Category Archives: Marketing
I’m not going to be able to tell you specifically at what price to sell your book, but I can share some thoughts on the subject with you.
Pricing to low can work against you
The average consumer equates a low price with low quality, so in less they are forced, because of economic reasons, to purchase the cheapest item, then most of the time they won’t purchase it if it’s priced to low. They will actually move on to an item that costs more. I know that some self-published authors have sold tons of books at $0.99, but I bet you dollars to donuts that the low price was not that big of a factor. The major factor would have been that it was good book. My guess is they would have sold just as many books if they had charged a higher price. So in my estimation they lost a lot of money.
That is not to say, they will never buy it if it’s priced too low. You also need to take into account the committment factor: meaning that if it sounds half decent and I don’t have to invest a lot, then I may just say, “What the heck,” and purchase it. I have purchased books off the bargain books table, but I usually regret it later.
However, if you have put no effort into having your book edited and delivering a quality product to your customer, then by all means price it low because that’s all it is worth.
Low prices and sales are not the same
There’s a big difference between an item being priced low and an item that is on sale. In the first case, it’s cheap, but in the second case, it’s a deal. And who doesn’t love a great deal? But, please, oh please, don’t mark your book up, so that you can mark it back down and make it seem like a sale. You always want to be honest with your customers. You’re trying to build a customer base for life, and attempting to con them is not the way to do it. Use the sales option to promote your book or reward loyal customers, not to rook people.
Book purchases are not like other purchases
With other purchases, such as a DVD player, I’m comparing quality, features, and prices. Book purchases are not like that. In book purchases I’m going through a bunch of books until I get to one I like, then I stop. There’s no comparison shopping. The only reason pricing has come into it is because traditional publishing houses have way over priced their books, and I’m verifying that I’m not being overcharged. I’m not looking for the cheapest deal. I’m looking for a good book.
Bibliophiles love books
We not only love reading them, we also love possessing them. Storage used to be a big issue in keeping my books, but that’s no longer a problem with e-books. I have over 900 books on my Kindle and I am more than happy to get more. Keep in mind that if you’re book is priced right bibliophiles are going to be more than happy to purchase that book (a point that I think mainstream publishers have missed).
There’s a downside to being an outsider. Since you’re not privy to the rationale that business decisions are based upon, then you don’t truly understand why they do what they do. Traditonal publishers charging way too much for ebooks and Amazon trying to push prices as low as possible confuses the heck out of me. Quite frankly, I think they are both way off point.
As far as I’m concerned the traditional publishers are shooting themselves in the foot with their prices. Here is what they, and now, the self-published author need to understand: I do not have to buy your book. I may want to buy your book, but I do not have to buy your book. And if you have over-priced it, then I will not buy your book. I recently decided to load up my Kindle with my all-time favorite books. I looked up Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea and the publisher wanted $12.99. Which is horribly overpriced for a book that has been on the market for this long, so I didn’t buy it. And I’m not going to buy it until the price comes down even though I would love to have it on my Kindle.
That was an instance of looking for a specific book, but you’ll notice that price still played a big factor in my purchasing decision. But in most cases I’m not looking for a specific book, I’m just looking for something to read. Here is what the seller needs to keep in mind: in the second case I have not chosen your book because I must have your book. I have chosen your book because I’m narrowing down the field of books available for sale. I do this, as I’ve written in previous posts, by looking at titles and covers, reading descriptions and reviews. Now, I’m checking out prices, so price is another factor that you need to understand when you go to sell your book.
Back in the day you pretty much knew how much a book was going to cost. If it was a paperback, then it was this much. If it was a hardback, then it was that much. These days prices are all over the board. This is where I think Amazon and the traditional publishing houses missed the boat. They didn’t take into consideration the fact that the consumer already had fixed in their mind how much a book should cost and they were more than willing to pay that price. In my mind, and I have heard others say this, the price of an e-book should cost no more than a paperback. Mainstream publishers are going way beyond that price and are losing sales because of it. Amazon is going way below that price, and while sales are up, revenues are down, so they’re losing money because of it.
What the self-published author needs to know is how much I’m willing to pay for that book and not to go over that price. Otherwise, you’ve just lost a potential customer.
Now, I’ve talked about what your price ceiling should be, and in the next post, or posts, I’ll talk about other pricing considerations.
