Why Do Some Books Sell Themselves? 3 Possible Factors

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Authors dream of readers like you… ūüôā

Whenever discussing a marketing plan for self-published books, I make a point of saying, “Books don’t sell themselves.” You have to get it out there in front of readers. You have to be willing to spend money in order to make money. But, some books seem to need little more than a nudge and they’re off to the races. And, why is that? Case in point, my third self-published book (and, technically, first by me). It’s not breaking records by any means, but it’s the first book I’ve put out that manages to sell 1-2 copies a day with little (I ran a small ad back in mid-September) to no marketing on my part. Compare this to my other novels, which are adult suspense/thrillers, and could collect a ton of dust (and have!) if I didn’t promote them on a regular basis. So, what are some factors that might affect this? Let’s take a look at just a few¬†possibilities.

1. Quality of the writing – Truly bad writing won’t sell. I don’t care how much you promote it. I’d like to think that, while my writing is far from perfect, it’s at least good enough to entertain readers. And, to me, that’s one of the most important qualities to have.

2. Genre – Let’s face it. Some genres just sell better than others. I personally know a few people who churn through 5-6 erotica or romance novels a month. And those types of readers are often not picky about who they read next or who published them. They’re just looking for a good, well-written story. Romance sells. Self-published romance sells and competes very well with the top traditionally published authors. In fact, I’d argue that you can’t find the same level of competition in other genres, but that’s just my unscientific opinion. If you write erotica, I envy you. If you write good erotica at a high rate of speed, you can be a money-making machine. Honestly. They’re out there.

3. Topic/Category – So, you’ve got a well-written story in a genre that should be selling, but still no luck? Well, maybe rollerskating detective nuns aren’t everybody’s thing. Seriously, though. Maybe you’re topic is too niche. Or, is your story so mainstream that it looks like everything else in its category? This “factor” could go both ways. If your story is too different, you may find that new readers won’t take a chance on it. But, if your story is too similar to every other book in its¬†category, you may find yourself competing with the big boys (and girls).

So, why does Danny Dirks sell with little to no promotion (in multiples countries, mind you)? Well, I think it gets help from all 3 of these factors. I think it’s well written, it’s a YA fantasy with dragons, and there isn’t a ton of competition in the “Arthurian” category (apparently). Even at a high ranking (see example below), it still graces the top 100 of 3 sub-categories.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,371 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#44 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#46 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths > Collections
#64 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian

What do you think are some other key factors that might make a book “sell itself”? Let us know in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

Considering a small press? Be cautious

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I met a writer a few years ago and he was proud to announce that he’d been published by a small press. He was surprised at the fact that I’d chosen to self publish and I told him that it gave me control over most aspects of my novel. At the time, I was giving him a ride¬†to a small authors’ show where we were to sit in a local mall and sell our books. We got to talking about how much profit we were making off of our respective books and what he told me next left me slightly disgusted and dumbfounded.

You see, while I could purchase my print copies through CreateSpace at a wholesale rate (~$5 for a $12.99 novel), his publisher was, essentially, forcing him to purchase copies at a slightly discounted retail rate. In order to get paperbacks, they would discount the book on Amazon for a short period so he could purchase them for $12.99 a copy instead of their normal $14.99 a copy. Being flat broke, he could only afford 5 or 6 copies, but “buying them on Amazon will boost your sales rankings,” they told him. I couldn’t mask my incredulity about it. His response, “Well, they gave me an advance.” He sold 3¬†books that day for $15 each and had to give the bookstore owner $1 per sale, cutting his take in half. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for his situation.

Now, obviously, this is an extreme example and I’d like to think that most small presses wouldn’t do this. But, in my opinion, you can do for yourself what any small press can do. Sure, you won’t get an advance, but what kind of advance can you expect from a small press anyway? $1k tops, I imagine. Not worth giving up a ton of rights and royalties for.

I’m not here to bash small publishers. I know folks who have done well and are still doing well with small publishers. I’m just sharing an anecdotal story and passing along a great article to read if you’re considering going that way: Salome Jones talks about 8 things to assess when considering a small press over at thebookdesigner.com.

Have experience with a small press? Let us know about it in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

8 Tips for Your Next Book Show

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You don’t see the candy on the table (tip¬†#6 ignored)! This is an old picture… lesson learned.

I’ll be at my first book show in ages on Sunday. The beach town of Belmar, NJ, will be the location of the Belmar BookCon; a celebration of self- and small-press-published authors. If you’re in the area (or know someone who will be), be sure to check it out.

Have you done in-person shows before? I’ve done several over the years and it can be hit or miss, depending on the turnout, but it’s always fun to chat with readers and fellow writers alike. For those of us with extrovert personalities, it can also be a bit of a release.

But, it’s not all about the author at these types of shows. It’s really about the books. I think the biggest mistake I see at these shows is not putting thought into your author space. I’ve even seen authors who showed up without books! This boggles my mind. You might be the best salesperson in the world, but nothing will intrigue a reader more than having your book in their hand. Cards and giveaways are nice, but what they’re really after is your book (hopefully). It’s a much easier sell if you have a product they can touch.

If you’re planning on doing a show, here’s a few tips:

1. Have a nice tablecloth. Most folding tables are pretty blah and the white ones don’t take long to get pretty filthy. Spice it up a bit with a classy clean white or black tablecloth. You’d be surprised what a difference this one item can make. Don’t get anything too loud, as you might be distracting from your product!

2. Pick up a couple of clear acrylic standing displays. You can print out pricing, reviews, or social media info to display right on your table. The idea is to make it easy¬†for the reader to see what you’re all about.

3. Stagger your book piles (makes it look like you’ve already sold some) and leave some at the front of the table (easy access for the reader). The table should be inviting them to pick up your book and read the blurb on the back cover. You should also not hide behind your books. Don’t stack them so high that your smiling face can’t be seen.

4. Give readers some space. I’ve been told I’m too passive at shows. Well, that’s just me, so take this advice with a grain of salt. When I walk into a store, I hate it when a salesperson attacks me right away. I just want to look. If I have a question, I’ll ask. So, I always give potential readers the same space I want. A simple hello when they reach the table and then let them pick up a book or look them over. If they’re still in the space 30 seconds later, they must be a little interested, so I’ll throw out my one-liners. Speaking of which…

5. Prepare one-liners in advance! You should create a few book hook lines. Try out different ones. See which ones seem to work and which ones don’t, but be sure to have something you can say to readers in a concise manner. I’ve heard all sorts of lines. Some work better than others. It can be hard to come up with a single line that gets the point of your book across. And don’t mistake this for the elevator pitch. They are not the same. A one-liner is self-descriptive: a single line that describes your book. I used to say “A bit like Patterson with a touch of Dean Koontz” when describing Multiples. I’ve changed that up since, but it usually elicited a response. If they were interested, I would then go into the elevator pitch.

6. Have something to give away. A business card or a pen or a bookmark. The only requirement I have is that it has to have your (author) name on it! I’ve written in the past about getting author swag on the cheap. Don’t give away candy… unless they have custom wrappers. The point of a giveaway is to remind people of who you are. I’ve had folks come by, look at my books and say, I only buy on my Kindle anymore. Sure, you can reply by saying you’re available there, but a business card will let them know how to find you and your books (or at least it should).

7. Practice signing your name (especially if it’s a pen name!) and bring a pen! Believe it or not, I’ve known folks who forgot to bring a pen to an event. Readers want their book signed, even if you’re a nobody!

8. Lastly, remember that not everyone will be interested in your books. Shocker, right? Deep breath. It’ll be ok. Keep your expectations low. If you’re selling paperbacks, you’re probably asking for $10 or more per book. That’s asking a lot, especially for an author they more than likely know nothing about. Be a gracious host in¬†your show space and leave readers¬†feeling positive when they walk away, whether they purchased your book or not.

First show coming up? 100th show coming up? Post questions or share tips in the comments section and thanks for stopping by! ūüėÄ

Last Day for My Kindle Countdown!

Just a quick note that today is the last day to pick up Danny Dirks and the Heir of Pendragon for just $0.99 over at Amazon.

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Kindle Countdown Sale!

