Sunday, November 13, 2016

Book Review: Kindle Success Hacks business realities insider secrets

If you're struggling to make more sales (and aren't we all?), this book may provide the necessary spark you need to ignite your sales.

Be forewarned, the book doesn't contain any new ideas, tips, or suggestions - but the author does put his own spin on many oldies, but goodies. And, I think he'd be the first to admit, that's not all bad. In the section on book titles, Morgan reminds us, " not necessarily 'originality.'" Borrow portions of titles that have worked for other authors, and piece them together, so they make browser's stop, and ask themselves - is this book worth reading?

For me, the most useful section focused on book descriptions. I don't know how many times I've just said the hell with it, and cut and pasted a pertinent section from my book. Needless to say, it rarely works out for the best.

Morgan suggests the key to an effective book description is curiosity. Give readers just enough to whet their appetite, and make them ask - What comes next?

If you can make your description irresistible, sales will follow.

As far as book reviews, Morgan says you need them, and sticks with the time-tested minimum of six. That gives you three expanded reviews and three more abbreviated reviews to the right of the others. As far as getting reviews, he "poo-poo's" contacting Amazon Top Reviewers. From my own experience this ploy hardly ever works - unless they've reviewed one of your other books. Then it's worth a shot.

Pricing is a crapshoot, no matter how you look at it.

Some people will buy your book at 99 cents, some at $2.99, and a smaller number of people will buy it at $9.99. A few years back Steve Scott wrote a book, Is 99 Cents the New Free? At that time it was, or at least, it seemed to work. Today major publishers are jumping into the fray, launching new books at $1.99 for just a few days, and the strategy appears to be working.

Will it work for you?

All I can say is give it a whirl. Some books will take off, some won't. Accept that price is just one piece of the puzzle.

Morgan's suggestion on audiobooks somewhat scares me. He says authors should read their own books, not engage professional talent. For most of us, I think that would be a major faux pax. I've always used a professional narrator. And unless you've got an amazing voice, I would suggest you do the same.

The final section of the book was written by Derek Doepker, a professional book coach, who has written numerous books on self-publishing.

He gives seven key tips every author needs to know. Number one is the most important: "People aren't buying what you say, they're buying HOW you say it."

Face it. There's nothing new under the sun.

The only difference is you!

It's your spin on an old idea that makes it intriguing. Your voice and style are what bring a story to life. Many books about history come off as stiff and droll, but they don't have to be that way. In his books about the old west, Mark Lee Gardner brings the characters to life, by talking about his lifelong interest in the subject matter. About going to reenactments of the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid. And, then he goes into the story, giving intimate details of the locations where the stories took place, which we all know are accurate because he told us in advance that he had retraced every step of the territory. Kenneth Roberts is another author who turned the world upside down with his spin on historical events in the 1930s and 1940s. He reinvented Benedict Arnold, transforming him from a traitor to the hero he was before that fateful day at West Point. His books were packed with details only someone intimately familiar with the locales would know.

You make the story. Nick Vulich might tell a boring story about Alexander the Great, but someone familiar with the territory, and ancient Greek history could bring the story to life.

Kindle Success Hacks is a short book, it's not packed with details, but it's definitely worth a look.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Another Look At Free Book Promotions With KDP

If anyone had told me four years ago I'd be spending thousands of dollars a year to promote my books, I would have told them they were frigging nuts. But anymore, it seems as if you can't get any traction on Amazon if you don't throw out some cash to prime the pump.

I've tried most of the book promotion services out there, and let me tell you - the majority of them are a total waste of time and money.

I used to think Free Book Service was the real thing. The guys there got me hooked when they offered me a free promotion for my book eBay Business Expert. I got to tell you, it was pretty exciting watching the Amazon ticker climb. Every time I refreshed my browser, the total jumped another 500 or 1,000 copies. By the time it was over, I had received 8900 free downloads in a matter of hours. The whole thing was something like magic. Here's the problem with magic. It seems to have a limited duration. When my book went back to paid, I sold less than nine copies over the next week.

I tried it again with another one of my books, Life Without the BS. I plunked down $189 for that promotion. Again, it was amazing the way those books flew off the digital shelves at Amazon. And, this time I did sell nearly one hundred copies over the next month, and I got a good number of page reads. Better yet, I broke even and turned that book into a bestseller--of sorts. It wiggled between number one and two in the political humor category on Amazon for nearly four weeks. I consider that a win.

I used Free Book Service again when I launched History Bytes last July. I plunked down nearly $400 for that promotion. In return for my money, the guys promised at least 15,000 downloads. I ended up with just over 37,000 downloads over a three day period, so I'd call that a win. By the time the promotion was over, my book had ranked number three in the Kindle Free Store. Over the next month, History Bytes ranked between number two and three in several history categories on Amazon.

I gotta tell you, I was flying high. My book was up there selling with the likes of Stephen Ambrose and Bill O'Reilly. Not too shabby for a relative newbie to the writing game. And, I made several thousand dollars to boot, so overall, it was money well spent.

I doubled down and tried another $400 promotion for Indie Authors Toolbox. I could have just as well flushed my money down the crapper. I gave a lot of books away, and the book reached number three in the Kindle Free Store - the same as History Bytes. The only problem was, I only sold twenty-two copies over the next month.

I stopped using Free Book Service after that, not so much because of lagging sales, but because they appear to have a bad rep on Amazon. Google "free book service" and "scam," and you'll see a lot of bad mumbo jumbo about people getting their books yanked from Amazon after using the service, or getting warnings from Amazon. I don't know. I never had any problems with that. I think Free Book Service needs to address the issues on their website, so more people will feel comfortable using them.

Here's my take on the thing. If you want to give away a truckload of free books, Free Book Service will get it done. If you want to drive sales and reviews, I'm not so sure.

Anymore, I stick with three proven services to launch my books. They have a smaller upfront price and give me a pretty big bang for my buck.

If you're on a limited budget, BKnights on Fiverr is a great option. They're only five bucks, and I always get several hundred downloads when I use them. They also offer a promotion service for paid books. It works pretty well if you price your book at 99 cents. When I priced my books at $2.99, it didn't give me the bump I wanted.

I just started using James H. Mayfield Book Promotions in the last few months, and let me tell you, I like the results. They're not massive, but I can usually expect 400 to 600 extra downloads. The most recent one-day promo I did for History Bytes, using just James H. Mayfield Book Promotions, pulled in 912 downloads. Not too shabby - $13.00 is a bargain, based on those results. 

Another book promotion service I really like is Freebooksy. They have a sliding fee schedule based on the genre your book is listed in. Promo prices can range from $40 to $200. It's a good sized chunk of change to drop on a book promo, but every time I've used them I've gotten good results. I've never gotten less than 2100 downloads, and the last time I promoted History Bytes, I received 8900 downloads. Better yet, I sold almost 1,000 copies in the month after the promotion. 

The Freebooksy people also offer another service for paid book promotion. It's called Bargain Booksy, and let me tell you. It works. About a month after my free book promo for History Bytes, I ran a Bargain Booksy Deal at 99 cents. Over five days I sold close to 300 copies and got a good deal of page reads to boot. The best day for that promo was 91 sales. Another win.

The month after that I promoted Killing the Presidents. I gave away nearly 2100 books over five days, but sales were disappointing. Over the next 30 days, I only sold six or seven copies and received about 3500-page reads

With all that said, what would I recommend?

Promote your book. Promote it often. But, be careful which books you promote. Killing the Presidents, and Indie Authors Toolbox weren't selling before I promoted them. That didn't change much after I promoted them. My guess is a dog is a dog. People will take it for free, but once you put a price tag on it, they're going to see it for what it is. Let it go, and write another book.

Here's the way I do it now. 

I schedule a three-day promotion. The first day I run a promotion with James H. Mayfield and BKnights. That primes the pump and starts my book climbing up the ranks. The next two days I run my Freebooksy promo, and that really heats things up.

Try it for yourself. Shake things up a bit. Develop a system that works for you.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Book Review: Write. Publish. Repeat. Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, with David Wright.

I get it. Time is tight. You’re already bogged down with work, and family obligations. How are you ever going to find five hours to commit to reading a book you’re not sure is going to solve your book marketing problems. It’s a dilemma most self-publishers find themselves in now and again.

Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

Over the next several months I'm going to review seven books guaranteed to relieve your pain and help get your book sales back on track.

Write. Publish. Repeat. Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, with David Wright.

The title pretty much says it all. The secret to making money as an author is to write a book, publish it, and get started writing your next book. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but one book isn’t going to cut it if you want to make it as an indie author.

With that said, what’s the biggest takeaway from the book? “You can outwork luck.”

Seriously. Being a success as an indie author isn’t easy. Everyone likes to say, E. L. James, Hugh Howie, and J. K. Rowling were lucky. Maybe they were. But, what most people don’t see is the years of hard work each of these authors put in behind the scenes, and all the failed books these writers published before that good luck kicked in.

What’s that mean for you?

You can keep wishing for some good karma, but if you want to make it as a writer, you’ve got to pay your dues and make your own luck. The authors talk about an epiphany moment they had walking through Barnes and Noble. They compare a visit to the bookstore to being lost in a big city you’re unfamiliar with. You’ve got to follow the signposts to find the general section you’re looking for, and then once you’re there, it’s still a matter of poke and hope. Some books are face out so you can see the cover, but the majority of them are spine out, meaning if you’re lucky—you may be able to read its title. That’s when it came to the authors. “If a reader already likes you, a bookstore’s size is irrelevant.” Let that sink in for a moment. According to an article published in Digital Book World, an average Barnes and Noble store carries upwards of 200,000 books.

How in the hell is anyone going to find your book in that mishmash of books, videos, and literary toys?

It’s not going to happen, unless—you stack the odds in your favor. How do you do that? The authors suggest you can be wildly successful if you can muster up just “1,000 raving fans.” One thousand fans who will read every word you publish, tell their friends and family about your books, and who will anxiously await the release of your next title.

How do you do it?

The key to success in self-publishing is your email list. It’s how you stay connected with your fans. You’ve got to tell them what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, and what new and exciting projects are waiting for them in your pipeline. Many successful authors bounce book ideas off their mailing list. Steve Scott constantly polls his email list, asking readers what questions they have, what they would like to know, and he tips them off about sales on his books and books from his friends. Rob Cubbon does something similar, asking readers which covers they like best, and what information they want to know more about. Rob and Steve both publish quarterly income reports, letting readers see the ups and downs you’re going to face as an indie author.

You can do the same thing by building your own email list.

Keep in mind, everyone starts with one fan and grows their list from there. Each book you publish will attract a new group of readers, until you reach, and then exceed the 1,000 fan mark. Share your best ideas with your fanbase. Offer them free copies of your newest books in exchange for honest reviews. Share freely. Let them know about other books and events that may interest them, and they will repay you with loyalty.

Write. Publish. Repeat. Is a book every indie author should read. If you’re pressed for time, you can skip through the first hundred and fifty pages, and cut right to the meat and potatoes of the book. If you want the full experience, read the entire book.