Author Topic: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out  (Read 103501 times)  

Offline B. Magnarella

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #150 on: May 08, 2013, 05:38:30 PM »
Brad: An October/Nov/Dec release isn't a bad idea. But I think I'd probably go out in Sept with book 1, because it will take some time to build - it won't happen overnight, unless your last name is Kardashian. Which, BTW, there's time to change it. Just saying.

Thanks for the advice, Blake. Makes sense.

Kardashian, huh? Does the name change come with a gel booty pad?

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #151 on: May 08, 2013, 05:46:06 PM »
Brad: We can only hope. :o


Offline cdvsmx5

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #152 on: May 08, 2013, 05:58:43 PM »
cdv: ...I'm not sure why you're spoiling for a fight, ...
This kind of post is what discourages people from sharing their successes and systems for success.  ATTACKS. ..

These are attacks. I made none.

I did follow Russel's blog for some time and he did write extensively about reviews. I found the lack of attention to them here worthy of note and request for explanation appropriate.

Offline AndreSanThomas

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #153 on: May 08, 2013, 06:00:22 PM »
Change name to Hugh Kardashian.

Got it. Thanks!
Steamy hot erotica for grown ups.
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Offline P.J. Post

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #154 on: May 08, 2013, 06:37:07 PM »
While we're on the subject there Mister Blake...

How about filling in the blanks on the whole promotion thing you kind of glossed over.  It's one thing to understand promotions, but applicable industry know-how is a different story.

How about a 24 point plan on specific promotional strategies, names and numbers would be helpful.   :D

Seriously, how did you get the ball rolling on the promotional front?


Offline Andrew Ashling

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #155 on: May 08, 2013, 06:46:42 PM »
This has been interesting.

The advice you give is solid if you happen to write books that are more or less mainstream.

Still, I wonder You said you changed an ending from one you preferred and which worked better to one you knew would appeal to more readers (= would sell more books). My conclusion is that it is all a matter of personal balance. after all, John Locke as well tries to give the reader what the reader wants because he wants to sell more books. So does ThrowawayWriter (cited in an earlier post).

The difference, I think, is that you're far more ethical and more respectful of your readers.
But at the end of the day you are doing more or less what they are doing: e.g. you write an inferior ending (inferior to the one you had in mind and from a literary point of view) because you know it will sell more books. (I know you preemptively backpedaled in point 21 & 22.)

There is a chasm. Independent publishing has made it possible to write without compromises and still get your books in front of readers. I am not prepared to have a "good" character survive if the story demands that he dies, although I know it will alienate a certain type of reader. Of course, I'm not getting rich any time soon. I probably sell in a whole month what you sell in half a day, and I think anybody who can should follow your advice.

This leaves some of us with a problem. You can define your demographic, do research and then write to their taste and market to them. We write, and then our poor inner publisher has to find a demographic for what we've written.

Even so, a lot of your advice can be adapted to this. Get professional help for covers, editing, and so on Keep the product description short and to the point. Branding. For the latter I'm going to try to figure out if my brand couldn't be "something you didn't expect," "something that will rip you out of your comfort zone" or "no genre applies - read at your own risk." My demographic could be those people who just for once want to read a book that doesn't give them something predictable.
I must admit I've been lazy. I should have blogged more. I should have given background information and context for my stories. I should have explained some of my choices and what I'm trying to do. I should have tried to become my very own genre.

There were a lot of other points that are also worth considering seriously.

So, thank you.
May your writing keep you in tequila for the rest of your natural days.















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Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #156 on: May 08, 2013, 06:49:37 PM »
cc: I have written many blogs on the promo thing. Going back to December of 2011, if not earlier. I did cross-promotions with other authors, most notably David Lender and Steven Konkoly, where we swapped excerpts. I did about one interview every week for months on end. I did a multi-author promo with World Literary Cafe put together by Melissa Foster. I tweeted like a maniac for a year, but not book tweets - more like stream of consciousness vignettes, many of them viciously funny. I did Select. I paid for advertising in all the usual suspect pubs. In other words, I took massive, consistent action, so that I was everywhere and anywhere. I figured that name recognition would equate to reduced reluctance to try one of my books.

So there was no one thing. I basically did everything but Facebook, which I now wish I had. I think Twitter lost its effectiveness for me about a year ago, but that's to be expected - things change. Nothing is static. Which is why the idea of a how to book isn't appealing - it's out of date the day it comes out.


Offline Chris Baker

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #157 on: May 08, 2013, 07:04:25 PM »
Maybe it's just because I am a techie. But one of the first things I did was buy two domain names. So, pick a title that you can get as a domain name. And put up a real web site. Of course, you will still link to sites like Amazon, Kobo, etc. But that's another thing that makes it easier for people to find your book.

