C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Marketing Experiments, Promotional Pricing and Free Books

Written Word Media came up with a survey that found optimum pricing to boost author income in fiction ranges from 99¢ to $4.99. Not surprisingly, the more books you write the more you are likely to make. There’s a ton of useful info in their report. Here’s the link.

Here’s how I’m applying that information to my situation (and more)


I’ve been running a lot of experiments with my book marketing this fall. (For instance, after watching the Game Changers movie, I’ve gone vegan.) But you want to hear about my book marketing experiments, not what I’m eating.

From running a ton of Amazon ads to Bookbub ads and featured deals, it’s been a tough go to get visibility and traction. If I hadn’t been publishing since 2011, I’d be in more trouble. You want the what, not the how. Rather than get into the weeds of how I arrived at my conclusions, I’m going to skip to the end and tell you what I’m going to do moving forward based on my experiments.

Here’s the no-bullshit skinny:

  1. I’m no longer interested in running Facebook ads for a variety of reasons. More than the expense, the ethics of a company so willing to subvert democracy by publishing lies and advocating racist news outlets means I’ve got to be out of it. So Ex Parte Press doesn’t commit suicide, I will continue to use it as a free service so I can connect with readers in my FB fan group. That’s the best I can do right now.
  2. Paying for Bookbub ads to go at the bottom of their newsletters? That’s out, too. I tried to make it work. The budget got spent too fast and it did not pay off.
  3. In the past month, I’ve had two Bookbub featured deals. The first was somewhat successful. The second was a disaster. I ignored applying for BB featured deals for their newsletters for too long. Despite the uneven results, I love Bookbub! They’ve been the most reliable book promotion service. However, after getting knocked in the dirt yesterday, my enthusiasm is somewhat deflated.

    The trouble was that they didn’t allow me to promote to the American market in those adverts. For thrillers set in Michigan and New York, that would have been great. I will continue to apply for Bookbub promotions but I’m more willing to say no to a promotion that doesn’t match well with my best market. I make 65% of my income from Amazon.com. Amazon India is just not a factor for me.
  4. By the close of the year, I will have written and published five books in 2019. I’ve written down my plans for 2020 and the pace is going to be about the same. That is my pace. If I write faster, the quality of the reader experience may degrade. No disrespect to anyone who writes faster or slower. That’s just me. However, four of the five books I have planned will be more carefully aimed at a niche market. One of the books is more literary rather than genre so I might shop that to publishers.
  5. I intend to take one series “wide” beyond Amazon’s ecosystem in 2020.
  6. I’m trying to get new covers for my most popular series. Nothing wrong with the covers, necessarily. Just needs a fresh face after being on the market for several years.
  7. I will continue to work with the Amazon ad platform because I can control the budgets better. Unlike Facebook ads, for instance, Amazon ads don’t blow through their budgets as quickly and I feel more in control of the variables. Still, it takes a lot of monitoring and tinkering. I don’t love it but it’s necessary. (Beware of any set-it-and-forget-it marketing schemes.)
  8. No Instagram ads. Tried it. That dog won’t hunt for me. Love the platform but also don’t want to give any money to Zuckerberg.
  9. I’ve become a big fan of BookBrush. For $8 a month, you can make beautiful images for marketing, blogs, posts, etc. I also like cheap image editing services like Crello and Canva. Picmonkey is also useful for a small fee.
  10. I used to appear on several podcasts quite often. I’d like to do more of that again. Remember Author Strong and the Self-publishing Roundtable? Damn, those were fun. A recent study says podcasts help move the needle, too.
  11. That’s a lot of what’s out. What’s else is in, Rob? Give it to me faster!
    (A) Continuing to connect with my readers personally through my Facebook fan group. I post there daily. They get me. I love them. It’s personal and real and real fun.

    (B) I’ll be using free promotions for first in series more often. I’d abandoned that for a long while and focused all my energy on writing. I have to allot a couple of hours a day to tinker with ads, blurb copy, blog posts etc. I write for three or four hours a day. Then I hit the wall and have to sit back and think a bit.
    (C) Focus. I’m tracking time better. I write full-time and work with a great editor (strawnediting.com). That helps me get those five books a year out there. Conscious time management makes me more productive.

