Incredible Things I’ve Learned About Marketing This Month

WritingJust over a month ago, I signed up for Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10K Readers course. Nick’s course, which is mostly about marketing and advertising, introduced me to a number of things that really helped my sales.

So I decided to go and seek out more marketing tips and tricks to help sell more books. It’s only been a month, so I’m by no means a guru, but I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far.

Having a Backlist Helps

This might not be that useful to authors just starting out, or people who write more slowly, but having a couple of series has meant I can experiment different ways. I have to imagine that with more series, I could try out more things and find better tactics.

Spending Time on the Business Side is Important

For the last couple of years, I’ve been focused on turning out the best books I possibly can. Which led to very happy readers, but not a huge amount of them. The trouble is that I’ve been acting like I’m traditionally published when I’m not. Part of being independently published is being a businessperson as well as an author.

Once I started putting time into the business side of it all, I saw immediate changes.

Keywords are Key

So the first and most important component of the business side is how customers can find you. Other than randomly stumbling around an online store or knowing me personally, keywords were the way readers were finding me.

The problem is that for some of the keywords I had, I wasn’t appearing on the first page. Sometimes not even the second page. Which means that keyword might as well have been blank.

I used KindleSpy, KindleSamurai and Excel to study my keywords and come up with ones I could rank highly for. This took five days, but again the business side is important. I’d highly recommend KindleSpy, as it made the whole process much easier.

Product Descriptions Should Sell

The next thing that’s helped is changing some of my product descriptions. This was something I learned from Bryan Cohen of BestPageForward. Bryan has an excellent cheatsheet that I’ve worked through and it seems to help a lot.

The short version is that a product description should be:

  1. Tag line (Like a movie tag line. Eg. “In space no-one can hear you scream”). The tag line should tell people the genre and mood of the book.
  2. Plot summary. For this I used Libbie Hawker’s tips on how to make a product description.
  3. Mood line. For example: This book will have you racing through the pages. Dark, moody and thrilling, it will grip you and never let go.
  4. Call to action. Surprisingly, even though people are on a sales website, they need to be told to buy something. A simple line, “Grab a copy today!” can increase sales.

Mailing Lists are Kind of Important

The Self-Publishing Podcast guys, along with a lot of other people, have repeated this ad infinitum. However, I didn’t realise just how important the mailing list is until mine started growing. I had 12 subscribers this time last year, now I have close to five hundred. Not all of them are superfans, but the ones that are helped make my recent book launch 10 times more successful than the previous one.

Facebook Ads Work

But only if you know what your goal is. The same way as people on Amazon don’t buy a book by an author they don’t know, people on Facebook don’t buy books from ads. However, getting people to try a free book is a lot easier.

Just giving away free books won’t get a lot people to become fans, though. I’m getting people to sign up to my mailing list in exchange for the books. Then I offer competitions and free books to keep them. It costs a little, but people appreciate it and want to stay. Then when there’s a book to sell, they might just buy it.

The Results

Before I started this marketing push, I was getting about 18 downloads per day for my two free books. Now I’m getting over 100 per day. I was selling about $30-40 of books per month. In September, I’ve sold $150 of books outside of my new title.

This hasn’t been free, though. I’ve used quite a lot of time in doing all of this. I’m also spending about $110 per month on Facebook ads, and a contest later this month will cost me over $100. The more pessimistic people would say that’s a net loss, but I’ve got a much bigger mailing list now. I’m thinking my next books will reflect that and more than pay me back.

After all, this isn’t just writing, it’s publishing too. Businesses are about smart investments in the future. That doesn’t mean I’m going to short change any of my books. I’m not going to write to market or change my approach on that side. But once the books are written, I need to spend time showing them to people.


Get Into The Action

For a limited time, I'm giving away the first two books in the Bytarend Fantasy series and the Hard Vacuum science fiction series for free.

Bytarend is fast, fun fantasy that'll have you on the edge of your seat. Hard Vacuum is hard-talking, violent science fiction and my tribute to 80s action movies.

Grab all four books for free: