Category Archives: marketing

Let’s Get Visible (I)

How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It (Part 4)

Ieye icon.jpgn this section of How to Sell Your Book No Matter Who Published It, I’m going to talk about the things you need to do to make yourself visible (online, mostly). I’m going to talk about the content and look of the static components of your online presence, by which I mean those that normally stay the same from day to day and week to week – like your website, your profile on Goodreads, your Twitter handle. I am not talking about the things you update, like your status on Facebook.

The topics I’m discussing in the “Let’s Get Visible” section are not specific marketing techniques. If they happen to attract actual purchasers it will be a side-benefit. Their purpose is to make certain that if someone wants to find out more about you or about your books, and they go to the usual places where people go to look for things online (e.g., the Google search engine, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) they will find you. It is not enough that they can find you as an entry inside your publishing company’s website or in its online catalogue (although that’s a bonus): they need to be able to find you as an independent entity.

This doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. In fact, it doesn’t need to cost any. And it doesn’t need to take too much time… unless you let it: beware the tendency to make yours the most beautiful, complex website on the Net, or the most outrageous Facebook page in existence.

Simplicity is more helpful to readers than are bells and whistles. And the most important characteristic of all of your online initiatives is consistency.

Which brings me to your “look” or “style” – a component of what marketers refer to as your “brand.”

Getting Recognized

Remember the last time you saw someone famous in the real world? Maybe it was even a recognizable writer – Margaret Atwood or John Irving or Salman Rushdie or Anne Rice. The moment you saw that person, you felt like you knew them. Warm thoughts for them and admiration for their writing rushed over you (I hope). You had never seen that person before, but you knew their sense of humour, their verbal talents, their interests, the mood/tone of their writing, etc. It was definitely not like seeing a stranger about whom you knew nothing.

That’s what we’re trying to attain online: not fame (well, not necessarily; at least not right away), but recognition. We want to put the viewer/reader’s ability to associate to work: your name goes with your face goes with your book cover(s). If everyone changed faces every time they went out in the world, we’d never recognize them; by the same token, if you have a different photo or name on every social medium, you lose the traction you gain as your prospective readers move from site to site.

Therefore I suggest that you choose three images to use everywhere online – one of yourself, one of your most recent book, and one background image that is wider than it is tall (approx. ratio, 3 wide to 1 tall; known on Facebook as your “cover photo”). Keep them together in one folder on your computer so you can find them when you think of a new place where you might want to use one.

Which Photos?

Much as I love changing the photo on my Facebook profile page every few weeks or so, I use only one on my Facebook page (we’ll discuss the difference between profiles and pages soon), and I use the same photo on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, GoodReads, the “About Mary” page of this blog, etc. That photo also shows up when I make comments on other people’s blogs or on online articles. I also send it out for use with my bio when I am speaking at a workshop or doing a reading. Recognition is a powerful tool.

The background image can be anything you like. If you write horror novels, you might want something spooky. If you write humour, your background image should convey that. Since my novels are all over the map, I have taken a photo of a stack of my books that I use wherever a generic background photo, wider than it is high, is needed. Mine looks like this (I’ve linked it to my Facebook page, which you are welcome to “like” while you’re there….or not):

background

To further reinforce the “recognition” principle, you could also use a segment of your book cover as a background photo, if it works (mine doesn’t, very well):

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-1-53-15-pm

So, your homework this time is to choose permanent (or at least semi-permanent; you will probably want to change them occasionally) photos to represent you online.

Next time, I’ll talk about websites: Do you have one? Do you need one?  If you decide to have one, what should go on it?

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Throughout this series, I encourage you to share your own experiences and knowledge about book promotion through the comments section below. If your comment isn’t posted immediately, be patient. I review them first, to avoid spammers, and (believe it or not) I’m not always online.

How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It (3)

Introduction, Part III

Your Online Friends and Followers Are Not Your Target Market

Fishing line icon in prohibition red circle, ban or stop sign, forbidden symbol. Vector illustration isolated on whiteIn future sections of this guide, I am going to talk to you about setting up a Twitter account, a Facebook page, an AuthorCentral page on Amazon, a Goodreads author profile, and other kinds of social media contact pages. I am also going to discuss the merits of establishing and / or maintaining a blog.

However, I do not want you to think of these platforms as ways to reach out to book buyers, because they are not. (Which is a good reason not to spend too much time on them.) Way back in 2013, I wrote a post entitled “Promoting Your Book on Twitter and Facebook is a Total Waste of Time.” My thinking on that subject has not changed. I cannot trace a single book sale to anything I ever did on Twitter, Facebook, or even this blog. I will talk more specifically about this in a future post.

In the meantime, I want to you to make a mindset change before you even start on your book promotion. Do not think of your real-life friends, or your Facebook friends, or your Twitter followers, as the people who are going to buy your books. Resolve that you are not going to waste your time or theirs by pitching your book to them. If you do, you will end up being very disappointed in your friends and aggravated with your social media contacts, because most of them are never going to take your bait. (There are always a few loyal and generous exceptions. Connie, Ruth, Chris and a few others: you know who you are). In general, you need to forget about  marketing to those in your immediate and ongoing / extended circles.

The way to do this is to imagine that you are standing at the top of a hill. All around you, in every direction, as far as you can see, are all the potential readers of your book in the world. There are kazillions of them, or at least many thousands. Closest to you are your friends, relatives, acquaintances, and the guy who just reposted your tweet about your cat. You know the names (or at least the social-media handles) of all of those whose faces you can see.

Resolve right now that beyond letting these people know that your book has been published (if they do not know already), you will ignore them when it comes to book promotion. You will never urge them, nag them or try to guilt them into buying anything you have for sale. The people you will target with your promotion plan are, instead, the ones beyond this circle, the ones whose faces you cannot see very clearly or at all, because they are too far away. These are the readers who comprise the market for your book.

Always keep this image in your mind when you are developing a book promotion strategy. It will do two things for you: 1) it will mean that you do not feel disappointed and petty when your friends don’t by your book because you will know you were not targeting them anyway, and 2) it will mean that you don’t worry about trying to gear your promotion scheme to people you know and end up conflicted by doubt over what they will think of you when they see it. Most likely, they won’t even notice it.

Besides, just think about how many friends you have in the real world and on the Internet. How many are there in total? A few hundred? Why would you try to flog so few people to death to get them to buy your book? Don’t you want to sell thousands? To do that, you need a bigger vision. To sell to thousands, you need to speak to thousands. So let’s do that.

* * * *

I am going to cover five major areas of book promotion in this series. They are as follows:

  • Let’s Get Visible (building your online presence)
  • Legitimizing Your Book (reviews, launches, etc.)
  • Free promotion
  • Paid advertising
  • Extensions / Cross-Selling

In the next post, we’ll actually get started!

* * * * *

Throughout this series, I encourage you to share your own experiences and knowledge about book promotion through the comments section below. If your comment isn’t posted immediately, be patient. I review them first, to avoid spammers, and (believe it or not) I’m not always online.

How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It (2)


screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-4-39-55-pmIntroduction, Part II

Why You Should Exploit Amazon – Even If You Don’t Like the Company

Throughout this guide, many of my suggestions for book marketing and promotion will assume that your book is for sale on Amazon. For most of you, this will be an obvious premise, a given. However, for some – including a number of writers I have known and admired for a long time – this assumption will create a problem: because they are boycotting Amazon.

There are valid reasons to boycott Amazon, the primary one being that it is a megacorp that is taking over the world, destroying everything in its path – from publishers to bookstores and beyond. On the basis of news stories, many consider the company to have behaved unethically towards its employees – rebuttals notwithstanding.

I respect anyone’s decision to boycott Amazon if that is what they have decided to do. Even if they have, they will find a host of useful strategies in this guide to help them market their books; I will include a range of tips and suggestions that have nothing to do with Amazon.

However, before we start, I feel the need to point out that writers who choose to boycott the Amazon sales platform are shooting themselves in the feet. Both feet. And in the head as well.

Because Amazon is a megacorp that is taking over the world and chewing up everything in sight, it is the one place where – if you can get noticed – you are going to sell a lot of books. Statistics (now three years old, but I couldn’t find any more recent ones) estimated that 41% of all new book purchases were Amazon purchases – and we’re not just talking about online new book purchases, but about all new book purchases. (For online purchases, the number was 65%.)

