Have you considered boosting your book sales with autographed paperbacks? As an indie author, one of the things we focus on doing is maximizing sales. We need those book sales and we need them to come in on a regular basis. One of the ways I’ve found that helps is having a store on my website. A store? But that’s what Amazon’s for…right? True…but I’ve found fans still enjoy physical copies of books, and while they are going to go through the trouble of purchasing a paperback, they might as well snag an autographed copy. I’m always pleasantly surprised to find the demand for autographed copies and specialized book bundles is there.
Here are a few reasons why you’ll want to have autographed copies in your store:
- Fans love a personal touch and sending autographed copies allows you add a personalized message.
- With autographed copies you can include a special note or extra book swag like bookmarks, candles, coffee mugs, etc.
- My store does between $100-$500 in book sales depending on the month.
- Paperbacks are a great way to help you recoup your return on investment from self-publishing and marketing expenses.
From my personal experience, I have found the demand for autographed copies comes out about a month before and a month after I release a new book. A few things that help is the covers are gorgeous and makes people want to have a copy to hold even if they own the ebook. The average order on my website is $30 which gives me a much higher piece of the pie than ebook sales.
Need an example? Visit my store.
How do you create a store?
My website is built out on the WordPress platform and I installed WooCommerce which is an e-commerce plugin. Now, there are a few things to know when you are setting up an e-commerce solution, regardless of which platform you’re using.
PayPal is a popular payment method and another payment processor is Stripe. Keep in mind if someone is making a purchase from your website, there are processing fees. Be mindful of these fees and if you need to, build them into the cost of your product so you don’t get blindsided by the extra cost.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot – make sure you’re not losing money when you ship out books.
I order books from Createspace and I can calculate how much the book costs me to purchase and ship to myself. Typically books cost me between $5-$10 depending on the size of the printed book (I write big books that are an average of 500 pages). As always, the more you order at one time, the lower the cost.
For shipping I use the flat rate shipping from USPS.com. If I’m shipping one book, I can also use Media Mail which costs $3-$4 per book, however, Media Mail takes about a week or so, and I prefer for my customers to get their books fast. Therefore I can also use the $6 flat rate envelope from USPS.com.
If I’m shipping 2 or more books, I use the medium sized flat rate box which is $13. The higher priced shipping makes my cost go up, so it’s only effective if I’m shipping 2-4 books.
My out-of-pocket cost for one book is around $11-$15 so I sell books for $20 in my website which includes the cost I paid to ship books to myself, how much it costs to ship books to someone who made a purchase plus a nice little royalty for myself. If I’m selling books in person, I can sell them for cheaper because I can take out the cost of shipping.
It’s important for me to capture the email addresses of people who make purchases from my site, so I can email them when deals and sales come up. Plus it’s a no-brainer way to grow my email list. WooCommerce integrates with MailerLite and creates a list of people who purchase from my shop.
Coupons are a way to reward customers or give a limited time offer to increase sales during a specific time period. WooCommerce allows me to create coupons for a certain percentage off a product or free shipping.
I have 5 books which can be shipped out as autographed paperbacks as well as bookmarks and candles. One of the best practices I try to implement it always to have books on hand. I never known if/when someone is going to order an autographed copy, so my best plan is to have 5-10 copies of each book at home at all times. If I run out, I’ll place an order which tends to take a couple of weeks.
If you run out of stock, be up front. Add a notice to your store or add it to the product description. Let people know when the books will be back and stock and when they’ll ship out.
There you have it. Creating a store for autographed paperbacks is a fun way to boost your book sales, plus you can add book swag to your store and thrill your fans with fun book-related items.
Need help creating your website or adding a store to your website?
Have you created a store for your books?
Can you afford to be an indie author? As independent authors, we have to be aware of the way cost plays into self-publishing. Cost can mean the difference between turning book publishing into a business versus having a very expensive hobby. The question is, how much is too much? When do you know if your books are bringing in a positive return on investment?
Truth be told, some authors make back the investment they made into their books, while the percentage of authors who don’t make back their money is larger. As I enter my 4th year of writing and publishing, I’m taking a hard look at the cost of book publishing versus what I can recoup back. While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I do want to break down expenses a bit and help you figure out when too much is too much.
