As an indie author, I’ve relied mostly on word of mouth and social media to sell my books. Why? Limited $$$. Let’s face it: Advertising can be pricey. And time-consuming, unless you’re hiring someone to help you, and then it’s just pricey. However, I think it’s important to try new things, and I’ve experimented with various kinds of low-budget advertising, such as Facebook ads (with limited success).
This week, I’m coming off my first Amazon ad campaign for Baby Bailino, and I’m actually surprised at how dismally the ad performed. Like most indie authors, I think I went into the advertising campaign with thoughts of super high conversion rates dancing through my head. I set a budget of $100, 25 cents per click, just to dip my foot into the ad waters. I mean, in an ideal world, if every click translated into a sale, that could have meant more than a thousand bucks in sales! However, the realist in me believed I’d probably sell a handful of books. Maybe 10, maybe 20, if I were lucky.
The ad ran for 10 days, and…crickets. Not a click. Granted, I didn’t set much of a budget, so I’m not sure how much that hurt me, but by the end of the promotional period, this is what I saw:
When I woke up this morning, a second book trailer was the furthest thing from my mind, but I had some free time and — like the first book trailer — was able to put this together really quickly, in less than a half hour (with a little help from my tech guru, my oldest son). As I often discuss in this blog and in my classes, indie authors need to take advantage of whatever tools they have at their disposal to market their books. A little creativity goes a long way in social media circles. So put on your thinking caps! This video was put together using Microsoft PowerPoint and YouTube and cost me nothing but a few minutes of time. Would love to hear your thoughts!
As you work on self-publishing your book, you may want to consider getting a blurb or two. What are blurbs? Words of praise or reviews from another person that go directly onto your book cover or flap. Their purpose is simply to convince readers to buy your book. People like to read books that are liked by other people, so if a popular author gives a book an endorsement or her stamp of approval, that author’s legions of fans are opt to get on board and buy that book.
Who should write a blurb for you?
Well, there are no rules, but there are three good candidates:
- Well-known author in your genre (fiction)
- Well-respected individual in your field (nonfiction)
How do you go about getting a blurb?
It’s easy. Create a list of potential book blurbers — maybe 7 or 8 — kind of like a list you would make when applying to college. Divide the list into “reach” (blurbers who are probably hard to get, like celebrities), “match” (those for whom you have a good shot a landing a blurb), and “safety” (people very likely to provide you with a blurb). And then simply go down the line and ask each one. The great thing about social media and the internet is that anyone is accessible.
Remember, of course, to always be courteous and to make sure that you’ve spelled the person’s name correctly and that your request carries no typos or grammatical/punctuation errors. (I believe written requests, in the form of emails, are best. Also, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a telephone number for someone famous.) The worst that could happen is that person will say is no, but he or she might surprise you and say yes. At the very least, even if the person declines, he or she will remember your name.
I humbly asked David Baldacci to blurb my new book, Baby Bailino (he declined), but his associate remembered that I had asked four years earlier for Baby Grand (as you can see I tend to never give up). My hope is that the third time will be the charm.
Hey, authors, it’s that time again!
Twitter is having another pitch party! If you’ve got a completed manuscript you would like to pitch to agents and publishers, head on over to Twitter TODAY between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST. You’ve got a mere 140 characters to get them interested in your stuff. You are only allowed to pitch the same manuscript two times per hour, and be sure to vary your pitches, because Twitter might not let you tweet the same tweets again and again. Also, be sure to include the #PitMad hashtag as well as the category of your manuscript (Young Adult, Adult, New Adult, Nonfiction, etc.) Good luck, and may the words be with you!
During PubSmart, there was lots of talk about discoverability — how readers discover our books and how we can help them discover our books. While there was pretty much a consensus that word-of-mouth is still king when it comes to discoverability, there are a variety of ways to get our books into readers’ hands.
One way is by buying pre-publication reviews. Personally, I’m still on the fence about paying for reviews. I’m not so sure a (paid for) Kirkus Review holds more weight than a (free) Goodreads or an Amazon review for the majority of thriller readers, but I do know several authors who utilize reviews as a marketing tool and have had good experiences.
How much do reviews for self-published books cost? Here are three examples that were mentioned during a panel discussion:
Cost of review from Kirkus: $425
Cost of review from BlueInk Reviews: $395
Cost of review from Publishers Weekly’s PW Select: $149
Also, during the conference’s luncheon, I sat next to a woman named Kiffer Brown, president of a company called Chanticleer Book Reviews & Media, which also offers review opportunities. As with crowdfunding, which I discussed yesterday, I don’t know if I’m ready to shell out the cash yet for this service, but it’s nice to know it’s out there if we authors need it.
Have you paid for any reviews for your book? Which ones? What has your experience been?
Amanda Barbara was the first person I met at PubSmart last week. My friend and I had just arrived at the Francis Marion Hotel and bumped into her on our way to our first master class. Turns out, Amanda is the vivacious co-founder and vice president of PubSlush, a crowdfunding company geared specifically to the literary world.
I know what you’re thinking… Crowdfunding???? Trust me. I’m not a fan of asking people for money either, but after hearing Amanda out, I have to say I’m intrigued.
During a panel about Authorpreneurship, Amanda explained that Pubslush, in addition to raising funds for your publishing efforts, is a platform that can help you:
- Collect pre-orders;
- Market your book pre-publication;
- Build your reader database; and
- Gain valuable insight into your audience with market analytics.
Amanda describes it as “reward-based crowdfunding.” In exchange for a donation, authors can offer anything from bookmarks and personalized thank-you notes to free books or Skype chats with book clubs. Interested authors can sign up for an account using the promo code PubSmartCon to receive The Guide: Tips To Successful Crowdfunding, an informative manual created by Pubslush for their authors.
It’s definitely worth checking out, no matter what your feelings are about hitting up folks for cash.
Last week, I attended the inaugural PubSmart conference — an unprecedented gathering of publishing professionals who really are some of the smartest on the planet — in chilly (where were the warm temps??) Charleston, South Carolina. The participants came from all aspects of publishing: self publishing, traditional, small press and hybrid. As a journalist and author, I’ve been to quite a few of these things, and I truly was blown away by the value of the information presented as well as the generosity of spirit of the event’s keynoters, panelists and organizers. (Hugh Howey, the bestselling author who served as one of the keynoters of the conference, is not only a savvy author, but he just might be the most gracious one I’ve ever seen, stopping to answer questions for anyone who asked one. Very cool.) By the time I got on my flight back to New York on Friday, my brain was heavy with all sorts of actionable information.
Today, I’d like to share pieces of Jane Friedman‘s enlightening keynote address titled, “What does it mean to publish?”
- 25 percent of the top 100 books on Amazon last year were self-published. “This would have been unfathomable at the beginning of my career,” Friedman said.
- Publishing used to have a scarcity of content and a controlled environment, but now there’s an abundance of content and a scarcity of attention.
- Through the 20th century, to print something was to amplify it. Not so today. There’s too many competing printed materials. Then whose job is amplification. The traditional role of the publisher was:
–Gatekeeping and editorial. But… gatekeeping is broken. People are self-publishing en masse. Quality is not a useful debate to have anymore, because we’re not going back to the way it was.
–Distribution. But… distribution is no longer of value anymore in the eBook world. I distribute. You distribute. Mobile is important to the future of reading. It is a myth that what we have to say has to be in book form. We’re slowly coming out of that cultural myth and moving into trans media: how one story can be told in many different ways.
–Marketing/Publicity. But… it is now about lifetime marketing. The conversation never stops. Authors have direct engagement with readers. The sales life of a book is no longer a few months, but forever.
- Free has become the tool of the unknown author who is looking for a readership. “Loyalty comes first,” Friedman says. “Monetization comes afterward.” For example, she said, “I haven’t paid a dime for Candy Crush. You can download it for free, but if you run out of lives, you have to pay 99 cents. Now, the company that produces Candy Crush is valued at billions.”