A few words of questionable wisdom from author Al W Moe - you can leave questions on each blog or go to my profile for direct email.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Sacrificing Your First Born (Book) to the Masses

Want to be a successful self-published author? Consider sacrificing your first born new book to the reading (and buying) masses. Driving future sales with current book giveaways is one of the best aspects of Amazon's Kindle program. The marketing aspects are sound - introduce readers to an author's work and hope there's a land-swell of interest and word of mouth that propels new sales.

Read New Books for Free

Readers can hardly pass up a free book. For instance,  Oct. 29 and 30, readers can download Jessie B Tyson's book, White Heaven Women (a supernatural ghost story), and read from start to finish at their leisure at no cost. That's great.

Unfortunately, even if the idea of a free book is sound (and Jessie is only giving it away free for a short time), it only translates to future sales if the author's book is exceptional. That doesn't mean the writing has to be great (honest, it doesn't), it means the story has to be great. Readers don't care nearly as much as paid critics do about an occasional grammar slip. Readers want a story!

With physical books, a great cover can translate to many new sales. Seeing a book on your friends coffee table with a catchy cover is enough to start a discussion and boom: book sales. Books online via Nook or Kindle (and other readers) don't have that hook, but free books can help.

The Real Key

However, the real key to successful book sales (beyond the obvious STORY, STORY, STORY) when using a free book as a driver, is to have other books for the satisfied masses to buy. New writers can learn a lot from those who have already been successful like M. R. Mathias - he of the Dragon stories.

Mathias figured out his audience, he's prolific (over a dozen books and stories for sale), and he's got a few freebies that are always available. You can read his 77-page novella The First Dragoneer for free and see if you like the style, which many, many people have done. Then, you may be inclined to do what about a zillion other people have done:

Pay for Other Books

Yes, Mr. Mathias gives away a lot of books, but because he has a back-list of titles, he knows many readers will turn to his "for sale" books, and he'll make money from those. I know, because several of his best books, like The Sword and the Dragon, are fun to read and selling great on Amazon and on other eBook devices.

When readers find an author they really like, they'll buy all of their books. Giving away free copies or even 99-cent copies makes a lot of sense when you have other books to sell. If you have but one book, well, free and 99-cent books may not be the way to go! $2.99 is probably where you should be - and I'll explain that next week!

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Monday, October 22, 2012

Circular Book Marketing

Circular book marketing used to include book readings at libraries, interviews on TV and radio, book signings at bookstores, and then talks at the local Rotary and the Ladies Club. The idea was to get a little grassroots campaign going to garner publicity. Successful book sales started this way spread like water flowing from a broken dam across the fertile fields of a flat valley of readers. The web provides a similar approach to marketing now. If you aren't using it, why not?

I've been reading more and more book reviews recently. I'm fascinated by what readers find compelling enough to write about and reading what makes them think a book is a good read, and it's not usually the grammar or the punctuation. In fact, that's never mentioned. So, you have to face it - readers want a story!

Some of the best reviews I've seen are on blogs like  Tic Toc, where author Leslie Ann Wright does a great job of deconstructing each book's true story. When I'm ready to pick up a book, that's the information I really want: is it a good read.

Wright is also working a bit of circular book marketing, whether she intended to or not. She's a great reviewer, so her work is shown on blogcritics, and from there blogs are picked-up by other web sites, like the Seattle PI's. Each of those posts list her name with links to places like Goodreads, and her own book is listed several times.

That all creates something the search engines love, organic links. Google has very sophisticated algorithms for finding "popular" keywords, and they are able to distinguish between what they consider quality pages, and spam. You can't beat the algorithms with junk anymore, and you can't achieve high page rankings or listings with junk either.

These days, in the same way that readers want a great story, search engines want a great web of quality backlinks to choose how high in relevance to rate key words. Without those links, you'll have trouble getting noticed - and no publicity is no sales. You've got to get the word out, but it's got to be a good word.

So, if you're looking for a point here, it's not just the review that's selling your books, it's the reviewer and the links on the pages of the reviewer and how those links are read by search engines. A blog page with 100 hits a day doesn't do you much good if there are no links to and from it. If you have an author's page or a book page for your own work, make sure it has backlinks (links to the page) as well as links to other quality sites.  Without those links you wonk rank high enough with the search engines to ever get noticed!

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Author Blog Marketing

Blogging started out as a great way to connect daily with your friends; an open journal. Today we've got Facebook, so the blogging idea has morphed into a more organized way of marketing. That's good and bad.

When I was growing up, a few friends and I used to do a lot of running, just for the fun of it. One of them, Fred Schumann, went to the extreme when he ran the length of Japan on a 2,000-mile journey that took him fifty-nine days to complete. He later blogged about it - now that's something you'd want to read about each day. And that's what brings readers back to blogs on a regular basis - great stories.

If you're using a blog to sell your books, you're going to have to offer something extra each post to get new readers. My Nevada Casino History blog is written because I love old casino photos and stories. If I sell a few extra books in a somewhat organic way, that's just a nice bonus for me. Every blog that offers something nice has a huge advantage over the ones that are all marketing and no substance.

 A good example is Jessie B Tyson's blog, where I downloaded a free copy of SpaceHive today, by author Kenna McKinnon. You can get your own copy while the offer is still up! Jessie is herself, an author, with a new book called White Heaven Women, a spooky paranormal story.

Jessie says she considers herself to be a Spiritual Christian, but that doesn't stop her from writing paranormal fiction. Her stories come from vision-like dreams that she turns into enjoyable tales. I guess she's not afraid of the dark, but her readers might be after finishing her book! White Heaven Women is just $3.99 on Kindle.

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Neurotic Authors Amazon Author Rankings!

Amazon let millions of authors know via email that their work is now graded in yet another way - not just by reviews,or by comments, or by income, but now as an actual rank of every author on the Amazon system! Not that insecure, neurotic authors need more to obsess and fret over.

 Consider Yourself  a Success!

Now before anybody slashes their wrists, you have to consider yourself successful if you somehow manged to get your book finished and in good enough shape to actually make it to Amazon at all. Beyond that, you are a successful author if you have any sales at all. There are 8,000,000 books on Amazon, so if people are actively buying your work, you are doing well. But if you want to make a living at it, well, you need to get in the top 25,000 of all Amazon authors, maybe lower!

I'm not shy, I'll show my numbers, but I don't know whether to laugh or cry at them. I'm pretty happy to see that I'm at 1745 for history and 6939 in mystery, thriller and suspense for all of Amazon. On Kindle, my history number is 1745 with mystery and thrillers at 4906.

Of course that tells me there are a lot of authors writing books, but not so many selling enough books to make a living.

The Roots of Reno came out on Kindle in November 2011. At the time, Amazon accounted for 10% of sales, with most copies sold at bookstores. Now Amazon accounts for over 50% of my sales  because it's tough keeping backlist books on the bookstore shelves!

The most sobering news from my trip to Amazon's Author Central was seeing that my overall ranking of all authors put me at number 93,189 (24,135 on Kindle). That tells me that if you only sell on Amazon, and you achieve those numbers in a year, you can afford to eat Ramen noodles every meal, but if you want to take an occasional trip to Mickey "D's", you better think of the best way to get your author ranking under 25,000. And, there are only two ways to make that happen: write better, market better. Good luck!

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe