Marketing

Passive Marketing

8 February 2014

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

But we all want to do more, and we all want readers to discover our work. There are ways to augment the good cover/good blurb/good story trifecta. Notsupplant it. You absolutely need those things. But you can add to it, which is what this series is all about.

I promised I’d move from passive marketing to active marketing. By passive marketing, I mean things that you can do with a little thought and often just with a push of a button. Things that will remain in place for years if you want them to, or things that can be swapped out without blogging, tweeting, or spending major advertising dollars.

. . . .

If you don’t know genre, you can’t do key words properly. Key words, for those of you who don’t know, are part of online metadata. If your book is in any online store, whether in paper or in ebook, your book will have key words associated to it.

The very first key word it should have is its genre. And then its subgenre. And then it’s sub-subgenre.  I’d write an entire post on key words if M. Louisa Locke hadn’t already done so, and so thoroughly that I don’t have to. (Thanks to J.M. Ney-Grimm for these links [from last week’s comments]) There are three posts. Here’s a link to the first.

The short of it all is this:

Amazon, for example, allows seven keywords that help readers find your books using the search function. Readers who know you will search by your name or a series name or a book title. But if the reader is browsing, they might be looking for other reasons. This is where keywords help. As Locke writes in her second post:

Just as authors have no control over which books vendors display in the front windows and on the display tables of their physical bookstores, so authors have little control over what books Amazon displays on the main Kindle Store Page. The one part of this first page that authors do have some influence over, however, is the search bar (found at the top of the screen.) Since many consumers have been trained by their use of Google and other web search engines to search for stuff using keywords, this is probably the most important place to start if you want to maximize a book’s discoverability.

She has a lot of suggestions on how to find the proper keywords. Please read her three posts and the comments, because she has done such a thorough job that I would only be duplicating it here. Go there, and learn.

. . . .

Notice that all three websites reflect the writers behind them. All three make it easy to sign up for newsletters—if the reader wants to do so. All three answer the basic questions:

1. What has this author written?

2. What order should I read in (if any)?

3. What’s new?

4. How can I learn about new books (if I want to)?

Some websites need even more data. When you’re writing in a series, you might want to how many books the series will/does have, when the next book is coming out, and how long you plan to continue the series. Get a sense of what the fans want to know, and provide those answers in your FAQ.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Avid Readers, Frequent Readers and True Fans

1 February 2014

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

This past week, with the pricing discussion, I realized that a bunch of assumptions about price—well known in retail—are completely new to publishing. Traditional publishers are so lazy about their pricing and discoverability strategies that they rarely think about what they’re actually doing. They just work reflexively—and indie writers have mimicked that.

. . . .

As writers, we have been “raised” in the business to believe that readers are one gigantic mass of creatures, all the same. Yet as readers, we know that’s not true. Just because Gillian Flynn’s book Gone Girl spent weeks on The New York Times bestseller list doesn’t mean all of us will like the book. Some of us will love it and some of us will wonder what everyone else saw in it, even if we bought it. Some of us will look at it and wonder who the heck would buy it at all. Some of us will buy the book after the movie comes out in October because we hadn’t heard of this major bestseller until New Regency Films started advertising the movie. (Because, y’know, traditional publishers don’t spend money on TV advertising. That would be so…last century.)

We readers know that’s how it works. We writers forget it.

And traditional publishers never think about it at all.

They treat all books by advance level. The amount of marketing dollars put into books varies according to the advance paid to the author, not how many fans the author has. In theory, advance and fans should correlate, but in reality, they don’t.

Traditional publishers don’t really pay attention to a fan base. Publishers sell books to distributors and bookstores, remember, and so target their advertising to those companies. When the chain bookstores took over the business, traditional publishers only had to convince a handful of book buyers to take tens of thousands of copies of certain books, based not on the author’s sales record, but on what was “hot” or a “great cover” or a “new concept.”

Independent booksellers bought what their customers wanted, but independent booksellers, who do not buy in bulk, have very little clout with traditional publishers.

. . . .

As a result, no one has broken down the retail side of the business with the idea of targeting the advertising toward the actual final customer—the reader.

No one has except, of course, the romance writers.

. . . .

Because most of the romance genre is mostly written by women and sold mostly to women, the notoriously sexist publishing industry of the 1970s and 1980s did not believe those books sold. Remember, publishing would target booksellers, not actual readers, and many bookstore owners refused to carry “that stuff” in their stores. I bought my romances back in the day at drug stores and through Harlequin’s subscription service.

