05 Jun 2017
Part of the reason why I’m writing The Career Indie Author is to educate myself about the business. I’ve been writing and publishing – in books and newspapers and other publications – for a couple decades. I’ll be the first to admit that at times I’m not very good at it, whereas there are some subjects I think I’m as good as the best out there.
Take the book launch. When Penguin published “Writers Gone Wild” in 2010, they helped get the book into the bookstores, arranged for interviews on various NPR stations, and I hired a publicist to help get me a post on The New York Times blog and connections with online book sites.
Looking back, I realized I could have done a hell of a lot more to get attention. Maybe not by holding up the bloodied head of Donald Trump (note to myself: not all publicity is good publicity), but I could have done something.
So today’s post consists of my notes from an episode of the SPA Girls podcast. The girls – Cheryl Phipps, Shar Barratt, Trudi Jaye, and Wendy Vella – are four New Zealand writers of romance and urban fantasy who are using podcasting to reach the wider world.
It’s a brilliant idea, enabling them to cross time zones and oceans to bring their message to readers.
I started listening to them recently and came across this SPA girls interview with Jami Albright, a writer with a pronounced Texas twang who launched her first book successfully.
How successful? Here were the results in the first three weeks her book, “Running From a Rock Star” debuted:
* 500 books sold
* 200,000 pages read on Kindle Unlimited.
* An Amazon book rank that ranged mostly between 3,000 and 5,000, the lowest at 2,100
* More than 150 reviews.
(Now, eight weeks after its debut, the book is at #5,106. It has 192 reviews, 89% of them 5-star. That’s an excellent performance.)
There’s a lot in the interview that’s worth listening to, but here are the high points I think are important to consider:
1. Subject, genre, and price: Romance is probably the most popular genre. The title tells you everything you need to know about it, and Albright added a series title – “Brides on the Run” – that tell you exactly what the rest of the books will give you.
The ebook also sells for $2.99, which is a price point that gets you 75% of the revenue as well as costing less than a cup of coffee.
2. Write a damn good book and get it edited: She hired Serena Clarke to edit and format her book.
3. Book description: This is one of the best I’ve ever seen, and it started with characters whose needs are described, whose limitations explain how they got to that point in their lives, and why they need to stay together.
Here it is. The bolded lines at the beginning and end mean that Albright made those lines bigger to catch the reader’s eye. She even added the “call to action” at the end, asking the reader to buy the book! That’s marketing savvy:
She’s a good-girl control freak. He’s a bad boy in need of a clean image. Will these opposites attract or self-destruct?
Scarlett Kelly is the poster child for responsible living. Growing up as the daughter of the town floozy, she’s made it her mission to be the exact opposite of her mother. So when she wakes up naked and hung over in bed with a bad-boy rock star, she bolts immediately. There’s just one problem: Scarlett’s bedmate is her new husband.
Gavin needs to repair his image or his music career will go down the tubes. He’s also just learned he has a son he never knew existed. He needs to settle down, and bribing his new wife to stay married may just fit everything into place.
Scarlett agrees to the ruse to help her family’s financial troubles even though she can hardly control herself around the rock star. As they search for Gavin’s son, will their unlikely matrimony give them exactly what they’ve been missing or send them packing?
Running From a Rock Star is the first book in a series of comedic contemporary romance novels. If you like zany characters, razor-sharp wit, and unlikely love stories, then you’ll love the first book in Jami Albright’s Brides On the Run series.
Buy Running From a Rock Star to laugh your way to love today!
4. Lucky media: She didn’t mention this in the interview, but I came across this great review at USAToday’s “Happy Ever After” romance blog. I don’t know how much influence it had on sales, but it sure didn’t hurt!
5. Set up an Instafreebie account to build her mailing list: Albright did something here I hadn’t encountered before. She offered sign-ups the first three chapters “Rock Star.” This attracted people who were truly interested in her book, and probably disappointed anyone who hoped for a free copy. (Albright mentioned that she was against giving away her work, and she set the price at $2.99 so if she felt it necessary to drop it to .99 cents she could.
6. Kept in touch with readers through her newsletter: During this time, she tried to get the first three books in the series done. She sent short newsletters telling funny stories about herself and her family. This gave them an idea of the sense of humor they would find in her books, and keep them primed to buy when the first book came out.
7. Put the book on a two-week preorder at Amazon: She networked with writers in her genre to get the word out that the book was available for ordering. Getting their fans to buy helped populate the book’s “also boughts” on the Amazon page with the right authors. (“Also boughts” are the list of books under the headline “Customers who bought this item also bought.” As of today, I see “Rory vs. Rockstar” by Jess Bentley, “Rock Star Romance” by Crystal Lynn Archer, and “Dangerous Hearts (A Stolen Melody Duet Book)” and “Cocky Rockstar: Gabriel Cocker (Cocker Brothers of Atlanta Book 10)” which is about as on-target as you can get.
Interesting tweak: She did not announce the preorder to her newsletter, presumably to keep those sales for when the book appears.
8. Arrange a daily newsletter swap for eight days after publication: Amazon’s promotion algorithms favor books with steady sales. It’s better to have 100 sales for 8 days than 800 sales in one day. A daily newsletter swap exposed the book to new audiences and tried to build sales over time.
She also made sure that she swapped only with authors who had books with similar “heat levels.” Her book was humorous romance, not “50 Shades of Grey.” Staying with similar books reduced the chance of disappointing readers.
The results were varied. Some swaps didn’t do much for sales, but one from author Cheryl Phipps resulted in a spike.
9. Make the book available for reviews: She got authors to ask their newsletter members if they wanted to read the book and write a review for Amazon. She also created “street teams” to supply reviews to Amazon and Goodreads, and contracted with “Shifted Sheets” on Fiverr to offer review copies to its members. Result: about a hundred reviews.
That’s most of what she did, and as a result, Albright did no writing for the month that she took to arrange all this.
There’s a lot more advice that she offered, so again I recommend listening to the podcast.
Can this work for you? Maybe, but it depends on your online connections, the work you’re able to put into it, your budget, and the genre and quality of your book.
But this does give you an idea of the options available to market your book online.