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For a limited time (9/24 to 9/30), you can get my YA fantasy novel, Danny Dirks and the Heir of Pendragon for just $0.99 at Amazon.com. (update: looks like it’s finally live…phew) As always, the book is free for members of Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime. Thanks and enjoy! ūüėÄ

Goodreads Giveaway Postmortem

Some of you might remember that I ran a Goodreads giveaway for my new YA fantasy novel. I was using a new tactic that involved a shorter time frame, fewer books, and a broader audience.

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The giveaway began on August 27th and ended on September 7th. A total of 1409 people entered to win 1 of 5 books. Yay! Over 650 people added the book to their “to-read” list. Yay! The winners came from around the globe, with a representations from Peru, Romania, Italy, Great Britain, and the US.

So, did it do anything for sales of the book? No. Boo! In fact, since the contest has ended, the number of folks with it on their “to-read” list has dropped slightly. This makes me believe that they only added it because of their potential to win¬†it. Anyway, it doesn’t make me any less enthusiastic about sending out copies to the winners. And, I think I might just run another giveaway soon to try and spur further interest.

Total sales of Danny Dirks thus far? 16. :-/ Good thing I had that BookBub run to lift my spirits. ūüėČ

Foul Language

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I recently received a 1-star review of my suspense/thriller, Multiples of Six, because there’s “foul language” on the first page. It created some discussion in the comments section of the review about whether it was legitimate for someone to review a book after only reading one page. Especially when they could have previewed the book without buying it (though it was free this week) and discovered the same thing. I’m not here to discuss that and I don’t wish to condone any sort of retaliation against the reviewer (though, judging by her other reviews, her main purpose is to point out foul language in books). Honestly, I’m a bit tickled by the review. That kinda thing makes me laugh and a part of me is sorta glad it’s there (besides, I’ve racked up eight 5-star reviews of the same book this week). What I’m really interested in discussing is the use of colorful language in writing and why I believe it’s necessary in certain circumstances.

I write my adult fiction under a pen name (Andy Rane) for a reason. I don’t want my YA readers reading that content. It’s not meant for kids. It’s not particularly violent. It’s not gory either. But, a few of the characters use rough language. Why? Because that’s a reality of life. Ever worked in a factory? I did. I learned a lot of colorful adjective combinations during my brief stint. Now, I’ve spent most of my career working in offices, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the language cleans itself up. Sure, it’s not factory speak, but it’s not uncommon, in my workplace at least, to hear an occasional f-bomb dropped in a meeting. We’re all adults.

What I didn’t learn on the factory floor, or at the construction site, or in the high school gym locker, or… you name it, I learned from my father-in-law. A Vietnam vet, his use of profanity is legendary. He drops a dirty “C” like it’s nobody’s business (a word, even in fiction, I’m loathe to use). Now, if you happen to live in a world where no one swears, good for you. I can tell you that it probably means they’re doing it behind your back. Either way, I don’t write stories about that world. In my YA stories, I certainly keep it pretty clean. There are no f-bombs allowed, but damn, dammit, crap, and maybe even an occasional bastard are fair game. In my adult fiction, I like my¬†characters to feel as¬†real as possible and, at least in my world, real people swear. Some real people love to swear and so do some of my characters.

I know you have an opinion on this subject! Feel free to let me know in the comments section. Thanks for stopping by!

Wow… BookBub… Wow

That’s pretty much all I can say. As you might have seen yesterday, I ran a BookBub ad for book #1 in my suspense thriller series (Multiples of Six by Andy Rane). The first book was released back in 2011 and did reasonably well over the years (~1200 actual sales). But, being a slow writer, I saw little to no response when I released book #2 in the series, nearly 2.5 years later. I then went on a run of failed BookBub submissions. I’d gone down the free road with Multiples in the past. I’d probably given away just over 20k copies of that book prior to yesterday. So, in my mind, it only made sense to run a sale promotion instead of a free promotion. I wanted my $0.99, darn it! Well, it wasn’t to be, and after countless rejections, I finally asked for a free run. Apparently, I just had to say the magic word (free!) and that would’ve gotten me in long ago (kidding, but it kinda felt like that). Finally, the BookBub folks¬†relented and let me into the pool.