Before I go on I want to say that I do not think that all authors pad their reviews. But that there are some that do is self-evident. What I really think of indie authors is that they are very brave people. You’ve invested a large amount of yourself in writing a book. In addition to that, you’ve put it out there for all the world to see and to COMMENT on. That’s just gutsy.
I will also admit that there have been times, especially with professional movie reviewers, that what they seem to think is great I thought is awful, and vice versa. But when you run across a new author and you see one or two 5-star customer reviews and forty 1- or 2- star reviews you get to thinking something is up. Especially, if the 5-star review was the first one posted. And it may be tempting to try to increase interest in your book by padding the customer review section with a 5-star review, but is it really a good idea?
I’ve just written a book (hypothetically) and so far no reviews. To help sales I decided to a) write a 5-star review, or b) have my mother write a 5-star review. Good or bad idea?
Well, if it’s honestly a 4- or 5-star book, then no harm done. It it’s not, then you’ve shot yourself in the foot. Because what you have done is mislead the reader into buying your book thinking that they were going to sit down and have this great reading experience. What do they get instead: just the opposite. That’s disappointing in itself. But now you’ve aggravated the situation by lying to them.
It’s always unpleasant to get all set to read a good book and find out it’s not to your liking. But what makes it even worse, is that you’ve built up their expectations higher then normal, so they have farther to fall when they are disappointed. Not only is their disappointment greatly increased, but if they get an inkling that they have been intentionally duped by a review, they get angry. And angry people, a highly motivated people, are more likely to write, what? Bad reviews. I’m talking mean, nasty reviews. I have seen them. If that isn’t enough, the person that you wanted to become a lifelong reader, has probably added your name, in big red letters, to a list of authors that they will never read again. And, if they are still angry, are telling all of their friends not to read your books. You’ve accomplished the exact opposite of what you were set out to do.
Compare this to the scenario where there is no review. The reader has no idea what to expect. It may be good, bad, or just okay. With an unknown, unreviewed author, the reader knows they are taking their chances that it may not be the best book in the world and they understand that. If the book turns out to be not so good, that was a chance they took, and they chalk it up to experience. No harm done really. You may not have gained a fan, but you didn’t create an enemy either. They may still write a bad review. But whether they write a bad review no longer depends on their being angry, but depends on how actively they review. Think about this, there’s a big difference between a disappointed honest reviewer, and an angry reviewer. The former will, more than likely, just state what they don’t like about the book, the latter is going to verbally rip you and the book to shreds.
Fake reviews: BAD IDEA.
So, I’ve liked your title enough to look at the description. I’ve read your description, and I’m still interested. Now I move on to the reviews. Believe it or not, considering this is a review site, I don’t put much stock in reviews. For the simple reason, other than the technical aspects, whether you like a book or not, is a matter of personal taste. I might not have the same taste as you do, therefore, I may not like the same books. So, a bad review is not a deal breaker for me.
So why do I read the reviews? Partly out of curiosity (this especially applies to personal reviews), and partly to pick up more information about the content. There are certain things that I just don’t want to read about, and you can’t always tell from the description whether the book contains those incidents. But, many times a private reviewer will tell you, and that’s basically why I read them. However, content excepted, good or bad reviews are not really going to determine whether or not I buy your book.
So, I’m probably not the best person to write about this subject. But, then again, maybe I am. The point of these posts is to give authors information about their readers. And some of us, don’t base our purchasing decisions on reviews. With one exception:
The Deal Breaker
The online booksellers have been kind/savvy enough to allow the everyday reader to give their HONEST opinion on the books they have read. Some authors/publishing houses have tried to turn this feature to their own advantage by posting FALSE reviews. (I think this has backfired miserably). I have decided in return, not to purchase any books where I don’t believe the review is honest. In my next post I’ll explain why I think this is bad business. For now, suffice it to say, it goes against the spirit of honesty, and undermines the entire process. I want no part of it.
To sum it up, this consumer reads reviews, but they don’t necessarily affect the purchasing decision. Again, the reviews are just one part of an entire process. So don’t let it get to you, if no one has reviewed your book yet. And please, don’t make the mistake of posting a false review. It’s going to hurt you way more than it will ever help you.
I just finished browsing some books at Amazon.com and I noticed something new in the description field: instead of simply giving a description of the book, there are one or two lines from an article about the book from and entry in Wikipedia. If you would like to read the entire description, then you need to click on one of the links provided in the description section which will take you to the full article at Wikipedia.
