Traditional publishing has its benefits, but so does indie publishing.
However, those benefits are meaningless if you don’t take advantage of them.
One of the great advantages of indie publishing is the opportunity to swiftly respond to the many changes that arise throughout a book’s life, and to give a book an extended lifetime that far exceeds typical shelf life.
How’s the Weather?
Even in the publishing industry, the weather is unpredictable.
Many factors come up, including those that are beyond your control.
- Kindle changes the way that series books are displayed in search results.
- Just as you begin your big promotion, one of your first reviews stings like a bumblebee.
- The subject of your nonfiction book experiences a major change just months after it’s published. Now it’s outdated.
- Amazon discontinues the 4-for-3 program, starts discounting paperbacks, or stops putting them on sale.
- One of the main subcategories that you selected is suddenly eliminated.
- Someone raises a valid complaint about an issue that you failed to anticipate.
- Readers convince you that you needed more editing help than you realized.
As an indie author, there is much you can’t control, but there is much you can respond to swiftly.
Many features on your product page are dynamic:
- The cover. Just upload a new one!
- The blurb. Easy to revise. You can even format it through Author Central.
- The keywords. Wise choices improve discoverability. Hardly selling? Change them up.
- The categories. Be careful, though. If you’ve built up good visibility, a change could cost you.
- The reviews. You can rarely change them, but it’s dynamic in that there is always the potential for a customer to leave a new review. (It works both ways. If things are good now, a bad one can spoil it. If the last review stings, in time a new one may be favorable.)
- The editorial reviews. Get a great review quote from a relevant source and it can spice up your product page.
- The biography. In addition to trying to find what works, if you leave this unchanged, it can become outdated.
- The author photo. Strive to look the part.
- The page count. You could add content. For a Kindle, adding a paperback makes this more accurate.
- The customers-also-bought lists. The more effective your marketing, the more sales will help with this.
- The list price. Having doubts? There’s one way to find out.
- The sale price. Amazon often changes the sale price of print books. You can’t count on the selling price (but for CreateSpace print books, you’re paid based on the list price).
- The recent blog posts on your Author Central page. Amazon displays the three most recent posts.
- The book itself. Republishing is so simple, we could interrupt this blog with an auto insurance commercial.
- And much more. Expanded distribution adds third-party sellers. More print sales leads to a few used books for sale. Author Central and Shelfari offer book extras. There are customer discussions, which are (and should be) quite rare except for popular authors.
But Not Everything
A few things are static:
- The title. Choose wisely. Changing the title requires republishing a new book.
- The author name and ISBN are fixed, too, unless you republish.
- Customer reviews. A bad review is a permanent public record, so do your best to perfect your book from the beginning.
- The publication date. (Though there was a period recently where republishing a Kindle changed this date.)
- If you comment on a review, as soon as the reviewer or anyone else replies to your comment, if you change your mind and delete your comment, it will say, “Deleted by the author.” Amazon means the author of the comment, but everyone will assume it’s the author of the book.
- Print books remain on your Author Central page forever. (A Kindle book, along with reviews of the Kindle edition, can be removed by unpublishing. But if you republish later, those reviews may reappear, although you may appeal to Author Central.)
What Does It Mean?
It means two things:
- You’re not stuck with things the way they are now.
- Don’t get too comfortable with things the way they are.
Here are some examples of how you can benefit from a dynamic publishing environment:
- Monitor your three most recent blog posts. At any time, a customer can look at your Author Central page. What will this combination of posts look like to a customer?
- Advance review copies can help to get a few early, honest reviews. If you’re planning a big early promotion, this can help to offset the possible misfortune of an unexpected critical review from one of your first customers.
- On the other hand, if you get several glowing reviews, nothing critical is balancing them, and your book hasn’t yet established a healthy sales rank, this may seem suspicious to customers.
- Making the blurb more clear or revising your book may render a review less relevant. This offers a little protection against the foolish person out to sabotage a book: The comment motivates you to improve the book or even the blurb, and now you suddenly have a better product (or packaging) on the market. Turn a negative into a positive.
- Sales super slow? Try changing things up with a new blurb, cover, keyword, category, author photo, biography, or list price.
- That strong urge you feel to respond to a review may have consequences that affect your book for it’s entire life. Some mistakes aren’t easy to fix. If instead you revise the blurb to address an issue raised in the review, if you later realize that doing so was a mistake, you can revise your blurb.
- Adding quality books to the market similar to those you’ve already published helps your customers-also-bought lists help you.
- When Kindle adds new features, like the recent Countdown Deal, you can take advantage of them immediately.
- Updating the content of your book is easy. Just republish.
- Keep writing and marketing. Even if things are going well now, you never know. The best way to prepare for the unknown future of your book is to write similar books and spend some time marketing effectively.
- Got a couple of bad reviews? (1) If there are valid points, update your book. (2) Drive traffic to your product page through effective marketing. This helps you get some sales even when the product page isn’t appealing much through discovery on Amazon.
Beyond the Product Page
Marketing is also dynamic. For example, social media used to be the craze. It’s still effective for some kinds of marketing, but not nearly as effective in general. A current trend is a content-rich website. It’s also good to try new things because doing what everyone else is doing isn’t always most effective for you.
Don’t rely on Amazon to sell your book. Even if you get 95% of your sales from Amazon, you should look beyond Amazon for help.
- Amazon tends to help books that help themselves through effective marketing. The work you do to drive traffic to your product page helps.
- Traffic that you direct to your product page can help you jumpstart sales when you first publish and can help keep sales going if your visibility in search results plummets or if you receive a couple of bad reviews (if you’re personally interacting, those customers may trust what they learned from you more than what a stranger posts in a review).
- Getting your books stocked in small, local bookstores, selling from your own website, etc.—every added sales outlet helps you with branding, discovery, and improves the chances of selling books through some outlet if your Amazon sales suddenly drop.
Finally, don’t forget that authors are dynamic, too. You’re gaining experience as a writer and marketer. All writers continue to grow, no matter how seasoned they may be now.
I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers