Showing posts with label book sales low. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book sales low. Show all posts

Thursday, October 18

What to do if your book isn't selling: Tips from Johanna Penn

What to do if your blook isn't selling: Tips from Johanna Penn

I love Johanna Penn's website, The Creative Penn. Not only does Johanna write fabulous books, but she is the author of hundreds of articles on writing that you can read, for free, on her site. And I highly recommend her blog.

Recently Johanna wrote an article about what to do if your book isn't selling as well as you'd like. Since I've been asked this question too, I give my 2 cents as well as share what Johanna had to say.

1) Make your book available as an ebook

I think this is great advice. Johanna mentions that she doesn't make a print version of her books available anymore because she found it wasn't worth it, and that's perfectly valid, but most authors do try and make a paper version available to their readers since some folks strongly prefer to read a paper book, even if it costs significantly more.

Also, having print copies of your book available can come in handy since some review sites only accept print copies.

2) Have a professionally designed cover

Compare your cover with the covers of books that are selling well in your genre. You want yours to be in the same ballpark--as similar to each of them as they are to each other.

3) Have your book professionally edited

Ideally you would hire a professional line editor or copy editor but, minimally, I think you need to get at least two other people to read your manuscript for errors in logic (eg, calling the same character different names) and typos. Johanna also mentions putting your manuscript aside for a time so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

I find using a text-to-speech program to read back what I've written helps me catch a multitude of errors, from typos to awkward constructions.

4) Make sure you've categorized your book correctly

It can be difficult to know how to categorize your story. Is it a horror? Scifi? Fantasy? Urban Fantasy? Young Adult? Romance? It's difficult when a book can fall under all these categories. Which should you choose?

My critique group has been enormously helpful in this regard. Your readers can help you categorize your work appropriately.

Johanna suggests finding three to five authors who write books similar to yours and then looking at how they categorize their books.

5) Optimize your Amazon sales page.

Johanna suggests using quotations from reviews and make sure that you give the book's 'hook'. What's a hook? Here's an example, it's the hook for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Archeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (Raiders of the Lost Ark, IMDB)
I've also heard this called a tag line.

6) Experiment with price

Johanna writes:
Most ebooks are under $9.99, and a lot of fiction is under $7.99, with many indie books being under $5.
An entire book--books even!--could be written on this, but that's a great one paragraph summary.

7) Continually put out new work

Hands down, the best way to market a book is to write more books, especially if your book is part of a series. Johanna writes:
The more books you have available, the more virtual shelf space you have, the easier it is for people to discover you. Plus if a reader finds one they like, they may buy them all so you make more per customer.

8) Promote your book

This is one of the reasons writer's build a platform. If you have a Facebook page, blog, twitter account, newsletter or mailing list then you're halfway there. This is a HUGE topic and I don't want to dash off some glib advice.

Don't constantly bombard your community with news about your new book--that doesn't work and turns readers off--but definitely do announce that you have a new book coming out and perhaps run a promotion for the first few days or weeks. This will help get the word out about your book and will reward your loyal readers, the ones who read your blog and/or subscribe to your newsletter.

9) Submit your book to review sites

Johanna discusses this in great detail and gives wonderful suggestions how to get Amazon reviewers to review your work.

It can be difficult to find book blogs that will review an independently published book, but you can do it, just keep your eyes open for opportunities. Also, check out the Book Blog Directory.

10) Give it time

Johanna's title was: Are you working your butt off? (grin)

Dean Wesley Smith advocates putting your book out on the market and then forgetting about it. Yes, certainly, do the best job you can--which means doing a professional job--but then don't fuss over sales. Write another book. Learn more about the art and craft of writing and the business of writing.

Johanna writes:
I absolutely believe that you can be a great writer and make an income from writing.

I have to believe that for you because I believe it for me, and I have left a stable job and steady income to take a chance on being an author-entrepreneur. I’ve been on this path since 2007 when I decided to write my first non-fiction book, so I am 5 years into working my butt off to change my life.
Johanna goes on to say that this doesn't mean you'll get rich and success will likely only come with time, perhaps a LOT of time. And it won't be easy.

That said, I hope you enjoy the journey. :-)

I encourage you to read Johanna Penn's article: Help! My Book Isn’t Selling. 10 Questions You Need To Answer Honestly If You Want To Sell More Books. She includes copious links to helpful articles.

Other articles you might like:
- 7 Tips On How To Get Your Guest Post Accepted
- Want Help With Editing? Try Free Editing Programs
- Amazon Ranks Authors In Terms Of Their Book Sales

Photo credit: Dawn Ashley

Monday, October 15

How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

Just the other day I wished someone would hand me a simple set of rules for designing great looking book covers.

