Best Practices for Building Sales
By Toni Anderson
I was a little taken aback when asked to write a blog about how I’ve grown my sales on Kobo over the last two years for the simple reason I didn’t do anything special. No magic formula. No voodoo. No massive advertising budget. I just do what I consider to be the basics for any author on any platform.
My sales have grown though—up nearly 6000% between 2013 and 2015, and the fourth quarter of 2015 being up 500% on the first quarter of the same year.
So maybe the basics are worth restating, especially for those new to self-publishing.
Let’s assume you’ve written fantastic stories, had them vigorously edited, packaged with professional, eye-catching covers. The novels are perfectly formatted and you write in a genre that sells (as opposed to a niche market like “How to Grow Vegetables on Mars.” Although I hear the fictionalized version of that book did quite well 🙂
What practices do I follow?
As a British-Canadian based in Canada, the Kobo brand is very familiar to me, as are differences in currency exchange rates. For whatever reason, prices ending in “.99” are generally more attractive to customers (and look more professional) than those ending in random numbers. I’m careful to assign the price of each book in each different country, so rather than base the price on a fluctuating exchange rate. I use prices that end in .99, except for some Asian markets where my prices end in .00 or .50.
Inside Your eBook
I’m assuming you know what I mean by front- and back-matter? It’s the information you find before the story starts and after the story ends. I update my front- and back-matter regularly and always add new books to the “Also by” section of my backlist titles. If I’m writing a book that’s part of a series, I generally include the first chapter of the next book in the series and put a vendor specific buy link at the end of the excerpt. Vendor specific links are a ton of work if you have a lot of books and need to start doing this from scratch, but I think they’re vital for sales. I also put links to my website and newsletter in the back of my books.
Your website is where you showcase all your work. It’s your shop front even if you don’t sell direct to the customer. Make sure you give equal visibility to all the vendors for book buy links. It’s not just polite to bookstores, it’s important to customers. Make it easy for people to buy your books wherever they like to shop.
Having an author newsletter is important because it provides direct contact between you and your readers. You can let readers know when you have a new release, or a sale, or when you’re doing a signing. I offer a free download of one of my books to people who sign up. Like everywhere else when talking about your books in your newsletter make sure you provide links to all the vendors so readers can shop in their favorite store.
I’m not going to talk about the specifics of using social media, except to say I think it’s important for authors to have a place where they feel comfortable interacting with readers. For me that’s Facebook, (although I also tweet, and I’m on Pinterest, and Instagram). Whatever you choose, make sure it feels like fun. And again, when talking about your books make sure you add all the vendor specific links (unless you are targeting a post to a group of people who read on a specific device).
Write the next book
The best sales tool you can invest in is writing the next book. The more stories you have available, the easier it is to build a readership and therefore sell more books. It’s kind of a chicken and egg situation, which can frustrate some writers.
There’s a belief among some people that writers have to put out many books per year to be able to earn a living. This isn’t true. Most indie authors leave me in the dust speed-wise. I average two 100K-word books per year, plus maybe a novella, but I’m doing okay. My advice is don’t compare yourself to others, just concentrate on writing the best book you can (without being paralyzed by the need to be perfect) and publish as regularly as you are able.
Building a catalogue of books is vital to sales. Keeping readers hooked is key to them coming back for more, which doesn’t necessarily mean writing cliffhanger endings (I hate those with a passion). It is more keeping people invested in the type of stories you write, in your characters. In keeping the promise you make when you put a book up for sale with your name on it, and in the excitement of going on that journey together. Write the next book, and make it just as good as the last one.
Readers love connected books and there’s no doubt in my mind that writing a series is an effective way to build a readership. A series can be built around the ongoing exploits of one main character or can be stories about a group of people linked in some way (e.g. FBI team, MC, a setting, a family). It doesn’t mean you can’t write standalone novels, it’s just harder to market them.
Many authors make the first book in a long running series free so readers can try them out at no cost and no risk. The first book of my Cold Justice Series, A COLD DARK PLACE, has been free for about a year. It’s a marketing tool that pays off because the other books in the series are priced at US$4.99 each. Not all authors agree with giving away books, and my caveat is that if you decide to have a permafree book in your catalogue, make sure you have a marketing plan to leverage the bejesus out of it. And remember, as an indie author you can increase the price at any time.
Sales and Paid Email Advertising
Everyone loves getting a bargain, many people are genuinely struggling to make ends meet, and sometimes our books could do with a quick boost, so I regularly run short-term sales on backlist titles to boost visibility and numbers.
When choosing where to advertise, look for paid sites that allow multiple vendor links to optimize your promotion across all vendors. Some examples that allow multiple vendor links are Bookbub, Bargain Booksy and eBookSoda.
Years ago, I remember reading a newspaper article by Anne Rice. She said something along the lines of the only difference between failed authors and successful authors was perseverance. Having been writing seriously for about sixteen years, and published for the last twelve, I can tell you she’s right. Success certainly didn’t happen overnight, but I’m glad I stuck with it.
It takes time to raise your profile on any platform and it might take a reader seeing your name seven times before you even begin to stick in their mind as an author they recognize. Patience is key for building a presence, and then hopefully sales, on a platform.
These are some of the basic marketing strategies I use for selling my books. I hope you find some useful tips to increase your own sales.
Toni Anderson is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of Romantic Suspense novels. Check out her books at www.toniandersonauthor.com