Self-Publishing Pay To Play: Hello, Book Advertising

Self-Publishing Pay To Play: Hello, Book Advertising

Few authors are thrilled about the big shift in self-publishing in 2018, because the process became more a lot expensive. Both Amazon (AMS) and Facebook shifted to pay-to-play.

No more free visibility. If you want to sell books today, you need to advertise.

I prefer to keep all my blog posts positive. I know that this new “pay up!” situation will be disheartening for many authors.

We’ll look at how to cope in 2019. For now, let’s cast an eye over the terrain, so to speak.

Self-publishing: slimmer margins, more work

Pay to play means slimmer margins for authors who now have to advertise, or forgo sales.

Russell Blake has an excellent post on Amazon’s changes, and on advertising:

Amazon has taken real estate on their product pages and turned it into revenue streams… (because it’s a) revenue generation engine, it would have been dumb for them to offer visibility that doesn’t involve publishers and authors paying Zon…

Paying for ads wouldn’t be such a pain in the rear end if the reporting process made sense; at least then authors could make decisions. Unfortunately Amazon’s reporting is plain horrid.

Sales and advertising on Amazon: what the…??

On the sales side, many authors have been complaining about huge drops in their Amazon KDP sales since October. This book sales downturn isn’t across the board — not all authors are affected. However, it encompasses both straight sales, and KENPC income.

Affected authors believe that there’s a major glitch in KDP. Who knows? It’s a mystery.

As for the Amazon advertising situation… Authors advertising on Amazon can spend a lot of time wondering what on earth is going on too.

Suffice to say that AMS’s reporting is a mess. This is beyond-frustrating when you’re advertising on AMS. You’re throwing money into the void, and don’t know whether your ads are working, or not.

The solution? Roll on 2019

We’ll look at solutions in 2019 — many self-publishing authors will need to change what they’re doing, but this is nothing new. There’s an Amazon challenge every few months, and publishing is of course a business.

In the meantime, write on. 🙂

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Self-Publishing Strategies: 5 Easy Ways To Promote Older Titles

Self-Publishing Strategies: 5 Easy Ways To Promote Older Titles

If you’ve been self-publishing for a while, your backlist is growing. You’re promoting your new releases, and over time, your backlist is left to fend for itself.

A couple of weeks ago a reader asked: “How do I promote my older books without spending money on advertising?”

Great question.

Self-publishing? Your books are available as long as you choose

One of the benefits of self-publishing is that your books are available forever, more or less. You can publish/ unpublish, edit and republish… Everything is up to you.

Keeping this in mind, that you can edit and republish at any time you choose, here are some strategies for promoting your self-published back catalogue.

1. Give an old title a makeover, and republish it

I’m a tinkerer, and I love hitting the PUBLISH button, whether it’s on a blog post, or a book.

One of the easiest ways to promote an older title is to edit it, and republish it. You can add new info (nonfiction) or a new chapter. With fiction, you can add scenes.

Remember to use the backmatter of all your titles for promotion. Add a (brief) preview of a recent release. Make sure that you’ve added a link to your website, and mailing list. Got many books? Develop a list of titles, and add the list to your entire back catalogue.

When I suggest a title makeover to students, they ask whether they should republish the book as a new title, or a new edition.

My rule of thumb:

  • More than 50% new content? It’s a new title. Unpublish the older title;
  • Less than 50% new? It’s a new edition of the title.

2. Change an older book’s cover to give it a fresh new look

This is the easiest way to promote an older title. Change the cover.

In some cases, this can have an enormous impact. One student changed the cover, and her book started selling copies every day. In her case, her new cover was more in line with her genre’s expectations, so the big uptick in sales made sense.

3. Update your most recent titles, with ads for your older books inside

When you publish a book, it’s done. You forget about it. However, always keep your backlist in mind.

See the first strategy, above. Advertise older titles in your new books, and add a list of all your titles to each book you publish.

4. Change the price on your older titles

Whatever the price you’re charging, change it. No, I don’t mean that you should lower the price of the book: increase it.

When I share this strategy with my students, they’re stunned. I encourage them to do it, assuring them that the sky won’t fall, and they’re even more stunned.

