The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Category: Marketing (page 1 of 2)

Your First Six-Figure Launch review

Note: The Everyday Author team was not provided any compensation by the course owner for this review.

Are you ready to share your product, book, or idea with the world, but unsure of exactly how to do just that?

Nick Stephenson (known for the book Reader Magnets and the Your First 10k Readers program) outlines his method of launching your book or product in his course, “Your First Six-Figure Launch”. This detailed course breaks up your launch sequence into three simple phases: Pre-Launch, Launch, and Post Launch.

When thinking about launching your book, it’s common to solely focus on the Launch phase as this is where the majority of sales come from. However, many people forget the importance of the Pre-Launch and Post-Launch phases, which can more than double your sales, according to Stephenson.

Let’s take a look at each of these phases.

Pre-Launch

The Pre-Launch phase prepares people to buy your book. As 90% of customers are not ready to buy the moment you decide to launch, a sudden mass Facebook post that your “Techno-Thriller comes out TODAY!” will not entice as many to purchase your book as giving them a heads up before it launches.

This stage of the launch sequence is all about leading people up the mountain to get them from where they currently are (not ready to buy) to where you want them to be (ready to buy). Your audience should want to learn more about your book before you ever give them a price or information about where to buy.

Stephenson gives a few tips on how we can create interest among our audiences.

  • Identify your customer’s pain points. What is your product or book going to fix? Will it entertain, inspire, motivate? Why would people buy it?
  • Acknowledge your customer’s “as-is” state. What negative factors are they currently facing in their lives?
  • Demonstrate their “after” state by showing them it is possible to get away from their negative “as-is” state.
  • Show them how your book can fill their knowledge gap between where they currently are and where they want to be.
  • Share “The Hero’s Journey”. Tell your customers your story – how what they’re facing was a problem for you too, but how you overcame it.
  • Prime the sale. Don’t tell people specifically what your product is, but mention that there is going to be a product on the way that helped you (your story) and will help other people get from the before to the after.
  • Overcome objections before your customers know they have them.

All of the above information can be shared with your audience in a variety of ways: a series of blog posts, podcasts, video training (which can be super effective for non-fiction), Facebook ads or any other medium that resonates with your audience.

If done properly, the Pre-Launch phase can help you connect on an emotional level to your audience as you tell YOUR story. It also helps to prove your expertise, to teach your audience how to get from where they are now to where they want to be, and, ultimately, to prime the sale.

Launch

The next phase is your actual launch.

Stephenson describes two types of launches: the Private Launch and the JV Launch. The Private Launch is the best option for your first ever launch as it will only go to your email lists. On the other hand, the JV (or affiliate) Launch will put you in front of affiliate’s email lists. The JV Launch is reserved for after you have already proven that you have a winning formula or product that is perfect for your affiliate’s audience.

Regardless of which type of launch you use, it’s important to send out multiple messages during your launch so that your audience has ample opportunity to consume your pre-launch process and to get all of the information. Each message should be valuable, inspiring, and teach the reader something so they value receiving the messages rather than tire of them.

The Launch phase helps you get your audience to the top of the mountain (where you want them to be). This phase:

  • Outlines your promise of how your product will solve your audience’s problem.
  • Removes risk from purchases by offering money back guarantees and support systems such as forums or community groups.
  • Combats procrastination by noting “limited time availability”, bonuses, and discounts to show scarcity of the product during the launch and promote early sales.
  • Reveals the price after (and only after) your audience understands the value of the messages shared in the Pre-Launch phase.

Post-Launch

The Post Launch phase is often forgotten after all of the hard work put into the Pre-Launch and Launch; however, your launch does not end with your launch deadline. After all, you do want to keep the new customers you worked so hard to get (as they are 10x more likely to purchase from you in the future) and continue to reach out to those who just weren’t ready to buy yet.

After the launch deadline, those who purchased your product enter a “buyer’s sequence” where you follow up with them, make sure they’re happy and ultimately can send information about future products.

Those who didn’t purchase your product enter an alternate sequence where they receive other content (articles, blog posts, etc.) to keep them engaged with you and your product. At a later date, you can invite them to join a webinar where they receive the offer again.

The Post-Launch phase helps to reduce refunds from buyers suddenly having buyer’s remorse and encourages advocacy in you and your product as well as assisting customers to spread your product by word of mouth. Most importantly, the Post-Launch gives non-buyers another chance to buy later.

The Perpetual Launch

Once you have your first launch under your belt, you can relaunch your product again and again to new people completely on autopilot – what Stephenson calls the “Perpetual Launch”.  The Perpetual Launch is advanced but allows each person who opts into your sequence to automatically receive the pre-launch content (videos, blog posts, etc.) and be sent the offer with a countdown timer for availability. Those who purchase enter the same “buyer’s sequence” that everybody else did.

The bottom line

Writing a book that readers will enjoy or derive value from is less than half the battle. No matter how or who you learn it from, marketing is a vital step to advance your author career.

Launching your book or product is simple with Stephenson’s course which includes detailed, transparent information full of examples, timelines, and resources that he actually used during his launch. At this time, “Your Six-Figure Launch” is not open for enrollment, but authors looking to learn more about Stephenson’s marketing strategies (and receive notifications when this course opens again) should sign up for his mailing list at Your First 10k Readers.

Guest Post: 7 Priceless Content Marketing Tips for eBook Promotion

Book promotion involves more than landing interviews with authorities in your niche. Today, content is king. 70% of marketing professionals plan to create more content this year than last; this is because it’s the least expensive, most effective promotional method.

So, if you ever want to be able to quit your day job, you need to create a content marketing strategy. Here are seven tips to formulate a plan that will optimize your ebook sales this year.

1. Know Your Target Reader

The first and most important action to take when brainstorming is to get to know your target reader – truly understand them. Note that your target readers are not likely other authors, so writing for this market isn’t going to provide much in the way of establishing a fanbase. Instead, zero-in your efforts on a group of people who are likely to go bananas over your work and focus on them.

Once you have an idea who to target, find out where these readers hang out online. After you discover where they are, join them. You are there to interact naturally as well as find out what their pain points are. By solving their problems with your online content (blog, YouTube videos, etc.), you will provide value and draw positive attention to yourself.

2. Set Realistic, Measurable Goals

Once you know the pain points of your readers (these are the topics you want to cover in your content), set your objectives that you can measure. Every promotional strategy has goals – you use them to stay on point and measure the effectiveness of your overall strategy.  

3. Leverage Social Media to Promote Everything

If you create a new video, send it out across Facebook and twitter. When you post an infographic on your blog, share it on Pinterest as well. You want all of your content to be seen across the web, in as many places as possible. The trick is to direct people to your content online, then have a trail that they can follow to discover your ebook.

4. Brand Your Images and Infographics

Your ebooks and website are branded, right? Well, all of your promotional materials should be. This doesn’t mean that you need to include your logo on every single blog image. You should use a color-scheme, fonts, and image filters that are in alignment with your brand. As followers get to know you, they will recognize your brand in a sea of information, bringing you one step closer to a successful career as an author.

5. Host Your eBook on the Right Platform

If you’re planning on leveraging the millions of members on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or NOOK press, then you already trust that these sites are setup for ecommerce – it’s all they do. But you may have been building a following with your Blogger or WordPress account, until this point. If that’s the case, and you plan to host your ebook on your own website, use a platform that’s designed for ebook sales. This will save you a ton of effort later, and you can easily import all of your old blog posts and images.

