Journey to a Bestseller: Free Books, Writing for Your Market, Editing, and Ad Progress (Series #35)

FREE BOOKS!!

Yes, I mean it. You are about to be offered free books. I’m in several Book Funnel promotions this month and I want to share them with you. I missed linking you to the promotion last week, but I’ve got three more! Don’t know what Book Funnel is? It’s a site where readers can get free books. One author makes a themed promotion and other authors gather their books together in a group then send out the link to readers like you. Then you get to peruse the selection and choose which free books you want to read. Some are full copies and some are the first five chapters, so you can see if you like it enough to continue reading. What does it cost? Nothing. For readers, it’s free. So what’s the hook? Some of the authors use these promos to grow their newsletter lists, so you still get the free book or sample, but they ask for your email before you receive it. However, other books–like mine–are simply there for the exposure and don’t ask for your information.

The theme this week is: YA Romance: Young Love

https://books.bookfunnel.com/young-love/ewimti0c55

So if YA Romance is your thing, click this link and hop on over there to get some free reads! Or just click to check out the different promotions running on Book Funnel right now. You’ll be glad you did.

As an author, that site is going to be your saving grace when you need to have a link to a sample of your book. Not a pdf, but a link. You can do that with Book Funnel for free. And you can use their promos to grow your newsletter. This week’s post doesn’t have an agenda. Most often I don’t know what I’m going to blog about until I start writing. Is that the way you write your stories? I’ve heard a lot of really successful people saying that you need to find out what the “need” is and fill it. Meaning, figure out what people in your audience really want to read, and then make that.

That’s hard for me, though, as I can never put my finger on what it is they want. But this week I got an idea. A pretty darn good one. I was reading through sales copy and trying to learn, when I just happened to notice a very well-known YA book about a dystopian future with girls who fight each other for the love of a prince, and I saw it had one-star reviews. This surprised me and I wondered what they didn’t like about it.

I read through the “dislikes” and started to see a pattern. There’s a way they think, or thought, the book should come out, and it didn’t deliver for them because of it. They felt that the girls shouldn’t have put up with the system and instead of tearing each other down, they should have banded together and gone after the establishment as a team. Man, I really like that idea. I might use it. But if you want to, go ahead.

That’s the thing. Even if it has the same premise, you and I are not going to write the same book. Don’t be so threatened that another author might steal your idea. First of all, there is nothing new, there is nothing that hasn’t been done before. Second of all, other authors might be competitors, but they are not your enemies. If someone takes your idea and writes a better book than you, they were most likely a better author than you to begin with. And I don’t mean better like, they were born with more talent or anything. Sure, some people have a propensity to write well, and often. But how do the rest of us become the better author?

Practice. That is your answer. What makes them a better author is their experience with writing. To get better, there is no other substitute for writing–whether you’re learning now for the first time, or trying to go pro–than putting words to a page.

I challenge you to go find a well known book in your genre and read all the one star reviews. See the pattern. See what the readers didn’t like and rewrite that story with the twist that you know at least some readers were hoping for. Notice the patterns in what they hoped to see and create a whole new story based on the book they wanted.

If all the women readers are buying forbidden romances and that’s your jam, write a forbidden romance. If every teen is buying mermaid books, well, you know what to do. It’s called writing for your market.

But I wanted to talk about something else branching out from that and it’s “voice.” Has an agent ever told you that the “voice” wasn’t right in your manuscript? Voice is the way you tell a story, and it is partially subjective. Like one agent may like the way I tell the story, and another agent may not like it at all. It’s the tone of your voice, and in the way you choose to “speak” or narrate your stories.

Do you use lots of run-on sentences and commas galore? Or are you succinct and write short, concise lines to get the point across? Do you use flowery words, or slang terms? This may also depend on your genre. Some romances have a flowery, flowy voice, but if it’s a contemporary college romance, it’s going to depend on the main character. Is she a romantic who takes long walks in the park, or was she on the high school football team? Those two girls are likely going to communicate in very different ways. That’s the character’s voice, but it’s included in the tone of the whole story.

This is NOT subjective. This is something you need to get right. If you tell the story of Christine the Linebacker in a long, flowing tone, with thoughtful sentences and slow action, I am going to hazard a guess and say the voice is going to be wrong. Just as a slow country romance isn’t going to sound right in short, action sentences. And I’m not talking about during the action scenes, which there’d better be plenty of, to break up that slow narrative. I’m talking about the way the character thinks.

Don’t assume because it’s all fiction and you can do anything you want that people won’t get turned away. Everyday readers may not be able to put their finger on the definition of why they didn’t like it, but the reader knows when the story isn’t right. So make sure your voice matches your genre.

