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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The Critical Book Sales / Marketing Chain

Chain

Sales Formula

How many books will you sell? There is a simple formula for this:

SALES = (# of views) X (% of buys)

For example, if 1000 people view your book every day, but only 0.5% of those people purchase your book, you would sell 5 copies per day.

The two ways to maximize sales are to

  1. Maximize the frequency with which people view your book—i.e. increase your book’s exposure.
  2. Improve the percentage of people who purchase your book after viewing it—i.e. improve the buying ratio.

Wasted Effort

If your buying ratio is lousy, any time you spend improving your book’s discoverability is wasted because the buying ratio is inefficient. It would be 20 times more effective to raise your buying ratio from 0.001% to 0.1% (that’s 100x better) than it would be to increase your daily views from 1000 to 5000 (that’s 5x better). (The 20 times more effective compares 100x to 5x.)

Too many authors are focused on increasing the number of views instead of improving the % of buys. The latter may be easier and more effective.

You probably get hundreds or thousands of more initial views than you realize. Amazon.com sells millions of books every day (because the top 200,000 or so sell at least one copy per day, and the top books sell hundreds of books per day, adding up to millions overall). Shoppers view many more books than they buy, so there are probably billions of books seen on Amazon every day. At this stage, I’m saying that the thumbnail has been seen, but the book may not have been clicked on.

Of these billions of views, many shoppers click on one of the Last 30 Days or Last 90 Days links, which helps to find new releases. This filters the search results to help books that are otherwise hard to find get discovered in the first few months of the publication date.

TIP: Don’t enter a publication date at CreateSpace or Kindle. Leave this blank and the publication date will automatically be the date that you click the magic button to publish your book. This maximizes your book’s exposure in the new release categories.

Why should we think that a newly published book buried in Amazon’s haystack may be viewed hundreds or thousands of times more than the sales (or lack thereof) might suggest? (Again, by view, I mean that the thumbnail has been seen, not necessarily the product page.)

Because there are unmarketed books that get discovered and start selling frequently right off the bat. Although this is a rare percentage of books, it does happen, which shows that shoppers are discovering books through the new release filters.

Most books that don’t sell frequently on their own generally suffer more from a poor buying ratio than from poor exposure.

Buying Ratio

The buying ratio depends on this critical marketing chain:

  1. What percentage of people who see the thumbnail click on the book to visit the product page?
  2. What percentage of people who view the product page click to look inside?
  3. What percentage of people who look inside purchase the book?

This gives us another formula:

% of buys = (% of clicks) X (% of look insides) X (% of closes)

where the percentage of closes corresponds to point 3 from the marketing chain.

Suppose 1000 people view your book everyday, but:

  • 990 of them don’t click on it because it doesn’t look like it belongs to a genre that they read. In this case, a simple cover mistake may be costing you many sales.
  • 990 of them don’t click on it because the cover doesn’t look like it belongs in the category that it’s listed under. Such a target audience mismatch can greatly deter sales.
  • while 500 of those people do click on your book to see the product page, 495 of those don’t look inside because the blurb describes a different genre than the cover depicted. The cover and blurb must send a unified message.
  • while 500 of those people do click on your book to see the product page, 490 of those don’t look inside because the blurb doesn’t capture their interests.
  • while 500 of those people do click on your book to see the product page and 250 of those go on to look inside, 248 of those don’t make the purchase because the Look Inside doesn’t seal the deal.

More Sales

If you can improve the buying ratio, it will significantly improve your sales frequency.

There are three steps in the chain. Just one problem with these three steps can greatly deter sales even if the other steps are incredible:

  1. Improve the effectiveness of your cover at attracting your target audience. Cover appeal isn’t satisfactory. The most effective covers (A) pull you into them and (B) grab the specific target audience.
  2. Improve the effectiveness of your blurb to engage the interest of and arouse the curiosity of your target audience.
  3. Improve the effectiveness of your Look Inside in convincing your target audience that your book is Mr. Right for them.

