Why I give books away for free

Listened to the Marketing SFF people’s podcast with Elle Casey this morning.

I love Elle and the nice, unassuming way she treats her career and the success she has had. She said a lot of things that I agree with.

But she went on a little bit of a crusade against people who offer books for free, because apparently it conditions people to think that all books should be free. She had a mini-rant against people doing Facebook ads for mailing list subscribers, which I could get into. Mainly because I think Facebook ads take waayyyy too much time that I’d rather be writing, and I also think that people signing up *because* you’re offering free books tend to be on average the most unengaged peeps (only marginally more engaged than those you get from competitions).

But.

Then she said “unless you are offering a free book 1 in order to entice people to buy the rest of the series”. And this is often a caveat we will hear from the self-professed free-haters. It’s OK if it’s a marketing strategy.

And I just wonder what else these people think we’re doing with giving away free books. You distribute free books so that people can read a sample and go on to buy the rest of the series. That is the whole point of it.

In order to spread the reach, you advertise your free books as much as possible.

But then, their argument goes, you get emails from people wanting the entire series free.

Yes, I know. I get them, too.

And you know what?

I GIVE THEM THE BOOKS!

That is, if they want to review the books.

Get this: someone writes me saying that they’re a poor pensioner and can’t afford books but liked a free book, and wants the rest for free. I tell them: OK. Become a reviewer, and you get all my books for free.

Maybe what they tell me is true, maybe they’re lying. I don’t really care. What does it cost me to send out a review copy? Nothing! What do I get? Reviews! Win=win.

So I’m afraid I don’t get the anti-free-ranty people. Where do they see lots of writers giving away books *without* some sort of strategy to entice people to buy more books? Because all the writers I know who use free, use it as strategy. I could certainly argue that it *needs* a strategy to work, but I’m not seeing the conditioning to expect everything free. Second and subsequent volumes in series are never free.

Self-publishing: about selling on non-Amazon platforms

This morning I was listening to the Creative Penn podcast in which Joanna talks to Mark Levefre, the director of Kobo Writing Life.

Kobo has a special place for me, because it was the first platform where I started selling more than coffee money. That was pure luck, but lately I have been selling quite well on all non-Amazon platforms, and in the interview, Mark confirmed a few points that I had also noticed about selling on non-Amazon platforms.

Anyone who knows me will also know that I am a big proponent of being “wide”, meaning: selling on all retailer platforms where possible. This is the opposite of being in Amazon’s Select program, which requires you to be exclusive.

That’s not to say that I don’t play with Amazon’s toys every now and then. I like poking things to see what happens.

But it means that the bulk of my work will be available everywhere I can make it available.

A good many people complain about not selling much outside Amazon, so here are some of my thoughts about selling on non-Amazon platforms.

Other platforms are about the global reader. In many countries in the world, you can’t even access Amazon. Those people can only buy at Kobo or Google Play. Last months sales from Google Play featured countries as varied as Poland, Ireland, the Philippines, Switzerland, Finland, New Zealand and Argentina. There are many more people reading in English outside the US than there are inside it.

Other platforms are about commitment. I’m a Kobo reader. When I go to someone’s page on Kobo and I see a half-arsed selection of just a couple of their minor titles there, I know that that author is not committed to selling to me. I go and find another author.

Other platforms are about slow building and few spikes. It takes a long time to build up a sales history on some platforms. If you flip-flop in and out of Select, you start from scratch each time. Once your books have built up this sales history, they will sell themselves pretty much without your involvement.

Other platforms are about tailoring. I can’t comprehend why writers do their best to optimise their listings on Amazon, and then just plunk their books on other retailers (with the same blurb and same keywords as on Amazon), and expect the books to sell, without making ANY effort whatsoever to tailor their books to the site, and often without having looked at the site and what makes it tick.

If you have no real commitment and spend no effort advertising your books on other sites, you can’t expect to sell.

But, some people say, if I take my books out of the Select program, I make so much less money!

That may be true for some (it certainly wasn’t for me), but selling everywhere is not primarily about money. It’s about security, because if you’re exclusive with Amazon and don’t show consistent commitment to other sites, then when Amazon sneezes, you’ll be in bed with glandular fever for six months.

Selling on other platforms is also about taking control of your audience. It’s about learning to create your own sales rather than relying on retailer algorithms to do it for you (or, all of a sudden, to stop doing that for you overnight).

