic welcome newsletter sent out to new subscribers.) When you weigh time versus all the little extras (newsletters, blogging), I will almost always choose to write books.

twitter jail

You need to do what’s right for you and your business. Sometimes that means saving up for a promo. Sometimes that means writing instead of posting on Instagram. Maybe that means buying a box of $9.99 business cards from VistaPrint and handing them out or leaving them places (one hack I read about was leaving your business card with your receipt when you pay for lunch/dinner). Asking to leave a box of bookmarks at your library’s information desk. Or your indie bookstore. Little things over time can add up.

But think outside of Writer Twitter; even think outside Facebook and Amazon.  You’ll be glad you did.

Please let me know if any of this series helped you find more readers!

Thanks for reading!

 

Where do you find readers? Part 2

finding readers for your books blog posts part 2

 

In part one, I wasted your time went over a few things you can do to draw in readers. Starting with a quality product. That’s mandatory, but not everyone does. You’ve seen the poor covers, bad blurbs, and horribly written look insides. But no one is immune, and if you’re not selling books, or not selling as many books as you think you should be, try to find an unbiased opinion and see if you can find where the problem is.

Now, with that being said, readers are out there. But how do you find them?

Start Small

There are promo sites that don’t cost an arm and a leg. How well they work, I have no idea. But if you listen to lots of podcasts of author interviews like I do, you’ll slowly build a list of promo sites that are used by other authors. Some of these require a certain number of reviews. Almost all of them vet books so if your cover doesn’t look nice, or the person who runs the promo site thinks your writing is terrible, they won’t promote your book, no matter how much you pay them.

eBookSoda. Their prices have gone up since I’ve checked into them last. They review your book before they promote, and they do have a few guidelines you have to meet for them to accept your book.

ebook soda promo site

ebook soda promo site2

At twenty dollars to give it a try, that doesn’t seem like a huge investment. I’ve spent more and have gotten nothing in return.

eReader News Today.

They are a little spendier, but I’ve heard good things about them. They also vet, so be prepared for an actual person to look at your book.

ereader-pricing-table-heading

ereader news today requirements

I’m not going to go through every single promo site out there. I’ve only used Freebooksy and BargainBooksy for my promos, but when I release my next book, I may spread my wings a bit. There are promo sites out there that cost less than what they charge, and they may expose me to new readers.

Dave Chesson has a very large list of promo sites if you want to browse. But the main idea is that putting money into the marking of your book doesn’t have to break the bank.

Paying to Play

Indie readers don’t want to accept that to find readers (especially if they are on Twitter and tweet about their book for free all the time) that at some point you are going to have to invest in your books. There is no other way for anyone to know your books are out there. There’s billions of people in the world. How are you going to reach them if you can’t break out of Writer Twitter? It’s next to impossible.

Richard Blake had this to say about the current state of advertising:

2018 ushered in a time when visibility we used to take for granted on Amazon basically disappeared. The long tail on new releases has been compressed to only weeks, and with the elimination of free books from the also boughts and from the search functions, it’s almost impossible to get any free visibility now on the largest seller of books in the world.

So what’s left?

Paying to play, also known as advertising. The rest of this blog will be devoted to my experience with Zon advertising, and the conclusions I’ve drawn after reluctantly beginning a concentrated effort about mid-year.

If you’re interested in what else he has to say, you can check out and subscribe to his blog here.

I’ve written about my success, or lack thereof, about Amazon before, and you can check out my blog post here. So I’m not going to bother rehashing old ground. If you want to learn how to do them, there are a lot of authors who provide courses and books. My favorite is Brian Meeks. He has a book about Amazon Ads, and I used to recommend it a lot. I’ve heard that Amazon has changed the way they do ads, so his step-by-step instructions are no longer applicable. Concepts of patience, testing, and slowly building your ad, however, are still great advice. Despite not being able to point you in the direction of his book, he’s done several interviews for podcasts as well, and he spoke at the 20 Books to 50K Conference in Vegas this past November. Check out his talk!

 

If you want more details, check out Chris McMullen’s blog post about the recent changes and how to work with them.

I’ve had a little success–meaning my bids are getting clicks, I’m seeing some buys, and I’m not spending a huge amount of money (not in enough to put me in the black with ROI, but you have to start somewhere). Figuring out ads is like learning to swim. You’re going to get a lot of water up your nose before you can float without drowning. This is a bad metaphor for me, as I still only know how to doggy paddle, but such is life.

I haven’t tried Facebook ads, mainly because I’ve heard they will take your money and run, unlike Amazon. Plus, I don’t have that many books out yet. I’ve read Michael Cooper’s book, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck! and that was extremely helpful. He, too, was at the 20 Books to 50K conference and you can watch his talk. 🙂

I’ll do a Part 3 later. I’ve given you lots to consider right now. Please go through those promo sites. If you can save five dollars a week and buy a $20 dollar promo for a reader newsletter once a month, that’s a great start when you thought you couldn’t afford to run ads at all.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any thoughts, ideas, or things you’re going to try going in to 2019 and selling your books!

