I know, this is your favorite topic, right? Right after writer’s block and right before the discussion about whether romances have to have a happy ending. But seriously.
Let’s talk about it.
“Millions of people want to read your book.” -Chris Fox
I have been publishing since 2015, stumbling through most of it like a newborn deer, making an okay chunk of money here and there but for the most part, coasting along and making pizza money. You know, that deposit from Amazon that could cover a nice large pie and maybe some garlic knots from your fave pizza joint.
I kind of got sick of working so hard for miniscule numbers. Then recently something changed. I’m really trying to remember who, how, when, but I stumbled upon The Author Biz. It’s a website but also a podcast. And started to listen to some of the backlog of past episodes. Ya’ll my jaw was dropping, because people were moving SERIOUS books. Quitting jobs and working full time as writers. I wanted to know HOW… HOW… HOW YA DOING THAT?!
Chris Fox, author of Write to Market (great book, by the way) was talking about his new book, Relaunch your Novel, all about making the most of your backlist. I was intrigued by the depth of conversation and the content. I listened to just about every episode of The Author Biz podcast and others like it. Started reading books, studying, taking notes. Checking stuff out.
I want to show you something.
*Author’s note: I am in Select, so my books are exclusive to Amazon. I make royalties on sold books but the lion’s share of my income is via Select (the reader side of select is Kindle Unlimited, the subscription ebook program). The pink is royalties (straight up book purchases), the blue is page reads.
See if you can pinpoint the moment in time when I started following the advice I heard. In mid July, I was making $4 a day on my books. That’s with page reads and royalties. A good day here and there, but pizza money. A month later I am looking at a 4 figure paycheck from Amazon for August. I’ll update this when the month is over. I was going to wait to share this but I am impatient, so. Started from the bottom, now we here.
The tactics that I put into place weren’t free. I chose to invest some coinage (and made sure I made it back), but what I am saying is… I changed things up. It’s not necessary to spend a ton of money to get your sales off the ground, but you do have to be willing to have an open mind, to get up every morning and apply elbow grease, to be creative and persistent. It’s work. I work at this… but it pays off when you figure out the magic.
“But I don’t want to write full time! I like my day job!”
Me too, girl. Guy. I love health insurance and a reason to leave the house and talk to people. If I didn’t work I would never leave my house. I’d be like Sandra Bullock in THE NET (have you seen that movie? Frigging scary). However… more book money means more beaches, to me. More gadgets I want but can’t afford. And if you’re more practical, an extra $1K a month pays off bills, gets your car 4 new tires, put some shoes on your feet and RESPECK on yo’ name!
If you’re an author- publisher, you’re already doing more than the average person is doing. We say this all the time: lots of people want to write a book. Few people actually finish. So you wrote you a book. GOOD!
The next steps are oh-so-crucial, at least to me.
1. Get that baby edited/proofread. I don’t care if you don’t want to, find someone else to read your novel and make suggestions and follow the ones that make sense. Use beta readers, crit partners, proofreaders. Put your ego in your pocket and seek out opinions. And if you’re the type that’s like ‘this is my ART, I just do this for fun’ gon’ head and close the page because I’m not typing all this out for you. Continue to post your error-ridden, poorly formatted books.
If your feelings just got hurt, keep reading.
The point is that readers expect a certain quality. So you’re not Big 5 published… doesn’t mean your book needs to look like you shat it out yesterday and threw it up online for some quick cash. MKAY? Alright.
2. Speakin’ of- if your cover sucks, I hate you. Get a pro cover if you can’t do one yourself. Too many tools out there, too many talented people out there for your cover to be looking like the MSPaint special. You can be cheap and look good. Stop it with the lazy. Mkay?
3. Make a plan. Have a strategy. Have a new release? What day is it coming out? Early in the month, so you get the entire month to stack dolla dolla bills? Mid month, when more popular books hit so you can catch the wave? How are you going to promote your book? Do you have more than one? Your strategy for a debut or a standalone should be different than your strategy for books 2- infinity of a series. Are you in KDP? Are you using your promo options*? Have you explored free/paid promotion sites, the better to ad stack, my dear?
Mixing and matching your promotion options act as a magnet to attract readers to the other books you have listed (at full price). Typically once a reader gets a hold of someone that can write their tail off, they want to read the entire backlist. Make. it. easy.
*Once per KDP term, or 90 days, you can set a book as free for up to 7 days, I think. You can use the days all at once, or piecemeal it out. You can also do a kindle countdown, which sets your price low and gradually increases over 7 days.
4. Are you persistent and relentless? Because you’ll need those qualities to get up everyday, look at your numbers and decide on a tactic to bring them to a threshold that is acceptable to you. This is the work. I’ve become accustomed to a certain number every day and when I feel like I’m dropping below that, I do something… run a facebook ad (questions about effective facebook marketing? Check out these articles at The Author Biz. ) Create something fun and eye catching (and simple) on Canva and use buffer to schedule it to post on social media platforms (DON’T FORGET TO INCLUDE BUY LINKS! People will absolutely not leave the comfort of their browser to look you up. Make. It. Easy.)
I realize I might be telling you a bunch of stuff you already know. Or maybe you’re already making 4+ figures a month just being your good ass writer self. Cool beans. This is for those writers who are ready to level up, and if you have suggestions, tips, tricks, please do share. I like to think of indie authoring as a community, not competitors. Despite how packed the market is, we do have something special, especially in black indie romance.
So, for specifics if you’re wondering what I did to make that chart happen:
- Facebook ads: I started here. Because it was an easy thing I could do to practice and perfect. If I don’t like how an ad is running, I cancel it. I boost posts from my facebook page or create ads from scratch and make sure they make it to instagram. I can always tell when my ads aren’t running on IG. Easy, bright, eye catching. The fewer words the better. A great many readers are on facebook, so reach them. I know you hate facebook. Your author page isn’t for kitten photos and arguing about politics. It’s to showcase your books. I friend everyone, but I don’t follow everyone. The key to facebook sanity.
- For a great resource on FB ads, check out Michael Cooper’s HELP MY FACEBOOK ADS SUCK. Don’t give up if your ads don’t seem to be working. Keep working at them. Change your audience, change your image, change the wording. Once you find what works, then you know you can market to that audience because those are the people that read your books.
- Bookbub… okay lemme back up. First I ran a bargainbooksy campaign on a book that didn’t amount to much. I ran a couple of campaigns that were pretty much a bust. A lot of trial and error here. I learned that unless your “magnet’ book is free or $.99, it doesn’t get much play. People want cheap, and from my results, these aren’t the people that collect free books and then don’t read them.
- Don’t forget that if you’re in KU, people won’t BUY that book, even if it’s free. They’ll borrow it because KU subscribers aren’t book buyers. They’re happy to borrow a book and give it back. Since page reads are important to us Select authors, we want them to borrow it and read every goldurn page. Anyway, back to bookbub.
- For African American interest, I purchased a Bookbub feature for $65 whole dollars. Yes. $65. For those demographics that Bookbub wants to hit, you can buy a feature for much less than it usually costs to do a Bookbub. They like the book to be free, so make sure you can set your price as free the day before the date they’ve assigned your feature to run.
- Then… I stacked ads.
- I ran a Kindle countdown promotion the week before my Bookbub was set to run (August 7th). This got some attention on my books and raised my ranking. Now Amazon is paying attention, right? (Note that you want to leave the book you’re going to be promoting alone– run your promo on all your OTHER books.) Make sure that countdown ends before your bookbub runs/your book goes free. You want them back at full price while your promotion is running.
- I ran a freebooksy promo (like bookbub but tons cheaper) the day before my bookbub. Amazing, amazing response. I gave away almost 700 books that day, but made my money back around 10AM with sales of other books and page reads. If you’re wondering how I can tell when I made my money back, check out Bookreport (www.getbookreport.com). It’s a fantastic tool for authors who publish through KDP. It syncs with KDP reports and translates that into sales. They’re usually spot on when it comes to reporting and predicting what my kindle paycheck is going to look like in 60 days. It’s also how I got that nifty chart up there.
- I ran a FussyLibrarian free ebook promo. It was only $7 and I figured why the hell not?
- The next day, my Bookbub ran. And… you guys, I almost passed out. During the entire promotion, I gave away 13K copies of Brunch at Ruby’s. HOWEVER, I sold over 300 copies of my other books and got paid for 142,168 pages read. That was as of Aug 22nd, actually. I’m going to update with my August numbers at the end of the month.
Again, I am sharing to be helpful. If you’re doing better than I am, I truly am happy for you! Some are struggling to get to where I am, so if they can improve and surpass me, more kudos to them!
The tail (lingering effects) on these promotions has been great. I wake up to sales everyday, page reads every day. I average about $50 a day in revenue and more than made back what I spent on the above promo tactics. And really, I have just scratched the surface. I haven’t really talked about sales rank, because I don’t care about it but obviously if you can hit Top 100, you’re doing great. It’s too fleeting for me to worry about at the moment. I do okay without being in the top 100.
There are tons of tactics to employ– the greatest of which is to WRITE BOOKS. Your backlist sells your new books, your new books lead readers to your backlist. Make sure your series are linked so readers can easily go from one to the other. Periodically put your first book in a series on sale (or free) so it can act as a magnet to the books that follow- note that often times, $.99 can be a better price than free, because free books sort of drown. 99cents gets you on the map, plus you rank on the paid charts and not the free charts.
Book Report just gave me the high sign that I made some more money, so lemme go check that out! I’ll be back to share more as soon as I learn more. I hope this was helpful and keep in mind I’ve just jumped into this pool too! If you have questions and I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it.
Shout me out on twitter (Author_DLWhite), Facebook (DLWhite) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Book writing/marketing podcasts I enjoy:
The Author Biz (linked above)
The SPA Girls Podcast (really fun bunch of ladies in New Zealand)
Books I’ve read that I think are helpful :
Reader Magnets by Nick Stephenson (this book is currently free)
Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing (really, anything by this guy!) by James Scott Bell
Mastering AMS (Amazon Marketing Service) ads by Brian Meeks