Category Archives: Selling Your Book

Amazon Author Pages: Build Your Presence in the USA, the UK, Germany, India, and beyond

Let’s Get Visible (IV)
How to Sell Your Book No Matter Who Published It (7)
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Figure 1

Figure 1: Sample Link to my Author Page from Book Description page

Through its Author Central program, Amazon provides a great opportunity to expand your presence by linking information about you to all editions of all your books – not only on the amazon.com site in the U.S., but also on Amazon sites in other countries. It takes a bit of time to get yourself set up on these platforms, but maintaining your presence once the pages are set up requires very little effort.

While you are at Author Central, you can check out your sales figures through Nielsen BookScan and Amazon Sales and Author ranks, and read all of your Amazon reviews in one place. All of which can be depressing experiences, but there they are. (See Figure 2, below)

Start with your Amazon.com Author Page

Start by completing the Author Page on amazon.com (Amazon’s U.S. site). Once you have done that, readers who are looking at the “About the Author” section of your book’s title information on Amazon will be invited to check out your Page and to “follow” you (see Figure 1, above).

In order to set up your Author Page on Amazon, first go to Author Central. The page is user-friendly, and setting up your Author Page is the first thing it explains to you. Follow the link, follow the instructions, and you’re done. When you’re finished, your Amazon Author page will look like this (except, of course, that it will feature you instead of me).

A few things to note:

  • Anyone with a book listed in the Amazon “catalog” can have an Amazon Author Page.
  • You can set up links to your blog site on the Author Page, and intros to your newest posts will appear there after you post them on your blog.
  • If you have any videos you want to share, you can post links to them on your Author Page as well.
  • There is a section on the Author Page where you can add speaking engagements, readings and other events. I don’t use this section because since I am not Stephen King I don’t think that it would be worth my time to post in it, in terms of who would see the notices. Posting about my upcoming appearances on Facebook is more likely to attract the attention of people who might attend – i.e., those who live in my city and might even know my name. (I also have a section for events on my website which I don’t always remember to update either.)
  • You can post a link to your Amazon Author Page on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else you want to: Amazon provides the url in the upper right corner of your Author Page. You cannot, however, post a clickable link to your website on your Author Page: at least as far as I’ve been able to determine. (If you have done it, let me know.)
  • You can link all of your books to your Amazon author profile, including those from different publishers, as long as the books are available on Amazon. If you have changed your name or your books are out of print, you may have trouble with the links, but I have found that in the past couple of years, Amazon has become increasingly helpful when I run into any problems. They have a specific page on which you can email them with any problems relating to Author Central here.

Increasing your World-Famousness, Amazon-style

Once you have completed your amazon.com Author Page, you can fill in the same information on the Amazon Author Central site in the UK. If you are multilingual, or want to try posting your bio in English in non-English-speaking countries (I haven’t done this… at least not yet), you can set up a page on the amazon sites in Germany, France and Japan through their Author Central pages:

For other countries that have Amazon sites (including India and Spain, for example. Hey! I just found out that my Rita book has a five-star review in India! I never would have noticed this if I hadn’t written this blog post!), the information from Author Central at Amazon.com should be available to readers automatically. The one exception I have discovered to this practice is on amazon.ca, the one located in my own home country. I find amazon.ca very aggravating for many reasons, not just this one, and prefer to deal with amazon.com

Figure 2

Figure 2: Recent Amazon Sales Rankings

Although having an Author Page in German would probably be of more use to someone whose book had been translated into German than to one whose book hadn’t, it doesn’t hurt to spread your name around. If you have the time and inclination and decide to set up an English page for yourself on the Japanese Amazon site, let us know how it goes. And it’s definitely fun to check out your sales figures from time to time – and watch them climb, we hope, in relation to your various marketing efforts.

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Next time, I’ll be talking about getting yourself an author profile on GoodReads. In the meantime, I apologize to all of those who have tried to contact me in the past few weeks when I was out of town and then side-tracked: I forgot for several weeks to check the email address to which comments on this blog are sent for approval. Argh. Particular apologies to Michael Lowecki who left wonderful messages all over the place and must think me very rude. I resolve to do better in future. :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building an Author Presence on Facebook

My Facebook Author Profile page

Let’s Get Visible (III)
How to Sell Your Book No Matter Who Published It (6)
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If you are not on Facebook, you probably have a lot of good reasons not to be there, maybe relating to privacy issues or concerns about wasting valuable (writing) time. However, if you are not on Facebook, you can’t build yourself an author platform on Facebook, so you might as well just skip this post and wait until the next one comes along.