    I have a big backlist and a lot of work to do to promote that catalog. However, completing one project at a time would be better. I occasionally do book doctor work, for instance. When I’m doing that for another author, I don’t do any work on my own books.
    (D) Audiobooks. We’ve completed the sound booth in my basement AKA the Blanket Fort. I’m taking an excellent audiobook narration and production course from Udemy.com. Audiobook recording and editing take a lot of time but that’s where the market is going. I hope to have two audiobooks on the market by this time next year.
    (E) Community knowledge and support: The 20Booksto50K Facebook group is a great resource for authors. My resolution is to check in there once a day to see what’s up and what’s new. I don’t post there but I lurk quite enthusiastically.
    (F) Ordinarily, I would be doing NaNoWriMo but that doesn’t fit my schedule this year. I have to come up with a series bible for Item G below and I’ll be editing my new dystopian thriller. That pushes out writing new stuff in November. However, if you’re looking for support and community while you write, sign up for NaNoWriMo now.
    (G) Starting in December, I’ll be writing two books with my buddy Armand Rosamilia. Team writing is a little like tennis. We lob chapters back and forth so writing two books will be more like writing one in terms of word count. If you want to write more, cooperate and coordinate for greater gains, consider teaming up with a co-author.
    (G) According to Written Word Media: Promo sites are the most effective marketing channel. I will be focusing on a few lower-cost sites and sites that are specific to my chosen genres. There is Bookbub, but there are lots of other services, as well. I like Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy, for instance.

Please note: These are my conclusions based on my experiments over the last few months. Your mileage may vary. Educate yourself and experiment to find what works for you. There are no guarantees in this business. Sometimes book sales will take off and we aren’t even sure why. Good books can fall by the wayside and that’s an irritating mystery, too. Only one thing remains constant: Someone helpful and condescending who doesn’t know all your variables will come up with plenty of ideas about why you messed up. (Sorry. Still wincing from yesterday’s failed experiment.)

Okay, deep breath.

What else you got for me, Rob?

More? You want more? How about this:
Two free thrillers and a fan-priced thriller. This is your universal Amazon link to pick them up, binge and love.

Also, here are my latest posts from my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Eight Things You Didn’t Know

Why The Night Man?

Titles, Arcs and ARCs

Sign up for my newsletter while you’re visiting AllThatChazz.com.

And here’s that universal link to my Amazon pages again because, hey, bills to pay and lettuce to buy. Thanks!

Filed under: book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What if What We Think We Know About Writing, Publishing & Promotion is Wrong?

TWEAKED JESUS OMNIBUS COVER WITH CROSS

Problem:

Blogging is dead. I’ve been spinning out gold here for years. Maybe I should have spent more time writing books instead because my blog stats are fairly static. This site gets pretty decent traffic when I post, but it’s not growing as I’d hoped. Still glad to do it because it’s a compulsion, but I don’t do it as often and I don’t do it to sell books. I’m here to gain allies, share information and rant when the pressure builds too high.

My book sales come through Amazon promoting me, perhaps the occasional ad, pulse sales and, most important, word of mouth. I experiment with categorization and keywords and KDP Select. I write surprising books with many twists and turns and emotional gut punches. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been teetering on the cusp of success a long time and sometimes that’s lonely and sad. That’s when I stalk around the house naked, overcompensate for my doubt, pour a stiff coffee and start shouting, “Tonight I shall drink from the Chalice of Glory!” 

Solution:

We all need an author page, but do we really need to blog? Instead, go where it’s easier for consumers of information to consume. Twitter, when used well, is one option and less time-consuming.

Note, too, there are far fewer podcasts than there are blogs. I’m back podcasting after taking a hiatus. My podcast stats not only bounced up nicely with one new episode this past week, but the numbers were pretty steady in my absence. To catch the latest All That Chazz podcast (The Hit Man Edition) click here.

The Oft-repeated Wisdom May be a Lie.

Gird your loins because this is going to get scary. Here’s what we think we all know for sure:

Market your books by writing more books.

Well, yes and no. If you have a hit, your new adoring readers may want to read everything you write and then it finally will pay to have a huge back list. However, it amazes me how many readers are very genre-specific in their tastes. More books doesn’t necessarily translate to more sales.

I know this goes against everything you’ve read and it goes against what I believed until recently. But, as Tucker Max said on the Self-Publishing Podcast recently, “Book discovery is broken.”

My Evidence: 

1. Some authors are making good money writing fairly crappy books, and fairly few. (So much for the “Make-it-great-and-it-will-certainly-sell meme.”) What makes them hot? Genre choice is one major factor, I suspect.

2. It’s surprising how many authors seem to do okay with their first book or two. Or they get featured on podcasts and whatnot despite being relative novices. Is it their marketing machine, their genre of choice or luck? (More about the touchy subject of luck in a moment.)

3. It’s disheartening to find (in my informal and unscientific survey) that there are solid, experienced authors who:

(A) appear to be great at marketing,

(B) have an impressive number of books to sell, and yet,

(C) one of their series is actually selling and just about everything else is not. Read (C) again. Aren’t you glad your girded your loins? I know it’s counterintuitive, but it’s what I’ve been told by authors with a lot of books out there (as in more than thirty).

Some authors are blaming cannibalization from Kindle Unlimited for their recent sales dip. Or is it that the recession still rolls on in too many places? Or is it that readers already have too many free books to read? Can we blame our sales platforms? The narrow availability of Bookbub and the ineffectiveness of non-Bookbub sales tools? As a last resort, I suppose we could blame ourselves, but don’t wallow. I’m here to open the Box of Depression, not stuff you in deeper.

The Lie We All Need to Believe

On a recent publishing podcast, somebody who is making many thousands of dollars a month said something like: “Any author with persistence will make it big.”

Math says that’s not true. We won’t all make it big. Many of us won’t make it at all. Like the stock market, everybody can’t ride high by sheer force of will. If persistence alone were the issue, I’d have fewer writer friends constantly worried about money. I think some of us have to work smarter, but many of us are certainly working very hard. Telling us to bear down even more isn’t really helpful and may be damaging to our health, our relationships and our self-esteem.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

About luck

People who do make it big will usually say something humble about being lucky. Then they’ll detail the strategies to which they attribute their success. They might be right or they may be rationalizing. They might not attribute enough of their success to luck and organic growth. But more important, can their experience translate to ours? If you’re not in the same genre and working in the same time frame with the same resources, can you replicate what they did to earn readers?

My strategies going forward:

1. Still blogging, but less so. Podcasting more. Worrying less.

2. I’m holding off on the spin-off of the Hit Man Series I’d planned. Common wisdom is that many thriller series don’t seem to take off until you’re at book #5 or above. Hollywood Jesus and The Divine Assassin’s Playbook, Omnibus Edition just launched and I’m at Book #3. I hope to bring the sales of my crime novels up as the charms of my funny Cuban assassin, Jesus Diaz, are discovered. Therefore, I’ll write more of the Hit Man Series, faster. Come for the action and stay for the jokes as he falls out of the frying pan and into the napalm.

3. Work in popular genres. I’m not talking about chasing trends so much as acknowledging that I can write in more genres than I’ve allowed myself in the past. To get where I need to go so I can write more on a full-time basis, the work needs to pay.

Choosing more popular genres first is the equivalent of choosing to paddle the white water to get where I need to be (and get there faster.) I can still make any book a labor of love without throwing away profitability.

For instance, I love my upcoming time travel book. I’ve been stunned to discover there are a lot of fans of time travel who are asking me to hurry up and put that one out. My next book is another crime novel, but I’ll get to it all. I am putting books out faster now, but it may be speed of production within a genre (not necessarily flat numbers of books) that helps me avoid the infamous Cliff of Visibility from which we drop after thirty days on the market.

I also produce more books because, as with this blog, it’s about doing what I love. Produce as much as you want, but don’t pin all your hopes on any one book. Just write because you want and need to.

Opening up to New Possibilities is Another Way Forward

Recently, a publisher approached me about writing a ghost story for an anthology. It’s an honor to be asked, but that genre doesn’t appeal to me. Or rather, it didn’t appeal to me.

I noodled with a few ideas. Then I started losing sleep over it. Unless we’re talking Poltergeist, my problem with ghosts is their lack of agency. What does a ghost want? How are they a threat? How could I make readers care? Did I really want to write this at all?

The key question I ask for all my book ideas persisted:

How could I transform an old idea into a fresh and cool story?

She Who Must Be Obeyed doesn’t ask about my insomnia, anymore. She just meets me at the breakfast table with, “Busy brain?” The insomnia finally paid off. I found the hook and the angle I needed to get into the story. I want to write for that anthology now because I found the key to the main character. I also want to write a series of books on that foundation.

I never looked down on ghost stories. I just figured they were for other writers to write. Now I know I can still write whatever I want. The difference is now I’m going to let myself play in a much larger playground.

Excuse me. I have to go write a metric crap-ton of books now. For the love of it.

 

 

 

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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