Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer

18 April 2015

From Forbes:

The London Book Fair lands on an unusually sunny three days in the capital. The scorching rays – rarely seen at all, let alone in April in the UK – seem at odds with a closed-off indoor book fair. But that hasn’t stopped scores of page-turner enthusiasts scouring the giant exhibition centre’s main floor, looking for publishers to schmooze, books to buy and advice to receive.

It’s the advice from authors who’ve ‘made it’ that seems to resonate most with attendees. Seminars and workshops are scattered in between the stands – all packed with a baying audience that fire off seemingly endless questions. They’re all trying to piece together an escape route out of the doldrums of full-time work.

One man, Mark Dawson, has a queue of wannabe writers lining up to speak to him as we sit down for an interview. Dawson is one of the self-publishing success stories that Amazon likes to wheel out when journalists like myself come knocking. But Dawson’s success isn’t down to simply publishing his crime-thriller series and hoping for the best.

. . . .

Dawson has become an entrepreneur. With the self-publishing platform, he had no choice. The tactics he employed to promote his series aren’t game-changing, or even particularly clever, but the scale in which he implemented them is what made the difference.

To date he has sold over 300,000 copies of his series about an assassin called John Milton. Dawson says he pocketed “ six figures” last year and he’s on course to make much more this year. And he’s got plans for bigger and better things for this series outside of print form.

Dawson’s recent success isn’t representative of his time in publishing, however. He actually had a book published by Pan Books called “The Art of Falling Apart” in 2000, which completely bombed. Not because because it was bad – ironically it’s now available on Kindle and has 32 five-star reviews out of 39 – but because few people read it or are aware of it. Mark puts the book’s failure down to the publishers inability to promote his work and generate any sort of interest.

. . . .

“I live in the countryside outside of Salisbury [in the UK] – there are lots of farmers’ fields and one farmer was bringing in his crops. I was cycling my bike and I decided to take a break. I parked my bike, sat down with my back against this tree and got my phone out. Miraculously I managed to get some signal and I thought ‘I’ll check how the book is doing’.

. . . .

Incredibly,Dawson had sold 50,000 copies of The Black Mile over the course of a weekend.

But he was immediately presented with two problems. The first was that he’d made no money whatsoever from The Black Mile, a book he’d poured hours of research and travel into [because it was free]. The second was that he had no follow-up book for his new fanbase to dig in to.

It was at this point that Dawson went from being a simple author to an entrepreneur.

“It was a wasted opportunity.” Dawson admits. “ But it did give me a kick up the arse and proved to me that this is legitimate and that I should write a new book, so I did.”

. . . .

To get new readers onboard, Dawson does the usual stuff like getting blogs to review his books. But what he says works the most is Facebook advertising. Dawson is pumping $370 a day into Facebook advertising and he’s receiving double that in return on investment.

Link to the rest at Forbes 

How to Write a Book Blurb

13 April 2015

From Self-Publishing Review:

By far, the weakest part of many self-published books is the synopsis found on Amazon and elsewhere. Worse than the cover, worse than the writing in the book itself, there are a lot of blurbs on Amazon that are pretty near atrocious. I include my own books in this category. Writing a decent blurb is an artform totally separate from writing a book.

Authors are also on record saying this is their least favorite part of the process. It can make you feel icky writing superlatives about your own book. At the same time, too many superlatives can literally be icky (“A work of genius” comes to mind). A good blurb needs to strike a balance between being informative, but not too informative, salesy, but not too salesy, while somehow coercing a stranger into spending money. It’s difficult, to say the least.

That said, there are some very common errors that show up time and again, and are pretty easy to change.

. . . .

