Tag Archives: marketing

“10 Tips for Choosing the Right Book Title” via Anne R. Allen

I just read an excellent article on book titles in the ebook age that I had to share with readers of this blog. Take for example all the great advice in Tip #3 alone:

3) Study Titles that Work

Here are some title categories that are “tried and true.”

The hero’s name
This is the oldest type of title in the book, literally. A title simply stating the name of the protagonist has been around since the birth of the novel. Names made up the most common titles in early fiction. From Don Quixote, Tom Jones, Robinson Crusoe, David Copperfield, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Madam Bovary, Mrs. Dalloway, and Auntie Mame, to Olive Kitteridge and Coraline, the protagonist’s name can be a pretty safe choice for a title.

Then there are protagonist’s names with embellishments like The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Charlotte’s Web, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and The Talented Mr. Ripley

The antagonist’s name

Sometimes the villain gets top billing, as with Moby Dick, Hannibal, and Jaws.

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is one of the most clever villain titles, because even though Rebecca DeWinter is dead, she casts a shadow over the entire story. The fact the main character has no name but “the second Mrs. DeWinter” makes this title all the more compelling.

The main character’s occupation or title:

The Master Builder, The Vagabond, The Sot Weed Factor, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Master and Commander, The Continental Op, The Good Soldier, Gladiator.

A family member’s occupation or title:

The Mermaid’s Sister, The Duke’s Children, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Father of the Bride, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Baker’s Daughter, The Unicorn’s Daughter, The Bonesetter’s Daughter.

You’ve probably noticed that daughters have been in vogue recently. Here’s a piece with an infographic showing how titles involving daughters have expanded in recent years.)

Setting is good:

Mansfield Park, The Country of the Pointed Firs, Brokeback Mountain, Wuthering Heights, Cold Mountain, Mystic River, Echo Park, Dune, Tinseltown, Telegraph Avenue.

These let readers know where the story happens—which helps them decide if they want to go there. Remember you want your title and cover to give as much information as possible to your potential reader without confusing or overwhelming them.

Or use the setting with embellishments:

The Amityville Horror, Murders on the Rue Morgue, The Last Time I Saw Paris, The Incident at Owl Creek Bridge, The Bridges of Madison County

The main character’s place of origin

The Virginian, Bastard Out of Carolina, The Man from Snowy River

The main event or inciting incident:

The Hunger Games, The Great Train Robbery, Escape from Alcatraz, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Death of Ivan Ilyich….(or practically anybody). “Main event” titles are informative and contain the hook, so they’re great choices.

Theme:

These advertise the book’s big picture: Pride and Prejudice, Of Mice and Men, War and Peace, The Beautiful and the Damned. These are especially good for literary fiction.

Quotes from the Bible, nursery rhymes or the classics:

A Time to Kill, The Sun Also Rises, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, Blithe Spirit, Along Came a Spider, The Golden Apples of the Sun, Tender is the Night, Infinite Jest, His Dark Materials

In fact there are so many from classic literature they have their own Wikipedia page.

Quotes from songs or song titles:

Catcher in the Rye, Go Down Moses, Norwegian Wood, Sometimes a Great Notion, and most of Mary Higgins Clark’s oeuvre from While My Pretty One Sleeps (1990) to I’ve Got You Under My Skin (2014)

NOTE: If you take a line from a song rather than the title, make sure it’s in the public domain. Song titles can’t be copyrighted, but quoting even one line from a copyrighted song can cost you big bux.

Lines from the work itself:

The Silence of the Lambs is a reference to Clarice being traumatized in childhood by screaming lambs.)

To Kill a Mockingbird also comes from the book’s dialogue, as do Gone with the Wind and Waiting to Exhale.
….

Now get you over the read the rest of this great advice here.

Results of recent promos, and more with Minerva for #WIPpet Wednesday

I’m exhausted. I’ve been running around with granddaughters all day today, and I am definitely noticing in my bones that I’m not as young as I used to be. They have Fasching vacation right now (the German Mardi Gras), and we have them overnight. I took them to the first really huge mall here, which opened in November, making good on a Christmas present I gave them. My feet hurt.

I wasn’t really feeling like posting as a result, but I didn’t post last week either — also because of various stuff taking up my time — but I don’t want to get that much out of the habit. Besides, I have some pretty good results from recent promos to report. Not to forget the words, and WIPpet Wednesday. 🙂

My word count dropped down again last week, but it makes a lot of sense to me. Much of what I was doing was brainstorming the next book in the Glassmakers trilogy. In my experience, the real word counts come when the book is pretty much worked out in my mind, and all I have to do is fill in the details. That is not the case with Shards of Glass. I have the general idea, but the specific plot points are vague. As a result, I only got 4300 words done last week, compared to 6200 the week before, and 8000 the week before that.

Another thing that has put a crimp in the word counts has been some renewed tests of marketing strategies — which also require thought and time. At least I can announce that this weeks’ promos have been going amazingly well.

1) Yesterday, Bknights (Fiverr) promoted the free first book of Yseult, Two Women, from my new, episodic version of my monster novel. Since then, Yseult I has gotten over 300 downloads, when it usually gets 10 – 15 a day. There have been 4 new sales of parts 2 & 3, only one day later, which nearly earn out the whopping $5.50 I paid for the Fiverr ad to give the series a boost.

The ranking for Yseult, Two Women is now as follows:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #911 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

2) I did a 3 day free run of Looking Through Lace this week, ending today, using only the free sites listed on my updated blog post on where to promote a free run. LTL has had over 700 downloads on Amazon.com alone as a result, and Book 2, Beyond the Waters of the World, has also had a couple more sales than usual. Here the present ranking of LTL:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > First Contact
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Exploration

Of course, all this proves for certain right now is that I know how to give a lot of books away without spending too much money. *g* But those rankings provide visibility, and visibility is one of the main things that sell books. And one day after the ad, I have nearly nearly out the cost through sales of subsequent books in the “series.” *g*

With that update, on to WIPpet Wednesday! The end of January, I finished the rough draft of Facets of Glass, Book 2 of the Glassmakers trilogy. But right now, I have FoG and Shards of Glass (Book 3) in one Scrivener file, so that I can skip back and forth when I notice that an idea I come up with for SoG requires some tweaking in FoG. So I will probably continue to post from Facets of Glass until I actually publish it. 🙂

This snippet comes directly after the one I gave you two weeks ago. 7 paragraphs, 8 – 1 from the day of the month:

He tossed the wine she’d given him back as if it were water and put the glass on the tray Guilia held. Minerva nodded, and the serving girl turned and left with the empty glass.
“Thank you for the refreshment, Signorina,” the footman said. “Would you care to take your gift now so that I may return to my employer?”
She grimaced. “You are right to admonish me. I should not tease so. Everyone tells me that, yet I cannot seem to resist.” She accepted the gift box and opened the lid.
When she saw the glass apple nestled in the wood shavings, she almost dropped the box. One hand went to the heart pendant she wore on a chain around her neck — the work of her step-sister, Chiara. Was this glass apple also from Chiara’s hand? If so, what did it mean? Chiara would never send anything to Minerva directly, it would be too much of a risk.
Carefully, Minerva lifted the apple out and laid the box aside. The leaves, the stem, the fading of the glass from red to green, all showed great artistry and attention to detail. She had seen many examples of Chiara’s work since they became step-sisters, and she liked to imagine she would recognize it anywhere.
Then she turned the apple over and saw the wormhole — and she was sure. This was from Chiara’s hand.
She clutched the apple to her chest and looked up at the man who had brought the gift, suddenly realizing where she had seen him before. “You! What are you doing dressed like a footman and bringing this to me? You are one of the personal guards of Dowager Princess Zilia!”

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Where to promote permafree books

Starting out as an indie author

I’ve talked before about how permafree can be used as a marketing strategy for ebooks. Permafree is indie author shorthand for permanently free. Many sales venues allow you to set the price of your book to free; others do not, most notably Amazon. But it is still possible to make a book free there, either through price-matching, or by writing Amazon directly, listing the other sites where your book is free, and pointing out the promotional advantage of having the book free. As an example, here is the email I sent which finally resulted in Yseult: Two Women going free:

Hello,

I’ve been trying for some time to get my ebook “Yseult, Part I: Two Women” price-matched using the link “tell us about a lower price,” but until now I’ve had no luck, which is why I am contacting you directly. The ebook is free on Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Google Play and elsewhere. I would be grateful if you could price match it for me on all Amazon sites. I am making Part I free to encourage sales of other books in the series which will be on sale with Amazon. Part 2 is already on Amazon and I intend to launch Part 3 & 4 once Part 1 is free.

Details below. If you need any further information, please let me know. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Sincerely,
Ruth Nestvold

Title: Yseult, Part I: Two Women, ASIN: B00NFPE1T8

Free on the following sites (among others):

iTunes store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id917430003

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/yseult-part-i-ruth-nestvold/1120330113?ean=2940046328080&itm=1&usri=2940046328080

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Ruth_Nestvold_Yseult_Part_1_Two_Women?id=yip_BAAAQBAJ

Yseult, Part 1: Two Women

That letter finally did the job. 🙂

Permafree works in a number of ways. With permafree, for example, you can upload the complete book chapter by chapter to Wattpad, potentially gaining new readers — and without worrying about losing money, since the book is free anyway. You can also upload a “preview” file on Goodreads that contains the complete text of your permafree, as I have done.

In my recent experience, permafree is most effective if it ends on a cliffhanger. This goes totally against my own preferences and beliefs, as well as all the reader complaints about serial novels and cliffhangers, but sales figures don’t lie. Yseult: Two Women has resulted in increased sales — including Books II, III and IV, which I didn’t actually intend to sell, hoping readers would add up the price of the individual parts and just go for the complete novel if they were interested enough to keep reading. But last month, my profits from the individual books of Yseult were almost equal to that of the complete book containing all four parts. Go figure.

In previous posts, I’ve listed places to promote a temporary free promo, as well as a 99c sale for ebooks. But since not all sites that will promote a free run will take permafree titles, I decided for my own sake, as well as yours, to compile a list of those sites are open to permafree titles (or that at least do not specifically exclude them).

Free:

Reading Deals – Books should be a minimum of 50 pages long and have at least 5 reviews and a 4 star average. $29 for a guaranteed listing.
http://readingdeals.com/submit-ebook

Ask David: http://askdavid.com/free-ebook-promotion

ContentMo – Free Ads for Free Books: http://contentmo.com/submit-your-free-ebook-promo/

Read Free.ly: http://www.readfree.ly/ourservices/

Frugal Freebies: http://www.frugal-freebies.com/p/submit-freebie.html

eBookLister – Rating of 3.5 or higher with a minimum of 5 reviews. (Note: If you’ve submitted a freebie for the same book before, you get an error message stating that your listing will be corrected.) http://www.ebooklister.net/submit.php

Digital Book Today – Free and paid; books must be at least 100 pages long and have at least 18 reviews with a rating of 4 or higher. No erotica.

FreeBookSy – Free and paid.

Choosy Bookworm – Free and paid. Book must be at least 70 pages long & have at least 8 reviews with a 4+ average.

Free Books

Awesomegang – $10 for a guaranteed listing. http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/

Indie Book of the Day – http://indiebookoftheday.com/authors/free-on-kindle-listing/

Book Angel – Book must be PG-13! http://bookangel.co.uk/submit-your-book/

SF Signal Free Fiction Tip Line (For science fiction and fantasy) https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1RpB9C2_urRBU6AigCZwFuxuhhjNTt5qKX0Yzlnw09VA/viewform

Paid:

BKnights on Fiverr – $5.50 (a “fiver” plus processing fee). https://www.fiverr.com/bknights

Sweet Free Books – $7. At least 5 reviews and a 3.5 rating. http://sweetfreebooks.com/advertise/

Booklover’s Heaven – $5. Requires at least 10 reviews and a rating of 4 or higher.

Digital Book Today ($20 for a one month listing. No erotica.) http://digitalbooktoday.com/purchase-ad-perma-free-books-page/

Ereader News Today (ENT. Books must be at least 125 pages. Prices starting at $30, according to genre. No erotica.) http://ereadernewstoday.com/requirements/

BookRaid – Pricing per click, starting at 5c, with a minimum threshold of $2 — so at less than 40 clicks, the listing is free. Maximum charge $10. For fiction, the book must be at least 120 pages long. It cannot have been promoted in the last 8 weeks.
https://bookraid.com/

Freebooksy (Prices starting at $40, according to genre.) http://freebooksy.com/for-the-authors/

Book Basset – $7.99 per day. Requires at least 10 reviews with a rating of 3.5 or higher. Will only feature a book once every six months. No erotica or specifically adult content. http://www.bookbasset.com/authors/submissions/guaranteed-freebie/

Books Butterfly (Prices start at $50 per 500 guaranteed downloads) http://www.booksbutterfly.com/order/freebookslots/

One Hundred Free Books – Listings start at $75. http://ohfb.com/author-free-kindle-book-submission.html

I am always on the lookout for more ways of getting the word out about permafree books, so if anyone has any tips, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

If you found this blog post helpful, perhaps you would be interested in the book, Starting Out as an Indie Author! You can learn more here.

Starting out as an indie author: To KDP Select or to not KDP Select

Starting out as an indie author

Recently, a friend of mine expressed surprise that when you publish through Amazon (KDP or Kindle Direct Publishing), it is also possible to generate income when someone borrows your book. I’ve been aware of this for so long, it never even occurred to me to point it out in this series. The possibility of making money from borrows is just one of the ways Amazon tries to entice authors to make a book exclusive with their platform.

And since they introduced Kindle Unlimited, borrows have gone way up. Maybe too much for comfort, but it’s just something we authors have to take into consideration when deciding where and how to sell (or loan) our books.

Why there is money in borrows

The thing about the borrows is, if you commit a book to KDP Select, they have to give you something more for that than promotional opportunities, since you are theoretically giving up potential income through other sales channels. So every month they announce a big pot of money, which at the end of the month gets divvied up among all the borrows. In December 2014, for example, I was paid $1.43 for every borrow I had. And it ended up being a significant percentage of my income for that month, since I had over 50% more borrows than sales. And while the income per borrow might be less than it would be for a sale at $2.99, it is significantly more than for a book selling below that.

Naturally, it makes no sense to go for the borrows when you are selling books priced at 4.99 hand over fist. A borrow would make you less than half what a sale would at that price. Or if you are selling like gangbusters on Barnes & Noble or Kobo, going exclusive with Amazon makes little sense either. But for someone like me, still struggling to get this indie career thing seriously profitable, a borrow (which the customer doesn’t have to pay for after all) might be the reason a reader takes a chance on a writer (me) she doesn’t know yet.

If you do sign up for KDP Select for a book you publish, it is only for a period of 3 months. You are not signing away your rights to Amazon in perpetuity. Personally, I consider it a very good way to go for a new book, in order to get some eyeballs on it. Because not only might you be able to generate income from borrows, you also have a couple of additional promo opportunities at your fingertips.

Promotional opportunities: Free runs and Countdown Deals

If you’ve enrolled your book in KDP Select, you have two options for promoting your book per enrollment period: Kindle Countdown Deals or Free Book Promotions. You may only choose one promotion per book per 3 months, but you can use them in many different ways.

Free Book Promotions:

Any book enrolled in KDP Select can be offered free for up to five days, consecutive or non-consecutive, during each 90-day enrollment period. That means you can choose one day at a time, or offer your book free for multiple days in a row. You can also stop a free promotion in progress, but it may take several hours for your book to go off free.

So why would anyone want to give their books away for free? We want to make money on this business, right?

As I’ve mentioned before in this series, one of the biggest challenges facing a new indie author is visibility. Done right, a free promotion can help create visibility for a book. But the free run itself needs to be promoted or it will have little effect. I maintain a regularly updated list of places where a free run can be announced here.

Countdown Deals:

In 2013, Amazon introduced “Countdown Deals” to make Select more attractive to writers again. This is how it works:

– Your book can be discounted for up to seven days. The duration of the sale is visible on the book’s page on Amazon, as well as the regular price, so that readers can see that they really are getting a “deal.”

– Your royalty rate remains the same even while the book is on sale. So instead of getting only 35% on a book marked down to 99c, you get 70%. The income is still naturally quite a bit less, but if it results in increased exposure, it might well be worth it.

Amazon has set up a dedicated “Kindle Countdown Deals” page at www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals – but of course there is no guarantee your Countdown Deal will get listed.

In my experience, while you still make money when doing a Countdown Deal, the promotion doesn’t generate as much interest as a free run, and once your promotion is over, the effect vanishes again pretty quickly. I’ve talked more about some of my results here. Of course, if you shell out the big bucks for a Bookbub ad during your sale, your results could be very different. OTOH, given the high cost of a Bookbub ad, it might be more likely to be worth it if your book *isn’t* in Select and is available through multiple channels.

Conclusion:

This may sound like I’m a huge proponent of KDP Select. That is not the case. At the moment, 9 of my 22 ebooks are enrolled in the program, mostly short story collections that don’t sell all that well anyway, but that I can use to promote my novellas and novels. The thing is, I take a very pragmatic approach to where and how I sell my books. When sales on B&N, Kobo and other channels dwindle to nothing, then I’m quite willing to pull them there and put them back into KDP Select for a while to see if I can get more traction that way.

But I do think that going exclusive with Amazon can be a very effective tool for a new ebook without reviews that readers might be skeptical of taking a chance on. Free runs can generate reviews as well as visibility. And reviews are not only necessary for readers to have something besides “look inside the book” to decide if they want to spend MONEY on your brilliant work of staggering genius, they are also necessary for promoting your book on other sites. In addition, for readers enrolled in Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime, the possibility of being able to borrow your book for free rather than plopping down 99c for it just might make a couple more readers take a chance on it. Might sound harsh, but it’s true — even 99c is too high a price to pay for some readers if they don’t already know the author. Which is why a 90 day enrollment in KDP Select is worth at least considering if you are just starting out as an indie author.

Why “write the next book” isn’t enough; Or: What to do if your books aren’t selling.

Starting out as an Indie Author

In this installment of my series, I am going to take it as a given that you’ve written a good book and either had it professionally edited, or critiqued by several colleagues in a workshop or through critique exchanges, or sent the manuscript out to multiple beta readers — or all of the above.

It the story is lame, the writing bad, or the manuscript riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, changing the cover or blurb won’t help increase sales. If your book hasn’t already been thoroughly torn apart by someone other than friends and family members, before you tweak any of the things I’ll be going into below, you might want to run it by some critique partners or beta readers first.

Intro: My Year of Marketing Dangerously

By which I mean — very nearly not at all. Over a year ago, I got so frustrated with the way Amazon kept changing their algorithms and how difficult it was to keep up — I was selling less and less with more and more effort — that I quit marketing entirely and concentrated on writing and getting more books out. Everybody tells you the best thing for your indie career is to write the next book, after all.

So I published another novel and another collection of short stories, and worked on getting Island of Glass finished.

Well, the novel and the story collection both tanked, and the rest of my books started fading into oblivion right along with them. What was perhaps even worse, my incentive to write was fading right along with my sales.

So when Island of Glass was ready for publication, I got the marketing machine going again. I’m not getting rich, and I can’t quit translating yet, but whereas last summer I was making less than $50 a month from my fiction, it is now back up to a couple hundred dollars.

For that reason, I’m going to start my list with MARKETING.

4 possible reasons your books aren’t selling:

1) You aren’t doing any (effective) marketing.

The thing is, as painful as it might seem, we indie writers have ALL the responsibility for making our books visible, so that readers can find them and buy them. Traditionally published writers have to do a lot of the marketing these days as well (I know, I’ve been there.) But if nothing else, a book that is traditionally published is at the very least listed in the new releases of the publisher in question, which goes out to bookstores and creates a certain initial buzz.

If indie authors want any kind of initial buzz, they have to create it themselves. On the other hand, an indie publication has the advantage that it won’t be remaindered (another thing I know from experience). Since your book isn’t fated to fly or die within six months, you can try new marketing strategies with it, can give it a push with a free run or an ad, can tweak the blurb and the keywords.

But the fact of the matter is, as an indie author, you are responsible for the sales strategies. And you have to learn what will work for you.

To give you a couple of examples from my own experience: from my Year of Marketing Dangerously, I learned that my incentive to write goes down proportionate to the smaller my audience gets. Yes, I am writing the kinds of books I want to read, but neither am I Emily Dickinson. I am not only writing for myself — I want to reach people with my words and my stories.

And that means, I have to figure out ways of reaching my potential audience that don’t make me start cursing fate.

Analyzing the situation, I realized that what I really don’t care much for is Facebook and Twitter (except when I’m tweeting with friends like my Villa Diodati folks). Blogging, otoh, I can do that, like it even. So, I concentrate my Internet presence on blogging, and make sure it’s connected to Facebook and my Twitter feed. It might not be the most effective method, but it’s the one I can concentrate on without dreading the work.

But whether your thing is blogging, Facebook, or Twitter (or maybe even all three), that presence by itself usually isn’t enough. You have to do SOMETHING to get the word about your books out there. Marketing.

MARKETING.

Nasty, evil, non-writing stuff. Figuring out where to list your books, writing bloggers who might review your books, deciding what strategies to use to push your books …

Somehow, you’re going to have to figure out a way to make it palatable to you personally. Me, I like a good puzzle. And that’s the thing I finally hit on to make marketing more interesting to me. Starting various experiments is a challenge I can get into.

I have no idea what might make getting the word about your books out there more appealing for you, but as an indie author, you’ll need to find something.

2) Your cover doesn’t inspire people to click on the book in the first place.

You are convinced your cover design skills are great, and you are very proud of the covers you created yourself, sure that they totally reflect the spirit of the story. Who could possibly catch its essence better than you, the writer?

Easy: a professional cover designer.

And when it comes right down to it, capturing the essence of your story isn’t the important thing. It’s getting readers to click on your link. You may have created a wonderful cover that includes hints of all the major elements of your novel — but in thumbnail it looks like a confused mess. Or you’ve created the perfect illustration of an integral scene in Bryce or some other 3D software — and in thumbnail it looks like a 3D rendered image with a title slapped on. Or you found cheap stock art, since you want to keep costs down, and added the title in Gimp, since that’s easy enough — only to discover that there’s book after ebook on Amazon using the same stock photo.

Whether you do it yourself or not, more than anything else you need a cover that’s arresting, that draws the reader’s eye, that makes her look twice and that’s appropriate to the genre. If your ideal reader doesn’t see the thumbnail and think “ooh, that looks kinda cool!” it’s a fail. It has to be more than functional. It has to be eye-catching.