Let’s start with the time commitment. When you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. The time commitment is certainly something to factor in when you’re writing. Do you have the time? Are there any relationships or other business commitments that will suffer?
My very first book cover and associating book swag cost $900. While I loved the cover, I realized, if I want to write and publishing 2-3 books a year, paying $900 per book cover doesn’t work for me. There’s no shame in stepping back and taking a hard look at finances and knowing you need to make a change.
Personally, I decided my budget for cover art a max of $300, and after some searching, I found some fantastic designers with price points that meet my budget. In fact, the response to my covers were so encouraging, I had my new designer redo the $900 book cover.
Sometimes we associate price with quality and that’s not always true. There are pre-made covers that I’ve seen as low as $50 while custom covers range from $250 – $3000. Your budget is up to you, and so you shouldn’t feel pressured to hire a designer in a certain price range if it doesn’t fit your budget.
In 2015 before the release of my first novel, The Five Warriors, I wasn’t going to hire an editor. I know, I know, what was I thinking? I can see the look of shock and horror on your face now, but no worries, I listened to my beta readers and proceeded with hiring a proofreader for about $600. Since then my budget has stayed around $1000 or less for book. With 2-3 books coming out every year, editing costs tend to add up.
To help maximize editing, I focus on self-edits. I have my advanced readers send me mistakes they find, and use programs like ProWritingAid to help me catch errors before I send the book out for professional editing. The more I read through the notes and comments from editors, the more I learn about my style and how to consistently improve my writing. Although my writing continues to improve, professional editing isn’t something I want to give up, but understanding my budget helps me to choose. Additionally, I’m finding that often I just need a proofread instead of a line-edit, and that helps to bring the price down. My editing budget is typically around $1,000 depending on the editor I’m working with.
This isn’t to scare you, but quite frankly, a good book launch plan is $1,000. While I won’t break it down to 100% for you, I do want to hit you with some hard facts. You don’t have to do a book launch, heck, you don’t even have to market your books. But if you believe you can hit publish and then sit back and work on your next book, without doing any marketing, you are setting yourself up for failure. During a book launch you should be gaining reviews, running ads, posting on social media…basically telling the world about your book. They aren’t going to magically find you. You have to do the work to make your book visible and let people find you.
On the other had, what if you don’t have $1,000 to spend launching your book?
Check out these 7 things to do that cost little to no money.
This is where you need a budget. Personally I have a book marketing budget of about $200 a month, this tends to range up to $1000 when I have a new release coming out or am involved in other promotions. I know once that $200 budget is empty, I have to focus on other ways to bring in revenue. Now I will say my books do pay for their own book marketing budget and bring in the funds. If you don’t have the funds newsletter swaps, giveaways and contest and email marketing are all ways to grow your author platform.
This doesn’t cost you anything and is a great way to get your book in front of readers in your target audience. As an epic fantasy author, I keep my eye open for other epic fantasy authors I can do a newsletter swap with. What is a newsletter swap? I promote their book in an email to my email list. Plain and simple. Here’s an example.
Giveaways and Contests
Typically, giveaways and contents have an upfront cost while your reap the benefits in the long-term. Now that you have a budget you can determine if the cost is worth it for you. Is giving aways a $25 Gift Card going to break the budget? Is paying $25 – $50 for a list of 2,000 – 4,000 subscribers worth it? Think about these things before you make impulsive decisions. And keep in mind, while giveaways are a fantastic way to drive traffic to your site, you’ll also gain a percentage of freebie hunters.
Book fairs are a great way to sell more books. Often the cost is anywhere from $0 – $15 to participate in a book fair. Book fairs help you sell your books to your target audience, and typically the organizer of a book fair will compile a list of 10-100 books in a specific genre. All participants will send emails to their email list, telling them about the book fair and then sit back and wait for the sales to come in.
Here’s an example.
Honestly, if you don’t know too much about advertising I recommend taking a course so you can get the most bang for your book. There’s nothing like shooting in the dark and being unable to figure out what you’re doing.
Currently, I’m enrolled in Ads for Authors by Mark Dawson and it was like seeing all the lights come on with my advertising. It’s a relief knowing what keywords to use, how to pull reporting, optimize ads and recommended budget spend.
