Writer Discovers 5 Weird Tricks. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

Or, 5 Tips to Market Your
Book Online

Note: This post originally appeared on the Creatrix Marketing blog.

As hinted in my tongue-in-cheek clickbait alternate title, anyone who tells you there’s a guaranteed path to publishing success is probably selling something. Usually in ebook form. As the old joke goes, if you purchase, “Learn how to be a bestseller, just buy this book!” the only thing you’ll find written inside is, “Write a how-to book; tell people to buy it.” 

While there’s nothing you can do to guarantee success, there are steps you can take to increase your chances. Many authors compare publishing success (whether self-pubbed, small press, or traditional) to being struck by lightning. Think of these tips as your lightning rods.


Write a marketable book. I’m going to catch a lot of flak for this one, but the easiest way to market a book is to make sure it’s easy to pitch. In Hollywood, they call this High Concept—your story should be clear enough that you can describe it in one to two sentences, and have someone hooked if you only have an elevator ride to pitch your story. I know, you’re an artist, you write what the muse speaks and not what sells. But you really can have it both ways: Perfect your elevator pitch for marketing success, and perfect your prose for artistic fulfillment. No one will read your genius if you can’t convince them to crack open the cover.

Be active on social media. There a thousands of people, right this second, looking for their next book to read, and they’re doing so online. Social media is where you give your elevator pitch, but don’t use the internet solely as a sales tool. Be yourself. When others see that you like the same shows, or they admire your viewpoint on an issue, or fall for your under-140-character wit, they’ll pay more attention the few times you announce a promotion. Which leads us to…

Use available marketing tools. No need to reinvent the wheel, all that groundwork has been laid out for you. If you’re self-pubbed, you should consider running free or discounted promotions of your title. You can also get your publisher to run some of these promotions for you. Then advertise your promotion on the many websites/mailing lists targeted to eager bargain hungry readers. This will drastically expand your reach, increase sales, and gain you reviews. 

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Market off-line too. Don’t forget to reach out to the real world. You don’t have to be a bestseller to set up a book signing at your local store, or an interview on your local radio station. Tell friends at parties. Always carry business cards! By rubbing elbows with potential fans out in the real world, you’ll increase your visibility online too. Many of those new connections will reach out to find you in cyberspace, or tell their friends. Each new fan is like planting a seed to help you grow as an author. 

Think outside the box. There are far, far more reading options than ever before. From the growing list of classics, to the self-publishing movement, it’s hard to stand out. You’ve got to try something different. For me, that’s been book trailers. You can turn that elevator pitch into a short film, and spread it out across the series-of-tubes just like a movie trailer. If done well, it’s an entertaining piece in its own right and most viewers don’t feel like they’re directly being advertised at. Book trailers are a growing trend, but what will be the next tool? Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to discover it.


Are you a writer or marketer? A reader/customer with thoughts on being pitched to? Add your opinion in the comments below. And don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe!

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INFECTED Promo Results (Day One)

As promised, here are my results and Lessons Learned from the INFECTED giveaway.

What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?” — Count Rugen, The Princess Bride

January 7th
With everything set up to go the night before, one last stat-check. Below you can see my pre-giveaway sales numbers and the ranking for INFECTED. In the spirit of honesty, I’m sharing my less than stellar numbers. Hopefully that means you won’t mind my bragging after the promotion, right?!

NOTE: CLICK ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE

Sales numbers as of 1730, January 7th.
Sales numbers as of 1730, January 7th.

Yowza! Impressive, right?
Yowza! Impressive, right? [/sarcasm_font]
INFECTED has been oddly steady over the past year, garnering almost exactly 2 sales per day (+/- 1). Usually, it’ll jump to somewhere in the mid #40k rankings, then return to the #100k block until the next day’s sales. MURDERED, as you can see, is still building momentum. Hopefully, that should be one of the side-effects of this promotion. INFECTED has never gone lower (higher?) than #19k in the kindle store, while MURDERED made it to mid #12k. Goal is to crush those records in the coming days. Well, time for bed!

January 8th
Good morning! With Kindle Fire Department set to announce me today, as well as a whole slew of free resources (most of them ask for a giveaway window and there’s no garauntee that they will feature your book, let alone when they’ll do it. It is a free service, after all. I’ll assess which ones worked and which didn’t in my final thoughts), we’re ready to kick off the free promotion. Let’s check the overnight stats:

Downloads as of 0600, Jan 8th
82 Downloads as of 0600, January 8th.
Blah
Numbers are already higher than paid numbers, not that this means anything.

This is before any site announced the giveaway, as far as I know. Interesting that one person bought the book before it went on sale… Thanks, whoever you are! The goal of the promotion is to get your rank as high as possible — it’s a race to #1. If you can make it into the top #20 or #10, then people will start downloading your book just from browsing the top free ebooks on amazon, thus increasing the snowball effect.

In addition to the websites listed on my previous post, it’s also important to do your own marketing. As such, I blogged about the giveaway, tweeted the heck out of it (including a link in my “welcome DM” on @clickyourpoison), and created an event on goodreads and on facebook:

An event is a great tool because it sends a notification rather than risking being lost in the feed. Be careful not to hound your friends too much...
An event is a great tool because it sends a notification to those invited (rather than risking being lost in the feed). Be careful not to hound your friends too much though…

Let’s check the mid-day numbers, after the promotion has been announced:

dfdf
909 Downloads as of 1400, January 8th.
BOOM! Big jump. Off to a great start.
BOOM! Big jump. Off to a great start.

Okay, so from what I’ve researched, these are awesome numbers. Especially for an author with a small fan-base who has never done anything like this before. Which leads us to the first lesson learned. Yup, I’ve already made a mistake.

LESSON LEARNED: Categories. See how I’m already #6 in Horror > Occult? That’s actually not a good thing this early into the promotion. I originally chose this category as “low-hanging fruit” because it’s easy to climb the chart (there aren’t too many books competing for space). Which is a good thing when you’re trying to keep your paid ranking high, but when you’re doing a free promotion, you should shoot the moon. So, I looked up the bestselling books most similar to mine and mirrored their categories. I settled on Science Fiction > Post-Apocalyptic and Horror > United States. I called Amazon customer support to get them to quickly change my categories, so hopefully within 24 hours the rankings will be fixed. Lesson Learned? Update your “shoot the moon” categories before your promotion.

Okay, took a hike just to get away from the craziness, then spent the late afternoon/evening posting on facebook groups and tweeting. I had joined several “zombie fan” groups on facebook in the weeks prior, and now used the opportunity to spread the word. When you’re offering something free, most people don’t mind.

Let’s check the numbers once more before bed, shall we? Okay!

Downloads as of 2200, January 8th.
2236 Downloads as of 2200, January 8th.
Already updated the categories, nice!
Already updated the categories, nice!

In addition to all the free downloads, that’s also 4 sales of MURDERED in 24 hours. Great first day, see you tomorrow!

Continue to INFECTED Promo Results (Day Two)

Lessons Learned: Free ebook Promotion

[In keeping with my New Year’s Resolution, here’s some info about what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong. First entry in the Lessons Learned category]

First, a quick overview for those not in the know (or wanting a refresher) about a KDP Select ebook promotion over amazon. To be enrolled in KDP Select, an ebook must be exclusively available for sale on the amazon kindle for a period of 90 days. During that 90 days, the book may be offered for free or as a $0.99 sale for up to 5 days. I went exclusive with Amazon last year because, as another perk, readers can “borrow” your book for their kindle for free (while the author still enjoys a royalty) and these “borrows” are still incorporated into sales ranking. My sales from all outside ebook channels were quickly eclipsed by borrows, so I’m very pleased with that decision, but this is my first KDP promotion.

Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free? I’ll admit, it seemed counter-intuitive to me at first. How can you possibly make a living as a writer giving your books away for free? First and foremost, it should be noted that this tool should be used wisely, and in such, promotions should be limited. Give away your book too often, and your sales will fall through the floor. That’s why I chose to promote INFECTED a month after the release of my new book, MURDERED (after it had time to gain a few reviews), and why I’ve made clear that it’s available for free 8-10 Jan ONLY.

It’s all a game. A free ebook promotion should be treated like a strategy game, with free downloads counting as so much monopoly money. The only difference is, if you win, to the victor go the spoils. That is to say, if you play the game right, you can see some rewards in the real world. The first benefit is increasing your standing in the amazon ranking system. You know that section under the product description on an amazon page where it says “Customers who bought this also bought”? That’s you now. With this marketing tool, every free download counts as a purchase. So, with several thousand downloads, your book will now appear all over amazon’s sales rankings.

Amazon is the banker, and it’s your job to make sure your book passes “Go” as many times as possible. C’mon, doubles!

Second, is increasing your book’s presence. As any new author will attest, getting people to discover that your book exists is the hardest part. Giving away your book is a great way to increase word-of-mouth buzz, especially if you have multiple books in a series. People who enjoyed your book during it’s limited free promotion may convince their friends it’s worth it to pay for the experience once it’s no longer free. They may also check out your other books themselves.

The cornerstone of your strategy is visibility. There are many websites out there dedicated to letting readers know when a great free deal comes along, and it’s in your best interest to use them. Some are paid services, but have proven worth it to many authors. The bigger ones have hundreds of thousands of subscribers who might be interested in your book. It’s likely that many who frequent free book email-blast and announcement websites weren’t out looking to buy anyway, so don’t think of these free downloads as lost sales. Think of them as new opportunities.

Allow me to break my strategy down for you. I went with a “go big or go home approach” and I used a total of 44 websites to announce my giveaway (staggered over the three-day period), only 4 of which were paid services. I also used the model put forth last year by Elle Lothlorian, combined with a few other tricks I’d picked up in my research. Like her, I’ll break down exactly what I did and how it worked out for me.

Paid Services: BookBub, an oft-touted service considered by many to be the #1 way to announce your promotion, was my front line. I contacted them first to check their availability and settled on Friday, January 10th for their announcement. The second heavy hitter is Book Blast, and they were able to accommodate me for January 9th. The third biggie I chose was Kindle Fire Department, who had an opening to feature INFECTED on January 8th. Not that it was my intent, but I ended up being featured by these websites from least popular to most. I think this has actually helped my “snowball effect” greatly. As I’m writing this on day two of the promotion… we’ll see! The fourth paid service was Sweet Free Ebooks, a $5 posting set to go off on January 9th.

Free Services: For the other 40 announcements, I used a list on eBook Booster (you can pay to have your book submitted automatically, but I took a full day to contact them myself) and the list on Author Marketing Club. INFECTED was set to be reviewed by Horror Novel Reviews and I asked if they could time it to coincide with the promotion. I also had reviews set up for MURDERED over at Evolved World and You’ve Got Red On You and asked if they would give a shout out for the promotion as well. All three requests were kindly granted.

So… Ready for some results and numbers? Check out INFECTED Promo Results (Day One)