Self-publishing can be a real challenge. What happens when you publish, and your sales are minimal? Alternatively, what do you do if your sales are great, and then drop off a cliff?
Relax. There are many ways you can increase your ebook sales, and most of them are simple enough.
Self-publishing has given new authors, as well as established authors, many opportunities. For the first time, the gatekeepers are gone, and if you can write, you can self publish your words successfully.
Self-Publishing boost: kick your publishing into HIGH gear
It’s important to think strategically. For example, as a strategy, publishing series and serials is a no-brainer. In Kindle Publishing: Top Ten Tips For Success In 2016, we said:
Think series, and serials, for profitability
You know I’m a fan of serials. Whenever you release a new episode, it gets you onto Amazon’s New Releases list.
With the number of ebooks flowing onto the ebook retailers, when you’re planning a new ebook, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, ask yourself: “How can I develop this into a series?”
The episodes of your serials can be SHORT. Think in terms of 5,000 words per episode. If you create TEN episodes of a serial, that’s a 50,000 word novel. You can make a serial as long, or as short, as you wish.
Let’s look at seven tips which will help you to kick your ebook sales into high gear.
1. Start by tracking EVERYTHING, it’s essential
Things to track: the ebooks you publish, and when and where you publish them; your writing processes; your daily word count; your marketing activities and how much you spend on advertising; and of course your sales.
Even minimal adjustments to the things you can control can make a huge difference to your ebook sales and self-publishing success. It’s essential that you track everything. You can’t improve if you don’t know what’s happening.
2. Redo your covers, if a book has been published for longer than a year
Here’s the thing. Covers are tricky. A great cover won’t sell a bad book. However a bad cover means that a great book never gets a chance to perform for you.
You can spend a lot of money on covers. If you’re making a great deal of money in your self-publishing venture, then of course spend money, and hire the very best designers that you can. The bigger your budget, the better the designer you can commission.
On the other hand, if your self-publishing budget is zero, you can get good covers very cheaply by buying premade covers from good designers.
Either way, if your book has been out for longer than a year, and it’s not selling, redo the cover. It can’t hurt, and it may make all the difference.
3. Redo your blurbs: intrigue and excite readers
I’ve lost count of the number of students who’ve asked me for help because their sales were poor. When I clicked through to their Amazon catalogue, I spotted the road block to sales — their blurbs.
Their blurbs (ebook descriptions) were short, and boring.
An ebook’s blurb is an advertisement for the ebook.
Your cover attracts readers. Then your blurb encourages readers to click the Look Inside link, and read the first few pages of your book. If your blurb doesn’t intrigue and excite readers, they won’t click Look Inside, and they won’t buy.
As I tell my students about blurbs, it’s all about the people and their challenges. If you’re writing a blurb for fiction, focus on your characters. You’re asking readers to spend a lot of time thinking about your characters and their problems. Give your main characters a thumbnail sketch in your blurb and make it abundantly clear what their challenges and goals might be.
If you’re writing a blurb for a nonfiction ebook, go into detail on what your reader gets out of reading your ebook. In a nutshell, he gets information, or he gets entertainment. Preferably both. WHY should a reader read your ebook? Your blurb must give him a reason — and it must excite and intrigue him.
4. Stop the freebie insanity: charge more for your ebooks
“Free”works. However, free shouldn’t be your only marketing tactic. Keep this in mind: readers won’t pay for anything they can get for free.
As a corollary to that, if you’re enrolling all your ebooks into KDP Select, you may want to rethink that. Unless you have a huge publishing catalogue — I’m talking 50 or more ebooks at the very least — then you’re unlikely to make money from Select for more than a few months.
Here’s why. You’re attracting only freebie hunters, and your ebooks aren’t appearing on “also bought” lists. After a few months your free reads will cannibalize your sales: your Pages Read earnings drop, and drop, and drop.
Here’s the solution, drag some of your ebooks out of Select, and publish them to the other ebook retailers. Many of my students have found that within a couple of months, their sales on the other ebook retailers outstrip their sales on Amazon.
Why not find out if you’re leaving a lot of money on the table? Publish some of your ebooks other ebook retailers, as well as Amazon.
5. Create a social media marketing plan: stay visible
Create a social media marketing plan, and put your plan into action.
If you’re not blogging, start a blog as a matter of urgency. I know that currently there’s a trend for spending a lot of money on Facebook advertising, and calling your marketing good. This is all very well. For now.
However, it’s short-sighted. Nothing lasts. Once the money you’re spending on advertising outstrips the money you’re making, what will you do then? You need a content strategy which is supported by advertising. Without that, when Facebook changes the rules, as they will, your publishing income drops to zero.
6. Advertise: spend whatever you can afford
The authors on the Top 100 lists in popular genres spend around five figures on each new ebook launch. This is fine for them, you might think — they’re making in the high five figures each month anyway.
If you’re just starting out with self-publishing, you can’t afford to spend huge sums on each launch. More importantly, unless you have a catalogue of many ebooks that your readers can buy, spending big on a launch is a waste of time and money.
That said, do look for ways in which you can support your ebooks with inexpensive advertising. Here’s a list of websites which offer inexpensive advertising opportunities.
7. Recover from publishing mistakes with a new pen name, a new series, and a new genre too
What do you do if your self-publishing efforts have hit a wall, and your ebooks just aren’t selling? This can happen for many reasons, and when it does, it may be time for a fresh start.
The solution: reinvent yourself with a new pen name.
You can have as many pen names as you choose. Simply create a new pen name, then create a new series. Yes, this applies to both fiction and nonfiction authors.
Start thinking in terms of series, rather than standalone books. Even major publishers with huge advertising budgets focus on series. They know that series sell books; each book in a series sells the others.
If you’re writing fiction, investigate genres you haven’t considered. In fiction, when you attack a new genre, it needs to be a genre with which you’re familiar, that is, you read in that genre yourself. It’s very hard (I’d say almost impossible), to write successful fiction in a genre which you don’t read.
Self-publishing success: what to do next
Start by tracking everything that you do, then choose one of our tips, and put it into action.
If you know that your blurbs are lacking, redo them. Next deal with pricing; that area seems to be a challenge for many authors.
Onward… even a minor change can have great impact on sales. Good luck. 🙂
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