Posted in Book Marketing, E-publishing | Posted on 26-04-2013|
When you first release your book, you’re excited to share it with the world, and you’re ready to devote tons of energy to marketing. Blog tours, forum posts, interviews, guest posts, tweets, Facebook updates, advertising campaigns… if you can do it, you will. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a great launch, jumping to the top of the Amazon sales rankings. (Don’t worry — we’re not all that lucky, especially with first books, but it’s possible to “win” the slow-and-steady way too, especially if you’re committed to making a career of writing and publishing.)
Inevitably, your time and enthusiasm for marketing wanes, or maybe you feel you’ve exhausted your options (as awesome as Bookbub is right now, they’re only going to promote the same book so many times). Other authors come along with fresh new releases and fresh enthusiasm for marketing. You scowl as your awesome book gradually drops in sales ranking, falling out of the Top 100 lists, and daily sales drop as well. You remember some pundit saying how awesome ebooks are because, unlike with paperbacks, they can stay on the shelves forever, putting money in your pockets year after year. That’s only true, though, if people continue to find and buy your books.
So, how do you keep your sales rolling in, month after month, year after year?
It’s been almost two and a half years since I released my first Emperor’s Edge book, a negligible amount of time to those authors who have been in the biz for decades, but a small eternity in our new e-publishing era, one in which independent authors are making full-time incomes solely on their ebook sales. The Amazon sales charts are particularly volatile, with their rules changing and algorithms being tweaked all the time. Top sellers come and go. Some of the authors I interviewed last year or the year before who had hot new break out books have fallen off the radar in the 12-24 months since.
I haven’t been doing this long enough to swear that I know the answer, but I’ll tell you what I’m doing to keep my Emperor’s Edge series selling and to keep the monthly paychecks high enough that I’m able to continue to pay the bills (and buy chocolate bars and lattes — we all know how important those are for a writer).
First off, I’m continuing to write and publish.
I know this sounds obvious, but some folks get so hung up in the marketing side that they put the writing on the back burner. I’m averaging about three book releases a year right now, and I usually sneak in a short story or novella or two in there as well. My writing schedule isn’t that grueling, and I’ve come across authors who spew out a lot more words a day than I do. If you’re trying to figure out how to get more done each day, you can check out one of the books like, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. 10k sounds a little insane to me, but even if you manage 1,000 words a day, you could get two novels out in a year fairly easily. That was my word-count goal when I was still working the day job.
Continuing to release new books in my flagship series is the most important thing I do to keep my name out there where people can stumble across it. Because I’ve gotten to the point where many current readers automatically buy the next book when it’s published, a new release will rise up into the Top 20 of my genre category at Amazon, at least for a while, and this is one way new readers find me. They spot the series for the first time via the new release, and, if they think it sounds interesting, they can go back and try the first book. If they like that, they can go on to buy all of the titles.
I’m planning to publish the last book in my series’ current story arc at the end of the summer, but I won’t do something crazy like killing off the main characters until I’ve written another series that has proven itself capable of being the bill-payer. Fortunately, I still enjoy writing about those characters, so this isn’t any sort of hardship for me. The point is, though, to think like a business person as much as like an artist. Once you figure out what’s popular, it’s probably worth making that your focus.
Note: as I’ve stated before, it’s important to get your readers to sign up for your newsletter, and/or follow you on Facebook/Twitter/your blog so that you can get in touch with them when you have a new release. Don’t assume people will just know that you have a new book out and buy it without any input from you.
Second, I continue to engage in high-result/low-time-investment marketing tactics
I’ve never had a lot of luck with blog tours and interviews and such. They’re a lot of work (time that could be spent writing the next book), and unless you can get onto a very popular blog, they’re unlikely to result in many sales.
On the flip side, advertising can deliver small to huge results (depending on the popularity of the venue) and it only takes five minutes to fill out a form and send money to a site. It’s a struggle to find those popular sites that actually deliver sales, but they are out there. Right now, Bookbub is moving a lot of books for folks, and I’m still hearing good things about Ereader News Today, though I haven’t used them for a while. Pixel of Ink is another big site, though they’re not taking new sponsors at this time (I did, however, have them pick up EE1 a few months ago when it jumped into the Top 100 free at Amazon, thanks to a Bookbub ad).
Watch the Writers’ Cafe on the Kindleboards to see how people’s ads with various venues are going. It’s a good site for keeping up with what’s working and what’s not this month. (Note: I don’t actually have an account there; I just watch. Forums can be a huge time sink without much of a return, insofar as selling books go. If you join, do it because it’s fun and something you’ll do in your free time.)
I also post on Facebook and Twitter (and keep meaning to get more serious about Google+). This is less about selling books and more about keeping in touch with my readers between releases. If you follow me on Twitter or peep at my author page on Facebook, you’ll notice that I don’t plug my books very often (typically only if I’m running a rare sale or releasing a new book), but I believe there are a lot of intangible benefits to connecting with readers this way. Social media sites can be the beginning steps to building a community that has a life even when you’re not around, and there’s no limit to the ways a community can help you, should you ever need it. Also, it’s really fun to hang out with people who share your sense of humor (and they must if they enjoy your books, right?)!
Neither Twitter nor Facebook need to take a lot of time each day. If you grab the apps for your phone, you can check in while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or watching the kids’ soccer practice.
Lastly, I don’t worry about sales ranking — I just pay attention to the bottom line
I know that if I can sell 400 ebooks a month for each of my Emperor’s Edge titles, I’m making a nice monthly income. Your requirements will vary, of course, depending on how many books you have out and what their sales prices are (most of my EE books are $4.95 so I take home $3+ from each sale), but once you know how many you need to be selling and what you have to do to achieve that, it becomes a numbers game rather than a cross-your-fingers-and-hope game. If you’re crossing anything, you’re not ready to rely solely on this income.
For me, giving away a lot of Book 1s in my series (often via an ad) will result in a very good sales month, one that’ll carry over into the next month. Not everyone who tries Book 1 will go on to buy the rest of the series, but lots of people do. This month, April, is a slower sales month for me. It’s been a couple of months since I released anything (and that was my sequel to Encrypted, a novel with some fans but one that never sold as well as my core series), and it’s also been a couple of months since I had a big boost from running an ad on a popular site. I did run an add on a small site earlier this month, but it only resulted in a few hundred extra downloads of my free book. That said, I’ll still sell 400+ ebooks a month across my EE titles this month.
If people enjoy your books and if you keep the publish-and-plug cycle going, you’ll continue to have readers in different parts of your series, and sales will continue to trickle in. The longer you’ve been publishing and the more fans you have who spread the word, the more of those steady trickle-in sales you’ll get. As long as your book continues to sell, Amazon and the other sites will continue to help you, too, with your books appearing in other authors’ also-boughts and in personalized email recommendations.
I expect May to be a good sales month for me, because I’ll have a new EE book out. As I already pointed out, nothing helps more than releasing a new book, especially in a series that’s already proven itself. The great thing about independent e-publishing is that you can find out quickly which of your books/series are most popular and have the most potential to bring home the bacon each month. Those are the ones you probably want to focus most of your energy on. This doesn’t mean you can never branch out and try new things (it may be the next adventure that really takes off, after all), but I believe that having a series like that is key to getting to a point where you can rely on your book-publishing income month after month.
Do you have any thoughts on this topic (some extra tips for people?) or questions? Let us know in the comments!