Category Archives: Marketing

The Grass Takes Time To Grow! Don’t Pee On It! (How to build a fan base for new authors)

I know several people who wrote a book and have virgin status when it comes to selling that sucker. They ask me lots of questions, and some pretty not helpful preconceived notions. Everyone hopes to rise like a shooting star, sign a million dollar deal, and then jump up and down. The truth is, it doesn’t work like that. You’re more likely to be struck by lightening five or six times than have that scenario occur on your first book. Even the superstars that did shoot straight to the top took 6-9 months getting there. That’s a significant amount of time.

I hear new authors asking for an easy way to gain visibility and they turn to KU because they don’t know what else to do. That’s a major mistake. Consider the limitation put on your book by restricting it to one platform. You miss out on what’s going on elsewhere.

Some people think the other platforms are too small to matter, so they don’t even consider it. But I’m pretty sure if you became a Kobo rockstar, you would feel it. I mean, #1 bestseller at Kobo is still more sales than most people ever dream about. At one point in my career, B&N led my sales because that platform took off. With each platform you’re on, you are given the chance to be a superstar. Why the hell limit it to one? Also, if you take off on another site, odds are Amazon and the rest will follow. It’s not like, ‘DAMN! I hit #2 on Nook!’ No one says that. Holding a top 10 slot on Nook is enough to break into 6 figures ON ONE SITE.

Back to the virgin authors who are deciding how to proceed: Don’t limit yourself. Visibility is about exposure, so give yourself as much as possible in a tangible, measurable way. If you really want to try KU, go ahead, but do it with a sister story or something that you know is a loss leader. I’ve had zero luck with KU lending more visibility, which was bad for me to discover (b/c I shot my sales in the head), BUT IT’S GOOD TO KNOW. It means you can be successful without KU.

You can organically make your own fandom. I did. You can too. But you have to work for it. AND IT TAKES TIME. The first three years I was writing, I was doing good as a midlister and happy to stay there. I gave up on being more and then it happened. Part of hitting it big and not being a one shot wonder is building your fan base. IT’S TIME CONSUMING. It doesn’t happen over night. And growth is exponential, so it starts so damn slow. I mean it’s like watching grass grow. For the longest time your yard is a few seedlings that might vanish over night, but one day you have a grassy lawn! More people come because you get easier to see. Then you have a big ass jungle that you have no idea how to manage. True story. That’s a real problem.

The issues author’s face change over time, but there’s a path. At the start it’s finding readers. There’s no magic bullet, and it’s not riding on luck (my luck is usually pretty sucky, so hooray!). It’s planning, plotting, research, failure, and then do it all over again. Determination goes a long way. So does knowing the basics before you jump in.

MY BASICS:

  1. Most authors will only sell about 200 copies of their title. Ever.
  2. Most people have about 200 friends on Facebook.
  3. Most people have confined social circles and it takes effort to move beyond them. I’m shy. Believe me, I know.
  4. Your debut novel is the one that friends and family will buy to be supportive.
  5. Book 1 is where the most people will watch to see if you take off or fail. If you’re shy about it, you shoot yourself in the head.
  6. You HAVE to OWN it. You wrote a book. We should be like, ‘bring it on b*tch!’ but most of us are too timid to even say we wrote something. The first thing I did when I finished my first novel was make a facebook page. I told everyone. It made me sick to my stomach. Public failure is nauseating, but shyness has no place here. How can ppl read your book if you won’t admit you wrote one? You can’t act like it sucks either. No one wants to read self-professing suckage. So grow a backbone. Own it.
  7. Use the train wreck theory to your advantage. Everyone loves to watch stuff go up in flames. It’s human nature to rubber neck and stare. Likewise, we are inspired by people who try. We share hope when we succeed. If you fail? Do it again. That’s what I do. People like to see others that won’t stay down. It makes them want to try harder too. Tenacity is contagious. If you don’t have any, go follow Hugh Howey. That dude makes me want to buy a boat and sail away. 🙂
  8. By book four, you’re on your own and if you didn’t break that social wall, you’re screwed. That’s why you can’t just write the next book. You HAVE to engage with people. That can be online or in person, but it’s the kiss of death to be stuck in 200 land. I avoided that obstacle before I published my 1st title. I made sure that 200 number was behind me from the get go. That’s not possible if you hide, so stop hiding!
  9. READ. Holy mother of frig. Pick up a book. Read a blog about selling, business, something! You can learn ANYTHING online. You don’t have to stumble around in the dark wondering what ROI and P&L means or why it should matter to you. It should if you’re here to make a living and put food on the table. I go on reading binges about every 9 months. It lasts about 6 months, or until I’ve exhausted new information. Right now I’m in that phase. Yes, it’s time consuming, but at the end of the day no one cares more about your books than you do.
  10. Do the math. So, book 1 is likely to sell 200 copies. You paid $600 for your cover and $1400 for editing, plus another $100 for formatting. And another $100 for paperback proofs. If you only sell 200 copies, you need to net $11 per book. We have a mathematical problem here. You’re upside down. I have my own staff and do just about everything in-house at this point, but book 1 was me and hubby. We used skills we had and called in favors for the rest. It cost me $200 to publish. It made it possible to turn a profit by the 2nd week that title was out. So did the price. At that point there was no KU to fathom, but math is math. Less than 1/2 a cent per page vs. 99 cents vs. $3.99 or $4.99? This is the part that gets trippy. Most people admit they can’t sell. They don’t know how to market. It’s Greek.

With pricing, it’s simple – the lower your price point, the higher your volume HAS TO BE. There are tons of threads in here about it.

  • At 99 cents, you have to sell 340 books to make $100.
  • At $2.99, you have to sell 50 books to make $100.
  • At $4.99, you have to sell 30 books to make $100.

If you have no clue how to do mass sales, why assume you can? It’s hard for me and I know how to sell. SELLING MORE IS ALWAYS HARDER THAN SELLING LESS. There’s an assumption that ppl will buy cheap stuff if they see it, that it’s easier to sell. It’s not. It’s harder to sell because you already have your product priced as low as it can go, so there’s no way to promo it. You can’t do a 1 day sale, a new reader event, a coupon code – nothing. It’s like hobbling up to the starting line of a marathon with a zombie chewing on your ass. You can’t go 26 miles like that! Even if you knock him off, you’re hemorrhaging and bleeding all over the place. Yes, that happens with books. You can help a title or shoot it in the spine and have it hobble along until you repair whatever you did. The zombie on my ass is KU 1. I knocked the thing off, but a year later and I still feel it.

You’ll make mistakes. We all do. Be ready for them. Plan C, D, Y – they’re all coming your way and it’s not a bad thing. Keep getting up. Don’t stay down. And for the love of God, don’t pee on your grass before it’s a lawn. You have to be patient and intentional. There’s no way around that part, so lets do this! Indies rock! Keep on truckin’.

The Roses are Dead (Too Much Manure in Publishing)

The Roses are Dead (too much manure in publishing)These are the things people will tell you that you’re passing up if you don’t sign on the traditional line, and I’m calling it. It’s bullshit. Seriously stinky stuff, and a lot of people don’t know, so here’s my post.

This is the stuff that’s been spread far and wide by the publishing industry for years and most of it is BS. I’m gonna be blunt, b/c you’re assuming the grass is greener on the other side, but they don’t even have grass over there. Things are that messed up.

An advance against royalties – Have you heard how many of our peers didn’t get paid? They entered into a multi book deal like you were offered and well, the pub didn’t think book 1 went very well, so books 2 & 3 were cancelled. No money for you.
There’s the appearance of stability when working with a publisher, but they cannot offer you job security. All of a sudden, your 3 book, 6-figure deal ends up earning you $30K over 2 years and you want to poke your eye out with a fork. True story – just not mine, thank god. Ask around.

Passing up Print distribution.
PRINT IS DEAD. There’s no money in print. Why do you think the big 5.5 are buying up Indie ebooks? Why don’t we see the stores stocked with these titles? Where’d they go? I know for a fact that one publisher’s plan was to acquire enough Indies to release 70+ new titles in one season and NOT PRINT A THING. But that’s not what they told me. Print is dead and the pubs are noticing that isn’t where the money is. Which is also why you’re getting any guarantee of a print run when you sign that six figure deal.

My books will not be in bookstores.
Mine are and have been since day 1. If enough ppl ask for your book, they will order your book.

My books are likely never to be found in a library.
Also, not true. If enough ppl (usually 6 or so) ask for your book, they will buy your book, Indie or not.

I will never have an editor who will work with me to develop the book and the follow-ups because she loved it enough to acquire it for her house.
Bwuahahhaha! I’m sorry, but you’re assuming that they know better than you. Dude, they’re part of a dying breed, and they’re dying b/c they don’t want to change. No one jumps up and down and screams, “oooh, ooooh! pick me!” to be the next casualty of the publishing industry.

I gave up the chance to grow as an author under their (NY editor’s) tutelage.
Again, they can’t tell their ass from their elbow and you’re gonna look really weird at parties trying to sit on the wrong one.

A team of marketing and publicity experts with contacts.
FAKE! Guess what? The experts are few and far between. If the market has shifted to primarily selling intangible goods and you have a panel of ppl who rock at selling paper, then you have a serious problem. The experts aren’t there. They’ll put you on a mailing list with 2K subscribers that’s WAY past it’s heyday, and then tell you to buy a bookbub ad (on your dime.)

Authors are expected to market themselves, traditionally published or Indie. If you fail, even after being picked up by one of the big boys, it’s your fault. It’s never their fault. That’s not the kind of people you want to work with. Ever read an article where the publisher goes, “Our marketing effort just didn’t connect with readers.” It’s always the author under-performed, or the title couldn’t cross over to print.

The branding a big name publisher can provide.
They have no idea how to do this. The authors who have brands sold scads of books and the pubs rode coattails. You make your brand. You ARE your brand. This is one of those shiny things they dangle to get you to sign, and then you find out it was never there. How do you market intangible goods (goods you can’t touch)? I know, and I’m very aware that they do not.

I gave up the opportunity to learn from marketing and publicity experts as well.
No, you didn’t. When a big publisher did research on serials, guess who they looked at? When the publishers want to check the market to see what unexpected stuff is going on, do you really think they’re looking at each other? No, they’re looking at us – Indies. Why? Because we take more risks, and understand the market better b/c we have to. They still get paid even if they’re sitting on their elbows. We don’t eat if we don’t sell our stuff. Poverty is a motivator–it’s a bonus really.

I gave up being branded alongside bestselling authors who have been publishing for many years and have many readers.
I’ve had the big 5 come to me (after refusing over $1.5 million in contracts) to ask me to blurb their book. I’m 100% Indie and pretty much told them that they have no idea how to do anything when I turned them down. They still came asking. You are in good company, and we tend to be more forthright and supportive.

I am less likely to ever make a national bestseller list.
Everyone says that. Statistically, this is inaccurate as the list has been taken over by Indies. As an Indie, you’re more likely to make a list IMHO. You have complete control.

I am less likely to sell my other rights, such as audio and foreign translation. Some might counter that I can self-publish my books in audio form, but this is now much more difficult due to recent changes in royalties provided the primary providers of indie Audiobooks, ACX.
Don’t even get me started on ACX, but to counter your point – you WILL get audio offers for your book. They’ll be around $1K, b/c ‘audio just isn’t worth that much.’ Which is BS. Take it if you want or do it yourself and use a different platform. There’s more than just ACX out there. You will get offers on foreign too. Take it if you want. They will find you.

I have most likely lost the chance to sell movie rights.
Not true. Several indies sold film rights.

I may have damaged my chances to become a hybrid author.
Hybrid is a term that the industry made up so they won’t get left behind. They want you to think they’re relevant and still have something to offer. They don’t.

When I walked away from my auction offers, I was told, point-blank, that I would be a “hard sell” to any New York editor after this.
That’s bullshit. Money talks. See above reference of me blowing them off and then being asked to blurb a book 2 weeks later. That was a pressure tactic and it’s BS.

The cachet of being associated with a big publisher. Being invited to publisher parties at big writers conferences. Networking with industry professionals in a concentrated setting and with a common goal in mind. Being sent on book tours or participating in book signings.
You can still do that and laugh at them as you walk by b/c you’re making more money and have more freedom. Ta ta!

If I ever accept a NY contract, I’ll never be marketed as a “debut author.”
They wanted to mark me as a ‘debut’ author after publishing 40+ books. I don’t think that’s a good thing. It’s the newB stamp.

I have lost the opportunity for a traditional publishing house to establish a brand for me.
You said this twice. THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THEY INTENDED ON MAKING A BRAND FOR YOU. Branding things is difficult, branding people is even harder. That’s not what they do. They know how to print paper and they’re abandoning that in an attempt to remain relevant.

I have no idea who got under your skin, but most of these concerns are BS fed to Indies by agents and editors. It’s a sales technique called ‘fear of loss’ – look at everything you gave up by leaving us. Meanwhile, they’re telling you about the Indie side of things and they have no clue. A dog can’t say what it’s like to live as a cat, you get me?

Pay attention to where you hear things. This is part of them tainting the market and making us afraid so we’ll sign away our rights for a song. They’re taking advantage of people and it’s wrong.

It’s hard to make an ‘informed’ decision when the trads are blowing so much smoke up our butts. Seriously.

To those who trad-pubbed and signed on the line, I’m not slamming you. People have to do what they have to do, but please be aware that the industry is crumbling and there are so many false concepts and things that will be offered if you only ‘sign here! Sign now! Don’t wait!’ If anyone treats you like that, run the other way. Fast.

