Category Archives: Sales and Marketing

[5 Crucial Tips for Authors] Selling Essentials by Claude Whitacre

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Anyone who’s read my last three full-size books on publishing, sales, and marketing knows that I started my career with a small Canadian literary press straight out of college almost 25 years ago. After working there for three years, it was clear to me that there were no solid opportunities for advancement nor any real chance of a salary increase due to the fact that this press operated solely on government grants. Needless to say, I was forced to leave my job out of financial necessity and found a more prosperous position in advertising sales at the local daily newspaper. It was my reluctant beginning to a lifelong career as a salesperson. I hated sales back then. It felt so foreign to me.

Perhaps, if I’d read a copy of Claude Whitacre’s Selling Essentials: Your First 90 Days in Selling back then, I would have had an easier transition into the world of sales and would have enjoyed it that much more. That’s why I’m sharing my review of this book with you here. Because authors are entrepreneurs. Always have been. Always will be. If you want true commercial success as an author, you can have it. There’s proof of this everywhere these days (you can check out the guest posts on this blog for some real-world examples). You just have to learn how to sell.

I already know the reason for your initial resistance to selling, and so does Claude. Believe it or not, he and I both lean more toward the introverted side of the personality scale like so many other authors do … which may be hard to believe since we’ve both done something seemingly extroverted by placing our author pictures on the front covers of our books. (That literally makes me laugh out loud.) In any case, Claude sums up this initial resistance perfectly in this early excerpt from his book:

People say they cannot sell when they are doing it every day. It’s because they don’t want to do … what they think selling is. They don’t want to pressure people, misrepresent, abuse friendships, sell shoddy products and services. That’s what they don’t want to do. But selling isn’t any of those things.

As I read this book, I was pleased to learn that Claude and I both agree the best salespeople in this world are trustworthy and accountable. They do what they say they’re going to do. They tell the truth. They are reliable. They keep promises. They work hard for their customers. They are interested in understanding their customers’ needs first and then doing what they can to fill those needs in the most beneficial way for that customer. That’s what this book is about; and, although it’s tailored more toward the corporate sales environment, there’s a lot of information for authors to garner from Claude’s advice. Here are five crucial tips for authors in particular:

  1. The single biggest threat to your sales success is hanging around with the people who say it can’t be done.
    There is a lingering myth among aspiring (and some established) authors that the ultimate goal is to have one’s book “picked up” by a traditional trade publisher, not only for the associated recognition but also because of the belief that these publishers will sell your books for you … you won’t have to do any heavy lifting at all. In reality, to be a truly successful author you must treat book publishing, sales, and marketing as your own business. The same holds true whether you self-publish, take today’s hybrid (e.g., supported self-publishing) route, or sign with a traditional trade publisher. Hanging out with the “bitch and complainers” (or “losers” as Claude refers to them) in the corporate world will kill your sales potential because you’ll begin to take on their personalities and habits if you’re around them for too long. The same holds true in the book sales and marketing world. Do you want success as an author? Then you not only need to learn how to sell, but you need to surround yourself with those who are succeeding to keep reinforcing for yourself that it is possible to be successful. Here are two such authors for you to pay attention to: Timothy Ellis and Liz Schulte. You should also read Claude’s book.
  2. It’s not all about the price!
    Claude calls this a myth: everyone buys based on price; no one buys expensive products. Claude is absolutely right. No matter what it is that you’re selling, there is a time and a place for price-based selling and there is a time and a place for value-based selling. It all depends on your prospective buyers’ wants and needs as I discuss in many of my books. If you want to reach them, you need to speak to them in their language. You need to figure out what their needs are and sell to them rather than just assuming everyone only buys based on price.
  3. Here’s a great way to overcome your fear of rejection.
    Every aspiring author fears rejection. Every new salesperson fears rejection. Why? Because they’re taking certain things personally that aren’t personal at all. The way Claude helps new salespeople to realize this, during his sales seminars, is to ask 10 random people in the audience whether or not they like butterscotch. Usually, around half say yes and half say no. At that point, he poses a question to the entire room: “Do you feel any differently about the people who like butterscotch versus the ones who don’t?” Everyone says no, of course. Because it’s simply a choice they’ve made about a product—not a personal attack on the person who asked whether or not they like or want that product. What a great exercise! It truly puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Keeping that in mind should make anyone feel better when they approach a new sales prospect whether they’re trying to sell a vacuum cleaner or a book.
  4. You need to measure your activities in relation to your sales to know how you’re doing.
    In most corporate sales jobs, your employer expects you to log your daily activities in some type of customer relationship management (CRM) tool such as Salesforce. It’s such a valuable practice that everyone should be doing, even if they don’t have an employer asking them to do it. Why? Because doing so tells you exactly where your sales are coming from and how long it takes for them to happen in relation to whatever sales activity (e.g., blogging, social media marketing, event marketing) you’ve done. When you know what’s working and what isn’t, you can tweak it. You can improve it.
  5. Start with just one push-up and, the next thing you know, you’ll have done 100.
    I always recommend authors to commit just one hour per day, six days per week, toward their book sales and marketing efforts. That’s it, that’s all. Why? Because everyone can commit an hour a day. Claude has another way of saying the same thing. He calls it his “one push-up theory” and here is how he describes it:
        Let’s say you want to start an exercise program. And that exercise program starts with
    push-ups. You work your way up to 100 push-ups a day. But today, you just don’t feel
    like doing 100 push-ups. What do you do? Do one push-up. That’s right. Just do one.
    Anyone can do a push-up. It takes you no effort at all.

    He goes on to say that it’s interesting how, once you’ve done that one push-up, you suddenly feel motivated to do a few more. So, you maybe do 10 or 20. Then that’s builds up a momentum. You’re already in position. Might as well do the remaining 80 or 90 push-ups. Sales works the same way. Just start. Just one hour. Just one push-up. Just start every single day, and you’ll see that momentum build.

