This blog post is the first in a new series I am writing called Craft & Marketing Talk. As the name suggests, I’ll be discussing the craft and marketing side of being an Indie author. I’m by no means an expert in either subject, but I’ve had some success in the sense that I’ve won awards and been a best selling author multiple times.
I’ve had a number of published and aspiring authors ask me questions about my personal journey and strategy. It would be impossible to answer all queries individually, but many of the questions have similar themes. And so, I thought a series of blog posts on the subjects that people ask about most might be useful.
Before I go any further, a caveat. The strategies I will discuss work for me personally that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. I strongly advise people to take their own path. After all, that’s what I did. I read thousands of blog posts and have listened to countless hours of podcasts in order to gain my own knowledge. Some things I heard worked, some didn’t. Sometimes I recognised a strategy that would work for a mainstream author, but not for myself in the F/F romance market. My main piece of advice for anyone is to try and test every strategy yourself. Some things will work, some won’t. A successful strategy is created by analysing what you know, not what you have been told or think you know, but what you can substantiate through facts and figures… or a solid gut feeling!
I’ll try to include as much data and detail as possible to explain why I do what I do, and hopefully, that will give you enough data to make your own decisions on whether or not my way will work for you. If you have a topic you would like me to address in a future blog, please leave a comment in the comments section below. Or pop into my Facebook author group and let me know there!
Book Release Strategy
So, you’ve just written a new book. It’s been edited, it has a killer cover and a kick-ass description. Perfect. So, you just hit publish and wait for the sales to come rolling in, right? Or, if you’re with a publisher, you sit back and let them hit publish and then wait for the royalty check… yes?
Um. No. Sadly, that’s not going to work.
Sure you might get a few sales. Or you might get a lot, if you’re an existing author with an established readership. But it’s not a strategy and, if you want to be successful, you need a strategy. Releasing a book for the first time is a very important day, it’s highly likely that it’s the best chance you’ll have of making that book successful without spending a lot of money.
Yes, you can perform book CPR with advertising such as a BookBub Featured Deal… but it’s better to have a successful launch straight out the gate rather than have to drop the price of your book and pay BookBub hundreds of dollars to get the book to a higher rank.
Controversially for some, I’ve made the decision to keep all of my books in Kindle Unlimited. I explain what KU is and why I use it in some details in this blog, so check it out if you’re sketchy on the details. The reason for this is simple—Amazon is by far the biggest marketplace for authors. Yes, I agree that some readers don’t use Amazon and it’s a shame that I don’t get their business, but the simple fact of the matter is that I reach many more people on Amazon than I lose by not being wide in my distribution strategy.
My aim as an author is to get my book in front of as many prospective readers as possible. To do this, I have to accept that I must use Amazon.
Amazon rankings are massively important, every single book on Amazon is assigned an ABSR. If you go to any book product page on Amazon you’ll see this number in the product details, just above the category ranks. ABSR stands for Amazon Best Sellers Rank. This number feeds into everything on Amazon, it dictates where your book will be ranked in product categories.
Getting as high as you can in product categories means that more people will see your book. If you have that killer cover and kick-ass description we just mentioned, then they’ll want to buy your book. It’s really as simple as that. Get your fantastic book in front of people’s eyes when they are browsing the charts (in other words, in a buying mood) then they may well buy your book.
And it’s a circle. Because the more people who buy (or read through KU) your book, the better the data that goes into your ABSR. A sale boosts your ranking. A page read boosts your ranking. Being visible gives you more chance of finding readers. And so… numbers are essential.
If you want to be in the top ten in lesbian romance, or most Amazon categories, then you will probably need to be in KU. It’s very rare that a book outside of KU gets into the top ten. Some people will spend a lot of time and energy complaining about this, they’ll call Amazon an evil corporate monopoly and say that authors aren’t being paid a fair wage for their book. Meanwhile, those of us who use KU are at the top of the charts and getting huge amounts of visibility—for free.
Put it this way. I’d happily give a free copy of my book to a lesbian magazine. I don’t moan about the lost sale, I am happy for the possible publicity boost that will come from it. I view KU as a similar system, except I’m not giving anything away for free. I’m simply getting paid less than I would for a sale. Although, in my experience, the sheer volume of sales more than makes up for that loss.
Exclusivity Helps Rank
Another great thing about KU is that you have to be exclusive to Amazon. Some people see this as a negative, but for me it’s a great positive. Rank is important, so I want to get as many sales as possible through the Amazon platform. I don’t want 5 over at Kobo, 15 over at iTunes and 10 at my own store… I want all of those sales through Amazon because then they all work towards my rank.
I may make more profit when a book is sold on my site versus a book sold on Amazon, but the bigger picture is that the sale on Amazon pushes my book up the rankings. The Road Ahead has been out for just over a month now and it’s not been out of the top ten in all that time, it occupied the top position for two and a half weeks.
So… numbers matter.
I’m in KU because I know it gives me a better boost on my ABSR than not being in KU. The next step is preorders. In a word; don’t. If you put your book up for preorder, all of those sales are counted on the day of release—the day the book goes live. In terms of ranking, this is terrible. It’s a sharp spike, and then a drop.
Amazon likes books that look like they are increasing in sales, not having an amazing day and then a series of mediocre days.
If you don’t put your book up for preorder, it’s likely that people who would have preordered it will buy it over the course of a few days, not necessarily on the day of release. This gives Amazon the impression that your book is increasing in popularity and sales.
This is the end of part one of the Book Release Strategy. Next time I will talk about my actual marketing strategy for the launch of The Road Ahead, using the tools at my disposal to ensure a slow but successful launch that helped me to rank as highly as possible… and then maintain that spot.
I hope you found this blog post interesting, let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or if you have any topics for future Craft and Marketing blog posts!
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