Striking the Right Tone to Reach Your Blog Readers

I recently had an email exchange with someone who is making the switch from writing feature articles to blogging for his company. He asked me to read his latest blog post before he published it. I was happy to oblige. After I read it, I had some advice about his writing tone.

Me: “I think you are missing an opportunity to engage your readers more by talking directly to them.”

Blogger: “Well, this is important, so how do I do this?”

He’s right, this is very important. Striking the right tone is an essential part of marketing.  It can be the difference between reaching your target audience with your blog and reaching no one at all.

As to his second point — how to engage readers with a blog — I can think of several ways. Continue reading

More on Standing Up to the Competition: The Complete Package

You as a writer can draw in your readers by demonstrating that you have given your book the thought, time, and care it deserves. When readers see that you respect your own work, they are more likely to return the feeling.

Indeed, this thoughtfulness shows you respect your readers, and that can go miles in building the trust needed to win over a reader.

One way you can demonstrate this respect is by putting forth a complete package. By that I mean you have not simply written the bare bones of a book. You have put meat on those bones through front matter, back matter, multiple formats, and more.

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Copyright Gary Woodard | Dreamstime.com

How It Works

Building a complete package for a nonfiction book begins with crafting a solid preface and introduction. These are what is known as front matter, and they set the tone for the book. They also serve as important marketing copy.

Back matter includes reference sections, resource list, and appendixes. These can establish your reputation as a thorough and careful researcher.

In the case of memoir, the goal for these pieces may be to share a deeper understanding of the context of your story.

Other elements that enhance a nonfiction book include:

  • Photos or illustrations
  • Maps
  • Charts and graphs
  • Sidebars that present case studies, tips, or further information

Nonfiction books also benefit from well-developed ancillary materials—workbooks, videos, websites, and so on—as appropriate for the book. All of these pieces together allow your reader to get inside the topic you are writing about and learn more.

Fiction requires a different approach to the idea of a complete package. Nevertheless, you have likely experienced the novel that implemented this concept to its fullest. For example, a complete fiction package may include:

  • A note to the reader
  • A note to parents
  • A call to action
  • A glossary of terms
  • Maps and illustrations

Audiobooks, videos, and other ancillaries also appeal to readers and encourage them to buy your book as well as these additional materials.

Did the video cause the consumer to buy the book, or did they watch the video because they had read the book?

In either case, you are building a relationship with that reader that can lead to further sales and readership.

As you plan your book, you must study the competition and think through your reader’s needs and desires. When you create a complete package around your book, you have, to the best of your ability, filled those needs and desires.

 

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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, winner of two Book of the Year awards, now available on Amazon!

 

Do You Really Need a Marketing Expert on Your Team?

caulfieldI recently asked self-published author Dr. Thomas Caulfield to share his experience working with a professional marketing team. His book, Ephphatha: Growing Up Profoundly Deaf and Not Dumb in a Hearing World, won an award and has received several media mentions, thanks in part to his marketing team.

But was it worth it?

In this post, Tom answers that question and many more about what it means to have an expert marketer in your corner.

Do You Really Need a Marketing Expert on Your Team?

By Dr. Thomas M. Caulfield

Do you need a marketing expert on your publishing team? This was a looming question for me as an author. That is, until I began to better understand the multitude of elements that contribute favorably to the book-publishing process. For me, there was a baseline theme, if you will, continuously swirling in my head, and that was this notion of always working with the most competent professionals you can to get your book published.

Always work with the most competent professionals you can.

It seemed that the workshops, seminars, and publication guidebooks were loaded with examples of why not to go with a novice for all the critical aspects of your book. Rather, authors should isolate those distinct pros or an esoteric group that understands this area most completely.

My experience might be unique in that I toiled away for two decades keeping a secret journal chronicling the journey of our only son, who was born profoundly Deaf. Applying the esoteric group selection theory, I immediately sought out a meeting with a friend, the president of a nationally known and highly respected book-publishing company.

I suppose working with a friend was a violation of the esoteric theory in that there was a chance, given our relationship, that he had no choice but to help me. My question was simple, though. Who was the best independent editor he knew of?

My question was simple: Who was the best independent editor he knew of?

What came back was the name of an editor working in the Washington, DC, area: Katherine Pickett. One call to her and a lunch meeting was arranged. The bottom line for me again was clear. It’s probably not a good idea to go with the neighbor down the block who may have been an English major in college with no other credentials, but instead, get with a seasoned professional for sure.