I highly recommend you click on the above link and buy a copy of Claude’s book Selling Essentials: Your First 90 Days in Selling because there is so much more value in this book than the five crucial tips I’ve included here. You may find some additional tidbits that speak to you even more clearly than these.

It’s a small book, a fast read. I got through it in about two hours, so it won’t take up too much of your time. But it will be worth the read in terms of helping you to understand and feel so much more comfortable with your role as a salesperson.

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How Timothy Ellis Consistently Sells 3000+ Books Per Month

Prolific Writer Timothy Ellis

[Timothy Ellis] Thank you Kim for inviting me to your Blog. I’m delighted to be able to talk about publishing novels, and what I’ve found works for me. I find myself answering a lot of author related questions on Quora these days, and the following represents a lot of merged answers. I hope some of this is helpful.

[Kim Staflund] How many books have you published? What genre are they?

[TE] I started writing in 2006, with a spiritual how to heal using meditation book, followed by a how to do Feng Shui book. Both were rejected by traditional publishers, but I must admit, I didn’t try very hard.

These were followed by 2 game handbooks for a PC space combat simulator style game. I’d been writing game guides for several years, before I suggested all the guides by everyone be put together into a handbook. The answer came back, your idea, you do it, so I did. It had 5 versions in pdf format over as many years, and now has 2 Kindle editions.

Once a long running thread on a spiritual forum vanished in a clean-up, I turned it into 8 Wisdom of the Ages books, based on questions and answers in the thread. The last three deal with Karma, Indigo’s, and Ascension, and include a lot of articles I’d been writing over the years, all brought together in one place.

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I was late to adapting to Kindle, somewhat accidently discovering how good it was to read in that format. Once I accepted it, I used the first of the game Handbooks to test how to publish this way, followed it with the spiritual and Feng Shui book, and then the 8 Wisdom of the Ages books. This was in 2014.

At this point, with practically no sales of anything but an occasional handbook, I started writing fiction novels. Even now, if I sell more than 20 non-fiction books a month, I’m doing well. So currently the count goes like this, if you break it down by genres.

  • 1 Feng Shui.
  • 11 Spiritual, including one 5 volume omnibus.
  • 18 Space Opera Science Fiction books, which includes 14 novels, 1 novella, 1 Christmas story,1 Companion book, and 1 short story which was included in one of the novels a year after I wrote it, but is still available on its own.
  • 2 Omnibus editions, covering 6 books.
  • 2 PC Game Handbooks.

So a total of 34 books.

Technically I have 4 series now. The Wisdom of the Ages in the spiritual non-fiction genre, the X3 Handbook in the PC Games genre, and The Hunter Legacy and A.I. Destiny series in Space Opera.

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The interesting thing is, only the 2 Handbooks do not have a spiritual connection. So while Space Opera is my main thing these days, I am still a spiritual author, mixing genres quite successfully.

The Space Opera is by far my best sellers. But because I chose to mix spiritual into Space Opera through a spiritual main character, several of my novels link back to a spiritual book, and there is a small feed of sales as a result.

[KS] What do you do in terms of promotion for your books?

[TE] The single best way of promoting any book is to release another book.

It’s not enough to write a good book. It needs to be visible, it needs to be findable, it needs to attract the eye, and suck the reader inside.

Visibility comes with rank. I can only talk about Amazon’s ranking system, and it is very cut-throat. The single most important thing is release day debut rank. You achieve this with a mailing list and social media presence, where you already hyped up your readers to expect the new book in some time frame, usually short.

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The more people who buy the book on day 1, and the more people who download it to read using Kindle Unlimited, (remember, I’m only talking Amazon here), the higher the book debuts in the ranking system.

The book gets a rank in the paid store in a number of places. The whole book store, the Kindle store, the main genre, and the sub-categories of that genre. For a lot of genres, the sub-categories happen because of the keywords you use, and especially for Sci-Fi, there are specific words which put you in specific sub-categories.

The better your rank in all of these, the more visible the book is. How well all your books are doing determines your author rank. Getting your author rank high in a major category makes you very visible, but it’s quite difficult to do.

After the debut, ranks begin to slide. About a week later, Amazon sends out emails to your followers, and this can spike you up again. But at about 20 days, you start being cycled downwards unless you have promotions which can hold your sales up. At 30 days you fall off the new releases lists. By 60 days, your book is gone into Neverland.

The best strategy is to release a new book, before the 60 day abyss comes along. It used to be 90 days, and this is still a major accelerant into the abyss when you get there.

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For me, with a main series of 13 books with 3 extra books, and now into a spin off series, each time I release a new book, I get a small back flow to the first book in the first series, as people go looking for what else I’ve written. Some of those continue on to book 2, and a slightly diminishing percent continue on through the whole series. So each new book I release, keeps a flow of people starting my first series, and as long as I keep releasing in timely fashion, all of my novels sell.

And this is how you make a living, once you have a series people like. With each book, your mailing list gets bigger, your social media presence is bigger, and you have a solid group of fans to buy each book on day 1. The visibility brings your book before new people, and these feed back into your older books. With enough visibility, each book doesn’t have to perform all that well to give you a decent income.

Visibility isn’t enough though. Once it’s been seen, your cover has to attract the eye, so it must be good looking, and be what the genre expects it to look like. With the eye drawn, the blurb has to entice the reader into the sample.

Bad covers and bad blurbs are where most people fail. Too many blurbs give backstory and a synopsis, which I recommend are never used. Backstory should be in the story. A synopsis always gives away too much, and once I’ve read one, I have no need to read the book. Blurbs should be about who the main character is, what their challenge is about, and what the stakes are, put together in a way which entices the reader into the first chapter of the book.