I am in awe of some of the gorgeous covers on Amanda Hocking's books. There is no way in a million years I'd be able to do something like that. That said, I do believe there's no reason the average person (and I am exceedingly average when it comes to graphic design) can't do a decent book cover. We just need guidance.

Enter J.M. Ney-Grimm and her Cover Design Primer. If you're doing your own book covers--or even just thinking of it--this post is a must read. I'm making it sound like a book, but it's not. It's a medium-length post that gives more practical information on how to design a book cover than I've come across anywhere else, books included!

Here's an example of what I mean.

Let's talk fonts. J.M. tells us there are 6 main categories: Old Style, Modern, Slab Serif, Sans Serif, Script and Decorative. Each category contains certain representative fonts.

Old Style: Goudy, Baskerville, Garamond, and Palatino.
Modern: Braggadocio and Engravers MT.
Slab Serif: Blackoak, Cooper Black, Rockwell Extra Bold, and Wide Latin.
Sans Serif: Helvetica, Charcoal, Skia, and Impact.
Script: Apple Chancery, Brush Script, Gabriola, and Lucida Handwriting.
Decorative: Zapfino, Desdemona, Herculanum, and Lucida Blackletter.

Here's the tip:

Three rules for choosing fonts for a book cover: (I didn't include J.M.'s images, you can see them here.)
1) Never use more than one font from each category
That is, Braggadocio (modern) and Helvetica (sans serif) might work well together, but Skia and Charcoal (both sans serif) will not.


Because the human eye likes patterns to be either exactly alike or clearly different. Similar, but not the same, makes the human eye struggle.

2) Do use two different fonts
One font – say all Palatino – is overly calm, sedate, even boring.

Two fonts is interesting, but doesn’t overwhelm the eye.

Three fonts (each from a different category, of course) starts to be cluttered and busy.

3) Use contrast to draw the eye
Contrasting sizes, contrasting colors, contrasting fonts. You do want to catch the attention of potential readers, right? Compare the examples below [see J.M.'s article].

Can you break these rules? Certainly. The instant I learned them I thought of exceptions that work beautifully. But the vast majority of covers that appeal to readers follow them.

Is there more to typography? Of course. But these foundation concepts are enough to produce surprisingly good design results when choosing fonts.
J.M's discussion of fonts is just the beginning. She goes on to talk about the overall composition of a cover. As I say, great article. Again, here's the link: Cover Design Primer.

Thanks to Passive Guy for mentioning J.M.'s article.

Other articles you might like:
- How To Become A Full Time Indie Author
- How Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Neil Gaiman, Seth Godin & Stephen King
- How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website

Photo credit: Unknown

Saturday, September 15

Indie Books: What Price Is Right?

The Indie Writing And Pricing

Dean Wesley Smith addressed a question that has been on my mind: what effect will the recent settlements regarding agency pricing have on the cost of books? DWS says they're going to go up, perhaps way up.
Pricing for customers of electronic books will go up as this settles out over the next few years. Even with stores discounting some titles, ebook prices really can’t do anything else but go up.
Why are book prices going to increase?
... I am being scary simple and general here for the sake of keeping this short and understandable to those who don’t much care.

So now the government has come in and said to the big publishers, “No, no, no. You can’t all agree to do this at the same time.” So now the publishers are being forced to back up and allow retailers to discount what they want, as it always should have been.

In response to that, publishers are raising their “suggested retail prices” expecting retail stores to discount. Some retailers will, some will not.

Some books will be discounted, some won’t. And the amount of discounts by the retailers will vary from moment to moment and book to book and agreement to agreement.

All this is going to cause all kinds of very strange price benchmarks for books. Prices like $10.14 or $12.64 for electronic books. It’s going to have readers who are used to set and standard prices shaking their heads, that’s for sure.

And it’s going to make for some interesting shopping for book buyers, who now can shop around for the best deals. Again, as it always should have been in this capitalistic country.
So what should indie writers price their books at? Here's what DWS recommends:
- Front list, meaning brand new. Over 50,000 words. $7.99
- Shorter front list novels, meaning 30,000 to 50,000 words. $6.99
- Backlist novels, meaning already published by a traditional publisher. $6.99

Short Books
- Short books, meaning stories from 8,000 words to 30,000 words. $3.99

Short Stories
- Short stories … 4,000 to 8,000 words. $2.99
- Short stories under 4,000 double with another bonus story… $2.99

- 5 stories $4.99
- 10 stories $7.99
Dean also suggests, and I agree that this makes good sense, publishing a trade paper edition along with your ebook, even if you don't expect to sell many paper books. Why? Because it shows readers how much less expensive the ebook price is and makes them feel like they're getting a deal--which they are!

