The Everyday Author

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Category: Marketing (page 2 of 2)

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.

Lessons on creative branding from Eric Church

At one point or another in every creative’s career, he or she learns the business/marketing side of things is just as important as the act of producing.  When you get down to it, all creatives — whether they’re painters, poets, authors or musicians — want the same thing: to get people to notice their work and turn those people into fans. I’ve followed Eric Church for some years, but it wasn’t until the release of his latest album and seeing him live for the first time that I truly appreciated the genius behind his creative branding.

Part of this post was inspired by an interview Eric did with Spin last year. It’s a great read and one I recommend you read in its entirety here.

The show goes on.

A week ago, after sitting through a really terrible opening act, Church finally came onstage, alone, with an acoustic guitar. He played the opening song and then stopped to say this:

“If you’ve seen our show so far on this tour, you’re probably wondering what the hell is going on right now. Well, so am I. Here’s the deal: yesterday we had the stomach flu strike our band, our crew, everyone. We had no one to hang video, lights, nothing. But I’m still here. I’m still standing. We’ve talked about how every show on the Outsiders Tour is different. Well tonight, will be the most different one. Shit there’s nobody left, its just me. I’m going to give you everything I got. We have a couple band guys that feel okay to get up and down here. Here’s the deal — on Memorial Day we’re going to come back and play the full show. I’m not going anywhere, I’m here to play.”

Takeaways:

  1. Eric Church is a true creative professional. He knows that singing (insert writing, painting, whatever here) is his job. It’s what he loves, but it’s also what pays the bills. There are going to be times when problems come up and everything is an uphill battle. To the true professional, however, the show always goes on. No matter what.
  2. I was a big fan of Eric Church when I showed up at the concert last Saturday night. But because of what happened above, I’m not just a fan anymore, I’m a full-blown fanatic (no, they aren’t the same thing). Even if he hadn’t sounded awesome acoustically (which he did) and even though it will cost him to play the same venue again for free, what Church gained in fan loyalty that night more than makes up for it. After the concert, I told everyone I knew in person and on social media what happened. In fact, it inspired this post! I know hundreds of other people felt the same and Eric Church’s tribe grew as a result. Go the extra mile for your fans and they’ll do the same for you.

No matter how much success you have, create the art you love.

The Outsiders, Eric Church’s latest album, deviated quite a bit from what he’d done before. Probably a full half of the albym couldn’t even be considered country music. But, as Church explained in a pre-release interview with Spin: “We were way left of center (with the previous album, Chief), and all the sudden, center moved left. When that happened, yeah, that freaked me out. I don’t like being there. I never, ever, ever want to be in the middle. I never want to be the standard.”

Although The Outsiders still has mainstream hits, songs like That’s Damn Rock and Roll, Devil, Devil (a personal favorite of mine and one I HIGHLY recommend all creatives listen to) and the title track, The Outsiders were way out in left field — just like Church wanted. A lot of people said the album had too much rock and in the same Spin interview Church admitted that some people would hate it. But he also promised some would love it.

Takeaway:

Trim your tribe. It’s okay to weed out people who only feel so-so about your art. The ones you want are the people who go out and tell everyone about your latest project and devour everything you produce.

Learn how to market all of your creative funnels.

Before he got into music, Church graduated from Appalachian State with a degree in Marketing and he is the first to admit the importance of branding to his success. Part of that branding is his deep and unique collection of songs. Many musicians come out at concerts and play nothing but hits and singles. Sure, they’ll throw in a duet or an acoustic version sometimes, but for the most part, it’s all songs people know from the radio.

I’ve been impressed that Church’s set lists for The Outsiders tour include at least three or four songs that weren’t singles or hits — songs going all the way back to his first two albums. Not only is it refreshing to hear an artist play something that isn’t on the radio twenty times a day, it also exposes causal fans to Church’s unique style. It gives them another entry point to those songs and albums they might not know about. In a time where music sales (for those people who still buy music) is based around single songs, this tactic is a clever way to increase exposure (and, in turn, purchases) of those lesser-known songs and albums Not only will some people hear songs they weren’t aware of before, they’ll also associate that song with their concert experience. When that happens, what you’re selling is a memory, an emotional experience — something much more powerful than a casual listen of Spotify or Pandora.

Takeaway:

Create multiple ways for people to enter your creative funnels — to sample and be converted to fans and buyers. This is made easier by lowering purchase barriers with emotional ties.

The best marketers watch those around them and are constantly looking for ways to innovate their brand.  Don’t limit your studying to just indie authors. There are tons of successful artists out there to learn from.

 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.

How to market your book in 15 minutes

Now that the “Wild West” era of ebooks sales is over, it’s more important than ever for authors to learn how to market their books. But with so many options out there to spread the word about your books, it can feel like an overwhelming task. For Everyday authors, this is multiplied by the fact that we have a very limited amount of time to devote to our writing career. Each day, we’ve got to determine what will be most beneficial for us to do with the few available author hours we carve out. Writing should always take precedence, of course, but there comes a point when, to take a step forward in this business, you’ve got to learn how to market your books. Starting out, that might mean setting a timer to stay within limits. Here’s a few ideas to keep you on a time (and money) budget:

Do something for your mailing list

I know this is pretty broad, but it really depends on where you’re at with your list. If you haven’t created one yet, I’d say that’s your main marketing priority. Although it’s easy to get sucked in and spend hours developing templates and adding sign up forms to your website, don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole. It seems everyone these days is talking about author email marketing (and rightly so) but don’t let that panic you. In the limited time you have, make a list of short, achievable action items to start or continue developing your list.

  • Join a service (many offer free accounts) if you don’t have a list yet.
  • Working on the copy for your newsletter landing page.
  • Make sure a CTA (call to action) for joining your newsletter is in the back (and probably the front) of your books.
  • Making sure your website is a funnel for your newsletter. Every blog post you write should have a sign up at the bottom.
  • Draft a short newsletter to your subscribers ahead of time (it’s always nice to have things like this in the bank).

Once you’ve got a healthy list developed, your marketing will be a WHOLE lot easier. Not saying you can just sit back and relax, but you’ll have more success in the long run if you can go straight to your most dedicated fans with new releases. For advice on this, I recommend reading Supercharge Your Kindle Sales by Nick Stephenson (the first half is on Amazon keywords, the second is on mailing lists). It’s a short read and has a lot of great, actionable advice. Creating and developing a mailing list may sound like daunting work, but if you break it down into manageable chunks, you’ll have subscribers coming signing up in no time.

Pitch book review blogs

It will take a little bit of setup on the back end, but once you’ve created a list of book reviewers you’d like to pitch, shooting them over an email can be a simple five minute job. I recommend saving all of their info like name, email, website, if they’re reviewing your book currently and other notes in a spreadsheet. To start off, you’ll have to do a bit of Googling to find ones that fit your genre (and review indie books if that’s you). At least part of your email pitch (your request for a review) can be a generic paragraph that you send out each time, but make sure to note any special requests the reviewers might have (don’t forget to personalize each one with their name). It’s always good to have an upcoming review or two stashed away for when your sales start to dry up.

Make sure your back and front matter and funnels are up to par

One tactic that I learned from Nick Stephenson’s book (yes, I’m going to mention it again) was to add an email newsletter sign up CTA to the FRONT as well as the back of your books. You want to keep that action fresh on your reader’s minds and often times, readers don’t page through the back matter when they’ve finished the actual story. Another thing can be to analyze your funnels and determine if you’re converting casual readers into buyers. This could mean anything from offering the next book in your series free if they leave a review of the one they just finished, or (like I mentioned above) joining your mailing list if you only have one book out. You never want readers to hit a dead end with their interaction with you.

Tinker with your keywords

This is another one of those things that you can end up spending hours of time on if you’re not careful. Still, just a few keyword changes can put your book in a category with less competition and more room to shine. I’m going to point you in the direction of Supercharge your Kindle Sales again for help on this. (It really is this useful!) Take a look at where you’re ranking in a certain category and then look at the other books alongside yours. Are they similar? Which ones are selling? What other categories are they in that you could take advantage of? Remember though, you’ve got to be patient about this. Don’t play musical keywords just because you aren’t seeing results in the first couple of days.

Read these books

Seriously. And take notes. By the end of this year, I’ll have a large enough catalog that I can start seriously dabbling in marketing. To prepare for that, I’m using my marketing time now to read up on what the best in the business are doing. I know I’m not ready for many of these tactics yet, but I’ll be able to apply the foundational knowledge I’m learning know when it’s time to rock and roll. Note: these are affiliate links but I’ve personally read and recommend each of them.

WRITE MORE BOOKS!

I saved the best and most obvious for last. Until you’ve got an extensive catalog (and even then, you’ve got to continue to produce new stuff), you can’t do anything better to market your books than to write another one. This is even more vital if you’ve only got one or two books out. Algorithms aside, the more places and times readers see your books, the bigger the chance they’ll give them a try. An extra fifteen minutes of writing will soon add up over a week, month and year.

Hugh Howey had ten books out before Wool took off and, as far as I know, didn’t do an ounce of marketing for any of them. Michael Sullivan, a successful hybrid author, gives a good breakdown of how you should be spending your time over the course of your first few books. If you’re wondering where you should be at marketing-wise, read his entire Reddit series we took this from.

  • 1 book released: Divide time 90% writing / 10% promotion
  • 2 book released: Divide time 90% writing / 10% promotion
  • 3 book released: Divide time 50% writing / 50% promotion
  • 4+ books : Divide time 80% writing / 20% promotion

To conclude:

To many authors, marketing may sound like a dirty, sleazy, time-consuming thing. If kept in heel and done right though, it’s really about connecting readers with books they’ll love. It’s also necessary if you want to make writing your career. Don’t worry about trying every new marketing tactic that comes along, just keep your sights on the long haul and do what you can with the time you have.

Your turn! Tell us about your quick and easy marketing tactics in the comments below.

 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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