A great cover with a lousy blurb = many lost sales.

A great cover and great blurb with a lousy Look Inside = many lost sales.

It’s really hard to make all 3 fantastic. But that’s what it takes to achieve a highly effective buying ratio.

Consider these points when designing your cover:

  • Spend hours researching bestselling covers within your specific subgenre. Find top sellers overall, good sellers with content similar to yours, and the best indie books. These are the kinds of images, font styles, and layouts that attract your target audience. But note that top authors and publishers can get away with a lesser cover due to name recognition.
  • Study cover design tips and mistakes. You can find such lists here at my blog, for example (click the Cover Design tab above).
  • Consider hiring a cover designer. You might think you can’t afford one. It might turn out that you really can’t afford not to have one. If you get a highly effective cover (now that’s a big IF, not guaranteed by hiring a designer, so do your research well) that improves your buying ratio by 10 times, that could make a huge difference over the next few years (especially, when you finally reach the level of having a professional author platform and several books out). On the other hand, if the blurb, Look Inside, or content greatly deter sales, that will put a huge dent in your cover’s potential effectiveness. There are no guarantees.
  • Get feedback, especially from your target audience. Be patient and redesign as needed.

Consider these points when writing your blurb:

  • Spend hours studying the blurbs of top selling books in your specific subgenre. What makes these books seem interesting? Does the writing flow well? Are the easy to read, or do you have to puzzle them out? Do they engage your interest throughout? Do they arouse your curiosity and make you want to click to look inside?
  • Don’t write a summary of your book for your blurb!
  • Ask yourself and your beta readers which elements of your book are most likely to attract interest in your book. Your blurb should use these effectively to draw out the shopper’s curiosity. You don’t want to give out information, but want to plant seeds that will make the reader want to know more.
  • Every sentence of your blurb needs to engage the shopper’s interest. Any sentence that doesn’t can greatly diminish your buying ratio.
  • Any spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes can greatly deter sales. Let’s face it: If you make a mistake in a 100-word blurb, that doesn’t bode well for writing tens of thousands of words well. Get help combing through this carefully.
  • Make sure your blurb reads well, flows well, and will be easy for your target audience to comprehend. Most people are looking for an easy read.
  • Shorter is often more effective for fiction. Anything extra increases the chances of the reader walking away. Come out punching, hook the reader, and make the reader look inside to learn more. For nonfiction, concise may also be good, though there are also benefits of showing expertise, qualifications, and listing selling features. If so, use basic HTML or go to Author Central to separate your paragraphs with blank lines and to use bullets to list features.
  • Get feedback, especially from successful indie authors and your target audience. Be patient and rewrite as many times as it takes to nail it.

Consider these points when preparing the Look Inside:

  • Browse through dozens of professional looking Look Insides of top selling books in your genre and compare them closely to your book. Don’t copy them; rather, learn what makes them highly effective.
  • Good editing and formatting are more important than many authors realize. Books tend to have more mistakes than the author realizes because the author tends to see what he or she meant to write rather than every word exactly as it was written. Get help ironing out your Look Inside. Your Look Inside is the only salesperson at Amazon making the difference between Buy It Now and Walk Away. Yeah, it’s that important.
  • The Look Inside needs to grab the reader’s interest right off the bat, arouse the reader’s curiosity, and seem like the kind of book that the cover and blurb depicted. The cover and blurb create expectations; the Look Inside must deliver on the promise.
  • The Look Inside must read well. The words should flow well. Even little things, like avoiding repetition, varying sentence structure, organizing your ideas well into paragraphs, dialog tags, and consistent style can have a significant impact if everything else is right.
  • This last point is huge. Your book idea has to have a significant audience (or a significant niche audience), and the category, cover, and blurb have to be effective at reaching this audience. The first step really is to research the potential of your book, starting by finding similar books and seeing how well they do, then by receiving ample feedback before, during, and after your book is written.

Putting extra time into perfecting the effectiveness of your cover, blurb, and Look Inside can pay huge dividends over the lifetime of your book. Rushing can cost you big time.

The X Factor

There is another factor that can have a huge impact on your buying ratio besides your cover, blurb, and Look Inside:

The impression that the content of your book has on your audience.

This make a big difference in the way of reviews, recommendations, and word-of-mouth referrals.

If you have a fantastic cover, a killer blurb, and an amazing Look Inside, but the content fails to meet the expectations that the cover, blurb, and Look Inside created, everything can backfire.

Bad reviews that highlight important points (i.e. important to buyers) which shoppers can corroborate with your Look Inside can kill your buying ratio.

So it’s also worth perfecting your content. Perfect your storyline, characterization, editing, formatting, and writing. This can make the difference between favorable recommendations and unfavorable criticism. You can’t completely avoid criticism because not everyone shares the same interests, but you want to do your best to limit it and to encourage positive feedback.

There is an abundance of good content already on the market. Writers who can achieve something extraordinary have an opportunity to stand out with marked word-of-mouth referrals. It’s not easy. Sometimes a story or character is just so memorable. Study stories and characters, especially those in your subgenre, that are exceptionally memorable.

There are two more ratios that are worth considering as they also impact your net sales:

  • Your return ratio: How often a customer is dissatisfied with your book.
  • Your referral ratio: How often a satisfied customer helps you reach a new customer.

Marketing

The higher your buying ratio:

  • The more books you will sell without marketing.
  • The more effective any marketing that you do will be.

For a given buying ratio, there are two ways that marketing can help sales:

  • Marketing can help you improve your book’s exposure. More views among your target audience means more sales.
  • Marketing can help you improve your buying ratio. Personal interactions can help stimulate sales even if the cover, blurb, and Look Inside are lacking to some extent.

Marketing is most effective when your efforts reach many people in your specific target audience who don’t already know about your book.

For example, spending a little time every week over the course of several months to prepare content toward developing a content-rich website that will attract hundreds of people from your target audience through search engines every day can give you amazing long-term exposure. 100 people per day equates to 36,500 people learning about you and your book every year. It’s an activity that can start out very slowly at first, but if done right can be highly effective after a year or more.

Long-Term Success

However many copies you sell, whether it’s a few a month or several per day, imagine if you could multiply this number by 2, 5, or 10. Going from 3 per month to 6 per month may not seem like much, but your book won’t be available for just a month. What if your book continues to sell for years? After a decade or lifetime of sales, multiplying all those sales by 2, 5, 10, or more could turn out to be huge.

This is especially true if you’re not trying to be a one-hit wonder. Most new authors’ books struggle. It’s not easy to get discovered. But there is a lot of potential for good writers with good ideas who persevere.

Focus on long-term success. Imagine having several similar books on the market. Now every book that you sell has the prospect of helping to market your other books. Anything you can do to improve your buying ratio can pay added dividends by helping to sell your other books.

Work toward having a professional author platform in the long run. Do a little here and there with this long-term goal in mind. Do marketing that is likely to reap long-term rewards.

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.

A Glitch in the New Kindle Series Changes?

Prequel

Kindle is in the process of changing the way that Kindle series books are displayed in Amazon.com search results, as I recently posted (click here if you missed it). Basically, search results will look like:

Book Title: Subtitle (Series Title Book Number)

For example, a search result might look like:

It Wasn’t the Butler (Guess Whodunit Book 2)

I recently came across an interesting question about this on the Kindle community forum:

https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?messageID=715460

It’s a good question: What happens with prequels, novellas, and short stories that relate to the series?

Authors want to include the series title to help readers find all the books that relate to a series, but authors don’t want to include volume numbers for prequels, novellas, and short stories.