Personal Facebook Pages: Friends and Followers

If you are one of the more than 1 billion people who are on Facebook, that means that you already have a personal Facebook page or “profile.” People can ask to “friend” you on your Facebook profile and you can agree by “friending” them in return.

Most of us have the privacy settings on our personal Facebook pages set so that only our Facebook friends can see our posts. However, if you set the privacy on your personal Facebook page to “Public” under Settings, you can be “followed” as well as “friended.”

Anyone on Facebook can “follow” you if your default privacy setting is “public”: they don’t need to ask you for permission first. If you decline friend requests, the people who sent them can still follow you – unless you block them.  Your friends are also automatically also your followers. Followers can see anything you post with a security setting of “Public,” but unless they are also friends, they can’t see any individual posts that you set for broadcast only to “Friends.” (You have the option of “Friends” only or “Public” publication for every post you create, no matter what your permanent/default setting is.)

Some authors have only a personal Facebook profile. They prefer to let anyone who wants to follow them see almost everything they post, and they use “Public” as their default setting. They do this as a favour to readers who want to know everything they can about their favourite authors. They think it feels more personal. And they also do it because more people are likely to follow your personal Facebook page than they are to “like” a professional or business page.

I, on the other hand, prefer to have a professional Facebook page in addition to my personal Facebook page. On my personal page, I have set my privacy so that only people I have “friended” can see my posts. Even  though I have 500 plus friends on Facebook, and I don’t actually know quite a few of them in real life, I have vetted every single person I have agreed to friend. (A lot of them are writers, from all over the world. I love it.) I’ve made sure they are a real person, and that if they don’t know me directly in real life, they have solid friendships with one or more of my other Facebook friends. I delete them – poof, they’re gone – if it turns out that I don’t like or trust them.

Professional Facebook Pages: Where you can get “Liked”

A professional Facebook page is the platform on Facebook that is used by businesses, public figures, organizations and other entities that are not individuals… including many writers, such as me. Facebook pages offer different options than do personal pages: e.g., templates, links to websites, selling platforms, etc. Facebook business/professional pages don’t acquire “friends”; they accumulate “likes” instead. When someone likes your Facebook writer page, you will be notified, and when you post something on your writer page, it will appear in the timelines/newsfeeds of all people who liked your page. (You can also “promote” your page or one of your posts by spending money. We’ll get into that later, when we’re talking about paid advertising.)

Note: If you don’t have a personal Facebook page, you won’t be able to set up a business/professional page.

My Mary W. Walters Writer page is public. Anyone can see it, and anyone can like it. This means that I’m careful of what I say on my writer page. I don’t talk politics or religion or (usually) sex. I don’t want to lose potential readers of my books just because our political opinions don’t mesh, nor do I want to attract sock puppets.

I do talk about politics, religion and many other things on my personal Facebook page, but I don’t push my writing there: I am there to exchange thoughts with friends, tell them news from my life, vent my spleen, or make them laugh. I always hope that my personal Facebook page is interesting enough that everyone who sees it will want to read my books as well, but I don’t use it as a deliberate sales vehicle.

I do repost items from my writer page to my personal page that I consider “objective” information rather than sales pitches: such as notices about readings and talks I am giving, and announcements of blog posts such as this one. But most of what I post on Facebook in any given week (which is way too much) goes out only to my “friends” via my personal Facebook page.

For me, this arrangement is easier than trying to remember to set every post I make to “friends” or “public” visibility. Also, when people have “liked” my professional writer Facebook page, they are essentially requesting information about Mary the Writer, so I don’t feel badly when I tell them what I’m doing with my writing, or about writing-related achievements, or any accolades my books have received.

How to Set Up An Author Page on Facebook 

On the right hand side of the blue bar across the top of your personal Facebook page, you will see a little arrow pointing down. Click on it, choose “Create Page,” and then follow the instructions. You will need to choose what kind of Page to have: whether a “business or company” page (probably the best choice if you want to sell books directly from Facebook, which I don’t), a “brand or product page” (might be good if you have only one book or series to sell), an “entertainment” page (I’d guess that spoken word poets looking for gigs might want to check this out, although I haven’t), or a “public profile” page. I chose the latter. I like the sound of it. :)

Once you’ve chosen your page category, you can indicate your particular area of focus. “Writer” is one of the options on the “public profile” page, and probably also on Entertainment and Company pages.

Facebook is very user-friendly when it comes to setting up a page, so just follow the directions. If you get stuck, type in your questions under “Help,” and for further guidance check out other writers’ Facebook pages to see what they are including and posting. There is an option under the three dots below your cover photo to see how the page looks to visitors, which I find handy.

Maintaining Your Facebook Writer’s Page

Facebook will send a friendly reminder to you when you haven’t posted on your author’s page for a while, but I try to remember to post something there at least once a week. It may be an article from elsewhere about writing or about one of my favourite writers, or it may be a notice about a new blog post I’ve done or a reading I’m about to do. I have my Goodreads profile set up to repost notices automatically to my writer’s page on Facebook about books I’ve read, etc.

I think of my Facebook writer’s page the way I do about my website: it is there if anyone is looking for me, and it is important to be there in case anyone does look for me. If they do, and if they “like” my page, they deserve to hear interesting things from me from time to time: about my writing, or about writing in general. They can find links to my books and my website and other online things they might want to check out about me from that page, and I let them know when there are special discounts happening on my books on Amazon or elsewhere.

However, I don’t think of my Facebook writer page as a page where I am likely to attract new buyers for my books. People don’t like being harangued about how they should buy my books, so I don’t harangue them, and haranguing doesn’t work anyway (as I have said before. Several times). So the page is just part of the wallpaper.

You should keep in mind when you are building your Facebook author page that it’s not likely to be much of a marketing vehicle. The wallpaper should be hung straight, and look nice and tidy, but don’t bother making it flash in the dark or animate it or do anything else that is going to waste your precious time unnecessarily.

P.S. If you like MY Facebook Writer’s Page and then ask me to like YOUR Facebook writer’s page, I will, and that will help us both. You can also add your Facebook author page link to the comments section below so other readers can follow your page and you can follow theirs, and so on….

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As always I encourage readers to share their 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.

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How to Sell your Book, No Matter Who Published It (5)

Using your Website to Promote your Book

(Let’s get visible, Part II)

You do have a website, right?

An author website is essential to your promotional efforts. Even if you have a page on your publisher’s website, you should have one of your own as well. Remember that no one is more interested in the well being of you and your books than you are: not your agent, not your editor, not your publisher’s promotion department. They all have other horses in their stables. Their interest in you grows and wanes, depending on the season. Your interest in your career remains, by contrast, consistently high. You are the only one who will make it your priority to update your website with the latest news and the most recent publications.

It goes without saying that you should own the domain that is your name (for example in my case, marywwalters.com), and once you own it, you might as well use it.

A website is a static element of book promotion. This means, on the negative side, that it’s not going reach out and grab anyone: people who want to see it need to come to it intentionally. You can invite them, but they aren’t going to come unless they have a good reason to do so. Therefore, with a website, you are investing time and money in something that is just going to sit there like some 18th-century society hostess, waiting for visitors to come to her. This is a good reason not to break the bank when it comes to website construction.

On the other hand, a website serves many purposes once someone does land on it (as did the salons of the aforementioned hostesses, I’m sure). In addition, once you’ve created it, you don’t have to update it very often. The only changes I make semi-regularly to my website are the upcoming and recent events, although occasionally (when I’m procrastinating on something else I should be doing) I will add a new photo or a new quote from a particularly nice review.

What Does A Writer’s Website Need to Include?

Back in the day (i.e., when I was working as editor in chief at Lone Pine Publishing, and during the years when I was reviewing books), publishers used to create “media packages” to send out with the review copies of the books they published.