To try to go wide out of panic after a sudden downturn is the absolute worst time to do it. You can’t be in a hurry when you go wide. You need a lead time before you see the significant benefits.

Goodbye little blue line

… It was nice knowing you, but I’m ready to leave you.

Earlier this year, I put some of my books in Amazon’s KDP Select program, where they have to be exclusive to Amazon for a period of three months and people in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program can “borrow” them for free. The writer is then paid per page read. The amount isn’t much, about half a cent and trending down. An average book is 500 KDP pages. A read is about $2.50, which is roughly equal to what you get per copy sold.

Screenshot 2015-12-09 17.17.38

Your sales page gets an extra graph that shows pages read. The figure above is mine for the beginning of this month. The spike is from when I did a promotion. While I had great days, as a result of promotions, I found that my do-nothing scenario netted me between 500 and 2000 pages per day. That’s 1-4 copies sold.

The question is then:

Can I sell that much of these books per day on non-Amazon platforms? On days that I get 10k page reads, probably not, but in my do-nothing scenario–which will apply most of the time because I can’t keep running promotions–most definitely.

So, out they come.

Goodbye little blue line was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Why don’t my books sell?

“Why don’t my books sell?” I get asked this question a bit, so I’m making a post about it, so that I can easily refer to it.

Remember that I don’t have all the answers either, and there are people who sell a lot more than I do. How to sell well also depends on genre and the individual author’s circumstances. That said, I have spent a few years in the self-publishing scene and have picked up on a few things that are often associated with writers who sell very little at all.

1. The covers suck.

Anyone who tells you people don’t judge books by their covers is telling you BS and doing you a disservice. It could be that *some* people don’t judge a book by the cover, and they may not. And they’re often extremely vocal about it, as if they have to convert everyone else that what’s inside matters the most. Yes. We get it. And yes, what’s inside should matter the most, but people won’t get to the inside when they can’t get past the cover.

The cover matters. A lot. Like: A FUCKING SHIT-TONNE. So get a good cover as soon as you can afford it.

2. No branding.

Yes, I know. Branding is marketing speak and as self-published author you’re meant to just do whatever, Fuck Teh Ebil Gatekeepers. Marketing speak is anathema to that, but if you’re serious about selling, and you want to write to supplement your income, or even just to take your family out to a nice dinner once a month, then you should learn from people who sell stuff. Marketers. We all write for pleasure first, but there is very little that justifies your time spent writing as much as money. Welcome to the capitalist age.

Branding is nothing more than structuring your works in such a way that people can see in a second, without having to read anything, that these books all belong together. It’s what you do when you have series covers with a repeating element.

But branding is more than that. It’s also making sure that all your books have a certain feel about them, that this feel and design is repeated across your website, your Amazon page, your newsletter signup form, and wherever your books are displayed.

Branding is also having a clear body of work that consists of books of a certain length in a certain genre. It’s about numbering books in a series and about keep dissimilar material out.

One thing you tend to see a lot is authors who have a bunch of “books” to fill up their profile, but a good number are not books, they’re short stories. Short stories sell like crap. They detract from your novels and clutter up your page. Get rid of them by bundling them as soon as you can.

3. The writing and storytelling are just not ready for prime time.

I know it’s hard to hear this and it’s hard to tell someone, and there is a what-the-fuck-do-I-know element about it. And yes, it’s subjective as hell, up to a point. People (including me) swear by writer training through beta reading and workshops. Others are very much against it. I know people who never did any workshopping, published their books and started to sell like hotcakes. If this is you, awesome. But those are flukes. Most people are not born bestselling writers. They develop skills through learning.

Spelling and grammar are objective measures of quality, but it’s amazing how many people publish material that just doesn’t make the grade.

Plotting is a more tricky thing, and extremely important. It’s not immediately measurable, but if you do promotions, give away free books and have a very poor sell-through to other works, I bet my bottom dollar that the plotting in the promoted book is off.

If you have trouble with plotting, I highly recommend Take Off Your Pants by Libby Hawker. It’s an awesome summary of everything a good plot should have.

If, despite your best efforts in all the other points in this list, your books refuse to sell, poor craft is very likely the cause. People don’t mention it often because of the subjective and arrogant-sounding nature of comments about writing quality, but a book of a beginning writer is usually not good enough to sell in any quantities. Note the word “usually”, and also never, like, ever, assume that you will fall outside the “usually” demographic.

4. No promotion.

Ah, the dreaded P-word that has writers quaking in their boots. Many simply publish books and don’t even know where to begin in marketing them. Promotion is a lot more than buying the occasional ad slot on a promotion site. It’s not about book launches. It’s not about bookshops. It’s not about ISBNs or other tradepub gimmicks. Promotion is about setting stuff up behind the scenes so that readers can easily find your books.

But rather than me blathering about it, here are three books that capture the behind-the-scenes essence of selling stuff:

Launch by Jeff Walker is very salesy and sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme, but it’s a really good blueprint for how to sell stuff. It deals with some of the psychology of why humans decide to buy and how to, sometimes quite subtly, get people to commit their credit cards.

Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran is a very good summary of how retail site sales algorithms work and how you can use them to your advantage.

Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johhny B. Truant is an excellent outline for how to capitalise on your readers, how to capture them so that you can target them and how to use what you love doing most–writing another book–as your number one marketing technique.

The painful fact is that none of any of the above guarantees good sales. Not the covers, not the branding, not the marketing. Yeah. The writing. The book and concept don’t appeal greatly. Ouch. But, and this is the beauty of self-publishing, if you publish well-crafted books with nice covers and set up all the marketing stuff well, then a promotion in the form of a paid ad on a single book will have so much more effect, even if your books are not hugely popular. Often not immediately, but in the longer term. And you will see your sales increase, in a slow, non-spiky manner. And they won’t fall completely flat as long as you keep writing new stuff, and all of a sudden, you’ll have gone from Macca’s once a month sales to nice dinner once a month sales, to paying the electricity bill kind of sales to paying the mortgage kind of sales.

Why don’t my books sell? was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Why you are the biggest impediment to selling your books

I’ve reached the goal of having a decent stable of books. Having series with good presentation (cover, blurb, sample) is important. Few people start selling out the gate with just one book, so I wrote some series. This is still ongoing. It was my aim this year to spend more time selling my books and less time writing new books.

But where to start?

You poke around on the Kindleboards a bit, buy a few ads, butt your head against Bookbub, and eventually get accepted by them, a few times even. Each successful ad makes your sales spike, in case of Bookbub for 6 to 12 weeks even. But eventually you slide back, and you feel you haven’t made much progress.

And then you come across a post like this

OK, so you try the Facebook advertising thing. This is a good guide for how not to completely blow your money. Watch those videos. Seriously.

These posts are written by authors who have been insanely successful at what they did. Is their method going to work for you? Maybe. Could you try something a little bit different and make that work for you? Absolutely. You should be doing just that.

Because when you take away the specific advice about where and how they reached their mega sales (like exactly which tools they used) their advice looks like this:

1. Write every day. Publish.
2. Do an promotional activity every day. It better to advertise low-level every day than to run big ads with lots of days of nothing in between.
3. Give away as many books as you can for free to get people to read subsequent books, until you don’t need this tactic anymore. Advertise the hell out of your freebies.
4. Get a mailing list. Use it.

OK, so what’s up with the title? Why is the author the biggest impediment to selling books?

Because authors get hung up on things, often “helped” by an enthusiastic band of author friends.

Despite the two links I gave above, getting sales rolling is not a formulaic process. It will be different for everyone, and therefore you should be willing to change *everything* about your process.

The author likes a cover and therefore isn’t changing it. Friends may be saying “but I like that cover!” and they’re not being friends at all. They’re an impediment to the author trying out another cover (or another blurb, or another category).

The same applies to marketing. Marketing is not, ever, about individual preferences. How often do people tell you “But I hate XYZ marketing technique!” And heck, the author might even hate it themselves. The authors then lets his or her actions be coloured by those opinions.

How often have people told you:

– I fucking hate popups and close down sites that have them (yah, there isn’t going to be much of the internet left for these peeps, but what the hey)
– I never subscribe to mailing lists
– I would only send mailings for one new release per year

And yada yada yada.

So, in trying to be a good friend, you try to be as sanctimoniously least-offensive as you possibly can. Because you can’t annoy your friends, right?

Wrong.

