Indie Author Marketing: 5 Essentials For Profits

Indie Author Marketing: 5 Essentials For Profits

You’ve written a book or two. Sales are slim to none. You know that you need to market, but HOW? It all seems so complicated. Indie author marketing can be a huge challenge, but it needn’t be.

When I coach writers in book marketing, I ask: “what’s fun for you?” because book marketing begins with your mindset.

Here’s a secret. I spent much of my writing career despising marketing. Looking back, that was quite a trick, because I’m a copywriter. I could market anything, but hated marketing my writing, or my writing business. And by “hating” I mean in a visceral sense. The idea made me nauseous.

Finally, I decided that I was being silly: if I could market for others, I could do it for myself. Since I had to do it, I asked myself: what’s fun for you? Fun for me turned out to be blogging.

Your mileage will of course vary, but if you can work out what you like — and could perhaps love, you’re well on the way to becoming a true indie author…

If you understand how book marketing works.

Assuming that a fairy godmother isn’t about to smack you silly with her magic wand anytime soon, and turn you into an instant bestselling author, you need to understand book marketing essentials. If you’re not aware of the WHY of tools like blogging/ social media and advertising, you can’t use them creatively.

(There’s no shame in that, by the way, some global publishers haven’t a clue either.)

Start with this foundation: indie authors wear two hats — author, and publisher.

Two hats: author and publisher — publishing must be profitable

You’re comfortable wearing your author hat. Toss that hat aside for a moment, and put on your publisher hat.

Hat on? OK. 🙂

A publisher’s goal is the same as that of any other business: turn a profit. No profit, no business. So, as a publisher, how do you turn a profit? You’ve got a book, or a bunch of books (a bunch is better)… your sole aim is to sell those suckers.

You can market and sell your books in any way you choose. However, remember FUN. If marketing your books isn’t a giggle, you won’t do it. So keep thinking about the fun angle. There are so many ways of marketing books that you’re sure to find something you like to do.

Let’s explore some essentials to help you to develop a “profits” indie publisher mindset.

1. Time and money: you need both for profitable publishing

Everyone wants instant success. That’s fine. I want that too. However, I’m realistic, and know that Murphy’s Law applies. Everything takes longer than you expect, and things will go wrong.

To counteract this, make a commitment to yourself: whatever it takes. You can’t be half-hearted about your publishing venture. Expect it to take time to make money.

Then expect that you’ll invest the money you make from your book sales back into your business: you’ll get better covers, will buy advertising, will improve your website — whatever it takes.

2. Hook buyers: buyers buy because of an EMOTION

Humans are emotional creatures, and readers read to experience emotions.

From our free Write More, Write Well writing class:

Each and every fictional genre has an emotional key — emotions readers want to feel while reading that kind of fiction.

If you can zero in on the emotions that readers want, AND can tap those emotions in your fiction, you’ll write stories that readers will love.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: it’s essential that you read widely in the genre in which you’re writing. You MUST understand what emotions readers want when they read your genre.

For example, in any type of romance fiction, the HEA (Happily Ever After) is pretty much non-negotiable — if your romance doesn’t end in a HEA, you’d better be able to generate those emotions in other ways, otherwise readers will avoid your stories, and you’ve wasted time writing them.

If you’re getting few sales, and readers aren’t connecting with your fiction (or nonfiction), consider emotion. Start looking for your own emotional reactions to what you read too — you’ll begin to understand why books become bestsellers.

Bestselling authors are regularly trashed by literary critics who whine about the poor writing. (Dan Brown springs to mind.) When you check out bestselling books, you’ll see what the critics don’t see: the bestsellers connect with readers on an emotional level.

3. Visibility and discoverability: get discovered

With millions of books available, it’s hard to get your books in front of readers. If you want readers to find your books you need to do marketing and advertising. Every little bit counts.

Consider that perhaps you’re overlooking the simplest forms of marketing, such as the possibilities of marketing in your own books, in the front matter and back matter:

Advertise (subtly) in your front matter

Be aware that Amazon shows the first 10% of your ebook via its Look Inside feature. Keep the essential material in your front matter short. Remember your copyright info, of course.

Use that 10% to subtly advertise your ebook. Anyone reading via Look Inside hasn’t bought your book, so spend a little time thinking what you could show up front, to encourage your reader to buy.

4. Make “free” work for you: get creative

Check any authors’ forum, and authors complain about all the free ebooks which are available, and demand that authors be paid… Well… There are so many things wrong with that mindset, that I don’t know where to start.

Remember that you’re in the business of publishing, and that while “free” is useful as part of your marketing mix, it cannot be your entire marketing strategy. No business can be successful if it competes solely on price.

If you’re using “free”, and only “free” as a self-publisher, you need to rethink how and when you offer readers free ebooks. We’ve talked about using “free” before. Free is a part of pricing your products. It’s not marketing. Think about your marketing mix, which is: product, price, promotion, and place.

In Pricing Kindle Ebooks: Free, Cheap, or Expensive? we said:

Consider YOUR situation. It will be different from other authors. Make a list of what you want. (And please write the list, don’t try to keep it in your head.) It’s essential to assess where you are, because unless you know, you’ll have doubts, and will change your pricing at whim.

Read that article, and then consider developing a simple marketing strategy; it starts with your product. Then get creative, and come up with some creative ideas for your marketing.

5. Make friends and influence people: word of mouth counts

Authors want to write their books. We don’t want to be bothered with things which take us away from our words. However, as indie authors, we don’t have a choice. We need to put on our publishing hat, and market our books.

The more people who know you, or know of you, the more attention your books attract. You need to get onto people’s radar, in any way you can.

Consider these ideas:

  • Partnering with other authors in anthologies, and book bundles;
  • Writing guest posts on large blogs — or smaller ones too;
  • Collaborating with other authors on promotions…

You’re a publisher: think long term for profits

As an indie author, you’re your own publisher. You’re running a business. Your business must be profitable. You can make it happen. Think longterm. What could you do today, to make your business profitable in a year?

For an indie author, marketing is essential. You can develop an amazing business. Create some goals, and make plans to achieve them, today. Start by asking yourself how you can make it fun.

Need more? Check out our 15-minutes-a-day book marketing strategy.

How To Make Writing Easier: Free Writing Classes

How To Make Writing Easier: Free Writing Classes

Want to make writing easier? Even if you love writing, writing can be a challenge. On bad days, the temptation is to write “tomorrow”. Before you know it, a week’s passed, and you haven’t written a word.

We’re offering free writing classes to make writing easier.

By “writing” we mean anything and everything: fiction, nonfiction, social media content, advertising… For example, I know many writers suffer when they try to write marketing content to promote their books. As you’ll discover, with the right processes, it truly is easy.

In Write More: Free Writing Classes Coming Next Week we said:

Free writing classes, with free reference material, to make writing easier

We’ll work with the writing programs which we’re no longer selling. You’ll download them completely for free, and each week, in the ezine, and here, we’ll create some exercises to help you to get to grips with the material.

In essence: free writing classes, so you can build your skills, make more income, and be a much happier writer.

Consider this. If you learn and USE just one new strategy a week, for  three months, that would make 12 new strategies. Do you think that those 12 would increase your opportunities? I know that they would.

Our first strategy is discovering yourself — how to put yourself into your writing, and write more, more easily. We’ll do that using Authentic Writing: Develop Your Writer’s Voice, And Sell as our reference text.

Your writing will improve too

You don’t need to slave over your writing to write well — discover that you can increase your writing speed, and the quality of your writing too.

You’ll need to subscribe

The free writing classes are for members of our writing groups. You can join here if you’re not already subscribed.

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing; you’ll learn processes and strategies which make writing much easier.

Join us — your receive your first lesson next Tuesday.

Wondering how much time to budget for the classes?

Your free writing class is simple, practical, and powerful. If you have 20 minutes a day over three days, you’re golden.

Eager to get started? Join here.

Write Fiction And Make It Delicious: Ice The Cake

Write Fiction And Make It Delicious: Ice The Cake

You write fiction. You’re providing emotional experiences for your readers. If you do that well, your readers will find you and your fiction will sell. And sell.

I’m fond of telling my students that writing a novel’s a lot like baking a cake. You choose your ingredients, you mix them, and bake them. When you want to make your cake truly delicious you frost it — and not with icing you bought at the supermarket either.

