Jericho Writers
4 Acer Walk , Oxford, OX2 6EX, United Kingdom
UK: +44 (0)345 459 9560
US: +1 (646) 974 9060

Our Articles


How to Copyright Your Book – Fast ׀ Jericho Writers

Fast, easily and cheaply It’s easy to copyright your work. We explain exactly how to do it and what you can hope to achieve in this article. What Is Copyright? You’re reading this because you’ve created something – a book, a novel, a story, a play. Whatever. Good. You now own the copyright in your work, which means that you have the absolute right to control its use and distribution. If someone tries to copy your work without your permission, you have the legal right to stop them. If you wish to license or sell your work to a third party on defined terms – such as a book deal with a publisher – then you have the right to do that too. That all sounds simple, right? And in essence, it is. Unsurprisingly, though, there are some twists and turns, so it’s worth reading all the way to the end of this post before deciding what to do. How To Copyright A Book? Is Copyright Automatic? The first surprise, for some readers, is that copyright protection is automatic. In other words, you acquire copyright protection for your work simply by writing it down. As soon as the words have left your fingertips – as soon as they’re marks on a page or screen – they belong to you and no one can copy them. The trouble is that there are two ways in which it is, in theory, possible to copy someone’s work. Direct copying of text. If someone just takes all or part of your text and copies it out word for word, that’s a breach of your copyright. In the most egregious cases – like e-book pirates simply stealing your book and selling it online – the offence is utterly obvious and beyond dispute. But that’s not the only way that illicit copying can occur …Copying of ideas, characters, sequences, concepts. But it’s also possible for a breach of copyright to take place even without direct copying of text. For example, suppose I decided to take Delia Owens’ smash hit Where the Crawdads Sing and rewrite it in my own words. I might decide to use my own words and a new set of character names, but to leave every single plot incident, emotional moment, and so on exactly as in the original. In that case, I would be breaching Owens’ copyright as surely as if I’d just written the whole thing out word for word. If Owens chose to sue me in a court of law, I’d most certainly lose. You can read more on that, here. Now, all that seems pretty damn obvious, but there’s an ugly little legal loophole that remains open. If I’d copied Crawdads out word for word, everyone would know that I’d copied and where I’d copied it from. There’s just no possibility that my copying was a remarkable coincidence. But what if the themes / characters / plot twists seemed very similar, but had some differences? You might say my version of the book looked eerily familiar … but there are supposedly only seven plots in the world anyway. Themes of death, parenting, coming of age, self-expression and so on (all themes to be found in Crawdads) are common enough. Maybe two different authors just happened across the same basic set of ideas. Now if you were Delia Owens and wanted to prove that my version of the Crawdads story was a deliberate knock-off of your own, you’d have to prove, in court, that I had read your book before composing my own version. If you could achieve that level of proof, you’d probably win the trial. Fail, and you’d probably lose. That feels like a really tricky problem to solve … but it’s the problem that copyright registration was born to solve. Why Register Copyright In Your Work? Registering copyright can solve two problems for you. They are: How can you easily and simply prove that you are the author of a given work? And how can you easily and simply prove the date on which your manuscript was complete?How can you get around the issue of having to prove that a given plagiarist had accessed your story before their copying began? Fortunately, there are solutions to both of these conundrums. There’s a cheap, easy version that does a bit less for you. And there’s an annoyingly bureaucratic and pointlessly expensive version that does more. Here are the options: How to register authorship and date of production If all you want to do is prove that you are the author of a given work and that your work was completed by such-and-such a date, then you can just use an online ‘copyright vault’ service, such as Using such a service will solve the “whose work, what date?” issue. It will not solve the second issue highlighted above. If someone copies your ideas and plot, but doesn’t snatch your exact wording, you would still have to prove that the plagiarist had read and used your work. That’s going to be tough. For that reason, anyone really serious about copyright, will take the more complicated – and official – action below. The advantage of this cheap and cheerful version of protection, however, is simply that it’s cheap and cheerful. So for $50 / £30, you can copyright-protect not just one document, but many. If you’re prolific and want the assurance of proper legal documentation of your authorship, this is a very low-cost way to achieve what you need. But let’s say you want to do things properly, in that case you’ll want to register copyright with the US Copyright Office, part of the Library of Congress. How to register your work with the US Copyright Office If you register your work with the US Copyright Office, you will prove that you are the author of a given work. And the date of production will also be proved. But better still, if you register your work with the Copyright Office, anyone copying your work will be automatically deemed to have read it. So Delia Owens no longer has to prove that I’ve read her Crawdads book. If she (or more likely her publisher) has registered her work, then any court will simply assume that I have read it. Then the legal argument will simply revolve around whether my version is or is not too close to her version to constitute copying. That’s a win, right? The trouble is, the cost is a lot higher ($100 per document registered) and the process is annoyingly bureaucratic. The form you need to fill in is here. You need to print out that form, fill it out, and send it off with cheque for $100 and a paper copy of your work to: Library of Congress Copyright Office-TX 101 Independence Avenue SE Washington DC 20559-6000 And yes, I know. A printed form! And a paper copy of your work! And this is in the 2020s, not the 1920s or 1820s. But there you go. Bureaucrats just wanna bureaucratise. If you’re really serious about protecting your work, that’s the route you have to take. But before you start printing forms and scribbling out cheques to the government, just pause a moment to think what you will achieve and whether it’s worth it. Will Copyright Protection Defeat Plagiarists? Arguably, the big question is simply whether copyright protection serves any practical purpose at all. And that means considering the world as it is. (You might want to peruse this list of plagiarism scandals as a reminder of how these things actually operate.) And here’s what we learn: Are publishers or literary agents likely to steal your work? No. Because their business would come to an abrupt, juddering, nasty halt as soon as they were caught, which would be pretty damn soon. I’ve read around a little bit and can’t find any bonafide case of an agent trying to steal and profit from an unpublished author’s work. OK, maybe there’s a case somewhere that I’ve missed, but the literary agent community receives hundreds of thousands of manuscripts a year. Stealing just basically doesn’t happen. You should worry about lightning strike or asteroid falls before you start to worry about those things. Are professional book pirates likely to steal your work? Yes. Or rather: no, if your book never really achieves any sales. But yes, definitely, if your book sells enough copies to seem worth thieving. I’m not going to dignify any of those plagiarism websites with a link, but they exist. And they are there to steal books. So if your book is selling well on Amazon at $7.99, there’ll be a plagiarist selling the exact same text at $0.99 or less. They don’t have to actually copy out your text to do that. They just have to break the DRM lock on your ebook (easily done; it takes two minutes), then they copy the file. I don’t know any properly bestselling author (including me) whose work has not been pirated. Will copyright protection defeat the pirates? No. Of course, it won’t. They’re thieves. They steal stuff. Those websites are commercial enterprises which exist to profit from theft. So what about you send those guys a cease and desist notice? What about you actually hire a hotshot, $600-an-hour lawyer to go after them? Well, here’s a guess: they laugh at you. Wherever they are, you can be damn sure they’ll base their horrible website in a jurisdiction which really, really doesn’t care about your copyright issues. Is there practically speaking any way to defeat plagiarism? No – and I can prove it. Here’s my argument: I am willing to bet that your resources are less than those deployed by, say, Penguin Random House.PRH’s authors are routinely plagiarised.Yes, PRH chases the thieves around the internet and uses hotshot lawyers wherever it’s plausible those guys will make a difference, but …PRH’s authors are still routinely plagiarised. That’s probably true of pretty much all their top-selling authors.You can afford $100 to register your work with the Library of Congress. That’s true.But you probably can’t afford a lot of hours that are charged at $600 an hour, and you certainly can’t afford them if the likelihood of that spending making a difference is close to nilNo government agency or law enforcement body anywhere in the world is going to care that a plagiarist is stealing your work.So there is nothing you can do. Conclusion Honestly? My advice? Look register your copyright if it’ll make you feel better. But you aren’t ever going to go to court to enforce your copyright and you’ll probably bankrupt yourself if you do. So write a great book. Sell it. Then write another. If you do well – if you do really, really well – book piracy sites will steal a tiny bit from your sales. (Or maybe not: because maybe the people who take books from those sources would never put an honest dollar in your pocket anyway.) But there’s nothing you can do about it, so just write another book, and sell it, and be happy because you are doing a hard thing well. And you feel good about doing it. Oh, and if you meet a book pirate? Well, as far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to thump them. Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
Read more

How to self-publish your book on Amazon Kindle Direct (KDP)

The ultimate guide for serious self-publishers This is a jumbo post, because it tells you everything you need to do and how to do it. If you only need to research a specific topic, then use the index below. Otherwise, jump right in – and let’s get you self-publishing successfully via Amazon’s KDP platform. Self-Publishing – How to Make a LivingAn Overview of Effective Self-PublishingStep 1: Write a Good BookStep 2: Create a Strong CoverStep 3: Prepare Your ‘Look Inside’ MaterialStep 4: Prepare Your End MaterialStep 5: Format Your E-bookStep 6: Build Your Print Book (if you want to)Step 7: Build Your WebsiteStep 8: Create Your Readers’ MagnetStep 9: Mailing Lists and Other TechnicalitiesStep 10: Social Media: Why You Can (Mostly) Ignore ThisStep 11: How to Choose Categories (BISAC Codes) on AmazonStep 12: How to Choose Keywords on AmazonStep 13: How To Price Your E-Book on AmazonStep 14: How to Launch Your Free BookStep 15: How to Launch Your Paid BookStep 16: The Long Term: Where Do You Go From Here? Self-publishing: How To Make A Living Via Amazon’s Kindle KDP The good news: self-publishing is easy these days. If you have a book and a cover, then uploading it is: Free. You pay nothing to Amazon, though there will be some costs involved in preparing properly. Fast. Allow 12-24 hours for the book to go live worldwide. Awesome. KDP can make your work made available to a worldwide audience. That’s something that even the largest traditional publishers can’t offer, unless they have acquired worldwide rights. That’s the great side of self-publishing, but there are challenges, too, of which the biggest is simply this: Invisibility. Amazon has 3.4 million titles in ‘literature and fiction’. 3.6 million history titles. Half a million comics and graphic novels. And of course, the flood grows ever bigger. Half a million new titles became available on the Kindle store in the last 90 days alone. Your title might be great, but bury it amongst 499,999 competing titles and it’s still likely to vanish. In short, self-publishing on Amazon is awesome and scary in about equal measure. This post will tell you how to publish your work on Amazon in a way that is low-cost (not zero cost), professional, and effective. Just how effective it is will depend on you, your books, your genre, and how much work you put in. But it is, these days, perfectly realistic to aim at earning a decent living wage from Amazon KDP publishing (possibly supplemented by publishing on Apple, Google, Kobo, etc). And just to be clear, although a good chunk of my author earnings come from traditional publishing, the money I earn from self-publishing my work in North America alone is excellent. In 2017, I earned $100,000 from just six e-books. And as you build your range of titles, your readership, your email list and your marketing skills, your income should follow suit. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it involves a little upfront cost. Yes, it depends on some clever tricks of marketing and presentation, but it works. It worked for me. It can work for you. The same basic principles underlie the success of thousands of other indie authors. And I’m going to share everything. This post is basically the ultimate guide to self-publishing your book on the Amazon Kindle store and I’ll update if things need to be tweaked or changed. Since the post is super long, I recommend that you bookmark it and use the Table of Contents up top to navigate. Tweet it, share it, link to it from your website, if it’s all helpful. To business. An Overview Of The Self-publishing Process Effective self-publishing on Amazon requires: Strong underlying material. In other words, your book needs to be good. If it’s not, no amount of clever marketing will save it. A properly presented e-book. What I mean by this is that the cover needs to be strong. The material at the front of your e-book (the ‘Look Inside’ portion) needs to tempt the reader to complete their purchase. The material at the back of the e-book needs to clinch the deal. It needs to turn a one-off reader into a permanent, committed fan. (Not sure which ebook format to use? Then check out this article). A properly constructed author platform. That means a website, a reader’s magnet and a properly set-up mailing list. If that sounds scary or technical, don’t worry. There’s nothing hard here and I explain it all, anyway. Sensible pricing. No one will buy your book if it’s too expensive. You won’t make any money if it’s too cheap. Well-chosen metadata. Another scary term for something that’s basically simple. Because a lot of purchases on Amazon come via different types of search, you need to make sure that your book will pop up in the right places, not the wrong ones. And it’s all easy. Proper book promotion. So far, everything in this process is about getting ready for publication. Actually launching your book comes right at the end of the process. And, once you’ve built any kind of track record, you do that launch via your mailing list. You basically tell these guys (your committed fans) that you have a new book for sale. They rush out and buy it. Amazon notices that there’s a huge sales surge in this cool new book, so their search engine starts showing it to more and more people. So now you have totally new readers buying your book and as they enter your world, they start signing up for your mailing list, so your fan base grows and your next book goes even better. All that works well once you’ve got started, but how do you get started in the first place? Well, there are tricks there too and we’ll cover them. In short, the basic marketing process on Amazon is (A) prepare properly, (B) build a mailing list, (C) sell your work to that mailing list, (D) acquire additional sales from brand new readers who arrive at your work thanks to the visibility acquired via those mailing list sales, then (E) rinse and repeat, ad infinitum. Once you’ve mastered the basic essence of this underlying technique, you’ll want to add in the following methods too. (I’ve put the easiest techniques first, the harder ones later. Don’t work this list in the wrong order!) Book promotion sitesCross promotions with other authorsAmazon AdvertisingBookbub advertisingFacebook advertising Of these methods, Facebook is probably the most powerful and scalable … but it’s also the most complicated and the easiest place to lose money. Most indie authors want to add Facebook advertising right away. That’s a mistake you pay for – with dollar bills magicked out of your pocket and into Mark Zuckerberg’s Fund For More Digital Wickedness. And though this post is long, don’t panic. Yes, there is set-up time and cost involved in getting started, but the basics of marketing are really quite easy thereafter. In July 2015 I launched a book in the US where my complete marketing plan consisted of: One email to my mailing list. Nothing else. (My wife had her second set of twins that year and we were … busy.) I didn’t tweet, post on Facebook, blog or send out review copies or anything else. You want to know how much money I made? I earned $30,000 from that one email and, since then, things have only got better. I’m going to show you how to do all of that, so buckle up as we hit the detail. Step 1. Write A Good Book People always laugh when I say that, “Write a good book,” but it’s the only absolute essential of the whole marketing process. It’s also the area where writers most tend to rush things. (Simple starter guide on writing a book here.) Again and again, we see writers struggling to achieve sales on Amazon. They talk with intensity about their metadata, their Facebook campaigns, their experiments with permafree and a million other things but when I look at their books, they’re too often just not good enough. And if your product isn’t a hundred percent, your sales will only ever be mediocre. Remember that if you’re writing thrillers, you are selling head-to-head against Lee Child and John Grisham. If you’re writing YA fiction, you are selling head-to-head against Stephenie Meyer and Veronica Roth. Getting nice comments from your beta-readers is not enough, because – scary truth – everyone gets nice comments from their beta-readers, so do things properly. Hone your craft, say with a writing course. Get detailed feedback from professional, third-party editors like ours. Put your work in the way of people who are skilled at finding flaws, not too quickly generous with praise. There are a lot of different editorial services out there; from manuscript assessments to developmental editing. We obviously think ours are pretty good, but do check out what different types of editing have to offer. Some of them are damn expensive and best avoided. There’s one school of thought, which is that you may as well get your work out there. Make some sales, acquire some readers, and learn on the job. Well, maybe, but I think that’s the wrong attitude. I think the writers who succeed are the ones who want to put the best possible product out there always, every time. And indeed, in self-publishing, there’s a strong argument which says that book #1 in your series should be the best one you write. That’s the portal into your series. That’s the one which hooks fans and compels them to read on. If you write a dud Book #4, your core readers will forgive you and buy Book #5 anyway. If you write a dud Book #1, you won’t have any readers for anything else you write. Another way to look at the same thing: Great marketing + a lousy product = a lifetime of struggleSo-so marketing + a brilliant product = easy sales A great book is the foundation for everything else. So get it right. Build those foundations strong. They’re going to support your entire career. Step 2. Create A Strong Cover The cover is second in importance only to the book itself. If the cover doesn’t immediately appeal to your core reader, then that reader won’t even arrive on your first page to read a single word. You must get the cover right. Nothing less than perfect is enough. That means your cover needs to: Look good in thumbnail. The book must work at small scale. Designers always like showing you the hi-res version of their image, which is fine, it needs to look nice at scale, too. Still, your very first task is to shrink that right down and see if it works when tiny. Look good when compared with competing titles. I always copy that thumbnail sized image onto a screengrab of an Amazon search page, full of books written by my own direct competition. Then I ask: does my image look competitive on that page? If not, try again. Inform the reader instantly what kind of book it is. A YA dystopian cover should announce its YA dystopia instantly. A rom-com cover should be instantly interpretable as such. Yes, that means that those covers tend towards clichés, but in this case, that’s good. The first task of a cover is to say, “I am a book of this genre”, where said genre is a rom-com, or thriller, or romance, or whatever else you’re selling. Convey a mood or feeling. Readers typically buy books because of a hook and a feeling, e.g.: ‘It’s this book about an ordinary girl and vampire who fall for each other.’ That’s a hook plus a feeling, giving a reason to buy. A book cover can’t really convey the hook (that’s the job of your blurb), but it can and must convey the feeling. Those Twilight covers conveyed a general sense of dark, forbidden sexiness. That was all they needed to do, and they did it superbly. Generate questions, don’t close them off. Covers that answer questions don’t tempt readers in. Covers that prompt questions invite further exploration. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight cover is a good example. Why that girl? That apple? That black background? You instantly want to know more. If the cover had been pretty-girl-plus-hunky-vampire gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes, it would have sold some copies, but never have been the global hit it became. Similarly, your approach to your subject matters needs to be oblique and suggestive, not right on the nose. Use good quality images. That’s sort of obvious, but it’s common to see self-published books where the images look like (and almost certainly are) stock images from some free or low-cost image library. And they don’t look bad, exactly, they just look like stock images. They have a seen-it-before quality, death to your project of attracting a reader’s eye. If you need to pay money for a top-dollar image, then pay that money. Use good quality typography. Again obvious, but getting the typography (font styles, etc.) on a book is harder than it sounds. If a draft cover feels a tiny bit ‘off’ when you see it, then it is wrong. That feeling never lies. So once you know what you want to achieve, how do you achieve it? It’s strangely hard. You’d think getting a strong book cover was a reasonably mechanical process. You write a design brief. You hand it to a competent person. Boof, you get back a design that’s going to be anywhere from good to excellent. And, in my experience, it’s not really like that. I’ve had poor to mediocre covers from best-of-breed traditional publishers. I’ve had mediocre book covers from talented, award-winning freelancers. I’ve used competition type websites with results that were okay, but not utterly satisfactory. And, yes, I’ve also got some book covers that I’m totally happy with. So my recipe for success is as follows: Fire your Uncle Bob. Unless your friend, relative, etc., is a professional designer, that person is not right for you. And yes, you may save some money. But NASA would probably save some money by patching their rockets together from stuff found in a junkyard. There’s a reason they don’t do it. Use pros. You can go to competition type websites, of which 99Designs is the most prominent example. (Personally, I think you have to pay a lot of $$$ to get a good outcome from this, however.) You can go to outsourcing type sites like Fiverr or Upwork. You can search libraries of premade book covers for sale (for example, The Book Cover Designer. You can just Google around (search “book cover designers”) and look at different offerings. Or, simply design your own ebook cover. There are pros and cons to every avenue and in the end, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. You may blunder around a bit until you find the right solution for you, but that’s fine. This is a creative process and you may need to experiment before you get it right. Spend money. Just to be clear: the phrase “blunder around a bit” can mean “spend some money getting projects started with designers who looked really great (and are great, actually), just you didn’t like their initial designs and twigged things weren’t going to work out.” Don’t end up settling for almost-good, because you couldn’t bear to write off the $150 that you had to spend. Either invest again with the same designer to get something you’re happy with or close off that avenue and start again. Remember that your first cover will almost certainly be by far your most expensive. Once you’ve settled the look (the kind of image, the mood, the typography, etc.), the next batch of covers will be easy-peasy. Only work with people where you’re happy saying ‘no, not yet’. This is a crucial one. You must be happy with your cover. That means continuing to look at images, to work away at typographical niggles, until you’re genuinely delighted. If your designer charges you $90 an hour beyond a certain level of changes, or if your (talented, but not infinitely patient) Uncle Bob is just going to start rolling his eyes, then those people may not be right. You must feel okay with demanding perfection. And yes, that may mean being pushier than you normally like to be, but it also means working with someone where you can feel safe to be pushier. If you’re unsure, look up more tips on how to commission ebook cover designs, if you need. Now we turn to the book itself. Step 3. Create Your Ebook: ‘look Inside’ What is the front material there to do? For ebooks, there is only one answer: the front material is there to convert ‘Look Inside’ browsers to people who buy your book. It’s effectively a front door that has to look welcoming if you want to tempt readers inside. If your front-end material does not directly contribute to that goal, then it needs to go elsewhere. Yes, you may want to find room for your thanks, your copyright notices and all the rest. Those things don’t make people buy your book, though, so bury them at the back. The front of your e-book probably only needs: The cover – because you need it, and readers expect and want it. A title page – ditto. Formal proofs – that means any plugs from fellow authors, from newspaper reviews, or anything which tells readers, ‘Yes, serious, professional readers have read this book and rated it highly’. At the start of your career, you may struggle with those formal proofs, but that’s fine. All new authors are in the same position. Do what you can, but don’t fret too much. Social proofs – in other words, any comments from readers that tell people, ‘Yep, people like you have read and enjoyed this book.’ Social proof is quite possibly just as important, maybe more important, than any number of great notices in the New York Times Review of Books, and even as a newbie, you can accumulate social proofs. So go do it. And put those proofs up front where casual browsers can find them. Constant reminders about what your book is and what it offers. Remember that people who click on the ‘Look Inside’ feature may well only be browsing in quite a casual way. They’ll have sort of took in your cover design, sort of read your book description. Just as bookstore browsers flip books over to look at them in quite a casual way, though, so it is with people browsing on Amazon. You need to assume that these browsers haven’t intently studied anything. They are only two or three clicks away from buying something quite else. Hammer home your message, by carefully choosing formal and social proofs and other related text. My own ‘Look Inside’ text will try to remind readers that, “This is an exciting crime thriller featuring a really interesting female detective.” That proposition won’t appeal to all readers, but it should appeal to the kind of readers my book is aimed it. So make it clear. Keep it uppermost in the browser’s mind. Offer a freebie. I’m going to talk more about readers’ magnets and email lists in a later section of this post, so for now, just notice that I recommend you offer a freebie, a story available for readers to download for free, up at the front of your e-book. We’ll talk more about what and why soon. And plenty of text! The shorter your other front material, the more room you have to give readers what they really want, which is a taste of your book itself. Make sure that your first chapter is strong, and let readers get there fast! Step 4. Create Your Ebook: End Material If the front material in your e-book is there to persuade the browser to buy, the end material has a rather more complex set of functions. It should: Get your readers to buy another book from you.Get your readers to give you their email address.Build a real human bond between you and your reader.Encourage readers to write reviews.Make the extent and structure of your book series and other works really clear. The thinking here is simple. A reader has just finished your book. We have to assume they enjoyed it (if they didn’t, no marketing genius in the world will entice further sales.) So what next? Now is the moment to reach out and build a lasting bond between you and the reader. E-books that just finish without doing that are kind of like the door in the image: they kick you out onto the street, leaving a slightly disappointed feeling behind. E-books that look after the reader are far likelier to create a pool of keen buyers, who’ll come back to your work again and again and again. So how to achieve those happy results? Answer: Write an author’s note that feels personal. Make sure it’s full of your voice and personality, and directly thanks (perhaps even compliments) your readers. Invite participation Notably by encouraging readers to give you their email address in exchange for a free story from you. More on this shortly (and it’s key, you can’t miss this step). Be smart about offering those buy links. Remember that Apple won’t accept books with Amazon links in, so you can either (A) work exclusively with Amazon (probably the best bet for newcomers to indie-dom), (B) have a mobi (Kindle) file that is different from your epub (Apple, Google, Kobo, and everyone else) file, or (C) create a landing page like this to let readers choose their own store. Remember that e-readers are probably