Literary Q&A: I Just Published a Book, Now What? #Authorgoals (Series #8)

When I grew up I wanted to be Barbra Streisand–specifically as Fanny Brice–but that was never going to happen. Because I wasn’t born Barbra Streisand. And you weren’t born Stephen King. Which is a good thing, because he’s not the best writer. He’s ONE of the best writers, along with other household names–Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts, et al. But the good news is, there is no “best” writer that you have to beat to achieve success. The world doesn’t need ten Stephen Kings, it needs one YOU.

You bring your own writing style to the table–your own imagination, your own methods, your own experience. Write from the heart of who you are. Sure, it’s great to have #authorgoals, and there are many out there, but be your own hero. Write, edit, get better–write, edit, get better. Repeat until YOU are happy with your success–there isn’t a universal measure. So set your goals and do what you have to do. If you need a vision board, create one. If you need a monitory achievement, create that goal and chart it to completion. Make a plan, work the plan. If it fails, learn. If it succeeds … well, you get to be the judge of that. Congratulations.

Many people ask me, where do I start?

I’ve published a book. Now what?

Well, hello author friend, nice to meet you. First, I’d ask if you have a website where I could learn more about you and what you do, and write, and what you feel is important to be on your website. Do you need a website? It sure makes things easier, and you’ll have to get one eventually if you’re a career writer, so you might as well. It’s not that hard. This WordPress site led me through everything like a child, and it was free and looks nice. I pay $12 a year to use my name as my website address. Go ahead and do it.

You’d also give me your Amazon sales page link to check out your new book. As a reader/editor, I would look first at your cover, then read your description, then scroll down and check where you rank, and scroll further to check out your reviews. And you want ten of those as fast as you can get them. People don’t want to read a book without reviews.

The author says it’s great–of course they do–but what does everybody else think?

And, as an author the more lucrative ads require a minimum amount of reviews. The ads I’ve gone over in the blog and checked out are Bookbub and Amazon Ads. I can do an update on Bookbub ads soon, if you’d like. I just gave my Amazon update last week or the week before. I didn’t get much response from my earlier Instagram ads, but that could have been my earlier cover as well.

If you don’t have a KICKIN’ cover, and you aren’t getting many sales, paying for ads is a waste of your money. You can drive the traffic right to your thumbnail or post ads online in social media, but if the cover doesn’t capture them, they will keep scrolling. If you aren’t getting enough exposure, and your cover “could be better,” you need a better cover.

A lot of writers automatically gravitate toward others and join the writer’s groups on social media, and I think that’s a great idea. Just don’t join so many that all you do is talk about writing when you should be writing. Join the groups and ask others what works for them. But don’t be surprised if people keep their cards tight to their chest. Authors rarely share in public forums what worked for them, unless they are doing REALLY well on their own already, because then they lose the edge. And also everyone else floods the market service and sometimes the whole thing collapses. BUT authors are usually happy to tell you what DIDN’T work, and give you their horror story. This is the info you need anyway.

Take notes. There are two versions to every story, but if you see patterns popping up, like zero authors had any luck with this certain promo, you know not to waste your time and money on it. So ask people what wouldn’t you do to market? Where wouldn’t you go? What was your experience with this type of approach? #Marketinghorrorstory Lol.

The only thing wrong with belonging to just a bunch of writer groups, is that you get to know people and you start pitching your book there alone. Writers on Twitter are always supporting one another and saying, Hey! Post your book here! And you post your book link, along with everyone else. I’ve never noticed it making any difference. Some writers do read a lot of indie books to support the community, and exposure is never bad, but who you want to be putting your book in front of–are readers.

So, while you’re an early author and joining all those groups, join half of the writers and half of the readers groups. If you can find ones for your genre or niche, even better. Not all groups allow self-promo, so be aware. But that is usually made abundantly clear when joining the group. Try to find places that allow you to promote. Then post often, but only promote your book about 20% of the time. The other 80% of the time, talk about yourself, get to know people, talk about your writing process, post whatever you’d like, cute cat pictures with books, or go answer everyone else’s posts, like and share.

