Researching the Competition — Example: Serena Williams Biography

Researching the competition for your next book can be a roller coaster of emotions. First you think your idea is completely new and out of the ordinary. Yay! Then you start to find others like yours. Nooo! Then you see those books are ancient and yours will be fresh and new. Yay! Then you search again and find 5 new releases. Heartbreak!

It can be exhausting going through all of that, and perhaps that is why many writers avoid researching their competition. However, if you plan to market your book to anyone outside of your family and friends, you need to know who you are up against.

Let’s say  you are interested in writing a book about US tennis great Serena Williams. A quick Amazon search for Williams brings up 419 items. Sorting by year of publication, we seTennis Racquete 12 of those books were slated for publication in 2019 alone. That is a whole lot of competition for a book about Serena Williams!

Looking closer, however, you will also note that very few Serena books were published before 2019. So how do you make your case that your book will have the shelf-life needed to recoup your and your publisher’s investment?

Another search, this time for tennis biographies, illustrates the long life of tennis as a source for biographies: Arthur Ashe, the icon who played in the 1960s, is the subject of a biography set to publish in 2020. Nearly 60 years is a pretty good shelf life.

You need not be discouraged by the competition. All of these books indicate that there is a large population interested in reading about the lives of sports stars.

That said, you might also take this information and decide instead to write about someone else, say, Maria Sharapova, who is ranked number two by ESPN for famous female athletes but has had just a handful of books written about her. Explore a wide-open market like that and you just might land on the bestseller list.

Researching the competition is scary, but it can also lead to inspiration and will almost certainly fuel your success. Keep with it until you know exactly who you are up against.

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Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in the Update and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now available on Amazon!

 

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Before You Hire an Editor, Do These 4 Things

The other day, I called around to find someone who could tell me why the bush in my front yard was dying. “Dying” may have been too generous. It seemed like maybe it was already dead. It had slowly turned brown over the past year and as of the week before, three-fourths of it was leafless. Not to mention, the trunk seemed to be growing something.

Still, I was hoping someone could help me salvage what was left.

The lawn care company I called first recommended a garden center. The garden center recommended a tree specialist. The tree specialist said this:

“Dead is dead.”

He explained that he could come take a look but it would cost me $250 and it didn’t sound like there was much left to save. “I’m not usually one to turn down billable hours, but it’s not like I can do an autopsy or even a tissue sample. Dead is dead.”

I thanked him for his forthright manner and said I would take his gentle suggestion not to hire him.

The next weekend, my husband went out with a saw to see what he could do. The bush turned out to be so dead, the saw was unnecessary. He more or less yanked it out of the ground with his bare hands.

I’m glad I saved my $250. It is a treat to encounter someone who isn’t just looking to make a buck.

To tell the truth, that tree specialist reminded me of me.

black and white black and white branches cloudy
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

It doesn’t happen often, but there have been times when I had to turn down a client simply because I thought they would be wasting their money by hiring me. Not that their book idea was dead; they just were not ready for editing. (I have written previously about the reactions I have gotten when this happened after editing had already started.)

I am always pleased when writers want to have their books edited before publishing them. Sometimes, however, they have a few more steps to take before it is wise to spend money on an editor.

Here are 4 steps you should take before hiring an editor:

  • Let the manuscript simmer. Take a week or, better yet, a month away from the manuscript before you begin your revisions. You can spend this time not thinking about the book at all, or use it to build your marketing platform, research agents and publishers, or read other books that will help you hone your craft.
  • Read through the manuscript 2 or more times to make revisions. Most people require 20 revisions to get their work where they want it. It is an iterative process. However, you will probably need an outsider’s perspective before you get quite that far.
  • Share your work with a friend. No, a friend isn’t likely to give you the best feedback, but you have to start somewhere. If you don’t already have a writing group to tell you what is good and bad about your story, start with a friend. You need to get the gumption up to expose your work to someone else and it’s OK if you start with a softball.
  • Find a writing group, beta readers, or other outside people with writing experience to read your manuscript. Arrange for 3–5 well-chosen readers to give you specific constructive feedback on the writing. Then sort the feedback to determine which changes support your vision for the book.

You could continue on this path until you have completed your 20 revisions. That’s not a bad plan. But you might also decide it’s time to hire an editor before then. That’s not a bad plan either. What I would strongly advise against is typing “The End” and immediately beginning your search for an editor.

As the tree specialist illustrated, it’s often faster and cheaper to rip a dead bush out of the ground yourself than to pay someone to tell you what you already know.

[Related: How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps]

 

cover for the revised edition of Perfect Bound

 

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Revised Edition of Perfect Bound Coming Soon!

I am happy to announce Perfect Bound: Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro has been updated and revised!  This has been a long time in the making, and I’m thrilled to be able to provide my readers with the most current information possible.

Cover reveal: The revised edition of Perfect Bound
Cover reveal: The revised edition of Perfect Bound

The 2019 edition of this multi-award-winning guide features:

  • New exercises for choosing your path to publication
  • Condensed and updated guidance on e-book companies
  • Updated cost information and new resources to explore
  • In-depth discussions of hybrid publishing, Instagram, and barcodes
  • A new interview with Janell Robisch, a designer and e-book formatter

And so much more!

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Find more insights and advice in the Updated and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now available on Amazon!

Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do (Updated)

Self-publishers, take note: While it’s true that you hold an inherent copyright to your work just for the fact that you wrote it, should anyone try to infringe on your copyright you will be best served by registering with the US Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). That may sound intimidating, but it is actually a fairly straightforward process.

How to Register

Start by going to the US Copyright Office website. The Copyright Office accepts both online and paper applications, and the applications come with easy-to-understand instructions. The filing fee (as of 2019) is $55 for online registration and $85 for hard copy.

In addition to the application and the filing fee, you will be asked to provide a copy of the “deposit” — what the Copyright Office calls the work to be registered. If you file electronically you can send an electronic file or a hard copy of your work; file with paper and you  have to send a hard copy. (The Copyright Office prefers online applications, but you are not bound by that.)

The application itself is easy to follow and there is an extensive FAQ section to answer questions. Read the instructions carefully and you can complete the online form in less than 20 minutes.

When to Register

You can register your book either before or after publication. Although simple, it can be a lengthy process, as getting the certificate can take nearly four months for the electronic application and nearly seven months for paper applications. During particularly busy times, those lags can be even longer.

The good news is, unless you have reason to believe you will not be granted copyright, you don’t have to wait until you receive your certificate before publishing the work. The date of registration is the date the office receives the completed application, not the date you receive your certificate. Still, copyright registration is not something you want to let slip through the cracks. I would recommend beginning earlier rather than later.

Upon publication, if you have a print book, submit a hard copy to be held in the Library of Congress.

What Not to Include

When you apply for copyright, you are making a public record. That means anyone can view the information you supply. The Copyright Office website offers this pointed advice:

Personally identifying information, such as your address, telephone number, and email address, that is submitted on the registration application becomes part of the public record. Some information will be viewable in the Copyright Office’s on‑line databases that are available on the Internet. For this reason, you should provide only the information requested. Please do NOT provide any additional personal information that is not requested, such as your social security number or your driver’s license number.

As identity theft is a real problem in this country, heeding this advice only makes sense.

How and Where Your Copyright Notice Should Appear

Your copyright notice belongs on the reverse of the title page in your book. A valid copyright notice includes the word “Copyright” or the symbol “©”; the year of registration; and the copyright holder’s name, in that order:

© 2020 Katherine Pickett

Some publishers choose to use both the word and the symbol for copyright as well as the word “by” — Copyright © 2020 by Katherine Pickett — but that is not required.

Pitfall: Preregistration vs. Registration

The Copyright Office provides the option of “preregistration” for works that have not yet been completed. (Important: This is separate from registration of unpublished works.) The fee for preregistration is a whopping $140. I suspect this fee is intended to be a deterrent, as even the Copyright Office notes that preregistration is not helpful for most people. Rather, preregistration is recommended only for those who meet these two criteria:

  1. You think it is likely someone will infringe on your copyright before the work is made public, and
  2. The work isn’t finished.

Note also that even if you preregister, you will still need to go through the registration process. Except in extreme circumstances, you will most likely want to register your work rather than preregister it.

 

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Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in the Updated and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now available on Amazon!

Beyond Editing: What Are Your Soft Skills?

Copyright Vaeenma | Dreamstime.com

Self-publishing clients have a range of needs, and savvy editors have an opportunity to grow their business by filling them. If you are willing to (1) broaden your network and (2) broaden your knowledge of publishing, you can find a wealth of business in the self-publishing market.

Self-publishers are in charge of the full publishing endeavor. They need an editor — you — but they also need a cover and interior designer, an e-book formatter, a marketer, a website designer, and more. If you have a network of vendors you can recommend, you can become a resource for your authors. In some instances, you may even get a referral fee.

Many self-publishers are new to the publishing industry. They don’t know one kind of editor from the next, much less how to choose a printer and e-book company. They might not even fully understand what their goals are in publishing their book.

You have the opportunity to educate yourself and then pass that knowledge on to your authors. You may give away some of this information to build trust, or you may charge for your knowledge in the form of a consulting fee. Either way, your clients and you both benefit when you understand the workings of the self-publishing industry.

PerfectBound front cover 2019 9-6 low-res

 

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in the Updated and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now available on Amazon!

Enough Work to Go Around?

In the freelance-editing field, the topic persistently arises of whether to share client lists with other editors. New editors looking for a way into the industry hope that some nice, established editor will put them in touch with the right people. Some new freelancers might even expect this, seeming to not understand exactly what they are asking. Conversely, established editors want to protect what they have earned with their years of experience and may be reluctant to share contacts with just anybody.

Should new freelancers expect a helping hand from the veterans among us? And just how important is it to guard your client list once you have built it?

Most of us received some amount of help in getting where we are. I know I did—a lot of help—and so, from the beginning of my career, I have tried to give back. Often that has meant sharing my knowledge of the industry with those looking to break in. Other times, it has meant sharing clients.

Several years ago, I said as much to a fellow freelancer, someone I considered a mentor. She said, “I don’t understand that saying. Give back what?” She felt she never was given anything she needed to return. As fate would have it, a few years later, her main client had dried up and she called me looking for a way to keep her business going. She had taught me plenty about editing; I was ready to do whatever I could. To start, I put her in touch with one of my clients who I knew was looking for editors. She never followed up. Perhaps not surprisingly, her freelance company is no longer.

What did I learn from this experience? This woman, who felt she had never been given anything she did not earn, was unable to see the gifts she had received. She acknowledged neither the training and education provided by her capable teachers nor the job opportunities and support her colleagues had given her. And she ended up with nothing. I adopted the opposite stance, and my business is stronger than ever.

New entrants into the freelance field need to remember that building a client list takes time. There should be no expectation of receiving client contact information without putting in the effort to hone the required skills and build relationships. Like many editors I have spoken with, I have had brand-new editors say to me, “Hey, I’m gonna need to get some contacts from you,” as if it were a given. That is when I say, “You will need to get your résumé in order before I can confidently refer you to any of my clients. Here are a few things you will need…”

I have also received calls from experienced editors who are just branching out into the freelance world. Those who are polite, respect my time, and understand that any contact information I share is given because I trust them, I am happy to put in touch with a few clients. Like many others, I have clients with more work than editors, and it doesn’t hurt me to share that information. In the cases when I am the beneficiary of someone else’s client contact information, I say thank you. Then I not only follow up, but also provide excellent service for that client. I know my actions reflect on the person who made the connection and I will not let them down.

To be clear, I do not advocate giving away your client list to every new editor or freelancer who asks for it. As noted, the established editor may be putting his or her reputation on the line when referring a new editor to a client. Therefore, you have to know something about and have a certain amount of trust in the other freelancer’s abilities and character.

So, what do you do when the asking editor does not meet your standards for referrals? In lieu of giving away contacts, consider educating the person about how you found and have held on to the clients you have. Although one can gain a gig based on a referral, maintaining the client demands high-quality work. At times, new freelancers need to be reminded of that.

Some established editors don’t only begrudge giving away their contacts. They also do not wish to give away their time, especially to those who are just dipping a toe in the water. I (and many others) enjoy educating new editors about publishing. Many people did the same for me when I was coming up, and I feel I owe it to the universe to share what I have been given. That said, these “young whippersnappers” can be the worst offenders in assuming that veteran freelancers should willingly give away their contact lists. More often, I have found they are well-meaning and simply need to be told what they can rightly expect. Although it may feel as if you are wasting your time when you spend 30 minutes talking to a “newbie” about how to break in, consider it an investment in your future. Freelance work often fluctuates, but if you take the time to help others, you will have a network of people ready to assist you when you need it.

Helping the next generation can take many forms, such as sharing knowledge, time, or clients. Next time some new freelancer asks you for a helping hand, I hope that you will remember the support you received and send that back out into the world. None of us has gotten where we are all on our own. And in this world of blogs, journals, trade book publishers, corporations, nonprofits, packagers, textbook publishers, academic presses, and self-publishers, there really is enough work to go around.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.

This Is Your Year: 3 Secrets to Unlocking Your Book in 2018

Today’s post is by Jordan Ring, a successful self-publisher who helps other indie authors reach their full potential. Here he offers some excellent, down-to-earth advice on how you can sell more books and achieve your goals. My thanks to Jordan for sharing his thoughts with us.

This Is Your Year: 3 Secrets to Unlocking Your Book in 2018

by Jordan Ring

You have a book inside you. Every single person has a book in them that will impact other people. Most won’t start writing. Many of those who start won’t finish. Even fewer people will publish. You are better than that.

Maybe the book is halfway done? Maybe it’s finished? Oh no, please don’t tell me you finished it two years ago but are still “tweaking” it!

Maybe you feel like you will never get your book out there. Maybe you feel like even if you do, it won’t sell.

Low sales numbers is the main fear of all authors, and I know because I have faced it myself. We are fearful that our book won’t sell or, even worse, it will get bad reviews.

This can stop even the best authors from ever starting, and even better authors from putting their work out there.

Don’t let this happen to you. The world deserves to read your book.

Follow these three tips to push past fear and get your book published.

Secret 1. Set Realistic Sales Goals

Since getting zero sales is your biggest fear, set a target number of sales to reach for. I tell all new authors to shoot for 100 sales of your book right out of the gate. Would you be happy if 100 people read your book? As a new author, that is not an insignificant number.

No, 100 sales is not going to pay for the book (in time or production costs), but it’s a realistic number that you can hit.

Once you hit that number, set a second goal (e.g., 500 sales) and do everything you can to hit that.

It’s of über importance for new authors to set a number to reach for. Without metrics, how can you measure success?

Personally, I am always trying to hit the next level, and often don’t appreciate how far I have come. Having a sales target is a good way to say to yourself, “Okay, well done, I hit my goal! Now what can I do to hit the next goal?”

This will enable you to appreciate the accomplishment, and it will bolster your resolve to publish your book.

Secret 2. Make a Marketing Plan

Marketing plan to finish your book? Yes, it makes sense. Stick with me.

Finding success as an author means figuring out what is blocking you from moving forward. The reason most would-be authors don’t publish their books is that marketing seems like the giant mountain behind the already huge hill of actually writing a book.

That’s why you should start working on a marketing plan from the get-go, when you are writing a book. This not only will give you a clearer picture of what you are actually writing, but will assuage your fear that the book won’t sell.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. Why am I writing this book?
  3. How am I going to sell it?

First, you must define your target audience. Your book is not for “everyone” and that answer is the fastest way to zero sales. Figure out who exactly would be interested in reading your book, and gameplan a way to get the book in front of those people. The best way to do this is to do research on Amazon and see which other books like yours are selling well and have good reviews.

Second, you must have an intrinsic reason to write the book, in addition to the obvious extrinsic reason of getting book sales. If you don’t have a why, you won’t be able to push through and finish writing.

And last, you need to at least have an idea of how you are going to sell your book. The most obvious and best answer is to use Amazon exclusively, but how else will you get your book in front of potential readers?

The base of any marketing plan is to focus on having a great title, getting a professionally designed book cover, and writing a killer book description. I like to call these the Big 3 because you will not sell any books if these things aren’t of the highest quality.

Your title and book cover bring people in, and your book description sales copy will sell them the book. It doesn’t matter how good the content under the cover is — if people aren’t brought in, they won’t buy. You can have the Big 3 professionally done for you, or you can learn to do them yourself, but regardless, you need to focus on them from the get-go.

If you need more help making a marketing plan, touch base with us at Archangel Ink and we would be happy to help.

Secret 3. Become Fearless and Take Action

Taking action is the number one most difficult thing to do in every endeavor. You are forced to sit down and write, plan, and work all while removing your fear of potential negative outcomes. I know that this can feel almost impossible at times, but taking action will bring you closer to your goals.

You have to become fearless, and to be ready to pound away relentlessly on your laptop keys to get the job done. Don’t worry about what comes out of you, just keep writing and then get it edited later. Keep on writing and let the words flow. Turn off your internal editor.

Set a schedule for yourself to write consistently, but also be sure to make time for planning marketing items. Utilize a website like Trello and make a board to plan and then track your writing, publishing, and marketing process.

Continue taking action and before you know it, your published book will be arriving on your doorstep and on your e-reader.

Good luck as you continue to write, publish, and ultimately sell your book. Follow these simple tips, and you will do well.

— Jordan

P.S. I’d love to read your book when it’s done — send it on over to me.

Jordan Ring is the marketing and launch guru with Archangel Ink Publishing Services. You can follow him on his blog, and for help with your own book launch you can get his free book here: Book Launch Gladiator: The Four Phase Approach to Kindle Book Marketing in 2018.

Guest Post: How an Editor Helps Your Author Brand

by Dave Chesson

If you want to give your books the best shot of selling, you must give conscious effort to establishing your author brand.

A strong presence helps an author or any online entrepreneur in the same way branding helps companies. An author brand helps you establish a name people recognize and trust, which helps you sell more books.

What is your author brand?

Your author brand should be a combination of your personality, passion, and the type of work you (want to) write, edit, or create. If you haven’t already, I cannot recommend enough that you set aside some time to brainstorm what you want to be known for as an author.

This might include a certain logo, tagline, and colors among all the places you hang out as an author online. Then, as you build your audience of people who love what you write, they’ll more easily recognize you when your name, profile picture, or logo appears.

Do you want to have a humorous tone? Do you want to be known as a medical expert? Do you want to be known for your big caring heart? You’ll want to clarify what the most important things are you’re trying to exude as an author — and make them known everywhere.

Why is your author brand important?

Pieces of who you are as an author can be found all over the internet. Your author website, your social media profiles, your Amazon Author Central page (this is a big one many self-publishing authors miss), your email signature, comments you leave on blog posts, and so on. All of these build your digital footprint, and if you’re an author, they’re also part of your author brand.

Even in person, if you’re networking at a conference, have business cards or book signings, these are all opportunities for you to create and share your author brand. Having the same logo, colors, tagline, job title, and so on creates consistency so people know what to expect.

Let’s pretend your latest book is a book about vegetarian recipes. You are trying to build a fan base of people who value or are curious about being a vegetarian. Someone sees your book recommended online, but doesn’t buy it quite yet. They’ve never heard of you, after all.

Then they see your name pop up somewhere randomly online and click to learn more. They know they’ve heard of you before, and maybe they want to learn a little more about you before spending money on your book. Then they come across a picture of you competing in a chicken wing–eating contest! So long potential fan! Vegetarians don’t buy books from people who gorge on chicken wings.

That is just one example of many where authors lose potential fans (and book sales) by failing to pay attention to their branding online.

So if you haven’t paid much attention to your author brand or what the traces of you across the internet say, it’s time to take a look.

Get a clear idea of:

  • What you write about
  • The customers/readers/fans you want to attract
  • Your values
  • Your passion
  • Your interests

Then it’s time to take an objective review. What does your website say about you? What does your bio on all your book sales pages say about you? What does your Amazon author page say about you? What do your social media profiles and pages say about you? You should aim for a consistent image on all of your online platforms.

Do they say that you’re a serious writer, or that you’re an amateur fiddling with this writing thing on the side?

Your books and your brand

Writing more than one book about a specific topic can help build your brand too. If you write several books related to saving and investing money, this can help build your brand as an expert in the personal finance field.

Or are you an author of vampire romance novels? Then make sure your bio has the tone of what vampire romance readers would expect.

Writing several books around a certain theme can help build your name as someone those fans begin to recognize, like, and trust.

Ways an editor can help build your brand

An editor can help authors develop a stronger author brand because editors specialize in consistency and details. They also are gifted in putting themselves in the reader’s shoes to give a more objective perspective on what the reader wants and expects.

If you begin working with a new editor, or you have a trusty editor teammate already, make sure your author brand is part of your conversations. Then an editor can more easily identify those glaring inconsistencies that your readers will notice, but you’re blind to (see chicken wing example above).

Sticking with the same editor (if she’s great) through your series of books can be incredibly helpful because then you don’t have to re-explain what your brand/values/passions/tagline/themes are over and over again. Once you find an editor who knows what you do, knows your target audience, and can help improve your craft, the marketing part of your author job will get that much easier.

That’s what happened when I found my editor from Keep Calm Write On. Val started as my book editor, and now is the editor for my blog Kindlepreneur.com, too. She helps me keep my author and online business brand consistent everywhere my work appears.

So don’t be afraid to ask if an editor can review your website, your author and book pages on Amazon, or your social media pages. Of course, you shouldn’t expect this to be pro bono, but the cost should bring a great ROI by strengthening your author brand.

About the Author

When Dave Chesson is not sipping tea with princesses or chasing the boogeyman out of closets, he’s a best-selling author and digital marketing nut. He teaches authors advanced book marketing tactics at Kindlepreneur.com. He also helps authors discover profitable book ideas through his software KDP Rocket.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.

Publishing Stories: 3 Powerful Benefits of Preorders for Newbie Indie Authors

Beyond Sales: 3 Powerful Benefits of Preorders for Newbie Indie Authors

by K. Patrick Donoghue

When I listed the Kindle and Nook editions of my second novel, Race for the Flash Stone, to accept preorders, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Big-name authors routinely list their upcoming titles for preorders, and their books-in-waiting always seem to immediately pop onto the best-seller lists. But what could an unknown indie author hope to achieve by employing the same practice? The answer: Whoa, Nelly!

