Articles for Aspiring Authors
Writing and publishing a book is a huge accomplishment at any age. But when you have to balance your responsibilities as an author with homework from your 3rd grade teacher, you deserve special recognition. Which is why Emma Sumner is gaining tons of media attention for “The Fairies of Waterfall Island,” a 10,000-word, 120-page book now available on Amazon.
Because of her young age and big dreams, Emma has been booked for on-air interviews with local media including NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, and PBS to talk about her book, and more offers for interviews are coming in daily.
How did this young girl go from idea to published, without an agent or publishing company? As her father, I was right there with her throughout the process and in this post I am going to show you how she did it, including pictures, links to recordings, and the precise breakdown of costs.
The nine steps an 8-year-old took to go from blank page to self published book:
The tips and tricks that I share below come straight from Self-Publishing School, where Emma and I learned from the best in the business. Click here to find out more about Self-Publishing School.
#1 Start with a Challenge
When Emma first came to me and said she wanted to write and publish a book, I wasn’t sure if this was just a passing idea in the mind of a bored grade-schooler, or if it was really going to something she would be passionate about and continue with. I was happy to help her if it was a real goal and not just a whim, so I gave her a challenge.
Emma’s challenge was:
- Complete 1 chapter to her story
- Write at least 150 words
- Create 3 different characters with backgrounds
- Have a plan ready for the rest of the book
What did Emma do? She came back that same night with:
- A handwritten story in her spiral bound notebook that had 172 words (she made sure I counted),
- Four distinct characters
- A plan for a total of 10 chapters and four other characters that she would introduce later in the book.
It was clear from her effort that she was serious — so I was, too!
Here’s a look at the first draft of what she wrote:
At that time, the 170-word story was the longest thing she had ever written. It gave her a taste of what was possible if she put forth the effort.
YOUR TURN: How can you challenge yourself? Be creative and find ways to create achievable goals and then turn them into a challenge. You can write them down as a contract with yourself, or even bring on a friend as an accountability partner to encourage and motivate you.
#2 Build a Rewards System
Emma’s first reward was a simple one. We decided that the next morning after she finished her first 150 words I would wake up early and before I went to work I would sit down and give her story my full attention as I read it from start to finish.
The next morning I read her story and instead of giving constructive criticism, I just gave encouragement. I told her how much I loved it and left a small sticky note for her to read when she woke up.
It is vitally important in the beginning to forget about the little things like grammar or spelling and just be proud of the fact they (or you!) completed the challenge. Most children (and adults for that matter) are most vulnerable in the writing process the first time someone reads their words.
Whether you’re reading your child’s, friend’s, or your own work, focus on the good. There will be plenty of time for the rest later when it comes time to edit.
Here are some examples of the rewards we used to motivate and encourage Emma during the writing process:
Challenge: Complete detailed descriptions of your top 4 characters
Reward: We will go onto Fiverr.com and get someone to do a pencil drawing of the character based off you description
Challenge: Finish Chapter 2
Reward: I will copy your handwritten notes to the computer and teach you how to use Microsoft Word
Challenge: Finish Chapter 10
Reward: We will sit down and write an email to a cover designer
YOUR TURN: What is your reward? Find something that you can get excited about that will also lead to more progress with the book.
#3 Make a Plan
After Emma completed her first challenge of 150 words, we decided that we needed to have a plan for moving forward. Instead of just writing everything out and hoping it would all make sense, we sat down to plan out what we wanted to do.
Each week we met on Saturday morning, waking up before the rest of the family. During our “strategy sessions,” we would have breakfast together and plan out the week. Oftentimes these planning sessions would happen at a local Panera Bread or Starbucks.
These sessions became about much more than just the book, as we enjoyed the father-daughter bonding time without distractions. To this day, these Saturday morning meetings have been my favorite part of the entire process.
After the first couple weeks we started to bring my laptop along with us so she could sit down and write for 20-30 minutes after we finished our “business,” before we went home.
Here are some of the things that we would do each week:
- Decide on goals
- Pick out rewards
- Talk about the story line
- Talk about any struggles
In order to allow Emma to refer back to what we talked about each week we would record the session with the audio recording feature on Evernote on my phone. With the recordings available to her on our iPad at home she could just tap on the button for this week’s strategy session and review it whenever she wanted, even if I was still at work.
To hear a small clip of one of the first “Strategy Session” recordings click here Audio for Strategy Session
YOUR TURN: Do you have a plan? If not, it is time to start getting back to basics like mind mapping or outlining.
#4 Create Accountability
For Emma we found a great way to keep her accountable while also promoting her book and making it fun for her. Inspired by Pat Flynn and the group he created to help launch his first eBook, we created a private Facebook group filled with friends and family called “Emma’s First Book.” Each week she would record a short video to the group and report back on her progress.
The group quickly grew from 20 people to over 200 people within a week as friends and family started to message me asking to add one of their friends or coworkers who was interested in watching Emma’s progress.
As people began to comment on her videos and post encouragement for her, we began to incorporate this as one of her rewards. If she finished the weeks goals she could spend 20 min. commenting back to the people in her group.
Here is a picture of Emma’s group taken the first week she started it.
YOUR TURN: Who is going to keep you accountable? Find someone in your life, in person or online, that you can meet with for 10 minutes each week and check in on your goals. They may not be writers, but maybe they have another goal in mind for weight loss or exercise, and you can work together to keep each other on track.
#5 Celebrate Big Wins
As I mentioned earlier, Emma and I would create weekly challenges and rewards to make the week-to-week process more fun and exciting, but beyond that we also celebrated each time she achieved a big milestone.
More important that just the celebration was the fact that we were doing it together. She was able to share her victories and be proud of her accomplishments, and I was there to cheer her on. During these celebrations we did not talk about strategy and details but we just reflected on how far she had come and what more she could still do.
For example when the book was half way done we celebrated with dinner out on the town.
YOUR TURN: Who can you celebrate with? Find a friend, family member, pet, stuffed animal… anyone who can help you enjoy the wins.
#6 Hire The Pros
Based on my experiences with publishing my own books, I knew there were four things we needed to hire professional help to accomplish: illustration, editing, cover design, and formatting.
There’s a wide range of costs for each of these items, so as a family we worked out a budget and made a decision on what we could afford. Then we contacted outsourcers that fit our needs, based on a list of preferred contractors from Self-Publishing School.
This was a time-saver since we didn’t have to waste time or money dealing with an untested resource. Before starting with each we discussed our project, described the book and Emma’s personality, and asked some questions about their style via email to make sure they were a good fit.
We worked with people from Boston, Michigan, Mexico and even Sweden. Emma was involved in communicating with each of them by both email and video chat.
What did it all cost?
Cover Design: $450
Total Invested in the book: $790*
*Unless you want to count all the hot chocolates and breakfast sandwiches during our Saturday meetings, in that case I should probably add another $150
Depending on your budget you can choose to go much lower or even much higher. The range is huge for each category. You can pay well into four thousands for each category, depending on what you decide to outsource and who you use. Don’t let that scare you, though, as you can even choose to do it on your own for little to no money at all.
That being said, we are extremely happy with the choice that we made. Check out the cover below:
To get access to the Preferred Outsourcers that we used along with many others check out Self-Publishing School.
#7 Try New Things
While working on this project, Emma learned much more than just how to write a book. At each stage we took any opportunity we could to introduce a skill or technology that would expand her knowledge and comfort level.
For example, when she was ready to transition away from writing in her spiral-bound book to computer, she learned how to use a laptop, start Microsoft Word and type her story.
Here are just some of the programs or skills Emma has learned during the last year:
- Typing with Microsoft Word
- Using a thesaurus
- Typing and sharing documents with Google Docs
- Using Skype to do video chats
- Posting, commenting and doing live videos in Facebook
YOUR TURN: What new skills are you looking forward to learning? Make a list of things that you want to try and incorporate them as you go.
#8 Remove Barriers
Often, small points of resistance can keep you from moving the entire book forward. These little things can cause you to stop your progress, lose your inspiration or even cast doubt that you should be writing at all. If you can identify those small roadblocks and find a way to remove them early on, then you will be more successful
For Emma, one of her points of resistance was that she often worried so much about her spelling and grammar that she would not make any progress. She would see the red line under the word show up in Microsoft Word and get completely distracted, and then end up feeling discouraged. Then her progress or creative momentum would be ruined.
Our solution was simple: If spell check was the issue, let’s get rid of it! We disabled spell check completely and chose to forget about spelling until the entire first draft was done. Then instead of having her worry about it, we let the editor handle it.
YOUR TURN: If you find something that is blocking you from moving forward, take the time to identify it and find a solution. When you think about writing (or completing) your book now, what barriers do you predict? Make a plan to get rid of it!
#9 Build a Launch Team
A launch team is a group of people chosen to help you market the book and spread the word about your launch to the rest of the world.
By the time Emma was done with her book, she had a large group of people who had been following her progress and were ready to help her by being part of her launch team.
To make it easier to get information out to the group we created a small landing page and invited her Facebook group, and other other groups including the Self-Publishing School Mastermind Program, to sign up.
Starting about 2 weeks prior to launch, we began sending emails to everyone who had signed up, letting them know what to expect. Then a week before our official launch, we put the book up on Amazon and only notified those on the launch team. Many people on the team had never purchased a book on Amazon before, much less read a book on Kindle or left a review, so we had to be very detailed on our instructions.
She had a total of 95 people sign up to be on her launch team, and in just one day after we hit the publish button on Amazon she had 87 books purchased and 16 reviews up.
YOUR TURN: Start thinking about who will be on your launch team and how you will manage it. I strongly suggest signing up for an email service like ClickFunnels, Aweber, or MailChimp so you can collect email addresses and contact your launch team directly.
#10 Give Back
As part of this journey we wanted to make sure that Emma learned more than just how to write a book, and one of the biggest lessons we were able to incorporate was the idea of giving back to charity.
Here are just some of the benefits of giving back with your book:
- Inspiration: Inspire others around you to be a part of your journey.
- Motivation: When the book will help others either directly or indirectly, then you will have even more motivation to continue.
- Satisfaction: Giving back to a charity to which we feel personally connected has given both Emma and me a great feeling of pride and satisfaction that would not have been possible without that participation.
In order to maximize what you can do for a cause, pick a charity that can work with you to help get the word out about the book.
Here are some things to look for:
Does the money stay locally or go to a national or international fund?
You may want to find a charity where the money stays to help the local community.
Do they have a local chapter or contact?
It helps to have one person that knows the local area to help you set up speaking engagements
What kind of social media presence or email list do they have?
Part of raising money to donate means getting the book in front of those who will be willing to buy it. If the charity has a large contact list, they can help send that information out to more people — which will help them AND help you!
Does the charity have a marketing team?
Many large charities already have a marketing and PR team in place that can help create engaging posts or advertisements, as well as using their already established network to get your book into the media.
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions when you get in contact with the charity. After all, you want to make sure you are donating your time to the right cause.
Emma and I talked with several charities before finally deciding on Autism Speaks, a wonderful group with both national and local ties.
You can find out more about this great charity at AutismSpeaks.org
YOUR TURN: What charities or causes do you feel passionate about or connected to? Start now by using the resources above to evaluate your options.
A Dream Come True
“The Fairies of Waterfall Island” has already exceeded our wildest dreams. Every time we talk about it Emma says “I am just so excited, I never thought it would actually get this far.”
Each new step from writing to editing and now to publishing has been challenging, but the rewards have been incredible — in our relationship, in the growth I’ve seen in Emma, and in the inspiration she’s been to other children and adults.
To support Emma and her book go EmmaLovesBooks.com where you can find a link to purchase the book and more information on Emma and her journey. Remember that all proceeds for the first 3 months go to Autism Speaks.
I hope that with this post you can see that anyone can turn their dream into a published book. You just need to follow the steps, and you will be there with Emma before you know it.
When it comes to selling ebooks, Amazon is by far the market leader. According to Publishers Weekly, “Apple and Barnes & Noble remain Amazon’s two largest competitors, although they trail Amazon by a wide margin.” However, millions of readers across the world still turn to other sellers like Apple’s iBooks and Barnes & Noble to buy books.
For an author trying to figure out this business—especially for the first time—it can be confusing and overwhelming to find out how and why to sell your book on different platforms. Sometimes it seems easier sticking to what you know. But, by eliminating all the other players and exclusively publishing on Amazon, you are essentially closing the door to many potential readers. What does this mean for the self-published author? It means that Amazon isn’t the only game in town when it comes to considering who can sell books for you.
In order to demystify these options, we decided to let you hear directly from book distributors Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Kobo so you can decide what’s best for you and your next book. You may be surprised to hear that none of these distributors think you should say goodbye to Amazon publishing. Instead, they advocate broadening your horizons.
In this Q&A, we explore what Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Kobo have to say about what makes each platform unique and how you can see more success using their platform in addition to Amazon. Also, take note of their best insider tips and tricks to navigating the world of indie publishing.
Here is just a little snippet from each of these distributors.
“Authors should spend more time writing and less time tinkering with administrative tasks or tinkering with the upload requirements at multiple retailers.” – Smashwords
“Here’s the painful reality of ‘going wide’—it’s a long game. The advantage of being exclusive to Amazon comes largely in immediate gains…. But it’s a short-term strategy, and the most successful authors recognize that they should be planning for long-term.” – Draft2Digital
“The three ‘secrets’ to self-publishing success are: Practice, Patience and Persistence. Don’t drop in and out. Keep your titles available while continuing to write new material. Keep writing, keep practicing your craft, be patient because it takes time for people to grow a following on any platform.” – Kobo
Read on to get detailed answers to your pressing questions.
Question: What Makes Your Platform Unique? Why Should Authors Sign Up With You?
Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks. Since 2008, we’ve helped over 120,000 authors and small, independent presses release over 415,000 titles. Dozens and dozens of our authors have become international bestsellers and have hit the bestseller lists of traditional media like the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal.
Smashwords’ global retailer distribution network also includes distribution to public libraries through our partnerships with OverDrive, Baker & Taylor Axis 360, Odilo and Askews & Holts.
We make it fast, free and easy to publish and distribute your ebook, and we provide free resources to help guide you along the way to becoming a more professional author. These resources include the Smashwords Style Guide (how to format your original manuscript to prepare it for ebook conversion); Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (41 tips to help authors reach more readers); and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (reveals 30 best practices of the bestselling indie ebook authors). We also provide free video tutorials.
Books sold at the Smashwords store earn the author about 80 percent of the list price as their royalty. Books sold at one of our retail partner stores will earn the author 60 percent of list as their royalty.
Although Smashwords does operate a retail store at Smashwords.com—where readers can download books in all of the most popular formats so that our authors’ books can be enjoyed on any device—95 percent or more of your sales will come from our global retail partners. Our biggest value to authors is through our distribution, though I believe some authors think Smashwords is only a retailer.
‘Going wide’ is a topic Draft2Digital is addressing a lot recently, especially with the introduction of their new Universal Book Links (UBLs). A lot of authors are struggling with the question of should they or shouldn’t they, when it comes to branching out from Amazon. The biggest reason Draft2Digital created UBLs as part of their offering through Books2Read.com: authors can use a single URL to promote their work, and Books2Read finds every store where their book appears online. Meaning readers only have to click on one link, and they’ll be taken to the store of their choice. Even if the author is exclusive to Amazon, the link uses globalization to direct readers to the regional Amazon store of their choice.
Draft2Digital’s uniqueness comes largely from their relationships. One of the first things most authors notice when comparing them to the competition is that they aren’t necessarily in all of the same sales channels. There’s some crossover, but there are also some missing faces. They are constantly expanding vendor relationships to include new sales channels. However, they are selective when choosing distribution partners because they are a company founded by authors, and they know exactly how much authors can struggle in all of this.
A founding principle of the company boils down to this: Find the biggest pain points for authors, and eliminate them. And if it’s at all possible (and it usually is), do it for free.
That’s what makes us different than any other distributor. We have authors on staff who know the struggle to find good resources and tools, without busting our budgets. So we want to provide those resources and tools. We generate our revenue entirely from a percentage of royalties, and we avoid charging authors directly for services, unless there’s just no alternative. That means we only succeed if the author succeeds—and that’s the right business philosophy for everyone.
Kobo Writing Life was built for writers by writers. We have the world’s best dashboard for easy and simple analytics in understanding two things: 1) where in the world your books are selling and 2) approximately how much you’ve earned. (Compare that to the dozens of ways you have to re-filter your info on the Kindle dashboard just to see what’s selling and in what territory. It’s truly a feat of mathemagic to try to determine what your royalties are actually going to be. Lots of confusion and hidden costs too (such as the hidden processing costs for payment which means you’re NOT really making 70% even though you think you are.
KWL offers authors 70 percent for items prices $2.99 USD and higher. WITH NO CAP. IE, you don’t have to limit your price to $9.99 USD. We still pay 70 percent no matter how high you price. This allows authors to create larger box sets that provide value for readers without the author losing too much money in the process. Also, Kobo customers care more about QUALITY than bargain basement 99 cent novels. That’s a huge thing that makes for a longer term sustainable opportunity for writers.
Also, at the lower end, we pay 45 percent (between 99 cents and $2.99) rather than 35 percent
Authors should understand that Kobo sells into 190 countries and also partners with different retailers. In Canada, our ebooks sell directly on Kobo.com but also on www.chapters.indigo.ca – our Canadian retail partner (think of them like a “Barnes and Noble” in Canada. In the US we’ve partnered with the ABA so Kobo ebooks are also available through hundreds of indie bookstores across the US. In the UK we’re partnered with WHSmith and Waterstones. In France it’s FNAC. In Italy it’s Mondadori. In the Netherlands it’s BOL.
Most KWL authors sell about 75 percent of their titles through Canada and Australia. The breakdown is different for different authors, but Canada and Australia are two of the larger markets – and they’re markets that Amazon doesn’t have nearly the same foothold in. Compare Kobo sales in Canada to Kindle and you’ll see that Kobo (born in Canada and that’s our largest territory) has as much of the Canadian market as Kindle has of the US – I mentioned that Canada is our largest territory – but of note — Japan is now becoming a larger market than Canada – not hard to imagine given the population there and the fact our mother company Rakuten is headquartered there). Authors’ global sales through Kobo Writing Life are where they find new customers in new territories outside of the ones that Amazon is large in.
Question: How Can Authors Find More Success Using Your Platform?
Authors should spend more time writing and less time tinkering with administrative tasks or tinkering with the upload requirements at multiple retailers.
Smashwords’ biggest value to authors is through our distribution network. This is a HUGE time saver for authors. Imagine if you wanted to update the metadata on five of your books. You would have to go to each retailer, one by one, to update that information for each book. With a distributor, you update the metadata once and you’re done. The distributor does the heavy lifting for you. The same is true if you need to upload a revised edition of your book. If you work with a distributor, you upload the revision once and you’re done. If you decide to work directly with the retailers, you have to upload the revision one by one at every store and contend with every retailer’s unique formatting and upload requirements.
Authors who are enjoying the most success with us are distributing broadly and not opting out of any retail channels. As a distributor, we have a unique vantage point which enables us to see how each of your books are performing at each of the retailers. By contrast, the merchandising managers at the retailers can only see how books are performing at their specific store. When the merchandising managers at the retailers ask us to recommend titles for them to consider for upcoming promotions, we can quickly see how authors’ books are performing. If an author has opted out of some of our retail channels, we can’t see how her books are performing and therefore can’t make a recomendation. On the other hand, for an author who’s opted in to every channel, if we see that the title is selling well across multiple channels, then we can recommend that author’s book with confidence. We just responded to a request for romance titles from the mercandising managers at iBooks and were pleased to see that dozens of titles were accepted to run in the promotion.
Here’s the painful reality of ‘going wide’—it’s a long game.
The advantage of being exclusive to Amazon comes largely in immediate gains. For zero overhead, you can participate in the KU fund, and get paid just for the normalized page reads that come through. We’ll never argue that this isn’t a boon for authors. It is. But it’s a short-term strategy, and the most successful authors recognize that they should be planning for long-term.
Most of the authors I know want to be read by more than just a thousand or so folks who happen to own Kindles or read on Kindle apps. They want to have their work read and loved by people all over the planet. And sad to say, but Amazon only has 11 or so regional marketplaces at the moment. That covers a lot of countries worldwide, but not all of them.
There are huge emerging markets in regions such as Africa and Indonesia, where technological evolution jumped from stone age to smartphones almost overnight. Now we have English-speaking people in underdeveloped nations ravenous for information and stories. They’re consuming everything they can get onto their devices. And that means that those of us who are getting to those markets first will have first-mover advantage. There are entire nations who have never head of Stephen King or John Grisham or J.K. Rowling. To them, any given indie author could be the biggest megastar they can imagine.
So for success—what authors need to do more of is think strategically and globally. They could go dig up tons of research about these emerging markets—that would help. But the shortcut to that is to use Draft2Digital to go find those markets for you, which we do.
Authors should stop thinking in terms of “How do I funnel more people to my Amazon book page?” and start thinking in terms of “How to introduce my work to a few million brand new readers in emerging markets around the world?”
The three “secrets” to self-publishing success are: Practice, Patience and Persistence. Don’t drop in and out. Keep your titles available while continuing to write new material. Keep writing, keep practicing your craft, be patience because it takes time for people to grow a following on any platform. And keep at it; even when times are tough and things are slow. The industry and sales go through different waves, different highs and lows. Being patient and being in for the long haul and continuing to write and produce top notch professional material are the keys to success.
One of the most common complaints from authors is that they only sell on Kindle and no where else. Interestingly when you check their websites and social media and newsletters you see them directly all of their links to Amazon. Then they wonder why Amazon is always the largest platform for them. Little bit of self-fulfilling prophecy happening there. Authors should include links to all the platforms and let customers decide where they want to buy.
What’s Your Top Advice for Authors Seeking to Make More Sales?
First, realize there is no single magic bullet to help you suddenly become a bestseller. Everything that you do right, every incremental improvement that you make can have an impact on your sales over time. The top three pieces of advice I’d give are:
- Have your books professionally edited. Books break out and become bestsellers based on reader word-of-mouth more than anything else. Don’t thwart your chances of success by not having your book professionally edited.
