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.

Guest blog: Brian Kittrell: Don’t Go Broke in Self-Publishing: 10 Ways to Protect Yourself in the Digital Revolution

My guest post today is a must-read, don’t-get-scammed post for all beginning self-publishers. I am deeply indebted to Brian for writing this awesome article. Brian, of course, is a self-publisher way more successful than me, so he knows what he’s talking about. For information on Brian and his books, please go to his website Late Nite Books.

Digital and print-on-demand publishing has created a new world of opportunities for the intrepid self-published writer, but all around this new industry, another group of people are eager to benefit: scammers, con artists, and others wanting to make a quick buck from the many uninformed authors taking to the online stage. How are authors being scammed and how does a writer, new to the whole idea of self-publishing, survive in such a hostile environment?
 

Publishing Service Providers

It seems like every day there are new service providers–editors, proofreaders, cover designers, formatters, and ebook programmers–hanging out a shingle. How is an author to know who is good or bad?

Tip #1: Vet, vet, and vet some more.

Always, and I mean always, vet your service providers. Don’t take the testimonials on their website as the only referral. Talk to people you know about the provider. If you have a more experienced author friend, have them take a look at the service provider, too. Memorize the Preditors and Editors link and check all service providers against it. Look at their gallery or portfolio from past work. Demand to see one if you can’t find one.

As a general rule, the best service providers will be people you don’t know who will render judgement and advice based upon the manuscript, not you as a person. Friends and family have a way of being supportive even when they know the book isn’t good or needs lots of work.

 

Tip #2: Know the normal rates.

Knowing the normal industry accepted rates will help you weed out those who aren’t serious and those who are overpricing. Strong editing (as of the time of this writing) can often be found for around a penny a word. Some charge fractions of a penny less or more per word. If a provider is charging considerably more or less for the job than what you’ve usually been quoted, it could be a sign of danger.

The only exception to this rule is if the service provider is very new and does not have an established base of clients. However, you should be very guarded about dealing with inexperienced service providers; treat your books like your own children and make sure they have the best.

 

Tip #3: Demand a sample of work.

Professional editors and proofreaders will provide a sample edit or sample proof of your work. This usually consists of several pages for a full-length manuscript. The idea here is to demonstrate the editor’s skill, to see if you think, based upon the edit, if the editor or proofreader will be a good fit for your style and voice, and to get an idea of how things will work during the process if you decide to hire them.

With artists, review their portfolios and galleries and discuss the intricate details of the project. Do NOT ask them to produce a sample cover for you to think about; asking an artist to render even a very basic drawing for free is in bad taste. Artwork, even sketching a concept, takes considerable time and effort, and their portfolios should be sufficient to judge if their style meets with your project or not.

 

Tip #4: Prefer Flat-Fee Deals to Royalty Share Agreements.

Whenever possible, pay flat fees for service providers instead of royalty share agreements. Don’t tie yourself to your service providers wherever you can get away from doing so. Think of it like this: if your book goes on to sell $1,000,000, is the cover you got from your designer worth $100,000? Most likely not. Additionally, what if you sell 100,000 copies of your book and a big publisher takes an interest in it? Would you be willing to give your proofreader 5% of your income for the rest of eternity? Do you have a contract which stipulates that a buyout by a major publisher voids the royalty share agreement?

Think forward on this kind of thing. Flat fees are best because you pay once and you’re free to go whatever route you like.

 

Common Scams and Cons

Outside of the flourishing field of publishing services, you may come up against a scam designed to deprive you of your hard-earned lucre. Here are some common ones and some tips about what you should do when facing a suspicious situation.

Tip #5: Avoid Gifting Scams

With my books, I give away lots of copies in hopes of garnering reviews and a little buzz. If my book is good enough, those who receive review copies may post up written reviews or give recommendations to their friends about my book. It’s a great practice for the author to get unbiased commentary while giving readers a brand new book at no cost.

In favor of explicitly describing the attempt I received, I have imported a post I made on Kboards.com into this article to relay a recent experience with a giveaway:

just got done with a giveaway through LibraryThing for ARCs. I do this with all of my new releases so that I have a chance of picking up a couple of reviews and maybe moving some books. Anyway, I have a very specific format for my giveaways which has been honed over a long period of time. I send this email (included in its entirety because, well, someone may find this thread while searching on ways to send out emails to winners):

“You are receiving this email because you entered into the Members Giveaway/Early Reviewer program through LibraryThing (http://www.librarything.com), and you were selected to receive a giveaway/review copy of the title described below. Please do not reply to this email. Instead, direct any responses to admin@latenitebooks.com or brian@latenitebooks.com.

Congratulations, and thank you for entering!

You may get your free copy of (BOOK) with the following steps:

1. Visit http://www.latenitebooks.com/(REMAINDER OF URL)
2. Click “Add to Cart” button.
3. Click “Checkout”.
4. Scroll down the page to Discount Code and enter: (CODE)
5. This will reduce the price of the book to $0.00 / free.
6. Download the book in PDF, ePub, and/or Mobi format.

You will also receive an email with links to download the books so you can save this information for the future. If you do not receive that email, please check your Spam folder.

This download link is active forever; you can re-download the book if you lose it. If you would like to read on multiple devices, you may download one, two, or all three formats. My books are not burdened by DRM technology. All I ask is that you do not redistribute them.

If you have any problems with the process, advise me and I will correct the problem as quickly as possible.

Thank you very much!

– Brian Kittrell, Late Nite Books

Please be advised: If you received this email in error, please disregard it. No further action is necessary on your part. Receipt of this email and/or signing up in the LibraryThing Giveaway/Early Reviewers program does not automatically add you to any Late Nite Books email list or program. I value your privacy as much as my own, and I do not share your information with other third parties. Coupon code is valid from (START_DATE) until (END_DATE). Please visit the Late Nite Books store and secure your copy prior to (END_DATE).”

Some write back and say Thank you or I’ll get to it right away! One person had some extreme trouble with the store, so I sent the file to them directly. But I receive the following email aside from the rest:

“Hi, I am happy to have won a copy – Your book sounds very interesting!
Is there anyway you could be so kind to send that to me as an Kindle Gift from Amazon?
I keep everything on Amazons Kindle activity webpage so I can store, organize, manage, take notes and higlights to help with my reviews using different Apps to help remember more of what I read.
For this the ebook must be purchased from Amazon.com for it to be added into my Kindle library page.

Thank You,
(NAME REMOVED)”

Don’t do it. I repeat, DON’T DO IT.

If you need reasons why you shouldn’t:
#1 Nondescript. Feels like a form mail that could apply to any book. Couldn’t even be bothered to talk about the book in the giveaway; probably sends hundreds of these out per week.
#2 Reader asks for you to spend money on the review copy after you’ve given a very easy way to get the book for free. You may have even attached the book to the email you sent out.
#3 Kindle activity webpage… I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen that before. My Kindle (as I’m sure most are) is equipped with highlighting, taking notes, and organizing books no matter if I side load them or get them from the Amazon website.
#4 Apps to help someone remember what they read? As preposterous as this sounds, I’m sure Apps can be used regardless of where a book came from.
#5 Yes, a book must be a valid purchase from Amazon.com to appear on Amazon.com’s library page. That, I cannot argue with. However, what do I care? The presence or absence of my book on the library page does not prevent it from being read, downloaded, or transferred to your device. ~50 people so far had no problem using the directions I sent, and the one that did have problems just asked for the ePub to be attached to an email. No problem.

Here’s the scam, from the scammer’s point of view:
– Convince author to gift ebook to me.
– Redeem the gift into a gift card instead of getting the book.
– If I really want to ream an author, I’ll send the convincing email from one address, wait for the gift, redeem it, then tell the author that the gift needs to be sent to my “Kindle email” so I can get the book. Two for the price of one.
– Further, the scam can be extended to a third email address. The chances are lower on the second gifted copy and even less so on the third, but it’s worth a shot.

Now, repeat this process with the dozens of books from independent authors having a giveaway ending each day.

Let’s say 3 authors fall for the first level of this scam each day from the same con. Let’s say that the books are $2.99 to gift. That’s about $9.

$9 * 300 days (because even cons take breaks) = $2,700 per year in Amazon gift cards.

What to do if you get a suspicious email?

Contact the service hosting the giveaway immediately. I sent an email to Jeremy at LibraryThing, and he told me that the subject who sent this email is “nearly a serial offender,” that they’ve gotten a few reports about them already. I leave the handling of the issue to LibraryThing because, on my end, it’s handled. The person won’t be scamming me.

What can I do to mitigate my risk?

Before you do your giveaway, establish ground rules that you will not break, such as the delivery method. I chose my own website. Smashwords coupons are a good choice, too. Do whatever you want, but gifting via Amazon is going to burn a hole in your pocket for very little–if any–reward. The gift redemption scam has been going on for a while now, and more and more people are getting keen to it. The method is explored on various shady forums, chat rooms, and so forth.

If you’re suspicious of any other potential scam, ask about it on KBoards. Chances are that another writer has heard about a scam (or, in the most unfortunate circumstance, was a victim of the scam). Look before you leap.

 

Tip #6: Literary Award Scams

You may have already fallen victim to such a scam or you may have seen these going around. The idea is that authors enter the contest for a literary award and pay a fee to apply. The winner is announced later and usually gets a shiny seal of approval and a letter or something. Always perform deep research on any contest you’re planning on entering. See how often the contest has been held and how long the organization has been running it. Do deep research on the organization. Search Google for the names of the people involved, the name of the organization, the name of the award, and any other identifying details you can locate (such as the mailing address; some fly-by-night operations change their names but keep the same mailing address, for instance). Search Google for all of these things.

Literary award programs have become a dime a dozen. The most respectable ones usually have no entry fees, too.

If a literary award contest seems shady, skip it. Awards do so little for your publicity that spending large sums of money on them is pointless.

 

Tip #7: Avoid Reading Fees

Avoid anything with a reading fee attached. If money flows out of your wallet, you had better be guaranteed to get something in return for it other than a form rejection letter. If an agent, editor, proofreader, or other service provider demands some kind of payment just to talk to you, run away as fast as your hooves will carry you. Consultations are free. Editors and proofreaders should provide a small sample of work (on YOUR manuscript) at no cost. Agents don’t deserve free money for looking your way, and neither do publishers.

 

Tip #8: Beware the Referral Monster

Lots of scams involve referring authors to third party services, deals, or opportunities which aim to plunder your vault and leave you high and dry. If you submit to a publisher or agent, that party advises you to seek editing or proofreading help, and then they refer you to someone they know, it’s probably a referral program. That party is usually getting a cut of the proceeds for referring you in the first place. So, you’re automatically paying a bit above cost plus a little profit to the service provider. Sometimes this is ten or fifteen percent. Sometimes this is considerably more.

If an agent or publisher sees promise in your work, they should secure the services of an editor (on their staff or otherwise) after the contract has been signed.

 

Tip #9: Scammy Publishers

Which brings me to my next point: scammy publishers. A publisher is a company or individual who makes it his/her/its job to publish books. This process starts where the author’s original manuscript ends, and the work continues all the way to the distribution of the final book. In this process, there are many steps:

– Editing
– Proofreading
– Cover design
– Formatting (interior and/or ebook)
– Distribution (to retailers)
– Promotion, publicity, and advertising
– Accounting
– Paying the author due royalties

A publisher should not ask you to handle any of the above yourself, with the exception of promotion/publicity. (You will be asked to do whatever promotion or publicity you can to help sell your book.) If a publisher asks you to cover any of the above costs up front, you’re not dealing with a professional outfit.

