After Launch (free to low-cost)
25. Converted to e-book: Duh, right? But you’d be surprised at the number of authors who haven’t converted their print books to e-books. Why purposely miss out on another revenue stream? You simply won’t sell as many print books at the same rapid-fire rate as the point-and-click features of e-readers and tablets. Find an e-book, point, click, buy, submit, done—anywhere, anytime. Simple. In 2010, about 2% of overall book sales came from e-books. In 2013, it’s around 30%. About 97% of SELLOUT sales are e-books. We’re in the digital age!
26. Experimenting with price ($2.99 to $0.99): The price debate never ends. Some think dropping the price to $0.99 devalues not only the book itself, but the whole industry. Others feel it’s the best way to hook new readers, especially for a series. Still others will make it free and give away thousands via KDP Select. Nothing wrong with a little price experimentin’, but I don’t think a novel should stay at the low a price forever. For SELLOUT, we use $0.99 to spark sales when they lag, then bring it back to regular price of $2.99. This tactic has worked pretty well. The highest month of SELLOUT sales was 961 (for Amazon only). Amanda Hocking and John Locke have sold millions with that price. Hey, when you can sell that much, a 35% royalty rate ain’t bad at all. For your books, I suggest finding out what works. You have control.
27. Book clubs: Book clubs for authors are like DJs for musicians—they start the ground swell of buzz. They buy in bulk, too! I’ve successfully connected with at least 25 online and in-person book clubs since 2010—face-to-face, SKYPE, and conference calls—and had a fun, memorable experience each time. I even took up a cross-country book club invite and flew to Ohio, meeting about 30 club members. An author who goes out of his or her way to meet readers speaks volumes. Book clubs usually bend over backwards to accommodate the author (within their budget, typically free meals, gifts, and some travel expenses, such as hotel reservations). Book clubs love to host authors they enjoy and sometimes recap the meet-up via social media, encouraging others to buy the book (if they liked it, of course). Book clubs also add to the buzz by posting pictures, author bios, and reviews on their Facebook, website, or Twitter page.
28. Interviews: We’ve done interviews in just about every form of media, some just about me as an author, others spotlighting TPC, from online, print, radio, and video. Need all the exposure we can get! For a list of interviews we’ve done, click here.
29. Posting comments on targeted sites. Topics on interracial dating often pop up on blogs, online newspapers, websites, and high-profile Facebook groups. People who post on these threads typically have strong opinions on interracial dating and race in general—which means potential SELLOUT readers. I know a few readers who read the book simply because I responded to a discussion on interracial dating. I also post comments on writer-related sites and author blogs.
30. Facebook Sellout fan page. Although it has 900 likes, they don’t guarantee book sales. However, even though we no longer use ads to attract visitors, SELLOUT still gets a few likes per week with little promotion. Maybe the new likes come from readers. Regardless, I keep up page activity by posting links involving interracial dating.
31. Spoke at schools: Some colleges have creative writing classes and professors love to invite established authors to share their experiences with students, so I volunteered to talk to a class at my junior college (I was still a student at the time). They expressed a strong interest in independent publishing. I passed around a copy of SELLOUT, mainly to show the students my book looked no different than a traditionally published book, fresh with a logo and everything. Many of them felt empowered by the do-it-yourself process of independent publishing and vowed to explore that option in the future. Stephanie and I also spoke in a small creative writing class at her alma mater UC Santa Cruz when her book WHEN LOVE ISN’T ENOUGH dropped.
32. Google alerts: Looking for blogs, news links or even YouTube videos related to your book? Google alerts are a great tool to reel them in, using key words as bait (like “interracial dating” or “sellout” as key words). Most of the websites I target come from Google alerts that show up in my inbox daily.
33. Engagement in social media: I’ve found social media is for building personal connections, not Buy My Book posts all day! Social media cuts the six degrees of separation to one, so it’s more about the person, not the product. I post often on other Facebook pages, whether for a popular magazine, a best-selling author, groups, or one of my Facebook friends—but rarely mention my book. When I see a post on interracial dating/relationships, of course I jump on it, but I don’t end with, “by the way, I wrote a book on this topic. Wanna buy it?” I know several people who saw one of my responses for a topic that had absolutely nothing to do with interracial dating or even writing, friended me, found out later that I’m a writer, then bought one of my books.
