WHY BOOKS SELL . . . OR NOT
– IMHO (In My Humble Opinion)
Let me say in the beginning that I am speaking here from my own opinions based on my experience with my books since 2008 when I became a digitally-published author. I have also discussed these topics with a few other authors of my acquaintance in the business which I may refer to (who shall remain nameless). Knowing my lack of impressive credentials, you may choose to move on to something more worthy of your time and if so, I wish you a wonderful day.
Now, for the benefit of those curious enough to stay, I’ll try to make it worth your time. I have had books published with nine digital publishers and have more contracted for later this year. In all, I have ten ebooks (also in print) and four short stories currently available at these various publishers, Amazon and many other distributors. Some of my books have done well. Others have not.
What makes the difference? I have tried to promote them equally but with books released last year in March, April, May, June, and July by different publishers and two holiday books in November by still another, I’m sure I did not succeed. An author friend who found herself in the same situation frequently commiserated with me and we asked each other “How did this happen? What were we thinking? Will we survive this avalanche of new releases?”
So how did this happen? Heeding the old adage of not putting all one’s eggs in the same basket, I submitted to several publishers simultaneously. Much to my delight, many were accepted, but I hastily add that at least as many were rejected. However, elation turned to dismay when I realized just how many were being released in 2011. There are only so many times an author can get the attention of people when announcing new releases on the loops. And let’s face facts here. Many of our sales come from other authors who read our promo excerpts there. The larger the number of a publisher’s loop members, the more an author interacts, the more opportunity for sales. I admit that I’m not very good at doing this. So the moral to this confession is that I believe it is better to have fewer publishers and be able to focus on fewer books at a time.
I don’t have a blog. I wasn’t born with a mouse in my hand as some of you were, and being totally overwhelmed with all things technical, I simply haven’t had the time to learn to use this great promotional tool. I do guest blogs when invited and also interviews for other authors’ blogs. I participate in publishers’ chats and recently did a marathon 12 hours forum with six other authors who “volunteered” to help me. We had about 1,500 viewers throughout the day with only a small fraction of those commenting even though we gave away a book each hour. Did this result in added sales? Who knows?
Not being a techie, and having so many print books to sell, last year I began focusing on book signings. Since most book stores won’t carry our print books due to not being able to return POD (print on demand)unsold books to our publishers, an author must buy and furnish books. Book stores such as Barnes & Noble do have an “open” signing annually at which local authors can sell self-published or books not carried in their systems. I’ve lived a nomad existence so I can qualify as “local” in a lot of places. I’ve also arranged signings at libraries (sometimes in conjunction with doing a program), coffeehouses, and special events. Some have been very successful, others have not. Libraries have been least successful (probably because they lend books) However, due to my association with them, I have libraries in three towns who buy my books from me at retail price and two others who order them through their distributor My university bookstore also buys from me,carries all of my books in their alumni section, and has sponsored two book signings for me.
Does paid promo increase sales? I had a Civil War saga released in 2011, which began the four-year commemoration of the C.W. Sesquicentennial. I felt it deserved my best efforts so I bit the bullet and paid $225. for a 1/8 page BxW ad in Romantic Times. I did not find an increase in sales as a result. Others may have better luck. I’ve paid for a few inexpensive promo ops at LASR and other sites but have no idea if it paid off in sales but it did offer name recognition.
I’m lax about keeping up with my sales through statistical data. I do check the publishers’ best selling lists on Amazon and also where my books rank on Amazon sales overall. I was instructed on how to track my books but decided my time would be better spend promoting than tracking. My royalty checks tell me how my books are doing . . . or not.
What about the price of books? My various publishers have different prices for books of the same genres having the same number of pages. I’m sure they have their reasons and the size of the publisher has nothing to do with it. Overall, due to not having minimum 30K print runs like the NY pubs, I understand that they can’t compete with those prices. But neither can I sell a paperback book of less than 100 pages for $19.95 with good conscience, even to my friends! And ebooks for $6.95-$8.95 don’t sell too well either. This is one reason why I’m in the process of republishing some of my books with an independent publisher who has more realistic pricing.
Do book titles/blurbs/covers affect sales? I am completely convinced they do. I’m glad that all of my digital publishers have allowed me to maintain the names I have given to my “babies.” I renamed my Civil War book three times while submitting but don’t know if the present name helped it to be accepted. I don’t enjoy writing blurbs and am always happy when an editor tweaks what I’ve written. I’ve had cover artists “get it right” the very first time and I’ve had some covers I’ve had to accept with “close enough.” I want to leave you with one current example of my conviction of the part covers and blurbs play in sales.
My best contemporary book ever was released last year with a very dark scenic cover (which I accepted after a few tries as “close enough”). I’m guilty of writing the blurb that touched on all of the negative circumstances and events in the story. Despite a lot of promo the book did not do well. The publisher and I talked about this and I was asked to rewrite the blurb. From my conversation with the publisher, I realized for the first time (I admit stupidity here) that the theme of this book was overcoming the obstacles in life’s journey. I agreed to rewrite if the publisher would change the cover. The result was a beautiful new cover showing the H&H in a very tender embrace and a blurb that summed up the dilemma they faced. The price was cut drastically for a month’s promo and as I write this, remains .99 for the ebook and $13.56 for print. The book has been #3 and #4 on at the publisher’s bestsellers list the last two weeks and today is at #2. What made the difference in failure and success? Cover, blurb, promo or a combination of all three? I wish I knew!
Why books sell . . . or not? I’m still trying to figure this out, as are most of you who are also reading here. It goes without saying that it helps to have a good story (or the most clever packaging won’t result in re-sales). An attractive cover, an attention-grabbing title and blurb will help. Competitive pricing, promoting widely, (both the book and yourself to gain a readership one sale at a time), and determination to succeed through continued effort day after day. It also helps to have a soft cushion in your computer desk chair because you’ll be spending a lot of your time there!
I want to thank Paula for inviting me to HWH. I hope my post has justified the time you have spent reading it. I welcome your opinions on this subject and hope you will share with us what has worked for you.
Linda, thank you so much for being with us today - and for tackling such an important question!Linda divides her time between her native state of Kentucky and Florida. She is an award winning author of published poetry, articles, short stories, and a TV play. . Her first two books were published by Kensington. In her other life, she earned an Education Specialist Degree from Murray State University with post-graduate work from U. of Alabama and was a teacher, counselor, and psychometrist in the public schools in three states. She credits her husband and adult children for providing encouragement and technical support necessary for survival in the cyberspace world.
Linda is the only non-musical member in her family of professional musicians but likes to think she makes music with words. For more information, please visit her website at http://www.lindaswift.net
TO THOSE WHO WAIT
Love sometimes happens when least expected. Scott Parker and Leah Carson, principal and counselor of Central High in the small town of Olive Hill are blindsided by the deep emotion that grows from their dedication to their jobs. Working together day after day toward common goals, their friendship and respect for each other gradually turns to love. When purpose turns to passion, they attempt to deny their feelings without success. Scott and Leah face a decision that will lead to happiness or heartbreak. Caught in a vortex of circumstances beyond their control, how can they choose when so many others are affected by the outcome?
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