Blurb Do’s

  1. Make it 100-200 words at most. Use line breaks as well.
  2. Use bold and italics, such as for awards, or “#1 Bestseller,” if you’re so lucky.
  3. Remember to add genre keywords to your description (mystery, dystopia, thriller, and so on), but don’t overdo it.
  4. Use adjectives to describe a character. See: FSOG above. Christian Grey is “beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating.” We don’t need examples of this, adjectives are a good stand-in.
  5. Similarly, condense the plot as much as you can to its feeling, rather than a line by line retelling of action.
  6. Tell us about your lead character! A reader is looking to identify with a central protagonist.

Blurb Don’ts

  1. Write 200+ words, with no use of paragraph breaks. Stay away from one gigantic paragraph.
  2. Include spoilers – seems like a no-brainer, but a spoiler can sometimes be the most exciting part of a book so you’ll be tempted to put it in to tempt readers.
  3. Summarize the entire plot. See The Hunger Games blurb above. Basically: There’s this thing called the Hunger Games where people fight to the death. Katniss is selected to enter the games. That’s it. General is better, less is more.
  4. Be overly flattering of yourself. People are aware an indie book’s description is written by the author, so “The next Stephen King” is going to be transparent.

Link to the rest at Self-Publishing Review

Great River Road

6 April 2015

TPV isn’t going to turn into a blog about videos, but PG was pleased to find a book video that didn’t consist of an author sitting in a makeshift studio uncomfortably talking to the camera.


GREAT RIVER ROAD, Memoir and Memory by Madelon Sprengnether from Madelon Sprengnether on Vimeo.

One Eyed Jack

27 March 2015

From indie author Christopher J. Lynch:


Christopher says:

I made a video trailer for my novel One Eyed Jack with the purpose of not just selling novels, but of using it as a vehicle to get a movie deal – which I just did. A production company with Lion’s Gate films has picked up an option on my novel, and it is in development now.

Here’s a link to Christopher J. Lynch’s books

I Was a Child

19 March 2015

PG admits that he finds most book videos predictable and boring. This one was a bit different.

Here’s a link to I Was a Child: A Memoir

How NOT to Sell Books: Top 10 Social Media Marketing No-Nos for Authors

16 March 2015

From author Anne R. Allen:

Let’s face it. Authors do a lot of obnoxious things online in the name of “marketing.” I think that’s because the average author isn’t educated in the field and we don’t realize that not all marketing is created equal.

Good marketing is not about bullying your customers. It’s about enticing them.

. . . .

Thinking of your readers as “targets” or a generic “them” can lead to wasting time and money as well as just plain bad behavior.

Using hard-sell, intrusive, or unethical marketing techniques doesn’t work to sell books. Your only result will be to make readers dislike you.

Ditto swaggering around social media with a literary or techno-nerd chip on your shoulder. Even if you have an MFA so expensive it won’t be paid off until you’re 93, you’ve memorized every word written by Marcel Proust—in French, of course—and/or you personally knew Steve Jobs, you’re not going to entice readers by telling them you’re better than they are.

. . . .

10) Forgetting that social media is social.

Social media is for networking, not direct selling. It’s for making friends. You are not here to broadcast your message but to engage with potential customers.

An endless Twitter, Google+, or Facebook stream of BUY MY BOOK is not friendly. Neither is barging into forums and groups to leave a drive-by promo without interacting with the other members.

Not only is this behavior annoying, IT DOES NOT SELL BOOKS. Yes, people may buy stuff like a Sham-Wow! or collapsible garden hose sold by screaming pitchmen endlessly replayed on late night TV, but this is because the pitches are designed to convince people they have a burning need for the product and will save a ton of money.

But nobody “needs” a book in that way, especially not a novel.

I once pointed this out to a writer in a workshop, and he said “but that’s easy for you to say—you’ve got bestsellers—I’m just starting out, so I need to market!”

. . . .

7) Projecting a snarky, nasty online persona. 
Always follow Wil Wheaton’s law: “Don’t be a D***.”

Shocking headers may work as “click bait” to get people to your blog, and you may get more initial engagement on Twitter or Instagram if you project a “Mean Girl” image, but it won’t work in your favor in the long run.

Reading a book, even a free one, is an investment in time. Strangely enough, most readers don’t want to spend their time with jerks.

I know some people love to use social media to say nasty things about celebrities, but if you care about your writing career, you need to act like a grownup online—at least when using your author name.

That means cutting out the tweets about how all bestsellers suck and all readers are stupid.

And never make obscene or threatening remarks on social media if you intend to have a career other than picking up cans on the highway. That stuff is forever.

It’s also not a good idea for authors to leave nasty reviews of other authors’ books, especially in your own genre. You can say respectfully that you didn’t enjoy this book as much as the last or whatever, but if you indulge in name-calling and insults, you’re burning bridges you may desperately need later in your career. Even if an author has tons of reviews, they remember the nasty ones.

Do follow the top authors in your genre, but treat them with respect. If you diss a bestselling author, you’re dissing all their fans. That’s a lot of readers in your potential audience who won’t buy your book now.


Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Here’s a link to Anne R. Allen’s books

Creating Your Custom Audible 30-Day Free Trial Link

12 March 2015

From ACX:

Few words are more enticing than “free.” Now you can offer fans a free Audible 30-day trial membership featuring your title—a great way to promote your audiobook—and potentially earn more money while doing so. Create a custom 30-Day Free Trial link featuring one of your audiobooks, and you could earn a$50  Bounty for every new Audible member who signs up.

. . . .

Not only is the Audible 30-Day Free Trial link a great way to invite fans to the joys of listening to your work, it introduces them to medium of audiobooks — great news for your future audio sales.

Link to the rest at ACX and thanks to Russell for the tip.

Better book marketing in the future depends a bit on unlearning the best practices of the past

6 March 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

A few years ago, publishers invented the position of Chief Digital Officer and many of the big houses hired one. The creation of a position with that title, reporting to the CEO, explicitly acknowledged the need to address digital change at the highest levels of the company.

Now we’re seeing new hires being put in charge of “audiences” or “audience development”. I don’t know exactly what that means . . . but some conversations in the past couple of weeks are making clearer to me what marketing and content development in book publishing is going to have to look like. And audiences are, indeed, at the heart of it.

I’ve written before about Pete McCarthy’s conviction that unique research is needed into the audiences for every book and every author and that the flow of data about a book that’s in the marketplace provides continuing opportunities to sharpen the understandings of how to sell to those audiences. Applying this philosophy bumps up against two realities so long-standing in the trade book business that they’re very hard to change:

How the book descriptions which are the basis for all marketing copy get written

A generic lack of by-title attention to the backlist

. . . .

I had a conversation over lunch last week with an imprint-level executive at a Big House. S/he got my attention by expressing doubt about the value of “landing pages”, which are (I’ve learned through my work with Logical Marketing; I wouldn’t have known this a year ago) one of the most useful tools to improve discovery for books and authors. I have related one particularly persuasive anecdote about that here. This was a demonstration to me of how much basic knowledge about discovery and SEO is lacking in publishing.

. . . .

But then, my lunch companion made an important operational point. I was advocating research as a tool to decide what to acquire, or what projects might work. “But I could never get money to do research on a book we hadn’t signed,” s/he said, “except perhaps to use going after a big author who is with another house.”

. . . .

I also had an exchange last week with Hugh Howey, my friend the incredibly successful indie author with whom I generally agree on very little concerning big publishers and their value to authors. But Hugh made a point that is absolutely fundamental, one which I learned and absorbed so long ago that I haven’t dusted it off for the modern era. And it is profoundly important.

Hugh says there are new authors he’s encountering every day who are achieving success after publishers failed with them. It is when he described the sales curve of the successful indie — “steadily growing sales” — that a penny dropped for me. An old penny.

We recognize in our business that “word of mouth” is the most effective means of growing the market for a book. If that were the way things really worked, books would tend to have a sales curve that was a relatively gentle upward slope to a peak and then a relatively gentle downward slope.

