Disclaimer: I was not asked by and will not be reimbursed in any way by Amazon for this post which really highlights my love of how they’ve helped me with selling my books. However, if Amazon were to decide to give a little extra marketing oomph because of this, I wouldn’t be opposed 😉
Hey there, howdy, and all that other jazz. I’m taking things in a slightly different direction today folks and going to talk a bit about things I’m learning as I continue on this path of trying to sell books. Namely…how the hell does someone actually manage to sell books in this stupid world overwrought with authors as ours is.
First, I have no clue what the answer to that question is. My sales, although ever-slightly increasing, are still not something to write home about…or write a blog about, for that matter. But I’ve begun noticing some trends in my attempts, things that I didn’t find whilst doing my hours and hours of research on the topic. Things that I’m sure my fellow authors will completely disagree with. Things that are based on such small margins that even the most hopeful of book marketing scientists would scoff at even thinking that these are worthwhile trends to follow…but here’s the thing…most new authors are working on these same small margins until they finally increase their fanbase enough to, you know, make their rise to author that gets regular paychecks (I’m on a semi-regular basis right now 😉 )
I first want to discuss the things that I was told were the number one necessary items for success. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. These things are stated by every single group out there as being the ultimately most important thing you can do as an author. And they may be right…if you’re willing to spend an outrageous amount of time becoming a social media celebrity and building your fan base through these methods and ultimately by doing things that aren’t entirely directly connected to what you normally do. I’m using a bit of hyperbole, obviously. I have some author friends who use social media to what appears to be good effect, as a way to connect with their readers and really build their fan base into a raving horde of consumers. Well…I may be using the term horde loosely.
But it takes time, and the one thing I’ve noticed more than anything else is that the attempt to build your fan base through numbers of likes or followers or whatever other term you want to use, generally means you’re mostly pulling in other authors hoping to get a like back. Over time this may bring you to actual readers, but it’s not as much of a marketing technique for new readers as it is one to keep those folks who have already done some reading around. That’s a very important thing, obviously, but when you have a readership of 3 people (I have a couple more than that, I keep telling myself), you really need to get those new folks in as well. I haven’t seen any reason to believe that facebook or twitter or even goodreads are really the place for that, at least not just as a normal user.
The same thing goes for these different book marketing groups on those sites. I’ve tried out a few of them over the years, attempting to build interest through straight up marketing and through subtle marketing by just being a dude who interacts often. The amount of turn around on that is pretty minimal as well…although I can’t stress enough how important it is to build good relationships with other authors, most of these groups are really there for self-promotion only, not networking.
Other such items, like blog tours, book review blogs and whatever else are really a crap shoot. I would guess that if you get onto the big blogs where they are actually being read by folks who actually read that you may find some success there. The problem is that they are typically beloved by the big 6 (those publishers that make money) and those reviewers and bloggers are already filled to the brim with books to put on their space, not too much in the way of indie or self-published books make their way there.
I’ve personally been focused on several blogs over the years now and have seen little to no traffic come by way because of them.
Free giveaways are usually considered the boon to the author’s profile. I mean, seriously…it’s pretty exciting. Whenever I put a book up for a free giveaway weekend or whatever, the downloads shoot through the roof. It’s finally exciting to refresh my sales page on a regular basis as I watch the numbers rise. It’s definitely a great way to get your book onto a larger number of kindles and other ereaders. However, the amount of people who get those books and actually read them/review them/actually appear to tell anyone else about them seems to be pretty small. I’d still recommend it, as if you have a great book, all it takes it that one person who loves it to really set off a chain of folks reading it. That being said, don’t expect things to continue long after the free sale ends. But keep your fingers crossed that someone actually reads it at some point down the line.
But that brings me to the items that I’ve found to be a bit more successful. First, there are debates over how to get your books out there. When it comes to print versions, I’ve found the different sites to be relatively similar. You can go with Lulu, Createspace, Bookbaby, and a whole host of other options. There are differences in what they offer, but the end result, based on how much you’re willing to spend (for this guy, nothing) is pretty similar, at least from the reviews I’ve read. Ebooks, however, I’ve done a bit more direct testing on. The big two are Kindle Direct and Smashwords. You can actually be on both platforms at the same time, which does allow for your book to get into almost every single possible ebook retailer on the net. I haven’t found that to be all that great…
KDP (or Kindle Direct Publishing) offers an option to become a Kindle Select author, meaning you will be offering your ebook version only on the KDP platform. You have to give it 90 days of exclusivity at the very least before you can disenroll. But here’s where the real excitement comes in…Amazon actually does some marketing of your book. I’ve had folks forward me emails they received from Amazon with my book cover prominently displayed. And if you’re looking for straight up numbers, whenever I place my books out on the other platforms, with Amazon as well, those sales don’t even come close, combined, to the sales I get from Kindle Select alone. And Kindle Select offers other options as well, such as their countdown deals, where you can offer discounted prices on your books for a limited time, getting even further promotion from Amazon themselves, and, I can tell you, you will actually sell books…as opposed to just marking the price down, which does very little toward increasing your visibility.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve gone on and off Kindle Select a few times…every time I’ve left, I’ve noticed my sales drop off almost immediately. Only to go back up right after I sign back up. Obviously all results may vary, but for me, going with the Walmart of the internet seems to have its perks…even if there are plenty of authors out there who hate the company altogether.
And they now have the Kindle Unlimited program which allows folks a rather Netflixian (I just made that up, I hope it takes) method for their book consumption. You can ‘borrow’ as many books as you want for only $10 a month. I’m pretty low on the totem pole of authors out there and I’m already seeing readers from that option. Only thing is, they have to read at least 10% of the book before you see anything off it…so my numbers from previous days increase seemingly randomly as time goes on and people actually crack open the book.
And then, finally, there’s the option that I’m still in the midst of testing, but finding to be a wonderful way to increase exposure, although I can’t directly relate it to sales at this point. The Goodreads Giveaway. In case you’re not aware, you can currently win a paperback copy of The Legend of Buddy Hero, by entering to win at Goodreads (look to the right, desktop users, the button’s right there). Since I put that giveaway up, I’ve done almost no marketing and am already seeing my book appear on way more shelves that it ever has before. 100 shelves to be precise. It may mean nothing altogether, but it does make the book appear more popular, so that folks who happen upon it in the future may be more immediately interested.
We’ll see how that plays out as things continue, but I’m starting to believe that this lesser discussed option may be worthwhile.
And that’s where I’m really wanting to take this post. The lesser discussed options…You see, the internet is filled with authors trying to sell their books. When someone in power highlights a great way to sell, that method is flooded with everyone trying to receive the same success as whatever example was given…thereby immediately making it less successful of an option. If you want to win, you have to look outside the box. Those things that people are telling you that you need to do, they’re already being done, by hundreds of thousands of authors. You’ll get lost in the pile.
But if you can find your own way, you’ll have a better chance of rising to the top.
The only issue is finding your own way. I’m still working on that. One of the best things, however, is to try to jump on new marketing methods immediately, such as Kindle Unlimited (which isn’t even a month old at this point).
Anyways, this post is long and has nothing to do with my children, so I’ll drop off now.
Have fun out there…and fellow authors…good luck!