The bestseller effect

17 December 2014

From Seth Godin:

There are two markets for books (and music).

The first market are grazers, collectors or omnivores. They make the market happen. They read a lot of books. They visit the library often. They have 2,000 LPs in their collection. They listen and read around the edges.

The second market consume in response to the market. The average American buys just over one book a year. When I was in college, the typical dorm room had just 40 LPs stacked up. (Even today, when students have 100,000 mp3s, most of them don’t listen widely).

This second market is almost always the market that turn a book into a bestseller. Bestsellers are the books that people who don’t buy books are buying.

. . . .

The same effect is responsible for all those copies of Harry Potter and The Davinci Code… they become bestsellers because people who don’t buy a lot of books are buying them.

So, consider the trap that the bestseller effect sets: the publisher and the author want a bestseller, so they spend a lot of time and money on mass media, on storefront promotion, on even writing a book that feels like it will appeal to the second group. But! That’s not what the second market wants. What they consume (read/listen to) is what their peers demand they consume. They are protective of what they buy and consume, because they don’t have many slots for new books or new music.

Which means that if you try to reach people who aren’t shopping for what you sell, who don’t think about what you sell, who aren’t even in the store for what you sell, you’ve got a tough road ahead.

The way around the trap, it seems (and I think this is true for many of the bestsellers that have broken through) is to obsess about delighting a critical mass of readers in the first group. To create a book and a marketing plan that captures the energy of this group and let them bring the work to the rest of the market.

Link to the rest at The Domino Project and thanks to Jessica for the tip.

How To Publish a Book From Start to Finish in Six Months

13 December 2014

From author Ashley R. Carlson via Self-Publishing Review:

Six months ago I quit my job to write a book.

Because I was blessed financially, I decided that if I were to get some roommates I could feasibly leave the job I hated and pursue my real dream—to write a novel.

And I did. My debut novel, a steampunk fantasy called “The Charismatics,” released on December 13th on Amazon and my website.

How was I able to produce something in such a timely fashion? Well, I want to share my experiences and timeline with you.

Firstly—the main reason I was able to publish a book in six months is because I wasn’t working a 9-to-5. I wasn’t exhausted all the time, and it allowed me to really unleash my creativity when I was mentally, physically and emotionally strong.

I know that quitting a position isn’t feasible for 99% of you—but what I want to impart here is that in order to complete your book in a timely fashion, you need to be diligent about setting aside TIME, SPACE and QUIET to allow yourself to write.

. . . .

So even though I wasn’t working at a job anymore, I actually had more work to do than ever before—I kissed parties and movies and dating goodbye. Truly, I did. But because I holed up inside my office, living and breathing my book nearly every waking moment, it allowed me to complete it much more quickly than my previous attempts at writing (I have numerous half-finished manuscripts floating around on my computers from years past).

. . . .

Mid-November 2014-late November 2014: Wrote the fifth draft, taking into account editor’s comments. Sent my finalized draft to formatter to be designed in various book formats. Found numerous typos and changes desired so I wrote the sixth draft in late November. Received formatted print book late November and ordered copies from CreateSpace.

. . . .

December 12th, 2014: Goodreads print book giveaway closed, 843 total entries and three winners. Preparation for book launch party on December 13th, 2014 at family home. Schedule updates on Twitter and Facebook through Hootsuite to advertise the release date. Write and schedule newsletter through MailChimp to go out to newsletter subscribers on December 13th at midnight encouraging them to purchase a book on release date and increase Amazon ranking. Also encourage readers to use the hashtag #TheCharismatics to increase awareness and interaction about the book release.

Link to the rest at Self-Publishing Review

Here’s a link to The Charismatics

Zoella Sugg, online queen and fastest-selling debut novelist

7 December 2014

From The Guardian:

The internet has brought a great many things into this world, from social networking, email and memes to online dating and even arguably revolution. It has also given us Zoella. Zoella, or Zoe Sugg as she is known offline, is one of a new breed of online celebrities, an expanding group of video bloggers – or vloggers as they are more formally known – who, thanks to their YouTube channels, have developed a worldwide following to rival that of Beyoncé or even Taylor Swift.

The 24-year-old, who has emerged at the head of the pack (she was recently described by Vogue as the queen of the internet), has had almost 307m views of her intimate videos dispensing beauty and life advice; 6.6 million people subscribe to her channel. And now, her first book, Girl Online, the fictional tale of a blogger, has become the fastest selling debut novel ever – selling 78,000 copies in its first week and eclipsing the debuts of JK Rowling and EL James.

. . . .

Just how a fashion student from a small village in Wiltshire has come to define the zeitgeist is a testament to the DIY spirit that online platforms such as YouTube promote.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Robert for the tip.

New Facebook Rules Will Sting Entrepreneurs

30 November 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

Chrisy Bossie built a $100,000-a-year gemstone e-commerce business by sharing information about her products on her company’s Facebook page several times a week.

“Steals in the Shop! I have a TON of new 36-inch-long necklaces, most priced at $15, available in amethyst, lapis, watermelon tourmaline, turquoise…. Shop them all here,” she wrote in a recent marketing post on a Facebook page for Earthegy, the business she runs from her home in rural Kent Store, Va. She also included photos and links to the products, hoping the business’s 70,000 Facebook fans would share the posts with their own Facebook friends.

But small-business owners like Ms. Bossie will soon get less benefit from the unpaid marketing pitches they post on Facebook. That’s because, as of mid-January, the social network will intensify its efforts to filter out unpaid promotional material in user news feeds that businesses have posted as status updates.

The change will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs like Ms. Bossie, the founder of four-year-old Earthegy, to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.

Businesses that post free marketing pitches or reuse content from existing ads will suffer “a significant decrease in distribution,” Facebook warned in a post earlier this month announcing the coming change.

The upshot for Ms. Bossie is that “if I do not pay to promote the post or boost it, it’s hardly reaching anyone,” she says. Now, more than half her sales come via her Facebook posts, she estimates.

. . . .

Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of small business, says that Facebook’s paid-advertising options have become more effective recently and that companies should view Facebook as a tool to “help them grow their businesses, not a niche social solution to getting more reach or to make a post go viral.”

He says he has “a lot of empathy” for business owners who “are feeling this evolution” in the reduction of what he describes as organic reach. But, he says, organic reach is only one of several reasons companies benefit from having a presence on Facebook. Last month, there were more than one billion visits to Facebook pages directly. “Having a presence where you can be discovered still has a ton of value,” he says. “We don’t want them to spend any dollar with us unless it’s doing something spectacular to help them grow their business.”

Facebook’s push toward paid advertising is likely to aggravate an “already tense relationship between small businesses and social platforms over audience ownership,” says Steven Jacobs of Street Fight, a Colorado-based media-and-events firm covering local digital marketing. Businesses used to own their consumer relationships through email or other in-house marketing channels, or to buy them from newspapers, television and other traditional media outlets through ads. “But Yelp and now Facebook are trying to peddle a third model, he says: “renting—in which a business can build a community but never own an audience on a platform.”

. . . .

Ms. Bossie says that she has used both “unpaid” and “paid” Facebook posts to spread the word about her business and that the unpaid promotional posts are becoming less and less effective at driving sales as other content crowds them out. She expects to pay $1,500 a month next year on Facebook advertising, up from $1,200 this year, and she plans to allocate about three-quarters of her spending to promoted posts.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Harper Collins to provide Content to Jet Blue Customers

25 November 2014

From a HarperCollins press release:

HarperCollins Publishers today announced they will offer a selection of bestselling titles to JetBlue customers as the exclusive book content partner for the launch of JetBlue’s Fly-Fi content platform. Beginning today, customers on JetBlue flights equipped with Fly-Fi, the inflight Wi-Fi, will be able to read excerpts from more than twenty bestselling books published by HarperCollins, includingFlesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton and Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by James Dean.

Each e-sampler will include buy buttons to allow customers to purchase any of the available titles from a variety of retailers. This offer will continue throughout the next year, and serve to further market the HarperCollins authors involved to a new audience.

. . . .

At launch, JetBlue customers will be able to choose from excerpts of books by Daniel Silva, Martin Short, Anthony Bourdain, Patti Smith, Joyce Carol Oates, Carine McCandless, Paulo Coelho, Patricia Cornwell, Dorothea Benton Frank, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Dick Couch, Amy Poehler, James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton, Peter Lerangis, Herman Parish, James Dean, Nate Ball, Dan Gutman, Lauren Oliver and Erin Hunter. Titles will change monthly.

Books from these HarperCollins authors will be available to customers as e-samplers via JetBlue’s Fly-Fi Hub, which is currently accessible on 35% of their fleet.

Link to the rest at HarperCollins

Pen Name Launch

18 November 2014

From author Lindsay Buroker:

If you’ve been following the blog and Twitter, you may have heard me mention my pen name project. I haven’t shared the details with many people — mostly just my editor and beta readers — because I wanted to see if I could start from scratch today and do reasonably well as a “new author.”

I have a breakdown of sales and borrows farther down, but the quick summary is that I earned about $3043 in the first month, most of that coming from one book (but that book being bolstered by another free one). The book was priced at $3.99, participated in KDP Select (and therefore Kindle Unlimited), and received 638 sales and 683 borrows between October 17th and November 16th.

. . . .

I knew it would be hard gaining any momentum with just one book, so I planned from the beginning to launch with three, with the goal of putting out another novel (or at least a novella) each month after that. I wrote the rough drafts for the three novels this summer, but of course I was working on my own LB novels at the same time. By the time the pen name books were beta read and edited, it ended up being more of a launch with two novels with the third coming almost a month later (it went live on Friday night, November 14th, and had 79 sales and 59 borrows Sunday night when I tallied everything). But at least I had two books to work with from the start and that was key in gaining some momentum.

. . . .

I didn’t want to make a whole second persona that I would have to manage, so I didn’t sign up for any of the social media sites with the pen name. I did put up a website, using WordPress as the backbone, and started a mailing list with the sign-up form on the front page of the site. I put some samples chapters up on the blog, but I don’t think that did anything, since nobody knew the site existed yet.

. . . .

In the hope of finding some people who might review the first book when it launched, I made a Wattpad account for my pen name. I started posting chapters as soon as I had the rough draft finished (around July) and updated regularly to try and get some early fans. There were a handful of people who found it and followed along, but I never gained much traction on Wattpad. I had a few positive comments from the people who did read it, but part of the trouble, I believe, is that the novel has R-rated material in it, so I had to check the R-rated box.

. . . .

I won’t say that Wattpad was a total waste of time, but it was pretty close, at least in this case. I ended up with two pre-launch mailing list signups, and I don’t think anyone commented more than twice over the course of the novel, so I didn’t feel we had enough of a relationship for me to send them private messages and ask if they would like review copies of the final book.

. . . .

In short, very little that I did pre-launch mattered.

. . . .

On October 11th, 2014, Book 1 went live for 99 cents at Amazon and for free at Smashwords and Kobo (I ticked the distribution box, so it would eventually end up at Barnes & Noble and Apple for free as well).

. . . .

I wasn’t sure how long it would take for Amazon to price-match the first book to free, but I didn’t expect it to happen quickly. It’s generally been my experience that already-popular books get price-matched almost right away, whereas it can take much longer for books that aren’t selling.

. . . .

If you’ve tried to buy advertising lately, you probably already know that there aren’t many places that will plug books with no reviews and on short notice. I was also limited by the fact that these books don’t fall neatly into any of the categories that book blog sites offer, so I stuck with sites that basically just say, “Yo, this stuff is free/99 cents today — go get it.”

Link to the rest at Lindsay Buroker

Here’s a link to Lindsay Buroker’s books

Forget the Book Launch

11 November 2014

From Digital Book World:

Effective book marketing today is a different game than it used to be. This post continues my recent series comparing traditional book marketing methods with newer, more effective strategies.

This article (the third installment) focuses on the strategic decision forego a big launch at a book’s introduction into the market. Traditional book publishing once put a lot of emphasis on the launch. But high-profile launches are most effective when you’re communicating to mass audiences via mass media in mass-market bookstores. None of that applies in a market that relies heavily on Internet sales—and all ebooks rely heavily on Internet sales.

. . . .

One of the reasons the launch used to be so important to book sales is because when all books were sold in physical book stores, they competed for shelf space. Shelf space in a physical bookstore is finite. A brick-and-mortar bookseller doesn’t want to clog her shelves with books that don’t move. So publishers would put all their effort into early promotions in order to generate sales and earn the right to stay on the shelf. On the Internet, book sales can afford to be more gradual.

