Build Buzz ! Cover Reveal ! Book Launch

Curse of the Dark Wind by Charles E. Yallowitz


A successful book launch can really make a difference:

  • Early sales help a book start out with a good sales rank.
  • This gives the book better visibility, especially if the book lands on any of the bestseller lists (even in a subcategory).
  • The customers-also-bought list also builds faster.
  • If sales taper off, those early sales prevent the rank from sliding as quickly.
  • Early sales improve the chances for early reviews.

In this article, I will present a variety of ideas to assist with book promotion before, during, and shortly after the book launch.

To help illustrate some of my points, I will feature strategies used by fantasy author Charles E. Yallowitz, who is presently promoting his own book launch for Curse of the Dark Wind, the sixth book in his Legends of Windemere series.


Your book launch goals are:

  • Spread awareness of your new release.
  • Motivate some fans to plan to read it shortly after its debut.
  • Get people talking about your book. They make buzz for you.
  • Start branding an image for your book.

Exposure, branding, early sales, and word-of-mouth—these are the four keys to a successful book launch.


An appealing cover that clearly signifies the genre and content can be valuable not only as a marketing tool, but even as a pre-marketing tool.

The cover also plays a strong role in branding. People often don’t buy a product the first time they see it. But after seeing the same image multiple times over a long period, the image becomes branded. Months later when they are shopping, if they see this image again, they recognize it. Brand recognition is how effective advertising works.

Series authors have the advantage that the buzz can snowball. As more readers discover the first book in the series, each book’s launch has the potential to earn more support than the last, plus a successful launch of the newest book can improve the sales of every book in the series. I give an example of this, featuring author Charles E. Yallowitz, in the next section (see below).

A so-so cover may not benefit as much from a cover reveal as a fantastic cover, but even then the cover reveal helps to get your current supporters and fans interested in your new release.

Just throwing your cover out there isn’t enough. First, you need to build a network of supporters and grow a modest following. A newbie who hasn’t made any connections and who doesn’t already have a following isn’t likely to reap many rewards from a cover reveal. But any help is still better than none at all; you have to start somewhere.

There is another small added benefit: If your blog post or tweet about your cover reveal feeds into your Amazon Author Central page, customers who view your author page at Amazon will see your effort to launch your book. All the little things help to distinguish the perception of the professional author from the perception of a newbie.

Even a newbie author isn’t forced to release a book without a following. Who says you can’t grow a modest following with a blog and social media before releasing your book? It’s a choice.

Remember, you can reveal your cover offline, too. Print it out or order proofs or author copies to show in person. Ideally, you want to reach your specific target audience, but, again, any help is better than no help. The more you interact with your specific target audience and with people who are in a position to recommend your book to members of your target audience (if they like your book enough to do so), the more potential your cover reveal has.

You don’t have to do just one cover reveal:

  • Toss your mock-up of the concept out there. Seek feedback. People who share their opinions and see you consider and use some of their input over the development of your book are more apt to feel vested in your book, which improves your chances for reviews and recommendations. You can reach a point where your supporters want your book to be successful and will work to help make that happen.
  • Later, follow this up with a draft of your cover.
  • Do a cover reveal for your final cover.
  • Spread it out so you don’t create fan fatigue. Online, post useful content between your cover reveal posts so your blog or social media don’t seem to be all about your book.


Fantasy author Charles E. Yallowitz has done cover reveals for each book of his Legends of Windemere series. (I’ve actually read this series and really like the storyline and characters.)

He has just released the sixth volume of his series, Curse of the Dark Wind. You can see what Charles’ cover reveal looks like here:

Charles receives much support for his cover reveals, and he simply has to ask for it in a post on his blog. Isn’t that cool? But he earned it. Everyone on WordPress who knows Charles appreciates what an amazingly supportive author he is. As much time and support as he volunteers toward others, it’s no surprise that many other authors reciprocate when he has a small request like a cover reveal. It helps to be supportive. (It probably wouldn’t be helpful to try to seem supportive just for the sake of potential reciprocity. People can see through such acts. What helps is to be naturally supportive, and in this case, marketing karma often brings its own rewards.)

By the way, I also volunteered to help with a cover reveal. It was my idea to turn my cover reveal into a post about building buzz. It’s my hope that this proves to be a win-win-win situation. It helps the content fit my blog better, it hopefully helps Charles with exposure for his new release, and I hope it also helps authors who read this post.

A cool step that Charles takes for his cover reveals is that he first prepares his own cover reveal and then sends a text file with the HTML for his cover reveal to the volunteers, along with straightforward instructions for how to use it. Such time-saving convenience removes the inhibitor that it’s too much trouble.

One tactic that you can apply to a series is to put one or more of the volumes on sale during the book launch, or just before the book launch, in order to help build timely sales momentum.

Click to view this book at Amazon.


You can also do a blurb reveal. This plays two roles:

  • Help to create book buzz.
  • Help with valuable feedback to improve your blurb.

It’s really hard to craft the perfect blurb, so a blurb reveal helps you get input from your target audience while simultaneously helping to build buzz for your book.

A great cover helps to deliver more traffic to your product page. A great blurb helps to increase the closing rate for sales. Neither the cover nor the blurb will be much help for a lousy story (especially in the long run), but they can make a huge difference for very good stories.