There are several sites where you can advertise including Facebook, Amazon, and Bookbub, but the cost can add up. Watch your budget. Is this something you need to do?
Promotional sites like Robin Reads, Freebooksey etc. are excellent for getting a boost in book sales as well as a hike in sales rank. However, it’s difficult to measure your return on investment unless you focus on longevity. Your $50-$100 is probably better spent on advertising.
Software and other tools
Depending on what email marketing provider you’re using, and how many subscriber on your list, pricing can range from free to hundreds of dollars. I currently use MailerLite to keep costs down, especially because my list is 10k. If you’re list building, the cost of your email marketing provider is certainly something to consider.
Instafreebie and/or Bookfunnel
Both of these site provide a safe and convenient way to deliver ebooks to your audience for free or to your advanced review team. I use Bookfunnel to send advanced review copies to my review team and Instafreebie to provide free sample to readers. Instafreebie is better for list building while Bookfunnel has the edge on delivery. There are times when I’ve used tools which costs around $35/month. This is something else to consider. Are you getting enough bang for your buck?
Grammarly or ProWritingAid
Self-editing is a popular term and something I highly recommend. Both Grammarly and ProWritingAid provide you with the software you need to catch some mistakes before passing your book along to your editor for professional editing. I’ve used both but prefer ProWritingAid for now because it also tells me what words I’ve repeated too much in a chapter, when I dive into passive voice, and other styling issues.
Grammarly costs $30/month unless you are willing to pay a year in advance.
ProWritingAid starts at $50/year depending on the license you need and how many years you’re paying for at once.
What does this look like from a yearly point of view? Well, if you’re a serious author who’s publishing 3 books a year, your expense budget could look somewhat like this:
Book Launch: $3000
Email Marketing: $600
Other Software: $230
Obviously you want to ensure you’re making back more than what you’re putting out. A business can only run in the red for so long. Before you roll into a ball and sit in the closet and cry with a bottle of whiskey, here are some tips for managing your budget as an author and working on gaining a positive ROI.
Make a budget – understanding what you are willing to spend is important, and knowing what’s involved keeps you from being surprised when unexpected costs come up.
Track your budget – when you keep track of your dollars you’ll understand where they are spent, how they help your budget, and where to cut back. If you’re spending hundreds of dollars growing your email list, and you aren’t seeing growth, it’s time to cut back or change tactics.
Focus on book marketing. If you don’t have a plan for book marketing, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Learn more about getting a Book Marketing Plan here.
Spill the beans, can you afford to be an author? Are you making a positive return on investment with your books?
This is a guest blog by Laina Turner of Writing Warriors Collective.
When it comes to a fiction author platform, it’s a bit like the chicken and egg dilemma.
What comes first? The book or the platform?
The answer is BOTH! Doesn’t that fill you with joy? The idea of writing your novel AND building your author platform at the same time!
All sarcasm aside I’m not joking. You have to juggle both if you want to sell books. It’s the single most challenging part of being an author, in my opinion. If your goal is to sell your books, you must also market them. People can’t buy what they can’t find.
Marketing and writing aren’t easy, but they’re doable.
It’s about creating a consistent and manageable list of tasks. The key word here is manageable. Don’t set yourself up for frustration by creating an impossible list. You might not want to take the slow route, but it’s better to be realistic. You’ll still get there, and the journey will be much more enjoyable.
What IS an author platform? Many writers think it’s interchangeable with the phrase, book marketing, but it’s not. An author platform is PART of book marketing, but it’s by no means the whole thing.
Jane Friedman said it best. The author platform is, “an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.”
Read the full post here.
Your marketing efforts contribute to building that platform.
I know you might be thinking no one cares who you are but you’re wrong. Maybe no one cares right now except your family and friends, but you can change that. Your goal should be to find and engage readers who will be clamoring for your books as you write and publish them.
So how do you build your platform if you’re just starting out? I like to think of it in 3 buckets:
The tools, the content, the strategy.
Your author platform needs an anchor. The place your fans know they can find the latest and greatest about you. Usually, that’s a website though it can be a social media platform. Keep in mind social media isn’t controlled by you and it can disappear at any minute. Much better to buy your home (website) rather than rent (social media).
