So you’ve finished your magnum opus and are convinced that the world is ready for a genre-busting teen ninja beaver vampire erotica epic or whatnot. You mum has told you that it’s the best thing she’s ever read (although she really prefers the telly) and you’re ready to put it out into the market and sit back and collect fat royalty checks. But after a few days, it hasn’t quite hit your lofty sales expectations. What to do?
Not to worry. Below is a checklist for you to follow in order to have a good launch and a reasonable book – and it’s never too late to launch an ebook, even if it’s been out for a while.
1) Ensure your cover is brilliant and professional. It’s the reader’s first impression of the cover that will determine whether they read the product description, and you probably have about two seconds for them to make up their mind. Needless to say that’s the most important two seconds the book will have.
A good cover will lure them into reading your product description, which should target your audience and convey all the excitement and style of your book. If the product description is lackluster, or worse yet, grammatically incorrect or riddled with errors, the reader will take that as an example of the work and move on. If it’s good, they might read the first three or four pages of the preview/excerpt, after first browsing the reviews. The takeaway is to have a professional, appealing cover, a punchy eye-grabbing product description, enough reviews that aren’t obviously written by your uncle to reassure them that the book doesn’t stink, and an opening that is interesting and compelling. If you don’t have all of these, go back and fix the book until you do. A side note – if you haven’t had your book professionally edited you’re shooting yourself in the foot. And no, you aren’t the exception who can skip that step. Nothing annoys readers more than a book where the author didn’t value the reader’s time enough to get their work competently edited. Nothing.
2) Do a blog tour. Contact bloggers who are interested in your genre and try to space out at least two weeks of interviews and guest blogs that are more than, “Buy my book” puff pieces. Try to space them every three or four days. Contact the bloggers well in advance of your launch date – I typically do it a month or more prior to my release date. It will help your interviews if you can distill the essence of your book into one short blurb that summarizes the story – it’s your pitch to the reader on why they should care. Try to work it into every blog. For my new one, Silver Justice, I came up with a summary that reads, “Manhattan. A ruthless serial killer is butchering financial industry high rollers. FBI Special Agent Silver Cassidy, the head of a task force that’s on a collision course with disaster, finds herself fighting impossible odds to stop the murderer before he can kill again. Struggling to balance the hunt for a savage predator with the challenges of being a single parent, Silver finds herself thrust into a nightmare of brutality that will demand every ounce of determination she possesses to survive.” It works for me. Work on one that will work for you – go to Amazon and look at the top ten or twenty books in your genre, read the blurb. Go back to yours, edit it some more.
3) Work your social media network. If you aren’t on Twitter, get on it. Same with Facebook and Triberr. Interact with people. Be outrageous, fun, topical, whatever. But be yourself, and don’t just tweet advertisements for your book. Nobody wants to read tweets that amount to “Buy my book.” Be inventive. It’s okay to throw in some self-promotion, but try to mix it up and keep it lively. If you aren’t interesting, people won’t be interested in supporting you. So be interesting. A week before you launch, start letting folks know about your pending release, but don’t wear it out. Ask them to support you with RTs, and thank them when they do. Everyone likes to be thanked.
4) Price it right. Look at other books in your genre. What are they priced at? Not the failures – the indie books that are selling. If you’re in a $2.99 genre and you’re priced at $7.99, you might want to rethink that. Likewise if you are at .99 and the market views that price point as the rubbish bin, reconsider your pricing. Play around with it. The goal is to sell books at a reasonable margin, not take a philosophical stance or brand your work as cheap dross. Note that I personally don’t think .99 is a good price for a competent novel other than as a very short term promotional tool. The days when it was viable are thankfully largely behind us.
5) Run specials regularly. The book business is a retail business, and retailers know that sales and promotions draw customers. Consider doing free promotions via Amazon’s KDP Select program. Contact groups like World Literary Cafe and see what kinds of buzz events might fit your bill. Do one day price sales or special event pricing. Do cross promotions with other authors. Let people know when you get a good review. Do “gratitude” sales. It’s a crowded market. Like fishing, you need to constantly change lures to keep the fish interested in biting. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow, so plan on changing up the promotions with regularity. “My book is still not selling” isn’t as compelling on Twitter as “One day – 24 hour sale for Bastille Day!”
6) Blog. Blogging is your opportunity to show that you can write and to invite interested readers into your world for a slice of your unique views. Write about what interests you. I tend to post a new blog every ten days or so, but there are no hard and fast rules. I write about the business of publishing and the craft of writing, and I do author spotlight interviews with noteworthy authors I feel have something to add. These are things that interest me. You will probably have different things. One tip: proofread your blog before you post it. If you come off as an illiterate on your blog, it’s hardly going to convince anyone to try your full length work.
There are no guarantees that you’ll be successful in the self-publishing game, but you can improve your odds by following these tips. They are by no means exhaustive, but they should at least get you on your way. For more thoughts on writing and self-publishing you can read my past blogs. They address everything from promotions to craft to market analysis, with occasional detours into international finance and cute fluffy kitties.