Along with cover reveals, Charles also does blurb reveals. He also promotes his books on sites like Goodkindles and, which require specialized blurbs. This presents the challenge of writing three good blurbs instead of just one, so it’s even more critical to seek helpful feedback.


Another way to gain exposure for your new book is to do author interviews on blogs for which the audience is a good fit for your book. It’s a chance to gain some exposure from people who don’t already know about your book.

There is a better chance of people reading your author interview if you show your creativity wisely. And you want that creative element to shine early in the post to entice people to read it who might otherwise pass on the interview.

Here is a mirror interview that Charles did at Readful Things (Ionia Martin’s blog):

I like the question that it starts off with:

“What is one of the most difficult questions I have ever been asked in an interview?”

The picture for that interview also has a great quote:

“Never judge a book by its movie.”


More than just announcing your new book, you can announce the chance to win something. As opposed to just giving your book away freely to everyone, people who win free books through contests often perceive that they’ve received something valuable.

In the past, Charles has included his book in Rafflecopter contests. (Before you run any contest, be sure to research the rules. It would be wise to also search for tips.)

Another option is a Goodreads giveaway. This has the added benefit of getting a hundred or so Goodreads customers to add your book to their to-read lists, which helps make your book appear somewhat more popular. With a wise choice of tags, you can get about 1000 views for a month-long giveaway. Most of the views come on the first and last days, but all the days in the middle do add up. When you can get exposure for an entire month, why not take it? (Note: You must have a print edition to run a Goodreads giveaway. You can use CreateSpace, for example, to make a print edition for your book.)

Tip: Browse through the list of tags at Goodreads to find the best matches for your book. Don’t dust throw darts at it.

Many of the reviewers are likely to post a review at Goodreads, and only a smaller percentage will also post it at Amazon. Some won’t review it anywhere. If you give away 5 to 10 copies, you have pretty good prospects for getting a few reviews or ratings.

I happen to have a Goodreads giveaway going on presently. You can enter for a chance to win my self-publishing 4-in-1 boxed set (presently available in the US only):


A special, limited-time offer can help draw more interest in your book, or encourage earlier support for your book.

This could be an introductory sale price, for example.

Or it could be a coupon or discount code, such as one you can generate through Smashwords or CreateSpace.

Often, when a book is launched, friends, family, and fans support the book with initial sales, and then sometime later the book goes on sale. What? The most loyal readers miss out on the savings? With a special introductory offer, it pays to be a loyal supporter.


Once you have a loyal following, you can benefit from preorders.

  • Kindle Direct Publishing now offers a preorder option.
  • You can also run a preorder for CreateSpace books through Amazon Advantage. There is an incredibly helpful post regarding this on the CreateSpace community forum.

One big advantage of preorders that not everyone realizes is that it gives you extra exposure:

  • Coming Soon
  • Last 30 Days
  • Last 90 Days

Every book benefits from the Last 30 Days and Last 90 Days filters at Amazon. But only preorders derive added exposure with the Coming Soon filter. Get all the exposure for your book that you can (so long as you can draw enough support to generate preorder sales).

Tip: If you publish at CreateSpace, leave the publication date blank. This way the publication date will automatically be the date on which you press the Approve Proof button. It automatically maximizes your exposure in the new release categories.


There are many wonderful offline book marketing ideas that you can implement to build buzz for your book, and these can be a new author’s secret weapon.

See my Offline Book Marketing post to learn more (that post also features an author who uses this method effectively and creatively):


Charles E. Yallowitz is the sword & sorcery fantasy author of the Legends of Windemere series.

Check out his WordPress blog:

Here is his Author Central page at Amazon:

Start with the first book of the series, Beginning of a Hero:

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set now available for Kindle and in print (both at special introductory prices)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Book Contests & Giveaways


Win, Win, Win

Being a winner is a great feeling.

One way to help promote interest in a book is to give something away through a contest.

The winners feel special.

It’s different from just giving the book away for free with KDP Select. With a Select freebie, everyone gets the book for free. Through a contest, only the lucky winner gets something free.

When the book is free for everyone, it tends to be valued less. When you win something, it tends to be valued more.

People who enter the contest, but don’t win, have learned about the book. The contest provides exposure, creates buzz, and helps with branding.

As with all marketing, it works best when readers in your target audience participate.

You still have to promote. People won’t come out of the woodwork, marching zombie-style to your contest.

But promoting a contest or giveaway may be a little easier than promoting your regularly-priced book. You might find bloggers and websites willing to help promote your contest.

The prize can be a free copy of your book, an autographed copy, a special edition, a bookmark, or a t-shirt, for example. The idea is to give something that the target audience will value to help stir interest in your book.

One popular website for arranging contests is Rafflecopter. Charles E. Yallowitz, author of the Legends of Windemere sword and sorcery series, presently has an amazing Rafflecopter giveaway running through the end of February. This was put together by Danielle Taylor.

There are over two dozen prizes, including many great books and a $10 Amazon gift card. (Charles E. Yallowitz has his Legends of Windemere books participating, Danielle Taylor has entered her books, one of my books, A Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, in color and in paperback, is participating, and there are over two dozen others.)

Click here to see and enter the giveaway.

Another way to give a few free books is through a Goodreads giveaway. Some recipients will post reviews or ratings at Goodreads. Several people will mark the book as to-read. Reviews on Amazon aren’t as likely.

Publishing Resources

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

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Selfless Promotion


With millions of books to choose from, it’s necessary for most authors to promote their books in order to help readers in their target audience discover them.

We sometimes see blatant self-promotion, like going to external websites and posting, “I just published my new book, Whip It Out There. Buy it today.” You should mention your book occasionally on your own site; after all, it is your site. At other sites, this behavior is often strongly discouraged, if not against the rules.

Many of the people who come to your site already know about your book. What you really want to do is find your target audience at external sites, where nobody knows about your book. And this is exactly what you should do, only at most sites you need to let people discover your book by checking out your profile or mentioning your book in the proper context, where this is allowed and acceptable. Some sites allow a brief signature, where you can include a link to your book; where it’s common to post with a signature, you can blend in nicely, and if you make a good impression, people may check your book out.

A milder form of self-promotion is mentioning your book in context. Instead of saying, “Check out my book, In Your Face,” try to find something else you can post where mention of your book is relevant. For example, asking for opinions about your blurb gets you a little attention and helpful feedback while not coming across as a salesperson. Obviously, you can’t ask about your blurb three times a day all year. Use the creativity that you obviously have as a writer and find relevant ways to mention your book. Study the ambiance of each site first and be sure not to behave in a way that may be frowned upon.

“Self, how would I feel if I were just chillin’ with my pals online and some other author posted that?”

Before you post it, think about how it looks from the other side.

Most marketing isn’t about instant sales. When you see an advertisement on t.v., do you run right out to the store and buy the product immediately? “Sorry, dear. I know it’s 3 a.m. Saturday morning, but I just saw an advertisement for honey and I really need to get some. Could you please watch the kids?”

It’s about branding. You learn about a product enough times that you recognize it. But you don’t want to be branded as annoying. Strive to find less obtrusive ways to get discovered. Come across as a professional. Make a good impression. Brand a positive image as an author to help get your target audience interested in your book over a long period of time.

The best exposure you can get is selfless promotion—i.e. when others market on your behalf. One way you can do this is to seek honest online book reviews or arrange a blogger to interview you. However, most of this is beyond your direct control.

Imagine a reader who discovered your book online, enjoyed your book, and posted a good review for your book online without your even knowing about it. Or imagine a reader who loved your book and told all of his or her friends about it. Recommendations and word-of-mouth sales are golden. They’re also very hard to come by. If a book is truly exceptional in some way, or if the book elicits strong emotions, this is more likely. The first step is to perfect your book from cover to cover and include some wow-factors in your writing. This is quite challenging, but ask yourself this: “Will people recommend a book if it’s just so-so?”

What good books have you read lately? What are you doing to help spread the word about those amazing books? Don’t just review and recommend books because you’re hoping for the same in return. Do it because you discovered a great book and believe others would enjoy it, too. Definitely, don’t recommend books that you don’t honestly believe to be worth recommending. There are many good books out there, and they can use your support.

I see plenty of selfless promotion in the form of reviews and recommendations. It’s a great sight to see. You might notice that I recently added a couple of pages to my blog, highlighting a few books by other authors. It’s a short list, presently, but it will grow.

Brace Yourself, Here Comes the Self-Promotion

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Suggestions for Promoting Your Book (on Read Tuesday)


Read Tuesday—a huge book sale on December 10—is an opportunity for all authors to promote their books.

As opposed to promoting your own short-term sale all by yourself, with Read Tuesday you can be part of a large coordinated effort among hundreds of authors.

There are a few ways that Read Tuesday can help you promote your books:

  • You can add your book to the Read Tuesday catalog for free. You just need to agree to discount your book on Tuesday, December 10 and let us know that you will be participating. Find the link to learn more toward the end of this post.
  • We’re promoting the event. Hundreds of authors and readers are already spreading the word about Read Tuesday in many forms, in person and online. We also have a few advertisements running on different sites, targeting book lovers. Some popular authors (like M. Louisa Locke and Jessica James) are participating, which helps lend credibility to the event and draw in more readers.
  • Promoting that your book is participating in Read Tuesday may help you generate more interest than merely promoting your own book.
  • We will announce sale prices, discounts, discount codes, availability, and book extras for the big event. There is no charge to include your book’s information in these announcements.

In addition to adding your book to the book catalog, your author photo to the author catalog, and your sale information (look for a post in the next couple of days about this on the Read Tuesday website; we haven’t started collecting sale price information yet, but will soon), following are suggestions for what else you might do to help promote your books:

  • Green Embers has 38 free advertising slots for indie authors from December 1 thru December 9. (You don’t even have to participate in Read Tuesday to take advantage of this free offer.) This is an amazing offer. All you have to do is click here to sign up. Where else will you get free advertising?
  • Write about your book’s participation in Read Tuesday on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This will help you create interest in your book among your fans, followers, and anyone who stumbles across your author sites. Mention that your book will be on sale, describe what Read Tuesday is, tell what you’re looking forward to, and help to create buzz for your book and the event. Promoting the event along with your book may help to create more interest in your promotion.
  • You’re free to use any of the Read Tuesday images (these were designed by artist Melissa Stevens) in a positive way. You can add one to your sidebar, include the image with your posts, etc. You’re welcome to link to the Read Tuesday website to refer interested readers or authors for more information.
  • Find other authors who are participating in Read Tuesday—look for authors who show signs of past success and authors with books similar to yours—and check out their blogs and social media pages to see ways that they are promoting their books. This will help you generate ideas for how to promote your books.
  • There are many ways to spread the news of your book’s promotion and your book’s participation in Read Tuesday to your target audience. You can share this with any of your interactions with your target audience in person or online. Search for Facebook groups relevant to your genre or category. Consider placing a low-cost advertisement (find a list of services in this post). Ask other authors for ideas. If you have suggestions, feel free to include them in the comments section.
  • Browse the Read Tuesday catalog for books that interest you or other books similar to yours. Instead of just promoting only your book, consider promoting a variety of books that interest you, or multiple books in a given genre (including yours, of course), for example. This might help you create additional interest. Reach out to other authors; you might be able to get together and help promote one another’s books.

For information regarding how to put your book on sale, read this post.

Check out the Read Tuesday sample catalog:

How do authors sign up?

We’ll be collecting discount information soon, and we’ll be promoting sale prices, discount codes, and availability information closer to Read Tuesday, on December 10, 2013.

Read Tuesday: It’s going to be HUGE!

Give the gift of reading this holiday season.

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

An Opportunity for Authors to Promote Their Books

Buying Books Pic

All authors need exposure for their books. Unfortunately, this isn’t easy to get.

It’s rare that a free promotional opportunity comes by that requires very little effort, so when one does, you want to notice it and take advantage of it.

Black Friday is almost here. It seems like there should be a great promotional opportunity here, doesn’t it? But with all the sales of electronics, toys, and clothing that are heavily advertised for this occasion, books are likely to go largely unnoticed.

If only there was a day like this just for book lovers. Oh, but there is: It’s called Read Tuesday and will make its debut on December 10, 2013.

This is a great promotional opportunity for authors (and a great buying opportunity for readers, and a great gifting opportunity for the holidays):

  • Participation is free, so what do you have to lose?
  • Effort is minimal. Just put your book on a short-term sale that includes December 10. Send me the url to where you book will be on sale and I’ll add it to the Read Tuesday catalog. Ta-da! Free exposure for your book. (If you would also spread the word about your book’s participation in Read Tuesday, that will help you out, too.)
  • The event is being promoted on your behalf. Struggling to promote your own books? Having your book included in a catalog that is being promoted is worth a shot, isn’t it? The event is gaining popularity daily, with some popular authors signed up and even published authors showing interest.
  • Many authors use the one-day promotional discount effectively, putting the book on sale and promoting it heavily. We’re not putting one book on sale and promoting it. No. We’re putting hundreds of books on sale and promoting the event as a big holiday sale.
  • Every author who signs up increases interest in the event. Your book will be one more book in the catalog. Over a hundred authors before you have helped to stimulate much interest already. You have a chance to add to this. Every author counts.
  • What are you waiting for? Maybe you’re waiting until after December 10, so you can read about the success stories of hundreds of other participating Read Tuesday authors. If so, it will be a long wait until Read Tuesday returns in 2014.

Book lovers can check out the catalog by clicking here.

Authors can learn how to sign up by clicking here.

Give the gift of reading this holiday season.

Join over 600 followers (@ReadTuesday) on Twitter.

Be one of over 900 book lovers to Like the Read Tuesday Facebook page.

Chris McMullen, founder of Read Tuesday and author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

How to Put Your Book on Sale

On Sale Now

Table of Contents:

I. paperback

A. at your CreateSpace eStore

B. at Amazon using CreateSpace

C. at your website

II. e-book

A. with Kindle

B. with Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, etc.

I. paperback

A. at your CreateSpace eStore

  • It’s quick and easy. Just make discount codes.
    • Click on a book from your dashboard to open its project homepage.
    • Select ‘Channels’ on the ‘Distribute’ column.
    • Choose ‘Discount Codes’ under CreateSpace eStore.
    • Look for the ‘click here’ link in the paragraph above the table.
    • This will create a new code. Click ‘View Codes’ to see them all.
    • Copy and paste the code into the table (previous window).
    • Choose dollars off or percentage off.
  • Enter a ridiculous amount, like 99% off, and CS will tell you the maximum discount you can offer. This way, you don’t have to guess or figure it out yourself.
  • If you want to make a royalty on the sale, don’t choose your maximum discount. The smaller your discount, the greater your royalty.
  • (List price — discount) x 0.8 — book cost = royalty. Example: ($7.99 — 20%) x 0.8 — $2.53 = ($7.99 —$1.60) x 0.8 — $2.53 = $6.39 x 0.8 — $2.53 = $5.11 — $2.53 = $2.58.
  • Make sure you are happy with your royalty. If you want to double-check your math, feel free to use the comments section below.
  • You can use the same discount code for multiple books. This makes it easy to put several books on sale for 20% off, for example.
  • However, you must add the discount code to each book separately.
  • Here are some important notes:
    • Customers must sign up for a CreateSpace account. They don’t have to publish a book, but they do need to enter a username and password.
    • Customers know and trust Amazon. Customers who aren’t already familiar with CreateSpace may be reluctant to use it.
    • Customers must pay shipping at CreateSpace. Customers who qualify for free shipping at Amazon might not want to pay for shipping at CreateSpace.
    • Shipping is cheaper when purchasing multiple books. Encourage customers to buy multiple books at CreateSpace to save on shipping.
  • When your sale is over, return to the table of discount codes, check the box to delete the discount, and save your changes.

