Kindle Countdown Deals—Better than the Original KDP Select?


Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sent out an email announcement today about the new Kindle Countdown Deals—a new promotional tool for KDP Select users.

This looks very promising. It will entice some authors who’ve left to switch back to KDP Select; and any who have been contemplating leaving KDP Select may be swayed to stay.

The drawbacks to the KDP free promo are well-known:

  • You don’t earn any royalties for your promotion.
  • The freebies affect your free rank, but not your paid rank. So your sales rank goes up while your book is free.
  • Changes in Amazon Associates’ policies have greatly discouraged sites from promoting the freebies.
  • People who loathe the KDP Select freebies can take out their frustrations by leaving one-star reviews, and they don’t even have to buy or read the book to do this and get it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
  • Many customers from outside your target audience are attracted to the free price; since they aren’t familiar with your genre, they’re less likely to leave a favorable review.
  • When the book is free, many shoppers won’t bother to read the description and check out the free sample, so they are more likely to be disappointed with your book.
  • An abundance of freebies and 99-cent books makes it difficult to create the perception of value.

The new Kindle Countdown Deals solves these problems:

  • Your book won’t be free—but it will be at least $1.00 less than the list price. So you don’t have to worry about not earning royalties during your promotion.
  • You can even earn 70% if your sale price is lower than $2.99, but you do have to contend with the usual delivery fee. Your book must have the 70% option to begin with, of course, for this to apply.
  • Websites can promote your discounted book through Amazon Associates without having to worry about the penalty for linking to freebies.
  • You will have paid sales during the promotion, so this should affect your sales rank, unlike free promotions.
  • If anyone wants to slam your book, at least they’ll have to pay for it if they want it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
  • Shoppers are more likely to read your description and check out the Look Inside, so they are less likely to be frustrated with a book that’s really not for them (provided that your packaging is clear).
  • Customers are more likely to be in your target audience since they actually have to pay for your book.
  • There won’t be as many free books because many authors who ordinarily use the free promotion tool will be using the countdown tool instead (you must choose one or the other for any 90-day period). Similarly, many of the books that are always 99 cents will now be $2.99 or higher for 83 out of every 90 days. Amazon has given everyone an incentive to choose a higher list price.

Here are some more notes about the new countdown tool:

  • You can use the tool for up to 7 out of every 90 days, with as many as 5 price increments.
  • You can only schedule one Countdown Deal per 90-day enrollment period. (You can schedule one in the US and another in the UK). Unlike the free promo, you can’t run two or more separate sales. The only way to use all 7 days is to use them all at once. See
  • The regular list price must be between $2.99 to $24.99 (or 1.99 to 14.99 pounds).
  • The promotion can be as short as one hour or as long as one week.
  • You must wait 30 days after joining KDP Select and since you last changed your regular list price.
  • It looks like you can schedule the promotion without having to republish (like you do for ordinary price changes).

Some people are infamous for complaining about too many free and 99-cent books. Some of these people are already talking about how the new countdown program will drive even more books to the bottom. But that’s crazy!

The new countdown program encourages the books at the bottom price point to move up!

The minimum regular list price must be $2.99 in order to be eligible. The books that participate in the countdown won’t be free. The books that are 99 cents through the countdown program will only be 99 cents for 7 out of every 90 days. Right now they are 99 cents for 90 out of 90 days.

Many authors are already doing special short-term promotions. Now there is a tool for this, they can earn 70% instead of 35% royalties during their promotions, and all customers will see the discount at Amazon, even if they hadn’t heard about the author’s promotion.

If you have several pictures and your book is on the 70% option, the delivery fee may be significant. What you want to determine is whether your royalty would be greater at 70% or 35% for the discounted price (because of the delivery fee, if the file size is large, it may actually be greater at 35%). Note that you can’t change the royalty plan during the promotion or for fewer than 24 hours prior to the promotion. So you must change this, if needed, 24 hours before the promotion (and then change it back afterward, if desired). This would be the case if you normally earn a greater royalty at 70%, but would earn a better royalty at 35% during the promotion. If you have several pictures, you should check into this.

You still need to promote your sale if you want the promotional tool to be effective. Just dropping the price won’t have nearly the impact as effectively marketing the promotion.

This also looks like a great tool for Read Tuesday—a Black Friday type of event just for books.

Click the following link to learn more about the new countdown tool:

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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An Example of Successful Nonfiction Marketability and Marketing

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Today, instead of discussing marketing ideas in general terms, I will provide a specific example.

I think this will be quite useful. This post features a specific nonfiction book, which has many instructive marketability features, and its author, who has done some wonderful things in the way of marketing which are accessible to most authors.

The e-book is currently number #1 in Happiness at Amazon, and was in the top 1000 in paid books in the Kindle store when I checked on it last night. This is a result of the book’s marketability combined with the author’s marketing. I will try to reveal many of the instructive features that have made this book successful, with the hope that doing so may help other authors.

I plan to do a future post on a fiction book, too. I also have one in mind that features a specific website with instructive marketing and publicity features. If these work out well, I’ll consider preparing posts like these more often.

The book I selected is Happiness as a Second Language by Valerie Alexander. This book is available as a paperback, e-book, and audiobook. I happened to discover Valerie’s blog several months ago and immediately bought the book because it strongly appealed to me. (I have several books from my fellow bloggers, and you can bet I’ll be a happy shopper on Read Tuesday.)

I recommend checking out the paperback edition on Amazon. Explore the book’s detail page and the Look Inside. There are specific features that help its marketability. I’ll refer to these; if you see them for yourself, it will be more instructive. The Kindle edition has the much better sales rank presently, but the paperback edition has some nice formatting that I’ll mention in a moment.

What makes this book so marketable?

Several things:

  • The concept: Who doesn’t want to be happier? It’s a hot commodity. But it’s not just happiness: It is teaching happiness like it’s a foreign language (which correlates with experience).
  • Cover appeal: (1) Yellow is a happy color, which fits the theme. I like the ‘A,’ because it sends out good vibes. I feel happy just looking at it. (2) Three color rule: Mostly yellow, contrasting with black and red nicely. (3) Easily readable, yet the font is interesting and seems to fit the theme. A large title is common in nonfiction. (4) Grabs the attention of the target audience quickly. (5) Simple yet effective. Didn’t make the mistake of being too busy.
  • Effective blurb: It’s concise and clear. It comes right out with the best stuff. What’s really nice is that it presents ideas that seem foreign, so you feel like there is a lot of material you can learn, but it also makes everything seem like it might be easy to understand (“happy colors” isn’t technical jargon, but sounds easy to learn and apply).
  • Formatted blurb: Note the occasional use of boldface and italics, which can be done through AuthorCentral.
  • Emotion: Check out Valerie’s bio. She experienced life’s challenges and overcame them with the techniques that she explains in her book. It’s a moving success story. Notice that she just briefly mentioned her low point in her bio, instead of going into detail her. Wise decision, I think.
  • Smile: Her author pic shows a nice smile, which it must, because she’s selling happiness. The photo is appealing, which is important.
  • Professional Look Inside: This is very important. Once the cover and blurb entice the reader, the Look Inside has to close the deal. The copyright page shows that it was published by Goalkeeper Media, Inc. Look at the bottom of the copyright page where it lists people who took the author photo, designed the cover, did the cover layout, and designed the interior; you’ll find similar information in many traditionally published books.
  • Design marks: The design marks on the first page of each chapter and the page headers look professional (I’m referring to the paperback edition). Note that the page header marks are light so as not to call too much attention from the reader (and distract from the reading). If you can find any of the tables or textboxes, they are well-formatted, too (maybe try searching for “Pop Quiz” in the Search Inside feature). Professional touches make a big difference.
  • Editorial reviews: A few of these on your book’s detail page can be helpful.

The book looks professional from cover to cover. This is so important. Combine this with content that appeals to a large target audience a book will have amazing potential.

That’s what readers want. They want books that appear professional from cover to cover and on the product page, where both the content and packaging appeal to them. Isn’t that what you want when you’re shopping for a book?

What did the author do to market this book?

Note that these are all observations that I have made on my own. I did contact Valerie to get her consent before preparing this post, but I have based everything on my own observations.

Like just about everyone else reading this post, Valerie has a blog. I checked out her Speak Happiness blog and the archives date back to January, 2013. I checked her Kindle and paperback product pages, and her publication date is April 30, 2013. Therefore, I see that she started building an online following and creating buzz for her book 3-4 months before she actually published it. Premarketing is very important.

You can see from her blog site that she—like many authors—is also active on Twitter and Facebook. Her headers are effective, too. They help to brand an image from her cover.

She doesn’t just have the social media going, she’s also an active and supportive member of the community. I know this firsthand from my occasional interactions with her on both of our blogs.

Creativity can be put to good use in marketing. Check out the Reader Gallery on her blog site. You see pictures of readers holding her book up. This was a clever idea, and Valerie succeeded in getting participation.

One of the best things, in my humble opinion, that Valerie has done in the way of marketing is to get visibility among her target audience in high-traffic areas. This can be huge. She achieved this by publishing articles that relate to her book’s content. This is a very valuable resource that most authors don’t bother with. There are so many places online and offline that need relevant content that it gives you a chance to succeed in getting an article published and mentioning next to your name, Author of My Book Title.

Valerie published multiple articles with the Huffington Post. You can’t do it if you don’t try. Valerie tried and succeeded, and it greatly helps with exposure.

When I first contacted Valerie to mention that I enjoyed her book, months ago, she had asked very politely if I might be interested in doing a blog interview with her. At the time, I said no. As you know if you follow my blog, I don’t presently do book reviews or blog interviews. But it shows that she was contacting bloggers to help gain exposure. From a recent comment she made on one of my blog posts, I learned that she’s had some recent success with bloggers featuring her book. (Yes, today, months later, I have featured her book. I still don’t do interviews or book reviews so-to-speak, but I am testing out the idea of preparing posts with useful marketing ideas that feature a specific book.)

I think it’s very notable that she didn’t price her e-book at the bare minimum. Her original e-book price was $6.99. I’d say that most of the books in the 99 cent to $2.99 price range (but note that I myself have some for $2.99) should actually be in the $3.99 to $5.99 range instead. Exceptions might be the first book in a series or every book in a really long series, for example. I know some authors with marketable books whose sales actually increased when raising the price from $2.99 to $3.99. Many readers who get frustrated with a 99-cent or $2.99 e-book purchase shop in the $3.99 to $5.99 window, hoping to get what you pay for. (On the other hand, they still want value for their money. A short story can be a hard sell, but pricing a short story in the higher price range might not work out.)

You can create the perception of value. First, the price itself helps to establish this. Next, personal interactions with your target audience add value to your book. If you’re providing quality service like this and you have a marketable book, you don’t have to price at the low end of the spectrum.

Also note that a higher price may actually help your sales rank if you can succeed in generating sales at  the higher price. If a 99-cent e-book sells 100 copies per day, a $5.99 e-book that sells 50 copies per day actually makes more profit for Amazon. So Amazon should (for Amazon’s own benefit), and seems to, factor price into sales rank.

Her relatively higher e-book price also helped her achieve some recent success. Valerie placed multiple ads (BookBub, Book Gorilla, and others) for a special, one-time promotional discount of her e-book. Happiness as a Second Language is presently 99 cents, which is a huge savings. The promotion ends on Halloween, so you still have a chance to take advantage of this if the book happens to interest you. (I wasn’t asked to say this. I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.)

Valerie is just doing one huge promotion this October, and after that her e-book will be permanently priced at $4.99 (a discount off the original price, but nothing like 99 cents). I’m fond of this strategy. She went all-out to promote the daylights out of her book’s sale. She makes it very clear that it’s a one-time deal, which provides a sense of urgency. After the sale, nobody will be thinking to wait until the next sale.

I really like that she isn’t giving her book away for free, yet she is making highly effective use of a one-time sale. She’s getting ample exposure while still drawing royalties. Unlike freebies, since people are paying for the book, they’re probably actually reading the blurb to make sure it’s something they want and they are more likely to actually read the book once they buy it.

There are a couple of marketing tools that Valerie has used, which many authors don’t. One is a book trailer and another is an audiobook (there is a significant market for audiobooks, especially among truck drivers; if your target audience is in this market, it may be helpful to do).

An important note about Valerie’s book trailer is that she shot the video on her iPhone. You don’t need access to a professional movie studio to do this. If you need a little help, try contacting the film department at the nearest university. There is a good chance that a film student would be interested in earning a little income to help you out.

When I showed Valerie a draft of this post, she mentioned that she sees her shortcomings more than what she may be doing right and compares herself to other authors who seem to be doing everything right. If you feel this way, as many authors do, there is something you can take from this. Even authors who seem to have achieved various degrees of success struggle with doubts, find faults in themselves, and see greener grass on the other side. In a way, this can be good and help to keep you humble. It may be helpful to other authors to realize that even successful authors experience these same issues.

I hope you got something useful out of this article. In the past, I haven’t done interviews or book reviews. This is as close as I’ve come. I feel like I’m providing useful marketing content while also helping another author at the same time. Please let me know how you feel about this, as feedback will help me decide whether or not to try it again in the future.

Let’s offer a big THANK YOU to Valerie for allowing me to feature her book in my post.

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)

Read Tuesday Progress and Plans

It's going to be HUGE!

It’s going to be HUGE!


What is Read Tuesday?

It’s a Black Friday type of event just for books. This is a great opportunity for readers to shop for books at discounted prices; not just for themselves—books make nice gifts, too. It’s also a great opportunity for authors to participate in a global one-day sales event.

When is Read Tuesday?

In 2013, Read Tuesday will be held on December 10. Mark your calendar.

Is it free?

Authors, self-publishers, and booksellers can participate for free. Everyone is eligible. There are no forms to fill out, no obligations. To participate, a book simply has to have a short-term discount including Read Tuesday, which is lower than the ordinary selling price.

Similarly, there are no special fees, sign-ups, or obligations for readers to participate. Simply buy discounted books on Read Tuesday at your favorite booksellers. Authors may choose to list their books in the Read Tuesday catalog (click here to complete the forms), and many authors will be promoting their books on their blogs and other sites on Read Tuesday.

Many of the participating e-books will be discounted at Kindle. Some e-books will also be available at Smashwords through discount codes (a list of discount codes will be displayed on the Read Tuesday website closer to the day of the event).

Many of the paperbacks will be discounted through CreateSpace discount codes or through authors’ or small publishers’ websites (a list of these discount codes will be displayed as well). If you’re buying multiple paperback books on Read Tuesday, the combined savings will help to offset the shipping charges, especially as the per-book shipping costs less when buying multiple books together.

Read Tuesday is not selling anything. There isn’t anything to subscribe to, either. The only things being sold are books, and that is being handled strictly by publishers, booksellers, and authors, as usual. Read Tuesday is not a middleman.

Where can you learn more?

Check out the official Read Tuesday website:

Follow Read Tuesday on Twitter: @ReadTuesday

Like Read Tuesday on Facebook:

Tell your friends. The more interest there is among readers, the more authors will want to sign their books up; and the more authors who show support, the more readers will get interested.

How can you help?

Anyone can help. Just telling other people who enjoy reading books or authors who sell books about the event will go a long way toward making the event a success. Word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations are among the best ways to create buzz for a big event. This will help improve reader interest and author participation, which is a win-win situation for everyone.

Views, clicks, Likes, and Follows of any Read Tuesday posts or pages are very helpful. The more support prospective readers and authors see for the event, the more they are likely to be interested.

If you mention Read Tuesday in a post on Twitter, consider using the hashtag #ReadTuesday.

How is Read Tuesday coming along?

Here is how things have developed:

  • I didn’t get the idea for Read Tuesday until September 21st. So Read Tuesday has only been in the works for about one month.
  • Melissa Stevens designed images that anyone may use for free to support the Read Tuesday event in a positive way. You may have seen various authors and readers display this image on their blogs, websites, social media pages, and elsewhere.
  • The official Read Tuesday website launched on October 5, just three weeks ago. The Twitter and Facebook pages launched at approximately the same time.
  • In the first three weeks, the Read Tuesday website has had over 1,000 views and over 300 followers. More than 250 people have liked Read Tuesday’s Facebook page and there are more than 70 followers on Twitter.
  • Read Tuesday is being advertised on multiple websites (even though it’s not a company and no individual or business is profiting from this investment). Tens of thousands of people have seen an advertisement for Read Tuesday with the targeting directed toward authors and readers.
  • Authors and readers have been talking about Read Tuesday. People have contacted me to inquire about Read Tuesday, telling me that they heard about the event through other people’s (i.e. not mine or Read Tuedsay’s) blog or Facebook pages. I’ve seen Read Tuesday mentioned a number of times on Twitter, too.

What’s next?

Here’s what we’re looking to do presently and in the coming weeks:

  • Continue building buzz for Read Tuesday. Until now, much of the focus has been on spreading the news to authors, encouraging them to sign up or show support. Thank you very much to everyone who has contributed to this. We’re planning to start spreading the news to more readers, too. If you have ideas for posts and articles that may attract readers, please feel free to share them (or to write and post your own article on your blog, publish it, or submit it for consideration to be posted on the Read Tuesday blog—remember, you’re welcome to use the Read Tuesday images for free to support the event in a positive way). If you’d like a blog interview on your blog or website about Read Tuesday, we will try to accommodate requests (if you’d like to get interviewed on a website to talk about Read Tuesday, that would be great support, too).
  • We’d really like to go outside the blogging and social media world (in addition to this, that is) to try to attract readers and authors. If you can think of affordable advertising suggestions that may target this audience in this way, we’ll consider them. There is also the free alternative, which is publishing an article, getting interviewed, or getting the media to write an article about Read Tuesday. I’ve been working on this. If you have suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them. If you have access or connections, please feel free to help. Remember, you’re welcome to write your own article and may use the images for free to help support the event.
  • I’m contacting marketing and publicity contacts that I have. You’re encouraged to do the same, or to connect them to me if you don’t want to approach them about this. Some people have already volunteered to help spread the word in November or early December (I appreciate all the help we get, and a big thank you to anyone who has helped or supported in any way). I’m trying to get exposure with sites that have a lot of traffic or a large readership among authors or readers (any help or connections with this would be great, too). What would you think about an article in the CNN Community? It may get attention in that community even if CNN doesn’t do anything with the news. Any ideas, suggestions, or contacts in the way of publicity would be quite welcome.
  • This week was insanely busy for me, but the coming weeks should at least be sane. 🙂 I’m working on the author and book catalogs. I plan to improve the layout and design (at least, up to the point where the catalog may become too extensive for me to keep up with it, but it isn’t there yet—if it starts to look extensive in the coming weeks and you’re interested in volunteering, I might take you up on the offer). A visually appealing, well-organized catalog may help to improve interest among readers and authors both. You should see some growth and improvement in these catalogs in the coming days.
  • I received a suggestion to describe Read Tuesday somewhere like Indiegogo, which might get the event a little exposure while also helping to raise some advertising funds. Obviously, if every author contributed a small amount, it would raise a lot. But I want Read Tuesday to be free for authors, and my hope is for authors to benefit from the Read Tuesday promotion. I really don’t want other authors starting out in the hole, so I’m quite hesitant to do this. If you can think of sites where we can get similar exposure, but where we won’t be asking for money, those would be really handy suggestions.
  • As we get closer to Read Tuesday, authors may want to promote the Read Tuesday even while simultaneously promoting their own books. The Read Tuesday flag (remember, you can use the Read Tuesday images for free to support the event) may be able to help you market your own books in this way.

Ideas, suggestions, and comments are not only welcome, they’re even encouraged. 🙂

Chris McMullen, Coordinator of the Read Tuesday event

What Motivates Me to Market My Books?

Market Pic

This is what you need to find for yourself—an idea that will motivate you to market your books. You’re unique. I can’t tell you what will motivate you. Consider a variety of alternatives. Try to understand marketing in different terms. Search for a reason that will make you—that’s right, you—market your books.

I’ll offer a few ideas at the end of this post to help get you thinking. In the meantime, I’ll share my story of what motivates me to market my books. Maybe this will help you with your search for a motivational tool.

My story unfolds by showing what is commonly done (that’s what I did, too), instead of what should have been done. After this, I’ll show how I found my motivation to market my books.

We all struggle with this. I did. When I published my first book in 2008, fortunately, I had a few things going for me starting out:

  • A Ph.D. in physics. This expertise was invaluable for my math and science books.
  • Experience formatting lengthy, technical articles for professional publication. I had also been making and formatting worksheets for several years before I ever published my first workbook.
  • Several years of teaching experience. This is helpful for many of my books which aim to provide instruction of some sort.
  • Much passion for writing and teaching.
  • Ten years of sales experience working my way through school; mostly at a department store, but I had even sold second-hand books for a few years. This helped me understand marketing and marketability, but I was initially focused only on the latter.
  • CreateSpace was relatively new in 2008; many authors hadn’t even heard about it yet. There was much less competition. (Note that my books weren’t on Kindle back then, and even now I sell about 8 paperbacks for every e-book, largely because of the nonfiction content I write—many of the books, such as workbooks, aren’t even suitable for Kindle.)

However, at the time, I lacked one very important ingredient: the motivation to market my books.

Most new authors similarly have a few things going for them—probably different things, but your strengths, whatever they may be, can help you succeed. Most new authors also lack the key marketing ingredient. Both marketing and marketability are highly important (noting that you can include having a great idea, good storytelling skills, editing, cover design, effective blurb, and such in marketability).

Many new authors feel the way that I did back in 2008:

  • If a book has merit, it should eventually sell on its own. (Problems: getting discovered; difficult to overcome slow sales rank; hard to get reviews until it sells—and if you have reviews, but no sales rank to support it compared to the publication date, that will make buyers leery.)
  • I didn’t feel comfortable asking people to buy my own books; I didn’t want to toot my own horn. Except for my mom, I didn’t even ask family or friends to buy my books—instead, I sent them free copies. (Problems: initial sales help your sales rank; you need to promote your book to help it get discovered; if you don’t feel strongly enough about your writing to tell others about it, why should they read it?)
  • I didn’t do any pre-marketing. I had no website, no blog, and wasn’t even building buzz for my books. (Problems: pre-marketing helps stimulate early sales and reviews; early sales help to build early customers-also-bought relations; exceptional pre-marketing can land a book on various bestseller lists, which can greatly improve exposure.)

As too many authors do, I just had my books out there, hoping they would survive on their own. I was very fortunate. Some of my books had enough marketability to get discovered and sell on their own (keep in mind, there are many, many more books on the market now in 2013 than there were in 2008—so if I were starting out today, maybe I wouldn’t have had the same good fortune).

Even so, sales were very slow for the first seven months. I published several books starting in July, 2008. One was a “real book,” while the others were stat and log books. I had had the foresight to publish the stat and log books, which related to my hobbies, golf and chess, using worksheets that I had previously made for my own personal use, knowing that this would give me some needed experience in formatting and publishing before I published my main book, which at the time was The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, Volume 1. I managed to get these stat and log books and my extra dimensions book ready for publication at the end of the summer of 2008, and that’s when I self-published them.

Sales were dismal from July, 2008 thru February, 2009. That was a long stretch where my conviction to self-publish was strongly tested. Like many other new authors, I got through that by working on my next book, The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, Volume 2.

When I released Volume 2 in March, 2009, sales exploded. My two extra dimensions books were ranked around 5,000 for a couple of weeks. Sales slowly dropped, but then I began publishing math workbooks for my Improve Your Math Fluency series that summer, and my overall sales have improved tremendously every year without exception. (My extra dimensions books are no longer among my top-selling books.)

A big factor in my improved sales is that I finally found my motivation to market my books. The three keys to success are:

  • Develop a good book, including the idea and writing—both the big picture and the details.
  • Have marketability that will sell your book when it gets discovered (cover and blurb that attract the right audience, content from cover to cover that will satisfy that audience).
  • Market your book effectively to help it get discovered and branded. This step requires motivation and patience.

Motivation for this third step eluded me for quite some time.

The first part of my marketing motivation came from the big boost in sales that I had in March, 2009. Also, a couple of strangers had contacted me to thank me for writing my books (even more amazing is that I hadn’t provided my contact info, and didn’t have a website or blog—they searched online, found where I taught, and discovered my email address the hard way).

This gave me confidence. Prior to this, I had felt tentative. Afterwards, I felt confident that I could write content that would please a significant audience and create marketability that was good enough to attract that audience.

Think about this. My books hadn’t changed. From July, 2008 thru March, 2009, the first volume of my extra dimensions book was exactly the same. What changed was my confidence. Confidence is something that you can change internally. You don’t need to wait for external factors to build your confidence.

When you’re tentative, you’re much less likely to get the sales that you want to gain the confidence you’re looking for. When you’re tentative, you’re also less likely to put the effort into the book’s marketability to give your book its best chance for success.

If you can start out with confidence (but not overconfidence), this can make a huge difference when you’re getting your book ready to publish and when you release your book.

Confidence was just the beginning, though.

As I gained confidence in my books, I became curious about the marketing aspect. The more I thought about it and researched it, the more I realized that marketing wasn’t quite what I had made it out to be. Over time, I gained a new perspective:

  • Marketing doesn’t have to be done through advertising, and may even be more effective if it’s indirect. People get interested in your book when they discover that you’re an author; you don’t have to volunteer it. In person, you can wait for people to ask what you’ve been up to; online, you can simply mention your book in your profile.
  • One of the most important parts of marketing is branding. It’s about getting the title, name, or cover seen and remembered by the target audience. I don’t buy a certain brand of toilet paper because the television told me which brand to buy. Oh, but I do buy a brand of toilet paper that I recognize through branding. You want people to think, “I’ve seen this before,” when they see your book, weeks or months from now when they’re shopping for books.
  • People are more likely to develop a strong interest in your book when they interact with you personally and see your passion for your book. Interacting with your target audience is a valuable personal experience that we small-time authors can provide. Reading a book by an author you’ve actually met: Isn’t that a wonderful thing?
  • If you don’t feel strongly enough about your own book to market it, why should anyone want to read it? Are you saying that it isn’t good enough to share? If you don’t know if it’s good, is it because you didn’t put enough effort into it? If you feel that it’s good enough to publish, then you have to feel comfortable sharing it. You have to work on your perspective.
  • Publishers spend months creating buzz for books. They send out several advance review copies. Other authors, including many indie authors, put a lot of effort into marketing their books. There are millions of books to choose from. The books that are marketed effectively are much more likely to be discovered.

I approached this scientifically (after all, I am a physicist). I did research on marketing. I did some marketing experiments. My curiosity about marketing helped motivate me somewhat. I gained some needed marketing experience this way.

But neither confidence nor curiosity were my chief marketing motivators. They helped me along, but they weren’t enough.

My main motivator came when I realized how many other indie authors there are, and how challenging it is to self-publish. On top of coming up with a great idea and writing your book, which seems like it should be the hard part, you also need to:

  • Be good at writing and storytelling.
  • Serve as your own editor.
  • Format your own book.
  • Design your own cover.
  • Illustrate your book.
  • Market your book.

It’s a challenge just to be a good author. It’s more than just a challenge to be a good author, editor, formatter, cover designer, illustrator, promoter, publicist, and public relations specialist. You shouldn’t have to be a pro-of-all-trades (not just a jack-of-all-trades) to self-publish a book successfully. But you either need to be, or invest money where you aren’t (with the risk that you may not recover it).

I strongly support the indie publishing concept. Self-publishing offers so much:

  • Freedom in writing (not unlimited, but now you aren’t forced to give into an editor’s demands).
  • Greater per-book royalties (and you deserve it since you’re much more than just an author).
  • Instant acceptance (no need for query letters, book proposals, rejection letters, or contractual negotiations).
  • Quick to market (skip several months of contacting an agent, writing letters and proposals instead of more books, and a lengthy delay waiting for the publisher to get your book ready).
  • No exclusivity (anyone can publish; no gatekeepers are deciding what is worthy).
  • Access to Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and more (the door is wide open). I strongly support the big companies who’ve provided such amazing opportunities to indies.

The more marketable and more effectively marketed books tend to rise to the top, and the less marketable and more poorly marketed books tend to fall to the bottom.

My big motivator came when I realized that I could have a significant, positive impact on many other indie authors and the image of indie publishing. This is something bigger and far worthier than my own books.

It’s not just me, of course. I see many other authors and even small publishers helping indie authors and supporting a positive image for indie publishing. (This helps to provide balance against those who speak negatively, those who fear indie publishing, and bullies and snobs and such.)

One indie author is tiny and vulnerable. Together we can thrive.

By the way, this is the spirit behind Read Tuesday—a Black Friday type of even just for books. It’s a great opportunity for indie authors and readers.

My WordPress blog is geared toward helping indie authors in various ways, especially marketing. It’s not about selling my books. I put ample information up here to provide free help to anyone willing to seek it, and I have organized my posts in an index to make it easy to find. There is a ton of free information here (feel free to recommend the free content). My hope is that it will help others.

It’s not just the how-to part. I also try to help with motivation and putting things in a perspective that may be useful to humble writing artists who are passionate about their books, but who may not yet have the mindset they need to effectively market their books.

This is my marketing motivator:

  • I’m motivated to market my books to show by example things that other authors can be doing and to share my experience with others. I’m not searching for secrets that I can keep to myself; I’m looking for ideas that may help other authors.

As I said, I see many other authors sharing tips that they have learned. I see many other authors helping new authors out. Indie authors are coming together, and we have much strength through this.

Recall what it’s like to be a kid. There are bullies, there are good influences, and there are bad influences. Just think what a positive difference it makes when an older kid takes a genuine interest in a younger kid and serves as a positive influence, like a big brother or sister. Or even when a group of kids the same age band together and support one another in positive ways, keeping one another on track, and helping to motivate one another. Great things can come of this. Indie publishing isn’t so different.

What motivates you to market your books? That’s the million-dollar question. Most likely, money isn’t the answer. The best motivator for you is something you’ll have to work out for yourself. There are many possibilities. Following are a few examples:

  • Are you sharing something valuable to others? This could be how to lead a healthy lifestyle, help learning a foreign language, or a novel that will help preteens deal with peer pressures.
  • Will your book improve people’s lives through entertainment? It may be a fantasy world that people will fall in love with, an adventure that people want to experience but couldn’t in real life, or a travel guide that will help tourists make the most of their vacations.
  • Do you have a story that needs to be told? Maybe it will draw out emotions from readers, give people hope, illustrate the strength of the human spirit, or help others in similar situations.
  • Does your book support a noble cause? Perhaps the royalties are donated to charity, the book promotes a worthy cause, or spreads awareness about how to prevent one of life’s problems.
  • Have others told you that you couldn’t succeed as an author? If you’ve ever been told that you’ll never be a successful author, that your writing isn’t suitable to publish, that self-published books don’t stand a chance, or if you’ve received several letters of rejection from publishers, you may be able to use this to help motivate you. Where there is a strong resolve, there is a way to overcome the naysayers.

You must first sell your book to yourself and convince yourself that marketing your book effectively is beneficial to others before you will be properly motivated to help your book get discovered.

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); but you can find an abundance of free material on my WordPress blog. 🙂

Book Marketing through Paid Advertisements

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The first question is whether or not it may be worth paying to advertise a book. See my previous post for more information on that.

Once you decide to advertise, there are many advertising services to choose from.

What you really want to know when making this decision is this:

  • What percentage of the people who see your advertisement are in your book’s target audience? Don’t buy advertisements that aren’t effective at reaching your target audience.
  • How many people are likely to see your advertisement? (It will certainly not be 100% of the readership or viewership. It will only be a fraction of the published circulation number.)
  • Do the possible additional short-term sales and/or long-term prospects outweigh the costs of the advertisement?
  • How good will your advertisement be (image, strapline, and any additional description)? Will it interest your target audience? Your advertisement needs to be marketable and geared toward your specific target audience in order to be effective.
  • Is your book highly marketable? Advertisements won’t help a book that lacks marketability.

There are many different ways to advertise.

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook offer advertising which is geared toward businesses hoping to get views (branding), clicks (visits to their websites), Likes (popularity), Follows (interest), and reposts or comments (interaction). The question is whether or not you can effectively target your audience and, if so, how responsive those people will be to an advertisement for a book in this context. Note that Twitter lets you target followers of specific people (could be authors of similar books). If you’re going to target a category, make sure it’s a very good match for your specific target audience (targeting books or readers, for example, is way too broad to be effective).

Goodreads has a similar advertising structure compared to Twitter and Facebook, while being focused on books and reading. On the other hand, there are several authors and publishers advertising on Goodreads, and many of these ads look highly professional and flash different images to get attention. The basic self-service advertisement (which is much cheaper) shows a very tiny image (it says 50 x 66 pixels) and is static. It may be tough for indie authors to compete with advertising on Goodreads. However, the giveaway program is much less expensive (just the cost of the book plus shipping). You might not get any reviews or sell any books through a giveaway (it happens), but you might get a few hundred to a thousand (or so) views. This is an affordable way to gain some exposure, create a little buzz, and help a little with branding. The possible long-term benefits may be worth the small investment even if the giveaway doesn’t help with short-term sales or reviews.

There are a variety of websites and email newsletter subscription services that may be helpful for short-term promotional discounts (not necessarily free). Examples include BookBub, Ereader News Today, Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, Book Blast, and Pixel of Ink. Note that some of these specifically service e-books. Some of these services have minimum average-star or other requirements, but some don’t. These services can be very helpful in getting more exposure from a free promotion, and can also help to promote a sale that isn’t free. (In the case of a freebie, you have to ask yourself if you really want to invest money in the advertisement on top of giving away books. If you’re going to advertise, it might seem desirable to recover some of the investment quickly with some early royalties. If you have a series, though, a promoted freebie may lead to sales for the other books in your series.) Yet another consideration is whether the market is primarily in the US, UK, or elsewhere.

You can find many other websites online where you can advertise. Search for online websites, magazines, newsletters, and activities that are likely to attract your specific target audience. If you can find a place to advertise that’s a good fit for your target audience, that may turn out to be more effective than going with websites with bigger names.

Another route is the blog tour. Depending on the tour, it may be better for you to plan ahead and try to contact bloggers individually. Also, people you follow and interact with regularly may be more receptive, since you have a rapport together and often support one another, than a stranger; this also gives you more insight into the blogger and lets you see firsthand how many active participants there are on the blog and how many of those are a good fit for your target audience. If you’re looking for exposure from bloggers, you definitely want to ensure that the blog is a good match for your specific target audience.

There is also the potential for offline advertising, like small newspapers, magazines, and circulars. Once again, the magic words are “specific target audience.”

Research the advertising service.

Advertising services generally publicize relevant statistics, such as:

  • Size of the viewership, readership, or circulation.
  • Classification of the circulation by genre (e.g. what percentage is mystery, romance, fantasy, etc.).
  • Average percentage of views, clicks, Likes, follows, or sales. The average isn’t a guarantee, but is a compromise between ineffective and highly effective advertising. The marketability of your book and of your advertisement are very important, as are additional promotional activities (especially, free and low-cost marketing to supplement your advertisement). Some authors who have large fan bases to begin can drive these averages up.

Even if you don’t have any intention of advertising on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads, it’s worthwhile to check out their advertising options because they have a lot of helpful information and tips. Also, when you check out the stats of other advertising services, you can compare it to the information that you see at these websites. Any data you find here will give you some type of benchmark, like the average percentage of clicks at Goodreads.

In addition to numbers, try to find authors who have used the service and learn what they have to say about it. (Another issue is how much you can trust the published numbers.)

Only a fraction of the circulation number will see your advertisement.

The first question to ask yourself is how much of the circulation consists of other authors. Authors who want to advertise with an email newsletter probably subscribe to it first as readers to check it out.

However, authors are readers, too, and many indie authors are likely to read other indie books when they aren’t writing. So to some extent it’s okay if there is a healthy percentage of authors in the circulation. But it’s probably desirable to have many readers who aren’t authors in the circulation, too.

Many people won’t open an email newsletter that they have subscribed to; or they may only open it once in a while—e.g. when they happen to be in the mood for a book.

No matter how you advertise, some people in the circulation won’t see your ad. Even on television, some people watching the show will be in the bathroom, cooking, or on the telephone during a commercial. In a magazine, most people who read it won’t see every page. And so on.

Of those who see an advertisement, only a tiny fraction will actually click on it, visit the website, Like a page, Follow you, or buy a book. Just the percentage who click on it compared to those who see it is typically very low—although this number can vary considerably depending on the marketability of the book and the effectiveness of the advertisement. It can also vary considerably from one advertising service to another.

Gear your advertisement toward your specific target audience.

Any image in your advertisement needs to attract your target audience. It’s just as important as cover design is for marketability. The image might even be your book cover (but not necessarily). Check the size of the image, aspect ratio (you definitely don’t want this to be distorted), and quality (e.g. pixilation). Ensure that the text is legible and crisp on the photo for the ad.

You need a good strapline that’s likely to draw interest from your target audience. If you’re advertising a short-term discount, contest, or free content of some kind, for example, this may draw more interest than simply advertising your book.

Check all of your writing very carefully. Any mistakes in the little writing you do in the advertisement won’t bode well for the quality of thousands of words written in a book. Remember that the goal of any writing in an advertisement is to catch the interest of your target audience and make them curious for more. Get feedback from others (especially, in your target audience) before placing your ad.

The cost of an advertisement can be calculated in different ways.

Some services charge a flat fee—e.g. $80 to place the ad.

Some services charge a fixed fee that depends on choices you make, such as the price of your book. For example, it might be $60 to place an ad for a freebie, $120 if the price is 99 cents, or $180 if the price is $1.99.

Some services charge a fee based on activity (like a fee per click, or a fee per Like or Follow).

Some services require you to bid on the ad. For example, you might bid 5 cents to a few dollars. In this context, different ads compete with one another for the chance to be viewed. You can usually place an upper limit on your daily spending and/or on the total amount for your campaign. For example, you might bid 25 cents for the ad with a maximum daily limit of $5.

When you bid on your ad, very often views of the ad are free, but you pay based on activity (e.g. a click, Like, or Follow). In this case, your ad may actually benefit from hundreds of views without any charge to you. What percentage of people view your ad actually click, Like, or Follow can vary significantly depending on the effectiveness of the ad and the content you’re advertising. Also, at some sites, clicks, Likes, or Follows are much more likely than at other sites.

The bid is usually the maximum that you’re willing to pay, and will often be less. For example, if you bid 50 cents for the ad, sometimes you may be charged less than 50 cents (any number from the minimum bid to 50 cents). Your ad competes against other ads in an auction format, so when you bid 50 cents, you’re basically saying, “50 cents is the most I’ll pay, but if possible I’d like to pay less.”

I recommend starting out at the minimum bid with a cap on your daily spending. Monitor your stats for a few days before raising your bid. This way, you can see what effect your bid has while keeping the risk low in the beginning. If you’re happy with the results, then you can safely avoid higher bids.

Don’t rely on the advertisement to do all the work for you.

I discussed the need to supplement advertisements with free and low-cost marketing in my previous post. Advertising isn’t a substitution for the need to market your book; it’s a supplement that can help improve the sales of a marketable book.

How would you like to participate in a Black Friday type of sales event designed specifically for books? Check out Read Tuesday. It’s going to be HUGE!

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)

Paid Advertising Options for Book Sales

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The success of any book depends on a combination of effective marketing and the degree of marketability.

  • Effective marketing strategies help customers in the target audience discover a book.
  • Creating a highly marketable book improves the chances that a customer who discovers the book will purchase the book.

There are numerous free and low-cost marketing ideas out there. Some of these can be quite effective. The great thing about free and low-cost marketing strategies is that there is very little financial risk.

There are also ways to invest money in the marketing. One way to invest money in marketing is through paid advertisements. This is the focus of this article.

What advertising won’t do.

Let me begin by saying what paid advertising won’t do. It doesn’t do the marketing for you.

If you’re tentative about marketing or inexperienced with marketing, paying for advertisements is not a substitution for marketing. You can’t just throw money somewhere to relieve yourself from having to market your book.

So if you were hoping that paid advertising would be the solution to your marketing dilemma, think again. If you’re in this boat, I recommend putting several months of effort into free and low-cost marketing to develop some firsthand marketing experience.

First gain some marketing experience.

If you want paid advertisements to be effective, you will need that marketing experience. There are decisions you must make and things that you need to design where poor marketability decisions will render the advertisement ineffective. You need this marketing experience to help make better advertising choices.

Furthermore, you need to promote the advertisements in some cases, and in any case you need other marketing strategies in place to supplement the advertisements. It will take marketing experience to do this effectively. It will also take connections to help with your promotions. The more time you spend marketing with free and low-cost methods, the more connections you will build through networking in the process. Remind yourself that you’re not just trying to promote your book: You’re also networking and hoping to develop helpful connections (especially, win-win situations, where help runs both ways).

Identify your goals.

What are you hoping for the advertising to accomplish?

If your main goal is to turn a profit, then you need to do a cost-benefit analysis and weigh the risks versus the possible rewards carefully. Figure out how many books you must sell to recover you investment. Try to research data that can help you project how plausible this is.

However, if you are more concerned about initial exposure, but aren’t concerned about recovering your investment quickly, then you should be focusing more on what kind of exposure you might gain from the venture. The risk still matters. The distinction is whether you’re more focused on long-term potential or short-term profit.

What’s your net?

Advertising may lead to an increase in sales. If you have a steady baseline (how many books you sell per day on average), this will help you gauge the effect of your advertising. Specifically, this tells you how many additional sales you are getting per day on average.

What you really want to know is your net profit or loss. Compute your net additional royalty and subtract your advertising expenses.

Keep in mind that sales can fluctuate, increase, or decrease all on their own. There are many complicating factors that you’re likely not to be aware of. The more data you have prior to your advertising campaign, the better you can gauge this statistically.

Advertising doesn’t always lead to an increase in sales. Like any investment, advertising carries risk. The more experience you have with marketing and the better you understand marketability and marketing, the better your advertising prospects; but even then, there are no guarantees.

Some of the benefits are long-term.

Advertising isn’t just about generating short-term sales.

There are many other possible benefits of advertising:

  • Build buzz to hopefully stimulate initial sales, reviews, and word-of-mouth news.
  • Help the target audience discover a new product.
  • Tell people about a short-term sale.
  • Try to boost sales to get onto bestseller lists, which may help to stimulate sales further.
  • Try to stay on bestseller lists once getting there.
  • Brand the title or author name through repetition.
  • Brand the cover by sight through repetition.
  • Get people to associate your book with a distinguished quality.

Commercials very often don’t generate immediate sales. What they tend to do is create a brand name through repetition. Months later, when the customer is buying a product, the customer is most likely to choose a product that sounds familiar. This is called branding. It’s a very important aspect of marketing.

Branding requires patience. It can take many months before a customer has seen your book enough times to recognize it, and then it may take many more months before the customer is in the market for a book like yours.

Advertising can be one part of your branding efforts.

The more people in your target audience hear your book’s name, your name, and see your cover, the more branding occurs.

Advertising can help with this, especially if the ads are targeted to your specific audience. However, advertising shouldn’t be your only attempt at branding. You need to get your cover, title, and name out in front of your target audience through a variety of different resources (a blog, website, social media, blog interviews, blogger reviews, etc.) to improve the chances for the same potential customer to see your book multiple times. This is one more reason that you need to combine free and low-cost marketing with paid advertisements. (You don’t necessarily need to do the paid advertising; that’s optional. You definitely need to do the free and low-cost stuff.)

Advertising books is different from advertising household products.

You’re probably familiar with commercials and other advertisements for household products that you buy in stores or online. What you need to realize is that advertising books is much different.

How many different brands of toilet paper do you need to choose from at the grocery story? You can probably count them on your fingers. You probably recognize a few of these brands from t.v.

Now think about going to buy a book. If you want to buy a mystery, for example, you have to choose from thousands of books. There are many, many more alternatives.

Advertising toilet paper is cost-effective because millions of people will use it and there are only a few brands to choose from. Although millions of people read books, there are also millions of books to choose from.

There are thousands of other authors trying to promote their books. There are also many publishers doing this. Some of the bestselling authors and top publishers invest a considerable sum of money into their advertising campaigns.

All these factors make it a challenge for you to reap a short-term reward from advertisements.

Since advertising is a risk that may result in a loss, the safe thing to do is stick with the many free and low-cost marketing alternatives.

What else can you advertise besides your book?

When you advertise your book, people immediately realize that it’s an advertisement. People generally don’t like advertisements because they are interruptions. For this reason, most people don’t click on advertisements and most people don’t buy the product in the near future. However, the people who see your advertisement and don’t click on it or buy the product may still recognize your book in the future. Advertisements are often more effective through branding than they are in short-term sales.

However, there are other things that you can advertise besides your book. Some of these things may be more effective at generating clicks or sales.

  • Advertise a website rather than the book. If the website has content that will attract the target audience and this is clear in the advertisement, then customers may be more likely to click on it.
  • Advertise a short-term sale. This may help to create a sense of urgency.
  • Advertise a contest. The chance to win something may generate interest. (On the other hand, there are many people who feel that they never win anything, so don’t bother to enter, and there are so many contests that it would be a lot of work to enter them all. Not everyone thinks this way, though, and some people still love contests.)
  • Advertise something that’s free and that your target audience will want to have. There are many possibilities. A free PDF booklet, for example, won’t cost you any money to make, and if it looks nice and has information that your target audience will want, it may draw interest. This can help to get people from your target audience to visit your website and discover your book.
  • Advertise a series. You don’t have to actually advertise a series in the advertisement. You could advertise the first book or the most recent book, and this may help to draw interest in the whole series. If you have a set of books, this makes advertising more economical when you think about the cost per book.
  • Advertise an event, like a workshop or start a special week that relates to your book.

How marketable is your book?

Paid advertisements won’t make up for poor marketability.

A highly marketable book will sell through free and low-cost marketing.

It doesn’t take paid advertisements to sell a highly marketable book; it just takes discovery.

If a book doesn’t have marketability, advertising isn’t likely to help.

Advertising can help a marketable book get discovered and thereby sell more frequently.

See the following link for help assessing your book’s marketability:

In one of my next posts, I’ll discuss some specific advertising options at a few websites that many authors are familiar with.

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)

The Importance of Feedback on Marketability, Pre-Marketing, and Marketing

Feedback is important for both marketability and marketing.

Let me illustrate this with Read Tuesday.

There are four reasons that I’ve been seeking feedback on many stages of the development of Read Tuesday:

  • Marketability. Feedback from members of the target audience helps you assess your product’s marketability in addition to possibly giving you useful ideas or pointing out the need for revisions. This is something that every author should do with every book.
  • Pre-marketing. As you’re putting your next book together, if you seek input for the title, cover reveal, draft of a blurb, draft of the Look Inside portion, and so on before you publish, this helps to build buzz for your book.
  • Marketing: If your interactions involve other authors, publishers, editors, publicists, etc., in the process of receiving feedback, you may also establish useful leads and connections. This may lead to blog interviews, reblogs, and many other forms of help, especially if they like your idea or feel that they have become involved in the process.
  • Content: In my case, it provides some examples of things that authors can do with their own marketing. Many of the ideas you see going into Read Tuesday are things you might consider for your own marketing.

So keep these things in mind with your own books, and when you see me request feedback, consider how it might relate to your marketing.

I actually have a fifth reason. We’re all in Read Tuesday together. I want this to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. While I can’t use every idea, I do consider every idea, and I have tried to incorporate most of the ideas I’ve received. I value everybody’s input. This fifth reason doesn’t apply to writing books. Most good stories weren’t written democratically like this. So you probably don’t want to borrow my fifth reason, at least in regards to authorship.

I’m working on a press release kit for Read Tuesday, and I’m also thinking of other ways to show the Read Tuesday catalog. So this post offers another chance for anybody to provide feedback, ideas, suggestions, etc.

The main thing I’m looking for with the press release (however, feel free to share ideas for any part of it) is a sample of participation. I don’t want to leak pricing information early, but it may be helpful to show samples of authors or books that will be participating. The big problem is which books or authors to feature.

Naturally, every author should want to be featured. I could feature a different set of authors in different press releases, but I can’t include every author. So how do I choose? There are many ways this could be done. If you have ideas, I’ll consider them.

You can use the Contact Us form on Read Tuesday (or just click on my Gravatar on the sidebar and email me) if you’d like me to consider using your book. So far, very few authors have used the Contact Us forms, so if this continues as usual, your chances would be very good this way. 🙂

Also, do you have suggestions for the Read Tuesday catalog? You can check it out on the Read Tuesday website. I’ve only posted the very preliminary book catalog of the first books to sign up. I need to update it, and I also haven’t added the author catalog yet.

What I see on my end is a spreadsheet. I can sort it by genre or other information that was entered into the catalog. I didn’t include every column on the preliminary catalog, so there are a couple of things that I can add to it. If you have ideas for how the catalog could be better and it turns out to be fairly easy to implement it, please let me know.

Once the catalog grows large enough, I will probably post subcatalogs on different pages—e.g. one page for children’s fiction, or even one page for mystery if the list is long enough. I think this will help with organization (along with a menu).

If you haven’t already filled out the Google Docs forms to add yourself and books to the catalog, it’s not too late to do it. Remember, you don’t have to worry about price at this stage. Just click on the Author link on the Read Tuesday website to find the forms. It’s easy. (But if you have any issues, please let me know.)

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)

Readers and Authors, What Constitutes Self-Promotion?

Self Promo

This is an important issue for both readers and authors. Authors know they need to be discovered through marketing, and so readers come across countless attempts by authors to get their books discovered by them.

At the same time, it isn’t easy for readers to navigate through hundreds of thousands of books to discover those few that most interest them. Authors want to be discovered, and readers want to discover books they will enjoy. Successful marketing helps readers find books that are likely to be a good fit for them. This helps readers. In contrast, ineffective marketing can be quite a nuisance, and distracts readers from the opportunity to discover books that are likely to interest them.

The most obvious attempts by authors to get discovered by readers come in the form of spam, where an author repeatedly posts about the book with high frequency. Many authors realize that this is more likely to develop a bad reputation or simply be ignored than it is to succeed. It’s also prohibited on most forums and online platforms if done too frequently.

There is a danger in being branded as an annoying insect if posting too frequently on social media platforms. Borderline spamming might get the title or author name out there for possible branding—“I recognize this book,” or, “This must be a big-name author because I see that name all over the place”—but it’s also likely to be tuned out or to brand a negative image—“I hate that author for spamming the boards all the time,” or, “I think I’ll click that Unfollow button so I can find the posts I like.”

One step down from spamming the board is explicit self-promotion. For example, “Hello, I just wrote a book called Best Book Ever by Self Promoter. Please buy it.”

Some community forums—like the Amazon customer discussions (which attract some authors because they expect to find customers there, but may not be the ideal place to get a book discovered)—don’t allow explicit self-promotion like this. Even where explicit self-promotion is permitted, it’s often frowned upon by various (and sometimes outspoken) community members.

Aside from this, explicit self-promotion has the problems of overt advertising. Most people prefer to avoid commercials. We put up with commercials on television, radio, and magazines for lack of a free alternative (though you can pay for commercial-free alternatives). Except when you need a bathroom break in the middle of a movie, you usually aren’t pleased to have your show interrupted. (If you want to shout “Infomercial,” I’ll grant you a point.)

On the other hand, some level of self-promotion is what authors need to do. Spam and explicit self-promotion to the point that it seems that your post served no other purpose may not be in your best interest even where they are allowed. However, if you want to be discovered, you do need to promote yourself in some way.

Effective marketing requires visibility among your target audience. You need your target audience to see your book cover and read or hear your book’s title and your name for branding to do its work.

Essentially, this is self-promotion. You’re trying to get discovered. You have to tell people about your book for this to happen. Yet spam and too much self-promotion can backfire.

The trick is to get discovered in a way that doesn’t come across as self-promotion.

This begs the question: Exactly what do people perceive as self-promotion? Part of the problem is that everybody doesn’t agree on the answer.

Following are a few suggestions to help judge this:

  • Does it seem like you are present mainly just to promote your book? Or are you providing relevant and meaningful contributions?
  • Does the mention of your book seem out of place? Or are you mentioning your book at your own site, or to establish your expertise or experience as an author, or to provide a reference to relevant content?
  • Does it look like you’re trying to grab everyone’s attention? Or does it seem like you’re just hoping to get discovered by those who enjoy interacting with you. (For example, it could be the distinction between coming right out and telling anyone about your book versus mentioning this when asked or only offering this information in your profile.)
  • Is your book irrelevant for much of the audience? Or does your audience closely coincide with the target audience for your book?

Context is important, too. If you’re running a special one-day sale, you want to get the word out, and people in your target audience may be grateful for the discount. Also, more self-promotion is to be expected on your own turf than otherwise (but posting too much about yourself isn’t as likely to attract an audience as providing meaningful content for your target audience).

Self-promotion isn’t just an issue online. It’s also important when interacting in person.

How do you feel about self-promotion as a reader or as an author? How do you define the line between what’s acceptable and what’s not? Do you think there is a type of self-promotion that needs to be done, but another type of self-promotion that should be avoided? What kinds of marketing do you consider not to be self-promotion?

Well, we’ve reached the end of this post so I better mention my book now. I might as well promote Read Tuesday while I’m at 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)

Read Tuesday: It’s going to be HUGE!

Need Help with Read Tuesday News Story

I wrote a news story about Read Tuesday, with hopes to get the article some visibility.

I don’t want to post the draft here, for the benefit of whatever news agency or site may be willing to publish it—i.e. they can be the first to reveal it. However, I will try to briefly describe what this story does. If and when it gets posted somewhere, I’ll provide a link so you can check it out. (Maybe there will be more than one kind of story.)

First, it explains what Read Tuesday is. I emphasized how it will help to spread literacy and reading, which I believe is a good cause. Next, I describe how it’s a coordinated effort among indie authors, made possible by the fact that indies control their prices. I think the fact that it’s not driven by big business, but is unity among indies from around the world, is newsworthy. Finally, I briefly outlined the problem with Black Friday and Cyber Monday in regards to books, explaining how Read Tuesday creates a special sale for book lovers.

I could use a little help. For example, it would be nice to have a few quotes about the event. Some of you have expressed your sentiments about Read Tuesday on your blog, as comments here, and elsewhere. If there is a remark that you wouldn’t mind being included in the news story (and I’ll mention your name and briefly your qualifications, e.g. indie author of Your Book—I’ll let you decide how you’d like this to appear), please let me know. I think the news will be better if it reflects more than just one person’s opinion (i.e. mine).

If you have any ideas that I might consider regarding this news story, please feel free to share them.

Feel free to write your own news story. If you get it published somewhere, this could be nice exposure for you (with your name, Author of Your Book, at the bottom).

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)

Preliminary Read Tuesday Catalogs Coming Soon

It's going to be HUGE!

It’s going to be HUGE!

Misha Burnett wrote a nice article about the importance and ease of gifting in relation to Read Tuesday. We’ll be posting this article tomorrow. The article mentions the Read Tuesday catalog of books, so I’ll be posting a preliminary catalog on the Read Tuesday catalog tomorrow.

If you’d like to get listed in the preliminary catalogs (it’s free!) before I put them up, you still have a window of opportunity.

Link to enroll books in the catalog:

Link to enroll authors in the catalog:

If you encounter any issues with the forms, please let me know.

(There are also additional forms for any small publishers or booksellers who want to show their participation.)

The official Read Tuesday website:

Read Tuesday: It’s going to be HUGE!

Give the gift of reading this holiday season.

Chris McMullen