Watch out in your contracts, too. Sometimes some or all of these services may be put against royalties which means that your sales will pay for some/all of these services before you get paid. These deals are not necessarily scammy, but you should take great care in studying the contract to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

In simpler language, you should not be paying anything upfront to a publisher to publish your book. That’s… you know… the point of having a publisher in the first place. If any of your production and ongoing promotional activities are charged against royalties, that should be clear from the start and you must understand the implications before you sign on the dotted line.

 

Tip #10: Step Right Up! Hurry, hurry, hurry!

In regular life, we see this kind of scam all the time: act fast! It won’t last long! Hurry, hurry, hurry!

My advice to you: take as much time as you need. Time-limited offers are designed to inspire impulse buying, and doing things on an impulse will not yield the kind of results you want for your books, your writing career, or your legacy. Take as much time as you need to decide. Ask opinions from the people you trust and respect. If the timer runs out, it wasn’t meant to be.

 

And Much More…

The idea of this article was to give you a primer, to help you protect yourself against common schemes and to save yourself some money down the line. It won’t protect you against everything out there or what will eventually come; for that, you need a skeptical, cynical eye cast upon every “offer” and “opportunity.” Your survival depends upon your ability to smell a scam, and I can tell you that you’ll run into them on an almost daily basis. If it doesn’t smell right, you shouldn’t bite. If it’s too good to be true, it is too good to be true.

How do you promote your self-published book?

So, you’ve written a book, and published it. Great.

The next and inevitable question is: how do you sell it? How do you find people who are willing to read it and recommend it to their friends? How do you–gasp–promote it?

I have to admit, I hate the word “promote”. It conjures up images of sleazy door-to-door salesmen, of people who constantly tweet about their books, people who send you direct messages about their book and otherwise bother you for something you might have been interested to check out, but are now no longer.

A myriad of marketing options are being dreamed up daily by all sorts of people, most of them with good intentions, but most of them with a poor understanding of how people decide to buy books. Every day, I see sites pop up where people can post their books. Visitors are then encouraged to “like” the page and the number of likes are given as a measure of success for the page. Some sites are quite elaborate, well-designed and pretty. Except… do they have ANY members at all who aren’t authors trying to sell their books?

Then what? Paid advertising? At some point you may decide to try paid advertising. It can be beneficial, but its benefits are almost always indirect, in other words, an ad gives you name recognition but few, if any, immediate sales. I consider paid advertising as a way to show my appreciation for sites that I like. They need to make money. I don’t mind giving them some, and as bonus, I get a pretty graphic on their page.

Tweeting, blogging, paid advertising are all auxilliary ways to market yourself, and highly time and/or money-consuming and inefficient ones at that.

Here is the quick and dirty on selling your books:

The first way to promote your book is to write a good book. People read it. They like it. They recommend it to friends. Word of mouth is still the way in which most people decide what to read. No, publishers don’t know how it works either. Invest your time and energy in writing, not blathering on social media (unless the blathering is in your off-time and it’s actually social). Spend your money on ways to improve your book rather than on ads.

The second way to promote your book is to write another book. Because when people like book 1, they can buy book 2. Spend your energy writing this book rather than arguing over/anguishing over or even just reading reviews of book 1. Book 1 is done and dusted. Reviews won’t change it and just as good reviews won’t sell a book, bad ones won’t make it tank either, if you’ve done your homework (see point 1).

The third way to promote you book, which is actually a long way down from points 1 and 2, is to be present and to be genuine. A whole host of stuff could fit into this point. Have a website, have a blog, be on Facebook or Twitter. Have places where people can find you, engage with you and find out about books you’re writing, cons you’re attending or backgrounds for your fiction. Encourage people to like your page, subscribe to your blog or newsletter. What is contained in this point will vary from writer to writer. It’s something you should feel comfortable doing, and something that shouldn’t take you away from writing.

The most important thing about selling your books is that it doesn’t happen overnight, but if you keep doing points 1, 2 and 3, your chances of doing well are greatly increased.