B. at Amazon using CreateSpace

  • Simply reduce your list price.
  • Customers won’t know that your book is on sale by viewing your product page at Amazon; you’ll have to promote the sale price to spread the word.
  • If you have Expanded Distribution, this will limit the possible discount.
  • You may disable the Expanded Distribution during your sale in order to offer a deeper discount.
  • It can take weeks for your Expanded Distribution changes to propagate throughout the system. Disabling and enabling this channel before and after your sale may create an interesting ripple effect, but if you primarily sell through Amazon, you might not be as concerned about this.
  • The sale price might change in a matter of hours, but according to CreateSpace, it could take up to 5 days for the list price to change at Amazon. This extreme time frame may be unlikely, but if you invest time, effort, or money on a promotion, you’d hate for Murphy’s law to strike.
  • What’s the harm in putting your paperback on sale 5 days early leading up to the big day? Better safe than sorry. When the event is over and you raise the price, if it doesn’t change immediately, it just makes your sale last a little longer.
  • You may be paid a royalty based on the lower list price for some books that sell at the original list price. The royalty payments just after a price change may be based on the lower royalty, even if the book sold at the higher list price. You probably expect to sell many more books at the lower price anyway, so if your promotion is successful, this may be a minor concern.

C. at your website

  • A third option is to sell your book directly: in person, through your website, via PayPal, etc.
  • Advantages:
    • You can potentially draw a higher royalty.
    • This allows you to also make a more enticing discount.
    • If you order stock in advance, you can be sure that the customer is receiving a quality book. Be sure to allow ample time to exchange defects (and to exchange defects of replacements, if needed).
    • Alternatively, you can order your book at CreateSpace and have it drop-shipped  to the customer. No packing ship will reveal sensitive information. You won’t be able to see the book before it ships to prevent the customer from receiving a possible defect, but this way you don’t have to pay shipping twice (though if you order in large quantities, you save on shipping from CreateSpace to you).
  • Disadvantages:
    • You have to deal with the hassles of collecting payments (although PayPal is a convenient option).
    • You have to deal with the hassles of packing and shipping, unless you drop ship.
    • You run the risk of defects if you drop ship.
    • Some customers may be reluctant to purchase directly from you.

II. e-book

A. with Kindle

  • There are three options:
    • KDP Select authors can run a Countdown Deal.
    • KDP Select authors can run a free promotion.
    • Without KDP Select, you can still make a temporary change in list price.
  • Using the new Kindle Countdown Deal:
    • You can’t run both a Countdown Deal and a free promo during the same 90-day enrollment period.
    • The book must be enrolled in KDP Select for 30 days.
    • You must wait 30 days after changing the list price.
    • The regular list price must be at least $2.99 for the US and 1.99 pounds for the UK.
    • The sale price must be at least $1.00 off the regular list price.
    • Customers can see how much they are saving and when the sale ends.
    • If you ordinarily earn 70% royalties, you will still earn 70% even if the promotional list price is under $2.99.
    • If you have a large mobi file size, do the math to see what your royalty will be at the promotional list price; you don’t want to be shocked later.
    • You can’t publish at Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, or any other e-book retailers while enrolled in KDP Select.
  • Using the KDP Select free promo:
    • You can’t run both a Countdown Deal and a free promo during the same 90-day enrollment period.
    • Giving the first book of a series away for free may help to generate sales of other books in your series.
    • You don’t earn any royalties during the free promo; you just hope the promo helps to create exposure and interest afterward.
    • Your sales rank will fall off during the free promo; you need to get sales afterward to improve your sales rank.
    • Many people don’t check out your blurb or Look Inside since it’s free; many people who get your book won’t read it.
    • You must promote your free promo effectively to make the most out of it.
    • The free promo is a good time for bloggers and book reviewers to pick up advance review copies.
    • You also want bloggers and book review sites to feature your free promo before it starts.
    • If your book is 99 cents or at the minimum list price for its file size, the free promo is the only way you can discount your book (other than through price matching).
    • You can’t publish at Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, or any other e-book retailers while enrolled in KDP Select.
  • For those who aren’t in KDP Select:
    • If your book isn’t already at the minimum possible list price, all you need to do is republish your book at the lower list price prior to the sale (it may take 12-24 hours for this to take effect in the US and longer in other countries) and back at the original list price after the sale.
    • Check your converted mobi file size on page 2 of the publishing steps at KDP. If it’s greater than 10 MB, the minimum list price is $2.99 and if it’s greater than 3 MB, the minimum list price is $1.99; otherwise, the minimum list price is 99 cents. You’d hate to promise a sale only to discover later that you can’t do it.
    • Customers won’t know that your book is on sale by viewing your product page at Amazon; you’ll have to promote the sale price to spread the word.

B. with Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, etc.

  • The easiest way to create discounts with Smashwords is with the coupon manager.
    • Go to your dashboard and choose “Coupon Manager.”
    • This allows you to distribute coupons for customers to use.
    • Your list price must be 99 cents or higher (unless you want to use the coupon to make your book free).
    • Coupons only work for Smashwords sales. They do not work at Apple, Nook, Sony, Kobo, etc.
  • Alternatively, you can change your list price.
    • Be sure to also change your list price for Kindle at the same time, otherwise you can get into permanent price match issues. Even then, the big e-reader companies, like Kindle and Nook, like for your list price to be the same, and it’s difficult to synchronize, especially using Smashwords for Nook. If publishing directly with Nook, the price change will occur in about 12-24 hours, so it will be much more in sync with the Kindle list price.
    • The Smashwords list price updates immediately, but other retail channels will take 5 days to multiple weeks to update. This makes it impractical to run a short-term promotion through those channels using Smashwords.
    • If you want to run a short-term promotion and have your book published at a variety of e-book retailers, it’s best to publish your e-book directly with Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and anywhere else that option is available. This way, the prices will update in about 12-24 hours for US sales, keeping your list prices relatively in sync over the course of the promotion.

If you want your sale to be successful, you must promote it effectively. See these articles for more on this:

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Promote Your Kindle Countdown Deal or Select Free Promo (or Other Book Sale)

On Sale

The writer who carves a masterpiece out of words and publishes the book faces a new challenge:

  • how to help the target audience discover the book

As there are millions of books to choose from, this is no easy task.

One way to try to help stimulate sales is to put the book on a temporary sale, e.g. through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

  • Amazon has a new Countdown Deal available for books enrolled in KDP Select. This allows for a temporary reduction in price and shows customers how much they are saving and when the sale ends.
  • The older KDP Select free promo option is another alternative. (Note that you can’t mix and match Countdown Deals and free promos for the same book in a given 90-day enrollment period.)
  • Books that aren’t enrolled in KDP Select can still have a temporary price reduction by simply republishing at the new list price.

Everyone likes a sale. It’s great to save money.

But there’s a catch: The sale won’t attract buyers if customers don’t know about the sale.

You still have the problem of discovery. Just putting your book on sale through a Kindle Countdown Deal, KDP Select free promo, or other temporary price reduction isn’t enough:

  • A temporary sale, all by itself, probably won’t help much with getting your book discovered.

Nevertheless, a temporary price reduction can be effective if you succeed in spreading news about the sale:

  • Instead of just promoting your book, promoting that your book is temporarily on sale may generate more interest. That is, it can help make your marketing more effective.
  • Any promotions that you do to spread the news about your sale may be amplified by people in your target audience who become interested in your book.
  • If people develop interest in your book, the looming deadline may help to generate sales.
  • Sales that you may generate as a result of placing your book on sale can help improve your book’s visibility through sales rank, customers-also-bought associations, and customer reviews.

(Note that KDP Select free promos generate a free rank instead of a paid rank, but any subsequent sales once the free promo ends will help boost the paid rank.)

It all comes down to getting your book’s sale discovered by your target audience.

The usual marketing strategies—blogging, Twitter, Facebook, press release, building buzz, interacting with your target audience, readings, guest blogs, etc.—can help with discoverability. Instead of just promoting your book, you’ll be promoting the temporary sale of your book, which may help to generate more interest than your usual marketing.

Also, if you’ve been branding an image, prospective buyers who may have been considering your book might be sold when they see that your book is now on sale.

However, you probably want to use this golden opportunity to try and go beyond your usual marketing reach. For example, you might want to consider if a low-cost advertisement may be cost-effective.

Don’t focus solely on projections for how many people may view your advertisement. It’s also important to consider:

  • What fraction of the people who view your advertisement are in your specific target audience? They are more likely to make the purchase, appreciate your book, and leave a review.
  • How marketable is your book? Will the cover and blurb make the genre clear and appeal to your specific target audience?

If you have a highly marketable book in terms of both packaging and content—i.e. it will both attract and please a significant target audience—then it may be worth advertising at a site that can show your advertisement to your specific target audience.

One popular site is BookBub, but there are other options, like Ereader News Today, Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, Book Blast, and Pixel of Ink. You want to learn about stats to help you with your decision. For example, the BookBub pricing page provides data for subscribers by genre, average downloads, and average sales. There are also sites to help you promote seasonal events. For example, check out Read Tuesday, designed to help stimulate holiday sales.

With a Kindle Countdown Deal or temporary price reduction, you earn royalties during the sale. Your hope is that these immediate sales and a possible increase in sales following the sale will recover your investment and then some, but as with any investment, there is always a risk.

In contrast, a KDP Select free promo doesn’t yield any royalties during the sale. Here, the hope is that if you succeed in creating interest for your book during the promo, then enough people will read the book (only a percentage who download it for free will eventually read it, and some will be from outside your target audience) and recommend it to others. That’s a big IF, and it doesn’t always work out that way. A successful free promo can lead to a significant improvement in sales, but not necessarily (it was more common in the early days of KDP Select, but still happens now; a highly marketable book and an effective promotion improve your chances).

A nice feature of the new Kindle Countdown deal is that any sales made during your promotion improve your paid sales rank, whereas your sales rank slides during a KDP Select free promo.

Publishing Resources

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

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


The Publicity Paradox

Double Edged

Do you remember the days when you first applied for a job? Scouring the want ads, preparing resumes and cover letters, going to job interviews.

It seemed like everybody wanted you to have experience. The only problem was that you didn’t have any. You may have thought, “How will I ever get experience if I need experience just to get hired?”

Publicity suffers from a similar seeming paradox: You may feel that publishers, agents, publicists, editors, bookstores, reviewers, and even the media want you to have publicity before they will help you get more publicity. That’s great if you’re a celebrity.

Breaking through as a new author is a challenge. You’re an unknown. There are too many uncertainties. How will people react to your storytelling, characterization, and writing? How good is your idea? How will you handle the pressure? How effectively will your market your book? How well will you follow through with your commitments? How much help do you need? How professional or amateurish are you? How much do you need to learn about writing, editing, formatting, marketing, publicizing, social media, and making connections? And most importantly, how will you go from being a nobody to becoming an author with much publicity? Ah, if you only had that publicity (among your target audience) to begin with, that would help to make the risk so much more worthwhile.

How do you get publicity when you don’t have it to begin with?

If you had publicity, it would lend you credibility as an author; it would lend your book credibility, too.

If you credibility, it would help you gain publicity.

If you could lay an egg, you could make a chicken out of it.

If you could make a chicken, it could lay an egg for you.

It’s like you’re on a deserted island with no chickens or eggs, but you desperately need one or the other.

Baaak! Baak, baak, baaak!

I see a similar hurdle for Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books.

If we had authors with more name recognition, it would greatly improve the publicity that we could receive from the media, internal promotions, paid advertisements, etc.

If we had more publicity, it would help us attract authors with greater name recognition.

However, Read Tuesday has a big advantage. There are many indie authors who are experiencing the challenges of marketing their books firsthand who have been very supportive of the Read Tuesday event. This has helped to give Read Tuesday much initial support, and we are fortunate to have the participation of some authors who have achieved some modest levels of success (e.g. top books in their categories at one time, or ranking at around a thousand on Amazon for a limited time in paid sales). We also have a couple of small publishers who will be participating.

(We are fortunate to have every author who has agreed to participate, no matter how big or small—everybody is vital to our success, all participation is valuable, and each author is much appreciated. I wish for every author to have a successful Read Tuesday.)

Read Tuesday also has something to offer. An author with name recognition could gain increased exposure from the Read Tuesday promotional efforts, as the Read Tuesday publicity and promotions would feature this author’s name.

On the other hand, would the author who has risen to the top want to come back down and play with the small fish? Would he or she remember his or her roots? Would he or she support his or her fellow indie authors? Surely, it’s much easier to say what you would do if you get there than it is to do it when you’re sitting at the top.

The thing is, all indies have the same advantage that Read Tuesday has. There is a very large readership that supports indie authors. Why? Because there are hundreds of thousands of indie authors and hundreds of indie publishers, and their friends, family members, acquaintances, and coworkers raise this number to the millions.

Although some people try to paint a poor image of self-publishing, there are millions of people who support it. “This book was published with CreateSpace, was it? My niece published a book through them.” The books that have serious issues aren’t hurting anyone, while the large number of very good indie books and the growing number of successful indie authors show that indie publishing has much potential.

Ultimately, what the reader wants is a professional book. Whether or not the book is traditionally or indie published is secondary. A book that looks professional, pleases the target audience, and is discovered by the target audience can gain much support.

Read Tuesday also has the opportunity to help indie authors promote their own books. The event itself is far more popular than any single participating author. By promoting Read Tuesday in addition to the author’s own book, Read Tuesday has the potential to help authors market their books.

It can be a win-win situation for any author, tiny name or big name. Every author’s participation helps to improve the credibility and success of the event, and the event can help any author promote his or her own book in conjunction with the event.

Back to the publicity paradox. What you have to do to break out of the paradox is start small, work hard, be wise, be patient, market effectively and diligently, keep writing, and spread outward.

You gradually build a following, increase your number of connections, gain a little exposure, and build a little publicity. Continue writing and you’ll have a few books out.

The better your books are from cover to cover, the more they will help you grow your following, connections, exposure, and publicity. The better your marketing efforts, the more they will help you grow your sales.

Eventually, you may achieve some small measure of credibility and publicity. Once you finally get your foot in the door, you have the chance to run with it. Once you have a little credibility, it will help you gain publicity, and once you have a little publicity (with your specific target audience), it will lend you credibility.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook, Twitter

Read Tuesday, Facebook, Twitter

Read Tuesday would Love Your Help

It’s going to be huge.

What is Read Tuesday? It’s a Black Friday type of event just for books. In 2013, it will be Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

We’re off to a good start:

  • We have an official website up and running, with content.
  • We have a healthy start in terms of followers, especially the Facebook page and Twitter.
  • We have several authors who’ve shown interest and agreed to participate.
  • We have a press release and we’re now at the stage where we will distribute it.
  • We have been advertising on various websites to let both authors and readers know about the event.

Read Tuesday could use your help. If you can help with one or more of the following, your help will be greatly appreciated:

  • We’re looking for any name recognition that may help to promote the event. We have a little to begin with; the more we can get, the better. Any authors (or even indie publishers or booksellers), for example, who have achieved some small measure of success who may be willing to participate in Read Tuesday could help to promote the event as a whole. It’s a win-win situation, as we would include your name with our press release, press release distribution, and other efforts to promote the event (including paid advertisements and social media). This would help to advertise the authors (or entities) who have a little name recognition in addition to advertising the event. This will help to promote these authors along with the event. If you know anyone with mild success, please let them know about this offer. They can contact Chris McMullen at the email in the next bullet.
  • We can always use more participation, especially books and authors added to the catalog. We’ve had many more authors say they will participate than have taken the time to add their books or names to the catalogs. I expect they will be promoting their books on December 10 and participating. It would help the event be better if we could get more books and names in the catalogs. Simply email your ASIN (for a Kindle book that will participate) or a link to your book at a website where it will be on sale to Chris McMullen at It’s that easy.
  • Tell a friend, or several friends; tell anyone. If you like the idea of Read Tuesday, you can help make it better just by helping to spread the word. Word of mouth, email, blog, Facebook, Twitter, any way you might spread the word will be valued. 🙂

Give the gift of reading this holiday season.