- Hire a professional book cover designer. As a reader, whether you realize it or not, every time you enter an online or offline bookstore, you’re rejecting dozens of books until that one cover catches your eye and pulls you in. Your cover image is both marketing and content, and must provide a promise to the reader you’re attempting to reach. Put yourself in the shoes of your reader. Ask yourself what it is they’re looking for, and deliver the message through your cover image that this is THE book for them.
- Write more books. Every book you write provides the opportunity for you to hone your craft. The more you write, the better you will become. Just as important, every book you release affords you the opportunity to cross promote your other existing titles. Once a reader finishes one of your books, they’re probably delighted they just finished a fantastic story, but they also may be wondering what they’ll read next. Don’t squander that opportunity. Ensure that backmatter of all your existing titles includes a list of all your available books and links back to your Smashwords author page and/or personal website.
Every year I have the privilege of attending publishing conferences around the country (and occasionally outside the country). As such, I also have the opportunity to listen to bestselling indie authors tell their audiences how they became successful. I’ve never heard of a bestselling indie author doing absolutely everything on her own. The two tasks that all bestselling indie authors tend to agree upon, in terms of who you’ll need to hire, include a professional editor and a professional cover designer. Big NY publishers are adept at finding good books and turning them into great books. If you self-publish, you’re taking on that responsibility.
There are two pieces of advice every author gets for improving sales: Build a mailing list and write more books. People groan hearing these, because they hear them all the time, and also because they are a lot more complicated than they appear. But that’s the start. That’s the general advice.
The specific advice, at least for Draft2Digital, is to start using our new (and free) Universal Book Links as part of your marketing push, and get yourself into as many markets as possible. Then start focusing your marketing on hitting those hot new emerging markets. Take out targeted Facebook ads, Goodreads ads, and Twitter ads, and aim them at these regions. Do your research and find out how regional tastes run, and write some books specifically to target those markets, if you can. And if you can’t, then craft your book descriptions and ad materials so that your book will appeal to those markets. Writing to market will make it much easier for you to appeal to these emerging readers.
These are all long-term strategies, by the way. It’s likely you wouldn’t see mega sales within days of releasing a book in Africa or Indonesia or anywhere else. It will take some time, and some work—mostly in terms of promotion and marketing. But if you’re continuing to produce new books as you do this, eventually all you’ll need is a tiny spark to get a big flame.
Think about it this way: If you have one or two books, and suddenly German readers discover you, they will really enjoy reading your stuff, but then have nowhere else to go. But you have ten, twenty, thirty books (or more, go nuts!), suddenly your revenue is increasing exponentially. There’s more of you to be discovered, and more of you to explore. Your discoverability goes up by bounds.
And if you’re using UBLs, you don’t have to spend extra time making different sets of marketing materials to target different regions. You can use one link, and that will let readers worldwide find your work in the store they prefer. If they don’t happen to have access to the Kindle store, then they’ll still be able to find you in hundreds of other places online.
To be successful outside of the US, authors need to think about their global pricing. Don’t just set a USD price and walk away. Optimize your pricing in the other currencies. KWL allows you to price in 8 currencies, and very soon you’ll be able to opt in pricing in 14 currencies; meaning you can make your price look good to localized customers.
Example: $3.99 USD auto converts to something ugly like $5.24. Authors who manually over-ride that to $5.99 aren’t just making the title look more appealing (a normal .99 price point) – but customers also round UP in their head to the next dollar anyway – it’s a pricing psychology thing – so a customer willing to spend $5.24 CAD on a book is just as likely to buy it at CAD – so you get an extra 70 cents in your pocket rounding UP to the nearest .99 Do the same in AUS and NZD.
Visit the KWL Blog for various different bits of advice from our team and from the global merchandising team.
Question: What Else Do You Want Authors to Know About You and Your Platform?
We think Amazon is the smartest in the business and would never encourage you to not have your books there. For the long-term success of your author career, however, I would encourage you not to go exclusive with any one retailer. Diversify. Make sure your books are everywhere readers go to find books. Use a distributor–even if it’s not Smashwords–to help you save time reaching a wider, global market.
Take advantage of ebook preorders. Even if your second book doesn’t yet have a finished cover image or a completed manuscript, at Smashwords you can set the book today as an “assetless” preorder and we’ll ship it for you to iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. You’ll need to upload the finished manuscript and cover art no later than 10 business days prior to your release date. At iBooks they’ll let you accumulate preorders for up to 12 months. Your readers reserve a copy of your book but their credit cards aren’t charged until release day. When it comes to bestseller lists at the retailers, they look at sales volume of course, yet the most recent sales are weighed more heavily than older sales. So, for example, sales in the last 12-24 hours are weighted more heavily in the bestseller algorithms than books that sold in the last two days or two weeks. Since iBooks allows you to accumulate up to 12 months worth of preorders, and each of those orders counts as a full sale, it’s like having a concentration of sales all hitting on day one which can cause a spike in your sales ranking.
