Author advice guru David Gaughran has posted a very interesting column on the most powerful selling tool for books — personal recommendations and reviews, or “social proof”. If a potential reader receives a strong social signal via reviews or a personal recommendation from a friend, they are much more likely to purchase. It therefore follows that independent authors need to do all they can to foster and amplify such signalling for their own work.
Janet Doyle’s fascinating book was launched at The Book Wolf, a charming bookshop in Maldon which also hosts discussion groups and music events. Guests enjoyed readings from the book, performed by John Curtis, Mike Smythe, and Janet herself. Musician John Curtis performed two pieces of music written especially to evoke the mystical town of Ldjakhion in which the novel is set. The audience asked many questions of Janet, and were particularly interested in aspects of the background research and the choice of names for the various characters. Signed copies of the book were sold on the night. We will post a sales link to the book shortly.
We asked author Roger Mendelson, author of Eliyahu's Mistress, to jot down a few thoughts re. promoting his book in the age of social media:
"The days of publishers promoting novels are over, unless you are a high profile author. If you want to promote your book, you have to do it yourself. I am on this journey and despite my novel, Eliyahu’s Mistress winning the IPPY 2018 Bronze Award for best Australian/NZ fiction, am finding it difficult to gain momentum. There is no magic bullet. If you believe in your novel, you require more persistence with promoting it than writing it.I say this as someone with considerable business experience, so I can only imagine the frustration most authors must feel.
Traditional media is fast dying, so if you have a very low budget, social media is really the only option. For this to be effective, you need to define who your readership is likely to be and target this group. It needs to be very specific. Eg middle-aged country people, single older women, retired couples, young single men. I am not an effective Facebook user but I can see that with a very low budget, this really has to be the major medium to use."
Born and bred in the bush, nineteen-year-old Daryl Bishop's number came up in the tenth National Service Ballot in 1969, and he shipped out to Vietnam in 1971. Killing Babies is his unvarnished account of his training and war experiences. Fortunately, no babies were harmed in the making of his book, but the stigma and after-effects of serving in that unpopular war is honestly related. Published by Sid Harta, and written in an authentic, engaging and very Australian voice. Our cover features Darryl's own necklace of cartridges, jungle foliage and a helicopter used by both US and Australian forces. The title typeface is Eveleth.
Some prime online exposure for Soozey Johnstone, author of "I Am the Problem" (designed by WorkingType). Soozey discusses gender, leadership and career paths at Mamamia. An excellent example of an author enhancing her brand through 'thought leadership'.
Guest Post by Jo Ettles
Public speaking and networking
I often speak at events both big and small. Some events are local and some of late have been interstate. This is an amazing way to get your books and your message out into the world. It takes a lot of energy to do this though so I tend to really only participate in events and networking opportunities where I know there will be genuine interest in my work. For obvious reasons, if you are asked to speak at an event to showcase your book, make sure it is a good fit!
Invest in a good website. Create a beautiful website or blog and sell signed copies of your books from it. My website is actually a Wordpress blog combined with website design. I am lucky my husband is trained in this area so I can add and subtract information at any time. I post articles to my blog, I sell my books from my blog, I recommend other authors books from my blog and I also obviously promote my other services.
Your book is important and your website/blog should capture the essence of your work as well as who you are so invest some time and energy into this platform.
Recently, my publisher went into receivership. This was a devastating blow for not only me but also around 200 other authors, editors and talented designers. It would have been very easy to just call it quits but I decided that quitting would have been too easy.
My thing is to write short, easy to read books that will inspire people to make positive life changes instantly. That desire has been so strong that I am now starting my third book. Imagine if I let my first publisher take that dream away from me through their miss management?
I was lucky enough to get picked up by another publisher recently and so the journey to get my work out into the world continues.
Here is the thing though...
If you believe you can, you are halfway there. There are always going to be challenges, obstructions and hurdles that will set you back. If success was easy, well then everyone would be successful!
Henry Rollins said, “You must do what others don’t to achieve what others won’t”. For that reason I am relentless when it comes to marketing my books. I make the time every-day to find a way to reach another reader, to connect with another person who may want to hear my message or share it with someone else.
If you have created a beautiful book that you are proud of, take steps every day to get it out into the world. Think outside the square, take action and be consistent. Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen.
Guest Post by Jo Ettles, author.
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you right? I had no idea when I wrote my first book in 2012 that it would be such a challenging experience in more ways than one. Ever the eternal optimist, I do believe self-belief is a huge part of achieving success. BUT it also takes real work, determination, dedication and commitment to marketing yourself and your books continuously to make it in such a competitive world.
I have a strong background in marketing and it is second nature for me to recognise that you need to actively market yourself as an author and promote your work consistently. You know that old line from the movie — Field of Dreams — “If you build it, they will come”?
Well, it may have worked for Kevin Costner, but if you take that approach, your amazing book might never reach anyone.
