The art of selling books–by Graeme Reynolds
Last week I promised that we’d be doing some guest blogs posts along with our regular posts. Scott will be starting a series on death scenes (from a police investigators perspective) next week that we’ll be slipping in between our various upcoming guest posts.
This week we’ll get some outstanding marketing advice from Graeme Reynolds, the author of a successful series of werewolf novels. Graeme graciously offered to let me cross post this from his blog. You should check his blog out for other news, advice, and stories. Especially read his “Goodbye 2013 post.”
Graeme has released two of his High Moor novels so far: High Moor and High Moor 2: Moonstruck. Both are outstanding. Graeme also writes some of the hand-to-hand and tooth-and-claw fight scenes I’ve ever read. Writers can learn a lot from his techniques.
But don’t take my word for it. Go look at the reviews. I’ve been privileged to read the first nine chapters of the third novel so far. All I’ll say is that Graeme continues to deliver. In the horror world, he is a force to be reckoned with.
Readers of my previous blogs on marketing will note that some of Graeme’s advice below seems to contradict Kris Rusch’s marketing advice. It doesn’t because Graeme balances his time spent on promotion and marketing with writing new books. Personally, I like his approach because it’s based on very smart marketing decisions. He also released the books in print version, and has a superb audiobook version of the first novel out, with the audiobook of the second one in the works. In other words, he’s doing everything right because he’s seeing success come from his efforts.
Again, if you don’t believe me, you can listen to a free sample at the link below.
So, without further blathering, I thank Graeme again for his wonderful advice and… here’s Graeme.
I think I promised to write a blog post on how to sell books way back when I first launched High Moor. So, yeah, it’s a bit late, but hopefully I’ve learned quite a lot more since those early days and the post will be a lot more useful.
So, let’s make the assumption that your book is as good as you can possibly make it. Professionally edited. Ebook created and checked for formatting errors. Professionally made cover. Blurb that really nails the book and intrigues the reader to want more. If not, go away and do those things, then come back to me… done? Great, then let’s get on with the rest of the post.
1: The Book Launch.
This is a very important part of your book’s lifecycle, because Amazon have a Hot New Releases list. And you really want to be on it. So, the idea is to hit the ground running with sales and reviews on day one.
How do you do this?
Advance Review Copies. You should be sending these out 4-8 weeks before you actually hit the publish button. Send them out to review blogs that cross post to Amazon. If you are doing a paperback, then if you do it through LSI with a future publication date, then it will allow pre-orders through Amazon. Don’t just hit publish. Set a date, start building anticipation.
Do a giveaway of the paperback on Goodreads – 5 copies is sufficient. Do an ebook giveaway on Librarything for 100 ebooks. This will generate some initial reviews and, as I’ll explain later, reviews are crucial. It will also get your book on hundreds of people’s TBR piles on those sites. Which their friends can see. Which might mean that their friends add your book to their own TBR piles.
On your launch day, unless you already have an eager fan base waiting for you, publish it at $3.99, then immediately drop the price to $0.99. Hold a launch party on Facebook. Give copies away. Offer signed paperbacks for ebook purchases or Amazon gift cards, as long as people share their purchase on their FB and Twitter accounts. The key here is volume. You need to be shifting as many copies of your book as you can in the first few days. Why? Because you want to be ranking high on that “Hot New Release” list.
If you can get 5 good reviews sorted out prior to launch, then you can hit phase 2 at the same time as your launch party, or at least in the week immediately following it. That is a paid promotion with Bookblast. There are a lot of smaller paid promo lists like Bookblast out there, but to be honest, I think that they have almost the same subscriber list as each other, and Bookblast is best value for money. With any luck, you’ll get a decent number of downloads going, and after a few days – a week tops, stick the price back up to $3.99 to take advantage of your nice, high sales rank.
2: Pricing is a tool. Nothing more.
I see so many ebooks out there, dying on their collective arses because the publishers got greedy and set the price too high. A lot of people complain that by reducing the price we are devaluing the market. Well, guess what? If everyone else is doing it, then you had better be doing it as well. Because royalties on an individual book sale are not important. What is important is volume. Would you rather sell 30 books at $10 or 300 at $3? The answer is the 300 books, because that will improve your sales rank and get more people reading your book and writing reviews, and that will then go on to generate more sales.