6. Utilize Email Marketing

If you’re not already using email marketing, that may signal that you’re not interested in creating a weekly or monthly newsletter. That’s fine; though it’s helpful, you don’t have to. Technology allows you to automate your email marketing to become a nearly hands-off tactic for building relationships with your fans. Even free and inexpensive email marketing platforms allow you to create RSS campaigns that automatically send subscribers your new blog posts.

7. Be Prepared to Alter Your Plan

If I’ve learned anything working in the marketing industry, it’s that testing your promotional tactics is critical for success. Sometimes, something as seemingly trivial as the color of you call to action buttons will improve book sales. So, take some time, every couple weeks or so, to measure your campaigns and see if you’re close to meeting your goals or not. If not, adjust your tactics until you find what works.

Conclusion

Now you have a small arsenal of knowledge to help power your ebook promotional strategy online. Learn everything you can about your target reader and set goals that help you solve their problems. Use social media to promote your ebook with recognizable, branded content. Make sure your website is set up for book sales and generate leads while you build relationships through email marketing. Make changes to your plan as needed. What other content marketing tips have you used to promote your work? Share your experience in the comments.

Ashley Kimler is a full-time communications specialist and content marketing dynamo at Heroic Search. She is also a part-time, aspiring authorpreneur with one children’s picture book title currently available on Amazon KDP. Follow @ashleykimler on Twitter to see what she and her team get into next.

Guest Post: Making the most of Amazon Author Central – Dave Chesson, Kindlepreneur

The pressure of working a day job alongside a fledgling writing career causes many authors to overlook great opportunities to establish their brand and reach more readers.

Because it can be such a challenge to find hours in the day to give writing projects the attention they deserve, any available time is often spent solely on writing, and not on a long-term approach to building an author platform.

Due to these time pressures, it’s essential to focus on the marketing activities that will provide the most benefit for the least effort.

Amazon Author Central is a perfect example. Once you take the time to establish an Author Central page, you have a valuable marketing asset located directly on the world’s busiest book retailing platform.

When it comes to Author Central, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Apply the following ideas to your own page to create something that will truly benefit you in the long-term.

Carefully Customize Your Author Bio

Many writers find creating their author bio to be far more difficult than expected.

It’s often assumed that writers have no trouble describing themselves in the right way for their readers. However, ask around and you’ll soon see that many do struggle to find the right tone and wording.

It’s generally a good idea to keep your author bio between 100-150 words long. It’s far better to have a succinct, effective bio than a lengthy manuscript that bores and repels.

Aside from the length of your bio, it’s important to use appropriate language for your intended readership. If your books are serious and academic, your bio should match this tone. If you write for a particular demographic, made sure the language used is appropriate for them. If you’re not exactly sure, look at some author bio examples from other writers in the same genre.

The reward for crafting a careful bio is the chance to form a connection with readers. People are far more likely to take a long-term interest in your work if they relate to who you are as well as what you write.

Match Your Photos To Your Audience

While a picture may not be worth a thousand words, it’s definitely more attractive and attention-grabbing to have one than a plain text page alone.

Similarly to your author bio, your author photo is something which should be chosen with your audience in mind. When you create a book cover, you probably do so in a way which you feel is right for your audience. You want your book cover to communicate the genre and feel of your work.

Your author photo works in much the same way. If you write about serious subjects, such as history, a lighthearted, fun photo will probably feel incongruous to readers. Conversely, if you write children’s books, you won’t want to have a serious, solemn picture.

You might instinctively know the type of photo which will best connect with your readers. If not, take some time to browse around authors you admire with a similar body of work to your own. You may notice some trends or commonalities between photos which inspire your own choice of picture.

Add Editorial Reviews

One of the trickiest, but most important, aspects of success for new authors is taking the right approach to reviews.

Getting readers to leave an honest and informative review is an important way to set your books on the path to success. However, Amazon reviews are far from simple. Sometimes, competitors may attempt to sabotage your book by leaving malicious, false reviews. In the case of positive reviews, some customers assume they are fake and don’t put much weight in their opinion.

Amazon Author Central offers a valuable way around this problem. After you create your Amazon author page, you have the option to add editorial reviews to your profile. A review from a trusted, authoritative editorial source is worth its weight in gold.

Adding editorial reviews to your Author Central page is also a way to use your time more efficiently. If you publish a book with a solid set of editorial reviews, you are less at the mercy of the whims of Amazon customers and potentially malicious competitors. This means you have to invest less effort in sourcing reviews as the editorial reviews do the heavy lifting for you.

Consider International Opportunities

International book marketing isn’t right for every author, but it’s definitely worth considering.

International stores on Amazon have two major advantages – there is less competition, and they are often growing at a fast rate.

If you decide that you want to try and reach an international audience, crafting a customized Author Central page for that particular market is a great way to go. For example, you may wish to use alternative book covers that are more in line with the national expectations of a particular market. You could also alter your bio to make sure that the language used is unambiguous for readers in foreign markets.

Help Your Content Reach A Wider Audience

If you create content, such as blog posts or videos, related to your writing, Author Central can help that content have a wider reach.

Author Central allows you to link blog posts and add video content directly to your page. This allows browsers to explore your ideas without having to leave the Amazon platform.

Sharing your external content in this way allows you to form a deeper connection with readers than through an author bio and photo alone. This leads to buyers becoming fans and long-term admirers of your work.

Author Central Recap

To make the most of the opportunity offered by Author Central, ensure that:

  • Your author bio is succinct and suitable
  • Your visual content is congruent with your author brand
  • You consider Amazon’s international reach as part of your marketing strategy

In terms of return on effort invested, Amazon Author Central is one of the best ways to form a connection with readers for time-stretched authors. It can form a valuable part of your wider book marketing efforts.

It’s your chance to show readers the person behind the books. Make the most of it!

A Kindlepreneur is a self publishing entrepreneur that is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work marketing their creation. Ready to take action and promote their works, they are writers, marketers, designers, and strategists all combined in one. Want to learn more about how you can become a Kindlepreneur? Need help in taking the next big step in becoming a true Kindlepreneur? Then check us out!

Guest post: Automating Twitter for authors by Tim Morgan

Getting the Word Out – And Still Having a Life

As indie authors, we fill many roles, especially when we’re first starting out. We are the marketing department; the quality control department; the design team; and most importantly, the content creator.

Once you finish that book and upload it to your outlet of choice, you’re going to need to tell the world about it. This is something I see newer authors balk at, maybe because they don’t understand social media and how it works. Some try, only to walk away feeling like a failure when it doesn’t work out.

In this post, I’m going to share my secrets – approaches and tools to help you automate your social networking. If you automate, you can do more in less time – freeing you up to create more.

Wasted Time = Lost Money

Many of us start as creatives because we enjoy it. The process of making something from nothing exhilarates us. We’re energized when we create something new and original. However, if you want to move beyond your art as a hobby, you need to view it as a business.

Whether you go indie or you publish through a traditional publisher, you’re going to be the one who needs to care most about promoting your work. Promoting on social media can be a time suck and it can take time to bear fruit, so many people throw their hands up and walk away.

There’s a saying that in business time is money. Every hour you spend on social media is an hour less you have for creating new work. If you learn effective ways to automate that, though, you can set things on auto-pilot for a while so you can get back to creating.

Which Social Network?

