Kate Flora: In the process of exploring the possibility of publishing one of my books as an e-book original, I found this blog post by David Niall Wilson. It’s one of the best posts I’ve read on the subject, and with David’s permission, I’m reprinting it here.
Let me preface this by saying I’m not a guru. I’m an author with around 30 years experience in and around publishing. I own one of the fastest growing and closest-to-the-cutting-edge publishing houses going. I pay attention, and I have thoughts. I can back my thoughts up with observation, experience, and common sense…but take all that with a grain of salt. What worked yesterday might not today, what works today could shift tomorrow with the release of some new tool…
1. Visibility is the key. By this I do not mean visibility to other authors, to your circle of friends, but visibility to people who have never heard of you and who are actual potential buyers for books. The key to building a readership and expanding it into crazy numbers is finding your way out of all the little ponds that try to entice you in to “share and market” and cutting to the surface of the bigger pond. If your book can be made visible to a very large number of prospective buyers, sales will rise.
2. Marketing services that do not provide hard numbers on what their service has done in the past for actual sales of books are shaky at best, and likely to be avoided. If you are offered marketing that promises more “friends” – “followers” – stat-counter hits on your website, etc., but no evidence of sales, move on. It is now an industry unto itself, this building of inconsequential numbers – half of whom don’t even represent real people, and the other half of whom are others trying to get the same group to buy their book. Invest your time and money wisely when marketing.
3. One-click-to-buy. (You will see clever examples at the top and bottom of this post) This is crucial in today’s market, and particularly for eBooks. There are millions of eBooks out there, many by talented, successful, famous people. You have to win your sales from the same pool of buyers as all the rest. If your book appears anywhere that there are potential buyers, make sure you come as close to one-click-to-buy as is humanly possible. People will not remember and search you later, they will move on. Take them to a product page. If you hand out cards, flyers, take out print magazine ads – include a QR code they can scan with their phone camera and buy. Miss no opportunity for a cover image with a one-click-to-buy link.
4. Do not get caught up in the madness of “shrinking boxes”. Example. You have a personal Facebook account, and a second “Fan” page where you promote your writing. Each of these has a set number of “viewers” – your ‘friends,” and those who ‘like” your fan page. I won’t get into the questionable value of marketing again and again to your friends, but I will say this. The two pages are enough. If you create “events” or ‘groups’ or a new page for every new book you ‘launch’ with a special launch party, those are smaller boxes carved from the same people you are already marketing to. You can ride the shaky ship on your Fan page of paying FB to ‘promote’ it, but experience has shown that mostly this gets you onto pages that are not even real people, or onto the timelines of people who scream “why did you post your spam on my timeline!!!?” when it was actually FB who did it. Promote your books on a single fan page. Announce events there too. Don’t invite your boxes to be annoyed with you or carve their numbers down to smaller, and smaller groups. Announce and promote on your fan page and actively encourage those who see the posts to share them on THEIR timelines, which actually engages their Box of ‘friends’ and legitimizes the contact by becoming more credible. You want to grow the number of people seeing your links, not shrink it.
5. Cover art. It is important that the cover of your eBook look as slick and professional as possible. Never sacrifice cool for efficiency. The title, and your name, should be visible at the size of a postage stamp. Clever fonts, really busy art images, things that a small circle find cool and the rest of the world will be offended by – avoid. At all costs. You want people to see – know what it is – be attracted. Do not buy into the notion that putting a fancy new cover on your book will sell more copies of the book. If your book has no visibility, and you change your cover, but you do nothing to change the visibility – no one is going to see the new cover and it isn’t going to matter at all. It’s important to HAVE a good cover, but as marketing tool cover art is secondary at best.
6. PR Services or “experts” – see tip #2. Do not shovel money into the pockets of self-appointed gurus. If they have built a huge following on Social Media, ask them to give you a percentage of those contacts that are actually readers buying books. Ask for a percentage that is just other authors buying in and hoping for sales. Ask for proof that you at least have real potential, with their help, to sell enough books to cover the cost of their service. The waters are full of sharks, but they are also filled with leeches. In the old publishing model, most of the money went to the publisher, then a percentage went to the agent, and the smallest amount went to the author. In the new model, people are trying to divvy up that old publisher’s cut and leave authors frustrated, poor, and yet hopeful enough to buy into the next scheme. Pick and choose very wisely when determining how to market.
7. Not everyone is a marketer, charismatic, popular, a good editor, etc. Don’t let others, whose skillsets and resources are very different from your own tell you you have to do everything yourself. Writers should be writing. If you spend more time fretting over and trying to push your books than you do writing the next one, then you are in danger of not being a writer at all, but being swept up in the new sea of people who want desperately to be writers but have no time to create anything. Publishers like mine are out there – places where a lot of the burden can be shared – where things like formatting, cover art, etc. are not words to tear your hear out over…and where all your money doesn’t funnel into other people’s pockets.
8. If you publish first in print-particularly with a smaller publisher – and that publisher does not a: do their own eBooks – b: distribute those eBooks widely – c: offer you the lion’s share of the royalties on those eBooks, don’t let them have the rights. If they farm it out to yet another publisher, and then split that diminished return with you – also not a great idea. Not every publisher is experienced enough to do anything useful with your digital rights. It’s not the same game – don’t let the fact a publisher has been making pretty books for years fool you into thinking that means they automatically know how to handle your eBook, or that you should let them. Ask questions. Get a good royalty rate. Check your options. Chances are if you have the skills and resources, you can make more headway controlling your own eBooks. There are levels of distribution, levels of compensation – and levels of professionalism. Just be careful. I’m an author – I built my company to be one I wouldn’t mind working with. I hate all the same things you do. (Yep, that’s a small plug – sue me, my blog).
9. Don’t rush out to give your books away. Yes, there are huge success stories for people who have done this. There are programs, like Amazon’s KDP program, that when used correctly and with a little luck can spur real success. For every book given away that actually improves an author’s situation, there are 10,000 given away that don’t matter a hoot. The pyramid is always there. Famous or highly visible people giving something away will give more than the next tier. Moderately successful people giving something away can make a splash and occasionally even launch into that upper tier. A book from someone no one has ever heard of, not promoted ahead of time properly, won’t give away many copies – and of those it does, won’t help spur sales. The thing that makes free books work the BEST is quality. If you can give away 10,000 books – and the book is read by 2k of those and not forgotten, and it’s really good – and those 2k people mention this, or even 100 of them stop by to review it- you might have something. If it’s riddled with typos, dashed off and forgettable – it will be forgotten. Not everything that has worked for others is going to work for you – same goes for your books themselves. Copy-catting is never-even on the best day-going to give you anything but a shadow of the success of the person you are copy-catting. Write your best book, and if an opportunity to give copies of it away smartly presents – go for it. Don’t make this you marketing “rule” though, or even if you do get fans, they’ll wait for all the books to go free.
10. Write. You have to keep writing. You have to provide new things, and keep the words flowing. If you market the same book for a year, people are going to be so tired of it they will phase you out, and you’ll never even get them to look when you finally have something new. Write what matters to YOU – and not what you think you can make a quick buck off of because someone else did. Whoever that is – you aren’t them, and the situation that sold their book is not your situation. It’s a losing battle for a crown of mediocrity. If you have something to say – write. And read – buy books – keep your head in the game. Writing is both craft, and art. At the craft level it can make a living – at the art level it can make memories. I think you all know what is more important to you, personally – pursue it.
I hope – in some way – this has helped.
David Niall Wilson has been writing and publishing horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction since the mid-eighties. An ordained minister, once President of the Horror Writer’s Association and multiple recipient of the Bram Stoker Award, his novels include Maelstrom, The Mote in Andrea’s Eye, Deep Blue, the Grails Covenant Trilogy, Star Trek Voyager: Chrysalis, Except You Go Through Shadow, This is My Blood, Ancient Eyes, On the Third Day, The Orffyreus Wheel, and Vintage Soul – Book One of the DeChance Chronicles. The Stargate Atlantis novel “Brimstone,” written with Patricia Lee Macomber is his most recent. He has over 150 short stories published in anthologies, magazines, and five collections, the most recent of which were “Defining Moments” published in 2007 by WFC Award winning Sarob Press, and the currently available “Ennui & Other States of Madness,” from Dark Regions Press. His work has appeared in and is due out in various anthologies and magazines. David lives and loves with Patricia Lee Macomber in the historic William R. White House in Hertford, NC with their children, Billy, Zach, Zane, and Katie, and occasionally their genius college daughter Stephanie.
David is CEO and founder of Crossroad Press, a cutting edge digital publishing company specializing in electronic novels, collections, and non-fiction, as well as unabridged audiobooks. Find more about Crossroad Press either at the Crossroad Press Blog, The Crossroad Press online store, or the Digital Drive-in, a blog filled with reviews, interviews, podcasts, video clips and more.
Find all 650 plus titles from Crossroad Press at http://store.crossroadpress.com or wherever eBooks are sold.