You may have heard about authors hitting a bestseller list helped launch the career or helped them make the millions of dollars. You might have also heard about all sorts of corruption, games, and loopholes or manipulation that people put upon the lists such as the New York Times bestseller list or the USA Today bestseller list.
Because of so many people taking advantage of certain rules and loopholes or exploiting the system (Lani Sarem’s attempt to cheat her way into the list with Handbook for Mortals is a famous one,) a lot of authors barely even bother with tracking the best seller’s list… however, it is something of a Write of Passage (see what I did there? Please don’t unfollow me.)
Nicholas Erik (an author I follow) writes much about the why and how over at his blog post here. But to sum it up, having a best selling book under your belt allows you to brag a little. And I really like bragging. But more importantly, it lends a certain amount of credibility to all your future titles and can open other doors for you as well.
It’s also not an impossible task for any author who knows how to leverage marketing results and knows how to plan ahead (do work.) Here is what you need to do to hit the bestsellers list…
I do a lot of conventions where I find other authors. At almost every show, if there are at least a half-dozen authors, at least one of them is charging too little for his or her books.
I know a lot of folks undercut themselves on pricing models. I had a friend who owned a coffee shop and ran it for years and years. He always felt he couldn’t increase prices because people would complain. But he had the best coffee around. When the local gas station raised prices on their coffee, people didn’t complain, they just paid an extra .30 for crappy coffee and went about their day. I think there’s an issue of access at play. My friend would would have to hear someone grumble.
As an author, we don’t like raising prices because we are going to hear about it. People have access to us—either from newsletter subscribers, social media, direct sales, or Goodreads/reviews on Amazon or elsewhere. The only answer for negative people is thick skin. Your book will not be a good fit for everyone and you could give it away and still get 1 star reviews—your books’ quality and salability have much less to do with price than authors realize.
But here’s the thing: Everyone is grumbling and all the time. It’s usually not something you can do anything about. You or I can’t change the fact that the cost of paper is rising, or that inflation is killing buying power.
But you can be out ahead of the trends with your pricing models…
With having a new release coming out soon (a project that aims to help indie authors learn how to maximize their sales efforts and sell more books at live events) I stumbled onto a resource that authors might find interesting. There are a number of programs out there which will allow authors to set up a table and connect with readers, usually in order to sell books. Search my blog archives for programs within Barnes and Nobles and on how to do book signings. Plus, there are ways to set this up with Costco and other big box stores as well, although the process is very involved, enough that most authors simply don’t attempt to do it.
The program I just learned about takes care of all that for you, and provides tons of opportunity—click through to get details and see where it’s offered.
I use Bookfunnel and StoryOrigin to arrange group promotions. Because I get lots of applicants to my promos (and I always verify share/click stats from applicants) I get to look at a lot of data and metrics. Minutes ago I looked at one author who had a good swap history with good clicks on her promos, except every other month she had certain promos returning 0 clicks. 30-50 clicks on everything else, and then goose-eggs.
Her subscribers didn’t want to click on certain kinds of promos. Which ones? Each of those promos were advertised as “All Genre” or “multi-genre” bundles. I know I never join these kinds of promotions. The targeting is all wrong. Authors think they are going to tap into some major lists of whale readers by putting their Urban Fantasy or Science Fiction in bundles alongside Reverse Harem and Christian Bible Study books.
But zero clicks. 0. Nada. Nothing. And that result is common. Readers know what they like and what they are looking for. Not all “cross-pollination” is worth spending your time on.
There’s a deep marketing principle to be learned here: don’t expect to harvest turnips in a bean field. It sounds super Zen, right? (I just made that up… but it’s totally true.) Readers aren’t known for making great leaps across genre lines. They cross when it’s convenient, interesting, or by fractional degrees. They also dislike endless scrolling to see if there is something that they do like in a giant mix of things. Ask yourself this, if you want to eat M&Ms do you buy a bag of trail mix and then spend the next fifteen minutes sorting out all the M&Ms or would you rather just buy a damn bag of M&Ms? I know… very Zen of me. Readers feel the same way, and so do paperback buyers.
Today, we’re talking about relevance and targeting your audience properly and why it’s important to know your audience. If you can nail this, two things will happen. 1) You’ll meet the needs of your readers and better connect with them. 2) You’ll make that glorious cheddar.
If you’re new to the writing scene (or even relatively new) you may have seen indie authors with books set up for pre-order purchase and for both ebook and paperback. For authors who use KDPprint (Amazon’s publishing service) this seems like a mystery. (If you need an example, here is an amazon link to my upcoming Oct 2022 release, Sell More Books at Live Events.)
How does an author do that? KDPprint does not allow a paperback to collect presales, only ebook versions. There are reasons why which we could spend time speculating on, but that would be a waste. The big question is: how can an indie set that up?
Early May… at a mid-Iowa Renaissance Festival. It always rains at renfest. At least for a few minutes. A quick shower gave me a moment to sort out the larger bills from the smaller ones. It was only the first day, but I was doing pretty well. Enough that a random kilted man sees my cash and says to his buddy in the pirate outfit, “Dang, man. I’m in the wrong business. I’ve gotta write me a book.”
Seeing how the sausages are made is not always a fun experience… but that analogy isn’t true of the Print on Demand book industry. Some of the folks at an Illinois KDP Print warehouse did a virtual tour and explain the process of how a book is made walking you through what happens once a customer clicks Buy. Watch the video:
I recently had a reader email me questions about printing color in books. Their question/complaint was along the lines of “Is having color in my book an industry no-no? Are interior color images useless in a +500 page book? I don’t understand this book selling industry and the absolutely crazy costs of this type of publishing!!!”
The frustration is understandable—especially since there are some things a person might want to try, such as including a few color images inside the book. This might especially be true if you are writing nonfiction and have a handful of images you might wish to include—something common in travelogues and other types of books…
I use StoryOrigin a lot. For a while, I used both SO and BookFunnel, but I found I preferred SO for a variety of reasons. It used to be free, and I was actually happy when it went to a paid service because even a very low cost of entry helps weed out the no talent hacks. Yes. I said it. (There are a great many folks who will load up newsletter swaps—as many as 70 of them per NL Swap—with really bad DIY covers and questionable content.)
Authors who use newsletter services like StoryOrigin, BookFunnel, Prolficworks, etc. are very familiar with “Freebie seekers.” They eventually get purged from our NewsLetter Lists… likewise with unscrupulous swappers who steal access to your list or repeatedly beg to swap their garbage books that they’ve invested $0 into in hopes that you’ll prominently feature that terrible cover to their audience even though your $600 pro cover (and $400 edit) will be at the bottom of a 30 book catalogue email on a NL list with a 2% open rate out of 212 subs (and one of those recorded opens was the author just testing the link).
You can see I have an ax to grind with NL swap partners who act like hacks. Even though SO is a paid service, it is still free, but with limited features, just like bookfunnel is. I could talk about why I think SO is superior, but I’ll leave that for another time.
However, I’ve run across a great many folks with great covers for books that have decent reviews and they still look like hacks. It’s not their fault (actually it is) but they might have never wrapped their head around how the process works—that ignorance leads them to miss out on swaps and inclusion with group promos so I thought I’d write a hand guide. Ignorance is easily cured so long as a person wishes it so. Sidenote: you may have gotten this link emailed directly to you if you tried to swap with me on SO or enter one of my group promos. Please pay attention to this article’s contents as the things discussed in it are the norm for both SO & BookFunnel. If I sent this to you, take it as an indication that potential swaps may happen further down the line so long as you start using the system correctly.
Without further ado, let’s discuss How not to look like a hack on StoryOrigin.