How many copies will my self-published book sell?

Here are some further thoughts on the Ten Home Truths About Starting in Self-publishing and a more recent popular post How much does self-publishing cost?

How much will your self-published book sell? To far too many starry-eyed authors, this question does not enter into the equation, which is why the Ten Home Truths point #1 is the following:

1. You know Amanda Hocking, and Joe Konrath and them?
Yeah, you are going to forget their names and the fact that they’ve had phenomenal successes right now. They exist in a different universe where possibilities and probabilities have been interchanged and where luck smiles down on everyone. That is the universe you’ll find if you take a right turn at the sign that says winners only. But the way is almost always blocked.

The wide-scale brushing aside of this point leads authors into the situation described in How much does self-publishing cost? They get easily roped into expensive schemes because they have a completely unrealistic expectation of their sales.

So, how much will you sell initially (or maybe full stop)?

Well, take the lowest of your personal estimates–or should I call them wishtimates. Take 10% of that (not 10% off–if that’s what you think, go back to point 3 of the Ten Home Truths: learn to write). That’s right, 10% of your estimate. Now divide by two.

Have any sales left? No? Excellent.

It is impossible to underestimate your initial sales. You may be lucky and do better, but most likely you will not. If you work hard and produce fiction with a decent level of competence, your sales will probably increase slowly, but this self-publishing gig is not fast. Don’t outlay huge amounts of money in the assumption that your will see your money back within a year (or at all). Spend only if past sales justify and fund it.

How much does self-publishing cost?

Just recently, a lot of shit has been flung my way in the form of comments, emails and news items about the cost of self-publishing and the benefits or otherwise about signing deals with service providers. All that topped off this morning with the announcement that Simon & Schuster is starting a self-publishing arm. There is just so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. They charge from $1500 to $25,000 to publish and market your book. Sorry about the screaming and the language but ARE THEY FUCKING KIDDING?

Let’s re-visit that old popular post Ten Home Truths About Starting in Self-publishing. Point number 4:

4. Don’t go overboard with expenses – make your writing self-sustaining
… Your sales are likely to be very small initially. If you have numerous titles, it is easy to spend lots on covers, formatting and editing. Most of that money will take a long time to recoup. If you get discouraged, you’ll never recoup it.

What should self-publishing cost? Well, at its very basic level…

NOTHING.

Zip

Nada

That’s right.

It costs nothing.

… If you are re-publishing a story that’s been pre-published and has been edited, or if you have a couple of good editing and proofreading friends with whom you exchange manuscripts.
… If you are reasonably handy with Photoshop so that you can produce a reasonably attractive cover until such time that sales warrant spending a bit on a better cover.

Remember that old adage “money flows to the writer?”

It should also apply to self-publishing.

Never spend any money unless the benefits are clear. If you spend $100 on a book cover because you’re crap at Photoshop, it’s clear what you’re paying for. In the case of a very new author or a short story, it could still be too much, but it’s one-off and doesn’t come with contracts and it won’t break anyone’s budget.

However, if some self-publishing “partnership” venue (be wary of the word “partnership”) wants a percentage for “services” that include marketing and such, do the following:

(this is really important)

Look up their titles on Amazon, B & N and other retailers.

What are the book’s rankings? At the point of writing this post, an overall ranking of 100,000 at Amazon requires about a sale a day. A sale a day at B & N will keep a book at about 70,000. That’s thirty sales a month. Say your book was $4.99, that will net you about $100 for the month.

Is this worth giving someone a percentage? Moreover, is this any higher than you could get the book on your own? (My answer to that is: no).

For their “marketing fees”, do the books have any reviews? Reviews, good or bad, mean that people are reading the book. If someone charges a fee for “marketing”, they had better net you some reviews. Sadly, in all cases where I’ve looked at self-publishing service providers, both ranking and reviews have been sorely lacking.

So, what do you actually pay for?

Don’t sign these deals, people. Just don’t.