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.
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