Friday, July 27, 2018

Celeste Barclay

Why getting advice on book sales and marketing beats going it alone sometimes

Marketing your own books and ebooks

Hello Reader,

Marketing Your Own Books and EBooks

According to my parents, I was a late talker (you wouldn't know that now) and didn't start speaking in really complete sentences until I was about two and a half.  However...apparently, my first full phrase was "me do it myself."  If you know me, this would not be a surprise in the least.  I'm still reluctant to ask for help and more often than not would prefer to do things on my own---that way I can do it my way.  However, that can be self defeating in the end.

Last night, for example, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to fix a few things on the layout of this site.  I have no formal education or training in HTML but have done some website design before by working with templates.  I have learned just enough HTML to be dangerous, or more realistically, frustrated.  When I am able to get the code to do what I want, it feels like a major sense of accomplishment.  My logical mind loves being able to solve how to make the code do what I envision.  Perhaps this would be nothing special to someone who actually knows how to code, but for me, I feel like shouting out my success.  This was something little.  Something that could easily be reset.  Something I could do on my own.

What I am learning that I can't do on my own is the marketing of my books.  In theory, I can.  I can take all the advised steps:

1. Design or have made a good book cover.
2. Make sure your content is strong and well edited.
3. Get on social media.
4. Reach out to bloggers for book reviews.
5 Etc, etc, etc.

But this doesn't really guarantee success in a highly competitive market.  If you want to compete, then you have to play like the winners.  This takes a strategy, and I think I've found one..

The Facts About Marketing Books and EBooks

According to Just Publishing Advice's April 2018 article, "Are You Self-Publishing Romance? Maybe You Should Be", romance novels hold 24% of the ebook market!  That's almost a quarter of all ebooks purchased are within the romance genre.  That makes for very steep competition indeed.

Furthermore, Flavorwire asks the question of why this genre is so successful.

"Books break out because they fulfill the very intense criteria of the best of the genre. Romance needs to hit beats that are driven by emotional investment in the story. The form, in some ways, is very prescribed, and what makes books interesting is what they do with that form. 'It’s a very visceral experience for readers...Many readers see themselves in the stories and are able to imagine their lives in different ways through romance, and those things are not to be discounted.' Romance readers want to feel everything, to care deeply about the relationship in the story, getting both turned on and thoroughly invested in whether or not the central relationship has a shot in a world that suffers cruel and delicious twists of fate, right up until the happy ending."
Sounds about right.  I think that one of the reasons why romance novels are so popular and in turn become so addictive lies in this phrase, "Many readers see themselves in the stories and are able to imagine their lives in a different way through romance..." To be honest, that's what got me hooked.  It allows me an escape from my regular responsibilities and everyday commitments of wife, mom, and educator.  It allows me to become whomever I want for the time it takes me to finish the novel.  Then I can move on to be someone else.  Does this sound familiar?  Sound about right?  Quite possibly.  Even if you do not write romance novels, books provide an escape and an opportunity to let our imaginations guide us.  Something that most adults, unfortunately, gave up doing as they left childhood.

When you consider why people choose romance novels and realize that it has a lion's share of the market, you start to see why you most likely cannot carve out a successful (and profitable, if that's your goal) niche within this field.

Don't judge a book by it's cover---but everyone else does.
I'm seeing a recurring theme throughout the articles that I read about successful authors.  The professionally designed cover is where it's at.  I think I will have to concede this point and jump on the bandwagon.  As of 2016, 68% of financially successful authors spent at least $100 but no more than $1,000 on a book cover.  In comparison, 44% of emerging authors spent at least $100 on a book cover which was an increase of 5% over the previous year.
"What Makes a $100K Author: 8 Findings Every Author Should Know"
In a similar vein, $100K authors employ professional editors.  While you might proofread and make revisions several times, your mind and your eye know what it is supposed to say, so it is easy to miss what it actually says.  The going rate for an editor to work on your manuscript seems to be as low at $50 but as high as $1,000.  I would venture to think that a substantial number of successful authors probably pay $250-$500.

Once you've sorted out your cover design (DIY or pro) and feel like you have a spiffy final copy (DIY or pro), you have to get your book out to the masses.  Simply loading it into Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) isn't going to be nearly enough.

You must find a way to get people's attention.

Hiring Professional Book Marketing Services

Considering what you have just read about the use of professional cover design and professional editing, is really any surprise that the use of professional marketing services may be needed to help you break into this massive and popular niche?  At this point, hopefully it isn't a surprise.

Have you ever stopped to wonder how your favorite author has time to write novel after novel, use social media, blog, do interviews, go to conferences, receives reviews?  Most likely they don't have that time, or they use their time more efficiently.

Book Publicity Companies Exist to Help Authors 

I've spent an exhausting amount of time in the last week learning as much as I can about the different book publicity companies or websites that exist to support authors along with the various popular blogs that post reviews.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, Twitter has been indispensably helpful in finding potential reviewers.  It has also led me to numerous book marketers.  In fact, it has provided me with so much information that I couldn't remember which sites I had already visited and which were new. 

To help me keep things straight, I had to start making some serious notes.  I created two Excel spreadsheets: one for review tracking and one for potential promotional sites.  The review tracker is very simple but extremely helpful.  This is how I set mine up.
Review Tracker

The one for the book promotions has several more columns to accommodate the various options that the marketers offer.  It can be overwhelming trying to remember which one does blog tours, which one does Twitter blasts or emails blasts, or which one lists your title(s).  I needed a way to compare each of their services and, even more importantly, their price.  Again, this is how I set up mine.

Book Promo List

I found that keeping track of what they offer in a visual layout makes it much easier for my to weigh my options.  Without this, I was having a hard time remembering which would offer me the most bang for my buck.  More critically and crucially, I was having a hard time remember which sites offered services that I think I want and need.

The Take Aways

1.  Unless you are a graphic designer, have knowledge and experience with graphic design or have access to the right software, or know a graphic designer, sooner or later, you will need to buy a custom, professional book cover.
2.  Even eagle eyes don't always spot what right in front of them.  After you've proofread at least twice, find an editor and send it off for a fresh perspective.
3. You can try to reach out to reputable and popular bloggers to try to convince them to review and advertise your book, but there's a good chance they'll charge you for at least the ads.  You also won't be able to reach as many people on Twitter and Facebook or via email as these companies that have miles long contact lists and followers.  They know how to word the posts and how to request exposure on the blogs.  Using a professional book promotion site to market your masterpiece, or rather manuscript, can take you from the obscure back of the pack to being (close to) a leader.  

I'm still evaluating my options, but I think I know who I am leaning towards.  Once I determine whether they are in the budget, I will let you know which one I pick.  It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that I will hire someone.

Did I miss something? If you have any extra tips, please share them in the comments below.

Happy reading, y'all,


Donnelly, E. (2015, February 13). How Amazon and 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Created a Golden Age for Self-Published Romance Authors - and Why It May Already Be Over. Retrieved July 26, 2018, from https://bit.ly/2LsNw4D

Ferol . (2017, July 18). What Makes a $100k Author: 8 Findings Every Author Should Know. Retrieved July 26, 2018, from https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/2017/06/07/100k-author/

Haines, D., Orr, A., & HainesPost, D. (2018, April 12). Are You Self-Publishing Romance? - Maybe You Should. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://bit.ly/2Ltq8DS

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