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Do Authors Have to Blog?

Dear Editor | Do Authors Have to Blog? (An #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Post)

Writers are an odd bunch. I’ve come across many writers who are more than comfortable with the idea of writing a 90,000-word novel, but have palpitations at the thought of writing and publishing a 500-word blog post.

These authors often ask the same question:

Do Authors Have to Blog?

My answer? Maybe. But maybe not.

If you’re a non-fiction author, then you do need to blog. It establishes your expertise in your specialist area, which will build credibility.

But you might not need to blog if you’re a fiction author. Many established authors don’t have a blog on their website. Others do, but blog only a few times a year (usually to promote a new release). Some blog on group blogs.

Do fiction authors have to blog? And what should they blog about? #Blogging #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Click To Tweet

Fiction authors may still need to blog.

If you’re aiming for a publishing contract with a major traditional publisher, then you almost certainly need to have an author blog and post regularly. Social media expert Edie Melson points out that regular blogging shows industry professionals you can write to a deadline and produce quality work. Melson does point out that blogging isn’t a way to sell books, but does provide a way of connecting with readers.

What if you’re aiming to self-publish?

Then it depends. Self-published authors need a website and an email list, but blogging? It’s not the most important part of a website—that would be your About page, and your Books page, because those are the pages readers are most likely to be looking for.

Do you enjoy blogging?

No? Then don’t start a blog. You want your blog to show readers an interesting person they want to know better. That’s not going to come through if you think blogging is a chore on a par with cleaning the toilet (or whatever household task you loathe most).

Can you commit to regular blogging? Will you?

Will you commit to a regular blogging schedule, including writing, editing and publishing a new blog post at least once per week for at least the next six months? No? Then don’t start a blog.

Don’t I have to blog to sell books?

No—even a strong blog might not help you sell books. Think of Mike Duran. I often share his posts  because they are thought-provoking and relevant and he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions about Christianity and literature. But he writes Christian horror, and while I think his blog is great, I’m not interested in his fiction (sorry, Mike).

Anyway, no one is going to be interested in your blog if it’s a constant infomercial (let your Home and Books pages do the selling).

Okay. I’m going to blog.

If you enjoy blogging and can commit to a regular schedule, then maybe blogging is for you. Now your choice is between blogging on your website, or blogging as part of a group blog. Here are some I read regularly:

If you blog on your own website:

  • Be regular. Blog at least once a week, at the same time and on the same day each week. Announce this on your About page. Don’t overcommit yourself: if one good post each week is all you can manage, then blog once a week.
  • Be intentional. Choose a topic or theme, and stick to it. If you don’t know what your theme might be, Jeff Goins has a 12-part free email course that might help you.
  • Don’t put blogging ahead of writing your book. If blogging is taking over your writing time, you might need to reconsider how regularly you blog.

If you post on a group blog:

  • Get your post up early. The earlier, the better. It saves the blog organiser the last-minute stress of wondering whether they need to find a filler post if you miss your slot.
  • Ensure your posts fit the blog. Some group blogs have different themes for different days. I find a set theme makes it easier to write a post. Ensure your posts are consistent in length and style with those of the other contributors. This doesn’t mean letting go of your unique author voice, but it does mean making sure you’re not posting deep theological treatises when everyone else is posting about their cute pets (or vice versa).
  • Put blogging ahead ahead of writing your book. You’ve made a commitment. Keep it. If you need to step back from contributing, contact the blog organiser and work out a mutually agreeable schedule. Don’t leave your blogmates in the lurch.

What do you blog about?

This is the more difficult question.

If you write non-fiction, blog about subjects related to your book (or even blog your book).

It’s not so cut and dried if you write fiction, especially if you’re not yet published. You want to your blog to appeal to your target reader—it’s a place for your potential audience to get to know you better, so write to appeal to that audience.

Do Authors Have to Blog? Tips for fiction and non-fiction authors #Blogging #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Click To Tweet

What subjects are your readers interested in?

Rachel Thompson and other blogging gurus suggest picking four or five topics and blogging about each once a month. Topics should be:

  • Something you’re interested in, so you can bear to write about them each month.
  • Something your target reader might be interested in. There is no point in building an audience of manhwa (Korean manga) fans if you’re writing inspirational women’s fiction.

Your blog needs to serve your reader, not you. What questions are they asking?

This doesn’t mean you can’t post about your writing—you can, but in a way that’s relevant for your target reader. For example, you could post:

  • Short stories (so they know your writing style).
  • Reviews of books in the same genre (because you want your blog to attract readers, right?).
  • Movie reviews in your genre (because readers are fans of story, and movies often have great stories).

Once you’re published, you can add book-related content, such as:

  • Character information, maps or related plot information.
  • Questions for book clubs.
  • Outtakes or deleted scenes (maybe).

The Novel Marketing Podcast has a useful episode on what novelists can blog about.

One last tip . . .

If you do choose to blog, ensure your blog integrated into your website (so your blog is a page on your website, not a completely separate site). Your blog is where you’ll start connecting with readers, through regular blog posts, so don’t confuse potential reader by having two sites.

Do you blog? How often? What do you blog about? What hints to you have for your fellow authors?

Dear Editor: How do you keep God first in marketing?

Dear Editor | How do you keep God first in marketing?

Yes, this is another post taken from a question I saw in a Facebook group:

How do you market your books in a way that shows humility and points to Christ?

The fact you’re asking this question means you’re already well on the way to making sure your marketing is focused on God, not you. That’s great.

But I suspect it also means that you’ve bought into the common lie about what marketing is—that marketing is the annoying and sometimes smarmy push-push-push used to make the sale.

It isn’t.

Making the sale is selling. That’s important, but it’s not marketing. Marketing is about creating a product or service a segment of people will want to buy, then bringing that product or services to the attention of that segment.

Traditional marketing focuses on the four P’s: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.

Even when I studied marketing, back in the dark ages of the early 1990’s, promotion was merely one aspect of marketing. And that was for traditional consumer goods marketing.

Now I believe there are seven Ps for the Christian author to consider: Prayer, Product, Package, Place, Price, Promotion, and Platform.

Let’s take a brief look at each:

Prayer

As Christians, our marketing should begin in prayer. It should end in prayer. It should be bathed in prayer. We need to be seeking God to know what he wants us to write—what topics, what formats, what word count. We need to know how and when he wants us to publish—publish a physical book or share our writing on a website or blog? Traditional publication or self-publishing?

(The only wrong answer here is vanity publishing; I believe that for 99% of authors or more, a vanity publisher is a bad deal because it’s bad stewardship of our financial resources. Having said that, even the owners and employees of vanity publishers need to hear the gospel, so if that’s the job God has given you, do it and do it well.)

Product

Traditional marketing starts with Product: offering a product (or service) customers will want to buy.

For writers, this means writing the best book or blog post we can write. It means learning to write, and learning to write well. Learning, learning, learning. Then writing, writing, writing. Writing the book or the blog post God calls us to write. It doesn’t matter whether we write fiction or non-fiction, literary or genre. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a book or not. Marketing our writing starts with writing well.

Seek excellence, because excellence honours God.

Package

Package is about taking that product and turning it into something the reader can access.

For a book, this means hiring the best editor we can afford—someone who will take your book apart and put it back together again, only better. Then we hire the best cover designer you can find, someone who will design a cover that appeals to your target reader. Package also includes the formats in which you sell your book: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook, podcast.

But not all writing has to be published in a book. Letters, blog posts, magazine articles, devotionals … all are valid ways of writing in obedience to God’s call. Consider how these shorter offerings can be packaged for the reader.

Place and Price

Traditional marketing then moves onto Place and Price: distributing our Product to our target customers (Place) at a Price they are willing to pay.

For traditionally published authors, the publisher will control Place and Price.

If we self-publish, then our big decisions are Place (sell ebooks exclusively through Amazon or do you go “wide” and sell through other retailers as well) and Price (largely driven by what readers expect to pay, which is related to what other authors in your genre charge). Remember, the worker is worth his or her hire, so there is nothing wrong with charging for our work. Paul supported his missionary journeys by making tents.

We might decide to give our work away, either as a free book or by writing for a blog. That’s a valid decision if we’re writing for God, as “free” removes one of the barriers to making a sale. But making our writing freely available doesn’t mean our writing is read—that’s going to come back to Product and Promotion.

Promotion

Promotion is the final aspect of traditional marketing. Traditional promotion was a combination of push and pull marketing—pushing advertisements out to the world at large, and hoping to Pull customers into the store to buy your product.

Now we’re a little more sophisticated. We can target our advertisements on sites like Amazon and Facebook and Goodreads, to (hopefully) focus only on our target customer. We can cross-promote with other authors in the same genre. And we can promote ourselves and others using our Platform.

Platform

Platform is my preferred method of promotion because it reflects the approach I believe we need to take to marketing: to identify our audience, and seek to serve them.

Platform allows us to emulate Jesus by serving others, not ourselves.

What does this mean? Well, serving ourselves is easy to identify: it’s the author who tweets “buy my book” every six minutes of every hour of every day. It’s the author who constantly pins her own book covers. It’s the author who constantly posts quotes from her own books on Facebook and Instagram. It’s the me-me-me author who never talks about anyone but herself, who never responds to comments or social media mentions because her “marketing” is all on autopilot so she can focus on obsessing about her sales (and grouching because she’s in Facebook jail for self-promoting her book in a hundred Facebook groups in quick succession).

Serving others is harder. It requires more up-front thought, and more effort than scheduling the same 1,600 Tweets each week.

Serving others is about:

  • Identifying our target reader.
  • Working out what subjects our target reader is interested in.
  • Serving our current and potential readers by finding and posting content about those subjects.

There is a name for this: content marketing.

The principle of content marketing is that we don’t directly market ourselves. Instead, we share information that serves others, and use that as the way to attract potential readers. It’s about being real and authentic, about engaging with our readers and turning them into fans.

Good content marketing follows the 80:20 rule:

  • 80% of what you share is information (content) that will interest and engage your target reader.
  • Only 20% of what you share is direct self-promotion. And even that should still be designed to interest and engage your target reader.

If we’re actively marketing to a Christian audience, then some of that content will point directly to Christ. For instance, we can share:

  • Bible quote memes.
  • Inspiring Christian quotes.
  • Devotional posts.
  • Deeper thoughts on God and the Bible.

We can still point to Christ even while marketing to a mainstream audience. For example, one Christian author I know who writes general market romance has a link to Bear Grylls advertising the Alpha course on the bottom of her website. Another is a pastor’s wife, and often posts about church services or events. Others are more subtle—you can see their Christian faith come through in their writing. It’s not overtly Christian, but it still points to Christ for those who have ears to hear.

Our focus on on serving your audience.

God has given us a message to share through our writing. He therefore wants us to share that message. To do otherwise would be to hide our light under a bushel.

And we can share that in humility and in a Christ-like manner. Jesus was the Messiah, yet didn’t promote himself. He said very unpromotional things, like the least shall be first. He pointed to His Father in all things. We can do the same.

This method of marketing isn’t going to produce instant results.

It’s playing a long game. So is God. It’s giving without expectation. As Jesus did. It’s about delivering the message God has placed on our hearts, and trusting the Holy Spirit to get it to the people who need it.

At the end of the day, if we are focused on God, if we are writing and publishing what you believe He has called us to write and publish, then we’re going to have to trust Him with the results. Bathe our writing in prayer, sow our seeds, serve others, and trust God to bring His harvest in His time.

Meanwhile, if you’d like help in establishing a Christ-centred Platform, click here to check out the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge.

What content can you share that will promote your writing and point to Christ?

Sell More Books With Less Marketing

Book Review | Sell More Books With Less Marketing by Chris Syme

Chris Syme is rapidly becoming one of my go-to sources for up-to-date information on book marketing.

Many of the other experts excel in saying what’s worked for them, and don’t realise why that can’t or won’t work for everyone. Sell More Books With Less Marketing starts with a hard truth many book marketing experts gloss over:

You must write a good book. This means beta readers, editors, and good covers for a start … you must do the work … all the work.

Chris Syme doesn’t have a gazillion book sales of her own. But she does have her daughter, Becca, a NYT Bestselling author who writes in a couple of different genres (and is a guest lecturer at Lawson Writer’s Academy, which means she knows her stuff). Chris and Becca co-host The Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast, and Chris has her own Facebook group.

Some of the material in this book is repeated from her earlier book, The Newbies Guide to Selling More Books with Less Social Media. This includes her explanation of the sales funnel, and her stage of a published writer. This was the lightbulb moment for me in regard to her first book, as it illustrates why so much of the marketing information out there doesn’t work.

Because it’s not written for newbie authors.

This book is.

If you haven’t read any books on book marketing, this is an excellent one to start with. It covers the basics in a straightforward way, so a new author won’t get lost in book marketing jargon that’s years ahead of where they need to be.

It’s aimed at authors with fewer than three books published, and little in the way of an online platform.

This means readers can focus on what’s important now, rather than wasting time chasing the next must-do strategy that only works effectively for authors with multiple books published, ideally in a series.

Sell More Books with Less Marketing covers the sales funnel, the three-must have marketing tools all authors need, and each chapter has actionable steps to take. Chris Syme also provides readers with access to her exclusive Facebook group, and access to a free email marketing course.

Syme asks readers to make three commitments:

  • A commitment to consistency
  • A commitment to perseverance
  • A commitment to excellence

Like most professional marketers, Syme subscribes to permission-based marketing rather than the old interruption marketing. This is intelligent marketing, because it’s marketing to people who’ve asked to be marketed to e.g. via an email list.

She like threes: she has her three commitments, her Big Three Goals (discoverability, sales, loyalty), and the Big Three Components you’ll need to succeed (website, email newsletter, Facebook page).

Syme cuts through the plethora of advice on book marketing to deliver three threes that will form the basis for a solid marketing platform, with no slimy selling involved.

Recommended.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

Best of the Blogs

Best of the Blogs | 5 August 2017

Best of the blogs—the best posts of the week on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your book.

Writing

Opening Hook

How to Make a Grand Opening is a great post from Tina Ann Forkner visiting Writers in the Storm. We all know—as readers and as writers—that those opening paragraphs are vital. In this post, Tina explains what needs to be included. A lot—which is part of the reason they are so hard.

Show, Don’t Tell

We all know the rule: show, don’t tell. We even know why it’s bad. What can be harder to understand is the sometimes subtle difference between the two. In Showing Versus Telling: So SHOW Me Already! PJ Parrish visits The Kill Zone Blog to show us.

It’s long, with several examples, but it’s one of the best posts I’ve read on the subject.

Christian Fiction

Lee Tobin McClain addressed an important question for Christian writers at Inspy Romance: How Racy is Too Racy? She shows a before-and-after version of a scene from her new Love Inspired release. The editor queried the scene as being out of line with their standards. It didn’t seem that racy to me, but Love Inspired is known for their conservative storylines and content. What do you think?

Marketing

Book Marketing Checklist

Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies and The Book Launch Blueprint, is back with another great freebie. The Book Marketing Checklist is a 45-page pdf download of (I imagine) pretty much everything you need to think about in marketing your book or books.

Yes, it’s a list. And I know some of you don’t like lists because they only tell you what you need to do, not how to do it. If that sounds familiar, I have a couple of suggestions:

  • Follow my blog on Feedly or your favourite RSS feed app, so you don’t miss any of my more detailed how-to posts.
  • Subscribe to my newsletter, so you’ll get a heads-up the next time I run my Kick Start Your Author Platform challenge (click here to subscribe).

Book Reviews

Jason B Ladd, author of Book Review Banzai, visits The Creative Penn to explain How to Get Book Reviews as an Unknown Author. He makes some great points (and I must read his book).

Facebook

I know next to nothing about Facebook advertising. The one thing I do know is that if you are using Facebook advertising, or intend to use it in the future, then you need to install the Facebook Pixel on your website.

If that’s gobbledegook to you, then you need to read this post from Social Media Examiner:

What are the best posts you’ve found this week on writing, editing, publishing, or marketing?

Marketing 101: Top Ten Blogs to Follow

Last week I looked at five things not to do when promoting your book online, mostly focused around reviewing ethics. The week before I looked at marketing from a Christian perspective, and concluded there are a lot of ‘experts’ telling authors what to do, and it wasn’t always easy to tell the gold from the dross.

How do you tell who is giving good advice? I’ve spent a lot of time surfing the internet, learning about publishing and book marketing over the last few years. This post will introduce you to what I believe are the top ten blogs for Christian authors to follow.

Actually, they are the top 10 blogs for any author to follow (while some of them have a Christian focus, most don’t). Some are focused on traditional publishing, while others have more of a self-publishing bent. It’s important to read both, in order to make an educated decision about the type of publisher you want to work with.

So, in alphabetical order:

  1. Books & Such Literary Agency
    Books & Such is a literary agency representing a range of authors published in the Christian and general markets. As with most agent blogs, each agent will post on a regular basis, and they also have some guest bloggers (usually authors represented by the agency). When reading agent blogs, be aware that they make money by selling books to traditional publishers, so their focus is on encouraging authors along that path—which might not be right for everyone.
  2. Rachelle Gardner
    Rachelle is a literary agent with Books & Such (above), specialising in Christian publishing. I have noticed that the quality of her posts has declined over the last year (her best posts are now just links to Books & Such), and her commenters tend to be overwhelmingly agreeable (I suspect most of them hope to land Rachelle as their agent one day). Despite these drawbacks, there is a wealth of information on her blog about writing craft and literary agents, and you would be advised to spend some time going through her archives.
  3. David Gaughran
    David is the author of Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible. Like several other bloggers on my list, Gaughran has a nasty habit of unveiling the truth about spurious publishing headlines. (Marketing hint: when responding to a controversial post, calling the other person “full of s***” means you have lost the moral high ground—and the argument).
  4. Joe Konrath at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing
    Joe offers excellent advice on self-publishing and marketing. His vocabulary is often a little, let’s say, earthy (he’s not a Christian, and his language can reflect that) and his tone is self-congratulatory. He’s earned around $1m from Amazon sales over the last year, so I think that gives him the right to say he knows a bit about writing and book marketing. Joe has little patience for traditional publishing, which makes his blog an excellent contrast to the agent blogs.
  5. Steve Laube
    Steve is owner of the Steve Laube Literary agency, and the new owner of Marcher Lord Press, publisher of Christian speculative fiction. His blog doesn’t get as many comments as some of the others on my list, but the posts are intelligent and insightful, and include weekly posts from each of the four agents.
  6. Amanda Luedeke
    Amanda is an agent with MacGregor Literary, owned by Chip MacGregor, and writes “Thursdays with Amanda”, a weekly marketing post (that I read on Friday, because of the international date line). The blog also has regular posts from Chip, from his other agents, and some guest blogger posts. These are good, but Amanda is better. Again, I’d advise you to go through the archives (or read Amanda’s book).
  7. Kristine Kathryn Rusch
    Kris doesn’t post regularly, but when she does, it’s worth reading. She is especially good on explaining the business of writing and publishing, and issues with contracts (such as interpreting royalty statements, assignment of rights, and reversion clauses). Essential reading.
  8. The Creative Penn
    Joanna Penn covers self-publishing and marketing, with a combination of blog posts and podcasts. A wealth of information, much of which is covered in her book, How to Market a Book.
  9. The Passive Voice
    The Passive Voice isn’t a like most blogs, where the blogger (or a group of bloggers) post their own views and experiences. Passive Guy compiles interesting and relevant posts on publishing and marketing from around the internet and adds a dry comment or two. (He also posts relevant literary quotes, and the occasional promotion for Mrs PG’s new book).
  10. Writer Beware
    What’s going wrong in the world of publishing, including agents, awards and publishers to avoid (and why). Writer Beware is one of the best places to look if you think something looks fishy (see their invaluable “Thumbs Down” lists). Again, an extensive and informative archive.

If you only have time to follow one blog, which one would I recommend? Easy.

The Passive Voice.

Why? Two reasons:

  • The Passive Voice is run by Passive Guy, a lawyer specialising in contract law, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to publishing contracts and legal issues. Mrs PG is a self-published historical fiction author, so he has an interest in self-publishing. You can find his professional website here.
  • The comments are outstanding—comments on many blogs are mostly congratulatory, but PG attracts a range of readers and encourages friendly debate. For an example, see the recent post on author earnings which attracted over 300 comments.

What writing blogs do you read? Which ones do you recommend, and why?

Book Review: Your First 1000 Copies by David Grahl

I liked Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book because I liked Tim Grahl’s marketing ethic: creating lasting connections though a focus on being “relentlessly helpful” (a tactic which works, as I’m much more likely to buy a book from an author whose blog I follow. However, it’s possibly a tactic that’s going to work better for the non-fiction author than the novelist who might not have so much relentlessly helpful information to share with readers).

There was some good information here that I plan to implement, including a pop-up invitation to subscribe to my mailing list (with a useful incentive!). He emphasises the importance of creating content that can be reimagined (so can be used in multiple ways) and that stays current over time (which he refers to as ‘evergreen content’).

I also liked the way he referred readers back to his website in several instances, particularly where information changes regularly. This serves two purposes: it ensures the book doesn’t date as quickly, and it drives traffic to the website (where, presumably, visitors are invited to join his email list). Clever.

As with several other book marketing books I’ve read, Grahl focuses on the importance of developing a strong mailing list, and using that list properly. There is one fault: despite the title, Your First 1000 Copies is geared towards authors with one or more titles on sale already, not those releasing their first book and looking for their first 1000 sales. I also suspect the tactics will work better for non-fiction authors than for novelists.

Nevertheless, Your First 1000 Copies is still worth reading, as it offers some ideas I’ve not seen in the other marketing books I’ve read.

Marketing 101: Christian Marketing

I’ve covered the basics of book marketing over the last two months, and included reviews of books I’ve read on the subject (both good and bad). Most of this information has been obtained from books and blogs aimed at the general market, not specifically the Christian market, which leads to an obvious question:

Is there any difference?

No. And yes.

No, because the principles of marketing are the same, regardless of the product or service you are marketing.

Yes, because there are a lot of shoddy or unethical marketing ideas and practices out there. Some of these ideas are promoted, endorsed and practiced by Christians (or people who call themselves Christians). Personally, I believe that as Christians we are called to a higher standard, not just to abstain from evil but from the appearance of evil.

Yes, because we are called to stay away from any appearance of practicing or endorsing marketing practices that contravene the policies of the websites we are using (e.g. Amazon or Goodreads) and to hold ourselves to the highest standard.

Yes, because there wolves in the market. Christians are often too trusting of other Christians, and get caught in scams or using unethical marketing practices because they don’t know better. We need to educate ourselves so we do know better.

Product

As Christians, I believe we have an obligation to give our best for God. The kingdom of God is not built on second-rate work.

Giving our best means taking the time to ensure our books are the best they can be, utilising beta readers, critique partners, competent editors and proofreaders to give feedback and enable us to improve. It means gaining external professional assistance for any part of the writing, publishing or marketing process that we are unable to perform ourselves (and we should always get external assistance with editing. No one can edit their own work. We just don’t see our own mistakes). It does not mean publishing a book the only days after we finish writing it. That’s not a book. It’s a first draft.

There are wolves in this area, especially in the realm of ‘self-publishing’. I’ll explain this in detail in a later post, but self-publishing is when you do it yourself, not when you sign a contract with a publisher. This is an area of the market which is full of scams like:

  • The Christian publisher with a ‘self-publishing’ imprint that charges between $999 and $6,499 (plus optional extras, such as professional editing), and is operated by the notorious Author Solutions.
  • The Christian publisher who will publish your book, but requires that you pay a ‘marketing’ fee of approximately $4,000.
  • The Christian publisher who will publish and market your book, but requires that you purchase an unspecified number of your books. I estimate this will cost in the region of $10,000.

I have two issues with these kinds of ‘publishers’:

  • What I have seen of their product is sub-standard. Their covers are less than inspiring, there is little or no sign the books have been competently edited, and their marketing is basic (it usually consists of Amazon and Ingram listings, and a standard website). On the plus side, the proofreading and interior design of the books is good. This kind of self-publishing does not represent value for money.
  • These publishers, especially Author Solutions, make their money by selling products to authors, not by selling books to readers. You, the author, are paying the full cost of production, so they have no financial incentive to ensure your book is a success. And without book sales, you won’t be getting any of the royalties mentioned in the contract.

I am all in favour of authors who choose to self-publish. But not this kind of self-publishing. Remember, money flows from the publisher to the author. Not the other way around.

Place and Price

As far as I can tell, the issues surrounding Place and Price are the same for Christians as for everyone else. Ensure your book is categorised correctly and priced competitively. Keep watch on your sales and on the market in general so you can adjust categories or price as necessary.

Promotion

This is where it gets hard. The interwebz is full of ‘experts’, Christian or not. Some give excellent advice; others don’t. Next week I’ll be looking at five things not to do when promoting your books (no matter what the ‘experts’ say).

Review: The Book Publishers Toolkit by IBPA

This isn’t as much a book as a compilation of articles that were previously published in Independent, the monthly member magazine of the not-for-profit Independent Book Publishers Association. The Book Publishers Toolkit is very short, and took less than an hour to read.

The articles are:

  • Getting and Using Awards by Kate Bandos
  • Tapping Into Twitter Expertise by Kimberly A. Edwards
  • Let’s Hear It for the Long Tail by Joel Friedlander
  • Acquiring the Right Rights: Will Your Contract Keep Up with the Markets for Your Books? by Steve Gillen
  • A Librarian Talks About Choosing Books to Buy by Abigail Goben
  • Build a Powerful Platform with a Simple Brand Audit by Tanya Hall
  • Marketing Plans for First Books by Brian Jud
  • Why Authors Hate Social Networking, and How to Get Them to Promote Books Online Anyway by Stacey J. Miller
  • Growing Connections That Count by Kathleen Welton
  • E-book Conversions: Ten Pointers to Ensure Reader Enjoyment (and Minimize E-book Returns) by David Wogahn

Overall, the articles are pretty broad-brush, and probably don’t contain anything an astute small press or self-publisher hasn’t already have read before. Some are focused on authors who are self-publishing (e.g. the e-book conversion article), others are focused on traditional publishers (e.g. the article on rights, which has some interesting sample contract clauses).

I think the chapter order was wrong. I would have thought it more logical to start with the high level branding advice and then move into the specifics of, how to use Twitter or how to get libraries to buy your book (and it was slightly awkward when the advice from one expert contradicts another, as happened regarding the idea of donating books to the library).

One noticeable omission in the chapter on awards was a reference to Writer Beware, who maintains a list of awards and contests to watch out for (because they charge excessive fees and generally only have one entrant in each category. A contest in which everyone is a winner isn’t a contest that is going to help your marketing effort).

If it’s free on Kindle, it’s probably worth downloading just to see if there’s anything new for you. Otherwise, I’ve seen most of the other information before on industry and agent blogs (e.g. Smashwords, Passive Guy, Seth Godin, Author Marketing Experts or Joe Konrath).

Marketing 101: Price Revisited

Five Reasons Free Isn’t Working

A lot of authors choose to price their new release free to raise awareness and build readership. Or KDP Select members might use their five free days to increase visibility and sales. But free isn’t working the way it used to.  Authors aren’t seeing the increase in visibility or the spike in sales from free books that was common two years ago (and which is why, if you are looking for books about marketing your novel on Amazon, I don’t recommend buying any book written before 2013).

Here are five reasons free doesn’t work as well any more:

1.    Bestseller lists

Free books used to count towards bestseller status (in that one sale of a free book counted in the same way as one sale of a full-price or sale book). This changed in March 2012, and free sales no longer contribute towards bestseller status. Strike One for free books.

2.    Popularity status

Free books used to count towards popularity status (the books that show up first on a category search) in the same way as they counted towards bestseller status: one sale of a free book counted the same as one sale of a paid-for book. No more. Free books still contribute towards popularity, but you need ten free sales to equate to one paid sale. Strike Two for free books.

3.    Amazon Associates

Strike Three was the changes to the Amazon Associates affiliate marketing programme. This programme allows websites to link to Amazon products, and the affiliate then earns a percentage of any purchase resulting from that link. Many websites are a member of the programme, if only because it allows us to use book cover images without infringing copyright (for most websites, it’s not for the money —I’ve earned less than $20 in two years). As an example, if you click on any of the book cover images on this site, they will take you to Amazon. If you click buy, I’ll earn a small commission (paid in the form of an Amazon gift voucher).

Anyway, there were a lot of websites making use of the affiliate programme and getting to the maximum fee percentage by advertising a lot of free books. While this was good for the websites, it was less good for Amazon. Since 1 March 2013, free ebooks no longer count towards sales. And—to discourage websites from advertising free deals—if more than 20,000 free Kindle books are ‘sold’ and those books make up 80% of the volume of ‘sales’, the affiliate is not eligible for any fee. These websites have moved to promoting cheap or discounted books in order to preserve their revenue stream, and it’s now harder for authors to get publicity for free books.

This is explained in detail by Ryan Casey. A number of bloggers have postulated that 99 cents is the new free (in fact, someone’s even written a book about it), as this is low enough to attract attention from consumers, yet gets around the restrictions in the Amazon Associates programme.

4.    Free listing

In August 2013, Amazon started tinkering with their Best Seller listings. Previously, each page had the Top 10 Paid and Free Best Sellers (in the chosen category) listed side by side, so the#1 Free book was displayed right beside the #1 Paid book. Now the two are on separate pages, further reducing visibility. It’s another strike against free.

5.    Owner behaviour

The first thing most new Kindle owners do is fill their Kindles with free ebooks (yes, I did). Each of those free books counted as a sale for the author, but most of them—probably close to 1,000—are still sitting on my Kindle, unread. I’m now more astute and tend to only download books I’m planning on reading.

How do I prioritise my reading? Well, as a reviewer, I obviously have to read those books I’ve promised to review. As an editor, I also read books on editing and book marketing. When it comes to choosing a book to read for pleasure, I tend to choose a book I’ve paid for, whether as an electronic or a dead tree version, even if I only paid $2.99.

And that’s the final strike against free ebooks: just because I download them doesn’t mean I’ll read them. I’m going to read the books I’ve paid for first.

Review: Is $.99 the New Free? by Steve Scott

As most authors know, making Kindle books available free through KDP Select no longer has the powerful marketing effect it did a year ago. In Is $.99 the New Free? The Truth About Launching and Pricing Your Kindle Books, Scott explores whether free still has a place in a marketing plan, or whether pricing books at 99 cents is a better strategy.

He starts by examining the four essential metrics he believes all authors should track (including sales and reviews), then discusses five pricing strategies:

#1 – Free Book Launch
#2 – $.99 Book Launch
#3 – Free Pulse
#4 – $.99 Pulse
#5 – Perma-Free

Scott then offers an eight-point strategy to developing an author platform and marketing ebooks. This isn’t new information, but it’s presented well and appears accurate (which is more than I can say for some of the marketing books I’ve read). Useful information, but covered in more depth in other books.

Is $.99 the New Free? iss around fifty pages, and currently costs less than a dollar. For that price, I think Is $.99 the New Free? represents good value for money, and is worth reading.