Book Marketing: Sweetening Your Royalty Stream


© 2018, Charles S. Weinblatt

Congratulations!  You have produced your book. You are a published author! What’s next?  What should you do to enhance sales?

In today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing retail book market, even trade-published authors cannot count on someone else to successfully market your book. So, you will need to chip in with some time and effort to make your book a smashing retail success.

What marketing tasks must you accomplish as the author? Why an author platform?

Because of the changing nature of the publishing world and the revolution in electronic book purchasing, someone needs to market your book throughout the Internet world.  Because this work is extremely labor-intensive and detail-oriented, few publishers have the time, employees or enthusiasm to make electronic marketing successful. This is where the author must step in, with the motivation to work hard on behalf of your own book. The bad news is that there is a lot of work for the author to do. The good news is that almost no expertise or money is required.

Viral marketing ideas:

What should you do to help reach readers?  Contact local newspapers, magazines and blogs to solicit articles about you and reviews for your book. Reach out to local bookstores and arrange for book signings. In some cases, you can sell books on your own through local organizations. Keep in mind that institutional sales often include repeat sales, year after year, such as with schools, encyclopedias and libraries.

Try to obtain reviews and interviews about your book everywhere in your town. One of the fastest ways to solicit business for your book is through the media. Since positive reviews sell books, contact regional newspapers, libraries, schools, magazines and book clubs. They are a great place to start. When you encounter serious interest, send them a review copy.

But, the world is a lot bigger than your neighborhood.  If you want a great many people to read your book, you will need to create a much more global electronic marketing campaign. Fortunately, almost all of this can be accomplished with your computer.  Better yet, it won’t cost you a dime.

First, create a viral marketing campaign. Viral marketing means any way that social media allows for people to continue to spread the word on their own electronically. The obvious examples include web pages, blogs, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, video marketing (You Tube) and all other electronic means of spreading the word about your book. It sounds difficult. In reality, it is simple and free.

Use effective KEY WORDS, so that search terms in Google or other search engines will easily help readers find places where your book is sold.  Test your key words often for accuracy. Modify them as necessary.

Identify local people, places and organizations relevant to your book or your potential readers. Contact them in an effort to make them aware of your book. Ask if you can give a presentation to groups, if appropriate.

Contact regional newspapers, journals, magazines, TV and radio stations with a sales pitch for your book, or for your as an author. Personal interest broadcasters are always seeking new ideas and people. The more personal your effort, the easier it is to achieve success. Always try to tie your book or its subject to regional events, history, activities or to local people.

E-mail marketing is inexpensive and fast.  However, your sales pitch must grab the reader’s interest quickly.  You must construct an e-mail cover page that is informative, has embedded links to your web sites and the publisher and will sell the value of your book instantly.  More about e-mail marketing later in this article. 

Web site marketing:

Never rely on the public finding your one book landing page, or even your publisher’s web site, if you’re lucky enough to have someone else working for your book’s success.  Anyone can create a free web page for his or her book.  Just visit Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, WordPress, BlogSpot, Goodreads, or Facebook and begin building your site.  There are many other Internet sites where you can build a web site or market for free, not the least of which is LinkedIn.  The instructions are simple and fast.  The more pages that you create for your book, the more chances buyers will discover it.

For example, I created a free web page that includes many detailed facts about my book (Jacob’s Courage), including review excerpts, historical data and links to my Blogs and web sites, as well as my publisher.  To keep readers on the site, I added dozens of interesting and useful links about the Holocaust.  You can see this web site here.

I created another web site that includes a syllabus for my book, packed with features and reasons why people should purchase it.  You can see that web page here.  Connect these web pages to each other via links.  This is FREE.  All it takes is some of your time.

The secret to success with Internet web sites is to make them interesting and to use effective key words.  Key words (a.k.a. “tags”) are the way that search engines find web pages.  For example, if you Google “Holocaust love story,” you will find many useful references to me and to my book.  Select your key words very carefully.  The more accurate, distinct, descriptive and appealing your key words, the better the chance that search engines will uncover your book.

Some people recommend that you give away downloadable copies of your book on the Internet, as a marketing tool.  Publishers may disagree.  However, if you allow someone to download your e-book, or e-mail it to them, there is a chance that they will enjoy it and tell their friends about it. Someone recently asked if I was disappointed that so many people were reading my book from the local library, rather than paying for it at a bookstore. I don’t mind at all.  People who enjoy your book will tell friends and family about it. In the end, giving away books judiciously is a viable sales tool.

There is no limit to the number of web pages that you can create.  The more times you create a new web page, and the more times you update an existing page, the more times you refine and enhance your key words/tags, the more times people will discover your book.  Continue to perform maintenance on your key words and update your sites with continuously with new tags and links.

Before you are done, go to this web page.  Here you will be able to submit your book’s web  sites to Google’s search manager. This step is critical, so that your web sites will appear on as many future Google searches as possible.

Blogs:

Blogging about your book, blogging as a writer or writing on other blogs can be a powerful tool to increase sales. Anyone can create a blog for free and use it to promote a book.  I Blog on two of my own sites.  You can see them here and here. Blog about anything of interest to you, or any particular expertise you have acquired. It doesn’t have to be related to your book. Note that you can easily promote your book on blog pages, through links and sidebar widgets. Just be sure to sign off each post as, “Author of …” below your name. And use hyperlinks to activate the name of your book and your name.

Using Google to find appropriate marketing opportunities:

Anyone can use Google to search for any key words with a feature called “Google Alerts.” Simply visit this Google page and you’ll be able to program Google to search the web continuously, snagging every article, book, news item and relevant site to your book and its needs. You’ll not only know the latest news about the topic of your book, you’ll also be able to effectively measure the value of your prior marketing efforts for quality.

