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.
- Most authors will only sell about 200 copies of their title. Ever.
- Most people have about 200 friends on Facebook.
- Most people have confined social circles and it takes effort to move beyond them. I’m shy. Believe me, I know.
- Your debut novel is the one that friends and family will buy to be supportive.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 🙂
- 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!
- 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.
- 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’.