Humans are more often lazy than they are principled. Even if everyone in the world felt that Amazon was the most despicable company on the planet, most of them would still shop there – because it is so easy, and because, unlike my local bookstore, which happens to be Indigo – another big company – it always has the book I want, at a low price, and will get it to me tomorrow. I want my books to be available on a platform where people can make impulse book purchases from the comfort of their couches, as I do.

Amazon is not only friendly to buyers. It is also friendly to writers. It offers incomparable royalties to those who publish with it, and it makes it easy for Amazon authors to promote their books. For those who publish with traditional presses, as I will explain in later installments, there are still many opportunities for authors to use Amazon to serve their own purposes.

Not selling on Amazon makes as much sense to me as not driving anywhere because cars pollute the environment. In other words, it makes sense, but I am not going there. I have done so many principled things in my life that have got me absolutely nowhere, that nowadays I am being very careful about who I boycott. (I am not justifying this behaviour, just telling you where I stand.) To salve my conscience perhaps, I think of myself as exploiting Amazon. This guide will explain how you can do that, too.

In the next installment of this series, I will talk about the Four Stages of Book Promotion – and then, in installment 4, we will get started.

* * * * *

Throughout this series, I encourage you to share your own experiences and knowledge about book promotion through the comments section below. If your comment isn’t posted immediately, be patient. I review them first, to avoid spammers, and (believe it or not) I’m not always online.

BookBub and Me: 20,000 Downloads, 50 Reviews, and a Month (so far) of Daily Sales

I even made it onto three Amazon e-book bestseller lists

BookBubI’ve never figured that paying a promotions company to market my book was a worthwhile investment of my money, but in the past month I’ve discovered – yet again – that when it comes to promoting books, I’m a neophyte.

After a few writer friends experienced success with a site called BookBub, I decided a few weeks ago that I’d give the company a try with Rita Just Wants to Be Thin. At the time, Rita was languishing at an average of about zero sales per week.

I was prepared to consider the $165 US or so that I thought a BookBub promo was going to cost me  (for “worldwide” distribution of a book in the Women’s Fiction category) as money down the drain, but aside from the money ( ! ? ), I had nothing much to lose. I was curious. I figured it would at the very least provide me with the fodder for a post on this blog. As it has. But I never expected that I’d be writing such an enthusiastic review.

How BookBub Works

Millions of readers from all over the world have signed up at BookBub, and every day those readers are sent an email notification of one-day-only deep discounts on e-books in genres that interest them. Typically, e-books from publishers such as Random House and Penguin that normally sell for $11.95 are offered on BookBub for anywhere from $1.95 to $3.95. The e-books may be available through Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, etc. (Please note that BookBub promotes only electronic books [e-books] – not print books.)

Although BookBub subscribers get one notification per day of books that may interest them, not all readers are sent notifications about all discounted e-books. Notices go out only to those who are interested in that genre, and only to those in the geographic areas selected by the publisher. Books are individually approved by BookBub’s editorial committee before they are scheduled for promotion. Once your book is accepted, you are able to set up your author profile.

The cost to the publisher (me, in this case) of the one-day promotion of a book depends on its genre and the geographic area(s) selected, the choices being 1) USA, 2) International or 3) All. Every few months, BookBub adjusts its prices depending on the popularity of various categories, and on recent sales figures in different regions. There is a list of prices – and typical revenues – on the BookBub’s “partner” site.

Bestseller July 8 amazon.ca

For a few days, I was on Amazon bestseller lists in Canada, the US and Great Britain

(I just checked how much it would have cost to list Rita in the women’s fiction category for All regions today, and the price might have scared me off. It has gone up considerably since I started my BookBub adventure. So if the cost for your book’s category seems too high, wait: maybe it will come down again in a month or so.)

Why I Set My Price at Zero

Since the regular price of the e-book version of Rita is $2.99, and since Amazon won’t let me drop the price below $1.99 without my giving up the benefits of being in the Kindle Select program (which I don’t want to do), and since giving a book away for free on BookBub costs a whole lot less than selling it, I decided that I would offer my book as a giveaway. Amazon allows Kindle Select participants to give their books away for a maximum of five days every quarter.

I was pleased that my book was approved by BookBub right away. I was also pleased that they suggested a less expensive category (Chick Lit) than the one I’d chosen (Women’s Fiction). I don’t consider Rita to be chicklit, but I figured, what the hell: the cost savings was considerable.

I then stood back and waited to see what would happen.