Thing is: you’re not marketing to your friends. They will be your friends regardless of whether or not they buy your books. If they want to, they know where to find your books and they know when they’re out, because you never shut up about writing.

So forget about the things they tell you about whatever they hate in marketing. While you’re at it, toss your own opinions as well. Like, clear the slate. Stand up and say: I’m going to try everything at least once to see if I can get it to work.

So try stuff. Give it a good spin (like a few months). Doesn’t work? Then go back to the drawing board and try something else. Get your suggestions for which things to try from people who are where you want to be, sales-wise. Forget about how *you* would, or wouldn’t, like to be marketed at. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! It’s about a percentage of highly consumer-oriented people who may make a difference. You’re very unlikely to be part of that percentage. That’s OK. You are not in your target group. That’s OK. Marketing is not about you.

Why you are the biggest impediment to selling your books was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

How to sell on non-Amazon platforms

People are constantly surprised to hear that Amazon doesn’t take up the lion’s share of my sales. They often ask how to get sales on those other platforms. Of course I do not have the definitive answers, but here are some thoughts about selling on other platforms.

It’s a big world out there

Amazon is very US-centric. When you sell at other platforms, you’re selling to the entire world. There are more people reading English outside the US than inside it, so there is great potential, if you can get it.

When you go wide, actually go wide

List your books everywhere, and if a new platform opens, list early. I was one of the first writers to register at Kobo. The month after I registered my book was pulled from the then small pool of self-published writers and put on display. I’m still reaping the benefits of that today. If you’re going to jump, jump early. You want to be a new fish in an almost empty pond.

When you go wide, advertise wide

I often see people complain about the lack of non-Amazon sales, yet when they link to their books (Twitter, Facebook, forums, website), they’ll only list Amazon links. If you want to sell books on other platforms, you have to be willing to advertise them there and to mention links to those books on other sites. As for formal advertising, there is an increasing number of sites that will include links other than Amazon.

Genre and reading preferences outside the US

Every country is different. Some types of works are not as attractive to non-US readers. For example people in Europe and Australia are less squeamish about sex but have more trouble with violence. They may like different subgenres and different types of covers. Study reading preferences in various regions to see what sort of book does well in which country.

Study the sites where you want to sell

The talk is all about Amazon algorithms, well, these sites have algorithms, too. Learn about them by studying the movement of books through their listings. You’ll find that there is less churn. This means books have a harder time breaking in, but once they are in, they will have an easier time staying there. How does each retailer site list their books? What sort of books are in the top 100 of your genre? How much do they cost? Look up some books like yours. Do you notice anything special about the listing?

Pricing

Amazon is a bargain bin; other sites, in particular Kobo and B&N, do better with premium pricing. Just look at the top 100 in your genre. What are the prices like?

Write series, make the first book free

It’s not a sales gimmick and doesn’t work wonders. But it does allow readers to sample your work. If they like it, they will go on to buy the rest of the series, as well as your other work. This tactic has worked for as along as humans have bought and sold things and is not going to go anywhere soon.

Patience

This is the most important ingredient. It can take months of building up before you see anything like regular sales on some sites. You can use some advertising to help it along, especially if you have a free book. If sales disappoint, don’t forget to check your listings on those sites. Does everything work? Is your book in the right categories? Does the cover show properly?

A month, or three months, isn’t enough to build your sales. I appreciate that some people can’t afford to lose money on their Amazon borrows. It’s up for everyone to decide if that is worth it. The thoughts in this post are for those who have already made the decision that going wide is a good long-term strategy.

But once sales start rolling, they’ll keep rolling with fairly little help from the author.

How to sell on non-Amazon platforms was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Kindle Unlimited: a few observations

This is a post for writers.

Some background:

In July 2014, Amazon rolled out its Kindle Unlimited program. For $10 a month, Kindle owners in the US, UK, and some European countries can “borrow” as many ebooks as they want. I don’t have a Kindle and if you’re interested in this feature, I suggest you go to the Amazon website and check it out.

In short, it’s a subscription service.

For authors, any book that is enrolled has to be exclusive to Amazon. For some, mega-selling authors, they sweetened the deal with a “winners” pot of extra bonuses and they dropped the exclusivity requirement.