The sample is the first 10% of your book, and it is freely available both online and as a download. The object of the exercise is to make sure a reader gets to the end of it immediately wanting to know what happens next. But too many books start with backstory and info dumps, and a bored reader doesn’t finish the sample. The sample must also be formatted correctly, with no spelling mistakes, bad grammar, or typos. A common mistake is releasing a book which needed an editor or proof-reader, or both, and didn’t get either. Such things bounce people out of a story, and stop them buying.

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So the art of not needing promotion is to write stories people want to read, and present them to the highest standard you can, in a time frame where you don’t lose the momentum of the previous book.

The days of 1 book a year are well and truly gone. On Kindle, although it varies by genre, more than 6 weeks between the release of say 75,000 word (avg.) books means you lose the momentum of the previous book. At 3 months, you need to jump start things again.

When you can’t release inside the 3 month expectation, keeping a steady income happening requires external promotion. Of these, the freebie Bookbub ad is by far the best in terms of results, but also the hardest to get, since Bookbub are very limited in the number of places on their emails, have hundreds of books for each slot to choose from, and are very picky about the books they put on them.

Most of the main promotion sites are for free or 99c books, which means you get almost no return on downloads of your promoted book. Which is where the back catalogue of your work comes into its own, and where writing series really helps. You offer your first in series for free, and make your money from it as people read down the series. It’s when you have few books to your name, or they are all stand alone, that the freebie promotion sites are ineffective for anything except getting your name out there.

I’ve been submitting to Bookbub for 2 years now, and am yet to be accepted. This is normal and should be expected. Since my third novel took off, I’ve only had to use a freebie service once, when I was over 3 months between releases, and this worked well enough to keep me going until the next book was released. But all the same, it was my worst month since that first take off month.

The bottom line here is, you either choose to write enough to release within a 3 month period, or you promote. The first costs time, the second costs money. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to write enough to release regularly, and only needed to promote once.

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Bonus tip: The authors who release a new novel of a decent size every 4 weeks, never lose their momentum, and these authors make a decent income. It only takes 1 book to get the ball rolling, but you will never know which book it is until it happens. Once it does, a whole heap of things kick in to boost you up, and as long as you keep releasing, you can stay there and make a living from writing.

[KS] You’ve indicated you consider “3000 sales per month is a bad month” for you. This is phenomenal. How are you achieving this level of sales?

[TE] My first novel series was originally supposed to be 6 books. I started book 1 to get it out of my head. It took the longest to write, nearly 14 months, because of health issues, and the need to learn how to change from writing fan fiction and how-to books, into a novel writer. A lot of this was how to proofread and edit to a much higher standard, and initially being taught how by someone who used a great deal of red ink. It is worth the frustration of all that red to learn how to edit effectively yourself.

After release of book 1, I kept writing book 2. And the same with book 3. Book 1 was attracting maybe a sale every couple of days, with book 2 it became a sale most days, and occasionally two.

With book 3, I suddenly found the story wasn’t anywhere near finished, had taken on a life of its own, and 1 book turned into its own trilogy. So I was already well into book 4 before I completed editing of 3. And when released, 3 took off with 16 sales on day 1, much to my total amazement. This was enough, even without a mailing list at that time, to boost me into visibility range. Book 3 also had a much better opening hook, a substantially better cover, and people were reading it without having read the first 2. Then they went back to them, and between the sales of all 3, an upward spiral began.

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Now the key point here is book 2 was released about 5 weeks after book 1, and book 3 was about 4 weeks later. Book 4 was another 4 odd weeks after, and continued the momentum, with book 5 being 5 weeks later. So each one built on the previous one. Book 6 broke the momentum as I had a bad health period, and so it was released at 7 weeks, and was only a novella.

Book 7 was 5 weeks later, and hit the beginning of the 2015 Christmas book buying season, and I managed to get an author rank of 14 in Science fiction. It only lasted a few days, but this is the visibility you really need to do well. Being in the top 20 of a major category is where you have to be to do really well. I’ve never managed it since, but this was what gave me the biggest boost.

The series went for 13 books instead of 6, with diminishing returns after 9, indicating 9 books in a serial type of series is as far as you should go. But I’d locked myself into a time line by the time I reached book 10, and couldn’t stop.

I then began a spin off series, using the most loved secondary character as the main character, in a completely new setting, but directly following along from the first series. I’m finding the new series is feeding people back into the original series, even though it’s been designed to be read stand alone.

So at the moment, I’m getting the benefit of a new release in a second series, which is feeding back into the old series enough readers so all my books are selling consistently at a rate where the accumulation boosts me past the 3000 a month mark.

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I should also point out this 3000 a month includes Kindle Unlimited full reads. Amazon’s subscription service pays less than a sale, but in money terms, it generates more income than sales do. This has dynamically changed the eBook market place, and it works for some authors and not for others. It certainly works for me, and early on I had reader feedback they wanted my books in KU from minute 1. What this does for me is day 1 is almost all sales from my mailing list, Facebook Group and Facebook Page, and day 2 is mainly made up of the KU reads from day 1 appearing on the day 2 report.

There are 3 parts to a monthly income. The release that month, the flow-back from that release and its subsequent ripple down the back catalogue, and the base sales and reads from each book’s own rank and visibility sending people to book 1. From book 1, people can directly find all my books in order, from the links in the back-matter of each book, where I put both cover thumbnails, and the direct links. The months where I’ve had 3000 or less sales/reads, were when I didn’t release a new book in the previous 2 months, and was in freefall into the abyss.

The most important thing for sales on day 1 is the mailing list, and the link to it should be in the back of every book. You also put the links to your Facebook Page and Group if you have them, from which your fans will buy on day 1, sometimes before you even know the book is live, given you announced the upload as soon as it’s done. You also include links to your Amazon AuthorCentral page, where people can follow you, which gives you a boost a week after launch. You should also include your Goodreads page, and Bookbub page. Each of these helps people find your book rapidly after release.

[KS] What advice do you have for the other authors who aren’t selling anything right now?

[TE] Write. Write more. Write faster. Write more often. Keep writing.

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Making a living from writing novels requires you treat it like a job. You allocate a time each day to write, you write for a set amount of time, and nothing interrupts you. It becomes a habit, and the people around you learn to leave you alone.

How much you write every day is less important, but it determines how much momentum you can keep in the rankings.

The biggest comment people make is how long it takes to write a novel, with the assumption it has to take a year for a decent book. But it doesn’t have to take very long, if you look at it on a constant daily basis.

3000 words a day for 30 days writes a 90,000 word novel in a month. Plus editing and it can be released in 6 weeks.

2000 words a day for 40 days writes an 80,000 word novel inside 6 weeks, and you might get it out in 7, depending on its editing needs.

2000 words a day for 30 days writes a 60,000 word novel in a month, and gets it out under 6 weeks.

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1000 words a day takes 2 months to write a reasonable length novel, and you can get it out in 3 months before you fall off the 90 day cliff.

How long it takes you to write 1000 words is a different thing, and everyone is different. But if you do it daily, you can release a novel on a regular 3 month basis. A novel is 50,000 words or more, and while in some genres this is way too short, in others this a good length. Know your genre and its expectation. But also try to be consistent with book length so your fans build an expectation you can deliver.

What matters the most is writing something every day. Establish the habit, and try really hard not to break it. The habit will keep you going, when other things try to put you off. The habit only needs to be what you can do consistently. Even 100 words a day will write a book in a year. A small book, but still a book.

One thing I keep writing about on Quora is motivation. Anyone who goes into writing novels thinking they will write the next best-seller straight off, is delusional. One of the most often asked questions on Quora in the books topic is a variation on how do you write a best seller. You don’t! You write a book, get it out there, and a whole heap of hard work, circumstances and luck, might make it one. But so many things have to happen exactly right for this to occur, and most of the time, it only takes one thing wrong to make it certain it won’t. It can be the best book ever written, but just one wrong thing will doom it to the abyss. Unfortunately though, those who think their book is the best ever, are generally blind to reality. Sorry to be blunt. Blind and delusional are very common these days. Do yourself a favour, and don’t be. The advice you will need is out there, seek it.

I’ve yet to write a best seller. I’ve had books below 500 in the Kindle store a couple of times, and I usually debut below 1500. This is Woohoo territory, but it doesn’t make a best seller. To have a best seller on debut requires 1000’s of sales on day 1, and no drop off in the weeks following. It means debuting below 100, and keeping on going down. Once you get below 500 in the Kindle store, the sales curve to go lower is almost exponential. You can’t do this on a first book without having the movie first or pumping in serious money. And yet, this expectation is very common. Do yourself a favour, and don’t even think about it.

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It’s important to go into writing with the right attitude. You are writing the book because you love writing, you need to get the idea out of your head, and your characters are driving you to tell their story. You are writing a story in the hope someone will read it and like it, but the writing is the important part. Write it, edit it and proofread it as best you can, get as good a cover as you can, write an enticing blurb, and get it out there. Then forget it, and go on with the next one.

The authors who give up are the ones with unreasonable expectations. Any given book not only might not sell, but probably won’t. So give it the best launch you can, and then forget it. Even if this one does the rocket, you still need to finish the next book.

Pay attention to what the successful books in your genre are doing. That means reading them. It means looking at which sub-categories they are in, why they are there, what the cover looks like, how the blurb reads, and how they convert a sample into a buy. There is no real competition in eBooks. The competition for rank and visibility is major, but the average reader finishes a book inside 2 days and spends the next 30 to 45 days waiting for your next book, by reading someone else’s. Some people read multiple books a week, all in the same genre. So there is plenty of room for you, as long as you write what people want to read. And being the number one also-bought on an author doing better than you, is really helpful to sales, and you achieve this because your readers read everyone else. So your main competition is also your best friend, especially if they do better than you, but all your readers read them too. The flow-back from your book on the first page of another author’s performing book’s also-boughts, can be exactly what you need to boost your book.

In some genres, it’s common to write in trilogies, long serials, or a series of stand-alones with the same characters. Series are great because once any book in it takes off, the series itself will take off. And this is what you want. Any one book which converts into series sales, gets you the momentum to make a living. The trouble is, you never know which book it will be.

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My recommendation is to write in trilogies. Leave the door open for sequel trilogies, and spin offs, but see how it’s received at the end of the first one. Build a universe, and start filling it. So first trilogy is world building around a story. The spin off extends it with new characters. The sequel extends the original and maybe merges in the spin off. When you get to 9 books in the same universe, assuming the books are liked, you should have a fan base. If you use a Facebook Group to talk to them, they will tell you which way to go next.

If the first trilogy doesn’t work, start work on something different. But here’s the thing: Always complete your trilogy. Nothing annoys readers more than a trilogy which isn’t finished. In fact, a lot of people won’t start reading a trilogy until book 3 is out, just to make sure it is completed. I found a lot of people didn’t read my 13-parter until it too was complete. Breaking your covenant with your readers is a sure fire way of losing a reader forever, and by announcing this is book 1 of xyz series, you are making a covenant with your readers to finish it. So make sure you do.

A trilogy which doesn’t sell is not a waste of time. It’s part of your back catalogue. This converts to dollars when you finally have a book take off.

If you can, and you take longer to write than 6 weeks a book, hold off releasing book 1 until book 3 is in editing, and then release all 3, 30 days apart. This gives you the most momentum. On book 1, you include the series list for the other 2, noting they are forthcoming. You update each book as you release the next.

If the first series isn’t successful, as I said, it’s now part of your back catalogue. Get on with the next. And the next. And the next. When you finally get the surprise of your life when one book takes off, people will go back and look to see what else you wrote. And it’s how the whole catalogue performs rather than any single book, which defines income. What do trad publishers do when a new author hits the best seller list? They relook at their last decades’ writing, groom it, and then release it while the next book is being written. In eBooks, they are already out there, just waiting for the jump start. Your next book might be it.

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The last big thing to talk about is sample conversion. You have a good cover, an enticing blurb, the reader opens your sample, and what? When the reader reaches the end of the sample, they should immediately click on the book and buy it. But will they? This depends on you, and how you write the front end. The best way to do it is genre specific, and I can only talk about Space Opera. In Space Opera, you need a big hook. Your words need to reach out of the book, grab the reader by the throat, and drag them inside their own reader device. Way too many books in Sci-fi and Space Opera start with back-story, world building, and boring conversations. Somewhere around chapter 5, some action happens. WRONG! You lost your reader already, and didn’t get the sale.

If you have action, start with it in the first paragraph, and keep writing it until it’s over. Hit the reader in the face, and then keep on hitting them. Somewhere around chapter 3 or 5, you can slow down, go back, and show the reader how you got there, and start filling in details. But up the front end of the book, never explain anything. Drop the reader into the action, and carry it to its conclusion.

There are some very successful exceptions to this, but the main reason is two words. Bookbub ad. Forget it. You’re not going to get one as a new author or so far unknown author, so let’s get the reader hooked on the first page, and simply don’t let go. Yes the backstory is important, the world building is important, the info dumps are important, but they are no use if the reader gives up on page 1, or is bored at the end of the first chapter. By the time they end the sample, you want them invested in knowing what happens next, to the point they click the buy button without thought. Only the really established authors with very large mailing lists can ignore this.

Learning the craft of writing novels isn’t easy, but there is a lot of help out there. There are writer forums and groups, where it’s safe to ask questions. You won’t always like the answers, or the way they get delivered. But the people who do well, learn the lessons the successful authors are happy to teach. Sad to say, the ego driven people who ignore all the advice available, are the ones who crash and burn, then give up. So find a place you like, read everything posted there, and start asking intelligent questions. Someone will give you something which works.

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Bottom line on being a writer though, is to keep writing, and keep releasing. You can only get better with each new book, and at some point, something has to work.

There is no waste in not selling now. Stephen King’s worst books were the ones he wrote early on before his first trad published book was accepted, which all were released later on, and because he now had a name, they still sold well.

You are building a catalogue, and one day, it will pay off.

Stay positive, and keep writing.

As Douglas Adams once said on a totally different subject, “Go to it, good luck.”

The Hunter Legacy series Amazon Page:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01I8EAL1C 

The Hunter Legacy series Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/TheHunterLegacy

The Hunter Legacy series Facebook Group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheHunterLegacyUniverse/

The Hunter Legacy universe mailing list:
http://eepurl.com/bqMgVz

You can also follow me on:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HRTTIJG.
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/timothy-ellis.
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8020436.Timothy_Ellis.

Timothy Ellis ranks (paid store), as at writing time:
1853 in the Amazon Book store.
1023 in the Kindle store.
180 in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
79 in Science Fiction.

© Timothy Ellis 2017

How Liz Schulte Failed Her Way to Massive Success as an Independent Author

Best Seller Liz Schulte

Since starting my publishing career about seven years ago, I have been fortunate enough to speak with and learn from many other authors. These individuals come from a variety of backgrounds, writing styles and professional careers. One thing that we all have in common is that we wrote a book. It doesn’t matter if the book is insanely successful or still looking for its market, writing a book is a major accomplishment. At the risk of sounding cliché, writing is a journey. A journey that is a little different for everyone, but not one you have to do alone.

This journey is the reason I am talking to you today. You see, I found myself traveling down this road to becoming an author without ever knowing it was where I wanted to be. A lot of writers knew they always wanted to be an author—I am not one of them. I wanted to be a lawyer then I was toying with the idea of forensic psychology. I never considered writing because it wasn’t a “real” career.

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However, after a fair amount of prodding I set out to write a book. Little by little I wrote bits and pieces as I had time, never breathing a word to anyone about what I was doing. The book wasn’t for other people, it was for me. I used every single idea that came to me. I remember thinking I would never be able to write another book because I used every good idea I had. In the mornings, the book was the first thing I thought about and it was my last thought as I fell asleep at night. Finally, I made it to the end. I was overwhelmed by the immediate sense of accomplishment that was quickly followed by sadness. My journey had ended.

After a few days, I started to read this book that I had poured so much of myself into and it was … awful. It was slap in the face. I grew up reading twelve books a week. How could I have written something so horrible? My first thought was to delete it, but something stopped me. Maybe it was the countless hours I poured into it or maybe I knew I couldn’t simply delete an accomplishment because it didn’t fit the narrow definition of what I wanted it to be. I finally decided I needed a second opinion. I confessed to my best friend that I had written a book and it wasn’t very good. She wanted to read it and I kind of wanted to hide under a rock. However, I did the brave thing and let the book go. A few days later, she finished reading it and told me something I wasn’t prepared to hear. She liked the story.

The next several months I devoted to making the book better, more like it was in my head. I tweaked and fussed until it was something that resembled what I wanted it to be, though it still hadn’t quite gotten there. By this point, I had already started another novel in a completely different genre. I made a folder for the first book and tucked it away as I fell in love with a new group of characters.

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I had no clue what to do with the first book. The extent of my plan was to write a book. I hadn’t thought beyond that. After much discussion, I agreed to query some agents. I sent out ten letters and received ten blandly polite form letters in return—though one did have a nice hand written note directing me to someone else, but I didn’t contact him. You see I loved writing and no one was going to steal that joy from me by telling me they didn’t like my books. I was happy just writing them.