It only took that one lunch meeting for me to learn that the esoteric theory was valid. Katherine had forgotten more than I would ever know about editing – and I graduated from grade 20.

I made an important decision that day to get a critical, unbiased evaluation of the merit of our book. If it weighed in at the “great” level – and it did – then I would be foolish not to match it with the best ongoing service support.

From there I was fortunate to be able to select a Dream Team in the areas of interior design, video presentation, audiobook narration, and website production.

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Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com

With all those professionals working like a combine going through the Midwest during harvest season, the question of our need for a marketing expert remained. After a thorough literature review, it became clear that these services were not inexpensive. Further, questions remained regarding whether this service would actually be worth the money.

Questions remained regarding whether this service would actually be worth the money.

Given the costs, I elected to research a half dozen reputable groups and then interviewed three. Candidly, I thought I would be the one doing the interviewing, but in reality they were trying to figure out our potential as well. It all seemed like asking someone to the Homecoming dance, as I hoped our top pick would accept.

To be clear, I believe the good author marketing groups really have this concept of a campaign down, with the main goal being quality targeted exposure. The best ones also have the area of pitching to the media figured out as a science.

Who would have thought there were so many levels to pitching?

  • We had the prepublication pitching to reviewers, bloggers, and the media.
  • Then there was the local and national media group pitching.
  • The marketing team also surfaced numerous opportunities for speaking engagements.
  • Finally, I received thorough guidance regarding advertising with Amazon.

I would have to say it was worth it.

 In the end, being fortunate to have an award-winning book on my hands, I would have to say hiring a marketing firm was worth it. I would hate to have not selected a marketing expert and then always look back wondering if we could have done better.

Essentially, it takes me back to all the chatter regarding, do you select the friend down the street to do what really is work in an esoteric domain? It seems easy and definitely less expensive to do just that. But you never want to look back and say, “What if?”

 

Dr. Thomas M. Caulfield is the author of the award-winning book Ephphatha: Growing Up Profoundly Deaf and Not Dumb in the Hearing World: A Basketball Player’s Transformational Journey to the Ivy League. He lives in California with his wife.

 

 

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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!

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.

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!

 

#1 New Release on Amazon?!

Perfect Bound: Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, Revised Edition, released August 26, and on August 29 it was the #1 New Release in writing guides on Amazon!

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Amazon even put a banner on the Perfect Bound book profile page, which was great to see:

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I won’t tell you how many books I had to sell to reach this milestone. Thirty copies? Three copies? Who’s counting? All I know is, with all the work that goes into making a book, it really is a treat to see the accolades.

Get your very own copy of the Amazon #1 New Release and find out what all the fuss is about. You just might discover it’s worth all hype!

 

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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!

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.

Publishing Stories: My Flirtation with Traditional Publishing

Maureen C. Berry, author of the cookbook Salmon from Market to Plate, is the feature of this month’s Publishing Stories installment. In this post she tells her experience with a traditional publisher and the ultimate successes she found for her book. 

My Flirtation with Traditional Publishing

by Maureen C. Berry

You write and polish the best manuscript you can. You hire an editor. You research and then query an agent (or 10). Then wait. While you wait, you wring your hands, fret over that last phrase, that one word. Should I have written more? Less? Did I seem needy? Will they like my work? OMG, did I include my phone number? I suck! What if I never hear from any of the agents? Should I self-publish? Traditional publishing is overrated. I will not self-publish, I’ll wait until I hear back. Checks email every two minutes. A rejection letter is better than nothing, right? A badge of honor. Surely someone will love my book.

***

As I aspired to publish my first book, these thoughts raced through my mind daily. Okay, who am I kidding, by the minute. My goal? Traditional publication. While I always considered self-publishing a viable option, I was convinced that traditional publication was the best route for me.

But as I researched agents and prepared my query letters, I was a hot mess.

Then something short of a miracle happened.

The first agent I queried for my book, tentatively titled Eating Salmon, replied within five minutes. My pulse raced, my breath caught in my throat. I wondered if I might be hyperventilating. I looked around my one-woman office needing someone, anyone to see the reply.

Dear Maureen,

Thank you for your MS. This is really do-able. [I almost fell off the chair]

But not for me. [Heart dropped to gut]

However, [Heart fluttered back to life], this is a perfect project for XYZ.

And BTW, there’s a similar title, ABC, that was bought earlier this spring by John. P.Q. Literary. Use this in your market research. And please use my name in your query to XYZ.

Warmly,

Literary Agent

Okay, so now I am dancing with the dog. Is it too early for champagne? I call my husband. Validation sets in. I pinch myself. Then I sit down to write the second query.

You know where this is going right? Insert all the above first paragraph internal dialogue.

Within two weeks, the second agent bit. And within two more weeks I had my first contract from an imprint of a midlevel publishing house in New York.

But first I had to write the book proposal (I had written the entire manuscript) and have the manuscript edited. I hired Katherine Pickett through an online referral.

I found a publishing attorney on Twitter (yes, it’s true!) who agreed to negotiate my first contract pro bono. Three months later, I signed off on the contract and submitted the manuscript.

Was the advance good? Nope — think small four figures. Was my royalty rate fair? I could have done better — was advised to not accept this contract.

But a contract is a contract, right? I was a first-time author with a small but growing platform. This contract could only help me build my brand, not hinder it.

The publisher suggested a book style — softcover, 6″ × 9″, black-and-white illustrated interior with color cover graphics. 200 pages. I flip-flopped, wanting a hardcover, full-color interior (mine was a cookbook after all, and we eat with our eyes), but I relented, assuming they knew best. And really, I didn’t have much say or any options, other than breaching the contract (code for return the advance and forfeit my rights to the manuscript to the publisher).

Much time went by without any word from the agent. When I did hear, she suggested I write the outline of the second book in the series, Eating Shrimp.

Then late that summer, I was working with the publicist. Salmon from Market to Plate was scheduled for a spring release date. My book had been upgraded to full color, they’d use my photographs, and the book would be larger, thus a higher royalty rate to me. Win-win! I shouted into the woods from my office.

But a month later, my agent messaged that she was retiring and I’d be working with someone else. Not daunted, but a little disappointed, I shook it off. Agents move around and there is always fresh blood willing to learn the ropes.

A few days later, on a Friday afternoon that fall, I received a message from one of the editors at the publishing house: my project was put on hold. Indefinitely. They had a competing title scheduled for a spring release, a lifestyle seafood cookbook by an author with a larger platform.

Over the weekend, I considered my options. I would attempt to negotiate my rights back without penalty or returning the advance.

Mid-October, nearly a year to the day after receiving the contract, the publisher agreed to my terms and within two weeks, my rights were reverted. I told myself (and the husband and dog) that I’d give myself six months to find another agent/publisher.

Then the new year rolled around. And, well, my attitude changed, as often is the case during the new year. I decided to self-publish under my company, Berry Consulting. It never occurred to me to use a self-publishing services company. My thinking was if I’m going to self-publish, then I’m going to learn how to do it with all the unknowns, bumps, and not-so-pretty side of doing something totally foreign. A friend’s cousin, a graphic artist, wanted to expand her portfolio. Her style leaned toward commercial but fun. And with that recommendation, mid-January 2016, I hired Megan Johns to design my book. I wanted an April release date to coincide with the opening Alaska salmon season and my project fit her schedule.

Megan delivered Salmon from Market to Plate a week ahead of the April 13, 2016, release date. Any delay was editing and style issues on my part. Megan is a terrific book designer.

Is Salmon from Market to Plate a success? 

  • Salmon was #1 New Release in Fish & Seafood Cooking on Amazon for its first week out.
  • It won a Gold Star for cover design from The Book Designer for the month of April.
  • I was invited to the 35th annual Kentucky Book Fair this November hosted by the Kentucky Humanities Council.
  • I was accepted to the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University next fall.
  • In October 2016, Salmon received an Honorable Mention from the 24th annual Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Competition.
  • Salmon is stocked at two locations in my small (20,000-person) western Kentucky community — Bobbi’s Hallmark and Bookstore at the mall and 45-70, a men’s bespoke store in downtown Madisonville.
  • Salmon was accepted for review by BookLife/Publishers Weekly.
  • The larger bookstores in my region, Joseph-Beth in Louisville and Cincinnati, Parnassus in Nashville, and Barnes & Noble in Bowling Green rejected my book. But I am not disappointed. Encouraged is the word that comes to mind.

And what marketing do I do?

  • I try to do a book signing/salmon tasting event every month in my community. Average book sales are 15 books per event. I sell signed copies from my home, shipping via media mail and taking payment via PayPal, including the shipping and handling plus tax in the price. For each of these signed books, I offer a free bourbon-and-butter cookie, made by a local baker, that looks like the cover of my book.
  • I send free copies to industry and sustainable seafood organizations.
  • I sell books to chefs and restaurants.
  • I submit books to writing contests and for review.
  • I work hard to not be that author who shouts, Buy My Book! on social media.

There is much to tackle yet. For instance, how do I sell foreign rights? And should I? Should I print an Asian counterpart? Should I hire a publicist?

There are many questions I can answer. Am I glad that I self-published? Yes. Did I make mistakes? Yes. One biggie was that I didn’t give myself enough time to submit galleys for review. Is self-publishing hard work? Yes. The marketing responsibilities are overwhelming some days. Do I still want to be traditionally published? Yes. But would I self-publish again? Hell yes.

One thing that kept me sane when I otherwise thought I’d lose it was that I believed in myself and my project. Because if you can’t be your own cheerleader, then nobody else will either.

***

Salmon from Market to Plate is available as a 200-page, softcover, full-color, 6″ × 9″ book. Available on Amazon ($12.95) and Kindle ($6.99). Also available wholesale from IngramSpark.

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: Rewards and Challenges of a First-Time Author, Part 2

Peter Diamond, author of Amplify Your Career and Life: 4 Steps to Evaluate, Assess and Move Forward, returns to tell us what he learned about marketing and sales when working with a hybrid press.

Part 2: Marketing and Sales

by Peter Diamond

Marketing and selling my book was much harder and more time-consuming than I imagined. While the manuscript was being turned into a fully formed book for public consumption by my publishing company, I focused my attention on marketing. As an ex-advertising professional, I thought this would be easy. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the early stages of writing the manuscript, I was advised to create a platform of followers, at least a couple thousand, months before the book was published. I was told, “You will have to put as much effort into marketing your book as you do writing it.”

I heard this advice, but I didn’t listen. I mistakenly thought the message of my book, Amplify Your Career and Life: 4 Steps to Evaluate, Assess and Move Forward, would automatically appeal to my target audience: midlife business professionals facing career crisis. Little of my time was spent cultivating a fan base in advance of the book release. I was too focused on writing the book and running my executive coaching business. Little did I know more than 2 million books were published in 2015. That’s insane competition.

Here’s what I did do.

  • I found a PR agency that specializes in working with authors of nonfiction titles.
  • I paid for a number of promotional programs offered by Amazon that my publisher recommended.
  • As part of the PR effort, I wrote a number of byline articles (with no mentions of my book except in my bio) to be pushed out to various sites.
  • I gave 28 small-market radio and podcast interviews, secured by the PR agency.

What happened? The PR effort generated very few sales. The articles I wrote did get a lot of exposure and helped my Google ranking. The promotional programs, in partnership with Amazon, resulted in no sales.

Using my own contacts I was able to secure a local TV morning show interview and radio interview on a popular public radio program. I did see modest sales spikes from these interviews.

After six months of actively promoting my book, I hadn’t hit my sales goal or, said another way, recouped the cost of my investment. At that time I had to make a decision whether to continue to spend more time and resources on promoting the book or focus on generating revenue for my executive coaching business. My business won out and is doing quite well.

Writing and publishing a book was a great experience with certain intangible benefits.

  • It boosted credibility for my brand and executive coaching business.
  • I learned about the process of writing, publishing, and marketing a book.
  • I’m more comfortable being interviewed and telling stories in different mediums.
  • I’m a regular contributor for Entrepreneur.com (this connection came from the PR agency).
  • On occasion, I’m contacted to be interviewed for an article or write a blog post such as this one.
  • Lastly, my book was a finalist for two book awards. It’s an honor to be recognized by the publishing community and fellow authors.

Although my book doesn’t enjoy best-seller status, I recently had a client tell me that reading my book was like reading her own thoughts and how helpful it was to know that others experience the same midlife trials and tribulations. That, for me, made all the effort worthwhile.

Would I do it again? Maybe, just maybe.

Peter C. Diamond, “The Amplify Guy,” is a professionally trained certified coach who helps people improve their work performance and achieve a higher degree of career and life fulfillment. He has appeared on ABC’s Windy City Live and WGN’s News at 5 as a career coach expert, and he writes a blog, The Amplify Guy. For more information about Peter and the Amplify Your Career and Life workbook, visit his website at www.petercdiamond.com.

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.