Sunday, December 14, 2014

The End is Just the Beginning

I've made a decision to merge this blog with my author blog. I'm hoping to get all of the changes made this month while I take a little time off to sip some hot cocoa and enjoy a few glasses of moscato (well, writers never actually "take time off" do they?) I still have at least three novel/novella irons in the fire while I juggle family and work over the holiday season.

I'll be going through this site this month, picking through all the good stuff, and transitioning it over to my other blog, which you can follow HERE.

I will be leaving some of the author book interviews up for now, but most everything else will be transferred or deleted. It's been interesting to look at some of the posts I wrote when first starting out in 2010. The industry has changed immensely. So much so, a lot of the cutting-edge info I offered advice about has now gone the way of the dinosaurs. It's both scary and refreshing to see these changes, and to imagine what more is in store for the future of book publishing.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope to see you all on the flip side :)


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

99 Cents is the New Free

When Amazon first introduced KDP Select in late 2011, I decided to give it a try. Of course this meant pulling my books from all the other sites they were listed on, and I wrestled with the decision at first. Then I stuck a toe in to see what one of my books would do. The results were impressive. At the time I was trying to build my fan base and get noticed. KDP Select did this for me in a multitude of ways.  

Early on, the KDP Select program worked wonders for my books. Every book I had in the program made it to #1 on the free books list during its free promotional days. And when the novel came off its free days, it did even better because I was making money. I made the top 100 list in the entire kindle store several times over with almost all of my books. I even had a short story make it to number 1 on the Thrillers list. Life was good.

But times change, and as an author, you have to realize a lot of what we do is trial and error. The same can be said for the vendor sites where we list our books. I’ve come to accept change comes fast and often, many times with no forewarning. Adapting to it isn't always fun, but to succeed, it's always necessary.

Amazon has been a blessing to authors, especially those who are brand new, trying to get their first book out. I’ve always expressed my gratitude for all they’ve done, and I’ll continue to do so because a great deal of my own success as a bestselling author is because their door was open to me when I was on the brink of tying myself up with a legacy publisher.

I've been a strong advocate for KDP Select, but for me, it's time to get out of the program.


If you’ve been in the program and are a successful, established author, you already know why. At some point Amazon started changing their algorithms. This meant when a book came off the free list, instead of seeing a huge spike (a lower book ranking) as well as a nice increase in book sales, it wasn’t happening anymore, not to the extend I'd grown accustomed to. For a while, they tinkered with it, but recently I've been seeing a meager spike, fewer sales. Amazon is trying something different. Maybe short-term, maybe forever, but for me it means it's time to try something different too.

In my opinion, a .99 promotion (not all the time, just as a sale) is the sweet spot right now, and I owe much of the recent success of my giveaways to BookBub. With over one million members, they’re a force I’m more than happy to reckon with, and I do, about once a month. I know, it's expensive. For me, it's still worth it because my genre has the most subscribers on their daily email list.
The best new trend I'm seeing as a direct result of running a BookBub promotion is sales on other sites such as Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Sony Kobo, all as a result of making my books available again on multiple venues. Three weeks ago I ran an ad for my boxed set. I made the USA Today Bestsellers List one week later. And that wasn't even close to the best week the set has had since I released it over a year ago. However, the fact the book was listed on multiple vendor sites instead of just one made me eligible for the list.
I suppose the entire point of this article is to woo you into trying something new no matter what you are currently doing. Stick to what works and then magnify it. I abhor change. I am more than happy to stick with the same old, same old. I go to a restaurant, and my husband can order for me. I'm a Plain Jane when it comes to food. But when it comes to marketing my books, the extrovert buried somewhere inside comes out to play. 
Take risks.
Try new things.
Even if it's just once. Get out there!

As a side note, if you are new, if you are publishing your first book, I still suggest giving KDP Select a try, even if it's only for three months. The reason why I because no one knows you. You are not established. Not yet. I attribute a good portion of my followers to readers who found me when they downloaded my books during a free promotion. Before that, they didn't have the slightest idea who I was. But it's easy to take a risk when the risk is free, isn't it? Use those free days to get noticed. That’s what they’re for. And when you've added a little more seasoning to your steak, branch out.