Advice: take a step back and look at your covers in thumbnail with the eye of a reader. Would you click on the image? If not, consider redoing your cover.

Alternatively, if you have an honest friend who can tell you anything without the risk of you never speaking to him or her again, ask for an honest opinion of your covers in thumbnail. It can be ridiculously hard for us to step outside of ourselves.

The fact of the matter is, for any book that isn’t selling (assuming the author is doing some marketing to get it into the public eye and the writing isn’t absolute dreck), the first thing that usually needs to be changed is the cover. It may be true that you can’t *judge* a book by its cover, but it is also true that you cannot entice a reader to try out your book with a sub-par cover.

3) Your blurb isn’t exciting and doesn’t inspire readers to even read the excerpt.

So let’s say you’re doing a free run to get a few more eyes on your book, and you already have a cover that has inspired your target reader to click on the link. The next hurdle to overcome in reader resistance is the blurb. Does it make the reader curious and raise questions in her mind that have to be answered? Or is it more of a summary of events that happen in your book, without context?

Since I eventually want to do an extra article about blurbs, as important as they are, I won’t go into them here in any more detail. Instead, I’ve created a fictional blurb for a book many people are familiar with:

Katniss doesn’t like the rules she has to live under, so she goes hunting in the forest with her friend Gale. It’s illegal and dangerous, but it puts food on the table. Then her sister Prim gets chosen for the Hunger Games, and Katniss volunteers to take her place as tribute. She has to go to the capitol to fight against boys and girls from all the other districts under the control of Panem. The boy chosen to go with her from her district, Peeta, is the baker’s son, and he once threw her a loaf of bread when she had nothing to eat. But now if she wants to survive, she will have to kill him — along with all the other tributes to Panem …

Here is the real blurb for the book:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

In the real blurb, there is very little specific info about what actually happens to the main character, and NO additional names, other than that of Panem. It concentrates on the big picture and the essential conflict.

4) Your excerpt (the first however many pages of your book) doesn’t raise enough questions in the reader’s mind to make him or her feel compelled to buy the book.

Of course, as I mentioned above, I’m assuming here that your prose is not full of errors or awkward constructions that will turn a reader off after a page or two. I personally never buy an ebook without downloading the sample first. Any spelling mistakes or sentences that have me itching for a red pen will make me delete the sample immediately, and good riddance.

But most of the writers who will be reading this are not those who will be uploading the kind of error-ridden manuscripts that give indie writers a bad name. On the other hand, even when the book we wrote is quite good, a lot of us haven’t given much thought to how those first few pages might strike a reader who’s gotten far enough to check out the excerpt. Does it (like the blurb) make the reader curious and want to know more? Does it dazzle her with beautiful prose? Does it paint a picture of a character so interesting, the reader wants to spend many more hours with him or her?

Your excerpt doesn’t have to do all these things, but it should at least do one.

So if you are having problems getting your books into the hands of readers, do some research on marketing, and take a look at your cover, blurb and excerpt with the eye of a reader. Maybe there are some things you can change after all to get more people to click “buy.”

Here’s some further reading elsewhere on the Internet that might help you figure out what you should do if your books aren’t selling:

Why Is My Book Not Selling?

10 Reasons Why Self-Published Books Don’t Sell – and What You Can Do to Ensure Yours DOES

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People

Shadow of Stone on sale for 99c through Dec. 19 – and testing ad sites

In my on-going attempt to get back into the swing of things marketing-wise — and figure out what works in this new self-publishing era of Kindle Unlimited and various other changes — I set up a sale this week for Shadow of Stone, the second book in The Pendragon Chronicles.

Shadow of Stone on Amazon

For over ten years, there has been peace in Britain after Arthur and his warriors soundly defeated the Saxons at the battle of Caer Baddon. But sometimes peace is deceptive …

After a series of hard winters and famine, an alliance of dissatisfied northern kings attack the rich cities of Southern Britain. But in the years of peace, Arthur’s army has grown soft; jealousies and trivialities rip once strong alliances apart. Cador, who is mockingly referred to as “farmer king,” must go to war again. The threat to their way of life throws him together with Yseult, the woman he has secretly loved since he was a youth.

But can their politically expedient marriage help bring peace to Britain again? Or will it only lead to further conflict?

As betrayals both real and imagined shake the foundations of former British unity, Cador and Yseult must try to negotiate their own personal peace. Who will survive the upheavals to come? Will Britain rally once more behind a common leader to fight off the common threat?

