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Authors' Forum => Writers' Cafe => Topic started by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 09:26:04 AM

Title: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 09:26:04 AM
Over the last week, because of my burst of posts here, I've gotten a number of PMs from authors asking for counsel on one matter or another, so I thought I would take the time to lay out my thoughts so that the info is available to everyone. This doesn't represent the only way to do things, but it's my way, and is the synthesis of everything I've learned over the last 23 months of self-publishing.

By way of background, I write conspiracy-based action/adventure novels. I published my first novel on Amazon June, 2011. I published my 20th novel in April, 2013. My first month I sold about 7 books. In 2012, I sold 104K books. In 2013, from the start of the year to today, May 7, I have sold just shy of another 100K books, and look good to exceed 200K for the year by a decent margin. I lay this out there not to crow, but to establish why it might be worth considering my approach. So in no particular order, here's my counsel for selling a boatload of books:

1) Pick one genre that's popular and with which you are extremely familiar, and then write in that genre. Stick to it. Don't hop around. It confuses your potential readers and muddies who you are in their minds, and will hurt your sales. If you want to write different genres, use a pseudonym, and if you like, let your readers know that moniker is you. But stick to one name, one genre, because you're building your brand, and brand building is a function of clarity - clearly communicating what you do, and what your product is.

2) Write a series. Why? Because readers like series, and you want to give readers what they like. Or you won't sell as much. You can try stand-alone - I have - but my series outsell my stand-alone books 4 to 1. Once you have at least three books in the series, make the first one free. Make your money on the rest, but give readers a whole novel to decide whether they like you or not.

3) Write a lot. By that I mean try to write at least 3 novels a year. Don't bother with short stories or novellas (40K or under) if you're writing fiction (non-fiction might do better) unless it's romance, erotica, or your name is Hugh. If fiction, write 60-90K installments in your series, and release them AT MINIMUM every four months. Every three months would be better. Every two, better still. Momentum breeds success, and readers have short memories. The current market is a hungry animal, and you need to feed it, or risk being forgotten by the time your next one releases. Sorry. It's the truth. And don't start whining about how X famous author only puts out one book every Y years. If you're Dan Brown and you sell tens of millions of novels each whack, then do whatever the hell you like. If you aren't, listen up, or chock your strategy up to, "Become the next Dan Brown" and stop reading this drivel.

4) Read a lot. To write well, you need to read things that are well-written, and that serve to inspire you to greater heights or provide insight on how to improve your work in some way. You are what you eat. If you aren't reading a decent amount, start, because otherwise you're unlikely to write nearly as well as if you do.

5) Allocate time every day to write, and be disciplined. I suggest minimum one hour per day, or 1000 words. I actually ignore that and shoot for 5000-7000 a day when writing a novel, but that's just my approach, and it's not for everyone. My point is that you must be disciplined about your writing and develop that muscle. If you don't make it a habit, you won't write enough to put out one novel every four months, and you'll already be way behind the curve.

6) Allocate time every day to market. I recommend a 75%/25% writing to marketing mix. So spend an hour writing every day, and fifteen-twenty minutes marketing (social media, blogging, interviews, message boards like this). Two hours writing, half hour o forty minutes marketing. And so on.

7) Stay off the internet when you're writing. Set aside the writing time, and do only that. Leave placeholders for stuff you need to research later (XXX city is Y distance from ZZZ city, etc.). Stopping your writing to research breaks your momentum. Don't do it. Checking your e-mail, checking in with your facebook group, reading a tweet - none of these are going to write your book for you, so stop it already.

8.) Get professional help. Do pro covers. It's the first thing your potential readers will see. Put out something amateurish, and they will go to something that looks worthy of their time, and it won't be you. Get pro editing. You are asking people to pay for your product. They won't, and shouldn't, if you haven't ensured it is a pro product, which means it must be edited and proofread. If you're too cheap or too broke to pay an editor, barter something of value to get someone qualified to do it, or (gasp, here's an idea) save some money so you can do it right. Skip these steps and you won't sell much, if anything. Or if you do, it won't last very long, because word will spread, and then you're dead.

9) Make sure your product description rocks, is short and compelling, and sucks the reader in. After your cover, the product description has to sell the book. Don't give too much info, don't spell out the plot like it's a test. Give the high points that will interest a reader in knowing more. And make sure it's coherent and there are no typos or bad grammar, as that will kill most of your sales out of the gate.

10) Now for the actual book. You have five pages to hook the reader. The first five. Make those amazing pages that demand the reader continues.

11) Know your audience. You do that by reading a fair amount in the genre, and by looking at the reviews of your competitors/the bestsellers in your genre. If you're writing for a genre that's 90% cat ladies, you need to know that going in. If mostly older males, know that too. Teen girls, ditto. Whatever your audience, figure it out before you start writing. Do a little research. It will pay dividends later.

12) Brand yourself as the go-to author in that genre. Become synonymous with your genre. Define it, if possible. Even better would be where your name is shorthand for the genre in your readers' minds. As an example, Dan Brown is synonymous with a genre Umberto Eco pioneered with Foucault's Pendulum - the theology-based conspiracy treasure hunt. Nowadays, when readers try to articulate that, they say "it's a Dan Brown kind of book." You should live so long, but make that your goal.

13) Price competitively and intelligently. Look at your genre. Where are most books priced? Are you undervaluing/underpricing your work? Price to sell, but don't go cheap, no matter what Locke or Hocking did years ago. Use low prices occasionally to move product, as promotional pricing. But price your product consistently with the rest of your peers. Over time, you can increase prices, if your product warrants it and your readership is willing to pay it. My advice here is don't price too low, or too high. Obviously, if you are racing up the charts at $3.99 and believe that moving to .99 will get you into the winner's circle, go for it, but that's rare. Price intelligently, and constantly play around with. By way of example, I tried $2.99 and $3.99, and then $4.99, and my sales were basically the same. So my readers are willing to pay up to $5 with no issues. My new releases are always $5.99. I do that because I want to brand myself as a quality read, and also because that's still a bargain compared to my trad pub peers. I'm nosebleed level for indies, but I've only been pricing there with success this year. All last year, $4.99 was the ceiling. Something shifted, probably due to my introduction of the JET series in October, and I haven't seen any fade at $5.99 vs. $4.99, so I price at what I consider to be reasonable for my work. The point is not to gouge, but rather to deliver good value, whatever the price is. But my genre is different than yours (probably) and it took a while to get there. I mention this not so you price however I do, but rather so that you see that pricing isn't static, nor engraved in stone.

14) When writing, write as a craftsman/artist, and strive to improve every day. Force yourself to constantly up your game. Make your early work look like crap compared to what you're writing now.

15) It's okay to go back and rewrite your early work once you've evolved past it. I've rewritten probably half my novels by now. I will continue to do so. As I get better, I want all my work to get better.

16) There is no such thing as "not my best work." Imagine that every book you write is the only one anyone is ever going to read, and they must make a decision to read the rest of your backlist or not, based only on that one book. Or imagine that a big 5 trad publisher is considering doling out a seven figure advance, and will only read one book, and it is your weakest. Ensure even your weakest is as good as you can write, because if not, you're screwing your most important resource: your reader.

17) When finished writing, put on your business hat. This means that when done with your artistic work (writing), you are now a book seller. Your business is selling books, not being an author, at the point you ask someone to buy your books; to part with their money in exchange for the product you created. As a business person in a commercial enterprise, you need to be dispassionate and make smart business decisions, or you will fail. Book selling is a highly competitive business, and you are up against people who work tirelessly at it. If that's daunting or gives you pause, you might want to reconsider whether this is a business you want to be in. In the book selling business, saccharine bromides of "just go for it" and "follow your dream" are about as useful as a bowling ball to a fish. Writing is art and self-expression, something beautiful and intensely personal. Book selling is a commercial enterprise. Confuse the two, and you hurt any chances you have of success, if success to you means selling a bunch of books.

18) Businesses require investment. All businesses, whatever the industry. Nobody with a brain goes into business with no money, no research, no plan, and no time or effort. Expect to spend some money on product development (cover, editing). Expect to spend either money or effort on marketing (preferably both). If you don't have the money to properly edit your work or get a pro cover, you aren't ready to be in business. Save some. Then try. Or borrow some from investors (which would be an eye opener, because most would want to see a business plan, which would force you to actually think all aspects of your new business through). Alternatively, become a graphic design/book cover whiz people would gladly pay $200-$500 to design their covers, do it for about a decade, and then do your own cover. Or spend 20 years editing, and then try your hand at editing your own work, going over it at least three times. If you don't have 20 years of germane acumen, you probably aren't qualified to edit your, or anyone else's, work, so you need to hire professional talent. If you don't, you aren't investing in your business, and you're radically reducing your chances of success. Not too many businesses that have no budget or acumen succeed. That's the harsh truth. If you believe this one is different, knock yourself out and let me know how that goes. Until then, my counsel stands. Treat this like a business, not a dream of winning the lottery.

19) Have realistic goals. Look at what the average person does in their first year, and their second. That's average. It ain't pretty. If you want to be different than average in a good way, you need to do something better/different, and you need to make your own luck. Don't get bummed because you haven't been an overnight sensation. I sold $300 of novels in November, 2011, after six months of 15 hour days and seven releases. In December, 2011, I released five novels I'd been working on for months, to create a massive Xmas surge. I leaped to $1450. With a dozen books out. That's not exactly a ton for the big Xmas season. But I continued writing as though my work was in hot demand. And I kept investing in my product, losing money, until it turned the corner and I started making real money in Jan of 2012.

20) Book selling is a retail business, and retail businesses are promotions intense. You're only going to be as good as your last, and next, promotion. Promotions are a necessary fact of life in retail. You have to generate noise - the product won't do it by itself. There are millions of books out there. Yours are just more books. Figure out how to get some visibility. I won't advise you on how - there are plenty of 'experts' that will charge you $5 for a book on what worked two years ago. Simply put, it's constantly changing, so you need to experiment and push the envelope, share information with others and stay ahead of the curve. But if you aren't promoting, you're stalling. In business you're either shrinking, or growing. If you aren't promoting, chances are you aren't growing.

21) Assess what will be required to make it (and define what make it means to you in a coherent, attainable way), and then decide whether you are willing to do it. That doesn't mean figure out what you can comfortably do, or think is reasonable. It means evaluate what it will likely take to get where you want to go, and then calculate what it will cost - in time, effort, money. If you can't afford whatever that is, then you either need to scale back our goal, or you need to increase what you're willing to invest of yourself and your resources. Hoping you make it while putting in 30% of what you estimate will truly be required is delusion. It's like hoping you live to be 100 while smoking two packs a day, never exercising and being 50 pounds overweight. It could happen, but the odds say, not so much. This is called getting real with yourself. Lie to everyone else if you must. Don't lie to yourself. Life's too short, and you're the best friend you've got. Oh, and BTW, if you think the secret to operating a successful book selling business is to just write and hope people discover your products, your strategy amounts to, "Once upon a time." Not in the real world. I mean, anything's theoretically possible, but so is marrying a billionaire. Don't make that your business strategy. It's a non-strategy.

21a) Decide whether making it is worth the cost. See #21. Now that you know what it will realistically take just to have a shot at the brass ring (whatever that is to you), determine whether it's worth it. If not, do some soul searching and come up with a better objective for yourself - one that won't make you miserable and unhappy. Ideally, writing should make you happy, and should be its own reward. If you decide to start a self-publishing business to sell books, that's a commercial enterprise, and most commercial enterprises exist to sell things, not for self-actualization. If you can be happy and sell lots of stuff, so much the better. But the first goal of any commercial enterprise is to sell products, not to coddle the owner and make him/her feel warm and fuzzy. The business world is competitive. The book publishing business is one of the most competitive I've ever seen, and I've seen a few. It will take extraordinary luck, effort, commitment and drive to make it, even at a nominal level, much less a big level. If you are only able or willing to invest part time effort into it, don't expect more than what you might make at a part time job. If that. Even if you are willing to go full time and give it your all, it is still no guarantee. Sorry. Know that going in. Don't mean to be Mr. Buzzkill, but better you know the truth and look it squarely in the eye up front, than figure it out over time. And folks? If you're an outlier and put in 4 hours a week and are making five grand a month, hat's off to you. Take a picture. Write a how-to book.

22) Be true to yourself. Don't try to act. Don't create a personality that is what you think others might like. Be yourself all the time. People can smell insincerity. If you suck, that's okay. Could be there are plenty of others who also suck, and might enjoy hanging out with someone who sucks. Maybe even buy your books.

23) Pay attention to what works, and what doesn't. This is so obvious, and yet is so often overlooked. Everyone is going to have an opinion of what you should do, and how. Most of those won't have been successful at what they are advising you on. That doesn't mean they're wrong, but it does mean you should be skeptical of all claims, and use your head. And pay attention. If the market is telling you that your books are poorly written, then you need to either improve them, or get used to being punched in the face by reviewers for wasting their time. If it's telling you that your editing sucks, figure it out (and you have obviously not paid much attention to this little diatribe) and fix it. Ditto for your covers. And your blurb. And your marketing efforts. Pay attention. Modify your approach. Model those who are doing what you want to do. Model success.

24) Don't try to be all things to all people. When you write, or when you brand and market. Be whoever you actually are when you write, and then brand and market what you are so those interested in what you are know you have what they want. Be clear at all times. Your job as a writer is to tell your story clearly, in your unique manner, as evocatively as you deem fit. Your job once you brand and market yourself is to honestly tout your product, and its strengths. Don't try to please everyone or you're likely to please nobody.

25) Nobody has ever heard of you. That's cause for celebration. Even I, who sell a decent amount now, am unknown to 99% of my target readership. That's a huge amount I can grow. It's good news. How I go about changing that is contained in the prior 24 points. Every day I ask myself, "What can I do, TODAY, to increase my discoverability for my target market?" And then I figure out what I can do, and set aside time to do it. Today, I wrote this post, and will post it as a blog, as well, so it does double duty. Because as odd as it may seem, I'm fairly lazy. And if I can get one bit of writing to serve two purposes, that's a big WIN.

26) Finally, don't waste your time. Don't do things that don't work and are a time suck. I won't tell you what those are. You will have to figure them out for yourself. Some advise tweeting a bunch, others say Facebook is the thing, some swear by Google +, others by Triberr...point is, there's a universe of stuff out there to use, or not. My personal feeling is that many authors I speak with seem unable to make the distinction between what is effective and what is completely pointless. Maybe I'm wrong. But the authors I know who sell consistently, and who have built or are building sustainable careers, optimize their time and try to use it wisely.

26a) Having said all this, your best chance of making it is always writing your next book. You should always be working on the next one, and the next, and the next. Nobody ever succeeded by quitting. So if you're going to do this, do it, stop whining, suck it up, and get to work.

That's basically what I've been sending to those who have contacted me, but in snippets, because I'm currently finishing up my WIP, and figuring out my next one. I don't have tons of time to respond to everyone personally, for which I apologize, but this contains about 80% of what I've learned so far. Take what seems useful, reject or vilify the rest. The intent from my standpoint is to offer a framework, an approach, that has worked well for me. It does not mean it's the only way, but it does mean it's my way. I can't speak to what's worked for others. I can't even say that this will work ever again, or for most, but I sincerely believe it's your best shot if you're a beginning, or even not so beginning, author. Use it, or don't, with my compliments.

The market is constantly changing, so be prepared to change with it. Nothing is the same as it was, nor shall it be a year from now.

The book is dead. Long live the book.

Russell Blake
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: WynwoodPublishing on May 07, 2013, 09:35:54 AM
Lots of solid advice here; thank you.

Must take exception with #3 though. You say: "Don't bother with short stories or novellas (40K or under)."

That's a personal, subjective preference. I've got quite a few books at 40K or under that are selling like mad. Just because you don't personally enjoy writing or reading something of that length, doesn't mean that it's good blanket advice for the rest of the world to completely avoid that length.

Overall though, good advice.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 09:38:12 AM
Good on you. I haven't heard of many who have done well with short stories or novellas - and I do mean in fiction, which I'll clarify. I've written two short stories in my life, neither of which are for sale. If you're selling a boatload of short stories or novellas, brilliant, I say. I just wouldn't recommend it, as it seems like the vast majority of fiction short stories and novellas don't sell, unless they're erotica or your name's Hugh. Maybe I'm wrong. God knows I am often enough...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Nick Endi Webb on May 07, 2013, 09:41:13 AM
You had me at Umberto Eco.

Very solid advice. Thanks!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: cblewgolf on May 07, 2013, 09:50:09 AM
I almost skipped this post due to the length but saw who posted it and dove in.  Thanks for the tips & advice.  The success you have in such a short time is mind-blowing.  You didn't mention how the jump happened except to say you published more.  I guess that is the secret...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Alan Petersen on May 07, 2013, 09:50:47 AM
Thanks Russell! Love those tips. I also enjoyed reading Silver Justice and I have the first Jet book lined up to read on my Kindle.

The one advice I hear a lot about is write more. I only have one book out right now, I'm aiming to have #2 out in July and #3 is almost done. I might try to get #4 out there end of the year. I'm a slow writer, but I think I put a lot of mental roadblocks so advice like yours and Elle have hit home. I'm going to try to improve on that!

Pricing also hit home. I'm at $1.99 but I noticed that I'm on the cheap end with other books in my genre, but as an unknown I haven't been confident to raise my price.

Anyway, I printed this bad boy out. Good to tips to go back to in the future. Thanks!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Adam Pepper on May 07, 2013, 09:53:48 AM
Lots here.  Thanks for all the insight, Russell.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: NathanHaleJefferson on May 07, 2013, 09:59:45 AM
Lots of great advice!  Thank you for the post.

I especially liked the pricing points and the not wasting time.  I'm guilty of the later one. Every. Single. Day.    :'(
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: DJ Edwardson on May 07, 2013, 10:05:47 AM
I rarely read long forum posts like this, but this one was worth of it. Much of it is common sense, much of it is what I've already learned and am doing, but to get the big picture, the mile high view like this in one post is really helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write and share this.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 10:06:39 AM
cblew: I saw sales really spike after my new titles gained traction, and I also started doing free Select days - my first ones were mid-Jan. Jan and Feb were stable at around 3K sales a day, and then March, when I launched Voynich Cypher, I sold 7K of those bad boys in about 3 weeks, so it spiked my sales to well into five figures for March and April. I also launched the third in the Assassin series in April, and then the fourth in May, so it just built from there. Although last May-Oct was slow, dropping by roughly 50% from my peak in March. That's seasonality for you. And of course, following my own advice, I released JET and JET 2 in Oct, JET 3 in Nov, JET 4 in Dec and JET V in April of 2013, with the fifth in the Assassin series in March.

I eat my own cooking on this.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: MegHarris on May 07, 2013, 10:07:45 AM
I'll echo WinwoodPub and say that my best sellers are novellas and short stories. Then again, I haven't written a novel in a while, and I'm not exactly breaking sales records, either, so my opinion may not be all that relevant. I think this is the kind of thing that may vary from genre to genre, too-- a lot of people seem to do well with short erotica.

Quote
Get professional help.

 :D :D :D
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 10:09:09 AM
DJ: I am, after all, a novelist...

NathanH: I wrote this instead of finishing my WIP, so we are all guilty of it. Do as I say, not as I do...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 10:11:22 AM
Meg, I amended the original post to include erotica, which I believe is an exception. But perhaps a valid one. So there it is.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Darren Wearmouth on May 07, 2013, 10:12:08 AM
Is the Jet series a group of standalone novels or is there an arc that goes right through?

I am few chapters through my second book and can't realistically think of a way to make it stand alone in the world created during the first.

Thanks for sharing the info by the way, I enjoyed reading it.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Vivi_Anna on May 07, 2013, 10:12:26 AM
Great post and advice.  

My best sellers are novellas.  They out sell my novels 10-1. So I think it also depends on genre.  
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: EC Sheedy on May 07, 2013, 10:13:53 AM
Just WOW! And thank you for taking the time to write such a helpful post.

I know every writer works in their own way, but knowing how others have become so successful in self-publishing is such an eye opener--plus it forces one to give the eagle eye to one's own, uh, work ethic/schedule and look for ways to change and improve on it. At least that is how it works for me.

Again, thank you.  :) (And again to Elle for her terrific post.)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 10:17:54 AM
DA: JET is a series of standalone novels, but they are episodic. The main character undergoes an arc over the course of the books, but it is a slow one, which represents the time span, which is only a matter of a few months. That, and it's deliberately overblown good fun in the Kill Bill/Bourne vein, and that doesn't really require a lot of arc. As with a James Bond epic, Bond is always Bond - he doesn't go from shooting the bad guy and bedding the temptress to saving kitties and quilting.

Although he could, if I thought there was a market for that.

Vivi: Absolutely. Again, I'm posting counsel based on what I do and know. If you're tearing them up with novellas and selling a boatload, good on you. If you're selling some, but not that many, I'd take a hard look at your novels and how to better market or position them, unless you're in a genre where novels don't sell well. In other words, if everyone else's novels in your genre are selling well but yours aren't, that could signal an issue (pay attention to what the market's telling you). If novellas are your genre's preferred reading format, ignore that part of my opinion.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ellecasey on May 07, 2013, 10:18:04 AM
I had to stop reading just so I could post this:

Not in the real world. I mean, anything's theoretically possible, but so is marrying a billionaire. Don't make that your business strategy. It's a non-strategy.


Yes!  Wow, yes.  This stuff is pure gold.  I hope every indie on this board reads it.  I love the blunt honesty here.  Some people might not like it, but then I'd advise them to ask themselves why.  Truth.  Truth.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Darren Wearmouth on May 07, 2013, 10:25:14 AM
DA: JET is a series of standalone novels, but they are episodic. The main character undergoes an arc over the course of the books, but it is a slow one, which represents the time span, which is only a matter of a few months. That, and it's deliberately overblown good fun in the Kill Bill/Bourne vein, and that doesn't really require a lot of arc. As with a James Bond epic, Bond is always Bond - he doesn't go from shooting the bad guy and bedding the temptress to saving kitties and quilting.

Although he could, if I thought there was a market for that.

Cheers, it's got good reviews in the UK so I've grabbed the first one for free.

I suppose this goes back to your point about reading. You're doing well and can churn a lot out, I'm interested to see your style.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: dalya on May 07, 2013, 10:26:56 AM
Great post! Absolutely true.

I just wanted to add that it takes some people a few books to find their genre. You don't have to stick to the same genre as your first or second book, but know that every time you switch, you're starting from scratch, albeit with more experience.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 10:29:51 AM
Hey Elle: You're no slouch yourself. But yes, this is written exactly as my self talk, my internal dialogue, goes. Blunt, no BS, WTF are you thinking sort of dialogue. I prefer it, because I can find tons of people to tell me I'm the bomb and that my feelings are important, etc. But what I've noticed is that all the pros in the business tend to be rather direct. They don't pull punches. They don't have the time. They're busy, and if you can't take it, it's your problem, not theirs, and they figure the market will chew you up and spit you out, anyway. Also, I have run my own businesses in past lives, and markets don't coddle you - their blows are not with nerf bats. They are far blunter than I can ever be. So I encourage authors to strip away the BS when they are evaluating the business side of this, and toughen up, because even in the best of times, it's likely to be a rough ride.

DA: JET was deliberately written as a non-stop rollercoaster - I can honestly say I've never read a faster-paced series of novels. But you'll note there's a prose element to it that's essential to my style. I kid myself that you can write at a more sophisticated level and still be commercially viable, even in the action thriller genre. Books doing well, so I'd say so far so good. Hope you enjoy it.

Dalya: Sure. But wouldn't it be better for all involved if they thought it through up front and decided what they wanted to be when they grew up? That's my point. Think it through. If you could only write one book, what would it be? The write it. And then write another, hopefully in that series. Because if it's good, your readers will demand you make it a series. Just the way it works. They'll want more of that, whatever that is. Just the way it works. Ask Hugh.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: RM Prioleau on May 07, 2013, 10:30:13 AM
This is great stuff. Thank you for posting it. I'm doing everything on this list except #1 and #4. My base genre is fantasy, but I'm using that base genre that I know and writing in other genres (ie: romance fantasy). I am writing across the board because I want to find that 'sweet spot' for readers, then once I do, I am going to stick with that genre because it apparently works.
As for #4, I read as much as I have time to. But it's hard to read (at least for me) when you're an author. My inner editor turns on and it's hard for me to get into a story. Moreover, I have to make time to write my own books around the schedule of my full-time job and nightly teaching obligations.

I hope your post helps many up-and-coming indie authors.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Saul Tanpepper on May 07, 2013, 10:38:50 AM
Solid advice, and anyone notice? No magic spells or incantations.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Soothesayer on May 07, 2013, 10:44:10 AM
Ditto on what others have said re: novellas. My novellas for the moment outsell my novels-though they're in erotica. Not sure that makes a difference.

Promotion: you don't say what the min. number of novels is, but I wouldn't even think of promoting unless you have 5-7 novels out, and preferably a series.

My non-fiction books outsell ALL my fiction by 100 to 1. Yep... one hundred to ONE. I don't know why this is. My first book was non-fiction. I've begun to hate it for the success it steals from my fiction. It only took a week to write. I don't like writing non-fiction at all, but that's where the money is. I'm writing a followup to that one alongside my thrillers, and it is not unlike chinese water torture (computer tech stuff).

I would add that you should ask for reviews in the back matter and provide a link if necessary.

Oh, and five pages to get their attention? No way. More like two, especially today since most just don't exert the attention due to the fast-paced media culture we live in, but since most of my own chapters are five pages long, it does make sense to treat the entire first chapter as your FIRST PAGE.

Ground the reader in the setting using all five senses if possible. Make them slip into the pair of eyes and see what the character sees (if you open it with one).
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: jdfield on May 07, 2013, 10:44:30 AM
Great Advice. Thanks!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 10:51:08 AM
Soothesayer: Never hate your big seller. Better to ask why your fiction isn't getting noticed. Erotica is a special case, I think, and I amended my post to say, "unless it's erotica or your name is Hugh." That should about cover it, I think.

No, the book business is a retail business, whether you have one book or twenty. Having more books makes it easier to not overdo it on one title, but it doesn't change the fundamental - books don't sell themselves. They need help to get discovered by readers. That help is promotions. I did interviews, guest blogs, co-marketing, etc. on my stand-alone books, and continue to do them, as well as advertise. It's just the nature of the business. I'd say if you aren't selling as many fiction titles as you want, take a hard look at the writing, and the covers, and if those are up to snuff, then look at marketing. What have you done TODAY to sell more of them? If the answer to that question, asked every day, is, er, um, shuffle shuffle...nothing...then perhaps the problem your book selling business is experiencing is in the management, not in the product...

I don't ask for reviews in my books as I think it looks beggy and amateurish. Dan Brown doesn't. So I don't. But I get plenty of reviews, so I don't really care that much about one more. But I think you get to establish the tone of your offerings, and I wouldn't put that in. Maybe an invitation to sign up for a mailing list and to look at your blog, but asking for reviews? Not my style. But to each his own.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Andrew Ashling on May 07, 2013, 10:59:53 AM
Great post.

I have two questions.

1. At least for the moment your JET series seems to do better than your Assassins series (mind you, I'd give someone's arm and leg to sell as much). Any idea why?

2. About a year ago there was a writer on Reddit who had an AMA (Ask Me Anything). His strategy is similar to yours, except he doesn't go for quality but for "good enough" = value for money + volume.

I'd like your take on this.



Title: Broke $1000 in one day for the first time yesterday from self-published books.

Some excerpts:

Quote
Trying to stay as anonymous as possible but October 1st broke $300 for the first time. Two different genres -- stories and educational. Last weekend broke $800 for the first time.

Sales come from 5 things:

    Cover

    Description

    Ranking

    Title

    Reference

Notice I didn't put "content".

It's a giant game and the more books you have out, the more you sell. This month I expect to clear between 22-27k.

Sales come primarily from Amazon, but an additional 2-4k come from B&N with Smashwords bringing in a few more.

About to start turning the books into audio format, so that should be fun to test.

Quote
Ok, I'd say the overall quality that makes the presentation work is the speed with which people know what the book is about.

So the simpler, the more obvious, the better. If they have to think, they move on. These purchases are usually impulse.

About 8 months of part time messing around with this. Last month, made 12-14k, previous month, $5800, before that, $3800, 1800, 1200, etc.

If memory serves.

Total books of all genres = about 80.

Quote
Also, some of the books are only 10 pages, so it's not like I have 80 novels out.

I think the biggest realization was that most self-published work was just really bad. Horrible. Awful.

So as long as mine wasn't horrific it would sell. Was a big confidence booster.

Quote
When you upload a book to Amazon, you're allowed to choose 2 categories to put it in. Every successive book you write should reference the 1st book via an html link inside and in the description.

In addition, each book after the 1st should ONLY reference the 1st book, plus, all the successive books should go into new categories.

What this does is put your book out to as many audiences as possible. If you write 5 books, you have 10 categories, right? All 5 books point to one, your first.

People see the book, find your first one, then buy it. It goes up in the rankings. Because it's up in the rankings, people buy more of the follow-up books.

Basically, you need 7 books total before you really see the first one hit.

EDIT: Oh, and every link in every book you write should be an affiliate link. That way you get 6.5% or more of everything someone buys on Amazon after they use your link. I make an extra 5 or 10 bucks a day off that.

Quote
Well, let's say you wrote a Science Fiction book about robots. You'd put it into categories thusly:

Book One: Sci-Fi-General, Sci-Fi-Hi-Tech

Book Two: Sci-Fi - Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi - Space Opera

Book Three: Fiction - Thriller

And so on. Each book gets two categories. Remember, you're trying to hit a target demographic that will enjoy your story. No point in putting your book into Romance - Classic when it's about robots.

Quote
Put your writing in the same categories. If you want to do a different topic, use a different pen name.

When people see "Amusette" and have read something you've written, they already have an idea what they expect the next book to be. Don't disappoint them. I've tried to change and it doesn't work.

Also, you don't link diverse books. No point. You want them to stick with you (or whatever name you use), not bounce around. The more time they spend, the more likely they are to buy someone else's book.

Quote

About covers -- what do you do in designing them? Do you make them yourself or hire someone? Any tips you can provide, from your experience?

[–]throwaway_writer

Self. Over time they have improved. At first they sucked, but the books still sold, so slow changes improved them over time.

There are a few things that make the difference in the covers (at least from my experience).

    Clarity -- The image should be immediately recognizable.

    Obvious -- You have about 10 seconds to get someone's attention. Don't expect them to peer deeply into your hidden message.

    Bright -- I don't know why, but the lighter the colors, the higher the sales.

    The thumbnail has to be understandable. If you can't tell what the book is by looking at the thumbnail, you have to switch it.


Quote
I have a long story I wrote a few years ago. As much as I would love to publish with "big publishing houses" or whatever, the book is something like 180k words. Do you think it has a chance of selling, or should I just not bother since it is so long?

[–]throwaway_writer

Why do you want to publish with a big publishing house? Do you want the respectability or the audience?

180k is pretty huge so unless it's an epic it will be a tough sell.

I would probably break it up into 3 x 60k books, sell them at $2.99, then put all of them together for 6.99. It's better for you because you can put each book in a separate category plus all of them will refer to the 1st of the series. If you really wanted to have fun, drop the price on the 1st to .99 and put the other two at $3.99.

Quote
You've written 80 books in 8 months? How do you manage that time-wise? And quality-wise, are you sacrificing some quality to get the books out that fast?

[–]throwaway_writer

They aren't 80 full-length novels. Some are short stories, some are collections of stories, and others are just little kids books.

Of course quality is sacrificed. But you have to get out the best possible book in the shortest amount of time. So it's not Hemingway, but I like to think they're pretty good.

Quote
I would tell myself that there's no point trying to write the next great American novel. Instead of going crazy trying to craft each sentence, go for the 80/20.

You get 80% of the result with 20% of the effort. Sure, I could make every last sentence resonate, but at the end of the day, people are careless readers. Be good, not great.


Quote
Great advice. So, having a lot of good books/stories is, on average, better than having a great one. Am I right?


[–]throwaway_writer

Absolutely.

Sure, maybe you're the guy who wrote the next Harry Potter but remember, tons of people rejected her before someone took a chance on her.

Self-publishing is about good, not great. Look, you have to decide if you want to be the best writing author or the best selling author.

I just want financial security right now. If I can do this for a year or so, I'll be set for quite some time to come. I can work on the novels that actually MEAN something to me when I have a few hundred thousand in the bank and no debts.

There's a lot more. Complete thread: http://www.reddit.com/r/writing/comments/m2ejo/broke_1000_in_one_day_for_the_first_time/?sort=old
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: _Sheila_ on May 07, 2013, 11:03:24 AM
Thank you.

Sheila
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Denise Templey on May 07, 2013, 11:12:11 AM
Thank you.
Echo ... Thank you.  :)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: MonkeyScribe on May 07, 2013, 11:19:27 AM
Thanks for the great post. Any advice on how to improve your concentration for long periods of time? I'm very good at sticking to a schedule of 1,500-2,000 words a day when writing my first draft, and have been consistently writing 3-4 books a year for the past few years, but I feel like I should be able to produce more if I could write for more than a couple of hours a day. I don't know if it's the sheer size of my to-do list every day, filled with lots of 2-10 minute tasks, or the internet, or some combination of factors, but I really would like to be able to focus better when I'm writing.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 11:20:07 AM
Andrew: Both great questions. For the record, I'm always AMA (especially when trying to avoid starting on my WIP today).

JET outsells the Assassin books because the protagonist is easy to like, and because it's written to a less gritty sensibility. The protags in the Assassin novels are morally complex and flawed, and there's no easy space you can shoehorn them into. To me that makes for far more interesting reading and storytelling, but many readers want a clearly good guy they can root for, and a clearly bad guy to root against. JET makes it easy on the reader. The Assassin novels don't. Also, and I think this is a big part of it, the first free book in the Assassin novels is the prequel, which was written mainly to flesh out the Assassin character from King of Swords. If I had to do it all over again, I would make King of Swords free, and charge $2.99 or $3.99 for Night, which is shorter, and to my ear, more satisfying if read after King. If you read JET, you'll find that within the first pages it's a mad rush, and it doesn't ever let up. It's not intended to be particularly believable, any more than Bond or Bourne were intended to be The English Patient. It's pure escapism, but written at a more sophisticated level than most, and aspires to be a bit better than the genre.

I couldn't disagree more with that poster. I mean, sure, you can live like that. I just choose not to. I take the writing part of this very seriously, and I don't believe that it's worth spending one's life on something that you're sort of tossing off with the least effort possible. I realize that's probably not a majority view, but I believe that we define ourselves by how we approach the things we believe matter. Writing matters to me. I do try to make every sentence as good as it can be, and I push myself in each new book to raise the bar. Even so, I manage to get a lot of work out the door, so to me that 20% effort for 80% sales is what gives us hacks a bad name - it's just a rationalization for laziness, IMO. There is more than enough mediocre writing in the world - why on earth would you want to add to it? I think that people can tell whether you're doing something for real, and I'm in this for the long haul. My heroes are people like James Lee Burke and David Foster Wallace. People who know how to use language to create lush, incredible effects. While I don't pretend to be in that league, I sort of pin a picture of them up on my mental board every day when I start writing, and I hold myself to a better standard than "good enough."

Look, I know that's probably hokey and overly idealistic, but it's just the way I'm wired, and I can no more write at a 20% level than I could cheat grandmothers out of their savings. Some can, and think anyone who doesn't, and who works hard to create value, is a fool, but I can't. I believe if someone is going to pay $6 for one of my books, they deserve the best I can do, every single time. I know there are plenty of authors who have careers, whose work I think is a bad joke. Many of them outsell me. That's fine. Let them. I prefer to try to be relevant to kindreds who find the same things important as I do. Bluntly, I write for those who get it. Not to trick those who don't. I know I'll never sell 10 million books a year, because I write at too high a level - I was told that by a renowned editor. Said I write at a second year university level, in a world of fourth grade level readers. My response was, too bad for them. And that's still my response. I do this because I'm serious about it, not because I want to hawk widgets. I've already sold enough widgets in my life so I don't need to be in that business.

For what it's worth, what that poster is describing is a gimmick. It's not a career. And his goals aren't lofty - they're to make a few hundred grand, basically scamming readers, and then he'll consider delivering value. Guess what? I don't want to be that guy. Let him. He won't have the career I want. I'm making huge money right now, and I'm not compromising my vision, and I'm certainly not scamming readers selling my 20% efforts. His perspective is that it's all a big game, and that readers are basically lazy and stupid, so why bother trying to write anything that isn't also lazy and stupid? This is a Reality TV producer, and I'd think I'm more of a film guy. Both are viable, but I prefer my side of the bed on this one.

Not that I've thought about it or anything. Grrrrrr.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Jay Allan on May 07, 2013, 11:20:20 AM
I agree with everything 100%.

"9) Make sure your product description rocks, is short and compelling, and sucks the reader in. After your cover, the product description has to sell the book. Don't give too much info, don't spell out the plot like it's a test. Give the high points that will interest a reader in knowing more. And make sure it's coherent and there are no typos or bad grammar, as that will kill most of your sales out of the gate."

And this doubly.  I see blurbs that look like Wikipedia articles on the book.  I've also seen some really bad ones from trade pubbed books.  3 or 4 short paragraphs, no more than a couple sentences each.  That's all you need.  More is clutter.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Soothesayer on May 07, 2013, 11:22:06 AM
Thanks for the great post. Any advice on how to improve your concentration for long periods of time? I'm very good at sticking to a schedule of 1,500-2,000 words a day when writing my first draft, and have been consistently writing 3-4 books a year for the past few years, but I feel like I should be able to produce more if I could write for more than a couple of hours a day. I don't know if it's the sheer size of my to-do list every day, filled with lots of 2-10 minute tasks, or the internet, or some combination of factors, but I really would like to be able to focus better when I'm writing.

If you haven't already, check out Dean Smith's blog. He did a week long blog post on this topic, writing over 7k words per day as a ghost writer. He doesn't write that much every day, but it was interesting to see how he breaks it up into 500-700 word chunks throughout the day, rather than go at it all in one sitting.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Jay Allan on May 07, 2013, 11:26:40 AM
Lots of solid advice here; thank you.

Must take exception with #3 though. You say: "Don't bother with short stories or novellas (40K or under)."

That's a personal, subjective preference. I've got quite a few books at 40K or under that are selling like mad. Just because you don't personally enjoy writing or reading something of that length, doesn't mean that it's good blanket advice for the rest of the world to completely avoid that length.

Overall though, good advice.


I understand what you are saying.  I have a few short pieces that sell pretty well too, but the advice is sound for the typical writer.  For the vast, vast majority of authors, full-length novels will have a much better chance of selling.  Even if your name is Hugh, your astonishing success will probably take off to an even higher level when you write more installments and sell it as a novel-length work.

That's just where the market is now.  I tend to think shorter fiction has a bright future, but if you are struggling to break out now, you need to give yourself every advantage.

Of course, write what you want, but understand that novels sell better almost all the time.  
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: SRecht on May 07, 2013, 11:30:54 AM
I never set out to write a love story--that's just the idea that happened to pop in my head.  Never meant to follow it up with a coming of age story (WIP), but that's also what popped into my head.  I always felt that I needed to be more strategic and focused on developing a brand, and be more prolific in my writing, but I've been too busy (and lazy) to chart a path with goals and systematically follow it.  Thanks for your wise words and for providing the inspiration (and advice) necessary to take it to the next level.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: JeanneM on May 07, 2013, 11:34:44 AM
This was a very good post and I thank you for it.  It is making me ask myself some tough questions, and I have a hard decision to make.  I don't have a head for business or promotion.  I have no money to invest in my writing, I just had a three day free run on my new book and only had 130 downloads. I think the writing is on the wall. No pun intended.  :)

 Thank you for setting things out so clearly.  It will help me to make my decision.  On a side note, congrats on your wonderful success!  
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: MonkeyScribe on May 07, 2013, 11:35:26 AM
Russell,

What do you do with that 25% of the time you set aside for promo? These days I do very little, but mostly because I'm at a loss for effective ideas.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 11:43:53 AM
MichaelW and Soothsayer: I actually don't write nearly as well if I don't sit down and write for eight to ten hours, and do it sequentially, day after day, until the story's done. It's an odd process, because it sounds insane. It is. But I'm sort of like a computer programmer - I do way better if I'm completely immersed in the story, and words 3000-8000 will invariably be more coherent, more poignant, just better, than if I tried to do 1000 to 2000 words a day, or in chunks. I've tried that, and it doesn't yield as satisfying a result. I wish I could do it that way, but it winds up taking way more time in rewrite to get it up to snuff, and adds to the total number of hours I require to get to a good third draft.

Dean writes the way he writes. I agree on many things with him, and disagree on some. For instance, I believe books are made or broken on rewrite. He doesn't. That's fine. My experience has been that my first draft is good, but rewrite is what makes it great, assuming it makes it to that level. And third draft is like polishing the product after you've gotten it 85%. It's the final 15%. If I had to quantify it, I would say that first draft for me is 60%, second is 25%, and third is 15%. But it's a pretty important 15%. I couldn't imagine sending my first draft off to an editor. I'd be embarrassed. Nor would I ever try to foist that off on a reader. Because I know from experience that I can do way, way better on rewrite, even if the basics of the story are the same. But I guarantee the prose isn't. If it is, you're either doing a really lazy second draft, or your first is so brilliant you are one in ten million.

SRecht: That's BS. Business and promotion are just like anything else. You get good at it by deciding it's important to get good at it, and then you apply yourself, learn what you need to, and get better at it. If you decide that you aren't interested in operating a book selling business, that's fine. It's not for everyone. Alternatively, you can create goals that are more in line with what you are willing to do, and then be happy with your new goals. That's what I'm advocating - don't set yourself up for disappointment by having unrealistic expectations. Better to set attainable goals that realistically mirror what you are willing to or can do, than to be bummed all the time because you set goals that would require 12 hour workdays to get to, when you truthfully are only willing or able to invest 1. If your latest only saw 130 downloads, I would ask you what you did to get it more? And why, in this environment of Select being iffy for all but the top 10 or so per day, would you be doing free downloads? What's your hoped for outcome? Because it ain't going to be sales. I think I've made that about as clear as it can be. Aside from it being really easy to just list your book as free and hope, what's your objective in doing it?

MichaelW: What I do is exactly what I'm doing now. I post on message boards. I interact on twitter. I post on Facebook. I blog. I look at ad ops. I do interviews. I do something besides writing novels or editing them. I don't wait for effective ideas - I try to come up with new approaches, many of which don't work. But I always am looking, talking to other authors, exchanging ideas about what is working right now and what isn't. That's all part of the promo time. I've done cross-promos with other authors, coerced them into interviewing me, whatever. But it's a retail game, and you have to keep at it or you fade from the reader's eye. I think Konrath had that lightbulb recently go off for him - he suddenly started doing Select, advertising, blogging more. Again, the market's not static, and you're either shrinking or growing. So the question is always, which are you doing, and is that what you want?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Alan Petersen on May 07, 2013, 11:52:37 AM

Promotion: you don't say what the min. number of novels is, but I wouldn't even think of promoting unless you have 5-7 novels out, and preferably a series.



I don't follow, are you saying that if you only have one book, not to promote? Or you personally don't promote authors with just one book out?

I only have one book out so far and I promote it, how else am I going to reach readers? Plus it builds a readership and my brand as I'm ready to publish #2 and #3 in the series. I'd like to encourage one book authors (like myself) to put time aside, as Russell suggests, to promote. Don't wait until everything is perfect, go find your readers and write more books.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: S.A. Mulraney on May 07, 2013, 11:58:09 AM
Thanks for laying it out there. Always good to hear it straight.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Andrew Ashling on May 07, 2013, 11:59:10 AM
The protags in the Assassin novels are morally complex and flawed, and there's no easy space you can shoehorn them into. To me that makes for far more interesting reading and storytelling, but many readers want a clearly good guy they can root for, and a clearly bad guy to root against.

I couldn't disagree more with that poster. I mean, sure, you can live like that. I just choose not to. I take the writing part of this very seriously, and I don't believe that it's worth spending one's life on something that you're sort of tossing off with the least effort possible. I realize that's probably not a majority view, but I believe that we define ourselves by how we approach the things we believe matter.

For what it's worth, what that poster is describing is a gimmick. It's not a career. And his goals aren't lofty - they're to make a few hundred grand, basically scamming readers, and then he'll consider delivering value. Guess what? I don't want to be that guy. Let him. He won't have the career I want. I'm making huge money right now, and I'm not compromising my vision, and I'm certainly not scamming readers selling my 20% efforts.

I agree completely.

So here's my problem. I write the books I write because a) I want to & b) nobody else does. I don't compromise. I color outside every conceivable line. Tropes, you say? I laugh in your face. Grab them with the first sentence? Bite me. I deliberately set a slow pace, "Let daddy take you by the hand - don't interrupt me — and I'll show you things the way they should be shown. Shut up."
Add that my MCs are gay, win wars, are vicious intriguers if need be, and are, to coin a phrase, morally ambiguous. The world is medieval but, as I keep repeating, like a hoarse vox clamens in deserto, not our Middle Ages and so people don't go around saying "forsooth" and "By your leave, My Gracious Lady." They will happily say "What the f*ck," though. (Even in a medieval setting people curse. We just don't know their best lines, so I felt free to substitute a modern equivalent. Shoot me.) Oh, and there is sex. Explicit sex. Like, you know, the thing that keeps our kind in existence, though some think it isn't "clean." Except, not so much, since we're talking gay sex. Yeah.

Your strategy works only if you happen to like/write a more conventional/popular genre. For me, POI and the likes are no option. Hence, Select won't work for me. Not enough anyway.
What I need is a way to find the audience for the Epic Pseudo Historical Fantasy Grimdark Gay Romance-genre. Can't be too hard.

Any tips are welcome.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: AgnesWebb on May 07, 2013, 12:08:05 PM
This is an amazing resource. Just downloaded the first Jet book to see how you do what you do!
Thanks for so generously giving us this info.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ElHawk on May 07, 2013, 12:10:45 PM
EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT advice, Blake -- all of it totally sound and very smart.  Well done!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: K.R. Harris on May 07, 2013, 12:17:20 PM
Great stuff, Russell! Thank you!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 12:43:03 PM
Andrew: I find when I'm trying to find an audience, or pander, I throw in a cat or a pony. Can never go wrong with a cat or a pony. Just saying.

Agnes: JET is obviously just a fun book. It's not Shindler's List. Nor does it try. But many seem to like it, so there's that.

OK, all, I am out of here. Damned WIP ain't going to write itself. I'll check in later this evening, but I've stalled long enough. Sigh...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: valeriec80 on May 07, 2013, 12:43:25 PM
I find that I have a philosophical difference of opinion with the OP, who seems to truly believe that there is a such thing as "good" when it comes to art.

I don't think that's true.

And I think that if you're a new writer reading this thread, before you go off swallowing everything he says hook, line, and sinker, you should consider that you don't have to conform to any standard of doing anything, because there is no standard.

No one remembers the people who followed the crowd. People remember the people who did things their own way.

Sometimes stuff like that has to be pointed out.

That said, his analysis is mostly accurate. Selling in the same (popular) genre, writing novels, and writing in as series does seem to sell better than doing it another way. So, know that. And then make your own decisions.

Personally, my strategy isn't to be Dan Brown. It's to be V. J. Chambers. Which means doing whatever the heck I want. And it's working for me thus far. :)


Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Edward W. Robertson on May 07, 2013, 12:48:52 PM
I just wanted to add that it takes some people a few books to find their genre. You don't have to stick to the same genre as your first or second book, but know that every time you switch, you're starting from scratch, albeit with more experience.

I second this. It's smart to have a plan from the start--I sure didn't--but publishing is a Sun Tzu situation, I think. Any good plan of battle rarely survives first contact with the enemy. Switching genres might slow you down short-term, but it could well be part of a stronger long-term plan.

If you're considering a switch because of poor results, though (as opposed to being less interested in the genre than you thought you'd be), it probably makes more financial sense to try a new series within the same subgenre rather than changing things up completely.

Just thinking out loud. Sweet post, Russell.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Deanna Chase on May 07, 2013, 12:53:44 PM
MichaelW and Soothsayer: I actually don't write nearly as well if I don't sit down and write for eight to ten hours, and do it sequentially, day after day, until the story's done. It's an odd process, because it sounds insane. It is. But I'm sort of like a computer programmer - I do way better if I'm completely immersed in the story, and words 3000-8000 will invariably be more coherent, more poignant, just better, than if I tried to do 1000 to 2000 words a day, or in chunks. I've tried that, and it doesn't yield as satisfying a result. I wish I could do it that way, but it winds up taking way more time in rewrite to get it up to snuff, and adds to the total number of hours I require to get to a good third draft.



I am exactly the same way. I write much better stories when I'm "all in" for days at a time.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: CraigAllanTeich on May 07, 2013, 01:03:35 PM
Blake, this post was spot on. I both agreed with it and learned from it.

And I find nothing more motivating than the "ordinary" and documented success of mortal writers who are working it like a business and succeeding.

The Hugh Howey stories can be inspiring, but there's still that lightning-in-a-bottle quality that makes it all seem unattainable. Lightning may strike for you, me, or the next author BECAUSE of the diligence and hard work, but before that, seeing folks like yourself earning a great living doing what we love to do on our own terms is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for sharing!

-- Craig Allan Teich
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 01:22:11 PM
VJ: Those reading this can do whatever they like - smear bodily fluids on a canvas, and declare it art, if that's their thing. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Some will like it, others won't. I would never presume to tell others how to create art.

I'm not trying to share with people how to create art. I'm trying to share with folks how I have been commercially successful selling books, meaning what I would do to improve one's odds of making a decent living in the writing and book selling game. If you're selling plenty of books and you feel that you're doing what you want sales-wise, then perhaps my approach isn't for you. My approach is geared more towards those who want to know how I sell tens of thousands of books a month, not how I create my special brand of art, such as it is. Sorry if that was unclear.

As to there being no standard, I'm not so sure. I think a book has to be free of typos, written in a coherent, grammatically proficient manner, and communicate what the author is trying to convey. Many books fail on all four counts, thus they fall below the standard most readers would like to receive when they choose to spend their money on a book. Perhaps not. Perhaps readers should just be happy with whatever authors decide to put out there. Fortunately, the market tends to calibrate for that. Books that are below the standard generally don't sell well. One or two a day, maybe, if they're lucky. Having been there,I can categorically say I don't want to be a member of the commercially unsuccessful club, so I don't counsel that. Some folks will disagree.

Dalya: It's true that you have to be flexible. I'm not advocating rigidity, merely thinking things through before you invest a lot of effort, time and money into starting a book selling business. As to starting a writing business, that's an even tougher gig than a book selling business, as the odds are huge against ever making any kind of real money at it, because you need to get a book seller to decide to publish you and invest their money into your work. At least if you start your own book selling biz, you can choose to publish your own work, and if fortunate, can make money at both writing and book selling. I'm saying it's best if you decide what you want to write, and ask yourself the same questions a book seller would - "Who's the audience? Do you have more books like this in you?" Then once you know the answers, you're more prepared to take the first steps. Again, you don't have to do it that way. But it sure helps with the audience and brand building if you do, in my experience.

Ed: That's why they call me "Sweet Russ." Or I sort of wish they did. Never mind.

Craig: It's all just fodder to get us thinking. If someone goes on to be a best seller following this approach, I'd just hope that they would instruct their new legion of readers that there is nothing better in life than a Russell Blake book.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Soothesayer on May 07, 2013, 01:23:03 PM

I don't follow, are you saying that if you only have one book, not to promote? Or you personally don't promote authors with just one book out?

I only have one book out so far and I promote it, how else am I going to reach readers? Plus it builds a readership and my brand as I'm ready to publish #2 and #3 in the series. I'd like to encourage one book authors (like myself) to put time aside, as Russell suggests, to promote. Don't wait until everything is perfect, go find your readers and write more books.

