You just wrote a good book and your mum thinks it’s awesome
You wrote a book? Well done. I don’t mean to mock because that was me a few years ago. It took 7 years to write the first 3 novels in The Hana Du Rose Mysteries and my mum loved them all.
I launched myself into the Amazon pond with gusto and nervous anticipation. Mum bought a copy, a few aunties gave me a go because they felt they ought to and because they love me. I sold about 5 books at the extortionate price I slapped on my item and then….the gradual slide into the deep water began as my nearest and dearest finished polishing my ego.
It felt painful and happened at the kind of slow decline which acts as a slap to the face every morning when I got up early to check my author ranking and sobbed for a while before work. The self doubt crept in and attacked my ability to write. Then it worked its way into the issue of how deserving I was to breathe and use up valuable oxygen which better writers might need. The further my first book tanked in the Amazon sea of success, the greater my distress.
What to do, what to do? How to mend this awful situation?
Don’t books just sell themselves?
No, they don’t. They do what mine did and drown without help. So I grappled around for life preservers and came up with a cunning plan.
I’d post about my book EVERYWHERE. I’d spend my waking hours on social media, manufacturing conversations to get my book title in there somewhere. I joined groups in Goodreads and anywhere else people talked about novels and hopped into completely unrelated conversations, turning them to the subject of me and my book. The group titles would clearly say ‘NO SPAMMING’ but I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t realise the biggest spammer in the group was….me.
I found myself locked out of a few groups fairly quickly. I Googled what ‘Spam’ meant and recognised myself. I might not want to feed unsuspecting people pink meat, but I definitely force fed them something. It was a hideous revelation and I took it to heart.
Safety in numbers
Another author put me in touch with the administrator of an online book group and I joined, licking my wounds and sitting there for a while just listening. Further ahead than me, they displayed better covers, owned books on multiple platforms and graciously read mine, despite the inferior quality compared to theirs.
I spent 2 years in the group, learning from them and also figuring out how NOT to be a special snowflake. They helped me with covers, editing, reviews, blurbs and marketing. They pushed me to create taglines, join Twitter, Google+ and start a mailing list. Every week brought a new project, something else to think about or learn and some small challenge that even I could do. My covers improved and so did my sales. My blurbs improved and so did my sales. I learned how to market my work without upsetting people and how to splash around in the Amazon pond without drowning. I grew in confidence and so did my sales.
For a while I acted as the gatekeeper for the group, chucking out people who spammed just like I’d done years before. I warned them twice and explained they were spamming; then I threw them out. Like the reformed smoker who rails at the sight of cigarette ash; I blitzed them like flies when they refused to comply and sent them back out into the cold. They always whined and complained about fairness and I recognised the desperation that once drove me to do the same.
Some reformed and settled in the group, improving and growing. Others kept spamming and found themselves locked out.
BUY MY BOOK doesn’t work
There are countless debates over this and all I can say is that I don’t like it. If it worked, groups would welcome it, allowing the spammer into their copious bosom and nurturing the font and content of their spam. They don’t. The reaction is one of horror and distaste.
I once met a man who spammed more than I’d ever seen before and I tried to help him in numerous private messages. I know of another author who also got alongside him and tried to give advice.
He flicked us both off with countless arguments and statistics about why it worked for him and I watched over time as his statistics plummeted and he disappeared from groups we shared.
I just searched for him on Amazon by name and he doesn’t feature even in author pages. His desperation stemmed from a lack of finances and the need to make this thing work. He’d given up his day job on the strength of his book selling and ‘BUY MY BOOK’ was his mantra. Maybe he’s doing great, perhaps a publisher picked him up, but his egotistical self promotion nauseated me enough not to choose his stuff, despite the fact it looked quite good.
30% writing and 70% marketing
Yeah, I didn’t want to hear that either. Writing’s the easy bit. I can trot out a book with great content with ease and enjoy the process but that’s not enough to make it float in the Amazon pool, or any other eBook watercourse for that matter. It has to be marketed. People can’t buy it if they don’t know it’s there, but there are good ways to do that and bad ways.
This is a bad way.
I read as avidly as I write, always have and probably always will. I enjoyed the Bill Travis Mysteries Book 1 and gave it 4* in my review. Someone piggy backed on my review and added a comment, knowing Amazon would likely email me. When I got there, spam greeted me. Ugly, self-promoting SPAM; like an early morning slap around the chops.
When the anger subsided, sadness replaced it. Someone’s desperate, drowning in the Amazon pond of eBook publishing. Other authors will have pointed out that spamming is not acceptable and likely ejected them from numerous groups which didn’t appreciate BUY MY BOOK screaming out at them. Perhaps he wouldn’t listen.
I’ve helped enough newbies along the way to be able to identify those with a teachable spirit and those without. It’s hard. I remember the first time someone criticised my book cover. It took me all day to make in Publisher and featured my 15 year old daughter pretending to be a 45 year old woman. I invested in it. It was mine. The other author said it was hideous and I sobbed for an hour.
Then I private messaged her and asked how I could make it better. She told me and I did it. I didn’t involve Publisher and I needed to spend money I didn’t have.
Speculate to accumulate
Are you doing this or aren’t you?
You need to decide. The thought of spending money I hadn’t earned to pay advertisers and cover designers filled me with real pain. What kind of a hobby costs money, for goodness sake?
I went to Husband and begged for the use of his credit card. A successful business manager, he gave me his full support and let me begin slowly. I engaged an ad with Freebooksy, Ereader News Today and launched my book back into the small area of oxygen above water in the Amazon pond.
It was instant. I became visible and people bought my book. I read every blog on book marketing I could get my hands on, paid for online courses and began using my royalties to advertise, buy stock photos, get help and set up Facebook Ads.
The hunger to succeed grew and one day, I ended up with 2 of my novels at #1 and #3 in the free eBooks category. That was great because by then, I’d also sweated over a business plan, opened a bank account for my royalties and engaged an accountant.
There’s no magic bullet
There really isn’t. It’s hard work, willingness to learn and speculating to accumulate. Setting my first in series as permafree helped, advertising through known sites helped and listening to other authors was the single best thing which helped.
The indie world is surprisingly united. We do help one another. I edit every book I read on my Kindle because OCD means I can’t read past a mistake without doing something about it. I stop after each novel and decide; do I send the author these edits or don’t I?
I’ve had some amazing interactions with other authors when I’ve sent them an attachment with errors in it. None of us wants mistakes in our book. It’s like a smudge on our white wedding dress to us and we want it gone. I’ve had a couple of bad responses but that’s okay, I’ve never bothered reading their books again.
My favourite readers flag errors for me and I’m grateful. I’ll send them a free book and thank them because they don’t want me to look an idiot in front of millions. They care about me and I love them for it.
The journey’s about listening to criticism
I couldn’t do it at first. I’d argue black was white just to prove I wasn’t wrong. Not cool.
You can’t please everyone but you can at least look at what they’re saying. They might not be the only one who thinks that and you need to know what’s alienating potential readers. Get into a good group where there’s healthy discussion, positive feedback and an element of sharing what works and what doesn’t. I’m only in a few groups nowadays. I’ve found out what works for me and I’ll stick with it until it doesn’t work anymore. I have online author friends I’ve never met in person but I speak to them most days. I’m honest about their stuff and they’re honest about mine. They know who they are.
Honestly, don’t spam, don’t panic and don’t put yourself in the position where selling your book means more to you than your reputation. If you can’t eat until you’ve sold a book then that’s the wrong spirit with which to engage readers. I hardly check my stats unless I’m running an ad and am frequently surprised when I dig into my Amazon reports. It’s better than being in there every hour; I’ve been there and done that.
I have a part-time job which takes the pressure off. I do okay with my book royalties but my other job helps to top up the family coffers. I’d do that job anyway, to be honest. I need to have routine and a reason to get dressed and slap some make up on. I love having people paid to talk to me. If I sat at home and wrote all day I know I’d become weird. Weirder.
Write your book and write it well. And if you’re struggling and don’t know where to turn, for goodness sake, get in touch with me. Facebook message me or contact me here; but be prepared to listen. I won’t be wasting my breath…
K T Bowes is the author of eighteen bestselling novels on Amazon and other platforms.
Read more about her HERE