That Book is a Monster

Image licensed from Shutter Stock.


There is one book that I’m wrapping up now that has grown and grown and grown… turning into a monster.

In a good way. But it has been very time consuming.

It’s a good thing that I really love to write.

That’s why, in 2017, I didn’t blog nearly as much as in previous years. I’ve been busy with a seemingly never-ending project.

Actually, a few very large book projects.

One, which I’m in the process of completing, is Kindle Formatting Magic.

The other is a series of physics workbooks/study guides.

Both projects wound up growing much, much larger than I had originally envisioned.

It has taken much more work than I had planned, but it has been worth it.

If you’re a writer, have you become involved in any monstrous book projects?

Or perhaps as a reader there is a monstrous book or series that you appreciate.


You may have noticed that my Kindle Formatting Magic book has been “coming soon” for several months now.

When I first added that note to my blog, the book was nearly complete and I was expecting to publish it in a matter of weeks.

But I realized that I wasn’t happy with the organization of the book.

So I reorganized it and completely rewrote it.

That took a long time, but then I reorganized it and completely rewrote it yet again.

Third time’s a charm.

Now it really is “coming soon,” though by that I mean it’s still a matter of weeks. But this time it will be a few weeks or more, certainly not a year.

The book feels “right” now. It hadn’t before.

Once I finally got it to feel “right” to me, it continued to grow.

I realized that I needed to add a few more chapters beyond what I had intended.

And I have spent a great deal of time putting together over 100 pictures to visually demonstrate important problems and solutions with Kindle formatting.

On top of that, I’ve been editing, revising, re-editing…

Speaking of which, over the course of this project, there have been numerous changes to Kindle Direct Publishing, including the nature of the previewer and Kindle conversion, the steps and organization of the publishing process, and the organization and content of the KDP help pages.

Which has added several revisions to my revisions.

This book has grown into a monster, but I’m taking my time. Having already put so many additional months into this book, I want it to feel as “right” as possible before it hits the market.

Almost done.

It’s a good feeling to be almost done. I’m enjoying it.

Being completely done will be a nice feeling too.

This will be far and above my best formatting book ever.


If I had only been working on my formatting book, I would have finished months ago.

But I also spent much of 2017 completing my series of physics workbooks/study guides.

There are three volumes, each 300 to 500 pages. (This includes space for students to work out the solutions to problems.)

Originally, I planned for my physics workbooks to include problems for students to solve along with answers.

But they grew into so much more.

I added material to each chapter to help students understand the main concepts. I added definitions. I added full step-by-step examples for how to solve similar problems. I added tables to explain the symbols and units relevant to each chapter.

This took much time, but I believe it has made my physics workbooks much more useful.

Many of my physics students have remarked that I can make difficult concepts seem clear, and that I can make the math seem easy.

So I worked hard to try to incorporate this into my physics workbooks.

On top of this, I decided to do more than simply tabulate the answers to the problems at the back of the book.

First, I put the final answer to each problem on the same page as the problem. This way, students don’t have to hunt for answers in the back. They can check if their solution is right or wrong immediately. I want students to gain confidence by solving problems correctly, but if their solution is wrong, I want them to know it so they can seek help.

In the back of the book, I typed up numerous hints to every part of every problem, and give intermediate answers to help students see where they went wrong.

The “hints and intermediate answers” section practically walks the student through the entire solution.

Again, it was much more work than I had originally planned, but I believe it has made my workbooks much better.

Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also typed up full solutions to every problem with explanations, creating three new books.

They aren’t really intended to be solutions manuals, even though they are. These are presented as fully solved examples.

Some students prefer to have fully solved examples to read, while other students prefer to have a workbook to help them practice solving problems.

Then I have two versions of every book, one that includes calculus and one that doesn’t (I call those trig-based).

I finally completed the physics series a few months back, and now I’m finishing up my formatting book.

Sometime early in 2018, I will be able to pursue something new.

It won’t be a book monster. I need a little break from mammoth book projects. I’m looking forward to working on a project that’s more focused.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online BooksellersVolume 1 on formatting and publishing

  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

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)