May is How To Sell Self-Published Books Month here on Catherine, Caffeinated. First, I poured a bucket of ice-cold water over your dreams in Read This First (which, thanks to Freshly Pressed, is the most popular post ever on this blog), and then explained why I think you should go guns blazing for the launch of each book instead of waiting until you’ve a few to sell in One at a Time. This week I’m presenting my Not So Scientific Theory of How Self-Publishers Can Use Social Media to Get Amazon to Sell Their Books, which is based on how I think I’ve managed to sell my own books over the last couple of years. You can catch up here.
[Apologies for the lateness of this post. I wrote it on Friday morning, lost half of it thanks to a silly mistake on my part and then didn't have a chance until now to re-do it. Still, better late than never, eh?]
Oh, happy day: you’re selling books. A few of them, at least. But now that you’ve done the whole launching your book thing and you’ve made sure that no one could possibly escape your Amazon listing without being convinced to click that “Buy” button, what’s next? Personally I think you should have two goals from here on in:
- To do something everyday that informs at least one more person of your existence
- To aim to get every reader who encounters your book first to come join your online platform afterwards.
From Book to Blog
If we have achieved our goal of getting Amazon to practically sell our books for us (and especially if we’re using things like KDP Select), chances are that most new readers will never meet us (as in, our blog or tweets) before they read our book. But wouldn’t it be nice to have them around the next time we release a book? So encourage readers who only know your book to come visit your blog afterwards. Put a URL at the beginning and end of your book. Maybe put some extra material on your website (photos, an extra story, a story about writing the book) and link to it after “THE END” so the reader has a reason to visit. Ask them to tweet you as they’re reading the book, or to say hi to you on Goodreads (Facebook for books; join if you haven’t already) after they leave their review. The beauty of e-books is that the links can be live, so all the reader has to do is click.
From Blog to Book
We know that only a fraction of our blog readers will end up buying our book, but they can’t do it if they don’t know about it, right? So a few cover shots in the sidebar and a page dedicated to your literary offerings is a must.
Can I just say this though? STOP WITH THE POP-UPS. My pet hate is visiting a website and having a big thing (I don’t know the technical term; let’s use thing) popping up and blocking my view of it. This thing is usually an advertisement for something that I have to enter my e-mail address to get, and the only way to get rid of it is to find the tiny “x” that closes it in the top right-hand corner. I understand the theory: no one visiting the website is going to miss it. But here’s the practice: my computer is on its last legs and my broadband is slow at the best of times. This thing makes loading your website even longer, and I don’t have the patience. So I either (i) add you to Google Reader so I never visit your site again—which means I never see any of the stuff in your sidebar, etc. or (ii) I don’t bother at all, and never visit in any way, shape or form again. It’s like when hotels cover the desk space with a load of stuff: guest directory, stationery, magazines, etc. It looks nice and seems sensible in theory, but what is the guest going to have to do when they arrive? Find somewhere else to put it so they can actually use the desk. Next time you’re considering adding a “welcome” pop-up window, think of your visitors. Please.
E-mail = Cockroach
When I was a teenager, everyone I knew was on Bebo. Was on what? you say. Exactly. There was also a time when everyone was on MySpace which, with its flashing HTML LCD trip design, is probably why so many people I know of my generation are getting glasses these days, myself included. Yes, it’s hard to imagine a world where Twitter and Facebook have fallen by the wayside, but it could happen. And just like a cockroach surviving a nuclear winter, the only thing we can be certain of surviving the downfall of today’s social networks is e-mail. Regardless of what happens, I’m pretty sure that ten years from now, I’ll still have an e-mail address.
So it doesn’t hurt to have a mailing list where readers can sign up to be informed of your next release. I recommend MailChimp, which is free to use if a bit tricky to navigate. Invite people to sign up and then send out maybe 3-4 newsletters a year. To see how its done, sign up for crime writer Karin Slaughter’s newsletter. (Trust me on this.)
A year and a half passed between the release of Mousetrapped and its sequel, Backpacked, as I hummed and haahed about whether or not to self-publish another book. But I didn’t want all my readers to forget about me in the meantime, so I came up with a plan: More Mousetrapped.
The idea was simple. I’d spent a year and a half in Orlando, but I hadn’t written about every last moment of it in Mousetrapped, because it would have been about 500 pages long. I had a few stories—incidents, really—that I could’ve added, but didn’t because it would’ve been too long and they in themselves wouldn’t have warranted a chapter. So instead, I started a mailing list, and once a month I’d send one of these newly-written, exclusive stories to everyone on the mailing list. I put a link at the end of the e-book so if readers wanted more, they knew where to go to get it. And of course, when Backpacked came out, I was able to tell this list about it.