(Originally posted on 3/10/14 on my old blog)

How to Make a Kickass Teen Book Cover by HM Ward

It’s been drawn to my attention that I have an unusual perspective when it comes to being a writer.  Not only do I write and market all my books, but I also create the covers–from scratch.  And not stock photography, pre-fabby, template kinda scratch.  I’m talking non-Betty Crocker insta-cover, going-the-full-mile kinda scratch.  The kind of covers that truly start with nothing but a camera and an idea.

Here’s what I got to work with.  (Yes, I am speaking in my muppet urban vernacular in this post, because it’s fun and trendy, so you’ll have to deal).

You see this?  I got a regular girl, a camera, and my brain.  That’s it.  That’s all I start with.  (Want to see everything bigger?  Click the image and it’ll open full size).

We usually shoot a few different outfits, something plain–but who likes plain?  I mean, why not pull out all the stops and throw on a ball gown?  These are Young Adult book covers after all.  (And once you own a ballgown, I’m convinced you’ll wear it everywhere.  Because they are that much fun!  It’s only a matter of time until ballgowns become street clothes).  Anyway, a big dress with lots of folds in the fabric adds texture, depth, and interest–in other words it photographs really fricken awesome!

Next, I find stuff that will help the flow of the final image and tie into the story.  In this shoot, the model is wearing Collin’s ring and holding Shannon’s dagger.  The images were shot (usually) with one large soft box and fill light.  I wanted high contrast between the skin and the background and dress, so I made sure this series had more evenly lit skin in the shots for the TORN cover below.  On the Demon Kissed cover (jacket pictured below), things are much more shadowy.  The short lighting gives that tense ominous feeling that I <3.

After the model is set up, we start shooting.  The shoot runs 2-3 hours depending on what we are doing.  Going into a new shoot, I usually have an idea of the kind of feelings I want from the final image and then try to figure out the poses that match.  So its like reverse-engineering a little bit.  The entire series will have all the covers shot on the same day at the studio.

Most images tend to be low-key (dark images with a lot of black) since that reflects the mood of the Demon Kissed series. When I shoot romance covers next week for more Ella Steele’s upcoming releases, they’ll be brighter to match the moods of those books.  (YES!  I’m writing more romance under the name Ella Steele.  I’ll talk more about that in another post).

I can’t tell you how important it is to make sure the mood of the book matches the mood of the cover.  If you have happy hearts, bright colors, and unicorns–then read Demon Kissed–you’ll have a wtf moment and your brain will explode.  Okay, maybe not explode, but if you were looking for something fun and light, and got something dark and sexy, you might not be too happy with me.  The cover is one of the things that worried me about going the traditional publication route, since I’d have no control.

So, if you remember one thing from this post it should be this: MOOD MATTERS.

After the shoot, we look through the images.  You might be thinking, FUN!  Well, in a way it is, but what is actually happening is that I am looking at a series of sister shots (a bunch of shots that look nearly identical).  It’s like looking at a filmstrip, and playing spot-the-diff. After going through each and every image, I’ll chose the one that I like best for the cover.

The 4 images above are unedited and uncropped.  They’re straight out of camera – which I NEVER show to anyone cuz it’s like walking around the mall in nothing but underpants, and I’m not that kinda girl.  But for the sake of art, I decided to post them today, so you can see the process that goes into making the book cover.  Parts of making the cover are fun.  Parts are tedious.  I mean, do you see the difference b/t #1 and #3?  Imagine looking at 30 shots of those, where the differences are so minor most people can’t see them.  This is where being a freaky OCD perfectionist helps.  I can use my super-critical skills for good instead of evil, and all while not donning a cape.  (Although capes are really fun, right?)

So I chose an image.  We hold a huge ceremony and bust open champagne and… well, no.  Not yet.  But keep your cape on.  We’re almost done and you’ll want to fly and show all your friends.

howto make a KICKASS teen book coverThe next thing is editing the image.  My models wear stage make-up when we’re shooting. It makes editing go a lot faster.  The thick make-up hides skin issues and makes certain that the model still has color on her face after the cover is fully processed.  During the final stages of making the cover, the image’s brightness is pushed, and it’s possible to lose skin tones, so the edited image above is actually intentionally underexposed.

The next step is pulling her off the background and starting the cover design.  If you purchase stock to make your covers, this is where your cover begins.  If you’re a control freak like me, look at all the things you didn’t get to control!  Sometimes it pays to use stock, but if you are writing a series, promoting the hell out of it, and then have the same cover models as everyone else–well, it’s not very good branding.  Dude, I’ve seen at least 17 covers, all by different authors, who have the same exact couple on the cover.  The images were being used by the Big 6 and Indie authors.

It makes your branding moot when other people have access to the same images.

Business brains might be thinking, Yes, but is a photo shoot cost-effective?  The answer:  Hell yes!  Stock images are expensive and now Indie authors can’t buy the little images because the pixel dimensions are too small for Amazon’s new requirements (they are asking 2500px on the longest side for ideal viewing).  You want ideal viewing.  That’s the whole purpose of the cover – to lure in readers.  Having it showing like crap won’t help you.  So, your covers suddenly shot up in price if you are using stock.  Price a photoshoot.  You can find anything from $30, which can include the disc, and up.  Photographers’ rates are all over the place.  In other words, it’s worth looking into.

So I chose the shot I want to use, but it’s not perfect.  It’s not EXACTLY what I want.  It has the feeling, and she looks pretty, but it needs something.  I can see Shan’s blade and Collin’s ring, but I want the dress to pop more.  Although I LOVE purple, the Demon Kissed cover is purple, I want this cover to be different.

So, for TORN, I decided to make her gown red to match her lips.

As soon as I change her gown to red, I can see everything.  I know I want the gothic-ish overlay.  The entire series uses those to help tie them together.  I need to add her Martis mark to her forehead, the violet mark Ivy has in the book.  I change her eye color and make them rimming violet, like in the book.  And I brightened her hair.  It was getting lost a little bit after applying the layers of the overlay.

So, now my image has about 35 layers.  Here is a screen shot of what things look like at this point.  (And I’m working in CMYK for print.  I’ll convert it later to RGB for computer screens.  I’ve found it’s easier to maintain rich colors that way).

Next, I take my cover image (minus the words) flatten it and drop it onto the print template.  I check my gutters and crop lines (the little blue/ green rulers) to make sure everything lines up How to Make a Kickass Teen Book Cover by HM Wardcorrectly so that it will print right.  My books are printed at a standard trade paperback size, in this case 5″x8″.  If I just made the template at 5×8, when the book is printed, it won’t look right.  You have to leave extra room so the cover can be cut before it’s bound to the rest of the book. You also need to leave a place for the barcode.  Your printer can give you the margins so you can place guidelines on your cover to make sure everything lines up correctly.  If you can do the interior margins, this is the same kind of thing.

Next, the text is added.  All my covers have large text on the back.  It’s the hook from the first book in the Demon Kissed series, then they go into their own description.  Then I add my other book covers from this series to the back of the book.  Again, images lend to mood.  The more images you have, the better.  There’s a jewel pic on the spine, a little glimpse of the cover pic.  And the number in the series, author, publisher, etc.  I also put on the back cover a new series that is coming out next.

And this is what it looks like when the jacket is complete and ready to print.

It’s kind of cool to see the process from start to finish.  It has that awesome-esk feeling of seeing a before and after shot.  Below is another completed book jacket.  It’s for the first book in the Demon Kissed series.  Remember how I told you that I LOVE purple?  Yeah, well, I have to make a consious effort not to make every single cover purple.  That also means my favorite cover in the entire series is this one… cuz it’s PURPLE!

That’s the evolution of a book cover.  It starts as a hunched-over, slobbering hairy guy, and ends with a pretty girl in a dress holding a dagger.  Tah-dah!

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H.M. Ward is the bestselling author of the Demon Kissed series, and an award winning photographer.  To see all of her covers, click here.

I turned down over a million bucks in trad deals, plus other tips for Indies

WhyITurnedDownAMillionBucksSo, I ranted a little bit on KindleBoards and figured I should post it on my own blog at some point. So here we go…

I posted an announcement on my facebook page last night and had several ppl nudge me to post it over here. So here we go. Plus I’m adding more info, b/c info is king and it’s good to be king. bwuhahaha.

Over the past year I’ve been offered over 1.5 million bucks in advances offered by huge publishing houses. I told them to show me a marketing plan that knocks my socks off and I’d consider their offer. I had this notion that they knew what they were doing and could do it better than I could. They said they had all these ideas and they’re gonna blow my mind, which was a requirement for the deal, b/c the pay was too low.

About the money – if you have a book that hits #1-10 on the Kindle store, tons of people have the mistaken notion that it’s gonna blip and fall and you’re fun in the sun will end…unless a trad pub picks you up.

