Everything I've learned about writing a book, Grammarly, Hemingway, and AutoCrit Apps, getting Amazon Book Reviews, Indie and Audiobook Publishing, Book Promotion, the (huge) importance of Amazon keywords, Cover Creators and other things to help authors write and sell…
Two and a half years after I published my novel, it is still selling several copies a day.
Earlier today it had a sales rank of 50K (see the above screenshot). Sales have certainly declined from where they peaked about nine months after I published, but sales continue at a steady pace. And my novel is in a pretty small niche, so book sales have only so much upside in this niche.
My book is priced at $1.49, and it has been at that price for almost the entire time it has been for sale on Amazon, so I’m not wracking up sales by selling it at $.99.
Below you can see my Author Rank as tracked by Amazon. Even two and a half years after I launched my book it is still doing better than it did the month after I launched it. Again — see my blog on keywords. That dip the month after I published my book was because I did not know what I was doing (like most indies) with keywords. After that, I got my keywords figured out and my sales did much better.
I’ve not changed the price of my first book on Amazon in a year and a half. My guess is that frequent price change or even free days will not do much for your sales and won’t result in many new reviews. Nonetheless, I thought I’d make my book free for a day and see what happens.
The day is about half over, and per the KDP report Amazon offers, I’ve had about 70 downloads. Given that I barely advertised it — a few tweets only — that is not too surprising. But there are a few surprising things.
This book came up in a discussion I was having earlier today. Published in 1968, and an eventual bestseller, The Population Bomb asserted that within 10 – 20 years the world would be wracked by starvation and wars for food.
In my early teens in the ’70s I lived in a small town in western Kansas surrounded by literally an ocean of wheat that farmers were going broke producing because the world had too damn much of it. So I could not reconcile the dire warnings of “The Population Bomb” and the reality around me.
I grew up reading Analog Science Fiction magazine. In fairness, it is more accurately Analog Science Fiction and Fact, but I always did better with the fiction part than I did the fact part.
Later in life, while earning my MA in Creative Writing, I had the chance to study under James Gunn at the University of Kansas. Gunn has published a number of science fiction novels over the last ~50 years, but he is probably better known in the sci fi community as a historian of science fiction and has published a number of books to that end.
I took three or four classes from him, and I spent some time chatting with him in his office, which was as you would imagine it: Stacked high with paperbacks on every flat surface, he was staring into the small screen of his antiquated computer. He eventually chaired my thesis committee.
As luck would have it, he came to our wedding. For a wedding gift — in typical Gunn fashion — he handed me a couple of his most recent paperbacks.
Think the success of the great novel you are working on is all about the writing? Think again if you want to have a successful book launch.
BookBaby has published the results of a survey which they describe as such: “The 2017 Self-Publishing Survey conducted by BookBaby was focused specifically on revealing the most successful book marketing and promotional strategies for self-publishers. The 56-questions survey targeted two subgroups: authors who have published at least one book (either self-published, traditionally published, or both), and aspiring authors who have not yet published a book. The online survey was conducted between October 24, 2016 – November 28, 2016, and was completed by 7,677 aspiring and published authors.”
One of my daughters was given a scholarship to help fund her education in Art (medical illustration) by the art community of Spicewood, Texas. Spicewood is a small town southwest of Austin’s southwestern suburbs, so definitely out in the country. They asked her to join in their 4th of July celebration, so our entire family went. We cheered for the parade and then went to the community grounds where ~300 of us enjoyed hot dogs and cokes and a local band performing old favorites intermixed with short speeches. Near the start, a young woman tried to sing the national anthem. It did not start well.
Six weeks ago I was on the verge of sending my manuscript to my editor, but I had a few interruptions: My older twin daughters (yes, we have two sets of twins) graduated from high school and we had to visit the colleges they are going to for orientations, we moved to a new house (which was a ton of physical work, and I aggravated an old collarbone injury), my boss (and friend) was fired and I’ve taken on a bigger role at work, and my wife and I have both had to travel for various other reasons.
I saw some of this coming, so I decided to take advantage of the pause to have two more beta readers go through the manuscript. Both are accomplished readers with keen and critical eyes, and both are preparing to publish their first novels. I finally had some time today to look at their feedback in detail…
Since I recently released my first audio book, I thought I’d provide a summary of my experience publishing an audiobook via Amazon’s ACX Audible to help anyone headed down the same path. The book has gotten strong reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but I wanted to make it available so people could hear it as well as read it on their Kindle Fire.
None of us want to fail as writers or have to admit to our families and friends that after all our hours in seclusion banging out our manuscripts they failed to sell even 10 copies. That is the height of embarrassment that none of us want to experience. As an indie publisher, it is critical that we understand what we are getting ourselves into and how to be successful before we start. This is doubly true as I am writing a book, and I hope this second one is even more successful than my first.
I have written about grammarcheckers and style checkers before. I continue to believe they are a powerful tool in a writer’s tool bag. AutoCrit has revised their editing software product and has an active marketing campaign underway. I signed up for their trial membership for $1 for a week. Yesterday I spent about 3 hours working on my upcoming novel with their cloud-based app. In the end, I had two strong opinions about their updated writing software.
A recent article argued that there is a formula to writing bestsellers. The article says the algorithm is “built to predict, with 80 percent accuracy, which novels will become mega-bestsellers. What does it like? “Young, strong heroines who are also misfits (the type found in The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). No sex, just ‘human closeness.’ Frequent use of the verb ‘need.’ Lots of contractions. Not a lot of exclamation marks. Dogs, yes; cats, meh.” So if you are writing a novel and want to trump your competition, you should abide what this book says, right? Let’s see how I’m doing with my upcoming science fiction novel:
* Young, strong, heroine — check. * Misfit — check. * No sex — this one is an in betweener…you’ll have to read the novel to understand. * Human closeness — check. * Frequent use of the verb “need” — hmm… 154 times in a novel of 116k words…I can work on this one. * Lots of contractions — I probably need more, so this is fixable. * Not a lot of exclamation marks — I’ve got too many. I can fix this. * Dogs — Several of them. * Cats — One. Dead.
I suppose if I put an image of a young woman on the cover… Bestseller, here I come!
I stumbled on a powerful and simple way to make a 3D book cover for free. Several sites offer book cover makers, but they all seem to either want your email address, have poor resolution or offer only a few predefined views from which you must pick. I found one that with a little bit of “post production” work on your part will leave you with a very nice ebook cover or paperback book cover, much as you see above and in my sidebar. Now you can do your own book cover design, and see it in 3D. Let me show you how it’s done.
There is no understating how important it is to get reviews to help ramp sales of your new book. And I’ve previously written about how to get great reviews from some of Amazon’s top reviewers. But I’ve just discovered this: There is a group on Goodreads that is helping authors get thoughtful reviews posted to three sites (Goodreads, Amazon US and Amazon UK) from readers they don’t know. It’s a great and simple system. How much does it cost? No money involved. You just have to pay it forward and review a book from someone else. And there is no limit; you can get as many reviews as you can give.
In a recent blog, Neil Patel shared an article titled: “Modern Online Marketing Education: 18 Courses and Resources”. There are only a few blogs I follow closely, and Neil’s is one of them. I know of no one who provides so much value so clearly. In his most recent post, his intent is clear given the title. Too many writers don’t understand that their success has as much to do about marketing as it does about writing well. That is why most books published on Amazon never sell more than 20 copies. Writing blogs can help you write better, but you have to know who you are targeting to sell.
Like many writers, I spent a lot of time worrying about how to get published. Once I did publish my story, I quickly realized I needed book reviews. Under no circumstances would I pay for Amazon reviews. Now, after a year, I have gotten 38 book reviews. That may not sound like much, but they are all legitimate, and more than a fourth of them have been from Amazon’s top reviewers (“Top 100”, “Vine Voice”, etc.). And 24 of the reviews have been 5-star reviews. The rest are 4-star reviews with just 1 3-star review. This is important because it will help drive sales forever. How did I do it?