Of course, very few books have ever had that sales curve. Nothing about the way big publishers routinely market and sell would enable it to happen. Everything publishers do tries to impose a different sales curve on their books.

A gentle upward slope followed by a gentle downward slope would, in the physical world, require a broad and very shallow distribution with rapid replenishment where the first copy or two put at an outlet had sold. But widespread coordination of rapid replenishment of this kind for books selling at low volumes at any particular outlet (let alone most outlets) is, for the most part, a practical impossibility in the world of distributed retail.

. . . .

[I]f a store sells two copies, say, of a new book in the first three months, it probably doesn’t make the cut as a book to be retained. If they bought two, they’re glad they’re gone and not likely to re-order without some push by the publisher or attention-grabbing other circumstance. If they bought ten, they’ll want to get their dollars back by making returns so they can invest in the next potentially big thing.

But that’s not the case online, where there is no need for distributed inventory (especially of ebooks!)

. . . .

[I]n the brick and mortar world, the book will effectively be dead if it doesn’t catch on in the first three months. And the reality of staffing, focus, and the sales philosophy of most publishers means it won’t be getting any attention from the house’s digital marketers either.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG was going to make a comment, but he slapped his head too hard.

Want to Profit as an Author? Think About Sponsorships

20 February 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

There are two kinds of people: those who say “I’m going to write a book” and those who don’t. Among those who do, there are two kinds of people: those who actually write the thing and those who don’t. Among those who do, there are two kinds of people: those who make a decent living from the thing and those who don’t. Multi-hyphenate impresario Lynn Isenberg’s new book Author Power, published this past December, wants to see to it that many more of those who make it all the way to writing a book join the ranks of those who make a living from their books. How? Author Power proffers a further culling: among those who say they want to make a living from their books, there are two kinds: those who say they do and those who really mean it.

. . . .

And, truest of truisms, one must spend money to make money.

“You should plan on…basic hard costs…editing, cover design, website…some social media…this is regardless of whether you do it yourself or you go through an author services company or partner publisher…That means that before you’ve been published, you will be in debt.”

. . . .

Author Power is about working in partnership with brands to cover these costs and more and create limitless opportunities for your intellectual property.

Brands? Limitless opportunity for IP?

“But before you can approach the brands, you’ll need to make sure you’ve positioned yourself and your brand with leverage…Leverage. Leverage. Leverage. If “brand” was the word for the first decade of the 21st century, then “leverage” is the word for the second…What can you leverage to make your book stand out? What assets have you created to build your case for attracting attention to your book? Why would this be a good idea for a brand…to come on board?”

. . . .

An author begins, manuscript half in hand, half in mind, by knowing, it must be assumed, something about something. The “power,” then, accrues to those authors who can leverage that something to gain exposure, to define an audience, to define themselves and to define a setting. These combine to become actual marketable assets, i.e., cash in hand to the intrepid who can summon the wherewithal to pick up the telephone and engage with marketers who, in fact, are always on the lookout. Author Power reveals no actual secrets; the book describes in richly intimate detail how a rather delightful fictional character mushroomed from an idea to a series of three novels, then to a star-powered web series and a movie development deal, then zigged into a consulting business and, finally, zagged into a 300-page how-to packed with hard numbers, real names, fearsomely honest commentary and firestarter action plans.

. . . .

No product placement primer, this; Author Power delves into the heart of the write-your-own-ticket world of brand integration:

“‘product placement’ in books goes back to 1873 when ‘transport and shipping companies lobbied to be mentioned’ in Jules Verne’s adventure novel series Around the World in Eighty Days. No records reveal if he was actually paid or not. Ironically, it’s widely believed that Verne’s book was inspired by media advertisements for Thomas Cook’s tour around the world…With the advent of e-books and hyperlinks, integrating brands into the storyline is more possible. The key is staying true to the characters and separating church and state…and in knowing how to identify, create, leverage, close, and deliver such opportunities with integrity.”