Another reason to forego a big, mass-market launch is that they are very expensive and extremely short-lived. But even if you’ve got a big budget and a tight schedule, a large-scale launch is simply not all that important for an ebook. Why? Mass-market launches are built on the assumption that high sales in the first week dictate a book’s future success—and that simply doesn’t apply in the world of ebook sales.

. . . .

First-time author Sheryn MacMunn had this experience she first introduced her book Finding Out. After two months of sales that barely moved the meter, she decided to do a free promotion on Amazon. The free offer succeeded in moving books. Finding Out even went up to No. 1 in her category for a brief time.

But brief is the operative word. “I was at No. 1, which is like a dream, right?” says MacMunn, “but then it was like, how do I sustain it?”

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to Mike for the tip.

Aiming for the NYT Best Seller List

9 November 2014

From David Gaughran:

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week – with no wifi! – you are probably aware we released The Indie Author Power Pack on Monday, with the aim of hitting the New York Times Best Seller list.

We won’t know the result until next week, but I’ve had a few tweets and emails asking how we were doing, so I thought I’d give you an update.

Before that, if you somehow missed the blanket promo we have been conducting, The Indie Author Power Pack is a stonking deal – only 99c – and contains three top rated writer’s guides.

. . . .

The box set has been selling extremely strongly since it went up for pre-order and Joanna Penn got the ball rolling on her blog. I stepped up to the plate the following Tuesday, then Sean, Johnny & Dave put their shoulder to the wheel a couple of days later, and then we allrecorded a podcast last Friday.

I don’t have access to the exact figures, but I think we had around 3,000 pre-orders before it actually went live this Monday. So far so good.

This week, we went wider with our marketing. We had a number of ads on reader sites, lots of guest posts in key venues – the Kobo Writing Life blog, Joe Konrath’s blog, a week-long series of posts from all of us on the Nook Press Blog (see sidebar for individual posts) – and a huge number of authors sharing on social media, blogging about the box, and even hitting their own mailing lists.

. . . .

But when you drill down on those numbers, and factor in the particular quirks of the NYTlist, the challenge ahead of us becomes apparent.

Out of those 5,499 sales, not all are countable in terms of the NYT. For example, the box set has been doing particularly well in Canada but those sales obviously don’t count towards NYT placement. There are 981 such sales from non-US Kindle Stores, which reduces the countable total down to 4,518.

That total, at this point in the week, is still pretty strong versus what I think will be needed. But that’s not the biggest challenge we face.

One of the quirks of the NYT list is that they completely disregard books which only have sales from a single vendor.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital

Here’s a link to The Indie Author Power Pack, still only 99 cents.

E-Book Mingles Love and Product Placement

3 November 2014

From The New York Times:

The heroine of “Find Me I’m Yours,” a new novel by Hillary Carlip, is a quirky young woman named Mags who works at an online bridal magazine and is searching for love in Los Angeles.

But the story also has another, less obvious protagonist: Sweet’N Low, the artificial sweetener.

Sweet’N Low appears several times in the 356-page story, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. In one scene, Mags, a Sweet’N Low devotee, shows off her nails, which she has painted to resemble the product’s pink packets. In another, she gets teased by a co-worker for putting Sweet’N Low in her coffee.

“Hellooo, isn’t it bad for you?” the friend asks. Mags replies that she has researched the claims online and found studies showing that the product is safe: “They fed lab rats twenty-five hundred packets of Sweet’N Low a day … And still the F.D.A. or E.P.A., or whatevs agency, couldn’t connect the dots from any kind of cancer in humans to my party in a packet.”

. . . .

But RosettaBooks is also trying to bridge the digital and physical divide by marketing the $6.99 e-book with postcard-size cards marked with codes that readers can use to download the book. The cards allow e-book creators to market and sell digital books in physical retail stores, hand them out at promotional events and give them away to readers.

The cards are also a way for authors to attract corporate sponsors. Since publishers can print different batches with special codes, a company could buy 10,000 cards to give away, with brand-specific sponsored content that would be bundled with an e-book. RosettaBooks is printing an initial batch of 15,000 cards for “Find Me I’m Yours.”

And because the e-book cards are marked with individual download codes, they offer access to detailed information on how readers engage with the book, including how much time they spend immersed in it, how far into the story they read and whether they reread certain passages. “It delivers high-power analytics, which is much more valuable to advertisers,” said Arthur Klebanoff, the RosettaBooks chief executive.

. . . .

“Find Me I’m Yours” has taken three years and $400,000 to develop. It is the first project to come out of Storyverse Studios, an entertainment company Ms. Carlip co-founded this year with Maxine Lapiduss, a TV producer and writer for shows including “Roseanne,” “Ellen” and “Dharma & Greg.” They run the business, which has 35 writers, web developers and a social media team, from several bungalows in Studio City in Los Angeles.

The investment from Cumberland Packing, their first big corporate sponsor, helped pay for the development of the websites, and the company is sponsoring a fan art contest. Ms. Carlip is working on a sequel to “Find Me I’m Yours,” and Storyverse Studios is developing several comedy web series and a reality show that link back to the novel.

Ms. Lapiduss said that in addition to the sponsorship deal with Cumberland Packing, negotiations were underway with five other large companies, including automakers and food and beverage producers. Ms. Lapiduss and Ms. Carlip say the readers they are seeking to reach — young women — are brand conscious consumers who won’t be put off by copious mentions of products.

The novel is littered with brand names — the main character rides a Vespa and drinks Red Bull (the companies behind those products are not sponsors). And Ms. Carlip said Sweet’N Low was in the novel before Cumberland Packing was approached about becoming a sponsor, but the product’s role was beefed up after a deal was reached.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Tom for the tip.

The World of Publishing: 1991 vs. 2014

17 October 2014

From author Karen Karbo via PowellsBooks.Blog:

The Diamond Lane, published in May 1991, was my second novel, and what is most striking about the difference between the publishing process 23 years ago and now is not that the book was written on a Kaypro, Xeroxed at Kinko’s, and sent overnight in a FedEx box to G. P. Putnam’s Sons, but that after the manuscript was accepted and given a pub date, I asked my esteemed editor, “What should I do now?” and she said, “Just write the next one.”

. . . .

That said, in 1991, the main job of a writer was to just write the next one. Publicity-wise, you were expected to be able to show up to a reading (arranged by your more charming publicist) and read from your own work in a manner that didn’t put people to sleep. You were expected to be socially awkward, possibly unkempt, and a little wild-eyed — bonus points awarded for not being falling down drunk.You were expected to be socially awkward, possibly unkempt, and a little wild-eyed — bonus points awarded for not being falling down drunk. After your book tour, whether large or small, you were expected to disappear into your scribe-cave.

. . . .

[W]riters are outsiders, and usually not by their own choosing. It’s whythey’re writers. If they didn’t feel alienated from human experience, they wouldn’t feel so drawn to writing to make sense of their lives. It’s not the outsider’s facility for language that makes her a writer — many a student body president or homecoming queen can turn a phrase — but her ability to howl at the moon, on the page. To bring all his anguish, anger, sense of injustice, and loneliness to his work. This is true even for those of us who’ve been accused of being funny; in my case I wasn’t invited to the party, and was also the smart aleck at the back of the classroom.

In 2014, the landscape of a writer’s life is so different as to be unrecognizable. Every writer, whether legacy or self-published, is expected to be capable of launching a sophisticated, far-ranging, full-throttle, buzz-generating, platform-building, unending branding extravaganza. To do this, you must be charismatic, witty, attractive, selfiegenic, while also possessing the marketing chops of the team who rolled out the iPod, thus saving Apple from impending bankruptcy.

That the time-consuming, solitary indwelling required to build a world in your head and put it on paper and the zippity-do-dah extroverted glad-handing required to be a successful promoter of, well, anything rarely exist inside the same human being is immaterial. Publishers have always wanted to sell books, but historically they’ve tended to acquire books they believed they could sell; now we’ve entered an age where they acquire books which they believe the writer can sell. It’s a little like signing a player to the NBA based on his marketing plan to boost concession stand sales during half-time, and incidentally, his field goal percentage.

Link to the rest at PowellsBooks.Blog and thanks to Ron for the tip.

Here’s a link to Karen Karbo’s books

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