I find promotion to be a huge time sink, and if we're only talking one book, I'd rather spend that time writing more books. My one non-fiction book outsells everything else, even fiction. I didn't do any promoting at all. No social media, no ads, nothing. I just picked a subject I knew quite a bit about and wrote 10k words and hit publish.

I've never bought anything due to someone's promo. Not on Twitter, FB or anywhere else. Paid ads too. If you have one book, you might earn a sale, but how are they going to see your future books? They can't. They aren't written yet... because you're promoting. Just get those books out a lot sooner. A promo of one book holds up the optimization process, imho. The marketers here will disagree of course, but then, most of them don't have the ability to write fiction.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Kristy Tate on May 07, 2013, 01:27:09 PM
THANK YOU
Just raised my prices...except for my perma free
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Beatriz on May 07, 2013, 01:28:04 PM
Over the last week, because of my burst of posts here, I've gotten a number of PMs from authors asking for counsel on one matter or another, so I thought I would take the time to lay out my thoughts so that the info is available to everyone. This doesn't represent the only way to do things, but it's my way, and is the synthesis of everything I've learned over the last 23 months of self-publishing.

By way of background, I write conspiracy-based action/adventure novels. I published my first novel on Amazon June, 2011. I published my 20th novel in April, 2013. My first month I sold about 7 books. In 2013, from the start of the year to today, May 7, I have sold just shy of 100K books, and look good to exceed 200K for the year by a decent margin. I do not sell books at .99, or $2.99, or $3.99. The vast majority of my titles are $5-$6. I lay this out there not to crow, but to establish why it might be worth considering my approach. So in no particular order, here's my counsel for selling a boatload of books:

1) Pick one genre that's popular and with which you are extremely familiar, and then write in that genre. Stick to it. Don't hop around. It confuses your potential readers and muddies who you are in their minds, and will hurt your sales. If you want to write different genres, use a pseudonym, and if you like, let your readers know that moniker is you. But stick to one name, one genre, because you're building your brand, and brand building is a function of clarity - clearly communicating what you do, and what your product is.

2) Write a series. Why? Because readers like series, and you want to give readers what they like. Or you won't sell as much. You can try stand-alone - I have - but my series outsell my stand-alone books 4 to 1. Once you have at least three books in the series, make the first one free. Make your money on the rest, but give readers a whole novel to decide whether they like you or not.

3) Write a lot. By that I mean try to write at least 3 novels a year. Don't bother with short stories or novellas (40K or under) if you're writing fiction (non-fiction might do better) unless it's erotica or your name is Hugh. If fiction, write 60-90K installments in your series, and release them AT MINIMUM every four months. Every three months would be better. Every two, better still. Momentum breeds success, and readers have short memories. The current market is a hungry animal, and you need to feed it, or risk being forgotten by the time your next one releases. Sorry. It's the truth. And don't start whining about how X famous author only puts out one book every Y years. If you're Dan Brown and you sell tens of millions of novels each whack, then do whatever the hell you like. If you aren't, listen up, or chock your strategy up to, "Become the next Dan Brown" and stop reading this drivel.

4) Read a lot. To write well, you need to read things that are well-written, and that serve to inspire you to greater heights or provide insight on how to improve your work in some way. You are what you eat. If you aren't reading a decent amount, start, because otherwise you're unlikely to write nearly as well as if you do.

5) Allocate time every day to write, and be disciplined. I suggest minimum one hour per day, or 1000 words. I actually ignore that and shoot for 5000-7000 a day when writing a novel, but that's just my approach, and it's not for everyone. My point is that you must be disciplined about your writing and develop that muscle. If you don't make it a habit, you won't write enough to put out one novel every four months, and you'll already be way behind the curve.

6) Allocate time every day to market. I recommend a 75%/25% writing to marketing mix. So spend an hour writing every day, and fifteen-twenty minutes marketing (social media, blogging, interviews, message boards like this). Two hours writing, half hour o forty minutes marketing. And so on.

7) Stay off the internet when you're writing. Set aside the writing time, and do only that. Leave placeholders for stuff you need to research later (XXX city is Y distance from ZZZ city, etc.). Stopping your writing to research breaks your momentum. Don't do it. Checking your e-mail, checking in with your facebook group, reading a tweet - none of these are going to write your book for you, so stop it already.

8.) Get professional help. Do pro covers. It's the first thing your potential readers will see. Put out something amateurish, and they will go to something that looks worthy of their time, and it won't be you. Get pro editing. You are asking people to pay for your product. They won't, and shouldn't, if you haven't ensured it is a pro product, which means it must be edited and proofread. If you're too cheap or too broke to pay an editor, barter something of value to get someone qualified to do it, or (gasp, here's an idea) save some money so you can do it right. Skip these steps and you won't sell much, if anything. Or if you do, it won't last very long, because word will spread, and then you're dead.

9) Make sure your product description rocks, is short and compelling, and sucks the reader in. After your cover, the product description has to sell the book. Don't give too much info, don't spell out the plot like it's a test. Give the high points that will interest a reader in knowing more. And make sure it's coherent and there are no typos or bad grammar, as that will kill most of your sales out of the gate.

10) Now for the actual book. You have five pages to hook the reader. The first five. Make those amazing pages that demand the reader continues.

11) Know your audience. You do that by reading a fair amount in the genre, and by looking at the reviews of your competitors/the bestsellers in your genre. If you're writing for a genre that's 90% cat ladies, you need to know that going in. If mostly older males, know that too. Teen girls, ditto. Whatever your audience, figure it out before you start writing. Do a little research. It will pay dividends later.

12) Brand yourself as the go-to author in that genre. Become synonymous with your genre. Define it, if possible. Even better would be where your name is shorthand for the genre in your readers' minds. As an example, Dan Brown is synonymous with a genre Umberto Eco pioneered with Foucault's Pendulum - the theology-based conspiracy treasure hunt. Nowadays, when readers try to articulate that, they say "it's a Dan Brown kind of book." You should live so long, but make that your goal.

13) Price competitively and intelligently. Look at your genre. Where are most books priced? Are you undervaluing/underpricing your work? Price to sell, but don't go cheap, no matter what Locke or Hocking did years ago. Use low prices occasionally to move product, as promotional pricing. But price your product consistently with the rest of your peers. Over time, you can increase prices, if your product warrants it and your readership is willing to pay it. My advice here is don't price too low, or too high. Obviously, if you are racing up the charts at $3.99 and believe that moving to .99 will get you into the winner's circle, go for it, but that's rare. Price intelligently, and constantly play around with. By way of example, I tried $2.99 and $3.99, and then $4.99, and my sales were basically the same. So my readers are willing to pay up to $5 with no issues. My new releases are always $5.99. I do that because I want to brand myself as a quality read, and also because that's still a bargain compared to my trad pub peers. I'm nosebleed level for indies, but I've only been pricing there with success this year. All last year, $4.99 was the ceiling. Something shifted, probably due to my introduction of the JET series in October, and I haven't seen any fade at $5.99 vs. $4.99, so I price at what I consider to be reasonable for my work. The point is not to gouge, but rather to deliver good value, whatever the price is. But my genre is different than yours (probably) and it took a while to get there. I mention this not so you price however I do, but rather so that you see that pricing isn't static, nor engraved in stone.

14) When writing, write as a craftsman/artist, and strive to improve every day. Force yourself to constantly up your game. Make your early work look like crap compared to what you're writing now.

15) It's okay to go back and rewrite your early work once you've evolved past it. I've rewritten probably half my novels by now. I will continue to do so. As I get better, I want all my work to get better.

16) There is no such thing as "not my best work." Imagine that every book you write is the only one anyone is ever going to read, and they must make a decision to read the rest of your backlist or not, based only on that one book. Or imagine that a big 5 trad publisher is considering doling out a seven figure advance, and will only read one book, and it is your weakest. Ensure even your weakest is as good as you can write, because if not, you're screwing your most important resource: your reader.

17) When finished writing, put on your business hat. This means that when done with your artistic work (writing), you are now a book seller. Your business is selling books, not being an author, at the point you ask someone to buy your books; to part with their money in exchange for the product you created. As a business person in a commercial enterprise, you need to be dispassionate and make smart business decisions, or you will fail. Book selling is a highly competitive business, and you are up against people who work tirelessly at it. If that's daunting or gives you pause, you might want to reconsider whether this is a business you want to be in. In the book selling business, saccharine bromides of "just go for it" and "follow your dream" are about as useful as a bowling ball to a fish. Writing is art and self-expression, something beautiful and intensely personal. Book selling is a commercial enterprise. Confuse the two, and you hurt any chances you have of success, if success to you means selling a bunch of books.

18) Businesses require investment. All businesses, whatever the industry. Nobody with a brain goes into business with no money, no research, no plan, and no time or effort. Expect to spend some money on product development (cover, editing). Expect to spend either money or effort on marketing (preferably both). If you don't have the money to properly edit your work or get a pro cover, you aren't ready to be in business. Save some. Then try. Or borrow some from investors (which would be an eye opener, because most would want to see a business plan, which would force you to actually think all aspects of your new business through). Alternatively, become a graphic design/book cover whiz people would gladly pay $200-$500 to design their covers, do it for about a decade, and then do your own cover. Or spend 20 years editing, and then try your hand at editing your own work, going over it at least three times. If you don't have 20 years of germane acumen, you probably aren't qualified to edit your, or anyone else's, work, so you need to hire professional talent. If you don't, you aren't investing in your business, and you're radically reducing your chances of success. Not too many businesses that have no budget or acumen succeed. That's the harsh truth. If you believe this one is different, knock yourself out and let me know how that goes. Until then, my counsel stands. Treat this like a business, not a dream of winning the lottery.

19) Have realistic goals. Look at what the average person does in their first year, and their second. That's average. It ain't pretty. If you want to be different than average in a good way, you need to do something better/different, and you need to make your own luck. Don't get bummed because you haven't been an overnight sensation. I sold $300 of novels in November, 2011, after six months of 15 hour days and seven releases. In December, 2011, I released five novels I'd been working on for months, to create a massive Xmas surge. I leaped to $1450. With a dozen books out. That's not exactly a ton for the big Xmas season. But I continued writing as though my work was in hot demand. And I kept investing in my product, losing money, until it turned the corner and I started making real money in Jan of 2012.

20) Book selling is a retail business, and retail businesses are promotions intense. You're only going to be as good as your last, and next, promotion. Promotions are a necessary fact of life in retail. You have to generate noise - the product won't do it by itself. There are millions of books out there. Yours are just more books. Figure out how to get some visibility. I won't advise you on how - there are plenty of 'experts' that will charge you $5 for a book on what worked two years ago. Simply put, it's constantly changing, so you need to experiment and push the envelope, share information with others and stay ahead of the curve. But if you aren't promoting, you're stalling. In business you're either shrinking, or growing. If you aren't promoting, chances are you aren't growing.

21) Assess what will be required to make it (and define what make it means to you in a coherent, attainable way), and then decide whether you are willing to do it. That doesn't mean figure out what you can comfortably do, or think is reasonable. It means evaluate what it will likely take to get where you want to go, and then calculate what it will cost - in time, effort, money. If you can't afford whatever that is, then you either need to scale back our goal, or you need to increase what you're willing to invest of yourself and your resources. Hoping you make it while putting in 30% of what you estimate will truly be required is delusion. It's like hoping you live to be 100 while smoking two packs a day, never exercising and being 50 pounds overweight. It could happen, but the odds say, not so much. This is called getting real with yourself. Lie to everyone else if you must. Don't lie to yourself. Life's too short, and you're the best friend you've got. Oh, and BTW, if you think the secret to operating a successful book selling business is to just write and hope people discover your products, your strategy amounts to, "Once upon a time." Not in the real world. I mean, anything's theoretically possible, but so is marrying a billionaire. Don't make that your business strategy. It's a non-strategy.

21a) Decide whether making it is worth the cost. See #21. Now that you know what it will realistically take just to have a shot at the brass ring (whatever that is to you), determine whether it's worth it. If not, do some soul searching and come up with a better objective for yourself - one that won't make you miserable and unhappy. Ideally, writing should make you happy, and should be its own reward. If you decide to start a self-publishing business to sell books, that's a commercial enterprise, and most commercial enterprises exist to sell things, not for self-actualization. If you can be happy and sell lots of stuff, so much the better. But the first goal of any commercial enterprise is to sell products, not to coddle the owner and make him/her feel warm and fuzzy. The business world is competitive. The book publishing business is one of the most competitive I've ever seen, and I've seen a few. It will take extraordinary luck, effort, commitment and drive to make it, even at a nominal level, much less a big level. If you are only able or willing to invest part time effort into it, don't expect more than what you might make at a part time job. If that. Even if you are willing to go full time and give it your all, it is still no guarantee. Sorry. Know that going in. Don't mean to be Mr. Buzzkill, but better you know the truth and look it squarely in the eye up front, than figure it out over time. And folks? If you're an outlier and put in 4 hours a week and are making five grand a month, hat's off to you. Take a picture. Write a how-to book.

22) Be true to yourself. Don't try to act. Don't create a personality that is what you think others might like. Be yourself all the time. People can smell insincerity. If you suck, that's okay. Could be there are plenty of others who also suck, and might enjoy hanging out with someone who sucks. Maybe even buy your books.

23) Pay attention to what works, and what doesn't. This is so obvious, and yet is so often overlooked. Everyone is going to have an opinion of what you should do, and how. Most of those won't have been successful at what they are advising you on. That doesn't mean they're wrong, but it does mean you should be skeptical of all claims, and use your head. And pay attention. If the market is telling you that your books are poorly written, then you need to either improve them, or get used to being punched in the face by reviewers for wasting their time. If it's telling you that your editing sucks, figure it out (and you have obviously not paid much attention to this little diatribe) and fix it. Ditto for your covers. And your blurb. And your marketing efforts. Pay attention. Modify your approach. Model those who are doing what you want to do. Model success.

24) Don't try to be all things to all people. When you write, or when you brand and market. Be whoever you actually are when you write, and then brand and market what you are so those interested in what you are know you have what they want. Be clear at all times. Your job as a writer is to tell your story clearly, in your unique manner, as evocatively as you deem fit. Your job once you brand and market yourself is to honestly tout your product, and its strengths. Don't try to please everyone or you're likely to please nobody.

25) Nobody has ever heard of you. That's cause for celebration. Even I, who sell a decent amount now, am unknown to 99% of my target readership. That's a huge amount I can grow. It's good news. How I go about changing that is contained in the prior 24 points. Every day I ask myself, "What can I do, TODAY, to increase my discoverability for my target market?" And then I figure out what I can do, and set aside time to do it. Today, I wrote this post, and will post it as a blog, as well, so it does double duty. Because as odd as it may seem, I'm fairly lazy. And if I can get one bit of writing to serve two purposes, that's a big WIN.

26) Finally, don't waste your time. Don't do things that don't work and are a time suck. I won't tell you what those are. You will have to figure them out for yourself. Some advise tweeting a bunch, others say Facebook is the thing, some swear by Google +, others by Triberr...point is, there's a universe of stuff out there to use, or not. My personal feeling is that many authors I speak with seem unable to make the distinction between what is effective and what is completely pointless. Maybe I'm wrong. But the authors I know who sell consistently, and who have built or are building sustainable careers, optimize their time and try to use it wisely.

26a) Having said all this, your best chance of making it is always writing your next book. You should always be working on the next one, and the next, and the next. Nobody ever succeeded by quitting. So if you're going to do this, do it, stop whining, suck it up, and get to work.

That's basically what I've been sending to those who have contacted me, but in snippets, because I'm currently finishing up my WIP, and figuring out my next one. I don't have tons of time to respond to everyone personally, for which I apologize, but this contains about 80% of what I've learned so far. Take what seems useful, reject or vilify the rest. The intent from my standpoint is to offer a framework, an approach, that has worked well for me. It does not mean it's the only way, but it does mean it's my way. I can't speak to what's worked for others. I can't even say that this will work ever again, or for most, but I sincerely believe it's your best shot if you're a beginning, or even not so beginning, author. Use it, or don't, with my compliments.

The market is constantly changing, so be prepared to change with it. Nothing is the same as it was, nor shall it be a year from now.

The book is dead. Long live the book.

Russell Blake

Thanks a lot for the input and I'm very happy with your success, but this is a game of Russian Roulette, some writers don't do any of the things you did and they become a hit overnight, others struggle for years, doing a lot, and never get anywhere.  I think for most of us, writing is a compulsion, we have to write, we are creative people, but this is still a game a sheer luck if not fate.  I know I'm a good writer.  I have very good, heartfelt reviews, and I write about what moves me, not what may sell, but my sales are still very  modest.  Sure I'd like to sell  more but I don't have a name like Amanda Knox or a nice little scandal behind me.  I'm not a celebrity so most people don't even know I'm out there.  But I'm still proud of what I accomplished and if my work touches ten people instead of ten thousand, that's okay too.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 01:32:16 PM
Soothe: It is a time sink. That's why I recommend 25% of your time go to that, and the other 75% writing. An all or nothing approach tends not to generate stellar results, if the net is that it keeps your book a secret. And unless you, an indie author writing in your genre, are your target audience, it doesn't much matter what you do or don't do when buying a book, because you aren't your own target audience.

Kristy: I'm not counseling raising or lowering prices, merely experimenting to see whether your market is elastic enough to bear a higher price without negatively impacting sales. And to look at peers to see where they are in the spectrum. If you're lower than your peers, might look at raising. If you're at parity, maybe not so much. But it never hurts to experiment - I would give it a week and see what happens, then adjust accordingly...

Beatrice: Of course luck has a lot to do with it. I'm simply telling you what I did. It worked. I don't think anyone has to defend their decisions on what they write. They just need to accept that if they aren't running their book selling business like a real business, their odds of selling books are far lower than if they do run it like one. Sure, there will always be outliers. In business parlance, that's called a lottery winner. If your business strategy is essentially to hope to win the lottery, that's fine, but it's not going to generate a lot of excitement in anyone looking to invest in a business, because it's got far lower odds of making it. I view things from a very business-oriented standpoint once I have my book selling business hat on. And just writing whatever floats my boat makes me feel freed as an artist, but does little or nothing for my book selling business, so I tend to have to do a tug of war with whether I want to feel free and artistic, or whether I want to do what is necessary to sell books.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Glenn Wood on May 07, 2013, 01:36:44 PM
Brilliant,  Thanks for the tips - The writing I'm fine with, it's the promotion I'm struggling to come to grips with.  Most of my books are traditionally published so I haven't been worried about this stuff but the rights of a couple have reverted to me and I'm putting them on Kindle.  Now I have to worry about being noticed!  And I'm from a small market.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Alan Petersen on May 07, 2013, 01:43:31 PM
I find promotion to be a huge time sink, and if we're only talking one book, I'd rather spend that time writing more books. My one non-fiction book outsells everything else, even fiction. I didn't do any promoting at all. No social media, no ads, nothing. I just picked a subject I knew quite a bit about and wrote 10k words and hit publish.

I've never bought anything due to someone's promo. Not on Twitter, FB or anywhere else. Paid ads too. If you have one book, you might earn a sale, but how are they going to see your future books? They can't. They aren't written yet... because you're promoting. Just get those books out a lot sooner. A promo of one book holds up the optimization process, imho. The marketers here will disagree of course, but then, most of them don't have the ability to write fiction.

Gotcha. And you're correct it can be a time sink. Time management is key, for example, as Russell mentioned a 75/25 split.

You also need to choose your promotion time wisely. As a new author, I don't have a huge following on Twitter or Facebook so I limit myself to social media to every other day. I don't really see Twitter and Facebook as promotional tools but more for branding and to become more accessible to readers.

My promotion time goes to keyword targeting on Amazon (I want my book to appear on first page of Amazon for "CIA thrillers" for example). Reaching out to book bloggers and reviewers. Getting picked up by the big ebook sites like POI and paid promotions on sites like BookBub for example. That's where I focus my promotion. A few things so it's not a huge time suck. Then I can spend more time writing.  I'm happy with where my book sales are so far with my one book.

And I'm just talking about fiction, non-fiction is a different animal.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ToniD on May 07, 2013, 01:54:52 PM
Very useful Russell—I’m listening. Thanks.

James Lee Burke is in my pantheon, too.

Question: you say 60-90K for a full-length novel, in the thriller cat I assume. I had heard that 60K was on the short side for a thriller—do you notice a difference in sales of your books depending on length?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 02:02:40 PM
Toni: Nope. I don't notice any difference at all, although I think I sort of naturally gravitate to writing them in the 90-100K length and then editing 10% away to speed the pace along. I don't really focus too much on word count, though, because it's all about whether the story is well told or not. I keep word count goals in my head per day, and can estimate that at 90K words it will take 16 days to complete a first draft, but beyond that I don't pay much attention. I think that as long as you're in that 65K or over range, you are fine, although if you're going to charge $6, they better be some pretty damned fine words, or it would be better to wind up at 85K.

Burke is incredible. Check out Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk if you want another innovative wordsmith in a whole different genre.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Misfit on May 07, 2013, 02:08:14 PM
Thanks for this write up. A lot of solid points in there to think about
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Annie B on May 07, 2013, 02:09:10 PM
A lot of thrillers by bestsellers are in the 60-80k range. Just because Patterson's books on the shelf all look like they are the same length doesn't mean they are. That's the magic of print layout. A lot of his work is 60-70k if you actually go by wordcount instead of page count.

Personally, I like reading tighter, shorter thrillers.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ToniD on May 07, 2013, 02:12:19 PM
Toni: Nope. I don't notice any difference at all, although I think I sort of naturally gravitate to writing them in the 90-100K length and then editing 10% away to speed the pace along. I don't really focus too much on word count, though, because it's all about whether the story is well told or not. I keep word count goals in my head per day, and can estimate that at 90K words it will take 16 days to complete a first draft, but beyond that I don't pay much attention. I think that as long as you're in that 65K or over range, you are fine, although if you're going to charge $6, they better be some pretty damned fine words, or it would be better to wind up at 85K.

Burke is incredible. Check out Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk if you want another innovative wordsmith in a whole different genre.

Most certainly the gold standard is quality of the words. I was wondering whether the lower-end word count of 60K would deter some thriller readers, before they get to the words. But I’ll take 65K as the final answer  ;)

Small world—I bought Billy Lynn last week. Really looking forward to that one.
Re Burke: I think Wyatt Dixon is the most chilling/endearing/compelling villains I’ve ever read.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Herc- The Reluctant Geek on May 07, 2013, 02:25:19 PM
TLDR version:

Write lots + read lots + promote a bit + enjoy what you write but remember its a business = profit

 ;D Thanks for the post
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 02:59:32 PM
Toni: I think it's more a matter of when they finish the book, whether it seemed short. And also, I think when it lands on their kindle, you want to avoid the, "That's all there is?" reaction, especially at the higher price points. I'm not saying pad it, but if it could be more like 65-70K, my gut says that would be a more satisfying visceral experience. As an example, Night of the Assassin is my shortest fiction novel, at about 55K now after rewriting and adding some additional chapters, and I couldn't see myself charging more than $3 for it. Maybe $3.50. But if one of my newish novels is $6 and 85-90, it just seems wrong to charge more than a percentage lower for that percentage less content. I'd rather be fair than squeeze a few more dimes out of it. I'd personally feel just a tad ripped off if a novel was under 70K in the thriller genre, unless it was only three or so bucks.

You'll like Billy Lynn.

Burke is probably in the top 3 living American writers working today. Maybe more like #1. In my opinion.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ToniD on May 07, 2013, 03:42:42 PM
My WIP is definitely novella-length, closing in on 50K. After editing it’ll surely be shorter, as I tend to write long, first draft. It might support a subplot to flesh out a certain character arc/side story. Might not. If not, I’ll call it a novella and likely make it perma-free. Anyway, going forward, I’m returning to the novel-length neighborhood where thrillers mostly live.

Thanks again for the thoughts on length/cost/category.

My first Burke was Bitterroot. I stayed in Montana awhile then made my way to Robicheaux and New Orleans. And then I stumbled upon one of his earlier works, not thriller/detective, but quintessentially Burke: ‘To the Bright and Shining Sun.’ The man can write.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Lizbooks on May 07, 2013, 03:55:22 PM
This has to be one of my favorite KB threads. So much good information. Though it was a little deflating to read that short stories and novellas tend to be less successful, since that's the only thing I can self-publish (I'm under contract to a publisher for anything over 10K). Does anyone know if the market for shorts is as good for erotic romance as it apparently is for erotica?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Edward W. Robertson on May 07, 2013, 03:59:05 PM
Thanks a lot guys, now I'm reading Bitterroot instead of writing my next book.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Cheryl Douglas on May 07, 2013, 03:59:53 PM
Excellent advice! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us. Okay, I'm to focus on promotion now. I admit I've been a little lazy in that department lately.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Robert A Michael on May 07, 2013, 04:04:20 PM
Thanks for the post.  Great stuff.  Loved reading JET.  I had just finished publishing the first novella in my Jake Monday series when I picked it up.  We write in about the same genre.  I love your technique.  You are very talented.  

Your advice about sticking with a genre really hits home with me.  I love to read and have always dreamed of writing in multiple genres (Horror, Thrillers, Fantasy, Historical, and even in Romance--sort of like Sparks).  Even though I classify my first novel as a Horror, I originally felt it was a Thriller.  I think I will take your advice, though and use a pen name for the other genres.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: jackz4000 on May 07, 2013, 04:08:44 PM
All Great stuff Russell. Thank for taking the time.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Joe_Nobody on May 07, 2013, 04:21:58 PM
First of all, let me say that I agree with 99% of the OP.
I couldn't have said it better myself.

For a credibility standpoint, check this out:

Mr. Blake is currently ranked #9 on the Action/Adventure author's ranking. He's above Tom Clancy, Ian Fleming, James Patterson, W.E.B. Griffin and many, many other household names.

I'm only #29 on that list and I'm busting a ton of books out the door at the moment. I can't imagine what it takes to crack the top 10.

Mr. Blake, thank you for taking the time to write this. I hope every struggling writer gives it a good study. 
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: mrv01d on May 07, 2013, 04:22:30 PM
Good on you. I haven't heard of many who have done well with short stories or novellas - and I do mean in fiction, which I'll clarify. I've written two short stories in my life, neither of which are for sale. If you're selling a boatload of short stories or novellas, brilliant, I say. I just wouldn't recommend it, as it seems like the vast majority of fiction short stories and novellas don't sell, unless they're erotica or your name's Hugh. Maybe I'm wrong. God knows I am often enough...