But that’s not all. You need to make sure your voice also matches your age group. This can be hard for YA writers sometimes. I must admit the reason we aren’t in the querying process with the WIP right now is because I realized the voice was wrong. When I went back to read it, I realized the boy thought, acted and spoke more like a 13-14 year old boy than a 17 year old boy. The voice wasn’t Young Adult, it was Middle Grade–fiction written for middle schoolers. So I needed to fix it.

Instead of relating things to his mom, I had him relate them to his first girlfriend. Instead of automatically thinking of his parents, he misses other things first. I’m thirteen to fifteen chapters in, so it should be ready by next week. A lot of people wonder what makes a book different from YA to adult, especially if the MC is college age or older. I generally say it has to do with subject matter.

YA is full of “firsts.” First car, first boyfriend, first sleep-away camp, first crush, first time… you get the idea. And adult themes have to do with life, paying bills, reality, getting married, having children, spouses having affairs; that kind of thing. But it also depends on the voice. You can have the same thing happen to two different people and get wildly different results. But when you lump people into like-aged groups, they don’t tend to look so different. In an emergency situation, an adult will probably look for a logical solution, while a teen may either freak out or try to be the sacrificial hero, and a child might look for adult protection. Different age groups will have different thought processes and different ways of looking at a situation. The voice must match the story’s tone, subject, age group, genre, and you must have a pleasant writing style. Otherwise you’ll lose your audience. It’s harder than it looks, readers!

This week is going to be shorter than usual as I am really itching to finish up this manuscript! Then I will need to read through it again to make sure all my additions flow with the text and catch any more instances were I can “grow him up” a little more. Yes, it will take two drafts. See, at least 80% of authors query before they are ready. No, let me restate that. They query before their manuscript is ready. I had to turn away a lot of really good stories with potential when I was an agent, because they were still two or three drafts from being done. All I could do was point them toward a couple of editors I knew.

Now, I don’t necessarily think you should hire an editor right off the bat. The best outcome in this situation is that you learn some new self-editing techniques, and fix it yourself. You need to learn these skills eventually as a writer, and you will over time, as you write more and more books. Each time you write a book you grow as an author. The “next” book is always better because experience is the best teacher. Look at editors when you are ready to self-publish and/or when you are ready to query.

I give my best self-editing tips in #26 of this series. Click here to read them.

I mentioned “R&R’s” in that article–“Revise and Resubmit.” If your manuscript is one good draft from being ready, the agent may give you an R&R and you will have the opportunity to go through it one more time and resubmit. But let me tell you, you need to know what to fix. If they give you any suggestions, make sure you address them. If you don’t, they aren’t going to go another round with you to see if you will listen the second time, and you will get a pass. Now, if their advice will change something you don’t agree with, take the knowledge that you are almost there, revise another draft, and submit to someone else.

Oh! Before I go, I wanted to share more about my ad campaigns. I have four campaigns going right now. Two on Bookbub, one on Amazon.com, and one on Amazon.co.uk. I have changed my sales description and my ad copy. I am currently having my covers branded, so they will change once more to keep up with the current covers of the age group and genre I’m in. I’ll be sure to show you when they are done.

SiteNameImpressionsClicksMoney SpentMoney Made
BookbubFlames18,26532$20?
Bookbub (new ad)Angel30900?
Amazon.comTen-K184,956330$334$13
Amazon.co.uk (new ad)One-K2,0561$0.10?

You can tell that it takes a lot of impressions to get clicks, and that normal, but can also be relative to your ad and your bid price. You have to win the bid to show up, and they have to like your ad to click. It’s obvious that all those clicks aren’t turning into sales; however, my book is priced at $0.99, and free to read on Kindle Unlimited. So when KU readers click, they get the book for free and it doesn’t count as a sale. I went to look at my Kindle reports and found I went from zero daily Kindle reads to an average of 847 pages read per day. Therefore, I can see that many of those 363 clicks are successfully getting readers, if not sales.

The way Kindle Unlimited works is every customer pays a monthly subscription fee that goes into a big pot. Then they can read any of the KU-listed books they want for “free.” Then, at the end of the month, KDP takes that pot of money and distributes it among the authors according to their page reads. Because all these reads have been in the last month, I am excited to see how much I make from it. Hopefully it will ease my pocketbook from the $400 I’ve spent in ads. Also, you have to understand that if you can capture a reader with a free book that’s first in a series, as long as they are enjoying themselves, you’ve got a customer for the other books in the series.

Finally, the last benefit in buying profitable ads, are the books’ rankings. The Key of F is currently ranked #14, #14, and #26 in its categories, The Queen’s Heart is #6, #17, and #22, and The Final Rescue is #9, #17, and #18. So I can tell that the readers are continuing through the trilogy. It’s exciting!

So, give it a try. It’s worth a shot, but expect to pay a couple hundred dollars to get any real results. Click here to read my post on setting up your AMS ads. See you next week! Keep writing!

~jenn

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