I don’t have the space to explore every social network, so I’m going to focus on Twitter. It’s where I spend most of my time and I’ve had the most success. Some of the concepts like hashtags are the same across different networks – but they’re all very different animals.

One of the things you need to consider while you’re planning your social media strategy is where is your target audience. A Google search can pull up relatively current metrics on who’s using which social media platform. I strongly recommend HubSpot, they offer lots of free reports and guides if you give them your email address. All are highly visual and easy to understand.

Your Primary Focus: Good, Relevant Content

I can’t say this enough. In order to get noticed on any social media, you need to send out good quality content that’s relevant to your target audience.

What’s good content? Things your audience finds valuable. An author you like is running a free promotion? That’s good content. New movie coming out by your favorite director? That’s great too. You’re going to a conference? Fantastic.

Do you see a pattern here? The secret here is most of your messages shouldn’t be about you, they should be supporting other people. Every once in a while, I see some statistic that 2 out of every 10 tweets need to be about you, everything else should be about other people.

In reality, there’s no Twitter cop coming to give you a ticket because you didn’t follow that convention – just know if you overdo it you’ll lose followers.

How Often?

Some people tweet two or three times a day, some several times an hour. Either approach can be effective if you do it right. It’s all about who you want to reach: the internet is an always available, global system; people are constantly coming and going.  Tweets have a very short lifespan.

If you’re targeting consumers, plan your tweets around commuting times and weekends. If you’re after businesses, most of them are on during business hours. But in the end I don’t think you can tweet too much.

You should probably repeat your messages since people are always coming or going; there’s no law, but a good balance for me seems to be repeating after 8-12 hours.

Funny true story – when I first started tweeting, I was getting all kinds of followers in the United Kingdom. For a while I thought maybe my work was more appealing to people over there; then I realized I was sending out most of my tweets during the business day in the US – but if you were in the UK, you saw my tweets as you were going home.

Start locally, but don’t be afraid to think globally.

Effective Hashtagging and Tagging

For the uninitiated, hashtags are those words with a pound sign in front of them (#tag). These are used to aid discovery – I think they started on Twitter, but now are supported on just about all social networks. These help people find you. If you use a hashtag make sure it’s related.

Use them judiciously: some posts need a hashtag or two, some don’t need one at all. If you use them don’t use more than three or you’ll look like a spammer. (Yeah, I’ve done that and I’m not proud of it. Mea culpa.)

You can also use a popular hashtag to bring followers over to your product. There are no rules against this and it can aid your exposure, as long as it’s relevant.

Tagging is when you use an at sign in front of a name (@name). This is mentioning someone and will alert the person you tagged. Use these carefully as well; if you mention someone too many times you’ll get unfollowed or blocked. Once or twice a day is probably enough.

The Tools

Most of these are websites where you can do research and automate your messaging. They all provide free basic options as well as paid subscriptions that offer more features. HootSuite and Dlvr.it both work across multiple social networks – paying for an account will get you access to more social networks along with other bonuses.

The Library – Core Strategy

When I started I kept trying to think of new tweets every week. It was tough and I often found myself blocked, and even worse – it ate up most of my Saturday mornings.

Inspiration struck when I heard Lynn Serafinn interviewed on The Author’s Marketing Podcast. Lynn talked about having a tweet library. I was thinking the same thing but thought it was nuts until I heard that interview.

Lynn created a library of tweets she uses for her messaging. She has a plan to rotate through them and had enough to not repeat a message for several weeks.

I went a little further: I use a spreadsheet of messages broken out by category (books, blog, film, screenwriting, etc). This way I can filter the sheet and pull up relevant messages. This simple method has saved me so much work and it cost nothing.

HootSuite – Schedule Your Messages

HootSuite is a web-based social message scheduler. It allows you to queue messages to be sent at a later time. Going to be signing at a bookstore? New book coming out? Review being published? If you know in advance you can time messages accordingly.

You can also set up messages that plug your books, other people’s books, or other things you find interesting.

HootSuite offers a free version with a limited number of social networks, with paid options that increase the number of networks you can manage.

http://www.hootsuite.com

Dlvr.it – Auto-Post Relevant Blogs

Who said you have to be the one coming up with all the content? Dlvr.it lets you ping that blog’s RSS feed on a regular basis, posting new items to your social networks.

Dlvr.it allows up to four blogs free.

http://dlvr.it

Hashtags.org – When is Your Audience Active

To maximize your chances of success, you need to figure out when people are talking about your topic. Hashtags.org lets you see a graph of hashtag mentions over time. In the free tool you can see the last 24 hours; paid options let you track this over time.

http://www.hashtags.org

Hashtagify – The Hashtag Thesaurus

Hashtagify is a visual representation of other hashtags related to a term you entered. If you enter the hashtag horror, for instance, Hashtagify will suggest other popular hashtags related to it. This is handy when you want to expand your reach but you’re stuck on new terms. A few minutes on here can free you up.

You can click on a related term and pull up other related hashtags as well.

http://www.hashtagify.com

The Result

At the time of this writing, I’ve been actively working with most of these tools for about four years. In the early days before automation, I was able to get a week’s worth of messages scheduled in about four hours on a Saturday morning.

After automating, I spend maybe an hour a week scheduling messages.

Don’t expect a big bang. It took a very long time for me to cross 900 followers; before that point things were really slow. After that things picked up significantly. I can’t tell you how long it will take; all I can say is it can take time. As you’re getting off the ground be patient, be persistent, and above all don’t give up.

Good luck, I’d love to hear if these tools help you, or if you have some I haven’t mentioned here.

Tim Morgan is a writer who masquerades as a software developer by day. He is the author of the novels WITCH CITY: CARDINAL, the launch of a paranormal detective series; THE TRIP, a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse; and IC9: A CYBERPUNK DETECTIVE STORY. Tim’s very active on Twitter (@tmorgan_2100) and he shares writing advice on his own blog.

You can find out more about Tim and what he’s up to at his web site: http://www.timmorgan.us

Going big with your book launch with John L. Monk

The thing I like most about book launches is they’re one letter away from the word “lunches.” Other than that, there’s nothing at all that’s likable about them. All they do is disappoint … or at least that had been my experience writing four other books and selling them on Amazon.

The pattern is familiar:

  1. Cool idea.
  2. Tell our patient/suffering friends/family all about it while they smile and nod and tell us to keep our day jobs.
  3. We write the book.
  4. We launch it, and…
  5. It doesn’t sell. We keep our day job, and our friends/family pretend to ignore our brooding looks and streams of vile profanity.