For the purpose, I found a few sites that will advertize 99c sales for free, as well as several cheaper ad options, which I have staggered throughout the week to test their effectiveness. It is well known by now that a Bookbub ad will get you hundreds of sales, but it can be very difficult to get a slot with them because of all the competition. Besides, placement in their newsletter costs hundreds of dollars. And while most books with a Bookbub ad earn the expense back, not everyone has that kind of ready cash up front.

So I am testing various options so you don’t have to! *g* Next week, I will summarize the results and put together a list of the advertizing sites I’ve found.

In the meanwhile, feel free to take a look at Shadow of Stone. And if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can now borrow it for free, since it is back in KDP Select. Just for the record, that is not because I am an Amazon fanatic, it is because my sales on other sites were so abysmal, the advantage of making money through borrows on Amazon just amounted to the better deal for me. When and if any other market seems to be developing more potential, I will add more of my books to other sites.

“Yseult, Part I: Two Women” now finally free on Amazon

As I mentioned a while back, in September I embarked on an experiment: splitting my almost 200,000 word monster book Yseult into episodes and making the first one free.

The problem was, Amazon wasn’t cooperating. The book was free on iTunes, B&N, Google Play, you name it — but no matter how many times I clicked on “tell us about a lower price” and how many people I asked to tattle on me, the price refused to budge, sitting there stubbornly at 99c. I published the first two episodes within days of each other, but when I had so much trouble making the first book free, I didn’t bother putting together the last two.

Yesterday, I finally got fed up at how long it was taking for Amazon to price match, and I wrote them directly.

And lo and behold, it worked!

I don’t know if it is also free in other countries or only in the US (my experience has been that it takes much longer for other Amazon stores to catch up). But at least if you’re in the US, and you have not yet read my (first) doorstopper, you can now get Part I for free. Here the details:

Yseult, Part I

Yseult, Part I: Two Women

Yseult the Wise and Yseult the Fair, mother and daughter, are members of the proud race of the Feadh Ree, the Old Race in Eriu. New ways and a new religion are coming to their land, and despite all their magic, they may be powerless to stop it.

“Yseult: Two Women” is the first of four parts from the bestselling historical fantasy novel “Yseult: A Tale of love in the Age of King Arthur,” a retelling of the tragic love story of Tristan and Yseult. Yseult is a princess of Ireland, a land on the fringes of Europe, a land that had never been conquered by Rome. What would her life have been like in that pagan land before the advent of Christianity?

This book is a re-imagining of Yseult’s youth, never part of the legends — until now.

BTW, even if you already have read the complete novel, you’ll be doing me a favor if you download anyway. It will help the book rank higher. 🙂

Using Keywords to Show up in Searches: Review of Supercharge Your Kindle Sales

Starting out as an indie author

Last month, before Chameleon in a Mirror had its free run and Island of Glass was available for pre-release, I did an experiment. At the beginning of October, I got a review copy from Nick Stephenson of his book Supercharge Your Kindle Sales. While he made a great case for using keywords to help make your book more visible, I didn’t want to write a review until I had some actual results on which to base my judgment.

Supercharge Your Kindle Sales

I’ve already pointed out in another post in the series “Starting out as an Indie Author” how you can use keywords to get into niche categories. The first section of Supercharge Your Kindle Sales represents another method of using keywords: finding keywords that will help your book’s visibility when readers type in search terms, another way besides categories that your book can be found. Not only that, Stephenson says it is important to use keywords tied to genres that are selling well, but where the competition is not as great. The author provides step-by-step instructions in how to do this, either manually by testing keywords in the Amazon search bar and analyzing the results yourself, or automatically, using paid tools such as Kindle Samurai.

My first attempts at supercharging didn’t have much of an effect. Downloads of my permafree story Gawain and Ragnell picked up, but everything else remained about the same. The difference here, I believe, is that G&R already had a certain amount of visibility through being in the top 100 list in Arthurian fiction.

So before writing my review, I decided to wait and see what effect, if any, the new keywords might have on a free promotion. I hadn’t tested a free run with one of my novels in over a year. Back then, without doing any advertising, I managed to give away about 300 copies of my Arthurian novel, Shadow of Stone. This time, without doing any advertising, I managed to give away about 2000 copies of my time travel into literary history, Chameleon in a Mirror.

I still wasn’t completely sold on the method. What matters after a free run is how well the book sells and how long it remains visible, after all. Now, over two weeks after the promotion, CIAM is still in a top 100 list. No only that, Island of Glass is in *2* top 100 lists.

To show you how this method can help, I took a couple of screenshots while CIAM was doing particularly well.

Keyword search

Keyword search
Keyword screenshots

As you can see, CIAM was showing up right at the top for both “time travel historical” and “fantasy time travel.” The book is no longer quite as high with those search terms, but it is still on the first page — which is where you want your book to be.

I also attempted to follow Nick Stephenson’s instructions on how to improve your mailing list (the second half of the book), but that has been much less successful for me than changing my keywords. The information and tips on keywords alone, however, make this book worth reading. But as I mentioned above, a change in keywords would probably have to be done in conjunction with some other kind of promotion to get your book high enough in the rankings to show up in search results in the first place.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Starting out as an indie author: Interview with Kate Sparkes

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Getting Your Books into Google Play

Results of free run for Chameleon in a Mirror and further experiments

I promised to report the results of my free run last week with my time travel novel Chameleon in a Mirror.

In one word: mixed.

Altogether I managed to give away over 2000 books, many in places where I’ve never sold anything before. The only Amazon store where CIAM didn’t get any downloads was Mexico. And that was all without spending a dime, only announcing the free run on my blog and through the free sites listed here. On Amazon.de, CIAM even managed to stay in the Top 100 free overall for over three days. Today, the novel is in two Top 100 categories on Amazon.com:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,197 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#59 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > New Adult & College
#83 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy

The book had several borrows immediately after the free run, which has led me to re-enroll it in KDP Select. As long as it is still visible, I might manage to get a few more borrows.

So why is that mixed? CIAM is pretty far down in the top 100 categories it managed to get into, which means it will probably drop out of sight again fairly quickly. And in marketing books, everything is about visibility. If no one sees your book, no one will buy it.

On Amazon.de, despite being in the Top 100 overall for several days, CIAM is not in a single Top 100 category right now.

But I’m still hoping that all the downloads will lead to a few more reviews.

For my next experiment, starting Wednesday, I will be trying another Countdown Deal, this time with my short story collection, The Future, Imperfect.

The Future, Imperfect

The Future, Imperfect has a couple of strikes against it, the main one being that as a short story collection, it has gotten several bad reviews from readers who objected to the short stories being short. I’ve had reviews like that for all of my short story collections by now, so I’m used to it. Unfortunately, it makes it next to impossible to advertize those books, since most sites require an average rating of at least 4 stars.

Thus, comparing results would be like apples and oranges. Instead, I just want to see what strategies might possibly work to get my books selling again.

So remember, if you like dystopian fiction and you read short stories, The Future, Imperfect, will be on sale for 99c from Oct. 22 – Oct. 27. 🙂

Giving “Free” another chance with Chameleon in a Mirror

Some time ago, after a series of very disappointing free runs that hardly seemed to bump the visibility of the respective books at all, I decided to give up on temporary free runs as an advertizing method. Instead, I tried to increase interest using permafree offerings.

Let’s just say that hasn’t gone so well.

I haven’t been doing a lot of marketing for some time, and it has really been showing in my sales figures. Admittedly I didn’t have a lot of time while I was working on the translation, but it has made me quite convinced that if you don’t make any effort to market and find readers, they are not going to find you.

I published Chameleon in a Mirror earlier this year when I was right in the middle of the translation. I didn’t do anything other than announce it on this blog and post a couple of chapters to my Aphra Behn Page. It sold a few copies and then proceeded to sink into oblivion. Even after over half a year, it still doesn’t have enough reviews for me to book any paid advertizing anywhere. So I decided to try out “free” again for a change, in the hopes that a few people will download, read, and review. I updated my list here on this blog of places to notify about a free run, went through it only using the sites that didn’t charge for the announcement, and got back to organizing the cover reveal for Island of Glass.

To my surprise, CIAM took off. Here is where it now stands on Amazon.com:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #325 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > New Adult & College

Then it got picked up by the German version of Pixel of Ink, XTME. And now the book is practically set to break the Top 100 free books overall on Amazon.de. Here the present ranking:

Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #105 Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 – Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop)

Nr. 1 in Kindle-Shop > eBooks > Fremdsprachige eBooks > Englische eBooks > Belletristik > Populäre Belletristik > Historisch

So if anyone reading this is in Germany, please download a copy! (And everyone else too, of course.) It’s free through October 18. It would be so cool to get into the top 100 here!

Another thing I love about this is that maybe a few more people will also learn about my idol, Aphra Behn. 🙂

Aphra Behn by Peter Lely

Of course, I don’t yet know if this will result in actual sales once the free run is over. Be assured that I will post more next week. My sales on sites other than Amazon are so abysmal, if this works, it might be worth to pull my books elsewhere and put all my eggs back in one basket, as bad as that advice usually is.

ADDENDUM: Chameleon is a Mirror is now #89 on Amazon.de!