It’s math time! A book in the top ten sells around 5-10K copies per day. Let’s take the average and give the book some wiggle room and say it’s selling 7K copies a day @ $2.99. In 7 days you’ll have made (net, not gross) over $100,000. So BIG TRAD HOUSE offers you $200,000 for a three part series.

‘Sign here,’ they say. ‘Sign fast! You want to strike while the irons hot.’ ‘A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush.’ ‘It’s a sure thing and if you don’t sign, then you could loose everything.’ <–They actually said all the crap to me, and its crap. If the book nets $100K in a week, what will it do next week? What about next month? What about next year? Never mind those other 2 books. Bad deal.

The most recent offer was for a high six figure deal on my next novel, on spec, sight unseen from one of the big 5. I gave the same terms – show me a kick *ss marketing plan and I’ll consider it. They were excited and on it! They were going to wow me. Like I was gonna be so wowed that I’d die of the wowness. True story.

Dude, the marketing plan I got back was the equivalent of, ‘we’re gonna do stuff.’ Their email list – yeah, they don’t personally have one, but this archaic place does – had 2K people on it. That was the bulk of their plan.

My email list has over 30K ppl on it and I do a ton more stuff than they presented. There’s a post in here about my release day marketing plan, most of which is free and time consuming. I still do that. It’s listed in here with details.

THEY DON’T DO THAT MUCH.

I said no. And laughed. A lot. It was so weak.

My point – do NOT think that they have any clue what they are doing, because they do not. There is a marketing method that is called ‘see what sticks’ where you take a plate of spaghetti and toss it at the wall. There’s no planning, no nothing. Just take it and throw. That is what the big houses are doing. Every marketing plan had that element of ‘fate’ and hoped that I would be the lucky piece of pasta that stuck.

Screw that. I want someone who knows what they’re doing. Apparently, that’s me. I’m good at selling intangible goods. I know that, but I assumed there would be better things that I hadn’t thought of. I still consider myself ‘green.’ Yeah, it turns out that I’m not.

Everything you do should have a purpose. All ads should be directly targeting your demographic for your book. ‘Toss it at the wall’ is very costly and honestly, it gets you a very poor ROI (return on investment).

Here are some of the highlights of my Indie career since I started. March marks my 3 year Indie anniversary. I was not previously published. I started at zero. I was a photographer, with a theology degree that cost a frickin fortune.

•I sold 4 MILLION+ books since 2011.

•DAMAGED: THE FERRO FAMILY was the #1 bestselling Indie Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace title of 2013.

•DAMAGED: THE FERRO FAMILY was the #14 bestselling Kindle title on Amazon of 2013.

•In 2013 alone I had 11 different titles on the NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers list.

•I’m a NYT, WSJ, USAT bestselling author.

•THE ARRANGEMENT series sold over 1 million copies in 2013. Dude, they’re serials. People hate short books. Riiiight. Wink

•I’ve been a top 100 Amazon author every month of 2013, often in the top 10.

•In 2013 I released a new title about every 2.5 weeks.

•My formal education is in theology.

•My titles tend to focus on elements of the human condition such as poverty, hope, grief, and loss.

•I had multiple titles hit #1 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites.

•DAMAGED: THE FERRO FAMILY was in the Amazon top 100 kindle titles for over 100 days in 2013.

•H.M. Ward owns H.M. Ward Press (formerly Laree Bailey Press). Other indies thought that I was trad b/c of my press. I’m not.

•Prior to this I was a nationally acclaimed professional photographer. I shot the covers for Demon Kissed 1-5 and Catalyst before I retired from photography in Fall 2012. Until then, I was a FT photog and a PT writer.

I started by using facebook and only facebook to connect to readers outside of my social circles. There are other ways to do that, but I’m a big believer in don’t wait for them to come to you.

My first book cost me $125 to produce. I was butt poor from a theology degree that cost well over six figures. I didn’t have extra money to mess around with.

I had a big NY agent for my 1st book and was looking at the traditional route. I told her to pull it–I wanted to publish it myself. (Many thanks to Joe Konrath and his awesome blog).

I work about 80 hours a week. I have two assistants that help me manage paperwork. I just hired them b/c I had been going nuts trying to do everything myself. Hubby helps me with all the numbers stuff and when I get sick (I’ve been fighting an illness for the past 3 years) that knocks me on my *ss periodically.

If you forget everything else in this post, remember this:

If you don’t have the gall to believe in yourself and your work, no one else will.

Bring it.

Own it.

And don’t worry about mistakes, because they’re the stepping stones to success. I notice I never say ‘I failed’ – I say ‘well, I jacket that up,’ and try to figure out where it went wrong so I can fix it. Failure is an excellent teacher. Learn from it and try again.

I feel like crap today, so forgive my typos and such. I wanted to take the time to share this b/c stuff like this helped me. I’d see ppl’s posts about how they were getting ahead, buying a laptop with their earnings, or read Joe’s blog and seeing his income, and it made me keep going. I’m glad I did.

Being an Indie completely and totally rocks.

–and this was a follow up–

Someone asked how I end up working 80 hours a week:

It’s more than 80 hours. I work at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week when I’m home. The only way I stop working is for me to go on vacation. But anyone who has worked for themselves knows that. I try to stop at 5pm, but it never happens. I usually try to stop and 5 and it takes me until 9 to get stuff done.

3 hours or less are spent writing per day.

The rest gets eaten up by email, fb, twitter, fan interaction, vendor relations/ discussions, launches (on launch day all I do is the stuff on that page I wrote a while back. It takes ALL day. I can’t do anything else on those days.)

I think interaction is important. Ive always thought that. If they took the time to write me something, I want to write them back. Its time consuming.

The rest of the time is spent making covers, blurbs, marketing strategy, reworking sales copies if they flopped, analyzing stats and seeing what can be changed to function better. This year I added book fairs to my to do list, so I’ll be at BEA, RWA, London, and RT. Audiobooks, listening to narrators, making the covers for those, answering interview requests. Planning marketing and coordinating things between ads. Making social media pics and posting.

That’s the stuff that stands out. Hubby does stats on sales and prepares paperwork for the boring side of a business.

As in any other person who is self employed, I spend the least amount of time doing the fun part. In this case, writing. I like making covers too.

I work from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. I did that when I had the photography studio too. Im not sure if Im a workaholic or if I work harder b/c I work for me.

I still spend a few hours every day playing with my kids and hubby. I eat meals with them, and work at home, so they can come talk to me when they need me. I don’t expect to maintain this pace forever, but I’ve been doing it so long I’d be lost working 40 hours a week.

Im hoping my assistants will take over the redundant work (eg cover made for ebook, paper, acx-the assistant makes the duplicates after I do the ebook design) and that will cut my workload by about 10 hours a week, which would be great. I’ll end up writing instead. hahaha.

Someone asked about paper only deals – NO ONE IS INTERESTED. I thought that was insane, but it’s not. It lines up with Hugh’s report. Paper is not where the money is at- ebooks are. I made the NYT list this week. Ebook only rank was #7 and Ebook and paper combined was #8. No preorder. Minimal paper sales – a few hundred. That also lines up with what Hugh’s report. Which makes me think, there isnt a lot of money in paper and the risk is greater than the reward. I am trying to do paper distribution myself. It’s too early to say what will happen. I’ll let you know, but I’m thinking there is a reason why the trad pubs are backing off of paper sales. It’s not arbitrary, despite their other actions I think they’re right about paper.

If Indies stopped chasing paper, if they stopped thinking that paper would be the difference, well, that would be major.

There’s one other huge thing that I wanted to mention, and that’s the fans. Being indie means I can release faster and for less. Can you imagine a trad pub trying to release a book every other week? Or even once a month? The fans LOVE having so much to read and not waiting very long. Plus I have the option to put anything I want on sale, whenever I want. These aren’t minor facets of the big picture, they’re huge. I’ve also dabbled with fans actually influencing the story line. That has been amazing. They got to chose major things – did this person sleep with this person, is this person gay, should the dark nature of a character be toned down, etc.

An offer has to be really attractive to risk my fans, and it is a risk. The publisher could totally derail things and p*ss off my fan base. For me, that’s a huge risk and it’s just not worth it. Notice I said risk several times. You’re risking everything you’ve made when you hand your stuff over to someone else.

A couple of you guys said you’ll be at RT and BEA. Totally come say hi!!!

Related Posts on Self Publishing and Indie Marketing

(reposted from old blog)

Author Tips: Book Bombs, Release Days, & Other Good Free Marketing Tips

NYTdamagedarrange6I thought I’d share what a typical release day looks like. Some things have changed since I started in 2011, but most are still the same.

Each novel has a release date that is announced on the website, blog, and social media pages a few weeks prior to release. I tell ppl when I start a new book/ series and do a cover reveal, so by the time I announce the release, they have been looking for it.

For serials, I give the readers a rough idea of when the next one will come out so I give myself enough time to write it. The cover is posted a few days prior to the release of the serial so everyone can see it and get excited. Then as soon as I get it back from editing I publish it.

What the heck is a book bomb? Define: Book Bomb=bombarded in this case with the hope that using multiple marketing channels, simultaneously, the book will be more visible for a short window. During that window you will get a higher influx of readers. More visibility=more sales. Generally speaking, that’s true. People can’t buy the book if they don’t know its there. A book bomb makes it very clear its there and how to get it.

RELEASE DAY MARKETING:

1. Blog Post – include links to all retailers, description, trailer (if I have one), release date, and cover. The blog’s RSS feed is a hub to connect/ send info to Author Central and Goodreads. Connect your accounts. You need a central hub for all data/ information.
2. Update Blog Widgets – add cover image to blog sidebar with link to book in Kindle Store.
3. Update Goodreads – make sure release date is in bold and change it to TODAY and sale price.
4. Add book to Author Central (on Amazon).
5. Add bold text, reviews, and the about the author section via Author Central.
6. Create mass email to get sent out on release day with links to ppl on the newsletter list.
7. Create social media images to be used as teasers on release day & week (hot link to book).
8. Post reminders on Twitter and Facebook that the book comes out tomorrow. Link to 1st chapter on blog if I posted a teaser.
9. Add cover to Pintrest. The reader demographic for romance novels is close to a direct overlap with Pinterest. If you’re not over there, you’re missing out.
10. Add other images that pertain to story idea or creation to Pinterest. (e.g. cool tunes for hot nights)
11. Update links to book on website. Make it easy to find/ buy your book. Remember that 30% of your audience disappears with each click.
12. Dispense ARCs
13. Check in with Beta Readers (if used).
14. Active my blogger base. These are bloggers that requested HM Ward info so they have content for their blogs.
15. Post links to books on Twitter and FB. Encourage sharing to help other fans see the book is out. FYI: Most posts by biz pages are NOT seen by fans unless they are running paid ads. It sucks, but it’s the future. Get used to it.
16. Send mass text messages to those who signed up. (New in 2015)
17. Contact Book Reviewers that requested personal reminders on release days.
18. Send notification on the HM Ward app to notify readers of new book. (Coming Feb. 2016)
19. Go out and take the day off so I don’t watch the computer all day.

Original post from 2011, updated in 2013:

Most of this stuff is free. The only thing that I pay for is the email service so I can track stuff. It is time consuming, but its worked well for me.

-Amazon stats over the past 5 years-

2011: A good release day will bump one of my new books up into the top 3,000. A ho-hum day will be around 10,000.

2013: A good release day will bump one of my new books up into the top 100. A ho-hum day will be around 200.

2015: A good release day will bump one of my new books up into the top 125. A ho-hum day will be around 200.

Pre-orders decrease visibility and initial ranking spike. I use them sparingly.

Holidays, school, weekends, etc all affect release days. I try to launch the book when people will be around. There is usually an uptick in sale the two weeks following launch day as reviews start to come in.

Changes in 2014:

In addition to the things above, I might take out a paid ad if it’s the first book in a series. I plan promotions to kick in when the anticipated sales slump starts. I was hospitalized during one of my novel releases (DAMAGED last April), and by the time I woke up, that novel was already in the top 100. A ho-hum release now will hit a rank of about 200 on release day. A highly anticipated book will hit the top 10. I have over 40 books, about 1/2 novels, 1/2 serials. Some are YA and some are NA.

THIS IS STILL THE SAME: The best piece of advice I can give someone trying to boost their sales is this: MAKE IT REALLY EASY TO BUY YOUR BOOK! Don’t make people go looking for it.

And if you are selling to women/ girls: MAKE IT PRETTY! I use picture links a lot too.

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This is a hype piece for a book that came out recently. I use it on facebook & twitter. Sometimes it’ll will appear on the blog as well.

The most sales I had in a single week was just over 100K copies, and the title came in #2 on NYT, WSJ, and USA Today. Dan Brown beat me. I beat Jame Patterson. That title hit #1 on Amazon and held for about 1/2 a week at $3.99. Not too shabby. One week in 2013 I had 4 titles on USA Today’s bestseller list. I think that’s a record for me. There might have been 5 a while back, but I was too busy writing to notice. I gotta dig back through and check.

I still do all this stuff. It works. Anything that makes your books easier for ppl to find and buy is a plus. That’s what all this marketing stuff is about at it’s core – making it easier for readers to find & buy your books.

If this seems overwhelming, just remember that marketing=making your book more visible and easy to purchase. Start there and it’s less head spinning. I started with 1 facebook fan, too. It’s one fan at a time, 1 foot in front of the other kind of brand building that grabs readers and helps them stick around. It didn’t happen over night. This way takes time, but it works.

Rock on, Indie Peeps!