Tag Archives: marketing

5 Ways to Grow Your Email List and Sell More Books

5 Ways to Grow Your Email ListYou don’t have an email list?! Click here to start one with MailChimp, for free. (Disclaimer: I do get a commission if you sign up through that link. If you’re not comfortable with that, you can sign up for free through MailChimp.com.)

Your newsletter is one of your two most important tools when it comes to growing your platform and selling your books. (What’s the other tool? Your website. More on that in a future post.) I thought I knew all there was to know about email marketing, until recently. After implementing the following things into my strategy, I saw an increase in subscribers—and sales!

Send a Newsletter Weekly

I know this might be hard. You might not always have something to say. If you can’t do it weekly, create another schedule for yourself. I highly recommend emailing your list at least once a month, to keep yourself in your readers’ minds. There are a lot of authors out there and even more books, so it’s important to establish an ongoing relationship with your readers.

Once you’ve set your date, stick to it. I send out an email every Friday, and no more often than that. Even if I release a new book on a Tuesday, I wait until Friday to tell my list about it. This way, your readers don’t get too sick of hearing from you. See, it’s a delicate balance.

Give People a Reason to Sign Up

People don’t want to give out their email address—unless they’re getting something in return. Offering coupons may not cut it. The guys of the Self-Publishing Podcast let new subscribers pick an ebook $4.99 and under, and send it to them for free.

Send Your Subscribers Exclusive Content

Sometimes, coupons and free ebooks still don’t work. Readers want to feel special, especially if they’re giving you their email address. No one likes cleaning out their inbox. Give your subscribers a reason to look forward to your emails with content that only subscribers can have!

For ten weeks, I sent episodes of Baby Brooklyn with my weekly newsletter. At the end of the ten weeks, I included an ebook version for those who may have missed an episode or wanted to read the whole story from start to finish. I’ll also send new subscribers a free copy.

Put a Signup Form On Your Website

This might seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many of us forget to add a signup form on our websites! Make sure it’s in a prominent place, like at the top of every page and on your home page. Hone your copy and make signing up seem irresistible.

Give Me Your Email Address, and Get a Free Ebook

[ enter your email here ]

Link to Your Signup Page

Every time you post something on Facebook, tweet about your latest work in progress, or blog an excerpt, you should include a link for people to sign up. Blatantly invite them to join; the more direct you are, the better. “Click here to sign up” works much better than “if you’d like, join my email list.” The more you refer to your signup page, the better.

Bonus Tip: Create a Signup Page on Your Website

Most email list providers give you a page where you can collect email addresses. These URLs are clunky, hard to remember, and the information on them might change. I embedded the HTML form that MailChimp generated in a page on my website and gave it the easy to remember URL of elizabethbarone.net/newsletter. Then, every time I need to change the promotion, I can just do it right on my website. Plus, I never have to go crazy trying to remember my signup URL, which makes it easy for me to refer to it every time I post to Facebook. ;)

Do you have an email list? Which methods do you use to grow it? Leave a comment and share!

Using Wattpad to Promote a Series

Using Wattpad to Promote Your BooksMaybe you’ve heard about Wattpad. It’s basically a site where people can post stories for free (for both the reader and the writer). According to their website, they have over 20 million users—70% of which are comfortable with reading works on the Wattpad app.

I’ve been using Wattpad since April 2013. For about a month, I updated pretty regularly. I gained some traction there, then kept forgetting to post. In the months that I wasn’t posting weekly, only a few new readers trickled in. I’ve recently returned to a schedule, and I’ve noticed another spike in followers, reads, and votes.

As of this writing, I have four works on Wattpad:

  • an excerpt of Crazy Comes in Threes, a full-length novel available across all major ebook retailers, and also the first book in a series;
  • a full-length novella I’ve removed from my publishing catalog, but left on Wattpad because people like it;
  • a serialized version of Ampified, the first novelette in a series;
  • a serialized version of Positive, the first novelette in another series.

Because I goofed and stopped updating for a while, I don’t have any solid numbers. All of the advice I’m about to give you is a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” :P

Why should you post your work on Wattpad for free?

Walk through any mall food court in America and you’ll hear things like “Try a sample!” and “Always fresh!” ring out. People wearing aprons and carrying steaming trays of food and boxes of toothpicks wander the front walkway, trying to draw customers in to restaurants. If you like the teriyaki chicken at Sakura, you’ll probably buy a plate of their stir fry. This is how “unknown” restaurants build their customer base, and it works for pretty much everything else—including books.

The concept of giving something away to drum up sales has worked in the indie publishing industry since the very beginning. It’s technically called a loss leader, but it’s really just a strategy. You can use Wattpad as a tool to fulfill that strategy, just like you might use pricing to make the first book in a series free.

Posting your story on Wattpad will help you build a readership, who will promote your work by word of mouth, even if they can’t buy the rest of your books. I recently listened to a podcast that speculated that most of Wattpad’s readers are teens. Lindsay Buroker said that this is actually a good thing rather than bad; when those readers are out of high school and can afford books, they will be familiar with you and your work. I thought that was a really great way to look at it. (That entire episode was great; you can listen to it here. Lindsay always has good information about self-publishing. If you haven’t checked out her blog, you should.)

Using Wattpad to publish a series can also help test its strength. I’ve been in this game since October 2011, and still made a huge mistake when it came to branding my On the Edge series. Looking at the data on Wattpad helped me make this decision; if people didn’t even want to read a series for free, something was definitely wrong. I was able to determine that the issue was the title, and after re-releasing the series, I’m already seeing an increase in sales.

I’ve heard of other authors who serialize something exclusively on Wattpad, then publish it as an ebook later on. I’d like to try this eventually, too.

Those are the reasons why you should use Wattpad. Now, let’s talk about how.

Update often. People are more likely to stick with something if they know when more is coming. Post one chapter at a time, adding a new one on a specific day of the week. This should be the same day, and you should try to stick to it the way you would a release date for any other book.

Add an authors’ note. Your note should be short and sweet. You can say something like

Thank you for reading! I hope you are enjoying this book. Amplified is the first novelette in the ESX series. Buy your copy or check out the rest of the series at http://elizabethbarone.net/esx/ (copy and paste the link into your browser). You can also get a free ebook by signing up for my newsletter at http://elizabethbarone.net/newsletter/

Try not to offer more than three links for readers to visit. Since Wattpad doesn’t allow clickable links, most readers will have to copy and paste. If they’re reading on a phone, they might not even be able to do that. Your links should be short and easy to memorize.

Your note can also include when you are next going to update.

Share your works across your social media. If you’re just getting started on Wattpad, you might not have many followers. By sharing your works with your existing platform, you’ll get the reads and votes you need to boost your book up in the Wattpad charts.

Add a link to the ebook version. Wattpad does allow you to include an “external link,” under the advanced settings when you are editing a part. Even though it’s in really small print on your book’s page, readers will still find it. It also helps search engines index your book. I like to link to the Kindle edition, since Kindle is still the most popular e-reader, but you could link to the book’s page on your website or another retailer.

It’s also really important to upload a great looking cover design. Even if you’re just testing a series that you haven’t published as an ebook yet, you should still use a professional cover. Because Wattpad is a free site, there’s a lot of fan fiction and other works. I’ve noticed that even these “amateur” books are boasting kick-ass covers. You certainly don’t want your book to be overlooked!

Wattpad can be a great tool to help get your books out there and help build your platform. Why not give it a shot?

Are you using Wattpad? What have you been doing to promote your books?

Review | Write. Publish. Repeat., by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant

I can’t remember how I found the Self-Publishing Podcast, but I got hooked after one episode. Every week, I shove my ear buds in, fire up the Podcasts app on my iPhone, and laugh my ass off for an hour. As much as I love these guys’ banter, though, I also learn a lot. I’ve been hoping for a book on indie publishing from these guys for quite some time, so when they announced Write. Publish. Repeat., I was thrilled.

I ordered print copies for myself and another indie author, and started reading mine the second it arrived. The advice within is cut and dry. They’ve tested everything they lay out, gambled everything they had, and came out on the other side successful—but also willing to improve and learn more.

The lessons in Write. Publish. Repeat. aren’t Earth shattering. They’re actually the same principles that businesses have been built on for decades, just translated for those of us with creative brains. Before reading WPR, I sort of stumbled around. In my past life, I was a freelance web designer and digital marketing monkey. I tried using the same principles on my fiction, but was missing several important pieces of the puzzle. I couldn’t connect the entrepreneurial side of my brain with the artistic side. While I don’t want to spoil all of the information given in WPR, I strongly believe that learning about sales funnels and how to organize my catalogue into them was a game changer for me and my fiction career.

This book taught me how to get my ass into gear, gave me some traditional entrepreneurial tools, and made me laugh, to boot. Reading Write. Publish. Repeat. is like hanging out with fellow industry professionals at a round table, slugging back cups of coffee and the occasional joke. I highly recommend Write. Publish. Repeat. for anyone who calls themselves an indie author. Even if you think you know everything about self-publishing, chances are you can learn something important from this book.

Buy Your Copy Now
Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | More

7 Things I’ve Learned About Marketing Books

After publishing my first ebook in October 2011—a short story that once upon a time won a contest—I used the same digital marketing techniques I used to use for my clients when I consulted for small businesses and nonprofits. (Yep—in my former life, I was a web designer and digital marketing person.) When I put together plans for my clients, I always used the same formula, and I always got the same great results. I soon realized that with ebooks and physical books, it’s a totally different game. There is no formula, and as soon as you find something that works, it’s bound to stop working. You have to be agile: adaptable and willing to try new things.

