The Best Ways to Sell Books Online And Elsewhere

January 17, 2015 in Articles, Book Marketing

I came across an article the other day titled ‘The Top Seven Ways to Advertise Your Book’ and credit where credit is due, it wasn’t a bad list at all for anyone looking for the best ways to sell books online. In a nutshell the information came under the following categories, seven of them, which I would think is what you would expect given the title.

  1. using an email signature line to promote your books every time you send an email
  2. book tour sites, where you take your books on a virtual tour
  3. promotional sites that exist entirely to promote books and are known for that
  4. generic specific promotional sites i.e. sites that promote very specific genres. Presumably genres that are in high demand in their own right
  5. through your own blog and website. There are free ones available as well as ones which you have to pay for, so it can be a cheap option in terms of cash, if not time!
  6. by creating social media profiles and engaging with people interested in your writings
  7. using a newsletter and generating an email  list of people that subscribe to the newsletter
best ways to sell books online

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Obviously the article goes into these different suggestions with a bit more detail and suggestions, so if the list is in anyway appealing it might be worth having a look at what the suggestions are, bearing in mind some of it is self promoting of sites set up for the purpose of generating advertising revenue, but we do live in a commercial world. Personally I don’t have a problem with that and you never know, you may generate more money than you spend. Only one way to find out unfortunately.

I did think it was quite a good article for anyone thinking about self publishing a book to market over the Internet and there are articles on this site that have taken a similar stance:

So we have talked about the best ways to sell books online, but what about the old ways of working, book publishers, newspaper & magazine articles, straight forward advertising in journals, magazines and the papers. It does beg the question… do these methods still have a place in the modern world?

If you consider that the trick to selling books is visibility i.e. getting the cover in front of as many potential customers as possible, then there are at least two aspects to consider:

  1. produce the book in as many formats as possible, ebooks, hardcopy and audio for example
  2. utilising as many media channels as you can

It is the second of the two that brings us back to how you sell books offline and for this I am going to refer to another article I found discussing advertising via magazines and newspapers. The article asks the question Is newspaper and magazine advertising still a viable option? The conclusion seems to be that it certainly is and it goes on to provide the following 10 tips for advertising in hard copy:

  1. make the headline the advert for the advert. I really like that and to be honest it applies to all types of publishing and advertising, the headline simply has to grab the attention of the reader
  2. where your advert is placed in the publication. You may think this simply refers to it perhaps having to be on the front or back page, but not always the case apparently. Sometimes it pays to be in with the crowd or in this case the section that talks about books, authors and reviews
  3. getting the copy(text) right, again a universal requirement I would say, wherever copy is being being published
  4. key feature, i.e. what your book offers and the reason the customer should buy it
  5. using positive customer reviews, someone else’s recommendation is always better than your own. Especially if it is a happy customer
  6. including a picture, perfect for books and emphasises the need for a professionally designed cover that demonstrates a quality product
  7. use a call to action, tell them what to do and often they will
  8. solve their problem e.g. do you need entertainment on holiday, what about a book that is easy to read and  can be put down and picked up when you have a hour or two to kill
  9. promote your offline presence through your online presence and visa-versa
  10. test and test again, you may not be able to that in real time as there are costs associated with advertising, but you can ask friends, family and colleagues what they think of your advert and use their feedback to help you get it right

So once again another very good article with some great advice and, as before, you can of course get more detail in the article itself by going through the link above.

So what of publishers? A good publisher will be employing all of the techniques discussed here to get their authors that all important visibility, so what is good for the goose tends to be good for the gander.

Of course another way to use newspapers and magazines is to get an article published for free. There are likely to be many editors actively searching for copy for their publications, so with the correct format and written in a way that a professional journalist would write, there is a possibility that publicity can be gained for free or perhaps might even pay. The subject of another post possibly.

The First Rule of Marketing – Never Give Up

October 2, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions

virtual book shelvesHow many authors put true blood, sweat and tears into writing their books. Hours of research, editing and re-editing, proofreading and formatting. Finally their book is ready to publish and then it is all systems go.

Friends and family are enlisted to help promote the book, reviews are sought and provided (hopefully of the verified purchaser variety) and some initial sales are made. Then the ideas run out, the social media buzz goes quiet and what looked like a promising start seems to wither on the vine……sales stop altogether. Months go by and there isn’t a single sale.

So what do you do now, Give Up?

For a hard copy book sitting on the  shelves of book stores, this would have been the death knell, the books would be removed from the shelves to make room for more popular varieties, books that are actually selling. Even publishers and bookstores need to make a living and a book that is not selling does not turn a profit – they have to go.

Traditional publishing is where books, printed in large quantities at equally large cost, must either sell or become door stops. Also if the demand for these books has waned, a commercial decision has to made about whether a further print run is likely to result in a profit or it is simply time to take them out of print.

But that is not the case for ebooks or print on demand, there is no physical stock to carry or to take prime spot on a bookshelf. These books sit on a virtual bookshelf that is of unlimited size and are always, as they say analogically…..in print.

Authors and publishers of ebooks and print on demand books have a huge advantage over traditional publishing for this reason and that is why you must never give up promoting books that are still available in digital format or can be printed on a one off basis at reasonable cost.

It has to be said, the best chance you have of taking a book to best seller status, with Amazon in particular,  is in it’s early days after initial publication, getting a second or third wind underway is always more difficult. But not impossible.

Marketing ebooks successfully is about having a marketing plan, one that takes into account the initial launch and then, equally importantly, ongoing and long term promotion.

Initial Considerations for Marketing eBooks Successfully

eBooks are like any other products that need to be sold, they have to appeal to a specific market and be visible to that market. So how do you do that exactly?

First of all, whether you are writing a reference or a fictional book, you need to think about exactly who will want to read your book. In many ways that is easier to do for reference books, because you are writing about a topic of specific interest and if you do it well, so that you answer questions and solve problems, then there is a good chance with enough visibility that people will buy those books, especially in a highly sought after topic.

Fiction is a little more difficult because they are made up stories, but they still need to be approached in the same way. For example, if you are writing for children, young adults, lovers of horror or action adventure. The book should be written to appeal to those audiences and not alienate them in any way. For example you cannot write a children’s book and then include some explicit sexual content, a bit of an extreme example admittedly but used to make the point. Mistakes of this type will mean you cannot market to your intended audience. So when you are writing a book, stay true to the theme, if it is intended for young adults or is in a specific genre try and make sure it meets that objective for the entire book.

Identifying Search Keywords

The second aspect of book marketing is about visibility, or being found by your target audience. Here there is a need to consider a little bit of search engine science i.e. it is necessary to think about how people search for books on the Internet, even on sites like Amazon or Kobo.

One of the simplest ways to find a book is to search using specific words. In search engine world, these are called keywords (or sometimes tags). It is always a good idea to identify keywords that people use to search for books that are relevant to your book. One way to do that is to make a list of keywords that you think are relevant to your book and then go to an Amazon site and start to type those words into the search box. Below there is an example of how Amazon use predictive text, based on previous searches, to try and lead you to the product you are searching for.

Marketing Ebooks

You don’t know how many people type the specific search terms listed, but you do know they are real searches that have been entered previously. So if you can find the best ones i.e. the ones highly relevant to your book, you can list them ready for potential use confident in the knowledge that people are using those terms to look for products. I say products because the searches relates to all of Amazon not just books, so just be sure you are selecting book related terms.

The second part of this exercise is to find out how much competition you are up against. So when you have your list of keyword phrases you should go back to Amazon and find out how many search results the keywords return.

Successful book promotion You can see from the result for the search term ‘The Whistleblower Affair’ that there are 49 results for that term.

Why is that important?

