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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Back in 2010 when I was hacking together my first book (actually intended to be a pamphlet), I was a true noob. I'd never been on Amazon before in my life. Other than a few news articles about it being a huge book store, I had zero clue.

While I was a greenhorn book-wise, I wasn't without basic business skills. I had put together a marketing plan before the title was finished.

Now, this is going to look odd to many of you. Perhaps the word "odd" is even being kind. But, to this day, I have maintained most of my original thinking on the subject.

Please keep in mind, this was an instruction guide:

1. My average customer isn't a book hound, or even a voracious reader. I need to bring non-readers to the book, so traditional book marketing won't work.

2. My book will be extremely controversial, much like the Anarchist's Cookbook. My cover and title should make the customer feel like they're getting ready to eat forbidden fruit.

3. I want potential readers to understand my instruction is from the real world. I want it gritty. Dirt. Mud. Blood. Guts. Pain. I want them to perceive that it came from my heart and experience, not some polished-up, sterilized crap from a big name publisher.

4. I want the potential reader to believe than any old "Joe Nobody" can implement the contents. (I was writing it "down" for the general public, but I didn't want them to know that. It was a field manual for middle-aged, overweight, poorly conditioned individuals. Typical Americans, if you will.)

Do you see the difference? Now days, most indies try to focus their marketing on people who read tons of books. (Bookbub for example) And I admit I do some of the same.

Back then, as well as today, I focus on trying to get new customers to the reading game as opposed to recruiting existing readers to try my titles. There's a difference. Subtle, perhaps - but a difference. I think that's why I sell so many paperbacks and audio books.

When I think about marketing, I assume the potential reader has never been on Amazon. We structure our promotion with the core belief that our customer doesn't even read all that many books. We go forward with messaging designed to inform the folks that books like ours even exist.

As far as the covers go... Now days, people look at those early works and say, "Jezzz... can't Joe afford a good artist?" That first book has sold well north of 50,000 copies, and still sells 3-5 copies per day, despite a gadzillion other writers jumping on the prepper-defense bandwagon. I may update it one of these days... who knows?

Am I recommending everyone go out and throw up a crappie cover? No. My message is that I had a plan and implemented it. That included the cover, my bio, blurb, and our marketing goals. In my case, it flew in the face of traditional wisdom... but it worked. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box.
 

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I suspect this is true for my work. There doesn't seem to be a single roomful of voracious readers but a broadly spread out readership for most peoples' work. Reaching them is not a simple thing.  :-X
 

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It would be very interesting to see what kind of effect changing one of your covers would have after all these years. Would it breathe new life into the book? Would it put your brand on a new path? Would your old readers feel betrayed, or would they think you're "changing with the times", so to speak? I'd love to see what happens just from an experimental perspective. In any case, always love to hear your point of view, Joe :)
 

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Love this. Excellent example of understanding your audience.

I did something like this, too. I've been published about two and a half years. Then as now, "everybody" said--you need sexy covers to sell, especially as an indie. A clinch cover or a naked male torso. I knew I wouldn't pick up a book with either thing--that for me, they were red-flag indicators that the book wouldn't be my kind of thing.

I still get those comments from other authors occasionally--that you need a "hot" cover to sell on iBooks, for example. I've only been on iBooks for 3 months, but so far, so good, non-hot covers and all. I think it's because I knew that my reader--my most avid reader--might not necessarily read that much romance. I wrote for women like me rather than "the romance market," so that's how I marketed, too.

My very best covers for grabbiness, for getting clicks, especially from BookBub?

1) The sandals on the beach. Says--Calgon, take me away. Evocative.

2) The cupcake! Yes, the cupcake! It SELLS! Because it's sweet, and tasty, and makes you feel good to look at it. It totally conveys the mood of the book, which is sweet and heartwarming. Yes, it has hot sex, but it's mainly a feel-good book about family, and that's what the cupcake sells.

Some people would say, "Yes, but how much BETTER would you have done with a clinch cover/naked male torso?" And I really believe, not as well. The cupcake cover got 3500 sales in a DAY once on Amazon alone, and I'm not a well-known writer. It was the cupcake.

I put up the red-dress cover below on Facebook, together with the current cover (which you can see if you click on the red-dress cover--what the new one is.) I got about 100 comments from readers. ONE person said they preferred the red dress. All the others greatly preferred the new landscape cover. So--that's my audience. I've followed my gut on this whole business--have written the books that appealed to me in the way they appealed to me, and have used covers that would appeal to me, and those things have allowed me to reach readers like me. I can't worry about what appeals to readers who aren't like me--because they aren't going to like my books anyway.



 

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Rosalind James said:
Love this. Excellent example of understanding your audience.

I did something like this, too. I've been published about two and a half years. Then as now, "everybody" said--you need sexy covers to sell, especially as an indie. A clinch cover or a naked male torso. I knew I wouldn't pick up a book with either thing--that for me, they were red-flag indicators that the book wouldn't be my kind of thing.

I still get those comments from other authors occasionally--that you need a "hot" cover to sell on iBooks, for example. I've only been on iBooks for 3 months, but so far, so good, non-hot covers and all. I think it's because I knew that my reader--my most avid reader--might not necessarily read that much romance. I wrote for women like me rather than "the romance market," so that's how I marketed, too.

My very best covers for grabbiness, for getting clicks, especially from BookBub?

1) The sandals on the beach. Says--Calgon, take me away. Evocative.

2) The cupcake! Yes, the cupcake! It SELLS! Because it's sweet, and tasty, and makes you feel good to look at it. It totally conveys the mood of the book, which is sweet and heartwarming. Yes, it has hot sex, but it's mainly a feel-good book about family, and that's what the cupcake sells.

Some people would say, "Yes, but how much BETTER would you have done with a clinch cover/naked male torso?" And I really believe, not as well. The cupcake cover got 3500 sales in a DAY once on Amazon alone, and I'm not a well-known writer. It was the cupcake.

I put up the red-dress cover below on Facebook, together with the current cover (which you can see if you click on the red-dress cover--what the new one is.) I got about 100 comments from readers. ONE person said they preferred the red dress. All the others greatly preferred the new landscape cover. So--that's my audience. I've followed my gut on this whole business--have written the books that appealed to me in the way they appealed to me, and have used covers that would appeal to me, and those things have allowed me to reach readers like me. I can't worry about what appeals to readers who aren't like me--because they aren't going to like my books anyway.
I also wouldn't choose a book with a naked male torso, and after your comment about scenery on the cover I realised that covers with scenery/landscapes are what appeal to me :).
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Sever Bronny said:
It would be very interesting to see what kind of effect changing one of your covers would have after all these years. Would it breathe new life into the book? Would it put your brand on a new path? Would your old readers feel betrayed, or would they think you're "changing with the times", so to speak? I'd love to see what happens just from an experimental perspective. In any case, always love to hear your point of view, Joe :)
We've tried various things over the years. Most have involved pricing, and I always end up right back at $9.99. We've updated the cover on the 3-year old book, and didn't see much difference. We did a bookbub, and while we made a little money off of it, it wasn't the same result that a lot of folks see. We've never even thought about submitting another. Not saying BB is bad, just that it didn't work for us. We've tried Select. Stuck our little toe in KU. Eh.

And I'll keep trying new things. Always. Like on the battlefield - if you stand still, you're dead.
 

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Joe_Nobody said:
We've tried various things over the years. Most have involved pricing, and I always end up right back at $9.99. We've updated the cover on the 3-year old book, and didn't see much difference. We did a bookbub, and while we made a little money off of it, it wasn't the same result that a lot of folks see. We've never even thought about submitting another. Not saying BB is bad, just that it didn't work for us. We've tried Select. Stuck our little toe in KU. Eh.

And I'll keep trying new things. Always. Like on the battlefield - if you stand still, you're dead.
So, retirement is off the table then? That's excellent news. I was sad when you went away ;D
 

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Joe,

Thanks for sharing!  I hope I'm giving it the same approach.  I'd say before the 'Writer's Café' I really didn't have a plan, just an idea and a goal.  After 'Writer's Cafe' I have a much more detailed 'business' plan if you will involving not only the books, genre, approach and craft but also the techniques of publishing, marketing, designing and formatting all attached to a measurable time frame that will allow me to track my progress, or lack thereof, as I move forward.

This only happens when others in the lead share with those of us following.

Thank you.
SM
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Mark E. Cooper said:
So, retirement is off the table then? That's excellent news. I was sad when you went away ;D
Delayed, not withdrawn. Like an idiot, I agreed to some new aspects for the small publishers that I own a part of. It's going to take a year or so to get them off the ground, and then they'll put me out to pasture... hopefully to stud! 8)
 

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I keep hearing that covers with people on them are the way to go, whether that's nekkid torsos, bad*ss women with ray guns or whatever. I personally detest seeing people on a cover. I'd much rather get an image of what the character's look like from the writing.  To me one of the worst things is when a book switches out the old, well designed cover and puts actors from the movie adaptation on instead. Ugh! Rant over. I guess my point, if I have one, is that I'm another non-romance reader who would never have bought Rosalind's books with the standard naked torso.

ETA: I remembered my main point! Knowing your target audience is an important part of your marketing plan, and should happen BEFORE you pick a cover.
 

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Joe, that's a good post--thanks for it--and your ideas about readership match those that worked for my computer programming books, which were traditionally published in the dark ages. My question about your marketing campaign is: Having targeted your potential readership, how, other than the one BookBub promo, did you reach out to let them know your book was available?
 

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LectorsBooks said:
I'd much rather get an image of what the character's look like from the writing.
This times 1000. It's why I use silhouettes or heavily shaded character images on most of my covers. (The girl with the horse is different because I found a stock image that exactly matched the character I'd written down to the tattoos.)
 

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Actually, I think it's your author name (Joe Nobody) that sells your books. Whatever the reason, it is a very clever marketing tool. It is now, and always has been, word of mouth that sells specialized books like yours. Your readership will naturally look for books on the subject, so your key words must be very wisely used as well.

Your right. Those of us who write in genres where the competition is ultra stiff have to choose more flashy cover art - or at least change ours when sales are not working. I was just joking previously. I hope you didn't take offense.
 

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What's interesting to me is that if Joe was starting out today and came to this place for advice, there would be a contingent of posters who would have dismissed his targeted marketing approach and instead hyped chasing the bigger audience. Sometimes, I think we forget that some authors write niche material that will not crossover into mainstream success.
 

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It is hard to explain niche markets. And even inside of the bigger, more competitive markets, there are niches. For example, if I was going to launch a pen name in Contemporary Romance, one of the MOST competitive markets, and I didn't want to use permafree I would use the Liliana Hart technique with a dash of EAW.

I would write my books live on my blog with adsense and keyword the posts appropriately, monitoring that my blog was getting traffic for those keywords with Google Webmaster Tools. See, there's no limit on using other authors and other series as a keyword tag on your blog post. You could even have a message at the bottom "I so love Author Rosalind James XYZ series, I love the escape her contemporary romances set in New Zealand have given me. So I'm writing MY SERIES set in EXOTIC location because I think romance is universal. After all, why can't we have a contemporary romance in COUNTRY NAME on our Kindles, Nooks, and iPads?" (Sorry Rosalind, but it was the best example I could find). To be clear, I would NOT plagiarize or just rewrite Rosalind's stories.

Then I would watch as my near daily chapter posts raised my website in the Google rankings for "Books like Rosalind James" or "Rosalind James romances" etc. etc. And unless an author regularly monitors Google results for their author name (most don't) they wouldn't even KNOW you existed.

Once I had 4 books written and 55k each would take me about two-three months to do, I would release 3 at 99 cents and tell my readership to get a JUMP on the Hot New Release list. Then I would raise the prices, and 2 weeks later, release book 4.

This is all theoretical, but it's similar in plan to what I am working on for my gothic romances I have ideas for. When you can dominate the Hot New Release list, readers DO take notice. If those lists didn't sell books, Amazon would have no reason to have them.

The Internet is beyond our fathoming in terms of size, and too many of us stop our strategies at just thinking about how to get visibility on Amazon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Al Stevens said:
Joe, that's a good post--thanks for it--and your ideas about readership match those that worked for my computer programming books, which were traditionally published in the dark ages. My question about your marketing campaign is: Having targeted your potential readership, how, other than the one BookBub promo, did you reach out to let them know your book was available?
Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, display ads, and website banners. None of those are dominate for us, all of them seeming to reach a different segment. None are expensive.
 

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Note that another thing I didn't do, which "everyone" now says to do, esp in contemp rom, is write short and release fast. I did release three books at once. Since then, though, I've released a 100k book every 3 months or so. Again--my target audience prefers longer, more complex books with lots of character development. All about writing consistently for your audience. And there are many routes to success. Boards like these tend to focus on one route.

My audience doesn't like serials or novellas? Instead of writing them and trying to find a new audience on KU, I went wide--I went to the audience where they were. I took a trad deal with a publisher whose customers like the kinds of books I write. I got into a set with trad (and some indie) authors, many of whom write more like me. Those last two things haven't come to fruition yet, but I've chosen to take my chances on releasing much more slowly in order to pursue them. The marketplace has changed, and instead of changing what I write in response, I'm changing how I distribute. Readers haven't changed. They don't all want the same thing, no matter what the trends are--within a genre, for length, or whatever.

And besides--I believe we do best when we do what we're best at. Plus--that happiness thing.

 

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Hey Joe,
Just wanted to tell you that my grandmother thought "The Anarchist Cookbook" would be a good addition to my cookbook collection so she bought it for me.  Yes, she knew what it was.

 

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cinisajoy said:
Just wanted to tell you that my grandmother thought "The Anarchist Cookbook" would be a good addition to my cookbook collection so she bought it for me. Yes, she knew what it was.
Which leads me to wonder about Cin's "cookbook" collection.

And gives me yet another reason to never make Cin mad.
 
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