My novel is Escape from the Village. I bought escapefromthevillage.com and escapevillage.com.


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Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #158 on: May 08, 2013, 07:10:30 PM »
AndrewA: I think it's a question of balance. In the end, we are entertainers. We create art, or aspire to, but we are also referential of the audience - we have to be, or we'll be starving artists. David Foster Wallace speaks to this at length on Youtube - about the awareness of the reader in the author's head, and the natural tendency to modify to suit the reader's expectations, even if that tendency is unconscious. I don't kid myself that I am writing War and Peace. I am a fiction author who writes conspiracy thrillers, some of which have huge underpinnings of truth to them, and which should scare the hell out of anyone with a brain. But I also dance for my dinner, and I am aware that the reader, if not always right, prefers what he prefers, and if I don't provide satisfaction, he'll go elsewhere. So I'm pragmatic.

I don't know anything about your genre. I don't know if there is a big, or small, market for it. I further don't know whether that market prefers the style of book you write (grade level, word choice, prose, whatever). So there are any number of possibilities of why you aren't selling what you would like. If I were troubleshooting it, I would try to establish the size of the market, who the leaders are and why they are leaders (what are they doing right?), and then evaluate how my product stacks up compared to that.

I don't have answers to every question, and I wish I did. I think I differ in fundamental ways from the authors you mention in that I assume my reader is smart, relatively jaded, and can discern between puerile crap and well-written, well-plotted fare. And I'm not trying to do the least amount of work to get a sale. I don't mind busting my hump to over-deliver value. That's key, I think. I have none of the scammy tendencies I detected in the posts you presented. I believe that's why a decade from now I'll still be selling well, and that my readership will have grown, and my fans will maintain a certain enthusiasm that you can't trick them into. Scams work for short periods of time (unless you're the Fed or the government), but eventually those you are preying upon figure it out, and move on, and then you're the one standing when the music stops.

I don't pretend that my approach is the only one, but I think, if you take anything away from this, that it's one of my core beliefs: The way you perceive data, and organize it, determines the choices you make. My approach is a reasoned one that strives to organize the chaotic into something approachable, and gives me a framework to tackle tough choices. It helps me make better choices. It enables me to make those choices with my eyes wide open. It forces me to divorce my love of craft and story, and become a business person who sells books, when the time comes. It necessarily divorces most of the overlap of being a writer, and being a business person who sells books. These are all perceptual tools. They help me structure my business and my literary world in a way that makes sense, for lack of a better word.

I think anything that can help you view your problem differently, and which causes a lightbulb to go off, and empowers you, is good.

Hopefully this will do that, at least a little.

We're in accord on the tequila.


Offline Annie B

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #159 on: May 08, 2013, 07:23:40 PM »
Re writing for the readers thing, I try to do what Stephen King says he does. I have my own Tabitha.  For me, he happens to be my husband. He's the kind of reader I want and he likes the kind of books I love to write (90% of the time, occasionally I write something I know I have to have a different ideal reader in mind for).  That way I don't worry about some nebulous "all readers" and can just focus on pleasing one reader. It keeps me sane, at least.  :D

Offline Andrew Ashling

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #160 on: May 08, 2013, 07:39:09 PM »

So there are any number of possibilities of why you aren't selling what you would like.

In fact, I exceeded my wildest dreams of 2011. When I had written this nearly 400,000 words monstrosity I discovered self-publishing. I immediately knew I had to Tolkien it, i.e. hack it in three parts. By sheer luck or something else that was easy to do as the story had a clear beginning, middle part and finale. I just had to write a few ending and beginning scenes and reorganize some others.
I calculated that the world demand would be between 50 and 100 copies in 2011.
Meanwhile we're 2013 and I seem to be getting new readers at a constant though very slow rate. I'm looking for ways to speed up the process.

I think I differ in fundamental ways from the authors you mention in that I assume my reader is smart, relatively jaded, and can discern between puerile crap and well-written, well-plotted fare. And I'm not trying to do the least amount of work to get a sale. I don't mind busting my hump to over-deliver value. That's key, I think. I have none of the scammy tendencies I detected in the posts you presented. I believe that's why a decade from now I'll still be selling well, and that my readership will have grown, and my fans will maintain a certain enthusiasm that you can't trick them into. Scams work for short periods of time (unless you're the Fed or the government), but eventually those you are preying upon figure it out, and move on, and then you're the one standing when the music stops.

I agree. That's what I meant when I wrote, "The difference, I think, is that you're far more ethical and more respectful of your readers."

I think anything that can help you view your problem differently, and which causes a lightbulb to go off, and empowers you, is good.

Hopefully this will do that, at least a little.


It did. It also made me think I should reread Tony Robbins (massive and consistent effort, mirroring success, etc.)

You're right, we tend to get in a rut. At the very least it clarified my problem. Which is the beginning. And the beginning is a very good place to start, I read somewhere.












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Offline Debra Purdy Kong

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #161 on: May 08, 2013, 07:45:58 PM »
Thanks so much for sharing this, it's really helpful.

I'm on board with all of your tips, but my main downfall is that I don't write fast. I edit a lot and can barely manage one book every 2 years because of the 5 or 6 drafts I take (it used to be 12), although no one's ever criticized the quality of writing when I do manage to get a book out there, so I suppose that's something.

I have to find ways to keep improving while writing faster, and that's the biggest challenge for me. I'm   getting better at it, but I'm still far from three books a year. It's a great goal to have, though.

Thanks again!



Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #162 on: May 08, 2013, 09:19:23 PM »
AndrewA: Robbins is just a synthesis of many schools, all of which are effective when applied. It's just that most don't apply them. But I've read him, and think, like everything, he's got his good points.

Good lord. If you thought your market for your book was 100 books, and you've sold more, WTF! You're way ahead! Glass half full and all.

DebraPK: I write dialogue at maybe 1000 words per hour, narrative at more like 500. I average maybe 600 if I'm lucky. I don't write fast. Others have shared that they put out 2500 words per hour. Me, not on your life.

At some point there's a time value of money thing going on. I could do drafts 4-8, but it's a better investment of my time and money to have others do that, while I write the next one. I always do the final draft after they're done, and they have different eyes than mine, so it's a better system for me. If I pay, say, $1000 for all the editing and proofing, and I make that on the first two days of sales, my time was way better spent writing the next one. I calculated that a long time ago. It just took me a while for the market to catch on to what I thought I was worth!  ;D


Offline Mike Dennis

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #163 on: May 08, 2013, 10:41:34 PM »
I think it was a combination of releasing a trilogy and a series in December, hitting the Hot New Releases list simultaneously during the Xmas selling season,

I've never seen this question asked or answered, so it must be a stupid one, but exactly how does one get a book onto the Hot New Releases list? I've heard about this list, but I've never actually seen it. I tried looking for it on Amazon just now and it didn't leap off the page at me. I saw Kindle Daily Deals, Kindle Select 25, Editors Picks, etc, but no Hot New Releases. And yet many writers who sell a s**tload of books credit their time on this list as the spark that touched off their explosion of sales.


Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #164 on: May 08, 2013, 11:05:12 PM »
MikeD: All you need to do is release a book that starts selling even decently, and you're on it. But you drop off after 30 days. No need to stress how to get on it - if you release and sell some, you're on it. I haven't looked for it for a while, but I can always tell when a new release drops off - goes from #1100 or so to #2900 overnight. So it does get you some visibility. Sort of automatically.


Offline Jos Van Brussel

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #165 on: May 09, 2013, 12:43:28 AM »
Thanks for all the great info and for so graciously spending the time to write about your experience. Really inspirational.

Offline MelissaTurnerLee

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #166 on: May 09, 2013, 04:38:30 AM »
Very strong and well presented advice. As an indie author, I need posts like this. Thank you.
... and coming soon ...

Offline Katherine Roberts

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #167 on: May 09, 2013, 05:27:51 AM »
Russell, thank you - just stumbled across this thread. Lots to think about!

I've had a look through all the posts and not sure if this has been said: if you want massive ebook sales, avoid younger fiction. (I'm not talking YA, but genuine children's books - I think you call them middle grade in the US?) I can't decide if this is because the children's market is fundamentally different, or some other reason, but my best seller is my crossover title, which is read by adults as well as teens.

Anyone else making significant sales with a children's series?

Award-winning fantasy and historical fiction for middle grade and teen/YA readers.
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Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #168 on: May 09, 2013, 07:28:21 AM »
Katherine: I don't offer genre advice, because it's up to the author to determine what they enjoy writing, and what genre is financially best for them. But I would say the fundamentals apply. I'm also not sure that the short form/novella that some are saying they do well with do as well as I do with novels. In other words, if you sell 3K $1.99 short stories and 1500 novellas at $2.99, that's a nice income, but it's not the same as selling 3K novels at $5. So I think there's a lack of specificity that may be coloring some of the terms here. My counsel is really sort of global, and should be viewed as how I approach selling a boatload of novels in the 80-120K range.

BTW, Smashwords just came out with a neat new survey, and it definitively shows that the majority of the biggest sellers are 100K+. Another data point. Sales drop off pretty radically as you get shorter. Everyone should go check it out.

Jos & Melissa: My pleasure. Now I have to start second draft of the WIP I finished last night. Never a dull moment...


Offline Susanne.

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #169 on: May 09, 2013, 07:39:48 AM »
Katherine: I don't offer genre advice, because it's up to the author to determine what they enjoy writing, and what genre is financially best for them. But I would say the fundamentals apply. I'm also not sure that the short form/novella that some are saying they do well with do as well as I do with novels. In other words, if you sell 3K $1.99 short stories and 1500 novellas at $2.99, that's a nice income, but it's not the same as selling 3K novels at $5. So I think there's a lack of specificity that may be coloring some of the terms here. My counsel is really sort of global, and should be viewed as how I approach selling a boatload of novels in the 80-120K range.

BTW, Smashwords just came out with a neat new survey, and it definitively shows that the majority of the biggest sellers are 100K+. Another data point. Sales drop off pretty radically as you get shorter. Everyone should go check it out.

Jos & Melissa: My pleasure. Now I have to start second draft of the WIP I finished last night. Never a dull moment...

Not in my experience. Of my ten books, three are around 65K, the others 90-110K. The shorter ones sell the best by far.

What about pricing? All my books are currently at $2.99 but I'd like to raise the price by a dollar.

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Offline blakebooks

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Offline Susanne.

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #171 on: May 09, 2013, 07:48:04 AM »

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Offline Debra Purdy Kong

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #172 on: May 09, 2013, 08:08:59 AM »
AndrewA: Robbins is just a synthesis of many schools, all of which are effective when applied. It's just that most don't apply them. But I've read him, and think, like everything, he's got his good points.

Good lord. If you thought your market for your book was 100 books, and you've sold more, WTF! You're way ahead! Glass half full and all.

DebraPK: I write dialogue at maybe 1000 words per hour, narrative at more like 500. I average maybe 600 if I'm lucky. I don't write fast. Others have shared that they put out 2500 words per hour. Me, not on your life.

At some point there's a time value of money thing going on. I could do drafts 4-8, but it's a better investment of my time and money to have others do that, while I write the next one. I always do the final draft after they're done, and they have different eyes than mine, so it's a better system for me. If I pay, say, $1000 for all the editing and proofing, and I make that on the first two days of sales, my time was way better spent writing the next one. I calculated that a long time ago. It just took me a while for the market to catch on to what I thought I was worth!  ;D

Another good point! I've always hired an editor for my self-published work, but only after I've done a fair bit of editing myself. You've given me something to think about.

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #173 on: May 09, 2013, 08:12:38 AM »
Susanne: I didn't notice any difference between my sales at $2.99, $3.99 or $4.99, but I'm in a different genre. I noticed a difference between $4.99 and $5.99, but I decided to make a philosophical choice to brand my new releases at that higher price point, so that my brand is associated with higher quality work. To me it was worth the maybe 25% fewer sales at $6 to stake out that ground, and now, it seems that folks don't mind paying that for a new book of mine. Alternatively, it makes my backlist look more appealing as it's cheaper, relatively speaking. Take a hard look at your genre before you change all your prices and confirm that you aren't pricing yourself at nosebleed prices for the genre.

By way of example, most indies in my genre are $2.99 to $3.99, but trad pubs are $12-$15. So I kind of figured since I put my books through a trad pub type editing process with three rounds of separate eyes, plus three drafts of my own, plus a final proofing round by yours truly, that the extra effort deserved additional compensation, and would deliver additional value for the reader. So I'm actually considerably higher priced than my indie peers within the genre, but selling well, so at the end of the day, the long term brand building at the higher price is worth any incremental sales sacrifice I'd see.


Offline Susanne.

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #174 on: May 09, 2013, 08:24:13 AM »
Susanne: I didn't notice any difference between my sales at $2.99, $3.99 or $4.99, but I'm in a different genre. I noticed a difference between $4.99 and $5.99, but I decided to make a philosophical choice to brand my new releases at that higher price point, so that my brand is associated with higher quality work. To me it was worth the maybe 25% fewer sales at $6 to stake out that ground, and now, it seems that folks don't mind paying that for a new book of mine. Alternatively, it makes my backlist look more appealing as it's cheaper, relatively speaking. Take a hard look at your genre before you change all your prices and confirm that you aren't pricing yourself at nosebleed prices for the genre.

By way of example, most indies in my genre are $2.99 to $3.99, but trad pubs are $12-$15. So I kind of figured since I put my books through a trad pub type editing process with three rounds of separate eyes, plus three drafts of my own, plus a final proofing round by yours truly, that the extra effort deserved additional compensation, and would deliver additional value for the reader. So I'm actually considerably higher priced than my indie peers within the genre, but selling well, so at the end of the day, the long term brand building at the higher price is worth any incremental sales sacrifice I'd see.

Most books in my genre are priced between $2.99 and $4.99, so I think that's okay for me. I had one book at $3.99 already and that is one of my better selling ones,  so I don't think the extra dollar makes a difference.

Susanne O'Leary | website | blog | facebook | writer's forum