Wow!

I was amazed.

On the day of the giveaway – July 5, 2016  ­­–  19,159 people downloaded Rita for free! The following day, 740 more downloaded it for free (probably an international dateline thing). But more amazingly, on the day after the giveaway, nearly thirty people bought the ebook at its regular price of $2.99. The next day I sold eight copies, and I figured my moment of glory was done. But the day after that, I sold fourteen copies, and the day after that, 18. I’ve been selling e-copies of Rita ever since… at least one or two almost every day, and sometimes more. In addition, hundreds of people have read the book in the Kindle Unlimited library, and I get paid for those readers too.

One of the best results of the BookBub promo is that, since July 5, I have had nearly fifty reviews – most of them positive – on amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, and amazon.ca. I even had one review on amazon.au (that reviewer hated the book, but I’m sure the next reader from Australia is going to love it, just to balance things out). I’ve also noticed an uptick on my reviews on GoodReads.

Next?


I was 
hoping to do a promotion of The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid on BookBub but my application was turned down. They say that sometimes they have too many books in a certain category already, and they invite publishers whose books are turned down to try again in four months. So I will do that.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 9.01.27 PMIn the meantime, I’m going to try out a few other book-promotion platforms. Rita will be featured on StoryFinds on September 1, but without a price discount. I don’t expect anything like the BookBub response… but then, what do I know?

In the meantime, I highly recommend that both traditionally published and self-published authors check out BookBub. I’ve made my money back and more – and the reviews the promotion garnered were worth the investment all on their own.

While you’re at it, you might want to sign up at BookBub and StoryFinds to get some great deals on some great books.

_______________________

I invite you to share your thoughts on this or any other subject related to writing and publishing – either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

PLEASE NOTE: I will be away from email for one week (until August 24) so I will not be able to approve/post your comments until I return. 

 

How to Sell Your Novel

I recently got challenged on a Linked-In group forum to suggest some ideas for selling novels. I set down some ideas that popped into my head off the top of my head (which is where I keep ideas that I don’t have room to store inside my head) and I thought I would share them here as well. So this is mainly a cut-and-paste, with embellishments. I have lots of other ideas too, and so I’ll keep posting them as I have time to check them out and get them written down.

The first idea was one that a fellow writer named Thomas Knight (The Time Weaver) came up with on a FaceBook writers’ forum the other day: make bookmarks with your book cover on it and a bit of blurb-type info, and leave them here and there in public. On the Linked-In forum, I suggested leaving them in libraries, seniors’ centres, recreation areas, coffee shops – places where real readers are likely to congregate – and just leave one or two here and there: not a stack of them.

Another writer on the Linked-In forum said that the bookmark idea was from the 1990s. “It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.” I beg to differ (especially since Thomas is a newer, younger writer than I, and he is writing fantasy, and he is selling books. And his book cover just won a design award). The difference between then and now with bookmarks (or postcards) is that people who were intrigued by your bookmark ten years ago had to take the bookmark home, keep track of it, and have it on them when they got to a bookstore to buy the book. Now if they are intrigued, they input the title into their mobile phone and if they’re still intrigued, they press “purchase.” The impulse buyer has never been so available to writers. I buy books on impulse all the time. Especially ebooks.

Other ideas I proposed included:

  • offering to do a guest post on someone else’s blog (I don’t mean another book-writer’s blog: break out of that circle) – one that relates to the subject matter of your book.
  • having a blog of your own that actually GIVES something to the reader instead of just promoting yourself (like this article tries to do)
  • getting your library to stock your book just because you are a neighbour and a patron, and then host an author event for you (or a group of you)

There are other suggestions here from Rodney Walther on one of my Militant Writer blog posts: https://maryww.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/how-to-sell-your-published-book/

Also, you can go on Google and type in “How to Sell Your Book.” You’ll get dozens of FREE articles with great ideas in them. Here is a very good one that I am using myself:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/novels/stucker03-02-05.htm

In the world of algorithms on amazon, etc., promoting your own book also means writing another one, and then another one, as more books attract more readers, and more readers attract more readers. If you have an out-of-print, traditionally published book, as I did, get it back on the market.

To paraphrase T. Harv Eker, what sells is dreams. You have to think about those to whom you’re selling your book, instead of thinking of yourself. What does your book offer them?

More later… stay tuned.