If it’s not really a volume of the series, that volume number may be misleading—especially for a novella or short story, where it’s not another “book” of the series.

Presently, a series title and volume number are required on series books.

Maybe a prequel could be book 0 or i, but will Kindle allow these numbers? Good question!

Many authors use short stories and novellas to hook readers on a series. You don’t want those to be numbered volumes, but do want to make it clear that it’s part of the series so that if the reader enjoys the book, it’s easy to find the series (or to help someone who has read the series find the supplemental content).

I hope Kindle will have a good solution to this problem.

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.

Series Changes with Kindle

Series

Kindle is changing the way that series appear at Amazon:

  • The change will make it easier for customers to see that a given book is part of a series.
  • The change will clearly show the volume number to help customers find the next volume of a series and to read a series in order.
  • The change will show the series name to help customers find all of the volumes of a given series.

Example

You publish an e-book with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and enter the following information in the publishing fields:

  • Title: Mr. Wrong Feels Oh So Right
  • Series Title: Bad Romance
  • Volume: 3

When people search for your e-book on Amazon, they will see the following in search results:

  • Mr. Wrong Feels Oh So Right (Bad Romance Book 3)

The parentheses show that this book is part of a series. The “Book 3” makes it clear that this is the third volume of a series.

What If

Are you wondering whether it matters if your book is a stand-alone book that could be read all by itself out of sequence?

  • Doesn’t matter. If you publish your book with a series title, your book is part of a series and will include the series title and volume number in parentheses.
  • Anything that comes in multiple volumes will be treated as a series.

Impact

Personally, I like it. When I first published The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, volumes 1 and 2, Amazon included Volume 1 and Volume 2 with the title and subtitle in search results.

Several months later, the volume numbers disappeared from search results, and sales did slow a little along with it. Before, it had been very clear that two separate volumes were available. I had contacted CreateSpace and Amazon, and the volume numbers have reappeared and vanished a couple of times.

As a customer, I had trouble buying Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. It wasn’t clear which volume was which, or how many volumes there were. It seems to make sense to wave a flag that says, “Over here, I’m volume 7, buy me next.”

If Amazon is making this change, it appears that someone high up has realized that either (A) this will help to improve sales by helping customers find the books they are looking for or (B) this will improve the customer buying experience because customers have been buying books that they hadn’t realized were parts of series. Maybe both.

Do you have a series published on Kindle? If so, you might want to check what you have entered under the title, subtitle, series, and volume fields. You can update this information as needed to help improve the transition.

Right now, it seems that Amazon is doing this for Kindle. I’d like to see it for print books, too (which would make sense, as many Kindle editions are linked to print editions).

How do you feel about it?

(Speaking of changes, WordPress seems to have made a nice one recently. Now, I can copy and paste from one of my blog articles to another and it retains formatting and links. I like it.)

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.

Omnibus … or … Omni-Bust?

OmnibusI’ve seen an increasing number of omnibus editions on the e-book market in recent years.

It’s an attractive idea:

  • Customers save money when the omnibus is discounted compared to buying individually.
  • It’s convenient: Customers don’t have to hunt down the separate volumes or remember to buy later.
  • The omnibus allows continuity in reading: When you finish one volume, the next is sitting right there, ready to read.
  • Seeing the omnibus available, you don’t feel worried that the series might not be completed (provided that the omnibus is a complete set).
  • Authors benefit by encouraging customers to buy the entire series up front.

The benefits sound pretty good. So I was about to hop on the bandwagon myself. Until I started having second thoughts.

Are there any disadvantages?