A lot of self-published authors reported big losses in sales numbers in July (I didn’t, but I seem to be in a minority). These were authors who were in KU and ones who were not. The theory went that all readers were sucked up by the program. For a while the top sellers were putting on a brave face.

Amazon bestselling author H.M. Ward broke the ranks by posting this

And then Joe Konrad added his voice

In short, it seemed that KU caused widespread carnage amongst self-published writers.

Well. Maybe. Or maybe not.

My sales have suffered absolutely no effect whatsoever. In fact, KU has been a nice little bonus to me.

So what have I done and what are my thoughts on the program?

I had a couple of short stories that I was thinking of bundling. I put them in the KU program for three months for a look-see. People “borrowed” these stories. I’d previously found it impossible to sell single short stories. I decided to add some stories that had never sold a single copy on Amazon before (short stories used to do OK on B&N but that’s no longer happening). Some of these stories feed into novels. People are clicking on the links in the back of the short stories, so I presume some sales come from them. The amount of money involved is not huge, but I’d call this a win because previously these stories were making me precisely $0 per month.

But would I put any of my full-length novels in it? No way! Why should I take $1.39 for a “borrow” when I can get $3 for a sale? I think that best-selling authors who fell for this had the wool well and truly pulled over their eyes. Maybe Amazon promised wonderful marketing. Maybe. But I’m always astonished by people who only ever expect growth, and whose outlook for the future does not include the possibility that they’re already at the top of their current game, and that there is no more growth in their current readership. After all, who still buys Twilight today?

Ironically, the whole KU affair also illustrates why, as a writer, you need to stop relying on Amazon to market your book and take control of your audience. If you plough through that thread on the Kindleboards, you’ll see people musing on Amazon’s rationale for introducing the program. That they introduced it to crush similar subscription services seems to be a popular opinion, although, by requiring exclusivity, Amazon seems to have ended up with an infinitely inferior product to, say, Scribd.

This raises the question? What actually is KU? To which my answer would be: an excellent place to stick pay-per-read articles and short fiction.

Another thing that frequently comes up in these discussions is that Amazon isn’t interested in selling ebooks, or books even, but wants to sell everything. And here we arrive at the single most important reason why as a writer you should list everywhere: because the full sentence should read:

… because they want to sell everything to people in America

If you’re not in America, Amazon doesn’t want to know about you. They charge quite exorbitant postage to deliver the littlest things. I tried to buy a $15 piccolo stand a few months back. They were going to charge me $35 for the cheapest delivery option. What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Want to sell everything, my arse. I’m not in America so Amazon doesn’t give a shit about me as customer. See also the anaemic presence of Amazon’s AU store, where we can buy ebooks only with less choice for inflated prices.

As writer, you should list everywhere, because the majority of people who read English are also not in America.

You should stop relying or spend huge wads of time figuring out how to game store algorithms, because they only need to change one line of code in their site software and you’re Dead. In. The. Fucking. Water.

Take responsibility for your own readership.

Spread yourself widely, and yes, listing widely includes having some short stuff in KU

  • Set up and maintain your website and blog
  • Set up and maintain your mailing list
  • Offer some freebies across all sites. Don’t get me started on the inability to make books free on the Amazon site by simply entering $0 in the price field, and Amazon’s inane tendency to randomly un-free titles, especially in the non-US stores. Get my stuff at Kobo, people. Please. they’re nice and reliable.

Kindle Unlimited: a few observations was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Twitter for Authors

I love Twitter. I love Twitter a lot more than Facebook, because the latter likes to make decisions without my consent. Also, if you have an author page, Facebook doesn’t show your updates to all people who have agreed to see it. No, they only do that if you pay! What utter bullshit.

So I hang out on Twitter much more than Facebook. Everyone and anyone can see your posts. You can see everyone’s.

As author, I’ve found Twitter very useful in a number of ways:

1. Twitter is the most important and foremost source of raw, up-to-date news. I’ve seen pictures of things happening live that were only ever covered in retrospect by the major news services. I’ve seen scandals unfold. I’ve seen original tweets that were later deleted. I have a column called “News” and a bunch of news services go in there: A couple of science-related people, ABC news, Al Jazeera (the single best source of varied international news), the Rural Fire Brigade, traffic updates, a gossip columnist (gossip, however much it doesn’t interest me, is a GREAT source for characterisation). As author, news is the stuff you thrive on, and the more uncensored and pre-chewed, the better.

2. Twitter is great for asking questions. You know when you’re writing and all of a sudden, you can’t remember the word for that thing that goes in the thing that people do that thing with? Ask on Twitter. You’ll have your reply within five minutes.

3. Twitter is awesome for background information, too. People post links to blog posts. You discover a lot of interesting stuff.

4. Twitter is the go-to place for cat pictures. Or any other source of levity and goofing off. Sometimes you just need a laugh.

Noticed how I haven’t actually mentioned selling books yet? That’s because you don’t sell books on Twitter. If you want to descend to marketing-speak, what Twitter helps you do is “establish your brand”, and this is marketing BS for letting people know who you are and what makes you tick.

Those people might then follow your blog, because they like chatting with you. If you occasionally mention that you’re a writer, they may sign up for your newsletter. They may buy new books or specials. But that’s a secondary effect. Twitter does not sell books.

How do I know?

I tried. Two titles of mine have been part of tweet-bombs twice. Since you have to try everything at least once, I signed up for a Twitter campaign once, and once my book got picked up without me submitting it.

Both times, a couple of tweets with a  book link were tweeted and re-tweeted every couple of hours by various accounts. Copies sold as a result? Negligible.

It’s kinda fascinating to see a tweet bomb unfold. All these accounts retweeting the same thing. It’s amazing where these tweets go and who retweets them, and also, how long before the echoes of it die completely. I’m presuming that there are a number of authors using sites like TweetAdder to automatically spit out and pre-program hundreds of author promo tweets.

And why? Ye gods, why? It does not work. It clutters up my news feed. It annoys the shit out of everyone. It. DOES. NOT. WORK.

When you’re on Twitter, the “product” you’re “selling” is yourself. Be interesting. Be a real person. Please kill the auto-retweet feed.

 

Twitter for Authors was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Message to self-published writers: please can the spam

can of spam

Beware. There be uncouth language.

This post has been coming for a while and I have finally reached the point where I’m screaming ENOUGH! Enough with the spam and the overzealous tweeting and Facebooking.

Does the following sound familiar to you?

#FREE #Read of Chapter 1 from my #SCI_FI #kindle #Book #militarySCI_FI #fantasy #Amazon

I just copied this randomly off Twitter. I left the link off, for obvious reasons, but I’m sure you get the gist. A useless message, screaming into the void, taking up space in people’s feeds, with ridiculous and stupid hashtags. No one looks at this stuff. How do I know? Well, open an account with bit.ly and you can track clicks on links. Try a few of these daft tweets. Track the links. Who clicks on them? Not many people. Who buys the books?

*crickets*

Yet, some people’s feeds are 100% full of this shit. Often they’re otherwise nice and sane people, else I would have ditched them as contact long ago. But the bucket is full and I’ve had enough, so I’ll be unfollowing the accounts of people who do this. I’ll be stepping out of the Facebook groups that are 100% spam and unfriending people at goodreads who “recommend” me their own books, constantly.

I totally get that social media is kinda fun but not very useful when you’re following a writer and all she does is talk about her cat (I don’t even have a cat). If you have a Facebook account or Twitter account with a decent number of reader-followers, it would be stupid if you never mentioned your books, your new releases, award nominations, sales, nice reviews. But not all the fucking time, OK? And not while using Tweet-bots that retweet the same fucking message every hour.

And then try to tell me that this “promoting” is necessary.

No. These people are annoying the crap out of everyone. And it doesn’t work.

Suppose you were friends with a publicist in a company that sold phones. How would you feel if they constantly cluttered your feed with spam for their products? People: COMPANIES DON’T DO THIS. Companies have worked out that people hate this shit. So, self-published writers seem to think that they can because they are downtrodden souls, and even seem to think that they have to cross-spam each other’s shit under the misguided illusion that this is what is meant by “supporting other indies”.

You know that I loathe the word “indie”, and its use above illustrates why. Self-published writers are not some ghetto, and no more need to “stick together” than other writers do.

PLEASE GIMME A BREAK! Write good books. Eventually, books will sell themselves.

*cries*

I like interacting with writers and lovers of genre. Twitter is a great way to do that, but the relentless spam threatens spoil my enjoyment completely.