OK, enough with the analogy, I’m getting hungry. 🙂

When you edit your fiction, ice the cake

What’s your fictional cake’s “icing”? It’s yummy bits of business, or even entire scenes which you add to your novel or novella just for the emotional charge these elements give to readers.

The specific elements of your icing depend on the genre in which you’re writing. Do some brainstorming about what readers expect from your genre.

Examples:

  • Romance readers expect a Happily Ever After (HEA), a heroine with whom they can empathize, a hero with whom they could fall in love etc…
  • Mystery readers expect a mystery (of course), a crime, intriguing characters etc…

Beyond the common, expected elements, bestselling and loved novels in your genre have something extra. Go back to your favorite novels in your genre, and make a list of what you loved. Example: I’m on a Jill Mansell kick at the moment. What I love about her novels: laugh-out-loud moments, interesting occupations for her heroines, and a wide cast of characters.

To ice the cake of my current novel, I could include a couple of the elements I adore from Mansell’s novels. I could add a couple of characters to my novel, and could add some humor.

See how it’s done?

Try it yourself… what could you add to ice the cake of your current novel?

Let’s look at some tips to help you with the “icing”.

1. Write your novel first, ice it later

You need to bake your cake before you ice it. (Yes, I’m sticking with the analogy… :-))

So write the first draft of your novel. Then do a quick revision — DELETE. Delete is your friend, if you write fast — and you should. Finish the novel! (If you have trouble with finishing, put your butt in your chair, and write as fast as you can.)

2. Icing your novel’s cake: brainstorm

Next, brainstorm some ideas for your icing. You may decide that you need to add a character, or add humor, or use more settings.

Choose ONE, if you’re writing your first or second novel. If you’re not used to keeping a lot of novel-related stuff in your head, adding too many elements gets confusing.

3. Ice away: add sentences, scenes and characters

This is the tricky bit. You’ve written your novel. You don’t want to upset the novel’s balance, so ice judiciously. Not too much — you don’t want to end up with more icing than cake. 🙂

4. Edit your novel again: smooth on the icing

Start at the beginning, and edit, to ensure that the icing becomes part of your novel’s cake. You may need to do a lot of this, or just a little.

For example, if you’ve added more settings for your scenes, keep an eye on the timeline. Your characters will need travel time to move between the locations you’ve chosen.

If you’ve added humor, you’ll need to make adjustments in your characters, right throughout the novel. You can’t have a straitlaced character suddenly making humorous quips.

5. What if your icing is too much?

Sometimes the icing you’ve chosen doesn’t suit your novel. That’s 100% fine. Don’t sweat it. If you can see that it’s not working, stop. Choose another form of icing — you’ll find that once you start tinkering in this way, more ideas will occur to you. One or two of them will be perfect for your book.

That’s the beauty of icing your novel’s cake. Your novel becomes better, no matter how much or how little you do… and that’s your ultimate goal, right?

What to do next…

Reread your favorite novels. Highlight the prose you love, and ask yourself what emotional reaction you experienced. Make notes, to increase the likelihood that you will remember your reaction.

As we’ve said, when you write fiction, you’re providing emotional experiences for your readers. The more you think about your reactions to fiction, the more you’ll focus on writing emotionally-charged stories your readers will love. It happens naturally, so be relaxed about it. 🙂

Go ahead… put some icing on the cake of your novel. Have fun with it, and your readers will have fun too — and you’ll sell more novels.

Ideas? Thoughts?

Share them in the comments, or on social media.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

How to write fiction - and get readers
How to write fiction – and get readers

Self-Publishing: 3 Strategies To Maximize Your Ebook Sales

Self-Publishing: 3 Strategies To Maximize Your Ebook Sales

Today, anyone can be an author. Self-publishing is hot, and in knowledgeable circles, that is, among authors who publish for readers, rather than for validation, self-publishing makes a million times more sense than going the traditional, oh-so-slow publishing route.

The big challenge with self-publishing? It’s all your responsibility — everything from sourcing covers, to selling your ebooks.

A small aside: in traditional publishing, marketing and selling your books is your responsibility too, but no one talks about that. 🙂

Perhaps you’re considering self-publishing for the first time, or have been self-publishing for a while. You know you could and should sell more ebooks, but you’re not sure how.

Something’s not right. You know your ebooks are excellent. Your covers are good, your ebooks are edited professionally, and you’re trying to be as professional as you know how to be… so how come you’re not selling more?

You have the uneasy feeling that you should be marketing your ebooks more effectively, but you’re not sure how. So you either don’t do it at all, or you do it in a half-hearted think-about-it-later fashion.

Here’s something to keep in mind. It’s what I suggest to my students when they moan about marketing…

The ONE big secret strategy of all publishing: help readers to find you

Although there are potentially millions of readers for your ebooks, most will never find your ebooks. Your mission: to give readers as many opportunities to find you as you can.

You need to make your ebooks discoverable. Thousands of new ebooks appear each and every month. Without discovery, your ebooks are soon buried under an avalanche of other authors’ ebooks.

So, how do you make your ebooks discoverable?

There’s one essential to keep in mind, otherwise you won’t have enough patience… small wins.

Discovery: aim for small wins, and be patient

As authors, we think of “readers” as a group. However, each reader is an individual. One person. Think about that, and consider that you can and must build your readership one person at a time. That’s the point of “social” media: you need to be active, and engage with readers.

Many authors reject social media. This is foolish. Yes, you’re building your readership one reader at a time, but over time, your readership will grow exponentially. One reader tells another about your ebooks. That reader tells three more people. And those three tell a dozen more.

Focus on one reader at a time, and you’ll sell more ebooks.

Let’s look at three strategies you can put into action today.

1. (Easy) Go wide on some of your titles

Kindle Direct Publishing offers KDP Select,which means that you get paid for each and every page readers read, because readers can borrow your titles for free via Kindle Unlimited. The big challenge of enrolling your ebooks in Select however is that you need to give Amazon a three-month exclusive on each title enrolled. You can’t sell an ebook elsewhere, for three months.

To repeat… Once you’ve enrolled an ebook in Select, you can’t publish elsewhere (“go wide”.)

You’re missing out on potential sales on other ebook retailers. Many authors don’t mind this. Sales on other retailers are usually smaller. The operative word is “usually”: sometimes an ebook sells abysmally on Amazon, but takes off and breaks out on another retailer. A breakout ebook becomes more visible on Google: suddenly it sells more on Amazon too. It’s all about discoverability — if an ebook breaks out, it’s more discoverable. A breakout book makes the author’s other ebooks more visible too.

On the other side of the KDP Select divide, many authors feel that they don’t want all their eggs in Amazon’s global basket. Why give Amazon an exclusive? Who knows what Amazon will do next? A small change in Amazon’s algorithm may deep-six your entire publishing catalogue.

While there are many reasons to use Select, there are other reasons not too. The big reason to avoid going all-in with Select on all your titles? You hand over control of your publishing venture to Amazon.

Authors struggle with this, and I do too.

Here’s a solution: go wide on some of your titles. That is, keep some of your titles out of Select, and publish them widely — to other ebook retailers as well. If you do this, you can make the occasional title free, so that readers can discover your ebooks when you advertise your freebie.

Remember… discoverable. The more opportunities you give readers to discover your ebooks, the more you will sell.

Try it. If you have several titles, take one or two wide.

Push these ebooks on social media; you’ll sell more copies.

2. (Takes patience) Create social media campaigns

You will build your readership if you invest some time (and money, if you have money to invest) on social media.

Have you said something like this…?

“Social media is a waste of time, I’d rather write.”

“Social media doesn’t work.”

If you have, you’re not making the most of social media. Start paying attention, and you’ll sell more ebooks.

Just remember: one reader at a time. Small wins. Advertising doesn’t work on social media — engagement does. In fact, social media may well be the opposite of advertising. (If you’re a shy author, this is good news. :-))

Social media is the opposite of advertising…

The big challenge with social media is the temptation to look on it as advertising. It’s not advertising… It’s social. You can’t market on social media directly. However, if you want to sell more copies of every ebook you write — and want to make the most of your writing career — you must build your platform. The easiest way to do that is via social media.