Importantly, you can also comment on other people’s blogs, vastly increasing your book’s visibility. For example, my book is about the Holocaust. I use the above Google search feature to troll the Internet searching for Holocaust key words. When I find Internet newspaper or magazine articles about the Holocaust, I visit the site, evaluate it for marketing viability and decide whether it is a useful marketing tool about my book.  When Google finds other blogs and pages that are Holocaust-related, I comment there about Jacob’s Courage.

Similarly, you can comment on articles in magazines and newspapers via their Internet versions. In some cases, you will need to register.  It’s usually free and the time you put into registering is a small price to pay for the ability to promote your book in future iterations of that newspaper or magazine. Most Internet news media allow reader comments after an article.  When you find an article related to your book, write your comment and then sign your name and, “Author of …” after your name.  Be sure to include the title and the sales URL of your book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Facebook fan page, etc..  If possible, add a link to your best web site under the name of your book.

Write articles:

Anyone can write articles and have them published on the Internet. Where is your expertise? What’s your book about? In what way can you provide people with valuable information?

Writing articles is not simple or swift. You may need to conduct some research. Take your time and write carefully. Your topic need not be connected with your book. For example, my book is about the Holocaust, yet I have had articles published on topics as wide ranging as publishing, psychology, Judaism, life, death, WWII and philosophy.

There are many free places to publish your articles, including TRCB, Ezine and Blogger.

LinkedIn is another terrific place to market your books. I’ve discovered that tens of thousands of readers and authors populate many more tens of thousands of group message boards in LinkedIn. Find one in which you can share some expertise. Then, within your posts there, find some unobtrusive way to share information about your book(s). Even if you simply sign off with your name and the name of your book, you can include a link or an embedded link below your name, or in the name of your book. I track most sales of my published books and I saw a significant increase in sales after I posted in various LinkedIn groups related to writing, publishing or books. There are many more. It’s not why I went there; but a side effect is more royalties.

Publish Articles:

I had excellent success publishing articles about a number of topics. In many cases, no experience as a published author is required. Two of the best places to start are Ezine and TRCB  My book is about Judaism, but I look for a chance to write articles about it that will be distributed on various web sites for all faiths. Again, sign off with your name and the name of your book underneath and copyright each article.  If they allow it, add the reverse-link to your best landing page.

Establish a Goodreads account. Goodreads is a web site for readers and authors.  It is a terrific place to see and be seen. There is no more natural place to sell your book’s value to potential readers. Although Goodreads is not a retail site, it offers an opportunity to network with other authors who have similar interests and problems.

Social networking:

Join as many social networking sites as possible. Twitter, LinkedIn,  Google, Facebook, You Tube, WeChat, Tumblr, Skype, Snap Chat, Google+, Pinterest, Telegram, Reddit, Instagram, Goodreads, …  They are all valuable ways to make your book known.  At each of these social networking sites, you can create a profile, including a description of your book and stores where it is sold. Be sure to create a Facebook fan page for your book, spread the word about  it and update it frequently. Join groups within the sites that are related to your book, writing, being published and anything related to the topic. Join groups of interest and related to your book. You can reach many thousands of people within these groups.

Amazon:

Amazon is not only a place to sell your book. It is a place to post a blog (“Amazon Author Page”). Amazon’s “filedby” includes an author biography where you can post relevant articles. Also within Amazon, each content section has forums in which people start topics or respond to the topics of others. Amazon forums are as wide ranging as history, historical fiction, war, genocide, love stories, religion, literature, etc.  Again, each time you write, sign off with your name and the title of your book (“author of…”). You will instantly have the potential to reach thousands of readers.

Create a review for any relevant book sold there that you have read. (“Create Your Own Customer Review”). Be sure to write, “Author of …” after your name. Every time someone reads your review of that book, the name of your book will appear. Since the reader is already on Amazon, they can purchase your book by typing its name at the top of the page.  You can review as many books as you wish, each time marketing your own book under your name.

Email marketing:

You can personally contact tens of thousands of critical people and organizations with e-mail. Never count on a publisher doing this. They can only dream of having the time and labor to accomplish such a task. All that you need are e-mail addresses, an effective sales letter and some time.

As an example, my Holocaust book could be sold at any Holocaust museum or Jewish center in the English-speaking world.  I used a Google search to locate the Association of Holocaust Organizations (AHO).  Each member of the AHO, throughout the United States is listed, with an e-mail address. All that was left for me to do was to create an effective e-mail cover letter and send it to each one electronically.

Since we have already established the danger in using attachments that people fear opening, you must embed links instead.  This is very simple and very fast.  Below is an example of one of my e-mail marketing letters:

“Greetings.  I am the author of historical fiction framed within the Holocaust called Jacob’s Courage  (2015, Texas Tech University Press).  A retired university administrator; I was also published for nonfiction in 1986, for non-fiction again in 2011 and then twice more for fiction.  Jacob’s Courage is a tender coming of age love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. This popular historical novel presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz.  It explores the dazzling beauty of passionate love and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. From desperate despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, Jacob’s Courage examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.

Jacob’s Courage is sold through all major booksellers. Reviews include Jewish Book World and the Association of Jewish Libraries. You can read some of the other reviews more extensively at the Amazon siteJacob’s Courage is also a Kindle Book.  A syllabus is here.

Would you care to write an article about Jacob’s Courage, interview me or review the novel?  May I send you the e-reviewer’s copy?

Feel free to contact me at XXXXXXX.XXX or by telephone at XXX.XXX.XXXX.  Thank you for your kind attention.

Sincerely,

Note that hyperlinks are vastly superior to typing in lengthy Internet addresses.