reading in an online environment where they can take instant action, meaning print books are a terrible model for how to put together your end-material. Web design is a better model. You want easy-to-access links in places where your readers may want to take actions enabled by those links. In other words, don’t just talk about other books in your series, make it simple for readers to buy those books on Amazon, Google, Kobo, wherever. Making it easy will make a huge difference to your conversions and that means making a difference to your pocket. Step 5. Format Your Ebook Don’t feel too fussed by this. Writing a great book, preparing inviting front material, developing material at the back of the book that seals the deal with the reader, those things matter. The rest is a technical exercise that you can either do yourself or outsource. It’s not expensive and easily done. So first, make sure that your Word file is in good shape to be converted. We’ve lots more advice if you need on how to format your ebook. (This section assumes that your MS is basically textual. If you are creating a design-led book that involves a lot of images, then Visme offers a great, simple, e-book creator. Did I mention that it’s free? Well, yes, it’s free.) Then, iff you’re working exclusively with Amazon (which, as I say, I recommend when starting out), then you can just upload your Word document to Amazon. It’ll make the conversion for you. And boom, that’s it. If you are distributing to all the e-stores, you’ll need an epub file, not just a mobi one. You can create that file yourself via simple online tools, Scrivener being one option (you pay for this, but it has loads of other features and loads of writers swear by it). Calibre is another. Apple users love Vellum. Some e-book distributors, for example Draft2Digital, offer free online tools that are very simple to use and come with no strings attached. Whatever route you take, just make sure that you preview the ebook before going live with it. All the those conversion tools offer previews, and just go through, checking every page. This is your product we’re talking about. Checking matters! Step 6. Want A Print Book? Then Sort That, Too. Most self-publishers will sell work in e-form, not book-form. My own e-sales are probably about fifteen times greater than hard-copy sales. (With my traditionally published work, the balance is much more even, or even leans more to print.) What’s more, print books are harder, more expensive to put together. You have much less control over the selling price. A lot of the promotional techniques that work brilliantly for ebooks don’t work as well for print. And so on. I say that to be honest, not to put you off. I sell several thousand self-published print books each year. I make a little over $3 per sale, so I end up with a satisfying amount in my pocket because of those sales. And I do nothing at all to promote those books. Nothing. All I do is promote my e-books actively and intelligently via the Kindle Store and elsewhere, and that visibility brings my work to the attention of some readers who think. ‘Hey, this looks good, but I’d rather have it in hard copy.’ And it’s easy enough to add a print element on to your offering. KDP offers a print option too. You’ll need a back jacket and spine design, as well as your front cover (but those things are easy, once you have the front sorted). The additional cost involved is minimal. You’ll also need interior formatting, to be sure your book looks lovely when laid out on the page. Don’t try to do that yourself – it’s harder than you think. Your best bet is an outfit, BB eBooks, which is based in Thailand and combines excellent experience and quality with Thai pricing. Once you have your cover and your text, you just upload them via KDP. Bingo. Worried about an ISBN? Don’t be. Ebooks don’t need one and most top-performing indies don’t bother with them at all. In terms of your print books, your print partner will sort out an ISBN for you. So, for example, if you create print books via Amazon KDP (your best starting option), Amazon will simply take care of it for you. Easy! Just remember, e-sales are likely to predominate by a large margin, and your print sales will only start to take off if your e-sales do. National or international distribution via bookshops is basically a fantasy, unless you have a traditional publisher to take care of that for you. Step 7. Build Your Website You know you need a website, but why? What do you want it to do for you? There are lots of flaky, fuzzy answers floating around the internet, and they’re almost all wrong. Some people will tell you: ‘Oh, it’s a key part of your brand. You need to build a platform.’ Really? Why? Most readers will surely just be happy with (a) the book, and (b) Amazon. Why do they need anything else? Or: ‘You need to make yourself discoverable by search engines.’ This is rubbish. Or it is if you’re writing fiction. Google-search and similar just doesn’t matter to most novelists. How could it? Here’s the one thing you need to know about your author website. Your website is there to collect reader’s email addresses. That is its purpose. That is why you have it. If it does that and almost nothing else, you’re doing fine. (Or, full disclosure, that’s true if you’re a novelist. If you’re writing non-fiction, then the truth may be a bit more complicated.) Yes, you will probably want a page for each one of your books. Yes, you probably want some kind of bio. Yes, you probably want a contact page. If you like writing blogs, you probably want a ‘news’ or ‘blog’ type page as well. Still, I can’t even remember the last time I posted on my author blog. I don’t make sales from my book-specific pages (I make them on Amazon.) The contact function is nice because it means readers can get in touch with me, but if I disabled the page, the world wouldn’t collapse and my sales would remain untouched. Your website is there to collect reader’s email addresses – and how does it do that? Well, the primary chain is simple. It’s this: You have a link in your e-book that says, “I’ve got a free story for you, please come and get it”.That links passes the reader to a page on your website that handles that story-for-email exchange.The reader gets your free story. You get a way to contact them in the future. That’s a fair exchange: you are, in a way, giving the reader something of more value than the thing they’re giving you. And it’s an honest one. You will make it clear that yes, you will retain that reader’s email address and sometimes make use of it, though only for matters directly related to your books. The way you structure that basic exchange is critical. Tiny differences in set-up will make a few percentage point impacts on your conversion rates, and, when cumulated, those little impacts can make a huge difference to the success of your campaign. Your ebooks need to take people to a page on your website that maxes the number of people downloading your story. Here is an example of a good page from my own website (and see what happens when you click the buttons – functionality matters). Key design points to consider are: Eliminate all in-site navigation. This page exists on my website and has completely normal navigation tools up at the top, excepting this page. On this page, I want people to click those buttons. I don’t want them to be distracted by any other good stuff I have on the site. This page has to say, “Either download the story, or close this page: there is nothing else to do, read, see here.” Have incredibly obvious calls to action. Giant orange buttons on a monochrome background works for me. Don’t ask for an email address straight away. It’s better to make it a two-stage process: (A) let the reader give you an order: “give me my freebie”, then (B) obey the command. And it just so happens that obeying that command involves collecting an email address. Around two thirds of visitors to my website end up leaving me their email address. They’re readers who have liked my work enough to buy it in the past, and to collect the free story I’ve offered. Those are the people who are likeliest to buy my work again in the future, and now I have a way to get in touch with them direct. Since you’re building a website, too, you may as well do the obvious bits right. Its branding should be synced with your books’ branding. The site should communicate what you are all about as an author as swiftly as your book covers do. Your site should be mobile responsive, so that it looks as good on a phone as it does on a PC or tablet. And so on. There are other bits and pieces to get right, but any half-way competent designer should do them fine. A few rules to follow are these: Pay that little bit extra for your own domain name. So pay for or Yes, is cheaper, but you’ll regret it in the long rum.Use WordPress. Wix and Squarespace and their like are cheaper in the short run, but they have vastly less power than WordPress. So again: think long term, not short term.WordPress needs a theme – a stylistic chassis, in effect – to hold your site together. I strongly recommend Parallax for Writers, because it’s great, it’s designed for you, and it’s crazy cheap.Learn a little bit of basic tech. You don’t have to be a tech wizard – I’m not – but if you know nothing, you’ll always have to go through someone else to make minor site tweaks which means that, after a bit, you won’t even bother. Your website doesn’t make you money directly, but it’s the launch pad – the blast station – for everything that follows. So build it good, and get ready for launch . . . Step 8. Create Your Readers’ Magnet OK, now listen up, because this stuff matters. We’re talking reader magnets. A reader’s magnet is a free story you give to your readers in exchange for their email address.You advertise the freebie in the front and back of your ebook to maximise the number of people who take you up on that incentive.You will then use the email list you build to bond with readers, launch books, boost promotions and, in general, to send you off, giggling, to the bank driving your own gold-plated Cadillac with a trunk stuffed with high denomination bills. To secure these outcomes, your reader magnet needs to be good. So be sure your story lives (broadly speaking) in the same fictional world as your for-sale novels. You can’t use a horror-fiction magnet as a lure for your fluffy romance readers, or vice versa. Be sure that your magnet is well-presented and has a lovely book cover. Obviously, you’re going to scatter plenty of links in your ebook (the front and back of it, not the actual text), so readers can’t miss the fact you have something free to offer. I also recommend you make at least some of those links visual (i.e. you use a book cover or similar) to invite the eye. Text links are great, and you should use those, but visual plus text beats text alone. That story you offer does not need to be a full-length novel. Anything from 5 to 15,000 words is fine. Just make sure it’s a satisfying piece of quality writing. Don’t cheat your reader. And that’s it. One story (a magnet) to attract readers and collect email addresses. That already sounds good, but in fact, as we’ll see, it’s going to form the absolute heart of your promotion strategy. Step 9. Mailing Lists And Other Technicalities Now we’ve got links in our e-books to take readers to your website, where the story-for-email exchange is made, but how does the actual plumbing of all that work? The answer is that you will need two tools. The first is Mailchimp (or any other mailing list provider.) They will store your email list, send mass emails, eliminate duplicates, handle the unsubscribe process, and plenty more. Some people find Mailchimp hard to use and prefer Mailerlite. If you are ambitious and tech-confident, you might want to use the more powerful Convertkit. The second is Bookfunnel, an outfit that makes the delivery of your free ebook (your reader’s magnet) unbelievably simple – both for you and for your reader. Both services are paid, but the money isn’t crazy. You’ll pay $100 a year for Bookfunnel, and Mailchimp is free until you hit 2,000 mailing list subscribers, and $20-30 monthly thereafter. Bookfunnel is so simple to use, you won’t need any help setting it up. In fact, I would be insulting you if I told you how to use Bookfunnel, so I won’t. (Phew. We’re still friends.) Integrating Mailchimp with your website could require help, depending how much you hate fooling around with that kind of thing, but don’t cut corners. Creating a smooth path for your readers is key. They need to: See a link in your ebook.Click over to a (navigation-free) landing page on your website.Hand over an email (to your Mailchimp mailing list).Be delivered a book via Bookfunnel. That’s all easy. If you need help with web bits, then get this. Again: all this set-up stuff can seem boring, but so is climbing up a long flight of steps. You’ve got to put the effort in, if you want the reward at the end. Rushing to publish too soon is the absolutely class, #1, gold-plated mistake that most indies make. Put in the effort, then enjoy the rewards. There’s a lot to take in, right?There is, yes. Self-publishing is more complicated than regular publishing, especially at the start. (Later on, it can actually seem simpler in many ways, especially if you hate giving up control.)But still: a lot to take in. A lot to do. And there’s this horrible (but accurate) sense that getting the detail right really matters.That’s kind of yikes!, right?Well, yes and no. Because the thing is we created an entire step-by-step video course that’s intended to be everything you need to know about getting set up as a self-publisher. That course is super-premium, which is a fancy way of saying (a) really high quality, and (b) scarily expensive. (You can see the $$$ here.)So don’t buy the course!That’s right: don’t buy it.It’s a great course, but it’s expensive, and you’re on budget, so – don’t buy it.After all, why buy, when you could rent? For a crazy-cheap (and cancel-any-time) monthly fee, you can become a member of Jericho Writers – a club designed for writers just like you.Quite simply, we aim to give members as much as we possibly can. An insane amount of value for as little as we can possibly charge. Think of us as a kind of Netflix for writers.So members get unlimited access to our self-publishing course.And unlimited access to a whole heap of filmed masterclasses, including some brilliant ones on self-publishing.And filmed interviews with authors and agents and publishers. And an incredibly supportive community. And live webinars from top experts on all the topics that matter most to you.Why so much? And why so much for so little? Well, that’s easy.We’re writers too, and we built our club for writers like you, writers like us. You can find out more about joining us here. We really hope you do. Step 10. Social Media: Why You Can (Mostly) Ignore This A lot of writers worry that self-publishing is going to be all about bigging yourself up on social media. Endless tweets, endless bragging Facebook posts. And it’s not. It’s not. Those things don’t work. They’re a waste of time. They’re horrible to do. I do have a Twitter account and an author page on Facebook, but I don’t get book sales via either route. (I have a Twitter account mostly because that makes it easy for Twitterholics to contact me if they want. Some of those contacts have proved of real value. I also have an author page on Facebook because a traditionally publisher once told me I had to have one. I got one, and neither they nor I ever used it.) Nor do you need to blog. Although I do blog here, I hardly ever blog about author things on my own website. And if I do, that’s because I feel like doing it. Actual book sales deriving from those blogs are trivial. There will be categories of author where social media does really matter. If you’re a fashion blogger wanting to sell books, you’ll need an Instagram following, and so on. It’s also true that social media can be a great way to network with fellow authors and influential bloggers in your niche. Those relationships are worth fostering but they’re not, directly, to do with selling books at all. For most of us, the big news is this: If you hate social media and want nothing to do with it, you can still sell books very effectively on Amazon. If you don’t want to blog routinely or do the work involved in building a large following, that’s fine, too. It doesn’t matter. To be clear, there are exceptions. In particular, if you build a strong audience on Facebook, you will make your FB advertising life a lot, lot easier.  If you’re interested in doing that, the rules are: Stay narrowly focused on your audience and their interests. Don’t ever stray from that core.Quality posts and interactions beat quantity. Post good stuff when you have something good to say.Be recognisable. When people scroll down their feeds you want them to know it’s your content straight away. Instasize is a great app for editing your images and keeping them on brand.If/when you have a decent FB following, you should pay to boost your launch post / promo posts.You can also think about advertising to your FB audience to support your email and boosted post campaigns. These are later stage tactics, though, and you can safely ignore these for now. If you’re nervous of getting involved in all that stuff, though, don’t be. Just forget about. You don’t need it. (For now.) Step 11. How To Choose Categories (Bisac Codes) On Amazon When a bookshop shelves your book, they need to choose where to shelve it. With romance? With crime? With general fiction? With health and beauty? Or what? It’s the same with Amazon, except that Amazon has far more categories. When you upload your book to Amazon (which is easy, and has become easier) you will see a little box prompting, and you need to choose categories highly relevant to your book. It’s important to understand the reason for this. You’re not choosing categories because you want to help Amazon with its filing. You are choosing categories in order to sell more books. Amazon has an overall bestseller list, of course, but it also has a massive range of sub-bestseller lists – for things like “Fiction > Crime” or “Fiction > Mystery & Detective > International Mystery & Crime”. Readers like perusing those lists, and Amazon likes to direct them there. If you can get on your chosen lists, your book will get more eyeballs, and all the clever stuff we’ve already put in place will convert those browsers into buyers. You need to choose categories by thinking of bestseller lists you’d most like to be on, and which you have a realistic chance of appearing on. That’s the whole deal right there. That’s (almost) all you need to know about choosing categories. For newer authors, it’s better to target rather more niche lists – in my case, “International Mystery & Crime” is more niche than “Fiction & Crime”. It won’t get as many viewers, but my chances of sitting close to the top of the list and staying there for a time outweighs that issue. Also – pro tip here – if you are picking a sub-category (eg: international mystery & crime), you are automatically entered in the relevant parent category (in this case, mystery & detective). So don’t waste your second category choice by entering the parent category as well as the child. Until you have a little experience of your book, your genre, your sales, you are largely guessing as to which lists to target. But at least you know what you’re doing here. If you are already published, then check out your Also Boughts to understand what kind of readers you have – what other books they like. You can use Goodreads or other online book recommendation tools to achieve the same kind of thing. Two last things on this topic: Amazon now uses the term ‘categories’ for this selection process. It used to talk about BISAC codes, a hoary old library classification system. You may come across both terms being used, but don’t worry about it. They’re the same thing.You need to read this section, on categories, in conjunction with the one that follows, on keywords. It’s when you put those two things together that the magic happens. Step 12. How To Choose Keywords On Amazon When you come to upload your book, Amazon will ask you to give it seven keywords that describe your book. (As you’ll see, some of those keywords can be two or three word phrases. That’s fine, but the term keyword is still used.) So far, so easy. Whilst categories have only one role (they let you choose what bestseller lists to target), Amazon keywords have two roles to play, and they both matter. Those keywords let you: Choose what sub-bestseller lists to target.Choose what thematic searches to target. Take the first of those things. When you look at the overall Amazon bestseller list, you’ll see that there are 330,000 or so mystery and detective books available for sale. If you’ve targeted that list, you might be a little nervous. You think your book is good, but do you really