Chris McMullen, founder of Read Tuesday

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Testing out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal

Cover Pages

I’m trying out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal for a couple of my lesser-known books. I’ll save the great deals for Read Tuesday. 🙂

The ‘proper’ way to do this would be to plan it much further in advance, build buzz for your promotion, promote it actively the day of (and maybe the day before, too), and recruit help promoting your discount (this is why you need to plan far in advance) from bloggers, websites, and any of your contacts willing to help you spread the word among your target audience. You might even consider investing in an advertisement that would get you plenty of exposure among your target audience.

However, the tool is also new, so although the books that are taking advantage of the countdown deal already haven’t had time to plan for the promotion, they may be getting a lot of initial traffic from the many people who are checking it out. Once this effect wears off, you’ll definitely need to plan ahead and promote effectively to get the most out of this.

I chose a couple of my lesser-known books that don’t tend to sell well for my experiment. Partly, I wanted to save my more popular books to help, in a tiny way, entice a little Read Tuesday traffic. Also, sometimes an experiment on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell well on its own can provide a revealing marketing outcome.

One of the two books I chooe had been in free promos in years past, so I’ll be able to compare those results to the results of the Countdown.

Who else is testing out this Countdown Deal in the near future? (Not everyone is eligible. First, you need to be enrolled in KDP Select. If you’re just joining or rejoining KDP Select, you must wait 30 days. Even if you’re already in KDP Select, if you changed your list price in the last 30 days, you must wait, too. If your enrollment is expiring or renewing soon, that may also affect when you’ll next be eligible. Your list price must be between $2.99 and $24.99 in the US, for example, in order to be eligible.)

If you’re testing it out this week, I’d like to hear about it. Maybe I can find an excuse to mention it in a relevant post. And the combination of my data with your experience might be relevant for a future post. So if you’d like me to possibly discuss your promotion and your experience with it, please let me know.

The two books I’m trying out are:

(1) Formatting Pages for Publishing on Amazon with CreateSpace, Chris McMullen, B00BGPK70G, February, 2013. This book is geared specifically toward using Microsoft Word 2010 to format a paperback book for publishing with CreateSpace. It’s a short, concise book (104 pages in print, but the paperback version is 5″ x 8″ and divided into several chapters and includes figures, so the written content is much less). One reason that it doesn’t sell well is that my Detailed Guide is a better value, being much more detailed. Also, I don’t market the Formatting Pages book. I’m curious to see if the Countdown tool has any impact on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell much.

(2) Far Out Multiplication Flash Cards 1-12 (Decorated with Solar System Photos), Chris McMullen and Carolyn Kivett, January, 2012. This flash card set is a book, not a game. The first half of the book consists of 1 x 1 thru 12 x 12 in order with the answer immediately following the question. The first half is designed for kids to practice and memorize. The second half has the cards shuffled, still with the answer following the question. Here, kids test their memory by checking the answer on the next page. The cards are visually decorated with solar system photos. There are two reasons that this book doesn’t sell much. First, I have another multiplication flash card book that has 11 reviews, while this one has none, so naturally people tend to buy the one that has all the reviews. Second, this book used to be more expensive than my other multiplication book, so the other multiplication book has a history of more sales (the other book is also part of a complete set). They are now the same regular price, so this book is actually the better value because it goes up to 12 x 12 instead of 10 x 10.

In the past, this flashcard book always did well with the free promo (over a thousand books in the good old days when KDP Select was new, and hundreds in later months), so I have something to compare it with. The free promo generally resulted in a boost of sales afterward. So I’ll be able to compare the overall effect on royalties, too.

Both of these books are presently $2.99 in the US and will be 99 cents during the Countdown promotion. The Countdown will be all day on Tuesday, November 5, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

In the UK, the price will be 0.99 pounds (I actually had to raise the price of one book slightly to make it eligible).

Both books have pictures, so the delivery fee is 50 to 60 cents on each book. This is important because my royalty during the promotion would actually be higher at 35% than at 70%. KDP doesn’t show you what your royalty would be during the promotion. So it’s worth checking your delivery fee and doing the math first. You’d hate to learn later that you were making one penny per sale!

So I first changed the royalty rate to 35% and republished. You can add the Countdown Deal while it’s republishing (check the box and select the Actions button on your Bookshelf). Note that you must change your royalty option at least 24 hours before your promotion begins.

Here is what you should do:

  • First try to create a Countdown Deal to see what dates you’re allowed to choose. This way you won’t waste your time for a promotion that you’re not allowed to schedule.
  • Next, check your delivery fee.
  • Now calculate your royalty at the promotional price. Subtract the delivery fee and then multiply by 0.7, like ($0.99 – $0.60) x 0.7 = $0.27. (If you don’t normally earn 70%, skip this step and the next step.)
  • Compare this with what you would make at 35%. If 35% gives you a higher royalty, you must change your royalty rate at least 24 hours prior to the start of your promotion.
  • Finally, schedule your promotion. Be sure to choose the start and end times in addition to the dates. See how many hours your promotion will last before you confirm. It would be very easy to accidentally make your promotion last just one hour without even realizing it!

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Planet Flash Cards Multiplication Cover Thumbnail