Your e-mail message should be brief and concise – less than one page.  Embed the right web sites, contact information, reviews, sales links and media successes.  The e-mail is only designed to grab their interest, so be brief. The embedded web sites and relevant links will sell your book. At least one of your embedded web sites should allow the reader to instantly purchase the book. In my e-mail message above, the reader can buy the book instantly through the publisher’s site or through Amazon, with only one click required to reach the site.

I created four web sites for my book and I provide a few interesting articles as well.  This  took only a few days to create and modify them to my tastes. It cost nothing.  In fact, some large Internet companies, like Google, will pay you per click if you allow them to advertise on your site. Instead of paying for web site development, create your own and make money by selling advertising on it. Learn more about the affiliate program.

Embedding Internet hyperlinks into your e-mail cover page is simple.  In many e-mail programs that use Word as an editor, you can right-click on any word and then select the button for “Hyperlink.” Follow the instructions to embed the hyperlink. That word will appear in all future e-mail versions of your letter in blue. When your reader clicks on the blue word (while compressing the “Control” key), your web site will emerge in their browser.  Try it with the sample e-mail paragraph above.

Conclusion:

The world of book marketing and sales is undergoing considerable rapid change.  People who formerly explored the world of books and purchased them at their local bookstore increasingly do this now on the Internet. The Internet is filled with web sites, social networking locations and blogs that can be used to attract the public to one’s book and accomplish the sale with a few mouse clicks.

The author can solicit reviews, articles and sales by creating several attractive and concise web pages and by implementing an effective e-mail marketing campaign, right from their own computer – and it is cost free.

Since publishers are still required to edit, print, distribute and market in traditional ways, and since they have fewer staff due to lower margins, it falls upon the author to accomplish many new tasks related to electronic marketing and sales.

Marketing your book is time consuming and sometimes frustrating.  But do not count on your publisher, a publicist, an agent or anyone else to accomplish critical tasks, particularly if you are a new author. Remember that in fiction, the quality of your author platform means everything. Be willing to implement your own marketing with web sites, blogs, a Facebook fan page, regular Twitter posts and e-mail. The harder your effort, the larger your royalty checks will be.

Charles S. Weinblatt\

Author, “Jacob’s Courage

 

 

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7 TIPS FROM A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIST FOR STRENGTHENING YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE


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Reprinted with permission from The Greatest Escapist.

I’m a proud Clevelander, an incurable writer, an unabashed liberal, a neurotic Jew, & a chronic, unapologetic oversharer. I’ve been sharing my stories here since 2007.”

I love when people think that writing is my full-time job, but alas, it isn’t. I work a 9-to-5 (OK, more like a 10-to-6) at a nonprofit organization, where I’m responsible for writing & editing, yes, but also for lots & lots of social media management. My background is in journalism, but social media was just gaining traction during my college years, & as a communications major, I fell into it naturally. You could say social media & I have grown up together – or at least grown together. We’ve both come a long way!

I’ve done a little bit of social media consulting on the side, but mostly I just like to engage in on-the-fly conversations with friends & small business owners who have one-off questions or just want quick tips for building their social media presence. I know, I know, don’t give away your expertise for free – but I like it.

Here are the seven most common quick tips I like to share with folks who are struggling to get a grasp on their social media presence. Please consider forwarding it to someone you know who’s having a hard time Internetting!

1. Make time. 

Especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you, set aside a little time each day – on your clock or calendar! – to devote to social media scheduling, engagement, etc.

2. Use scheduling tools. 

No one wants to spend all damn day online, social media professionals included (& perhaps especially!) I love Hootsuite, Sprout Social, & Facebook’s native engagement tool for setting it & forgetting it while remaining consistent in posting.

3. Engage with others!

If a tree falls in the forest & no one is there to hear it… same with social media. Retweet, share, praise, ask questions, etc. Your social media voice shouldn’t exist in a vacuum.

4. Vary your content from platform to platform.

Switch it up, rather than cross-posting the same thing over & over on all of them (& for goodness sake, don’t set up auto-crossposting!). These platforms are different for a reason, & different presentations work best for each of them. You’ll see the most engagement & have the most success if your messaging is tailored for the medium.

5. Post different kinds of content. 

Sometimes, post a teaser link, other times a photo or a branded graphic, or a retweet-with-comment, or a direct share, or a video, or a Spotifty playlist, etc. See what works best for your audience & which kinds of posts give you the greatest levels of engagements.

6. Google is your BFF. 

Have a social media question? Someone has definitely already answered it online. Stick with reliable sources, a la Mashable, Hubspot, & other industry professionals.

7. Ask a pro. 

Still not sure you’re doing it right or want direct feedback? Hire a professional to help you sort out your social media presence & get on the right track. Lots of folks with full-time marketing/writing gigs do social media consulting on the side (like me, or Brittany from According to Brittany), so you should be able to find someone at a reasonable price, whatever your range.

Reprinted with permission. http://www.greatestescapist.com/2017/10/7-tips-from-social-media-strategist.html?m=1

How to Reach More Readers with Ebook Preorders


Reprinted with permission from Smashwords:

If you’re planning to publish a book in the next 12 months, this post will teach you how to use ebook preorders to reach more readers.  You’ll learn why an ebook preorder is an ESSENTIAL component of every successful book launch.

Two years ago Smashwords announced preorder distribution to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. At the time, I promised that ebook preorders would help our authors sell more books.  This has proven true.

Books born as preorders sell significantly more copies than books that are simply uploaded the day of release.

