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.