Category Archives for Marketing

The first year as a full time author.

If you write, chances are you have the dream to be a full time author. It’s not for everyone. It is a demanding, turbulent occupation that wears many out. And yet, we want it.

In 2016 I had a plan. I needed four more years to restart my career now that I knew what I wanted to focus on, build a brand, a back list that could support me and get debt free. Then, and only then, could I do it. Be a full time author.

Plans are made to be burned and their ashes danced on. February 1st of 2016 I was laid off. It was from out of the blue. I was not prepared. And I had a choice ahead of me:

  1. Did I stick to my four year plan and get a new job that might not afford me the same downtime to write and maintain that plan?
  2. Or did I take the chance and write?

A year later, it’s no surprise which option I picked. I hope sharing how I made the decision to take the chance helps others evaluate their plans.

I’m going to look at a few key things:

  1. My position in the market when I entered full time authorhood
  2. What I did well
  3. What could be improved on
  4. How others have helped me

plan photoThe starting line.

There are a few key pieces of data I had at my disposal February 1st when I was laid off that helped me make my decision based on facts, not feelings.

  1. Accounting. The first thing was a detailed record of all of my sales up until December 2015. You bet your bippy I spent the afternoon of February 1st getting my data in order to reflect through January. Looking back over the years since January of 2011 I realized that my income, while small still, could easily be built on. I stood to bring in my biggest payday yet due to reclaiming several titles from Ellora’s Cave. Those books alone were bringing in a pretty penny.
  2. Productivity & Project Management. I have spreadsheets going back almost ten years which help me evaluate and track my productivity. It was how I made deadlines and kept to them while juggling my personal and professional lives outside of writing. If I was writing 50,000 words a month with a job, what could I do without one?
  3. The enthusiastic support of my family, my significant other and fans.

Looking at the cold hard numbers of output vs input told me a couple things.

First, if I produced steadily, if I released regularly, I could bring that income up. Second, the pace at which I write comfortably would allow for frequent releases.

Not in this data is The Plan. Remember, I had a four year plan. Just because I was let go from my job didn’t change that plan. It merely accelerated it. Previously, in my earlier years writing I wrote, sold or published whatever I felt like writing. From contemporary to space opera, from BDSM to suspense. That works for some authors, but not for most.

Why?

Because an author is a brand. Like Coka-Cola or Dr Pepper, you know when you pop that top what you’re getting. Now, some authors can write all over the board and do amazing. I’m not that person. I know I need to pick a thing and go for it. I needed to recreate the Sidney Bristol brand with a flavor people would come to recognize and reach for when they get that hankering. I was a bit ahead of the schedule because I’d spent much of 2015 priming myself to go all-in with this new direction.

February of 2016 would see my first mass market release in romantic suspense with a traditional publisher. Over the previous five years I’d determined that suspense, action and adventure suit me best, and it was my intention to buckle down and build my house on that brand. I was rebuilding myself, so to speak. Which left me in a very interesting place to begin my full time author life.

I felt like I could do it. I set a goal of six months and told myself that if I hadn’t achieved a steady income level of around $1,500 I would need to seriously reconsider what I was doing.

What I did well.

There’s a number of things I brought with me to writing full time. First, I can produce and I produce fairly reliably without much waffling on my output. So long as I like the story, have an outline and a feel for the characters, I can write the book.

I produced five books in a series. I positioned the series so it was at a cross-section of three subgenres. And then I did a spin-off.

I focused on hero-centric, book boyfriends rather than heroine rooted stories.

plan photoAbove all, I wrote every, freaking day and said yes to just about every promotion that came my way.

This resulted in a grand total of fourteen releases in 2016 between four series. I saw my income go from an average of around $940 per month at the beginning of the year to $2,300 per month. I did this releasing wide versus going into Kindle Unlimited. And I did it with much help from other people. No, that isn’t ground breaking, amazing results. It could have been better, but more than anything I proved to myself that it was entirely possible to recreate myself and establish a sustaining career at the same time.

This full time author gig was possible.

Side note: It should also be acknowledged that I had other things going on to bring in money on the side to supplement the lean months.

What I could have done better.

We all can do better. I learned a few of my mistakes early on and tried to power through them.

plan photoFirst, I dove into writing on a series I began on a whim. SEALs have continued to be popular. Bodyguards were popular. Suspense was supposed to be popular. So I put them all together into a mishmash series. The first book was a fluke. Something I wrote for a boxed set and didn’t really know what to do with. It did well, people liked it, and I wrote characters in with the idea that I could do more down the line. When I was laid off, that book and concept were the best ones I had for creating a viable product line. In hindsight, I might have been better served sitting back and brainstorming a better concept with a more marketable brand. That said, that series has supported me pretty much on it’s own for the last half of 2016, so I won’t complain too much.

Covers. I made an artistic decision in 2015 when I wrote the first book because I wanted to be different. The problem with different is that it does not always mean better. It was just different. And the concept I requested, wanted, and loved so very much…didn’t properly convey my product line. I recovered the series in the latter part of 2016 for a pretty penny and have seen better marketing, sales and opportunities. My advice? Get a really good cover artist, and then an even better friend who isn’t afraid to tell you the cover model looks like Ken’s creepy brother with a thing for Skipper. Yes, I’ve heard that one.

I got distracted by writing what I wanted, not what people wanted. While my first series wasn’t a well thought out brand, it sold well enough. My plan was to create something similar, but different. Good in theory, if I’d stuck with the same part of the statement. Instead of doing something similar, I went off the reservation and did a heroine-centric, series of my heart project. This resulted in months focused on books that did not firmly fit the brand I wanted to push. Do I regret them? Nope. I wanted to write them and there is a readership for them, but they are not the majority. I learned the hard way that sometimes I’m going to have to stuff what I want to write deep down and focus on what I enjoy that will also sell.

The helping hands.

By and far the biggest thing that’s assisted me along the way?

Avid readers and wonderful friends.

I wouldn’t be where I am without people who wanted to read my books and thereby shared my books with their friends. I wouldn’t have reached those readers without other authors reaching back to pull me up with them.

A lot of people treat this publishing game as a me versus them sort of thing that it does not have to be. Readers don’t buy just one author’s books, and accepting that, embracing that, is huge.

I try to always, always, always say thank you where it’s deserved. Or if I’m just grateful. Because a thank you doesn’t cost anything, and it can mean the world all at the same time.

Looking forward.

The lessons learned in 2016 are already getting a workout. This year I’m releasing a better planned and more marketable series hung on several hooks for readers to glom onto. I’ve paid attention to brand, tone, things that do and do not work when it comes to heroes and covers. I’m doing my best to learn so that 2017 is the year that we not only make it, but break it in terms of goals and success.

My advice.

If you’re someone wanting to write full time, my biggest advice would be to consider everything you want to do. If writing is it, the top of the list, your everything, then sit down and start making your plan for how to get there. It’s possible. It’s doable. Yes, we live in crazy, turbulent publishing times, but this is a viable career in need of more, amazing voices telling their stories.

Zara Keane: Ten Tips to Increase Your Organic Mailing List Sign-Ups

February 6, 2017

reading photoOver the last year, I’ve experimented with various ways to grow my mailing list subscribers. I’m careful to separate my organic subscribers from those gained via contests, group promotions, and other methods.

For the purposes of this post, I’m defining an organic mailing list subscriber as someone who discovers my books on a store, reads one, and clicks on a link within one of my ebooks to sign up for my newslet
ter. I also include people who subscribe via my website sign-up form in the organic subscriber list, because I assume that they looked up my website after reading one of my books. This isn’t an exact science, but that’s how I’m currently working my lists.

In general, I’ve found organic subscribers to be the most valuable to me in terms of their click rate on buy links for my full-priced books. However, contest subscribers are definitely worth having, but I’ll get to them in the next post.

Here are eight tips based on changes I’ve implemented that have helped me to increase my organic subscriber list from 2,000 to 8,000 in under a year. Most of them are of the “set it and forget” variety.

  1. Offer a free story to subscribers. Don’t be afraid to use language like “Free starter library” if you have a couple of stories to offer them. It ups the perceived value of your offering.
  1. Make life easy on yourself by using a digital download service to distribute your newsletter freebie. Instafreebie’s free plan is one option. I currently use Book Funnel to distribute my newsletter freebies. After someone confirms their subscription to my list, they receive a Thank You email a couple of minutes later, and this email includes a Book Funnel download link. Any tech issue a subscriber has is dealt with by Book Funnel’s technical support team. The basic plan is $20 a year. I’m on a slightly higher plan at the moment because I needed it for a group promotion I was in, but most people are going to be fine with the $20/year option starting out.
  1. reading photoPeople click everywhere! Seriously. You can’t include the link in too many places. I have both a sign-up page and a sidebar sign-up link on my website. On book pages for not-yet-published books, I include a sign-up button instead of a buy-link button so that interested readers can be informed when the book is released. Judging by my website analytics, I get clicks from all over the place.
  1. Resist the urge to milk potential subscribers for info. Make it both faster and more privacy-friendly by just requiring an email address to sign up. A lot of people think twice before giving their name. Don’t give them any reason to hesitate.
  1. Include an attractive and clickable graphic in your ebooks. Pictures draw the eye and make people pay attention to your offer. I saw a big increase in sign-ups once I started to do this. It was so marked that I did some split testing and took it out for a while. My sign-ups dropped, so I put the picture back in.

Note: A graphic can potentially increase your delivery fee on Amazon, but there are ways to make this increase minimal. I use a lower quality graphic i
n my Amazon ebooks. On average, it increases my delivery fee by $0.01 per full-length novel, but I’ve found it to be worth it in terms of the increase of mailing list subscribers when the graphic is included.

  1. Include the sign-up link and graphic at the front of your ebook as well as right after “The End”. I see more sign-ups from the link at the back, but there’s enough action on the front link to make it well worth keeping. An added benefit: the link is visible in the “Look Inside” sample on Amazon.
  1. Use a redirect link. There are a couple of sound reasons for doing this. If you change your mailing list provider, the links in your already downloaded or purchased books will still work.
  1. The second reason for using a redirect is the opportunity to make your sign-up link easy to remember. Not all digital readers allow for clickable links, so this trick helps increase the chances that a reader using one of those devices will seek out your mailing list sign-up form when they’re next at their computer. Mine is http://zarakeane.com/newsletter. Super easy to remember.

reading photoTo create redirects, or evergreen links, you can use a free WordPress plugin like Redirection. Another option is a service like http://smarturl.it. It’s free and easy to use, and it provides neat data.

  1. Make your sign-up page as enticing as you can. Split test graphics and copy until you feel you’ve hit upon the perfect combination. I’m currently using one of Mailerlite’s new landing page sign-up forms and I love it. It’s based on a template and was easy to set up.
  1. Run an exclusive serial for your newsletter subscribers. This adds a sense of excitement and ups the value of what you’re offering potential subscribers. Mention the serial on social media, complete with a sign-up link, and create an attractive graphic to put in your ebooks’ backmatter. When I ran a serial, I put back episodes on a password-protected page on my website so that subscribers who signed up after the serial had begun could access back episodes.

I hope you find these tips useful. I’d love to know what methods you’ve found effective in growing your organic subscribers list. Please let me know in the comments. Happy list building!

You are your brand by Eve Vaughn

So you wrote a book. Great. That’s the easy part. Not easy in the sense that you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into this work, and probably spent countless hours in edits to get it just right. It’s easy because you now have a finished product. The hard part is getting people to read your baby. Writing a book is only part of the job of being an author. Having great marketing tools to push your masterpiece into the hands of eager readers takes as much dedication if not more than actually writing it if you want to make your work a success.

I can’t tell you how many books go unread simply because the author hit the publish button and expected the sales to happen with little to no effort. These aren’t terrible books, in fact, a lot of them are quite good but if an author doesn’t promote their work, the sales will reflect that lack of effort.

For the new author, marketing can seem a bit overwhelming. Purchasing Ads, Blog Tours, sending out ARC’s are just a few ways to promote your book. But one of the easiest and inexpensive ways to advertise your work is creating an online presence. Social media is an author’s best friend. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, to name a few, are platforms where you are not just selling your books, but you are selling you.

Understandably, it’s up to the individual on how much of themselves they’d like to share online. You can be as personal or as private as you’d like. Share a recipe, or a funny story about your kids. Engaging will readers humanizes the person behind the words. One of the things I do is live tweet my favorite shows. Every so often, I’ll receive an email from someone who followed me because of my tweets and they checked out my books. Even when you don’t think about it, people do take notice of your activity on social media. When readers are engaged they are more likely to check out your books, because they enjoy your online personality.

But representing your brand also goes beyond social media. It’s important to maintain an affable, and friendly demeanor in public when you are going under your author name. Conferences, books signings or meet-ups are also great ways to engage readers. We’ve all heard horror stories from fans who have less than favorable encounters with their favorite authors and because of that, they’ve stopped buying books from that person. We also hear about authors who have public melt -downs and some who say problematic things online and because of that, their readership drops.

But the good news is, when you have a positive encounter with a reader, you can make a fan for life.  So keep in mind that you are your brand and one of the most important marketing tools, is you.

Why do I Need a Newsletter?

Because it’s what all the cool kids are doing.

Seriously. It is.

Go look in your inbox right now. I bet you get a ton of emails from websites that you signed up for–your favorite pizza place, online retailers, and hobby sites that you signed up to get, because you want to know the scoop, like when there’s a sale or when new products arrive.

Readers are no different.

They love your books!

They want to know when your next book is coming out. They want to get the scoop from you, sent to their inbox, just like you want to know the latest sale from your favorite site.

Yes. They really do.

I know what you’re thinking. It feels weird to believe that people want to know this stuff. I was hesitant to do this myself when I first set mine up.

But they do.

I promise.

Have I convinced you yet?

No?

Well, how about this?

Newsletters not only get a list of people WHO LIKE YOUR BOOKS together in one place, the newsletter tells readers stuff before the general public.

And who doesn’t like being the first to know something?

Think book cover releases. Think exclusive excerpts.

Heck, even free books can be given for signing up for a newsletter. (Anna Lowe has a great post about managing giveaways for newsletter subscribers here at RAMN).

There are all sorts of ways to use your newsletter. Setting one up is free on several platforms.

And who doesn’t like free, right?

For setting up a newsletter for free

Mail Chimp — Free-$$$ For free, this has a lot of nice, neat newsletter options, including plenty of checks to make sure you didn’t miss anything. As your list grows, and your needs grow, it has higher end options available as well. A favorite among authors I polled.

Mailer Lite — Free-$$$ Another favorite of the authors I spoke to. Similar to Mail Chimp, but pricing is a little different–it begins charging as your subscriber list grows beyond 1,000 subscribers.

MadMimi — Free-$$$ The free version is for 100 email subscribers, but after that, the pricing is very reasonable, basic plan is $10 a month.

Some other options that do have a monthly fee attached to them, but they also have free trials to explore their services.

Get Response — $$$ With options starting as low as $15 a month, it has a lot of nice features, and no obligations or contracts to use the service.

AWeber — $$ Lots of integrations and, like others as your subscriber list grows, your plan increases in price.

Constant Contact — $$$ Also a lot of integration, but they also have the option to get custom made designs for your newsletter, and even have the option to have someone else do it for you.

However you choose to start a newsletter, a few things to consider:

  1. Integration — can you put a sign up on your Facebook page? Or put a pop up on your WordPress website? Make sure what you use is easy to bring into your other social media sites so your fans can find your newsletter signup easily.
  2. How often are you releasing books and having book sales or giveaways? If you’re releasing a lot of books or wanting a lot of contact with your readers, you need to make sure the newsletter doesn’t have limits on how many you can send over any month.
  3. Rapid list growth. If your list blows up one month, and you suddenly have 3x the subscribers, is that going to penalize you? Or put you automatically in another price bracket? Some of the services listed price according to list size, be aware of that.
  4. And just in general, is it something that works for you? Can you import your style and brand into the design? Is it easy for you to set up and navigate?

But truly, if you have any desire to grow your writing business, a newsletter is an essential part of that growth.

And remember, they are asking for it. You’re not bugging them.

Go.

Do it.

Sell your books to your fans.

The Importance of an Author Mailing List by Mandy Rosko

Okay, so every author worth his or her salt kind of knows this already, so I don’t think I’m going to be telling you anything new here. The point of this post is to convince you to actually get started. Why?

Because apparently I’m not alone as one of the many, many authors out there who, despite knowing how mailing lists are important, despite hearing again and again the complaints of other authors who regret not starting theirs sooner…yeah, I waited a long assed time before starting mine.

I kind of hate that now. Now I’m trying to keep a mindset where I don’t care about sales. I want subscribers first, second and third, and I’ll get to sales fourth.

Now here’s the best bit. I not only waited, but when I actually got started, I just sort of stopped looking at it and let it pitter off when the strategy I was using stopped working, which happened fairly quickly after Amazon started their new bit where a Kindle book will begin at the start of Chapter One, instead of on the cover or title page, allowing readers to see front matter. Same thing for the back matter. The instant someone finished a book, they were immediately taken to a review page instead of being able to look at free offers or a list of other books.

Considering the number of reviews I have, I’m not too sure how well the review page is working, even with my low sales.

But on to business!

Building a mailing list is not only insanely hard, but it can take a good amount of money and patience, because you’re looking at waiting a long time before you see results. A couple of months at the least.

Here’s a snap shot of what my list growth looked like after reading Nick Stephenson’s Reader Magnet Book:

Screenshot 2016-03-30 00.16.40

I first started putting together my mailing list last year at the end of January or February. As you can see, those months are missing so I can’t really show you the growth there, but I still have April. The imports (225 of them) came when I attended Romancing the Capitol, a reader event, and gave away free signed print copies with the expectation that the readers got them by giving me their email addresses and signing up for the list.

I went to that event with no more than 130 books, possibly less, and encouraged people to take doubles for their friends, or themselves since I brought multiple series, or more books in one series. Which means that some people just saw the sign up form and signed up, possibly to feel good about also getting some free swag since I had those on the table as well.

It was awesome 😀

For the rest of April, people who signed up on their own, there were only 41. In May it was 32, and in June it was 21. July was 10. August was 8. Sept was 2. October was 1, and in November it was 7.

Notice that trend?

So here’s the thing I’m going to talk about. This isn’t just about list building and whatnot. It’s also about watching your list. Paying attention to it. Those months went by without me even noticing. Days add up and go by in a blink. I kept meaning to get back to it, but there was always more writing to be done, more edits, things to plan for, birthdays, Christmas, etc.