Great advice and a thoughtful post, however, many genres will support novellas. Erotica as you've mentioned, but also romance,young adult, fantasy and sf. So the advice is really to write lengths tolerated by your genre.

I'm writing primarily short stories and novellas so I can attest that there is success in shorter lengths.

M
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ellecasey on May 07, 2013, 04:30:57 PM
Great advice and a thoughtful post, however, many genres will support novellas. Erotica as you've mentioned, but also romance,young adult, fantasy and sf. So the advice is really to write lengths tolerated by your genre.

I'm writing primarily short stories and novellas so I can attest that there is success in shorter lengths.

M

I write in YA, and my readers have been very clear that they don't like novellas or short stories.  They want BIG books. (They like big books and they cannot not lie...).  And erotica readers are starting to trend towards longer books too.  I agree with the OP, the shorts and serials are not as popular as they once were.

Do you have other books in other pen names?  I see only two in your name on Amazon and their ranking suggest not many have been sold recently.  Could be because of this trend moving towards longer works, like I've noticed.  I've written one serial erotic romance title and it's the box set that sells, not the individual pieces.  And most readers waited until the whole thing was out before buying.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ToniD on May 07, 2013, 04:49:25 PM
Thanks a lot guys, now I'm reading Bitterroot instead of writing my next book.

Heh. My work derail here is finished.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: H. S. St. Ours on May 07, 2013, 05:00:47 PM
I write in YA, and my readers have been very clear that they don't like novellas or short stories.  They want BIG books. (They like big books and they cannot not lie...). 

Thanks for this re-affirmation, Elle. I thought it was counter intuitive that YAs would want bigger books, but sure enough, that's the one comment I got repeatedly on the first book in my series. At 40k it wasn't long enough for them. So in a careful-what-you-wish-for scenario, I've been writing longer and longer books ever since. Not looking back, either.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 05:06:02 PM
Ed: Don't feel bad. I spent half my writing day responding to threads here instead of finishing my WIP. Burke is a massive talent. Man knows how to make words do his bidding and dance for him.

mrv and elle: If so, then I amend my statement. Certainly, I haven't seen novellas or short stories do much of anything in my genre. I can appreciate that they might do well in erotica. As to the rest, dunno. But I suspect that readers want value for their money regardless of the genre. If 8K words is regarded as a value proposition in erotica, then obviously my counsel must be used with a grain of common sense depending upon the genre.

Joe_N: Crap. I was #6 on there a few days ago. Probably best that I don't look at that stuff. What it takes is a buttload of books. Around 650-1000 a day. Nice work if you can get it. But it can turn on a dime, so I don't spend a lot of time laurel resting.

Robert: It's more work to have to support two names, but it's also probably cleaner for the reader, so ultimately, better for you to shoulder the heavy end of the log and resign yourself to it. That's one man's take.

Everyone else: Glad you found something useful in all this. Amazing the lengths I'll go to in order to get out of doing my WIP. If someone rounded out the amount I've written counting the original post, I bet it's many thousand words. I could have been done by now! Let that be a lesson. Although I managed 2500 so far, and won't stop until I've done my 5K for the day. And there's always manana...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ellecasey on May 07, 2013, 05:22:06 PM
Thanks for this re-affirmation, Elle. I thought it was counter intuitive that YAs would want bigger books, but sure enough, that's the one comment I got repeatedly on the first book in my series. At 40k it wasn't long enough for them. So in a careful-what-you-wish-for scenario, I've been writing longer and longer books ever since. Not looking back, either.

You're welcome!  I noticed a while ago that readers were leaving lower star reviews for shorter books and specifically saying in the reviews they did that because the book was too short.  Even when they buy a novella, they still get cranky.  That's all I needed to see.  I committed to writing a series of them, but the smallest is at 40k, so I just have to deal with the fallout since I'm already bound to the promise.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Adam Pepper on May 07, 2013, 05:22:18 PM
Russell,

No question this has been a great discussion.  Thanks for your time and candor.

Do you attribute your success to word of mouth?  Algorithms?  Combo of both and other things? Have your sales been primarily Amazon?  Have you done well elsewhere?

Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: CJArcher on May 07, 2013, 05:22:37 PM
I've been avidly reading a lot of your posts on here lately, Russell, so just had to read this one too. So many good points, and I agree with them all 100%. I'd like to echo a couple of points - write in a popular genre and write as much as you're able. I've found out the hard way that certain historical time periods in romance and YA don't sell all that well, but I've also found that my growing body of work means I can experiment with price drops, bundling and paid advertising. 2013 is shaping up to be a good year for me. Thanks again!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Maya Cross on May 07, 2013, 05:38:12 PM
This combined with Elle's post make this one hell of a week for useful info on KB. Bravo. And thanks for taking the time, even if you did have an ulterior motive =)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: NathanHaleJefferson on May 07, 2013, 05:57:00 PM
Thanks again to the Op and to everyone else.

I don't think I've ever read a forum post anywhere with as much good information in it. (and I've read waaaay too many posts on too many forums!)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Ben Mathew on May 07, 2013, 06:06:34 PM
High value post. Thanks.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: mrv01d on May 07, 2013, 06:18:39 PM
I write in YA, and my readers have been very clear that they don't like novellas or short stories.  They want BIG books. (They like big books and they cannot not lie...).  And erotica readers are starting to trend towards longer books too.  I agree with the OP, the shorts and serials are not as popular as they once were.

Do you have other books in other pen names?  I see only two in your name on Amazon and their ranking suggest not many have been sold recently.  Could be because of this trend moving towards longer works, like I've noticed.  I've written one serial erotic romance title and it's the box set that sells, not the individual pieces.  And most readers waited until the whole thing was out before buying.

I have other pen names. Yes YA likes long lengths but novellas are good too esp. serialized ones but YMMV. I seem to be able to imbue shorter lengths with the depth of a novel which is key IMO for successful shorts (umm not the book in my Sig though,that is an early work).

I am moving into writing mostly novellas as I've caved to the opinion that shorts are dead. However, as I mentioned on  Elle's epic thread, I have a toddler and don't get enough writing time to support novels, not if I want to publish something before my readers forget me. I've had to thrive with shorts or accomplish nothing.

M
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Eren Cain on May 07, 2013, 06:31:12 PM
Hey Russell, what an amazing post!

I'm very new to indie publishing, after toiling in the hell of Hollywood writing and directing for a bit, but I should be releasing my first novel in the Fall.

Yea, get to the point, right? Just wanted to ask you what you thought about NetGalley and its usefulness to Indie Authors.

Best, Eren Cain
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 07:02:35 PM
Adam: I think it was a combination of both. God knows I played the Select free game with the best of them, and frankly I'm amazed that it remained viable as long as it did. But I think that the algos sped up what was already happening: readers were discovering the work, and telling friends, who were telling more friends. I've got a good core fan base now, and I think I'm still riding the wave of, "What? JET is free? How can a book that good be perma-free? Did Blake fall out of a tree and hit his head?" syndrome, which is really just over-delivering on quality and expectations. It's a real, 85K word novel, no apologies, and probably one of the fastest-paced, pure adrenaline reads out there, even if a bit deliberately over-the-top and unrealistic (realistic is for the birds, most of the time, anyway. Realistic is where my a*s hurts after sitting for 12 hours writing. You can have realistic. I want a hot female protag who can kick butt and take names every time).

So the algorithms helped, but it's the quality that keeps em coming back. When Amazon selected King of Swords to feature as their Kindle Daily Deal on April 22, it wasn't because of a gimmick. When people read JET or Night or whatever and discover that the work is equal to or better than most trad pubbed offerings in the same genre, I think that does the trick. Because everyone wants a deal and a find, and getting $15 quality for $5 or $6 qualifies.

Eren: I don't know enough about it, but from what I saw, basically anyone on the planet qualifies. I mean, who doesn't review books online or blog? Seems like just another way of getting your book out there free. Whether it actually is effective, I'd love to hear about, because so far I'm unaware of any success stories. That, and I basically publish about 10 minutes after I get the finished copy back from my editing group and do the final read myself, so I'm not sure I would see any value in holding it for weeks in order to have the Netgalley gang read it for free and *hopefully* review it favorably. My experience is that *pro* reviewers are often completely out of sync with what readers think is good, so I question the overall value. But I could be convinced.

mrv: That's why I make a big point of being honest with yourself in terms of how much time, effort and money you're willing to commit, or your circumstance will allow. If you only have time to write novellas, that's fine, but it doesn't actually say anything about what the overall market demand for them is, just what you have time to write, which is fine. I wouldn't recommend it to beginning writers if they can select the novel form instead, though - certainly not in my genre, whereas others may well be different. I don't pretend to know about all genres and their peccadilloes. I can barely keep up with my own.

CJ: Glad your year is shaping up nicely. It's always nice to be read, and even better to be paid to be read!

elle: Yup. Readers are evolving and adapting. One thing in my genre that's interesting is that the norm used to be 100K, and now readers seem to prefer 80K, based on purchasing patterns. That tells me that attention spans are shortening, likely due to the internet and social media formats like Facebook, etc. I tend to groan if I download a book and it's 120K, unless it's by a REALLY good writer, because I'm as guilty of short attention span as the rest. I'm grappling with that on my WIP right now - it's a slower paced novel, a la The Firm, rather than my balls-to-the-wall style action adventure thrillers I've sort of perfected in the Assassin and JET series. And it will finish out at around 95K, assuming I actually finish it tonight and tomorrow. My instinct is to edit it down to 80K, and throw in an action-filled ending for a climax, even though the current ending is the one that works best logically. I actually had a different ending in mind, but upon rethinking it over the last week, I realized that it would be too much of a downer for many casual readers, even if it was the most impactful. Which is a shame, because I find myself self-censoring based on what my business sense says will be most popular, versus what makes for the best book. But it's also reality, and we have to acknowledge reality when we move from the writing phase to marketing phase - and we both know that a committee of editors at a trad pub would dictate a more palatable ending than a downer, so all I'm doing is what I would have been doing if I were "just writing and letting the publisher handle the rest." A fantasy world, that, IMO, from all the trad pub authors I know...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: mrv01d on May 07, 2013, 07:28:46 PM



mrv: That's why I make a big point of being honest with yourself in terms of how much time, effort and money you're willing to commit, or your circumstance will allow. If you only have time to write novellas, that's fine, but it doesn't actually say anything about what the overall market demand for them is, just what you have time to write, which is fine. I wouldn't recommend it to beginning writers if they can select the novel form instead, though - certainly not in my genre, whereas others may well be different. I don't pretend to know about all genres and their peccadilloes. I can barely keep up with my own.



Yes it's important to be practical about what you can achieve. I guess I am finding that I can build a brand(s) and a career with short fiction so all I am saying is, if a writer's genre will accept shorts, you can do that in addition to or as a build up to novels.

I would hate for anyone with little ones underfoot or other productivity constraints to take away that they can't get anywhere unless they write novels. They can be successful at shorter lengths. You don't have to hit the pause button on your dream until you have time for a novel production pace that will build a sustainable career.

I don't know if I'll ever write novels. I may do novella length serials and then bundle them as a novel, but unless my sales change markedly or I start writing as fast as Elle, I won't be angling to produce novels anytime soon. I'm enjoying the novellas too much to quit right now. (It helps that I have a mailing list, my marketing structure is solid and most of my catalog has hit Top 100-- one story of 10,000 words bounced between 20 and 30 for almost six weeks.)

M
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Kathy Clark, Author on May 07, 2013, 07:51:11 PM
Thanks Russell...sound advice.

When you're switching from traditionally published to indie and switching genres too the do list gets a little longer.  But what you've listed in your post was spot on.  Well done.

Now...do I write tonight or add my two cents on switching to Indie and switching genres...I'm going to write.

Thanks.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 08:10:12 PM
mrv: I think it's also a function of what your goal is. If it's to make part time income, or to support yourself as a writer. I haven't seen many making a good living wage writing short stories. If you have hit in the top 100 overall Amazon paid with shorts you are doing better than I - highest I ever got was #11 and #19 in April with King of Swords and The Voynich Cypher from promotions. Even cracking the top 100 is noteworthy.

BobKat: Yes, writing does help pay the bills. Nobody's paid me for my comments here today, and the book isn't writing its own ending, so I'm going to join you on that. Back to my rule of turning the internet off. Not a bad rule. It'll still be there when I'm done, I'm quite sure...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ShaneJeffery on May 07, 2013, 08:42:52 PM
Hi Russell. Amazing in depth posts from you these last few days. Unbelievable amounts of useful information to new writers :)

As someone who is writing dark literary / horror stuff (confined at the moment, but later hoping to release more commercial books), would you advise them to allocate time to a pen name in a more popular genre? (IE romance, erotica, YA fantasy etc.). I guess there's no guaranteed success whatever path you choose, but maybe it's best to spread one's bets a bit?

The stuff I'm writing now is what interests me, but that probably has little bearing on being popular and it's ability to sell.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 08:58:25 PM
Shane: I don't personally believe that an author can write convincingly in a genre they don't read a lot of, and don't particularly enjoy. As an example, if I thought for a second I could write a convincing YA romance, I'd be so all over that. But I can't. And I know it.

It's all an incredible long shot. That's the ugly not-so-secret truth. I think that it's a recipe for madness to write that which you don't love, or at least like a great deal. To write in a particular genre simply because you hope to make a big pile of cash seems a bit mercenary to me, and I don't think I could do it, but if you can while controlling your gag reflex, you're a better man than I and I wish you luck with it. I write what I do because it's what I like to read, and it's what I know. I could probably cobble together a decent romance, but my heart wouldn't be in it, and I have to believe it would show. So I don't try. Which is better for my sanity, in the long run.

That said, I would never presume to tell other authors what they should or shouldn't write. I'm simply trying to offer ideas of how to go about the whole thing once they decide that they want to write, and want to sell what they write, which are two different things.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Jason Blacker on May 07, 2013, 09:03:49 PM
You sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.

With deep gratitude and profound thanks for the helping hand.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ShaneJeffery on May 07, 2013, 09:22:07 PM
Shane: I don't personally believe that an author can write convincingly in a genre they don't read a lot of, and don't particularly enjoy. As an example, if I thought for a second I could write a convincing YA romance, I'd be so all over that. But I can't. And I know it.

It's all an incredible long shot. That's the ugly not-so-secret truth. I think that it's a recipe for madness to write that which you don't love, or at least like a great deal. To write in a particular genre simply because you hope to make a big pile of cash seems a bit mercenary to me, and I don't think I could do it, but if you can while controlling your gag reflex, you're a better man than I and I wish you luck with it. I write what I do because it's what I like to read, and it's what I know. I could probably cobble together a decent romance, but my heart wouldn't be in it, and I have to believe it would show. So I don't try. Which is better for my sanity, in the long run.

That said, I would never presume to tell other authors what they should or shouldn't write. I'm simply trying to offer ideas of how to go about the whole thing once they decide that they want to write, and want to sell what they write, which are two different things.


Thanks for the feedback, Russell :)

I can totally understand your aversion to it. I mean, I don't read, and strongly dislike those genres. It actually only occurred to me today after reading some of the posts here, and I wanted to see if that's what you were advocating. Which you're not :)

Guess we're just figuring out the balance between business and creativity. I mean, I'd write the horror stuff anyway, regardless of whether it made money. But if it's a choice between some minimum wage job in hospitality, and writing in a genre you don't love, I'd rather do the writing.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Kailei Wiseman on May 07, 2013, 09:36:09 PM
This combined with Elle's post make this one hell of a week for useful info on KB. Bravo. And thanks for taking the time, even if you did have an ulterior motive =)

This was exactly my thought. What a great community we have here. I'm honored to be a lurker. :D

Thank you to everyone who posted thoughts on this and Elle's thread. They've both been awesome reads.

I especially need to take the advice of less internet. Or no internet. But the withdrawals are so fierce...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: cdvsmx5 on May 07, 2013, 09:38:44 PM
In; 'An Interview with editor Elaine Ash..' you claim to be 'Joe Nobody'.
Care to elaborate?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Mike Dennis on May 07, 2013, 09:46:56 PM
Outstanding post, Russell. Well-thought out and very eloquent. You deserve everything you've attained.

I, too, did Select/Free back in early January of 2012 with my first novel (in my crime/noir series), which came out about the same time as yours. At that time, I had 6 titles out. As a result of Select/Free, I sold over 1000 books in January. I was looking forward to more. I did interviews, I used Facebook, I got great blurbs from the likes of Jeffery Deaver and Max Allan Collins, among others. A couple of months later, the respected online pub Noir Journal devoted an entire issue to my work, but that month, I sold only 240 books.

It's safe to say the momentum died. My books did not develop legs, even after going free with other titles numerous times. Amazon made it more difficult for guys like me to capitalize on Select. I never achieved 1000 books/month again. I now have ten titles out, and last month I sold 51 books. Isn't the holy gospel supposed to be "The more books you write, the more you'll sell"? I think I may have developed some sort of dyslexia.

I'm giving Select/Free one more shot next week, with an ad on BookBub (at a cost of $240!!!), but how can I be optimistic? We'll see what happens.

In any case, I'm buying one of your books after I post this. It's the least I can do.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Shane Murray on May 07, 2013, 09:56:21 PM
Took a while, but well worth the read.

Thanks!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 07, 2013, 10:00:31 PM
ShaneJ: Everything I've described in these posts is akin to establishing a good foundation of sound habits that improve the odds of success, whatever that is. It's by no means a guarantee. More an outline, a discipline of how to best go about organizing oneself in an fundamentally chaotic world, a way of viewing things that's logic-based and seems sensible. It's entirely possible that I would still sell a boatload of books without any of it, but I seriously doubt it. Whether it can work for someone else, and result in their selling a bunch...who knows? But it just seems more reasoned to separate writing from the mundane business of selling books, and develop a system for handling both. Because as everyone recognizes, writing is fine, but if you can't sell your writing (which also means, have it widely read) it's a hollow satisfaction you have when you type, The End.

If I can help anyone to feel more empowered, more capable, more reasoned about the whole mess, then my purpose has been accomplished. There are no guarantees in life, but this seems like a better strategy than simply hoping for the best, or thrashing around making oneself crazy trying to get something, anything, to stick. This may not be the best plan, or the only one, but it's a plan, and a place to start. Sometimes that's all you need. It's certainly more than I had to work with when I began.

Mike Dennis: I've been warning in my blog for a year that my love affair with Select was waning - not because it wasn't working for me, but because I could see the writing on the wall, and that it was becoming like a crack pipe for an increasingly addicted author population. I'm sorry it hasn't worked out for you yet, but I recall that I was equally befuddled in November of 2011, with seven novels out, 15 hour days, and really meager sales at what was being called the heyday of indie publishing. Writing more isn't a bad call. But if there's any takeaway from all this, it should be that this is a retail biz, and you have to keep promoting. Regaining momentum is a lot harder than maintaining it. Hopefully BB will work for you - it has for many, although the impact of a successful Select run is pretty muted compared to what it was even 60 days ago. And thanks for buying a book. Hope you like it. Some do.

And with that, I wish everyone good night. It's been a long one. The good news being that I'm only around 3K from being done with my WIP, which will be done tomorrow. Then the tequila comes out!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ChrisWard on May 07, 2013, 10:41:59 PM
Great post. If there's one thing that I've learned over the last few months of this is that its to listen to Russell Blake.  :D
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Shelley K on May 07, 2013, 11:35:43 PM
In; 'An Interview with editor Elaine Ash..' you claim to be 'Joe Nobody'.
Care to elaborate?

What a strange question. He claimed to be a "Joe Nobody first time author," not the writer from this board who goes by Joe Nobody. It's a bit like calling yourself an anonymous John Smith. Actual line from the interview:

Now in a perfect world where Bantam gets behind and throws $2 million into pushing me, Joe Nobody first time author, hey, there’s a benefit.






Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: B.A. Spangler on May 08, 2013, 03:22:59 AM
Bookmarked this post - great stuff. Thank you.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Scott Daniel on May 08, 2013, 04:47:38 AM
First of all Russell, thank you so much for your sage advice. I was wondering if you might share how you were able to become a full-time writer a few years ago, how did you afford it? Had you been successful in another line of work? How did you get by as a writer until you started making decent money?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: she-la-ti-da on May 08, 2013, 04:55:58 AM
Thanks for posting this, Russell. I really enjoy reading about other author's methods and experiences. Between DWS, Elle and now you, I've gotten a lot of things to mull over, and experiment with.

Folks, like any advice, take what you can from this, and ignore the rest. It's worth trying a successful writer's ideas, whether you initially agree or not. You never know what might be the very thing that pushes you over the edge into the big time. :)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: AKMartin on May 08, 2013, 04:57:29 AM
Some Great info and lost of help and thoughts
nice share

thanks

Anthony
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: P.J. Post on May 08, 2013, 05:30:48 AM
Blake, thanks for the discussions (this thread and others).  You're a breath of fresh air and just what the Cafe needed.  I like your directness and conviction regarding the business, but it's clear you have a passion for the craft as well.

With that said, it is interesting that everything you recommended has been discussed at length on this board over the last year.  Business threads usually die rather quickly around here though.  I think the difference with your post is that, 1) you put it all together in one place in a direct and uncompromising manner, and 2) you bring authority with your recommendations, because the ranks of your books demonstrate your sales success.

I think the biggest problem many self-publishers have is that they don't really understand the fundamentals of business and marketing and therefore have a difficult time developing strategies, (this isn't meant as an insult, unless you went to college for business or worked at the upper levels of management, there is no way you would know this stuff).  Everything Blake is discussing is Business 101.

Marketing is comprised of Product (Book), Price, Place (Distribution Channels) and Promotions (covers, blurbs, logos, advertising, sales, gimmicks, public relations, etc.).  How these combine to create strategy is referred to as the Marketing Mix.  The Marketing Mix is the tool used to define your brand.

Branding strategy, (which has dominated retail for a couple of decades now), is based upon three components: 1) a visual representation of the brand (packaging and logos), 2) providing a consistent product that satisfies consumer expectations with an implied value - not a price value, but more of a self actualization value, (product, price, distribution channel) and 3) a significant market presence in terms of both promotional activity and products (shelf space, product line expansion, etc.).

So, if we look at what Blake recommends and analyze his own marketing strategy: (Please correct me if I get any of this wrong)

Product - well written, well packaged and consistently reinforcing the brand and satisfying consumer expectations.  Check
Price - consistent with the brand, professionally competitive and set to establish and reinforce the image of product quality, while including promotional considerations.  Check.
Place - no information on this one, but being on Amazon is a pretty wide channel.  Check
Promotion - everything stated indicates that Blake has an ongoing social/public media presence, advertises and promotes his brand.  Check

Branding:
1) His books are professionally packaged and consistently reinforce the genre
2) His books deliver on their promise to readers, consistently providing the reading experience desired
3) He promotes and advertises and uses sales promotions (gimmicks) consistently and effectively within the expectations of his readers

And all of this was done in conjunction with continual market research (reading the genre and keeping up with its top sellers and how their marketing strategies were developing).

The big thing he did was that he defined his business very narrowly and focused all of his resources on that target.  This is known as target marketing, or segmenting the market into slices that you can then offer products to, products that they want.

None of this is about "Selling", it is about giving people what they already want, and doing it really well - over and over, and that is how you build Brand Loyalty.

Another very important point Blake makes is to define your own goals and work towards them.  His isn't the only way, but it is the best way to sell lots of books, because his strategy is based upon decades of demonstrable retail business strategy.

Anyway, thanks again Blake.  I look forward to more of your posts.






 
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ellecasey on May 08, 2013, 06:37:52 AM
Blake, thanks for the discussions (this thread and others).  You're a breath of fresh air and just what the Cafe needed.  I like your directness and conviction regarding the business, but it's clear you have a passion for the craft as well.

With that said, it is interesting that everything you recommended has been discussed at length on this board over the last year.  Business threads usually die rather quickly around here though.  I think the difference with your post is that, 1) you put it all together in one place in a direct and uncompromising manner, and 2) you bring authority with your recommendations, because the ranks of your books demonstrate your sales success.

I think the biggest problem many self-publishers have is that they don't really understand the fundamentals of business and marketing and therefore have a difficult time developing strategies, (this isn't meant as an insult, unless you went to college for business or worked at the upper levels of management, there is no way you would know this stuff).  Everything Blake is discussing is Business 101.

Marketing is comprised of Product (Book), Price, Place (Distribution Channels) and Promotions (covers, blurbs, logos, advertising, sales, gimmicks, public relations, etc.).  How these combine to create strategy is referred to as the Marketing Mix.  The Marketing Mix is the tool used to define your brand.

Branding strategy, (which has dominated retail for a couple of decades now), is based upon three components: 1) a visual representation of the brand (packaging and logos), 2) providing a consistent product that satisfies consumer expectations with an implied value - not a price value, but more of a self actualization value, (product, price, distribution channel) and 3) a significant market presence in terms of both promotional activity and products (shelf space, product line expansion, etc.).

So, if we look at what Blake recommends and analyze his own marketing strategy: (Please correct me if I get any of this wrong)

Product - well written, well packaged and consistently reinforcing the brand and satisfying consumer expectations.  Check
Price - consistent with the brand, professionally competitive and set to establish and reinforce the image of product quality, while including promotional considerations.  Check.
Place - no information on this one, but being on Amazon is a pretty wide channel.  Check
Promotion - everything stated indicates that Blake has an ongoing social/public media presence, advertises and promotes his brand.  Check

Branding:
1) His books are professionally packaged and consistently reinforce the genre
2) His books deliver on their promise to readers, consistently providing the reading experience desired
3) He promotes and advertises and uses sales promotions (gimmicks) consistently and effectively within the expectations of his readers

And all of this was done in conjunction with continual market research (reading the genre and keeping up with its top sellers and how their marketing strategies were developing).

The big thing he did was that he defined his business very narrowly and focused all of his resources on that target.  This is known as target marketing, or segmenting the market into slices that you can then offer products to, products that they want.

None of this is about "Selling", it is about giving people what they already want, and doing it really well - over and over, and that is how you build Brand Loyalty.

Another very important point Blake makes is to define your own goals and work towards them.  His isn't the only way, but it is the best way to sell lots of books, because his strategy is based upon decades of demonstrable retail business strategy.

Anyway, thanks again Blake.  I look forward to more of your posts.

Nice breakdown and tie in with a decent college course synopsis on marketing.  :)  I'm going to print this baby.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Adam Pepper on May 08, 2013, 06:45:32 AM
I actually had a different ending in mind, but upon rethinking it over the last week, I realized that it would be too much of a downer for many casual readers, even if it was the most impactful. Which is a shame, because I find myself self-censoring based on what my business sense says will be most popular, versus what makes for the best book.

This is a really interesting position to take. So your publisher's hat isnt only on when it comes to selling the product.  Your publisher alterego actually can overrule the artist, at the expense of the story.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: NathanHaleJefferson on May 08, 2013, 07:10:35 AM
This is a really interesting position to take. So your publisher's hat isnt only on when it comes to selling the product.  Your publisher alterego actually can overrule the artist, at the expense of the story.

After talking to about a dozen authors in the past month or two, reading thousands of reviews, hundreds of posts, etc.  I think you can boil down the most important part of selling books to:

Write what readers want.

If you want to sell books, that is unfortunately what you need to do.

I've made dozens of compromises in my book, in style, language and word use.  I want the bad guy to cuss like a sailor, my audience won't buy my books if he does.  I want the good guys to lose more, my audience won't buy my books if they do. 

A great example are these two books: http://www.amazon.com/Lights-Out-David-Crawford/dp/0615427359/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368022052&sr=8-1&keywords=lights+out (http://www.amazon.com/Lights-Out-David-Crawford/dp/0615427359/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368022052&sr=8-1&keywords=lights+out) which gets rave reviews and has a HUGE fanbase. 

And his second book which I find to be much better http://www.amazon.com/Collision-Course-David-Crawford/dp/0451238079/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368022110&sr=1-3 which gets tons of bad reviews, doesn't sell nearly as well, and gets the writer flamed from here to timbucktoo. 

What's the difference?  He didn't write what the majority of his readers wanted, even though to some people like it much more.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 07:27:12 AM
cdv and ash: Joe Nobody is a colloquialism. Like Joe Average or Joe Mainstreet. While I'd love to think I coined it and can claim it from all who have used it, I'm afraid others got there first. Sigh.

Adam: Well, yes, I suppose it can, just as in the real world, your trad pub editor can say, "You need to change that, that and that, or we can't sell this." Unlike in that situation, I can always choose to ignore it, but then I risk the readers acting as the final editorial word and disliking the book because I didn't listen to my business side. I believe I've developed a keen enough instinct after 20 books to sort of know what's going to tick my audience off and make them dislike a book. Profanity is one - it's okay to have fairly graphic sex scenes, but God forbid someone tosses an F bomb. It's just the market we sell in. And we ignore its vagaries at our peril. Besides which, it's not like our "inner artist" is infallible or some kind of minor deity. It's just our creative side, and sometimes that bugger needs to be reined in and spooned a dose of reality, or it will be triumphant but broke. Been there, done that, rather like the compromise I've arrived at. My inner artist would be writing Lord of the Flies or The Magic Mountain right now, instead of conspiracy thrillers, but it would also not be selling any books, so that's counterproductive for my book selling business. As with all things, the inner battles are the hardest to fight, but I don't ignore my gut lightly these days. Doesn't mean you have to, or that it's the only way.

Nathan: Si, senor. Above all, you have to feed the beast what it wants.

cc: Yup. Although I learned all this from the school of hard knocks, the essentials remain the same in any business. You can sell once, and it's a transaction. To sell multiple times to the same consumer you need to develop brand loyalty, and above all, consistently deliver value. That's what it comes down to. As authors, we can create worlds out of thin air, which is a noble pursuit and a kind of magic. But once we've done so, if we want to sell our work to readers, we become mundane peddlers, business people manufacturing and selling a product, and then all the normal dynamics of business kick in. All I've done here is provide a punch list that should act as a reasonable guide. If it helps someone, super. If not, then hopefully they will devise their own successful strategy and post it here for us to consider.

Scott: I retired about a decade ago and moved to Mexico. I was fortunate enough to sell the company I started. This is my retirement passion, but I obviously bring to it some business acumen that served me well in my past life.

Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: dianasg on May 08, 2013, 08:55:49 AM
I just wanted to jump in and say that this thread is absolutely priceless - there's so much great information here, so thank you to both Russell & C.C.

Russell, I especially appreciated your thoughts on balancing your 'inner artist' against your inner editor/publisher. It's not easy to balance what you want to write with what the market wants to read.

I think someone upthread mentioned wanting to write in a genre they strongly dislike in order to sell books. To that I'd say: be careful. Do your research. Readers of genres like romance and YA might be the biggest group of book buyers, but they are not indiscriminate book buyers. If you (general you!) put forward something that betrays an unfamiliarity with or contempt for the genre, they will know! Romance and YA readers are a wonderfully loyal but often tough crowd - maybe because it's an especially crowded market for those genres, and they have to be pretty discerning.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: cdvsmx5 on May 08, 2013, 09:22:30 AM
cdv and ash: Joe Nobody is a colloquialism. Like Joe Average or Joe Mainstreet. While I'd love to think I coined it and can claim it from all who have used it, I'm afraid others got there first. Sigh.
...

This is not a colloquialism, the informal replacement for a formal term, such as tart replaces prostitute.

What it is to me and should be to anyone not taking this too seriously, is funny. Any example would have done, this was the first I found. You could ignore it (your first choice), treat me as a lesser being and explain it (your second choice, but done in haste) or laugh.

I followed your blog for awhile, right up to your reaction to John Locke's review scandal. 'Why this, why now?'

The answer is self promotion to sell more books. I expect this thread will sell some books and gain additional admiration.

I have no objection to you sharing your methods with others, if complete. But I fear, like Locke's advice, a critically important piece is missing. Your detailed list of 26 and a half only uses the word review twice. Later, you steer away from questions of reviews.

Odd?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 09:27:31 AM
Diana: Thanks for the warm praise. It means a lot. If you think it's something that others would find of value, feel free to link it, repost it with attribution, Tweet or Facebook it, whatever. That goes for everyone who's asked. Have at it. It's now part of the public domain, so to speak.

One of my editors once said that smart people can never write dumb - that it just doesn't work. I will expand upon that idea and underscore the belief that you can't write well in a genre that you don't like/love and aren't intimately familiar with. I agree that readers can sniff fakery or insincerity from a mile away, and it's a bad idea, overall. And as you point out, even if those are large markets, they are crowded markets with literally hundreds of thousands of pretenders to the crown, all trying to get a foothold. I think it's akin to looking at McDonalds and thinking, "Hey, I'll just make a slightly better burger than theirs, price it a hair cheaper, and then I'll be a billionaire too!" Everything ALWAYS looks easier the less you know about it. I call it the dilettantism fallacy.

Look, the odds in this game are very long against making it. They just are. That's the truth. They always have been. And now that there are literally no barriers to anyone slapping a book up on Amazon, they are even longer. I truly believe that writing should be its own reward, because the chances that anyone is going to make real money at this on a sustained basis are slim. That said, write what you love, and what you feel compelled to write, and certainly try to bring a business-like approach to the business side of it. These are all things that can help narrow the odds some. I believe that cumulatively, the steps I outline will narrow them considerably, but I also know that most won't follow the steps as they're too hard, or make it all seem like it's not a lot of fun, or require too much commitment. That's fine. Starting a business from scratch in a highly-competitive field is all those things. I simply don't understand those who expect to start one and have it go, and yet haven't done the work to create a sustainable business. It's like they're hoping for it to drop from the sky or something. I don't get it.

But I'm not here to advocate a 12-step program for writers. I'm just throwing my process out there, and the way I organize my worldview, my perspective of the biz. If others have successful approaches, I'm all ears. Because one of my beliefs is that you have to remain flexible, and pay attention to what's working.

So far, so good.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Susanne. on May 08, 2013, 09:48:30 AM
Diana: Thanks for the warm praise. It means a lot. If you think it's something that others would find of value, feel free to link it, repost it with attribution, Tweet or Facebook it, whatever. That goes for everyone who's asked. Have at it. It's now part of the public domain, so to speak.

One of my editors once said that smart people can never write dumb - that it just doesn't work. I will expand upon that idea and underscore the belief that you can't write well in a genre that you don't like/love and aren't intimately familiar with. I agree that readers can sniff fakery or insincerity from a mile away, and it's a bad idea, overall. And as you point out, even if those are large markets, they are crowded markets with literally hundreds of thousands of pretenders to the crown, all trying to get a foothold. I think it's akin to looking at McDonalds and thinking, "Hey, I'll just make a slightly better burger than theirs, price it a hair cheaper, and then I'll be a billionaire too!" Everything ALWAYS looks easier the less you know about it. I call it the dilettantism fallacy.

Look, the odds in this game are very long against making it. They just are. That's the truth. They always have been. And now that there are literally no barriers to anyone slapping a book up on Amazon, they are even longer. I truly believe that writing should be its own reward, because the chances that anyone is going to make real money at this on a sustained basis are slim. That said, write what you love, and what you feel compelled to write, and certainly try to bring a business-like approach to the business side of it. These are all things that can help narrow the odds some. I believe that cumulatively, the steps I outline will narrow them considerably, but I also know that most won't follow the steps as they're too hard, or make it all seem like it's not a lot of fun, or require too much commitment. That's fine. Starting a business from scratch in a highly-competitive field is all those things. I simply don't understand those who expect to start one and have it go, and yet haven't done the work to create a sustainable business. It's like they're hoping for it to drop from the sky or something. I don't get it.

But I'm not here to advocate a 12-step program for writers. I'm just throwing my process out there, and the way I organize my worldview, my perspective of the biz. If others have successful approaches, I'm all ears. Because one of my beliefs is that you have to remain flexible, and pay attention to what's working.

So far, so good.

I get what you're saying, Russell and admire all you've achieved and your commitment to your work and the promotional side of it all.

I like doing my own thing and mostly just drive by the seat of my pants. What works for me might not work for others and vice versa.

You say the odds are very long against making it. But that depends how you qualify 'making it'. If you mean earning enough money to live on, yes then the odds are huge. But if 'making it' means selling enough books every month to have a smallish income, or enough to pay a bill or two and sill have enough left over for a meal in a restaurant or a couple of beers, then that's quite achievable without spending much time promoting.

If you write what you love and what you feel compelled to write, then you will also write the best you can. If, in addition you make sure your work is polished and edited, with good covers, then you have a good product to sell. But how you promote and what works is very individual. You have to sell yourself too, get your voice and personality out there, rather than touting your books 100% of the time. What has worked for me has been writing blog posts on all kind of subjects, my Facebook page and a few quirky tweets here and there, not always shouting 'buy my book'.

It's quite a fine line to market without appearing to do so...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 09:51:07 AM
cdv: There's an expression in psychology. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I'm not sure why you're spoiling for a fight, but I'm not here to spar. I didn't choose to ignore you at first - I didn't realize your comment was directed at me, as I don't remember every word of every interview I've done over the last two years. Once I did realize it was directed at me, I replied. You have corrected my incorrect usage of the term colloquial, for which pedants everywhere are thankful, as am I, and then implied that I am hopeful that my little missive sells books for me, and that further, there is some Locke-ism at work, namely that there's something more to my success than what I've shared.

Sorry. Not the case. First of all, sales since yesterday have been the lowest in the last month, so if this is my big marketing push, it's a flawed one, as authors are notoriously NOT book buyers. I mean, some do buy books, but most don't.

Where did I steer away from the question of reviews? I only wrote, what, about 5000 or 6000 words of replies yesterday (maybe more). I don't recall ducking the "tough" review questions. What were they? Do you recall?

I don't particularly think that reviews, beyond a certain point, much matter to anyone. Maybe they did three years ago, but that well is so tainted that it's no longer useful, I think. And given that Amazon removes any that are even slightly iffy, I'd say that ship sailed a long time ago. I use reviews as a general barometer - specifically, the ratio. Most bestsellers have a 10-20% ratio of one and two star reviews to positive ones. If your ratio is lower than that, all's well. If it is edging higher, the reviews might be telling you something. But occasional bad reviews are a fact of life. I've written about reviews EXTENSIVELY on my blog, which even a casual reader can go verify. So I think you're going down a barren path here.

I think that the reason lots of people buy my books is because they get good word of mouth and they like them. I think that Amazon singled me out as one of the few indies to get a Kindle Daily Deal because their editorial staff thought they don't suck, either. I believe that if I'm still selling lots of books five years from now it will have little to do with anything but the quality of the work and the continued intelligent application of my approach.

You are of course free to believe whatever you like. If there's some element in my 26 steps you find are duplicitous, or misleading, or won't work for you, that's fine. Don't use them. Use your own. In fact, publish your own. Let everyone know what your approach is to becoming a successful author, and publish your results, as well, so we can gauge the merits of your system based on your actual outcome.

I think the thing you're missing here is that unlike Locke, I'm not trying to charge anyone a dime for my counsel. Some may think it's worth what they paid for it. Others may find it useful. My life, or the price of tea, isn't going to change either way. I suppose I should take your response to it the same way as with reviews - if 100 are positive, and one is snarky and negative, it probably isn't the book that's the problem.

Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 10:00:30 AM
Susanne: I don't recommend touting your book all the time. Nobody likes constant advertisements. I used to auto-program tweets with bits from reviews in them and a link to my books, but stopped that about 9 months ago, because it frankly felt kind of spammy. My sales didn't drop a bit. Nowadays I only tweet links to my blog, and the RTs of other authors. Same with Facebook. I post notable occurrences, or promotional pricing, but primarily I post links to my blogs and I try to interact with readers.

You'll see in my steps that I devote a fair amount of time to setting achievable, realistic goals based on what you have the time and resources for. Obviously, my approach is best suited for someone who wants to become a vocational author and who has the ability and desire to operate a book selling business. But if someone wants to scale that back because they can't commit the time/money/effort, then all the same elements apply, but at a reduced intensity level. I'm a huge believer in getting clear on what you want, and then being realistic as to what it's going to take to get it. I think it's setting yourself up for heartbreak if you want to earn a living wage from your book selling business, and yet can only invest an hour or two a day. I don't know of many businesses that you can invest ten hours a week into that will support you, and I'm pretty sure that book selling ain't it. So I counsel being honest with yourself about what you're willing to do, and allowing that to dictate what your objective is. Obviously, I work 12-15 hour days, seven days a week, to achieve my objective. Virtually nobody is willing to do that. For good reason. I don't blame them. But my personality is such that that's how I roll, and when I go, I go all in. I want to be a respected name in this biz, and make decent money, and have a good career. I don't know how to do that without throwing my back into it with everything I have. I'm not advocating that. I'm just explaining what I do. Those who wish to try it are welcome to. Those who aren't I wish nothing but luck, because we're all going to need it.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Susanne. on May 08, 2013, 10:08:36 AM
Susanne: I don't recommend touting your book all the time. Nobody likes constant advertisements. I used to auto-program tweets with bits from reviews in them and a link to my books, but stopped that about 9 months ago, because it frankly felt kind of spammy. My sales didn't drop a bit. Nowadays I only tweet links to my blog, and the RTs of other authors. Same with Facebook. I post notable occurrences, or promotional pricing, but primarily I post links to my blogs and I try to interact with readers.

You'll see in my steps that I devote a fair amount of time to setting achievable, realistic goals based on what you have the time and resources for. Obviously, my approach is best suited for someone who wants to become a vocational author and who has the ability and desire to operate a book selling business. But if someone wants to scale that back because they can't commit the time/money/effort, then all the same elements apply, but at a reduced intensity level. I'm a huge believer in getting clear on what you want, and then being realistic as to what it's going to take to get it. I think it's setting yourself up for heartbreak if you want to earn a living wage from your book selling business, and yet can only invest an hour or two a day. I don't know of many businesses that you can invest ten hours a week into that will support you, and I'm pretty sure that book selling ain't it. So I counsel being honest with yourself about what you're willing to do, and allowing that to dictate what your objective is. Obviously, I work 12-15 hour days, seven days a week, to achieve my objective. Virtually nobody is willing to do that. For good reason. I don't blame them. But my personality is such that that's how I roll, and when I go, I go all in. I want to be a respected name in this biz, and make decent money, and have a good career. I don't know how to do that without throwing my back into it with everything I have. I'm not advocating that. I'm just explaining what I do. Those who wish to try it are welcome to. Those who aren't I wish nothing but luck, because we're all going to need it.

I understand that you're not trying to tell people what to do. And it's very generous of you to spend all this time sharing your method. But it all depends on how hungry you are,doesn't it?

I've had great success in the past and one of my novels has sold well over 30000 copies. But that came as a surprise to me,as I hadn't spent much time promoting it at all. It seemed to have attracted that mysterious 'word of mouth'. I don't think there is any one recipe for success, even though yours is great and works for you.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 10:14:08 AM
Susanne: I don't consider my steps to be a recipe for success. That can largely depend on luck, which is the wild card. I'm more focused on how to reproduce a consistent result, namely modest sales of each title that build to a lot of sales. I frankly have no idea how to make one book sell 30K copies when another, equivalently-crafted book with a similar cover sells 500 copies. And neither do the pros at the big trad publishers. Nobody knows.

I'm advocating a reasoned approach so in the event you don't sell 30K of a title for no discernible reason, you are taking steps to make progress every day.

It's certainly not the only approach. I would actually prefer the one where my next novel breaks out and sells 150K copies and I can do tequila shots off bare tummies on a mega-yacht while my enemies gnash their teeth in rage. If anyone can tell me how to do that, I'd be most appreciative. And no, I don't mean salt first, then lime. I mean the book selling part.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: ellecasey on May 08, 2013, 10:15:14 AM
This is not a colloquialism, the informal replacement for a formal term, such as tart replaces prostitute.

What it is to me and should be to anyone not taking this too seriously, is funny. Any example would have done, this was the first I found. You could ignore it (your first choice), treat me as a lesser being and explain it (your second choice, but done in haste) or laugh.

I followed your blog for awhile, right up to your reaction to John Locke's review scandal. 'Why this, why now?'

The answer is self promotion to sell more books. I expect this thread will sell some books and gain additional admiration.

I have no objection to you sharing your methods with others, if complete. But I fear, like Locke's advice, a critically important piece is missing. Your detailed list of 26 and a half only uses the word review twice. Later, you steer away from questions of reviews.

Odd?

This kind of post is what discourages people from sharing their successes and systems for success.  ATTACKS.  Useless, time-wasting attacks, against someone who's trying to help his fellow indie authors for not a single penny.  DWS and his wife both have a friggin paypal tip jar on their sites, but I didn't see the OP asking for tips.  The OP has written a short story here on this thread, of how to be successful writing and publishing books, in his free time for nothing (while he has a book to finish).  If he sells a few books because he was helpful, who cares?  I'm happy to contribute to someone who's helped me.  And guess what?  I like to read good books!  Maybe the OP has some kick butt books.  I'm willing to check them out now that he's brought them to my attention.

The fact that you'd compare the OP's post to John Locke's methods show you have zero understanding of what helping your fellow indie is all about.  I don't know if you're an author or not.  You don't have any books in your sig line.  But if you are, you should know that you'll get more help from people around here if you're less quick to jump to negative conclusions and give people the benefit of the doubt before you accuse them of something ridiculous.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Alan Petersen on May 08, 2013, 10:39:30 AM
If he sells a few books because he was helpful, who cares?  I'm happy to contribute to someone who's helped me.  And guess what?  I like to read good books!  Maybe the OP has some kick butt books.  I'm willing to check them out now that he's brought them to my attention.

Same here. I usually buy the book of best selling indie authors. I like to read, and you can learn from their success!

That's why I have books like Elle's and Holly which are not a genre I usually read, but it's a great way to support fellow KB'ers that contribute a lot of valuable information for free here! And in my own selfish way I want to see what I can learn from their work.

Although, I have warned my wife that when she sees a book called "Damaged" with a guy's six-pack on the cover, that it's for support of fellow indies and research.  ;D
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 10:49:00 AM
Alan: Sure it is.  ;) :o :-*
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Soothesayer on May 08, 2013, 10:58:29 AM
That's fine. Starting a business from scratch in a highly-competitive field is all those things. I simply don't understand those who expect to start one and have it go, and yet haven't done the work to create a sustainable business.

I hear very often that this field is "too competitive" for some. To that I would ask, what field isn't? The field that has the most competition is the field of Not Taking Action. Or quitting. Anyone can decide to take that route. Everyone is guaranteed success. It is easy to say "the chances that anyone is going to make real money at this on a sustained basis are slim"... when one is at the top of the mountain, looking down at us beginning climbers. Anyone can climb. It is those who make the effort consistently over a lengthy period of time that will succeed.

Authors lament all the time about the glut of writers coming into this field. When Obamacare hits employers in a few years, it will triple. I look at the numbers of students graduating with English degrees, Journalism degrees, and no market (offline at least) to apply themselves. When they learn of self-publishing, the number of writers will go through the roof. It will skyrocket. Ironically enough, it may even be easier at that point to spot the good apples from the bad. It will be about the highest quality... who has the BEST stories to tell, and can tell them consistently. Many of them will write one book, maybe two. When it doesn't pay the bills, they'll quit. Just the nature of the business I suppose.

But we shouldn't discourage them by telling them it is too competitive.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: bellaandre on May 08, 2013, 11:00:56 AM
Russell,

I just found your post this morning and I have to tell you that the level of awesomeness in your post is blowing my mind. I am bookmarking it and will send the trillion people who email me asking for my "secrets" straight to this link. And I'm right there with you on the 12 hour days, 7 days a week. :)

Three of things that I'd add on from my experience -- I know everyone has different paths, etc, but these 3 additional things have been really important for building my success.

1. Have your ebooks available on all platforms. Apple, BN and Kobo are HUGE parts of my sales/income and getting bigger and bigger all the time. I love Amazon (of course!) and I also love my other three major retailers.

2. Turn your ebooks into Audiobooks. I started doing this a year ago and to say that I'm floored by how much income there is to be made in audiobooks is a massive understatement. My check for March was jaw-dropping.

3. Go to a few select conferences each year around the world and make it a point to meet people and make friends. Everyone in publishing is awesome and in the self-publishing world they turn the dial up to eleven.  

THANKS for putting your thoughts down so brilliantly, Russell. Okay, off to get my words done for the day!

:) Bella
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 11:06:41 AM
Bella: You're one of my inspirations, and I figured your work ethic had to be right up there.

I've begun creating audiobooks, and I hope my experience is anywhere as positive as yours. My first, JET, will be releasing shortly. I actually declined a publishing deal (several, in truth) for just audio because after I saw the royalties I could get hiring the talent myself, it made no sense to have them essentially advance the costs in exchange for a big chunk of the cash flow. Hope that was a wise move.

Agreed on having your books everywhere. And I too love Amazon. I would buy them chocolates if I know what flavor they liked.

Only thing I haven't done is the conferences, mainly because I dislike meeting people or traveling unless it's in pursuit of good food and wine. That, and my schedule really has been seven day, 12 to 15 hours, for going on two years. But hopefully next year I'll lighten up a bit. Once I have 25 novels out, I'm pretty sure a dearth of product ain't going to be the problem...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: dianasg on May 08, 2013, 11:27:58 AM
2. Turn your ebooks into Audiobooks. I started doing this a year ago and to say that I'm floored by how much income there is to be made in audiobooks is a massive understatement. My check for March was jaw-dropping.

:) Bella

Anecdotally and as an aside -- audiobooks are awesome! In my experience, they make readers out of smart, busy people who like to read but don't usually have the time. How great is that? "Reading" while driving, at the gym, cleaning the pool, cooking dinner for the kids, when you're tired of grading papers, while getting ready in the morning -- these are all occasions I've seen/heard of people listening to audiobooks. 8)

Talk about expanding your audience!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: Susanne. on May 08, 2013, 11:30:31 AM
Susanne: I don't consider my steps to be a recipe for success. That can largely depend on luck, which is the wild card. I'm more focused on how to reproduce a consistent result, namely modest sales of each title that build to a lot of sales. I frankly have no idea how to make one book sell 30K copies when another, equivalently-crafted book with a similar cover sells 500 copies. And neither do the pros at the big trad publishers. Nobody knows.

I'm advocating a reasoned approach so in the event you don't sell 30K of a title for no discernible reason, you are taking steps to make progress every day.

It's certainly not the only approach. I would actually prefer the one where my next novel breaks out and sells 150K copies and I can do tequila shots off bare tummies on a mega-yacht while my enemies gnash their teeth in rage. If anyone can tell me how to do that, I'd be most appreciative. And no, I don't mean salt first, then lime. I mean the book selling part.

Tequila shots off bare tummies on a yacht...  :D Now I am getting hungry... ;)

*runs to do all 26 steps in one go*
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: John Yale on May 08, 2013, 11:39:00 AM
Russell:

Thanks for your frank advice. I just published my first novel, and I'm working on my second and third, although not as hard as I need to be. You words have inspired me to get moving. Falling prey to Internet distractions is one of my pitfalls, although I discovered your post after seeing it recommended on Reddit, where I happened to be wasting some time, so sometimes it works out.

Time to get back to work writing...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Susanne. on May 08, 2013, 11:40:07 AM
Where does the salt go?   :-\

Oh, okay. I get it.  :)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: merryxmas on May 08, 2013, 11:53:34 AM
Solid advice from a solid performer. 
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 11:59:37 AM
John: Yes, even I've been known to get sucked into the internet vortex. It happens.

merryX: Not the clowns. Anything but the clowns.

Damn you. Damn you all. When will the persecution end?  :o
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: burke_KB on May 08, 2013, 12:00:05 PM
This kind of post is what discourages people from sharing their successes and systems for success.  ATTACKS.  Useless, time-wasting attacks, against someone who's trying to help his fellow indie authors for not a single penny.  DWS and his wife both have a friggin paypal tip jar on their sites, but I didn't see the OP asking for tips.  The OP has written a short story here on this thread, of how to be successful writing and publishing books, in his free time for nothing (while he has a book to finish).  If he sells a few books because he was helpful, who cares?  I'm happy to contribute to someone who's helped me.  And guess what?  I like to read good books!  Maybe the OP has some kick butt books.  I'm willing to check them out now that he's brought them to my attention.