This attitude brought me to a crossroads in the journey. I could keep writing just for myself, or I could find a way to share my stories. That’s when I received my first eReader as a gift. I promptly downloaded several books and read one that was really cute. I went in search of who her agent was only to discover she had self-published. It was an option I didn’t even know I had. I sent her a nervous email asking about self-publishing and what it required. In less than a day, she responded with a very long email telling me about her journey as a self-published author. Though I had no idea at the time, the woman I contacted just so happened to be one of the early Kindle millionaires.

I chose my path. I was going self-publish my books.

However, being a reader didn’t help me when it came to marketing or even the finer writing points. I began to devour as much information as I could. I saved my money and went to conferences, joined online writing groups and indiscriminately read everything my Google searches brought me to on the subject. Those early times were fraught with floundering blog posts trying to figure out what in the hell a brand was and whether or not I had one already.

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The first book released to lukewarm sales. I determined it was because I had done everything wrong. At one conference, they told me that flashbacks were bad—my book had them. At another conference, I was told that dreams were the worst—yep had those, too. It didn’t matter though because I had another book and this one was going to be different. This time I would do everything right. The new genre was hot and surely everyone would immediately snatch it up and Joss Whedon would want to buy the movie rights.

The second book came out, and much to my horror, it did worse than the first. What was I doing wrong? Marketing. Obviously, marketing was the answer. I would just market the hell out of the first book and then they would read my second book, never mind that I had written in two different genres. I set up blog tours, bought advertisements, set up some free days and did absolutely everything anyone had ever suggested about marketing. The first book started to sell. It had momentum, but guess what? The sales never transferred over to my other book. Instead people wanted to know when the next one would be out. I didn’t have another mystery. I was in the midst of writing a paranormal romance trilogy that wasn’t selling. I hit yet another crossroads in my journey: should I throw over my trilogy to write another mystery?

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Part of me wanted to follow the money, but I followed my gut. I wanted to write the trilogy so I did. And I couldn’t have made a better decision. After a fairly mediocre year, I released the third book in the trilogy and I used what I had learned marketing that first book to market the first book in the trilogy. The month of the release I made $12,000 and realized for the first time that maybe writing really could be a career.

I did a lot of things wrong along my journey, but I also did a lot things right. If I had to narrow it down, I would say these were the more influential decisions I made:

  1. I believed in myself.
    No one has ever told me I don’t have confidence in myself. I wrote a book and never once thought that I shouldn’t try it or it might be too hard. I simply wrote it because that’s what I wanted to do. That same confidence gave me the courage to undertake the overwhelming task of self-publishing and it helped me believe in my stories enough that I didn’t give up on them.
  2. I never stopped learning.
    Twenty-four books later, I am still learning. I still read about the industry, writing and marketing. Now, I am a bit more discerning about who I take advice from, but I still actively seek out new information. Recently, I heard the term influencer marketing. I didn’t know what it was so I read every article I could find on it until I started getting ideas about how I could apply it to what I do.
  3. I treated writing like a business.
    Yes, writing is a creative pursuit, but publishing is a business. I set deadlines and went through hell to keep them. I made professional connections and respected other people’s expertise and time like I would my own. To be a good self-publisher you have to be prepared for both aspects of the business.
  4. I did everything wrong.
    This is my favorite point to make. I didn’t do any of the things the blogs and speakers told me to do. I listened to them and respected what they had to say and where they were coming from, but this journey was my journey, not theirs. All the well-meaning advice in the world will not get you further down the road. If you are writing a book and you want a prologue in it, then put it in. You are the writer. Even if I rewrote my first book today, I wouldn’t touch a single one of the flashback scenes. They are just the way I wanted them to be. It is a part of that story and just because someone else got sick of them, doesn’t mean that I can’t use them. Always be true to your creative vision first. If it doesn’t work, cut it in editing, but trust your characters and let them have their own voice.
  5. I didn’t listen to the fear.
    I didn’t tell people I knew in my daily life that I was writing and publishing books until I had multiple books released. Even then, the thought of people I knew reading my books made me feel sick. It was ice-cold fear. I still have it. When people I know read my books I wait for them to tell me how much they hate it or everything I did wrong. I feel sick to my stomach when I send each book to editing, always fairly certain this is the book when they take away my laptop and tell me no more writing. The fear is everywhere and all authors have it. Had I listened to the fear I would have deleted my first book. I would never have let my friend read it. I wouldn’t have emailed that first author. I wouldn’t have joined and been active in author groups. I wouldn’t have tried self-publishing. I wouldn’t have put so much into promoting a book that wasn’t selling. I wouldn’t have finished my trilogy. I wouldn’t left my day job. The list can go on and on. Fear has long been the killer of dreams and I simply wasn’t willing to place mine on the chopping block.

So that’s my story about how I got to this place where I can be a self-supported self-published author. Kim also asked me to tell you about my marketing plan. I am going to do this as a bulleted list in the order of importance:

  • The book
    Great marketing might sell one book, but it doesn’t make a career. The story, especially the ending, is what makes loyal readers. This is part of the reason why I am always learning. Each book is a chance to hone my craft and tell a better story so I always try to produce novels I can be proud of—stories I would like as a reader.
  • The quantity of product
    This was a mistake I made, but it was a lesson well learned. I focused a large amount of money and time on marketing one novel when I didn’t have a backlist. It worked, the book sold, but there wasn’t the return on investment that I should have had. If one book is all you ever plan on writing, then market it as much as you want. But if you are planning a series, wait until you are at least three books in to start ramping up marketing efforts. You will get more return on your investment.
  • Advertisement
    The best way I have found to get word out about my books isn’t plastering social media with “please buy my book” posts. It is forming a strategic marketing plan for each book. First, I submit my book that will be on sale to Bookbub. If they choose my book, I will then form a strategy around that post. Bookbub still has the best reach of any of the book mailing lists, but they are also very selective, so don’t get discouraged. If I don’t get that ad, I select my sale period and will systematically go through the various sites stacking as many ads as I can for a period of a week to two weeks. The more exposure I can get the better. I will also set up targeted Facebook advertising for the period and send out my newsletter.
  • Networking
    Writing can be solitary, but don’t shut yourself off too much. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there from your fellow authors. Make friends, help others and accept their help. The indie community is kind and embraces new authors. Be respectful of other people’s time, but don’t be scared to ask your questions. Also, attend conferences. Meet authors, writers and publishers. Talk to them and share about your own experiences. Those connections will come back to reward you.
  • Social engagement
    I love social media — maybe a little too much. However, keeping in contact with your readers helps you, as an author, stay on their mind. Remember that you are there to be social, not to sell. Be yourself and only do the platforms you like. If you don’t like any social media, then don’t use it. Set up an email and website where readers can reach you. The idea is to make a direct connection between you and your readers.

That’s it. That’s my entire marketing strategy. There aren’t simple answers or easy solutions. Working hard and believing in yourself is the only way I know how to make a book series successful. I wish each of you the best of luck and would love to hear from you.

Liz

Liz Schulte is a self-published author in mystery and paranormal romance with more than twenty novels, multiple short stories and audiobooks. She is a member of RWA and her local guilds in Missouri, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers of America.

Though success in publishing didn’t happen overnight, like she envisioned it would, the journey has been worth the trials along the way. Liz became a self-supported full time author in 2013 and wouldn’t trade her hard begotten knowledge or the wonderful friends she has made along the way for anything.

Liz has a degree in psychology from the University of Missouri and a minor in philosophy. She has taken numerous forensic courses and writing classes as well as attended several symposiums on writing. She speaks on subjects ranging from self-publishing to marketing and social media.

Website                    Facebook                    Twitter                    Pinterest

© Liz Schulte 2017

[Guest Blogging and Content Syndication] T-Shaped Marketing for Authors

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

As I’ve discussed beforehand in a few of my books, the primary reason why blogging is so important is search engine optimization (SEO), which means to improve (optimize) your standing in the organic search results on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Think, for a minute, about when you use a search engine to find something. Where is the first place you look when the search results come up? The top and centre of the page? In addition, how many links are you willing to click through to find what you’re looking for? Maybe ten at the most? Maybe your eye will scan down that first page for something interesting; or, if you have the time, maybe you’ll dig a little deeper and look through the second or third page to see what comes up there. Statistically, most people will stay on the first page. This is why it’s crucial to make sure you (e.g., author name, book title) appear on that first page for as many of the major keywords that are associated with your genre/topic matter as possible. Regular and consistent blogging is one way to help you achieve this.

Two Types of Blogging Can Help You in Different Ways

First and foremost, you can write and post content to your own blog.  When it’s your own blog, you set your own content criteria and can say whatever you want. Your posts can be an obvious advertisement for your products, services, events, et cetera, if you choose; however, it’s important to always provide quality content to your subscribers. The information has to be useful to them if you want to keep them engaged and attract even more subscribers down the road. Blog entries improve your search engine ranking depending on one of the major criteria that search engines are looking for: quantity of posts. Google’s algorithm rewards more points to websites that post new and relevant content on a regular basis.

Secondly, you can post content to someone else’s website that matches well with their content criteria (e.g., you can post articles to an online publication such as EzineArticles.com, or you can guest post on someone else’s blog). The idea is to write several keyword-rich posts—relevant topic matter that contains the phrases your prospective readers will type into a search engine when they are looking for your type of book, and that also contains a link back to your own blog/website— and then share them with others via email and social media websites. Guest posts and online articles such as these will garner higher points for your own blog/website using two additional criteria the search engines are looking for: backlinks and traffic. Backlinks are clickable referrals from one relevant webpage (someone else’s blog or a high-traffic online publication) to another (your own blog). The more backlinks to your blog (and the more traffic that generates for your blog), the higher its point value will be in the eyes of a search engine. As such, the higher it will appear in the organic search results.

A Great Alternative to Guest Blogging: Content Syndication

In a perfect world, we would all have time to write and post fresh content on our own blog and someone else’s website every single day. If we did this, we would quickly see an increase in our traffic and search engine ranking as a result. But that’s not always possible, so a great way to keep one’s momentum going is through content syndication.

In a nutshell, you can offer previously posted content from your own blog to someone else’s high traffic site if it appears to be a great fit for them and you can show them the value in partnering with you in this way.  For more details regarding exactly how syndicating your content works, including how to write a syndication pitch letter to relevant online publications, I highly recommend you read this article by Ritika Puri: Content Syndication: The Definitive, Insider’s Guide. It is a well-written article that should answer all your questions.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

[Email Marketing] T-Shaped Marketing for Authors

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

In an earlier blog post, I discussed the concept of T-shaped marketing and how today’s authors are using it to sell more books online. To briefly recap, your deep knowledge/ability (the stem of the T) is the content you’ve written about in your book(s) whereas the flat, horizontal part at the top represents the various other creative and analytical skills you can learn to best utilize the Internet in selling your book(s). Email marketing is one of the skills you can learn and use as part of your T-shaped marketing plan.

Books are perfect for email marketing. They go hand in hand. Why? Because email marketing is all about sharing, promoting, and selling information … and a book is an information product.

