Amazon KDP Supports Indie Authors—and You Can, too, through New Year’s Resolutions #PoweredByIndie

Book Butterfly

Image from ShutterStock.

WRITING RESOLUTIONS

First, a little history: Amazon KDP celebrated Indie Publishing Month a few months back. At the time, they featured a special landing page for indie books, and encouraged authors to use the #PoweredByIndie hashtag with relevant social media posts.

With the new year, Amazon Kindle is again supporting indie authors. This time, it’s through New Year’s writing resolutions.

For one, Amazon created a landing page for indie authors’ writing resolutions and recommendations for indie books (it’s worth exploring, as the page includes many books and audio books geared toward writing and publishing):

http://www.amazon.com/newyearnewstories

Also check out the Amazon KDP Facebook page this month (or any month, as you can often find publishing tips there):

http://www.facebook.com/KindleDirectPublishing

Finally—and this is where YOU come in—Amazon is encouraging indie authors to use the #PoweredByIndie hashtag on relevant social media posts, namely your own writing resolutions and indie book recommendations.

This is a great time to show your support for indie publishing.

  • What are your writing resolutions for the new year?
  • Which indie books would you recommend?

Help readers discover #GreatContent (another cool hashtag) among the world of indie books.

HAPPY 2017!

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 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)

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Authors: Don’t Be Afraid to Strike Out

Strike Out

AUTHOR SUCCESS

Sometimes, the only difference between an author who becomes highly successful and thousands who struggle to get discovered is this:

The author who became highly successful wasn’t afraid to strike out swinging.

Many authors don’t try to find an agent or traditional publisher. They’re afraid to strike out.

Many authors who do try to find an agent or traditional publisher give up after a few rejections. Having struck out a few times, they’d rather not strike out again.

Many authors don’t try to get their books stocked in local bookstores. They might strike out.

Many authors don’t try to get the press to cover their stories. The answer could be NO.

Many authors give up after self-publishing a couple of books. Striking out is no fun.

Many authors are afraid to seek advice from successful authors.

Many authors ignore big opportunities and focus only on the smallest ones.

But you can’t hit a grand slam if you don’t step up to the plate.

Chances are that you will strike out a lot.

But the solution isn’t to give up.

If you don’t like striking out, work on your approach so that the next time you have a better shot.

It may not be as simple as asking.

There is a little more to it than that.

You have to learn to ask the right way.

For example, there are better and worse ways to prepare a press release kit or a query letter.

Keep working on your story idea and pitch until you nail them.

And experience is a big factor.

You have to strike out several times to gain that experience.

Do your research, as that helps much, too.

You can learn much from others who’ve stepped to the plate many times and finally learned how to get on base.

Work hard to improve as an author.

Work hard writing as that hard work can go a long way.

That hard work and experience give you a solid foundation to stand on.

Build connections.

Seek advice.

Start with small things to build confidence, but don’t stop with the small things.

Visualize the successful outcome you wish to achieve and work toward it.

Remind yourself that you CAN do it.

Odds are in your favor when you play the long game.

ASK FOR IT

A little over a year ago, I had this idea for a Black Friday just for books.

I mentioned it on my blog and received much initial support, but it was just an idea and there were only a couple of months to the big event.

I asked for help.

Authors generously helped spread the word and signed up.

I sought help with a press release and publicity and received much support.

I took a few chances, asking for really BIG opportunities for exposure or help.

One of these came through this year.

The simple fact is that if you don’t ask, you don’t receive.

I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with hundreds (surely, thousands) of self-published authors.

A surprising number of those I’ve met have achieved some nice levels of success.

Most of the highly successful authors whom I’ve met are not afraid to strike out.

They’ve gone to the plate many times and struck out many times, but finally learned how to make contact.

Don’t be afraid to strike out.

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Please support the Read Tuesday Thunderclap. This will help spread awareness on the morning of Read Tuesday (December 9, 2014). It’s easy to help:

  • Visit http://thndr.it/1CkO2Bg.
  • Click Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and sign in.
  • Customize the message. (Optional.)
  • Agree to the terms. All that will happen is that the Thunderclap post about Read Tuesday will go out the morning of December 9.
  • (The warning message simply means that Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr need your permission to post the Thunderclap message on December 9. This is the only post that Thunderclap will make.)

Chris McMullen

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

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

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Cover Reveal

Boxed Set of SP Books 3d with reflection

As you know, I have a few books on self-publishing. The first was originally published in 2009. I designed the original covers myself, and felt they worked for nonfiction: The main point was that the titles were easy to read in the thumbnails.

The big problem for me was that my covers didn’t have a unified look. So I hired Melissa Stevens (www.theillustratedauthor.net) to make them more unified and to add an image that might help them pop. We settled on a geometric approach, arranging the covers of my books in a cube, spheres, and a pyramid.

She also designed a matching header (you can see it now at WordPress and Facebook), shaped like a cylinder.

The cover that impressed me most was the boxed set (coming soon) that I used for this cover reveal above. I like this perspective, which shows off the front cover while still allowing for ample detail on the spines.

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

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

 

 

Indie Publishing Is Dynamic

Updated

Introduction

Traditional publishing has its benefits, but so does indie publishing.

However, those benefits are meaningless if you don’t take advantage of them.

One of the great advantages of indie publishing is the opportunity to swiftly respond to the many changes that arise throughout a book’s life, and to give a book an extended lifetime that far exceeds typical shelf life.

How’s the Weather?

Even in the publishing industry, the weather is unpredictable.

Many factors come up, including those that are beyond your control.

  • Kindle changes the way that series books are displayed in search results.
  • Just as you begin your big promotion, one of your first reviews stings like a bumblebee.
  • The subject of your nonfiction book experiences a major change just months after it’s published. Now it’s outdated.
  • Amazon discontinues the 4-for-3 program, starts discounting paperbacks, or stops putting them on sale.
  • One of the main subcategories that you selected is suddenly eliminated.
  • Someone raises a valid complaint about an issue that you failed to anticipate.
  • Readers convince you that you needed more editing help than you realized.

As an indie author, there is much you can’t control, but there is much you can respond to swiftly.

Product Page

Many features on your product page are dynamic:

  • The cover. Just upload a new one!
  • The blurb. Easy to revise. You can even format it through Author Central.
  • The keywords. Wise choices improve discoverability. Hardly selling? Change them up.
  • The categories. Be careful, though. If you’ve built up good visibility, a change could cost you.
  • The reviews. You can rarely change them, but it’s dynamic in that there is always the potential for a customer to leave a new review. (It works both ways. If things are good now, a bad one can spoil it. If the last review stings, in time a new one may be favorable.)
  • The editorial reviews. Get a great review quote from a relevant source and it can spice up your product page.
  • The biography. In addition to trying to find what works, if you leave this unchanged, it can become outdated.
  • The author photo. Strive to look the part.
  • The page count. You could add content. For a Kindle, adding a paperback makes this more accurate.
  • The customers-also-bought lists. The more effective your marketing, the more sales will help with this.
  • The list price. Having doubts? There’s one way to find out.
  • The sale price. Amazon often changes the sale price of print books. You can’t count on the selling price (but for CreateSpace print books, you’re paid based on the list price).
  • The recent blog posts on your Author Central page. Amazon displays the three most recent posts.
  • The book itself. Republishing is so simple, we could interrupt this blog with an auto insurance commercial.
  • And much more. Expanded distribution adds third-party sellers. More print sales leads to a few used books for sale. Author Central and Shelfari offer book extras. There are customer discussions, which are (and should be) quite rare except for popular authors.

But Not Everything

A few things are static:

  • The title. Choose wisely. Changing the title requires republishing a new book.
  • The author name and ISBN are fixed, too, unless you republish.
  • Customer reviews. A bad review is a permanent public record, so do your best to perfect your book from the beginning.
  • The publication date. (Though there was a period recently where republishing a Kindle changed this date.)
  • If you comment on a review, as soon as the reviewer or anyone else replies to your comment, if you change your mind and delete your comment, it will say, “Deleted by the author.” Amazon means the author of the comment, but everyone will assume it’s the author of the book.
  • Print books remain on your Author Central page forever. (A Kindle book, along with reviews of the Kindle edition, can be removed by unpublishing. But if you republish later, those reviews may reappear, although you may appeal to Author Central.)

What Does It Mean?

It means two things:

  1. You’re not stuck with things the way they are now.
  2. Don’t get too comfortable with things the way they are.

Here are some examples of how you can benefit from a dynamic publishing environment:

  • Monitor your three most recent blog posts. At any time, a customer can look at your Author Central page. What will this combination of posts look like to a customer?
  • Advance review copies can help to get a few early, honest reviews. If you’re planning a big early promotion, this can help to offset the possible misfortune of an unexpected critical review from one of your first customers.
  • On the other hand, if you get several glowing reviews, nothing critical is balancing them, and your book hasn’t yet established a healthy sales rank, this may seem suspicious to customers.
  • Making the blurb more clear or revising your book may render a review less relevant. This offers a little protection against the foolish person out to sabotage a book: The comment motivates you to improve the book or even the blurb, and now you suddenly have a better product (or packaging) on the market. Turn a negative into a positive.
  • Sales super slow? Try changing things up with a new blurb, cover, keyword, category, author photo, biography, or list price.
  • That strong urge you feel to respond to a review may have consequences that affect your book for it’s entire life. Some mistakes aren’t easy to fix. If instead you revise the blurb to address an issue raised in the review, if you later realize that doing so was a mistake, you can revise your blurb.
  • Adding quality books to the market similar to those you’ve already published helps your customers-also-bought lists help you.
  • When Kindle adds new features, like the recent Countdown Deal, you can take advantage of them immediately.
  • Updating the content of your book is easy. Just republish.
  • Keep writing and marketing. Even if things are going well now, you never know. The best way to prepare for the unknown future of your book is to write similar books and spend some time marketing effectively.
  • Got a couple of bad reviews? (1) If there are valid points, update your book. (2) Drive traffic to your product page through effective marketing. This helps you get some sales even when the product page isn’t appealing much through discovery on Amazon.

Beyond the Product Page

Marketing is also dynamic. For example, social media used to be the craze. It’s still effective for some kinds of marketing, but not nearly as effective in general. A current trend is a content-rich website. It’s also good to try new things because doing what everyone else is doing isn’t always most effective for you.

Don’t rely on Amazon to sell your book. Even if you get 95% of your sales from Amazon, you should look beyond Amazon for help.

  • Amazon tends to help books that help themselves through effective marketing. The work you do to drive traffic to your product page helps.
  • Traffic that you direct to your product page can help you jumpstart sales when you first publish and can help keep sales going if your visibility in search results plummets or if you receive a couple of bad reviews (if you’re personally interacting, those customers may trust what they learned from you more than what a stranger posts in a review).
  • Getting your books stocked in small, local bookstores, selling from your own website, etc.—every added sales outlet helps you with branding, discovery, and improves the chances of selling books through some outlet if your Amazon sales suddenly drop.

Finally, don’t forget that authors are dynamic, too. You’re gaining experience as a writer and marketer. All writers continue to grow, no matter how seasoned they may be now.

About Me

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

Marketing Children’s Books

Childrens Books

What Do I Know About This?

Children, tweens, and teens make up a significant portion of the target audience for dozens of books that I’ve published.

This includes my Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks (arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry), my chemistry and astronomy books, projects where I’ve collaborated with other children’s authors, and books that I’ve published under a pen name.

(My audience isn’t just children, though. Many adults buy the same books. Most of my books have a grown-up look to them so that the same books can appeal to both audiences.)

I have implemented the marketing tips that I share below.

Math

Who Is the Target Audience?

Ultimately, you write a children’s book for the kids. If the kids who read the book don’t benefit from the book, it will be very difficult to achieve lasting success.

But the kids may not be involved in—or even present during—the purchase. Parents and educators are more likely to make the purchase.

Both the packaging (cover and blurb) and content must appeal to parents and educators, or the book won’t sell.

The book needs to appeal to the target age group, their parents, and the educators of this grade level in order to have a fighting chance.

You must target a very narrow age group or grade, such as Ages 9-11, preteens, or grade 4.

You would love to sell your book to everyone from age 0 to 115, but if you market your book this way, it may not sell to anybody.

Consider the parent or teacher who is shopping for the book. For example, a parent may be shopping for a book for a child who reads at the second-grade level. This parent doesn’t want to buy a book that has a kindergarten reading level because that would be too easy, and doesn’t want to buy a book with a fourth grade reading level as it would be too hard.

The parent also wants the content of the book to fit the interests and perhaps relevant curriculum standards for this grade level. The material must also be parent- and teacher-approved.

Many authors avoid mentioning the age or grade level, but this is a big mistake. The worry is that specifying grade 4, for example, will eliminate a great percentage of the shoppers. And there may be children in grade 2 who can handle the material, or children in grade 6 who are still reading at the level of grade 4 or who would benefit from additional practice with the easier material. Specifying grade 4 might lose those sales, right? But it’s just the opposite!

What parent is going to buy 50 books to find the one that’s the right level? None! Parents and teachers need to know exactly what they’re getting. Specifying an age group or grade level (not broadly, like grades 1-6) helps much more than it hurts. If the parent can’t determine the grade level, from the perspective of the parent, chances are that it’s not the right level, so it’s not a good gamble. When the level is clear, the guesswork is removed.

Some parents will say, “Oh, that’s the wrong level,” and that’s okay. First, they weren’t going to buy the book anyway if the level hadn’t been clear. Second, if they did, they would be unhappy with the purchase, which leads to a return or a bad review. What you gain by specifying the level are several customers who say, “Hey, that’s the level I’m looking for.” Catching the interest of 10% of the people who check out the book is better than having 99% of the people who check out the book pass on it because the level is unclear.

There are a few exceptions. For example, if you write a book on arithmetic facts or tracing the alphabet, parents know by the topic whether or not the child is in the right age group. But if your book is about math, reading, science, history, or fiction, for example, there are many books on each of these subjects in many different grade levels, so you must make this very clear.

Here’s a tip: Use the words “and up.” For example, kindergarten and up, or grades 4 and up. This is less restrictive.

Level

The Challenges

One difficulty is designing a cover that appeals to both the children in the target age group and their parents or teachers. Cover design is already challenging when there is just one target audience. It’s even tougher for children’s books because it must appeal to two audiences to result in a single sale.

Traditional publishers often indicate the grade level on the cover, such as a large “2nd” in the corner. (Note that Amazon has a new feature that hides the top right corner of the cover until the buyer looks inside.)

Similarly, the content must appeal to children, parents, and educators.

With self-publishing, it’s up to the author to determine the grade level. The writing has to match the grade level that you specify, the content has to match this level, and everything must be age-appropriate. It’s not easy to get this right, but one mistake can greatly deter sales. You can search online to find tools to help give your book a readability score.

The better approach is to talk with local teachers of the approximate grade level, ask for their opinion, and find out what standards they use to determine readability. For example, if there is a particular software program that can help you pinpoint the reading level that is more likely to be recognized in your state or country, then that’s the program you want to use.

Another thing parents and educators have on their minds is the author’s qualifications. This may be a relevant degree or teaching experience, for example, but not necessarily. A degree and educational experience may be more relevant for nonfiction. But even for fiction, parents and teachers want their children to read text and content that is free of mistakes. How will children learn to read and write well if they read books that have mistakes? It’s important to write well and iron out the blurb and content as well as possible.

K-12 educators are strongly oriented toward a curriculum, which follows state or national standards. You want to determine how your book fits, or doesn’t fit, into the curriculum. If you’re hoping to have your book used in a classroom setting, teachers will surely be thinking about how it ties into the curriculum. Your book doesn’t necessarily need to tie into the curriculum, though. For example, many schools are dropping cursive handwriting from the curriculum, yet parents buy cursive handwriting books because they still want their children to learn these skills. How you go about marketing your book depends on whether or not it fits into a school’s curriculum.

Formatting is generally more complicated for children’s books, especially if there are pictures. In many ways, it is easier to format text. For full-page picture books, the text and images must fit together, and full-page images must be designed to bleed past the page edges for paperback books. Full-page pictures with text are challenging in e-book design since an e-book may be read on a tiny cell phone screen or a large iPad: Text needs to be clear either way. The screen may have color, or may be black-and-white, but sometimes two colors that contrast well together don’t look different in grayscale, so ideally the images should look good both in color and grayscale. Image size and memory are two more challenges for e-books that have pictures.

New children’s authors generally find it difficult to get discovered by their target audiences, but it is doable. Ultimately, it takes great content, but it also requires effective marketing, patience, and developing an author platform that includes several similar books.

One more challenge is the perception of value. Beginning-level books, especially, often have very few words, so it may not seem, to the reader, that much work is involved in making the book, unless there are really intricate pictures (when, in fact, it takes a great deal of effort to write a book at the appropriate grade level, and to format most children’s books; but the shopper may just be thinking about the word count). Paperbacks and hardcovers printed in color may be quite expensive, and Kindle e-books with pictures may have a high memory. This means that the price may be higher than you or the customer would like. One possibility is combining multiple books together into a single book to help create the perception of better value, but it doesn’t always work out (if the page count is high for a full-color book, or if the images take much memory in an e-book, a larger volume may still turn out not to seem economical). Chapter books, consisting mostly of text, have an advantage when it comes to pricing reasonably.

It’s important to be aware of the challenges as you plan your book, write your book, design your cover, prepare your blurb, and establish the grade level.

Writing

Blurb Tips

Parents and educators are most likely to read the blurb. If you write to a teen audience, this improve the chances that the “child” will be reading the blurb. Younger kids may also read the blurb, but even if they do, they probably won’t buy your book unless their parents also read your blurb.

So you want to have the parent and educator in mind while preparing the blurb. But the child is important, too.

It’s important to establish the specific grade level, target age group, or reading level. Parents and teachers don’t want to take a chance; they want to know the proper level.

Note that grade levels can vary considerably by country. For example, it may be more appropriate to identify the key stage for UK children’s books. Also note that Amazon uses the same product description for all countries, so if your primary audience resides in the USA, for example, it’s probably not worth indicating the appropriate level in the UK (also, spelling and wording would be different there).

A parent isn’t just looking for the grade level, but to see that the material is age-appropriate, the reading level is a good fit, the content is what the parent or child is looking for, the material will engage the child, etc. Think about the best features that your book offers. These should be clear from reading the blurb (but not explicit for a fiction blurb).

Concise blurbs are often more effective. A fiction blurb should grab interest quickly and arouse curiosity. A long blurb runs the risk of boring the shopper or giving away too much. You want the buyer to look inside.

A nonfiction blurb can be longer, if separated into block paragraphs. Use bullets to highlight key points. You can format blank lines, bullets, italics, boldface, and underline by signing up for Author Central.

Blurb Girls

Category and Keyword Tips

Unfortunately, the BISAC categories that you select when you publish your book are different from the categories that you find on Amazon. You must choose the closest match.

Tip: There is a “secret” to getting into special categories. A hard-to-find page in the Kindle help pages (check it out even if you publish a print book) reveals how to use keywords to get your book listed in certain categories:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A200PDGPEIQX41

Once there, click on one of the categories (such as Children’s or Teen & Young Adult) to pull up a table. The table lists the keywords that you need to use to get your book into a specific category.

In particular, to get listed in a specific age group, you must use one of these keywords:

  • Baby to 2 years old: Keyword = baby.
  • Ages 3 to 5: Keyword = preschool.
  • Ages 6 to 8: Keyword = Ages 6 to 8.
  • Ages 9 to 12: Keyword = preteen.

It doesn’t say, but if your audience is teens, it seems logical to include “teen” as a keyword (without the quotes, of course).

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allows you to choose two categories, but CreateSpace only lets you pick one. Well, that’s not quite true:

Tip: Contact CreateSpace after your book appears on Amazon and politely request that it be added to a second browse category. Browse through the categories on Amazon, and when you find the best second category, copy the browse path (e.g. Books › Children’s Books › Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths › Collections) into your email to CreateSpace.

In the past,  I have been advised that the BISAC category must be within Children’s in order to add a second category under Teen.

