Monday, April 13, 2015

eBook Promotion: 10 Things You Should be Doing

Since I'm running an author advice series this year, I thought I'd poke my head in and offer my own two cents. A couple years ago I wrote a blog post about the ten things I thought authors should be doing for themselves. It's amazing how much things change in such a short amount of time. Some of my advice is no longer relevant. For 2015 I thought I'd update it with some newer, up-to-date ideas that work the best for me in my genre. Will it work for you? Hopefully. It's always worth a try!


EBOOK PROMOTION: 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD BE DOING


1. I LOVE YOU, YOU LOVE ME

Your fans are everything. They are the central core, the heart of it all, the reason you write, and the reason you're a success. Cultivating lasting relationships is the key to a successful writing career. Romance authors are very good at this, and in my opinion, they're better at it than writers of other genres. I'm not saying they're the only ones doing it right, I'm saying I see romance authors doing more than other writers, taking more risks and trying anything new to get ahead. They cater to their fans, and their fans love it. 

Writing in my genre, mystery/thriller, is much different. Most of my fans start at the age the romance reader stops. So for me, I have to tweak what I do with my fans just a bit. Universally though, fans of any genre want to have a personal connection. They want to know you, and to communicate with you on some level. 

Take Taylor Swift for example. To say her fans are devoted would be an understatement. Look at her business model, look at what she does. Not only does she connect through social media, she allows fans to have a glimpse into her life, making them feel like they're taking the journey with her. Connecting isn't about revealing every single thing about yourself, it's about finding that happy medium. Taylor posts video chats for her fans, and she reveals just enough to form lasting connections.  

Don't shut your fans out. Invite them in, discuss things with them. Like I said before, you don't need to discuss the most personal things in your life, but there are so many ways you can reach out while still maintaining your privacy.  


2. BIG PIMPIN', SPENDIN' G's

I run a Bookbub ad every month at a .99 price point. After the promotion is over, I run subsequent ads spaced about three days apart for the next three weeks on other sites. As the last few ads finish, I return the book to regular price, and I start the same routine all over again with the next book. Basically I almost always have a book on sale, and I always have an ad running somewhere. I put a percentage of my royalties each month back into my brand and continue to do things that will entice new readers to read my books. 

Consistent exposure is everything. 

I understand many of you may not be able to get a BookBub ad, but you can still replicate much of what I do on the other ad sites. For a handy, dandy list of where to promote, click HERE

3. COME TOGETHER, RIGHT NOW

One of the greatest things you can do for yourself is to get to know other authors, and to get to know the authors in your genre. It's invaluable. Last year I was asked to join the bestselling indie thriller author group The Twelve. We cross-promote, work together on projects, and give each other advice and tips about things going on in the industry. 

If you're sitting there thinking, "Yeah, but I don't have those connections. I don't know anyone." Guess what? Four years ago, I didn't know anyone either. I wanted to get to know other authors and make new friends in the business, so I created the Facebook group Indie Writers Unite where writers can ask questions and receive advice from the seasoned authors in the group. 

Truth is, Indie Writers Unite is just one of many groups you can join and take part in. A simple Facebook search will provide you with a plethora  of options. And there's an author forum on Amazon as well where you can learn things like what's going on in the industry. Don't be afraid to stick your neck out a bit. Making the right kind of connections will only boost your career. 

4. PUTTING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE      

One of the biggest mistakes new writers make today is that they don't prepare for their new book release. They spend months writing a book and then just publish it when it's finished thinking by some miracle readers are just going to find it and buy it.  

Well before your book is published, you need a plan. For a full-length novel, I start building fan excitement one or two months in advance of my projected publish date. Here's a few of the things I do:  

  • I get the cover finished early and then I create banners for my Facebook page and my blog, etc. so my readers get a visual on what's coming. It's all about creating interest and excitement.
  • I talk about the upcoming book in my newsletter. 
  • I talk about it on Facebook. 
  • I give updates on how the book process is going and how close I am to completion. 
  • I offer teasers--quotes from the book on a cool background. 
  • I let my readers read the first chapter before the book comes out. 

In addition to these things, I make a plan for the release, which includes a release party for my fans on Facebook. This includes giveaways and drawings all day the day of the book release for anyone who buys the book.

Once the book is released, my goal is to gather reviews for it BEFORE I run any sales. The sales and promos then begin, starting with BookBub. 


5. TO KDP/KU OR NOT TO KDP/KU

Three years ago I entered the KDP Select program, and it changed my life. I will always be grateful to Amazon for all they did for me in those early when I was a struggling author looking for an audience. After I'd written my first three books, I boxed them all up in one set, put it up on select, ran some free days, and BOOM, my writing career went from part-time writer/part-time editor, to full-time writer with a big enough income for my husband to quit his job if he wanted to. It was the happiest day of my life (unless, of course, my husband is reading this--then it becomes the second happiest day of my life). 

Back then, I'd run one book a month free for a few days, and when it came off free, it would skyrocket to the top of the mystery and thriller lists where it would remain for maybe three or four weeks without much additional effort on my part. This was, of course, due to Amazon's algorithms favoring my book because when my books were free I had a secret formula I used that always made my books #1 free in the Amazon store. #1 free meant top #25 or better in the entire store when it came off free. 

Then Amazon changed their algo's and now they no longer favor the author in most situations. There's no more sticky, which means, if you get your book to a low ranking, say #50 one day, good luck keeping it there for long these days. Aside from the algo changes, you now see way more trad books in the top 100 whereas three years ago, you'd easily see 15 of the top 20 books being indie titles. Not so anymore. As I write this, April 2015, 14 of 20 in the mystery/thriller category are trad books. 

In summary, it's harder to get noticed and stay noticed these days. Not impossible. Just harder. I'm not trying to bum you out with this information, but I'm a realist, so I'd rather give it to you straight. 

Last year Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited which was the beginning of a huge decline in pay for many authors. While some authors are profiting big time as the bestsellers in the program each month, many other authors have seen their royalties plummet. Amazon says they're seeing great results from KU and have no plans to do away with the program, so it looks like it's here to stay. 

Here's my advice. If you're a new author without an established fan base and you're just starting out, I believe you can still benefit from the KDP/KU programs. Here's a little trick I used to use. If you can, you always want to have a freebie running. I would use 3 free days for one book, wait two weeks and then run another book for 3 days, and so on. You don't have to use all your days at one time, and you shouldn't. Space them out so you can run consistent sales and gain exposure for yourself and your books. 

Once you start getting yourself out there, pull out of KDP/KU and put your books on all other platforms including B&N, iBooks, Kobo, Googleplay, Audible. For the long term, you want your irons in as many fires as possible. 


6. NO NEWS IS NOT GOOD NEWS

If you don't have an author newsletter ... what are you waiting for?! It's honestly one of the best things you can do for yourself, and it's also one of the only things I talked about two years ago that's not only still relevant today, but necessary to build your author brand. 

Wondering how to get fans for your newsletter? Start by linking to your newsletter in the back of each of your eBooks. Another great idea is to gift one of your books as a thank you for signing up. 

A few notes here:

1. Don't saturate your mailing list with unnecessary emails. One or two a month is plenty. No more. Otherwise, you risk losing subscribers.

2. Don't make your books the primary focus all the time. In other words, stop screaming, "BUY MY BOOK!" If your book is new, then yes, let your fans know it's here and how they can buy it.

3. Be personable. Say something about your life, ask questions, get them involved, and keep them involved. I love connecting with my readers, and I can tell how much they appreciate it by the emails they send to me. 

Bottom line, if the only point of your newsletter is to sell your books, don't bother with a newsletter. You're missing the point, and eventually very few people will read it. 

Wondering where to create a mailing list? My two favorites are MailChimp and Constant Contact. MailChimp is much cheaper. 


7. IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED, TRY, TRY AGAIN

Two years ago, I suggested writers get a Twitter account and use it to promote their books using the 90/10 rule, which is 10% promotion, 90% anything else. Back then, my 50K followers were great about retweeting and buying my books. Now, not so much. Twitter has changed over the last two years, and I don't see the same benefit I once did. Don't get me wrong, I love Twitter, and I love to interact with my followers about things I'm passionate about like the TV show Black Sails. I just don't see it as a beneficial sales tool anymore. One reason for this is because younger users (high school/college age) are primarily using Twitter now, and older users aren't on there as much as they were in the beginning.  

Goodbye Twitter. Hellooo Facebook! 

Some of you probably disagree with me right now. You haven't seen the effectiveness of Facebook ads because they haven't worked for you in the past. I've created several ads that I dumped because I couldn't get them down to the sweet spot, which is no higher than .10 a click. I have been running an ad on my book Hush Now Baby for almost a year now. It's at .08, has reached 142K over the last year, and has had over 14K post engagements. 

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Sadly, I might create 10 ads, and only one or two will have results like this. It's all about tweaking the ads and trying again until they do what you need them to do. Time consuming, yes. But well worth the investment.  

If you're boosting ads through your Facebook page, stop it. Stop it right now! ;) Why? Boost a post for twenty bucks and then view the results and see how many clicks you had. Not photo clicks, actual link clicks. If it's more than .15 a click, and most of the time it will be, you're much better off creating ads. 

What do I mean by creating ads? You better take a nice, long breath for this next part. 

Create ads through Power Editor. Yes, it's tedious. Yes, it's a pain. Yes, you might even raise your middle finger to your computer screen when it's not cooperating. And yes, it's still way better. Here's a tip. After you've mastered PE, use targeting to narrow down the type of readers most likely to buy your books. For me, this means selecting a female demographic for most of my books who are over twenty-five, and who also read books similar mine. Figure out what this means for you and then target it. 

8. BOX IT UP, BABY

I am a big fan of boxed sets. They're an excellent way for you to put something additional out without extra work. It's also just one more way to promote yourself and get yourself out there. In addition to your own sets, I highly recommend getting together with other authors in your genre to generate an additional side income this way. 

Some authors in the industry feel a box set with six or more authors is a colossal waste of time. Last year when Deadly Dozen came out and made the New York Times bestsellers list, everyone was talking about it. I read several blog posts both for and against the idea. Either way, it seemed everyone had an opinion about what we did. 

While it was a boxed set for a .99 split between 12 bestselling thriller authors (this was after we also paid someone to promote it for us, and after we deducted the price of those promotions), I still made good money for doing very little. 

In truth, it wasn't about the money though, and this is what the naysayers didn't see. 

To put it simply, there's a small picture, and there's a big picture. The small picture was me putting my book in the set for a very small royalty rate in return. The big picture was finding a bunch of new readers who have gone one to purchase my other books and have become fans for life. 


9. WHEN TO ROLL THE DICE

The question I receive most from authors is whether or not I think they should get an agent. There's no simple answer here. What works for me might not work for you. I'm lucky to be represented by one of the best agencies in the business. My agent is the girl wonder. I adore her. I signed with her after politely declining to sign with other agents because she's a good fit for me. She believes in me. I feel like we're a team. And because I'd like to see film and foreign rights prospects in the future. For me, an agent was the best way to achieve this.

But is it for you? 

The industry is changing so fast, it's hard to say what the best decision is. A few things to ask yourself:


  • What are your goals? 
  • If you did sign with an agent and were offered a traditional publishing contract, what does that look like to you? 
  • Have you done enough research to know what a good contract is and what it isn't? 
  • Are you willing to give up the royalty you're making right now, and if so, at what price? 

You can't go into it blindly. If you're thinking of getting an agent, due your homework first! And when you query, take the time to read what the agent wants in a query or prepare for it to be deleted without ever getting read. If you want to know if an agent is the right fit for you, be prepared to ask a lot of questions. Clueless about what questions to ask? Click HERE.  

If you still want to query an agent after reading the advice above, my recommendation is to start on the AAR website. You'll see who's taking on new clients, the genres they're accepting, and EXACTLY what they want to see in a query. 


10. CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF

As an indie writer, no one is going to do for you the thing you need to do for yourself. You are the captain of your own ship. Whether it's smooth sailing or troubled waters depends on your own investment and perseverance. This isn't a career for the weak. And I have to say, I believe it's harder to get noticed right now as a new writer than ever before. Many writers are becoming frustrated and throwing in the towel. 

We live in a world where we MUST stay informed on the industry and the current trends at all times. The industry is constantly changing. If you don't have the time to keep your ear to the ground and learn how to adapt to the barrage of changes, you'll get lost in the shuffle. 

I'm not trying to be pessimistic here. Many writers seem confused about what's happening. If this is you, it's time to reevaluate what you need to do to get ahead, to make new goals, and get in the game. I am always learning, always looking for ways to improve. You should be too. 

No two journeys are the same. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. You'll never find your own niche until you try. 

In closing, I'm going to post a couple links, and suggest several books to read.  






2 comments:

  1. Thanks for putting these tips together! Very helpful.

    ReplyDelete