Writers in the Storm

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December 14, 2012

Marketing Your E-Book: Making The Most Of Your Time

By Lyn Horner

I’m sure you’ve all heard this before but it bears repeating. When you publish an e-book, expect to spend as much time on marketing as you spend writing the next book, especially if you’re new on the publishing scene. In order to get the most from promotional efforts, it’s wise to pick and choose where you’ll invest your precious time. Today I’ll share some suggestions gleaned from two successful e-book authors.

Most writers have heard of John Locke, the New York Times Best Selling Author who was the first self-published author in history to sell one million Kindle books. Last year he published How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, a helpful guide I highly recommend. It reveals how the author built a loyal following of readers who promote his books for him. Before Mr. Locke explained his marketing system, he listed several tactics that didn’t work for him:

  1. Attempts to get into brick and mortar book stores
  2. Seeking newspaper interviews
  3. A hired publicist
  4. Press releases
  5. Radio interview
  6. Media ads

The author concedes that some of these things might work for others, but he found them to be time and money wasters. I can’t go into the reasons here, but it might be worth your while to read Locke’s book for the details.

Now for the good stuff he does recommend!

First, write for a specific audience and know how to find that audience. In Locke’s opinion, most authors do things backwards. They write a book then try to find an audience and form a marketing plan. He sees that as “shooting in the dark.” In my case I admit he’s correct. I write cross-genre books intended mainly for western romance readers, but with paranormal elements that make them unique – and kind of hard to sell.

To solve this problem, Locke suggests running a survey (on your blog or website, linked to twitter) to find out what readers like about your book. Ask specific questions such as which is their favorite scene and why, how the scene made them feel, etc. Evaluate their answers to see what they have in common. This can help you determine where and how to promote your book.

Other recommendations from John Locke:

  1. Get your book in print (investigate CreateSpace and/or Lulu for this option)
  2. Set up a website and blog site
  3. Seek reviews (great ones help)
  4. Build a mailing list of at least 25 people who will buy your next book
  5. Connect with at least 100 “quality” followers on twitter; converse with these people, get to know them, let them get to know you. The goal is to make them loyal readers who will help promote your books.

Now I’ll pass on advice received from Liliana Hart, a very successful e-book author. She’s a member of Yellow Rose RWA, a Texas chapter I belong to, where she has kindly shared her experience with me and other members.

Here are a few of Liliana’s tips:

  1. Use twitter extensively to build followers. The best hours to be online are between 8 and 10 a.m. and in the evening between 8 and 10 p.m.
  2. Post on Kindleboards and get involved in discussions.
  3. Start a “Street Team” on your website. Recruit readers who love your book(s) to spread the word to their friends. Send them packets with freebies they can hand out such as bookmarks, romance trading cards, whatever you can afford. Offer incentives to top team members. You might offer a mug or T-shirt with a cute saying related to your book(s).

Another marketing tool for you to consider is Amazon’s KDP Select program. I’ve used it to make my books more visible on Amazon, and for several months it really boosted my sales. If you choose to take part in KDP Select, you must sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon during the time it’s enrolled in the program. Enrollment periods are for 90 days but can be renewed indefinitely.

However, I don’t recommend keeping your books on KDP Select for more than a few months because it limits your audience to Amazon readers. To optimize exposure and sales long term, your books need to be available through a variety of e-book retailers. These include Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and the Apple i-store.

I hope you find these marketing suggestions helpful. Do you have other favorite ways to market your books? I’d love for you to share them. Many heads are better than one!

Lyn's Amazon Author Page
Lyn Horner's Corner
Lyn Horner’s Texas Druids

0 comments on “Marketing Your E-Book: Making The Most Of Your Time”

  1. Stina, yes he did, and he's not the only one did. I can't recommend that tactic, but his above mentioned advice is still valuable. Since his twitter recommendation coincides with Liliana Hart's, I it's advice I intend to follow. BTW, I forgot to pass on one other bit of Liliana's wisdom: she posts her books on Wattpad, with good results.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  2. When I'm giving marketing advice to my author clients, there are 6 things everyone wants to do, and I tell them it's a waste of time and money.

    Oh, look; it's Locke's list of 6. What a fascinating coincidence. Or perhaps it just means I really DO know what I'm talking about 😉

    1. Hi Dawn. Thanks for reblogging this post. I hope you'll come visit my sites. I'm currently running an updated series posted here on WITS a couple years ago about publishing on Amazon. SEE LINKS ABOVE.

  3. I'm planning on e-publishing my back list and find the thought of spending so much time with marketing daunting. I'm so not into that. It seems I waste hours just keeping up with the normal media sources of Facebook, twitter and blogging. Add marketing a book into the mix and when do I write?! I see authors pushing their book titles on twitter constantly, to the point that I skip over them. I figure if I'm doing that, other people are too. How much it too much? I'm a slow writer so I can easily see writing of future books slow down even more. And yet I know for a fact that Traditional Publishers do little to nothing to promote author books. As one of my crit partners often say ... OY!

    1. Sharla, marketing is daunting, no question about it. But if I can do it, so can you! I'm told it does get easier as you pub more books and your name becomes know. I sure hope so!

  4. I will try traditional publishing first. I still believe that good writing sells itself. If I have to resort to a bunch of gimmicks and hype, what kind of writer does that make me? I may change my mind about this later, but the book market is too saturated as it is, and most of the stuff I've been reading is pretty mediocre. I've stopped buying books because I don't want to waste my hard-earned money.

    1. Good writing won't sell itself any more than good music or good art of any kind will sell itself. Traditional publishing's criteria is "What will sell?" not "What is good?" If you look at the popular books and music, you'll see the gamut, from super to outright dreck. Just because it's traditionally published doesn't mean it's quality. There's zero connection.

      As for your description of marketing ("a bunch of gimmicks and hype") that's what I like to call "the wrong way." A good writer with a friendly personality does marketing using what I like to call "the right way" which doesn't involve any of the sleazy tactics that come with a plaid polyester sports coat.

      1. Thanks for the feedback. I understand that marketing is necessary to sell anything. But I've read too many books that were heavily marketed and turned out to be a big disappointment to me. I've spent loads of money on books, and I've become more choosy and tight-fisted as a result of my disappointments. I blame that on the publishing industry as a whole. Anybody can throw together a book and call themselves an author, including me. Quality is being sacrificed for quantity. The book market is over-saturated and will go through a bubble, like everything else, when the people trying to get rich quick find out that it isn't that simple. Yes, I am disenchanted with the book industry right now. And I will try traditional publishing first because I see too many scams out there. And yes, good writing (as well as good marketing) will always win out over mediocrity and hype.

        1. It IS a bubble, and it WILL burst.

          And when it does, traditional publishing will suffer the most, and authors who are dependent on those channels will suffer along with them.

          All the statements you make seem to be aimed at independently published books, but I could say exactly the same things about traditionally published books.

          The method of publication has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with quality of the work. It also has nothing to do with the quality, truthfulness, or effectiveness of the marketing, except that traditional publishing has more money to market dreck and make it popular by sheer volume of noise.

    2. Dawn, you're right and wrong. Good writing will sell itself, but only if you get the word out. Few readers buy books from unknown authors unless they come with recommendations (reviews) and you must get your work before the readers' eyes. There are so many ways and places to try, that it can become overwhelming and VERY time consuming. Take my word because I've been there and done that. That's why I decided to write this post.

      Regarding mediocre books, I have to agree with Joel, there are great self-published authors and crummy ones, just as with traditionally pubbed authors. Not that you shouldn't seek trad publishing. By all means do, and I wish you the greatest good fortune.

      1. Thanks, Lyn, I've become disenchanted with the book industry because I see too many scams out there and too much mediocrity on the market. Stephen King didn't become a best-selling author from hype and gimmicks. He got there because he's a damned good writer. And it seems like the book industry is drowning in its own ink. The market is over-saturated and will experience a bubble, like everything else. I like your blog, by the way.