Here’s a secret to help social media work for you: stop selling. Have fun; be social. To repeat once again — one reader at a time. DO make sure that you have a blog, or some online presence, so that your social media friends and followers can buy your ebooks.

3. (Invest in yourself) Pay for advertising

Many authors are currently making great money using Facebook advertising. The big reason is targeting. You can target readers using a fantastic variety of selection criteria because Facebook seems to know everything about everyone. 🙂

Of course, there are many other forms of advertising.

Advertising can build your readership, quickly. However, be careful. Test out each form of advertising first. It’s possible to waste money if you don’t keep track of what you’re spending, and of your results. Take it slowly, and use your advertising spend with social media.

Should you pay for advertising?

Yes, if you have the money to invest. However, and I can’t emphasize this enough: keep track of ad spending. Set yourself a yearly/ monthly budget before you start. You don’t need a huge budget.

Let’s say that you’ve made $1,000 from self-publishing in the past 12 months. Small businesses like to make their marketing budget a percentage of net profits — say 25%. (Remember, your advertising is all tax deductible. If you don’t have an accountant, get one; make it a priority.)

So your net was $1000; $250 is your ad budget. You may think that this is too small. And it is. However, it’s enough money for you to experiment a little. I once told a student to look on their ad spend as gambling: only spend what you can afford to lose. You will get results from your ads, however, those results can take months to show up, so if you expect an instant up-tick in sales you’ll be disappointed.

What if you can afford $1000 a month or more for advertising? If you can, that’s great. Unfortunately, if you invest all of it, chances are you’ll be spending too much, in the wrong places. START SLOWLY. Experiment, and track everything.

If you just buy a bunch of ads, and don’t track your spending and results, chances are that your expectations will soon overwhelm your confidence. Your writing will suffer, because you’re devoting too much time to marketing, rather than relaxing, so that your creativity can bloom.

Do I sound negative about advertising? I’m not — if you learn as you go. You must see what works for you. What works for other writers may or may not work for you — and I always bet on WILL NOT…

I’m very much in favor of advertising — I’ve made my living as a copywriter for going on 40 years after all. So I know what advertising can, and can’t do. (Short version on what it cannot do: you can lead a horse to water as the truism goes, but if the market doesn’t buy, it doesn’t buy. The market decides.)

Someone once said that 50% of all the money they spent on advertising was a waste of money: the challenge lies in knowing which 50%.

Start small. Track. When you find an advertising venue which works for you, increase your ad spend slowly — and keep experimenting.

And of course, keep writing… you must have products to sell. And yes, books are products, when it comes to marketing.

Want to sell more ebooks? Write more

If you want to sell more ebooks, you need to have more ebooks to sell. This isn’t a secret. However, it’s easy to forget it, in the hustle and bustle of marketing.

Writing comes first. Not only because you’ll make more sales, but also because writing more will make you a better writer.

What to do next: think, and plan

Let’s look at what you can do next.

  • Check your ebooks’ product pages on Amazon. Your cover, title, categories, and description sell your ebooks. Revise your blurb. (All blurbs need revision — mine do too, and I’m a copywriter by trade.) Ask your readers. Get some input from them about your blurb. Does your blurb work? Why? Why not?
  • Develop some creative (ads) for your ebooks. Research, to see what other authors are doing. At a minimum, you need some Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest ads.
  • Think about ORGANIC reviews, and how you might get them. I’m hesitant to mention reviews at all. (Sigh.) I’ve seen authors who should know better blatantly buying reviews. Please, don’t do this. Your reviews can and should grow organically. Your reviews must be from real readers, who have something to say. One reader in a thousand will review your ebook. You can improve those odds. Give away free copies on launch; ask readers for reviews at the back of your ebooks.
  • Pay attention to your social media accounts. Be there. Interact. Create alerts for your ebooks. Thank readers. Compliment other authors. Post about books you love. Be nice. Be professional, at all times.
  • Do something to market your ebooks every day: tweet. Post an image on Facebook, or Pinterest. You don’t need to do much — everything you do is cumulative. And, most importantly…
  • HAVE FUN… 🙂 Seriously: have fun with it. Nothing is more important. If you’re having fun, it shows — and you’ll sell more ebooks.

Self-Publishing: 3 Strategies To Maximize Your Ebook Sales

Earn while you learn, with Angela’s Writing Classes.

NEW: if you enjoy this blog, and want to keep it going, you can now tip me if you wish. Just go to paypal.me/angelabooth — thank you. 🙂

Your First Novel: Why You Don’t Need an Editor Yet

Your First Novel: Why You Don’t Need an Editor YetYou’ve just completed your first novel. Everyone’s telling you that you need an editor. They’re wrong.

Here’s why. After writing your first novel, you’ve learned a lot. Getting to the finish line was a huge accomplishment, so kudos for that. However, at this stage, you’re much too close to your novel to see it clearly. You’re too attached to it — it’s your baby, after all. Since that’s the case, it’s unlikely that an edit will help you. Much more likely, it will hopelessly confuse you.

So, if you’re not getting an edit, what should you do?

Write your second novel

You need to write your second novel. Take a short break, by all means. But don’t make it a long break — start your second novel as soon as you can.

Here are the benefits of writing your second novel, immediately after you’ve finished your first:

  • Working on your next novel clears your mind. Once you’ve completed it, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve learned. You’ll reread your first novel, and you’ll immediately see how you can make it better.
  • You can use what you learned in writing your first novel, in your second. Your second novel will be better than your first.
  • If you’re working on something else, you won’t be heart-broken by anything your beta readers tell you.

I know, I know… you’re hoping for fame and fortune from your first novel, aren’t you?

Will your first novel make you famous?

Anything’s possible. It could. However, if you decide that you’re not working on anything else because your first novel is sure to be a bestseller, you’re in for quite a reality check.

Don’t sit around waiting. For one thing, you’ll be waiting a long time, and for another, you’re wasting valuable writing time. Even if your first novel is a HUGE success, you need something else for people to buy, so get on with it, and write Novel Number Two — start writing now.

I conducted a mini-poll among my traditionally-published friends. I asked them how many novels they’d written before they got one published. The results? These six novelists wrote between six and seventeen novels before one was published.

I asked my traditionally published friends, because today anyone can publish anything and can call it a novel. That’s huge freedom, and I’m all for it. However, now matter how you publish, you need to learn your craft. And there’s a lot to learn.

When should you edit your first novel?

After you’ve written your second. You’ll be able to see your novel more clearly. Edit it yourself. Once it’s as good as you can make it… you think it’s perfect… Hire an editor. At that stage (you’ll be writing your third novel at this point) you’ll be able to make the best use of any advice you get from an editor.

Your editor’s advice: remember it’s YOUR book, your name’s on the cover

When I got the revision notes from my editor on my first novel many years ago, I argued. I spent a lot of time defending my characters, my plot, and my word choices. From memory, I received around eight pages of notes on a 70K novel. My whining and arguments exceeded those pages.

That was long before email, so I didn’t send the letter, thank heavens.

I argued. I sulked. Then I slept on it. It took around a week, but I eventually realized that my editor was right in 80% of what she said. The other 20% I argued for, and won a couple of the arguments.

I’m telling you this story, because I finally realized that my editor made my story better. She also taught me a lot about structure and editing.

An editor makes your story better. However, you need to be able to put aside your emotions. You also need to be able to see your story clearly. If you’re working on a current project when you get an editor’s notes on your novel, it’s much easier to do that.

Keep writing. 🙂

How To Write, Even If You Think You Can’t: 21 Easy Exercises To Bring Out The Writer In You

Available now on Amazon. Try these easy exercises. They teach writing processes and strategies which work.
They’ve have helped many writers. They’ll help you, too.

You CAN write. It doesn’t matter why you think you can’t. You can write, and writing will become easy for you.

Each exercise in this book helps you to write, even though you think you can’t. Some exercises take under five minutes. None will take you longer than an hour.How To Write, Even If You Think You Can't: 21 Easy Exercises To Bring Out The Writer In You

Earn while you learn, with Angela’s Writing Classes.

NEW: if you enjoy this blog, and want to keep it going, you can now tip me if you wish. Just go to paypal.me/angelabooth — thank you. 🙂