You can read the rest of Dean Wesley Smith's article here: The New World of Publishing: Pricing 2013

Other articles you might like:
- Stephen King: How His Novel "Carrie" Changed His Life
- How Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Neil Gaiman, Seth Godin & Stephen King
- Writing Resources
- Jim Butcher, Harry Dresden and the Dresden Files

Photo credit: See-ming Lee

Thursday, August 9

Indie Writers: 10 Things Not To Do

Indie Writers: What not to do

Dean Wesley Smith continues his two part series listing 10 things indie writers do to shoot themselves in the foot. My post talking about Dean's first five points is here: Indie Authors: Bad Sales? Redo Your Cover!

6. Don't get hung up promoting your first book, go write another one! 
Sometimes an author will write one or two books and spend most of her time promoting them using social media. Dean writes:
The best way to sell more books is become a better storyteller, to have more product to sell, to work on craft and pacing and cliffhanging and all the thousands of things a professional writer needs.
7. Use different pen names when you write in different genres
Many writers say they don't want to use a pen name because it would take more work to develop two names than one. And of course that's true. But as Dean writes:
Yup, that will kill sales faster than anything I have seen. Why? Because of reader expectations, that’s why. A reader picks up and likes a romance under “Real Name Writer” and then sees another book from the same author name and buys it and it’s a horror novel with ugly guts and blood. Reader says, “I’m not buying anything by that author again.”  And then tells their friends to avoid you.
I see Dean's point, but I think it's probably only a killer in conjunction with a bad cover and a bad blurb. For instance, one of my favorite authors writes two very different series, one is gritty urban fantasy while the other is high fantasy, but it's obvious from the cover alone what genre is under the cover. I haven't bought one of his high fantasy books yet, but I'm still a huge fan of his urban fantasy series.

8. Pricing your work too low
Due to changes Amazon made to their ranking algorithm it no longer pays to sell a book for under $2.99. Sure, offer your book for a reduced price for a limited period to generate sales, but don't keep any of your books at that price.

What price is best for your book? Everyone has a different opinion. Dean thinks the $4.99 to $8.99 range makes sense. He writes:
So if you want to build a long-term career, with fans finding you slowly, over time, who are willing to pay a respectable price for your work, have some respect in your own time and craft. Price your book in the same range as traditional publishers price their works. ($4.99 to $8.99 for most for e-books)
9. Going exclusive 
This issue is hotly debated. Some authors find they sell well over 95% of their books through Amazon so enrolling most of their work in Amazon's KDP Select program--a program which demands exclusivity--seems right for them. Not so for others.

Don't forget about paper books
Many indie authors make the mistake of not putting out paper copies of their work. Dean writes:
[B]y ignoring paper editions, not having them available at least, you ignore 80% of all readers. And also kill a great price comparison on your own books. (I did an entire post on this topic, but say your print book is $15.99, it makes your $7.99 electronic edition look like a deal.)
 Excellent point! And I hear that CreateSpace is easier than ever to use.

10. Hurrying
Take time to practice your craft and stop focusing on sales. Dean writes:
I am not saying you shouldn’t mail your stuff to editors or put your work up electronically and try to make sales. Do put it up, do mail it to editors. I mailed my very first short story to a magazine that bought it. And my second. And after that I got hundreds of rejections before a magazine bought another story from me. If I had been in a hurry, if I didn’t understand at a deep level that learning how to be an internationally-selling fiction writer took time and years, I would have stopped somewhere between 1975 and 1982.

But I didn’t stop. I kept writing and learning and working on becoming a better storyteller. And I kept learning the business, even as it changed.

And now, thirty-seven years later, I’m still writing and still learning and still working to become a better storyteller.

So slow down the worrying about sales, focus on learning, focus on the next story and the next story, and have fun. The sales will come if you put your work out there and keep learning.
These quotations were all taken from Dean Wesley Smith's article: The New World: Publishing: Killing Your Sales One Shot at a Time: The Second Foot.

Now that I know what to do if I could just do it! ;)

Hope you've having a great writing day. Cheers!

Other reading:
- Indie Authors: Bad Sales? Redo Your Cover!
- Kristen Lamb: 5 Steps To Writing Success
- How To Sell 100 Books Per Day: 6 Things You Need To Do

Photo credit: By theexbrit