    1. Most of my marketing thinking ends up in my books, but you can get a good bit of it at these three blogs:


      (Ooh; spam filter's gonna have a ball with that.)

      I'm also working on a free training series for next year which will include motivation, writing craft, design, and marketing. Videos and ebooks (did I mention "free" ?) so authors can get their books out of the "someday" box.

      But gimme a few minutes and I'll come back with a bullet list of half a dozen of my favorite marketing ideas.

    2. And now, for your viewing pleasure, 6 Quick Marketing Tips for Writers:

      1. Start your marketing program the minute you decide to write a book. It can take a year or two to build a platform, your tribe of fans. Start now.

      2. Blog. Write three times a week: once about your content, once about the process of writing, publishing, etc., and once about yourself: something personal which, of course, should tie into the other two categories.

      3. Comment on other blogs. Go where your ideal prospective reader is, and make meaningful generous non-spammy non-selly comments. Give first. You have to make deposits in your trust account with others before you're allowed to make withdrawals. Generosity is your most powerful marketing tool. I am not exaggerating. I am not kidding.

      4. Ideal prospective reader? Yeah, that. Write out, in exhaustive excruciating detail, a description of the person who is your most perfectest reader. Give them a name, gender, age, job, hobby. Know them well enough that if I asked you what flavor ice cream they want, you'll know. (Eileen Thomasina Armstrong, who truly does not like her middle name, will have an excellent quality vanilla, please, though occasionally, she will have spumoni if it is, again, the finest quality.)

      5. When you write your marketing, write specifically and directly to that person, and that person only. Powerful pointed prose which your perfect reader will love. You'll attract others just like her (yes, as you see in #4, mine is a woman even though I'm not.)

      6. Create outsiders by creating insiders. Writing for your perfect reader will annoy some people. Fine. Your insiders, your 1,000 true fans, can't know they're insiders unless they also see that there are outsiders. Your job in marketing is to get people off the fence. Inside or out, let them choose. But get them off the fence. Be polarizing. If your marketing doesn't make some people unsubscribe from your newsletter, you're not speaking clearly enough to the insiders.

      Questions, comments, general brouhaha invited, even encouraged.

      1. Wow, this is enlightening to me - thanks so much, Joel, I've never seen it explained that way before. And I think it's beneficial for Introverted writers - like our Sharla, Fae, and Orly -- if you focus on ONE person, it's more personal and less intimidating...and of course, hopefully, you're being a pied piper for a lot more! Brilliant, really.

        1. When I created Eileen, she *immediately* started showing up in my life. My next 3 or 4 clients were almost exactly her. I can tell when my marketing message is off target, because I start meeting her angry sister, her controlling ex-husband, and her petulant kids.

          It's not only helpful to focus on one person, it's vital. I contend that all truly successful marketing is aimed at a perfect client, not the masses. (I co-authored an entire book on the subject, called "Hits or Niches: Why Marketing is Boring, Obnoxious, and Annoying & What You Can Do About It.")

  5. Good article, Lynn. Nicely condensed. I reviewed John Locke's book a while back. http://www.yourshelflife.com/?p=997 John contacted me and told me he'd never had such a good review. It was nice hearing from the master. I'm not so sure I'd laud him so highly now that I know about the hundreds of reviews he purchased.

    However, he never said he went into the writing game as anything but a businessman. That's how a businessman would crack an irrational nut––and the publishing industry is crazy. Many good books get missed entirely and a lot of dreck is published. By traditional publishers, too. (Dawn Pisturino––the Trads do exactly nothing to help the author market. I was just talking to a friend who has been traditionally published. The money is lousy and she has to pay for all promotion. My friend can hardly wait to get a new book out so she can self publish.)

    A few literary outliers do well. The rest of us should bear in mind that many other ways of making money exist that are way more lucrative than publishing, self or traditional. Back when he was a literary agent, Nathan Bransford wrote in his blog that he received between 15 and 20,000 queries a year. He accepted 2 to 3 new clients annually. Getting into Harvard is hundreds of times easier than being accepted by an agent. Or at least Nathan Bransford in the old days.