You do need to have a social media presence but don’t think you need to jump on every social media bandwagon. That’s guaranteed to leave you frustrated.
Find where your ideal audience lives and cultivate that social media stream. Get to a good place where you’re in a routine, and it’s easy. Then layer in the next.
In the online marketing world content is king. Whether that’s a blog post, social media post, or images you use for the previously mentioned.
Creating good content helps you build an audience by attracting them to what you have to say. Building an audience is the key to creating a sustainable author career. Any top-producing salesman knows that it’s easier to keep a client than it is to get a new one and while you’re an author you’re also a salesman. That’s why it’s so important to get people hooked on your first book. Getting them to read your next books is an easier sell than a new reader.
However, building an audience isn’t about constant one-way self-promotion. It’s about engaging your audience and building a relationship with them. You want readers to like your books but also to feel connected to you as an author. That’s the part that builds the loyalty where they’ll read whatever you publish.
Let’s face it. Marketing can be a lot of throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. You can’t ignore the importance of having a clear marketing goal and a strategy to get there. So if the spaghetti DOES stick, you’ll know what you did and why it’s sticking so you can repeat the behavior.
I’m a firm believer that if you don’t have a destination in mind, a goal, you’ll have a hard time getting where you want to go.
Your initial goal for your author platform is to connect with readers and get them on your email list. If you don’t have an email list yet then developing one should be your priority.
Angela has a great post on the topic here: 5 Ways to Use Email Marketing to Sell More Books
I can’t stress enough how important this step is to building your overall platform.
If you’re starting from zero, your first 30-day goal might be to add 30 people to your list.
Now you need a strategy to get there.
First, you need to create something readers want in exchange for giving you their email address.
- Offer a free short story.
- A free chapter.
- The backstory on a favorite character.
Then you need to engage potential readers, so they see you have this awesome free content. You can do this through social media, promotion of blog posts if you blog, and word of mouth (an often overlooked communication method).
Slowly you will begin to build your author platform. You’ll have hundreds of readers who will feel connected to you as an author, and your writing and marketing machine will be in constant motion.
Laina Turner is an author, educator, and blogger. When she’s not writing fiction or working with other authors, you can find her at the local coffee shop writing or people watching.
You can find Laina at Writing Warriors Collective or connect with her on social media:
Dear Indie Authors,
Please stop giving away your books for free.
One of the popular reasons authors give away books for free is to build a readership, and to increase the sale through of other books in their series.
However, there’s one problem with free books. If you want to make money with your books, giving them away for free is an issue because subconsciously you’re teaching your audience that your book is essentially worth nothing.
In the indie author community, there’s a false mindset you have to give your books away for free before people will be willing to purchase them. If the first book in your series is free, someone will pay $0.99, $2.99 and even $5.99 for your full priced books. In truth, I’ve been seeing the opposite effect and heard from indie authors who have had the same experience. Here are some examples:
Free books are swooped up by freebie hunters who have no intention of buying books, and why would they need to? There are thousands of free books available, they can just move to the next free book instead of buying books.
No price = no value
Free books teach people that your work is not valuable. There are marketers who teach people that in order to gain a readership, you have to giveaway your work. If people enjoy the story, they will purchase and read your other work.
Books are too expensive
People can’t afford to buy a book for $5. Honestly… when was the last time you spent $1-6 on something and were so angry, you returned the item and demanded your money back? I hate to use the coffee illustration, but think about how much a cup of coffee costs, or a meal from a fast food restaurant versus a meal from a sit down and eat restaurant? Think about how much we spend, day to day, on things we believe are necessary. Books are powerful, there’s no reason people can’t invest in a $5. If they REALLY want to read it, they can purchase it.
Although there’s a powerful case to giving away books for free, the truth is, the market is constantly changing and growing. While perma-free books used to be a great marketing strategy a few years ago, 99 cent books are the new perma-free books.
Personally, I used to download free books on a daily basis, and I noticed one consistent action. Since I did not pay for the books, I did not associate much value to the books, and I did not end up reading them. There are dozen of books chilling in my Kindle Library that I have no intention of reading, simply because they are free. Additionally, the ones I have read have been a disappointment, and books I would give 3-star ratings to if I did read and review. On occasion, I have found an excellent, entertaining free book, however, it’s like finding a diamond in the rough.
