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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, August 24, 2014

10 Obsolete Beliefs that Can Block Self-Publishing Success

by Anne R. Allen

New writers contact us every day, asking questions about everything from how to start their first short story (answer: butt in chair; hands on keyboard) to how to deal with trolls and bullies (don't respond; walk away; report abuse.)

We answer them allas time permits—but there's one kind of writer we can't help much: self-published writers who ask us to help them become best-sellers.

It's not that we don't empathize. We'd all love to be rocking the bestseller charts.

But unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way to make a book a bestseller, whether it's self-published or trad-published.

At least for those of us who left our magic wands at Hogwarts.

The closest thing I know to a magic wand for marketing self-published books is David Gaughran's LET'S GET VISIBLE. And no, I don't know Mr. Gaughran and he's not paying us any kickbacks. He's simply got sensible, up-to-date, no-BS advice for self-publishers.

If you want an overview of publishing in the digital age so you can decide what publishing route is best for you, you'll find it in a book I wrote with #1 Amazon bestseller Catherine Ryan Hyde called HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE.

It can help you navigate today's publishing business whether you self-publish, go with a small press as I have, or are holding out for the agent and the Big Five contract.

You can also find a wealth of information on marketing in a post Ruth Harris wrote for this blog in her Writer's Toolkit series: How to Move the Merch.

David's book costs $4.99. Ours costs $3.99. Ruth's post is free. That's under ten bucks for all the information you'll need.

But an amazing number of people say they would rather spend thousands on a professional publicist than spring for that $10.00 or even read a blogpost. 

Needless to say, Harry Potter himself could not help those folks. They are ripe for scammers, and getting ripped off may be the only way they're going to allow themselves to learn what they need to know.

I was once told by a wise friend that "we are all prisoners of our unexamined beliefs."

A lot of writers have fenced in their own careers by hanging onto beliefs about this business that are no longer true.

They are trying to make it as self-publishers while still thinking in terms of traditional publishing routes: bookstores, speaking engagements, and paper books. Some even pay for pricey hardback copies.

If seeing your own hardback books in a store window is the most important thing to you, then you probably shouldn't self-publish. Keep querying agents. Use AgentQuery and QueryTracker and make querying a priority. Authors usually have to send out hundreds these days before they find the right agent. But with persistence, you may become one of the handful of authors who get to debut between those dust-jacketed covers.

If you want to be traditionally published, don't give up on your dream because self-publishing is all the rage. The dream came true for my friend Mary Webber.  (Congrats on the August 19 launch of your YA novel Storm Siren, Mary!) It's the first of a trilogy coming out in hardcover with Thomas Nelson (with great reviews from Kirkus and PW.) Here she talks to Writer's Digest about how she got her book deal.

But if you've decided on self-publishing (or want to go with a small digital press), here are ten pieces of old information you need to erase from your brain's hard-drive if you want a successful career.

1) You're not really published unless you have paper books.

I'm going to write this in the simplest way I can, hoping you guys will spread the word to self-published friends who obsess about selling paper books.


Full stop.

E-Books. Not paper books. Especially not hardback paper books.

The e-book is the new mass market paperback. Even though sales are leveling off in the US, the market is expanding worldwide. Here's a recent Yahoo Finance article, complete with graphs and statistics on how genre writers are getting rich with e-books,

If you don't have an e-reader or tablet, and you're planning to self-publish, get one. You're not going to succeed in e-publishing if you don't read e-books and understand how people use them.

I'm not saying you shouldn't have paper books. Most readers still prefer them. But if you're self-publishing, paper will only represent a fraction of your sales. So you want to concentrate your marketing efforts on selling e-books, which is mostly done online.

I'm also not saying print is irrelevant. I'm totally jazzed to be featured in a print magazine this month. I'm interviewed in the September issue of MORE magazine, where I talk about "bag lady syndrome" and the fear of homelessness that plagues even successful women: the subject of my novel NO PLACE LIKE HOME.

But guess how Laura Sinberg, the features editor of MORE found me? Google Plus. It was a link to a guest blogpost I wrote on "bag lady fears" to promote NO PLACE LIKE HOME that came up when she Googled the phrase. The book only exists as an e-book. (Although it will come out in paper in September: YAY!) But my point is that I made a big national print magazine with an e-book (and a little help from Google Plus.) It can happen.

2) You need books in brick and mortar stores to be successful. 

Paper books cost a lot to produce. And ship. Even when you use CreateSpace, the cheapest, most popular digital printer, and order 25 books at a time, the book's cost to you won't be much less than $7. When a bookstore adds its 40% mark-up, the book will cost the consumer at least $12.

Your profit on that sale? 20c.

But an e-book priced at $2.99 gets a royalty from Amazon of 70%, which comes to $2.09. Other retailers pay a little more or less, but it's safe to say you'll average around two bucks.

Two bucks  vs. twenty cents. You don't need an MBA...

Of course what that means is you should probably charge more than $12 for the paper. Especially if you factor in all the time, money and energy you spend promoting bookselling events.

So you will probably want to price the book at about $15. But that makes it hard to compete with mass market paperbacks, which still sell substantially lower than that.

Then remember that without a Big Five publisher buying the expensive "co-op" real estate at the front of the store for you, your pricey book is probably going to be spine-out on a bottom shelf in the back of the store unless you have a personal friend working there.

That's assuming you can get into bookstores at all: most indie shops will only take self-published books on consignment, and big chain stores won't stock them, period.

See why successful self-publishers focus on online sales?

I know it's sad not to see your book on a shelf in a real store. As readers, we love bookstores. But there's change afoot in retail shopping that is way bigger than the book business. The Wall Street Journal reports shoppers are fleeing the malls and even WalMart is in decline.

So it doesn't make sense for indies to put much energy into in-store book sales. Leave that to the Big Five, who have to take the books back after they don't sell, and pay to ship and pulp them.

3) Personal appearances and book-signings are required of the successful writer.

Book events cost money. Usually quite a lot. Especially if you have to pay for the venue. You're also going to have the cost of your transportation, the de rigeur refreshments, the new outfit, the time spent preparing (and cooking, if you do the refreshments yourself) and all that time taken away from working on your WIP.

The average book signing done on the cheap might cost about $500. Say you sell 50 books (which would be way more than I've ever sold at a book event.) If you're charging $15 a book and you've got cheap CreateSpace books (which many bookstores won't carry, alas) at $8 profit per book, you've made $400.

That's a best-case scenario, and you've lost $100 bucks plus all that time and energy.

I'm not saying you should never have a book party. As I have written before, they can be a fabulous ego boost and a lot of fun. Plus if you're media savvy, you can send out press releases and maybe get it covered by local radio and newspapers, so they're good publicity.

But that's publicity in your hometown only. Great if you live in a large metropolitan area, if you're in little rural town like mine, not so much.

What if you put that $500 into a Bookbub ad instead? If you advertise a 99c sale on your thriller in the Bookbub newsletter, it will reach 1,250,000 targeted readers all over North America. (And other less expensive newsletters like EBookBargainsUK can reach the growing international markets.)

If that 99c sale is on an Amazon countdown, you get to keep most of that 99c on every book sale. And I have yet to hear from an author who didn't make back the cost of a Bookbub ad as well as getting a huge bounce.

This is why most successful self-publishers skip the personal appearances unless they're at the huge national conventions like RWA that raise their profile in the entire industry.

4) Book swag sells books.

I see so many self-publishers begging to give away stuff on their blogs. They've got pens, post-it notes, hats, tote bags, tee-shirts, and even jewelry with their book covers on them.

I know. They're shiny and fun and they're…TOYS!!

But they cost money. And their influence on book sales is minimal. Even if you're at a convention and hand out a ton of them. Thing is, everybody else is doing the same thing.

A cheap, simple bookmark or business card will remind people of your title just as well. (And yes, you need those: take them with you everywhere!)

I got some really cool business cards that advertise my books and this blog for $10 for a hundred from Vistaprint. And I understand some printers are even cheaper. They're all you need.

Toys don't sell books. Word of mouth from readers sells books. Especially word of mouth online, where people can simply click through to a buy page.

5) If you price your books high, you'll show you're the equal of Big Five writers.

I see many self-publishers pricing themselves right out of the market. I was asked to review a book some time ago that I really liked, but I haven't been able to bring myself to recommend it because the author is charging $9.99 for the e-book. I consider that high, even when it's a must-read brand new Big 5 bestseller. For a self-publisher, it's the kiss of death.

The average price for an ebook on Amazon is between $2.99 and $6.99. That's for self-published, small press, and much of the Big 5's backlist. Nearly every day the Bookbub newsletter has a Big 5 classic bestseller for $1.99.

Successful indies usually offer the first book in a series for 99c or even free. The later books are usually priced from $2.99-$4.99. Some price their newest release a little higher, but if you price over $9.99, your Amazon royalty goes down.

The Fussy Librarian provides a  page on his site detailing how to price your ebook for optimum success.

I have heard so many self-publishers claim they "have" to charge top dollar for their book because "I spent years writing it."

We all spent years on our first novels. It's called "learning to write."

Besides, it's better to sell lots of books at a lower price than a few at a higher price. Many indies give away tons of books. That's because they want tons of readers who will come back for more.

Charging over $5 for a self-published e-book  by an unknown shows nothing except the author has no knowledge of the market.

6) Paying a publicist guarantees more income.

Unfortunately, the old ways of selling books don't work very well any more, so even the efforts of the hardest working publicists can be hit or miss.
  • The old book tour/personal appearance route is not cost effective, as I have blogged about before. 
  • Neither is a print ad. Nearly four years ago, Alan Rinzler talked about how a full page ad in the New York Times mostly impresses the author's mother. They're even less effective now.
  • Press releases? Unless you've got a spectacular hook, like you're dating a guy on Duck Dynasty or your baby fell down a well, your press releases are not going to be picked up outside of your hometown.
  • Endless automated Tweets, paying for ads for Facebook "parties" and most of the social media gimmicks don't work either, unless the author is personally engaging with readers. 

As Mary W. Walters said on her blog last month, "…we have traditional book-promotion strategies that no longer work – and people who have been trained in those strategies who are no longer useful."

And the Book Marketing Buzz blog predicts that book promoters will soon become extinct.

I'm not saying all publicists are a waste of time and money. A top-notch publicist can get you interviews and appearances that would be closed to you otherwise, and they can plan a campaign around an issue or something in your bio that you might not be able to think up by yourself.

But most of the successful indies you read about did NOT use publicists.

7) You can start a career with one book

The most effective method successful self-publishers have used to sell their books in the digital age is the liberal use of free and discounted books.

They give away the first book in a series to get people to buy the others. If you don't have any others…um, you can figure it out.

Amazon algorithms also favor authors with more than one title.

In fact, indie superstar Liliana Harte suggests you hold back launching your book until you have five in the hopper, so you can launch one a month. Apparently that's the best way to get noticed by the "also bought" algos.

That's precisely what my publishers did with me in 2011. I won't pretend it wasn't exhausting, but after I re-launched my backlist books with Popcorn Press, MWiDP took on three more books I had in rough draft. Yes, we did some marathon editing, but I launched five books in four months. Plus two anthologies. It worked pretty well.

If I had only launched one a year, I'd probably still be taking on editing work to make ends meet.

8) Self-publishers need to attend lots of book fairs and industry events.

The reason to attend trade fairs is to sell to vendors. But as an indie author, you want to sell direct to customers. Of course readers as well as vendors do attend some of the big book festivals, but they generally don't buy a bunch of books to lug around all day. 

If they're interested, they're more likely to pick up a card or bookmark and order your book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble when they get home. But during the ordering process, they might forget and order something else Amazon suggests to them. And it could very well be a book from an author who didn't just spend thousands of dollars to attend a convention.

Somebody who's at home in her sweats, pounding out that next book.

It's important to remember that a booth at a festival is so expensive you can't get back your investment unless you get a huge contract or sell in tremendous volume. Add to that the price of transportation and a hotel room, and you're spending a large chunk of change you will not be seeing again. 

So only go to a book fair because you want a fun, fabulous vacation, meeting big name authors and schmoozing with industry movers and shakers. If that's why you're going, then by all means book that ticket. Networking in person is always exciting and it can build lasting relationships.

But you can also network and become visible online at no cost.

Book fairs are also used by shady vanity presses to scam newbies. David Gaughran has some hair-raising stories of wildly-overpriced booths and worthless promotion packages sold to newbie authors who are still trapped in this old-publishing-world mindset.

Note: I'm not talking about writers' conferences here. A writer's conference isn't a trade fair. It's a place to get a mini-course in writing craft and marketing as well as network with other writers, agents and editors. They can be a valuable experience, especially for new and pre-published writers. I have the details about our local Central Coast Writers Conference in the "Opportunity Alerts" below. 

9) You need to pay for a lot of advertising to be successful.

I have mentioned BookBub ads, which get results but are pricey. However there are lots of bargain-book newsletters that cost less and are effective. Ruth Harris's post I mentioned earlier has a great run-down of the bargain newsletters and other online ads. We recently had success with The Fussy Librarian.

Set a budget and keep to it. Slpurging doesn't always pay off. When Catherine Ryan Hyde and I put our book HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE on an Amazon countdown a couple of weeks ago, we did no paid advertising at all. For most of the week we were on three Amazon bestseller lists. We often were just behind another writing book. When we were #4, it was #2, and we stayed in the same ratio most of the week.

The difference? The #2 book had an expensive BookBub ad. We spent nothing. So I'm willing to bet our bottom line was higher.

How did that happen? Catherine and I both have a strong social media presence. We spend a little time every day building relationships with our readers. Slow and steady. That's how writers build their audiences these days. Catherine gives away tons of books on her blog and Facebook. And she almost always has a book in the top 20.

We both think the Amazon countdown sale is a good promotion tool, whether or not you pay to promote it. If you're in KDP Select, you get one every 90 days. (See my current countdown sale below.)

Keep in mind the most successful self-publishers, like Hugh Howey, did not make their phenomenal sales by using pricey advertising. They did it by making lots of friends on social media and hand-selling those units one at a time.

10) E-books need to be launched like rockets.

Before the age of the e-book, launches were all-important because print books are given only a few months on valuable book store shelves before they are sent back to the publisher to be remaindered and/or pulped.

All print books are in stores "on consignment" and can be returned at any time for lack of sales. So with the old print/warehouse/bookstore paradigm, you have a very small window in which to get your book noticed. (Even smaller if it isn't one of the lucky few who get "co-op" space at the front of the store purchased by your publisher.)

But e-books are forever. An e-book is just as valuable five years down the road as it is the day you launch it. Retailers don't have to return it in order to make room for new merchandise.

Most Amazon bestsellers I know launched their first e-books quietly (what's called a "soft launch"), then waited for buzz to build. Many bestselling indies didn't sell at all for the first few months—or even years. Here's Dean Wesley Smith on why you don't have to sell a lot of books quickly to be a success.

So what's the best way to launch a book in this new publishing world? Nobody really knows. Sometimes books take off and the author doesn't have a clue why, as Sean Cummings blogged this week.

But there is one thing that will not cost you a penny and is pretty much guaranteed to help sales. Get to work on the next book.

Scriveners, do you think you might have an unexamined belief that's holding you back? Do you still have to see your book in the window of Barnes and Noble to feel successful? What advice do you have for the newly self-published author? 

NEWS: Check out the September issue of MORE magazine, where I talk to Laura Sinberg about "bag lady syndrome" and the fear of homelessness in successful women: the subject of my novel NO PLACE LIKE HOME. It's on newstands now: the issue with the amazing Viola Davis on the cover. 


The Lady of the Lakewood Diner is on a 99c countdown 
from August 24-August 31

 Who shot rock diva Morgan Le Fay? Only her childhood friend Dodie, owner of a seedy small-town diner, can find the culprit before the would-be assassin comes back to finish the job.

Boomers, this one's for you. And for younger people if you want to know what your parents and grandparents were really up to in the days of Woodstock and that old fashioned rock and roll. Plus there's a little Grail mythology for the literary fiction fans.

"A page turning, easily readable, arrestingly honest novel which will keep you laughing at yourself."...Kathleen Keena

"I borrowed this book free with my Amazon Prime membership, but I enjoyed it so much that I don't want to give it up. I'm buying a copy to keep."...Linda A. Lange

"In The Lady of the Lakewood Diner, nothing is sacred, nothing is profane. And yet, in the end, love does conquer all. If you're of an age to remember Woodstock and the Moonwalk, don't miss it. If you're not, well, you won't find a better introduction." ...Deborah Eve of the Later Bloomer


TENNESSEE WILLIAMS LITERARY FESTIVAL SHORT FICTION CONTEST $25 ENTRY FEE. Submit a short story, up to 7000 words. Grand Prize: $1,500, plus airfare (up to $500) and accommodations for the next Festival in New Orleans, VIP All-Access Festival pass for the next Festival ($500 value), plus publication in Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine. Contest is open only to writers who have not yet published a book of fiction. Deadline November 16th, 2014.

GLIMMER TRAIN VERY SHORT FICTION AWARD Maximum length: 3,000 words. 1st place wins $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue. 2nd place wins $500 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). 3rd place wins $300 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). Deadline October 31, 2014. 

RIVER TEETH'S BOOK PRIZE  for Literary Nonfiction. The $27 ENTRY FEE is a little steeper than we usually list, but this is for a full book-length manuscript.  River Teeth's editors and editorial board conduct a yearly national contest to identify the best book-length literary nonfiction. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication. Deadline October 15, 2014.

CHICKEN SOUP - HEARTFELT STORIES BY MOMS Pays $200 for 1,200 words. Stories can deal with the pains and highlights of motherhood, the wonders of parenting grandchildren, special moments of raising a newborn, being a role model to a teenager, or anything that touches the heart of a mom. Deadline September 30.

The Central Coast Writers Conference One of the best deals around in a weekend writer's conference. And it's held on the Cuesta College campus in beautiful San Luis Obispo, CA. Mystery writer legend Anne Perry is the keynote speaker. September 19th-20th

Xchyler Anthologies. Currently taking submissions of FANTASY stories of 5000-1500 words. Royalty-paying. No entry fee. Deadline August 31st. 

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The bulk of my sales are eBooks and I've made very few personal appearances. And I can attest that even with a publisher, some books just take longer to build. My first didn't hit the best seller charts until ten months after release.
I'd read on Hugh Howey's site about launching books that rapidly. Shame I didn't plan ahead and was such a slow writer.

August 24, 2014 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Sane, sensible, down-to-earth advice! This is a gem. Read it, bookmark it, re-read it and then re-read it again.

August 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger sue mcginty said...

As usual, every point is a gem. Thanks again and again, Anne. Also agree with Alex: some books take longer to build. Murder in Mariposa Bay pooped along for several month, and is now starting to gain energy.

August 24, 2014 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--Since you're with a small press, your sales trajectory is more like a self-publisher's. You don't have to stage a big launch and be afraid of being dumped by your publisher if you don't have huge sales in the first three months. That's one of the many reasons I prefer a small press myself.

I know we're supposed to get faster in our writing speed as we go along, but I seem to be getting slower, so I totally relate.

August 24, 2014 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--Thanks! I hope people will spread the word to newbie self-publishers, I feel so sad for them when they try to imitate the trads instead of marketing like successful indies.

August 24, 2014 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sue--A lot of the biggest indie successes spent months with no sales at all. Sometimes years. But as we build our platform, we get more sales--and then they snowball. I think Mariposa Bay is my favorite of your Bella mysteries. I'm glad it's moving again. My sales have weird peaks and valleys and I just have to hang on for the ride.

August 24, 2014 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

I'm doing the bobble-head doll imitation all the way through, Anne. Two-thirds of it is something I haven't even tried yet, but the way you describe it just FEELS right.
I have no tablet or reader (NOTE everyone out there, if you invite me over do NOT leave yours lying around, I'm a desperate man). But I haven't read this much in years, thanks to the apps you can use with any smartphone or even my laptop (which gets lighter every two years, thanks paternal-employer upgrades!). The phone comes to bed easily and I flip the pages so fast I feel like Evelyn Wood.
This next year for me will see the test of several points on your list- I'll crank out several more tales (getting close to ten now), appear in paper for the first time and maybe consider some ads. I bet everything you say pans out.

August 24, 2014 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Liz Crowe said...

great stuff here as usual Anne thanks. I am gonna jump into the self publishing pond with both feet in January and am already working around the clock on my trilogy, between writing/editing/covers/trailers/contests/teasers/more editing/and yet more editing. Here is the thing though: I have TRIED repeatedly to get Bookbub to TAKE my money and the only submission of mine they took was one for a free book. Granted that worked great (over 40k downloads and a bunch of new fans for the series that the book started) but since then, they have turned me down 10 times (the most recent one last week). If there is a secret to getting them to take my money I would love to know it. My books have gorgeous, classy covers, and have been professionally edited (I daresay the one they took was my least favorite cover--I'm having it redone as we speak). I mean I will keep trying but does there come a point when their "editors" say "Oh crap it's Liz again: Auto reject." thanks (sharing the post)

August 24, 2014 at 12:09 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Terrific post with so much great information. I'm going to bookmark and be sure and read all the links. Lately, I've been spending a lot of time on guest blogging including a new blog on Good Reads. Time away from my WIP. I often wonder if it's worth it, but I'm encouraged that it takes time to build word about one's work and platform. I write for a wonderful small press and am grateful I've found a home there. It's always the promotion that gets me down, but as I said, this post gives me hope it's not all for naught. Thanks so much, Anne.

August 24, 2014 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Collette Cameron said...

Wonderful information as usual, Anne.

I'm about to become hybrid, so in addition to my contract with my publisher, I'm going to be self-publishing too. I've joined a wonderful coop with several other authors.

August 24, 2014 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Dean K Miller said...

Hi Anne. It nice to read a post chock full of information and not be all pent up, hyper excited about having to do something NOW to feel like a book is moving forward. Yes, this will take time to digest, but it's time I can spend writing. It's a different world out there in Bookland, for sure, but it can be an exciting time to be a writer in that world. Thanks for another wonderful post.

August 24, 2014 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Wm--I meant to include tablets and smart phones when I talked about e-readers, since so many people read on various apps these days. Some people say the dedicated ereader may be obsolete soon.

I'll be interested to hear how your marketing works out! The best way to find out what's working is to network and share information.

August 24, 2014 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Natalie M said...

Thanks so much for this informative post that nails so many beliefs that may be rolling around in writers' heads (real success being the hardback in a place of honor at B&N, among them...). Obviously, like so many things, there's a perception of things and then there's reality. I'm grateful for your weekly reality checks; they're heartening.

I had considered business cards, but not necessarily in the way you suggested-- what would you recommend putting on the cards? And should I wait to have a published title to have them made? Thanks!

August 24, 2014 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Liz--Best of luck with the self-publishing. It can feel overwhelming.

I didn't go into the problem of Bookbub's selectivity. Ruth's article has a lot of alternatives that work and aren't so picky. Now that the Big 5 make so much use of Bookbub, it's hard for indies to get in. I think certain genres have a better chance than others. No reflection on the quality of the book.

August 24, 2014 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--Congrats on your new blog. I think guest blogging is still one of the best ways to get visible, although it's a bit out of favor with the techies right now. But it's how I got into More magazine.

And yes, promotion is a big, giant pain. But successful authors have always spent a lot of effort on it--all the way back to Dickens and Oscar Wilde. Some people say Shakespeare was a genius marketer, too.

August 24, 2014 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Collette--Best of luck with the self-publishing. Collectives and co-ops are a very big help. Working with other authors pays off in so many ways!

August 24, 2014 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dean--You're absolutely right that it's a great time to be a writer. We have so many more choices. And we can take more control of our own careers. And no, we don't have to be marketing 24/7, in spite of what you hear.

August 24, 2014 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

#4 sounds like it comes from standard business; swags are everywhere at venues like technology shows. That's one of the problems with a lot of promotional stuff -- it all comes from places where it works, without regard for whether it's appropriate or not for writers of fiction.

I'd maybe add one more, which is writing book reviews. I'm not sure how much this actually helps in terms of promotion because it's a huge time investment. There's reading the book, then writing the review, probably revising the review, then posting it. All that's time coming out of producing more books. Posting to popular blogs and being visible is probably less time consuming that all the steps for a review.

August 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Natalie--Thanks! It's hard for all of us to get that image of the B and N window out of our heads. It has been for me. But the world is changing fast.

Yes, do get business cards right away. It makes you feel like a professional and they're absolutely necessary for writers conferences and book events. Just put "your name--writer" (or "mystery writer" or whatever if you've settled on a genre) with your website url and contact info.

If you're pre-published, you can use a simple booky image. If you have a blog, use the blog's logo.

My current card has my photo side by side with my bestselling boxed set cover and a picture of the WD award. Some authors have several cards, one for each book. I have postcards with my book covers on them. The backs are blank, but I can stick labels on them for different events.

August 24, 2014 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Good points! I actually originally had 12 points and two were about reviews. But I cut them because I realized it was too big a topic to cover along with the others. I think you may be right that becoming a book reviewer may be a bad career move for a fiction writer. Book reviewing is great if you want to become an agent or editor. But there are a number of problems, and as you mentioned, time is one of the biggest.

I also think most indies obsess way too much about amassing a huge number of reviews. They are important to Bookbub and the other newsletters, but I don't think they influence the book buyers nearly as much as we think they do.

August 24, 2014 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Lucy Lit said...

I love this sound advice! My problem is holding a book back while writing others before releasing them in succession. Logically, I understand. Emotionally, I feel that people need to find me first. Guess I'll sit on my hands (unless they're pounding the keyboard of course). Thanks for another reality jolt. :)

August 24, 2014 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

I wanted to come back on pricing a bit, Anne (you've already responded once, no need to keep it up!). I agree, pricing an indie e-book up into the Big Pub range is just silly. On the other hand, I believe readers exercise an illogical, counter-intuitive but powerful instinct about pricing that indies can't really overcome. By pricing at 99 cents or $2.99 we're shouting "yes, one of those in with all that other stuff!".
Big Pub prices e-books sinfully high for their bestsellers because they need to help subsidize the cost of marketing, and especially the high price of paper books as you pointed out. All that marketing and buzz is effective, and not just for folks who love bookstores like us. Many readers see the end-cap and assume those are the best ones: you expect to pay for quality and there's no easy way to make up for that in the minds of many readers.
You can't become a wolf in sheep's clothing just by bumping your prices up. But if you stay back in the flock with all the other sheep, you don't exactly stand out either. And I believe the day of free is already passing. You can get downloads, but not reads that way. I think subscription models will succeed, and those will feel just like free once folks get accustomed to the monthly price (especially if it's bundled).

August 24, 2014 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger Gay Degani said...

Thank you so much Anne for this post. I've been working on marketing my novel this year and have learned some of what you've talked about especially in terms of brick and mortar stores and advertising. I will be purchasing the two books you suggest and read Ruth's articles before I do anything else. I have an small indie publisher who has no budget for ads or anything so I'm kind of on my own. I don't mind working hard--I have been--presence on Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, blog, a couple "book parties" and done interviews and articles as the interviewer and interviewee both, on craft, and on my book--and it's fun. But actually getting people to make that purchase is not easy. It's actually something like a full-time job.

I like the challenge of it. I have goals for this book, its prequel, and to push out a novella and a collection of short fiction within the next year, so luckily I have already followed your advice.

What I need now to keep me stimulated in this task are a couple more prongs to my approach. I was mulling this over this weekend, and boom, here you are. TY>

August 24, 2014 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lucy--We all want to get our work to our potential readers as soon as possible. I think that's just human nature. But we often benefit by holding back until we have more inventory. I'll be talking more about this in September.

August 24, 2014 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Wm--I agree that the fad of freebies is over. Peoples' Kindles are full of freebies they'll never read. 99c still works for a sale. I actually have a dispute with my publisher about pricing of my books. I'd like to have some priced a little higher, because I think the sales are the same at a higher price point. But not over $4.99

Your book doesn't "stand out" when it's not selling. Most of the hybrid authors I know who sell in huge quantities have self-pubbed books priced $2.99-$4.99. With one or two at 99c or $1.99 for a promo. Sometimes a permanent freebie. This is big name authors who stand out very, very well. The way to stand out is to be on the bestseller lists. You get there by selling in quantity, not by charging a high price to a handful of people.

August 24, 2014 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gay--I'm glad the post is timely for you. I think some of the misinformation about marketing actually comes from small publishers. They often don't quite understand social media and tell their authors that frantic self-promotion will result in increased sales. It usually doesn't.

You may have to argue with your publisher if they pressure you to do mindless spammy marketing.. (Feel free to send them this piece.) Mostly it takes patience and a little work every day: a guest post here, an interview there, a visit to a FB group or a forum, and a steady, slow-blogging schedule, while you build inventory. The effects will be cumulative.

August 24, 2014 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a comment from the wonderful historical novelist Prue Batten. She has a Wordpress ID, which Blogger refuses to accept. GRRRRR.

Anne--Great post as usual.

There is no doubt that pricing is a crucial point in selling and interestingly I found that in reducing the price of the first two books in a trilogy as I launched the final book, sales boosted comfortingly. I gave them 2 weeks at launch special prices and then lifted them all back to their ongoing price and amazingly sales boosted even further.

In over a month, I am gobsmacked at how my books are selling, chiefly in the UK market - all without advertising.

They appear to only toddle along in the USA which means it may be time for advertising. Fussy Librarian is brilliant. It is a clean, easy to navigate, well organised site that has proven itself to me in its time. Bookbub for hist.fict (my genre) prices itself out of the market - over $1000.

Interestingly reviews matter little in the first instance - my final in the trilogy has few reviews yet and yet it ranks in the Top 100 every day in the UK and its sales climb and climb. Go figure!

Thank you again for listing those valuable points and keeping them in our minds and for once again, saying how it is and should be.

August 24, 2014 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Prue--Thanks for emailing your comment in spite of the fact Blogger is so rude. If anybody out there knows the secret for a WordPress user to comment on a Blogger blog, please let us know!

It's fascinating how the UK and US markets overlap--and don't. Of course you write about English history, so that may be part of it. But it's been wonderful to watch your fantastic success in the UK. I didn't know you did it all without advertising. Having truly gorgeous covers probably helps. :-)

BookBub costs $1000 for hist. fiction? Ouch. Yeah, forget that. I like Fussy Librarian too.

And thank you for saying how little reviews matter. It's time for indies to stop obsessing about them. I know I do it myself, but it's so counter productive. My own current bestseller has very few reviews.

August 24, 2014 at 4:20 PM  
OpenID katharinetrauger said...

11. You need WordPress.

August 24, 2014 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Katharine--And lose 82,000 hits a month? And start building a new blog from scratch? don't think so. Blogger belongs to Google and Google takes care of its own. But I do wish they didn't block Wordpress users. It's petty and childish. They're Google. They can afford to be generous.

August 24, 2014 at 5:22 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Wonderful information. In fact I would say, just about all we need to decide which publishing choice to make and how to get the most out of it. You are a gem!

August 24, 2014 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Anne, thanks for all this great information. I am SOOOO glad things are different in this new e-age. I swear, the very idea of doing a book reading in front of people makes me sick. I love that I can be braver online than I ever could in person. Plus I'm thankful for indies who have gone before me and shared information. This community of writers is so open and honest, including you and Ruth. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

August 24, 2014 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--So are you! I just realized I don't give credit here for your fabulous photo in our header. You're such a gifted photographer as well as amazing writer. your time will come and we can all say we knew you when...

August 24, 2014 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--The e-age is the perfect time for the introverted writer. Public speaking and writing fiction are unrelated talents. And now we don't have to pretend to have one skill when to promote the other.

I agree that the indie community is amazing. I'm not self-published, but the indie community of self- and small-publishers did so much to help me when I was starting out. Small presses and self-publishers know that "united we stand".

August 24, 2014 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I think if you do spot book reviews, you'll find that it's a great balance to your writing and it's still an excellent way to get your name out. I did book reviews (not gobs but one about every other month or so) for about a year or so, and I did get a few inquiries down the road from others to do theirs. I'm pretty picky on what I review, to the point where I took most of 2014 off from book reviewing. But I'm now getting back into the swing of things, mixing non-fiction with fiction for reviews.

Father Nature's Corner

August 25, 2014 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G.B.--Writing the occasional review is great. I was thinking of those brave, hardworking writers who have book review blogs. They work so very hard, and end up getting a lot of grief. It's not easy. And often their own fiction suffers. But we're all soooo grateful.

We're grateful to occasional reviewers like you. too. Thanks. Authors can't survive without reviewers. We need to treat them right!

August 25, 2014 at 9:18 PM  
Blogger Terry Tyler said...

What a brilliant post. I was only reading an article by successful UK writer Joanne Phillips, the other week, saying the same thing. I've noticed this so often - the big launch, with paid for ads, etc - and in a few weeks, the book is just as hard to sell as any other. It's why I just launch mine with a few blog posts and tweets - costs nothing. I'm not a best seller, but I sell books every day and my readership is growing all the time. Best of all, I don't have to sell 300 books before I 'break even', as my launch costs zilch. Also, I feel how Julie in the comment above does!!!

Joanne Phillips made the observation in her post that indie authors trying to do the work of a whole publishing house's publicity department is never going to work, and we had to realise that indie publishing is completely different from trad. She also advised me against paperbacks, saying they're not worth the money to produce - or the hassle!

August 26, 2014 at 1:28 AM  
Blogger Robyn Lee said...

Thank you for a very informative post...I found it very helpful. I was once a traditional publishing thinker but over the last couple of years have embraced e-publishing. Now I prefer it!

August 26, 2014 at 3:53 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

You cover a lot of points here and I agree with them all. And that rarely ever happens to me :)

You need to give me something to argue about sooner or later... :)

August 26, 2014 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Terry--Thanks! It sounds as if you've been getting very good advice. I'm going to check out Joanne Phillips' post. It's so true that indie publishing is a different road. It's not about imitating the trads--it's about making your own path and keeping an eye on the bottom line.

August 26, 2014 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Robyn--The whole indie movement was sparked by the introduction of the Kindle, and we need to remember that it's digital media that will bring us success. It sounds as if you've been keeping up with the changes.

August 26, 2014 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ryan--Maybe next month....LOL. You're in a genre that has been in the vanguard of digital publishing, so you're not likely to make any of these mistakes. But lots of writers of mysteries and women's fiction are very much stuck in the old ways.

August 26, 2014 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Heather Day Gilbert said...

Great post--and another I'd add is not believing your books are worth marketing. You have to believe in your books more than ANYONE else, believe they're worth reading and getting out there, and then you can effectively market them with confidence. One thing that can help in this regard is having early reader input and editorial input. Then you feel more confident launching. I have done scheduled launches for my first 2 books, and I love the ability to build buzz around a specific date, but for my next ones, it will be a kind of floating launch month, so I can tell readers nearly the minute my book goes live. I think all these things are things we can tweak to fit our indie style, but I agree with so many of your points here. Great post.

August 26, 2014 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Claude Nougat said...

Excellent advice as always, Anne, many thanks! And I agree with all of it, except perhaps for one thing: I don't see the e-books' "eternal shelf life" as such an advantage. Actually, as David Gaughran explains so well in his book Let's Get Visible, you have to constantly fight (i.e. engage in bouts of marketing) in order to not fall over that "cliff", as he calls it, and disappear into virtual oblivion. Because dust gathers on virtual book shelves exactly the way it does on real shelves!

August 26, 2014 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Terry Tyler said...

To be honest, Anne, it was all I ever did, in fact I laughed to see Joanne hold me up as an example in her post, ha ha! I never took any advice, I just did what seemed to be the logical thing to do - I write books in ebook form, so most of my readers are likely to be pretty internet savvy or they wouldn't have Kindles/iPads with Kindle app, etc, so it made sense to do the marketing online. Also, something like a book signing would be my worst nightmare, and I know that if someone gives me a promotional tea towel I'd just think 'cheers for the free tea towel', it wouldn't make me buy some book unless I was interested in it anyway. I do get that it works on some, though, or no-one would do it!!! I think maybe people do that sort of thing more in America than England.

August 26, 2014 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Heather--It's true that you have to believe in your work--and yourself. And as we have said many times on this blog, never launch a book that hasn't been workshopped, read and edited. People who toss a rough draft on Amazon just to "run it up the flag poll and see who salutes" usually end up very, very discouraged. As you say: you need to respect your own work enough to get it polished.

Building buzz is good to a certain extent--and a blog is a good place to do it. But don't Tweet or advertise on FB when you don't have a product yet. This is the age of instant gratification, so when people see a tweet and click on it, they want to be able to buy NOW (or at least pre-order), not three weeks from now. They'll only be annoyed.

August 26, 2014 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Claude--It's very true that you need to keep promoting your work or you'll get shoved aside by the next 3 million books that come out each week. (You wrote a GREAT post on the number of ebooks out there.) But the fact the books get "dusty" is not like having the shelves disappear entirely. A little dust can always be cleaned off. But in the old days, your books were pulled from shelves, pulped, and out of print in a matter of months.

Any ebook, no matter how old, still has a chance to make it in this new electronic world. That's a huge difference in the author's favor.

August 26, 2014 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Autumn Macarthur said...

Great post as always Anne, and the your responses to the comments are just as useful.

Unfortunately, the only way I've found to make Blogger play nicely for Wordpress users is to get a Google+ account and comment using that.

August 26, 2014 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Autumn Macarthur said...

Publishing a new book is probably the best way to dust those virtual bookshelves!

August 26, 2014 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Autumn--That's what I've heard too. Although I don't know about a Gravatar ID. I use Gravatar to comment on Wordpress blogs, so maybe Gravatar would work on Blogger. But you'd probably have to sign out of Wordpress and sign in to Gravatar to make it work.

August 26, 2014 at 8:45 PM  
Blogger Jan Ryder said...

Anne, I agree with Ruth's comment above: "Sane, sensible, down-to-earth advice! This is a gem. Read it, bookmark it, re-read it and then re-read it again."
I did need a shot of sensible marketing advice today, and you've provided it once again. Thank you.

August 27, 2014 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jan--Thanks! So much stuff out there is NOT sensible that common sense can seem like an amazing revelation. I just read a blog by a book promoter who says writers should spend an hour a day on Goodreads. I'm sure they also think we need to spend an hour a day each on Twitter, FB, Google+ and Pinterest and of course blogs, Who needs to write books anyway? And a writer who sleeps or eats is just not trying. Arrgghhh.

August 27, 2014 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Mattern said...

"Charging over $5 for a self-published e-book by an unknown shows nothing except the author has no knowledge of the market."

... or that they know their market very well.

This is a problem in the post-Amazon era, where so many authors coming in late in the game know far too little about direct sales and rely far too heavily on a single retailer and artificially low price expectations. Now, with fiction, you might expect more standardized rates because the goal is generally the same -- entertainment.

But it's a much bigger problem for nonfiction authors where market sizes, buyer motivations, and saturation are a completely different story.

While Amazon buyers might scoff at paying $10-15, many buyers would consider that a bargain for quality books in tighter nonfiction niches. It's why business-oriented e-books can sell very well for $10, $20, and even $40 or more if they cover things not touched on a hundred different times already. Buyers happily spend that much if the information could help them earn much more.

It's also the case in areas where books need specialized expertise behind them and where the target markets are very small (such as sufferers from not-terribly-common diseases where there might only be one or two books on the market to help them; the books probably wouldn't exist if the authors couldn't profit, and in very small markets that can mean charging more -- and having the ability to bring these books to market when publishers never would have touched them is one of the biggest benefits of the indie movement).

Supply and demand is often neglected in author price discussions, but there's a reason so many of us can charge more and make far more money than the average e-book author on Amazon while selling to smaller, more targeted audiences, often directly. We know our niche markets better than a big retailer does.

So while it's important for some authors to realize that their books aren't necessarily special little snowflakes in the eyes of readers, worth twice as much as everyone else's in a saturated niche or genre, it's equally important for authors not to artificially deflate their prices because they're worried more about the pricing opinions of generic "book buyers" than the specific market they're targeting. And sadly, the more authors I meet, the more surprised I am by how few of them have done any real market research at all before making what amounts to one of the biggest marketing decisions in their careers.

August 28, 2014 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jennifer--You're right that the market is different for nonfiction, especially the fields that have niche audience. When you get into technical manuals and specialized textbooks--you're talking a whole different set of rules. I should probably have made that more clear.

This blog is aimed at creative writers: novelists and memoirists.

But yes, absolutely, if you only have a small number of people interested in your subject matter, then you're not going to make money selling quantities at a low price. And if you have specific knowledge that nobody else has, you can charge a premium.

But that's not true of all nonfiction. If it's a memoir, or "how I fought my addiction" or "How to use the law of attraction" or a cookbook or diet book where you have a whole lot of competitors, you want to price yourself in the same ballpark as the other authors.

Technical manuals and textbooks are another field altogether as you have stated in good tech manual style. :-)

August 28, 2014 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger catherinemjohnson.wordpress.com said...

What a fabulous post, Anne. Thanks a lot! I hope the same rings true for children's books.

August 28, 2014 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Catherine--Children's books haven't jumped into the e-age as quickly as adult fiction and memoir. So self-publishing hasn't been as lucrative for children's book authors. But I think that's about to change. As more and more kids have iPads, children's books will go electronic in a big way.

August 28, 2014 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Lots of great information, Anne. EBooks are definitely the best way to go these days. Since I'm from the Boomer generation, I still like paperbacks as well, and so far have produced them through CreateSpace in addition to my ebooks. It's a little luxury and I do it for my own bookshelves as well as for the many friends who still prefer paperbacks. Moneywise it is certainly a loss and yes, your idea of spending the money on a Bookbub ad does make sense. We'll see. And, of course, as a Boomer, I just ordered The Lady of the Lakewood Diner!

August 28, 2014 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christa--I'm a Boomer and I like my paper books too. I probably read half on my Kindle and half in paper. But I've got to admit I love the adjustable font on the Kindle.

My publisher is just coming out with two more of my books in paper, because they're locally set and I think they'll sell in local bookstores, but we probably won't do more than break even. E-books are where the money is.

Thanks much for buying The Lady of the Lakewood Diner! I hope you enjoy it!

August 28, 2014 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Anne-- You get the year's realpolitik award for this post--thank you (and by the way, I think whoever did your Pre-Raphaelite smoker book cover is a genius!)
I know everything you say here is the truth. BUT as one who got taken badly by a high-profile, respected online marketing "expert," I feel obliged to remind you of something: the impediments facing older writers to learning all that's needed in order to self-market one's own stuff.
It's the machines themselves, the right buttons to push and so forth that often make how-to manuals close to useless. It's not enough to know what to do, it's knowing how, in the most rudimentary way, to implement the what. Unless you live with or have easy daily access to someone who "knows," you soon find yourself throwing up your hands and (foolishly, I agree) succumbing to a false hope: that someone will take your money and make all the monkey talk and incomprehension go away.
Isn't that what you do with your car? Tell me you do your own oil changes! Plumbing, electrical? You need a service, you hire a professional, etc. But with marketing self-published books, apparently no such luck.
And since I'm clacking away here, something else: If the best strategy for an indie writer is to gin up five or so titles before rolling out his work, this means that only those writing easily produced, quickly consumed "product" need apply. That, too, would seem to be a realpolitik aspect to what you're saying. I am currently spending serious money to have a serious professional editor help me to make my latest book as good as it can be. I'm old, and it's a matter of pride with me, it has nothing to do with the (obviously) specious bromide about writing "the best book you can." Obviously as well, the process doesn't lend itself to the program you recommend. But my editor--another professional--isn't going to take my money and give me zip in return.
So what am I saying? Just that writers who take pains with their work are at a distinct disadvantage as indie authors--because output is so important.
That said, covers matter, and I'm going to have to find out about that Pre-Raphaelite smoker.