Rank 2

Getting into the Classroom

Just enabling a distribution channel that’s available to academia probably won’t generate many sales to schools. It’s worth having access to such a channel. For one, you can then say that your book is indeed available through that route if the topic comes up in a conversation. But you’ll probably have to market personally to generate sales among educators.

Well, I have had multiple sales of 25 to 200 books directly from Amazon. It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened periodically with me. Teachers are looking for material that they can use in the classroom, and some do have a budget for additional classroom resources. If your product page appeals to teachers, there is potential. This is like winning the lottery. You can’t plan for it. You can make your content and packaging as appealing as possible, and if you get lucky, enjoy it. If not, well, you should have realized it was unlikely. If you do get bulk orders this way, it’s likely to be rare unless you’re motivating these sales through personal interactions.

I’ve also had upwards of 150 copies of a book purchased in bulk through the Expanded Distribution. That academic outlet is open, but, in my experience, is quite rare.

The more likely way to get a book adopted for classroom use is to personally interact with teachers. You may have to suffer many rejections along the way. First, you have to have content that’s an excellent fit into the teacher’s curriculum. Then the teacher may already be quite happy with the materials already on-hand or accessible online. The teacher may not have a budget. The teacher just might not like your book. The grade level might not match up as well as you’d hoped. There are many reasons that your book might not get adopted. However, there are books that appeal to teachers, and if you happen to have one of those, taking time to personally interact with teachers may pay large dividends.

If the teacher wants to adopt your book in the classroom, it could be ordered directly from Amazon, it could be ordered through the Expanded Distribution (though not all teachers may know how to go about this), or if you publish with CreateSpace you can create a discount code and direct the teacher to your eStore. The per-book shipping is pretty reasonable for large orders, and a sufficient discount may be enticing. If the teacher is investing his or her own money, rather than placing an order from the school through the school’s budget, the optimal solution is for you to order author copies and sell those at a discount in person. You probably can’t sell author copies if the school is purchasing the books through school funds (since auditors will examine records, hoping to prevent schools from overpaying for products through personal transactions of this sort); in this case, Amazon, Ingram, or your eStore are best.

It’s still worth interacting with teachers even if the chances of your book being adopted for classroom use are very slim:

  • Teachers can help you judge the reading level of your text and the grade level of the content of your book.
  • Teachers can help you determine whether or not your book fits into the current curriculum.
  • Teachers may give you good ideas that you hadn’t thought of.
  • If the teacher likes your book, he or she could recommend it to parents, other teachers, etc.
  • The teacher may be able to help you arrange a local reading of your book to children and their parents at the school or a library (you may need to go through a fingerprinting process with the local police to ensure safety).

Most teachers are very busy people, and if you catch them at the end of the day, they’ve been dealing with kids all day long. Keep this in mind. If you show up seeming like a salesperson, you may not receive the warmest reception.

Don’t forget librarians: They can also help you judge the reading level of your book. They may even be willing to order copies of your book through Baker & Taylor to stock. Or you might be able to volunteer to read your book to children.

Another great opportunity comes with specialty bookstores that specifically stock educational materials. It’s like a teacher resource store, filled with educational workbooks, supplemental books, and all kinds of classroom materials, from dry erase boards to highlighters. If you can find any of these in your region, you may be able to sell them author copies at 40% to 55% off the list price (or on consignment).

20131102_090534

Opportunities Beyond the Classroom

You may have better success among parents or home school teachers. For one, they may not be as tied to the standard curriculum.

One way to meet parents is through local readings at a school or library.

There may be another opportunity. Many parents are looking for after-school help. This could include tutoring or additional practice for students who are struggling. But it also includes advanced sessions for students who are breezing through school.

I know a local parent who used to offer advanced math lessons in the evenings. She was very good at helping advanced students learn math ahead of the curriculum. Parents observed this, news spread quickly, and her after-school program was in-demand.

You can try to find parents or home school teachers willing to use your books. You can also create your own after-school program (or perhaps even an online course) where your book is part of the required reading. There are many opportunities if you have good content, personal marketing skills, the ability to think outside the box, and the motivation to do the work.

20140118_184900

Personal Interactions

Authors intuitively search for marketing strategies that involve little time or interaction, hoping to reach a large audience with little or no effort.

This is why so much money is squandered on ineffective advertisements, promotions, and hiring people to do the marketing for the author.

But personal interactions have the potential to be far more effective.

For one, it’s easier to get people interested in you—a living, breathing, interacting person—than a book that just sits there.

For another, parents and teachers will judge your character and personality. They can ask you questions to learn things that aren’t evident in your blurb, but which matter to them.

People who meet and interact with the author—and who enjoy this interaction—are more likely to check out the product page, buy the book if it’s a good fit for them, and leave a review if the book was helpful or entertaining.

20131102_104248

Marketing Children’s Books Online

You can’t interact directly with your target audience because you’re an adult. But you can interact with parents and educators.

It’s hard to find your target audience through social media, discussion forums, a blog, etc.

But you may be able to help your target audience find you. It may involve some work, but if you pull it off, it might be the most effective marketing that you do.

One way is to post an article in a high-traffic area. The article must be relevant to your target audience and your book. The end of the article needs to state Your Name, author of Your Book.

Another way is to create content for your own website or blog that will appeal to your target audience. Most authors who attempt this become quickly discouraged, and so never realize the full potential.

The problem is that if you write one article today, or a few articles this week, you can pour hours into the writing, yet even if the content is incredibly valuable to your target audience, it might get only a handful of views when it’s first posted, and then may not be viewed at all after that. It’s really tough to post more articles when the initial results are so dismal.

It can take months and several content-rich articles before a content-rich website begins to show its effectiveness.

A blog receives initial traffic from followers, reblogs, and the reader. But it can also receive continued traffic through search engines.

Your goal is to get regular search engine traffic. These are people who search for keywords on the internet, then find your article in the search results.

For this to be effective, the articles must be highly relevant for your book, and the keyword searches must be highly relevant for the articles. You don’t want to write about something so popular that your article will be virtually invisible, but you do want the keywords to be searched for with some frequency. It can take several articles before you hit the magic combination that pulls in traffic from search engines.

If you can direct dozens of people to your blog from search engines every day, this adds up to thousands or tens of thousands of people in your target audience discovering your book (assuming you mention or show your book somewhere on your website or at the end of your article, with a link to it). Presently, I have over 100 views of articles on this blog every day, on average, with at least 70% of the traffic coming from search engines. It didn’t start out that way. In the beginning weeks, I had just a handful of views of any post, with none of it coming from search engines.

The potential is there. You can’t realize it if you don’t try.

Wacky Sentences

Feedback Is Vital

How do you know if your book is good? Get it into the hands of your target audience.

You need beta-readers. (Don’t make your first customers beta-test your book. Then critical feedback comes in the form of a permanent review.)

Find out what children in the target audience like and dislike. What do the parents think?

Ask teachers, too. Their feedback can help you establish the grade level and see how your book fits with the standard curriculum.

Reviews 3

Who Are You?

When people discover your book, that’s what they’re wondering.

Are you qualified to write this book? Do you have relevant expertise or experience? These are things you want to highlight in your biography if you have the qualifications that parents and teachers are looking for.

You’re not just selling your book, but partly yourself, too. Ultimately, you’re trying to create a brand as the author of a children’s book or series.

Your author photo should portray the look of someone who could write a children’s book.

Author Picture 4 Cropped Small

More Than Just an Author

Chris McMullen, more than just the 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

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

How to Kill Your Book Sales

Kill Sales

The Problem

Sales are going along steadily. Then you get a sudden urge to limit your income.

  • Maybe your spouse is spending too much money, and this will provide a valuable lesson.
  • Perhaps you’re worried about paying too much in taxes.
  • It might be that you want to eliminate the headache of what to do with all that extra cash.

Whatever the reason—and I bet it’s a good one—you want to kill your sales.

If you’re an author or publisher, you came to the right place to learn how to do it.

Following are several possible solutions.

(1) Naked Cover

No, not naked people, a naked cover. (Though if you wrote a book on conservative Christian values, naked people on your cover might work, too.)

What’s a naked cover? It’s a plain white cover with the title and author name written on a tiny font so that you can barely see them—like the one below.

Thirty years from now naked covers will become the new trend, and you’ll be complaining, “Hey! That was my idea!”

Naked Cover

(2) Toga Party

Edit your book so that customers think, “That’s Greek to me.” Literally: Pay a translation service to rewrite your book in Greek, then upload the Greek file in place of the English one.

However, if a large portion of your target audience actually speaks Greek, maybe you should try Egyptian hieroglyphics instead.

(3) Pure Jibberish

Change your blurb so that it’s completely unintelligible. For example, you might rewrite it in Morse code, using burps and hiccups in place of dits and dahs. For example, it might start out something like this:

Burp hiccup hiccup. Burp burp burp burp. Hiccup burp hiccup hiccup.

Hiccup burp burp. Burp burp. Hiccup burp burp.

Hiccup burp hiccup hiccup. Hiccup hiccup hiccup. Burp burp hiccup.

Hiccup burp burp burp. Hiccup hiccup hiccup. Hiccup! Burp burp burp burp. Burp! Burp hiccup burp?

On the downside, your blurb might make perfect sense to drunk or buzzed shoppers. But there is always the hope that they will return their books after they recover from their hangovers.

(4) Insult to Injury

Insult your reviewers. Of course, you have to sign on with an account where you use your real name so that everyone knows that you are, indeed, the author.

Unfortunately, you can’t just drop F-bombs in the comments. Otherwise, Amazon may remove your comments and this will lose its effectiveness.

No, you must be clever. Insult your customers in such a way that they feel, “Why, I never!” But do it in such a way that your comments don’t appear to violate the review guidelines.

Perhaps something like, “Thank you for taking the time to leave that glowing, five-star review. I’m surprised that someone with a pea-sized brain was able to comprehend my literary genius.”

Some people don’t read the comments, so you have to go all out. Comment on every review, from one to five stars. Leave 300 or so comments after each review. When customers see that each review has hundreds of comments, that may draw their interest.

Go to every customer discussion forum you can, make it crystal clear who you are and how to find your book, and insult the daylights out of everybody there. That will attract more interest in your reviews, and, hopefully, add hundreds of one-star reviews to your product page.

Though some customers may feel pity for you and buy your book anyway.

(5) Haywire

Create a formatting nightmare as follows:

  • Place your cursor in the middle of a paragraph and encourage your toddler to play with the keyboard for a few minutes.
  • Indent your paragraphs from the right side.
  • Align your text so that it’s ragged left. (See the image below.)
  • Rotate an occasional page 90 degrees. Don’t worry if part of the text gets cut off.
  • Double space every other page.
  • Use italics, boldface, underline, and strikethrough (all four at once) on an entire chapter. Preferably Chapter 1, so it shows on the Look Inside.
  • Add dialog tags to every word of dialog. For example: John said, “Good,” then said, “morning,” and added, “Jane.” Then John said, “How,” to which he added, “are,” and finally, “you?” Jane began her reply, “I’m,” and ended it with, “miserable.”
  • Insert a random watermark, like the word REJECTED, onto every page of the book. (Find an example below.)
  • Hold down the Shift key and press Enter after every heading so it expands to fill the margins.
  • Cut your pictures in half horizontally. Paste the top half on one page and the bottom half on the following page.
  • Vomit on the floor, take a high-resolution picture of it, scan the image, and insert it in your book immediately following the copyright page. (If you receive an invitation to post that page of your book on the wall of an art museum… well, then, maybe your book was just destined to sell after all. Stop fighting fate.)

Kill Sales 2

Rejected


 

Good Luck!

Sorry, satisfaction is not guaranteed. You should have read the fine print before you initiated action.

(Of course, if you want to be boring, you could just hit the button to unpublish your book, but that would be like cheating. Show some ingenuity!)

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

Authors, What Are You Selling?

Selling

The Question

Aren’t you selling more than just a book? much more?

If all you’re selling is a book, that’s a big problem for you: It’s easy to find books. The library has thousands. You can find thousands in bookstores, millions on Amazon, and hundreds at yard sales.

It takes more—much more—than just a book to make it worth reading.

  • What more are you offering than just a book?
  • Who is likely to benefit from what your book offers?

You want to identify the benefits your book offers, the people most likely to appreciate those benefits, and figure out how to match those people (your target audience) with your book.

Well, duh!

But many authors either aren’t doing this, or aren’t taking full advantage of this seemingly simple logic.

Features vs. Benefits

People don’t buy anything.

People don’t buy features.

People may buy benefits (if those benefits are a good fit for them and they perceive the benefits as a good value).

Example: Someone asks you, “Was self-publishing your book easy to do?”

  • Nothing special: “The writing was fun, but the editing and formatting were nightmares.” You missed a golden opportunity here to introduce a benefit.
  • Features: “It was because I really enjoyed the writing, which took two years, and I hired an editor for the tedious part.” This highlights two features: Ample time spent on the writing and having your book edited.
  • Benefits: “I really enjoyed the months that I spent studying swordsmanship and how to describe it in fiction, and I hired an editor to make sure it reads very well.” First, if you’re really into swords and sorcery, this sounds authentic. Second, people don’t care for the editor (that’s a feature), but they may appreciate that it will read well (that’s the benefit).

You might be thinking, “Well, if you mentioned the editor, it should be obvious that the book should read well.” But not necessarily. For one, there are different types of editors. Some customers might interpret mention of the editor to mean that there are no spelling mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that it will read well.

And not everyone will make the connection. Sales people have better success when they describe benefits than when they list features, especially when they describe specific ways that a product will benefit each individual.

