Here’s a commonly asked question. An author’s been self-publishing for a year or three, and his earlier books have stopped selling. He’s too involved in his recent releases to promote the older books effectively. He’s not even sure that it would be worthwhile.
In addition at this stage, the author’s reread his early efforts, and winced. He’s a much better writer now.
What to do?
Self-publishing choices: relaunching your back catalogue
Older books do drop off your radar.
If they’re still selling, you wonder whether they’d sell more, if you gave them a little love. On the other hand, a book that’s stopped selling may do better if you took a fresh look at it, because you’re more experienced now.
Treat the book as a completely new title. Rewrite the book completely. Give it a new title.
Add a sentence under your copyright info. Some thing like: “Previously published as Freddy And The Big Green Creature From Mars, revised and rewritten, with extra chapters.”
You need to take a little care if you’re self-publishing an already-published book as a new title.
Self-publishing a previously published book as a completely new title
Vital: do you have the copyright?
If the title was published by someone else — a traditional publisher, or an online publisher — have the publisher send you a letter stating that you have all rights back in that title.
Assuming that you have all rights in the title, please don’t forget to add the disclosure statement when you publish your “new” book. While it’s unlikely that readers will remember the first version, one or two might.
Most importantly, check where the first version of the book is selling online. If you’re “wide” with the first version — that is, you’re selling on multiple retailers — it’s not a good idea to choose KDP Select for the new title. Amazon requires an exclusive. Withdraw the older version from the other retailers, just to be safe, before you launch the new retitled, and revised version.
Will your republished book sell?
Revamping older titles isn’t a guarantee of more sales. However, I’ve heard enough stories from authors who have tarted up older books and got them selling that it’s worth considering, if you have a back catalogue in your self-publishing venture.
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.
I recently wrote:
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. Freeis a part of pricing your products. It’s not marketing. Think about your marketing mix, which is: product, price, promotion, and place.
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.
Today, the opportunities for writers have never been greater. Back in the day a writer who was making six-figures a year seemed a creature of myth. These days, highly successful writers are making six figures a month.
If you’re writing fiction, you hope it will be bestselling fiction. Since that’s the case, your blurb (book description) has just one function: to get its readers to take action.
What action? You want readers to read the book’s sample. Ideally, you want them to go on to buy the book, or at the very least to remember the book and the author’s name.
(By “book”, I mean ebooks too, of course.)
I coach writers, so I read a lot of blurbs. I advise students to focus on people in their blurbs. Readers want to read about people, above all.
If you doubt this, consider your favorite novels:
In the Harry Potter books, who’s more important, Harry and his friends, or Hogwarts? (I know that both are important, but go along with me here… :-))
In Game of Thrones, do you remember the setting, or the characters?
PEOPLE: who are your characters, and why should we care?
Try this exercise.
Choose your three main characters, and write a one-sentence summary of each one. Yes, just one sentence. Include each character’s major flaw, as well as his biggest virtue.
Here’s an example. “At just 26, Demetria Jones had already had 26 jobs, and she was proud of that.”
Demetria’s flaw: she can’t hold a job. You sense that she’s slightly out of step with the rest of society — and she doesn’t care. Her virtue is that she’s willing to keep trying job after job.
Are you interested in Demetria? Many readers will be interested enough to keep reading, and that’s what you want your blurb to do — keep readers reading. Then you want them to read the ebook’s sample too.
Craft your one-sentence summary while you’re writing your novel
Here’s why you need to craft your character summaries while you write: so that you remember what you’re writing. It’s all too easy, when you’re writing a novel, to wonder off onto weird tangents.
Sometimes this works. You start a scene, and you don’t know quite where you’re headed with the scene, but it seems interesting, so you keep going. If you’ve crafted a one-sentence character summary for each character, that acts as a compass, and you won’t wander too far off track.
With parts 1 and 2 of this series, you now know enough to write excellent blurbs. Have fun. 🙂
Read the first part of our “write a blurb which sells” series
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