    We need all sorts of intelligent strategies to succeed with our work. Locke presents one set. And thanks for the tips, Lynn.

    1. I truly don't know the details of Locke's methods, but any marketing method which doesn't involve complete transparency is unacceptable. There's a reason he didn't reveal his actions until he was caught (though it was probably about money as much as morals.)

      1. Hi, Joel. For some reason, this panel says I'm replying to Ally Broadfield. OK. Well, Joel and/or Ally, I have to admit being really disappointed in John Locke. I was such a fan and thought his marketing achievement so fantastic––well, it was, cheating or not. My reviews and ratings have some hard earned, no cheating. Makes me sick to see abuses like that. Of course, Amazon's response, the ransacking of people's reviews for the most idiotic reasons, is just as nuts. I have an author friend with a common last name. They removed one of her reviews because the reviewer had the same last name. Amazon said they were relatives. When the reviewer said they WEREN'T relatives, they didn't believe her. ????

        1. That's nuts.

          It's very hard to operate without trust. Big corporate entities have to operate by thick blankets of rules.

          Unless, of course, they're Zappo's, or any of the other companies where employees are expected to treat customers like human beings.

          Amazon is struggling to make sense of the new marketing tactics, everyone gaming their stats and stretching the rules. I don't depend on anything I've ever written on someone else's website to be there next week, and that way, should it disappear, I haven't really lost much.

  6. Wow, guys and gals, I'm thrilled to see such a lively discussion going on here!

    Sharon, I'm glad you stopped by. I hope these suggestion do help you -- in the near future. 🙂

    Joel, thank you, thank you! I will visit your sites soon. and I appreciate your list of marketing tips. I do a fair amount of blogging, though not as much as my friend Caroline.

    Waving at you, Miss Clemmons! You are a blogging star! I don't know how you do it and still manage to write.

    Sandy, good to hear from you. You're obviously experienced with the marketing scene, so I'm grateful for your kind words. Also your valuable insight.

  7. On a sad, sad note, I've been writing all day, without looking at any news, and I just learned about the terrible school shooting in Newtown, Conneticut. I'm horrified as are all of you, I know. When will this kind of horror stop???? God help the grief stricken families.

  8. Wow, there's a lot to think about here. I am still unpublished, and have set up a blog, website, social media, etc. It seems like all my efforts fall on other writers instead of my ideal reader. Don't get me wrong, I love my writer friends and greatly appreciate their support, but except for Facebook, I don't feel like any of the other marketing strategies reach my target audience.

  9. Hi Ally, nice to hear from you. I think we all face the same problem you mention. It's hard to know where to find our ideal readers. I hope some of the suggestions listed here will help you find yours.

  10. Thanks, Ella. You're right, the tips provided by Locke, Liliana Hart, Joel and others could be helpful to any authors, even trad published, since they receive so little marketing help from their publishers.

  11. I was considering asking friends with Amazon accounts to and review my books and then giving them there money back (essentially giving them a free book in exchange for reviews). I didn't think there was anything wrong with that.

  12. The problem with reviews from friends and/or relatives is they are undoubtedly biased in your favor. Whether they buy the book or you give it to them, if you receive a bunch of 5-star reviews all at once, from people who live in the same area as you, some readers will notice and conclude that those reviews are not honest because they came from your friends. And a few may give you bad reviews just for that reason. I know authors who have experienced this, and I have myself. So,if friends wants to review your book, ask them to be truly honest. And don't get mad if they point out a weakness in your writing. That's a large part of what reviews are for, to show us where we need to improve.

  13. great advice, im planning on selling my first e-book soon, and I need all the help I can get. I had a lot of questions about KDP and the like, and this answered them for me. I'm trying to figure out the best way of going about doing this so I don't have too high expectations. One thing I need to think about - when to start my next book. To be honest, I was just happy to finally finish this one. I guess it's never truly done, though, but a work in progress. Thanks again for this post, it was really helpful.

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