All this being said, how do you grow your readership without giving your books away for free?
From time to time, I do give away books for free, but for the most part, I offer a preview. If they like what they’ve read so far, they can purchase the book. Even though the book sells, I’ve noticed that if I offer a preview, my sales are much higher than if I give the book away for free.
Recently, I did a Black Friday deal where I offered a free book if people bought my Book Bundle. The bundles includes three autographed paperbacks of my fantasy series and goes for $40. People swooped it up without hesitation, which goes to show you, there is still a market for paid books, even if they cost more than $5!
As a final note, don’t get me wrong, free books still have a time and place. Here are some examples where free books still apply:
- When you’re working with an advanced review team who will read and review your book when it’s published
- When you’re working with book bloggers who will read and review your book on their blog
- When you’re working with beta readers who will help improve your storytelling
Share your thoughts below, have you had success with free books? Do you think indie authors need to charge more for their books?
Today is the official book release day for my fantasy novella, Myran: A Tale of the Four Worlds.
I’m not going to lie…the release date snuck up on me and I’m nowhere near as prepared as I should be. I could blame the lack of planning due to my epic book release just 30 short days ago. I could blame the whirlwind of writing I’ve been hiding in. In fact, there’s a lot I could blame for this, yet, to be honest, I have no one to blame but myself.
So, here’s what to do when a book launch sneaks up on you.
1. Don’t worry. Relax. You can always re-launch your book later.
2. Blog about it. Write a blog post about the book, how it inspired you, and where readers can pick it up. If you want to get fancy, add a giveaway to encourage clicks to the blog post. See it in action here.
3. Rally the troops! Thankfully I know about 20 epic fantasy authors with a decent list size. I sent them all notes asking them to promote my book to their email list sometime this week or next. Whew! They have got my back.
4. Assemble your advanced review team. I sent a quick note out to all 140 members of my advanced review team and asked them if they were ready to read and review. Many of them are still lost in my epic fantasy back log with over 300,000 words to read. I sent the book out to those who raised their hands and said yes, fingers crossed reviews will start pouring in!
5. Alert your fans. Send an email out to your list announcing your new release. Post in your Fan Club and any other relevant groups. I’ve been working with a group of epic fantasy authors to grow a fan club. It just hit 1,000 members and authors can promote their new releases to the group.
6. Use the power of social media. Post a picture on Instagram. Tweet. Create a Facebook post. Let the world know! In my case, I’m part of a Facebook group dedicated to sharing each other’s promos. I’ll post a tweet for others to retweet. Want to retweet it too? Go here.
7. Celebrate. It might be too last minute to throw an impromptu launch party, but call your friends, go out for dessert. Treat yo’ self. Writing and publishing a book is a huge achievement!
Plan ahead. Here are 3 blog post from the archives to help you maximize your book marketing.
Author Collaboration: The Key to Selling More Book and Luring New Readers.
5 Ways to Use Email Marketing to Sell More Books
7 Book Marketing Challenges and How to Overcome Them
What do you do when a release sneaks up on you? How do you maximize your book marketing? Share in the comments below.
Email open rates are going down. I’ve heard the chatter in author marketing groups, the worry that readers are growing tried and weary of the same ole marketing tactics. While there are all kinds of marketing hooks you can use to improve your email marketing, it’s just as important to meet your fans, your readers, where they are at.
Recently I received an email from a fan who told me he has over 10,000 unread emails in his inbox. How he had the time to open one of my emails and respond is a mystery to me, but it’s obvious, people aren’t reading their emails.
Back in the day, people didn’t think twice about sending email. Getting a personal message in your inbox was like discovering gold and everyone loved it. But then…along came the marketers.
The marketers created sales funnels, email marketing swipe copy and strategies, allowing you to copy and paste in order to attract more people to your funnel, and sell more of your product and services. It still works…but only if you can get people to open your emails.
Starting in March of 2017 I used a variety of tactics to grow my author email list by over 10,000 subscribers in just under 6 months. The results don’t lie, email is a powerful tool and it’s still king.