All that changed when I launched “Hell’s Children.” Thank goodness for Chris Fox’s book “Launch To Market,” which I’d read late in May before my June launch. After reading it, I was able to incorporate a number of tips and tactics to sell my book well for going on three months.
Here were some of the things I did:

  1. I picked a type of book that people are actually looking for, in a definable genre with lots of readers. In my case: post-apocalyptic. Additionally, it’s a YA book, which people are also looking for. People type “post-apocalyptic” and “young adult” into Amazon’s search bar all the time. When I run my Amazon “Sponsored Product” ads, these keywords get the most hits.
  2. I got a great cover from a top cover designer, and didn’t break the bank doing it. $150 bucks from Yocla Designs. She’s usually backed up 3-4 months, so be prepared to wait. I started writing the book last December, so I had plenty of time.
  3. Title … hmm … ok, to be honest, I’ve never been very happy with my title. After struggling for several months, that’s the best I could come up with. “Hell’s Children.” I wanted something more grand like, “Children Of A Lesser God” or “Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil” or “The Sun Also Rises.” That said, “Hell’s Children” is sort of provocative. People have been clicking it. It’s doing its job.
  4. I asked 50 people from my mailing list if they’d like an Advanced Reading/Review Copy. About fifteen replied that they would. I also asked folks on Facebook in a post on my timeline, which got me about 20 responses (if I remember correctly). By the second day of my launch, I had 14 or so reviews.
  5. Following Chris Fox’s advice, I did a pre-order. Unlike Chris, I did mine over two weeks, and not one. The point was to generate “also-boughts” under other people’s books. This was to assist in building up my organic discoverability. People would look at other people’s books, scroll down, and then see mine there as something people had also-bought. The idea being they’d click my book and buy it.
  6. Still following Chris’s advice, I launched at 99 cents — in Kindle Unlimited. Chris jumped to 2.99 after a week, but I waited two weeks in order to accommodate an author friend who wanted to hit his list for me late in the second week (see below).
  7. Over the years, I’ve cultivated a lot of great friendships with other authors. For the most part, I’ve never asked any of them for anything. We just like each other’s cat videos or share information on cool authory things—podcasts we’ve heard, writing articles, etc. So it was with some trepidation that I actually asked some of them to read my book. Then, wonder of wonders, they all said yes. On top of that, many of them notified their mailing lists about the book, for the most part unasked for. This was some kind of crazy good fortune I’d never expected or even hoped for when I first reached out to all these great people, and I’ll forever be grateful to them for what they did. Having steady sales every day is what Amazon looks for when they decide to make your book “sticky” — keeping it visible to shoppers who type keywords into the search bar.
  8. Special point: one of my author friends — a top-tier sort of fellow — offered to boost a Facebook post to all his fans for me over a two day period. I paid him $50, which he applied in its entirety to the boosted post.These two days resulted in very high sales for me. About 145 on the first day, and around 120 the next day (going from memory — I may be off a little). So if you have any author friends with lots of fans (and your author friend likes your work), perhaps suggest paying him/her to boost your book. It’s a much easier ask than having someone hit their mailing list.
  9. Once folks started telling me they were hitting their lists, I created a spreadsheet and plotted out the first two weeks of my launch. I then took the dates they were going to hit their lists and plotted them into the little boxes under each day. For those days that were empty, I tried to do something. For example, I got a “Bargain Booksy” in one day. In another box, a friend talking about my book on Youtube. In another, Bookbub telling 80 people who followed my author profile (on their site) that I’d just released a book. In another box, I asked a top-tier author buddy if I could move his help to a different day, because he was doubled up with someone.The whole point of all this was to cover each day. I think when I was done, I had every day but one (a Sunday) covered in that spreadsheet.
  10. During the pre-order, I ran Facebook ads, which resulted in about 40 sales. Not that many, sure, and I spent about 5-10 dollars a day on it. But hey, it got me some also-boughts. That’s what I wanted. Next time, I’ll spend more.
  11. After my launch, I killed the Facebook ads after about the 2nd day — because my Amazon “Sponsored Product” ad had been approved!These ads rock. They don’t waste your money, and they move books. Also, they’re a great way to see what people are searching for, clicking on, and then buying. If your stuff isn’t selling and you don’t know why, create an Amazon ad (available to Kindle Unlimited members only, sadly). If you see 50 clicks on your ad and no buys, either your ad doesn’t match the product description, or the product description needs work. If you change one or the other and you suddenly start getting purchases, then you learned something very valuable.Note: be careful of the other ads — the “Product Display” ads. They’re more expensive, and they use up your money quicker. That said, they also sell books more quickly. They have their place, but they’re pricy. I like the idea of using them to fill holes in a launch, and that’s about it. I still have to experiment with them.

The Results:

After doing all this, for the first time in my author career (3 years and 5 books), I was able to stay in the top 1000 for the first month and a half, and I’ve stayed between 3000-4000 at the lowest as of the time of this article. It’s been great. The money came in at a very fortunate time. About a week after my launch, my wife was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus and needed a hysterectomy. We were caught flat-footed. The money really saved us, because the insurance didn’t cover it all. More good news: my wife is now totally cured. The doctor thinks he got it all. We’ll be going back every three months for the next two years to ensure that’s the case.

I hope your next launch is as good or better than mine. If you’re curious about writing to market, pick up Chris’s other book “Write To Market.” I hadn’t read it when I decided to switch genres to post-apocalyptic, but I wish I had. It’s filled with great advice on finding and locating genres that are underserved—that have lots of readers and not a lot of writers. Hopefully you actually like these genres. I love reading post-apocalyptic books, so it was an easy and pleasant experience writing one. But you won’t be finding any John L. Monk romance books any time soon. At least none you’d like to read!

The benefits of going wide as an author – Kevin Tumlinson, Draft2Digital

There are times when you might forget that there’s a world beyond Amazon.

It’s easy to do. The KDP Select Global Fund makes being exclusive to Amazon pretty attractive, after all. It eases some of the burden on an author’s shoulders—you can earn a little bit just for the pages that are read, so that even if a reader doesn’t like the book, you still get something in the transaction. And there are other perks, as well—some authors find their core audience in the Kindle Unlimited ecosystem.

But most authors (and believe me, I’ve talked to a lot of authors) didn’t get into this business thinking, “Gee, I can’t wait to only be read by people who own a Kindle!” Most saw themselves standing behind a podium, sharing the stage with the likes of Stephen King or Lee Child or John Grisham. Most saw themselves hitting the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists.

You don’t get to that level on one platform. Reaching that level of success means increasing your reach, making the effort to reach out on a global scale.

There are a number of benefits to ‘going wide’— branching out from Amazon.

 EMERGING MARKETS

Here’s an interesting tidbit: Africa largely skipped the desktop revolution.

While in the United States people were debating the merits of Mac versus PC, and computer manufacturing saw an explosion and a rapid evolution from desktop to laptop to mobile platforms, an enormous population in Africa had never even heard of computers. They had no notion of desktop publishing. No clue about the internet.

And then someone introduced the smartphone into the ecosystem.

Just like that, a revolution emerged. People who had limited access to water could now research how to drill for fresh groundwater and build windmills from bicycle parts, to power pumps and irrigation systems. And those who had no access to books suddenly had a virtual Library of Alexandria right in the palm of their hands.

Think about that.

From zero to a million, with the swipe of a finger, and suddenly a new and voracious appetite for knowledge springs up.

Amazon doesn’t serve that particular market. There’s no real profit to draw them there, just yet. African villagers don’t tend to have much (or any) money, after all. But as they gain access to the internet, they also gain access to the free resources online that allow them to build businesses of their own, to crowd source startup funds using Patreon and Kickstarter campaigns, and to participate in a global economy, using their innate industriousness and their wealth of time to get up to speed quickly.

Annnnnd boom. A brand new market, eager for knowledge, for stories, for anything that can help them change and improve their lives, emerges on the world stage.

It would be insane to not want to reach out and tap into that live-wire current, with intellectual property that has virtually no overhead, but can bring in tiny trickles that lead to big streams.

In other words, charge 99 cents for your book, and sell it to a few hundred million people, and you’re going to do alright.

DIVERSIFICATION MAKES YOU BULLET PROOF

Business is a funny thing. Even the very best business can fall to pieces without much warning.

My wife and I are fans of British television, and we recently watched the series finale of “Mr. Selfridge.” If you’re not familiar with the story, the gist is that the real-world, American-born Mr. Selfridge was the creator of one of the most successful department stores in all of the UK. Despite huge opposition, Selfridge built his store to be a new model for the industry—he literally redefined certain aspects of the business, including such innovations as moving the perfume counter out onto the main floor of the store, and encouraging shoppers to browse rather than forcing them to either buy or get out.

Selfridge had a few personal problems that eventually led to his being ousted from his own business—a move that took him from industry leader to sideline spectator in a single afternoon. He never saw it coming. Neither he nor his most loyal employees ever even considered it.

Selfridge, who was a paragon of business savvy for most of his career, saw his empire wrested from him with the dashing of a signature, and he never recovered.

The interesting thing: Selfridge’s was a diversified storefront. It had tons of merchandise in a variety of categories. But Selfridge himself had all of his eggs in the department store basket (for the most part—there are nuanced exceptions). And that was what led to him being vulnerable, to losing his authority over his own business, and to be ousted while someone else got to carry on with his name and his life’s work.

So let’s look at Amazon for a moment:

Authors who are exclusive to Amazon are beholden to its rules. And they have absolutely zero control over those rules—Amazon can choose to change its terms of service (TOS) at any moment, without warning and without recourse on the part of the authors. It’s happened before.

Recently, Amazon decided to crack down on an oft-ignored rule in the TOS, which prohibited the use of affiliate links in email. For quite some time, Amazon had simply turned its gaze from violators of this rule, and in that time several small businesses emerged, helping readers discover new authors and new books. These companies built their revenue streams based on Amazon’s affiliate links, and they did rather well.

And then, without warning, Amazon decided to start enforcing the rule. And just like that, dozens of small businesses were no longer in business. They’re primary source of revenue dried up in an afternoon.

Amazon had allowed the infractions to keep building up, because these services were funneling customers their way. But the moment it was no longer strategically advantageous to allow it, Amazon put a cork in it.

And here’s the lesson we have to learn:

Amazon will do what’s in the best interest of Amazon, always.

For a brief time, that may line up with what’s best for you as an author, as well. Certainly, having access to the KDP Global Fund is a perk for authors. Many authors have businesses that rely on that income, even up to 100%. But the program itself is a loss leader—meaning that Amazon really doesn’t make any money directly from eBook sales. They use that business to keep funneling customers into their more profitable revenue silos. Eventually, however, that will stop.

I’m not Nostradamus. I’m not gazing into a crystal ball or reading tea leaves or consulting the spirits. I’m looking at Amazon’s history when it comes to businesses like this one, and I’m considering the fact that at a certain level there will, by necessity, be an equilibrium, and the bubble will burst. Overnight, those authors relying solely on Amazon will lose their primary revenue stream, and they’ll start right back at zero.

Exclusivity with Amazon is a nice revenue booster. No question. But while you’re building that business, you’re not building the backup you’re going to need. Authors who have been in the Amazon ecosystem for years have spent zero time building up a presence and a platform outside of that ecosystem. So when it crashes, it’s game over.

The smarter play is to think in terms of the long game.

If you leave KDP Select, you will reduce the level of income you’re getting, no doubt. It’s going to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get back to that level in the ‘outside world.’ But what you’ll build, by going wide, will be much more stable, much tougher, and much less prone to collapse than relying on Amazon alone.

The smarter business decision is to go wide.

YOU CAN EARN MORE MONEY

There, I said it.

Being in the Kindle Unlimited library has a huge perk: More money, faster.

I’ve been there. I’ve seen my revenue quadruple in a month, because I pulled titles from other storefronts and went exclusive. But I also saw a lot of my readers—subscribers on my mailing list who were loyal and trusted me to provide great stories—write to tell me that they were incredibly frustrated that all of my new books were only on Amazon, which meant they couldn’t read them.

Bad press. Bad reputation. It made me suddenly very small.

Like a lot of authors, I got into this business to go big. I wanted name recognition. I wanted invitations to speak at conventions and banquets and award ceremonies. And now, as a KDP Select author, I was doing alright financially, but not meeting any of my other life goals.

I was still a nobody on the global scene.

I’m not exactly Lee Child now, but I can say that my platform is a bit more diverse, and my reach is a bit longer. I have readers in hundreds of different countries now, including several that Amazon hasn’t yet touched. And as my work trickles and crawls and spreads, the cumulative effect starts to make a big difference in my income.

Ultimately, there’s a bit of a ceiling on the number of readers you can reach, in a given amount of time, on Amazon’s platform. And that’s because, unlike out in the ‘wild,’ when you’re locked into one ecosystem you inevitably face competition.

I tell authors every day that there’s no such thing as competition in the publishing industry. If someone picks up the latest book by James Rollins, they aren’t choosing his book instead of mine. They’re choosing his book for now. I still have a shot at capturing that reader, who may enjoy reading both Rollins and Tumlinson.

There’s no competition, because reading books isn’t a zero sum game. If a reader chooses one book, it doesn’t destroy all the other books, so that they are never an option.

If there’s competition for anything in publishing, it’s competition for attention. And on that playing field, ‘clever and creative’ can put you on equal ground with ‘spends the most money.’

So on the whole, there’s no real competition in the publishing industry in general. But in any given specific ecosystem, competition is a natural byproduct of exclusivity.

In biology, all life forms in a closed system compete for resources. That’s the nature of a closed system. It’s inevitable that I will compete against another author for placement, for attention, for the limited time and limited money that a reader has to spend. And where I could be on more or less equal footing out in the ‘wild,’ due mostly to the diversity of readers, when I’m in an aquarium I’m limited to only what Amazon is willing to feed me.

Give me wide open spaces.

A wider pool of potential readers means far more opportunities to capture interest. There are fewer limitations, and more avenues for revenue.

To put it bluntly: The world outside Amazon is much, much bigger than the world inside Amazon.

By it’s very nature, going wide offers more revenue potential than exclusivity—given time.

That’s the thing that really sticks a lot of authors. There’s simply no denying that the way to fast income is through Amazon. You’re marketing efforts will gain much bigger returns in a shorter timeframe. That’s really attractive.

The only promise that can be made, however, is that given enough time your global distribution can outpace that exclusivity. If you can be patient, and use that time to build your platform (including your mailing list, your ad campaigns, and any other resources that let you talk to your audience), you’ll eventually net returns that make it all worthwhile.

PRO TIP: Use the time to write and publish as many books as possible. Even without any other marketing, having a huge library of books available will help you increase your income—first incrementally, and then exponentially.

The more you know.

YOU CAN STILL BE EXCLUSIVE

For those of us who built our revenue streams on the back of Amazon, it looks kind of bleak when we consider moving. But there’s a way to do this strategically that will help ease the pain while still protecting you as you grow your platform.