I recently analyzed 12 months of Smashwords sales data in preparation for the upcoming release of my annual 2015 Smashwords Survey.  Here’s a quick sneak peek preview of what we found:

  • 7 of our top 10 bestsellers were born as preorders
  • 67% of our top 200 bestsellers were born as preorders
  • Of our top 200 bestselling preorders, 81% were supplied by romance authors
  • Books born as preorders represented only 9.8% of the books released at Smashwords during this 12-month Survey period

So there you have it.  A small fraction of our titles were released as preorders, yet those titles absolutely dominated the bestseller lists.

The good news is that preorders work like magic.  Preorders are the single most powerful book launch tool today.  The bad news is that most authors aren’t doing preorders yet.  Let’s fix that starting today.  I’ll teach you how to make preorders work for your next book release.

I think the reason most Smashwords authors haven’t done preorders in the past is that prior to today (June 17, 2015), we required the author to upload the full and final manuscript to establish the preorder. That put authors in the tough position of having to weigh the benefits of immediate release against the benefits of releasing the book later as a preorder.

Earlier today we announced a solution to this quandary – the assetless preorder.  With today’s assetless preorder announcement, authors can establish preorders up to 12 months in advance without the book.  You simply provide us the metadata (title, release date, price, book description and categorization) and then we’ll get the listing established at iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

In this post, I’ll explain how preorders work, how indie authors and publishers can integrate preorders into their next book launch, and I’ll share proven and effective strategies to maximize the results of your preorder.

What’s an eBook Preorder?

An ebook preorder is an advance book listing at the ebook retailer.  Preorders allow readers to place an advance reservation for your book.  Their credit card is not charged until the book is released to them when it officially goes on sale.  iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo all list assetless preorders delivered via Smashwords.

The Six Biggest Benefits of Ebook Preorders

Ebook preorders give you incremental advantage in the battle for reader eyeballs.  Here’s why incremental advantages are so important:  Ebook sales are characterized by the power curve phenomena, where each incremental increase in sales rank earns the author an exponential increase in sales.  A book ranked #1 in a store might sell triple the number of copies of a book ranked #10, and a book ranked #10 might sell double or triple the number of titles as the #20 bestseller.

The more best practices you implement well, the more your sales rank will shift to the left of the curve (learn the most important best practices in my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success).

Most indie authors are already well-versed in the necessary best practices of great writing, great editing, great cover design, great distribution and a fair price.  It’s time that every author add ebook preorders to their repertoire of the most important best practices .

Preorders are like the difference between driving in gridlocked traffic or skipping over to the commuter lane.  Preorders are a fast track to greater visibility, discoverability and sales.

Let’s examine the six benefits of ebook preorders:

1.  Preorders enable more effective advance book marketing – Most authors, as they’re writing their next book, communicate their progress to fans on their blog, Facebook, Twitter and private mailing lists.  Preorders allow you to capture the reader’s order at the moment you have their greatest attention and interest.  Without a preorder link, a reader who’s ready to purchase today may forget about your book by the time it comes out, or they might lose interest between now and then.  Capture the order!

2.  Preorders enable advance buzz-building – It’s human nature that things coming in the future are often more interesting that what’s out already.  You can’t get any newer than a book that’s not out yet.  Preorders allow you to build reader anticipation leading up to your official release.  The anticipation will be greatest in the minds of your superfans – those readers who already love your writing.

3.  Fast track to bestseller lists – This is the ultimate magic of preorders.  All major retailer bestseller lists rank books on unit sales.  Their sales rank algorithms weigh sales made in the most recent 12-24 hours more heavily than sales made two days ago or two weeks ago.  At iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, all of your accumulated orders credit to your book’s sales rank the day your book officially goes on sale.  This causes your book to spike in the charts.  Since customers use bestseller lists to find their next read, higher-ranked books become more visible and more desirable to readers.  This sparks a virtuous, self-reinforcing cycle of more sales leading to more sales.  Preorders also help maximize your odds of appearing in major national bestseller lists by concentrating a greater number of sales into a shorter period of time.  There’s strong evidence a well-timed preorder will maximize your odds of hitting the NY Times and USA Today lists.  A strong preorder also increases your odds of appearing in the monthly Smashwords/Publishers Weekly Bestseller list because you can concentrate multiple months of accumulated sales into a single sales month.

4.  Same-day availability at multiple retailers – By delivering your book in advance to multiple retailers, your book will go onsale the same day at each retailers.  The reason:  The advance delivery of your ebook to retailers gives them more time to receive, process and load your book.  At or near the stroke of midnight on release day (some retailers release at different times depending on time zone), the book is automatically released to customers.

5.  Better reviews – Since your fans and superfans are the most likely to place preorders (because they already trust that everything you write is super-awesome), they’ll be the first to receive your book when it goes onsale, the first to read it and the first to review it.  You want your superfans to be the first to review your book, because strong reviews out of the gate attract more sales.

6.  Increased merchandising opportunities – If your book is available for preorder, you enjoy more merchandising opportunities. There are two types of merchandising – automated and human-curated.  Automated:  When readers are viewing any of your books, the store will display your preorder alongside your other titles.  If the preorder is part of a series, it’ll appear alongside your other series titles (Smashwords authors: Make sure you’re taking advantage of the Smashwords Series Manager tool because retailers use this information to link your preorder to your other series titles).   Human-curated:  A strong-performing preorder increases the odds that the store’s merchandising team will feature your book because it gives them confidence to know that your book is highly anticipated by readers.  At Smashwords, we actively promote our best-performing preorders to the merchandising managers at our retail partners.

Planning Your Preorder

Think of a runway.  Jet aircraft need long runways so they can build up enough speed to take flight.  Preorders work the same way.  The more time your book is listed as a preorder, the more time you have to accumulate orders for that all-important first-day pop in the charts.

Look at your publishing schedule for the next 12 months and get everything up on preorder today.  The longer the runway the better.  But even if you only have one week of runway, it still gives you an incremental advantage.  Every accumulated order counts!

To understand the critical importance of a long runway, let’s look at how accumulated orders can add up.

If your book is available for preorder for three months (90 days), and you average one order a day at a given retailer you’ll have 90 orders by the time your book goes onsale.  At iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, 90 orders will probably land you in the top 100 bestseller list for your genre or category.  Five orders per day would get you 450 orders, enough to land you in the top 10 for your genre or category at some retailers.  Ten orders a day would get you almost 1,000 accumulated orders, enough to land you in the top 10 store-wide lists at many retailers, and possibly even #1 in some stores.  These numbers aren’t hard and fast.  It really depends on the competition of what else is being released on the same day.  Many of our authors have released with thousands of  accumulated orders on day one.

Timing Your Preorder

What day of the week is best for a book release?  I can share some considerations to help you make a more informed decision. As you’ll see, there are potential pros and cons on different days.

You face more competition on Tuesdays – Most major NY publishers release their books on Tuesdays.  Because most big publishers are using preorders as part of their book launches (another reason you should too!), this means you’re likely to face more competition on Tuesdays for the top spots in the bestseller charts.

Saturday and Sunday are the biggest ebook buying days – Weekends are typically the biggest ebook-buying days at the retailers.  If you time your preorder to release on a Saturday or Sunday, you’ll face less competition from traditional publishers, and you’ll chart higher on day when more readers are searching the bestseller lists for their weekend read.

Sit-down holidays can be slow, but post-holidays are great – Avoiding major sit-down family-gathering holidays for release dates.  For example, Thanksgiving and Christmas day, many readers will be occupied with family gatherings.  However, the days after holidays are some of the biggest book-buying days of the year.  December 26 through around January 7 is typically the year’s best ebook sales period based on our past experience.  Keep in mind, however, that some ebook stores go into lock-down mode and don’t list new titles during certain holiday days.  At Smashwords, we’ll usually start listing these blackout dates at Smashwords Site Updates around mid November so you can plan accordingly.

Sundays and Mondays are good for NY Times and USA Today Lists – Consider releasing on a Sunday or Monday if you want to maximize your odds of hitting a major list such as New York Times and USA Today.  I’ve heard these two start their sales reporting weeks starting Sunday and Monday.  I’ll state up front that it’s tough to find reliable information on how these bestseller lists are compiled, and which retailers report sales to which lists (for example, I know iBooks reports to USA Today and Kobo has stated they report to the New York Times).  You should assume that all retailers report to the major lists, so if your books aren’t in every store you might harm your chances of hitting a national list.

For the Smashwords/Publishers Weekly bestseller list, early in the month is better – To maximize your odds of making the monthly Smashwords/Publishers Weekly bestseller list, release the first few days of the new month so you can concentrate the prior weeks’ preorders and the following week’s sales into a single month.  When I look at the SW/PW Top 25 bestseller list for the month of April 2015 for example, most of the new releases that made the list started life as a preorder.

Four Tips to Market and Promote Your Preorder

Simply by releasing your book as a preorder, it’s no guarantee of success.  To maximize your preorder’s results, it’s important to take steps to drive readers to it!

Here are four marketing and promotion tips:

1.  Plan an aggressive, multi-week, multi-part marketing campaign – If you’re planning a multi-week preorder period, plan a different buzz-building promotion for each week.  Do contests, chapter reveals, giveaways, and blog tours.  Basically, anything you would do for a book launch, start doing it as soon as your preorder is listed.  And thanks to your preorder, you can capture reader orders at the moment each campaign element hits.  Be sure to promote direct hyperlinks to your preorder pages for each retailer in all your promotions.  This makes it easier for fans to click once and then order with another click.  If you distribute through Smashwords, this means you’ll want to link to preorder pages at iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  Since the preorder listing will go live on different days at each retailer (iBooks is the fastest, often same-day of upload to Smashwords, though B&N and Kobo are pretty quick too), you can make each appearance a cause for celebration and promotion.

2.  Mobilize your fans as your street team – As you think about fun promotion ideas, do things that incentivize your fans to spread the word.  Here are some potential ideas you might consider, and after reading these ideas you can probably think of a dozen more of your own:  1.  Offer a free Smashwords Coupon code to another of your books to any fan who emails you their preorder receipt.  2.  Offer a coupon code to any fan who takes action to spread the word about your upcoming release, such as a Facebook post linking to your preorder, or a Facebook share, or a Twitter tweet, or a blog post.  3.  Create a “Street Team Acknowledgements” section in the backmatter of your book, and let your fans know you’ll include the names of the first 50 or 100 people who take an action (such as sending you a preorder receipt, writing a blog post or Facebook post, etc).  Set a deadline for fans to show and report their support at least two weeks before the onsale date so you have plenty of time to update your backmatter with the Acknowledgements section and upload the update to Smashwords.

3.  Offer special pricing on your preorder – Let’s say your next novel will be priced at $3.99.  As a reward for your loyal readers who place a preorder, price the preorder at $2.99, and then promise to return the book to its normal price soon after it’s released.  This gives readers strong incentive to take action now rather than later.  Remember, you want to get as many orders from your most enthusiastic readers concentrated on day one as possible.  A reader who purchases your book two weeks after it goes on sale won’t move the needle on sales rank.