One student had a cozy mystery which hadn’t sold more than ten copies. He increased the price: now it sells, so he’s writing a series based on the characters… Go figure, right?

A side-benefit of increasing the price of older titles is that you can now afford to advertise them.

5. Pop a book into KDP Select for three months (or remove it from Select)

KDP Select is a conundrum. Some authors won’t have anything to do with it, and that’s OK. Other authors enroll everything in Select.

This is understandable. Some books do brilliantly in Select, others don’t.

Here’s what I suggest to new authors. If you’re publishing a novel, pop it into Select for three months, then go wide with it. When publishing nonfiction, go wide immediately.

With an older title, if it hasn’t been in Select for a year or more, pop it in for three months (be sure to give it a full or mini-makeover first), then take it out.

For older titles already in Select, take them out when their current three months is up, and give them a makeover, then publish them wide — and raise the price while you’re at it.

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Book Marketing: 3 Tips To Drive Sales With Image Marketing

Book Marketing: 3 Tips To Drive Sales With Image Marketing

Let’s be blunt. Book marketing is hard. Aside from your book, millions of other books are available to readers at the click of a Buy button. Some books are even available as binge-worthy serials on the video streaming sites.

With so much competition for their words, it’s little wonder that authors complain that advertising and social media “don’t work.”

Well, they do, but it’s very hard to grab readers’ attention. Images help with that.

Why book marketing with images?

In brief, so that you can grab readers’ attention. According to 3M research, visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Devoting a little time to book marketing with images can pay off hugely.

Doubt me? OK: check out large brands on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. You’ll find images, images, and more images.

Unfortunately, when it comes to book marketing, an author thinks only in terms of cover images, and perhaps cover image mockups. (Mockups are those images where your book’s cover is superimposed on an image of an iPad, or phone.)

There’s a WORLD of book marketing images beyond your book’s cover.

Here are some tips to help you to expand your book marketing with images.

1. Think story and mood, to create evocative images

As with many large publishers, Penguin Books creates mini-stories which are book covers placed in evocative situations, as you can see on their Instagram feed.

Penguin Books Instagram

Similarly, as you can see in the image below, Author T.R Ragan uses book cover images evocatively. However, she also uses family images, as well as book trailer images.

Author T.R Ragan

Here are a couple of ideas to help you to create evocative images which will encourage readers to explore your books:

  • Add some text to your image, as well as adding your book’s cover.
    T.R Ragan does this well, see an example below.
    (Be aware that Facebook can be picky about their ads if there’s too much text on a posted image);
  • Think mood when you choose images. For thrillers, aim for a hint of danger. Romance? Then hearts and flowers are apropos.

book marketing image and text

2. Your images for book marketing don’t need to be glitzy, and super-professional: YOU are the story

You’re an author, and whether you’re an indie or are traditionally published, you’re you.

Professional images are nice, but you’re not competing with major publishers who hire professional photographers with a studio, and models.

Home-made is fine.

Be creative in your image marketing. Jenny Meldenwald posts jokes. I liked the one below. It’s a giggle.

Book marketing: jokes

3. You’re your own marketing department: be consistent

We often speak about an author’s platform, and that can sound super-challenging. Here’s a simple way of looking book marketing in general: you’re aiming for recognition, that’s all.

You post images to Facebook, Instagram etc, and you end up with a few followers. So what, you think. You need 10,000 followers, don’t you?

That would be nice. 🙂 But all you want, is basic awareness.

When a reader is browsing Amazon, or another book retailer and sees your name, chances are that they won’t remember that goofy picture of your dog wearing a Santa suit you posted on Instagram. But they do recall your name, so they read your book’s blurb… and after a minute or two, they buy your book.

The old copywriter’s acronym: AIDA comes into play. I’m a veteran copywriter, so thinking: Attention, Interest, Desire, ACTION comes naturally to me with all advertising.

Book marketing is advertising?

Indeed it is. And advertising your book doesn’t come much less expensive — or more powerful — than using images.

Give it a try — and as always, have fun. 🙂

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