Books editors at magazines and newspapers (remember them?) would receive a copy of the newly published book (or an advance copy, if the author was well known) with photocopied pages tucked inside. These pages of promo and background materials might include:

  • a bio of the author along with information on other books or stories or articles that person had published;
  • a brief summary of the book itself (the kind of thing that was usually also found on the flaps of the book or the back cover);
  • blurbs (a sentence or two each) about the book that had been solicited from other writers, or excerpts of reviews of the author’s previous books;
  • contact information for the publisher, and the author’s agent or the author;
  • upcoming author appearances on radio, tv, or in person; and
  • (sometimes) an excerpt from the book

These are the same elements you should make available on your website to help promote your book. If you have more than one book, you can have a page for each.

When I reviewed books, I was very happy to receive a raft of print materials as the information contained in them allowed me to include background on the author and the book, and directed me to other resources I might want to check out before starting my review. This was in the days before online searches were available, s0 the more information I was given, the better.

Your website should fulfil a similar purpose for those writing reviews on blogs or in traditional media, and for readers who want to know what else you have written and done. It should also provide contact information for those who want to invite you to do a reading or a workshop.

A website should look professional, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to be created by a professional web designer: most of us can’t afford one. Fortunately, creating a website has become very easy – you don’t need to know html or any other technical language – and most web hosts (e.g., SquareSpace, BlueHost, GoDaddy, etc.), will walk you through the process of creating one, and help you by phone 24-7 if you get stuck. If you Google “Best web hosts for non-techies” or something like that, you’ll get lots of suggestions. If you really don’t want to do it yourself, ask friends and relatives to refer you to someone – perhaps a student – who can help.

While I think it is a good idea to pay for technical help if you need it, there’s no reason to purchase a Cadillac manufacturer. I once paid $2,500 for a website, and I hated it and I had endless problems trying to change the elements that I didn’t like. The sites I have now are very user friendly.

How Many Websites Do You Need?

I used to have a different website for each of my five books, one for my editing and grantwriting businesses, and one for me. That got to be expensive and time-consuming. Now I just have one website for my literary works. (I continue to maintain another one for my grantwriting initiatives, because that one speaks to a different audience, and there’s too much detailed information on it to be suited to my writer website.) On the other hand, for one of my clients whose book is a byproduct of his business rather than the core of it, we did create a website where the book itself was the main focus.

At my own website, where all of my books are listed, all of the information in the bulleted list above is available, no matter which book a reader/reviewer is interested in exploring.

How Much do You Need to Spend?

You need to invest in two components to create a website: a domain name, which is like the sign with your business name on it, and a web-hosting site, which is where you hang your sign.

You own your domain name as long as you maintain your ownership of it, and you can transfer it from web host to web host if you find the hosting unsatisfactory. You can also sell your domain name if someone wants to buy it down the road. A domain name should cost you no more than about $25 (it will probably cost much less), and you will need to renew it annually. Sometimes web hosts offer a free domain name if you purchase a hosting package, but this usually includes only the initial registration. You will need to continue to pay to own it annually.

The web host is where you hang your sign, or park your domain, and you will pay rent to the host for the use of that space for as long as you want to have it. Depending on how much you want to include on your website, you can spend from about $50 to $150 annually for website hosting. If you are not building the website yourself, you will also incur a one-time cost to build the website.

One of the first things people look for when they want to know more about you is your website. I hardly ever think about mine now that it is up, but when I occasionally get around to checking the traffic on it (which you can do through the web host – tracking visitors will be part of the package you purchase – or through a web-wide system like Google Analytics; I use both) I am always surprised to see how many new and returning visitors have been checking out my site each month.

The website is the first step in building your online presence. Next time we’ll talk about creating your Facebook author page, and then about other “static” components of your book promotion plan.

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As always I encourage readers to share their 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.

 

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.

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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!

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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 (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.

How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It (1)

Introduction, Part I

Like It or Not, You Are Probably Your Own Best Book Promoter

We’d all love to find someone who knows everything there is to know about book promotion and also happens to love our books – preferably even more than we do. Unfortunately, not even publishers offer that kind of service to most of their authors any more, if they ever did: their promotions departments get solidly behind a few books and authors every season, and the rest fall through the cracks.

On the other hand, the Internet is overrun with individuals and companies that want to charge us money to sell our books. They all claim to be experts in social media and every other form of book promotion known to humankind, and if we will just pay them [insert sliding scale] they will tweet and plug and splash and hype the daylights out of our books for [insert number of days or weeks], mostly on Twitter and Facebook. (See my post entitled “Promoting Your Book on Twitter and Facebook is a Waste of Time.“)

Odd One Out 14Since most writers know nothing about book promotion and the very words “social media” strike fear into their hearts, such online offers are tempting. If you are so tempted, I urge you to resist. The very nature of these book promotion companies is a “one size fits all” approach. How many of them are offering to actually read your book, and saying that they will promote it only if they really, really love it? None that I’ve seen.*  And since none of their services are custom-tailored, but are instead intended for the masses, how can they possibly sell your book?

I am amazed that people offer promotion services to authors without any intention whatsoever of actually reading their books. I am almost as surprised that people take them up on such offers. Unless the marketing company not only has some massive, unique experience with online sales that demonstrates impressive results for books like yours, and/or you are doing a blast of some sort and are simply using the company to get the word out, paying them money to do what you can do yourself makes little sense.

Many thousands of readers have downloaded my books for free or have purchased them, thanks to my initiatives alone. You can trust me when I say that anything book promotions outlets and promotions departments can do for your book, you can do better. You know your book more intimately than anyone else ever will. And while all of us wish that someone with a strong background in book promotion who has read our book and loves it would appear out of nowhere and offer their services to us, that isn’t going to happen. Fortunately, doing it ourselves is not that difficult or painful: we just have to suck it up and do it.

I’m going to help you by demystifying the process as I walk you through my strategies step by step. The most important thing you need to do first, in order to make my suggestions succeed for you, is to accept – on a very basic level – that in this new world of writing and publishing, no matter whether your book is a Simon & Schuster release or is coming out on Smashwords thanks to your own efforts, book marketing and promotion is part of your job. Unless your name is already famous for some other reason, or you have connections that most of us don’t have, or you are unusually lucky, the chances of your book being discovered by anyone beyond your immediate circle are less than miniscule. Even “luck” usually needs a nudge from us.

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.

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*If you or your company does this, please let us know in the comments section.

How to sell your book!

You Wrote It? You Sell It!

Announcing my new series!

Ta Dah! 

I have been learning about promoting, marketing and selling books for more than thirty years. And I have learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about selling traditionally published books (I was editor in chief of a publishing company and have had four books published traditionally) and I’ve learned a lot about selling self-published books (I’ve published three books myself and helped several clients to publish theirs. More than 10,000 copies of my newest novel, Rita Just Wants to Be Thin are in the hands of readers, and that book has about 50 reviews on Amazon. [Happily, at the moment, quite a few of them are positive]). I know ebooks and I know print books. I know fiction and non-fiction.

And now I am writing a book about what I have learned. Whether you are published by a traditional publishing house – major or minor – or are publishing your own book, I have advice for you. Whether you are a well known writer or a neophyte, the tips I am going to offer will contribute to your bottom line.

I am not guaranteeing to turn you into a bestseller (although I can show you how to get onto best-seller lists for a day or two so you can call yourself one), but if you don’t increase your sales based on what is in my upcoming posts, I’ll eat this computer. Virtually. I promise.

You wrote it? You sell it! 

As if we have any choice: even if we’re published by traditional presses, they want us to sell our own books. And if we are self-published, we have no support network at all: we have to do it ourselves, or watch our precious words slide off into obscurity. We may not like it, but we have to do it.

But aside from the fact that we writers are mostly quiet, sometimes even shy individuals who hate making a fuss in public – especially about ourselves –and prefer to stay home where it’s quiet, why not sell our own books? No one knows them as well as we do.

You wrote it? You sell it!  is the title of the series. It will eventually turn into a book by the same name, but you can get the first draft free right here, as I create it. Some of the info I will be sharing with you,  you may have already read in earlier versions on The Militant Writer. But most of the posts are new. And the information is all organized in a new, more accessible way (What to do before you start to sell your book; Creating an online presence; Sales initiatives that cost no money; Sales initiatives that do cost money – what they cost, and whether they are worth it; How to get into bookstores and libraries; Cross-selling; What works and what does not. Etc etc etc. I am leaving no book-promotion stone unturned.)

If I know anything about my Militant Writer readers, you will also find valuable advice in the comments section as well as in the posts.

So stand by. If you don’t already subscribe to this blog, do it now –  look waay up to the top of the right-hand column, and you will see where you can sign up safely and securely – so you’ll get the first installment of the series, and every one after that, on the day it is published.

The first post will appear very early in 2017. In the mean time, stop worrying about promotion and go write.

Happy New Year to one and all!

 

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. 

 

I Create my First Video Book Trailer (and Other Book Promo News)

Rita TrailerFirst, an update for those who have been wondering what happened to my call in July for a book “publicist, but not just any publicist.” I am very happy to report that I have found a person who perfectly fits the bill. Her name is Chelsea. In a future post I will explain how we connected, how we are working together, and what we are doing to promote my books.

In the meantime, I have already started to enjoy the benefits of having someone else on board who also has an interest in testing some of the book promotion ideas I’ve been accumulating. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I find it difficult to do direct self-promotion and, as as a result, I’d been avoiding doing the groundwork that was necessary for any real promotion to happen. Once I’d started talking with Chelsea about what we should do first, I needed to get moving on that groundwork… and I did.

The Website

The first thing I needed to do was to revisit my website. Previously, I had different websites for different books, each containing the kinds of materials that would have gone out in a “media package” in a previous era: a profile of the author, an introduction to the book, reviews of the book and of my previous books, photos, etc. Having so many websites was expensive so, when two of the sites came up for renewal, I didn’t renew them. Instead, I amalgamated them into my main website at marywwalters.com. Now, the background info about Rita Just Wants to Be Thin and The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid are sub-pages on my main site that are clickable from the Fiction/Books page.

While I was at it, I asked Chelsea’s opinion of my existing website and, using her input and my own thoughts, I revised and re-energized the entire site. There are still a few pages I want to add or reactivate, but for now I’m happy with what I have.

I think it’s worthwhile to revisit websites every year or so, not just to update them but to rethink them and to re-examine what purposes they serve. The previous incarnation of my website was directed at, among others, prospective clients who might need my editorial services. I am now focusing on my writing, and on getting my books to pay the bills at least in part, so the new version of the website has a different slant.

The Book Trailer

The other thing I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while is to make video trailers to promote my books. I’ve been talking about my options with several experienced video people for several years, and I had the names of some who I thought could do a good job. But then I also needed a video for another initiative I am working on — it’s called Success After 60 — and for that venture, I’m going to be making videos every week or so. I wasn’t going to be able to afford the money – or, even more importantly, the time – to deal with a professional for what were essentially going to be regular video blog posts, or “vlog posts”— most just a few minutes long on a single topic. Besides, I wanted both the trailer and the vlogs to to look amateurish rather than highly professional, because I think they’re more intimate that way.

So since I was making my “Success After 60” video myself, I decided to try making one for Rita Just Wants to be Thin at the same time.

It took me two months to make those two videos. I learned a lot. I hope to be able to make the next one in a day or two, but the whole experience was not only educational. It was also a pain in the ass.

From the faint hope that it may benefit someone else who decides to attempt what I have done, here’s what I learned. (Note: If you find yourself tempted to watch either the Success After 60 video OR the Rita trailer,  and if you find them at all interesting, or learn anything from this blog post, I would be most grateful if you’d “like” them):

The script is key. You want to develop something short and interesting.

My first several attempts at the Rita trailer consisted of my introducing the novel, then reading a passage from it, then encouraging readers to check it out online or buy it from their independent bookseller. The trailer ended up being about 7 to 8 minutes long, and even while I was creating it, I realized that it was boring.

Listening to an author reading from her novel is one thing — I enjoy going to literary readings (I especially enjoy them if the material is interesting and the writer reads well, which isn’t always the case). But unless you are a performance poet, and you have a self-contained passage that only takes a minute to read and doesn’t need to be set up first, save it for those who are already committed to you and your writing.

For most of us, reading from our books is not a good way to promote them on video.