Books are going to be sold online through relationships at first–even afterward, books’ popularity comes from people sharing their discovery of a fabulous book with those whom they have a relationship. Books that come from a friend or a personal recommendation of someone close to you, are much more likely to be purchased and read. I add that last part because if you are part of Kindle Unlimited (KU), like me, a million people can “purchase” your book, but you don’t get paid until they read the book–then you get paid for page reads, so if they only read the first page, that’s all you get.

If you’re confused about KU, readers join and pay a monthly fee to Amazon to be part of a group who can read any of the books that are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited for “free.” Then, the author who is enrolled in KU gets paid for the pages read. At the end of the month, Amazon gathers up all the money it has made from page reads all month and distributes it out among the authors, with your percentage depending on how many page reads you had.

So you’re on social media, but you need those reviews and some sales, to garner more reviews. LISTEN closely: If anyone is listed on social media as your family or friends, especially on Facebook, and they leave you a book review, Amazon WILL take it down. If you review for another author and they review for you, BOTH reviews will be taken down. So what you need are reviewers who don’t know you. You have a multitude of options here.

What I did first was to Google something like: young adult book reviewers. I got lists of book bloggers and emailed everyone on every list of my genre. *Out of every twenty people you ask for reviews about twelve to fifteen will answer, ten will promise to leave you a review, and you will get one review out of the bunch. Then, when you remind the other nine, you might eke out one more.* It’s a numbers game. But that does NOT mean to ask people who do not read your genre, or age group. That will get you bad reviews. Here’s an example: My book’s subtitle is literally YA fantasy romance, yet one woman gave me a three-star review because she said she felt it would be better for younger people than adults. Really? How did she not know? It has always been listed in all the sites I joined as a YA novel. But you never know.

The other thing I did for reviews, killed two birds with one stone. The first review bird was–you need a newsletter. No, no, I hear you groaning from here. Direct sales are the number one way to sell. I know. I’m terrible with my newsletter. I need to send one out this month. It’s been a month or two. Yikes. Anyway, I joined some sites like BookSweeps, where authors sign up to be in one of their contests by genre. You’ve got to look for a contest you fit into. When you join for about $35 or so, they list your book with somewhere around 150 other books in your genre, paired with an electronic book reader as a prize for two lucky readers. The site provides the authors with classy-looking promo materials so it’s easy to share on your social media.

It’s free for the reader to join and participate. The readers click on the books whose newsletter they’d like to be on. When the contest is over, BookSweeps sends you the emails of the two winners, so you can send or email your book to them, and they send you a file with the emails of all the people who chose to on your list, so you can contact them. Yes, they know you will be contacting them. Each time I joined a contest, I got around 450 subscribers. That was a lot for me.

I was terrified. What do you say to 450 strangers? I bit the bullet and tried talking to them. I sent out a survey that asked who the writers were and who were readers, and it came out to be pretty much 50/50. So I tried to give a little fresh content for the writers and a little for the readers. One time, I was looking through my Mailchimp reports and trying to see where my audience came from and other interesting-to-me facts, when I discovered the subscribers rate your website.

After a short while the 1-stars disappear and unsubscribe. But sometimes they don’t. And that made me paranoid. Are they just getting my newsletter to laugh at me? Are they sharing it and saying, look at this stupid woman? So anyone who left a 1-star rating and hadn’t left, I unsubscribed. They could always change their mind and resubscribe… But it was still hard. There were some 2-stars, too. There were plenty 3-, 4-, and 5-star reviews, but all I could think about were those pesky 2s. So after having them for a year or two, I culled. Anyone under a 3-star review got unsubscribed. The pressure lifted off me. Now I had a shorter list, but a list of people who I knew liked my content. It became less scary. Now, if I just had more time…

Sites like Prolific Works, Book Funnel, Booksprout, and Net Galley do something similar, but for free. You apply to join a contest, or make one up on your own that other people can join, and you can choose to use a sales page where the reader is directed to buy the book, or a teaser, where the reader is allowed to read either 3 or 5 chapters (I can’t remember), with the option and link to purchase if they want to read more. Some of these sites offer sales, and some offer newsletter subscribers, and some do both and other things.

The point of this newsletter and the other reviewing bird I killed with the stone is this–remember what I said about newsletters before? Direct Sales are the best way to sell books. So, you’ve joined Booksweeps, Book Sends, Book Funnel, whatever, and you’ve got your list of emails. Now you can send out a letter that tells who you are, some things about you, what you like, and ask them questions. (You can do surveys, too) But introduce your books.