$3.99 seems to be the sweet spot for novels. It’s cheap enough that people will make impulse buys, and it’s expensive enough that a quick $0.99 fire sale will look like a bargain, as well as differentiating you from the perma $0.99 crowd and sitting you nicely in the 70% royalty bracket. I put out a charity box set earlier this year with 8 complete novels and novellas including the first High Moor book and Whisper by Michael Bray. It’s currently priced at $5.99. And it hardly sells anything. This, despite the fact that the books within it go for between $2.99 and $3.99 individually and all sell well at that price point. There is no point in complaining about devaluing the product and pricing it the same as a paperback or hardback. That is not how the ebook market works. Consumers are not prepared to pay more than $4.99 for an ebook, apart from the really big names. And even then, they begrudge doing it. Set your price point appropriately. If your sales rank nose dives, then drop the price to $0.99 for 24 hours to give it a boost.
3: Free works… if you do it properly.
A few years ago, doing a free promotion with KDP Select was a goldmine because Amazon would take a proportion of those free downloads and convert them into a paid sales rank. They don’t do that anymore, and a lot of people are saying that free is a waste of time.
Those people are generally wrong. However, just slapping your book on free and spamming your Facebook friends list isn’t going to achieve much. To have an impact on a free period, you really need to get a Bookbub promotion.
Now, Bookbub are the 900lb gorilla of ebook marketing. I did one earlier this month for Whisper by Michael Bray and we gave away 43000 copies over 5 days. That is a lot of books by any reckoning. OK, so it gets the author’s name out there, but we’ve just potentially given away free copies of our book to our entire reader base. Right?
Again, it’s about visibility on Amazon’s lists. Having that many downloads means that we get the book on a lot of other books’ “people who bought this book also bought…” lists. And that means that you get a big boost on your paid sales after the promotion ends. To date, in December, we have sold 1000 full price copies of Whisper off that back of that free promotion. And our reviews on Amazon.com have leaped from 20 to 77 in three weeks.
There is a catch, of course. Bookbub is not easy to get into. You really need 15 good reviews before they will even consider you, as well as a compelling blurb and good, eye catching cover. If any of those criteria are not met, then you have no chance of getting in. Book your listing for a month after the date you send them an email, and if you don’t get in, then wait a month and try again.
Yes, it’s tricky to get into. Yes, it’s expensive. But those sort of sales figures have been consistent every time I’ve done a promo with them, and paid sales have at least doubled for 4-6 weeks afterwards.
4: Stop trying to sell to other writers.
I see so much of this, and it beggars belief. Yes, writers tend to be voracious readers, but they are not the only readers in the world. In fact they make up a very small proportion of them. Relentless spamming of your book on FB and Twitter is going to achieve one thing. It’s going to piss people off and get you blocked, or at least have you banished from news feeds. I’ve seen interesting Facebook groups abandoned because all discussion ended and they degenerated into a list of self-published authors relentlessly spamming their work (and not even bothering to read the other spam posts – in case you were wondering – let alone buy any).
Use social networking to be visible and accessible to people. Post funny things. Be a person (even if it’s an online persona instead of the real you). Don’t be a dick, refrain from too many extreme views, and post about your stuff no more than a couple of times a week. It’s the same with writers’ organisations like the HWA and the Stoker awards. Awards do not sell your books; 99% of your reader base have no interest in these awards or even know that they exist, so expending too much effort along these lines is counter-productive, as you will end up getting dragged into all of the associated nastiness that goes along with these things. Concentrate your time on writing more, being entertaining via social media, and selling your books to actual readers instead of other writers.
5: Keep up to date with the market.
This advice is what is currently working for me. There is no guarantee that this will work in six months or a year’s time. You need to keep abreast of what is going on in the digital book marketplace. And the absolute best way of doing that is to read the Writers Cafe on Kboards. There are people on there who sell tens of thousands of copies a month. Tens. Of. Thousands. You’ll pick up lots of tricks and tips, and if someone comes across a little loophole in Amazon’s algorithms that will boost your short term sales, then that is where it will end up first. It is an absolute goldmine of information. Join up, be a part of the community and learn. Your bank balance will be glad that you did.
OK, that’s all you are getting from me this year. Happy New Year to you all, and I hope that you have a brilliant 2014.