Example:

  • Nothing special: “This television measures 27 inches diagonally.” Everyone is thinking, “So do many other televisions.”
  • Feature: “This television comes with picture-in-picture.” Many customers are thinking, “Well, I don’t need that. I’d rather save money.”
  • Benefit: “With picture-in-picture built-in, your husband won’t have to change the channel during your soap opera to check the score of the game every few minutes.” Now if this applies to you, you may be starting to consider the benefit that this feature offers. You might not have considered this benefit just from the feature itself. You might have interpreted the feature to mean you could watch two shows at once, which you didn’t intend to do.

Just-a-Book Marketing

If all you have to offer is a book, then it should be satisfactory to just:

  • Tell people that you have a book. That should do it, right? Maybe tell the genre, too. But a romance novel is still one of thousands. What makes it special?
  • Keep mentioning the title so that people can remember it. But if they do remember, why should they read it?
  • Show people the cover so they can see it. But if they do see it, why should they care to find out what’s inside it?
  • Advertise that it’s on sale. But people don’t buy prices. They need a reason to want the book before price helps to create value.

Branding is important, and branding does involve getting your target audience to see your cover, your title, and your name multiple times over a long period so that they recognize it.

But branding is more effective when they associate some benefit with your book.

When you hear Sony, do you think high quality? When you hear Costco, do you think large quantities and good savings? When you hear Disneyland, do you think your kids would be happy to go there? When you hear McDonald’s, do you expect fast service and low prices? When you hear Bounty, do you think absorbent?

You want to associate some benefit with your brand. Then, when your target audience is shopping for a book in your genre and remembers your book, they will have some positive quality to associate with it.

They might not buy your book just because they recognize it. But if they recognize it and a benefit comes to mind, this greatly improves your chances for a sale.

But it’s not just about the book. It’s about you, too.

More-than-a-Book Marketing

There are two ways to offer more than just a book:

  • Mention a specific benefit that your book offers.
  • Remember that the author is an important part of the book and marketing.

This second point can make a big impact on marketing effectiveness. We’ll get to this in the next section.

Your product description is a valuable marketing tool. Think about the important benefits that your book offers your target audience. These benefits should be clear from reading your blurb, but fiction is a little tricky because the benefits generally must be implicit.

The author’s biography provides a chance to show how the author is qualified to write the book. For nonfiction, this is often a relevant degree or experience. For fiction, if you have a writing degree, you should play your card, but if not, you may still have relevant experience. Have you traveled to the place where part of your book is set? Have you spent a significant amount of time learning or studying a relevant skill, like forensics for a crime novel?

Instead of trying to brand just your book’s title, you might develop a concise phrase to serve as a hook. Use this to create interest in your book and to associate your book with a positive quality. Anywhere you mention your book’s title, you could include the hook next to it, such as at the end of blog posts, emails, or on business cards. You can even mention it in person, at readings, signings, or anytime you get the opportunity to interact with your target audience and the subject of your book comes up.

Example: Instead of just mentioning the title, A See-Through Relationship, you could also include the hook, “What if you fell in love with a ghost?”

It’s not easy to come up with a clever, appropriate, effective, very short hook, but it can really be worth it if you pull it off. It’s definitely worth spending time thinking about this.

I bet you recognize some company slogans. The hook works for authors much the same way.

When you have the chance to describe your book, online or in person, you want to make the benefits of your book clear. The better you know your target audience’s interests, the better you can show them how your book may benefit each individual.

The Author

It’s challenging to get people interested in your book.

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party, but it’s not an ordinary cocktail party. 90% of the people in attendance are sci-fi enthusiasts, and you have a science fiction book.

Suppose you set your book on a table in the center of the room and leave. I bet a few people will pick up the book, if the cover has good appeal, and check it out. But it’s just a book, and people didn’t attend a cocktail party looking for a book. They went to the party to meet people.

If instead you leave your book at home, but this time you stay at the party, there is a good chance that you will meet many people and get people interested in you.

You have a pulse. You move around. You talk. You interact. Unlike your book.

It’s easier to get people interested in you, the author, than it is to get people interested in your book.

Once people become interested in you, let them naturally discover that you’re an author, and their interest in you may translate into interest in your book.

By discover, I mean waiting for, “So what have you done lately?” instead of volunteering, “I just published a new book.” Wait for the prompt.

Use this to your advantage: Interact with your target audience, both in person and online.

You have a personality; your book doesn’t. You can interact with people; your book just sits there.

People in the target audience who personally interact with an author are more likely to check out a book, buy it, and leave a review than some random stranger who happens across it.

Online, a large number of people can come across your book. But to most of them, it’s just a book they see while passing through.

On your product page, your description may help to show the benefits, but first you need them to find your product page.

In person, your interactions can help to get people interested in your book through their interest in you, and then you can show them the benefits personally. Now you’re selling more than just a book.

You can also provide the personal touch online. You can also let people see that you’re more than just a name; you can help them discover the person behind the book.

More Than Just an Author

Chris McMullen, more than just the author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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

Even Indie Authors Get Rejected

Rejection

One great benefit of self-publishing is that it’s a sure thing.

You don’t need to send out query letters or book proposals.

You won’t be rejected by agents or editors.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t feel rejected.

Formatting Rejection

Once your manuscript is complete, you spend several days hammering that square peg of a book into a round hole, trying to reshape it into acceptable formatting.

You might be rejected by Microsoft Word, refusing to number pages, format headers, or keep the layout the way you would like it.

The publishing service might reject your file because it didn’t meet the technical guidelines.

Kindle might show you a preview that doesn’t look anything like your Word file.

Smashwords might not accept your e-book into the premium catalog.

Editing Rejection

People may point out spelling and grammar mistakes in your writing.

They might suggest that you really need an editor.

You might receive some constructive criticism on your writing, which, even when it has merit, can be hard to swallow.

Even worse, when you seek to hire an editor, the editor can choose to turn down the job.

Technical Rejection

When you order printed books, there is a chance of receiving defective copies.

A customer can receive a defective copy. No manufacturing service is perfect.

Even an e-book customer can experience technical hiccups while downloading or reading a book.

When one of your few customers encounters a problem that’s beyond your control, it can be frustrating.

Content Rejection

You can’t publish anything.

Amazon has content guidelines.

CreateSpace has content guidelines.

Kindle, Nook, and Kobo have content guidelines.

If you probe the limits of your writing freedom, your work could get rejected.

Sometimes there isn’t a clear line between what is or isn’t acceptable, but a murky gray area.

Legal Rejection

If you quote a line from a song, you could receive legal notice to take your book down.

If your writing infringes upon the rights of others, your book could lead to a lawsuit against you.

Legal action could cause a retailer to stop selling your book, or the publishing service to stop distributing your book.

Article Rejection

With the hope of gaining more exposure among your target audience, you may submit an article for publication.

