Author’s Academy’s senior faculty member Grael Norton talks to author James D. Best about his 70,000 sales to date. James D. Best is the author of the Steve Dancy western series. He has also written other fiction and nonfiction books.
When an author is trying to sell books they have to keep trying, don’t give up when you reach the end of your platform. What I mean by this is don’t give up when your sales are few and far between. Jim started out writing nonfiction and magazine articles in the computer industry. He already had an agent. When he wrote his first fiction book the publishing did not go the way he hoped. He published with Wiley but he had no control over the book. The title was changed and chapters were deleted. So he decided to self-publish and using Wheatmark, Inc. Self-publishers have complete control but it is up to them to generate sales. If they don’t the sales dry up and most authors give up at this point.
When asked how he did it he responded: He targeted his audience towards western readers. He has released five books in the series so far. Originally his audience was targeted towards the older population. However 50% of reviews are by women. It became popular among nurses, probably working third shift. His broader appeal is to younger females.
In order to zero in on his audience, Jim pushed his blog and emails. He tweeted pushing the concept of giving a book to someone, selling as gifts, and giving series books for future Christmases. A week before Christmas he sees sales really pick up, after Christmas he pushes his eBook. Sales take off through January and February. People have new devices and want to read, they use gift cards to buy them.
His first book Shopkeeper first came out in December 2007. Genre books have enthusiasts; they will find you because you write a series in their reading genre.
When sales taper, he runs an ad that leads into the Christmas buying season. During the year he sends out cards and bookmarks advertising the books. He calls it leaving cookie crumbs. A good thing for an author to do is wait for a sale on business cards. Use them as advertisements, leave them everywhere. It is important to brand yourself as an author, brand your character. He uses his author’s blog, pushes giving books as gifts, and pushes eBooks after Christmas, keeping his email list notified. He even put up a book trailer but he’s not sure how much it helped. He sent to books to soldiers, left book copies on a cruise at the library, anywhere he might pick up a new fan.
The following year book sales were sold at holidays. It took months of effort before uptake in sales but an author has to be serious about selling their books. Grael asked about his thoughts on activities to promote. His advice was to keep motivated; publishers make a hoop la of promoting a book. Getting into a bookstore doesn’t guarantee sales, he sold two books to a bunch of bookstores but that was it. They moved on to the next new title. Self-published don’t have a self-life, the books are always available. You are your primary market place. An author needs to build their brand and wait for sales. They have to make their name known. Get readers to sell your books. Fans are your sales force.
When asked what tip he could share with other authors he said if a reader sends you an email answer it. The ones who write you will spread the word. Fiction writers can bend time. Start a conversation or respond to everyone, they could sell a couple of your next book by talking about you.
Get traditional reviewers to review your book get involved in organizations through your genre; it works over time and builds credibility, build on your expertise. Fiction is a slower process. Fiction is about your base or number of readers. Self-publishers build momentum by not giving up.
How popular are your ebook sales? Most sales are Kindle 41,000, Wheatmark 21,000 sales, and Nook is making headway against Kindle, those sales are strong. When asked about eBook pricing he said he moves it around to get the most out of his sales. He is worried that Amazon is driving the prices down. On average his first book of the series is $2.99 and the others are $4.99. Once a month he does a 3 day promotion on one book at .99. That boosts sales for entire series.
He always posts to his blog at Christmas. Every year before Thanksgiving he goes through all his author pages and all product pages to update his reviews. He does this to present the best face forward. He uses the match program. This is where if you buy one version of the book another version is discounted. So someone who has an eBook and wants the book can pay less because they already purchased another version. This can be a special holiday promotion of buy a book for yourself and give one to a friend for a gift. Jim maintains 3 websites, uses his blog for everything, and uses Goodreads, bookclubs, and Amazon as a way for people to tell their friends about your book.
Before Christmas, write a lot of reviews of other books in the genre and find some way to write something insightful. Do it at point of time when people will be shopping for books. Write something that makes the reader think who wrote this review. Go for popular. It’s a way to get noticed. Figure out a way to tie the book from your review with another book, not your book. You can add a link to promote others who may in turn promote you or introduces your reader to someone else.
Writing a series is extremely important. It is easier to promote books in a series. Without a way to tie them together it is harder to sell books not in a series. The books promote each other. Add the chapter of next book in the current book. 99¢ sales promote the other series books greatly. Long term growth in sales is done with a series. It is very powerful in establishing brand and authority in that genre.
People in a nitch read a lot in that genre. They will recommend the good books to friends and they will criticize the bad books. Read in your genre. Comment and write in that niche and keep to it.
When asked about his favorite social media he said Goodreads. Posts on Goodreads and Amazon are good resources for marketing. Goodreads has best advertising from a social media standpoint. It is a reasonable way to get your name and books in front of readers. I will be looking into Goodreads advertising program. Link directly to product page and not Goodreads though so it is faster for someone to find your book for sale. I am going to put my first five chapters of Adoptive Personality available for an email address. I will get as many reviews or ratings as possible. Jim works with Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and Pintrest to drive traffic to his blog. Displaying your blog on Amazon can generate automatic traffic and visibility. Promote your blog on social media. He spends time on marketing the first hour of day doing promotion. He writes four to five hours a day.
When asked for famous last words or advice he said:
If you want fans and readers to be sales people, you have to write a good book. Spend resources for editing, design, and cover. If you can’t afford to do it right you should go the traditional publishing route. Don’t put out a half done product. Always market, giving up leads to no book sales. Need to keep coming out with books in a series. It meets the audience needs and author can market easier.
Until the next lesson learned…
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