 

Good luck!

Where do you find readers for your books? Part 1

finding readers for your books blog posts part 1

This question sucks because 1) no one knows the answer, and 2) even if they do, their answer might not work for you.

What are the variables that make one person’s amazing results different from someone else’s?
* Genre. Thrillers. Contemporary Romance. Urban Fantasy. Epic Fantasy. Someone might have just had a great launch of their Suspense novel and you want to duplicate that for your Bigfoot Romance. Their methods probably won’t work for you.
* Quality. Your friend may have paid out $400 for a quality cover, had two editors edit it, and used a professional formatter to make their insides look as professional as they can look. You don’t have a budget like that. If you don’t, you’re already a million miles behind your friend–even if you write in the same genre.
* Your friend has a backlist and you don’t.

If you take into consideration these three things, answers to the question, where do you find readers, are going to be incredibly different.

A quick note about GENRE before we move on: you’re writing what you want, but you do have to keep in mind that the more niche you write the more you shrink your audience. On the other hand, you have a better chance at standing out in a smaller niche. At any rate, here’s a nice chart. If your goal is finding readers in a bookstore (you’re probably querying then), you need to know where the little high school girl who stocks books after classes is going to put yours. Knowing your genre also makes marketing a bit easier because, hey, no one reads all the books, and you only want people who read your genre to read your book.

Literary_Genres

click the picture to read about the 17 literary genres

Quality

You know how in the grocery store you have to choose between a dented can and a can that’s not dented? Which do you choose? The undented one, right? Because we’re trained to look for things that are perfect. We don’t buy apples with bruises, we buy the milk behind the first one. When you are asking your potential reader to choose between your poor-quality cover, bad blurb, and insides with typos against a book with a nice cover, an intriguing blurb, and insides without typos, who do you think they are going to choose?

This seems like a no-brainer, but authors are too close to their own books to see if something is working, or, more specifically, not working. I’ll show you what I mean:

amazon sell page of a book

This is the sell page of my book, Don’t Run Away. It’s the first in a trilogy. People look at these things when they bring up your book be from an ad, from a friend’s recommendation, whatever.

  1. A good cover. You need one. YOU NEED ONE. I’m not saying mine is the best, but hoo-boy, it’s better than some out there.
  2. A nice author photo. No one talks about these, but with social media, readers want to interact with their favorite authors. They want to see you are a real person. If they tweet to you that they enjoyed your book, or if they say Hello on your FB author page, they think it’s really cool when you say thank you, or Hi! back.
  3. Well-written blurb. You need a good blurb to draw them in.
  4. The reviews help. The more the better, obviously, because. . .
  5. Amazon is more than happy to show your potential reader something else they can buy instead of your book. If your cover and blurb miss the mark, they offer another choice in the same genre your potential reader can click on.

If you take a look at the screenshot above, you can see the book they are advertising at the bottom has a nice cover and more reviews than mine. At that point, I’m hoping my blurb brings them in, or the first couple sentences of the look inside if they make it that far.

If you’ve written a strong blurb and you make your potential reader click READ MORE look what happens:

screen for blog 2

The ad disappears. We don’t have very long attention spans. A good blurb could mean the difference been a sale and a pass.

I watched Bryan Cohen and Chris Fox tear part a couple of covers and blurbs on a recording from a 20 books to 50K conference this year in Vegas. Take a look and see if you can make your selling page better:

Backlist

No one thinks about backlist when we look for readers. But the fact is, self-publishing is a vicious and competitive environment. These days to find any traction, you need to have about 15-20 books written already. When I first started publishing, that number was six. Self-publishing has exploded to the point where 50,000 books are self-published every month. (That stat was pulled, I think, from Michael Anderle during this same conference.)

The most important thing that self-published authors have is a backlist of 15-20 books. This is because most self-published authors make the bulk of their money on their backlist.  — The Complete Creative

The idea is that if you manage to pull one person into your readership, you can offer them more than just one or two books. You want them to read them all.

You can liken finding readers to any cliche you want. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. Start at the base of the mountain and work your way up. It all amounts to the same thing–finding readers takes a lot of time.

book-publishing-quotes-by-jo-linsdell-315693

No one disagrees it starts with the best book you can produce. And then write another.

the best advertising you can do

Stay tuned for part two of where to find readers!

Until next time!

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!

Blog signature

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!

Blog signature

My not so happy review of the Happy Book Reviews service

I listen to the Sell More Books Show podcast. I love listening to the self-publishing indie news they cover every week. Some weeks are lighter than others, but it’s a great way to keep up with all the changes in the industry.