It wasn’t until 1982 or so that romance began to make an impact, and that was because the romance writers started banding together and proved to the industry that their books sold. Romance Writers of America was founded in 1980 with this kind of advocacy in mind.

And because bookstores refused to carry many of these books, romance writers were the ones who developed all kinds of marketing techniques that many of you still believe you need to use now. Some of the techniques are absolutely valuable, and we’ll be discussing them in the future, like newsletters and fan-based activities. Some have seen their day, like bookmarks and flyers, and we’ll discuss those too.

But what you need to know, what’s important to know, is that the romancewriters are the only ones who have ever done a reader survey for the point of marketing books.

. . . .

A lot has been written about the true fan in the past few years, but let me quote former Wired editor and (as John Scalzi calls him) Web Thinker, Kevin Kelly, who, so far as I can tell, started this meme in 2008 or so:

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

. . . .

Why did I tell you all of this? Because, marketing one way to all readers—whether it’s free or expensive, whether it’s one type of book or another—ignores how complex readers as consumers really are.

When I talk about marketing strategies, I’m talking from this complex model, not the traditional publishing all-readers-are-the-same model.

The moment you stop thinking like traditional publishers is the moment your writing business will take off.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

What Kris writes about is also called market segmentation. Unlike publishing, the reality-based business world has used very sophisticated market segmentation for a long time.

Sophisticated market segmentation can create different products for different customer needs – running shoes for training, competition, off-road, under-pronaters, over-pronaters, etc.

Market segmentation can involve pricing and packaging – Store brand tissue vs. Kleenex vs. Costco’s packaging of 20 boxes of Kleenex into a single bulk pack. Store brand soda vs. Coca-Cola. Expensive perfumes vs. lower-priced perfumes.

Market segmentation can involve psychic or image needs – designer clothing vs. no-name, French vs. California wines, famous California wines vs. unknowns, etc., etc.

(PG knows he’s stepped into a snakepit with wines, but he will point to blind taste-tests that show most consumers can’t tell which wine is expensive and which is not. He also seems to remember hearing about tests where consumers were told the cheap wine was expensive and the expensive wine was cheap and most thought the cheap wine tasted better.)

Amazon and indie authors are a great example of how books can be segmented into various sub-sub-genres categories and keywords that go way beyond the crude BISAC categories.

Branding 101 For Writers

12 January 2014

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Readers identify these things as brands (in no particular order): Characters, Worlds, Series, and Writers. Readers rarely (almost never) consider a publisher a brand. There are exceptions—Harlequin has done a fantastic job branding its fiction. But most traditional publishers have not.

In fact, traditional publishers seem to have very little idea what branding is at all. They do branding on bestsellers, almost accidentally. Generally, the book’s designers have no idea how to brand anything. A few years back, Putnam decided to brand Nora Robert’s work, and the publishing trades made a big deal out of it.

But if you’re traditionally published, chances are your work has no individual branding—meaning, the branding is not tied to your writer name. The branding is tied to something else if branding exists at all.

Traditionally published writers of long-standing, like me, have books that look like mishmash of stuff, even if the books are in the same genre and same series. The lack of branding has hurt us. This is not an area where you, as indie publishers, should look to traditional publishing. You need to think outside their narrow little box.

You want your readers to identify your work as quickly as possible. You want them to find you easily. Hybrid writers who understand this are actually changing the industry. Their traditional publishers are starting to ask who their cover artists are and are copying the self-published designs of the hybrid writer, rather than the other way around. (Sad, isn’t it?)

. . . .

Every time you see a muscular woman with her back to the viewer, looking over her shoulder while brandishing a weapon, you know you’re looking at an urban fantasy novel. Genre branding is so ubiquitous that in some genres, it becomes cliché. Then some traditional publisher changes up the genre branding, and everyone follows suit.

I’m not telling you that you need to put that sexy mean babe on your urban fantasy novel. But…

The reason I use the phrase “indie published” instead of “self-published” is because if you write a lot and publish a lot, eventually, you will have a team helping you. Even if you’re only  publishing your own work, you have become an independent publisher.

And as an independent publisher, you must make decisions within your publishing house about branding.

. . . .

But if you’re a writer who writes in more than one genre, like I do, then you will need different branding for each genre you write in.

In other words, your stand-alone romance novel cannot look the same as your stand-alone mystery novel which should not look the same as your stand-alone fantasy novel.

. . . .

You must brand by genre. Readers expect it. They want to know what they’re picking up. For example, many romance readers read the genre to escape the difficulties in their lives. They have enough tribulations; they don’t want those in their fiction. They would be horrified if they picked up Sins of the Blood, without some clue that it’s a horror novel, not a sweet romance like Davy Moss.

You want to be discovered? Being discovered by genre is a fine way to do so. Make sure your tags on the various bookstores are correct as well. If you don’t know genre—and most writers don’t (even though they think they do)—then learn it.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Your Writing Name

19 December 2013

From NYT bestselling author and former writing professor Dave Farland:

Many authors would never consider using a pseudonym. Their identity is intimately tied to their name, and they long to see it in print, even if it’s a name as silly as Ernest Lee Funklemeyer.

For me, a name is a brand. Choosing an author’s name is more like choosing the brand name for your new line of automobiles. Sorry, I don’t really get a thrill about seeing my name in print. Maybe I did twenty-five years ago, but it really wasn’t that important to me.

I use David Farland for my writing name, but I was raised as Dave Wolverton, and wrote my first dozen novels under that name. Why did I switch? There were a couple of reasons: When I wrote my third novel, I got a glowing review which advised people to “make sure to look on the bottom shelf at your bookstore, where Dave Wolverton’s novels are likely to be found. . .” My heart sank.

You see I had read an article a few years earlier, in which marketers for Campbell’s soup had found that 92% of all people would not bend over to pick up their favorite flavor of soup from the bottom shelf at a supermarket. People prefer to buy their goods at eye level. Which meant, of course, that no writer wants to be on the bottom shelf. By using the name Wolverton, I was losing a huge number of potential sales!

. . . .

It was a gamble, but I chose a new moniker, and hit #1 on the science fiction and fantasy bestseller lists. I’ve written under the Farland name ever since.

. . . .

1) Don’t choose a name that will put your books next to another huge authors. For example, I wouldn’t want to be shelved next to books by John Grisham. Why? Because every time that he releases a new book, then the bookstore employees have to make room for it, and they will do it by removing other books from the shelf. If you happen to be close to him, the stores will be returning your novels for a refund. It will cripple your career.

. . . .

3) Don’t choose a name that is difficult or impossible to pronounce. Some foreign names are difficult for readers, so I chose one that I believed would be easy for people to say.

Link to the rest at David Farland

Genre versus Author Platform? Which Matters More?

18 December 2013

From author C.S. Lakin on The Book Designer:

Is it enough for an author to write a terrific book, then market it wisely, devoting a lot of energy and time to building an author platform? Will that ensure great sales? Most authors have precious little time to spend on building their platforms, yet most experts in publishing will agree that author platform is crucial.

But how crucial? Even if an author spends hours a week trying to get known—via social networking, blogging, listing their books on paid and free promotions, joining in on forums, offering sales—often all that effort shows little return in the way of sales, new readers, and buzz. A million writers are vying for attention, and many are putting out similar effort to build their author platform.

. . . .

Without going into the strategies and methods for either fiction or nonfiction platform-building, I’d like to take a step back and ask this question:

How much does genre [for the novelists] have a bearing on success?

This is a question I did not want to ask myself, but after writing more than a dozen novels in various genres and spending years trying to market them, promote them, grow sales and readers, I kept coming back to this question.

Why? Because although my books were getting terrific reviews and winning awards, they were not strict genre novels—in fact many of my books are a bit experimental and can’t be easily categorized. My books just weren’t selling much.

. . . .

What I did see was that these hugely successful authors were writing to a specific genre, and often a niche genre. What do I mean by that? I mean a subgenre that has a particular readership—one that is very large and one that has few (compared to other main genres) books available for sale. What I was seeing was a manifestation of the old economics “supply and demand” rule.

. . . .

  • I picked the subgenre I was told “sells itself” without any author platform
  • I came up with a pen name so I would be an unknown, unpublished author
  • I chose one novel to deconstruct. [NOTE PLEASE: I did not plagiarize or copy the plot, writing, or tried to mimic this author. I just deconstructedthe structure. If you don’t know what that involves, buy my book when it comes out!]
  • After deconstructing the novel, I plotted and constructed mine
  • I hired the same cover designer to brand my look for my series
  • While writing the novel, I copied and pasted 30 Amazon descriptions of books in this genre in order to create my own in the same style and fashion [NOTE: this was a genre I had never even read, so had no clue how this differed from the genres I already wrote in]
  • I got a couple of well-known author friends and a reviewer for the Examiner to read in advance and write me reviews/endorsements, so I’d have something to put in the book and on the Amazon page
  • I did set up tweets (not as my pen name but via my real Twitter account) to get some exposure
  • I set up a Facebook page for the author, but did nothing to promote it. Even now it has maybe 25 likes. So no big influence there
  • I hired an assistant to find bloggers and reviewers, but only had three people blog about the novel when it was released

. . . .