So let’s set out a few of my guidelines:

– There are many professional, wonderful self-published writers whose work I have read and will recommend and support in a heartbeat. But I will not recommend any work I haven’t read simply because the author self-published. Sorry, but that notion is ridiculous to me.

– I do like writers’ Facebook pages, if I like that writer’s work. I don’t like many because I don’t want to clutter up my feed. Yes, I know I can stop Facebook showing updates, but seriously, what sort of sucker-upper would I be if I did that? Anyone who comes to my page or blog expecting a return-like, well, tough. I may, but if I don’t know you, I will not.

– I do not retweet people’s promo tweets unless, again, I’m actually familiar with the writer’s work.

– I have no issue with the occasional promo tweet. Specials, new releases, that’s all stuff you followed the writer for in the first place (or at least stuff you shouldn’t be surprised or annoyed to hear). Blog posts? Awesome! That’s what Twitter and Facebook are for. That’s how these platforms work and how they can be used to sell books indirectly.

Just do me a favour: CAN THE SPAM!

How do you promote on Kobo?

FacebookheaderWhen other writers hear that I sell quite well on Kobo, the reaction is invariably: How do you do that? I don’t even know how to promote my books there?

Last month, this post appeared on the Kobo Writing Life blog. There are also a few Facebook groups that concentrate on sites other than Amazon. Kobo Writing Life and Kobo Indie Ebooks are two I can think of.

Invariably, a lot of these sites have the same problem in common: they are populated mainly by writers wanting to “promote”. You may sell a copy or two, but those books are bought by someone who came to the site wanting to advertise their own books.

*sigh*

So, maybe we need to step away from that tacky word “promote”.

What does promote mean? Since the start of self-publishing, it has come to mean spam the living daylights out of all your Facebook and Twitter friends, and pay big bucks for advertising that may or may not work, but even if it works, effects are usually very short-lived.

Many people seem to survive on this crash diet of expensive promos and free days and so many of them are becoming disillusioned with the process. It’s a draining and tiring and takes you away from writing.

The reason people do this is because they want to find people who will champion their fiction. The more books you have in circulation, the better the chance of finding people who will love your work. With free days in Select, Amazon offers an easy way to give away lots of books. Hang on, only if you can get mentioned on one of the main blogs, which don’t list as many free books as they used to, because of an Amazon crackdown in affiliate links (story too long to recite here). The free spots on those blogs have become competitive, which means that the blogs charge for them. Yes. To advertise a free book.

This may work if you have more books in the series, and it may not lose you any money if you discount your book a lot but don’t make it free, but still…

In my opinion, this is spiralling into all the wrong directions.

Some time, in some industry called the traditional publishing industry (remember that?) someone said something that went like: money flows to the writer. Not to the service providers. I do sometimes pay for advertising, but I’m starting to feel very uneasy about this whole free/cheap book blog money-grabbing business. You can bite me in the comments.

/Sarcasm

(yes, and I totally know that I exceeded the maximum number of allowable instances of “some” in that first sentence)

So.

How DO you promote on Kobo? Because Kobo doesn’t offer this crash-course diet.

The same way as you can let people know about your fiction everywhere else:

1. Write a good book

2. Write a sequel. Make sure you brand books as a series. Make sure you number the volumes.

3. Write another sequel. Make book 1 free if you want, but that’s not really necessary.

4. Talk about your book on your author and Facebook page, and on Twitter. I mean talk about, not spam.

5. The three Be’s: Be there, Be genuine, Be interesting

6. Do a LibraryThing give-away (free), casually give away ebooks to whoever shows interest in reviewing.

7. Do an occasional guest post.

8. Make sure your author website has a page for each book that lists links to *all the places* where people can buy the book. Remember that if they use Google Chrome with adblocker, people WILL NOT SEE your links if you use affiliate codes.

9. The most important thing is that this process is a constant, low-key affair that need not take you away from the rest of your life for more than 15 minutes a day.

Right. Did I mention the word “Kobo” in any of these points? I did not. Because this method is a one-stop-shop and works everywhere. The most valuable thing an author can have is a reader base that’s not linked to any one retailer. Just in case one of them spits a dummy on you or goes broke.



Patty writes hard Science Fiction, space opera and fantasy. Her latest book is Trader’s Honour, in the space opera series The Return of the Aghyrians. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date with new releases, remember to sign up for Patty’s new release newsletter.