I've learned a lot by trial and error. What I reveal that has worked for me may not work for you and your book.
First, and I know this is going to sound basic to most of you - Cover Art. This is huge. If you work with a publisher who sticks you with a crappy cover or has final say over what gets used, then you're toast. Sorry. You have a huge hurdle to overcome and some books can get past it, others can't. Until you have an actual name people know, it will be the cover that catches the reader's eye.
"Don't judge a book by it's cover." Yes, yes, we all know the famous quote. Most members of our family even go so far as to imply we should apply the logic when searching for a mate as well. I won't got into that one.
Sorry to say, the reading audience does judge. Even if they don't know it or won't admit to it. As the majority of purchasing is no longer done is a brick and mortar establishment, you're battling against catching the eye of a reader in a small thumbnail on a computer, tablet, or phone, then you're already going uphill.
Research what is working within your genre and apply it to your own cover. Do not re-invent the wheel, but do try and think outside the box to make yours stand out. Unless you're really good with Photoshop, do not attempt to do it yourself. Hire a pro, should cost you around $50-75 bucks or you're paying too much.
Also, the cover is only the "gotcha". After that, you have less than 200 words to snag a reader. Yup, not the first five pages they flip through in the book store, or the sample they download. I'm talking about the product description or jacket copy (most writers mistakenly call it a "blurb", which is in actuality the one liners OTHER writers have said about your work appearing on the cover or in the opening few pages). Do not, repeat, do not, outline your entire plot, or even half of it, in this description. Make it intriguing and short.
As a reader, I can't tell you how many times I've been annoyed the product description gives away half of the damn book or more. Just ruin it for me, why don't you? I spent a week on the one for Vampire Vacation (V V), and several days on the one for The Hunt (TH).
Next strategy, also obvious: Pricing. The market is flooded right now with new authors. Everyone is jumping on the band wagon to self-publish. The stigma has gone away now that people see there is real money to be made by bypassing the NY giants. I'm following what other well-selling authors are doing -- pricing my first book at 99 cents and the others higher.
This strategy assumes some big things 1) You've written a compelling story 2) It's well edited 3) The readers can find it.
If you don't have those three things well in hand, then don't chose the DIY route. Pricing is really only something you can manipulate to your advantage if you have control. A publisher is not going to allow you to give your work away for free or allow you to price it really low to attract a readership.
My suggested way around that? Write something else and give it away for free -- on your website, Facebook, Wattpad.com, Scribd.com, Apple, or on Smashwords -- anywhere and everywhere you can. And put samples of your other paid work at the end. Don't be stingy, give a lot of the other book(s) away for free.
If they like the bonus content, they'll buy the rest to see how the story turns out. Try and talk your publisher around to "getting" this concept. The only way to reach readers is to let them read your work. So far, over ten thousands copies downloaded of a free read (containing half of V V) have turned into over 1700 sales in one month through ONE retailer.
You're all really here reading this post hoping I can tell you what "magic ingredient" made my books sell. There is no magic ingredient, there is no easy way; it's a lot of hard work involving some experimentation and navigating it all can be extremely time consuming.
So - what has worked and what hasn't? I did not get a jump in sales when I used Google Ads. Perhaps I didn't experiment enough with my "slogan" on the link, but after a few hundred dollars I was tapped on that avenue.
Facebook ads -- sure, they worked to get me followers on my business page, but I did it before my book came out. Now the prices are so high I can't afford to do it for long. Did the money spent turn into sales? Yes, but not how you might think. The ads drew interested readers in the genre to me and they got to read my work on Facebook for free. I made some new friends and spent a lot of time cultivating the relationships. This turned out to be fun because I was sick and stuck at home a lot.
Blog tours and blogging? I'm really torn on this one. I think they work for some people, but I can't honestly tell if they work for me. If the blog is reaching real readers like the ones on the Kindle, then yes, I think it could work great. To be perfectly honest, before I became a writer I never visited blogs. I thought they were "out".
Now, I know some popular news, sports, and satire blogs are actually making great money. They reach lots of people and the better ones are giving newspapers a run for their money. Blogs aren't dead, but the same concern I originally had applies -- how do real readers find them?
And of course, that's where social networking comes in. I don't know enough about Twitter yet to tell you how to do it on there, I'm trying, but it still eludes me. I've met great people on Facebook and have had a chance to connect with real readers... but have I figured out the "viral" key to getting known through either of these avenues? Nope, not yet.
Reviews: is it more important to have actual reviewers review your book or real readers? I never went the route where I had big-time reviewers cover my book. Last summer, when I was trying to build a buzz for book one, most reviewers wouldn't accept self-published books, and before I started taking on other authors, that's how they looked at me and my small company.
After a little bit of experience, I realize the big long reviews are nice, but most buyers read the short ones on the website where they are browsing books. They will click on your lowest starred reviews to read them and then weigh what those say with the high four and five star ones. You'll get bad reviews, no way around it so you might as well just grin and bear it.
Last bit of advice, and probably far better than what I've shared, read John Locke's book titled "How I Sold One Million eBooks in Five Months". I'm just starting to follow his marketing strategy now. I don't have a list of buyers 2,500 long I can email like he does. Heck, I'm still struggling to organize my 900 contacts to figure out how I know these people and if they may like my work. But, he offers some terrific advice and he's shown it works. I'm game to add his ideas to what I'm doing now and see if it makes a difference.
It'll take me that long just to get on top of all his suggestions and try and build like he did!
If you're a writer and you read this blog, do the Wicked Team a favor -- spread the word by sharing the link. I plan to do a how-to series starting this weekend if there is a genuine interest from other authors to learn more about the self-publishing industry, reaching readers, and selling books. But if we don't get interest, then I just plan to write it and sell it (like Mr. Locke did ;-), instead of posting it here for free.
Wicked Writers is running a summer long contest to win a free Kindle!! All you have to do is comment with your email on any post from now until Labor Day weekend.
We'll be keeping a tally of commenters with their emails included and then the names will be randomly picked - more comments per person means more entries! Ping backs to Twitter, Facebook, and links to other sites including a mention with a link to us will also count.