Honestly, a year from now I’ll likely be writing an article about a whole different trend, something else I'm trying. And that’s okay. I tend to do what’s in the best interest of my books. And so should you. 
Best of luck, and may you sell a lot of books--I believe in you! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ebook Promotions - 10 Things You SHOULD Be Doing

A couple of months ago my publicist asked me if I would write an article on ebook promotion. I thought I'd share it on here with all of you as well. The information below isn't gospel, but it works for me.


There are several things a writer can do prior to their book coming out.  A month or two before the release, I begin putting things in place that will create a steady momentum once the book is out.  One of the first things I do is to create a press release that my publicist can send to potential reviewers, newspaper agencies, press agencies, etc.  I also create some kind of giveaway on my blog to kick things off.  I give away things like Amazon gift cards and other goodies for any reader who purchases the book in the first month.

This is also the perfect time to schedule your promotions on the internet.  New sites go up daily, it seems, but my favorites right now are BookBub, Digital Book Today, and Ereader News Today.  Some sites are more expensive than others, but you should easily earn your money back on the day your book is promoted, not to mention the boost your book will get several days after the promotion.


When I put out a new book, I do a “soft release,” promoting it to my fans and followers at the beginning to get things going.  I’ll send out a newsletter to let them know the new book is out and then run some kind of promotion for anyone who buys it or buys it and leaves a review (NOTE: I never, ever ask my readers to give me a specific kind of review—all I ask for is an honest review).  Many of my fans read the book within the first few days, and if I am lucky, they will like it and leave a review.  This is what I am hoping for—to get some reviews and initial sales before I push for the hard launch. 


Writers have strong feelings and opinions about the KDP Select program on Amazon.  For me, personally, it works, and I am a big supporter of Amazon and all they have done for writers today.  I believe the best time to enroll in KDP Select is when your book first comes out.  The more visible a book is, the more it gets noticed in the program, and the more lends you will receive. 

I entered the first three books in my Sloane Monroe series one year ago, and I can honestly say, the program has changed my life.  I was doing well prior to enrolling, but the program took my books to the next level.  I highly recommend using the five free days you are offered each time your enroll/renew, and here’s what I suggest doing:

·  When your book is new, enroll in the program. 
·  One month after you publish your book, schedule and use your free days.  To be successful on your free run, you MUST prepare beforehand.  You can learn more about this HERE.   The more free books you move during the promotion, the better your ranking will be when your book comes off the free list.  Amazon uses algorithms (which is a topic I’ll save for another day).    

·  I keep my book free for two or three days.  As long as it keeps climbing in the free store, I keep it up.  But if it slips past the top twenty, I take it off.  And after a few months, take your book out if you want and then you can sell it everywhere else.  Trust me when I say that it’s a lot harder to enroll your books in the program if you have to go around taking them off all the other sites first.  
One side note: In March 2013, Amazon changed the way they pay reader sites. This squashed a lot of sites that used to advertise your freebie. Amazon also changed their algorithms. In the first year of KDP, you could see a massive bump in your rank once you came off free. Now, not so much. So, use KDP Select to help make a name for yourself when you first start out, but long term, keep your options open.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about blog hops.  I organize two or three a year in my writers group, and I always get emails from new writers complaining about the fact that during the hop, they didn’t see an increase in sales.  Why?  Because blog hops aren’t about sales—they’re about exposure.  They’re about people seeing your name and your books.  Most people need to see a product (and your book is a product) several times before they decide to purchase it. 

But now back to blog hops.  If you get the chance to be included on one that’s organized and has quite a few authors participating, do it.  It usually requires very little effort on your part.  The organizer does most of the work for you.  You create a blog post, give away a signed copy of your book, maybe donate to the grand prize, and you’re done.  For my hops, when a reader visits my page, I ask them to either follow me on facebook, twitter, or sign up for my newsletter.  This is free for them, but it benefits me as well.   
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen authors create Twitter accounts for their novel or their series, and not for themselves.  I always hear a noise in my head—that “X” sound from the game show “Family Feud.”  Why?  Because the author is going about it all wrong.  Your name is your brand.  Let me say it again.  Your NAME is your brand.  Not your series.  Not your book.  Not your character.  YOU.   Get your name out there in every way possible.

6.       TWEET 

There is a right way and a wrong way to tweet.  But first, I want to say this: if you don’t have a Twitter account, now is the time to create one.  Right now.  Well, after you finish reading this post, of course.  

I avoided Twitter for a long time.  I didn’t want a Twitter account.  I convinced myself that having an account wouldn’t benefit me.  But then a few of my fans said they were disappointed that I wasn’t on Twitter.  See, your fans feel like they connect with you through twitter—like they have some special insight into your life and what you’re doing.  But that doesn’t mean you need to get personal or reveal too much.  I don’t.  I keep it light.  I ask my fans questions.  I interact with them.  And I love it. 

In one year, I managed to cultivate almost 30,000 followers, and as of the end of this year, 2013, I am nearing 50,000. In August of 2012, I was named one of Twitter’s seven best authors to follow.  It was such an honor.  And to think, I almost never joined.   

Now let’s move on to the wrong way to tweet.  I tweet about my books:  

·  When I put a new book out

·  When I run a promotion
·  When I offer some kind of giveaway/incentive
This is the ONLY TIME I tweet about my books.  My fans don’t want to get tweets from me all day, every day that shout “buy my book!”  It’s irritating, and it’s rude.  I follow the 90/10 rule.  90% of my tweets are non-book related.  I save the other 10% for my promotions.  Otherwise, you’ll lose followers.  No one will retweet you if you keep saying the same thing all the time.  And during an incentive, you need those retweets.  They sell books, and they spread the word about you and your brand.  Long story short, don’t abuse Twitter, and don’t abuse your fans.  Interact with them.  It’s actually a lot of fun.


I created a facebook author page soon after publishing my first novel.  Some of my friends and family liked the page, but in six to nine months, I only had a couple hundred followers.  To me, this was nothing.  I had thousands of friends on my personal page.  So I almost deleted it.  Then I published a boxed set which included the first three mysteries in my Sloane Monroe series.  And it took off.  I started getting up to ten new followers on my author page a day, none of them being friends or family.   

You can now promote yourself on Facebook too.  I like their ads because they’re cheap.  If you have less than 1,000 followers, you can run an ad for three days that posts not only to the side of the pages of your fans, but to their followers sidebar as well.  All for around $15.00.   


What does having author friends have to do with promotion?  Everything.  When I was writing my first book, I interviewed traditionally published authors on my blog.  I asked them for their advice for new, up-and-coming authors, and many were happy to oblige.  Some of the biggest names in the business offered tips on getting started, and I learned that making author friends was pivotal to success.  It IS who you know.   

I created an author group on Facebook in 2010 and have almost 1,600 authors to date.  We share our books, help one another promote, and offer tips and a helping hand to the newbies.  Many of the authors have become life-long friends.  The group also helps me stay in the loop.  Whenever there’s new news in the industry, I’m the first to hear about it.     


When you’re first starting out as an author, you might only have a newsletter that consists of friends and family, and that’s okay.  It doesn’t grow to thousands overnight.  It’s more like a slow trickle.  The main thing is to have a way for readers to contact you, and it should be on everything—your blog, website, author product pages, in your books, etc.  Keep it consistent and keep it the same.  When a fan emails you, add them to your newsletter list.  I send out an email quarterly and try to match it up with a book release, especially when it’s in the soft release phase.  Your most devoted fans will buy the book as soon as it’s released, as long as they know about it. 


I mess around with my prices several times a year.  I also mess around with different genres.  But let’s start with price.  It’s fun to find a reason to change the price.  One that I use is my birthday.  On my birthday, I lower the prices of most or all of my books, just for the day.  I also run a promotion to go along with it.  Another time I lower the price is after Christmas when all those readers have a brand new kindle in their hot, little hands.  I don’t lower the price for a long time—usually no more than three days.  The benefit of this if you do it right is that you’ll sell more books than you were and your rank will lower.  The lower the rank, the more your book is seen.  The more it’s seen, the more copies you’ll sell.   

Now let’s talk about genre.  I don’t move around too much, but there are a lot of different options you can try with your book.  Most of my books are in the mystery/thriller genre.  But, they have just a touch of romance.  While not the main theme, I can still put them in romantic suspense.  I can also put them in action & adventure.  I can also put them in genre fiction.  Sometimes it’s nice to shuffle things around a bit.  After all, lettuce is best when it’s fresh and new.  So, too, are books in categories that attract an entirely new audience.