It is important because that is the number of books you are competing against for that specific search term or keyword phrase. What you should be trying to do is to find a mix of low to medium competition, especially for a new book. In other words you want to be more visible in the search results and a way to ensure that is not to be competing against too many other books.

Clearly as you make more sales, get more reviews and achieve more success for your book, your sales rank will increase and then you can consider going up against more competition. But until then it is better to operate in the low to medium competition arena.

A further aspect of this exercise is ensuring that your book is associated with a search term or keyword phrase. There are a couple of ways for doing that. The first is to use an allocated ‘search keyword’. Amazon allow you to add seven search keywords to your book details when you add it to the bookshelf. When you do this you will always be returned for that search keyword in the search results, although the critical aspect… is in what position?

This, as previously alluded to, will depend on the competition you are up against. Both in terms of how many but also in terms of sales rank. Amazon like to push books that are selling to the forefront, for obvious reasons the better sales rank books will be returned first. So the fewer books you are competing against the more likely it is you will be listed in a more visible search position.

The second way to get your book associated with a search term is to use those search terms in titles, headings and descriptions. There is no guarantee with this method, but it is a way to get your book listed beyond the seven allocated ‘search keywords’. Don’t be tempted just to stuff keywords into your descriptions and titles however, because you still want to appeal to a human audience and not alienate the people who actually buy the books. Just use this technique if it can be done naturally and, even better, provide you with an attention grabbing title or description.

Choosing Categories

Amazon allows independent publishers to select 2 categories from their large list of available categories. This is another key area for gaining much needed visibility. The best way of gaining a good position in a category is by being specific rather than adopting general categories. As with ‘search keywords’ you need to consider what is relevant to your book and how much competition you are up against. The reasons are once again to try and ensure you get that critical level of visibility where enough people actually see your book and are hopefully drawn into making a purchase.

romance competition Take ‘Romance’ as a category for example, you can see here that there are 170,462 books in the romance category. That is a lot of competition and unless your book is a top best seller it is unlikely that it will ever be given the light of day if this category is chosen.

romance-military-competition Military romance on the other hand immediately brings the competition level down to a more reasonable 3,186 books in competition. Still a big number but at least a half chance, if you get some sales, of being visible and there are other categories with even less competition. But remember you book does need to fit under the category chosen, so go for at least one category that is relevant with the least amount of competition and select another that is possibly even more relevant but has more competition. That way you get a good mix for advancing the number of potential sales and for ensuring you gain at least some visibility.

Also don’t constrain yourself to fiction only, if your book is relevant to a non-fiction topic and that looks like a better opportunity, give it a try. If it doesn’t produce any sales you can always change it after a reasonable trial period.

Why this is important, for Amazon anyway, is that you may be able to achieve  the much coveted top 100 listing, that gives your book higher standing and extra visibility through being included in list promotions for Amazon’s best sellers.amazon-best-sellers

If your sales are flagging or have dried up completely it is not too late to go back to basics and if you haven’t performed these exercises then why not do it now? You may just stumble on some way of sparking sales, even if it means a new title, description or choice of search keywords and categories. It really is never too late to get these basics right.

More information on successful book marketing can be found in these articles:

 

photo credit: Zenobia Gonsalves via photopin cc

Goodreads – A Good Choice for Authors

August 5, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions

social media for booksIt has to be said there are social media sites and there are social media sites for independent publishers, authors and writers. Goodreads fits into the latter category. Why? Because that is where book lovers hang out, writers and readers.

Now if you are a writer then there is one thing you will be desperate for and, yes, that is readers.

Goodreads then should definitely be on your list of social media sites, because in reality that is the biggest social media site for book readers. Yes of course you will also find them on Facebook, Google+, Twitter etc. But they could be on those sites for any number of reasons. For example they may be there to stay in touch with family or be keeping up to speed with friends old and new or they may simply be promoting their business or looking for services.

