Thursday, January 17, 2013

Some Thoughts About Promotion

Just what you needed, another blog post about how to sell your books. I don't want to repeat everything you have seen a hundred times already. Things like "use social media" or "do giveaways".  There's some of that in this post, because those two things are inescapable must do's for anyone who wants to sell more than three books to Aunt Mary and mom and dad.

Here is what I do to promote my books. It works well enough that I actually sell some of them.

Use Amazon Kindle Select.

This is number one. Yeah, I know, everyone bitches about Amazon and its policy of exclusivity and so on. But unless you are doing really well on the other platforms and selling a significant number of books, KDP Select is the only way to go. Why? Because you want to take advantage of the many websites that will list your book when it goes free and almost all of them want an Amazon page to link to. You MUST do free promos. You can't list for free on Amazon. Amazon will sometimes match a $0.00 price on another platform, but you can't count on it, you can't plan for it and that means you don't have a plan that includes Amazon. Without Amazon you have eliminated around 80% of your potential market. Therefore, an opinion:


You can't reasonably plan a successful free promotion without Amazon.

KDP Select success depends on a lot of things. You need eight or ten or more 4 and 5 star reviews. You plan a promo a month ahead. Many sites want three to four weeks notice of a freebie. Sites change, the requirements change, sites come and go. The whole thing of self promotion is in constant flux. BTW, if you write erotica many sites will not list your promotion, so that might be a consideration for you.

Some sites want three days, some the same day or one day notice. Author Marketing Club  ( is a good resource, free, and gives an easy way to list promos on many sites.

Plan a 3 day promo Friday-Sunday. Make sure you tweet about it, mention it on facebook (follow the posting rules in various groups) , Goodreads (join), and especially a few select Amazon discussion forums for authors (the only ones that allow self promo and product listing).

Follow up with a thank you to the groups, etc. where you posted. Success means a lot of free downloads. To me, that means at least a few thousand. Giveaways work better if the writer has a series. One book, okay, but the idea is to stimulate sales of all books. In my thriller series, White Jade is the first in the series and gets people interested in the series as a whole. It's priced at .99. The other books are 3.99.

Where else except KDP Select can you instantly get ten or fifteen thousand people to discover your book for free? Plus you get borrows that pay, a shot at being on one or two top 100 lists and if you do okay, promo flyers go out from Amazon. Yes! Amazon promotes you!

I rest my case.

Social Media (okay, have to talk about it)

Facebook: you need an author page. Pay FB to promote likes, it's worth it. Figure $60.00/month. Acknowledge the folks who "like" your page.

Twitter: Get an account. Get as many followers as you can. It's simple and free. Follow everyone back, follow the suggestions Twitter sends, don't worry about it. Tweet as often as you feel like it but don't always push the books. (conventional wisdom). Post stuff that's interesting. Retweet anything you find interesting. Support people. Don't spend a lot of time on it.

Twitter has a lot of members who will retweet your free promo post if you follow them and/or let them know about your promo. You can find them by a search on the web (Google) or by looking for "free" etc on Twitter. Learn about hashtags. There's a lot of info out there, but you have to look for it. I'm not going to attempt to put it here.

Amazon forums: pick one or two and join in. On promo days, look for other Amazon author forums (there are many) to post. Again, don't spend a lot of time...maybe a half hour or so.

Goodreads: same thing as Amazon.

There are a lot of other social media sites like Pinterest. If you like them and use them, fine. Don't get caught up in all the social media whirl or you won't have any energy or time to write.

What else should you do?

Ads: Use discretion and don't spend a lot of money. There are a lot of sites that will advertise your promo for $5 or less. Use them if you like. Ads are hit and miss. I don't know what works and what doesn't. Don't worry about it, use your intuition and do your research.

Make a plan. A budget is good (I'm bad at that). DON'T spend hours a day on self-promotion. Write instead. An hour a day is probably right at most for self promo.

Get a professionally designed website. This is your main portal, your contact point, your key exposure on the web. Do it as well as you can.

Get a professionally designed cover. Everyone who knows anything says this. They're right. Use the money you didn't spend on ads to get the design services you need. It doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars.

Use the author page on Amazon. It's important. Make it interesting but not full of your life history.

Write good descriptions for the sales page and the best blurbs you can. Study how the big guys do it and shamelessly copy their style.

Respond to readers, always. Acknowledge people who help you. Share resources.

Help out other authors when you can. That can be an encouraging word, a retweet, a comment in a blog, a shared article or something on your facebook page. It's not hard.

There is no competition. What, you say? Think about it. There are over 30,000,000 readers in the US alone. Enough for everyone. Just write a good book. If you're not thinking about how the other guy is taking sales from you, you are not immersing yourself in resentment and poverty thinking. No one is taking sales from you. Everyone can succeed.

Keep  writing. Get more than one book out there. DON'T fall into the trap of quantity vs. quality. Write the best book you can. Lately I see and hear a lot of talk about "commodity" writing, the idea being that cheap junk will bring in money because a lot of people don't care about quality, they just want something to read. I hate the whole idea of that and I don't agree.

Don't give up and get discouraged. If your book is well written and it's not selling, you need to find ways to get it out to as many people as possible, which brings us back to KDP Select as the best venue.

Be patient. This process takes time. It took Lee Child ten years to be an "overnight success". Figure a couple of years to start making consistent sales, maybe longer, maybe less. But believe in yourself.

Give up resentment about Amazon. I see a lot of that. It's a waste of time. Without Amazon the Indie Revolution would be almost non-existent. Be grateful. It's okay if they make a lot of money.

Set your intention. This is the most important thing of all. By this I mean that you KNOW you are a.) successful b.) going to make a bunch of bucks someday c.) you can trust the universe to back you up d.) your work is good enough to sell and sell well and e.) you're not worried about it, because you are definitely going to succeed AND you can FEEL it. Try it, you'll see.

Now go out there and sell a lot of books.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year For Writers

I hope all of you have had a successful year in 2012. Hey, the world didn't end after all. Pretty hard to beat that for success, don't you think? I ended the year with an award for Best Thriller Series from a wonderfully supportive group called the Paranormal Romance Guild. 

I don't write Paranormal Romance, which makes the award all the more significant to me. For me, the year ends with success. What comes in 2013? Let's see...

2 +0 + 1 + 3 = 6. 6 is the mystical number of relationship. 6 is the number of creativity. 6 is 2/3 of the way through a cycle of 9. I am in a 9 year. Surely, this means something. Or not.

I choose to believe that it does and that it is a very good year for anyone who is a writer. Why? Because relationship is the key to our success.

There is relationship to our readers. There is relationship to the characters in the story. Relationship to everyone else in our life and world. I don't think it's possible to write about relationship with any success unless it has been experienced it in the outer, "real" world.

That doesn't mean we have had to live the lives of our characters. It means that as writers we have to extract the core of our experience and observation of relationship in a way that communicates through the actions and feelings, thoughts and events we create for our characters.

I am currently hooked on the show "Sons of Anarchy", a powerful drama I would characterize as a soap opera of the highest order with guns and motorcycles. Now I am a bit biased, since I love motorcycles and have known people like the ones portrayed in the show. There is a degree of reality to the show that is based on more than imagination. I doubt that the writers belong to an outlaw motorcycle club and wear their colors to the studio. Yet they are brilliant at capturing the milieu of the outlaw. They portray a complexity of relationship and action worthy of Shakespeare, a story of moral corruption, betrayal, loyalty and love.

It's a violent show, not for the faint of heart, bloody and brutal. It is also a paean to love and brotherhood. The plot twists and turns in every direction. The characters grow and change. Dark minions from both sides of law and order weave their way through the maze. There are times when I want to groan when I hear the line about protecting family. But for an engrossing crime drama of complex relationship, nothing except The Godfather even comes close.

The show is popular because it goes beyond mere violence for effect. It resonates because each of us is, in some way, like different characters in the story. A piece here, a piece there. We watch and understand the demons that drive the actions of the protagonists. Maybe we wouldn't pick up a gun and shoot the evil ATF agent (fully justified by the story line) but we understand why it should be done. The writing and plot line make it right and inevitable. If there is any justice in the world, it has to happen. If I have a wish for the new year, it is that I learn to write as well as what I see in this show.

Before anyone jumps on me for advocating gun violence, please, that isn't what I'm doing. It's a STORY, meant to entertain and provoke. Shakespeare did the same thing and as I recall, left many a stage strewn with bodes. No one accuses him of advocating violence.

If this is a year mystically tied to relationship, then your writing will succeed if you remember to make that the foundation of what you write.