I nearly titled this post “Eggs in One Basket? Not So Much,” but I thought it sounded a liiittttle cryptic. Yet this describes exactly how I’m feeling at the moment. I wish this post was about what I did to sell a million copies of my books. Instead, it’s about how I’m muddling my way through the morass of indie marketing opportunities and sales channels (and not selling a million books).
What follows are not commandments. What follows are observations.
1. Amazon ebook Sales Have Tanked for August – My sales dash is the Sahara Desert, folks, and the sand is stinging my eyes. Meanwhile, I’ve sold quite a few books (well, quite a few for me) on Barnes & Noble and through Create Space (on Amazon). Some people have suggested that Amazon is “flipping levers” and changing algorithms again. Others, who’ve seen NO dip in sales, say the rest of us are paranoid. It may have something to do with the tinfoil hat on my head… In all seriousness, it is a little suspicious that sales on other sites have remained constant (or gotten better) and sales on Amazon have tanked – not randomly in the middle of the month, but at the beginning. Along with many, many other authors’ sales.
I am very, very glad to have my ebook eggs spread out over a number of baskets. If not for other channels, my sales would have been dismal. At some point, I’d like to enable sales of my books through my website. This is on my long checklist of things to do, but I think it’s important. Even if sales pick up on Amazon again (they’ve got to, right? RIGHT?) it’s a wake-up call.
2. Cheaper Promotions Abound – As competition for indie dollars increases, the price for some promotions have gone down. For my first book launch in 2012, I paid handsomely for several different services, spending many hundreds of dollars. Now, you can upload your books to services like Story Cartel and for a mere $30, they get your book in front of more eyeballs – hopefully the right eyeballs – so that you can get more reviews. This is less than HALF of what I paid a less reputable company two years ago. No, no, no – I’m not paying for “good reviews.” I’m paying to get my book in front of people who want to review. Hopefully they like my book. If they don’t, that’s my problem.
My book, The Tell-Tail Heart, just went live on Story Cartel this morning. If you’re a member or want to become one, I’d love for you to download it or at least tweet it to help a sister out. As the promotion progresses, I’ll let you know the results. If the response rate is equal to or higher than 10%, Story Cartel is a winner. I’ve already downloaded a few books from them and the interface was very professional. They don’t have that “bootstrapped” look some sites have.
Also, too, we have ebook Soda and Fussy Librarian. I haven’t done a promo with them in a few months, so I don’t know if their lists are still effective. But they are VERY reasonably priced. Less than $10 a promo when I last checked. It’s been so long since I’ve even looked at Pixel of Ink or Bookbub that they’re not even on my radar any more.
3. New Tools Are Popping Up – Pre-orders on Amazon. Enough said. Then there’s a company called Hightail that author James Rollins uses to distribute his short “free” works to customers. I’ve already signed up for an account. When I get some “free” content created, I’ll be putting it out there. I think everyone knows about MailChimp, right? Even real chimps.
4. Channel-Specific Content May Be the Answer – People have been trying to get customers to “subscribe” to premium content since the dot com bubble burst. Then came Scribd and Oyster. But no one has done it like Amazon. And with so many customers. I haven’t jumped on the Kindle Unlimited bandwagon yet (see #1), but I probably will for some of my low sellers. And – THIS IS KEY – I will probably develop some KU-specific content that I can fork over to subscribers: short stories, little books, small projects – things that aren’t likely to make me tons of money stagnating on Smashwords. My big sellers (i.e., books with broad appeal) will remain across all channels.
5. Long is the New Long – As soon as short stories became the darling of the indie world, more and more people started cranking them out until even your four-year-old cousin informed you he’d posted something “up there.” Now there’s a glut of them and customers are once again demanding works of longer length. This doesn’t mean short is dead (FREE is dead, but that’s a different post). This worries me a little since I just stated in #4 that I would be creating MORE short content. But here’s the difference – short content isn’t the MEAT of my strategy, it’s the GRAVY. (cream gravy with lots of black pepper, if you must know)
6. “Also Boughts” are Great, But Personal Contact is Even Better – That’s my theory, anyway. I’ve spent so much time trying to get people in Canada to buy my books (love ya, Canada!) that I’ve neglected to nurture readers in my home town. Well, no more! Book signings, writing workshops, conferences… Only time will tell if these personal events will increase awareness enough to sell more of my books and built my platform. You can think of this as the artisanal, not mass market, approach to book selling. Will I abandon mass market? Heck no! I’m doubling down! (see #5) Think of it as expanding to yet another sales channel.
I know, I know. Many high-profile authors have shunned personal appearances and blogged about the futility of book signings (you probably know who I’m talking about). But the Amazon machine is on full-tilt for them. For me, that machine is on the fritz. So “low-tech” has become interesting.
As usual, success in indie marketing is all about doing “everything” at once. And all about staying focused on my writing. And all about cloning myself. I’m running out of hours in the day, people.
I would love to hear your thoughts on book marketing! What’s been effective for you, what’s not been effective.
Also, if you have a chance, I’d love for you to visit Story Cartel and download my book, The Tell-Tail Heart. Thank you!!!!