Kobo and Barnes & Noble allow up to 8 months of preorder accumulation, I believe, and your book receives partial credit for your accumulated orders. Amazon does not grant credit for accumulated preorders, and as such your Amazon preorders can cannibalize your first day’s sales rank. Some authors choose to upload new releases to Amazon on release day so they can concentrate more sales on day one. Still, having an preorder listed at Amazon still provides the author the benefit of better advanced marketing leading up to release day.
The thing you most need to know about Draft2Digital, honestly, is that we’re right here in the trenches with you. Aaron Pogue, our President and one of our founders, is an indie published author. I (Kevin Tumlinson, Director of Marketing) am an indie published author. Most of our team is comprised of people who study self-publishing and the whole publishing industry day and night. We’re out there identifying exactly what pain points plague authors most, so that we can beat them up and give you back your lunch money.
Basically, we went and built the tools we need most to make it as authors, so we know other authors need them as well. And our focus is “make it easy.” Making things easy for authors is what we do, because we can’t stand how complicated things can get. We want to take care of all the garbage that weighs an author down, so they can focus on the one thing they really want to do: Write books.
We’re expanding into new sales channels all the time. We’re adding new cool feature all the time. We’re making new inroads and building new relationships within the industry, all the time. Everyone who is part of the D2D catalog today is seeing the growth of the company, and they’re going to benefit from all of it. There’s a reason why our authors are so loyal to us, once they come onboard—because we’re unfailing loyal to them.
I guess I could sum it up with one phrase then, aimed at every author, everywhere: You are not alone.
First thing that authors need to understand is that Amazon is, by far, the world’s largest online bookstore and has been in existence for about 20 years. They were (behind Sony) among the first to come to market with an ereader and in the market longer than anyone else, so it’s far easier to gain traction on the platform that everyone knows and goes to for “books” (even, though, of course, Amazon is an everything store and books were just one of the first items they started selling.) Gaining traction on other sites takes two important things that aren’t as common in a lot of indie authors (particularly those who give up easy and early and drop off the distributing wide path) – TIME and PATIENCE. It takes time to grow on different platforms.
Opting in and out of a platform doesn’t help, because you have to start from scratch each time you opt in – continually crippling your own development of an audience outside the one platform where you lay all your eggs.
The other thing that authors from the US are typically unaware of is what is happening in the publishing world outside our borders. One thing I would challenge authors to consider would be seeing WHERE their Kindle sales are coming from. IE, the .com Amazon site? Perhaps also the UK site. Nook, of course, is now just .com and US. But iBooks has a lot of reach outside the US (as well as inside), and Kobo has a lot of reach outside the US market as well.
So, consider, when looking at your sales, what platforms sell better in what countries. And if authors are fine to sell only within the US and perhaps the UK, then KDP Select might be an option. If they want more global exposure to other customers (and in markets that are growing now the way the US was 3 to 5 years ago), then go wide and include Kobo in your sales channels.
When most people think of a Kickstarter campaign, they think of a cool new gadget or an innovation seeking for backers to come to market. Well, one out-of-the-box thinker leveraged this platform in a different way. For John Lee Dumas, founder and host of EOFire, Kickstarter was much more than a crowdfunding platform. It served as a key component of an overall marketing strategy.
And wow, did it pay off! His Kickstarter campaign for The Freedom Journal—a gorgeous faux leather-bound journal that guides you in setting and accomplishing your goals in 100 days—was named the most-funded publishing campaign of all time (!!!).
Kickstarter was John’s crowdfunding platform of choice because he understood the value in using such a recognizable independent third party to help market and sell his books. John already had thousands upon thousands of subscribers. He also had the money needed to produce these journals. What he didn’t have—prior to his Kickstarter campaign—was validation that people would pay real money for The Freedom Journal.
During our recent Self-Publishing School Summit, John shared his biggest tips and strategies for using Kickstarter as an amazing tool to market and sell your next book.
Read on for John Lee Dumas’s tips on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign to sell your own book.
Assemble Your Kickstarter Book-Launch Team
John credits so much of his success to the year-long behind-the-scenes work he put into The Freedom Journal before launching his Kickstarter campaign. John put together a Grade A team, which included a logistics person, a designer, a crowdfunding expert to set-up pages and keep the campaign running smoothly, an editor and a social media guru.
In advance of the launch he also took the time to stockpile content. He made sure to pre-write marketing emails and social media posts. His pre-planning helped him focus on the campaign while it was happening.