4.  Leverage your other books to promote your preorder – If you’ve got other books out, leverage them to drive readers to your preorder. Once your new preorder is listed at iBooks, B&N and Kobo, update the backmatter of all your other titles so they mention the upcoming preorder.  At the end of every book, add a paragraph that tells readers, “{Title Name} is coming {Month Year}.  On preorder now at select retailers. Reserve your copy today!”  Update your book’s navigation so your navigation has a link to section titled, “Upcoming Releases, ”or “Sneak Peek at {Title A}, coming June 2016!” or something similar so your Table of Contents is marketing your preorder.  Here’s a blog post and video on how to add navigation to your Smashwords ebook.  If you have a sample of your preorder book, like the first few chapters, put that in the backmatter of all your other books (or if you’re releasing book #3 in a series, place the sample at the end of book #2 as soon as the sample is ready.   Also consider doing some aggressive price promotions of your other books, including FREE promotions.   FREE books get about 40 times more downloads than books with a price, so they’re a great method of driving readers to the preorder, even if the book you’re making FREE is a standalone book, unrelated to your next book.  If you’re doing a preorder for a new book in a series, definitely consider making the series starter FREE so you can drive readers into the series and into the preorder (when I release the 2015 Smashwords Survey, I’ll share surprising numbers that prove that series with free series starters earn more than series without a free series starter).

Uploading Your Preorder

From a single upload page, Smashwords makes it easy to set up your preorder at iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. It’s easier than publishing a book.

Book not finished yet?  No problem!  Select “I will upload my
final formatted manuscript later” to get your preorder up today.

Click to the Smashwords Publish page.  As shown in the screen shot at left, in Step 1 of the publish process, simply click “Make it a preorder.”

If your final manuscript is ready for upload now, you’ll upload it as usual.

If your book’s not finished yet, no problem.  Simply take advantage of our new feature for assetless preorders (aka “Metadata-only” preorders) by selecting the “I will upload my final formatted manuscript later” option.  Your final manuscript will be due to Smashwords at least ten days in advance of your on sale date.

You’ll enter a projected word count for the book and then you’ll see several check boxes to mark “I agree.” These check box items remind you of delivery obligations.  Next, you’ll select the release date from the calendar.

Do Amazon Preorders Make Sense?

Amazon treats preorders differently than other retailers.  Unlike iBooks, B&N and Kobo which credit your accumulated orders toward your first day’s sale rank, Amazon does not.  This means that a preorder at Amazon will cannibalize your first day’s orders and therefore undermine your first day’s sales rank.  For this reason, many indie authors who upload direct to Amazon decide to skip the preorder at Amazon and simply upload to Amazon the day of release.  By uploading the day of release to Amazon, they can concentrate their sales on the first day to achieve a higher sales rank.

Although Amazon doesn’t provide accumulated credit on day one for a preorder, an Amazon preorder can still land in the charts if your daily accumulation rates warrant chart placement.  The other retailers also allow preorders to chart based on daily order accumulation rates.  And since preorders anywhere enable more effective advance marketing and buzz-building, Amazon preorders still have this benefit.

Amazon allows a three-month preorder runway, so not as much as the other retailers, and they require you to upload either a draft or final version of your book.  If you fail to deliver the final manuscript to Amazon by 11 days before your release date, on day 10 they will cancel your preorder and revoke your preorder privileges for one year.  It should go without saying that we don’t believe in such draconian punishment at Smashwords – after thousands of preorders we haven’t banned a single author when deadlines have been missed.  We understand that unanticipated delays can happen so we’ve built safety nets to support you, the retailer and your readers.

It’s your call if you do a preorder at Amazon.  It’s by no means a black and white decision.  If you’re a veritable marketing machine, for example, the benefit of marketing your book for three months in advance at Amazon might outweigh the downside of a lesser sales rank on day one.

Final Thoughts on Ebook Preorders

Ebook preorders are the most exciting new book launch tool to come along in the last seven years.  A well-executed preorder strategy will increase the visibility, desirability and sales of your book.

Despite its amazing advantages, the preorder alone is not a panacea.  Behind every successful preorder is a well-planned and well-executed preorder and a passionate author promoting a super-awesome book.

Your objective with each preorder is to make your next book launch more successful than your last.  Platform-building is all about incremental steps, building on each success as you go.  Whether each new preorder helps you grow your readership by five readers or 5,000, each increase in readership is a stepping stone to the next level.  Some of your new readers will become super fans, and super fans will buy everything you publish in the future and will evangelize your literary brilliance to other readers.

To maximize the benefit of preorders, you should always try to have at least one preorder working for you at all times.  Of course, if your next release is further out than 12 months, then wait until it’s 12 months out before you establish your preorder.

If you’re a new author, even a small number of preorders will help accelerate your ability to build readership.  Only five accumulated orders on day one could make the difference between debuting at #100 in your category or at #1,000.  Every bit of increased sales rank helps build visibility in the stores.

If you’re an established indie author with multiple books and strong ongoing sales, you’ll have even more flexibility to leverage preorders to the max.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: DON’T BECOME A VICTIM TO PREDATORS


Novice authors are often desperate to sell their books. Desperation leads to mistakes.

Assessing your talent as an author before you have been published is a very subjective experience. Inexperienced authors tend to believe that the quality of their writing is far better than it actually is. When an alleged agent or publisher tells us that our book is wonderful and that it deserves to be published, our unbounded joy may easily obscure our need for clear logic. We become our own worst enemy.

There may be more predators lurking in the dark corners of the writing and publishing world than there are in any other industry. No required education or certification process separates outstanding professional editors, agents and publishers from villains. Either you find the villain before you sign a contract, or they make easy money from you in return for… nothing.

Here’s the bottom line. Do not take compliments too highly from someone calling themselves a successful agent. The predators’ sugary sweetness is designed to convince you to play by their rules because they “will make you a famous, wealthy author.” Alleged agents may tell you who to pay to have your book properly edited. They will convince you that they will sell your book to the very best publishing houses – as they do with many new authors. They may even ask you to pay them for some kind of service before you have a publishing contract. A few hours of sincere research will uncover all types of fraudulent agents and scam agencies.