The novel has only been out a month. Within the first two weeks, the book jumped to paid #247 on Amazon, and hit the top ten genre lists: Historicals, Historical Westerns, Western Romance. My genre is Historical Western Romance (and more specifically sweetWestern—meaning no sex or heat).

In those two weeks, the book sold more than 1,500 copies at full price ($3.99 US), while all the top twenty on the lists were sale priced. I wanted to start out the gate with the novel regularly priced and not discounted, based on Mark Coker’s research (Smashwords) that $3.99 sells better than any other price. I also wanted to imply “quality” because it is a long, rich, quality book.

My novel has been on the genre lists’ top 100 ever since, selling about 30-50 books a day. Way more than I ever made on any of my other dozen novels.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer and thanks to William for the tip.

Direct Sales of Ebooks

18 November 2013

From Marketing Tips:

Authors such as Ryan Estrada, Andrew Hyde . . .  and Nathan Barry . . . sell their ebooks via Gumroad. They placed their files on the service and added the link to their websites. People can click on the link, pay for the file, and then download it. The authors pay a transaction and hosting fee to Gumroad.

This method is the simplest, most direct, and possibly offers the highest profit per book. However, it requires the ability to drive people to a website, compared to online resellers who already have traffic. You’ll also need hosting, payment, and customer-service functionality. Other companies that provide this type of service are E-Junkie and ClickBank. Ganxy is a company that provides an ebook-focused product.

Pros:

  • Direct and immediate control. These companies are big hard disks in the sky with order processing. You make your decisions about pricing and revisions, and they execute.
  • High profits per book. These companies don’t do more than host your file and handle transactions. Therefore, their costs are lower, and you can make the most money per copy through them.

Cons:

  • Marketing burden. There’s always a catch! You have total control and can make the most profit per book, but the onus is upon you to get people to your website or to click to buy your ebook.

Link to the rest at Marketing Tips

The Real Key to Strong Book Sales

2 November 2013

From author Robert Bidinotto:

It has been a mantra in self-publishing circles that an author’s most reliable pathway to long-term financial success is to rapidly write and publish more and more books. This strategy is supposed to increase your exposure and name recognition, and therefore the “discoverability” of your books to buyers who browse retail websites like Amazon. 

This quantitative strategy seems perfectly sensible, too. The key to strong sales is to make your work visible, or “discoverable,” to your target audience of readers. So, how could your cumulative sales over time not increase if you issue an ever-expanding number of titles for readers to find and buy?

. . . .

Discouraged by this trend, Dennis asked if fellow authors also were experiencing declining sales over time, despite publishing more books. A lot of other writers then chimed in to confirm the trend. Clearly rattled, the discussion participants have since been bemoaning — and trying to explain — the apparent failure of this, one self-publishing’s main articles of faith. After all, how could you not sell more copies if you publish more titles?

. . . .

Now, all other things being equal, it’s probably true that more titles = more visibility —> more sales. But I don’t think all other things are equal. Focusing mainly on quantity, no writer, no matter how prolific, can possibly crank out books fast enough to keep up with the thousands of new titles being published each week. The sea of available titles is now enormous, and ever-expanding. In that vast sea, how are yourkind of customers going to discover your titles?

Marketing experts have wrestled with that problem for decades. I learned a lot about how to achieve visibility in a glutted marketplace by reading the books by marketing gurus Jack Trout and Al Ries — especially their little classic, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. Its subtitle is How to Be Seen and Heard in the Overcrowded Marketplace — and that, of course, is exactly what  authors need to know.

Though not written specifically for writers, the book offers us many great lessons and insights, and I don’t want to take up space here repeating them. But its overriding principle of “positioning” is about how to distinguish yourself and/or your product so that it stands out from the pack and achieves a unique, memorable “position” in your target customer’s mind.

. . . .

Yes, the key to commercial success is achieving visibility to your target audience; but the pathway to visibility is not necessarily the quantity of one’s works. A second element, of course, is the quality of one’s writing.

. . . .

When I think about the super-selling books, though, what they have in common is that they are distinctive. They stand out as something fresh and memorable, because they contain unique themes, plots, and characters. They present provocative ideas, unusual settings, iconic personalities. And that is why they become “visible” . . . often, without even much of a marketing push. Those kinds of books succeed by “word of mouth.”

Link to the rest at Robert Bidinotto

It pays to think outside the box

30 October 2013

 

An interview with Author and TPV regular Michael J. Sullivan

 

From Sarah at BookwormBlues

The other day I had a conversation on Twitter with Michael J. Sullivan regarding the unusual publishing of his upcoming book Hollow World. I thought it was rather fascinating, and I was incredibly interested to learn more about what he’s doing and why. I also figured that if I am interested, someone else probably is, too. I asked him if he’d like to write a guest post for my website to elaborate on the topic. I figured not having a 140 character limit would help express ideas and thoughts. I feel very lucky that he agreed.

Without further hubbub, dear world, get excited. Michael J. Sullivan is here for some education.

***

When it comes to publishing it pays to think outside the box

Yesterday I sent Sarah my soon to be released book Hollow World for review. Afterward we had a discussion via twitter about the unusual way it is being published (more on this in a moment). She thought it was interesting how the publishing industry is changing, and she thought others might be interested in learning a bit about what I’ve done and why. So here I am.

First, let’s start with a bit of background. I’ve been published in just about every way that exists. Having done all three paths, I know the pros and cons of each. While traditional publishers are great at print distribution, they don’t really offer any significant advantages for ebooks. In fact, there are a lot of problems with their system.

***

Most authors would jump at the chance to sign a five-figure offer for a single book, but because of all the things I said earlier, and because the Kickstarter proved to me the book had merit, I decided to turn it down…but it did get me thinking…why couldn’t I have my cake and eat it too?

What I really wanted was to keep the ebook, sell the print rights to one publisher, and sell the audio rights directly to an audio producers (so I would keep 100% of the royalties). The problem is that this is easier said than done. I knew of only four authors who had received “print-only deals” and they are all million copy sellers they are: Hugh Howey, Bella Andre, Coleen Hoover, and Brandon Sanderson.

***

By keeping my ebook rights (and receiving 100% of the audio royalties) I anticipate making significantly more money than if I had signed that five-figure contract I was originally offered. But it’s not just about money. Publishing Hollow World as I have will allow me to better serve my readers. Those who enjoy print will still find the books in their local bookstores and libraries. Plus, they can also receive free ebooks (regardless of where the print book was sold). For the ebook only crowd, they get DRM-free editions, a cheaper list price, and I’ll even provide ebooks in multiple formats so they can read the same book on their kindle and nook without having to buy it twice.

***

The moral of this story is take control and think outside the box. The old rules have been washed away and the slate is now clean. It’s time for authors to shape their careers in ways that makes the most sense for them, even if it isn’t something that hasn’t been done before.

See Micheals blog here.

From Guest Blogger Randall with thanks to Christian for the tip.

eBook Aggregators Comparison Chart

19 October 2013

From Publish Your Own eBook:

“In some cases instead of publishing directly to an ebook store you might choose to publish via an ebook “aggregator”.

“What is an Ebook Aggregator?

“An ebook aggregator deals with ebook authors directly and interfaces between them and ebook retailers such as Apple and Sony.

Read more: http://www.publishyourownebooks.com/ebook-aggregators-comparison-chart/#ixzz2hqh6d275

Julia Barrett

Does an extroverted writer have the advantage? Maybe not

18 October 2013

From Writers in the Storm, by Laura Drake:

“I’ve read a lot of blogs lately about introverted writers, (whining), pointing out how hard it is for them, nowadays.

“There are probably more introverted authors than extroverts. After all, it’s darned near a cliché – the writer living in seclusion, typing away in obscurity. That’s all you see in movies: As Good as it GetsSomething’s Gotta Give – even, dare I mention, The Shining?Misery? (don’t throw tomatoes, I’m not judging!)

“As an extrovert, it’s killing me that the introverts get all the press, even though they shrink from it!”

***

“Before I go farther, you know the difference between the two, right? In the simplest terms, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people. An introvert is energized by being alone.

“But which writer has the advantage– the extrovert, or the introvert?

“Seems obvious, right? The extroverts love the promo, the press, the spotlight! They have it easier.

“Not so fast. I’m here to point out some of the disadvantages the extroverts deal with.”

Read the rest of the story here.

(As an introvert I’m no expert on extroverts, with the possible exception of my husband who can be, for lack of a better word, loud. I’m not convinced promo is any harder or easier for me than it is for an extrovert. And there is whining on both sides. Personally, I like my peace and quiet. Do you extroverts out there carry a bigger burden? Is more expected of you?  Julia Barrett)

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