John’s overall goal was to bring people on this journey and make them feel part of The Freedom Journal from the very beginning. For nearly an entire year, he teased about the impending launch and directed people to join him in his project. From his homepage to his podcast, his followers were asked to opt-in to be kept in the loop.
His efforts were so successful that by the time he launched his Kickstarter, he has already amassed more than 12,000 emails of people wanting to be part of the project.
If the first days and weeks of a Kickstarter campaign are successful for you, it’s probably because you’ve planned, prepped, and assembled a top-notch team to stand with you.
Launch Your Kickstarter Campaign With A Bang
In a Kickstarter campaign, the traction you get from your launch is everything. John says your goal is to get that initial momentum going. In other words, you want to create a snowball effect and take advantage of the rankings you can get if your campaign trends. The goal is to create an organic momentum that encourages others to back your project.
Here is what John did to help get that snowball started.
Tap Into Your Existing Fan Base. John made direct calls-to-action at the beginning and ending of every podcast.
PRO TIP: Direct people to a domain-specific website that shares information about your Kickstarter. You always want to collect emails and point people to your site, instead of directly to your Kickstarter page.
Communicate Consistently and Frequently. During his campaign, John did daily podcasts AND sent daily emails. He also sent newsletters.
Keep Active on Social Media. John used Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Blab to keep supporters engaged and informed about the campaign’s progress.
Invest in Advertising. John purchased ads on Instagram and Facebook. Sometimes you have to invest hundreds of dollars per day to make thousands.
Utilize resources. This is when you have to call in some favors. John reached out to his influencer friends and asked people to share information about his Kickstarter with their communities. He offered to be a guest on other podcasts and guest post for publications.
PRO TIP: Be specific in your request and ask for the shares to happen right on or around your launch.
Keep The Kickstarter Momentum Moving
Your job isn’t done with the launch of your Kickstarter campaign. John says that thanks to the help of his Kickstarter pro, he was able to successfully keep the momentum going by releasing new offers and packages throughout.
Thanks to the amazing analytics available with Kickstarter, John could gauge what was moving the needle and adjust accordingly. He could also see which referrals were paying off with real conversions.
One of his biggest tips was to follow-up all sales of a physical product with a personal message and offer to upgrade. In his case, that simple step resulted in more than 500 people electing to upgrade from purchasing one book to a bundle pack of five.
PRO TIP: Keep your campaign going viral. John sent free Freedom Journal t-shirts to everyone who had appeared on his podcast as a thank you. The results were phenomenal as these influencers took to social media to show off their gift.
Whether you have a huge base of subscribers or not, with the right amount of planning and preparation, Kickstarter can be a critical part of your next book’s marketing strategy. Visit eofire.com/kickstarter to learn how you can crush your next Kickstarter campaign.
What Our Students Are Saying
From Meds to Motivation
By following the guidance of Self-Publishing School, Michael wrote and published his book One-Month Willpower, and enjoyed its rapid rise to best-seller status. Initially, Michael had thought maybe fifty people would read it. To his surprise, thousands of people are now reading his book. People are reaching out to him from all over the world saying how much the book has helped them.
Best Selling Author of One-Month Willpower
Published Turned Self-Published
In self-publishing The Power of Responsibility, Joelle shared, “The results I had with my latest book launch, following Self-Publishing School, were amazing . . . I finally [had] the opportunity to become a ‘real author.’ ” Joelle is now selling roughly fifty books a day whereas previously, with traditional publishing, she was lucky to sell fifty copies in months.
Best Selling Author of The Power of Responsibility
The Hidden Truth
“[Chandler Bolt] states that you can write and publish a book in three months, and that is the truth. I was worried about making that timeframe true, and when I found out that he actually had a three-month timeline that told you what to do . . . it was a no-brainer.” Carly is a #1 best-selling author in two categories. In the first two days of her launch, she sold over 1,400 copies of her book.
Best Selling Author of The Toxic Truth
“I felt like I could deliver value to even more people who could benefit from the information, but didn’t know how to achieve that,” To establish herself as an expert and attract clients to her business, Shirley decided to write a book. She carefully followed Self-Publishing School to publish Resurgence of a Fallen Angel.
Author of Resurgence of a Fallen Angel
About Self-Publishing School
Hi, I’m Chandler Bolt,
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There’s a book inside you. And my goal is to help you find it and go from blank page to bestseller – even if you’re busy, idea-less, or bad at writing like me.
See, everybody wants to write a book – we just don’t know how.
If you’re like me, you’ve dreamed about becoming an author for years.
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