I’ve been working with several authors who are struggling with selling their fiction. A couple are struggling with Amazon as well. So I thought that a quick post about common pitfalls might be useful.
Selling fiction: sell what readers want
Hundreds of thousands of books pour onto Amazon and the other online book retailers every month. We said in this post that visibility sells, but in that post our focus was on marketing to make your books visible.
We didn’t mention: give readers what they want and expect. Yes, within the contents of your novel, although I’m not a huge fan of “writing to market,” but most essentially, via your cover and blurb.
Your cover and blurb must match what you’re selling. Please don’t mislabel, because not only will you confuse readers, you’ll confuse Amazon’s helpful algorithms too.
So that’s our first pitfall…
1. If it’s not tomato soup, don’t put a tomato on the label
One student published a science fiction space-opera-type novel a few months back. Last week, she was shocked to find that Amazon had dumped the novel into its erotica genre. I’ve heard of this happening to other authors, so I knew what the problem might be…
And of course, it was. She had a half-naked hunk on the cover; extremely steamy. Her blurb was mostly OK, but then at the end of the blurb, she mentioned “steamy sex.” Why, oh why?
By her own admission, she had a single hot scene in the book. Just one. So why did she have to mention that in the blurb?
Duh. For sales, naturally. She hadn’t considered that Amazon’s algorithm might assess her cover and her blurb and briskly dump the novel into the genre which Amazon deems appropriate.
In that category, she’ll annoy readers, who want the focus of a novel labelled erotica to be erotica. So, she needs to change the cover, and remove the part of the description which focused on “steamy sex”; it wasn’t what she was selling.
Suggestion: your cover and blurb must match what you’re selling
Our student was selling a space opera. Why the six-pack naked male on the cover? She said that she liked the cover. I like it too, but the cover didn’t match her book. Always make it plain WHAT you’re selling.
2. Watch your blurb: it’s a tease, not a summary
Speaking of blurbs, we come to our second pitfall.
Please DO NOT summarize your book in your blurb. It’s not a summary. Your blurb is a tease. I gave you some hints about writing your blurb in this blog post.
In essence, when you’re writing a fiction blurb your aim is to evoke emotions.
Suggestion: arouse readers’ emotions in your blurb
I always suggest that you write your blurb before you write your novel — or at the very least, while you’re writing it.
This performs a double function. By the time you’ve edited your novel, your blurb is done. Also, while you’re writing, you’re careful to give readers an emotional experience, because your novel needs to match your blurb.
3. Avoid the 99 cent price point
Forget pricing your first few novels at 99 cents, please. Over the past 12 months, the 99 cent price has come to mean “junk”.
You can still use the 99 cent price, but only for a limited time, and only to get a sell-through when you have additional books in the series.
Facebook’s fiddling with its algorithm too, so you can’t afford to promote novels with low prices; you’ll spend more than you’re earning. I’ve long considered 99 cents a disastrous price point.
When I ask students why they price so low, they tell me that other authors are pricing at 99 cents. That’s NOT a reason for you to do the same.
Pick a price and stick with it; enroll your novels in KDP Select, or not… Unless your novel is selling thousands of copies every month, and you want to crack the top 100 in a genre, there’s no reason to keep tinkering with your pricing.
Selling fiction needn’t be complicated; your sales — and visibility — start with your labelling. 🙂
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