Using multi-channels to sell your ebooks

Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time will know that I’m a keen advocate of the multi-channel approach when it comes to selling books as an indie author. Had I come into the publishing industry a few months earlier, say around December 2011, then Amazon’s Select program may have well stirred enough interest to get me to sign up. As it is, I published Inside Evil in March 2012, and after reading several reports that the advantages of Select were already waning, decided against becoming exclusive. It seemed pretty obvious to me; I didn’t want to put all of my eggs in one basket.

Select continues to draw a large number of people in, and I’m sure that they’re doing very well out of it. However, distributing with Smashwords and Kobo Writing Life has never been easier. I hear a lot of people saying that they have issues with Smashwords, but in all honesty, I can hand on heart say that I’ve had no problems. I’ve gone through their Meatgrinder without ending up with a completely ruined eBook file, I’ve got into their Premium catalogue with no worries, and I’ve been distributed fairly fast. B&N does take a while to get going, but I don’t necessarily think that this is Smashwords’ fault because CRYO landed in the iBookstore just days after being distributed.

Why use the multichannel approach?

Readers

Readers want flexibility, and whilst the Kindle is still a huge eReader, an increasing number of people have other devices. I read everything on my iPhone and I have fans of my work who read on the Nook and Sony devices. Had I started on Select, none of these readers would have got to sample my work whilst the exclusivity contract was in place. And, though I’ve thought about putting subsequent work into Select, it ultimately means that any readerbase I’ve already gathered would be penalised for not choosing Amazon as their number one ebook provider.

Maximum Exposure

There’s no denying it; Amazon is a huge marketplace and has millions of readers awaiting your novel. But this can have its downsides too. It will take more sales to get into Amazon’s Top 100 lists than it might on Apple or Kobo, and you’ll fall out of those lists more quickly too. Being on Amazon alone also stymies the places you can promote, and you’ll be stuck to advertising methods that only point directly back to Amazon. In addition, the Select contract means that you can provide excerpts of no more than 10% (i.e. the sample that Amazon offers) and links must direct back to them. However, by choosing to use a multi-channel approach, the world and all the eReaders really are your oyster.

– Limiting Risk

Placing all your work in one place is risky. What happens if Amazon suddenly decides to stop promoting indie authors? They make a deal with the Big Six and, almost overnight, all those top ranking indie books disappear way down the lists because of changed algorithms? This is not a good thing, and it’s made worse if your work is only available on Amazon. Of course, creating a newsletter is the best option if you want to reach readers regardless of where they are and whatever happens to the market. However, by having your work in as many places as possible,  you can limit the risk of a big hit due to one market changing or closing.

I love Amazon, and they do make it very easy for us indie authors to sell our books. But I also love the multi-channel approach, and I’d be severely stunted if my readers suddenly couldn’t download on iBooks or the Nook.  CRYO: Rise of the Immortals has now made it to Apple, just days after it was uploaded to Smashwords, and you can find it for both US and UK versions. Having it in multiple places has helped its launch and got the book off to a good start. As for your advertising, which do you prefer? Amazon Select or multi-channelling?

How to start a Goodreads book marketing campaign

Up until this point it’s fair to say that I’ve spent minimal money on self publishing. Through the help of a couple of avid readers, I had Inside Evil vetted and proofread for free. Uploading eBooks costs nothing, and I spent $50 on the cover. In addition, I bought this blog domain; so overall I’ve only spent about $65. This, in truth, is nothing when it comes to creating, publishing and advertising a novel.

Those who know me, know that I’m pretty frugal. Some would say I’m tight – I would say I’m financially organised and careful with my spending. It’s the way I was brought up. Just because you might want to buy something, doesn’t mean you should or can buy it. If you really want, you should save – these are the lessons my parents instilled upon me which, in fairness, have been a great help in life. Still, that didn’t stop me blowing my entire student loan in the first year of university on a sound system, hundreds of DVDs and so much booze that I ran out of money in May and had to live of baked beans and scavenged bread for about two months.

Still, I get aside from the point; I don’t like to spend money if I can help it. However, I have finally bitten the bullet and invested into a Goodreads advertising campaign.

The problem with self publishing is that, after that initially flurry of excitement, book sales can slump. I’ve tried to kick start things with a LibraryThing giveaway, but have only had one review, 4 stars, come in. More about that in another post. I know that some indie writers have been successful enough without having to do any advertising, but for the majority of us, some investment will be needed.

Creating a Goodreads campaign is very easy, after all, they want to take your money. However, for those who are worried that it’s going to be difficult to create, fear not. It only takes a few clicks, a couple of lines of copy and you’re off. Goodreads Self Serve advertising took me less than half an hour to fill out and prepare the adverts, and then it took around 12 hours for them to be authorised. Please note, you will need a creditcard so that you can throw some money into the advertising account. However, you can carefully control your Cost Per Click (CPC) rates and set a limit on your daily spend so that money isn’t literally haemorrhaging out of your account.