Here is a fantastic resource regarding email marketing (e.g., finding your perfect niche, setting up your opt-in page, getting email addresses, auto-responders, campaigns, statistics, you name it): The Circle of Profit by Anik Singal. It is a free .PDF that you can download, and it contains all the information you will ever need regarding how to run a successful email marketing business. I’ve read it three times, myself. I get something new out of it every time. That’s how detailed it is.

After reading this book, I adopted email marketing as part of my overall T-shaped marketing strategy. I think you should, too. And I’ll tell you why with this excerpt from Anik’s book:

Who do you trust more: a friend or a stranger? The answer is obvious: Your friend. And when your email list subscribers start seeing you more as a friend than some random person sending them emails, you’ll get the best response.

Email marketing allows you to reach people in a more direct and personal way than most other kinds of advertising and publicity can. This is your opportunity to really engage with your readers. Become their friend by letting them know a little more about you, the person, rather than just advertising your book(s) to them in an impersonal way. Spend some time getting to know them a little better, too, by replying to their emailed questions with thoughtful answers.

The readers who know and trust you will be your most responsive buyers each and every time you contact them to announce a new book. But this trust must be earned over time by providing quality, valuable content to your subscribers on a consistent basis so they stay engaged with you over the long term. Always remember there are no easy or quick fixes in the world of book sales and marketing.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Learn at Your Own Pace: Online Courses in Writing, Publishing, and Selling Books

Through Udemy‘s online learning portal, PPG can help you build on your book writing, publishing, and selling skills from the comfort of your home and at your own pace. Here are just four of the courses that can help you with every aspect of your next book project from start to finish:


ONLINE COURSE: Writing A Book: The First Draft


ONLINE COURSE: Writing With Flair: How To Become An Exceptional Writer


ONLINE COURSE: Self-Publishing Success in Bookstores and Online!


ONLINE COURSE: The A-Z Guide That Will Hold Your Hand To Making A
Career Through Blogging And Building A Successful Online Business

Check them out today. Just click on the above pictures to be redirected to the course landing page where you can enroll and start learning immediately. Good luck and enjoy.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

[NOW AVAILABLE!] T-Shaped Marketing for Authors

And it will be FREE OF CHARGE from March 22 through 26, 2017!
Click on the image below to pick up your copy TODAY!

Coming soon! Watch for it in the spring of 2017.

[Thinking Outside the Box] T-Shaped Marketing for Authors

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Online marketing—blogging, social media marketing, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising—to name only a few kinds, provides today’s authors with a vehicle to reach a worldwide audience where, in the past, they were limited to their own backyards. But to make any kind of real headway in this crowded space full of millions of people doing the same thing as you’re doing online, you’ve got to think outside the box. You’ve got to figure out a way to stand out among the rest by combining analytical and creative skills together. I’m talking about T-shaped marketing.

I invite you to click on this link because it will bring you to a diagram that depicts the T-shaped marketing concept really well: The T-Shaped Web Marketer. To quote the author of this Moz blog entry: “T-Shaped basically refers to having a light level of knowledge in a broad array of skills, and deep knowledge/ability in a single one (or a few).” Your deep knowledge/ability (the stem of the T) is the content you’ve written about in your book(s) whereas the flat, horizontal part at the top represents the various other creative and analytical skills you can learn to best utilize the Internet in selling your book(s).

Many of the most successful online companies of today used T-shaped marketing (also referred to as “growth hacking” which will be discussed in an upcoming blog entry) to grow their businesses when no venture capital was available to help them. AirBNB utilized Craigslist users as part of their growth hacking strategy. PayPal paid people for referrals. DropBox gave people extra storage for referrals. There are many more examples of this, as well.

I believe authors can do the same thing as these companies did to really put themselves and their books on the map. If you have any doubts about that, I invite you to read this online Forbes article: Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer. Mark Dawson was first trade published. But when he saw how few copies his trade publisher sold for him, he switched to self-publishing for his next book and learned how to become an entrepreneurial author instead of a mere trade published author. This is T-shaped marketing at its best.

I hope today’s blog entry will whet your appetite enough to join me again for the next one. I’ll be talking about growth hacking in a bit more detail when we meet each other again.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Modern Marketing for Authors: Post Your Readings and Interviews on YouTube

There are a lot of different ways that authors can use YouTube to promote their books and get more leverage out of past publicity (e.g. radio or television interviews). Here are two examples…

Video Readings

A few years back, I decided to create a video of me reading the introduction to my third book, titled 11:11, with Canmore’s renown Three Sisters Mountain Range behind me. Mother Nature seemed to approve of the idea by gifting us with mild temperatures—it was a balmy +2 degrees Celsius on March 8, 2010, even up in Alberta’s mountaintops!—which allowed me to be filmed without a coat, gloves, or even a hat on. (You can imagine how much easier it is to turn the pages of a book without gloves on!) I couldn’t have asked for a nicer winter day.

In addition to agreeable winter weather conditions, I had the honour of working with two consummate professionals—David Joseph of David Joseph Photography and Patricia M. Gallagher of PMG Creative—who added their creative ideas to mine to help make this video come together. This is yet another testament to the fact that two or more brains are better than one. A combined mastermind can create wonderful results.

Here is a link to my YouTube video reading:

Media Interviews

In 2016, Brent Gill, a correspondent for the Central Valley Business Times (CVBT) in Stockton, California, conducted this very unique audio interview with four-time PPG author Colin Manuel … unique because Colin is 70% hearing impaired. How do you conduct an audio interview with a hearing-impaired author? With a little finagling and clever innovation, that’s how!

We asked Brent to provide us with the audio file for this interview so we could convert it into a YouTube-friendly format and re-post it for our subscribers. In the description portion of the interview, we posted all the ISBNs for all Colin’s books and let readers know where they can buy them. Now, our author can further leverage this publicity by sharing the YouTube link with his current and prospective readers any time he wants to.

Here is a link to that interview:

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2010 (original post) 2017 (updated post) Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.