The Business Rusch: Word of Mouth
Big Bang TheoryBook RiotBrenna Clarke GrayHoward Wolowitzindependent bookstoresindie publishingIngram SparkMarion AbbottMrs. Dalloway's Literary and Garden ArtsNew York Timespromotionsocial mediatraditional publishingVerso Advertisingwriting
Writers always panic. They finish a book and expect the world to fall at their feet. At the same time, they worry that no one will notice. And, because all writers who are writing today were raised in the traditional publishing model, they believe that if no one discovers their book now, this minute, if no one hears of them the day of the book’s release, then that book is a failure forever and ever, amen.
So panicked writers behave badly. They promote stupidly. They alienate the very people whom they want to read their books. Tweeting Buy My Book! Buy My Book! twenty-five times per day. Demanding that friends and family “like” said book on Facebook.
The advent of social media hasn’t made this problem worse, although it has made the problem obvious. Used to be, back in the dark ages, readers would only run into these writers at conventions. At SF conventions, these writers would beg to be on panels, hold up copies of their newly released book, and refer to the damn thing every time someone asked a question, even if the question had nothing to do with the book’s topic. Somehow they’d shoehorn in the name of their book into any conversation. They were just like Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory after he got back from the International Space Station:
And they were (and are) just as annoying. Only now that behavior has gone viral. Worse, writers are haranguing their readers. Enough so that Brenna Clarke Gray on Book Riot damn near started a riot of her own among writers by posting a blog titled, “Readers Don’t Owe Writers Sh*t.” She says that as a reader she promises writers one thing: She will not steal their books. But, she adds, she won’t “(a) not use the library, (b) not buy used books, (c) not borrow books from friends.”
I know that there’s been a lot of pushback from writers and booksellers about readers who do the above. I think that’s beyond stupid. Used books, libraries, borrowed books are all ways to add to discoverability, to begin word of mouth.
But Gray continued:
I don’t (a) owe a tweet, (b) owe a blog review, (c) owe a word of mouth review. I am not betraying bookish culture if I (a) buy from Amazon or Chapters or Barnes and Noble, (b) wait to buy the paperback, (c) don’t buy at all. None of the above things are unethical or amoral or indicative of my deep failings as a reader or blogger or member of the bookish community.
The fact that she had to say these things, and say them so vociferously, is a sad commentary on what writers think they have to do to get noticed. My friends who do all this crap, you are getting noticed. Just not in the right way.
Gray writes this as a reader and a blogger. The situation is infinitely worse for independent booksellers. That same week that Gray’s screed went viral so did, of all things, a letter to The New York Times, published in response to an article on self-publishing. You can just hear the frustration in the correspondent’s tone.
The correspondent is Marion Abbott who owns Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts in Berkeley, California. Abbott writes:
We see this every day in our independent bookstore: writers dropping off unsolicited work in the hope that we will stock books that have had little or no editing, and few reviews or distribution beyond Amazon (always a nonstarter).
With rare exceptions, it is unrealistic to expect busy booksellers, who conduct business with hundreds of established vendors already, to take them on: reading, evaluating and setting up separate vendors for each title.
For us, it’s a bookkeeping nightmare yielding very little return.
Abbott’s complaint, and the bookkeeping nightmare at the core of it, is why Dean and I started Ella Distribution last year. Self-published writers and tiny, tiny presses would have had one place to go so that booksellers could order from there. But changes in the way that major distributors like Ingrams and Baker & Taylor made our little venture irrelevant. We shut it down in April. I explain those changes and the reasons we disbanded Ella in last week’s blog.
If you didn’t read last week’s post, please go back and do so now. I’m not going to reiterate the points made there in this blog or in the comments section.
I will, however, repeat a salient point in last week’s blog. The only way these big distributors will stock your book now is if they believe your book is worth stocking. If you have that, then the small bookstores like Abbott’s can order your self-published book.
But how do you catch a small bookseller’s attention without dumping unwanted crap on the bookseller or turning into Howard Wolowitz?
After all, more than 3 million books were published last year, and those were only the books that Bowker, which runs the ISBN system, could count. I’m sure more books than that were published in 2012.
Many writers, who want their books to get noticed, go with traditional publishers. Traditional publishers do very little work with their midlist titles to get those books noticed. Until earlier this year, traditionally published titles went into a different system at Ingrams and Baker & Taylor than self-published books. Baker & Taylor brought those walls down hard earlier this year (see my blog) and now Ingrams is ramping up the competition with its announcement of Ingram Spark.
That distribution wall between traditional publishers and self-publishers is in the process of collapsing entirely.
So bookstores can order any book they want; the key is to make them want that book—without pissing them off.
How do you do that?
Oh, dear. Here we go again.
On April 6, 2011, I published a post called “Promotion,” and unlike most of what I’ve blogged about in publishing since then, that post still holds true. Every bit of it. The more promotion you do, from bookmarks to visiting booksellers to tweeting constantly, the more you will piss people off.
The best way to promote your work is to develop a fan base.
How can you do that with just one book?
You can’t. It’s a rare writer who hits on the first novel, and usually that’s a fluke tied into something going on the culture. You can’t control the culture. You can’t control book buyers. But you can control what you do.
Write good stories. Write great stories. Practice, practice, practice. Publish what you write. Readers will find good books, and they will tell their friends.
In that post, I quoted from a study of more than 9,000 avid readers by Verso Advertising of Book Buying behavior in 2010. According to this study, people buy books because:
1. Author reputation (52%)
2. Personal recommendation (49%)
3. Price (45%)
4. Book Reviews (37%)
5. Cover/Blurb (22%)
6. Advertising (including online) 14%
Note, of course, that people buy books for more than one reason. They could buy books because of reviews and because of author reputation. That’s why the numbers add up to more than 100%.
That study was published in 2011. I wanted to see if it had been updated. Verso hasn’t yet published one in 2013, but 2012’s was on the site. It was compiled from 2,200 avid readers in late 2011. It said that people buy books because:
1. Personal recommendations (49.2%)
2. Bookstore staff recommendations (30.8%)
3. Advertising (24.4%)
4. Search Engine (21.6%)
5. Book Reviews (18.9%)
6. Online Algorithm (16.0%)
7. Library visit (15. 5%)
8. Blogs (12.1%)
9. Social Networks (11.8%)
I’m not sure if “author reputation” is missing here because of the way the question was phrased. I suspect that it wasn’t a choice. The header on this particular section is “Principal Ways of Learning About New Titles” or “Discoverability,” that buzzword in publishing at the moment.
Let’s take this at its word, though. Let’s talk about ways of discovering “new titles” even by favorite authors. I just picked up five Meg Cabot books that I hadn’t realized existed because I’d lost track over the past two years. How did I find those books? Search engine.
Search engine isn’t even on the 2010 list, nor is algorithm. That just tells you how much book buying has changed and gone online in the past three years.
I want you to notice something else: With the exceptions of “search engine” “algorithm” and “advertising,” everything else on that list is word-of-mouth.
You can’t control word of mouth. You can start it only by telling your fans, Facebook friends, and the readers of your blog that a new book is out. Repeatedly hammer that point and you turn into Wolowitz. Instead, write the next book and let the first one take care of itself.
That’s true whether you’re an indie writer or a traditionally published writer. I don’t care how much your traditional publisher nags you to promote, promote, promote. Ignore them. Write the next book and if they don’t buy it (or you choose not to sell it to them) publish it yourself.
Let’s assume you’ve written a good novel. In fact, let’s assume you’ve written several good novels. No distributor has picked up those books and no one is buying the e-copies. Word of mouth hasn’t even started yet. There’s no hope it ever will because no one outside of your family has read a copy, despite the book’s availability.
Oh, so many things.
Back in the early days of self-publishing, a great story hidden in a book with a low price and crap cover could sell. Honestly, that’s how Amanda Hocking’s books sold. That woman can tell a story, but her covers were bad and interiors worse. And she was one of the few people writing good urban fantasy in the early days of Kindle. Readers who spent 99 cents got a good story, so they let other readers know.
And Amazon was developing its ebook algorithm so that readers who bought books similar to Hocking’s got automated recommendations from Amazon to buy her books.
Nowadays? Unless you’re a reader trolling the 99 cent book ghetto, the bargain bin as it’s called in brick-and-mortar parlance, you’re not going to discover anyone who wrote a book with a great story and a crap cover.
A good cover isn’t just a good piece of art. It’s the right art with the right branding. It’s making sure you have the correct fonts, knowing where to put information, and keeping an eye on genre.
It’s a lot of work to design a good cover, and it’s not just about hiring an artist or someone who knows font. A great cover doesn’t just make the reader pick the book up; it also tells the reader at a glance what genre the book is in.
Cozy mysteries look different from traditional mysteries. Thrillers use different word placement than contemporary romances. If your book isn’t properly branded, then you’re hurting sales.
It’s the same with cover copy. The cover copy has to be active. It has to tell the reader what the book is about without discussing a plot. It has to generate excitement in something that we call when we teach “Movie Phone Voice.” If you don’t know what I mean, then check out “Five Guys in a Limo.” Imagine these guys reading your cover copy. Yeah, it looks ridiculous to you on the page, but that’s what readers expect. So do it.
These aren’t things you can learn quickly. You need to go to bookstores, study the shelves, see what the traditional publishers are doing. You need to read cover copy and more cover copy and try and try and try.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that we’re offering online classes in both cover and interior design (interior design is as important as cover design) run by Dean and WMG Publishing’s Allyson Longueira. Dean has designed books for several companies, and Allyson has a design pedigree that goes back years. These classes are hands-on, and will force you to do homework.
Dean also teaches a pitches and blurbs course that includes cover copy.
The next thing you have to do right is price. In the comment section last week, a number of people stated that they didn’t want to charge too much because they were new.
Sorry, folks. That’s day job think. Beginners get paid less than long-established people. Nope. A beginning writer, even in traditional publishing, can outearn a long-established pro on a first book. If traditional publishing believed that beginners had to work their way up to “real writer,” then traditional publishing would have run out of bestsellers years ago.
Price your books commensurate with other books of the same type. Trade papers should be priced the same as traditional publishers’ trade papers. You can charge less for hardcovers and ebooks because traditional publishers have inflated those prices.
If you don’t, if you underprice your print book, it won’t matter how much word of mouth you generate, no major distributor will take you on. They have to make some money on the sale, and they get a percentage of the cover price, just like bookstores do. If your cover price is too low, they don’t want you in their catalog or in their store. It’s that simple.
The other way to generate word of mouth? Availability. If you want people to talk about your book, make it easy to find. Yeah, you might not have your book in every brick-and-mortar bookstore, but make sure it’s in all the places that sell e-books from iBookstore to Kobo to Kindle. So you don’t make much on Barnes & Noble. Who cares? Honestly, the person who cares is the reader with the Nook who tried to order your book and couldn’t.
That reader will report to the person who recommended your book and say, “It’s not on Nook.” So the next time that person recommends your book (if, indeed, there is a next time after that), the person will say, “It’s good, but I don’t think it’s on Nook.” That means the reader with the Kobo device will think, Oh, it’s probably not on Kobo either, and won’t even bother to look for it.
Word of mouth fizzled before it even started.
Should you send review copies to book bloggers or review sites or take out ads in RT Book Reviews? No. Not unless you have a lot of books already available. Don’t spend any money on advertising or waste the time of book bloggers (like Gray above) unless you have many things that will appeal to all different kinds of readers.
There are lots of programs that you can buy into as a publisher. You can get up front placement in a chain bookstore if you have enough money. You can buy ads in Publishers Weekly. But it all means nothing if you don’t write a good book. It means nothing if you wrote a good book and have a cover that screams romance when you’ve written a thriller.
You want to be successful? You want to be in the same catalogs as traditional publishers? You want to be taken seriously?
Then stop haranguing bookstore owners and book bloggers and your friends, and learn how to write a good book, how to design a good cover, how to make the interior of your book readable, how to price your book so that it will sell, and how to write cover copy.
Write another book. Publish it with the correct materials, and repeat several times.
Then, maybe then, you can approach bookstores. By then, you might have learned the proper ways of doing so. And no, I’m not telling you what they are in this very general blog. Why? Because too many of you will skip the steps I just mentioned and go straight to the bookstore promotion. Then you’ll tell the bookstore owners that I said you should do this, and they’ll be mad at me.
If you ask in the comments, I still won’t tell you. Because I’m not doing that to my friends at the bookstores.
Nor am I going to tell you how to get the attention of reviewers and book bloggers except to say this: write a good book. Generate good word of mouth, and the book bloggers will ask you for a free copy. For gods sake, you cheap bastard, give it to them when they ask. And don’t be mad if they give you a bad review. They’re entitled to their opinions, just like those people who review on Goodreads and Amazon.
Don’t read that stuff. Just write the next book.
Improve with every single thing you write.
Keep learning until the day you die. Seriously.
Let the readers find you. If you’re quiet and don’t bug them, and if they love your work, they’ll do the promotion for you, even to bookstores. That reader who walks into his favorite independent bookseller’s shop? The reader who asks for your book by name? He has a lot more credibility (particularly if he’s a regular customer) than you ever will with your bookmarks and your free copies and your posters.
Cultivate your readers by writing good books.
Realize that your readers owe you nothing. They don’t owe you good reviews or likes. They aren’t required to buy your next book.
You have to convince them to do that by writing a book so beloved that they want another just like it.
If you can’t do that, then no amount of haranguing and advertising will ever make your books sell.
That’s true whether you’re traditionally published or not.
I don’t distribute this blog through traditional channels. It’s published here and I encourage you to share with your friends. I put this up for free so that you can have the information, but I do need to have these words pay at least a little bit toward my writing income.
So, if you’ve learned something or are getting something from this blog, please leave a tip on the way out. Thanks!
“The Business Rusch: Word of Mouth” copyright © 2013 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
75 responses to “The Business Rusch: Word of Mouth”
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Sorry to be pedantic, but there’s no such thing as “Ingrams.” The name of the company is Ingram.
And this, my friends, is why all writers need copy editors. 🙂 Thanks, Tim. I’m not going back and fixing this blog, but I’ll try to be better in the next.
I feel the need to comment again.
You cannot price your book commensurate with NYC publishers doing the same type of book if you are using a POD publisher unless you are willing to make almost nothing and allow returns. YES B&T and Ingram list your books right along with everyone else. NO they are not the same. If you do not meet their criteria (this directly from my sales rep at Lightning Source) which in general is 55 percent discount and accept returns) you are short-discounted to bookstores. Sure, they can still buy your books, but it is cheaper to buy the book of a famous author or from a NYC publisher using standard printing methods where the price actually goes down when the number of books produced goes up.
If you want to be listed competitively you have to raise your price to where, at bare minimum, you can offer Ingrams and B&T 55 percent.
This is – however – one of the clearest posts on the new world of publishing I’ve seen to date.
I got your point, David, but that’s not our experience. Of course, we’re not doing hardcover, so I am not as clear about Lightning Source’s policies. On Createspace, for trades, you can easily price at traditional or just below and still make a profit.
And thanks on the post. 🙂
It is true that you can set your price on Createspace to very similar to traditional books and still make a profit. But Createspace is unattractive to bookstores because you cannot offer industry-standard discounts (55%) or allow returns. (Also, some bookstores are still harboring grudges and boycotts of Amazon services, and refuse to take Createspace on principle, especially if you’re using one of their ISBNs.)
Lightning Source does the same kind of trade paperbacks as Createspace (in fact, Lightning Source does some of the printing of Createspace books), but they DO allow you to set your discount at whatever percentage you’d like, and they allow returns.
Of course, to allow for the 55% discount (which EVERY retailer gets, and is then all they pay for your book, including Amazon), you have to set your cover price high enough to account for the printing cost plus the discount.
It’s still easy to set a price similar to traditional trades, but the profit is minimal — most authors see much more profit on their e-books if they go the discount route.
I personally think it’s worth it, as bookstore placement (if it ever happened) would pay off much more in word of mouth and visibility than the individual profits from sales.
(For me, it’s the cheap bastard effect — some people will spend thousands of dollars on advertising that’s mostly useless, but they won’t eat some of their potential profit to have their book visible in a bookstore? Seems counterproductive to me.)
And, of course, you can still hand-sell your book at whatever price you like (or the cover price), and you only pay the printing and shipping costs.
Breeana, please read my previous two blogs, in which all of this gets discussed in more detail. There have been significant changes in Baker & Taylor and Ingrams which make it possible for all indie-published titles, done right, with a good cover, the correct price, and without a Createspace ISBN, to get into bookstores. Rather than rehash everything from those blogs and that comment section, please just take a look. Thanks.
Fair enough. And I did read the other articles. Maybe I’m not fully understanding what you’re saying, but I’m still seeing a difference with Createspace vs. Lightning Source.
First of all, you write of the “shift” in Baker and Taylor/Ingram as happening this year, as evidenced by the fact that your book (I think) was listed as available and in stock by Barnes and Noble on its release date (and listed several days before.)
I experienced this phenomenon last summer (2012) with two of my Lightning Source paperbacks. As soon as I had a pub date listed with Lightning Source, Barnes and Noble was showing the books as available for pre-order — and then as in stock even before Amazon had them listed that way.
I guess what it looks like to me, more, is that the distributors are choosing to pick up more Createspace books (without the Createspace ISBNs) for the same model they’ve been offering those publishers who use Lightning Source’s distribution for some time now.
There’s something new with CreateSpace books, but not with Lightning Source books. (It is possible Lightning Source POD books were still segregated until this shift, I don’t know, but they were definitely available through Ingram and Baker and Taylor.
And still, now, with Createspace, even if a distributor chooses to list you, you’re looking at a 40% discount at *some* bookstores, and the ability for *some* bookstores to return (which is still excellent progress over what small publishers were able to do this time last year with Createspace — and it explains why cover prices have to be so high to be listed in expanded distribution), whereas Lightning Source publishers are able to set whatever discount they want and allow returns, and they’re able to offer those things to all bookstores.
I may be missing something else, but that’s what I’m seeing both from your posts and my own experience, having used both Createspace and Lightning Source (though not Createspace recently).
There is a different between them, Breeana. I’m not saying there isn’t.
“And still, now, with Createspace, even if a distributor chooses to list you, you’re looking at a 40% discount at *some* bookstores, and the ability for *some* bookstores to return (which is still excellent progress over what small publishers were able to do this time last year with Createspace — and it explains why cover prices have to be so high to be listed in expanded distribution), whereas Lightning Source publishers are able to set whatever discount they want and allow returns, and they’re able to offer those things to all bookstores.”
Yes, true. But that’s not what I’m discussing here. If you have one book and you are promoting one book, or if you have a large company with deep pockets, then go through the publisher portal on Lightning Source which allows all those things you are talking about at a rather large up front fee.
Several thousand people come to this blog, and most of them have extensive backlists and/or frontlists and don’t have deep pockets. They’re also not going to write one book and promote the hell of out it. They do e-pub mostly, and are just getting into print. When they go into print, they use Createspace for the quality product and the low price, and in the past, they accepted that they would not be in the big distribution system. We were going to go around the system with Ella. Then the changes, which you just acknowledged above, occurred.
Now the publisher who doesn’t want to put out the capital outlay for Lightning Sources publisher program has those options. That’s all I’m saying. Of course, this is not for all books or all bookstores, but it isn’t even through Lightning Source.
Here’s what most small publishers do not understand: Just because your book is available, and just because it’s available in all distribution channels, doesn’t mean the distributor will list it well or even list it at all. Choices do get made through these distributors, and thought goes into their catalogs as well. This happens with the big publishers as well as the small ones.
What I am saying in my blog here is that now all POD books, not just those through Lightning Source’s publisher portal, have the same chance as all the other books of being distributed. That chance is new, and important. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s it.
Also, Breeana, what most small publishers who deal with Lightning Source do not understand is this: if you select “short discount” with returns on Lightning Source, you make your book unaffordable for almost all distributors and booksellers to carry. It doesn’t matter if you make a profit on your book; they won’t. If your cover price is too low, you won’t get into the system even though you signed up for it. Distributors like B&T and Ingram make their distribution profits on a percentage of the cover price. Booksellers make their money on a percentage of cover price. They will not take low-priced books because they cannot make any money on them.
The up-front cost for Lightning Source is about $87 per book, including being listed in Ingram and Baker and Taylor, (plus an additional $12 annually for the catalogs) which is significantly more than Createspace’s $25 fee for expanded distribution (and doesn’t count the ISBN, which you would need at either place if you really want to be picked up by a bookstore).
So, yes, it’s more, but not so substantially more that authors shouldn’t have that information at their disposal when making the choice of which POD company to use for printing their books.
I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound like I’m trying to argue. This is a great post with a lot of very critical information that many authors need to hear.
I just think it’s worth noting that for an additional $62/book authors can have an even better chance of being picked up by distributors and having bookstores be willing to stock their books (though there are obviously no guarantees.)
It’s not the $62 that’s a problem, Breeana. It’s the fees to do proofs and make changes. Plus that $12 annual fee adds up year after year after year. I have a backlist of 500+ titles, about 100 of which are novels. I would have to pay $1,200 per year to keep them in print through Lightning Source and nothing to keep them in print through Createspace. That’s a hefty difference, especially when you consider that I don’t plan to take these books out of print. Thats $12,000 over ten years, not counting new titles or any of the short story collections or the novellas.
See what I’m talking about now?
You said: what most small publishers who deal with Lightning Source do not understand is this: if you select “short discount” with returns on Lightning Source, you make your book unaffordable for almost all distributors and booksellers to carry. It doesn’t matter if you make a profit on your book; they won’t. If your cover price is too low, you won’t get into the system even though you signed up for it. Distributors like B&T and Ingram make their distribution profits on a percentage of the cover price. Booksellers make their money on a percentage of cover price. They will not take low-priced books because they cannot make any money on them.
There’s not an option for selecting “short discount” in Lightning Source. In the LS interface, publishers have the option of setting the discount to whatever specific percentage they choose, whether it be 0% or 99%. Obviously, if you’re setting your discount at less than 40%, you’re not being competitive even with Createspace, and no, bookstores won’t stock it.
But if you set your discount within LS to the industry-standard 55%, you don’t have a choice to price your book “too low” — the PUBLISHER eats the cost of the discount, always, so stores order at that discounted price, and they (and the distributor)make 55% of the cover price on the book.
You can’t set the cover price of your book too low to cover the discount. The cover price has to be the cost of printing + whatever percentage the discount is. However much profit you want to make off each copy has to be added on to the cover price IN ADDITION to the discount. Lightning Source will allow you to make nothing in royalties if you wanted to set it that way, I suppose, but the distributors/bookstores are always going to make profit on whatever percentage of the cover price you set it to allow.
The only difference that I’m seeing there is that with Createspace, authors are forced to set their prices higher to qualify for expanded distribution, and they’re not given the option to shoot themselves in the foot by setting the price too low (because they’re not offering a real discount).
With Lightning Source authors/publishers do have more control — both for good and for bad, I guess.
There are, of course, other things to consider when deciding between Lightning Source and Createspace.
One other thing that I don’t know nearly enough about is Createspace’s Library/Academic Institution distribution, for which they force you to use a CS ISBN.
A short discount is an industry term for anything less than industry standard. Most small publishers choose a smaller or short discount, not industry standard. And again, if the cover price is too low–not at traditional levels–then the distributors and the booksellers won’t take the book, no matter what. A bookstore’s shelf space costs them money. Would you as a business owner want a book on your shelf that makes you $1 or one that makes you ten cents? If you have to choose–and bookstores do because they have limited space–they’ll choose the $1 every single time. (The same with distributors. If their profit or the bookstore profit is too low, they won’t carry the book.)
As for the library/academic Createspace problem, yeah, that’s an issue. I suspect it will change in the next six months now that Lightning Source is introducing Spark. (Which, by the way, also has an annual fee.)
I have to disagree on some points. While I do think endlessly tweeting your book is awesome is pointless, there are lots of ways to tweet effectively. Just as some blogs are pointless, others are very much on point.
My newest book was selling OK last Thursday morning, I was about 5,000 rank for Amazon. But I paid $10 to be part of a massive weekend 99 cent promotion and $50 for a well-known website to push my book for a day on Friday And I’ve been selling 100 books a day since then.
Granted, this book is in a hot genre, I have platform, and I have a lot of social networking friends who will help me push it, but it was a very slow climb that first few days after release without the ads and promos.
I have several books out besides this newest one and two more releasing over the summer. I had a small fan base before this book… but I know from experience that if I’m not talking about my books in some way, people forget they exist.
Maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone, but it applies to me. Maybe I do use up a bunch of time marketing, but I like marketing and I’ve published five full length novels and one novella in the last year, plus I’ve written another full length novel that’s in proofreading right now, and I’m halfway done with a seventh. All this published before my one year anniversary of being an Indie author.
So, you can do both. I do. And it’s silly for new authors to not take advantage of places like BookBub, Pixel of Ink, and Ereader News Today promotions. Yes, they are very selective and maybe you don’t get a spot right away. But eventually you’ll write something they like and once you do, and you get an ad like that, you’ll see what kind of game changer ads can be.
And maybe not everyone gets fans off Facebook, but I do. I’m in author promo groups, we help each other out with marketing, and that really makes a difference.
I’m a firm believer that there are no two identical paths to success, so I’m willing to try new things to see if they work. Some do, some don’t. But maybe the things that fail for me are winners for someone else? If you’re not a prolific writer, then maybe no marketing is your way UNTIL you get a few books? Then you need to have a marketing plan.
Marketing plans absolutely do help sell books, as long as your book is marketable in the first place.
You’re right: to each his own. I prefer patience, and getting sales from readers who will actually read a book rather than buy a copy based on a cheap promotion. Those copies often go unread, which doesn’t help sell the next book. And that’s what it’s all about. Slowly building readers who wait for your next book, not pushing people who might or might not read a book to buy something cheap.
The key is not whether your book sells during a promotion, but whether that promotion will still be helping your books six months or a year from now.
Occasionally ad dollars are worthwhile, but there are smarter ways to do things, such as sell a story to a magazine. Then your name covers 10 pages of the magazine, and readers who like the story will look for your book.
You are doing the right thing, though. You’re publishing a lot of books. You’re not doing this on your very first title. So all of the promotion will help your many titles, rather than the new one only.
Good luck with it.
It puts a smile on my face to hear someone say I don’t have to put any of those damned bookmarks out on convention tables. (I’ve gathered enough bookmarks by now to last me for the rest of my life, and possibly the rest of my son’s life and the lives of my hypothetical grandchildren, and I don’t think I’ve bought a single one of the books being promoted on them.)
Like George commented above, rah-rah promotion and marketing are what I have the least enthusiasm and aptitude for.
So, top priority: good book. I’m putting together a collection of various short stories I’ve had published over the years, plus a few new ones. Despite a sentimental attachment to my first published story, re-reading it after thirty years made me aware it hasn’t aged well. So it won’t appear in the collection.
I mostly read literary fiction and, not to go all Hardship Olympics on y’all, I truly believe it’s worse for fans of lit fic. A lot of these writers seem to take a perverse pleasure in being “select” (poor sales), and not giving into the temptation for “overproduction” (one book every few years) which I guess makes them above the hoi polloi or something.
I’ve yet to encounter the idea that I shouldn’t use the libraries or charity shops, at least not to my face, and I’m not on Twitter or Facebook. But the general sense of writer entitlement rings true. There seems to be this idea that if people don’t like their books, well, the problem must be the readers, and the Decline of Reading, and Dumbing Down of Culture, amirite? God forbid they ever interact with what people want to read, because that would be, like Dumbing Down and anyway, ordinary readers? Eww.
And yes, the sense of unearned superiority is galling.
Timing on this post is perfect for me. My own insecurities make me worry that I’m not doing what I’m “supposed” to regarding promotion. I vacillate between doing nothing and then panicking and doing a Twitter blast and giveaway or something.
And speaking of Twitter, I worked pretty hard to build up a sizable amount of followers. But what I’ve discovered is that when I promote something, I get a lot of supportive tweets and not too many actual extra sales.
On the other hand, I have so many twitter “friends” that what I liked about twitter–interaction with like-minded people–has become near impossible. I cannot keep up with 30,000 people. Fancy that, huh?
I meant to say “with no initial marketing”
Kristine, if I have five well written romance novels and do no marketing how would anybody find me in a sea of romance novels on amazon, kobo and so on?
I might have ‘availablity’ but I will have no ‘visiibility’ (as a new never before published author). For example, Konrath says many bestsellers are bestsellers due to visibility, they are in every bookstore.
People who eventually find my book will help spread the word but with no marketing surely it will take much much longer for it to build momentum.
If you’re patient, Susan, you will get visibility. The only reason traditional books need early visibility is that they have such a short window in bookstores. These books need to recoup the vast (and I mean vast) investment that publishers have put into them.
You don’t. You can wait and let word of mouth build. And if a bookstore wants the book, it’ll order the book, which will then get it out to more readers. Take a look again at how readers are finding books these days. Algorithms, search engines, and the like. So if your book sells even once on Amazon to a reader who buys someone else’s book, when a new reader looks at that same someone else’s book, below it will say: Readers who bought this book also bought; or readers who look at this book also looked at. If your cover is good, the new reader will click on your book and take a look. That’s how readership builds without all this pushing. It’s nicer too, because the reader can do this at three am without anyone nagging them. 🙂
So that is how “readers who bought this also bought this” works! What a time to be writing! 🙂
Kris, do you what know the threshold of sales is that triggers the also bought mention? I had heard that a title needs to have sold 100 units before it will appear in the also bought window. I suspect that is not correct, because (for example) my own titles do appear as also-boughts for my other titles. But I have yet to see a title of mine in the also bought for any book by an author other than myself! None of my titles has yet broken past that 100-sale line. (Since I do have a trickle of sales, it will happen, just not yet.)
Nope, I don’t, and honestly, I don’t care. 🙂 Besides, it’s Amazon. The algorithm will change next week anyway. 🙂
LOL! Too true! And good point. Another thing not to obsess about.
Hi Kristine, I read your post carefully but I am a little confused.
You said: “Should you send review copies to book bloggers or review sites or take out ads in RT Book Reviews? No. Not unless you have a lot of books already available. ”
As I understand it Amanda Hocking did a whole blog post on how it was bookbloggers who helped spread the word for her.
Before them she hardly had any sales (of course at that time she had been on Lulo rather than Amazon also). But she said once some book bloggers accepted her copies and reviewed her books sales started quickly going up. (And I understand her techniques and pricing (99 cnet ghetto etc) would not work today).
So what promo is good if any for the rank newbie?
I like what you wrote because I am the type of person who does not want to bother other people AT ALL. I mean I quit jobs where I was required to cold call people at dinner time, I simply cannot agree to bug people. I am sort of the ‘anti-Wolowitz’ when I get something done. I mention it to nobody–literally! Some have told me that will be the end of my career (before it even starts) because I do not do promotion or bug people.
The one place I did agree with them is asking book bloggers to review my book in exchange for a free copy (format of their choosing).
I am getting ready to post my *first* book online (on all platforms and formats) and was going to approach some. Now after reading what you wrote I am not sure that is right either.
Should I just post it and do no promotion or ask any book bloggers to revew at all? I was planning to ask some and then go on and write the next book.
Now Im thinking you would have me skip that and just write the next book. Correct?
Yes, George, you got it. Just write. Practice, improve, release more books. Eventually the book bloggers will ask you for copies of your books to review and/or you’ll have enough inventory that they’ll find something and review it without telling you. 🙂 You can sigh with relief. No cold calls required any more. 🙂 (I hate those things too.)
*sighs with relief*
Thank you much. *leans back, sips tea* It’s a much better feeling ie for the bloggers to ask you for a review copy than for you to offer. Now to get back to work…
Keep in mind, too, that Hocking DID have a lot of books. She had nine fully written books in a trunk before she even started making them public (on a whim). She didn’t send just one singleton to the bloggers; there were quite a few out there debuting at once.
Did not know that! Anyway I am taking Kristine’s advice as I hope others who read this do to.
So many authors I know spend thousands on promotion. And so many of them constantly tweet about my next weekend read – surprise – their book.
I know the hard part is that some are published by e-publishers and seeing dismal sales. If they’re selling only thirty books a half-year, and the publisher blames them for not promoting, I can feel their pain.
And the self-pubbed authors all think they need to give away thousands to sell a few as well.
Maybe it’s the instant gratification need, or the validation of the artist need. I don’t know, but I see from the back end how this promotion/platform thing spirals out of control.
“If I put pretty sparkles on them, do you think bookstores will be more likely to take them?”
No, Scott, I’d glue dollar bills to them instead. Then, at least, they’d be happy to see you the next time they came by.
“Sometimes, I wonder if someone will see the “young adult” label and ignore the book, though the same could be said about all of the above.”
FWIW, Erik, I think using the young adult label, if that’s what the book is, will get you more readers. I know a lot of women in their 30s and 40s who love young adult books, including me.
A lot of the folks posting here sound like they could really benefit from the ‘Genre’ Workshop Dean Wesley Smith teaches (link on his site under Online Workshops). I just finished it, and it blew my hair back.
But what do I do with my Twitter account then? I’m at a loss here. You’re casting me adrift in a sea of self-promoting writers with no paddle and no life jacket! I don’t even know how to swim! Help!
Oh, wait, I don’t have a Twitter account. Oh well. I guess I’ll go make some bookmarks, then. If I put pretty sparkles on them, do you think bookstores will be more likely to take them?
If the sparkles are diamonds, I think you just might have a chance, Scott. 🙂
*Tassels,* Scott. They’re the new sparkles. 🙂
If you add unicorns to the top, they’ll definitely take them!
Someone linked to this post and I read it and really enjoyed it. I have a new book coming out, part of a series, I don’t tweet (well… if something tickles my fancy like a gorgeous view, or a good thought, or something…) but the ‘buy my book!’ tweets annoy me so I don’t do them. Thank you for confirming what I’d felt, and for some guidance. I’m a fan. Diana
Kris, I am wondering how important pen names are to indie authors who write in different genres. For instance, the SF has one name, the historical fiction has another name. This is standard in traditional publishing, but I wonder if it’s necessary, or even a good idea, for indies?
I think it’s changing. As someone said recently, readers are very smart and know they won’t like everything. Me, I have established pen names and will continue to use them. I also need a few to write in certain genres. Scott William Carter did an interesting blog post on this just recently: http://scottwilliamcarter.com/2013/05/14/the-death-of-pseudonym-why-i-wrote-as-jack-nolte-and-why-im-republishing-those-mysteries-under-my-own-name/ I think it’s worth exploring and figuring out for yourself.
Kris, thanks for yet another informative post.
Regarding pen names, I recall Dean posting in his blog a year or so ago that bookstores will be more likely to order from a publisher with several authors than from a publisher with just one. (Even if the publisher is just my dba and the different authors are my pen names for different genres).
Have the recent changes in print distribution (e.g. Ingrams and B&T distributing indie books) changed that?
Distributors order by the book, not the publisher. So they won’t care who published it; just whether or not it’ll sell. 🙂
It’s the book. Always the book first. Then the next book. I get that. Social media isn’t my thing, so that’s not an issue. But, what about the “author’s platform” that “everyone” says we should put up? Do we need a website and/or a blog? They take time–away from writing. I’ve been a writer (non-fiction, now moving to fiction) and I know how hard it is to write good, informative blogs (you an Dean do a great job! How do you do it!) Anyway is the website/blog in the same category as social media? Thanks for your time.
Have a static website, so readers can Google you and find out what other books you’ve published. You don’t have to blog. You don’t have to look at it more than once a month or update it when a new project comes out. That’s all you need. But have that so readers can find you the way that they’re now used to.
A static website is a great idea, but I’d personally suggest using WordPress as the foundation. It may sound like overkill for someone with only a couple of books, but it makes it easier to add new books, magazine appearances, and anything else that might be important.
For example I’m doing the recording for the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival. My mother-in-law is the poet laureate of Cobalt Ontario, the town where we live, my wife is a singer-songwriter who will be performing some of Mom’s poems which she has set to music. Why not mention ths?
It isn’t related to my writing, but it is stuff that readers might be interested in.
This. WordPress is very easy to use, and its basic theme, while not startling, is acceptable.
What surprises me is how many authors don’t even have a basic website. As soon as I hear about a new author or book, I do two things: check the library for their books, and/or visit their website to read an excerpt.
The website’s also good to keep fans up to date on what you’re publishing. For example, I’ll visit Laurell K. Hamilton’s site for an update on her next Merry Gentry book. And Jasper Fforde’s site for his Nursery Crimes and Shades of Grey series.
Beautifully written Kris. I follow a lot of writers on Twitter, and the most successful ones tweet about themselves, not their books. Those who just tweet ads are usually the least successful.
It’s all about being Social, and I don’t mean Social Media. I worked sales for years, and success meant understanding and interacting with people, not blasting ads at them.
Funny, Wayne. You speak about interacting with people. I precisely designed my ad to answer questions frequently asked by my people I presented my books.
One of those questions was : why is this guy on the cover having three nostrils ?
Forgive me if I do not find the right expression in english, but my response in the ad is : “because it shows like the nose in the center of the face.”
The purpose is to make people who see the ad (which shows with the cover, of course) smile, and to titillate curiosity.
Honestly, I don’t believe very much in ads. I get that cultivating interactions for some time brings better results than just an ad based upon interactions.
But for that one, I get up with that idea, and I thought it was worth trying it. You can see it on my blog : http://emmanuelguillot.over-blog.com/faire-passer-la-pilule
Now, if people would only listen.
I work with a lot of new writers. I’m asked again and again about promotion, although that’s not my area of expertise. DAMMIT JIM, I’M AN EDITOR, NOT A PROMOTER!
And I tell every single one of them the same thing. WRITE YOUR NEXT BOOK.
You know who has it nailed to a tree? Patti Larsen. She is the poster child of how to do this right. I’m just waiting for her to bust out all over. She is a pro from the top of her head right down to her toenails. Amazing writer who actually gets it.
Love. Love this post.
So, I’m hearing you say I should write the next book?
Snark aside, thanks for this, Kris. It’s always good to be reminded of the fundamentals. I have quite a few friends who are really paranoid about finding readers and building their fan base. They spend a lot of time on Kindle boards and other such places, trying to spread the word, and are always pestering me to share their work with my friends and give them positive reviews. Which has always seemed strange to me, because it’s natural to share cool things with people who I think will like it, and only the people who will like it.
My mom isn’t getting an erotic novel recommended no matter how much I’m begged to share it because she doesn’t read erotica.
Anyway, it’s nice to be reminded of the basics – solid writing and treating people well. You’ve always been an excellent role model of how to do that here on your site, and elsewhere.
I do have a question, though. You’re fairly well known (in my circle, at least) for writing across genres. I know that you know how to find out what you’ve written – your first readers tell you. But, when they tell you that you’ve written a young adult steampunk romance mystery, do you tag it as all four in the online stores? Sometimes, I wonder if someone will see the “young adult” label and ignore the book, though the same could be said about all of the above.
Thanks for your time and all that you do.
Oh, man, the cross-genre question. Well, first you figure out which of those genres is most prevalent in the story. Do that. In the rare instance where they’re equally and properly done, go for the genre most accepting to cross-genre tropes. That takes a level of skill that I don’t have on covers, but I do have on cover copy. I have to trust someone like Allyson at WMG to make the cover gorgeous, appealing, and in the right genre on those books.
Erik, generally speaking, cross-genre stuff works well in both romance and YA, so you’re not as badly off as you think. 🙂 AND lots of adults read YA, voraciously, so don’t be scared to label it as such.
In terms of vendor categories, most retailers let you put your title into at least two, so you can play with the categorizations. There’s plenty of Steampunk romances (Gail Carringer, Meljean Brook) and YA steampunk (mostly categorized in fantasy) with adventure/mystery/romance elements (Shelley Adina, Cassandra Clare).
Like Kris says, do the best you can with covers/blurbs/categories and then let your readers find you. They will! Your book sounds really good. 🙂
“For gods sake, you cheap bastard, give it to them when they ask.”
Might I make a humble suggestion. Can you put a public choking disclaimer at the top of your blog before writing something like this? I nearly coughed up the latte I was drinking when I read this, especially because I hear yours and Dean’s voices when I read your blogs, so it adds to the humor about ten fold.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this for us, as always. This makes me happy because I’m lazy, to tell the truth. I would much rather write the next book and save my money than spend both on promoting anyway. The thought of paying bookbub nearly 500.00 to promote my severely discounted for them book isn’t very appealing. Yeah I know, I would likely see that ROI in sales, but it’s a gamble, and I can’t help wondering if it would be short term surge in sales versus long term building of sales. I’m starting to sell pretty well on BN, and still a tiny handful on amazon, and every time I think about promoting to get my amazon sales going, I have to remind myself to be patient and keep writing.
Thanks and have a great week, Kris! 🙂
“Let’s assume you’ve written a good novel. In fact, let’s assume you’ve written several good novels. No distributor has picked up those books and no one is buying the e-copies. Word of mouth hasn’t even started yet. There’s no hope it ever will…”
“Back in the early days of self-publishing, a great story hidden in a book with a low price and crap cover could sell. Honestly, that’s how Amanda Hocking’s books sold. That woman can tell a story, but her covers were bad and interiors worse.”
Such a relief to read those words! I have a teeny tiny trickle of readers who are not friends and family. One or two have been moved to write lovely, positive reviews. But, mostly, word of mouth has not started.
Because of the reviews by complete strangers, I think my stories are good.
I’ve come to the conclusion that my blurbs still need serious work. And likely my covers, while attractive, aren’t quite close enough to reader expectations. But I’m very new at all this. Hearing the voice of experience is reassuring.
I’ll certainly echo the sentiment that “these aren’t things you can learn quickly.” Indeed! I’m a year and two workshops better at them than when I started in December 2011. But I’m clearly not yet where I need to be!
In spite of that, I’m encouraged. I can keep learning. I can keep improving. With continued effort, I’ll get there!
Deans “Pitches and Blurbs” online workshop is very good. It will make you wince at some of the things you’ve done, 😉 but it will also get you writing good copy. It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it. Short descriptions of the book and author are your introduction to readers, and your best chance to find readers who like your style of writing.
J.M., for learning pitches and blurbs, I recommend Kris and Dean’s online workshop. You’ll get plenty of practice at writing ad copy, plus informative comments from the instructor and some insight into how New York works (or doesn’t) at writing ad copy.
LOL! That was one of the workshops I took. I agree that it is fabulous and I learned a ton. I’m much better now at writing cover copy than when I arrived there on the coast for the workshop! Thing is, I arrived utterly clueless. Had no idea in the world how to write a blurb. Now I know how, but I can’t always pull it off! So I’m working to get better at putting theory into action.
Great post to remind of us what is really important–the book! Besides doing a great cover and blurb which I have to work on. Those burbs can be hard. I was just reading some on some bestsellers. I don’t know if I likes them or not. They were kind of dry but because of the author I bought them.
Thanks for another great post, Kris. I’ll link this over on one board I frequent, but I have little hope that it will resonate with most of the posters there.
They’re all looking for the magical key to selling books, and don’t seem to get the point that what they _are_doing doesn’t work.
Good book. Good blurb. Good cover. Wash, rinse, repeat. Sprinkle in a pinch of luck.
I know how you feel, Sheila. I recently made a comment in a LinkedIn discussion about how much time marketing was taking away from the author’s writing time. My remark that perhaps she should stop marketing and write the next book seemed to go way over her head. I commented that I seem to manage sales without marketing, so clearly tweeting and Facebook fan pages and all of the other stuff they were spending time with was unnecessary.
Her response was something along the lines of ‘People can’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists,’ as though it were impossible for readers to discover books or authors they’ve never heard of (there’s a reason there are tags and categories and search engines).
I spent an hour writing up three or four different responses and I finally tossed it all and decided I was probably better off talking to a brick wall. Other writers in the discussion seconded that author’s opinion and I realized none of them were willing to accept that what they were doing was driving people nuts, including themselves.
Re: the last bit of my comment. I’m not going to ask people around town if they want to read my book. I’m just going to leave copies around town in cafés and stuff. Or is this a stupid idea?
Oh. Why not ask the cafes if they’ll carry your book for a percentage of teh cover price? Let people buy the books. Some of our local authors who write about beach stuff do that here and discover a whole new audience (slowly, of course)
That is a brilliant idea! Why didn’t I think of that? It’s because you’re the pro. Thank you so much for your advice. I’d be lost without your’s and Dean’s blogs.
I’m just experienced. 🙂 I’m glad you’ll do that. The book sounds like fun.
I feel like you wrote this blog post specifically for me because I did this a few weeks ago. There I was, looking at my Amazon KDP bookshelf. My short stories were selling okay and I had a couple of good reviews on them. However, my only novel was selling just 1-2 copies per day. I’d only had my novel published for a few weeks when I randomly decided to join KDP Select on a Thursday. Little did I know that disaster would strike from that asinine choice of mine.
On that same Thursday I created a blog, a twitter account and a facebook page under my author pen name (Katya Starkey). I followed hundreds of Chick Lit readers in the UK. I tweeted constantly about my free book over the next 5 days, starting on Friday. Eventually, I connected my facebook to my twitter so that all my status updates were repeated onto twitter. After reading a blog post that provided a link to online book listers, I signed my book up as free on loads of different eBook sites.
I was amazed by the end of the freebie promo. My book had been downloaded thousands of times. More downloads than I ever thought possible. Then the reviews started showing up on Amazon UK and Amazon USA. I got a couple of nice reviews, but even those complained about the robots I stuck into my Chick Lit novel.
I was devastated. I had fun writing my book. I couldn’t understand why most people hated it. And then I realised what I did wrong. I mixed genres and I’d targeted the wrong readers. My novel cover looked like a regular Chick Lit and the description of the book didn’t mention robots at all.
So I changed it. I re-published my book with the original cover and description it was supposed to have. Before the first publication I was advised not to publish it with a robot on the cover and to leave the robots out of the book description. Well that turned out to be a huge misjudgement! Now my book is just sitting there on Amazon with bad reviews. No one is buying it. Well, there have been a couple of sales since the freebie giveaway, but not this week.
Basically, all those readers who downloaded my novel expecting a regular Chick Lit were disappointed with my outlandish book. Now no one will trust my books if I publish under this pen name again. So I’m not going to. I’m just writing regular Chick Lit novels now. Definitely not inclusive of things like robots! I’m keeping my new regular Chick Lit novels to myself. I might publish them under a new pen name in future, but I’m not sure. I’m just the stupidest person on the planet and I have no idea how to do this self-publishing thing properly.
I have learned from this experience though. I’ve learned never to do KDP Select again. I’ve learned that I love staying the hell off the internet. I’ve learned that I should never deceive readers. If I do publish under this pen name again it will only be my crazy bonkers supernatural Chick Lit that I’m fond of writing. I don’t know why I like writing wacky stuff. I just do.
If my books ever sell well one day then maybe actual book stores will stock them on their shelves. I for one, however, am NEVER going to ask anyone to read any of my books ever again. Not even family and friends, and certainly not at book stores. If they sell, they sell. If they don’t then I’m used to that.
I was thinking about publishing 7 of my regular Chick Lit novels at the same time under a new pen name. Well, 1 per week. Is this a bad idea? I was then going to order a few paperback copies of my books and give them out for free around town to maybe try and generate word-of-mouth interest. Is this a bad plan too?
I think you should pull the book down, change its title, put the good cover on it and the great blurb, and then put it back up. All you will lose are the bad reviews. 🙂
And while you took many good lessons out of your experience, the one you shouldn’t have taken is not to write quirky stuff. Write quirky stuff. Embrace it. Just warn readers it’s coming in the cover and blurbs. And let the Chick Lit novels that aren’t quirky have different covers and non-quirky blurbs.
One per week on the Chick lit sounds like a good idea. Giving away free books, not so much. Most people don’t value free and are willing to make nasty comments on free stuff that they don’t make on other things.
Sounds like you’re doing well, though. Have fun with the writing. That’s the best thing of all.
Thank you so much for your response. My head was all over the shop and I had no clue how to move forward. Now I know that I can still have fun with my writing. And no more freebies ever again. Sheesh. xx
You’re welcome. People always say hurtful things about the writing you love the most. The thing to do is learn how to ignore them. That’s why I tell writers not to read reviews and to have fun with their writing. Glad you’re going back to that.
I, personally, have read all the Generic Chick Lit I care to. There are endless reams of it, a lot of it free.
Now, Chick Lit With Robots, I haven’t seen much of that and would be way more interested. It’s not a genre that’s been run into the ground.
I’d look into it. As long as it’s on Nook.
I agree. Robot Chick Lit sounds great to me. But I’m a sci-fi fan first. And also a Nook fan. Go for it, Katya.
Katya, I hope you stick your head in and see this. This is the type of Chick Lit I want to read. I loved books like Undead and Unwed or White Trash Zombie, and over the last few years, they all disappeared. Something as simple as changing the title to My Big Fat Robot Wedding would have had me checking out your book.
Please put up an e-book version too! Contact D2D or Smashwords for distribution! Go Katya! (I’d do my robot dance for you, but it’s pretty bad. LOL)
Suzan: If you’re an aspiring writer and also a fan of the White Trash Zombie series by Diana Rowland, you might be interested to know that Ms. Rowland has taken part in a series of podcasts on writing at http://www.writingpodcastonline.com/.
The thought of tweeting my books endlessly makes no sense to me. I don’t like when people do that kind of crap to me, so why would I turn around and do that to someone else?
Those indies harassing that bookstore in Berkeley and other bookstores need to get a grip and knock it off. They’re making it bad for the rest of us who don’t stoop to such shrill, inane actions.
This is why I’m so glad I found your and Dean’s sites when I did, early on in this e-revolution thing, because your advice is sane and well thought out about a writing career.
Remember when in my last comment I told you about me dropping in bookstores in Paris ? It was in the beginning. Since then, I’ve learnt to obtain signing sessions in commercial cultural centers like FNAC (not Fnac because the margin they take is too large).
And you are right about beginners pricing rightly their books. My first self-published novel (I had written another between 2001 and 2003 I chose to never publish, because it was not good) is priced 21 euros (for a 362 pages 15 x 23 paperback), and it has sold more than 1500 in paper and 350 ebooks.
So the price was not a problem for the first volume, but with my sale method (hand selling), it was more for the second and will be for the third (24 euros this one, 556 pages), I expect.
Please, note writers do not always come into bookstores to show their books. There are also published writers who come there to verify if their books are on the shelves.
The only time I was published in 2009, I did it in order to check if bookstores could order my new published book with their computer. I was wise to do so, because it turned out bookstores couldn’t do it conveniently with their database.
You know, in France publishers have to pay a fee for their books to be easily accessible in that database. I knew that, and I didn’t trust my publisher, so I checked. It’s not bad to confront oneself to the reality, because it help us make the good decisions (and your blog is a very good reality-checker).
On the advertising side, I just had an idea this morning. I will not pay for an ad, of course. I’ve designed the ad, not to say “buy my book”, but to put a smile on one’s face, so we’ll see. I hate to annoy people.
By the way, sorry to have talked about my books. Again. Howard Wolowitz’s syndrome, I guess.
My ad campaign has been shared twice on Facebook today, which by my standards is huge (my promo posts are practically never shared).
The medal has its reverse, though. I think if you do very well promoting, you can begin to enjoy it. If you sense you have traction.
The risk : beginning researching traction, and writing no more. So promoting has always a fine line, a delicate balance to find.
You’re an island of rock-solid clarity in a sea of liquid marketing, Kris. Thanks for the post. I actually *enjoy* pretending to be Moviefone voice.
Your advice to build a fanbase struck a chord in me, because this is precisely what’s happened in the music business in the last decade or more. Artists such as the Dave Matthews Band built an enormous following on their own, through incessant touring, and approached the music labels with some power, dignity, and lack of supplication. It’s the best way to enter a negotiation.
Question: I know that there is no right answer to this, but from YOUR perspective (with your commensurate decades of experience versus my own two scant years and eight scant titles) … at how many titles might it be appropriate to begin approaching bookstores/distributors? Five titles? Ten? Twenty? Or should it be measured by number of sales?