I recently connected with some gifted authors who have released incredible books. Each and every one of them wanted to know how to improve their marketing and share their work. Here is some of the information that has helped me get both of my books out into the world.
I think everyone needs to have a professional headshot for their author profile. It is amazing how people respond to a professionally taken image as opposed to one that was just taken randomly at a party or family dinner! Present a professional image to the world and invest in a decent author photo.
When it comes to writing your bio, keep it short and sweet but always write from the heart. Readers want to really connect with you. Be uniquely you.
Goodreads is a phenomenal way to get your books seen all over the world. Create an author profile and list your books as soon as you can. Goodreads runs a giveaway competition for readers. I normally giveaway 3 signed copies of my books every few months and it generates a lot of interest in my work. I highly recommend it.
There is a section where readers can review your work and also give it a star rating. Try not to take it too personally if a review isn’t as great as you had hoped. Not everyone will get your message or your writing but don’t let that stop you from moving forward.
I recently had a review of one of my books and the reader said, that it had motivated her to clean up but I had rehashed a lot of self-help stuff that was already out there and generally, my book would only appeal to an Australian audience. At first, I got my back up! In my book “The Shed” I share a very personal story so it is definitely not rehashed. After a couple of wasted hours trying to make sense of her opinion, I just accepted that my work is not for everyone and if I was going to continue writing, I had to respect everyone’s opinion and take it on board. The following day, I saw a post on the internet by an American man. He had recommended my book on a reader’s forum saying it was full of good ideas and it was a very decent entry into the self- help genre. Balance restored!
See Post 2 for more promotional suggestions from Jo.
Author Natalie Gretton recovered from the recent bankruptcy of her publisher by holding a very successful book launch. Here is her account of the event:
My young adult medieval adventure novel was due for release five weeks after the publisher went into liquidation. After negotiation with the printers, I purchased the 1500 copies of The Healer of Marchmont. Neither my husband Mike of I had much idea of how to market the book to sell so listened to anyone who had advice for us.
I was offered our local Neighbourhood Centre to have a book launch and chose a date some weeks from that. Flyers went out to the whole town and outlying areas of Trentham through the postal service advertising the launch using the cover of the book, part of the blurb and a little about me. I also placed books in the local Trentham bookstore, Aesop’s Attic in Kyneton, New Leaves bookshop in Woodend, Stoneman’s Bookroom in Castlemaine and Paradise Books in Daylesford. These are on a commission basis. Friends were contacted by email, on Facebook, through my new website set up by my IT guru son, and word of mouth. A visit by friends who live in Canberra was good, because they took a box of 64 books back with them to sell for me. At present there are 5 books in Harry Hartog book shop in Woden, Canberra and more are being advertised by the friends. Other people took 10 books and sold those as well.
The book launch went very well. The day was lovely, sunny, still and warm. People came from many different places and were old and new friends we have known for short times and long times. We had some local people attend as well. Fifty people were here altogether. Some people had bought the book earlier and came to give comments about it or to get it signed for their children and grandchildren. Diane Parsons, a local retired secondary school teacher launched the book for me and after that, a critique was given by Charlie Wells. Charlie’s mother is the manager at the Trentham Neighbourhood Centre and had asked Charlie to read the book. His comments were very interesting and insightful for a ten year old young man. All the comments we had on the day and in emails since have been very positive. The day of the launch we sold $500 worth of books which did not include more that were sold prior to the launch.
There are still very many books to sell but at least I have more than some other writers who were left in the lurch. I think I was more fortunate than some other writers as I now have my book in print. Others were left with nothing to show for all their hard work and will now have to negotiate with another publisher.
So with a bit of advice and some energetic emailing, phoning, flyer producing and a launch with a good afternoon, good friends, some lovely snacks and a few drinks, one can recover from what could have been a total disaster.
I must say here that Julie Athanasiou, my editor and Luke Harris, my designer, have been most helpful. Luke has been in contact regularly and is most supportive of everything I have done. Thank you, Luke.
Natalie's website can be found here.
Self-published authors typically operate on a very tight budget. Short run digital printing, print on demand and ebooks have made the economics of self-publishing more viable, but rarely do authors have much left over for the promotion of their work. Some authors have a natural talent for self-promotion and the confidence and energy to implement an effective campaign. Many, however, do not, and either avoid confronting the issue or cultivate the vague idea that their book will somehow be 'discovered' and 'go viral'.
In truth, the vast majority of books instantly sink almost without trace. They are very visible to the author, and to the author's friends and family, but beyond that, a great void. The book is invisible to everyone else. In a crowded marketplace of ideas and creative 'product' a book needs a champion, someone to present it to potential audiences, to tell a story about it and make it into a viable commercial entity. If you as an author have a lot of faith in your latest work and believe it will have a sizeable potential audience, perhaps consider the services of a publicist.
In recent times we have had several authors mention the quality of publicity work carried out by Scott Eathorne of Quikmark Media. If we hear positive things about other writer and small-publisher oriented publicists, we will post it on this blog. Those interested in a purely ebook promotional tactics, please see our post here for some useful tips.
We asked successful ebook author Donna Usher for her thoughts on marketing ebooks online. She gives some extremely practical and achievable advice based on her own hard work and experimentation.
"When I published my first book I threw myself into social media as a means to market. I used twitter and facebook, and also lured people to my blog. In the first 11 months I sold 72 eBooks on Amazon and 1 on kobo. I also did a blog tour - paid $200 for it - and sold 8 books that month. It was pretty disheartening. The thing I realise now is that most of the people I network with on social media are not my readers. A few of them would be but most of them are writers. So now I think that social media is an excellent way to market once you have the readers that are following you. The trick is to get those readers in the first place.
So how do we get them to find us when out book is sitting at #350999 on Amazon? John Locke very cleverly managed to get his blogs to go viral, and then had his books for sale at the end of the blog for only 99c. But he had a lot of books published by that time. Would it have been as successful if he only had one book published? Probably not. So firstly I think the more books we have available, the greater our exposure, and the more powerful any successful marketing we do will be.
After the 11 months of watching the sales trickle in, and trying twitter and facebook and goodreads, I took my book off Kobo and signed up for KDP select. I figured I had nothing to lose by making The Seven Steps to Closure free for 5 days. I was hoping for maybe 1000 dowloads and expecting not to see any change in my sales for a while. In fact I was planning to release Cocoa and Chanel a few months later and was thinking perhaps some people might find it when I did.
I had about 42000 downloads in that 5 days and the sales took off immediately. I hadn't accounted for the exposure the book would have on the amazon site in the people-who-bought-this-book-also-bought-these section. Within an hour of the free days finishing I had more sales than I had the entire 11 months. Over the next two weeks it made itself up to #132 out of all books for sale on amazon. I sold over 1200 copies in the last 2 weeks of that month. It tapered off over the next two months so that I sold 300 copies in the month before I released Cocoa and Chanel. (By the way I put the success of my book's exposure largely down to my cover design. It's pretty and bright and not too fussy, and I've branded the two of them so they are obviously my covers!)
I made Seven Steps free again when I released C and C, this time for 2 days. I had another 12000 downloads and both book's sales took off. That month I sold 1786 copies of C and C, even though I didn't make it free at all. So the free days on Seven Steps was also selling C and C.
Since then I've played around with putting both books up for free and the number of days that I do it. Seven Steps is more effective than C and C as it is in a slightly different genre. It's women's fiction and romantic comedy. C and C is women's fiction and mystery/detective/female sleuth. So the genres that are more female/romance orientated get much better exposure.
This is backed up by two of my friends who each put their books free for 5 days. Kristy (who you know) had about 5000 downloads for her YA horror and another girlfriend of mine only had 400 downloads for a thriller over the 5 days. It didn't affect her sales at all.
I have a few theories on this.
- More women own kindles than men.
- More adults own kindles than kids.
- There are far more romance readers than there are thriller.
- The majority of men who read read non-fiction as apposed to fiction.
So I feel that the books with a greater chance of getting noticed are those aimed at the romance section. Hence my thriller writing girlfriend is now writing a romantic thriller.
Regarding the number of days that I place my book free. I find if I only have it free for 1 day it doesn't really increase the sales rate at all. So that's about 4000 downloads for 7 steps. Tomorrow I start 3 free days so I will be looking at how it effects my daily sale figures.
I have also played around with the price of the books. I put them down to .99c for a while, then up to $1.99, $2.99 and I know have 7 steps at $3.99. Funnily enough its ranking improved when I put it up to $3.99. I read an article that said $1.99 is a bad price point. At 99c people see it as a marketing price. Apparently they perceive $1.99 as being the price of a poorer quality book.
The other good thing about the free days is that I get a huge jump in reviews on my site whenever I do it. And good reviews sell books.
So how do I use Social Media?
Firstly I use it to set myself up as an expert. I interview authors and do author reviews on my site, which is a good way to lure potential readers onto your site. Random House has started using me to do book reviews on the books they are launching which is excellent as they allow me to link the review on their website back to my blog and the author interview I have also done. I write articles on writing and am publishing the How To book of Self-Publishing.
Whenever someone contacts me about my books I ask them if they would like to go onto an email list specifically to be used for letting them know when my books are released.
I believe that eBooks are the way of the future so am not terribly fussed about my print book sales at the moment. I will look at it in the future, but am actually hoping a big publishing company will approach me for the rights of the print books.
My aim is to get 2 eBooks published a year because the more I have out there the more effecive my free days will be. Imagine if I had had 10 books available when 7 Steps had the 42000 downloads. If only 10% of those people had liked me and bought all my other books that would have been 37800 books I would have sold off that 5 free days. That's powerful!!
So at the moment I intend to stay with Amazon. It is the most popular e-reader and I find that if people don't have the device they have the kindle app.