Editors are paid by you after you vet them, hire them and you are satisfied with their work. Publishers and literary agents will charge you NOTHING – EVER. The publisher will take a share from the book’s sales and pay you a royalty. Thus the motivation to sell is highest with the publisher, as sold books constitute their only opportunity to earn back your advance and gain a profit.

Agents earn money after you have signed the publishing contract by taking a share of your advance or royalty payments. If an agent asks you for money up-front, the little hairs on the back of your neck should stick up. Stay in control. Don’t be fooled by false promises or misled by agents who shower you with false glory – “if you will only pay my standard pre-publication fee.” They will mislead you by saying that they need a little money up front to conduct research, to pay for editing, or to pay a “reading fee” to a publisher’s acquisition editor. None of this is true.

YOU are responsible for fact-checking every alleged editor, agent and publisher. Never discuss an agency contract until after you have completed and evaluated a long and thorough investigation. The same process applies to researching editors. How can a novice author conduct such an investigation? Read on.

The two iconic resources for all things related to professional services in editing, agency representation and publishing are: WRITER BEWARE (http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/) and PREDATORS & EDITORS (http://pred-ed.com/). Bookmark the URLs. Use them regularly. You’ll be amazed with the volume and quality of their information, especially if you are a new author. If an editor, agent or publisher is on a “bad” list with either of those sites – BEWARE; approach with sincere caution.

You might or might not be the next Stephen King. But you can make sure that you’re not the next victim of predators masquerading as editors, agents or publishers.

Platform Means Everything to a Novice Author


There may one day be a time when paper books are iconic remnants of a tree-cutting past. But that time is still far away. Trade publishers will use their professional editors to make your book better. They will hire graphic designers to make your book more attractive and appealing. And they will handle e-book sales as well. So, why would you not want to share the profits with a publisher? Read on…

Traditional publishers will make sure that your print books are sold (and are returnable) by bookstores, where more than half of all books are still sold – and where SP books rarely exist. This constitutes a huge and very valuable market for any author.

Being trade-published is not a decision. It is the result of talent, of books that appeal to large segments of the reading public, a compelling author platform and often a plucky and well-connected literary agent. An author with the determination to contact hundreds of small and medium-sized publishers is also a critical part of the equation. Your platform will sell your talent. And your talent will enhance your platform. All of this takes time and effort. In today’s culture of instant gratification, the process of gradually building a solid author platform seems archaic. Nevertheless, it is a road that we all must travel.

Like a job seeker uses a resume to obtain an employer interview, novice authors use their platform to gain a trade publisher. Major publishing houses are not interested in SP books, unless they come from a famous author or a celebrity. But if a trade publisher decides to publish your book, you are in like Flint. That’s right. Once you have a major publisher working to sell your book, you can use the added free time to write more books and become even more attractive to publishers or to promote your book much farther and deeper than you had imagined possible..

Google your name. If many pages (not items, but pages of items) appear with positive references about your talent as an author, then you have a solid author platform. But if only a few items appear, you’ll need to enhance your platform before you can entice a major publisher or a well-connected literary agent.

How do you enhance your platform? Keep writing. Read voraciously. Read the very best authors. The more books that you read from the greatest literary authors, the more you’ll begin to borrow their best techniques. Simultaneously, do everything possible to sell your books, to obtain positive reviews from the most credible sources and to get interviewed by the best Internet, blog, radio and TV personalities. Seek appearances as a guest on a major blog. Request interviews from the most famous Internet personalities. Appear on a radio or a regional TV program. Do some public speaking about your book. Consider book tours and signings. All of this will enhance your author platform. After considerable effort, something vastly different will appear when you Google your name. You will have become a popular author.

While SP authors spend most of their time on marketing, promotion, sales and stocking, the TP author spends much of that time writing their next books. It’s true that all authors must market. But the TP author has a professional team marketing for them, giving them more time for writing instead of promotion. But the SP author must devote virtually all free time to new marketing efforts, reducing the time and resources available for writing new books.

This process can take years, although it’s easier if you have a well-connected literary agent. But… it is possible. This is the game. Learn to play by the rules.

If you decide to SP an e-book, take a long look at Smashwords. They are a distributor and a sales platform. They sell on their own web site, but their real power lies in vast distribution networks. When you use Smashwords (which is FREE), they will distribute your book to every major retailer, including Apple (iTunes), Amazon, Baker & Taylor, B&N, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and Scrollmotion. This constitutes the bulk of the world’s e-book retailers. And if you join Smashwords with a premium membership, they will format all of your books for every type of e-reader, tablet, smart phone and computer.

My experience teaches me that building a considerable author platform will, over time, lead to interest from agents and publishers. And while it may seem easy and attractive to SP, there are compelling reasons to TP. Keep in mind that we live in a time where only a few terrific SP books exist, surrounded by a massive widespread morass of SP crap. You can elevate yourself above the crap by creating a viable and powerful author platform. Should you take the time and effort to accomplish this, the literary work will become yours.

You can continue to SP and spend all of your time working on marketing and promotion. Or you can fabricate a compelling author platform, attract literary agents and become a famous TP author. Instead of using your time to promote and market, you may then use the extra time to write new books and further enhance your platform. After several successful books, you will no longer need to play the author game. You will have won.

Interview with Author Nancy Christie


Nancy Christie is the author of the fiction collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, and two short story e-books, Annabelle and Alice in Wonderland (all published by Pixel Hall Press). Her short stories can also be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and others. The founder of “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day, Christie is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers. Charles Weinblatt interviews for Author Publishing and Book Marketing:

CW: Tell us about yourself. NC: I wish I had an unusual childhood or had spent my adult years in some exotic locale but the fact is I am living in the same area where I was born, have lived in the same house for about 35 years now and although I have a passport, I have only pulled it out for domestic travel. I am a writer—plain and simple. I’ve been writing for 50 years now—that’s because I started in second grade!—and can’t imagine not writing. I’m a professional writer by trade (marketing and corporate work primarily with some magazine articles thrown in) and a fiction writer by preference, which means that there isn’t a snippet of conversation overheard or a physical contact witnessed that doesn’t get stuck somewhere in my fiction writer’s brain to be pulled out and used in one way or another.  

CW: Give us an overview of your writing/books. NC: My first book, The Gifts of Change, is an inspirational book about making the most of the changes that come into your life—even if you didn’t want them. That book was inspired by my mother’s cancer diagnosis and a number of other changes and challenges that came into my life—some desired, others, not so much. My second and current book, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, is a short fiction collection about characters who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results. So, in a way, both books deal with change—just from different perspectives.

CW: Who/what was your biggest inspiration? NC: I don’t know that I could point to any one person or event. I was always a bit of a loner and loved to read, and fortunately my parents indulged me in that. I had wonderful teachers who emphasized writing skills—spelling, grammar, and punctuation—as well as content. And then there are authors whose work is so compelling and creative that I can’t help wanting to write as well as they do, and give to others what they have given to me: journeys to places—some real, some imagined—full of fascinating characters.

CW: What has been your greatest challenge? NC: Time, for one thing. In addition to my professional work, I am caregiving for my father, and that takes up a fair bit of time, although I am glad to be able to do it and even happier that, at 92, he is still so vibrant and in good spirits. And of course, the self-doubt, the inevitable comparisons with other writers, the fear that I won’t be able to live up to the good reviews with my next project—or worse, that the good reviews I have already received are all the good reviews that I am going to get!

CW: What do you most want readers to take from your book(s)? NC: A sense of sympathy and understanding for those who are struggling through life.  It’s so easy to sit in judgment or say that we would never make the choices that others have made that led them down that path of destruction but we don’t really know that for certain, do we?So rather than be afflicted with that most dangerous of all viruses—superiority—we should instead be compassionate. It’s that whole “there but for the grace of God” thing…

CW: Are you actively trying to have your books made into a play or a movie? NC: That is my plan for 2015. I have heard about certain actors who are buying movie rights to books and so intend to pursue that possibility.

CW: What’s next for you as an author? NC: I’m working on a second collection as well as a novel that I want to pitch. But my first goal is to find an agent. (Don’t all writers say that?) My first two books were un-agented, but I think it’s time to get an expert on board and take over that part of my career.

CW: How did you pick a publisher or decide to self-publish? Do you have an agent? NC: I didn’t want to self-publish—I have neither the time nor funds to purse that path and know full well that there is more to self-publishing than just getting the book printed. For my first book, I was encouraged by the comments I received from agents—they loved the book but since I was an unknown, passed on representing me—so I researched publishers who handled first-time un-agented authors, and found my publisher relatively quickly. With Traveling Left of Center, I had already connected with Pixel Hall Press who published two of the short stories in e-book format, and so it was a natural step to work with them to publish the entire collection.

CW: Do you have suggestions to other writers about the writing process and publishing? NC: It’s a business. Treat it like one. Yes, you need to be a good writer but if you plan on being published, you also have to be a good business owner. Your book is your product. Know how to market it. Do your advance work. Expect to spend time and money doing what you need to do to get it out there. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

CW: How do you market yourself and your books? NC: I have done some in-person events—not as many as with my first book simply because I can’t travel as much with my other obligations. I blog, I do the whole social media thing, did some virtual tours and plan to do more, participate in interviews, request reviews and then, when I get them, make sure I get the word out. I send out press releases, update my book’s web page every time there is something interesting to share—basically, I do everything I can think of, and then read articles and blog posts to find even more suggestions that I need to incorporate in my marketing.

CW: Where can someone buy your books? NC: Everywhere and anywhere—from bricks-and-mortar stores like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Powell’s and other indie booksellers to online retailers like Amazon.

CW: What would you like your Writer’s Epitaph to say? NC: Fiction writer.

CW: I’m pretty sure that’s already been accomplished exceedingly well.

You can read my reviews of Nancy Christie books at The New York Journal of Books, here:

Author Platform: Reaching Readers and Gaining a Competitive Advantage


“Author Platform”: If you’re an author, your platform is your ability to reach readers. Authors who can build, maintain and leverage their platforms will have a significant competitive advantage over those who cannot. Think of author platform as a multi-layered infrastructure that allows you to reach both new and existing fans. Elements of this infrastructure include your social media followers on Twitter, Facebook and the RSS feed of their blog (social media tool). It also includes subscribers to your private mailing list. It includes your celebrity, and your ability to leverage social media or traditional media or the love of your fans to get your message out. There are two primary factors that drive sales of any product or brand. The first is awareness. If the consumer is not aware of your product or brand, then they cannot purchase it. Authors must place their product in front of a consumer and gain their attention before the consumer can consider purchasing it. The second is desire. Once a consumer is aware of your product or brand, they must desire it. The author is the brand. Your job as the author is to build awareness of your brand, and to build, earn and deserve positive desire for your brand. Awareness plus desire create demand for your product. This is why platform will become more important than ever in 2014. Your platform helps you get the message out to existing fans, those who already know and desire your brand; and, equally if not more important—your platform helps you reach new fans. The larger your platform, the more it will grow incrementally because a well-maintained platform grows organically.

——– By Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. Reprinted with permission from the AAA Books Unlimited Literary Agency October 2014 Newsletter.