Just like submitting a book proposal, your article may be rejected.

Contest Rejection

If you enter your book into a contest, you might not win.

You might not even make the first cut.

Review Rejection

Critics can leave bad reviews.

They can post one-star reviews right on the product page, where every shopper can see it.

Where your family and friends can see it.

Where you can see it.

Those comments can cut deep.

Sales Rejection

There is no guarantee that you will sell a single copy of your book.

Many books never sell 100 copies.

Not 100 per month. Not 100 per year. Not ever.

There are books that have been on the market for over a year that have no sales rank.

To not sell any books must hurt worse than receiving thirty rejection letters.

Public Rejection

People you know can complain about your book.

Or about how you’re wasting your time pretending to be an author.

While you strive to build positive publicity for yourself, once you enter the public eye’s scrutiny, one false step can lead to negative publicity.

Bully Rejection

Cyberbullies can target you.

Family Rejection

Your own family might not appreciate your writing.

They might wish you did something more “meaningful” with your time.

Self Rejection

You could be your own worst critic.

You might regret your prior writing.

You might delete your work and start over before you ever finish.

You might not even find the courage to publish in the first place.

Approved!

You write, therefore you are an author: See “Intimidation is nine-tenths of the writer’s law,” by Ionia Martin.

You don’t need permission to share your passion. You are approved!

Don’t focus on the worst that can happen. Focus on readers who can benefit from your writing. Those are the people worth writing for.

Writing and publishing a book is a huge accomplishment, no matter how you do it. Give yourself a round of applause. Congratulations!

Grow a thick skin. Find a support system. Don’t let ’em bring you down.

When you feel rejected, turn it around. Use it as a motivator. Let it boost you up.

Support

Offer support to other authors.

Read. When the writing is good, leave positive reviews. Spread the word about good books.

Share your wisdom and experience with authors who seek help from you.

Provide emotional support where it’s needed. Oh, yes, it’s needed.

Applaud authors everywhere for working hard to create wonderful reading experiences.

Listen.

It’s faint, but listen.

Do you hear it?

Sounds like a clap.

More clapping.

It’s growing louder.

Applause.

Take a bow. That applause is for you.

Publishing Resources

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

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

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

Why You Want Fellow Authors to Succeed

Compliments

You want your fellow authors to be successful.

You even want books similar to yours to do well.

And it’s not just about creating good karma.

It makes good business sense, too.

Some would have you believe that the way to thrive in the competitive publishing business is to play the cutthroat game and slam the competition. Unfortunately, you can find stories of a few big authors and publishers slamming one another, not just recently, but even going way back. You can also find gossip about more underhanded activities.

But that’s just foolish.

And again, it’s not just because it’s not nice. Economically, it doesn’t make sense if you take a moment to look a few moves ahead.

Highly similar books usually sell together. Some customers buy them all at once. Some buy one today, another in a month, and another a few months from now.

Similar books help one another out through customers-also-bought associations. They also help one another out through word-of-mouth referrals because they share a common target audience and people within that audience do discuss books they enjoy.

When you buy a book online, Amazon recommends similar books. When you visit your homepage, again Amazon recommends similar books.

Foolish authors look at similar books and think, “Oh no! That book looks good. It might take all my sales.” The immature reaction is to slam the competition.

And shoot yourself in the foot in the process.

Most likely, that book won’t take your sales. Most likely, that book will either (A) help your sales or (B) not affect your sales.

When customers really like a book, they want to find more books similar to that.

But there is one way that similar books can take your sales. That’s when you succeed in hurting that book’s sales.

Then, instead of that book’s sales helping your book out through customers-also-bought associations, it’s hurting your sales by not sending traffic your way.

When authors slam one another and a lot of the competition, it creates a bad vibe for the whole set of similar books. It hurts sales for everybody.

Similar books are free marketing for you. Other authors’ great content and effective marketing helps you through customers-also-bought marketing. You don’t need to do anything to benefit from this except continue writing your own books, developing your own author platform, and marketing your own books.

Applaud your fellow authors and watch them help you without even trying.

Act on your jealousy and watch you hurt yourself.

First of all, your efforts to hurt the competition may actually help the competition because you’re giving those other books more publicity, even if it’s negative. And you have to credit people, who can often smell a rat.

Second of all, you don’t want to hurt the sales of similar books that can only help you out.

And what about those amazing authors who break through and make it big time?

Does that make you feel all jealous inside? Do you look at those books critically and think how childish the storyline is, how poorly edited the book is, and completely miss the big picture?

Applaud those authors. If you self-publish, applaud the indie authors who succeed. They’re helping to make a great name for indie authors. They’re reaching hundreds of thousands of readers and showing them that indie books can be amazing.

If you self-publish, you want other indie authors to be successful. Their success builds a large audience of readers who are willing to take a chance on indie books. That helps you.

It’s not just indie author success. It’s any author success. Any author who makes readers love the reading experience creates future sales for many other authors.

There is no indie versus traditional battle. What’s most ridiculous about that is the increasing number of authors who publish both ways. Should they punch themselves in the face?

There is just one battle. That’s you wrestling against yourself, your emotions, and your irrational instincts.

What’s good for readers is good for all authors.

And if there are readers who enjoy a book, that book is pleasing readers and therefore good for all authors, including you, whether or not you approve of that book.

Way to go, Amanda Hocking! You made a huge name for yourself. You made a huge name for indie authors.

Way to go, Hugh Howey! Way to go, E.L. James!

Way to go, Stephen King! Your great works have hooked millions of readers not just on your books, but on the love of reading.

Way to go, J.K. Rowling! Way to go, Anne Rice!

Way to go, all authors, big and small, whose books have pleased readers.

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

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

Newbie Author Book Marketing Mistakes

Marketing Mistakes

Introduction

When you first publish, it’s natural to make marketing mistakes. It’s also natural for toddlers to prefer to poop where they are instead of wasting valuable play time by going to the potty. Either way, as you get older, it pays to overcome these natural tendencies:

  • You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and the first impression is often a lasting one. Try not to make yours with your tongue sticking out.
  • Some of your online activity leaves a permanent record; not all of your mistakes can be undone. If only life came with an Undo button… “I’m so sorry!” doesn’t always work.
  • An important part of marketing is branding a professional image of yourself. Mistakes aren’t easy to overcome. Think before you act. And do a little research.

(1) Me Me Me Me Me Me Me

Try this. (Not really.) Walk around the block. Stop at every neighbor’s house. If they’re home, spend a few minutes telling them about your book. A few hours later, walk around the block and do this again. Repeat every few hours for a week.

You wouldn’t really do this, would you? (I hope not.)

Some newbie authors repeatedly tell the same audience over and over repeating over and over repeating over and over (in case you don’t get the idea, I could go on…) about their books.

You do need to help people discover your book. But you don’t need to transform into a human-size mosquito to do it:

  • Chances are that people will be more interested in you than in your book. Let people get to know you and get interested in you, then when they learn that you’ve written a book, that interest may translate into your book.
  • Most people don’t like advertisements. Let people discover your book. You can mention it briefly at the bottom of posts on your website, for example. When talking to people, wait for them to ask you what you’ve done lately. Then they discover that you’re an author. That’s better than shoving your book down their throats.
  • Focus on what is likely to interest your target audience, then let your book become visible once they are drawn in. For example, a content-rich website helps to get your target audience to come to you (instead of you hunting them down like a hound dog). If your book is on sale, that’s worth announcing up front occasionally, but otherwise you want valuable content to draw your readers in, then mention your book at the end or off to the side.

(2) Another Place to Mention ME

Have you ever seen a list of hundreds or thousands of books at a discussion forum with a title like, “Self-Promote Your Book Here”?

Who is reading these lists? Other authors who are hoping to promote their books! Why would readers go there? The books aren’t even sorted by genre.

Strive to find ways to reach your specific target audience. And see point (1).

You know what these “Promote Your Book Here” threads are really for? They are detour signs designed to keep mosquitoes out of the park. 🙂

But some mosquitoes venture into the park anyway and blatantly self-promote where it’s strictly forbidden (or strongly discouraged). Get ready to dodge those flyswatters!

(3) Money Go Bye Bye

Don’t understand the marketing beast? That’s okay. Just throw money at it. Money will solve all your problems, right? Not! If it were that easy, everybody would be making big $$$ selling books. (It is possible to become a successful author, but it takes quality content, perseverance, hard work, and a long-term perspective.)

Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and many other websites will be happy to take your money to advertise your book. Even Amazon will take your money to advertise (but there is a $10,000 minimum, which is a lot more money than most newbie authors want to watch burn in a bonfire).

I’m not saying that advertising can’t be effective. Just that advertising isn’t going to solve your problem of why your book isn’t selling. If your book’s not selling, figure out how to get it to sell on its own before you start playing the advertising game. When you do advertise, start small and work your way up, and have the sense to quit when it doesn’t seem to be working. Advertising a special promotion may be more effective than advertising one book. And waiting until you have a dozen similar books before you spend good $$$ to advertise makes more sense than advertising just a few books.

There are a lot of people and businesses who will be happy to take your money, and some will promise things you really want to hear.

Much of the most effective marketing is FREE (yeah, baby!) and it’s work that you have to do yourself. Even if a publicist arranges engagements for you, you’re still the one who has to show up, do the work, make a fantastic impression, and not manage to stick three feet in your mouth while doing it. Personal interactions with your target audience can be highly effective because it’s easier to draw interest in a person than an inanimate book, and this is something you can do for free all by your lonesome self.

Paid advertising for books doesn’t work the same way as it does for most other products, and it’s even worse for newbie authors:

  • People need toilet paper. People can live without books. (Honestly, I don’t understand how it’s possible, but evidently it is.)
  • There are a dozen brands of toilet paper to choose from. Amazon has 30,000,000 different books to choose from.

Last time you drove down the freeway and saw a Victoria’s Secret billboard, did you weave over to the exit from the fast lane and head straight to the mall? That’s not how advertising works. It doesn’t hypnotize the audience to buy the product immediately. Advertising strives to achieve branding. You see or hear a brand today, next month, a few times this year, and hopefully many consumers will recognize the brand several months from now when they’re in the market for that product or service. When you’re buying a new product, if you prefer a brand name you’ve heard of before, advertising has worked its magic on you.

(4) Hop on the Band Wagon

I’ve got a busload full of newbie authors here. We’re driving off a cliff because that worked for one other lucky author who managed to survive the fall and the publicity did wonders for his books. Hop in!

If it worked well for others, shouldn’t it work well for you, too?

  • One size doesn’t fit all. Each book has a unique audience. Each author has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Tailor your marketing plan to your specific book, audience, and to your strengths.
  • Marketing is dynamic. What was hot last year might be a dud this year.

Focus on how to reach your specific target audience, especially people who don’t already know about your book.

Consider what fraction of your marketing may actually reach your specific target audience. For example, much of a social media following may be inactive, whereas visitors who discover a content-rich website through a search engine are more apt to be in your specific target audience. This doesn’t mean that social media can’t be effective, just that you need to find a way to use it effectively to reach your audience in order to make it worthwhile.

(5) Please, please, please review my book. P L E A S E.

Oh, no, your book isn’t selling? Maybe some reviews will do the trick. (More likely, they won’t solve your problem.)

  • Don’t beg for reviews. Don’t ask for reviews. Don’t pay for reviews (this violates review guidelines). Do you want to brand a professional author image? Or would you rather look needy? (Maybe you are needy. You need sales. That’s fine. Be needy. But don’t look needy.)
  • If you “recruit” reviews, your reviews will probably look like they were recruited. Recruited reviews are likely to arouse buyer suspicion. Just glowing remarks, a lot of praise without explanation, a lot of reviews for a newly published book with a high sales rank… these kinds of things are like putting a neon sign on your product page: What’s funny about this picture?
  • The unpredictable assortment of balanced reviews that comes about naturally through sales may be the best reviews you can get. (Now getting a blog review posted on a blog is different. That helps to promote your book without affecting your product page.) It’s tough. Buyers want to see reviews, but they really want to see natural comments from strangers. But you don’t have to stimulate reviews to stimulate sales; you can stimulate sales to get natural reviews. (Psst. It’s called marketing and it’s a big secret. If you have memorable fiction content or helpful nonfiction content and you market effectively, sales and reviews will come naturally.)
  • Another no-no: Don’t thank all your reviewers, and don’t defend your book against bad reviews through comments. At first, thanking reviewers seems to provide a personal touch, but many customers feel strongly that authors should try to avoid this customer space. It’s a risk to leave a comment as that may deter sales. Do thank people on your blog—that’s your turf. Your customer review section is the customers’ turf. Don’t get into a turf war. The reviewer will win the battle every time. How? You leave a comment on the review. You know what will happen next? The reviewer will respond to your comment, asking you a question. Now, you have to answer that question, right? Pretty soon what you intended to be one comment turns into a lengthy discussion. You lose; game over.

Of course, you could also do the logical thing and find beta readers from your target audience, join a writing forum, and get your book edited before publishing. You do need feedback. Get as much as you can before your book goes live.

The newbie authors is praying for reviews. Then a bad review criticizes the book and the newbie author is cursing the whole review system.

Newbie authors really don’t know what they want…

Me Me Me Me Me Me Me (Again, but this time it’s really ME)

Chris McMullen, an author who didn’t mention his books at all until the very end of this post (but if you wanted me to shove a book down your throat earlier, all you had to do was ask—it was highly inconsiderate of me not to offer a snack—well, I did sneak one of my covers into the image for this post…). 🙂

A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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