The show is hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral who are also hosting the 2nd annual Sell More Books Show summit I’m delighted to attend next year in Chicago.

Bryan does a lot for the indie community. He’s published several non-fiction books including How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis,  a book I recommend regularly, as I use it every time I need to write a blurb. He also runs a business based off that book, in case you ever feel like you just can’t write another synopsis.

Jim Kukral also does a lot for the author community: creator of Book Marketing Club, he also founded and curates the Happy Book Reviews website.

I went into the brief history of these gentlemen because I trust them and I admire all the hard work they do for us indies.

But sometimes things don’t work as well as they could, or should, and Jim’s Happy Book Reviews is one of those things.

feedback-2800867_1280

As indies, we all want those five-star reviews for our books. 

At $25.00, he promises to put your book in front of thousands of readers who want to download your book for free and leave a review. This sounds great! At this low fee, my book was available for twenty-five downloads on a first come, first serve basis, to people who would read it and review it with no obligations for me to do the same.

It really could be a boon for us authors who need reviews for that social proof we’ve written a good book.

But my enthusiasm waned the moment I received the email that contained the newsletter that featured my book.

In the whole month my book was available for download, my book was downloaded twice. Yep. Twice. Out of twenty-five copies available.

There were, in my opinion a few reasons for this:

When you sign up, you’re encouraged to sign up for the newsletter. This seems like a no-brainer because you want to see what your book looks like in the newsletter. But as my friend Aila points out–if all the recipients of the newsletter are other indie
authors . . . writers don’t read. If they do, they are helping out their friends by beta-reading or acting as a critique partner. Jim promises he’ll put your book in front of readers, but I suspect that what he’s doing is putting your (and my) book in front of a whole lot of indie authors. Who don’t read other indies, at least, not for pleasure.

The first email went into my Promotions tab and not my inbox. You can fix this, of course, but how many emails do people miss because their email marks the newsletters as ads? (Which, technically, they are.)

Happy Book Reviews will take anything. I’d never speak negatively about someone else’s work, but I have to admit, I was appalled at the company my book kept. I try to be professional in all ways. And while my books may look indie (there’s really no help for that no matter how good you are) some of the books featured in that newsletter looked downright cruddy. Jim will accept any book when what he should be doing is vetting them. While the information isn’t available to me, I wonder how many readers unsubscribe when they see the lack of quality in these books.

quality control

Someone needs to be in charge of quality control

 

**I can understand why he doesn’t do this. Jim and Bryan frequently talk about gatekeeping and I realize Jim doesn’t want to be in the position of determining what is “good.” But I don’t think this is any different than any other promo site where they only allow in quality books. They have a readership to keep happy, and offering them schlock is not the way to go about it. Someone, somewhere, will always play God, and with the products and services Jim, as a book coach, offers, he’s in a better position than some to determine what is “good.”

Only the blurb is available. I know it would take up more space or cost more to send it out the newsletter, but it would help if a potential reader could read the first couple pages of the book they’re considering downloading. It would have helped me avoid the boring contemporary romance I downloaded 1) because I wanted to try the service myself and 2) the cover and blurb looked okay.

The newsletter isn’t broken up into genres. My book sat next to children’s books, paranormal romance, thrillers, and history books. If he could separate the books into genres that could help readers find the books they like. I had a positive Freebooksy experience because of this.


The time for my book has run out, and there’s no time limit for those two people who have downloaded my book to leave a review. So I’m not even sure if those two people who downloaded my book will come through. But $25.00 for two reviews is too much.

I know why Jim will never do any of my suggestions–it’s too much work. He’s a savvy businessman, and I’m sure these suggestions have been brought up to him by other people in the past.

But it must work for some authors, or he’d close down the website. Everyone who uses his service can’t have the experience I did, or his inbox would be full of complaints.

Maybe I’m a black sheep, but somehow, I don’t think so. Wherever He Goes is a solid book. Anyone who reads the first page knows I don’t head hop, I don’t have any typos, and my inciting event happens on the first page of the book. Not Chapter 4.

Unfortunately, I do not feel like my book fit in with the others featured, and unless he makes changes, I won’t be using his service again.

You may have a different experience, and at $25.00, it’s a cheap risk. But I’m also aware that $25.00 could buy you two paperback books, five Starbucks coffees, or could reimburse a beta-reader for her time. If you’re poor, $25.00 can go a long way, so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the risk.

My blog is about my experiences with the services offered to indies, and my adventures in publishing my books. I want to help. This was my experience, and unfortunately, it could have been better.

I’ll still listen to the podcast (and I encourage you, too) and I’m looking forward to the meeting Jim at the summit.

But the Happy Book Reviews feature isn’t for me, and I wish you luck if you decide to ever give it a go.

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!