Tell them what you don’t get to tell the random people who click on your sales page. Tell them behind the scenes info, offer them a deal for being one of your subscribers. Ask for the reviews–actually, the last page in your book should be a reminder to review the book, with a link to your sales page, where they can leave their review.

You might offer them half price on a paperback or have that as a contest prize. If you buy an “author copy” from Amazon, you can have it sent directly to the reader’s address–no shipping for you, no mess. However, you won’t profit from that. Author copies do not count as sales, but if you have a series and they like your book, you may get the added benefit of more sales as they continue to read.

My advice is, join every free site you want that’s legit. Meaning you’ve really checked them out, maybe gotten a few opinions on if it works or if it’s a waste of your time.

The idea is to work smart, not hard.

Find the things that do work. There are people who’ve made it and they are talking.

Learn, learn, learn all you can, from writing craft, to self-editing, to marketing. The more you know, the easier it gets, and the less scary it becomes.

Exposure is always good for business. Even bad exposure puts you in front of a lot of people who will want to know if it’s true or to see if it isn’t.

It’s a numbers game, but leave family and friends alone, as tempting as it is when you need ONE more review, or two more sales to hit #10.

Here’s why: If several people who read genres different than yours buy and/or review your book, it confuses the algorithm and Amazon doesn’t know if it should place your book in front of Uncle Carl’s Mystery/Thriller readers, your best friend’s Western fans, or Grandma Betty’s Cookbook crowd–and you’re listed as a fantasy! When you confuse the algorithm, it just leaves you on your own–darops you, leaves you alone.

Aside from the fact that our family’s and friends’ normal genres can mess with our book placement, their reviews will all be deleted. So if they aren’t already readers of your genre, leave the fam alone at Christmas time. Buy a gift copy and Amazon will give you a non-expiring code for a free copy of your ebook. The great thing is, it counts as a sale. And if the reader does leave a review, it would be considered a verified review. I always thought of books as in paperbacks. That’s what I had and what I wanted, and THAT meant book to me. But surprisingly, 90% of my sales are ebooks.

Don’t devalue your ebooks, they are just as valuable as a paperback. Maybe buy Grandma Betty an ereader for the holidays with your book already installed and maybe a few cookbooks? Or put gift codes in Christmas cards? Just some ideas.

Every idea counts, but weigh heavily how much time it will take, how much the cost and effort will be. These are important. You have a job, a family, and don’t forget, one of the best things you can do to promote your book is to write another one. So you need the time to do all that and be on social media, and make ads, check their progress, check your email, write a new book, and still be able to communicate like a sane person.

If it’s free, the time and effort are low, and there’s chances of sales or newsletter subscribers, go for it, but keep track of all the sites you’re using. There’s nothing worse than changing a cover and/or title, like I just did, and not remembering all the sites you have your book listed on, to go make the changes. Actually, I have a list, but I haven’t had time to go change most of them. I’m supposed to be on vacation today for the month of December and January to finish my book, but I still have a good week’s worth of work to do before I can take off. Having so much to do and not enough hours in the day, wears on a person.

You’ve got to keep it manageable for yourself.

Know thyself. If you are only able to social media crawl right now, I say, Fine. Go ahead, but challenge yourself to put together a website. You don’t have to “publish” it until you’re ready, so you can take all the time you need to create it.

If you’ve got that down, shoot for reviews.

If you’re pleased where your reviews are and you are doing fairly well, consider trying a few ads. If you bid low and target well, as long as your cover is pleasing to the readers of your genre, it should help boost those sales.

If you’re getting a lot of impressions (meaning views) and not many clicks, that means they are seeing your ad, but the cover isn’t inciting them to click.

If you have impressions, and clicks, but no sales, that means they like your cover enough to click on the ad, but something in your description isn’t convincing them to buy it. So look at converting your description.

But don’t tweak these things hourly, you want to tweak them weekly. Yes, weekly. You will run low cost ads for a few weeks at least. But all those impressions are extra exposure.

If you are an indie author, I highly suggest you read this linked post. The post tells exactly how I got from ranking in the seven millions with a small publisher, to ranking where I am today:

It’s not the greatest in the world–and it fluctuates up and down the first three pages (there are fifty on a page). There are better scores than mine, and there are worse. It’s all subjective and a uniquely personal journey.

It’s like walking up a “down” escalator. You’ve got to keep going, slowly getting exposure, moving ahead, or you slide down the ranks. Now, I used to wonder when I saw a fiction book like mine above and it was listed as a non-fiction, and I thought, “That’s not right, they’re cheating!” Well, this is how it works. If you want to be included in certain categories, you may enter them as a fiction book, but they don’t have a fiction section for that category at all, so you are automatically put in that category as non-fiction.

Also, some woman said to me this week, “We really need to get you in some better categories. The ones you’re in are subplots.” Not all authors realize that you can be in up to ten categories. I said, “Oh, I am. I just rank the highest in these three.” Just because a book is a fantasy, and you don’t see fantasy in their category list, doesn’t mean they’re not in that category, they just rank the highest in the ones shown.

I know it’s a lot of information, though to me, I feel like I’ve said these things over and over in my blog. But there are still people who need to hear them. Keep your eyes on the prize. What’s your prize?

Is it the knowledge that you’ve birthed a piece of art, left your verse upon time and space? Is it steady-enough sales to buy a boat, or rent a cabin for the summer with your family? Is it fame, and a #1 spot in the NY Times? Make your own #authorgoals. Only you know what you want to contribute to the world, and what outcome will float your boat. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.

Grab a partner, there are groups I know of on Facebook for beta readers and critique partners, find someone to rise up through the ranks with. If you don’t, it can be a lonely road sometimes.

People that are farther along than you attract you and you want to be friends, meanwhile, it seems like you’re always teaching your other friends. You want to move up into higher skill-set circles, but those people already have a circle of friends that have been with them since the beginning, and they close ranks, they don’t need any more friends and they have no desire to be a teacher. Can’t blame them. Sometimes you really just want a friend, but even if they acquiesce, when they are doing really well, you aren’t going to be able to resist picking their brain and asking what they did to get there.

I’ll tell you what they did. They had a great, and I mean great book. With a unique concept, told in a unique way, with just the right flow and pace–the craft has been edited to near perfection, they have a professional-looking cover that is appealing to their readers’ age group and genre, and the description on their sales page has been done by someone who writes copy for a living.

Whether they did all this themselves, and published on their own, or they went through a publisher who created it for them, that’s the ultimate package. Don’t skimp on any of the above-mentioned areas if you are shooting for an eventual bestseller. Ask yourself, is my book a good book, or a great book? Is it edited well? Been read by others? How’s my cover? Does it look like like it would fit in with the books on the first page of results for my genre? Is is professional looking? You can ask on these sites. Ask about your description, too. If all else fails, go to Fiverr.com and hire someone to write your description for about $25. Don’t pay less, or you’ll be sorry.

I did an experiment where I gave a short synopsis to a few differently-priced book description writers. Only the ones I paid $20-25 for did well. The others just gave me back a jumbled, reworded copy of the description I gave them. If you are tracking your sales, you will notice when/if your new description changes your conversion rate.

Be careful hiring freelancers. It’s funny that I’m always warning that because I decided that this year, to keep my sanity, I’m going to scale back on the publishing house manuscripts, giving myself more time to write, and I want to do part-time freelance work editing manuscripts. I can do fiction and non-fiction, but the more technical it gets, the more the writing style changes, and it becomes informative, rather than story-telling. Which is what I do here, I guess. Lol.

I do copy-, line-, and substantive-editing. If I see it needs work, I catch it. But I don’t just check for spelling and grammar, and punctuation, I check for pace, flow and continuity, plausibility, and consistency. I look at everything from the plot structure, to character descriptions, scenes and world-building. I give tips and hints. I don’t just want to tell you what’s wrong, I want to teach you why and how to fix it, and once you are aware of it, you learn not to do that anymore, and your next novel is always incrementally better than the last. THAT’S what I want for my authors.

My calendar will be empty for awhile, but then it will fill up fast, so if you need an editor, or if a friend has just finished NaNoWriMo, or you know someone in a chat room who needs an editor for their manuscript, please give them my name and email: consulting.haskin@gmail.com –I charge $7.50 per page–double spaced. I have editing references from some of my clients here.

That’s all for today folks, see you next week, but remember:

YOU are entirely up to you.

~jenn

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