book promotion, book sales, self-publishing

The power of a newsletter. I hope.

person-writing-letter-with-metal-quill

How can we gain readers? Blogging is approximate, Facebook is fickle and tweets are lost like bubbles that burst as soon as they’re formed. Only one answer, then: a newsletter. Well, that’s what I’ve heard, time and again, from self-publishing marketing gurus, foremost among them Mark Dawson and Nick Stephenson. Build your mailing list!  As Dawson puts it, my mailing list is a crucial – THE crucial – part of my business. It’s my most valuable asset. Because then you have email addresses so you’re sending out regular content to a (more or less) captive audience. So that’s what I’m doing. Last week, GD did me the honour of posting one of my letters, so the least I can do now is explain the mechanics behind it.

First you’ll need an email marketing service. I’m currently using Mailchimp, which has good functionality and is free up to 2000 subscribers. After that, it’s $30 a month, rising to $50 when you hit 3000. Not exactly cheap. As I’m getting close to 2000, I’ve started looking at alternatives. Among the best known is Mailerlite, which is free up to 1000, only rising to $35 a month when you reach 10,000 (by which time, if all goes to plan, you should be generating more than enough revenue to cover the cost). Here’s a more detailed comparison of the two. But they’re not the only ones: here’s a list of several more.

But readers don’t sign up to lists for no reason. In return for giving you their email address, they want something of value to them, such as a free book or a video course. Make your first book free, and if subscribers like it enough, they’ll buy the second, especially if it’s part of a series. Or so the reasoning goes. But with so many free books out there, for that to happen, you’re going to need a lot of subscribers.

Next you want somewhere readers will find you. A landing page on a blog is all very well, but unless you have a huge amount of traffic, the sign-up rate is so low it could take years to build your list to any decent size. Then there’s the call to action placed at the front and back of your permafree book on Amazon, including a reader magnet (e.g. Sign up to my newsletter to join my readers’ group to get another free book / short story / novella and be informed of new releases). Here again, the sign-up rate is tiny. The solution? Shared promotions and giveaways. Since I signed up to Mailchimp almost a year ago, I’ve participated in half a dozen. Results have varied, ranging from barely 20 subscribers to the current one (40 mystery novels), with over 700. Readers sign up to giveaways on one of the two main sites, Instafreebie or Bookfunnel. This video (20 min) explains how both of them work.

Finally, but of course not least, you need content. This is the hardest part – an insipid or uninformative newsletter will lose subscribers fast. But if it’s helpful, fun to read, or offers something of value (more giveaways, a free story), they’ll stay. All of them? That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But with each letter you send out, you can expect a hefty batch of unsubscribes. How many depends on the number of subscribers you have, so it’s best to talk percentages: in my experience, anything from 2% to 8%. Which is fine – lots of people sign up just for the freebies, so they’re unlikely to become your fans in any case.

Those are the ingredients then. What about the stats? How good a strategy is it? And what’s the best measure in any case? The most rewarding (financially) is the number of sales of a second book after readers have downloaded the first. If I include the sales of book two (Perfume Island) at the time of its launch, my conversion rate is 2.3%. Excluding the launch, it’s less than 1%. There are other measures, like the open rate of the newsletter (35% – 40% for mine) or the number of reviews on Amazon (Mark Dawson puts forward a figure of 1 per every 1000 downloads), but the bottom line, of course, is sales.

Am I downhearted? No. Nor even surprised, now that I know what the nature of the game is. For me, it’s way too early to draw conclusions. I’ve only got two books out, and there’s a lot I’ve still got to learn. My expectation is that until I reach at least 5000 subscribers, release a couple more books (and probably start spending on advertising), there won’t be any significant result. But so far this is the only strategy I’ve come across. It’s no doubt getting harder as time goes by, and it requires endless patience and perseverance, but there are plenty of authors who’ve used it satisfactorily. So sometime you can expect another post from me, triumphantly announcing I’m one of them. Maybe. In the meantime, you can always sign up to my newsletter.

Advertisements
Standard
About Writers, blogging, book promotion, book reviews, book sales, inspiration, publishing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

It’s a Community

above: Terry Pratchett 1948-2015 By Artist ‘Sandara’

One of the advantages of joining a community of like-minded people on the ‘Net is the likelihood of meeting someone totally unlike yourself. That is always good for a writer. I can’t draw an expressive crooked line. But Sandara can create a whole world in one image. Her visualization of Terry Pratchett shaking Death’s hand is fresh, striking and memorable. Don’t we writers wish all our stories were that good?

Amazing, the talents in the writing community: Publishers, editors & marketing people of course. Cover artists, beta readers, blurb writers, personal assistants and reviewers are some more. I’m sure I’ve left out important categories. No writer has all of the talents needed for a successful book. Hence, the usefulness of belonging to a writing community. Want to know the best print-on-demand service out there right now? Ask.

And best of all is the feedback. Excellent services at reasonable prices receive as much publicity on a writers’ forum as do services that waste your time and money. Think you have a really good idea for marketing your book? Ask and see if anyone has already tried that. Not sure of your book cover? Post it for comments.

Finally, always return favors. While I do owe her one, the real reason I recommend Sandara Tang here is her art. Take a look at some. It will surprise your imagination.

The Art Of Sandara
https://sandara.deviantart.com/ (best Hi-Res images)
https://www.facebook.com/ArtofSandara3/

Who have you worked with that you would recommend to other writers?

Standard
About Writers, book promotion, book sales, publishing, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

What Happened

Traditionally, publishers sold books through bookstores, book distributors, mass market retailers, book clubs, even, sometimes, to organizations wanting a promotional tool. (Wells Fargo, for example, might buy 5,000 books on stage coaches.) Sales representatives, working for publishers and independent sales groups, attended industry sales conferences and made calls on retail buyers.
Authors wrote books and received royalty payments on their book sales.

Amazon changed all that. Today, authors list their book on a website with 11 million other books in the hope that individuals will find and buy it.

We have gone from a powerful industry selling books to a website listing.

That’s what happened.

What can we do about it? Obviously, success requires more than one author selling to one reader at a time because readers only buy one book. We ain’t selling Hershey bars. Our reader won’t come back for a box of the same book.

The idea here is to build a list of businesses and organizations which have the potential to buy, or distribute for sale, many copies of the same book. Yes, we still have bookstores, book distributors, mass market retailers, book clubs, even organizations wanting a promotional tool. But without a big publisher’s clout, how does any writer market to them?
And, are there other organized groups that we can target to help sell our book?
Any ideas? Perry Palin 🙂 ? Anybody?

Standard
book promotion, book sales, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Writer Scams

Once upon a time, snake oil salesmen sold miracle elixirs by appealing to peoples’ hopes that the infirmities of living could be cured. Relief was, of course, induced by drug or alcohol. So people kept buying the elixirs, in the hope of extending the temporary relief. Some even became addicted to their magic elixir.

Today, scammers are selling writers the magical elixer of book sales. It’s easy to spot the scam: anyone who demands payment up front knows they cannot produce enough results to do the work on commission.

Before you pay anyone to sell your book, do yourself a favor by looking up the concept of “R.O.I.” and checking websites dedicated to exposing writer scams.
Like…

WRITER BEWARE®
http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/

Rights of Writers
The Agent from Hell and the Top Six Scams Targeting Writers
http://www.rightsofwriters.com/2011/04/agent-from-hell-and-top-six-scams.html

What You Need to Know about Writing Scams – Marcia Yudkin
https://www.yudkin.com/scams.htm

There are more. Many. More. A Google Search of the phrase, “Writer Scams” returns multiple pages.
But it doesn’t take long to recognize the signs. Snake oil salesmen and modern scammers sell the same product. They sell hope.

Standard
book promotion, book reviews, book sales, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Name This!

Cool LukeWhat we have here is failure to communicate. The word “Review” communicates negative reactions to many authors. Not the least of which is the certainty that all reviews cannot be good reviews. True, that. So, after listening to the gnawback, it’s obvious that we need a better name for our new section than, “Peer Reviews.”

We need a name that says here are books well received by the authors’ peers. The purpose of the new section is to have a place for recommendations by other authors, editors, publishers and professional members of the writing community at large.

The following names have been suggested, but please use the comments section to add more names.

Books We Like
I Like This Book
I Love This Book
Insider Picks
Peers’ Picks
Recommended Reading

What’s your suggestion?

Standard
About Writers, Amazon, book promotion, book reviews, book sales, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Speak Now Or ….

Peer reviewWHAT
After discussion, the group has decided to add Peer Reviews. Peer Reviews are book reviews written by the author’s peers: other authors, editors, publishers and professional members of the writing community at large.

HOW
Writers Co-op would allow authors to post reviews and link to the book’s sale page. We’d just set up the page(s) and grant the authors’ permission to post there.
Atthys Gage has agreed to monitor the reviews.

WHEN
Next week, at the earliest, I could set up a prototype page to see how it goes.

WILL IT WORK
“Who knows?” said the first person over Niagara Falls in a barrel. One thing of which we can be certain is a learning curve. The hardest part will probably be the startup. I’ll start with what I can do based on my best understanding of the peer review discussions, in accordance with the limitations of our website and of course my deficient abilities. 🙂 It should be all down-the-falls sailing from there.

WAIT… WHY!?
If you haven’t read the discussions, many authors are complaining about Amazon banning reviews from anyone their algorithms decide knows the author. Offering authors a work-around could be our opportunity to provide a real service that incidentally increases Writers Co-op membership.

Standard
About Writers, Amazon, book promotion, book sales, publishing, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

DECISION TIME

'One more time Huck, I'm gonna have to question your decision to bring the beaver.'

‘One more time Huck, I’m gonna have to question your decision to bring the beaver.’

ATTN: All Writers Co-op members (and potential members. 🙂 )

Two proposals have recently been discussed that deserve follow up.

Peer Review
The first is to add Peer Review page(s) of book reviews written by authors. Amazon tends to prevent or delete peer reviews. Writers Co-op could allow authors to post such reviews and link to the book’s sale page.
The argument for includes that it’d be a useful and easy service to offer, we’d just set up the page(s) and grant the authors’ permission to post there. The argument against includes the need to have a real person to manage and monitor those pages. Any volunteers?

Anthology
A Writers Co-op Anthology for 2018 has been mentioned and the feedback was positive. So, what do you think? Should we proceed towards publishing one? Who’s in? What themes would you want for the anthology? Do we even need a theme? We can publish a Writers Co-op Anthology if we cooperate in all aspects and contribute stories.

So speak up now!

Standard