I’ve learned some things along the way, though, and …

Your Strongest Tool is Your Email Newsletter

Everyone says this, to the point where you almost get tired of hearing it, but it’s true. I use my newsletter to send exclusive updates to my core “tribe”—my biggest supporters. These are the people who have been rooting me on since before I even knew I wanted to be a novelist for a living.

I’ve found that the best way to build up my email list is to promise exclusive updates and content… and then deliver. The worst thing you can do is send everyone on your newsletter a free copy of your latest ebook and then turn around and also give it away to all of your Facebook fans. Think of your newsletter as a VIP fan club. These people have given you a valuable piece of information, something people don’t like to give away for fear of being spammed or having their inbox clogged up with useless crap. Remember this every time you sit down to write them an email, and treat them with respect.

Tweet to People, Not at Them

This goes for Facebook, Google+, and every other social media outlet. Scheduling a bunch of posts in advance encouraging people to buy may get you a few sales at first, but eventually they’ll annoy people, and soon after they will become white noise. Save your promotional tweets for special deals and announcements that will catch your followers’ eyes.

A Cover Design is Worth a Thousand Words

Your book’s cover is one of the first things potential readers will notice when they arrive on your retail landing page (i.e., the Amazon/BN/Kobo/etc page for your book). Think of it as the sign that will draw customers into your restaurant; it must look professional, be legible from the road, and paint a picture of what people can expect once they come in.

I am a big advocate of designing your own cover if you have the skill and time, but I’ve also come to realize that if you can afford to hire someone to do it for you, you will receive better results and will have more time to write. I used to think graphic designers would be too far out of my budget. If you’re looking for a talented designer who is used to working with authors, check out Wicked Cover Designs. They offer an ebook and POD cover design package for $75. I highly recommend Char.

Learn How to Use SEO

Many authors are intimidated by the words “search engine optimization.” It reeks of a skill that is highly specialized and too time-consuming to learn. While there is definitely a lot to it, and you can definitely get super in-depth if you choose to, basic SEO for authors is simply taking the time to add categories and tags to your books’ landing pages. Most retailers let you choose categories or genres for your book, and some also allow you to add additional tags. Judy Croome wrote an excellent post on tagging for beginners.

These concepts should also apply to your books’ pages on your website. You should be including those same key phrases in the copy of those pages.

Make Your Work Available Everywhere

Many people advise to stay exclusive—such as with Amazon’s KDP Select program—but I’ve found that I’ve done better since branching out. As a reader, I find it frustrating when the book I want is only available at one retailer. If, for example, your reader loves iTunes and doesn’t want to sign up for a whole new account just to buy your book on Barnes and Noble, you’re missing out on that sale. By making your book available across BN, Amazon, iTunes, and more retailers, you’re making yourself more accessible to potential readers, and making it easier for people to get their hands on your book.

This can be time-consuming on your part, but if you have a solid native file and organize your work flow properly—I use iWork Pages to write and edit, then create a .doc for Smashwords and an .epub for everywhere else—you’ll be able to streamline this process. There are a lot of guides on formatting ebooks. I use Smashwords’ style guide as a starting point, then test in iBooks and family members’ e-readers.

Get Down with Goodreads

Maybe it’s because I was an avid user of Goodreads before I started selling ebooks, but I’ve gotten a lot out of minimal use of the site as an author. I’ve found that as long as you set up pages for your books and link to them on your website’s landing pages, people tend to rate and review almost automatically. (It doesn’t hurt to ask nicely, though.) Check out my landing page for Sade on the Wall and how I linked to the book’s Goodreads page.

Goodreads also offers widgets that automatically allow people to add your book to their shelves.

They also allow you to add your book’s ISBN, ASIN, and other information. They even automatically link to the different retailers it’s available at (and you can also tweak the settings as necessary). My favorite option, though, is the discussion boards at the bottom of every book’s page. You can start topics to talk about the book, update readers with information, and more. It’s like a special forum just for your book.

Goodreads also allows you to run giveaways for print copies of your book. If you have the budget, you can also advertise your book on the GR website.

Branch Out of the Digital Box

I think most authors are reclusive by nature. Digital marketing makes it easy for us to hide and avoid social situations. While I love the internet and am grateful for the opportunity it has given me in seizing my own career, I strongly believe that authors—especially indie authors—should create a presence in their community. It’s proven that people connect better with people they feel like they know. Social media lets us interact from across the world, but nothing beats a face to face meeting. Plus, let’s face it: it’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. By being agile and having more than one honeypot, you’re guaranteeing a long term career.

Most independent book stores will be more than happy to offer you a space to sign your books, and most small businesses would have no problem with you leaving a small stack of business cards on their counter (just make sure you ask first). If you don’t have any indie book stores in your area, some big box stores feature local authors. It doesn’t hurt to ask! Another great place to connect with readers is your library.

What marketing lessons have you learned? Did you learn anything the hard way?