  • Will the presence of your omnibus edition deter the sales of your other books? If so, this may offset the benefits of a stronger sales rank and your reviews may get spread thinner.
  • If you already have some volumes out with good sales ranks and a healthy number of reviews, you’re kind of starting over with the omnibus edition. Maybe the potential savings will help to stimulate many early sales to quickly build up the sales rank and reviews, but then returns the issue of what happens to your other books?
  • If you’ve already promoted your individual volumes, have many links online pointing to your other books, and have already been branding and marketing your books, you need to consider your omnibus with your marketing plans. The omnibus does give you new time in the new release category and provides new opportunities to create buzz, but you must also consider your other books.
  • If you sell both e-books and print books, will you make a print omnibus, too? Paperback customers may appreciate having separate volumes over one mammoth book. Also, for lengthy novels, a single book may exceed the maximum number of pages possible.
  • For Kindle e-books, if you’re planning to set the omnibus price above $9.99, you need to consider that the royalty rate is 35% for Kindle e-books priced $10 and up, so you may actually make much more money selling the e-books separately or limiting the price of the omnibus to $9.99. If your books include many pictures, you must also factor in the delivery costs.

How do you feel about omnibuses, as an author or reader? If you have experience publishing an omnibus, please share it so that others may learn from your experience.

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

My original self-publishing guide, How to Self-Publish a Book on Amazon.com, has recently been updated and expanded.

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

A Good Goal for Indie Authors: How Many Books Should You Sell?

Covers

How Many?

At any stage of writing or publishing—from the concept to already having a few books out there—you want to know how many books to expect to sell.

It’s the million-dollar question. Well, you hope it’s a million-dollar question. You’d hate to find out it’s a hundred-dollar question, a five-dollar question, or a zero-dollar question.

Getting answers isn’t easy. Many authors are reluctant to share their numbers. Perhaps there is good reason for this:

  • Revealing a high frequency of sales may attract unwanted attention. For example, it may evoke jealousy in others.
  • Revealing a low frequency of sales may make it seem like the author has failed, it may draw pity, and it may even deter sales.

It’s also not easy to gather sales data from Amazon, BN, Apple, and all the other book and e-book retailers out there.

Nonetheless, there have been several attempts to determine the average number of books sold. The numbers can vary somewhat depending on a number of factors, such as:

  • Whether the research involves all books, just print books or just e-books, just fiction or just nonfiction, just indie books or just traditionally published books, just Amazon or all retailers, etc.
  • The time period over which the research was gathered, since the numbers may change significantly within a few years.
  • How the researchers went about gathering their data.

Despite these differences, the average number of books sold is often said to be a figure like 100, 250, 500, or 650.

I can hear some of you asking an important question: Is that per month? per week?

Nope.

That’s right: It’s not per month, per week, or per anything. It’s just a period. That’s lifetime.

Those are some small numbers!

You know what I think about those numbers?

Unacceptable!

Too many authors work their rears off crafting a hundred thousand words, editing, formatting, polishing, learning the craft, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, developing a website, writing sequels, supporting other authors, working 40 hours a week to pay for the luxury of writing part-time, and supporting families while spending years writing their books… to sell a few hundred books all together.

That’s too much hard work.

The worst part of this is that there are many authors who’ve done all this hard work who are presently thinking, “It sure would be nice to sell 100 books,” because they haven’t gotten there yet.

Most of the authors I’ve encountered love to write so much they couldn’t imagine not writing. Many were writing novels before print-on-demand made self-publishing viable. Now they have the opportunity to share their work with others.

They do all of this hard work so that some readers can find a few weeks of enjoyment.

It might be a small niche audience who enjoys that book, but for many authors, that’s okay. They know that some people will enjoy their books even though they didn’t write the most popular topics (or didn’t write them the way they’re usually written), and they want very much for the audience that will appreciate their books to find them.

Another Number

One.

One what, you ask?

One book.

Sell a single book to a stranger.

Have one stranger enjoy your book.

The first time you autograph a copy for somebody.

Let one stranger reach out to you and tell you that your book was worth writing.

One can be a powerful number.

You can’t get to 50,000 without starting at one.

Number one in a category would be a pretty cool “One,” too, don’t you think?

Goal-Setting

First, I said that a few hundred is unacceptable. Then I said that one is special. Am I sending mixed messages?

