The book writing business can be challenging considering the effort required to produce a good product, significant upfront investment, and a highly-competitive market. And with the invasion of so many self-published authors over the past few years, it’s getting harder and harder to get noticed. In this article, I share my goals as an author and the strategy I used to achieve them.
I have been writing novels for seven years and have published five books, the first one released in 2012. My promotion goals, which are tied to my financial goals, have changed over time due to a heightened knowledge of the industry, the number of books under my belt, discovery of new promotional tools, and an ever-changing publishing industry.
The financial goal I set for my first book was to break even—not a very lofty goal, but a reasonable one for a first-time author—and I wanted to do it within six months. Having invested $3,200 in its production (editing, formatting, cover design, press release, etc.), that meant selling either 840 paperback copies, 2,100 Kindle copies, or some combination of the two to break even. Determined not to fall into that large group of new authors who sell less than 100 books total, but afraid to invest any more money into it with paid advertising, I posted my debut book on every free book posting site I could find, pitched it to book clubs, asked my friends and family to spread the word, appeared on a local TV show, and accepted many on-line interview opportunities and a couple of speaking engagements. It all paid off—I managed to break even a little sooner than expected.
A year later, with some experience in the industry to my advantage, I set a financial goal for my second book to break even within thirty days. By then, I had learned of better ways to launch a book, established a small fan base from my first book, and realized the power of social media. I also discovered the benefits of free book promotions and put my first book (a prequel to the second book) on a free promotion simultaneously with the new book launch. I didn’t break even in thirty days—it was closer to sixty—but I was still pleased with the results of 556 Kindles sold of the new book in the first thirty days and 398 of the previous book. Paperback sales were nominal…and still are.
By the time I released my third book in 2014, I realized that if I wanted to make a profit doing this, I had to pay for advertising. That year, I spent time finding and vetting paid book promotion sites. To determine which ones to use, I considered the following:
- Where they promoted books (social media, their website, or e-mail blast)
- The size of their audience
- The aesthetics of how they presented books on promotion
- How many books I would be competing against
- Their Alexa rating
I have never lost money with a paid promotion, but I know many authors who have. Something that may attribute to my success is that in addition to the paid promotion, I post it on social media and as many free sites as I can find. In other words, I don’t rely solely on the paid promotion site(s).
It was when I released book number four in 2015 that I discovered www.BookBub. It was difficult letting loose of $220 for the promotion, but it paid off—big time. I released it in February and then offered it for free in April. This was the year in which Amazon changed the way it paid out Kindle royalties from number of books sold to number of pages read (KENP). During the thirty days following the free promotion, I had earned royalties on 1,672,786 pages read for this book. With a royalty of roughly $0.005 per page read, BookBub was my new best friend.
I’ve run four additional BookBub promotions since the first one, all with great ROIs. This brings me to my 2017 promotion goals. Up until July 2016, BookBub accepted every one of my promotions. Since then, they have declined every one. It appears that my new best friend isn’t so ‘best’ anymore. For those of you unfamiliar with BookBub, part of their business model is to limit the number of promotions they accept from authors—about 20% according to their recent correspondence. Either I was very lucky in 2015 and half of 2016 to have had all my promotions accepted, or something changed in their selection process (details of which they don’t share). One thing I have noticed is that BookBub now promotes as many traditionally-published books as they do self-published ones—a drastic increase from when they started up in 2011—and that makes getting a spot for us indie authors much more competitive.
Since I cannot count on the same level of revenue without BookBub, this year I’ve had to beef up my promotion goals. Instead of running four free promotions, I plan to run six. Sites that promote for a fee that I like are Book Sends, E-Reader News Today , Free Booksy , Digital Book Today , Book Goodies , Books Butterfly , Ebooks Habit , FKTB , Just Kindle Books , and The Fussy Librarian . New ones spring up all the time. Here’s a link to a helpful list of current book promotion sites Paid Author .
As always, my author platform continues to include:
- Maintaining a dual-purpose website that promotes my books while offering advice to new authors Novel Elements .
- Building on my fan base.
- Utilizing social media.
- Writing articles and guest posts on blogs.
- Participating in on-line interviews.
- Accepting speaking engagements.
- Making the most of my Amazon page.
- Asking readers for Amazon and Goodreads reviews.
- Re-posting exceptional Amazon and Goodreads reviews.
- Networking with other authors.
- Carrying business cards with me wherever I go.
- Writing more books!
It takes more than writing a stellar book to succeed in this business—people need to be aware of its existence in order to buy it. Establishing reasonable goals that are tailored to your needs and an industry-sensitive book promotion strategy are key to success.
By Florence Osmund
Multi-B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree