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Saturday, January 29, 2011

What Sends ebooks Flying Off Shelves?

I thought this information from my ACME blog was important enough to REPEAT here for you all:

Selling the e-book with a Look!  What Sends ebooks Sailing off Those Virtual Shelves?

Some simple changes I made turned my book sales on Kindle from a drip, drip, drip to big sales. I just clocked in at 935 books sold in my slowest month since sales have been going well for me—December 2010. Now in month one of 2011, I have sold 1,140 books – all at 2.99. I make almost $2 (70%) from each book or unit as they say. When first I placed my work onto Kindle, I was lucky to make 60 bucks a month.
How'd I do it? What changes did I make? First I went back to my book descriptions and made absolutely certain of no typos or errors of any kind as well as rewriting to make each the best damn short-short I could. This made a huge difference in sales, I kid you not. Secondly, I went on a TAG binge, tagging all my books below where they are found on Amazon to utilize genre-specific tags like Occult Horror, Generational Horror, suspense, mystery, police procedural, supernatural, paranormal female detective, etc. and I linked using my name along side other more successful authors in my field. This did two things – by placing my name on tags whenever anyone opens my book list, they also get my author’s page coming up. By ‘associating’ my work with the work of say William Miekle—as he did me—I am seen by his fans, and he by mine.
I had an amazing spike in numbers since taking these steps. Of course promoting online is of great import but so to is professional cover art and editing. When I am working on a novel, I put it out there what I am working on, and I invite early readers, and it is amazing how much readers will catch. One does not have to pay huge prices for good editing as I have found my best editors – amazing editors – who love to read a book BEFORE anyone else help me create the best book I possibly can. Most people believe they had to pay out big bucks for excellent editing but truth be told many people pay out big bucks and get punk editing for their money. I’d rather have a passionate edit with no exchange of money than a so-so one that cost me a couple thousand bucks, wouldn’t you? I edit myself heavily and do many rewrites, but I know I need more sets of eyes on the project, so as I am doing a work in progress, I ship it off to people I have come to trust absolutely. This has worked out fantastically well for Children of Salem -
Romance Amid the Witch Trials, and for Titanic 2012 – Curse of RMS Titanic.  My payment to these wonderful contributors has had to be in acknowledgement only, and guess what – they have been tremendous about this, and they so love being involved in a project and seeing their name in the book, that I have never been sued or held up or yelled at.
Notice how on my recent ebooks I have chosen to use subtitles? I believe subtitles help sell the book with a look, so to speak…a bit more detail right there in the title. Which brings us to titles. One’s title needs be unique and grab-ilicious. Early on, I put it out there that I am looking for the perfect title. For my last two I conducted searches. For Titanic 2012, I set it up as a contest – and I got two titles I loved – and so I used them BOTH as you see. Titles can either be seductive and alluring or boring and repellent!  Think it through before you lock down on a title and as with so much put it out there for a search or contest as I did on my blog Dirty Deeds.
Cover art is imperatively important. I can’t stress this enough. Generic cover art or templates are seen as about as exciting as seeing one of those blanks where the photo or cover should be but isn’t. This is one area where I get professional help. The package has to look elegant and reflect the story within.  I have been fortunate to have had excellent artwork for my ebooks. My artist happens to be my son, Stephen, a graphic artist by profession. Again, I have been fortunate in not having to pay out big bucks for artwork/graphics. But there are more and more people doing this for a one-time only fee and not for the lifetime of the book.
If you turn over your rights to an ebook publisher, guess what? They will take care of all such concerns and problems and things you may view as obstacles you do not want to deal with, and so long as you know what you are getting into, this can be a fine way to go, but you will be splitting that royalty then three ways instead of two. If you do sign with an ebook “agent” or “publisher” be clear on what their services for you provide. Will they be editing the work? If so, is that to be an extra charge? Same with artwork/graphics? If you sign with an ebook group that takes care of all the hassles and they are charging you a one-time fee to place the work up for you, do they turn over the controls to you or do they control your dashboard – thus the royalty payments, etc. Or is this group speaking of simply a one-time only fee. It should be one or the other. A real insult in my opinion is that a company charges you for these services and also wants a percentage for lifetime of the book.
You may want to find a kid – any kid – and pay them a modest amount to get your book(s) onto Kindle shelf and show you how to find your payment reports/sales reports (not actually royalty or advances as in the traditional model of publishing).
Now getting back to what actually SELLS the ebook – a key, key, key element is pricing. Ebook readers expect low, lower, lowest prices. All my novels, despite the disparity in complexity and length, were originally put up at 1.99 but I notched them up to 2.99 as soon as Kindle offered the 70/30 split as part of the partnership ‘deal’. My latest, a very complex title that is truly two books in one, I placed up at 3.99.  I believe low prices to be a key element in larger numbers of books sold. I learned early on that I can make more money on a 2.99 ebook than I can a 25 dollar hardcover due to the difference in the author percentage per sale. 10 to 12 percent on 25 is far less due to the far fewer number of books sold at this high a price.
Finally, what sells ebooks for me has been a long-running presence on such places as Facebook, twitter, blogs, online magazines, chat groups, and more recently kindle forums and ebook forums. Almost all my ebook reviews have come about via meeting people online who love to do book reviews and routinely look for ebooks to review. More and more review outlets for ebooks are coming into being every day, but I have made contacts on Facebook for instance that have reviewed Children of Salem and Titanic 2012, placing reviews on their blogs and on, but such results came after long hours on Facebook, not just seeking such outlets but engaging people in all manner of conversation and discussing issues of interest placed up by others. In the end, if you are liked thanks to your online presence, sense of humor, concern for the universe, etc., then others online will begin to curiously seek out your writing. If they like you, they will want to like your book(s).
Some reading this will say it can’t be that simple or easy, but guess what – it has not been simple nor easy at all, and it has taken great and abiding patience. My IQ is not as important in this “business” of ebooking it as is my PQ – Persistence Quotient. Recall what I was making a month when I started with nearly the same amount of books up. It does help indeed to have an impressive list of books – numbers of covers in a line do encourage sales as well, so the last job and first really is for you to post more works – collected short stories, themed stories, how-to book crafted from your years of blogging perhaps, and more fiction, more novellas, novels. Keep putting new titles up. I had a huge backlist but it took me years to build that backlist, I can tell you.
Keep on truckin’ and ebookin’ – and take a look at my website to see what can be done if you work with a truly good graphic artist. Look at my graphic artist and webmaster’s own website –  and find other information on this subject at The Newbies Guide to Publishing and archived blogs on the subject right here at ACME Authors.
Robert W. Walker