I’ve only seen this being done on mainstream publisher’s books, and I can’t account for what possessed them to do this. Normally, and there are exceptions, my motto is that if the mainstream publishers are doing it, then the self-published author should follow suit. But this is one of those exceptions. Please, do not copy the mainstream publishers in this. Because you don’t want to make your potential customers work harder than they have to. I shouldn’t have to go searching to find out what your book is about.
To me, this is akin to going to a bookstore and picking up a book, getting one or two lines of the description along with a note directing me to some other part of the bookstore to get the rest of the description. This makes no sense to ask a customer to leave your product and go somewhere else to get a description. Not only does it make no sense, it’s a little risky. What if I’m not in the mood to go that extra click to read about your book? Don’t forget you haven’t hooked me yet. I’m still in the initial stages of making a decision and you can lose me at any moment. Not providing good customer service is one way of losing me.
In addition, for some, like myself, short descriptions are a definite deal breaker as I wrote earlier in the week. It may just be me, but I personally don’t call this a good idea.
What a book description should do is pretty self-explanatory and I don’t have a lot to say about them, other than there are a few things the self-published author ought to know.
Many book descriptions will include the reviews for the book. In general, I don’t have a problem with authors doing this. However, I do get annoyed when the review come before the description. I’ll tell ya, it doesn’t matter how much people liked your book, if it’s not about something that I’m interested in reading, then I don’t care what they have to say. Reviews do have their place, but please put them after the description. Otherwise instead of impressing me, you’re annoying me. Which is not a reaction you want from a potential buyer.
That’s a petty annoyance, and one that I can live with, but don’t enjoy. The next and last is a definite . . .
I will drop your book like a red-hot potato if the description of your book is a one-liner. Reason being is that I figure if you can’t write a decent description, then you can’t write a decent book. And that’s it for me. I just click right off that page, and start the whole cycle all over again (with someone else’s book). So make sure you spend that time on the description, it’s worth it.
Once I’ve found a title that has intrigued me, I next take a look at the cover.
Now that a lot of book buying is done on the internet some people tend to think that the cover has gained prominence over the title. Reason being is that the cover is the first thing people see, and, therefore, that is what is going to attract them. I couldn’t disagree more with this. Although, there are times when I’ve been hit with just the cover, and it has intrigued me enough to take a further look, most of the time I’m presented with a picture of the cover, plus the title and author. I still tend to the title first, and then the cover after that.
When I inspect the cover I’m simply trying to garner more information about the book and that’s pretty much the extent of it. If the cover portrays something that I don’t want to read about, such as a picture of a vampire (I’m really tired of vampire books), then I put it back and go on to the next title. If it doesn’t give me any information on what the book is about, or portrays something that I do want to read about, then I will move onto the description. Which I will write about next week.
So what can the self-published author take away from all of this? One, is the purpose the cover plays. It simply gives the reader a little more information about the book, but doesn’t necessarily play that prominent of a role in the purchasing decision. My advice is do not spend an exorbitant amount on that cover. Your money would be much better spent on an editor, as that is the main problem that I see in self-published books. Rest assured that I have NEVER purchased a book simply because of the cover, and I have NEVER not purchased a book because of the quality of the cover.
That being said, the cover should be nice because it’s part of the product packaging and it also shows a level of professionalism.
In the end readers are all about words, so when I go looking for a new book to read, I start perusing titles. The book is either picked up or passed by based on its title. Using my experience as a reader, I’ll try to go through different aspects of titles and how they affect my purchasing decisions and also what I glean from them.
Is the title intriguing?
By intriguing I mean that it speaks of something more. For me to find out what that more is I have to pick up the book and peruse it. Now what’s intriguing to me is not necessarily going to intrigue someone else. All I can say in that respect is know your audience. Know what attracts them to your genre, and use that information to help title your books. Here are some examples of titles that I’ve found intriguing.
- A Land of Ash
- No Better Place to Die
- Saying Goodbye to the Sun
- Call of the Herald
- The Samurai Strategy
I’m all for quirky. I don’t know that this would be a definite rule of thumb for titling every type of book out there, but it does get my attention. A couple of examples:
- Bubba and the Dead Woman (Anything that involves a bubba is worth a follow-up)
- Memoirs of a Vending Machine
- Jacks School of Shines
- Please Don’t Eat the Daisies
Does it feature a favorite character?