Of course, I hoped accepting preorders for my book would generate sales in advance of the official release, but I had no idea how many to anticipate. I set my expectations low and chastened myself to primarily treat the 60-day preorder window as an opportunity to build awareness of the upcoming release among my Facebook and blog followers. That tempered view quickly changed within days after listing the book for preorders on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website, bn.com.

Sales quickly accumulated, and this led to a few unexpected side benefits that continue to accrue as of this writing, two months after the official release date. In short, I received three powerful benefits from listing my book for preorders that led to a book launch that exceeded my expectations:

  1. Unsolicited buzz by Amazon and Barnes & Noble
  2. Faster accumulation of reviews and ratings for the new book
  3. Early read on sales level led me to boost advertising investment in first book

Before describing these benefits in more depth, it’s likely of value to provide some brief background to assist fellow newbie indie authors in determining whether my preorder insights are of value.

First, both of my novels are part of a series titled The Anlon Cully Chronicles. The first book in the series, Shadows of the Stone Benders, was released in May 2016. Race for the Flash Stone is a continuation of the story explored in Shadows of the Stone Benders, and that likely had an impact on the stronger-than-expected preorders, as Shadows of the Stone Benders concluded with a soft cliffhanger.

Second, I am not a best-selling author. Though my two books, combined, sell 6,500 copies a month on average, neither of my books has appeared on any “big boy” best-seller lists. My Amazon “Author Rank” among all book authors hovers around 2,500.

Last, 90% of my book sales are from Kindle e-books, but I do not participate in the KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited program. The retail prices of the Kindle editions of my two books are $4.99 and $5.99, respectively. I have never offered them for free or discounted the books (with the exception of providing a limited number of complimentary copies to NetGalley reviewers).

With that background in mind, I offer the following insights gleaned from my preorder experience to fellow newbie indie authors.

Over the 60-day period Race for the Flash Stone was listed for preorder on Amazon and bn.com, nearly 3,000 paid copies of the new book were sold. While not a whopping amount by some standards, it did mean I more than covered all the production costs associated with the new book before the official release date.

What did I do to generate the preorder sales? Two things:

  1. On the day I listed the book, I posted an announcement about the availability of the new book for preorders on my author Facebook page and my website blog, and
  2. I inserted a similar announcement into the comments section of the various Facebook advertisements I run for Shadows of the Stone Benders.

That’s it. But that’s not the whole story. The preorder sales were surely influenced by side benefit #1, unsolicited buzz from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

#1 Benefit — Unsolicited Buzz

This one caught me by surprise. I figured I was a gnat to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but it turns out they are both more active in trying to help new books get exposure than I anticipated, even for indie authors.

The first buzz producer: Amazon created a “series page,” which featured both of my books, and inserted a link on both books’ product pages. This meant that anyone landing on my Amazon page for Shadows of the Stone Benders during the preorder period would see that the book was part of a series and could easily link to Race for the Flash Stone (and vice versa).

I believe this not only helped boost preorders of the new book, but also helped push up sales of Shadows of the Stone Benders. (Many readers have told me they are reluctant to purchase the initial book in a series until they know there are other books in the series. Once the second book was available to preorder, I saw a notable jump in the sales of my first book.)

Next up on Amazon: as the early preorders began to accumulate, Race for the Flash Stone achieved a spot in Amazon’s Top 100 Hot New Releases in several book categories (action-adventure, mystery/thriller/suspense, fantasy, and even teen/young adult). Once the book appeared on these lists, it held spots in each for the duration of the preorder period as well as several weeks after the release.

The extra exposure from appearing in these lists not only helped goose up preorders, but I’m certain it also contributed to the surge in sales I experienced for the first novel during the preorder period.

On the Barnes & Noble front, out of the blue I was contacted by Nook Press about 30 days after I began accepting Nook preorders to let me know Race for the Flash Stone had been selected by their editors as one of their “Nook Presents — Hot New Releases” for April and May.

This was followed two weeks later by a Nook Press email broadcast featuring the book with their other hot new release selections, and then a dedicated email broadcast two weeks after the official release date featuring my book.

I didn’t ask for any of this — Nook Press just did it on its own. [Editor’s note: This may have happened because the preorders were already outpacing other book sales.] If I hadn’t listed my book for preorders, though, they would never have known it was coming and I would have missed out on the free prerelease buzz.

#2 Benefit – Faster Accumulation of Reviews and Ratings

Listing Race for the Flash Stone to accept Kindle and Nook preorders also made a big difference in the speed with which reader reviews and ratings accumulated postrelease.

The first place I noticed reader feedback quickly emerge was on Facebook. Among the 3,000 people who preordered the book was a block of my Facebook “superfans,” people who really liked my first book and who regularly comment on my Facebook posts and advertisements.

These superfans were champing at the bit to dive into the new story. In fact, a bit of competition developed among them to be the first to finish the book and register their opinions. As a result, there was an immediate jump in chatter about the new book on my Facebook author page and in the comments section of the Facebook ads I run (thankfully, mostly positive), which has snowballed further since the book release.

By way of example, though my Facebook ad spend only increased 7% in the first 60 days after launch compared to the 60 days prior to launch, engagement statistics for my Facebook ads (post reactions, page likes, post comments, post shares) jumped 40%.

Separately, the bulge of preorders led to a rapid buildup of ratings on Goodreads. Within two weeks, there were nearly 35 ratings. By the end of the first month, the rating tally reached 120. Now, a little more than three months after releasing Race for the Flash Stone, the number of Goodreads ratings for the book stand at 479.

Interestingly, Amazon reviews have been slower to accumulate. Three months since launch, my Amazon review count sits at 75. I drive all my advertising to my book’s Amazon page, so I was concerned the slow pace of Amazon reviews would negatively affect sales, but that hasn’t happened. In fact, since the launch, average monthly sales of the new book have nearly doubled compared to the preorder time period.

#3 Benefit – Fast-Track Refinement af Advertising Investment = Higher Sales and Profits

There’s nothing special about the model I’m following to build readership and sales. Lots of authors who publish series utilize the same basic approach: I invest in acquiring readers of my first book (meaning I intentionally lose money on each first book I sell in order to build a sizable readership base) with the hope and expectation that a good chunk of those readers will buy my second book (and third book, and so on) at a profit that’s large enough to more than offset the first-book investment. To that end, I spend about 95% of my advertising dollars on promotions for my first book. I hardly promote the second book at all.

The art is figuring out how much to invest to acquire each new reader such that one can generate an acceptable/attractive return on investment (profits from royalties) from future book sales. For me, the early read I received from preorder sales gave me a real-world glimpse into my readership’s interest in the second book well in advance of the book launch.

Specifically, I found that the percentage of first-book buyers who purchased the second book was about 50% higher than I expected. (I had hoped 40% of first-book buyers would go for the second book. The pre- and postlaunch data shows about 60% are buying the second book. I’m working to move that up to 70%.)

This prelaunch market feedback allowed me to make an informed strategy decision. I could either:

(a) keep my advertising investment per first-book buyer the same and receive a higher return on cumulative royalties from both books, though that would mean I’d build a lower readership level (harvest profits strategy), or

(b) I could increase my first-book investment per buyer and achieve higher overall sales of both books, and higher absolute royalty profits, though at a lower ROI percentage (planting seeds strategy).

For the foreseeable future, I’ve opted for strategy (b) in order to continue to widen my readership pool in anticipation of releasing future books in my series.

The Takeaway: Preorders Can Make a Meaningful Difference in Book Launch Success

To wrap it all up, the decision to list the Kindle and Nook editions of Race for the Flash Stone for preorder paid big dividends in three tangible ways that all contributed to a healthy book launch:

  1. Unsolicited buzz from Amazon and Barnes & Noble prior to the book release helped fuel strong preorders.
  2. Rapid reader feedback from preorder buyers built good sales momentum postlaunch.
  3. Preorder performance helped improve the efficiency of my advertising spend (pre- and postlaunch), leading to higher overall sales and profits at a faster pace.

Truth be told, if I’d known how big an impact preorders could have at an earlier date, I would have listed the book for the maximum preorder windows allowed by KDP and Nook Press. For indie authors, KDP currently limits preorder sales to 90 days prior to release date (for big house publishers, I’ve seen preorder Kindle editions listed up to nine months in advance), and Nook Press allows up to 150 days.

I’ve also recently discovered (after my book launch, unfortunately) that Amazon offers a way for indie authors to list paperback and/or hardback editions for preorder up to a year in advance. While I won’t go to that extreme for my third book, I know for sure I’ll list it for preorder as soon as I’m confident about the release date.

K. Patrick Donoghue is the author of The Anlon Cully Chronicles, including his debut novel, Shadows of the Stone Benders, and the series continuation, Race for the Flash Stone. A newcomer to mystery fiction writing, Patrick’s inspiration for The Anlon Cully Chronicles is rooted in his long-standing interest in ancient civilizations. The next book in the series, Curse of the Painted Lady, is slated for a spring 2018 release.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.

Learning from My Clients: Lessons in Publishing Success

In the blog series Publishing Stories, I asked several past clients to share their experiences with publishing.

There are more to come, but I would like to pause here and think about what we as authors, editors, and publishers can learn from their stories.

The four profiled authors — Gary Bargatze, W.K. Dwyer, Maureen C. Berry, and Peter C. Diamond — come from a variety of backgrounds, wrote on wide-ranging topics in both fiction and nonfiction, and were in varying stages of their careers as authors.

  • Gary Bargatze, the author of the eight-book historical fiction series titled Your Winding Daybreak Ways, chose to hire his own editor and rely on a publishing services company to produce his book. Starting in 2015, five of the books have been released with more publishing over the course of 2017.
  • W.K. Dwyer, whose social sci-fi novel The Killing Flower was just released in fall 2016, arranged all of the vendors — developmental editor, copyeditor, interior designer, cover artist, proofreader, printer, and e-book company — himself.
  • Maureen C. Berry left a contract with a publishing house to self-publish her cookbook, Salmon from Market to Plate, on her own terms and schedule. The book debuted in 2016.
  • Peter Diamond’s self-help book Amplify Your Career and Life published in 2014. He hired a developmental editor, then contracted with a hybrid publisher for production, distribution, and marketing.

The goals of each author and their expectations for marketing and sales greatly colored their stories. It was educational for me to see where I saw success and where they did or did not.

Have a Vision and Stick to It

Gary Bargatze had a vision for his series before he wrote it, and he followed it through to the end of the project. He was aware of his abilities, crunched the numbers, and found the path that was economical for his time and pocketbook.

His use of an editor outside of the publishing services company is one of the key decisions he made. It saved him money compared to what the publishing services company offered, and he received what I know to be a more in-depth edit than most get with a company.

Gary also wasn’t shy. He stood up when the production wasn’t right, and he had his book reviewed in the Baltimore Sun online (twice, actually). He is strategic and pointed with each decision and the success he has had reflects that.

The satisfaction he takes in the journey of publishing is also apparent — and deeply important to the final judgment of whether this adventure was a success.

Make a Great Product and Ask for Help When Needed

W.K. Dwyer shared how much he learned over the course of publishing his first novel, and one lesson is that self-publishing is a whole lot of work!

There are a lot of moving parts, and it takes a lot of mind space to keep it all going. He wanted full control over production, especially in regards to the cover, and that is what he got. His book is beautiful and well crafted.

Marketing, as he says, does not happen on its own, and while there is satisfaction in making a great product, it’s more fun when people buy the book. Delegating work can help to alleviate the stress.

Indeed, W.K. has since enlisted the help of a marketing expert to get word out about his book. With that assistance, W.K. is set to meet his goals.

Be Flexible and Be Determined

Maureen C. Berry knew what she wanted: a traditional publisher who was going to support her book idea and her marketing efforts. When she discovered that wasn’t going to happen, she changed course. She produced the book on her own to her own standards, and she immersed herself into the marketing the book.

More than any of the other authors profiled, Maureen has embraced the work of marketing her book. She has clear determination to give the book its best shot at selling, and it is selling!

Maureen’s enthusiasm and drive are palpable, and it’s clear that she enjoys the challenges of marketing. Those two factors go a long way in whether marketing efforts will pay off. Her traditional publisher would have done well to keep her.

Revise Expectations and Focus on the Positive

Peter C. Diamond told us that he enjoyed the writing and publishing aspects of making a book.

But like many authors, he underestimated the amount of work involved in marketing the book. Although he had some help with the marketing, he did not meet his sales goal.

What I see with Peter, however, is a much bigger success than he may see.

His book is both a self-help book that really does help the people who read it — note the 25 reviews on Amazon — and a marketing piece for his company. In this situation, there rarely is a one-to-one return on investment.

But for many businesspeople, that’s not the point. Rather, the book offers intangible benefits in the form of new clients, prestige for the author, speaking engagements, and other business-related opportunities.

Self-publishing is also very much about the long tail. That is jargon for the amount of time it takes to make back the investment.

A traditional publisher will market a book for six months and reap as much profit from that endeavor as possible. That’s the short tail. Self-publishers have to take a longer view.

More to Come

In the coming months, more authors will share their stories, highlighting other aspects of the publishing life. Some do not see themselves as bearing a lesson, but I assure, there is much more to learn!

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Novel Books, and other fine retailers.