It wasn’t just that. It was that fact that I had read this book about a system that was supposed to work, but didn’t when Amazon changed how its customers read that was also a downer. I figured I’d get back to it because nothing I did was going to help anyway.

Then December came. Notice the slightly higher tick there? That’s 66 people. That came in when I did a Facebook event with a number of other authors. At the end of December. I think it happened on the 27th or the 28th. Before that bigger chunk, there were maybe 7-10 people who had signed up for the month based on my books and not so great landing page on my website.

When I announced the people at the party could get a free book and I got all those extra sign ups just from that, not giving them an Amazon link where they could buy something, but offering them something for free, I got all those extra people.

One Facebook event, one offer, barely any work on my part, and all those people signed up to hear from me, I was intrigued once more.

So, at that point, with RTC, and Nick Stephenson’s method, I was just under 500 subs. January came, and I’d already heard about another awesome way to get people to sign up for my list based on giveaways thanks to hanging out with the ladies at RAMN.

Instafreebie. I’ll explain that in a bit, but I also went back to Nick Stephenson’s books. I’d heard a couple of things, both good and some lukewarm, but nothing really bad. There was no one out there warning me he was a scammer, so I decided that I didn’t want to bother with all his free videos anymore. I wanted to take the risk and make myself a guinea pig by buying his class when it opened up and getting at some of his other videos.

In January, I started messing with Facebook Ads, advertising my Starter Library this time, not just one free ebook.

Not bad. This time I got 175 sign ups with 2 imports

Screenshot 2016-03-30 00.40.09

 

Now I was totally starting to get greedy, and it was awesome. I wanted to see if I could do better on the next month, and I did. I used the Facebook ads in combination with another Facebook party, a group Valentines Day sale with 50+ other authors, and a Freebooksy ad to get this:

Screenshot 2016-03-30 00.44.03

KAPOW! 583 sign ups with 8 imports.

Troll-Face-Dancing1

BTW, these imports are coming when people email me saying they’re having trouble getting on the list themselves. I offer to manually sign them up and send them their books, and that’s how that happens. Just be careful that you have clear written permission to do this. People don’t like being signed up for something they don’t want.

Meaning if someone emails me saying “I want free books!” I don’t sign them up. I email them back, saying I can manually put them on the list if they like and send them their library. If they agree, I do it. If they don’t email me back, well I have my answer there, too.

Now back to work. Like I said, most of this is costing me money. The Valentine’s Day sale was free to join. I just had to advertise it to my growing list to qualify 🙂 That added me I think about 125-150 people.

The Freebooksy ad, when I watched it, I’m pretty sure added at least 200 people to the list. It’s hard to make an exact count since I also have people coming in through the Facebook ads, as well as a few trickling in from regular sales. I need to get one of those tracking pixels on my site, another thing that comes highly recommended that I’m still dragging my feet on. You can sort of keep track based on how many clicks you’re getting on your Facebook ad vs. how many you get the day of the Freebooksy ad and author promos, but I’m betting that it’s roughly 200 extra people, give or take a few, over the course of three or four days.

Be careful with Facebook ads and other online advertising spots! Some places I’ve used that I thought would get me major traffic that resulted in little more than a blip. These things will bring you subscribers, but not at the speed you would like or a cost that will keep you happy.

As of this writing, nearly 1AM on March 30th, this is what my Dashboard looks like. The first big spike is the Freebooksy, the second smaller one on the 17th is the St. Patrick’s Day sale with the other authors, and that small green bump at the end was an advertising spot on Fiverr that came highly recommended. I might give it another chance though, just in case there was something I missed when purchasing the ad:

Screenshot 2016-04-01 02.32.16

 

Update: That last bump at the end was from a Facebook group promoting my permafree dragon romance. Almost a thousand copies in a day is pretty sweet when each of those books has a link inside to get those readers on my newsletter.

With my front and back matter advertising a free starter romance library to people who signed up for my list, these big jumps brought in new subscribers.

To date, here’s what March looks like for subscribers:

Screenshot 2016-03-30 01.01.12

With two days left in the month, that’s 670 new subscribers plus 8 that were imported. I almost have a hundred more people than I did last month.

EDIT: On April 1st, at 2:55 am, that number is now at 730 subscribers. Not bad for the month 😀

3rxbwi

Back to Instafreebie, however. All the people who signed up for my reader list through Instafreebie don’t appear on these graphs. I have no idea why since it’s Mailchimp connected, though they do appear on the monthly list number.

Anyway, here’s how many people have come in from Instafreebie in the three months since I’ve signed up:

Screenshot 2016-03-30 01.05.13

This is from adding a new free book every month for people to choose from, and only those who opt into my mailing list get one, so I’m not sure how this list would have looked had I only used one book for the entire three months, or if I’ll continue to add new books every month. Probably not, as I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually run out, but I have enough of a back list that I can keep on going for a little while longer.

So to recap. At the end of December I had about 485 people on my list after a year. As of this writing, I have 2915 people on my list, just shy of 3000.

I have 29% of my goal of 10K subscribers, and I’m hoping to get that by the end of December if I can keep this momentum up.

Keep in mind this is after buying list building courses that are pretty expensive, and dumping $500 a month into multiple Facebook ads, and trying to get ones that are cheap and effective. I can spend this much because I have a pretty decent savings thanks to my other pseudonym that makes me good money for now, but I keep hearing stories of people who get readers onto their lists by spending only $5 a day on the ads themselves, and getting invited to Facebook Parties. I’ve also had to turn off some of my Facebook ads because Facebook is trying to charge me over a dollar per click. Something I’m not cool with and have been trying to get back down there for the last couple of weeks >.< It’s an expensive experiment when you can’t figure out how to get the cost per click below $0.50

Another expensive thing I did was a giveaway with KingSumo. Even with getting KingSumo on sale for $99, that, plus the cost of the prize still made it pretty expensive. After heavily filtering down the emails, I think in the end I got about 100 people on my list, which puts the cost per subscriber at about $2.20 each. Not too sure how I feel about that, but I’m willing to try again and keep experimenting with it to see what can be improved.

To not end on a downer, keep in mind that being invited to a Facebook party and advertising your list there tends to be free, though you should only do this if you’re actually hosting a spot. Do Not do this if you’re a guest there who is just there to have fun and get some cool free stuff. Also, I pay only $20 a month for Instafreebie. Basically, I got 1153 people on my list from spending $60. Totally worth it. Same thing with Freebooksy. Do that once a month, spend the $125, and if you can get even close to 200 people, then you’re looking at $0.50-0.75 per subscriber. Also worth it. Not everything has to clean out your bank account to be worth it.

I’ve also cleaned some people out of the list who are not active. I’ll have to do that again soon I’m sure. If no one opens a letter from me in 5 months, I can assume they don’t care and get rid of the email. Since I want my open rate and click rates to be high, this is mega important. You pay for the people on your list so make sure you can keep a decent open and click rate.

So here’s the thing, you might not need to buy any expensive training courses, or do the Facebook ads so long as you’re a super cool networker and can get invited to at least one Facebook Party a month and do your own advertising, while making sure your website is as clean as possible and ready to take in more people who want to get your free stuff. Personally, my website landing page still needs major work, too many distractions, but it does still work.

I did need these things. I needed the course to keep me from seeing something shiny and moving on. I’m lazy. I need something to keep me accountable and something for me to keep looking at to see that there’s still a steady improvement. Seeing the number of subscribers go up every day by 15-35 is great. Every time I get another hundred, I do a little happy dance in my chair. Or a silent squeal if I’m in public and don’t want anyone to see. With every thousand, I get a euphoric feeling. I want that to keep on happening.

I have to test out the list a little more, send the people on it some questions to find out if they prefer sales to contests and whatnot, and see how effectively I can sell to them without pissing them off. I’m trying to take it slow by romancing them with my winning personality and free stuff, so I don’t think I’ll have any decent numbers for another few months, though I’m already noticing a small bump in sales whenever I send out an email 🙂

It used to be that I’d be lucky to get a check from Amazon two months in a row. That’s how few books I sold despite having a decent back list size. Now, thanks to the Freebooksy ads, the Valentines and St Patrick’s Day sales, along with sending out my newsletters telling readers about these sales and my preorders, I’ll be getting some checks over the next couple of months.

Nothing too spectacular. This month I’ve so far got another $337 coming my way, which is still awesome, especially with the CAD to USD conversion rate.

That’s enough to pay my Car insurance plus gas and have money left over for me to go shopping with. It’s not what a lot of authors are making, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. It makes my Facebook ads hurt less in the end, that’s for sure.

Again, it’s still too soon to see how much it will grow, if at all, but it’s kind of interesting that the only time I started making money on my self published stuff was when I stopped caring about sales.

Cheers

~USA Today Bestselling Author Mandy Rosko

So I have to talk to…people?

A Tale of Social Media and Reader Interaction

Social media is a large part of our society these days. As an author, it plays a part in both your personal and business lives. Why? Because social media is where EVERYONE is—friends, family, co-workers, other writers. And most important, readers.

Many of us were readers before we ever sat down to pen our first book. We were inspired by someone, somewhere, to put our ideas on paper and make them into a story that we hope others want to enjoy. While the point of marketing is to expose our brand, there’s more to it than spamming the interwebz with pleas to buy our books.

Think on this – when you’re engaging a person at a conference or wherever, do you want them to walk up to you, stick their hand out and introduce themselves like this? “Hey, I’m T.J. I know you don’t know me but my books are awesome. Here’s a link to go buy them!”

Most likely, you’d look at that person and wonder whether they were off their meds. You don’t greet total strangers like that in person, so why in the world would it be effective online? Sure readers are always looking for great books. But they’re more likely to buy your work if you come off as a person who is approachable, likeable and not a total bitch.

Admit it, there’ve been times where you looked forward to meeting an author at a book signing or a conference, then after finally having a moment to interact, you swore you’d never buy another one of their books again. Like, ever.

So, don’t be “that guy”.

The question is, how do we let our readers know that we’re real people and not just walking promotions? We have to TALK to them.

Here’s a great example of how simply being friendly can gain great relationships with readers.

The following post had about 100 likes, which means the number of people who actually looked at it was much higher:

So later on, when this same author posted about a new book, the engagement DOUBLED:

I also notice that after I’ve been a bit more chatty with people on social media, I get a lot more engagement in my actual promo posts. And the hope is that more engagement will translate in sales.

For example, I had a new release in a KindleWorlds launch, and instead of spamming my book in The Wolf Pack (a popular Facebook group), I talked about shifters in general, other people’s books, things I was interested in (such as big cats) and commented on/liked other people’s posts. I did this for a couple of weeks prior to my own release. I didn’t spend all day on Facebook, but just a few interactions a day.

Along came release week and guess what happened? I received a TON more engagements on both my fun and promo posts than I’d ever received before. Ever. In addition, I received more REVIEWS on Amazon for the book that I was promoting, and a nice number of opening sales for the first two months of the release. In addition, every other book in the series received a sales bump. And the longer I engaged the group in fun stuff, the longer the sales bump continued. It was a totally magical [insert Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings-type music here!] moment and completely worth it.

So, yes. We do need to actually ‘talk’ to people. Share a bit of yourself with your readership. They don’t need to know what blood type you are, or what color panties you wear on Tuesdays. But a little bit of information can go a long way.

So what kind of things should you share? Here are some examples:

  • Are you a Doctor Who fan? Why or why not?
  • If you write paranormal, have you ever been on a ghost hunt?
  • Which paranormal TV shows or movies do you like?
  • For general things, do you enjoy music? If so, what kind?
  • Do you listen to it while you write? Does it inspire any of your stories?
  • Who are your favorite man-candy actors or girl-crush actresses?
  • What do you think about the latest movies that hit the big screen? Love ‘em, hate ‘em, ambivalent or just meh?
  • Did you dress up last Halloween? Really? What did you “go” as?
  • Coffee lover? Chocolate lover? Hate one or both?
  • Are you a proud nerd?
  • Know any good jokes? If not, are you master of the funny meme?

Now, I’m not saying just start spouting all of this information all over the interwebz, but find others who may be talking about some of these things and engage them. Your readers will definitely see it and may even check out some of your interests and begin to talk with you about them.

A little interaction can go a loooong way to building positive social media relationships with people who love your writing. And those people will tell someone else. And they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on.

Bottom line, if readers like you as a person, they’re more likely to stick with you as an author.

So, go get ‘em tiger!

Love, T.J.

The Value of Rebranding a Series

March 14, 2016

At first glance, some people might read the title and think, “This is a blog about marketing. How will changing covers market my books?” Well, the answer is quite simple—your cover is one of the most powerful marketing tools in your arsenal.

Think about it. You could have the hottest new story to take the world by storm, but if your cover doesn’t covey the genre and/or tone of the book, it may never be discovered. On top of that, if your cover doesn’t catch the eye, a potential reader won’t click to learn more. And I’m not just talking about on online vendor sites (although that’s important). The whole point of any Facebook ad, email marketing ad, and so on is to catch the impulse buys. But if your cover is ugly, unreadable, and tells me it’s chick lit when I’m looking for paranormal, then you have a problem.

I have experience rebranding two series. One was drastic, where I changed cover artists and she came up with a brand new style. The other rebranding was minor, with me taking my serial boxed sets and repackaging them as novels. Both times, my sales increased afterward. Not only that, but my serial rebranding helped lessen the confusion about the reading order of my series. The last thing you want to do is make it more difficult for a reader to find the next book to buy!

So, when should you rebrand? I can’t give you a definitive answer since I don’t know your sales figures or book(s). However, all of the following could be signs it’s time to rebrand your series:

  • If the covers in your genre shift dramatically, you might want to update yours to better match. Think about romance covers from the 1980s and compare them to today. You definitely don’t want to stick out in a bad way!
  • Readers leave reviews along the lines of, “The cover mislead me about the tone of the book.” Or, “The cover has nothing to do with the story. I thought I was getting subgenre XYZ and it’s really more subgenre ABC.” You want the right readers clicking your book, or they’ll stop reading and won’t buy the rest of your series.
  • Your sales have declined beyond a seasonal slump. A new look could help attract a new kind of reader.

So, take a look at your covers and decide if rebranding your series might be a good option.

Note: Some people may even change the titles of their books when rebranding, and that’s more than fine. Just make sure to put a note somewhere, “This book was previously titled NAME” to avoid confusion!

Thinking Outside the Box Set – Creative Author Collaboration

By now, most authors know that multi-author boxed sets of ebooks can be a great way to cross promote and reach new readers. While there still can be a lot of power in a bundle, if done right (in fact, there’s a great article right here about how to do that), the power of the mighty boxed set is beginning to wane.

Luckily, authors (especially indies) have all kinds of other great opportunities to collaborate! Here’s a look at a few creative projects that have come out recently.

SHARED WORLDS

Authors are banding together to write closely-connected stories within the same world. From projects like the Woodland Creek series, where thirty authors coordinated to write paranormal shifter stories set around the same town, all tightly branded and releasing on the same day, to the ambitious 50-title historical western romance project American Mail Order Brides, authors are using the strength of their numbers to make a marketing splash.

SHARED THEMES

Several bestselling romance authors are collaborating to release sexy novellas under the 1001 Dark Nights brand, with great success. And a number of SF and Fantasy authors have put together short story anthologies based around themes or featuring women writers, like the fabulous collection The Dark Beyond the Stars.

SHARED AUDIENCES

Although the above ventures are ambitious, you don’t have to put together a huge project to be successful. Find one or two other authors writing in your subgenre who have a similar career track and goals, and see if you can come up with some interesting ideas. Bestselling western romance writers Deborah Holland and Carolyn Fyffe share the Mail Order Brides of the West series, taking turns releasing books in that sub-series which are tied to their own, individual series. Authors Grace Draven and Elizabeth Hunter have released themed collaborations where they each contribute a novella, and cross-promote to their readers. Beneath a Waning Moon is their most recent duo release.

SHARED PROMOTIONS

Many authors have found that gathering a group of similar authors to share promotions can greatly increase their reach. Whether it’s doing a book giveaway for the holidays or putting together a Facebook reader event, collaborating with others increases the fun, and the potential success, of your project.

CONNECT

The best way to make things happen is to connect with similar authors (the more similar the better in terms of genre and where you are in your careers) and start building connections. Form up or find groups on your social media networks, and start putting ideas out there. Be proactive, fearless, and creative. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of ways to use our power as authors to collaborate and innovate. The next big thing is out there – maybe just waiting for you to invent it!

How to Make Your Boxed Set a Success

Boxed sets are a great way to boost your visibility on ebook retailers and can be a good source of extra income, but what does it take for a boxed set to find success? I’ve been in boxed sets since the beginning and I’ve had flops as well as wild successes. Here’s how to avoid flopping.

 

1.High concept drives sales.

Gone are the days of slapping any ol’ group of stories together. For a boxed set to sell well now, it has to have a hook beyond the fact that it is a 99 cent mega deal. There are enough boxed sets for sale that readers can be picky. Give them a reason to pick yours.

My last boxed set (now unpublished) was a mash-up of the Outlander trend with shifter romance. Titled Highland Shifters, the set hit the USA Today bestseller list and part of its success was due to having a very tight concept that was instantly communicated via the cover.

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Marketing: The Landing Page – A Tip for Authors

December 7, 2015

WTF* is a Landing Page?

You may have heard this marketing buzz term a lot lately: Landing Page. This has been touted as the go-to place to send your customers to buy what you have to sell. Color me lethargic, but I didn’t get it right away. However, the light has just blinked on for me about this wonderful tool. I’m thinking if I was a little slow to catch on, some other authors might be, too!!

This article will cover how to use landing pages to…

  • Drive people to join a mailing list (we should always be building that mailing list)
  • Cast a wide net to build a diverse reader base
  • Make life easy for your readers, for you and for your marketing efforts

So, what does all this mean? Allow me to break it down for you in pieces.

Mailing List

If you haven’t read my series on Mailing Lists and Why They’re Important, then I recommend you do so at your earliest convenience. I not only describe why it’s important, but I show you how you can create a “reader club” to keep their interest, without annoying the heck out of them. AND I answer the common question: Great…now that I have a mailing list, what the hell do I do with it?

But if you’re pressed for time, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version of it:

If built properly, a quality mailing list is your pool of fans to whom you can market your books whenever you have a new release or need their participation.

It has to be a give and take relationship, though. That’s where the “reader club” comes in. So read the article linked above to get all the juicy details.

Building a Diverse Reader Base

Amazon would love nothing more than to have all indie authors selling their books exclusively through them. That’s what the KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited programs are all about.

NEWS FLASH: BAD BUSINESS DECISION

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