34. Publishing articles/essays: Justin Timberlake hadn’t released an album in six years before dropping Suit and Tie; yet, he stayed in the public eye with movies, musical guest spots, and appearances on late-night TV between albums. I view taking advantage of the time prior to writing the next book the same way. I never understood why novelists don’t showcase their talents and expertise more via shorter forms of writing, such as articles, essays, or short stories, especially between writing books. I’ve published a variety of short pieces on timely topics related to writing and my novels, such as health tips for writers and even my own experience with interracial dating. I’ve also written about military life and physical fitness (other areas of interest). Shorter forms of writing can spotlight you as a subject matter expert and add to your discoverability. Plus, your byline can link to your website for readers to find more goodies, like your books!
35. Free copies (for reviews, gift certificate contest, and giveaways): Long before anyone heard of KDP Select, Omar came up with a brilliant idea for a contest that entailed getting free PDF copies of SELLOUT to as many readers as possible. That contest was the one described in 24, where the top winner received a $200 Amazon gift certificate. By giving away free PDF copies, the goal was to drive up interest and start a buzz. Initially I resisted—I didn’t like the idea of giving away so many copies for free—but I eventually agreed accumulating reviews was more important. The contest was a great success because we got what we wanted—more reviews.
Also, we “donate” free copies to book bloggers and independent book reviewers. It’s a fair exchange—a guaranteed unbiased review for a free copy. A book club president always receives a complimentary copy, too, and if lucky, we get bulk sales in return. So far, only one book club passed on the book.
36. Wide distribution: Successful investors know two key strategies that build wealth: diversifying stocks and staying in the market for the long haul. That’s how I view e-books. Why lock down your e-book on one site when you can “diversify” into so many others (B&N, Apple, Sony, etc )? Smashwords distributes e-books to the aforementioned online retailers, and has added at least three new channels since last year. It’s typically going to take a while to sell a substantial number of books if you’re an indie, so hold tight. Now, I understand this may sound like a shot against KDP Select, and it kinda is, really. More on KDP Select and “patience” later.
37. Reviews. I don’t know about you, but before I buy a new product or book a hotel in an unknown area, I check how others felt about said product/hotel. Hell, sometimes I’ll snoop behind a professor’s back and read about him or her at Rate My Professor before I take a class. In other words, I read the reviews. The same with e-books—reviews are extremely important to an e-book’s lifeline because they have a huge influence on a potential buyer’s decision to part from his/her hard-earned money. I always seek out reviews, specifically from book bloggers and dedicated reviewers. I don’t stop there, though. I once sent a PDF copy to the organizer of a panel on interracial dating, which was held at a four-year university. SELLOUT has 96 reviews on Amazon and 21 on B&N, averaging 4.3 stars out of 5.0.
38. Multiple works (free/cheap). If a fan loves one of your works—a short story, novella, or novel—they’re more likely to read more. Once I read my first Eric Jerome Dickey book, I knew I was a fan for life. What author wouldn’t want that kind of fan loyalty? I know several readers who have read A HARD MAN IS GOOD TO FIND, then bought SELLOUT (and vice-versa). Regarding my shorter works (free & not free), Smashwords allows distribution of free titles (unlike Amazon, unless you commit to KDP Select). I average about 1000 free downloads a month from all retailers combined. My $0.99 short stories don’t get nearly as many downloads, meaning I don’t sell a lot, but here’s the thing: They often show up under the Customers who Bought This, Also Bought section (for example, my free story THE CUT UP links to SELLOUT). One piece of writing often sells other works by the same author (like my Eric Jerome Dickey example). I have about 10 free and low-cost mini-books in rotation right now, all with their own book covers.
39. Increased UK exposure. I’ve always considered the UK as a close cousin of the US with similar interests and issues, especially in terms of pop culture, music, race relations, and dating, including interracially. Hell, they even speak the same language (ha ha)! So I sought out more UK media to give SELLOUT a little European love. About 30% of Amazon sales come from the UK, a significant increase since last 2010.
Check out my UK interview in FAB Magazine.
40. Local bookstores. SELLOUT “sold out” in two mom-and-pop stores on consignment (about 10 copies total). Yup, I even included it in my college bookstore because they have a special section for faculty, alumni, and current students (Steph did the same for WHEN LOVE ISN’T ENOUGH). It’s cool seeing your book on the shelves, no matter how it gets there! However, since most of our sales come from e-books, we’ve decided to focus more on that. Like I said, we’re in the digital age and Amazon is the great and powerful OZ. But how long will that last? Time will tell.
Final Note: KDP Select doesn’t have the same “boom” as last year, but when used with BookBub, it can be very effective. If you’re a new author in need of reviews, the free promotion option of KDP Select may be for you. Still, having multiple works and wide distribution are probably the best ways to build an author platform. Just look at Stephen King!
Next up: Miscellaneous