Showing posts with label book marketing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book marketing. Show all posts

Monday, July 7

Mark Coker's Tips On How To Sell More Books

Mark Coker's Tips On How To Sell More Books

Let's talk about book marketing. 

I prefer to concentrate on writing so I tend to shy away from marketing. That said, writers need to make a living wage if they are to keep writing, so marketing--learning how best to present our work to readers--is important.

Each year Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, shares the most significant factors in a book's sale on Smashwords[1]. Here is his analysis for this year: 2014 Smashwords Survey Reveals New Opportunties for Indie Authors

Even small changes can have big effects.

It will come as no surprise that, as Coker writes, "A few titles sell fabulously well and most sell poorly." But what Coker takes from this is worth thinking about: "An incremental increase in sales rank is usually matched by an exponential increase is sales."

The takeaway: Do those things that "give you an incremental advantage so you can climb in sales rank."

What follows are a few ways in which you can give your book an incremental advantage.

1. Longer ebooks sell better.

In the 2014 survey, as in earlier surveys, it was clear that longer books sell better. 

When I read this I wondered: How long is longer? 70,000 words? 80,000? 100,000? But Coker doesn't put a wordcount on this. All he says (see below) is that a book that has fewer than 50,000 words, all things being equal, would be at a disadvantage.

2. Price points: books priced at $2.99 and $3.99 sell best.

Mark Coker writes:

"The highest earning indie authors are utilizing lower average prices than the authors who earn less, but this doesn't mean that ultra-low prices such as $.99 are the path to riches.  $2.99 and $3.99 are the sweet spots for most of the bestsellers."

"FREE still works great, but it's losing some mojo [...]."

3. If you offer your book as a pre-order, it will sell more copies.

Mark Coker writes: 

"I think preorders today are where free was five years ago.  The first authors to effectively utilize preorders will gain the most advantage, just as the first authors to enter new distribution channels gain the most advantage.  Five years from now once all indies recognize that preorders are a no-brainer essential best practice, the effectiveness of preorders will decline."

4. Books in a series sell better than standalone books.

Not only do books in a series outsell standalone books but the best performing series have longer books.

5. Books under 50,000 words sell fewer copies.

Mark Coker writes:

"Also interesting, we found series books under 50,000 words are especially disadvantaged.  This is not to say that you can't become a bestseller writing shorter novellas.  Multiple Smashwords authors have had success here.  But what the data does tell me is that successful novella writers might achieve even greater success if they write full-length.  The data appears to suggest that series books under 50,000 words might create friction that makes readers incrementally less willing to buy."

6. Offer the first book of a series free of charge.

Mark Coker writes: "We found strong evidence that series that have free series starters earn more money for authors than series that do not have free series starters." 

To sum up:

- Longer ebooks sell better.
- Books priced at $2.99 and $3.99 sell best.
- Books offered as a pre-order sell more copies.
- Books in a series sell more copies.
- Short books (books with fewer than 50,000 words) sell fewer copies.
- Series sell better if the first book is offered free of charge.

Question: What works for you? If you have a marketing tip to share, please leave a comment.


1. Mark Coker's survey is based on "over $25 million in customer purchases aggregated across Smashwords retailers including Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, the store, Sony (now closed), Diesel (closed), Oyster, Scribd, Kobo, public libraries and others." In other words, it is based on books offered on the Smashwords platform as well as on platforms owned by Smashwords' publishing partners. As a result, this data may not apply to those who sell on other platforms. That said, I have heard many of these points echoed by people who sell primarily on Amazon.
Photo credit: "June 2014" by *Light Painting* by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, August 12

Amazon Sales Ranking Explained

Amazon Sales Ranking Explained

Theresa Ragan has written the most useful article I've read concerning what Amazon's sales ranking means: Sales Ranking Chart.

Theresa's entire article is well worth the read, but here is an excerpt:
Amazon Bestsellers Rank is the number you find beneath the Product Description. Every book on Amazon has an Amazon Bestsellers Rank. Click on any title and then scroll down until you see it.

March 2013 update: rankings have changed substantially in the past few months and I am making changes to reflect rankings and book sales as information is given to me.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 50,000 to 100,000 - selling close to 1 book a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10,000 to 50,000 - selling 3 to 15 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 5,500 to 10,000 - selling 15 to 30 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 3,000 to 5,500 - selling 30 to 50 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 500 to 3,000 - selling 50 to 200 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 350 to 500 - selling 200 to 300 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 100 to 350 - selling 300 to 500 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 35 to 100 - selling 500 to 1,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10 to 35 - selling 1,000 to 2,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 5 to 10 - selling 2,000 to 4,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 1 to 5 - selling 4,000+ books a day.
Once again, Theresa Ragan's article is: Sales Ranking Chart.

I came across Theresa's blog  because I've started reading The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing, a book she contributed to. So far it's been informative.

Photo credit: "verfremdeter lavendel" by fRandi-Shooters under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, December 27

Should A Writer Let Her Reader's Expectations Influence Her Artistic Judgement?

When Should A Writer Let Her Reader's Expectations Influence Her Artistic Judgement?

Today Kris Rusch published another thought provoking article on the business of writing, one which raised the question: When should writers let fan preferences influence their creative decisions?

First, an example. Kris mentions The Hobbit (some fans of the books think the movie is too violent, some fans of Lord of the Rings don't like all the singing) and Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise is great but a man-mountain he is not) but there are many more. For instance, some fans of The Walking Dead thought there was too much talk and not enough action--and definitely not enough zombies.

It's true that you can't please everyone all the time, but when should you take your fans' likes into account when you're writing/creating? How much should their preferences, their love of the world(s) you've created influence your creative decisions?

Kris writes:
At what point should fans influence a work of art? Should the writer/director/artist take fans into consideration, and if so, when?

That is probably the toughest question to answer of all.

Why Do You Write: The Economics of Creation

One way of looking at this is to say that there are two kinds of writers: business folks and artists. The former write solely for money--art be damned--while the latter do it for personal reasons such as the pure thrill of creation.

But I think that's a false dichotomy.

On some level, even the most refined artist is also a business person--they need food to eat and a place to sleep, just like everyone else--and the most hard-nosed business person ... well, the very act of writing tends (I feel) to bare the soul. I don't think it's possible to create a story and commit it to paper (electronic file, etc.) without baring ones soul, even if only a little.

But saying that doesn't help. It doesn't address the question: To what extent should you take your fans' preferences into account when you write?

Kris' solution: Don't choose. She outlines three ways writers can write exactly what they want and make their fans happy.

1. Write what you, the writer, want to write

Let's say you're writing a romance, the fifth book in a series. Let's further say that the first four books had happy-ever-after endings and that absolutely no one died or even chipped a nail.

In your fifth book your protagonist feels darker, she's making some potentially destructive choices, choices which will mean the death of one of your other characters. Choices which will mean there is no happily-ever-after ending.

What should you do? Should you wrestle her back to your outline and nix the edginess? If you do, you may get writer's block or the story might dry up on you.

Or it might not. I don't know. I think that sort of thing depends on the writer, but there's an alternative: Write the story your muse is pushing you to write, but don't publish it as part of that romance series. Instead, turn it into another series or a standalone.

I'm not sure if this would have been an option ten, or even five, years ago but today a writer has the opportunity to write the book her muse is dictating while at the same time respecting fan expectations. Nowadays there's no reason why a romance writer couldn't depart from expectations and write a horror. Here's the key: Make sure your fans know what to expect when they pick up a book you've written.

Keep your series characters, your series world, consistent. In other words ...

2. Don't set your readers up for disappointment: be clear about what you've written

Readers have expectations. If someone picks up your book thinking it's, say, a romance and it's a horror you're going to alienate a potential fan, and that'll be the case even if it was the best book ever written.

Kris gives a terrific example of how her expectations as a reader were violated:
More than once, I’ve read something “light” only to be betrayed by it. The example I use when I’m teaching is this: On a particularly difficult trip to the Midwest, I was reading a Nora Roberts romance novel in a Perkin’s Restaurant when—in the very center of the book—Roberts killed a baby. It was a plot point, it was on-screen, and it was ugly. I burst into tears and would have flung the book across the restaurant if I had a little less self-control.

That was the last thing I needed on that trip.

Did it stop me from being a fan of hers? No, not at all. But I became a more cautious fan. And when I needed one of those light, escapist reads, I avoided her books.
But don't worry, there's a way to prevent this. All you need to do is ...

3. Brand each book

A key part of respecting reader expectations is branding.

For each kind of book you write (scifi, horror, mystery, romance, etc.) set up a different pen name. You don't have to be secretive about your pen-names, they're just another way to tell readers what to expect in terms of a book's content. If one of your readers picks up a Samantha Raven book they'll know to expect a horror while if they see a Priscilla Frillbottoms book they'll expect a romance.

Kris writes:
Communication is part of the key. Before indie publishing, I did a lot of my communicating via byline and branding. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an eclectic writer whose work covers the gamut of genres and emotions, but tends toward mystery and science fiction or fantasy (sometimes in combination). Kristine Grayson is always light read, with little or no violence and more often than not a happy ending.
 .  .  .  .
I didn’t want my Grayson fans to pick up my Fey series, which is also fantasy, only to discover horrific violence, melting people and flaying skin. I knew, from personal experience, that it would piss fans off. I’d rather let them choose to read both Grayson and Rusch, rather than surprise them with a dead baby scene in the middle of a very sad real life day.
To sum up: Regardless of what's currently popular or what fans would like, write what you want to write. This won't cost you readers--in fact it'll probably attract them--just make sure it's clear what kind of book you've written. Also, don't underestimate the value of a pen name to help brand a book.

As Kris writes:
Write. Finish what you write, and do your best to get it into the right hands, whatever that means for you.

And most of all—have fun. The more you enjoy what you do, the more your fans will—no matter what part of your writing they like best.
Have you let fan expectations influence what you write? What do you think of Kris' advice?

Other articles you might like:

- Getting Ready for 2013: A Writer's Guide
- Writing And Publishing in 2013: How To Survive And Thrive
- Writing in 2013: Bend don't break

Photo credit: "a dog and it's boss" by Pixel Addict under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, August 15

StarShipSofa: A Great Way To Promote Your Novel

StarShipSofa: A Great Way To Promote Your Novel

You've written your novel and now face the daunting task of letting the world know about it. Where to start? While everyone knows about Smashwords and Amazon Select (and if you don't, there are articles about that here and here) I'd bet that not a lot of writers have heard of

StarShipSofa will play an audio recording of your first chapter, free of charge, all you have to do is send it to them. Here are the specs:
If you have a science fiction or fantasy or horror novel out or due out very soon –  if you can send me ten mins of narrated audio or the first chapter (whichever comes first) – we’ll play it on StarShipSofa! Similar to Scalzi’s Big Idea but in audio format.

It’s my intention to add one of these to each and every StarShipSofa show, which I’m calling First Chapters. The Sofa is released each and every week. It’s your chance for a little exposure.
So… here’s what I’m after. It can be any kind of science fiction or fantasy. It has to be an mp3, mono, 128kbps and 10mins long. I also need attached to the beginning of the narration, a couple of mins of you plugging your book – informing the Sofa listeners what will happen in the book, when the book is out, how much it is and where to buy it.

A word of warning about audio quality! Make it the best recording you can. A clean audio file is what we are after. If your mp3 file has excessive amounts of hiss or word stumbles, explosives (words beginning with P or B) paper rustling – it won’t get played.
Send all audio files to Tony C. Smith starshipsofa@gmail dot com. (StarShipSofa: First Chapters Wanted!)
Ghost Hand, Ripley Patton
Ghost Hand by Ripley Patton

Thanks go out to Ripley Patton for bringing StarShipSofa to my attention. You'll recall her guest post, The Self-Validated Writer that she made here just a few days ago. I'm excited to say she has fully funded her Kickstarter project; a big thank you to any and all who contributed to that effort.

I just finished listening to Ripley narrate the first chapter of Ghost Hand (is that a cool cover or what!) on StarShipSofa and I have no hesitation in saying, if the rest of her book is anything like that, it is a must-read. Here's a direct link to the broadcast, Ripley's narration begins around 01:10:00: StarShipSofa No 251 Gene Wolfe.

For more information on Ghost Hand and when it will be released, go here: Ghost Hand Is Funded!

Other articles you might enjoy:
- Self Publishing: 3 Steps To Success
- Marketing Strategies For Writers
- Jen Talty: Amazon's CreateSpace Vs LIghtning Source