I decided to add an¬†incentive to buy book #2 in the series by lowering that book’s price, in a Kindle Countdown Sale, from¬†$2.99 to¬†$1.99. The joy of the Countdown is that you still get your regular royalty rate, even if your sale price is less than $2.99. So, I would make $1.39 on each copy of the sequel that sold. This was going to be how I recouped the BookBub fee (US$250 for a free thriller). That meant I would need to sell ~180 copies to break even.

I’m a closet optimist. I wear the pessimists mask in public, but I’ve always got high hopes, no matter what. But even I was leaning toward pessimism on this one. I thought the exposure would be good, but I held out no hopes of getting some of the kinds of numbers that romance authors see on a regular basis (a 40k free run is very common for romance, from what I’ve seen). I’m happy to say that my fears were alleviated by midday on Tuesday. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In preparation for this week, I had notified several sites of my book going free (Pixel of Ink, Ereader News Today, to name a few). So, I was pleased when I cleared 400 copies of Multiples on Monday alone, with 11 sales of Divisible. Eleven down, 169 to go! Not sure where they came from, as I couldn’t find a major site listing my book, but it was a nice start and pushed me up to just over #1000 in the free store by late Monday. My expectations at that point were at least to get into the Top 100 Free list on Amazon. Knowing BookBub’s past successes, I thought I could get that far.

Then I woke up Tuesday morning to a surprise. At 7:24, Multiples was already at #610 on the Free list. I watched the numbers climb slowly during the morning, despite telling myself I wouldn’t keep checking. What can I say? I’m weak. I was really waiting to see what happened when I got the suspense/thriller email from them. It arrived around the same time it normally does, at least for me; ~11:45 AM. That was when things got crazy. Like, stupid crazy.

It was so torrid for a while that the rankings couldn’t catching up. Two hours after I’d received my email, I’d crossed the 20,000 unit¬†mark. Amazon was still saying it was ranked¬†higher than it should have been. I left the house and my KDP dashboard behind for a while in the afternoon. If it was this crazy during the afternoon, what would happen as evening approached? When I returned, I saw what I could have only hoped to see.

Number 1 in Kindle Store-2

Multiples was the #1 free book in the entire Kindle Store. No categories to get in the way. Just #1 overall. It’s 11:08 PM Tuesday evening as I write this bit. I have given away 44,718 copies of Multiples of Six, and sold 379 copies of its sequel, Divisible by Six. It’s now 11:38, and I’m entering this into WordPress. In the¬†half hour that’s elapsed, the numbers are now 45,190 and 382. 472 books in 30 minutes. And that’s slowing down! Oh yeah, and I made my ad fee back… and then some. ūüėČ

As I polish¬†up this post on Wednesday morning, the ride isn’t quite done, but we’re on that slow coast back into the station. Tuesday’s grand total for book #1, according to Amazon, was 47,295. I’m not sure where their cutoff for the day is, but I’m guessing 12 AM PT. Today, I’ve added another 1641 copies in the wee hours, giving me a 60 hour¬†total of 49,343. Oof! Book #2 fared well overnight and reached 409 units sold on Tuesday. Another 16 have sold this morning, giving me a 60-hour total of 434. Multiplied by $1.39 = ~$603. Not bank-breaking by any means, but not too shabby either.

Multiples of Six is still #1 on the free list as I post this. Later, however, someone else’s book will appear on BookBub and more than likely push me out of the way. Sure, I’ll get some play for a few days. My sale lasts until the 5th on both books. But the rocket to the top is over. Looking at Monday’s BookBub freebie, Jackpot by Susan Fleet, it’s still¬†at #14 on the Free list. I’ll have to see where I stand in 24 hours. For now, though, I’m just excited to see how long the tail end lasts. At this point, it’s not unrealistic to expect over¬†55k total giveaways, possibly more. The ‘Bub turned out to be everything I had imagined it could be. Now, as my wife said, “Guess you’d better get your ass in gear on book #3, huh?” Yes dear!

If you’ve got any questions about my experience with BookBub, I¬†hope you’ll ask¬†them in the comments below. No secrets here! Or, if you’ve had experience yourself, please feel free to share! Thanks for stopping by. ūüôā