Author Topic: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales  (Read 118873 times)  

Offline ゴジラ

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3671
  • ia! ia!
    • View Profile
A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« on: August 27, 2012, 09:49:00 AM »
I've seen a lot of new people floating around on KB asking for promo tips, so I thought I would give a quick guide to doing "the slow build" of sales. After getting into publishing almost sixteen months ago, I'm a full-time writer and making $2-5k a month (occasionally more). Since I'm not particularly smart or talented, I'm pretty confident anyone can pull it off doing the same stuff I have.

I don't really like being helpful. (That really sounds horrible. I guess it is.) I am not a people person, I don't want to build a platform as a publishing "expert" or what have you, and my depression/anxiety severely limits my ability to promote anything. But I wouldn't be doing as well as I am now if smart, kindly folks hadn't taken time out of their busy schedules to give me a few pointers. It's been a huge hand up for me, and so here's a hand up for you.

None of this is rocket science. You can gather this info just by reading a lot of threads and watching other writers. I'm just going to distill it into a few points.

Disclaimer: This is only one way to do things. It's pretty much dummy-proof and luck-proof. But there are lots of other ways to do things too--probably better ways. This is the easiest that requires the least interaction with people. YMMV.

What you need:
1. Books. Written by you, ideally. Can't do much with other books.
2. A mailing list.

You can substitute Facebook or Twitter for the mailing list, with caveats. They tend to be huge time sucks that draw away from writing, and it's hard to get eyeballs on your new release announcements that way. Twitter has a lot of noise that pushes down your tweets. FB is severely limiting how many of your followers see your posts. Emails are quick and easy and pop straight into the inbox of your loving readers.

Qualifiers about that whole "books" thing:
1. They need to be relatively commercial. Not hugely so--but if you're writing something terribly obscure, this may not work as well.
2. You need to write lots of them. This sales strategy is entirely dependent on new releases.
3. They should be in a series.
4. They shouldn't suck. (Who's going to buy books 2-10 of a series when they hated book 1?)

To steal the analogy of smarter people, writing a series is like building a pyramid. Book 1 is the base of a pyramid. Although later books will not sell as much as earlier books, every time you release something new, you're adding another level and widening the base of the pyramid. A series is also a must for dummy- and luck-proof publishing, because it allows you to leverage earlier books to sell later books at full price.

This is basically what you want to do:
1. Release book 1,
2. Aggressively attract those readers to your mailing list, so that when you,
3. Release book 2,
4. You can notify the people who read book 1 and start off with a small burst of sales.

Lather, rinse, and repeat with books 3, 4, 5, and so on.

That's it. Seriously.

Your first release probably won't be impressive, but each release will hit a tiny bit higher because of your mailing list, and hitting a tiny bit higher will get you a few more eyeballs and increase the size of your mailing list. Eventually, you start to build pretty good momentum. This will go a lot faster if your book is super awesome and resonates with a lot of people, but even if your book only resonates with a handful of readers, it will still build--slooooowly but surely.

Using freebies and 99c sales on earlier books in the series when you launch a new one will also increase the number of eyeballs. (KDP Select is good for this.)

So. That's it. That's how I'm making an almost-livable income from my writing. Every time I release a new book (and I do it a lot--I'll be publishing my sixth book for 2012 in September), I get a few more eyeballs. I get a few more mailing list subscribers, FB likes, and Twitter followers. And then I throw my new release at them, and go write the next one.

You can do other things too, like stalking book bloggers (who are awesome), buying advertisements, judicious use of cross-promotion, and skyclad dancing under the moon with ritual animal sacrifice. But if you're like me--someone who just wants to write, and really completely sucks at other kinds of promotion--you can just do this.

I hope someone finds this helpful.

ETA: After a few more months, I wrote an addendum including information that I feel was lacking from this original post. I hope that the extra information makes this seem a little less intimidating to people trying to start out.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2013, 07:57:31 PM by smreine »

Offline olefish

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 454
    • View Profile
    • omnifish
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2012, 09:56:52 AM »
How do you build your mailing list? 

Offline ゴジラ

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3671
  • ia! ia!
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2012, 09:58:45 AM »
I use Mailchimp: http://mailchimp.com/

And then I link to the sign-up form at the end of my books.

Here's mine for illustrative purposes: http://eepurl.com/eWERY

Offline Victoria J

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1454
  • Gender: Female
  • The swamps of Old Venus
  • Fighting procrastination! Well, sometimes. . .
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2012, 09:59:15 AM »
Personally, I think this should be a sticky note at the top somewhere.

Offline chrisstevenson

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 313
  • Gender: Male
  • Los Angeles
    • View Profile
    • Alpha Adventures
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2012, 10:01:35 AM »
Sage advice from someone who's been there. My biggest obstacle will be listing multiple books--my agent has five of them and I'm so reluctant to pull any of them since she's "stagger" submitting them by genre, all at the same time. I'll have to wait until the sub train slows down or comes to an abrupt halt. She's also put lots of work and time into the editing and contact end of it. So I'll have to pow wow with her to find out which books have really gone the limit. I have two back-list books up on Amazon, published three years ago that still show books in inventory, so I'm not sure how to legally handle that. I do have my rights reverted to me on them, but I don't know about self-publishing them when they're still for sale on Amazon.

You can tell I'm new to the self-pub thing.

chris

Offline JGreen20

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 181
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2012, 10:03:20 AM »
I've seen a lot of new people floating around on KB asking for promo tips, so I thought I would give a quick guide to doing "the slow build" of sales. After getting into publishing almost sixteen months ago, I'm a full-time writer and making $2-5k a month (occasionally more). Since I'm not particularly smart or talented, I'm pretty confident anyone can pull it off doing the same stuff I have...


Brilliant. This thread deserves a bookmark. Thanks for taking the time to share this with us.
    

Offline ゴジラ

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3671
  • ia! ia!
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2012, 10:03:47 AM »
@SM -- can I put your post up as a blog entry on yaindie.com ?

I'll link to your site and credit you and the KB of course!

Be my guest. No credit necessary. Fling it far and wide.

Offline JGreen20

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 181
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2012, 10:04:19 AM »
Personally, I think this should be a sticky note at the top somewhere.

Yes, it should!
    

Online dgaughran

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3230
  • Gender: Male
  • Dublin
  • Let's Get Digital
    • View Profile
    • David Gaughran
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2012, 10:08:59 AM »
Excellent advice.

One question: how do you customize your sign-up page on Mailchimp. I use it, but I've never seen that option and it looks really great. I'm sure personalizing it like that really helps with sign-ups.

David Gaughran | mailing list | blog | website | facebook | twitter
LET'S GET DIGITAL 2 Free for purchasers of the 1st edition! Instructions here

Offline A. Rosaria

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 635
  • Gender: Male
  • Europe
    • View Profile
    • My Website
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2012, 10:10:35 AM »
I write short stories so I'll stick with this advice you gave "skyclad dancing under the moon with ritual animal sacrifice"

I'll wait till the moon is out to walk my dog. ;)

Offline That one girl

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1720
  • Gender: Female
  • Southern California
  • I'm here for the popcorn.
    • View Profile
    • Cassia Leo
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2012, 10:11:53 AM »
Okay, I've been resisting the newsletter/mailing list thing, but you have convinced me. Time to clear the cobwebs on my MailChimp account. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Offline PeanutButterCracker

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2622
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2012, 10:12:14 AM »
How do you build your mailing list? 

You offer something to them to get them to sign up.

DISCLAIMER - don't offer soemething cheap or stupid.  Something of value.

Offline ゴジラ

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3671
  • ia! ia!
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2012, 10:12:54 AM »
Excellent advice.

One question: how do you customize your sign-up page on Mailchimp. I use it, but I've never seen that option and it looks really great. I'm sure personalizing it like that really helps with sign-ups.

That means a lot, coming from you, Mr. I Literally Wrote the Book on This. :)

If you login to Mailchimp and go to Lists, there should be a link that says "Forms" under the name of your mailing list. It takes you to a page where you design all the signup forms and follow-up emails.

Offline ゴジラ

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3671
  • ia! ia!
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2012, 10:14:36 AM »
I write short stories so I'll stick with this advice you gave "skyclad dancing under the moon with ritual animal sacrifice"

I'll wait till the moon is out to walk my dog. ;)

You can do this without a series, too. It's most effective with a series, I think, but it will work to a lesser degree on unrelated books.

Offline PeanutButterCracker

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2622
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2012, 10:15:12 AM »
Excellent advice.

One question: how do you customize your sign-up page on Mailchimp. I use it, but I've never seen that option and it looks really great. I'm sure personalizing it like that really helps with sign-ups.

Here is what mine looks like - took me me all of three minutes: http://iamjustjunco.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=9313bfe0e0713e135eac00c60&id=0fb0896cf5

Now with Constant contact I have a much more targeted sign-up, but that's for my "other" list. It's a much longer process, but typically you want quick and dirty.

Offline ゴジラ

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3671
  • ia! ia!
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2012, 10:17:09 AM »
You offer something to them to get them to sign up.

DISCLAIMER - don't offer soemething cheap or stupid.  Something of value.

This is an option. Indeed, I used to offer a free download of one of my shorter books. I have since stopped doing that, and my enrollment rate hasn't dropped, so I don't think it was a huge incentive. It's a good way to get started, though. And I do spoil my mailing list subscribers by sending them free stuff a couple times a year anyway. :) I know they really appreciate it.

Keep in mind that readers who have enjoyed book 1 of a series really do want a convenient way to know that book 2 has come out. The real incentive here is being the first to find out that the characters they love are back for another adventure.

Offline Lisa Grace

  • Status: Emily Dickinson
  • *******
  • Posts: 8177
  • Gender: Female
  • Florida, USA
  • Me
    • View Profile
    • Lisa Grace
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2012, 10:19:40 AM »
Sage advice from someone who's been there. My biggest obstacle will be listing multiple books--my agent has five of them and I'm so reluctant to pull any of them since she's "stagger" submitting them by genre, all at the same time. I'll have to wait until the sub train slows down or comes to an abrupt halt. She's also put lots of work and time into the editing and contact end of it. So I'll have to pow wow with her to find out which books have really gone the limit. I have two back-list books up on Amazon, published three years ago that still show books in inventory, so I'm not sure how to legally handle that. I do have my rights reverted to me on them, but I don't know about self-publishing them when they're still for sale on Amazon.

You can tell I'm new to the self-pub thing.

chris
Write new novels now to self-publish. Don't wait around.
Your agent can spend 6-7 months shopping your existing ones around and then you get offered an awful contract. Read http://kriswrites.com/2012/08/22/the-business-rusch-the-end-of-the-unprofessional-writer/ to see just how bad contracts have gotten. I have an entertainment lawyer to look at my contracts. If you go back and read her Business Rusch articles, you'll see several breaking down current contracts and why you shouldn't sign them.
 
Angel books in movie development
Lisa Grace - Where Good Meets Evil | author website | facebook | twitter | google+ | Youtube

Offline Zelah Meyer

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3671
  • Gender: Female
  • England
    • View Profile
    • My Website
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #17 on: August 27, 2012, 10:20:03 AM »
That means a lot, coming from you, Mr. I Literally Wrote the Book on This. :)

If you login to Mailchimp and go to Lists, there should be a link that says "Forms" under the name of your mailing list. It takes you to a page where you design all the signup forms and follow-up emails.

Thanks for the advice, and the tip on the mailing list forms!

Offline Krista D. Ball

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 6939
  • Gender: Female
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Hybrid Level 2
    • View Profile
    • Follow the adventures of a fantasy author
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2012, 10:22:56 AM »
Lies. All lies.

Krista D. Ball

Offline ToniD

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3715
  • Gender: Female
  • California
    • View Profile
    • tonidwiggins.com
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2012, 10:25:52 AM »
And I do spoil my mailing list subscribers by sending them free stuff a couple times a year anyway. :) I know they really appreciate it.

Good idea, that. I started a mailing list using MailChimp awhile back, and so far have only used it to notify subscribers of sales. Free stuff is a nice thank-you. I'm thinking, a free copy of my next book when (ahem, when Toni??) it comes out.

And serious congrats on your monthly income!


Offline ゴジラ

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3671
  • ia! ia!
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #20 on: August 27, 2012, 10:26:26 AM »
Lies. All lies.

Well, I do also put naked photos on page 32, but I didn't want to tell people that part. They might start stealing my success.

Offline Krista D. Ball

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 6939
  • Gender: Female
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Hybrid Level 2
    • View Profile
    • Follow the adventures of a fantasy author
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #21 on: August 27, 2012, 10:27:18 AM »
Well, I do also put naked photos on page 32, but I didn't want to tell people that part. They might start stealing my success.

That's how I pay my bills, baby. That's how I pay my bills.

Krista D. Ball

Offline SBJones

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1710
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • SBJones Publishing
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #22 on: August 27, 2012, 10:27:51 AM »
I used the embed email function in Word and simply put "Want to find out about new releases?  Join the mailing list at EMAIL".
The embed email link lets you pre fill out subject and body so all someone has to do is click on it and send it.  I then use an email rule to look for the pre filled subject line and it auto adds their email to my mailing group.
   

Offline PeanutButterCracker

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2622
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #23 on: August 27, 2012, 10:29:27 AM »
I used the embed email function in Word and simply put "Want to find out about new releases?  Join the mailing list at EMAIL".
The embed email link lets you pre fill out subject and body so all someone has to do is click on it and send it.  I then use an email rule to look for the pre filled subject line and it auto adds their email to my mailing group.

You're fancy!   ;D  Great idea...I'll have to think about that as well..

Offline Mel Comley

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3620
  • Gender: Female
  • France
  • Thriller and Romance writer.
    • View Profile
    • Blog
Re: A very quick, short, and dirty guide to slowly building sales
« Reply #24 on: August 27, 2012, 10:29:37 AM »
Excellent advice.  ;)
]