Let’s break it down into easy steps:

  • Determine your 80/20—You may be familiar with this phrase, but just in case, what you want to figure out is what 20% of your books is bringing in 80% of your revenue. If you don’t happen to have multiple books, the answer is “my book.” And it’s more of a 100/100 rule at that point. But that’s ok … this plan is still going to work for you, with slight modification.
  • Move the other 80%—You know what makes you the most money, so let’s keep that 20% of your work right where it is. Keep the marketing going, and keep the revenue coming. Take your less productive books out of exclusivity, though, and move them into a broad solution. Now you have a body of work out there for people to discover, at least, and that’s a start.
  • Write more books—This is just the Prime Directive for authors, frankly. Write more books. Then write more. And finally, write more books. But now, as you publish, put those books into your broad solution, again and again. And if you only had one book at the beginning of this, all you’re really doing is skipping the second step. More books means more revenue opportunities, so keep it coming.
  • Promote your new platform—Place Facebook ads, share Universal Book Links (UBLs) on social media, go on podcasts, do guest blog posts—do all the things you can think to do to tell the world your work exists, and encourage everyone to go read it. The best marketing advice you’ll ever get is “go to where your customer lives,” which means “focus all your effort on reaching your customer/reader where they spend the most time.” Do that. Over and over.
  • As wide revenue increases, move the rest of your books—Do it one at a time. As you replace the monthly income of one book, move it to wide distribution. And keep doing that until all of your books are wide.
  • Use exclusivity as part of a strategy, not as your business model—You can launch a book as exclusive to Amazon, and utilize their promotional tools. You can benefit from page reads, and garner tons of reviews. But use that exclusivity like a surgical instrument. Just like any good marketing campaign or product development strategy, you should plan for obsolescence. Use exclusivity as a tool for making more money faster, and then get your book out of that small pond and into the greater ocean as soon as you can.

And that’s it. That’s how you use Amazon exclusivity to your advantage, while continuing to build a wider, more stable, global platform for your work.

It won’t be as easy, I’ll admit. It will feel frustrating, as you see other authors making a lot more money, a lot faster. But in the end, you’re trading in short term gain for long term success, and that has always been a winning strategy for any business.

DRAFT2DIGITAL CAN MAKE THIS EASIER

I’ve specifically avoided mentioned Draft2Digitial to this point, because all the advice above is completely unbiased, and unaffected by this little ‘pitch’ at the end. You can stop reading right up to this header, and you’ll have gotten some world-class advice for phenomenal author success.

Go ahead … go … it’s ok. I still love you.

But if you want make this whole thing a lot easier, then stick around for a second.

Draft2Digital helps you go wide by making it ridiculously easy. Upload your manuscript and your cover file, enter a bit of information, and hit ‘publish.’ And the world belongs to you.

When I was invited to become the Director of Marketing for D2D, I already knew all of this about the company. They have set up this business specifically to help authors to overcome some of the biggest, gnarliest pain points around. And they do a phenomenal job of it. I was a fanboy for years before I became part of the team.

Recently we introduced Universal Book Links, or UBLs. These are available free of charge at books2read.com, and they give you some nice perks, including:

  • The ability to create a unique, customized URL that leads readers to every online storefront that carries your book. One link for you, every store online for them.
  • The ability to see data about how well your links perform, including the stores that more of your readers prefer.
  • The ability to instantly update your existing links with brand new storefronts, so that your links never expire. Use them on everything from email campaigns to printed materials, without worrying that they’ll one day stop working.

There are more benefits, and more uses, but you can already see how handy these things are.

And they are FREE. Always. Even when you register for an account, they’re free. Just like that.

So check out Draft2Digital for the ability to instantly go wide with your books, and check out Books2Read to start creating Universal Book Links (or UBLS as we call them) for promoting your work and making yourself more discoverable. These are some of the best decisions you’ll ever make for your author business.

But regardless of whatever else you do, start making plans to go wide and exist the exclusivity of the KDP ecosystem. Trade short-term, limited success for long-term, unlimited growth, and you’ll find that you’re in a better place than you could ever have imagined. And short of a global boycott on eBooks, you’ll  never have to worry about waking up to the nightmare of your business being shut down by the whims of someone else.

Kevin TumlinsonKevin Tumlinson is a self-published author with more than 30 novels, novellas, and non-fiction books in his catalog. He is also the Director of Marketing for Draft2Digital—a company absolutely bent on author success. Find out more about Kevin and his work, plus get three of his best books for FREE when you register at KevinTumlinson.com, and get a start on going wide with your own work at Draft2Digital.com.

How to get book reviews: Book Review 22

It’s a conundrum that’s frustrated authors since books were first sold on the Internet: you can’t sell books without reviews and you can’t get reviews without selling books. The question of how to get book reviews is more vexing than the old chicken and egg scenario. What are we supposed to do then?

If you’re like me, you’ve scraped together a handful of reviews through a variety of tactics: dancing naked beneath the quarter moon in March, begging your mailing list and offering up a second book free in exchange for a review of another. There’s only one catch with the aforementioned moves (aside from the moon dance, that is): you’ve got to have an audience already in place to gain a lot of traction. Now we’re back where we started — how am I supposed to get an audience if no one will read my books because they don’t have any reviews? To be or not to be? That’s not the question for authors. We want to know  how to get book reviews. In just a second I’ll tell you the solution I found.

There’s one or two other things you may have tried, such as scouring the web for book reviewers that have reviewed books similar to yours. (Check out another great post we did about this: Go Pitch Yourself: A case for indie author public relations). Maybe you hired a “publicist” or “Book PR company” to do this for you. Either way, an email was sent about your book and now you’re in a line of to-be-read titles longer than Disneyland during spring break. Worse still, you probably spent countless hours combing through blogs, gathering email addresses and filling out contact forms for bloggers (or paid a so-called publicist or maybe an author assistant to handle this chore). This is precious time spent away from WRITING, which is what you’d rather be doing anyway.

Trust me, I’ve been in this boat — long enough they’re starting to call me the captain.

As an author living in this amazing era of publishing, it astounded me that there wasn’t a better solution out there. As a public relations professional by day, it made me sick to my stomach that “publicists” were charging authors an arm and a leg to write a worthless press release and blast it out to bloggers. (Here’s a little secret: bloggers could care less about press releases.)

On the flip side, I saw how many bloggers were being flooded with books. Not just great books or even good books, either. I started doing my homework and found out bloggers were getting review requests in droves. Many of the books inquiring authors wanted them to review were one of the following:

  • NOT in the genre the reviewer read
  • NOT professionally edited or even proofread
  • NOT finished

In short, bloggers everywhere are pulling their hair out because their inboxes are flooded with crappy books they don’t want to read. This makes it really hard for YOUR book to stand a chance.

Until now, that is.

Book Review 22 Logo FINAL

The results of my research led me to combine my two passions and careers (publishing and public relations) into a new company called Book Review 22. Book Review 22 makes the book review process awesome — for both authors and reviewers. It’s how you get book reviews made simple.

Instead of wasting HOURS of time researching, digging through search results for book blogs, authors fill out a short form with us and we get their books into the hands of reviewers who actually give a rat’s rear end  about reading and reviewing their book. We pitch your book for you to our extensive database of book reviewers and bloggers, leaving you time to do important stuff, like write (you can continue the moon dance if you REALLY want to, I guess). Check out how here.

On the flip side, we work with reviewers to condense all those emails they’re getting into one simple list every few weeks. We help weed out the garbage and make it easy for them to 1. Scan the book cover and synopsis (if a book wasn’t ready to be published, you can often tell from these two things) 2. By partnering with Bookfunnel, we’ve also made it a breeze to download a copy of the book. Reviewers only get pitched for books they actually want to read. What a novel concept! Here’s how it works.

I would have KILLED for a service like this when I started publishing two years ago. After a year of development I’m still just as excited about it: a simple way for authors and reviewers to work together in a win-win relationship.

We’re off the ground and pitching books right now. In the coming months, we’ve got a whole slate of ideas to make this service even better for authors and reviewers. For now, why don’t you give us a test run? Let Book Review 22 pitch your book and you can get back to the stuff that you really care about: writing books.

Author Origins: Justin Sloan

Justin SloanJustin Sloan is a video game writer, novelist, and screenwriter. He studied writing at the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing program and at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s Professional Program in Screenwriting. He has published such novels as Back by Sunrise and Teddy Bears in Monsterland, and non-fiction such as Creative Writing Career: Becoming a Writer of Movies, Video Games, and Books and Military Veterans in Creative Careers. Additionally, he has published short fiction and poetry.

Justin was in the Marines for five years and has lived in Japan, Korea, and Italy. He currently lives with his amazing wife and children in the Bay Area, where he writes and enjoys life. Learn more at www.JustinMSloan.com.

Introduction: Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

On a snowy day in Washington, D.C., when I was in pain from a military related issue and not able to do anything aside from sit at my window, I decided to try to write a novel. While I thought I would take my time and try to finish over the next 50 years, I had it done in a much shorter time and soon learned that I was obsessed with writing. From there I started doing everything I could to learn the craft, from partnering with writer friends to write books and screenplays together, to taking classes and eventually enrolling in the Johns Hopkins MA in writing program and then the University of California, Los Angeles screenwriting program.

Somehow along the way I landed an amazing job at Telltale Games, where I get to write video games all day, and work on my novels and screenplays at night (if I can get my children to bed at a reasonable hour). It is a dream come true!

What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job. What’s still the hardest thing to balance with everyday life?

For me the hardest thing about having a regular day job before was knowing that I couldn’t spend that time writing or improving my craft. It was eating me up inside! I would wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 am and write, and sometimes write on my lunch breaks. I had to feed the creative beast within. However, I’ll say the good thing about having a non-writing job was that all day long my creative juices would be struggling to emerge, so by the time I got home every day the writing just flowed. Now that I have a writing job during the day, there are certainly days when I come home and my brain has shut off its creative side and just wants to spend time.

The other big hurdle to writing now is that I have two children, and one is an infant. But of course my family takes priority, and they definitely make me a better writer. There are so many scenarios in life that you simply cannot truly understand until you have children. For example, there’s a scene in the movie The Fault in Our Stars where the dad picks up his teenage daughter to carry her to the car and then hospital – this may touch all of us, but when you have a daughter and imagine having to do that? Oh man, the emotions move in crazy ways.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

The main change for me (aside from what I’ve already covered) is that now that I’ve published, I spend a lot of time marketing – whether this is author interviews, podcasts, blogs about what I have going on, etc., and that definitely eats into my writing time. That said, we have to find our own healthy balance in this regard, and I’ve reached a point where I have a certain number of books out there and a couple more on the way, so I feel okay with putting in a bit more time on the marketing side, for now.

If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?

When I first published, I decided to self-publish because of the advice I was hearing from such places as the San Francisco Writers Conference or the Self Publishing Podcast, and the horror stories I was hearing from other authors about bad experiences they were having with small presses. Not all small presses are bad, of course, and I am going with one for my upcoming literary novel, but you have to do your homework.

I gained traction with some of the KDP promos and whatnot, to the point where my books were at number one and three in their categories, but I have since moved away from those types of marketing because I feel it cheapens your writing, in a way. Now it has been almost a year since I first published, and I just started seeing organic traction. My book Creative Writing Career has been number one in its Amazon bestseller category for two or three weeks now, and in the top ranks for a month or so before that, which I am pretty happy with. This was after having published two novels, two non-fiction books, a fantasy serial, some short stories, and excerpts from the non-fiction books. So the lesson learned is that (a) it takes time, and (b) having more titles helps discoverability.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

My book Back by Sunrise is a fun pre-teen adventure about a girl whose dad gets deployed overseas with the Army and doesn’t come back, and how the girl deals with that grief through a magical necklace that turns her into a bird one night. Many people may see the book and just think it’s a cute story, but it came from a personal place – I served in the Marines and watched people be deployed, and watched my friend’s wives worry about what would happen if they never did come back. Thankfully, that never happened to my friends, but it does to people all over the world. Also, around this time I had a cousin commit suicide, and it was quite devastating. While I had written the screenplay before this happened, I couldn’t let the story sit on the sidelines any longer – my cousin’s death was what pushed me to adapt the screenplay into a novel and get it out into the world.

One of my readers contacted me and said that she used to be a hospice worker and that she thought this would be great for children dealing with grief. I hadn’t even thought about it, but of course she was right. By the time this interview goes live, I will have gone to a summer camp hosted by the Hospice by the Bay, called Camp Erin, where I’m doing a book signing (and the children and teens there get the book free). I’m so thrilled to be a part of this, and hope that I can continue to help others through tough times.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Keep an open mind. When I first started writing, I had no idea it would lead to writing for video games, let alone on some of my favorite IPs (Game of Thrones and Walking Dead). If all you want to do is write novels, it’s much more of a gamble, and perfectly fine if you are okay with your writing being more of a hobby until it one day hopefully takes off. Regardless, continue to focus on your craft, but also keep getting yourself out there so you can build a community of people willing to help each other (and potentially, fans).

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?

I love sharing my story, but even more than my own I love sharing the awe-inspiring stories of those around me. This is why I put together my recent book, Military Veterans in Creative Careers. In addition to my advice (applicable to everyone, not just veterans) on making it as writers, actors, etc., I have interviewed a number of military veterans about their experience leveraging their past experience to land themselves in the careers of their dreams. If you only want to read my fiction, that is great, but consider checking out this book as well, if nothing else to pick up and find inspiration from time to time or to share with someone you know who could benefit from it. Every time I look back through one of the stories shared in my book, I can’t help but think how incredible the journey is to follow our dreams, and I wish I had something like this book when I was starting out to point me on the right path. Also, when this interview goes live, the audiobook should be out (Audible, iTunes, and Amazon), and the narrator has done an amazing job. His name is Scott Levy, and he has acted in movies, a Linkin Park video, and video games such as Battlefield: Hardline. If have any questions or have your own cool story to share, hit me up!

3 reasons you suck at selling ebooks outside of Amazon

Note: Some of the information from the post was inspired by Self Publishing Podcast Episodes 158 and 159. There’s also been lots of great information about this topic on The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast and The Creative Penn, so check them out as well!

With its recent Kindle Unlimited announcement, Amazon is attempting to sweeten the pot once more, hoping to entice indie authors into throw all of their chips in the Kindle basket. In my mind, the reason is simple: more and more authors are realizing that going all in with the Amazon machine might not be best for their long term careers. Here at the Everyday Author, we’re all about the long-term perspective, but the problem is many authors (including myself) are struggling as they attempt to diversify the distribution of their catalogs.
While keeping in mind that you can’t build a platform overnight, here are a few simple tips that may be preventing you from growing your readership with other vendors such as Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, etc.

1. People can’t find buy links to other booksellers on your website

This might sound like a no-brainer, but out of the interviews listed above, this was the number one thing that everyone mentioned. If you want people to know you’re on other platforms, people need to be able to SEE you’re on other platforms. Including buy buttons to other platforms not only shows your readers that they can find you in a variety of places, but it lets the booksellers themselves know that they’re not some dirty little secret you’re trying to hide in the closet. One WordPress plugin I use for this is called MyBookTable. You can learn more and grab the free version (what I use) here.

2. You don’t promote other online retailers

This one is similar to tip #1, but just as important. How will people know where your books are available if you never talk about it? When you send out an email or a social media post (don’t forget to keep this in moderation) hawking your book, include links to other stores besides Amazon. Also, a small hat tip along these lines for Twitter: use hashtags specifics for the platform you’re linking to (#nook, #kobo and so forth).
Another thing you might want to consider are platform-specific promotions. If possible, offer special discounts or other deals just for your Nook and Kobo readers. You might also want to consider doing an early release on a specific platform. Although it might take some extra time to produce, you could also offer exclusive bonus material (short stories or character sketches, for example) only available when purchasing your book on certain platforms.

3. Your back matter is a dead end.

When you distribute your book through a handful of different online bookstores, it can be a pain to change the backmatter in each ebook file to match the platform you’ll be on. Even so, you still need to do it for a number of reasons — the most important being readers who liked your book know where they can go to leave you a review.
Positive reviews are vital if you want to sell more books and they don’t come easy when you’re working on building up a readership on a new platform. (The creative minds at Everyday Author and Undaunted Publishing are working on a solution to this, but that’s a conversation for another day). You need to make it as easy (and as tantalizing) as possible for readers to leave reviews. One tactic I’ve adopted for this is to create a landing page on my website for all of my call to action material in the back of my book. Sure I’ve added an extra step in the process, but it saves me from creating separate back matter for each platform and allows me to track the number of people who actually make it to that page via a shortlink. Best of all, readers who make it there are one step closer to signing up for my newsletter, if they haven’t yet. I do these for each book I publish. You can check out an example here.

To close

Starting up a following on a new platform can be rough. Keep the long game in mind and be patient. If you want attention outside of Amazon, you need to reciprocate it. And remember, a bigger catalog is always easier to find, so keep on writing!

What are some of the things you’ve done to grow your readership on other ebook platforms other than Amazon? Have any of the above tips been helpful to you in the past? Let me know in the comments!

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.

Lessons learned from my first paid ebook promotion

In an effort to be more open with all you Everyday Authors, I’ve decided to write more posts detailing my personal experiences as an author. In this instance, I’m going to talk about a recent free campaign I promoted through a couple of services. Although my numbers aren’t anything to boast about (at least not yet, fingers crossed) I’m hoping to save the rest of you a little trial and error. On the flip-side, if you have any experiences you’d like to share about what worked (or didn’t work) while marketing your books, I’d love to have you write a guest post for EA.

This probably won’t be the most analytical breakdown of ebook marketing you’ll find, but I think it’s still a good overview, especially if you’ve been thinking about doing some ebook promotion yourself.

To end my six month KDP Select run for Out of Exile, the first novel in my Teutevar Saga series, I opted to go with the five days of free. Out of Exile has been in KDP Select since last September and now that I have a few more books in the series out, I wanted to end my exclusivity and branch back out to the other platforms (but that’s another discussion). During my first three months of KDP Select, I ran a free day on Cyber Monday, one on Dec. 17 and then the remaining three days Dec. 21-23.

For Cyber Monday, I only spread through word via a few tweets from my author account. The 17th was a guest post/cross-promotion with another author and for the 21-23, I put mentions out on my social media platforms the first and last day and also let my mailing list (around 20 subscribers) know about it. The end result was 535 free downloads.

On my second go around, I wanted to do all five free days together because I’d heard you get more traction that way, so I scheduled them for March 19-23. I also reached out to two promotion services: Ebook Booster$40)( and BKnights($20). BKnights is on Fiverr, but I not only paid for the five dollar promo for their website, but also got Facebook listings and in their email blast as well — I figured what the heck, it was only five more apiece for each. Ebook Booster, if you haven’t heard, charges you $40 dollars and then blasts you free book offer out to a bunch of other ebook promo sites for you. Since this way my first time attempting a promotion and I’d rather be writing than researching ebook promo sites, they seemed liked a good choice.

This is where the process gets a little murky. Without using affiliate links or even custom links when I submitted, I have no way of knowing where my downloads came from. Looking at Ebook Booster alone, I’m pretty certain I made it into at least seven sites (based on the email responses I got back from them) but can’t say for sure. My book was also low on reviews (8, with a 4-star average) so I know this decreased the number of sites I got into.

The second problem was this: I was lazy so I listed my book’s free days as the 19-23. This meant, as you can see in the graph below, that the majority of the promos all ran on the 19th (and I’m assuming a couple on the 20th) rather than being evenly spaced throughout the free period. Had I submitted Ebook Booster and BKnights for different days, I could have had a better idea of how each service performed for me.

KDP_run_graph

Not only was I unable to measure each service’s effectiveness by itself, but by front-loading the promotions to the first day, my ranking was much more short-lived (if you didn’t know, Amazon’s algorithms shoot you down as fast as you go up, so it’s better to spread downloads/purchases out if you can). Even so, I still hit #2 in Western Sci-Fi and cracked the top ten in New Adult within the first few hours on the 19th.

Something strange happened next. I wasn’t ranking at all in Historical Fantasy, but by the morning of the 20th, I’d managed to crack into the top ten of the category. For some reason, however, my ranking in New Adult completely vanished, like Amazon took it out. I have no clue why/how this happened because Out of Exile is included in the New Adult category, but there you have it. I never received a ranking for New Adult the rest of the free run, despite it being a relatively small category.

As you can tell from the graph, sales took a drastic drop after the 20th and I have to believe that the resulting downloads that day were a result of my placement in the free charts. I sent out one tweet/Google Plus post/Facebook post on opening day and one again on closing, in addition to notifying my email list on the last day (to create a sense of urgency). At my peak, I was at #1 in Western Sci-Fi and #2 in Historical Fantasy with an overall ranking of #1129 in the Kindle for free books (really great for me!). Although there was a steep drop-off for the last three days of the giveaway, I attribute the smaller, less competitive categories Out of Exile is under for sustaining 40+ downloads/day.

Here’s the funny part. My total number of downloads after using Ebook Booster and BKnights’ ebook promotion services? 578. Yep, I only moved 43 more books and it cost me $60 to do so.

Before I make it seem like I got a raw deal and that these services are a waste of money, consider this: not did my book only have 8 reviews, but I also believe I saturated the Western Sci-Fi category with my first round of promotions in December. This meant that I was competing almost exclusively in the much bigger Historical Fantasy category since for some reason, I wasn’t allowed to play in New Adult. When you add it up, it cost me a little over 10 cents for each download I received. Obviously many of those won’t translate to reads, reviews or email sign ups, but I’ll give the first book in a series away for 10 cents any day of the week.

So what did I learn?

  • If you’re trying to track effectiveness of a marketing tactic, don’t run multiple promos at the same time.
  • It’s better to line your ducks up in a row so that you have sustained, even downloads rather than blasting everything on the first day.
  • I was reaffirmed of the importance of selecting categories you can compete/chart in.
  • Reviews matter! I need to work harder on building up a collection of positive reviews before I try any more promotions.

Going forward, I’ll probably hold off on Ebook Booster, at least until I have a more competitive title with a large numbers of reviews. For $5, though, you can’t beat BKnights and I’m excited to see my numbers when I run something with just them.

What ebook promotion services have you used? Were they successful or a bust? Tell me in the comments!

wpid-imag0065_1-e1410915663557-960x913Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.

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