The fact that you'd compare the OP's post to John Locke's methods show you have zero understanding of what helping your fellow indie is all about.  I don't know if you're an author or not.  You don't have any books in your sig line.  But if you are, you should know that you'll get more help from people around here if you're less quick to jump to negative conclusions and give people the benefit of the doubt before you accuse them of something ridiculous.

I agree. The original post was great, and accusations or insinuations without proof is wrong. This is no different than the drive by 1 star reviews by frustrated and jealous authors.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Susanne. on May 08, 2013, 12:05:38 PM
The big problem is: TIME.

I am supposed to be a full time writer. But I'm married with a family. I get about 4 hours a day to write and do my other stuff. Writing is my first priority. Then comes marketing. So I have to do what works best in the shortest possible time.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Jan Hurst-Nicholson on May 08, 2013, 12:07:38 PM
Thanks for this useful advice  :-*. I've copied and pasted into my file for sending to people who ask for advice about self-publishing  :).
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: David Thayer on May 08, 2013, 12:21:40 PM
Russell, thanks for taking the time to lay out your approach to this thing of ours. My books tend to float around some of yours on the visualization program so I have studied your work and admire your success.

Cheers, David
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 12:25:57 PM
Susanne: It's always the biggest problem. The way I cope is with my 75/25 rule. Actually, more like 80/20, although periods like the last 24 hours are an inversion. But then I simply adjust my schedule for the rest of the week, and bring it back into balance. Besides which, I think this has been a valuable interaction, so WTF, I'm willing to bend the rule temporarily. And it's impossible to be a full time writer if you're spending part time hours. If you were working any other job, you wouldn't say you were full time, nor would you expect full time earnings. Part of the way we make ourselves quietly miserable are having expectations or goals that are disproportionate to our efforts. That was sort of my point. Or one of them. If you can make full time money working part time, you're a rock star. But to expect it is, in my view, a recipe for misery. Just saying.

Jan: Beautiful dogs. Glad you liked the post.

David: No worries. Hope it helps.

Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: cynthialuhrs on May 08, 2013, 12:34:35 PM
Hey Russell, great article. As a newbie with my first book out, I have a question for you - you talk about pub 3 books a year or heck, every 2 months is better. Do you work with an editor that turns your work around that quickly? Curious as my editor takes about a month.  Thanks and congrats!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Mit Sandru on May 08, 2013, 12:54:01 PM
If I would be aspiring or starting to be a writer most of the points written by Russell would go wright over my head. However, these points are as close to the real thing as it can be, and should be followed. I've been around the block twice now and I understand everything it's written in this blog. I follow most of them with modifications based on my experience, and try something new every time I find a new idea. Russell did a good job listing the essentials to be an Indie author.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: John Hamilton on May 08, 2013, 12:57:01 PM
Russell, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your experience, and time, with us. Your advice fired me up to turn my WIP into a three-part series (at least), instead of bouncing to yet another genre. And I'll be cranking up the promo efforts as well. Thanks again for the straight talk.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 01:06:40 PM
Cynthia: Yes, I'm lucky in that I've got an editor who turns my work in two to three weeks, a line editor who does it in a week to two, and a proofreader who turns it in a week. The trick is to establish a pace, so that they're working on the edits while you're writing the next book. Given that last year I produced 7 novels, and this year will produce 7 to 8, it's a system that works, although I really, really want to slow down to one book every 3 to 4 months next year. Guess we'll see what happens. Part of me wants to keep producing work while the muse is dancing and I feel inspired to do so, but another part wants to take more time to enjoy what I've built. There has to be a happy medium. Right now, I originally said I'd write four books this year, but then I got the idea for a new series, and then I got sidetracked by my current WIP (which will be DONE this evening - yay!), so instead of four, it will be eight. You can do the math on that from a time and effort standpoint. It's not for everyone. Next year, three or four. I swear. Because my editor will probably quit if I keep this up...

DG: Thanks for the praise.

John: Glad it nudged you. I find it's a useful tool for evaluating what needs to get done, and provides a reasonable guide for how to do it. But to each his own, said the man as he kissed the cow...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Susanne. on May 08, 2013, 01:18:20 PM
Susanne: It's always the biggest problem. The way I cope is with my 75/25 rule. Actually, more like 80/20, although periods like the last 24 hours are an inversion. But then I simply adjust my schedule for the rest of the week, and bring it back into balance. Besides which, I think this has been a valuable interaction, so WTF, I'm willing to bend the rule temporarily. And it's impossible to be a full time writer if you're spending part time hours. If you were working any other job, you wouldn't say you were full time, nor would you expect full time earnings. Part of the way we make ourselves quietly miserable are having expectations or goals that are disproportionate to our efforts. That was sort of my point. Or one of them. If you can make full time money working part time, you're a rock star. But to expect it is, in my view, a recipe for misery. Just saying.

Jan: Beautiful dogs. Glad you liked the post.

David: No worries. Hope it helps.



I TRY to spend more hours. But do you have  spouse wandering into your office looking for clean socks when you're in the zone and tapping away? Or kids looking for attention? or an ever growing stack of ironing? Or cooking, shopping, cleaning that need to be done? And I also manage to do some kind of workout for an hour and a half every day, as fitness is very important to me.

Actually, I applaud myself and any so-called 'full time working woman' who manages to produce two books a year and also succeeds in selling at reasonable levels.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 01:35:56 PM
Susanne: I'm mis-communicating. What I'm trying to say is that if you had a full time job in an office, say, you'd spend 40 hours a week there, and have to manage your time to deal with life's other obligations around that job. Working from home, it's way more difficult to get in your 40 hours of full time work, for the reasons you cite. But those are reasons why you can't devote the 40 hours to it. You see what I mean? So you have to calculate what you do put into it, and then base your output and expectations on that. If you expect the results of a 40 hour workweek and yet life only allows you 20, there's a disconnect that will make you unhappy, between expectations and investment. That's all I'm saying. I agree that it's tough. We agree on that.

I actually blogged about my Xmas present to myself this year: a treadmill desk. I clock three to four hours a day on it, walking on average 9 to 10 miles a day, while writing. I swear by the thing. It is so beyond awesome I can't tell you, and has transitioned writing from being a sedentary pursuit, to something that approaches good for me. Best $1500 I ever spent. I recommend it to every author who is doing this full time. Got the idea from CJ Lyons, for which I'm ever grateful. If you want to increase your productive time, look up treadmill desks on Amazon. I told Melissa Foster about it and now she's hooked too. It's a godsend, and suddenly you have another six or seven hours a week to write. Imagine what that translates into over a year. It's impressive, and yet another trick of the trade I gladly share. No point in making a bunch of money and selling tons of books if you can't walk, you know?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: AmsterdamAssassin on May 08, 2013, 01:40:29 PM
Hi Russell, I came a bit late to the party and I had five pages to read through. I loved your Assassin novels, the Jet novel didn't do much for me (probably not the intended audience), but I admire your work ethic and business acumen.

Not much to add to your post, except that my thoughts about shorter works in the thriller/suspense/mystery genre:
I'm not a quick writer - my second novel Peccadillo was half done by the time I published my first novel Reprobate, so I could publish Peccadillo a mere 3.5 months after Reprobate. The third novel, Rogue, is going to take longer. I'm at 50K+, but to fit with the novels it has to be around the 100K mark.
What I do to keep readers engaged is publish short stories in the Amsterdam Assassin Series, based on the assignments Katla fulfilled before the events in Reprobate. So, they're not mandatory reading for someone who just likes to read novels, but they're interesting, shedding more light on Katla's skills and methods, whilst providing additional backstory. Plus they act as loss leaders with a teaser chapter from the first novel.

JET outsells the Assassin books because the protagonist is easy to like, and because it's written to a less gritty sensibility. The protags in the Assassin novels are morally complex and flawed, and there's no easy space you can shoehorn them into. To me that makes for far more interesting reading and storytelling, but many readers want a clearly good guy they can root for, and a clearly bad guy to root against. JET makes it easy on the reader. The Assassin novels don't.
Perhaps that was the crux of the issue I have with the Jet novels (I only read the first one, but I don't think I want to read the rest), is their lack of believability. I like Die Hard 4.0, but it doesn't rank with my favorite movies, if you catch my drift. The moral ambiguity and gritty stories of the Assassin series is more to my liking.

Also, and I think this is a big part of it, the first free book in the Assassin novels is the prequel, which was written mainly to flesh out the Assassin character from King of Swords. If I had to do it all over again, I would make King of Swords free, and charge $2.99 or $3.99 for Night, which is shorter, and to my ear, more satisfying if read after King.
I think you're right. I read the books in the order you published them, so I read King before Night and I liked that order better than the other way around.

If you read JET, you'll find that within the first pages it's a mad rush, and it doesn't ever let up. It's not intended to be particularly believable, any more than Bond or Bourne were intended to be The English Patient. It's pure escapism, but written at a more sophisticated level than most, and aspires to be a bit better than the genre.
I posted a review of Jet on GoodReads, as well as reviews of your Assassin books, where I voice my disappointments. Not to detract from your work or disparage readers, but just to let them know that, in my opinion, the superficiality and lack of realism in Jet makes the series rank lower in my appreciation than your excellent Assassin series, so that readers know that it's a different ride.

I know I'll never sell 10 million books a year, because I write at too high a level - I was told that by a renowned editor. Said I write at a second year university level, in a world of fourth grade level readers. My response was, too bad for them. And that's still my response. I do this because I'm serious about it, not because I want to hawk widgets. I've already sold enough widgets in my life so I don't need to be in that business.

I've had the same comments. Although my novels can be read and enjoyed without digging too deep, digging into the multiple layers seems to be enjoyed by many reviewers. I know my English tends to be second year university and above, but I don''t want to dumb down my books for mass appeal. I also had a three star review on GoodReads because the reader had trouble with the Dutch names of the locations in the book. Well, I'm sorry, but the setting is Amsterdam, so alleys are called steeg and canals are called gracht. Although I'm tempted to add a lexicon to the series to help people with the Dutch, I'm not going to write Prince's Canal for Prinsengracht. And I wouldn't know how to translate Kloveniersburgwal into English...

Thanks for your excellent advice in this thread (and others), you're truly inspirational.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Susanne. on May 08, 2013, 01:51:06 PM
Walking on a treadmill while writing? Gee,no, that would make me feel like a hamster on a wheel. I love going outside to walk the green hills in this stunning Irish countryside where I'm lucky enough to live. And work out in my little gym area with music playing. It's often during those breaks that I get my inspiration and my ideas and my mind freewheels.

I'm not as driven as you are. I'm totally committed to my writing. It's something I simply have to do. It's who I am. What I do. But my real life is important too.

So I might not do as much as I could to sell a lot of books. Or spend enough time writing. I'm very impressed with how you handle your career and sometimes frustrated and a little guilty that I don't do even half of that. But in the end, we all have to do what's best for us and not feel we have to compete with the people at the top.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 02:06:48 PM
Amsterdam: You are proof of why you have to take reviews in the macro, not necessarily individually. JET outsells the Assassin novels, and I predict it will continue to. Most readers apparently don't care about realism nearly as much as some, which was my suspicion going in - I imagined a female James Bond type, deliberately overblown and over-the-top. In other words, fun to read, even if not entirely believable. I struggled with it, but decided that the net effect of an #ss-kicking femal protag was more important than strict believability, in much the way that Kill Bill is physically impossible to take completely seriously, and yet enjoyable to watch. I liken it to eating ice cream or any other guilty pleasure - satisfying if you want a tasty dessert treat, but it will disappoint if you're looking for nutritional value. Ironically, I have other readers who e-mail me (a guy from MIT comes to mind) who loved JET, but doesn't really like the Assassin books, because they're too gritty and the characters are too morally ambiguous. And you're both right, because it's simply a matter of preference. As long as they're well written, I delivered the goods - but you can't please everyone, and so shouldn't try. I could have made El Rey less despicable or given him an arc where he saves a basket of puppies by the end of the second book, but that's not the character. I could have toned down JET some, but she wouldn't be as intriguing. In the end, you have to use your own judgment, and you'll never please all.

As an aside, I also get comments on my less action-drive novels that some readers don't like the slower pace. Meaning that it's not happening at Mach 3, so it feels slow by comparison to JET or the Assassin books, which are a very particular approach to thrillers. Others prefer the more thoughtful, substantial intellectual heft of a Silver Justice or Geronimo Breach.

Part of what makes it interesting, I believe, is that if you understand that going in, you can evaluate your reviews more even-handedly, understanding the difference between folks who dislike your subject matter or approach, and those that are calling out real failings in your editing or craft, or plot holes, etc. Anyone who is too bummed by that one bad review (isn't it funny how you can get 20 great ones and you'll remember the 1 one star?) should go read the one stars for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or The Da Vinci Code, or The Bourne Identity, or, God forbid, Fifty Shades for some balance. Or read masterpieces like DFW's Infinite Jest's reviews.

I think we as indies are often guilty of being almost blind to the meritorious bad reviews, and too dismissive of them, when they are legitimate criticisms of flaws in craft. I try to strike a balance. I don't read my reviews much any more, but when the ratio exceeds 10% one and two stars, I do, to see if it's a chronic, legitimate complaint being voiced, or if it's that 1 in 10 don't like the subject, or the conspiracy, or the violence, or whatever.

Susanne: No disagreement there. I think my OP is probably more helpful for those who are wondering what they can do to improve their productivity and focus than those who have legitimately thought it through and arrived at a balance they're comfortable with. And yes, it's sometimes a little hamster-like. But in a good way. Wink.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: ellecasey on May 08, 2013, 02:14:11 PM
...
Part of what makes it interesting, I believe, is that if you understand that going in, you can evaluate your reviews more even-handedly, understanding the difference between folks who dislike your subject matter or approach, and those that are calling out real failings in your editing or craft, or plot holes, etc. Anyone who is too bummed by that one bad review (isn't it funny how you can get 20 great ones and you'll remember the 1 one star?) should go read the one stars for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or The Da Vinci Code, or The Bourne Identity, or, God forbid, Fifty Shades for some balance. Or read masterpieces like DFW's Infinite Jest's reviews.

I think we as indies are often guilty of being almost blind to the meritorious bad reviews, and too dismissive of them, when they are legitimate criticisms of flaws in craft. I try to strike a balance. I don't read my reviews much any more, but when the ratio exceeds 10% one and two stars, I do, to see if it's a chronic, legitimate complaint being voiced, or if it's that 1 in 10 don't like the subject, or the conspiracy, or the violence, or whatever...

I agree whole-heartedly.  I view low-star reviews much differently than I used to, although I still read every single review and comment on them too.  Before, the lower star reviews were all arrows to the heart.  Proof I suck.  But now I see them differently.  Mean people are still jerks I wish would leave me and my poor widdle books alone, but the ones who really read the book, who aren't mentally ill, who just didn't like it for whatever reason, I'm good with it.  And if they have suggestions for improvement, I can take them or leave them without letting it ruin my week.  I've changed the way I write or things I do in books based on excellent feedback I've gotten, both good and bad, so reviews have helped me develop my skills. 
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Amyshojai on May 08, 2013, 02:44:27 PM
I am SOOOO going to get that desk-treadmill! Woot! Exactly what I've needed, will improve my achy-breaky back, too. I already get the outdoor rambling with the Magical-Dawg but that's only 20 minutes at a stretch (all I can stand in Texas summer heat) and the hubby has been doing some of that. Thanks, will invest the next month's Kindle-ization income there...and I suspect this is a tax deductible expense, as well.  ;D

Working on the 2nd book in my thriller series, seeking to be THE go-to in my genre (nobody else doing this). And the nonfiction is a nice cushion. Why am I not surprised CJ recommended this? *s*
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Martitalbott on May 08, 2013, 02:51:32 PM
All this writing and publishing stuff sure has been an experience. I do about half of what you do, Blake, and I'm getting old enough to think a nap sounds pretty good.

I think the biggest mistake new authors make is not to read, learn and listen to those in the know. I always listen to you, even if I don't always agree.

I just have to say again, selling books for $.99 - even $3.99 screams Indie. I learned that the hard way. I don't sell as many, but at least I get a paycheck that will buy more than a cup of coffee. Truly? $.35 a book? What was I thinking?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 02:56:58 PM
Martita: I live in Mexico. The Siesta is mandatory. Sensible, that.

Amy: You should check out my dog book, An Angel With Fur. Doesn't sell much (I learned the hard way on genre jumping) these days, but sold maybe 7K since release, and a heart-tugger.

elle: Everyone's a critic. Some are just readers. Many lower-star reviews are left by disgruntled authors with an axe to grind. Which doesn't make them invalid. But it does mean that it can introduce bias that's not necessarily accurate. Always an issue, which is why I tend to not read my reviews much anymore.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Amyshojai on May 08, 2013, 03:05:38 PM

Amy: You should check out my dog book, An Angel With Fur. Doesn't sell much (I learned the hard way on genre jumping) these days, but sold maybe 7K since release, and a heart-tugger.

Saw that. Looks like a great story and that's not bad numbers for an animal memoir. Could be a seller to members of DWAA.org or to BlogPaws.com (I'm speaking there next week on DIY Kindle-ization).

Really the only reason I'm able to jump from nonfiction to fiction is that my platform is dogs/cats and my readership followed me to read service dog-viewpoint and trained cat hero in the thriller. *shrug* Leveraging one readership to expand/create a new one.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 03:09:13 PM
Amy: Ping me if you'd like me to gift you a copy, with my compliments.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Matt Ryan on May 08, 2013, 04:38:18 PM
Thank you for the thread and all your responses. As a beginner, this stuff is invaluable.

You said at xmas 2011 you released five books and bumped your sales up and then later you said January 2012 was the turning point for you in sales. Do you think the five book release was the catapult? The reason I ask is because I was planning something similar for xmas this year. I have a five book series that I planned on releasing one month at a time to capitalize on the new release lists. What do you think about that approach? Some argue that you should release as they are completed, but as a unknown, I wanted to keep a steady flow going to build confidence in readers.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: B. Magnarella on May 08, 2013, 04:41:32 PM
Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of thanks, Blake. This should be required reading for new all indies. It's the kind of tough talk I would've loved starting out, but is just as valuable -- if not more so -- now. A refreshing smack in the face. Among other things, I've decided to postpone my planned June release until October, so that I'll be able to release the second and third books in the series in Nov and Dec/Jan, as well as have a solid marketing strategy in place.

Again, thanks for taking the time to share/motivate.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 05:03:07 PM
Matt: 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, and the additional massive effect of my first Select promo, which saw something like 35K downloads and moved many thousand copies of The Geronimo Breach, which is still a reader favorite. I believe enough folks tried that book, or got one of the series books and liked what they read, to create good new word of mouth. I think your strategy of staying on the HNR list isn't a bad one, although my launch of JET, wherein I released book 1 and 2 simultaneously, and then followed with 3 and 4 one month apart from each other, is the optimum strategy. But that was when Select was a different animal, so I think I'd probably release book 1 first and list it free through smashwords so I could start the clock on perma-free being price-matched, and then get book 2 out a month later, and then book three a month after that. By the time book 3 is out, book 1 would have been price-matched at free, and then I'd probably advertise the hell out of it coming into the holidays. My caveat is that book 1 better be frigging magically well done, or you won't get any buyers for books 2 on. Obviously they all should be well done, but some lag on the one they know they'll give away free, which is a huge mistake.

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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: B. Magnarella 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?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 08, 2013, 05:46:06 PM
Brad: We can only hope. :o
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
Post by: cdvsmx5 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: AndreSanThomas on May 08, 2013, 06:00:22 PM
Change name to Hugh Kardashian.

Got it. Thanks!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: P.J. Post 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?

Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Andrew Ashling 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.



Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Chris Baker 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.

Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Annie B 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
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Andrew Ashling 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Debra Purdy Kong 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!


Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks 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
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Mike Dennis 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Jos Van Brussel 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: MelissaTurnerLee 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Katherine Roberts 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?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks 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...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Susanne. 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 09, 2013, 07:42:01 AM
Susanne: Here's the report. Should be a mandatory read. http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Smashwords+%28Smashwords%29 (http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Smashwords+%28Smashwords%29)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Susanne. on May 09, 2013, 07:48:04 AM
Susanne: Here's the report. Should be a mandatory read. http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Smashwords+%28Smashwords%29 (http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Smashwords+%28Smashwords%29)

Brilliant.Thanks! Very interesting. I am going to raise all my books by a dollar.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Debra Purdy Kong 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Susanne. 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.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 09, 2013, 08:28:57 AM
Susanne: Then it sounds like you just gave  yourself a raise!  :P
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Susanne. on May 09, 2013, 08:30:15 AM
Susanne: Then it sounds like you just gave  yourself a raise!  :P

Hey, you're right! That's the great thing about being your own boss.  :D
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 09, 2013, 08:56:41 AM
Susanne: I don't know about that. Mine's a real pr#ck.  :'(
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Susanne. on May 09, 2013, 09:27:09 AM
Susanne: I don't know about that. Mine's a real pr#ck.  :'(

Mine is sweet but kicks butt really well when needed... ;)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: CAlinda on May 09, 2013, 11:08:35 AM
Russell, thank you for sharing your experience. You are so right that authors need to treat being a writer as a business and use professionals for the covers, editing, etc.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: R.V. Doon on May 09, 2013, 11:16:28 AM
Russell,

Thank you! You've really dropped some "pearls" throughout this thread.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Alan Petersen on May 09, 2013, 01:08:08 PM
Susanne: Here's the report. Should be a mandatory read. http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Smashwords+%28Smashwords%29 (http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Smashwords+%28Smashwords%29)

I have been hemming and hawing about raising the price of my book for a couple weeks now. Especially since my book is the cheap one in comparison...

(http://content.screencast.com/users/IM_Nirvana/folders/Jing/media/ff1ea7f6-71e2-4593-97de-6b3a659b8958/00000999.png)

I just figured those other author's are big names, I am not, so I didn't want to mess with it, but after reading Russell's post and Mark Coker's analysis on book pricing, it's time to give it a try and raise my price. I'll report back on the results.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Darren Wearmouth on May 09, 2013, 01:17:09 PM
I'm a little curious about your price of $1.99, sir.

There are thousands of books at 0.99c, I would say most price at £2.99 after that to get the maximum royalty payments. Your just seems a little odd to me, although I can see you are selling.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Alan Petersen on May 09, 2013, 01:28:52 PM
I'm a little curious about your price of $1.99, sir.

There are thousands of books at 0.99c, I would say most price at £2.99 after that to get the maximum royalty payments. Your just seems a little odd to me, although I can see you are selling.

I've sold over 1,200 books in the past month (including a five day 99cent promo period) which is why I've been hesitant of raising the price. I didn't do an intensive analysis over it. It's my first book and I don't have any other books out yet, so that handcuffs me a bit since I don't have more product to offer.

I was leaning at $0.99 cents, but then that would hamper any type of discount for promotions and I didn't want to go free (I haven't gone free yet). I also took a look at my bottom-line. I would recoup my product costs a lot quicker at $1.99 versus $0.99. As a new author, I wasn't confident to price my first book at $2.99, so I went with $1.99.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Darren Wearmouth on May 09, 2013, 01:34:08 PM
I've sold over 1,200 books in the past month (including a five day 99cent promo period) which is why I've been hesitant of raising the price. I didn't do an intensive analysis over it. It's my first book and I don't have any other books out yet, so that handcuffs me a bit since I don't have more product to offer.

I was leaning at $0.99 cents, but then that would hamper any type of discount for promotions and I didn't want to go free (I haven't gone free yet). I also took a look at my bottom-line. I would recoup my product costs a lot quicker at $1.99 versus $0.99. As a new author, I wasn't confident to price my first book at $2.99, so I went with $1.99.

Thanks for the reply Mr. Petersen, it makes sense. Good luck with your decision, I can see the predicament.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 09, 2013, 01:53:05 PM
Alan: At $2.99, you can sell 400 books instead of 1200 and you'd be identical, financially speaking. Anything over 400 is therefore gravy.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Alan Petersen on May 09, 2013, 03:15:39 PM
Alan: At $2.99, you can sell 400 books instead of 1200 and you'd be identical, financially speaking. Anything over 400 is therefore gravy.

I had plugged in some numbers in my spreadsheet, even if the daily sales drop by 50% due to the price increase, I would still make more money at $2.99. I began to think about rankings, if I sell less books I would go down in the rankings and visibility/branding, and that's where I was driving myself nuts, which is why I read with interest how you had to ride it out when you went up to the $6 world. But I am going to try the $2.99 price.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 09, 2013, 03:42:37 PM
Alan: I'd also give it a few weeks at the new price to see what happens. Don't focus on the day to day or you'll get an ulcer.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Alan Petersen on May 09, 2013, 04:00:27 PM
Alan: I'd also give it a few weeks at the new price to see what happens. Don't focus on the day to day or you'll get an ulcer.

So that's the stomach pain I keep feeling.  ;D  I have gone down to checking my stats to twice a day, so I'm getting there! Thanks for the advice.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Mike Dennis on May 09, 2013, 04:01:36 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.

Thanks, Russell. And once again, major props for a great thread and for devoting as much time to it as you have.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 09, 2013, 04:45:41 PM
MikeD: My pleasure.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Just Browsing on May 10, 2013, 08:19:10 AM
You mean, all I have to do to make a living at writing is to work consistently to create something of quality? Kind of like the way you would at any other job?

I knew there was some tricky secret.

Thanks for laying it all out like that. Even if you know that stuff already, in some way, it's great to see it all organized. It's like a little reality primer.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 10, 2013, 09:32:42 AM
1001: Yeah. Who knew?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: jdrew on May 10, 2013, 10:45:46 AM
Russell,
Good advice all around.  In some ways it reminds me of Heinlein's 5 rules to become a writer, all of which had to do with actually writing.  Now we do the marketing too which can be a good thing if we approach it as you say, like a business. Now to go put some of that advice to use.
Thanks.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Sapphire on May 10, 2013, 12:37:22 PM
I postponed reading the OP until I had more time to digest it. Today was the day and I was startled to discover 8 full pages that required a big chunk of the afternoon. It was well worth my time though. #21 on the list reminded me of a speaker at a real estate seminar a few years back. He said he used to advise attendees to ask themselves what they were willing to do to achieve their goals. Instead, he now asks attendees what 'they are willing to give up' to achieve their goals. That might be free time, one's comfort zone, choice of working hours, procrastination, whatever. If you're not willing to give up what is blocking your success, there is no point in identifying something you want to do. It just won't fit into the mix. 
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 10, 2013, 06:44:28 PM
JDRew: I obviously advocate a clear separation of church and state, if you will, writing being the mystical aspect, the art/craft, and the state being the mundane business of book selling. For me, separating the two makes sense. For others, perhaps not, but I would then ask how that is going for them in terms of selling lots of books.

Sapphire: All of life is a matter of priorities - what you focus on determines what your reality is. I'm big on setting goals that are in line with what you're willing to do/sacrifice. Because otherwise you're confusing yourself with what you dream about, versus what you are willing to invest. Everyone wants 10 for every 1 they put in. Maybe not so many are willing to settle for 10 for every 11 they put in. For some, like me, 10 for 8 isn't a bad deal. Or maybe I should say 10 for 15 isn't a bad deal, if I think I can get 10 for 5 in another two years. Point is there's never a free lunch, and I think too many indies view the whole thing as a possible way to get a free lunch.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: FranklinNoble on May 13, 2013, 11:47:03 PM
I'm new here.  Haven't published anything.  Yet.

This has been exceptionally informative.  I know I've probably missed where this was discussed in more detail, but I would like to have some idea of how much I should expect to budget for hiring a decent cover artist and editor for my work.  I've no idea what to expect in this regard, and figure I ought to start putting away a little to invest in my work sooner rather than later.

Thanks!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 13, 2013, 11:52:22 PM
Franklin: My cover guy runs about $125. You can find cheaper, and more expensive. That's what I pay. Given the results I've gotten, I'm more than satisfied. Editing is a tougher one, because for every good editor, there are twenty offering their services that are lacking in spades. I would consider $500-800 for 100K of well-written third draft fair. For a qualified editor who had done books you can read and which are well done. That would be a comment here or there of story editing, and mostly line by line editing. Expect to pay another $150 for proofing. Budget a grand all in.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: FranklinNoble on May 14, 2013, 12:18:19 AM
Franklin: My cover guy runs about $125. You can find cheaper, and more expensive. That's what I pay. Given the results I've gotten, I'm more than satisfied. Editing is a tougher one, because for every good editor, there are twenty offering their services that are lacking in spades. I would consider $500-800 for 100K of well-written third draft fair. For a qualified editor who had done books you can read and which are well done. That would be a comment here or there of story editing, and mostly line by line editing. Expect to pay another $150 for proofing. Budget a grand all in.

Perfect, thanks.  That's about what I hoped - any more than that, and it gets to be an expensive hobby if I don't succeed. 

I don't need to quit my day job, and I've published features and editorials for pay in major newspapers and magazines, so I'm not an absolute neophyte, but fiction is a new frontier for me.  I appreciate the advice.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 14, 2013, 12:51:06 AM
Franklin: As always, you can email me for his info. He's quite good, fast and reasonable. Most importantly, he creates distinctive covers. He's done every one of mine, so you can browse my backlist for a decent example of how we branded my identity. As to editors, price will vary by what you really need. If you are willing to do 4-6 drafts and pay close attention on the two final polish drafts, and assuming you're a bit of a pedant, you can likely get away with a proofreader and nothing else. But I will say that 90% can't, myself included. And my third draft is pretty close to publish ready, even by trad pug standards. So take that for what it's worth.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: ShaneJeffery on May 14, 2013, 01:52:08 AM
Hey Russell, I notice you have a lot of your books in select - even your sequels. Have you found giving away books 2 and 3 to be beneficial?
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: thesmallprint on May 14, 2013, 02:39:42 AM
Mr Blake,

Thanks for taking the time to write such fine advice, and put it up free.

Good luck
Joe
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: jdrew on May 14, 2013, 07:46:29 AM
JDRew: I obviously advocate a clear separation of church and state, if you will, writing being the mystical aspect, the art/craft, and the state being the mundane business of book selling. For me, separating the two makes sense. For others, perhaps not, but I would then ask how that is going for them in terms of selling lots of books.
Russell, I think I'm going to be one who has to separate the marketing from the writing.  Do you set aside blocks of time for each or is there some other way you use to separate the two?  I am considering some sort of work schedule that allows for both but really the art/craft side of things doesn't seem to want to fit into predefined niches of any sort.  Maybe the marketing and more "business" side of things will.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Jash on May 14, 2013, 07:56:15 AM
Thanks for taking the time to post Russell. I enjoyed Jet (for free!) and bought Jet 2 but haven't got around to reading it yet. It's always good to learn more about the process of someone who has been succesful doing this, especially in a genre you like.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 14, 2013, 09:21:55 AM
Shane: Only one of my twenty is in Select, and that one's almost expired: The Geronimo Breach. I would only advise giving away book 1 in any series.

Steeple: You're welcome. Hope it helps.

jDrew: I do about 45 minutes in the morning, and then typically write all day, then devote an hour or two at night when I'm too beat to churn out decent prose.

Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 14, 2013, 09:26:27 AM
JJ: Thanks. Frankly, I couldn't imagine writing in a genre I disliked, so this is as awesome a ride as I could ask for!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Eva Hudson on May 16, 2013, 05:25:41 PM
Just stayed up WAY too late (1.30am UK time) to read this whole thread. Now I may be too fired up to sleep! Thank you for taking up so much of your valuable writing time to answer everyone (even the critics). The 75/25 rule seems like a good one - I just need to work out how best to use the 25%.

Hope draft 2 of your WIP goes smoothly, and thanks again.

Eva
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 16, 2013, 05:51:45 PM
Eva: You're very welcome. Glad it made sense to you. I finished second draft at almost midnight last night, and am taking a pause before jumping into third run at it. Today, have contented myself with some tweeting, facebooking and blog commenting.

The 75/25 rule is just a guideline, but it seems sane, and I believe provides a workable framework within which one can manage and structure priorities. If you can do that, you're already ahead of the game. The winners at this will be those who can not only write well, but who can make their passion into a sustainable business philosophy they can apply themselves at for the long term without going insane. I'm still working on that last bit.  ;)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: CarolineJaneWetherby on May 17, 2013, 05:02:16 AM
Many thanks. I'm still trying to get reviews and make sales of my first (four volume) book. I'll keep plugging away!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 17, 2013, 08:51:47 AM
Caroline: Hope it helps you get there!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Stacy Claflin on May 17, 2013, 09:03:31 AM
This list is incredible! Thank you!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 17, 2013, 01:15:53 PM
Stacy: De nada! 8)
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Darren Wearmouth on May 17, 2013, 01:21:05 PM
Finished Jet while working away this week. Fast pace and rich writing, I enjoyed it Mr. Blake and will get another soon, I like your punchy style.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Lisa Grace on May 17, 2013, 01:55:06 PM
Look what I miss when I don't visit the WC for a few days. Truth, truth, truth. This post should have a sticky on it. Thanks, Blake.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: blakebooks on May 17, 2013, 03:00:53 PM
DA: Glad you liked it.

LisaG: You're welcome. I would put a sticky on it, but I'm a tech neophyte so I have no idea what that means. But if it's naughty, I'm willing to learn...
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: FranklinNoble on May 17, 2013, 03:44:32 PM
DA: Glad you liked it.

LisaG: You're welcome. I would put a sticky on it, but I'm a tech neophyte so I have no idea what that means. But if it's naughty, I'm willing to learn...

LOL... Smooth, Blake... real smooth.  :D

Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on May 18, 2013, 03:48:52 PM
Franklin: That's me, all the way. It's just how I roll.  :P
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: FranklinNoble on May 19, 2013, 09:16:04 AM
Franklin: That's me, all the way. It's just how I roll.  :P

You know, I thought you reminded me of someone...

(http://cyruskirkpatrick.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Dos-Equis-Man.jpg)
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: strath on May 19, 2013, 09:29:47 AM
Most all of your advice is pure gold. That being said I wish to remind authors to write the book and genre they most enjoy - write the book they want to write.

I guess that there are writers picking the 'money' genres and writing for the money. I hope they're happy but I think it shows in a lot of formulaic do-do out there.

If you love it - it ain't work.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on May 19, 2013, 10:25:52 AM
Strath: Of course. In fact my latest blog addresses precisely that issue.

Franklin: Urp.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: FranklinNoble on May 19, 2013, 07:13:12 PM
Unrelated question - who did the WordPress template for your blog?  Mine's just a canned free one I picked up... wouldn't mind having someone do something a little cleaner for me.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on May 19, 2013, 07:26:09 PM
Franklin: I have a tech buddy who did it two years ago. It's all greek to me, so can't be much help there. But put an ad on Odesk for someone to do it for you and have them look at mine, if that's what you like. There are guys in India and Latvia who can do it for next to nothing.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: FranklinNoble on May 19, 2013, 08:15:12 PM
Franklin: I have a tech buddy who did it two years ago. It's all greek to me, so can't be much help there. But put an ad on Odesk for someone to do it for you and have them look at mine, if that's what you like. There are guys in India and Latvia who can do it for next to nothing.

Wow.. never heard of Odesk... awesome!

I've actually see your theme when I was looking for Wordpress themes, so Franklin, you can buy it here for $25:

http://themeforest.net/item/inki-elegant-blog-theme/full_screen_preview/72966
http://themeforest.net/item/inki-elegant-blog-theme/72966

Hmm... I'd hate to rip off the exact same theme.  Maybe I'll see what it takes for someone to gin up a customized alternative.  Thanks!
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Ismcrazy on May 19, 2013, 08:21:28 PM
This is some great advice. I would like to see this organized into a decision chart. Thanks for all the info, I have taken it to heart.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on May 19, 2013, 08:32:24 PM
ISM: You're free to do so. I'm starting in on my next WIP, so it ain't going to be me. My work here is done.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: dalya on May 19, 2013, 09:25:39 PM
I'm working on a series now--a series of full-length novels. I'm scared! I'm scared that my wandering eye will get too excited about other characters and want to cheat on this series. My plan is to Keep It Weird by alternating some shorts in other genres (perhaps as Dalya), between series novels.

I have commitment issues.  ;D
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Alan Petersen on June 14, 2013, 11:18:48 AM
Alan: At $2.99, you can sell 400 books instead of 1200 and you'd be identical, financially speaking. Anything over 400 is therefore gravy.

Alan: I'd also give it a few weeks at the new price to see what happens. Don't focus on the day to day or you'll get an ulcer.

Hey Russell,

I thought I would follow up on these two discussions in your thread.

I decided to take your advice, and I raised the price of my book to $2.99.  The immediate results were a bit freaky... daily sales dropped 46%, but my royalty payment shot up 65% from one day to the next.

I was happy about making more money, but my concern about losing visibility and my ranking in Amazon's "spy & tales of intrigue" and "political fiction" best seller list was bugging me, but I took a deep breath and I put it out of my head, and I stuck with it. It took ten days for the daily sales to start going back up, and after two weeks I was back at where I was before the price increase! Although my rankings were down during that time, the drop wasn't as big as I thought since I was still making daily sales.

It's been a couple weeks since that point, and the sales remain consistent and back to where they were before the price increase, so I thought it was a good time for an update.

I'll also note that I didn't run any promotions during this time so I could let the market play out and adjust on its own.

I really wanted to thank you. First for the discussion of charging more (and the other great tips you provided in this thread), and secondly, for the heads up of riding out the price increase storm, if you hadn't mentioned that it would take a few weeks, I probably would have panicked and lowered by my price back down after the sales drop (even though I was making more money selling fewer books).

Rock on.

Alan
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: August Wainwright on June 14, 2013, 01:52:13 PM
Alan,

First off, congrats on the success. Haven't read your book yet, but I just added it to my "read soon" list.

I just went over to your product page and saw you're currently ranked #27 in the political category. When I went and checked out the other bestsellers in the category, it is almost entirely littered with Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, and (makes me want to throw up saying it...) Glenn Beck. I look at their prices, being trad pub, and everything is triple your price of $2.99. As a matter of fact, there are only 3 books (including yours) in the top 40 of the political category that are $2.99.

So, what I'm wondering here is, since you're already high up on the paid list in that category, have you considered raising your price a little more to see if you lose any sales? I know you just raised it up from .99, but I think your book might be the perfect case study (completely 100% just my opinion). The way I see it, it's all about "perceived value". If you were ranked #27 in a category where everything else was between 0.99-3.99, I would never say go for it. But in the political category, I would personally still consider your book a value at 3.99, 4.99, maybe even 5.99 when seen against the others in the category. I've been reading a lot lately that the perceived value between 2.99-4.99 seems to barely exist for readers - if at all. If I'm not mistaken, I think Russell Blake has echoed the idea before.

Anyways, just a thought. Seeing as how I've got no investment, I'd say go for it.  :)

If you do, keep us posted because I'd love to hear how it goes...
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: JamieCampbell on June 14, 2013, 07:44:52 PM
Thank you for such a detailed list. I'm about to go and increase the price of a book I dropped down to 99c a few months back. Sales are the same, so I'll give it a try.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Alan Petersen on June 15, 2013, 03:25:13 PM
Alan,

First off, congrats on the success. Haven't read your book yet, but I just added it to my "read soon" list.

I just went over to your product page and saw you're currently ranked #27 in the political category. When I went and checked out the other bestsellers in the category, it is almost entirely littered with Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, and (makes me want to throw up saying it...) Glenn Beck. I look at their prices, being trad pub, and everything is triple your price of $2.99. As a matter of fact, there are only 3 books (including yours) in the top 40 of the political category that are $2.99.

So, what I'm wondering here is, since you're already high up on the paid list in that category, have you considered raising your price a little more to see if you lose any sales? I know you just raised it up from .99, but I think your book might be the perfect case study (completely 100% just my opinion). The way I see it, it's all about "perceived value". If you were ranked #27 in a category where everything else was between 0.99-3.99, I would never say go for it. But in the political category, I would personally still consider your book a value at 3.99, 4.99, maybe even 5.99 when seen against the others in the category. I've been reading a lot lately that the perceived value between 2.99-4.99 seems to barely exist for readers - if at all. If I'm not mistaken, I think Russell Blake has echoed the idea before.

Anyways, just a thought. Seeing as how I've got no investment, I'd say go for it.  :)

If you do, keep us posted because I'd love to hear how it goes...


Thanks. I might test $3.99, but after an upcoming 99 cent promo.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: RBC on June 15, 2013, 03:38:06 PM


Thanks. I might test $3.99, but after an upcoming 99 cent promo.

One of my clients is selling his first book for like $7.99 or even $8+ for some time. He's in top 3000. Breaks the rules of the low pricing but he's winning it! He's from Kboards too but isn't super active here. Also, check out Smashwords stats where they show how different price points sell for authors:

http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html

One thing is clear to me, indies should be more aggressive with pricing now, it's been cycling upwards dollar by dollar and it will keep increasing for some time more.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Alan Petersen on June 17, 2013, 09:17:43 AM
One of my clients is selling his first book for like $7.99 or even $8+ for some time. He's in top 3000. Breaks the rules of the low pricing but he's winning it! He's from Kboards too but isn't super active here. Also, check out Smashwords stats where they show how different price points sell for authors:

http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/05/new-smashwords-survey-helps-authors.html

One thing is clear to me, indies should be more aggressive with pricing now, it's been cycling upwards dollar by dollar and it will keep increasing for some time more.


I had seen that survey by Mark Coker which was great. That along with Russell's post was the double whammy to convince me to raise the price. I do think it has to do with genre as well though. If I look at my book's genere and subs, I see most books are in the $3-$10 range so it should be a safer bet, but in another genere, if the others books are in the $1-$2 range then if would be riskier to increase your price above that range.

But you're right, indies should be more aggressive with pricing. In the beginning I was just too chicken to even trying, that's why the KB rocks. I read Russell's thread and decided to go for it.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: RBC on June 17, 2013, 09:52:20 AM
I had seen that survey by Mark Coker which was great. That along with Russell's post was the double whammy to convince me to raise the price. I do think it has to do with genre as well though. If I look at my book's genere and subs, I see most books are in the $3-$10 range so it should be a safer bet, but in another genere, if the others books are in the $1-$2 range then if would be riskier to increase your price above that range.

But you're right, indies should be more aggressive with pricing. In the beginning I was just too chicken to even trying, that's why the KB rocks. I read Russell's thread and decided to go for it.

If you don't ask, you don't get. Raising prices is scary and freelancers like me go through it too so \i get where authors are coming from when dealing with pricing. Still, you gotta test things, no one will beat you over the head with a stick if you do. Even in lower price genres (even there are books with $8+ price, and since readers can't distinguish Indy from Trad. pubbed book, why not!).
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on July 03, 2013, 08:09:58 AM
Alan: How are sales going now? Still decent? I looked back at my historicals, and the following seems to hold true:

1) First day of the month is always sucky, mainly because all the carry-over sales from the night before wind up booked on the reporting period that just ended, so you lose roughly 30% of your sales on day one. It bounces back by day two.

2) In July, the days immediately before and after the 4th suck, for obvious reasons: everyone's at the beach or the BBQ, not trolling Amazon looking for books. They come back a week later, but July is usually a ho hum months, so best not to make pricing judgments over its performance. I don't make pricing judgments until after several months. This isn't a freak out over one week's performance business. We are ants, and the market is an elephant. We don't make it jump.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Joshua Dalzelle on July 03, 2013, 08:52:43 AM
How about changing the pricing mid series? I've got the first book at .99 as an incentive to invest in the series and it seems to have worked, in June both books sold over 8k combined (a huge jump for me). The second book is at 2.99 and I was going to release the third also at 2.99. I'm worried that the readers I've gained so far would see a jump to 3.99 as gouging. Am I off on this?


BTW, I took your advice, Russell, and kept working on my current series rather than branch out into a different genre. If the reader response on my facebook page when I announced the third book is any indication you were dead-on right about that.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on July 03, 2013, 10:00:31 AM
Joshua: I charge progressively higher prices as the series develops, because my feeling is that my writing is worth more than $3 or $4 for a novel-length work. I have mine priced so the last few books in the series are $6, and I haven't seen a lot of pushback. I also experimented with pricing multiple times, and saw no difference in sales on my stand-alone novels from $2.99-$4.99, leading me to conclude that my market wasn't all that concerned with the difference of a buck or two once readers knew what they were getting when they bought one of my books. I don't think $4 is gouging in any way, and if a buck's a deal killer, I'd argue the reader wasn't all that compelled to move ahead anyway. You might want to try bundling books 2-3-4 once you have them into a special priced bundle if you feel like you're seeing significant drop-off after book two - that ensures you at least get the purchaser for something, rather than having them waffle over pricing  on book 3 and 4.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Alan Petersen on July 03, 2013, 11:00:17 AM
Alan: How are sales going now? Still decent? I looked back at my historicals, and the following seems to hold true:

1) First day of the month is always sucky, mainly because all the carry-over sales from the night before wind up booked on the reporting period that just ended, so you lose roughly 30% of your sales on day one. It bounces back by day two.

2) In July, the days immediately before and after the 4th suck, for obvious reasons: everyone's at the beach or the BBQ, not trolling Amazon looking for books. They come back a week later, but July is usually a ho hum months, so best not to make pricing judgments over its performance. I don't make pricing judgments until after several months. This isn't a freak out over one week's performance business. We are ants, and the market is an elephant. We don't make it jump.

I was happy with my June sales (1,000+ books sold). I didn't have any promotions, so $0 spent on ads (I had one $0.99 cent promotion in May) yet my daily average sales held steady and my take home pay doubled from May to June. I've now had back to back 1,000+ sales month and I'm closing in on 4,000 books sold since February. I've been selling at $2.99 every day since May 17th.

Even though it's early, I'm pleased with how July has started. I'm about 20 books behind June numbers in the first two days of July, but I've heard such horror stories about July and summer sales, that I'm pleasantly surprised with my daily sales in the these two days since I'm expecting the worse for summer.

My overall Kindle sales rank has hovered around 2,000-5,000 since mid May, so I'm pleased with how things are going so far. I've also had readers asking when my second book is coming out and asking for more from my main character, so I've taken your advice and I'm continuing with this series. I'm writing book #3 now and in re-write/editing mode on #2.

Pushing forward.  ;D
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Ashy on July 03, 2013, 11:04:31 AM
Congrats, Alan!
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on July 11, 2013, 06:37:14 AM
Alan: Glad to hear July's doing well for you. I'm seeing another 10% drop from June, which was a 30% drop from April May. But still triple last year's numbers, so all good. Hoping a new release today of Upon A Pale Horse will juice the net a bit for July, but I don't have particularly high hopes. July and August traditionally bite in the book business, and except for a few outliers I expect that to remain a constant. :'(
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Alan Petersen on July 11, 2013, 05:34:35 PM
Alan: Glad to hear July's doing well for you. I'm seeing another 10% drop from June, which was a 30% drop from April May. But still triple last year's numbers, so all good. Hoping a new release today of Upon A Pale Horse will juice the net a bit for July, but I don't have particularly high hopes. July and August traditionally bite in the book business, and except for a few outliers I expect that to remain a constant. :'(

After ten days sales have dropped 40% from June 10th, so I'm now feeling that summer slow down I've heard so much about, so I'm extra happy I increased my book price.

My ranking is holding steady around the 5,000-6,000 mark and I'm still in the top 100 Amazon best selling lists for espionage and political thrillers, so even with the slow down, I'm pretty happy with things and more focused to get book number two and three out there in time for the holidays.

Looking forward to your new book!
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: belindaf on December 02, 2013, 08:36:17 AM
Excellent advice! And congratulations on your success.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: djv1120 on December 07, 2013, 01:46:18 PM
Fantastic advice.  I am bookmarking this thread so I can keep referring back.  Very helpful!!!
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Wansit on December 07, 2013, 03:59:24 PM
Hey Russell,

I thought I would follow up on these two discussions in your thread.

I decided to take your advice, and I raised the price of my book to $2.99.  The immediate results were a bit freaky... daily sales dropped 46%, but my royalty payment shot up 65% from one day to the next.

I was happy about making more money, but my concern about losing visibility and my ranking in Amazon's "spy & tales of intrigue" and "political fiction" best seller list was bugging me, but I took a deep breath and I put it out of my head, and I stuck with it. It took ten days for the daily sales to start going back up, and after two weeks I was back at where I was before the price increase! Although my rankings were down during that time, the drop wasn't as big as I thought since I was still making daily sales.

It's been a couple weeks since that point, and the sales remain consistent and back to where they were before the price increase, so I thought it was a good time for an update.

I'll also note that I didn't run any promotions during this time so I could let the market play out and adjust on its own.

I really wanted to thank you. First for the discussion of charging more (and the other great tips you provided in this thread), and secondly, for the heads up of riding out the price increase storm, if you hadn't mentioned that it would take a few weeks, I probably would have panicked and lowered by my price back down after the sales drop (even though I was making more money selling fewer books).

Rock on.

Alan

I just wanted to say thanks for posting your journey and the follow-up Alan. (And Blake for all the tips!) I'm nervously following the same path now. I just got off a .99c release promo and set my 3rd book at 3.99. I'm worried about a rank drop but the crazy thing is selling 6 copies of the same book today equaled the same amount of money I made by selling 50 copies the day before. So it's a worthwhile price hike.
Title: Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
Post by: Alan Petersen on December 08, 2013, 01:58:00 PM
I just wanted to say thanks for posting your journey and the follow-up Alan. (And Blake for all the tips!) I'm nervously following the same path now. I just got off a .99c release promo and set my 3rd book at 3.99. I'm worried about a rank drop but the crazy thing is selling 6 copies of the same book today equaled the same amount of money I made by selling 50 copies the day before. So it's a worthwhile price hike.

Sales remained solid at $2.99 for more than six months with the book hardly dipping below the 10,000 rank without any other promos. The past few weeks sales have dropped like a rock, but I was very happy with the long run it had with the 70% royalty pricing model.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Tillerman on December 08, 2013, 05:46:45 PM
Fantastic information, thank you.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Kat Lilynette on December 08, 2013, 07:32:56 PM
This is my first time seeing this thread.

Just wanted to echo what many have already said. It's some great information, and thanks so much for taking the time to share. Some very good ideology here to adopt immediately. :)
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on December 08, 2013, 07:50:07 PM
Kat: Thanks. With my approach, as with any, beware of dogma. There are many ways to achieve the same thing. This represents my approach. So far so good.

This year, I'll have sold 380-390K books since staring my little journey 30 months ago. Instead of 200K or so books this year, the actual number will be more like 280-290K. Obviously I'm happy with the results this approach has generated, but that in no way means that everyone, or even most, applying it, will have the same results. There are a lot of random variables.

It's intended as a way to introduce order into an essentially random process. To provide a framework with which to view reality - a lens.

I hope it helps others as it's helped me. There are certainly plenty who dislike it, and they are free to apply whatever alternative they've created to pursue their goals.

But at the risk of sounding like a gloating braggart, it's held up pretty well, and I'm not sure I'd change a word of it.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Kat Lilynette on December 08, 2013, 07:56:39 PM
Kat: Thanks. With my approach, as with any, beware of dogma. There are many ways to achieve the same thing. This represents my approach. So far so good.

This year, I'll have sold 380-390K books since staring my little journey 30 months ago. Instead of 200K or so books this year, the actual number will be more like 280-290K. Obviously I'm happy with the results this approach has generated, but that in no way means that everyone, or even most, applying it, will have the same results. There are a lot of random variables.

It's intended as a way to introduce order into an essentially random process. To provide a framework with which to view reality - a lens.

I hope it helps others as it's helped me. There are certainly plenty who dislike it, and they are free to apply whatever alternative they've created to pursue their goals.

But at the risk of sounding like a gloating braggart, it's held up pretty well, and I'm not sure I'd change a word of it.

Yep, I totally understand.

One thing that I've been trying to come to terms with is that for many people who are looking for quicker success, much like myself, there's no way around having a high daily output. Of all the successful indie publishers I've researched, like you, Elle Casey, HM Ward, and others, the one thing a staggering amount of them seem to have in common is that they are pumping out great products at a pace that dwarfs the vast majority of their genre competition. (But of course, there are some exceptions to this!)

Learning and doing what is necessary to get to that level of output (while constantly improving quality) and quickly fill a catalog in order to really get to the "meat" of the business side of being a self-publisher is a whole ballgame in itself. :)

Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Wansit on December 08, 2013, 08:04:57 PM
Russell - I'm curious and you may have answered this earlier...but how do you balance co-current series with different protagonists as the lead for each? Is there overlap between series? Do the characters know each other? Even though you're across multiple genres, it's all in the same 'world' right?

Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on December 08, 2013, 08:30:08 PM
Wansit: Nope. Nobody knows each other. And it's only the same world in the sense that it's set on planet Earth, present day.

I get bored writing just one protag, book after book. One of the ways I alleviate that is to have multiple series, with very different protags in each. Different voices, different worldviews, different circumstances. JET features a female ex-Mossad agent who is a mom. The Assassin series features two MCs - a cop, and the world's most dangerous assassin, both male. BLACK features a disgruntled male Hollywood PI. The three series couldn't be more different. JET is more pure adrenaline-rush fun, the Assassin series is more gritty and cerebral, and BLACK is a departure - a humorous whoddunit romp that pokes fun at various aspects of the entertainment biz.

And my fourth and newest one I'll be shopping to the industry is more action adventure/treasure hunt stuff.

KAT: I think most of us who are carving out a place in this new world have one big thing in common: We are all doing it for many, many long hours per day, and are keenly aware that we need to hit hard while we can, and keep delivering before the public moves on to the next new shiny thing. Fear, greed and desperation are powerful motivators.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Wansit on December 08, 2013, 08:43:01 PM
Wansit: Nope. Nobody knows each other. And it's only the same world in the sense that it's set on planet Earth, present day.

I get bored writing just one protag, book after book. One of the ways I alleviate that is to have multiple series, with very different protags in each. Different voices, different worldviews, different circumstances. JET features a female ex-Mossad agent who is a mom. The Assassin series features two MCs - a cop, and the world's most dangerous assassin, both male. BLACK features a disgruntled male Hollywood PI. The three series couldn't be more different. JET is more pure adrenaline-rush fun, the Assassin series is more gritty and cerebral, and BLACK is a departure - a humorous whoddunit romp that pokes fun at various aspects of the entertainment biz.

And my fourth and newest one I'll be shopping to the industry is more action adventure/treasure hunt stuff.

KAT: I think most of us who are carving out a place in this new world have one big thing in common: We are all doing it for many, many long hours per day, and are keenly aware that we need to hit hard while we can, and keep delivering before the public moves on to the next new shiny thing. Fear, greed and desperation are powerful motivators.

Have you found that one series does better than the others? Or are they all on equal footing? If one was sinking (in the sense that it doesn't sell as well or as easily as another series), would or do you continue to invest time in further books?
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on December 08, 2013, 08:50:29 PM
Val: My JET series sells almost twice as well as my Assassin series, and BLACK is selling about the same as the Assassin books.

I intend to write a couple more of the BLACK novels in the next 12 months, because they're fun, and they are making money.

I will write one Assassin novel. I will write two JET.

In 2015, I will write two of whatever is selling best (I presume it will still be JET) and one each of the others. They all sell well enough to warrant the effort, as in thousands per month per series, so worth my time. If one of the three fades and seems to have failed to catch on, I'll focus my attention on the ones that maintain interest.

I will follow the money. That's all you can do. Given that I enjoy writing all of them, and consider it a gift from the universe that I get to write for my dinner, I'll gladly write whichever ones are putting the most chips and tequila on the table.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Richardcrasta on December 08, 2013, 10:33:47 PM
Regarding your pricing strategy, I have consistently priced three of my best books at $4.99 (earlier, higher), knowing that their peers from trade publishers are generally at $9.99, but recently, what with Amazon Deals giving out dozens of top quality name authors for $2.99 and $1.99, I have reduced them to $3.99.

Have you changed your view in consideration of this change?
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on December 09, 2013, 08:43:04 AM
Richard: No, not really. I price my backlist from $4.50 to $4.99, and my new releases at $5.97. I believe those are fair prices given the quality, and my readership seems to feel so, too. I have several free books should someone be curious or unsure about spending money to sample my wares, but once the reader understands what they're getting, that's the price.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Book Master on December 09, 2013, 02:30:53 PM
This is one of the more important threads on WC. Many come on WC asking the same questions Mr. Blake answers at the beginning.
If you have read this thread once, then you must be complimented. If you read it twice, I doubt you could comprehend all of the important information in the second reading.

Seriously, this is one of those threads that should belong in a category on WC by themselves on the first page. It is a shame that people could have answers to their questions if it was up front where it belongs.

I believe this is the first time I happen to run across this one. I bookmarked it to read again sometime or offer it to someone as a reference should they need it.

Again, if you read it once, it never hurts to give a thread with critical on hands experience and knowledge as this one another gander with the eyes.

BM
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: nobody_important on January 31, 2014, 08:28:56 PM
Russell's method works. I only followed about half of them so far ( b/c of my situation and some unfortunate (or fortunate depending) timing, etc.). :)
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: MatthewAlanThyer on January 31, 2014, 10:50:39 PM
High ho! It's off to write I go. I hadn't realized I was following a "system", but when I started this it was with the intention of doing many of these sorts of things. I love the advice, I'm living it. Just keep tap, tap, tapping at this keyboard and eventually it will come to pass.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: jdrew on February 03, 2014, 11:01:36 AM
Russell's method works. I only followed about half of them so far ( b/c of my situation and some unfortunate (or fortunate depending) timing, etc.). :)
I'd agree, Russell's system does work though I haven't gotten far along yet.  First for me is to have more books to sell, price, and have "freebies" to grab new readers.  Looking forward to getting a lot done this year.
As always, thanks for the advice.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: D.S. on April 05, 2014, 01:00:31 PM
Thank you, RB! You answered a question I had about when to make the 1st book in my D.U.M.B.s (Deep Underground Military Bases) series free. I've got 2 books out now, but will wait until the 3rd is released (will be very soon) to make the 1st one free...then, fingers crossed! I'm going to do a presale for the first time with book 3 and see how that goes. There is a book 4 in the works, too.

As to further promotions, I was just contacted by an online radio show that is a good fit with several of my titles in genre, so I'm going to do the live on-air interview. I've done some live radio interviews before, but it will still get the adrenaline pumping, I'm sure! ;) (I'll post details of it once the date/time is confirmed.) Those previous interviews were for shows with more general audiences, and did little for short-term sales, as far as I could tell (though most radio shows have archives, so there may be some discovery down the road). The upcoming interview is for a show with a very genre-specific audience, so I'm curious to see how that works out, and if it will be a better use of my time, as I suspect it might be.

Are you still going to price your new releases at $6.99, or are you holding at $5.99 for now?

-Dave
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: cinisajoy on April 05, 2014, 01:06:37 PM
Thank you, Mr. Blake! You answered a question I had about when to make the 1st book in my series free. I've got 2 books out now, but will wait until the 3rd is released to make the 1st one free...then, fingers crossed!

Are you still going to price your new releases at $6.99, or are you holding a
t $5.99 for now?
I am not Russell though I do believe his new releases will be priced according to which series it is in.   I know his private investigator series Black was $4.99 each though I caught Black (1) on sale.
I am not sure about his other series and I am pretty certain the book that is due out in September will be higher.
I hope this helps.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on April 05, 2014, 01:24:54 PM
Just got alerted someone had a question. My pricing strategy remains the same for my new releases - $5.97, unless the book is shorter, like the BLACK books, which run 10-15% shorter due to the type of story, and which I price at $4.99. I don't see any reason to hike any higher than $5.99, as many trad pubbed tomes are available around that price, and it's not like I have a suite of offices on Madison Ave to pay for.

The one I co-authored with Cussler will go out at whatever price Penguin feels appropriate. I know that pre-orders on it have been strong, even 6 months out, for which I'm grateful. It's nice to see the power of a Big 5 at work...
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: JRHenderson on April 05, 2014, 01:59:38 PM
@Russell: It's so timely that this thread should re-surface again, as only yesterday I was dwelling on something you said about your mindset in 2011...

"But I continued writing as though my work was in hot demand."

...and I was curious about this. Did you use this 'visualisation' as a way of shutting out any self-doubt from your mind?

Thanks for your time,
John.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Deke on April 05, 2014, 02:08:44 PM
Great advice. Thanks for posting.
I'd also quibble at the 40K word count comment. Seems that the fastest path to sales is more titles and typically that means shorter word count.

I also have to admit that reading your post left me a bit weary:  I'm failing on almost every front. Not a fast writer.  Genre hopping. Etc.

The beautiful thing is that there's room for all types at this watering hole.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on April 05, 2014, 02:28:42 PM
JR: It was a way of staying motivated to put in the 12-15 hour days. I told myself that what I was writing was really good, and the only problem was that the world hadn't caught on yet - and that my job was to help it do so, but also not wait for it to do so.

I also believe that if you want to make a mark, you need to be a force of nature. Unstoppable. Relentless. Forces of nature don't generally have a lot of introspective second guessing in em.

Worked for me...
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Sapphire on April 05, 2014, 02:37:34 PM
The one I co-authored with Cussler will go out at whatever price Penguin feels appropriate. I know that pre-orders on it have been strong, even 6 months out, for which I'm grateful. It's nice to see the power of a Big 5 at work...
It's also the power of the name Cussler.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on April 05, 2014, 02:45:01 PM
Sapphire: I've heard of him... :o
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: cinisajoy on April 05, 2014, 02:49:02 PM
You know I heard something from a friend one day.   The friend said he hoped Russell Blake helped Clive Cussler's writing.   The person liked Blake better than Cussler.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: JRHenderson on April 05, 2014, 02:57:45 PM
Thank you for the reply Russell, I found it very inspiring. Especially the "force of nature" part... 8)
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: blakebooks on April 05, 2014, 03:05:28 PM
Deke: Depends on the genre. Try 40K, which is a novella, not a novel, in thrillers, and you'll get crucified, and lose a lot of the potential readers who might have tried you. As an example, I was giving away Night of the Assassin for frigging free at 53K words, and people were complaining it was too short. I since pumped it up to 60K.

As my editor has said, "Dude, if you're at 55K, just write another 10 or 15 of story. Don't wimp out."

Other genres might be more accepting. Romance might be okay with 20-40K at .99 or $2.99. Dunno. But readers aren't stupid, and if they see a bunch of 40K novellas, in my genre, anyway, they'll dismiss you and move on.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: FH on April 05, 2014, 04:10:09 PM
Lots of sage advice as usual.

Glad someone dug this up.

Understand the point about length, I originally wrote my MS as a single volume at some 220K which would have been pretty standard Tom Clancy 700 page length. It was simply better economics to split it into a series trilogy to get to the price points that worked well but I felt right on the edge of novel length, I personally feel it read better as a single volume but in retrospect feel glad I split it in three because I've been able to completely rewrite the third before releasing at and also go back and rewrite elements of the first two, since I plan to use two of the characters to do what you've done and run separate series but with a interconnected world narrative.

Anyway, lots of good takeaway nuggets from this thread.









Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Sapphire on April 05, 2014, 06:25:12 PM
It's also the power of the name Cussler.
The name Blake brings a lot to the table, too. This is going to be an interest collaboration to watch.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: nobody_important on April 05, 2014, 07:22:39 PM
Other genres might be more accepting. Romance might be okay with 20-40K at .99 or $2.99. Dunno. But readers aren't stupid, and if they see a bunch of 40K novellas, in my genre, anyway, they'll dismiss you and move on.

In romance, you can do 45k-55k and still be OK (and market them as "short novels" or "category length") because that's the shortest Harlequin category romance book length. So readers aren't stunned that you write such short books. And you can write a satisfying 50k romance novel if you write straight contemporary or something (no romantic suspense or other subplots that require a lot of attention / word count to be satisfying).
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: a_g on April 06, 2014, 07:20:29 AM
JR: It was a way of staying motivated to put in the 12-15 hour days. I told myself that what I was writing was really good, and the only problem was that the world hadn't caught on yet - and that my job was to help it do so, but also not wait for it to do so.

I also believe that if you want to make a mark, you need to be a force of nature. Unstoppable. Relentless. Forces of nature don't generally have a lot of introspective second guessing in em.

Worked for me...

This is going above my computer.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Kathy Clark, Author on April 06, 2014, 08:26:55 AM
Starting in early 2012 I began following his outline before I had ever really read it.  That said it is spot on.  Here's my journey to date.

After cutting my teeth on 23 romance to women's novels with traditional publishers and taking years off to dabble in Hollywood [call it cheese between a book genre change] I've come back with three series...all suspense -

They differ by the level of mystery, sex, life issues encountered, language and the NA is first person.

I've been blessed with the ability to author quality stories as witnessed by amazing reviews and awards received and it was the 2nd to 4th books that really made the decision to stick with a series a great decision and sales are beginning to come along.  Since mid 2012 I've / we've released 8 books and will release 2 more by December.  This year I've managed to slip into the top 10 in genre rankings on Amazon on occasion and when I achieve a total ranking on Amazon of only the top 25k to 50k I realize that is an important  stopping off point on the way to the top.

I appreciate the wisdom of those that have gone before so thanks Blake.

Never wanting to miss a shot at marketing here is the summary of this week's big news in my world...and a reason to get busy on starting book #3 in the Denver After Dark series, Graveyard Shift.


(https://scontent-b-iad.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/t1.0-9/s851x315/10153913_282126888619195_4845182759584191419_n.jpg)


Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: EmilyThomson on April 28, 2014, 11:21:33 AM
This is awesome! I have bookmarked this. Thank you.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Ghoststorywriter on May 03, 2014, 04:29:26 AM
Great post.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: delilahcanaan on May 03, 2014, 05:23:19 AM
Thankyou.
I would say the post is more inspiring than in depth.
I like what you said about writing the next book.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: michaelwlayne on May 03, 2014, 06:51:43 AM
Thank you for taking the time to write this post and for answering everyone's questions. Invaluable advice and a lot to consider. Thanks, Russell!


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: KittKatt on May 04, 2014, 01:49:49 PM
Lots to take away from here. Mainly Keep Writing!

Thanks Russell!
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Keith Rowland on May 20, 2014, 06:54:58 AM
Thanks for the advice, this has given me a lot to consider and think about.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Harriet Schultz on May 20, 2014, 07:59:44 AM
I read this post when Russell first posted it and then again and now one more time. It still makes perfect sense.

I'm sure I'm not the only writer who misses your face and input around here, Blake.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: pagegirl on May 20, 2014, 08:03:15 AM
LOVE THIS!! It gives me hope that if I keep writing, keep publishing, keep pushing the envelope and trying to market myself and my books, and just keep trying in general, I'll get there!
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Sapphire on May 20, 2014, 08:26:16 AM
Russell, over time your posts have been a catalyst to many authors' careers. Please pop back in now and then to give us all a shot in the arm. More important though, we'd like to hear how you are and where your writing adventures are taking you.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: OwenTyler on June 17, 2014, 07:57:47 AM
Thanks for the information. If you were someone else, you would just sell it as a report. Thanks for giving so freely.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: John Ellsworth on June 17, 2014, 09:12:06 AM
Really appreciate the post and thanks so much for sharing the financial history. You and Joe are doing a great service to the rest of us by giving us hope.

Best to you.

John Ellsworth
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: rrodenparker on July 08, 2014, 09:35:30 AM
This is a fantastic thread, filled with a LOT of great advice.  I got lucky a couple years ago with some of my books and rode that wave for about six months, but after that I only put out stuff sporadically, and I kept trying different genres with different pen names. 

Now I realize that to make this a business, I need to focus.  I'm trying to figure out my (sub)genre, but I think I have a pretty good idea.  I will use this thread as a reference as I begin writing again.  Thanks again!
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: martyns on September 08, 2014, 01:46:35 PM
Thanks for posting this Blake, daunting, but good advice. I've often thought part of the key to making it is putting books out regularly. I think quality is important too, the higher you shoot for in the quality stakes the longer you'll be between releases. I suppose the real trick is to find the sweet spot, the perfect balance between quality and momentum.

I really ought to write more, unfortunately life conspires against me at the moment :(
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Kirkee on September 08, 2014, 05:16:15 PM
Solid advice. Tremendous work ethic. Most of all for me, though, Mr. Blake, is the great respect you have for readers. Have stated this so often over the years: Without the audience...we'd all be toiling away in a vacuum. For years I did just that. There were no takers, until Mr. Bezos turned things around––for so many of us.
Continued success.   :)   

 
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: jdrew on October 20, 2014, 11:42:44 AM
Russell,
I saw your article in the Kindle Direct Newsletter for October.  Good to see that things continue to roll along for you.  You've convinced me (well you and others) that my next book will launch using everything Amazon has and the other outlets can wait.
Thanks.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Sophrosyne on October 20, 2014, 12:15:10 PM
Russell, I just read your first post and not only do I totally agree with everything you're saying, I think I just fell in love with you a little bit more!

You're awesome. Doubly so for taking the time to write all that down and share it with everyone. And congrats on the KDP article!

You rock!
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Antara Mann on January 05, 2015, 11:48:09 AM
It makes a lot of sense to stick to one genre but I see Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant hopping in genres. I amnot saying to write in all genres, just write what feels good to you. Be true to yourself. For example I like crossovers who are hard to define only in one genre.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Sever Bronny on January 05, 2015, 12:24:28 PM
This is the post I chronically recommend to people starting out. My fingers are sore from linking to it time and again ;)
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: H.G. Suren on January 05, 2015, 01:03:39 PM
Thank you for a lot of advise here.
You said you re-wrote your novels. Did you uploaded the re-written manuscript instead of the existing book or you made a new one with new title and new cover?
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: MikeDavidson on January 05, 2015, 01:30:28 PM
#1 to write only in one genre. I understand why authors advice this but my brand and strategy is a crossover between genres. I personally like different artists who aren't afraid to go out of the box. That's also a brand.

True but Craig (russel blake) probably makes around $500,000 a year or so in royalties. So his advice is still valid to me. I personally started in one genre (self help non-fiction) and hit it hard. Since then I've crossed over into multiple genres. As a business owner I've learned that you have to focus your attention on what produces the most results, then when you've maxed the results out cross over to the next profitable idea. It's what every major corporation does and I think it's a good idea for authors as well. (If amazon didn't do it then the Kindle wouldn't exist. If Microsoft didn't do it then xbox wouldn't exist, etc.) Having solid following in a single genre is good for producing a large mailing list. My thriller fans won't respond to my fantasy novel release, My non-fiction fans won't respond to my historical fiction. By following Craig's advice you'll maximize the conversion ratio on your email list due to relevance.

So cross overs can be good. In fact Holly ward crossed over into romance and those books caused her to hit the new york times. But In Craig's defense if you have something good going for you in regard to books sales you should probably keep your focus on what's working. It's how you build a strong foundation of sales, which allows you to take bigger and more profitable risks.

In my own experience it's something you have to decide based on the results you're receiving.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: MikeDavidson on January 05, 2015, 01:31:50 PM
Thank you for a lot of advise here.
You said you re-writing your novels. Did you uploaded the re-written manuscript instead of the existing book or you made a new one with new title and new cover?

Is this being aimed at Russel Blake? Because he hasn't been on the Kboards in months. this is an old thread.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: cinisajoy on January 05, 2015, 01:37:31 PM
True but Craig (russel blake) probably makes around $500,000 a year or so in royalties. So his advice is still valid to me. I personally started in one genre (self help non-fiction) and hit it hard. Since then I've crossed over into multiple genres. As a business owner I've learned that you have to focus your attention on what produces the most results, then when you've maxed the results out cross over to the next profitable idea. It's what every major corporation does and I think it's a good idea for authors as well. (If amazon didn't do it then the Kindle wouldn't exist. If Microsoft didn't do it then xbox wouldn't exist, etc.) Having solid following in a single genre is good for producing a large mailing list. My thriller fans won't respond to my fantasy novel release, My non-fiction fans won't respond to my historical fiction. By following Craig's advice you'll maximize the conversion ratio on your email list due to relevance.

So cross overs can be good. In fact Holly ward crossed over into romance and those books caused her to hit the new york times. But In Craig's defense if you have something good going for you in regard to books sales you should probably keep your focus on what's working. It's how you build a strong foundation of sales, which allows you to take bigger and more profitable risks.

In my own experience it's something you have to decide based on the results you're receiving.
I think you are a bit low on your estimate.    I think he is now up 750k a year.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: H.G. Suren on January 07, 2015, 05:57:09 AM
Is this being aimed at Russel Blake? Because he hasn't been on the Kboards in months. this is an old thread.
I didn't know he hadn't been on Kboards in months. But I really wanted to know whether he rewrote his re-written books or created a new one.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: SA_Soule on March 25, 2015, 12:34:04 PM
Thank you for taking the time away from your own marketing and writing to post this for us, Russell. It is very inspiring!

I have made my share of mistakes while navigating the choppy seas of self-publishing and trying to make a living as a writer. Some days I feel so discouraged and others I feel lucky to have such an awesome job.

Your advice is solid and I am bookmarking this page as a reference.  ;)
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: D.L. Shutter on March 25, 2015, 12:42:22 PM
Russel...welcome back! I hope you'll return to being a regular here. KB missed you. Off now to get caught up in this epic thread of yours. Thanks for all the time you've put into it.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Evenstar on September 11, 2015, 01:37:31 AM
I just wanted to resurrect this thread to ask how people feel things have changed since Russell first posted it, I know SMR (Godzilla) changed her views and her post on how to succeed and I wonder what Russell would think now and if any of his strategy has changed?
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Sapphire on September 11, 2015, 10:14:24 AM
Like Evenstar, I would be interested in updates on Russell's strategy.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Alan Petersen on September 11, 2015, 11:27:29 AM
In my opinion, Russell's advice is still golden.

Things like...


I don't believe that advice would ever stop working.

And you look at thriller writers that came after like Wayne and Mark, they have each published multiple books in popular series in the past 12-24 months. That's why I believe his system and advice is still excellent and very much applicable in 2015/2016.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Ghoststorywriter on October 21, 2015, 08:42:54 AM
As a self-employed Kindle book author myself, I found your advice excellent and will certainly take all you points on board as I struggle daily to make a living from my writing.

One question: I have taken the step of making one of my true ghost stories books available on other platforms (e.g. KOBO), as I have become very disappointed with the new paid-by-page-read that Amazon has introduced into their Select programme. Do you think this is wise move?
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: rcasey on October 21, 2015, 09:31:25 AM
I honestly think the vast majority of Russell's advice is timeless.

Pick a market.
Write a series in that market.
Release frequently.
Put a first book as a loss leader when you have a few titles.
Treat it like a business.

I don't see that advice ever getting old.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: on March 06, 2016, 06:22:15 AM
I saw some people referencing this post in a few different threads, but they couldn't find it so here ya go.

An oldie, but a goodie.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: Alan Petersen on March 06, 2016, 10:57:50 AM
Thank you for finding this and bringing it to the top. Some great advice here.  I said in another thread, i've been listening to a couple of Russell's podcast interviews and they were so informative.
I interviewed Russell for my "Meet the Thriller Author" podcast: http://get.thrillingreads.com/mtta-18-russell-blake-interview/

Just a shameless plug for the podcast, but he provided awesome advice (as he always does).
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: dbrbarton on March 06, 2016, 10:55:08 PM
Russell - I think every newbie author should read this before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  If I hear one more person say that "for $297, I guarantee to make your book a Bestseller", I am going to puke.  Someone needs to be teaching new writers how to sustain a business and sell books, period.  Getting to Bestseller isn't even that remarkable these days, and can actually be done fairly easily - depending on the category you select. 

I consider myself still a newbie, as I have only been writing for a year and just launched my second book (non-fic) - only because of family issues last year and I still work full-time.  This year I plan on writing at least 3 more books and one will be the beginning of a fiction series.  I partnered up with another author and will be contributing to an anthology next month. 

Most new authors come into the business believing all the hype of making $3K/ mo within 30-60 days.  Then when that doesn't happen, they are off following the next shiny object instead of putting their butts in the chair and just write.  Write.  And write some more.  It's hard work, but most people just don't want to put forth that much effort.  They forget that those "overnight successes" took years of hard work.

Thanks for posting this and reminding us all of why we are here.  We are writers and we love our craft.









Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: CeeJay on March 07, 2016, 12:28:17 AM
I have only been writing for a year and just launched my second book (non-fic) - only because of family issues last year and I still work full-time.  This year I plan on writing at least 3 more books and one will be the beginning of a fiction series.  I partnered up with another author and will be contributing to an anthology next month. 

Working full time and releasing 2 books with a plan for 3 more is no small feat! :)

Anyone watch the trainer Dolvett in The Biggest Loser?  Sometimes I hear his voice screaming question/response drills when I'm thinking about my writing:  "HARD WORK!  (DEDICATION!)  HARD WORK!  (DEDICATION!)"  lol.
Title: Re: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out
Post by: martyns on March 07, 2016, 02:21:45 AM
Brilliant post. Everyone should re-read this every once in a while. It's largely stuff we know, but we choose to forget because it's reality and reality is hard-work.

I think we all need a little reality check every now and then. Maisie Williams went from not being an Actress to being a household name quicker than you could say 'Game of Thrones' but copying her path isn't a strategy for breaking into acting.

The same is true of writing. JK Rowling's path isn't going to happen for anyone else. She didn't have a strategy, she wrote a kick-ass book and was lucky that things fell into place for her.

Most of us are not going to be 'in the right place, at the right time', we can't afford to rely on dreams and luck. If want to work from home, and earn enough to quit whatever else you do, 99.99% of us are going to need imagination, talent, a strategy, a lot of hard work. Even then it isn't guaranteed to happen, but it exponentially increases the odds!