I don’t do this anymore, but next month I’m going to take the More Mousetrapped stories, bundle them with some other previously unpublished Mousetrapped-related stuff and offer it as a 99c “bonus material” e-book. This will also extend my “shelf space” on Amazon, making it slightly easier for people to discover me.
Yes, that is the sound of me patting myself on the back…
Think Outside the Box (Or Off the Page)
The beauty of self-publishing (and especially self-publishing e-books) are the many different ways you can use it to your advantage—ways that publishing print books confined to a specific price range just don’t allow. Here are some ideas I’ve had, some already done and some coming soon:
- As I mentioned above, I’m going to take the More Mousetrapped stories subscribers received last year, bundle them with some other previously unpublished Mousetrapped stuff and release it as a 99c e-book.
- When I published Self-Printed, I took three main sections out of it—Publishing an E-book, Publishing a POD Paperback and Building an Online Platform—and released them as $1.99 e-books I called Self-Printed Shorts. (The full book was $4.99.)
- In the next few weeks I’ll be releasing a 99c e-book of all my self-publishing themed blog posts called The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated: Caffeine-Infused Self-Publishing Advice. I’m going to do KDP Select right off that bat so readers of this blog can get it for free. After that, who knows? Having the book on Amazon might bring me blog readers and as the content in Self-Printed is also totally different, maybe even throw a few sales that way as well.
I’ve even played around with POD paperbacks although, cost-wise, I wouldn’t recommend it. I sold signed copies of Backpacked from my website when it was first released, and every pre-order also received this adorable little preview of Results Not Typical.
Other than a test run with Facebook ads that had a budget of $15, I’ve never paid to advertise my book, but I’m seriously considering doing it in the run up to next Christmas (the time of the year when the majority of books are sold). If it’s targeted paid advertising, I think it has a chance of boosting your sales.
Don’t just pay to stick a cover of your book up somewhere. Get strategic. Facebook ads, I found, were a waste of time, because people are not on Facebook because of books. But that’s the only reason why they’re on Goodreads, and Goodreads operates a similar pay-by-click advertising service. (Have you used it? Let us know in the comments how you got on.) I know a lot of authors who’ve had success with a Kindle Nation Daily sponsorship, and then there’s genre-specific blogs and book review sites who offer banner and sidebar advertisements.
Just do your research and make sure advertising is a worthwhile investment before you hand over the cash.
I don’t want to destroy your faith in humanity, but our number one priority is always ourselves. Subconsciously or otherwise, we’re always asking, what’s in this for me? So if you want your blog (and, by extension, our books) to be successful, make yourself useful. The most popular blog posts on this site are all instructional, all posts that help other people self-publish. I really enjoy writing them, and people enjoy finding the information they need. We’re all winners.
Perhaps you don’t have this type of blog, and you can’t—or don’t want to—write posts like that. That’s fine. But make sure what you’re writing aren’t diary entries. Make sure there’s something in there for other people. Write with the door open, as Stephen King says. Make sure you’re ticking one or more of the “Why Everyone is On The Internet” boxes: information, entertainment, connection. And make sure you’re doing it with practically every post.
Diaries are for you. Blogs are for everyone else.
And what to do next when you’ve done all that? Write another book, of course!
So to recap, my Not So Scientific Theory of How Self-Publishers Can Use Social Media to Get Amazon to Sell Their Books (very basically) involves:
- Building an online platform—a blog as your hub, Twitter to make connections and drive traffic, Facebook because you might as well (and it’s a good way to rope in your friends and family)
- Slowly but surely—and without any spammy Jedi mind tricks—assemble a band of loyal supporters, some of whom might even buy your book just as soon as it comes out
- Getting these loyal supporters excited about your book by blogging about it and involving them in the process (e.g. get them to help you decide on a cover, etc.)
- Making all your online homes party central for the week of the book’s release.
- Maximizing your presence on Amazon by using Amazon Author Central to dress up your listing, etc.
- Continuing to produce quality content (that either provides information, entertains or makes a connection) and never forgetting about the guy or gal who’s been reading your blog since day one and will never ever ever buy a book of yours, i.e. keeping up your end of the bargain
- Think outside the box (or off the page)
- Get started on writing your next book.