Advertising-Promotion-Marketing

The Bestseller List Box Set Gig

28 April 2017

From InsideIndie.weebly.com:

Why does it seem like lately the heavens are raining down hundreds of brand spanking new bestselling authors? They’re everywhere, man, like, it’s contagious and we need a vaccine.  New York Times, USA Today, heck, it’s no big deal anymore, thanks to a handful of individuals who have figured out how to make a ton of cash and inflate sales numbers to shoot 20+ author box sets onto the lists. (Yes, you read that correctly; 20 books from 20 authors in one massive box set). Has anyone ever heard of the authors in these mega-sets? Do they ever go on to sell any other books after “getting letters”? A few shining stars have emerged, but for the most past, the answer is no.

According to one box set Organizer, Amazon assures her that everyone at Amazon is perfectly fine with her methods, and the way she tells it, Amazon’s in her pocket with this gig, and Amazon has no problem with authors gifting thousands of copies of books to readers who then use those gift book credits to purchase the box set, making it look like a legitimate sale. We’re not talking about chump change here, either, folks. The “buy-in” for these box sets is anywhere from $500 -$2000 per author. At 20+ authors per sets, the Organizer is collecting between $10,000 – $40,000 per set, and self-reports 8 sets have made the lists (out of dozens of sets managed). Not counting the sets that did not make lists, 8 box sets have raked in $80,000 – $320,000.  Even more disturbing, the same Organizer says that she spoke with PayPal and PayPal is fine with her methods of asking authors to pay her thousands of dollars of business transactions via “friends & family” transfers (which PayPal does not report to the IRS as taxable income and are not covered by PayPal Buyer Protection), or even worse, Amazon Gift Cards so that customers can not get a refund via PayPal dispute, which has happened multiple times to the Organizer.

Link to the rest at InsideIndie.weebly.com

PG doesn’t know any of the backstory on this and he hasn’t consulted any of the relevant terms of service, but he will point out that, when everybody is a bestselling author, the marketing benefits from such claims decline substantially in value.

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CoreSource® Connects 750+ Publishers to Microsoft’s Digital Bookstore

25 April 2017

From Ingram’s public relations department:

Ingram Content Group has been working with Microsoft to build inventory for the initial launch of the new books category in the Windows Store. CoreSource®, Ingram’s digital asset management and distribution platform, is already delivering content from over 750 publishers to the Windows Store.

With the Windows 10 Creators Update we are excited to bring books to the Windows Store,” said Alex Holzer, Director, Microsoft Digital Stores. “With books in Windows Store, you can discover and read e-books from your favorite authors across genres you love. We are pleased to work with Ingram’s team and CoreSource technology to bring content to readers.”

. . . .

“We’re always looking to add more distribution channels to CoreSource for our customers,” said Lewis Pennock, Director of Digital Retail Sales at Ingram Content Group. “Offering books in the Windows Store is one of the highest potential sales channels to come to the market in several years; it will be a great opportunity for our publishers to get their books into more readers’ hands across multiple devices.”

Link to the rest at Ingram

PG says there’s an art to writing good press releases. To quickly study that art, compare and contrast this Ingram press release with any press release issued by Amazon.

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Which is it: Amazon Ads or Facebook Ads?

19 April 2017

From author and TPV regular John Ellsworth:

In reflecting further, it becomes clear to me that the possibility of having my book discovered (albeit maybe not purchased) is much higher in terms of permutations on the Facebook platform than on Amazon ads. With Amazon ads I might choose 2000 keywords to bring up my book. With Facebook I have literally millions of possible sorts (database sorts) that I can create and try with a few simple clicks. For example, I can choose an audience of a certain age, a certain gender, a certain country, with certain interests, with other interests that further include or exclude and etc. ad nauseam. The truth telling, though, comes in the intent of the viewer. With Amazon ads, we can probably presume the viewer is there predisposed to buying a book. But on FB we can’t assume any such thing.

. . . .

Knowing what little I do know about SEO, it can probably be stated that discoverability on Amazon will only happen on the first three pages of ads. After that they fall off tremendously. So discoverability on Amazon depends on being on page one to three of the sponsored ad search results while discoverability on Facebook, while maybe higher because of the defined database sorts Facebook can make, is very achievable but the intent of the viewer will probably be very different (who do you know who goes on FB to buy a book?) than the presumed intent of the Amazon viewer.

. . . .

Amazon, in truly Amazon fashion, is extremely stingy with the data I need to make a business-like choice about advertising. FB, on the other hand, gladly provides me with probably more data than I know how to use, all of which is modifiable in the tabular displays that allow me to choose lots of different variables.

Link to the rest at John Ellsworth

Here’s a link to John Ellsworth’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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John Grisham Returns to the Road for His First Book Tour in 25 Years

19 April 2017

From John Grisham’s blog:

Celebrate John Grisham’s 30th novel–CAMINO ISLAND–and his first bookstore tour in 25 years!  Seating is extremely limited–see full tour schedule and event guidelines below.

EVENT GUIDELINES (Please check each individual store listing)

•  Events are ticketed – 1 ticket per person, which will include a copy of CAMINO ISLAND.

•  Ticket costs vary.  Check store listings.

•  Events will be strictly limited to 200 people only.

•  Mr. Grisham will personalize and sign up to 2 copies of CAMINO ISLAND (1 copy included with event ticket, 1 copy purchased on-site only).

•  NO BACKLIST WILL BE SIGNED.

•  Photos will be permitted.

•  The event will be structured into two parts: book signing and discussion/Q&A.

•  Your ticket will gain admittance to both the book signing line AND in-store discussion UNLESS space is limited – check in-store seating guidelines below.

•  The book signing portion of the event will be from either 1 to 5pm or 2 to 6pm only – check timing of each venue.  You must have your ticket on-hand to join the line, which will be first-come, first-serve.

•  All books MUST be signed during the signing window – there will NOT be an autographing after the event.

•  Mr. Grisham’s in-store discussion will begin at either 5 or 6pm – check timing of each venue.  You must keep your ticket on-hand to join the discussion portion of the event.

•  Seating at the discussion will be first-come, first-serve. There will not be assigned seating.

Link to the rest at John Grisham’s blog

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Authors need help with their digital presence that they still are not getting

13 April 2017

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

A major difference between book publishing today and book publishing 25 years ago is the practical power of the author brand in marketing. Multi-book authors can not only build their own followings in ways that can be usefully exploited, they now have an unprecedented capability to help each other.

Of course, they can do that best if they’re “organized” in some way. But both of the most obvious potential organizers who deal with many authors — the publishers and the agents — have commercial and structural impediments to being as helpful as they could be, or as authors need them to be, at either of the new needs: helping authors be better marketers of themselves or getting them to act in a coordinated way to help each other.

Building an individual author’s digital marketing footprint is an important component of career development. And, in fact, the foundation of the author’s “brand” footprint has strong influence on the success of the title marketing publishers would see as their principal objective.

But the publisher has a book-by-book relationship, not an assured ongoing relationship, with authors so investing for a longer-term gain is not structurally encouraged. And agents live with pretty strict ethics rules limiting their compensation to a share of the author contracts they negotiate, so they also have a structural impediment against investing money and time in the author’s general welfare beyond getting the best possible deal they can for every book they represent.

. . . .

When you discuss author marketing with literary agents you find that many of them already think of themselves as career consultants for their authors. Many of them build it into their own job description. But, frankly, the skill and expertise agents have to advise on financial management or digital marketing is highly variable. There could be even less consistency to what agents know about digital marketing than there is across publishers.

One agent, expressing what I think is appropriate humility, said she thought of herself as a “coach” for authors on career and digital marketing matters, not a “manager”. It seems likely to me that most agents with a multitude of clients will have some that know much more about digital marketing than they do!

. . . .

But organizing authors to help each other in this way is also touchy for both agents and publishers. For agents, there are two obvious problems. One is that the best marketing partners for any particular author might be represented by a different agency. That makes things complicated. But the other is that the agent’s “job” is to get an author deals. Getting authors engaged in a perhaps-complex marketing consortium requires another level of understanding and persuasion that agents could rightly see as a distraction to what pays the bills: developing proposals and getting offers from publishers. From a publisher’s perspective, organizing the house’s writers and having them communicate directly is a bit like asking big-company management to organize the union. There might be good arguments to do it but for many it would provoke a visceral negative reaction.

One consultant I spoke with in the course of writing this piece made a long list of concerns publishers would have about what authors encouraged to trade war stories might talk about, including contract terms and how much attention they were getting for their marketing efforts. But, of course, the authors’ agents already know these things.

. . . .

Trelstad made clear that authors are talking to each other about marketing and organizing themselves to help each other. With modern digital tools, this is easy. It is also very hard to track. There is one effort that has gotten some notoriety called the Tall Poppies, a collection of writers organized and spearheaded by author Ann Garvin. Their mission statement explains that “Tall Poppy Writers is a community of writing professionals committed to growing relationships, promoting the work of its members, and connecting authors with each other and with readers. By sharing information and supporting one another’s work, we strive to stand out in the literary marketplace and to help our members do the same.”

According to Trelstad (who is herself a “Tall Poppy member”), this kind of collaboration among authors is becoming increasingly common under the radar, like with her “masterminds” groups. It makes sense. The Trump and Sanders supporters didn’t need the party apparatus to get themselves together in common cause. Using the same tools and techniques, authors can also unite in their own interest without needing a publisher or agent to facilitate it for them. And apparently they are.

. . . .

So authors talking to authors is a development we may as an industry not be as aware of as we should be.

. . . .

When I asked Trelstad if any publisher seemed to be getting this right, she said, without hesitation, “Amazon. They are very good at communicating with their authors. They help overcome fear and uncertainty. And they automatically give authors and editors a voice in their covers.”

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

PG should be smarter by now, but he continues to be constantly surprised by how clueless the pillars of traditional publishing are about what’s happening outside their small circle.

Authors are talking to each other!

Authors are helping each other!

Authors are creating websites and blogs – sometimes all by themselves! In every one-stoplight town in America, there are people who know how to build websites and blogs who are happy to be hired by authors who don’t want to do the work themselves.

And then there’s that internet thing that lets an author in Boston hire a digital designer in Anchorage to create the author’s online presence and promotion materials that an internet marketing consultant in Dallas uses to run the author’s book promotions all over the world.

The idea that authors talking to each other, sharing inside information in the process, will only happen if publishers or agents organize such gatherings is truly bizarre. Publishers and agents would be out of business without their suppliers – authors – yet they have huge gaps in their knowledge about what authors have been routinely doing for years – getting together electronically to talk shop, share information about royalties, advances, which marketing techniques work and which don’t, etc., etc., etc.

Of course, Amazon is different. Amazon is a well-managed, highly-efficient 21st century organization. Amazon is obsessively customer-focused and Amazon’s publishing arms – KDP and Amazon Publishing – view authors and readers as their customers.

As many regular TPV visitors know, one of Mrs. PG’s books was selected for publishing via Kindle Scout. For someone who had a lot of books traditionally published, the Amazon Publishing experience is extraordinary. Information is shared, emails are answered, the publisher treats the author like an intelligent human being who wants the same thing the publisher does – a high-quality book. Mrs. PG’s book is likely to be published and selling sooner than a New York publisher could manage to email her a publishing contract.

Also, Amazon knows more about selling books than any publisher and any conventional bookstore because, unlike the English majors running big publishing, Amazon understands the value of data and employs a whole lot of people who are extremely talented at mining big data for its secrets. In Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders, referenced in an earlier post, he talks about how much of what happens behind the scenes on Amazon’s websites relies on cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.

Speaking of data, PG’s impression is that, when Data Guy speaks to a large gathering of traditional publishing folk, 99.9% of the analytical brain power in the room is up on the podium talking and running the PowerPoint presentation.

Meanwhile 99% of the audience really needs a stiff drink because Data Guy is showing them reams of information about their own industry that they didn’t know before the PowerPoint started.

 

 

 

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Building Your Writing Career

9 April 2017

From Dave Farland:

Many writers begin their writing journey and choose to focus on gaining the skills they need to become publishable. In fact, that becomes their sole focus. They don’t worry about learning how to sell their books. After all, you can’t sell a book that you haven’t written, right?

But what happens when you do sell a book and suddenly find that in addition to learning how to write, you now need to launch a career?

I’ve known many authors who have done just that. They focused on becoming writers and never learned the first thing about building a career. They’ve taken so little thought to the business side of writing that in some cases, they even managed to derail their career before it got started.

So, what are the first steps in building a career?

One of the first steps you need to take is to begin building “your list.” What is your list? It is a list of friends and fans and business associates who want to follow your career. These are people who will go out and buy your books. In fact, a good friend or fan will go out and buy your book on a certain day, a day that you ask them to buy it, in order to help launch your book on the bestseller lists.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ll think, “I don’t know anyone who would do that!” Well, you might be surprised at how many people would be willing to do that, if you just ask them to.

So, how do you ask? You send an invitation to people that you keep on an email list. This list is your most important business asset as a writer.

Who is on your list? How about this: look at your family first, not just your immediate family, but also your cousins, nephews, nieces, and even your crazy uncle. If you’re from a large family, getting the names and email addresses of these people can take some time. But it’s worthwhile. Family members are often eager to buy your books, tell friends what you’ve done, and so on. Even if they aren’t frequent readers, they’re likely to read your work.

Who else is on your list? How about your business associates at the place(s) that you’ve worked? How about old friends and classmates from school—from kindergarten on through college, and even people that you’ve taken seminars with?

Then go to your business associates—other writers, producers, editors, agents, and so on.

. . . .

But what if you don’t build your list? It is possible that a few great reviews will help guide readers to your book, and advertisements in magazines will also help. And if people begin reading and talking about your novel, the “word of mouth” advertising is invaluable. The problem is, that word of mouth is also slow. If someone buys your book and doesn’t read it for a few weeks, by the time that she tells her friends about how great you are, your book might be out of print.

. . . .

My friend Richard Paul Evans has a story about a writer who failed to build his list. Richard went to do a book signing on the East Coast a couple of years ago and was excited to be signing right next to an author whose first novel was a blockbuster—one that stayed on the New York Times Bestseller list for more than a year. He’d sold millions of copies and had gotten emails from tens of thousands of fans. But when Richard got to the store, he found that his own fans were there but the new author had no one in his lines. His publisher had not advertised his second novel widely, and the author hadn’t kept a list of his fans, so he had failed to tell them about the signing. When Richard asked the author what had happened to his fans, the author said, “I guess that they didn’t get the memo.”

Link to the rest at Dave Farland and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dave Farland’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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Newsletters and Discoverability

8 April 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

 Newsletters Before 2011

Writers have had newsletters long before email newsletter services came into being, long before the internet came into being. The indefatigable Debbie Macomber has done a newsletter for more than twenty years, and she has used it to great advantage. She used a lot of strategies that helped her hit the bestseller list, but also kept her readers loyal.

A May 2010 article on the BookPage.com blog lists three reasons why Debbie Macomber is a bestseller, and they all have to do with her newsletter.  Please note that the post got published just as the indie world was starting to take off. Debbie’s still traditionally published, so she was doing all of this stuff before Constant Contact and MailChimp.

She wrote, printed, and snail-mailed a newsletter.

. . . .

The three things the 2010 newsletter had were:

  1. Coupons for upcoming books
  2. Stickers and bookmarks with her 2010 releases listed on them
  3. Folksy news of Debbie, along with recipes and tips

The coupons and stickers weren’t in the newsletter. They were with the newsletter, in the same envelope.

Here’s what the BookPage blogger said about the coupons:

Here’s the smart part: they’re only valid during the first week of a book’s release, when sales are especially crucial.

. . . .

But in her newsletters, she hasn’t just offer coupons to her fans. She’s done all kinds of promotions. Debbie has been the queen of sharing and promotions as long as she’s published. She published her first novel in 1983. I don’t know for a fact whether or not she started doing newsletters then, but I do know that she’s been an innovative promoter since the early 1990s. A lot of the things you see romance writers do for promotion were ideas that Debbie had first and did better.

. . . .

I’ll be honest. I look at everything Debbie’s done or doing or plans to do, and I get instantly tired. I know how brilliant her promotions are. I know how much work she did from the very start to create this bond with her readers. She’s amazing.

What you need to know about her is that she does not cynically cultivate these connections. She enjoys them, and does them really well. There’s a reason her newsletters resemble the chatty letters that my aunt used to send me.

First, Debbie is that chatty, driven, organized person. Second, the newsletters reflect the kinds of books she writes, the books that appeal to her readers. And third, I’ll bet she can’t imagine doing this work any other way.

. . . .

The newsletters let fans know about upcoming releases. Every newsletter Debbie and Kevin release assumes that the people who get the newsletter are familiar with the author’s work, like the author’s work, and want more of the author’s work.

Keep that in mind.

. . . .

All newsletters—from Debbie’s to Kevin’s to some brand new indie writer’s—are advertising.

And like all advertising, the person who is writing the ad copy needs to know where the ad is going.

If you are trying to use your newsletter to get it in front of people who have never read your book, you’re using the newsletter for a different purpose than Kevin and Debbie do.

To put this in better marketing terms: when you’re using the newsletter to attract new readers, what you’re actually doing is some kind of ad flyer. Or, if you’re a good writer (and I’m assuming all of you are), you’re producing an advertising circular.

. . . .

How to communicate.

It’s all about audience, baby.

If your newsletter is for your constant readers (to use Stephen King’s term), then your newsletter will have information a regular reader wants.

That information includes:

  1. When the next book is coming out
  2. Where you’ll be appearing to sign books or to give a presentation
  3. Special perks

The newsletter for possible readers, which I am going to call the ad circular only for clarity’s sake (not as a judgment because, again, I think it’s a valid way to go), also includes that same information.

  1. When the next book is coming out
  2. Where you’ll be appearing to sign books or to give a presentation
  3. Special perks

But…this is where the content varies.

The old-school newsletter will then have chatty commentary. For Kevin’s newsletter, that includes where he hiked while writing certain novels, inspiration he found in other places, some of the fun trips he’s been on that weren’t writing related.

In Debbie’s case, she often discusses her family or what she’s knitted recently (seriously) or recipes that she loves. One newsletter on her site includes her wedding photo.

These newsletters assume the readers will want to know these personal things about the writer. I’ve seen newsletters that discuss upcoming books which will feature favorite side characters or include some material that was excised from a novel but isn’t a standalone story.

These are things that fans and long-time readers are interested in, but that people browsing the bookshelf for their next read have no patience for.

The ad circular newsletter will have (or should have) basic information. Where can the reader find more books by this author? What order should the books be read in?

The ad circular should be shorter and to the point. But it should also have a lot of voice in the body copy so that the potential book buyer actually reads the newsletter rather than deleting it.

It’s a trick to write that kind of copy, especially on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

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eBook Sales Are Dead & Connecting with Readers

4 April 2017

From Indies Unlimited:

“My sales have flat-lined. Nobody is selling any books.”

“There are no readers left. We’ve swamped them with too many free books.”

“Print is more popular, eBook sales are dead.”

Have we officially entered the season of dread and negativity? Is there no positive energy left in IndieBook Land? I heard variations of the above statements recently and I didn’t like it. And, I don’t agree.

I ran a contest the other day. It was simple. Click on a free eBook then email me the title and you’re entered to win one of two $10 Amazon gift certificates. I sent it out in a newsletter that also advertised a bunch of free eBooks from various authors. I wasn’t sure whether ten bucks would be enough to entice readers to enter but I thought I’d try anyway. It was enough. It worked. The results were really interesting.

The open rate for my newsletter was 70%, and the click rate was just a shade under 40%. Those are strong numbers. I’ve never sent out a newsletter with those kinds of returns.

. . . .

The readers who emailed me their entries talked to me. Some just sent the title of the book they had downloaded, but many of them sent me messages.

. . . .

“I’m on a limited budget. Thank you for sending me the links to the books.”

“I had already downloaded Pam of Babylon, and now I’ve found another that I liked. Thanks!”

“What a great project for us. I’ve already got lots of books from these giveaways.”

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

Author Earnings has also demonstrated that a huge proportion of ebook sales are by indie authors and don’t show up on any of the traditional sales reporting services.

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Make the Most of Your Book Back Cover With These Tips

26 March 2017

From BookWorks:

You have heard over and over from experts and read online how important your front cover is.  It is true.  How your cover looks is even more important that what you write inside the book. Because if your cover is not terrific, then no one will ever know how brilliant your writing is. It is the front cover’s job to convince a potential reader to flip the book over and read the back cover.  It is the job of the book back cover to convince a reader to flip open a book and read a few pages.

. . . .

Our job as authors/publishers is to convince readers that our books are wonderful. The back cover is one of our best tools to do that. Too often, we try to get EVERYTHING we want to say about ourselves and our books onto the back cover.  We cram too many words into too small of a space and when we want to get it to fit, we shrink the text size. That is not how to entice someone into reading your back cover copy. Think about how magazines use space and headlines and large font sizes to lure their readers in. We should be emulating those same practices.Before you write that back cover copy, ask yourself the following questions:

1 – Does your Bio and picture NEED to be on the back cover? Are your bio and picture going to convince someone that your book is terrific?

2 – Do YOU read tons of text, in small type, smashed together with no line spacing to give your eyes a break? Or do your eyes gloss over the words?

3 – Do you read headlines on Magazines, Newspapers, and Online?

Link to the rest at BookWorks

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8 Book Description A/B Tests You Need to See

23 March 2017

From BookBub:

At BookBub, we connect books to readers, and readers to books. One of the components that drives this connection is the blurb we write for each book featured in our Featured Deals email. A successful blurb caters to the settings, characters, and tropes our readers love — so to write such a blurb, we need to learn as much as possible about our readers’ tastes.

To do this, we A/B test many of our blurbs, which lets us evaluate the performance of certain words, phrases, punctuation, or other blurb elements. Through this analysis, we can see what our readers engage with — and what turns them away. This post will highlight some recent A/B test results that you may find useful as you write and improve your own book descriptions.

. . . .

We run A/B tests by creating two different versions of a blurb: the A version is the control, and the B version has a slight variation. Most users see the A version, but a randomly selected group gets the B version instead. By comparing each blurb’s click-through rate (CTR, or how likely users were to click on the book), we measure the impact of the change we’re testing.

. . . .

1. Call out authors’ accolades

Readers respond well to mentions of an author’s accolades, including awards the author has won. Blurbs that named prestigious, genre-specific awards boosted CTRs by up to 25%, with an average increase of 5%.

. . . .

2. Avoid including too many characters’ names

It seems intuitive that one great way to help readers connect with a book is to introduce them to characters, calling out the main characters by name. However, test results show that this may not be the case. Especially in books with several main characters, names in the blurb hurt its performance. The example below seems drastic, but the trend is consistent across all of our tests. On average, blurbs with 3 or more names saw a 10% lower CTR than the nameless variations.

. . . .

7. Call out characters’ ages in Chick Lit

If blurbs shouldn’t mention too many characters’ names, what kind of information should they include? The performance of certain character attributes can be hard to predict. Furthermore, readers’ engagement with these attributes often varies by genre — which is why running your own tests with your own readers is so important! Here’s a great example of this: in Chick Lit, mentioning a character’s age consistently helps drive engagement. Including the heroine’s age boosted CTR by an average of 9%in this genre.

Link to the rest at BookBub and thanks to A.R. for the tip.

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