The importance of book reviews and word of mouth for ebook sales

It may sound obvious, but word of mouth is one of the major factors that will help you sell books. I know this, you know this, but knowing and doing are two completely different things. When I first started self publishing, I debuted Inside Evil on a bit of a down low. It was my first novel, I didn’t know how it was going to be received and I didn’t want to put family and friends in that awkward position where they have to gush about loving your book whilst they’re secretly cursing the hours they lost having to read their loved ones trash. Luckily, it seems that I didn’t write 70,000 words of trash, but putting a book out there that you’ve slaved over is scary stuff.

Once you hit that self publish button, and for those who are organised enough to get a head start, the marketing and advertising starts. Forum posting, blog commenting, Goodreads ads and LibraryThing giveaways are all part of the process of trying to get sales; along with having fingers and toes crossed that a little bit of luck comes your way. However, from personal experience, the one thing you need to do to sell some books is to swallow your pride and turn to book reviewers, friends and family to spread the word.

Book Reviews

Some people don’t have a lot of luck with book reviews, but I’ve found that it’s been one of the best way to get sales. Most reviewers have a huge backlog of books to read, but getting on as many blogs as possible will passively spread the word of your novel, build some reviews and gain some sales. Most reviewers will post their ratings on their blog, Goodreads, Amazon and even Barnes and Noble, offering you the chance to reach blog readers and grow your range of marketplace reviews. On Goodreads this can help you to reach more people’s shelves, adding to the natural word of mouth spread of your book.

One of my first book blog reviews came in yesterday with a stunning 4.5 stars. A huge thank you to Krista at Breathe in Books for this review, and I’ve already noted an increase in sales which I expect has come off this sole review.  Don’t be persuaded to only go for some of the big book reviewers – get on as many blogs as possible to reach a wider audience.

Two great lists of book reviews can be found at:

Kristy’s Stories book reviewers post
Indie Book Reviewer

Word of Mouth

There’s nothing that says ‘buy this book’ better than a personal recommendation. In the best scenario you want readers to be saying ‘Wow, I read this great book. You should give it a go.’ However, you need a little help now and then, and it’s here that friends and family can help. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a little plug here and there. My sister put out a Facebook status saying that she’d read my book and loved it. She added the Amazon book link and I had several sales from people who were interested. Likewise, an author friend of mine Tweeted about my book, and I had several more sales as a direct result from that.

It’s understandable that you don’t want to rely on friends and family to spread the word, but you have to reach new fans in the first place so that word on your book spreads. Get two friends of a family member to buy your book and recommend it to others, and you soon have new and completely unrelated fans. This in turn will push up your Amazon sales rankings so that you can enter top 100 lists and become more noticeable.

Reaching new fans and getting sales is a difficult task. People will be far more willing to try a new author if they receive a personal recommendation. If, like me, you’re not very good at blowing your own trumpet, asking for help from family and friends can be a huge help to get your ebook sales snowballing.

LibraryThing Giveaway Promotion

As some people will know, early in June I offered a LibraryThing giveaway, providing 50 copies of Inside Evil to people on LibraryThing in return for reviews. I had many hopes, not to increase sales, but to get reviews. Here are the results.

It can safely be said, that the LibraryThing giveaway was a bit of failure. At the very least, it failed to live up to expectations. Of the 50 books that I offered, 39 people downloaded the novel from Smashwords which I would think is a pretty good result. However, over the course of the past month, I’ve only had ONE review and around FOUR Goodreads adds. It’s a little disappointing, as I hoped that a ratio of at least 10% would give me a review, but alas, so far, the one sole review is all I’ve had. Still, this was a 4star one so it’s not a complete loss and I was ecstatic to see that the reader posted on LibraryThing, Amazon and Smashwords.

Of course, when you’re running a LibraryThing giveaway, it’s important to remember that the types of people bidding in these contests are the type of readers who may well have a substantial backlist of books to read. After one month, I’ve had one review. However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be more to come in the future as individuals finally get around to giving Inside Evil a go.

Would I use LibraryThing’s giveaway again?

At the end of the day, it’s a great giveaway tool and so, yes, I would use it again. I plan to offer 50 copies of Tower of Souls to readers about a month before the release. This should give people the chance to read the book and make a few reviews so that when it goes live on Amazon and Smashwords, there is already some feedback available. Obviously, it’s a sequel, so people winning the book may even buy Inside Evil first so that they’re caught up on the story.

If you’re thinking of using a LibraryThing giveaway, then don’t expect great instant results. Be happy for the reviews that you do get in, and utilise it as a way to get your work read and find a few new fans and followers.

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 🙂

The First Book Sale

I’ve just done a small leap of excited joy. I got it. That elusive first book sale. I’m over the moon!

I’d never thought about self publishing before. That was, until I read the article with Amanda Hocking on The Guardian website which outlined her supreme success at making it as an e-author. Suddenly, an entire new world came into focus and I realised that the novels which had been languishing in my computer files could actually become something. Yes, they’d need some work, some hard hours and many edits to get them to a stage where I’d be happy to publish them. But, I could publish them, me, myself. I could put them online for everyone to see and reap the rewards and disappointments as they came.

So, in earnest, I set out to complete Inside Evil. A couple of months later and several extreme edits and rewrites, I uploaded to Amazon in less than a huge fanfare. In fact, I’ve been so secretive about my works that I haven’t shared it on Twitter or Facebook…surely a HUGE marketing faux pas. It’s not my fear of being rejected as such, but the fear of friends and family having to go through the motions of pretending to love my work whilst secretly hiding their true feelings. That’s what I truly fear. Releasing works which those who I love actually think are not worth the paper that they’re written on yet cannot say such things to my face. I can cope with strangers hating my work and criticising. From loved ones; that’s a whole other ballgame.

Having done NOTHING in the way of research into self publishing and marketing, I’m brand new at this whole venture. My sister bought the first copy of the book, but, to my delight, I’ve just signed into my account and almost a week to the hour after first uploading, I’ve my first sale. I’ve really done nothing in the way of marketing, other than setting up this blog and though one tiny, little, insignificant sale may seem like nothing, I’m overjoyed.

I’m now an author. I’ve published, I’ve sold. What an incredible feeling. And now I have to strive to continue this feeling for the upwards struggle!