I sent the (boring) video I’d made to Chelsea for her input, and she said a brilliant thing. She said, “Maybe you could make it more like a movie trailer.” At first I was flummoxed. How do you make a book trailer like a movie trailer? – short of filming a scene from the novel, which I was not prepared to do. (Some authors, with deeper pockets than I, have done that — some to great effect.) I also wasn’t about to hire an artist to turn my trailer into a self-contained work of art by manipulating text and images, although I’ve seen some outstanding book trailers where that has been done, such as this one.*

So I thought, What is the underlying principle of movie trailers? I looked at a lot of them, and I realized that what they do is to run snippets of the movie together so you get a sense of the story from the trailer… and that is all they do. Look at any trailer on Rotten Tomatoes, such as this one, and you will see what I mean.

After several days of mulling over how in the world this could be applied to a novel, I finally had an idea while I was working out on the rowing machine (I get my best ideas while exercising). I would read only a sentence or two from various parts of the book, and that way I would give the reader a sense of what the book was like. And the structure I would use would be to introduce the characters and the central conflict of the novel. I’d explain that Rita has a lot of problems, and then tell readers what some of those problems are.

So I threw out the previous scripts and started over. And what you see is the result.

Attitude is also key.

During my first attempts at the book trailer, I looked apologetic. All of my reluctance to shill my own work was obvious in my face and in my voice and in my posture. Since I was feeling like the script I had developed was boring (introducing the book, reading from the book, asking viewers to check out the book), I also felt like viewers were doing me a favour by sticking with me through to the bitter end of the video: and that showed, too.

Once I had developed a script I liked, I was enthusiastic about it, and all of my insecurity disappeared. The new script reminded me that I loved the novel and its characters, and that I thought readers would love them as well. Instead of trying to persuade viewers to hang in there for the video so that they would eventually see why they should buy the book, I was simply sharing my enthusiasm for the book itself. Instead of impersonating a used-car salesman, I was speaking from my heart.

Brevity is Key

The new video is 3.5 minutes long. That length made it easy to record again and again until I was happy with it. The first version had been 7 to 8 minutes. When I didn’t like the ending and the light in the house had changed, I had to start all over again: redo every single clip. Sometimes I had to wait until the next day because I didn’t have another hour to devote to it — which meant starting all over from scratch the next day or whenever I had enough time: showering and blowing my hair dry and putting on makeup and getting into half-decent clothes (rather than my usual “writing clothes”) before I could even start to record the video.

That is one main reason why it took me two months to create a video I liked: I kept having to do it over and over again. When you’re redoing a video, you want it to be short.

Recording the same video over and over again is ultimately a good thing

Despite how I whine about how often I had to re-record the Rita book trailer (and you cannot imagine how many clips I threw out that ended with swear words) due to bloopers, poor timing, the battery in the camera suddenly running out, etc., there were real benefits to being so particular about getting the video to the point where it was as good as I could make it. By the time I did the version you see posted online, I was totally relaxed in front of the camera. All of my apprehension, camera shyness and lack of confidence had gone away. I was me.

The “Technicalities” (for those who are interested)

I used the following apps and objects found around my house to make the video:

Recording the Video Clips

I did my first few attempts at the video just talking to the camera that is built into my MacBook Air (using OS X Yosemite), with the help of an app called Photo Booth. Using that program was fairly easy, but there were disadvantages: I couldn’t get my eyes to look directly at the viewer, which was what I wanted to do in order to make “eye contact.”  No matter what I tried, I appeared to be either looking down or up. Reading from a script made this problem worse, of course, because I had to look at the script and then back at the camera. Another program on my computer, iMovie, offers a teleprompter function, but that didn’t help either because I still had to look down at my computer.

Furthermore, the recording came out reversed even after I processed it (more on the processing below), which meant that when I held the book up, the title was backwards.

So for the next attempts to make the video, I used Arnie’s Canon camera on a tripod. He helped me set it up so that when I sat down in my armchair I was seated in the right place  — my face close enough to the lens to feel personal, but not too close. Then we left the camera and the armchair in the same place for a few days, and I kept making different recordings until I had the ones I was happy with. I would sit in the chair, gather my thoughts, then get up and push “record” on the camera. Then I would sit down and start talking. When I flubbed it, I would get up and stop the recording. Then I’d take a deep breath. Then I would start at the beginning of the sentence or the paragraph before the flub, where it seemed like there would be a good pause that would allow me to cut and patch the clips together later. I gradually learned to pause at the end of paragraphs  every time, and in other places, so that if I had to do a patch, I’d have some elbow room.

Again I had to keep an eye on the lighting and make sure it was consistent. If I needed six clips, and I made Clip 1 at 2 p.m. and Clip 2 at 2:15 p.m. and so on, and then after I finished Clip 6 and started working on them, I discovered I didn’t like Clip 2 and had to redo it,  by then it would be 4 p.m. or later. The sun would have moved across the sky or disappeared behind a cloud, and I’d have a continuity problem. (I preferred natural light to artificial, so I didn’t tape at night. Also, I have a shorter fuse at night, so it wouldn’t have worked anyway.) The longer the video is, the worse this clip-matching problem can become.

To hold the script, which I tried not to simply read but only to refer to, we put up a music stand behind the camera, printed out the script in large type, and clipped two pages to the stand at at a time. If you refer to the Success After 60 video, you will see me reading the script more than I do in the Rita video. I’ve decided there is no way around this — short of buying a real-live tv camera like my son Dan uses on Daily Planet, which has a teleprompter built right into it. Life is too short for some things, and memorizing scripts is one, so I’m living with the fact that you can see me reading the script in my videos. I did, however, read the scripts over many, many times before I felt and sounded natural reading them.

Assembling the Video

After the recording was done, I imported the clips from the camera into PhotoShop on my MacBook Air, and then exported the ones I wanted to work with to a folder on my Desktop. I then opened them in QuickTime (it’s the default on my computer) and started trimming them, using the “View Clips” option and then “Split Clip” command. That way I eliminated the parts at the beginnings and ends of the clips where I had recorded myself sitting down (after starting the recording), and then standing up (to stop the recording). Where there was a flub, I cut that out too and then started the next clip in the appropriate place so that they would match. I didn’t worry about whether they matched exactly.

I didn’t do much editing in the middle of clips at this stage, either (taking out phrases or hesitations), because I found out the hard way that I could throw off the synchronization of sound and video if I did too much editing within clips. Cleaning up places where the sound doesn’t match the video is harder to do after the fact than it is to avoid it in the first place.

Then I uploaded the rough-cut clips to iMovie and followed the instructions (I watched several YouTube videos on how to use iMovie before I did it, and several more during the production process). I lined the clips up, did a bit more editing, added titles, and watched the whole thing in the iMovie library. When I was satisfied (several days after I had started), I uploaded the video from the iMovie Library to the iMovie Theater (this takes an hour or so). Then I uploaded it to YouTube (again, this takes a while. And btw, there is lots of info online about how to do this.) Then I watched it a few times, showed it to a few people, decided it wasn’t right, and started all over again: right from the getting-in-the-shower-and-blowing-my-hair-dry stage.

In all, for the two videos I ultimately created – the Rita book trailer, and the introduction video for Success After 60 – I probably recorded 50 to 75 clips. I threw out most of them. I made about five complete projects in iMovie before I had two I could live with.

I’ve learned a lot in the past two months, and I’m fairly proud of the results. I hope that it will go much faster next time, from scriptwriting to posting.

Going Public: YouTube and Facebook

I have now got two channels on YouTube in addition to my own: one for Mary W. Walters, Author, and one for Success After 60.  (Subscribe to one or both of these channels if you are interested in seeing other videos I’ll be creating in future.) Figuring out how to create channels, upload videos and manage the metadata on YouTube is fairly straightforward. The site is very user friendly. You can also edit the video some more from right inside YouTube.

I have learned that it is much better from a quality point of view to actually upload the videos to your Facebook pages than it is to just post the link to YouTube. (I found this article on the subject interesting.) But aside from Facebook, you don’t need to upload your video anywhere besides YouTube. YouTube gives you all kinds of link codes and one-click options for social media, as well as html text that allows you to embed a direct link to YouTube in your website.

So there you go. More than you wanted to know, I am sure. But maybe it will inspire you to get a video up as well. If I can do it, so can you. Just set aside six weeks.

If you have your own approach to creating and posting videos, please let us know below.

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* I found the examples of great (but expensive-looking) book trailers here.