If you’ve written or are planning to write a number of books featuring the same character, then please put that somewhere in the title or subtitle. Signifying that this book contains that same character can tell me a couple of things.
- If I am already familiar with the character, that this book is about that character, something that I might not have known if it hadn’t been included in the title/subtitle.
- If this is the first time that I’m meeting this character it lets me know that there are other books out there or are forthcoming. If I then read and like the character I can go searching for these other books.
Believe it or not I can be a great fan of a character and not be a great fan of the author. I love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, but I do not like other books written by the author, so make sure that you include the character name in the title somewhere. Here are some examples:
- Harry Potter and the . . .
- . . . A Donovan Creed Novel
- . . . A Stephanie Plum Novel
Along the same lines: is it a series?
Again, if you are writing a series of books signify that in the subtitle, this lets me know that there are follow-up books. It was years before I learned that Dune by Frank Herbert was the first of a series of books.
Single Word Titles
For the most part I’m not a fan of single word titles unless that single word speaks volumes.
I hope this helps.
When I go looking for a book it’s usually somewhere that someone has amassed a number of books to be sold. That could be online, a bookstore, a garage sale, or the library. Depending on how they have been sorted pretty much depends on what type of book that I purchase.
Sorted by Genre:
My favorite genre is fantasy. If the bookseller has separated the books by genre, then I normally head straight for the fantasy section. What this means to the authors of every other type of book is that I have immediately eliminated them from my selection process. What it also means to those selling books is that you want to make sure that you have you listed your book by genre, so when I’m browsing the book shows up. I think this is especially important in the online sites. I’ve noticed the genre missing on some books that I’ve looked at on Amazon. There’s been some talk that even if you’ve classified your book on Amazon, that sometimes it doesn’t show up. So it just may be a glitch in Amazon programming. But if not, then make sure you designate a genre for your book.
Normally where I find unsorted lists of books is at the library, bestseller or editor pick lists, and the Kindle Nation weekly digest of free books. These types of lists are great ways for authors to reach readers who normally concentrate on a specific genre. I have discovered some great authors this way. Authors not in my usual genre that I probably wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. It’s a nice way to pick up readers who wouldn’t normally read your genre.
Sorted or unsorted are both good the for author, and ultimately for the reader. Get your book classified so that those that are interested can go directly to you, but also try to get on some unclassified lists to give you a better chance of picking up some new readers.
If you sales increase as a direct result of your marketing campaign, then it’s successful. Nuff said. Post over.
Just kidding. There’s actually a quick way and a slow way of determing how your marketing efforts are doing.
Quick and Easy: Coupon Codes
Direct mail marketers use a little trick to determine which geographic area or mailing campaign is initiating sales. They do this by using coupon codes. They assign a unique coupon code to a geographic area. They can then tell the response rate per region based on which coupon code is redeemed.
Self-published authors (SPAs) can do the same thing with coupon codes from Smashwords. The idea here is have a UNIQUE coupon code for each blog or website where you offer your book, so that you can track which sales are coming from where. It might work something like this:
You come up with a list of blogs or websites that you are going to approach about promoting your book: whether that is a free giveaway to some or a discount to all is up to you. You are going to make a list of those websites that consent, and for each of those listed you are going to generate a UNIQUE coupon code. You want to keep track of which coupon code is going where, so notate which coupon code is being sent to which website. (I personally suggest 50% rather than free if you’re giving the discount to everyone at that site. Fifty percent off is a great deal. You can still generate interest and make money at the same time. I would only use free for a select few as people who may not otherwise be interested may download it just because its free. Because ultimately you are trying to figure out which website is most likely to generate sales, not which websites have the most people who want free books.) After that it’s just a matter of keeping track of which coupon code is being redeemed.
The slow method is going to occur by keeping track of any blip in sales that occur after one of your targeted websites or blogs advertises the book. It’s slow going because you can only offer one promotion at a time as you want to see how your sales do for each individual site. If you promote the book at various websites at the same time there is no way to tell which website is generating the interest.
What you need to do first is figure out your average sales over a certain period of time. Remember that there are certain buying trends that vary by month, so you need to take that into account. You can’t compare December to June, so you want to keep track of average sales by month. If your book has been out for awhile and sales have been steadily increasing, then you are going to want to factor that into the equation. You don’t want to give a promotion credit for an increase for which it wasn’t responsible. That will skew your numbers. For instance, if the average sales for last May was 50 and your sales have been increasing by approx. 10% then you can expect 55 sales in the upcoming May. Any sales above 55 can loosely (great margin for error in this method) be attributed to your promotion.