Bacon says knowledge is power. Ms. Isenberg says brand knowledge is power. But what, precisely, is an author’s “brand”? What does it profit a consumer goods brand to associate (and pay for that association!) with an author’s “brand”?

. . . .

Author Power shows authors the art of The Ask. Your female spy-hero is also a scratch golfer? Calloway Golf might just love to offer your books for sale on its web sites, might just love to see to it that a stack of your books sits next to their top-line ladies gear in shops across the world—provided your hero tees it up with her new Callaway X2 HOT driver while wearing Callaway NEOX shades.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Eric for the tip.

The Two Sides of SEO for Book Publishers

18 February 2015

From Digital Book World:

Here’s a scenario: A reader hears about a book you publish from someone they trust. They decide they want to buy it and read it. So how do they find it? It’s possible they go directly to their favorite bookseller (let’s assume this is all happening online), find it there and buy it. Awesome, you just sold a book.

However, many other readers will go to their favorite search engine and search for the title, the author’s name or both. The question I have for you is this: Where does your book page show up in the search results when that happens?

. . . .

If links to your pages aren’t in the first couple of positions on the first page of the search results, the chances of someone clicking on them are pretty slim. And if you’re not on the first page, you have basically zero chance of getting the click.

. . . .

I’ve heard publishers say it’s impossible to compete with the bigger sites whose pages come up at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) in book searches—like those belonging to Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble. I’ve heard that they are just too big and popular. I’ve heard that their search engine optimization (SEO) is just too good, if not perfect. And I’ve heard these things lots of times.

But none of that is true. You can compete with the bigger sites. They are not too big or too popular. And contrary to perhaps the biggest misconception of all, their SEO is far from perfect.

. . . .

SEO has two sides to it: what I call the ‘mechanicals’—on-site elements that search engines look for—and the ‘content envelope’—all the available off-site content about your site and your products, like book reviews, blog posts, videos, social media posts and all the other content that envelopes your site.

You don’t have full control of the content envelope. If you had a really outstanding content generation and social media program you might gain a little more. But you really can’t control everything that happens outside of your site.

On the other hand, you have complete control over your site—after all, it’s yours.

That means you can shape the mechanicals entirely as you wish. Search engines are fairly explicit about what they are looking for when they crawl and index your site. Of course, they don’t tell us everything, but we know enough to be able to ensure your site itself is highly optimized. And just by focusing a little effort on the mechanicals you can start showing up at the top of the search results. Above Amazon, above Goodreads and above Barnes & Noble.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG is always interested to read SEO articles directed at publishers. Like this one, they are kindergarten level discussions — for 2002.

PG would love to see some quality studies of the online habits of those who purchase books regularly. He would bet that Amazon, not Google, is the most popular search engine for books.

Google is king of almost everything in the search world, but if someone is purchasing books on a regular basis, it’s difficult to believe that they wouldn’t prefer Amazon where you can find the book and buy the book at a low price instantly.

If publishers are not going to spend significant money to build a really good ecommerce experience with good prices — a mini-Amazon that directly competes with Amazon and all the other online and offline booksellers — PG wonders why they care about search traffic when readers search for the title of a book.

If publishers are doing SEO to send search traffic to their retailers, that’s fine, but they’re going to run into complaints from retailers who aren’t included in the SEO program. Plus, it’s hard enough to do successful SEO when you directly control all the online content. Putting together an SEO program that involves multiple third-party retailers and actually competes with Amazon is a really, really difficult challenge.

Finally, if you want to beat Amazon in the Google search rankings, you have to spend serious cash to hire real SEO executive talent and pay substantial amounts of money to one or more outside SEO service providers. And even then, you might not be able to do it.

UPDATE: PG just took a tour of the websites of the major New York publishers. They’re about two trillion miles away from platforms that would support successful SEO.

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