1. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    Planning for 2015 and Book Marketing

    Discussion in 'Marketing' started by John Rebell, Jan 2, 2015.

    This post is an attempt to clarify in my own mind what I want from my writing.

    I want to write. I don’t want to spend all my time marketing, or on social media, or doing discounts and sales, and judging the results and tweaking various, endless, platforms. I no longer want to chase after every book marketing shiny object that comes out every month. I no longer want to read the endless stream of Kindles on book marketing. Or maintaining the endless posts on blogs, forums, or social media.

    I want to write!

    One of my goals for this year is to market my books more effectively and more aggressively. Indie book marketing, it seems, it the 800lb. elephant flatulence everyone smells, but no one wants to talk about. With good reason. More often than not it results in lost time, lost money, lots and lots of aggravation. Even professional marketers concede that most marketing efforts will fall short 80%-90% of the time. I should know, I’ve been marketing my own businesses online and offline, most of my adult life.

    This means, for me anyway, if I don’t want to spend all my time marketing, and/or spending what little profits I earn, I have to find marketing venues that will market my work, without direct input from me. Barring that, I have to increase my chances of readers finding me. That means diversification.

    I’ve done a lot of reading this past month. More importantly, I spent a lot of time looking at what successful authors are doing. Forget what they say in their blogs, forget the flavor of the month, what are they actually doing themselves?

    · They are adding to their back lists. Usually three or four books a year.

    · They add to as many platforms as possible. This means Goodreads, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, paperback (CreateSpace) as well as audio books, (ADX)

    · They are getting translated into foreign languages.

    · They are exclusive to no one.

    · They are priced in the $3.99 to $4.99 range.

    · They write full length novels. (50K to 100K word range)

    · They know their niche. If they go out of their niche, they create pen names, and don’t mingle the same name in different niches.

    · They maintain daily goals and regular word counts for each day.

    · They plan.

    · Use paid advertising only when proven to work, when they can afford it.

    · They create, and increase, word-of-mouth marketing.

    · They have email lists.

    · They collaborate with other authors.

    · They help other authors.​

    This means cutting the Amazon/KDP umbilical. We all knew it was coming. It looks like 2015 is the year. In other words, diversification across multiple sales channels using Amazon as simply one spoke among many. Then if Amazon decides to pay 1 cent for KU “sales,” who cares? It no longer makes the slightest bit of difference to you what Amazon does, or doesn’t do. They are in their proper place. As a business income stream, nothing else. One among many.

    A lot of work you say? Yes, it is. But certainly no more work than social media requires. No more work than traditional publishing requires from authors in the way of appearances and book signings. In fact, once it is done, you never really have to look at it again. It’s one time work, and (Hopefully) it pays forever. The first time is the hardest. Once all the various accounts are set up, it becomes rote repetition. Smarter even, is to create the various formats yourself, (.pdf, .ePub, .mobi) then outsource the uploading to a single person as a one-two day job.

    Here’s the point: Once completed, I’ll no longer be a slave to marketing. I can forget about it, and let others market their own website and by extension, market my work as well. I will put it front of as many people as possible, allowing them to buy it in any form they choose. If I go on social media it will be because I want to, or because I have something to say.

    Which means I need a plan to accomplish those tasks in a specific order. I have two links for you to accomplish that. I'm not sure if I can post links, so I won't until someone tells me otherwise. PM me if you'd like to see them. Nothing to buy, nothing to sign up for, but they are a concrete method of creating a flexible plan and a cheat sheet to solidify the actions necessary if anyone is interested.

    As I said in the beginning, this post is an attempt to solidify my own thinking. Are there any steps I missed, or anything major overlooked?

    Does anyone have any other suggestions?
     
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  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    Near as I can tell, links are OK except:

    "No advertisements, including in posts, blogs, articles, resources, forum signatures, profiles, or anywhere on the forum. This includes free products, recruitment for external projects, other websites, publishing opportunities, and writing services. When posting about such products or services, particularly in the writing resource section, we consider items where you personally benefit or are affiliated with to be advertising. Advertising as a new member will result in a permanent ban. All such content is considered advertising; if you'd like to advertise on WritingForums.org, you can contact us regarding paid advertising."

    So, unless the links are advertisements for business websites, (including yours), it's OK to post them. If they are to your own commercial websites, I'll be disappointed and take back my Like for your post.
     
  3. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    Aren't all websites business websites in some way, shape, or form? :) They aren't affiliated with me in any way other than I read his blog and I bought his software ages ago.

    http://www.paulsmithson.com/blog/first-for-planning This is a long article, but well worth reading.

    http://static.squarespace.com/static/5256c36de4b0ea0e51a8d690/t/54a56476e4b03d35acc14968/1420125339592/first-for-planning-form.pdf
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    What have you done to find the market niche your books are in?

    And have you gotten any feedback on your cover art?
     
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  5. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    Are those questions to me personally? I'll assume they are.
    "What have you done to find the market niche your books are in?"
    First read the categories, then sub-categories at Amazon. Second, read books within those categories to see if my material was a good fit or good fit-ish, in those categories. Third, asked my beta readers (who are also self-pubbed authors) what they thought. But truthfully, for me anyway, it is hit or miss. Currently I write in the action/adventure/thriller/paranormal/suspense/urban horror/crime/ niche. Amazon doesn't have an exact niche for me yet. :)

    And have you gotten any feedback on your cover art?
    I've gotten lots of it. (Mostly positive) Probably not enough though. Like I said in my introduction, I used to moderate another forum. I posted my book covers there and we all critiqued them. I generally come with up about 5 covers, with different titles, and decide from there. As far as I'm concerned, everything is a WIP. (That's the beauty, and the huge advantage of self-publishing.) And I change covers and titles as well if I think they could be better. I just got finished doing that to one of my slow sellers. But I haven't gotten around to marketing it yet so I don't know if it will work or not.

    It sounds like you either liked, or disliked, one of my covers. :) I bet I can guess which one...LOL.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That's the niche you think your book is in. Have you looked at who is the target reader market?

    But "mostly positive" feedback from whom? If it's people on a forum, are they the readers you are marketing to?
     
  7. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've worked in the indie online computer games sector. The word of mouth generated by regularly produced quality content coupled with easy accessibility was far better than any other marketing. It makes sense the same would be true for self published novels.

    I've not looked into self publishing yet. Three to four novels a year is an intimidating rate. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to achieve that. Right now I'm nowhere near, though I'm still learning how to write well, so I'm sure I'll speed up some, but I hadn't hoped to get much better than a novel a year.
     
  8. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    Not necessarily, but I take your meaning. It's all too common for people to view forums like this one as free advertising sites for their endeavors and they often begin with a long and apparently informative post which ends with links to their businesses. That's not the case here, and I apologize for my suspicions.
     
  9. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    Ginger, rather than asking and answering 20 questions, what is your point specifically? It sounds like you're trying to say something but don't want to be impolite. It's OK, I'm a big boy, if you didn't like the cover, or the book, or thought it was targeted to the wrong market, or a complete waste of time, you can say so. I won't cry.

    The short answer is, I wrote books I wanted to write without regard to the mainstream tastes, or established niches. I didn't consult with the vast readership, or any writing Gods, Amazon execs, agents, or best selling authors before doing so. If I followed that advice, all I would write would be clones of bestsellers in that niche. I want to invent a niche, I don't want to be a part of one. Maybe I succeeded, maybe I didn't. I wrote the books mainly for myself. Each one has been an experiment in a different genre, as I try to find my own voice and my own niche. If other people liked them, great. If not, they can get a refund and trash me in the reviews. Lots of people did. If they never again buy one of my books, it's OK with me. They aren't my "targeted reader market" I'm looking for. I write because I enjoy the process of writing. I don't write for the masses, I don't want to be, nor ever will be, a best selling author. I'm going to skip the Oprah Book of the Month club and the on stage interview. I know perfectly well my books aren't suited for the "Mainstream," nor do I want them to be, and I'm OK with that too.

    So I'm still not sure what you're getting at. I did the actions and used the tools that were available to me at the time. Was it the best of all possible worlds? Probably not. But it was still better than nothing and I personally, am happy with the result.:) With any luck the process will evolve and get better in the future.
     
  10. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    "Three to four novels a year is an intimidating rate. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to achieve that."

    You hit the nail on the head. I'm struggling with that one too. The truth is, I'm not sure I want to, either. It would mean averaging 3K words a day. Not impossible by any means, but I spend months on thinking and outlining before I even set any words to page. For me to write at that volume it would mean a drop in quality, in an effort to pump up quantity. I'm not going to sacrifice that. Not to mention, that scale of output is hard work! It would no longer be fun. It would be a J.O.B. On the other hand, I can think of about a half-dozen authors off the top of my head that do just that. They also collaborate with other authors as well to split the workload.
     
  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What about time for editing?
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm not trying to be polite or coy. I'm trying to keep the discussion on topic and not make it about your books. But one cannot always talk about marketing in general terms. Specifics matter.

    Identifying what genre our books are is one half of the equation. Identifying the characteristics of the target market, where and how to reach them, is the other and probably more important half.

    As for cover art, again one needs to consider the target market. I may find a cover tacky and signifying an amateur, but maybe it appeals to the market for that book. So if one is going to get feedback on a cover, it matters who is giving one the feedback.

    I think forum writers might generally recognize an amateur cover. But beyond that, what catches the eye of the reader market? Sci-fi covers, Marvel/DC superheroes, romance, YA, military/war themed: all of these reader markets are going to be attracted to different covers that they inherently recognize.

    New writers often forget to look at the specifics of the target reader market. Professional marketers know the target market is the key.
     
  13. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    @ Ginger: Good points. In regards to the first: Identifying the characteristics of the target market, where and how to reach them, is the other and probably more important half. I think I agree and disagree with that statement at the same time! :) (Personal opinion here) I think positively identifying the target market is a chimera. Because usually there are sub-genres, as well as sub-cultures within each genre. This also doesn't take into account the vast universes of personal tastes within each reader of the respective genres. Of course, you don't want to write sci-fi and target it to Victorian romance readers, but you get what I mean. Amazon only allows you to two categories. Both of which have entire eco-systems of readers, tastes, and preferences. So if I write an "erotic thriller" so I can target it to romance-erotica, or mystery/suspense-thriller, neither of which fits the contents of the book. Which means I might as well toss a coin and hope for the best. No matter what I do, it won't appeal to all readers. So while I agree you need to "identify the characteristics of the target market, where and how to reach them" you never will, completely and totally. Instead, I hope to build a fan base of my own targeted market. Which includes reaching into many diverse markets and genres under the general genre of "thriller."

    In Re: to the second point: As for cover art, again one needs to consider the target market. I agree. What I did was study the cover designs on Amazon in whatever genre I was experimenting in, and choose elements I liked, or wanted to use. (Not the covers themselves, but elements of the covers) I then searched for graphics on Google images which aligned with whatever keywords I came up with in relation to that genre, or the title of the book I was considering. Google Images also usually yields up books as well as movie posters to consider. I took elements from those as well. A while back I had a professional book designer create a set of book templates for me using PhotoShop. I can do simple stuff in PS and swap out images, create new graphics, reformat in different sizes, fonts, etc. The tricky part about book covers is what looks good on a Kindle graphic, (small) might look like crap on a paperback, (Glossy paper) and vice-versa. Details are lost, or exaggerated. Of course, for the sake of continuity, they have to be the same whether you like it or not. I struggle with this as well as other graphic designers.
     
  14. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    "What about time for editing?
    For me personally I outsource that aspect. So it isn't my time spent on it. But it has to be taken into account for sure. Which gets us into deadlines. At that rate of publishing, for me personally, it is simply too many spinning plates in the air. It's almost like you're "Robo-writer." Like I said, I know writers who do it, but it isn't for me.
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    When you say you outsource editing, do you mean someone else makes the actual changes for you? Or just that you work with an external editor?
     