But one thing you know for sure, if they are on Goodreads, is that they have either written or published a book and are promoting it, or they are there looking for the next good book to read. They are not going to be there discussing the great family party the night before, or asking you to play Candy Crush. No, there is only one reason people register on Goodreads and that is books.

Don’t get me wrong, you can find groups on all the social media sites that talk about and are interested in books and of course you can try and interact with those groups to see if you can find readers. In fact when you have time you should probably do that.

But on Goodreads you know you have an audience that is genuinely interested in books, a captive audience for all intents and purposes. Plus you have all the Goodreads tools at your disposal, you can for example:

  • add your books with all the relevant information
  • share the status of the book
  • recommend it to groups of friends or followers
  • create custom shelves for specific genres
  • create posts for your own blog
  • start discussions about a book
  • create quizzes for a bit of visitor interaction
  • share your book news using the various widgets that are available to embed it in your own blog or website

All this is completely free of charge. Plus of course you can be talking about, recommending and categorizing the books you like or have published and adding them to Listmania lists so readers can find them, not to mention the review feature of Goodreads which is the most basic function of the site.

Goodreads Social Media for Books

Authors can even sell their books on Goodreads or upload an epub or pdf file to allow Goodreads members to read the whole book or an excerpt from the book. This functionality is found via the author page, which you can only have if you have written and published a book.

Of course you have to remember that the site is primarily intended for book lovers to share and recommend their book experiences and no-one wants to be bored to death by a writer with only one obvious and sole intention – to sell their book.  I am afraid that even on a social site for books you will have to behave appropriately, perhaps even share your opinion about someone else’s book ~ heaven forbid ~ so that people can see you actually have an interest in books beyond your own or just trying to sell them.

I am sure I have probably forgotten some of the services that Goodreads offers to both writers and readers, but you should be getting my gist. If you have a genuine interest in books and want to find other people that share that interest, then Goodreads is a great place to do it. Plus if you approach it in that way i.e. show you have a real interest in books, then you will soon find that people warm to you and, after a while, they might even buy some of your books.

So if you are a writer or publisher and you have books you would like to promote – what are you waiting for. Goodreads is one of the best marketing tools you have available.

Related Posts

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Eight Real Reasons Why Books Don’t Sell!

April 4, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing

Why Books Don't SellMany authors, who have huge aspirations for their books, can suddenly come down to earth with a bump.

My books just don’t sell!

But does that mean you should just give up?…………. first of all you need to consider why they are not selling and what you can do about it.

Review the questions below and answer them honestly…..they might just
give you a clue to where things are going wrong! 

Number 1Have you had your book properly edited and proof read? Is it really OK to try and sell a book that hasn’t been subjected to the scrutiny of an unbiased and independent third party.

When you write a book and try to edit it or proof read it yourself you have a tendency to see what you meant to say, rather than what you actually say, it’s as simple as that. This means that you will nearly always miss the little errors and lack of continuity that an independent assessment can usually spot immediately.

game overWhy independent and unbiased? Because family and friends will not want to upset you and may not tell you the truth about your book. You really need to employ the services of someone that just wants to help you improve your book and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth about what you have written. Fail to take this simple step and I am afraid it could be …..

 

Number 2

Have you commissioned a professionally designed book cover? When you publish your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo or any of the other major distributors, the first thing a potential buyer sees is an image of your book, usually as a thumbnail. It is your first chance to grab their attention. Get this wrong and your book can fade into the background, passed over, never to be seen again.

Take the time to visit your genre on Amazon or any one of the other sites and look to see what the covers of the best sellers look like, how they stand out from the crowd. Clearly it is not a good idea to make an exact copy, but you can certainly get an idea about what colours, font and format are working best. Also remember the cover has to work both as a thumbnail and as a larger image on your book detail page. Just stop and think, will your hand drawn or painted cover really cut the mustard?

Number3Have you thought about your categories and tags? Choosing the correct categories and tags for your book is another essential element to success. Categories are the equivalent of the bookshelf you decide to put your book onto. Would you put your book onto the history shelf if it is a fictional romantic comedy for example? The answer is clearly ‘No’, and in this example it is glaringly obvious. But sometimes it is not so obvious, although even much more subtle differentiation can have a disastrous effect if you disappoint your readers. So choose wisely and relevantly.

Tags are another name for the search terms people enter into the search box when looking for a book to read, they are equally as important, if not more so, as categories. There are 2 aspects to this topic, first of all the chosen tags need to be relevant to your book and its genre and the second is that ideally they should be terms people are using to search for a book.Amazon Keywords or TagsOne way of finding out what people are searching for is to use the predictive text function of the search boxes in Amazon i.e. when you start to type into the search box, Amazon start to make suggestions. Those suggestions are based on what other people have previously typed into the search boxes, in other words they are tags people are regularly searching for.  If you can find tags that are highly relevant to your book then it follows they might be good tags to associate with your book. A Kindle book lets you enter up to seven tags in your book details. Choose the right tags and you will exponentially increase your chances of being found by your  buying audience.

Number 4Does your description grab the attention of potential buyers? When you write a description for your book it is like writing an advert. Assuming your cover image has generated enough interest to bring a potential buyer to your detail page now is your chance to wow! them with what your book can do for them. There will be people that don’t want or even like your book, don’t worry about them, focus on the people that are likely to want it. Tell them what it is about, let them know it is for them and include a ‘call to action’ e.g. ask them to look inside,  pose a question that suggests they need to find out more or simply ask them to go ahead and buy it.

reference book marketingAdditionally, if you are writing reference books it is a good idea to add why you are qualified to write on your topic of choice. Demonstrate your authority and expertise so that potential  buyers are clear that you know what you are talking about.

Don’t be shy about adding a good review into your description as well, if you have had a good review that you think hits the spot, make sure people can see it.

Number 5Are your selling price expectations realistic? I know if you have written a good book that you will have put many hours of toil and effort into the process, but unfortunately that really isn’t the point!

What is the point is where your book sits in the market place and whether it offers good value for money in the eyes of a potential buyer.

They may like everything you have done in terms of the cover, the description and the first few chapters you have written. But if they believe it is over priced they are highly likely to leave your book on the virtual shelf and go to look for an equally impressive offering at a better price.

Your audience really is that fickle, they will always be looking for a bargain, especially when it comes to a digital offering! That doesn’t mean you have to give your book away either, you just need to be sensible. Examine your genre/category look for other books of a similar size, in terms of the number of pages, and authors with a similar status to yourself i.e. don’t compare yourself to an established best selling author with a range of books, unless you are one. Then price your book as competitively as you can against similar books.

To give you an insight into what eBooks tend to sell for take a look at this quote from Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords,  about eBook prices……. his numbers are based on actual sales:

  • $3.00 to $3.99 seems to be the price that brings the highest reward on average i.e. books sell well at that price and in sufficient quantities to return a better yield than books at any other price
  • $1.00 to $1.99 seems to be the price that provides the least reward on average

So if you are struggling to make a reasonable comparison and you are still at a loss, perhaps you can use these figures as a guide.

Number 6Have you made your book available in multiple formats? Different people read books in lots of different formats, printed books are still very popular but digital format is the now ‘not so new’ kid on the block that has taken the publishing world by storm, whether that is independent publishing or traditional publishing. Clearly the more formats you can offer your book in, the wider the audience you can reach out to. This is all a part of having a bigger footprint in the marketplace. For authors it concerns perhaps offering the book as a printed book, an audio book and of course a digital book. The latter comes with even more options, ePub being the main contender outside of the world of Amazon and KF8 being the new standard for Amazon’s ebooks for Kindle and Kindle Fire that has taken over from AZW; a proprietary version of the mobi format that was used exclusively by Amazon before KF8.

