We’re currently running more posts on self-publishing than any other topic because it’s a hugely popular area with freelancers. Despite the sales slump many authors saw late last year, interest in self-publishing continues to develop.
We’ve passed the midpoint of the year, so with that in mind, let’s look at some tips to help you to improve your self-publishing sales for the remainder of 2017.
Any improvement starts with seeing where you are right now.
Conduct your self-publishing mid-year review
Let’s assume that you’ve got a few titles you’ve self-published. If you’re new to this business, focus on writing and publishing for the rest of the year. Once you’ve got a self-publishing catalogue with several books, you can assess what’s working for you, and what isn’t.
A reality check: more ebooks are hitting the Kindle Store than ever
Let’s start with a reality check. There are four million English ebooks for sale on the Kindle Store, with some 121,00 new titles published over the last 30 days. That’s a lot of ebooks.
Although there are still many opportunities, there are many challenges too. For one, there’s the sheer quantity of ebooks. And of course, there’s the challenge of scammers. The Amazon Kindle Store continues to be plagued by scammers taking top positions in the free listings.
We discussed the tyranny of “free”, so do take that advice, and look for ways other than “free” to market your books.
Change is constant in self-publishing, so I hope you find these tips useful to help you to increase your sales in the final months of 2017.
1. Diversify: experiment, it’s essential in a volatile marketplace
Yes, you need to establish yourself in a genre if you’re writing fiction. Similarly, you need to gain visibility in nonfiction subjects, which means writing more than a single book in an area.
Here’s a paradox for you. I encourage you to write what’s selling, but also to follow your own inspiration. This is difficult if you’re a part-time writer. Keep it in mind however.
You never know what genre/ topic will take off for you. While it might be like chasing a lottery win, it’s possible to write a bestseller, but just about impossible to predict the market.
So do experiment if you’re a full-time writer and have the time.
2. Write short ebooks to test new genres and categories
I’ve long suggested that you write short ebooks. (See our Diversify tip, above.)
In fiction, write short stories.
In nonfiction, write short ebooks — see our nonfiction checklist.
Write short material because:
- You can. Readers buy short ebooks. My own theory is that social media has affected the way readers read;
- You can publish faster. Amazon’s algorithms give you a boost when you publish a new ebook, and that boost boosts your other titles too;
- You can test genres and categories faster;
- Pricing. You can price a short ebook the same as a long one — pricing isn’t a matter of word count.
There are many benefits to writing short fiction — short stories are growing in popularity — so write a short story a month, if you can. This is one tip I wish I were better at following. Sadly for me, I get too involved, and before I know it a short story has grown into a novella, and into then a novel. (Sigh.)
3. Avoid “also bought” disasters brought on by helpful friends
SHUSH! Please stop asking your family, work colleagues and everyone you know to buy your books. It doesn’t help. Here’s why: Amazon’s Also Boughts.
The “also boughts” — that strip of books, titled: “Customers who bought this item also bought” — affects many of Amazon’s recommendations.
Here’s an example of how Also Boughts work. You’ve seen them in action in Amazon’s recommendations for you, I’m sure.
I recently bought a slew of hand lettering titles, both ebook and paperback, because I enjoy doodling fancy lettering. This means that Amazon keeps offering me more and more hand lettering titles, and it’s annoying. Hand lettering isn’t even my hobby, it’s just a bit of fun, and I don’t want more books on the subject.
So imagine what happens when your friends buy your new book. Your book is immediately affected by their purchase history and habits. It turns your title’s Also Boughts into a mishmash of genres and categories. It means that Amazon doesn’t know where your book fits into the Amazon ecosystem, so it can’t help you to sell your book.
For more on this, if you think that Also Boughts might be affecting your sales, read David Gaughran’s article, Please Don’t Buy My Book. And when you next publish, shush. 🙂
4. The self-help market is growing: write nonfiction
The self-help category seems to be growing again, so if you have anything to offer in this area, consider writing a self-help title or two. Or any other nonfiction title, for that matter. It helps with diversifying, which was our first tip.
5. Spend money to make money: dip your toes into advertising
With millions of books for readers to choose from, you need to give your titles a push — or indeed, a sharp kick.
Here’s the thing. Advertising takes more than money; it takes energy. You need to make sure that your blurb is appealing, and you need to write lots of advertising copy, and keep testing it.
I’ll be making more time for advertising for the rest of this year, even though I think of advertising as “work.” I started my copywriting journey way back in the 1980s, and I need to regain my joy in it. I know myself well enough to realize that if something isn’t fun for me, I avoid it.
Onward: self-publishing is your opportunity to reach millions of readers around the globe
Please don’t be intimidated by the sheer number of books being published. Remember that there are millions — indeed, billions — of readers who might discover your books.
Review your self-publishing results for 2017, then put these tips into action, so that you can increase your sales for this year.
2018 will be upon us before we know it.
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