To prevent huge losses without any actual results, I decided to follow Lindsay Buroker’s advice and go with a targeted market campaign. Whilst you can advertise to everyone, you pay for every click. If these clicks aren’t getting you actual sales, then you’re effectively wasting money and being very inefficient. As it is, I am bidding 30cents for a click. With a royalty rate on Inside Evil of $2.70, it means that if I get one sale for every nine clicks, then I’m breaking even.

In addition to carefully selecting the groups of people I want my novel targeted at, I’ve included the price, the genre and the fact that Inside Evil is an eBook in the actual ad copy. This should stop people wanting paperbacks or crime thrillers clicking on the link and wasting my hard earned cash.

Currently I’m testing out two ads, both pointing to Amazon, to see which has the better CPC rate. I’ll probably add adverts for B&N and Smashwords over time, but at the moment I’m choosing to focus on Amazon whilst I get to grips with the advertising process.

In regards to money, I’ve only dumped $35 into the account. I’ve set a maximum of $5 per day, which gives me 16 clicks. You may not think this is very high, but CPC rates can be pretty unimpressive, as low as 0.05per cent, meaning that for me to max out I’ll actually need to have 32,000 indents during the space of the day to get those 16 clicks. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m not expecting to see these high numbers. And, of course, you can change your maximums or dump more cash in at any time.

Another note to add is that your advertising fund will cover all of your ads. I initially thought I would put $35 in for each of the two ads, but upon creating the second advert, I discovered that they come under the same umbrella. This is great as it offers you the chance to play around with your CPC bid costs and different advert copies without having to invest an increasingly large sum of money.

So, you can see that creating a Goodreads book marketing campaign is fairly easy. From perusing forums and Kindleboards, it seems that some people have success with this route whilst others don’t.  My adverts have been live less than a day and have had 973 indents and no clicks so far.

I will update over the coming weeks 🙂

A Break from Advertising

When writing a book for the first time, you think that THAT is the hard part. However, when you hit that ‘publish’ button, whether it’s on Smashwords, Amazon or the various other places available for self-publishing, you discover that it’s only then that the hard work begins.

Unfortunately, most books simply don’t sell themselves. There needs to be time and effort into promoting, building a fan base, surfing forums (and by this I mean actively engaging in the community and not simply spamming book links) and getting your book and author name known. It’s a hard process. And, it takes a lot of time.

Having read on many forums and blogs that touting a single novel is often a waste of time because though you’ll get sales on one book, there’s no back catalogue for fans to then purchase, I’ve decided to cut back on advertising. Book sales are slow, but having done no real promoting in two weeks, I’m still getting the odd sale here and there. Meanwhile, the extra time means I can plough myself into writing the next Inside Evil  book which, incidentally, is coming on rather well.

I think taking a break is probably a healthy option, and stops the advertising wheel from taking over your life. And, if I can put my energies into writing and publishing more work, it can only be a good step to take.

A New Page

Self-publishing is hard work and it’s very easy to get immediately disheartened when your novel is not a breakout success and you don’t sell 1,000 copies every day. The more I read on forums, the more I realise that many authors trying to break into the market have long periods without sales. This is especially true if you only have a single novel and no ready-made user base to sell to. Combine that with no reviews or ratings, and your novel is floating, adrift from it’s readers. Some selling on Amazon call it the ‘beige wall of shame’, and you’ll know exactly what I mean if you’ve become a sales junkie and keep hitting that refresh button in your Amazon bookshelf tab.

In attempt to try and dispel some of the myths surrounding self publishing sales, I’ve created a new sales tab which will show you exactly how many sales I’m making on various platforms. OK, this may be seriously embarrassing for me, especially if my sales continue at their current level – NIL. But, it’ll be a nice guide for myself and hopefully other newbies to look at. It is with hope that one day I can look back upon this and see that the whole self publishing business was worthwhile. There’s a fun and refreshing thread over at Kindle Boards where many authors not selling 10,000 a month can celebrate their two sales a week. Always makes nice reading when the paranoid gremlins start taking hold.

On a side note, whilst sales just haven’t really occurred, I’m not yet too bothered. From what I’m reading, March can be a quiet month and many newer writers on Amazon are seeing lagging sales too. Combine that with the fact that Inside Evil is still ‘pending review’ on Smashwords, and I truly haven’t got enough exposure to be selling books yet. Onwards and upwards, and lets hope that my sales data doesn’t continue to be horrendously low.