The bottom line then…. to make more sales – give your customers what they want.

More on this later when we discuss how many books you publish and why having more books published can bring you more sales, beside the most obvious reasons.

Number 7Have you got any reviews for your book? Potential customers need a little bit of a prompt and what better prompt is there than an honest review from a satisfied reader!

Notice I said ‘satisfied reader’ not customer. The reason for this is that you may have to accept the fact that, to get reviews, you have to give your book away to some people, especially if you are a brand new author. This is a perfectly legitimate thing to do and reviews do get included in search algorithms on major book distributor sites. So having reviews along with sales is extremely important when it comes to being returned in their search results.

book-reviewsAmazon have taken this a stage further and they actually give more weight to reviews provided by verified purchasers. I think the reason for that is fairly obvious, a satisfied (or unsatisfied) customer is more likely to give an honest appraisal of something they had to pay for.

Clearly good reviews are what everyone wants, but you should not be too disheartened by the odd bad review, you cannot please everyone and there are occasions when what someone says in a bad review may prompt someone else to make a purchase. For example if one person complains that a book was too short and lighthearted, another person may buy the book because they are looking for an easy read with which to kill a few hours.

You don’t have to rely on friends and relatives for reviews either, there are review sites on line where people looking for a free book will offer a review in return. There are also book bloggers that will offer a similar service, although the best ones are usually overwhelmed with offers so it can sometimes be difficult to get a review using this method.

Another way many authors gain reviews is by simply having a free promotion period i.e. you set a time when you give your book away and you publicize it as much as possible to get as many books out there as you can (Note: you can only do this on Amazon if you are enrolled in KDP Select).

You can never brow beat people into providing a review, but if you can get enough copies read there is usually a percentage that will come back and review the book for the benefit of others. Especially if you ask them to at the end of your book when it is still fresh in their minds.

Number 8How many books have you published? When you speak to an avid book reader and you ask them what is the first thing they do when they have just finished reading a book they really enjoyed? The answer is invariably that they look for another book by the same author. It is the nature of the beast, they want more of the same. If you haven’t  got another book for them to read then you will just have lost a sale.

One way to mitigate that problem is to try and keep a list of your readers from your social media activities or even better a list of subscribers to your own blog. Then when you do get around to writing another book you can at least email them and let them know there is another book available. Some authors will actually wait until they have more than one book to publish before they press the publishing button, this can be a particularly good strategy if you are planning to write a series of related books.

Other than that you just have to get them out fast and furious. One writer I know who has done that very successfully is David Leadbeater, actually to the extent that he now writes and publishes books full time for his living.

Another aspect to having more books published is that you have a more significant footprint on the distributor site, similar to the multi-format discussion mentioned earlier. With a bigger presence on the distributor site you have more chance of potential customers finding you and providing them with what they are looking for.

This is even more true of those readers who like to seek out more of the same from authors they like. With a single book offering, they may simply pass you by.

Also when you publish a second novel, it may be the one that pushes all the right buttons and takes off. I think it is fair to say that if that happens then there will be a natural draw towards previous books that may not have initially been so successful. Publishing a second or third book could then be considered a great marketing tool and for many authors may mean the difference between success and failure.

So there you have it, eight of the main reasons books don’t sell and we haven’t even talked about book promotion in any detail.  Many authors hate the marketing aspects of publishing books, so in a related article I describe exactly why authors that want to sell their books cannot afford to be shrinking violets

Images courtesy of photoXpress.com

46 Top Websites to Promote Your Book for FREE

January 8, 2014 in Articles, Book promotions

Dear Reader: This list of websites, which we compiled in March 2012, grew in the meantime to almost 100. Please visit our two new blog posts with even more possibilities to announce your work for free:

Read More……

Also don’t forget that by creating a simple video you can promote your books on the world’s second biggest search site http://www.youtube.com/user/ebookissues Just like this one:

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