August 28, 2014 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--Thanks so much for the kudos on the cover. The genius who designed it is Keri Knutson, who found out last week she has ovarian cancer. She's a young mom, and a fabulous human being to work with. Do send her healing thoughts. I think she's a genius, too. She loves the Pre-Raphaelites.

I know what you mean about us oldsters throwing up our hands at tech. I did it for years. And I'm with a small publisher because I simply can't handle all this stuff myself. Not all small publishers are created equal, but mine offers great editing and formatting and even though I have to do most of the marketing, I get solid advice from them on what works and what doesn't.

I agree that self-publishing isn't for everybody. I'm a "full service" person myself, and I'd still pay for somebody to pump my gas if they were available.

But paying a publicist for a single title isn't going to pay for itself. It just won't. If you're writing as an expensive hobby, like golf, and you think this stuff is fun, then go ahead and spend money for the swag and the book fairs and the personal appearances--but those things won't sell any books.

If you want to make money, save the cash, keep networking in social media, do a soft-launch, and write the next book.

Or look for a publisher. Small presses usually pay very nice royalties.

August 28, 2014 at 6:56 PM  
Blogger R. A. Meenan said...

A friend in my writing circle posted this blog in our Facebook group. It was AMAZING to read it.

I'm finally nearing the end of my long journey with my first book and I'm almost ready for publishing. I spent years trying to decide whether I should try with traditional publishing or if I should go with self publishing. I finally decided it was in my best interest to hire an editor and book cover designer and try my hand with self publishing.

These tips are really helpful. Some things I knew from my research, but a lot of them I didn't, and they've changed my thinking on what I should do as a self published author.

One of the biggest surprises for me was the paid advertising one. I had a whole section of my marketing plan for paying for advertising, but I think that BookBlurb may be a better option for me. =D Thanks for the advice!

August 28, 2014 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

R. A. I'm not telling you not to pay for advertising. Bookbub is VERY expensive--from $500-$1000 for one ad, and it's also very selective. But if you read Ruth Harris's blogpost I linked to, there are other bargain book newsletters like Bookbub that are cheaper and easier to get into.

What I'm saying is PRINT ads aren't effective for selling ebooks. You want your advertising to be online, which is where people will be buying your books. You want them to be able to click through to the buy page. No delayed gratification. :-)

August 28, 2014 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Anne--thanks for a thoughtful reply. Of course I wish your very talented cover designer nothing but luck.
In the interests of clarity, let me be, well, clear: I don't play golf, and I don't view my fiction writing as an expensive hobby. After many years ago commercially publishing a successful thriller, I lost my agent, then got two others in succession who failed to sell my work. I finally saw no alternative to self-publishing (if I knew how to get a "small publisher" without an agent, I most certainly would). I now pay a professional to create my own good covers, and do my formatting. I also have paid a pro to create my website. It's the social media thing that baffles me.

August 29, 2014 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--I was speaking in general terms about hobbies. I'm saying there's nothing wrong with writing as a hobby any more than it's wrong to golf as a hobby. If going to book fairs is fun for you, then you should go. Just don't expect it a great ROI. (That's a collective 'you", translated in some quarters as "y'all" or "youse guys" :-) I'm not speaking of you personally.)

I don't mention anything about not hiring an editor and a designer--both required for self publishers.

I'm talking about buying swag and going to book fairs and paying a publicist to get you lots of personal appearances..

The first two things are very important. The others are money wasters. Some things work and some things don't. I'm suggesting you don't spend money on the things that don't work unless you're doing them for the entertainment value.

August 29, 2014 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger jurassicpork said...

Why didn't my comment go up a few days ago?

And, depending on the genre, Bookbub's rates go as high as $1600, which is absolutely outrageous, especially if you're forced to sell your book for under $3.

August 29, 2014 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Natalie M said...

Thanks so much for this information. I'm excited to have cards made!

August 29, 2014 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jurassic--I'm so sorry if Blogger ate your comment. They can be really annoying. Sometimes my own comments don't go through.

Do click through to Ruth's post on the other bargain newsletters. I've had great results from Fussy Librarian and EBookBargainsUK. They charge a fraction of what BookBub does.

I'm just saying that if you want to throw money at your book, bargain newsletters are way better than print ads and publicists. Mostly, you want to write another book.

August 29, 2014 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jurassic--You'll see more on the subject if you scroll down to #9.

August 29, 2014 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger M Pax said...

It's a new age. There is no magic secret. Although I tell people it helps to put out a professional product. I just launched a new series with some new ideas on marketing... we'll see how it goes. Great article, Anne.

September 5, 2014 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

M Pax--That's the one thing that never changes: put out a well-crafted, professional book. I'll check out your new series. Best of luck with it!

September 5, 2014 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger John McDonnell said...

I agree with a lot of these points. I especially like the point about not needing to make a big splash, and allowing time for ebook sales to build. I have some short horror fiction collections that still sell regularly every month, and I published them in 2009. If I had gone the traditional publishing route they'd probably be out of print now.

The one thing I haven't figured out is how to work the strategy of giving away the first book in a series for free. In my experience, discounting a price or giving away a book for free has not resulted in more sales. I have a historical romance series where I reduced the first book to half the price of the others, but it hasn't really boosted sales that much. Still trying to get that one right. Anyway, great advice!


October 29, 2015 at 5:01 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--Nice to have continuing profits book that would have been out of print in the trad-pub paradigm. That's the #1 draw for self-publishing.

I wrote this post in August of 2014, just before Kindle Unlimited was introduced. KU pretty much erased all the tips and tricks David Gaughran and others found worked for selling on Amazon. My own sales plummeted by 2/3 in the three months after KU launched.

So definitely the freebie book isn't working the way it used to. Nothing is. But I do find that having the first book in a series cheaper entices people to sample the series. If they go back for more depends a lot on the series and whether you end with a few cliff-hanger storylines that compel people to read more.

October 29, 2015 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

That's supposed to be "profits from a book". I need stronger tea this morning...:-)

October 29, 2015 at 9:23 AM  

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