Remember to space your promotions, so that you can give some time for a single promotion to take affect. And as you add more promotions you may have to increase the base sales number that you use to take into account previous promotion that are still generating sales. For instance, you run a promotion that gives you a big blip in sales for a week, then it slows down, doesn’t die off, but slows down. You are now selling 60 books a month rather than the expected 55 a month. Your new base sales number for June has increased from 55 to 60. You will use this new number, 60 instead of the 55, to ascertain how the next promotion does.
What is this Information Good for?
The main reason for marketing research is to ascertain who your audience is. You can find out if your books are more popular in certain regions, to certain age groups, to particular gender, etc. Once you have this information, then you can start marketing your books towards those people. As a reader, the better you market your book, the better off I am because I now have a better chance of finding those books that interest me.
I have various means of discovering a new book to read, but today I want to concentrate on recommendations from friends, and see if the self-published author (SPA) can use this to get their books into the hands of those that want to read them. I want to do this because I think this is a great opportunity for the SPA to break from the pack and get that word of mouth going instead of waiting for someone to discover their book among the hundreds of thousand other books.
I heard it from a friend:
On first look a book recommendation would seem fairly straightforward: a friend comes up and says “Hey, you should read this book.” And I read it. But it doesn’t always work that way. I have some friends whose taste in books are so different from mine, that I will go out of my way NOT to read a book that they’ve recommended. So it’s not enough simply to be recommended by a friend, it’s need to be a someone who likes the same types of books that I do.
Birds of a feather flock together
Fortunately for the SPA people that tend to like the same things tend to congregate and experience those things together. And with the advent of the World Wide Web they can be easily found. This means that with little effort and investment the SPA can micro-market their book and gain a large return both in money and feedback.
Micro-Market that Book:
To do this effectively, you’ll need to determine your audience. This could be based on a number of different factors:
Genre: The simplest and most generic group. Target a book club or discussion group about whatever genre it is that you write.
Age: If you’ve written the books towards a specific age group, then target that age group, otherwise a little more marketing investigation will have to go on before you can use this one.
Gender: Does your book appeal more to one gender or another? Find out where they hang out.
Location: Did you know that Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series sells better in New Jersey than in any other part of the country? Why? Because it all takes place in New Jersey. If you’ve written a book that is set in a specific geographic area, then you can target the readers in that audience.
Other interests: I once bought a book because it centered around a group of friends who quilted. It appealed to me because I also quilt on occasion. So if your book is set in a ski resort, or some such than target places where skiers hang out.
Similar authors: If you write with a style or stories similar to more well-known author, then target their audience. Find places where people are talking about their books.
First off, what I wouldn’t do is start spamming the comments section with a link to your book. What I would do is simply email the blog- or web-host and let them know that you have written a book that you think may interest (explain why) their readers. Tell them that you are willing to give the first [insert number here] respondents a free copy in return for their feedback. Or you may even work with the host in creating some kind of contest. If they turn you down, try another. If they don’t great.
One More Thing:
I just want to insert a comment about offering your books for free. Personally, I think that giving away something free, when done smart, is a great marketing idea. When I say smart I mean giving away something valued by your current customers as a way of showing your gratitude or to a new audience in order to increase your market share. And normally, I would say that distributing your book through Barnes and Noble, or Amazon free would be a good idea if so many other people weren’t doing it already. I’ll tell you, I get an email once a week from Kindle Nation and it lists all of the books that are currently being offered for free on Amazon. I probably have forty of those books loaded on my Kindle, and since the list is updated every week I could probably get away with never buying another book again. It might be different if I had read all of them, but so far I’ve only read a handful.
To me that’s a very expensive ad campaign (I’ve heard some authors get as many as 2,000 downloads) for a SPA. Think about it: 2,000 x $0.99 = $1,980 * 35% = $693.00 minimum or 2,000 x $2.99 = $5,980 * 70% = $4,186 minimum. it’s especially pricey when you are not even certain if the book is going to be read by the people that downloaded it. True, that technically wouldn’t be counted as a lost sale, but it’s also not a gain. If that’s the case, then you are defeating your purpose which is to get the word out.
This post got a lot longer than I wanted, so I’m going to follow up on Tuesday with a post on how to use this give away to help you determine if your campaign is successful.