Figuring out how to sell books in 2020 means facing a pair of imposing challenges : the multiplying complexity of book marketing and — speaking of things rising exponentially — the global pandemic, which has led to lockdowns, recessions, as well as no small amount of tragedy.
And I want to focus on that second challenge for a moment — before we dive into all the ways that you can get your books into readers’ hands — because there is something rather different about this year.
Writers are generally quite fortunate in that they can work from home and sell books online and, for the moment at least, the digital side of the publishing business looks less exposed than the physical end.
Indeed, retailers and distributors are reporting a boost in ebook sales, and freebies in particular seem especially popular. Anecdotal reports concur, and also seem to confirm that there has been a surge in new entrants to the ebook market — which makes sense when people are stuck at home or less inclined to go browsing in meatspace, for painfully obvious reasons. Read More…
Also Boughts play an important role on Amazon, but it is one which is commonly misunderstood, because Also Boughts are much more important for what they represent. Which means you shouldn’t worry so much if they aren’t currently displaying on your book’s page — or even if they go away forever! — because Amazon’s giant recommendation engine will be completely unaffected.
That statement will spark some vehemently disagreement, I’m sure, but give me the opportunity to show you exactly what I mean.
Amazon makes millions of book recommendations to readers every single day — both on-site in various slots around the Kindle Store, and by email as well. These recommendations take many different forms. Some are very top-down, but most are either personalized for each individual reader, or contextual — based on what the reader is viewing at that moment, or the place they are in the Kindle Store, or an action they just performed.
Let me give you an example.
During the research process for the forthcoming second edition of Amazon Decoded, I conducted a number of simple experiments, which were quite revealing.
Have you ever noticed what happens when you buy a book in the Kindle Store? I mean, have you noticed what happens on-screen directly afterwards? Amazon never misses a trick, and as soon as you complete the purchase, a confirmation screen appears, recommending several more books of course.
Amazon is split-testing things all the time, of course, so you may see this play out slightly differently each time you purchase a book, but, commonly, you will see Amazon push the book in the #1 Also Bought slot pretty hard. Read More…
This blog has been a little quiet in 2020, but I’ve been beavering away at a veritable smorgasbord of stuff for authors which I can finally start talking about.
The headline news: three new books for authors, a huge surprise which isn’t book-shaped, and then lots more cool resources coming to this here website; let’s expose each of these projects to the merciless glare of publicity.
First out of the traps is Following: A Marketing Guide To Author Platform and it is FREE – exclusively available as a bonus when signing up to my mailing list – which you can do right here. (If you are an existing subscriber, check your inbox – you don’t miss out!) Read More…
Websites try to keep your attention as long as possible, but the stakes are higher on Facebook where a drop in engagement can cost millions of dollars. Or FACEBOOK as it now insists on calling itself, like a shouty man outside a pub.
Content which keeps people on Facebook – like video or pictures – gets much more organic reach than content which sends people away, such as a link to your books on Amazon. Not only that, Facebook will also give preference to content which is genuinely engaging.
Please note the emphasis.
Facebook doesn’t have an army of humans sifting through the billions of pieces of content on Facebook and giving a gold star to the best of it – AI does the heavy lifting here. The way the system measures engagement is necessarily crude: what is getting Likes, comments, and shares?
In simple terms, people want engaging content and Facebook wants to show them content with high engagement, so if you can post content which triggers good engagement levels, then that content will get much more visibility.
And visibility can be worth a lot of money, of course. Read More…
Having a big email list is great, but utterly pointless if your open rate is in the toilet. Quantity might get the headlines but it’s quality which pays the bills.
You need engaged subscribers, ones that care about getting your emails, people who open your messages and act on the contents. If you are putting effort into growing your subscriber count but not proactively taking steps to assist open rates, then all you’re really doing is bailing out your boat with a leaky bucket.
People often say things like “it’s natural for open rates to fall over time” – and that’s true… if you do nothing about it. Also, there are plenty of practices you might inadvertently engage in which might accelerate the natural wastage you tend to get over time. But there’s also plenty you can do to address falling open rates and even reverse them. Read More…
What truly makes something go viral? It’s hard to say.
Sure, afterwards, we can all point to something — with the crystal clear vision bestowed by hindsight — and list off elements which contributed to the explosion: it had a cute dog bouncing on a trampoline or just the right amount of indignation, it was funny and there was a well chosen emoji, it was topical or it tapped into some lingering but unspoken resentment about a hot button issue… that list could go on forever.
Trying to assemble a Franken-thing that ticks all those boxes will quickly show you that this retrospective diagnosis is missing something — the X-factor that makes one thing go viral and another thing, which was very like it (or even “superior” in many ways), do the exact opposite. Read More…
It was the release of his fifth solo album – and particularly the single Escape (The Piña Colada Song) – which made him truly famous. At least among those who didn’t mistake the singer for Barry Manilow, a surprisingly persistent error over time.
While that case of mistaken identity didn’t dampen the song’s initial reception, another form did. It was originally released as Escape – with no mention of those famous piña coladas in the song title.
People would call up radio stations and ask for the song about piña coladas, only to be met with bafflement. And when they went to their local record store to order The Piña Colada Song, they were told the store didn’t have it. They did, of course, but it was titled something else: Escape. Read More…
There are serious problems in publishing right now with black hat authors. Nobody is talking about it either, because the cost of speaking out is simply too great. Scammers are increasingly litigious. Dirty tricks abound. White hat writers are suffering in other ways too as readers come to mistrust any name unknown to them, and the only entity with enough power to enforce any kind of justice doesn’t like going on patrol. But maybe there is something else we can do.
My first introduction to the concept of black hats and white hats was not via cowboy movies – I am not American and my own cultural milieu was less focused on that… frontier – but from Philosophy classes as a college student. Particularly what is known as the Hat Riddle (or the Prisoner Hat Riddle).
There are many variations, but in the version I heard, four cowboys – two wearing black hats and two wearing white hats – are captured by banditos who decide to have a little fun with them. They bury the cowboys up to their necks in sand so they can’t move or even turn their heads. The banditos swap their hats around so each cowboy doesn’t know which color hat they are wearing. And then they are asked to guess… and if they get it wrong, they die. Read More…
There is no question that email marketing is the most powerful tool at your disposal; not taking advantage of all the unique benefits of email marketing is really missing a trick. Here’s why.
I’m sure all of you know the power of having thousands of committed readers signed up to your mailing list, allowing you to send each new release into the charts. Even if you’re not there yet personally, this should be something you are aiming for. Every single author should have a mailing list and be seeking to actively grow it.
But before we fly through the basics and delve into more advanced topics, let’s be clear about something: email marketing is not about spam. It’s not about fake intimacy. It’s not about posing BS questions to create false engagement. And it’s not about bait-and-switches, contrived urgency, click-baiting subject lines, or other emotional tricks; that’s what cheesy internet marketers do. Read More…
There is a huge change coming to Facebook Ads which could have a profound effect on the performance of all new and existing campaigns from next month onwards. You need to start getting your head around this now as the change is quite unpopular and the solutions for managing it are all a bit… fiddly.
In short, the new feature that Facebook is rolling out is called Campaign Budget Optimization. You might have seen it in your account already – it’s a feature which allows you to nominate a budget for your entire campaign and then hand the reins over to Facebook’s friendly neighborhood AI and allow it to determine how it should be spent.
Campaign Budget Optimization has been available as an optional feature for several months now so lots of people have been experimenting with it and sharing data – which we’ll get to. The big change is this: from next month, it will start being compulsory. Read More…
BookBub is a wonderfully passionate community of over ten million book buyers – and its ad platform is the only one at this scale which is exclusively made up of readers. BookBub Ads is unique in lots of other ways too and I’ve received hundreds of questions from authors over the last few months who are confused about one aspect or another. Today, we’ll look at the most frequent issues… and give you solutions to all those problems.
I’ve been using BookBub Ads for two or three years, I’ve been covering the platform in some depth for my mailing list for well over a year at this point, my dedicated book came out a few months ago, and the course… I can’t quite remember when that launched. Around the same time?
I’ve also run some giant campaigns for authors in a range of genres, as well as my own ads, and compared data and strategies with hundreds of other authors writing every kind of book imaginable. These are the issues and questions which come up most frequently. Read More…
Knowing your comp authors is increasingly important these days, but writers tend to tie themselves into knots with the concept. Today, I’ll explain a very simple way to cut through all the noise and determine your true comp authors, but also detail why that line-up should change considerably depending on the context.
Comp Authors Explained
Let’s start with the basics before scaling up the complexity and getting deep into ads: “comp author” is publishing shorthand for “comparable author.” You might also hear people these days in indieworld using it in phrases like “know your comps,” or “target your comp authors.” Or you might come across the phrase “comp title” more frequently in traditional publishing.
Originally, the phrase was used by publishing professionals as shorthand to describe a given author’s voice in marketing communications and sales pitches. An agent might shop your book to a publisher describing your sizzling romantic suspense as “EL James meets Lisa Jackson,” and the acquiring editor will know right away that she’s in for a dark, twisty story where the sex isn’t just open door – the windows are probably open too. Read More…
Reader Targeting is yet another concept we have to juggle. It’s no wonder many writers take to the drink, or otherwise lose the run of themselves. Or can be a little… kooky. We have to wrestle with a number of contradictory notions all the time — it’s enough to make anyone batty.
The most obvious is with the writing itself: we need at least some level of ego to push something out into the world and ask money for it. But we also must have the requisite critical faculties to see what’s wrong with it and to motivate ourselves to fix it, and to otherwise work on our craft until the things we make are as good as we need them to be.
(As a famous editor once put it — Nan Talese maybe? — those first few years, when our taste is much more developed than our skills, are tough.)
The experienced author isn’t done with these trying dichotomies though; one in particular that we all continue to struggle with is between our artistic natures, and our commercial sensibilities. It’s not so much about what to write or how to write it — most pros can navigate that part. The battlegrounds are elsewhere, things like cover design, series titles, descriptions, branding.
And one more surprising, perhaps: reader targeting. Read More…
What is an author platform? Which elements should it contain? And is any of this stuff more important than just writing another book? Perhaps not. But certain aspects of an author platform are important tools for reaching readers and, especially, for holding on to them.
The topic can be confusing as everyone seems to be mean something different by the term. And then this problem is compounded by a lot of terrible advice proliferating, quite frankly. Number-chasing nonsense which doesn’t serve anyone.
Even the term “platform” seems to be quite nebulous and elastic — fertile ground for snake-oil salesmen. Let’s nail that down first: Read More…
Many people try BookBub Ads and fail. There is a learning curve – no doubt about that. If you tried the platform without adequately preparing, and without knowing how the system works, you probably got cleaned out. I still have scars from my first time. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
BookBub Ads Expert will show you a whole range of uses for Bookbub Ads, from supporting a launch or reviving backlist, to boosting a permafree, creating an international audience, or pushing an entire series at once. And there’s also lots of ninja tricks and killer moves to take your ad game to the next level. Read More…