  16. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    When you say you outsource editing, do you mean someone else makes the actual changes for you? Or just that you work with an external editor?
    I hire an outside editor and proofreader. Both suggest (possible) changes, but I myself make the actual changes to the manuscript. I also clean up the manuscript as far as grammar, punctuation, and plot holes before sending it to them. Their job is to see the things I missed, or I can't see because I'm too close to the manuscript. It has usually gone through a few beta readers as well, and being critiqued, before being sent out.
     
  17. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Three to four novels a year is actually doable, if you have the time, on then is it doable. I've written about 300,000 words this year in my writing and rewriting of my series and for me that is about 3-4 books. 3k words per day is definitely doable on a weekend day, my record is 10k in one non-working day and 5k on a work day when working from 8-5.

    Honestly I believe it depends on the person, the story, the amount of time they have to write it and however blocked/unblocked they are.

    This however did not include the revision stage. 3-4 unpolished books in a year is doable, 3-4 polished books is probably stretching it a bit.
     
  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on the genre, too. I write and publish at least 3-4 novels a year (m/m romance) and am considered slow.
     
  19. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    Wow! That prolific. (Seriously. Good for you!) I've done 8K words in a day, but never 10K. It takes a lot of self-discipline to write at that level continuously. I think I did about 250K (published) within a one and a half year time span, and it wore me out. I also don't have the time to do it full time as I have other commitments.
    3-4 unpolished books in a year is doable,
    Yes, agreed. I'm not sure I would call mine "books" though in the unpolished stage. More like disjointed thoughts and short stories. :) But it's the polishing (revising) which makes or breaks the manuscript, and for me, the most time consuming part.

    Do you have a set word length, or target word length for novels? Or is it whatever the story takes?

    Also do you use any kind of writing software? Or just MS Word?
     
  20. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    Depends on the genre, too.
    True. And word length of the books. My first books were averaging about 100K words. The last one was 50K words. 50K is a nice size. Long enough to write something decent, but not so long as to become unwieldy. I don't know how some authors are able to write 200K-250K novels and keep it all straight and tight. They have my admiration.

    What word length are yours?
     
  21. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I mostly use MS word for writing. I also use Scrivener for notes, character profiles, things like that. It was actually this site that put me onto Scrivener, I had been looking for a good storyboarding program and now I have one, I even shared my user with my best friend, she's also a writer, also on this forum.

    I was living out bush at the time working as a Governess, so I had plenty of time to work on my stories. All I had to do was walk 10m to the house at 5 to 8 then I usually finished by 5 then I went back over for dinner for about an hour a 7. Now I am back in the city with a different kind of stable job so I am reworking my time so that I can fit in decent writing time, work and uni.

    I really had to work on my discipline, I still do, sometimes I can't write a thing, then other days I spit out so many chapters that I surprise myself.

    I try to put my novels around the 80k words mark. It is the standard size for a novel of my genre, and it also more likely to get looked at by agents and publishers if it's not too large. But I have people (non-writers) that are baffled by the amount words are actually in the books they read and they are surprised that I have managed to string so many words together and actually have them mean something.
     
  22. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most of my books are around 80K, but they range from about 60K - 150K. I think others in the genre may tend to write a little shorter, which would certainly help with the number of books per year!
     
  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just for clarity - how does four books a year relate to 3K words per day? If the books are about 100K each, that's 400K words a year - just over 1K words per day. Where does the 3K words a day come from?
     
  24. John Rebell
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    John Rebell Member

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    Interesting. I also use Scrivener for plotting, research, notes, and the general chapters. (Great software, isn't it?) It's great for seeing the entire scope of the work and laying it out. Then I use Adobe InDesign to polish, revise, format and create the actual books. For Kindles I pull the finished manuscript into Sigil for the final formatting and converting to .ePub.

    So it looks like 80K is the average book length. Interesting. Learn something new everyday. :)
     
  25. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    It really does depend on the genre and the storyline. It's just easier for non-published authors to get published with slightly smaller books
     

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