As an indie author, I’ve relied mostly on word of mouth and social media to sell my books. Why? Limited $$$. Let’s face it: Advertising can be pricey. And time-consuming, unless you’re hiring someone to help you, and then it’s just pricey. However, I think it’s important to try new things, and I’ve experimented with various kinds of low-budget advertising, such as Facebook ads (with limited success).
This week, I’m coming off my first Amazon ad campaign for Baby Bailino, and I’m actually surprised at how dismally the ad performed. Like most indie authors, I think I went into the advertising campaign with thoughts of super high conversion rates dancing through my head. I set a budget of $100, 25 cents per click, just to dip my foot into the ad waters. I mean, in an ideal world, if every click translated into a sale, that could have meant more than a thousand bucks in sales! However, the realist in me believed I’d probably sell a handful of books. Maybe 10, maybe 20, if I were lucky.
The ad ran for 10 days, and…crickets. Not a click. Granted, I didn’t set much of a budget, so I’m not sure how much that hurt me, but by the end of the promotional period, this is what I saw:
Did you know that once you complete an audiobook for ACX that you’ll receive 25 promo codes that you can use to give away copies of your new book? I actually didn’t know that until recently. It’s pretty cool of ACX to want to help you jump-start the review process for your book. You can give these codes to anyone you want — professional reviewers, your grandmother, social media fans, anyone who is an audiobook listener.
Author and podcast extraordinaire Paul Teague turned me on to Audiobook Boom!, which, for 10 bucks, will get your title in front of thousands of audiobook listeners. I used a good chunk of my Baby Grand codes through Audiobook Boom!, and I also used them to gift books as prizes for contests I held on Facebook, Twitter, and through my email list. You can either distribute the codes directly to listeners or use the codes yourself to gift the book for listeners (this guarantees that listeners use the credit for YOUR book and not someone else’s). Within a few days, my audible.com rating went from a dismal one-star review to a string of four- and five-star reviews. Woo hoo!
Currently, I’m working on the audiobook for Baby Bailino, the sequel to Baby Grand, and I’m already thinking up some fun caption contests to run when I receive my promo codes. Last week at #DBWIndie in New York City, it was reported that in 2016 more than 3 million audiobooks were self-published by indie authors. It’s a big market, and if you want a piece of it, you have to find ways to boost your discoverability. I’m not saying these codes should be your only promotional tool, but they’re definitely a good start.
To celebrate the publication of Baby Bailino this month, I’m conducting my first #AmazonGiveaway! You can win one of 3 copies of Baby Grand. All you have to do is click here for details. There’s absolutely NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The giveaway ends on Sept. 8, 2016, at 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. (Official Rules here.)
Why do a giveaway? There are lots of reasons: to find new readers, to create excitement. I conducted a Goodreads giveaway in October 2012, and more than 1,000 people entered. And like Goodreads, Amazon really does make it easy to set up your giveaway. Just pick the number of copies you’d like to give away, how you’d like to give them away (random, lucky number, etc.), set the duration of the giveaway, and you’re off!
Will my sales increase as a result of the giveaway? Ah, that’s the magic question, isn’t it? And the answer is: I don’t know. But I believe it’s worth checking out all the tools we indie authors have at our disposal to get the word out about our books. The more people who know about us, the better, and this is certainly one way to achieve that objective.
The ebooks of Baby Grand and Baby Bailino are now part of Amazon’s KDP Select program.
For those who don’t know about the program, when you sign on to KDP Select, you agree to sell your eBook only in the Kindle format (you can continue selling your paperbacks anywhere you wish). In exchange for this exclusivity, you are given some perks.
When I first published Baby Grand back in May 2012, I joined KDP Select and left after the first three-month period was over. Why did I leave? I thought it was a successful run, but I wasn’t really interested in offering my book for free (a big perk of KDP Select) and I had friends who were diehard Nook readers who wanted access to the book. So I went wide, as they say, and uploaded it to Kobo, iTunes, Nook, and other resellers. (For more details on why I left KDP Select, I blogged about it here.)
Four years later, things are a bit different. How:
- I have a four-year track record with Amazon. And, BY FAR, I have sold more Kindle versions of Baby Grand than I have any other outlet or edition. Amazon SELLS books.
- I have found — despite many opinions to the contrary — Amazon to be good to readers AND authors, offering low pricing and high royalties, respectively. And for such a mega-company, the customer service support is efficient and prompt.
- The introduction of Kindle Unlimited, which offers more than a million titles and thousands of audiobooks to subscribers. Books that are enrolled in KDP Select are also enrolled into Kindle Unlimited. This helps to increase the discoverability of the Baby Grand Series. Very important. After just a few days in the program, nearly 1,000 pages have already been read by subscribers. (Kindle Unlimited is populated mostly with books written by indie authors, like me. I like the idea of all of us getting the chance to find new readers.)
All this was enough to make me reconsider my participation in the program. It seemed like a good deal. And the right time, particularly with the sequel to Baby Grand on its way. So I decided to pull all the ebooks from Smashwords, the Self-e program (I was sad to leave this one), and others. At least for now. In three months’, six months’, nine months’ time, I can look at my sales and reevaluate. If something doesn’t seem to be working, I can always mix it up again.That’s the great thing about being an indie author. The decisions — writing, editing, publishing, marketing — are mine.
When I woke up this morning, a second book trailer was the furthest thing from my mind, but I had some free time and — like the first book trailer — was able to put this together really quickly, in less than a half hour (with a little help from my tech guru, my oldest son). As I often discuss in this blog and in my classes, indie authors need to take advantage of whatever tools they have at their disposal to market their books. A little creativity goes a long way in social media circles. So put on your thinking caps! This video was put together using Microsoft PowerPoint and YouTube and cost me nothing but a few minutes of time. Would love to hear your thoughts!
As you work on self-publishing your book, you may want to consider getting a blurb or two. What are blurbs? Words of praise or reviews from another person that go directly onto your book cover or flap. Their purpose is simply to convince readers to buy your book. People like to read books that are liked by other people, so if a popular author gives a book an endorsement or her stamp of approval, that author’s legions of fans are opt to get on board and buy that book.
Who should write a blurb for you?
Well, there are no rules, but there are three good candidates:
- Well-known author in your genre (fiction)
- Well-respected individual in your field (nonfiction)
How do you go about getting a blurb?
It’s easy. Create a list of potential book blurbers — maybe 7 or 8 — kind of like a list you would make when applying to college. Divide the list into “reach” (blurbers who are probably hard to get, like celebrities), “match” (those for whom you have a good shot a landing a blurb), and “safety” (people very likely to provide you with a blurb). And then simply go down the line and ask each one. The great thing about social media and the internet is that anyone is accessible.
Remember, of course, to always be courteous and to make sure that you’ve spelled the person’s name correctly and that your request carries no typos or grammatical/punctuation errors. (I believe written requests, in the form of emails, are best. Also, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a telephone number for someone famous.) The worst that could happen is that person will say is no, but he or she might surprise you and say yes. At the very least, even if the person declines, he or she will remember your name.
I humbly asked David Baldacci to blurb my new book, Baby Bailino (he declined), but his associate remembered that I had asked four years earlier for Baby Grand (as you can see I tend to never give up). My hope is that the third time will be the charm.