want to fight off 329,999 other bad-asses? What you need to do is break that group of 330,000 titles down into manageable sub-units, and if you click on the relevant broad category, you’ll see Amazon has given you a host of more manageable sub-units or mini-bestseller lists. Under ‘Moods & Themes’, for instance, I’m given various boxes to check under words like ‘Action-packed’, ‘Horror’, ‘Racy’, ‘Noir’, and more words to define the feel of my book. Under ‘Characters’, I’m given ‘Female Protagonists’, ‘British Detectives’, and so on. And something magical happens. Counting the number of books allocated to Amazon categories I want, the book count – i.e. your competition – goes down. More than half your competition disappears, just because authors and publishers haven’t chosen keywords that pin down good books into relevant sub-categories. (Recent changes have removed those numbers from the Amazon site, so you can’t now check what I’m saying. It’s still true, however!) Now you’re not going to get caught in that disappearing act, because you’re going to do this: Pick your broad category,Go to the relevant Amazon bestseller listFinding out which sub-categories might be relevant to your work. (You are looking at the left hand sidebar for this.)Pick out all the sub-categories which might apply to your workUse those sub-category titles as your keywords Obviously, it’s important that you don’t cheat at this, or your readers will feel cheated, too. So if your book isn’t racy, don’t use that keyword just because you feel you could clamber onto that list. If you see a sub-category where your readers are likely to gather, then jump on it. That’s it. Oh and the best way to find bestseller lists is just to enter ‘Books’ or ‘Kindle Store’ in the dropdown box on the Amazon search bar, and then, leaving the search bar blank, hit enter. Since the search bar is blank, Amazon knows you want to look for books but doesn’t know which books you want, so it just takes you to its default book navigation page. You want to explore the left-hand sidebar. That little baby is your friend. A useful pro tip here is that you can use multi-word phrases as your keywords, and every word counts. So for example, my sub-categories include options like Dark, Disturbing, Noir. My books tick all those boxes, so I could use three keywords to scoop up those terms … or, much better, I could have “Dark Disturbing Noir” as one keyword, and keep my powder dry. Keywords are best used in this sub-category extension way, but remember that people use Amazon’s search engine in multiple different ways. So people can find books in at least four ways: Author name (“Harry Bingham)Book title (“Talking to the Dead”)Series name (“Fiona Griffiths series”)General search (eg: “Murder mystery novels”) Now although it seems obvious you want to scoop up general search enquiries, it’s very doubtful that you’ll actually get a ton of sales from that route. Yes, “Gripping thriller” might seem like a great keyword, but if there’s any traffic on that term, it’s most unlikely that you’ll appear anywhere near the top of an Amazon search page. And if there’s no great traffic on the term, you won’t get any sales anyway. So don’t spend too much time on your general search terms, but for what it’s worth, here are the guidelines: Make a list of possible keywords – at least 12-15 if you want to do this properly.Start to type the first few characters into Amazon’s search barTake a look at the autocomplete suggestions, and adjust your terms if Amazon is nudging you towards a slightly different version of your search term.Then actually look at the page of results that comes up. Check out the bestseller rank of the lowest ranked book. If that book is #5000 on the overall bestseller lists, it’s a pretty safe bet that your work will never meaningfully appear for that search term. If the lowest ranked book is #50,000, then you have a decent chance of appearing on that list, at least during launch/promo periods. If the lowest ranked book is #500,000 or below, then you can pretty much bet that there’s not enough traffic on this search term for you to care much about it anyway. To sum up this section: Choose categories according to what overall bestseller list you want to appear on. (Important)Choose keywords first according to what sub-bestseller lists you want to appear on. (Important)Choose keywords next according to what you think your readers will be searching for. (Not important) The whole exercise might take an hour or two, but can generate steady sales for years to come. Step 13. How To Price Your E-book On Amazon Pricing is scary, but also easy. The data you need: Free e-books get more downloads than paid ones.77% of readers who download free work also buy paid work.Amazon offers two royalty bands of 70% and 35%. You get the 70% royalty if you price inside $2.99 – $9.99. Anywhere else, you get 35% royalty.Indie authors tend to price work (excluding free and promotional material) in the $2.99 – $4.99 range.It’s the same broadly for Amazon Publishing. That fact is relevant, because no one is going to be smarter than Amazon at interpreting data from pricing experiments. If $5.99 is their ceiling (and it is), then it should be yours. And that, really is all you need to know. Your price envelope is basically $0.00 to $4.99. (Some niches may vary, though, so always check against your own genre.) Now, pretty obviously, we don’t love $0.00 sales as much as we love $4.99 sales, but we’re going to use the cheap or free pricing, in a kind of Amazon ju-jitsu, to maximise our $4.99 sales. Free books get you readers. They build your fanbase. They make no money.$0.99 books get you lots of readers (but fewer than free). They make a bit of money, but not much. Sell a $0.99 e-book and you make $0.35. Sell a $2.99 e-book (at that higher 70% royalty rate) and you make $2.09, so you have to sell 6 times as many of the cheaper books to make as much.$1.99 books are kind of pointless. They’re too expensive to attract freebie readers, and they’re too cheap to get the 70% royalty. Just don’t price at that price point.You make money by pricing between $2.99 and $4.99. That’s where the money is. Where exactly you pitch your wares depends on all kinds of things. Do you want to aggressively grow your business in the longer term (while sacrificing some short-term revenues)? Then price at $2.99. Do you want to harvest your existing success? Then price at $4.99. Are your readers generally younger, or poorer? Then price low. Are your book buyers generally more affluent? Then price a little higher. Can’t decide? Then price at $3.99 which is an excellent compromise. Now we need to do two things. We need to get readers into our sales funnel – into our series – at the kind of price that won’t put anyone off (ie: $0.00 or $0.99), then use the love and commitment we’ve generated with our amazing writing to sell lots more books at $4.99. In short: You need to offer a free or highly discounted ($0.99) book to get readers into your universe. Without an existing fanbase, you have few other routes to this happy outcome.You need to have full price ($2.99 to $4.99) work that puts some money in your pocket. Those of you competent at mathematics will notice that I’m telling you to write two books to sell one. And yes, I am saying that. Except that, as you write more over time, that one free book will start leading readers into a larger pool of paid work. So you’ll be using one free book to sell two, then three, then four, then ten full-price ones. Also, those of you supremely gifted at mathematics will also have noticed that I’ve told you that: You have to give away a reader’s magnet, a roughly 10,000-word short story, for example, in order to collect emails. You need to write two books and one lengthy short story or novella to sell one book. Really? Well, yes, really. You are selling a series, not selling a book. If you understand that fully, your selling efforts will be vastly more successful over the long run. Step 14. How To Launch Your Free E-book I hope I’ve persuaded you that it’s worth giving away a book for free. Your purpose is to attract the greater downloads, to acquire fans. And it’s to get the email addresses of those fans so that you can contact them when you have a new book to share. There are four broad methods for doing this. Old articles never leave the internet, so you’ll see old advice that appears authoritative, but things change and change fast. Some of those older methods just look limp or expensive or awkward compared with more recent ones, so do read all of this section before you make your pick. So. Method 1: Just Give Your Book Away For Free Everywhere What you’re going to do here is upload your book on Amazon (at $2.99, or whatever), then upload it to Google, and Apple, and Kobo, and everywhere else, too. It’s too annoying to do that second part yourself, so you get an outfit like Smashwords or Draft2Digital to do it for you. They’ll charge a kind of agency fee on any revenues you make, but pay it. It’s money well-spent. Then, via your distributor, you simply make the Apple-Google-Kobo price $0.00. That’s easy-peasy. You just do it. Amazon doesn’t like free. (It’s a shop and it likes selling things.) Look at your book page, though, and scroll down to the Product Details section. You should see at the bottom there a little rubric (with contact links) that looks like this: “Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates to the product page?” Well, yes, you would like to tell Amazon about a lower price, so tell them. Report that lower price using the automated tool. I also recommend contacting Amazon more directly via the contact page on the KDP site. Say something like this: “I’m a serious and long-term author, looking to build fans for my work or series. I’ve made this book available for free through other stores, including Apple, Kobo, Google etc. I would really like it if you would consider making the book free on your store as well. And, to be clear, my long-term aim is to sell a lot of work, at full price, through your store. I very much appreciate your help.” They won’t guarantee to help. It’s not automatic. Their response is variable in terms of outcomes and timings, but you’re probably fine. Fingers crossed. The results can be very good. I did a freebie in January 2016 using roughly this method. I notched up about 10,000 downloads in the first week, through Amazon alone. Other e-stores were additional. Some further downloads followed (though at a much lower