I’ve seen my book sales double, reviews have tripled, and I’m learning some advanced book marketing strategies thanks to rubbing shoulders with bestselling authors. While my email list grows at the rate of 1,000 subscribers a month, I continue to do research on ways to reach new readers and engage with them.
While email marketing is a must have, as the trends in technology rise and fall, I believe it’s imperative for authors to be on the cutting edge of what’s new in marketing. While marketing tactics come with a degree of risk, the pay-off can be quite spectacular.
In August of 2017, I decided to build out a ChatBot to connect with readers and engage with them.
What is a ChatBot?
A ChatBot sends automated messages to your social media inbox. There are ChatBots for Facebook, Instagram and other platforms. In order to do my research, I subscribed to a bot called Bookbot Bob. Bookbot Bob does what many platforms like Bookbub, Freebooksy and others do. Every day, they send readers a message about free or discounted books in the genre readers have selected. With Bookbot Bob – instead of sending you an email, you receive a message on Facebook.
Find out more about Bookbot Bob here.
Do you need to opt-in?
Chatbots do not send you unsolicited message, you have to opt in and you can opt out or change your preferences at any time. This is key. When people think about receiving messaging in their inbox, it can feel like an invasion of privacy. After all, we all get those spam emails from businesses we’ve never signed up for. The opt-in is required.
How does it work?
Like a sales funnel, ChatBots are built out of content that you, the author, creates. You can create sequences, add tags, and send users through different sales funnels based on the response they choose and how they opted in. Just remember, when you’re creating content, act like a person chatting with a friend, it makes you likeable and encourages engagement.
The first step in creating a ChatBot is integrating with with social media. Just like you have to choose an email provider, you also have to choose a provider for your ChatBot. There are a few platforms I recommend, I’ve used ManyChat and Chatfuel and from early data don’t have a preference regarding either tool. Both of these tools are free to use and an excellent way to set up sequences, growth tools, lead pages, and send messages to your subscribers.
These tools allow you to send out images, video, add buttons, links and others things to engage your subscribers and keep them coming back. Here are some examples of a ChatBot in action.
Use the Chatbot to increase sales. I created a post on Facebook announcing my October 9 book release. When people commented on it, they were sent a message with details on how to purchase the book. The messages are multi-layered, meaning, depending on what button people click, more options become available.
Use the Chatbot to engage with fans. During the release of Eliesmore and the Green Stone, I decided to conduct a Read Along. Each day over 80 days, participants read 1 chapter from the book and share their thoughts in the Fan Club. In order to get people to join I did 2 things.
#1 – created an opt-in in the header of the book sales page for Eliesmore and the Green Stone. Before someone leaves the page they receive a message asking if they’d like to join the Read Along. If they say yes, a message is sent to them on Facebook and they can choose to opt-in. The message has details on how to join the Read Along and where to get the book if they don’t already have it.
#2 – Once your bot is integrated with Facebook, you can create a post and have people opt-in when they leave a comment. Once people drop in a comment, your bot will automatically send them a response.
Result: I’ve seen an increase in book sales and have added subscribers to my list. Plus, I have a 100% open rate and a 90% click rate.
Why do I want people to subscribe to the bot? Since the Read Along takes place in my Facebook Group, it’s another way to improve the engagement. Each week there is a giveaway, and when a giveaway goes live, I can broadcast a message to everyone who has subscribed to the bot. This retains the audience and you don’t have to worry about people “not seeing” your Facebook posts in your group.
You can get creative with the way you setup your bot, just keep in mind, although bots are excellent for increasing your engagement on Facebook, it’s still a good idea to keep growing your email list.
See it in action:
It took me a while to come up with sequences for the bot and I’m constantly improving. However, if you’d like to see it in action, go over to my Facebook page: The Four Worlds Series, and send me a message. You’ll be able to see my automatic response and choose your next action.
Now, the response you receive when you go directly to my Facebook Page is different from the response you’ll receive if you visit my website. To see it in action, visit my website here.
All in all, having a bot to help you out with book marketing is worth it to keep the book sales and engagement up on social media. It’s also a fun new way to engage with readers who aren’t exhausted from the never ending emails.
If you’re an author and you’d like to promote your book via a bot, Bookbot has options available for authors. Learn more about them here.
Will you use a Chatbot to market your books? Share your thoughts in the comments below.