Devices like the Kindle and others have revolutionised the way people read books. In an age when going over your allocated weight limit on a plane brings with it fines that cost almost as much as booking a second seat, the ability to carry thousands of books with you on a device small enough to hold in your hand is a godsend, especially for people who devour books like slugs devour my cabbage plants! And believe me, there are plenty of them (book fiends AND slugs!). I see book review bloggers reviewing a book a night or every two nights in many cases. These people want to read and they do so at a frantic pace, tuning out their everyday and escaping into fiction no matter where they are or what time of day it is.
This is great for people like me – writers. I presume the majority of people reading this piece are also writers, who have seen my snazzy, traffic-drawing article title and are here in the hope of finding out a magic secret on how to market their novel to a mass audience. Well, that’s not really what this article is about. I wrote a piece called 5-step plan to selling ebooks the other day. This is what the focus of this piece is about. It’s a discussion piece, so feel free to leave your comments at the end!
The piece that I wrote was, and is, an experimental piece. It came from reading a bit of a best-selling author’s book on how to sell your novels and thinking, ‘I could write a lot of what the author is getting at in a much more succinct manner and not charge people to read it’.
The draw of a best-selling indie author writing such a book is actually quite mercenary in two parts:
1. You, as a writer, know about the success some authors have had in the past year (this one has sold over 1 million ebooks in a year), and therefore will devour books written by them proposing they can let you into their secret in one sitting. You will also pay for the privilege of doing so.
2. The book in question, in my eyes, is an exercise in self-promotion from the author, who has basically got you to pay for reading a huge marketing pamphlet on his work which tells you in one sentence he’s not here to plug his books, and then plugs his books in the next sentence. It does this continually throughout.
Now, I am exactly the same as a lot of other authors. I bought the book because I want to figure out how to reach a wide audience. It was fairly cheap, and I thought I’d give it a shot. The author starts the book off by telling how he’s not going to have a lot of preamble and go on about his books to try and sell them to you. Then he spends the first HALF of the book doing exactly that. You couldn’t even call it subliminal selling, because it just reads like a book promotion and a lot of boasting. Good marketing you might say.
Well, I wasn’t very happy with it to be honest. When he did finally get to the point, he made it in about 5 sentences. He is a business man, pure and simple, an expert marketer who put his knowledge and experience to good use, and no doubt made another small fortune off the back of it.
So I thought, as an experiment, I’d write my own hints and tips on reaching an audience. They are not secrets. They are talked about constantly and rehashed by many. The secret to pulling them off and turning them into sales is the point at which most people fail. I talked about them in my piece, but I also did something I don’t normally do. I boasted about my work and how good it is. A lot. Not really something I’ve ever done before, because I am quite modest. True, I’ve had mostly good feedback about The Hunter Inside, but I know it’s not the most well written book ever released. I know it has stylistic flaws and plot flaws and breaks lots of rules (more on that to come in another piece this week!), but I also know that it’s gripping and unravels at a frantic pace and is very original. I worked hard on it, so it deserves a little attention.
Well, I’m here to say that it worked. Boy, did it work?! The highest number of hits I had ever achieved in one day was 188 before the piece was published. The Passive Voice and the ebookdesigner websites picked up on the piece and reproduced it. On the first day the piece was live, I had 422 hits on my blog. On the second day I had 576 hits, and on the third day (yesterday) I had 252 hits. That’s a total of 1250 blog hits in three days. I would call that a success.
I have to admit, I only received one email from someone who said they liked the piece and checked out the opening sample of my novel and proceeded to tell me how rubbish they thought it was. But in my opinion, in the same way as you can’t judge a book by its cover, neither can you judge one by reading the first five pages.
Now, I know you’ve probably read the piece and are no doubt screaming at your screen for how many sales it resulted in. Well, not many. I think I’ve had about half a dozen sales in those three days. I still consider it a successful exercise though for a number of reasons.
1. My piece was picked up by websites that are popular enough to direct a lot of traffic to my blog. That is important, because when my blog gets views my name gets views and my debut novel gets views also. Whether those people buy it or not is not the relevant issue to me. I have marketed virally to a whole lot of people. Some of them might see The Hunter Inside somewhere else and decide to take a chance on it having seen it in a few places. They might even like it! The sites in question might pick up future articles and direct lots more traffic back, and I will certainly return the favour (please click on the links to visit them and read some truly excellent pieces – The Passive Voice and The Book Designer).
2. While a lot of people might not buy The Hunter Inside as a result of the piece, they have already been introduced to my second novel, From the Sky. A lot of them even had a read of the 10,000 word sample of the novel. Now, I anticipate From the Sky to be out by Christmas (maybe sooner), but I want people to be aware of it well in advance and be looking forward to it. So far I’ve written around 34,000 words of it, and I’m very pleased with how it’s going. It is a whole lot better than my first novel, and by the time it is released I anticipate having generated quite a buzz around it. It’s going to be big!
3. A blog that gets a lot of traffic is attractive to advertisers. I recently asked WordPress to consider me for hosting some small adverts on my blog. For them to be interested though, you must demonstrate that you can attract a lot of traffic. I know that writers devour any and all information they can get on the Internet to help them hone their craft. I also know that Indie authors will also devour information such as pieces that help to understand the nature of marketing to the masses, and pieces like TIO (The Infamous One – it needs a name!) are just the type of pieces that strike a chord with small fish swimming in big ponds. Don’t get me wrong, I recognise myself as a small fish also, but one day I’d like to think I’ll be a fish that grows big enough to spend all day swimming in the pond rather than having to get out, dry myself off, and go to work for somebody else all day long while my writing desk sits in my study, lonely. So, if I can make my blog attractive to advertisers then I might make a small income from that avenue, and I’ll be one step closer to my goal of writing for a living.
4. The piece attracted a fair amount of likes, comments, and new followers to my blog and The Hunter Inside’s Facebook page. I am delighted about this – I love to interact with people not just to sell books. I have made some great friends and found some wonderful indie authors on this journey who have supported, and continue to support me as I move forward. I would like to think that people who follow my blog and comment to say that they enjoyed a piece I have written might not be averse to receiving a newsletter from me every month or every couple of months to let them know how things are going with my debut novel, my work in progress, and be the first to see the cover for From the Sky (which is going to be very different to the ones I asked opinion on the other day – sorry!). It is a way for me to connect with people and share my experiences, triumphs, and even hardships and downright failures! Some people might even forward that newsletter on to others. This is something I’ll be working on soon, so watch this space.
I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my experiment and how I feel I have gained from undertaking it. I apologise if to some I sound brash and without class when I appear to be big headed about my work. I’m a nice guy really, I promise!
As I said earlier, please feel free to share your thoughts and comments (abusive ones will be removed!! ) about this piece and ‘TIO’.
Lastly, while you’re here you might aswell have a look at my debut novel, The Hunter Inside on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. Please please please also have a read of the first 10,000 word sample of From the Sky and let me know what you think.
As ever, thank you for spending the time to read this, and my other pieces, and I wish you every success!