Selling Your Self-Published Books: The First Steps

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May is How To Sell Self-Published Books Month here on Catherine, Caffeinated. Only a few short days left and then I’ll go back to… well, posting about very similar topics, actually.  Anyway. You can catch up here. Today we have a guest post from my blogging friend Alison Wells, who has released her first self-published fiction, Housewife with a Half-Life (LOVE that title!) under the name A.B. Wells. I asked Alison to do this because although she’s an experienced (and highly acclaimed!) writer and blogger, she’s only just joined the self-publishing world, so I thought it’d be interesting to hear about the whole selling books thing from her perspective. 

“I’m an infant on the path of self-publishing, having published my space comedy Housewife with a Half-Life as A.B. Wells on the 8th May. It’s been a steep learning curve and particularly when, having put all the work in writing the book, getting it edited and making it the best it can be, then it comes to actually selling the book, getting people to know about it.

Perhaps there’s a level of naivety or blind optimism about the self-publisher starting out. As writers we’re all about the writing, how to get words on page, finish the thing. We come to a decision to self-publish for whatever reason, we find out how to format, upload, choose a service go with, we press publish and it’s out there, then… For any of you who are parents (and for me as a mother of four) publishing your own book for the first time reminds me of becoming a first time parent. It’s all about the pregnancy, how to get through it, how to nurture yourself. We find out what we can about the actual birth but it’s all abstract till you get there. But then the day comes and the baby arrives and we um, realise we um, forgot to read the bit about how to take care of it, how to bring it on.

I think for many self-publishers this is where we are on the selling bit. Woohoo! We have a book out, it’s born but we forgot that it needs nurturing, we need to put effort in to help it reach its full potential. I’m talking here about the self-publisher who a) wants to put their writing into the world i.e. reach an audience and b) perhaps (if it’s not too mercenary a thing to say about the ART of writing) make some money out of it.

So publishing is just the first step, we need to get our business heads on and try to make our book visible. Would you go into a major bookstore with one copy of your book and stick it on a shelf and hope someone saw it? Yet as new self-publishers this is sometimes what we do.

These are some of the things I’ve learned about selling since I started out:

1)     You need to create anticipation for your product. This might start out years before through your blogging, posting examples of your work so people become familiar with and fall in love with (hopefully) your writing. You can also have a pre-launch build up. I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 and people have had a chance to read my writing and blog posts. My blog has over 46000 page views and I also blog for Irish writing website www.writing.ie. So at the very least people knew I existed and were positive towards my endeavours.  On the day of the launch one person tweeted to say that they bought the book purely on the basis of enjoying my tweets. In the longer term I prefer the kind of sale made from engagement with readers rather than sales tricks. I want to offer an all round valuable experience to readers.

2)     You need to create awareness that your book exists. Have a launch, particularly an online one if you are focussing on online sales. Do pre-launch posts about your books publication journey. Generate activity around the launch. I did this by having a short writing competition which drew a huge number of people to my blog with Housewife with a Half-Life as the prize. I had a prize for retweets of my launch news on Twitter. I had a Facebook event which people could share for my ebook launch. I’m also going to have a paperback launch with Goodreads giveaways on June 6th with a blog tour and I’ve agreed to have a real paperback launch in a well-known Dublin shopping mecca with newspaper publicity surrounding that. Reviewers are very important. I got an established author to give me a blurb for my back cover and I’m contacting reviewers through sites like the Indie Book Review  to do reviews. This is a longer term strategy, these reviews can come out over time and maintain the momentum of the book.

3)     You need to find out about KDP Select Free days. There’s a lot of debate about this at the moment. If you publish through Amazon, by signing up to Amazon’s KDP select you can choose to make your book free on certain days. For some already established self-publishers it can result in huge downloads, great Amazon rankings (and thus visibililty) and subsequent sales surges but the science is patchy. I was involved in a major British event (National Flash Fiction Day) so I ended up giving my book away for free for a day just a week after its launch. I got to #231 in the overall Kindle sales rankings on UK and #8 in sci-fi (beside Jules Verne) and to number #724 in Amazon.com. For me having this early free day was experimentation and awareness building. Generating sales is a long term thing (or I believe it should be). It’s an interplay between awareness of you as an author, through blogging, your book, through promotions, articles and reviews. There may be activities you do that generate initial awareness but it may take a couple of rounds before people actually go out and buy your book.

4)     Book selling is a business. John Locke has sold millions of e-books but he treats it like a business and invests a large amount of money on advertising. For the typical self-publisher funds may be tight but there is an element of speculating to accumulate. Some advertising is free or low cost. You can list your books with services and sites such as Pixel of Ink, World Literary Café and the Book tweeting service. These are services I will continue to explore and use in conjunction with more long term awareness building.

Housewife with a Half-Life is only just launched and the first phase of sales were mainly to those who knew me. With paperback and real world launches still in the offing, I hope through online and real world articles & events such as readings to widen my audience and reach and raise awareness levels to the point where both my book and me as an author are of interest to readers. It seems to be the case that the initial e-book bubble where competition was low and sales could be made more easily is gone. Authors will have to add value for readers through blogging, posting examples of work, special offers, additional material but more than anything by making your book a quality read in the first place. My strategy in selling Housewife with a Half-Life will be a combination of clever marketing tactics and old fashioned value.”

About Housewife with a Half-Life

Susan Strong is a suburban housewife who is literally disintegrating. When Fairly Dave, a kilt-sporting spaceman arrives through the shower head to warn her, she knows things are serious. When she and her precocious four year old twins, Pluto and Rufus, get sucked through Chilled Foods into another universe it gets even messier. Where household appliances are alive and dangerous, Geezers have Entropy Hoovers and the Spinner’s Cataclysmic convertor could rip reality apart, Susan Strong is all that’s holding the world together.

In this madcap, feel-good adventure, Susan and Fairly Dave travel alternate universes to find Susan’s many selves, dodge the Geezers and defeat evil memory bankers. From dystopian landscapes and chicken dinners, to Las Vegas and bubble universes, can Susan Strong reintegrate her bits and will it be enough to save us all?

The ebook is available on Kindle on Amazon.com and on Amazon.co.uk. A paperback will be available in June!

About the author

What is a housewife to do when she becomes 42? Write a book about life, the universe and everything. A.B.Wells is the mother of four children age 11 and under, three of whom are that particularly alien species called boys. As Alison Wells her more literary writing has been shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport, Fish and Hennessy Awards and she’s been published or is about to be in a wide variety of anthologies and e-zines, including the Higgs Boson Anthology by Year Zero, Metazen, The View from Here, Voices of Angels by Bridgehouse and National Flash Fiction day’s Jawbreakers. She recently won the fiction category of the Big Book of Hope ebook with a flash fiction medley and has a litfic novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities on submission. She blogs for the popular Irish writing website, writing.ie in the guest blog: Random Acts of Optimism. One of the as yet unsolved mysteries of the universe is whether the B in A. B. Wells stands for barmy or brilliant.

I say it’s brilliant. Thanks so much Alison! We’ll have you back any time. If you’re not already reading Alison’s blog, you should be! Especially if you’re a fan of flash fiction. Check it out here. 

14 thoughts on “Selling Your Self-Published Books: The First Steps

  1. Wendy A M Prosser says:

    Useful advice, thank you. Although I’ve heard that KDP Select works only if you have several published books available, and that they changed the algorithm recently and some authors are not doing as well as previously. All these conflicting opinions are making my head hurt!

  2. Jon Simmonds says:

    That’s a great post Alison, thanks. And thanks to Catherine too. I’m just setting out on the road of self-publishing, with a first draft that needs some work, so this couldn’t be more timely. Or daunting. But that’s another matter. Great to see that all the strategies (yes, I work in marketing…) I’ve got in place have worked for you. Tried and trusted approaches that clearly work, as long as they’re put into practice well enough. Good luck with the sales!

  3. gwnorth45 says:

    Catherine;
    I have been looking at your posts for a while now. They are well written, interesting, and I’m learning a great deal from them. Thank you for sharing what you have learned.

    I have a blog in addition to my novel projects. I love to cook, and share what I know with others. It satisfies both my engeneering and artistic sides at the same time. I hope you get the chace to read it some time, especially if you like to cook,, and want to learn more about cooking techniques.

    Your blog is truly a service to all of us propective authors. Again, thank you.

    Bob Flowers

  4. Sandra Nachlinger says:

    Delightful interview and really helpful hints. I’ve been unsure about KDP Select … and I’m still not certain if it’s a good idea.
    Housewife With a Half Life sounds hilarious! Thank you for introducing me to this author and her book.

    • alisonwells says:

      Thanks for the compliments on the article. One thing for certain is that the self-publishing landscape is changing everyday and it’s a feat just to stay and create realistic strategies. Good luck to everyone on this path!

  5. Patricia says:

    I think this is great! Writing my first book was a journey I enjoyed. The title is “The dance on the other side of Everything”, out on amazon and barnesandnobles now. I would say to anyone who wants to write a book, do it. Get over your fear and realize your dream.

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