My suggestion is that you don’t set a single goal, but set several goals in stages:

  • The first goal is to get regular sales of any sort. It doesn’t matter if it’s one book per month, one book per week, one book per day, a few per day, or what. A sales frequency with some regularity will net you sales in the long run. Time is on your side. One book per month doesn’t seem good, but if you can keep it up, after several years it will add up to something. Eventually, you’ll break that average number of books sold.
  • The second goal is to improve your sales frequency over the course of time. If you start at one book per month and raise it to one book per week, that’s a 400% improvement. The slower you start, the easier it is to improve. Starting with one book per day, try to get to 2 a day, then 3 a day, and so on. Be patient. And work toward your goals.
  • Better than comparing yourself against others (there will always be a bigger fish out there), try to improve upon your former self. Not just quantitatively. If you feel that your writing or publishing skills are improving, even if your numbers aren’t growing, that provides some satisfaction and gives you hope for future improvement.
  • One of your long-term goals has to be to exceed the average number of books sold. Whether it’s a year, a few years, a decade, or whatever—it’s not so much the time period that matters, but the satisfaction of getting over this hump—you’ve got to reach 1000 books and grow from there. First you’ll get there with the sum of all your books, but eventually you want each book to break this threshold. Work for it. Remember, it doesn’t have to happen this year. Time is on your side.
  • Then you’ve got to keep the momentum up. 1000 isn’t close to what your hopes and dreams were when you were fantasizing about sales before you pressed that publish button. If your numbers are growing, that’s a great sign. Let your long-term goal be to steadily improve your numbers and you will have much potential for future success.
  • Don’t just focus on the numbers. In the end, it’s not the numbers that matter. It’s how many readers benefit from your books that truly matters. Focus on your readers and, naturally, both your books and your marketing will be better with your readers at heart.

It’s not Easy

If the average number of books sold is 250, this doesn’t mean that every book is selling 250 copies.

Since it’s an average, it means that for every book that sells 100,000 copies, there are thousands of books that hardly sell at all.

There are millions of books available for sale, with tens of thousands coming out every month. It’s not easy to get discovered.

But the challenge makes success that much more rewarding. Accepting the challenge makes you want to write an even better book.

It’s also not as hard as it at first seems.

Many authors give up. Some books were published as tests. A few people took up publishing with the misconception that it would be an easy money-producer.

There are a number of reasons that tens of thousands of books hardly sell at all:

  • Content is lacking.
  • Little or no marketing.
  • Ineffective cover.
  • Bad need of editing.
  • Poor choice of categories.
  • Content doesn’t have an audience.
  • Author didn’t have relevant expertise (especially, for technical nonfiction).

This means there is hope. Books that were slapped together with the hope of making easy money are bringing that average down. Authors who got discouraged quickly are bringing it down. Books that need a much better cover, authors who don’t market, unedited books, all these factors make the average number of books sold smaller. If you could throw all these out, the average number of books would be higher. How much higher? That’s a good question, but higher nevertheless.

Work for It

It may not come easily, but you can do it.

You. Can. Do. It.

Here are some ideas to help you on your way:

  • Research the idea before you write. See what’s already out there. Try to gauge your book’s potential.
  • Give your readers the best content you can. Don’t rush it. Focus on long-term success. Quality affects long-term sales through word-of-mouth, customer reviews, and branding.
  • Get ample feedback from your target audience and fellow authors. Assess your storyline, characterization, writing style, formatting, cover, and blurb.
  • Make or buy a cover that will specifically attract your target audience. If you have a quality book, the cover can be a very influential sales tool. Most best-selling indie authors credit their covers for much of their success. A fantastic cover won’t sell a lousy book, but can make a huge difference for a great book. You work so hard hoping for your target audience to find your book, wouldn’t you like for them to actually click on it once they see it? It’s the cover that makes the difference. An appealing cover isn’t satisfactory. It has to attract your target audience to give your book maximum potential.
  • Write a killer blurb. Rewrite as many times as it takes, get as much advice as you need. A few sentences on your product page are the only thing that will determine if the customer will click to Look Inside or walk away. Similarly, perfect the Look Inside.
  • Good editing, good formatting, a professional appearance, a professional author photo, an effective biography… all these things influence sales and some also impact word-of-mouth sales and reviews.
  • Develop a professional online author platform. When people check you out, you want to look like a professional author. Create content that will attract your target audience, as this can be a highly effective marketing tool. Don’t try to build Rome in a day or a week. A little work every week over the course of several months can get you there. Visualize the professional author platform you’d like to have and work for it, little by little, with your long-term vision in mind. Meet and interact with other authors and check out their websites to help you improve your vision for your own platform. One year from now, you want to have 100 or more people who don’t already know about your book visiting your author platform every day by searching for relevant keywords through search engines (that’s over 30,000 visitors per year!—if the content fits your book well, these are people who may enjoy your book). It takes nonfiction content that’s a good fit for your book to attract them. Done right, it may be the most effective marketing you do.
  • Write more books. Every quality book you write improves your exposure. Customers who find one of your books are likely to find your other books, which gives each book much increased exposure. Some customers will also buy multiple books. You look like a serious author with several books out. Shoppers also realize that trying one of your books has the possible reward of providing a large supply—the risk is they may not like the book, but the reward is that it will be easy to find several other books like it if they do enjoy it. Each book also helps you reach more readers, and every reader you reach is one more person who might eventually tell a friend. Some authors get discouraged by a slow start and give up. Authors who push on and continually strive for improvement have a great deal of potential. Writing several quality books greatly enhances your prospects of selling a significant number of books.
  • Learn about marketing. Try out a variety of ideas. Spend a lot of time writing, but also spend a little time marketing every week. Marketing can pay off in the long run, but you have to do some of it and keep it up for marketing to pay long-term dividends for you.

If your book isn’t selling well, try to change it up. If sales decelerate or a critical review suggests need for improvement, consider a change.

One way to improve your numbers is to improve your books:

  • Try changing the blurb. This is something simple to change and in a couple of weeks, you may be able to judge its effect.
  • The next simplest thing to consider changing is the Look Inside. Both the blurb and Look Inside can have a significant impact when the content is highly marketable.
  • A new cover is a more drastic change. If you believe in your book and if feedback suggests that your current cover isn’t attracting your target audience, this may be worth considering.
  • If your book isn’t selling or if a critical review suggests improvement, consider improving your book’s content.
  • Be patient. Sometimes, there is an audience out there for a book and it just isn’t easy to match the book to the audience. It is possible for word-of-mouth and branding to eventually pay off, even if things start out very slowly.
  • When things seem really bad, seek advice from (A) people with experience and (B) people in your target audience. If it’s not working, you should be open to suggestions.
  • Market your book, run a promotion, try to get the word out. Paid advertising probably isn’t the answer for a book that isn’t selling, but there are a lot of ways to advertise for free that may be more effective. First perfect the content and packaging, then turn to marketing. Quality and packaging are more important for long-term success. Interact with your target audience.

Good luck with your books. 🙂

Wish your fellow authors well, too, and mean it. Similar books work together, whether you like it or not. Quality similar books thrive together through customers-also-bought lists and word-of-mouth. Foolish authors who shoot down their neighbors hoping to get ahead shoot themselves in their own feet because if they actually succeed in deterring sales of similar books, their own books will sell fewer copies from customers-also-bought lists. Customers don’t buy one book. Over time, they buy several similar books. Authors can benefit from this greatly, or lose from this, much depending on how the authors of similar books support one another.

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

My original self-publishing guide, How to Self-Publish a Book on Amazon.com, recently updated and expanded, is temporarily on sale for 99 cents at Amazon.com.

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