rate). And of course, my mailing list took a terrific jump upwards and I got plenty of emails and reviews from readers telling me that they loved that first book so much, they wanted to jump right into the rest of the (paid) series. Method 2: Give Your Book Away On Amazon Only (For A Limited Period) If you agree to work exclusively with Amazon – by enrolling in KDP Select – you will enjoy the ability to schedule Kindle Countdown promotions, which give you the opportunity to price your book cheaply, or for free, for 7 days in every 90 day period. Amazon will promote those deals itself and, if you go for the $0.99 option, you’ll still be on a 70% royalty (rather than the normal 35%). If you are exclusive to Amazon, and I think the default choice for new authors is probably to go exclusive as you learn the ropes, then you should use these opportunities fully. (I wouldn’t ever discount for seven continuous days, however. You’ll find that any sales surge quickly tamps down. You’re better off doing one three day and one four day promotion spaced about 1.5 months apart.) To be clear, though, these short one-off promotions are not really the same as the ‘perma-free’ option we’re mostly talking about. If you want a ‘perma-free’ book, you are probably making that one not Amazon-exclusive, pricing it free elsewhere, then coming back to Amazon as per Method 1 above. Method 3: Give Your Stuff Away Via Facebook Ads This approach had a real surge in popularity recently, but it’s a strange one, I think. With other approaches in this section, you pay nothing (or little) to give your work away for free. With the Facebook approach, you pay real money to acquire each new reader. You literally place ads on Facebook that say (in effect) “Hey, come and get your free book (but you’ll need to give me your email address to get it.)” And as a method of getting readers, it works, but that new reader of yours might be a flake. They might or might not read your free giveaway. They might or might not go on to buy other books in your paid series. The arithmetic looks like this: Unit revenue from your free giveaway: $0.00Unit cost of acquiring those readers: $0.50 (or something like that)Your profit per reader: -$0.50 That arithmetic does not look attractive to me, but it is possible to make things work, if: You’re very good at managing your Facebook ads, so you target the right readers and keep your costs per click down very low.You’re very good at coaxing giveaway-readers into your paid-readership. That normally involves further little free gifts and a strong series of automated emails aimed at shifting kinda-interested readers into committed ones.You’ve a long tail of paid work to sell because, of course, the more you have to sell, the higher the expected long-term revenue that will be generated by each new reader. The people who succeed with Facebook ads do tend to have a lot of work to sell and they work hard and intelligently at managing their ad campaigns – which is all fine. All the same, do you want to be an ad manager or a writer? If (like me) you think the business of managing a Facebook ad portfolio could quickly become wearisome, there are probably better ways to do this. The one real exception I can think of applies to new writers who do have some cash to spare who just want to get on and do it. Instead of following my (very organic) sales method, where each new book just expands the mailing list and readership ready for the next one, you could just invest (say) $3,000 in basically buying 6,000 reader emails. Just be aware that paid-for emails will have a lower conversion rate than freebie ones. I assume about 1/3. Method 4: Use Book Promo Sites To Shift Your Work The best method, however, is to use book promotion sites to get your work out into new hands. There are two big ways to do this. One is via book discount sites. These sites have built large reader databases and they email their readers, saying, in effect, “Hey, these great books are on promotion.” You can build surges of attention to your work – and these tools can work very well indeed. The info you need about these sites can be found via Nicholas Erik here. Use those tools! Especially for newer indies, they are an indispensible way to get the word out. An excellent additional support is Prolific Works (formerly Instafreebie.) Those guys have good email lists themselves, but they also have great tools for collaborating with other author and cross-promoting work there. And I’m not going to tell you how to use that site here, because I’ve already told you in detail in this blog post right here. One indie author, J.N. Chaney, who has used both Facebook ads and Prolific/Instafreebie reports these results: “I just scaled back my Facebook Lead Ads. I still use them, but I’m now seeing better results with a lower price tag using Instafreebie. … My Facebook budget for that ad was $23 per day yielding an average of 49 subscribers per day at an average CPL [Cost Per Lead] of $.51. … Instafreebie is $20 per month yielding an average of … 84 subscribers per day at a CPL of $.0076. Not even joking. (It could have been 129 per day had I figured out that I need to require an email address to download.)” I also moved on from Facebook. I use Instafreebie myself, and it’s worked very well for me. Yeah, there’s a lot to think about isn’t there?So think about joining Jericho Writers and getting a TON of really classy learning materials that take you step by step through the whole process. I’m not going to give you a heavy sell. I’m just going to say that we built our Jericho Writers club for people like you, and you should think about joining us. You can find out all the details here, and we’d absolutely love it if you went ahead and joined us. Step 15. How To Launch Your Paid Book On Amazon KDP We’re there. We’ve done all our prep work. We have written a great book. Commissioned a great cover. Got great front and end material. We’ve written our reader’s magnet. We’ve got our website and other bits of plumbing in place. We’ve sorted out our metadata (our BISAC categories and keywords). We’ve figured out our pricing. We’ve got some initial names on our mailing list, probably because we’ve made use of Instafreebie or other tools to distribute free samplers of our work. And now we want to launch our first proper paid-for book on Amazon. We don’t just want readers. We want money. Good. (We need to live.) Now here’s a simple launch strategy for you to follow: Upload your book to Amazon, Apple, Google, and everywhere else.Send an email to your mailing list to tell them your book is now available for sale.That’s it. Have a drink, go for a long walk, take a nap. You’re probably thinking, you have got to be kidding, there must be more to it than that. Must there? On the one hand, yes, there are advanced strategies out there – and they make sense – but mostly, no. Follow this and you’ll do just fine, so long as your books are good. You can’t sell bad books. And the ultimate reason for the success of this strategy has to do with Amazon’s sales rank algorithm. That algorithm is crucial, but it involves just a tiny bit of arithmetic, so bear with me. Every book (indeed, every product) on Amazon’s system has a score which is made up of how many units you sold today, plus half the units you sold yesterday, plus a quarter of the units you sold the day before that, plus an eighth of the units you sold before that, and so on. A score is calculated for every book on the system. Those scores are placed in order. And, bingo, what you’ve got is Amazon’s sales rank. That piece of information is astoundingly important. Why? It tells you that short term movements in sales are intensely influential in determining overall rank. Let’s say you want to hit #100 in the Kindle bestseller lists. Good target, right? Well, you have broadly two ways to get there: You can sell (roughly) 500 e-books every day for a month, or you can sell (roughly) 1000 e-books in a single day. The first of those things is very hard to achieve. How, after all, would you even do it? Maybe a massive (and expensive) Facebook ads campaign could do it, but you’d end up spending a lot more than you were earning back. The second of those things, the big, one-off pulse in sales, is easy to achieve. And you already know how to do it. You just contact your mailing list and tell them, ‘Hey guys, I’ve got a new book out!’ They like your stuff now, so phrase it well, and they’ll look to buy your book. (On my last launch, 30% of my mailing list bought my book within eight hours of me sending the email.) And bingo! That’s your sales surge right there. The sales surge powers you right up the Amazon sales charts. All the good stuff you did with categories and keywords means your book will get to be visible right where it needs to be: in the exact places that your potential readers are browsing. All the good stuff you did with covers and your Look Inside section means those browsers will convert into readers. And those guys are new readers. They aren’t buying your book because they were on your mailing list. They’re buying your book because they were casually browsing, but you managed to ensure that your book was under their noses when they were doing so. You’ve just expanded your readership. And that’s good. But it gets better. Because all the lovely stuff you did with the end material of your book means that your new one-time readers will soon turn into your committed fans. They’ll join your mailing list and expand your reach for the next time you play this game. And that is the whole secret of successful self-publishing on Amazon. You turn that wheel and keep it turning, with book launch after book launch. If your work is strong enough to keep your readers reading, your sales will only increase from cycle to cycle. STEP 16. THE LONG TERM: WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE? This (uber-massive) post has revealed the basic art of self-publishing success – but, believe it or not, it’s still something of a starter guide, a basic template. As you get your self-publishing career properly started, you’ll soon start to think about some broader questions, for example: How often am I going to publish a new book? Me, personally, I’m very old school. I write one book a year and can’t see myself going much faster than that. Loads of indie-publishers will aim to write and publish a book every three months. If anything, the trend is for writers to try and bring that down to one every two months. The more you write then (probably) the more money you’ll make, but you’re not just in this game for the money. You want a nice life, and you want to be artistically proud of your books, so where do those things settle for you? Are your current writing rhythms capable of change or are you happy where you are? What do I do between launches? The mailing list-driven, sales-spike approach works well to promote your book on launch and you’ll enjoy a lovely month or two of elevated sales as that book floats gently down the rankings. That still leaves plenty of months where your book sales spitter-spatter along at the rate of a few books per title per day. How do you gee things up there? Well, as I say, there are five basic add-on techniques that you will start to use as you build out your series. They are: Price promotions, combined with Kindle Countdown deals (if you’re Amazon exclusive) and juiced up with the support of one or more book promotion sites. (Info here.) You should look to build this technique into your selling process as soon as you feel ready.Amazon Advertising. A cranky system has become less cranky and more powerful. You can place Amazon ads on Amazon itself, so you are buying the attention of book browsers direct in-store. That’s great, but (a) Amazon ads are now quite expensive if you don’t have plenty of books in your series, and (b) they are desperately hard to scale. You should find it relatively easy to make some money each month via Amazon Ads, but a lot of money? I don’t think anyone anywhere manages that.Cross-promos with other authors. Find those authors via Prolific Works or Bokfunnel. Team up with them. Cross promote each other’s work. Make money. This is also easy and a strong way to make sales and build your email list. (Pro tip: don’t team up with anyone who’s not in your genre. You want to keep your email list full of core readers, otherwise you’ll confuse Amazon’s marketing robots.)Bookbub ads. A very powerful tool once you get it working for you. Read Dave Gaughran’s book. Subscribe to his newsletter. Do as he says.Facebook ads. Extremely powerful, especially if you have strong website traffic or a busy Facebook page. FB’s ad system is complex however, and it’s easy to lose money. Use this as the final element in your marketing system, not the first. Are you going to be Amazon-only? Or sell your work everywhere? You can go either way on this or, indeed, vary your approach. The Amazon-only approach has some advantages in that: (A) it’s easy to manage, (B) you enjoy sales via KDP Select that would otherwise be closed to you, and (C) Amazon is so dominant that you’re accessing most of the market anyway. And against that? Well, there are other retailers and they’re keen to make sure that they don’t totally lose out on the indie-publishing boom. Some prominent indie authors get a full 50% of their writing income from the non-Amazon stores, which they’ll achieve using techniques additional to the ones described in this post. With those other retailers, you don’t win via an approach of fire-and-forget, and where you stand on this decision is up to you. There are prominent voices on both sides of the fence. I strongly urge newer indies to go Amazon exclusive at the start. Once you’ve got a few books out and are hitting, say, $10,000 in annual revenues, you have a decision to make. Till then, stick with Uncle Jeff Bezos. And don’t worry. Copyright remains with you no matter what. If you ever want to remove your books from Amazon, you’ll still own the copyright to do with as you please. How do you strike a balance between writing and managing your business? Personally, I don’t do much business management at all. Most of my mailing list growth is organic: people like my books and sign up. I make enough money with my current approach and I just don’t particularly want to spend my time fiddling around with Facebook ads and the like. You may feel differently. You’ll have to figure out the balance that’s right for you. You might want to outsource some tasks to third parties. You might want to do it all yourself. A classic small businessperson’s dilemma. Do I need a literary agent? Once upon a time, that would have seemed like a strange question. You’re an indie author, right? You’ve turned your back on that whole traditional superstructure – except things do change. If you do well in English language markets, literary agents have a role to play in selling those additional rights. Foreign language sales. Film and TV. Audio. Or maybe you want to go for the full traditional publication with some portion of your portfolio? Or in one specific national market, such as the UK? If you’re not thinking about these things yet, you will probably want to do so in time. And that’s it – the ultimate (starter) guide to self-publishing on Amazon. It’s not comprehensive. There’s more to tell – but, this being a starter guide, you have what you need right here on how to self-publish with Amazon. (And if you found it all helpful, do click to tweet: The Ultimate Guide to Self Publishing on Amazon. (We hope!) If there are techniques working for you we haven’t covered, which you think others should really be adopting, drop us a line. We’d love to hear. As ever, best of luck, and happy writing! Huh? You waited till now to learn more about our Jericho Writers club?Jeepers. Some people. But OK. Here’s the link. About the authorHarry Bingham has been a pro author for twenty years and more. He’s been trad published and self-published, and hit bestseller lists via both routes. He’s also had his work adapted for the screen, has had a ton of critical acclaim, and been published all over the world. (More about Harry, more about his books.)
Read more

How To Price An Ebook

The Publishing Industry Is In A State Of Change New authors face, for the first time, a real question about whether it makes sense to approach the market by the traditional agent and publisher route, or whether to go it alone. For now, I think most authors still need the resources and experience of proper publishers. There are some striking exceptions, of course, but it’s still notable how many self-published authors end up working with the biggest firms (E.L. James and Random House, for example.) But it’s still vital to understand this new market. And one of the most critical interrelationships is that between the price of an ebook and the eventual sales. I’ve just come across this chart, which is the best thing I’ve ever seen on that topic. What the chart says very simply is: price too high and you throttle sales. Price too low and you give away money without any addition to sales. (My guess is that readers assume, correctly, that a $0.99 ebook is often not going to be much good.) There’s a weird twist here, however. Traditional publishers are deeply reluctant to sell books at the $2.99 level. Although they might boost sales on an individual title by pricing low, they can’t boost sales overall by slashing prices because, in the end, a reader is only going to buy and read so many books a year. So there’s a curious way in which traditional authors are inhibited by their publishers. The most obvious and proven method of increasing sales (and readers) is to cut the ebook price … yet that’s the method least favoured by publishers. I still think that regular publishing is the best move for most authors. That’s not mere talk. I’ve got a non-fiction project that I’m tinkering with and am trying to figure out whether to sell it via my agent or whether to publish it myself online. I’ve not finally decided, but I’m inclining to go the conventional route. Like I say though, these things are moving all the time. The right answer today may well not be the right answer in a year’s time. As the Bard remarks, Don’t speak too soon, cos the wheel’s still in spin, and there’s no telling who that it’s naming. (And no, not that bard, this one.)
Read more

How to format your ebook

We want all our writers to have access to readers and we’re not snobby about self-publication. Self-publishing is easier now than it’s ever been, but there are some mysteries involved, the thought of which can put some people off. So we’ve cherry-picked the finest talent to assist in your journey. Today, we have guest blogger Ben Bryant to tell you how to format your Word document so as to simplify the digital conversion process. I have worked with Harry Bingham on his past few novels, formatting them into ebooks, specifically the two most common file types, namely Kindle’s mobi and ePub, which is the file type widely accepted by most other ebook distributors, including Apple. He has asked me for some tips to help other writers publish in ebook formats. The following advice is basically a list of ‘good practice’ whether it be preparing a Word document for sending to a conversion service or self-formatting a Word document for direct upload to an ebook store’s automated conversion system. Firstly, simplicity is key. The beauty of an ebook file is that the same file can be read on hundreds of different devices from desktop computers to tablets and mobile phones. Device manufacturer and operating system make no difference, the file can be read on all. Although the file can be read, it won’t always display as intended, particularly if the formatting is complex and you are using an older device. Though newer e-reader devices or apps can deal with complex formatting, such as multiple column layouts and tables, there are hundreds of thousands of older devices still in use. You need to ensure that your book reads as intended on all devices so avoid complex layouts such as multiple columns on each page, text wrapping images, text boxes and drop-caps. This next point may sound ridiculous to some people, but you will be surprised how often I come across it. Do not use the space-bar or the tab key to centre text. Multiple space-bar keystrokes and tabs are ignored by e-reader devices, so you will find your text back on the left. Instead just use the ‘centre text’ button on Word’s Home tab. There are at least three common ways to create indents in a Word document, however only one is understood by e-reader devices. Do not use multiple space-bar keystrokes to create indents, for the reasons mentioned above. Likewise, the use of the tab key is also ignored by e-reader devices. The correct way to create indentions is to set the indentation using paragraph styles. Just expand the paragraph options on Word’s Home tab and select the indent type and size you require. I recommend indents of less than 1cm as e-reader screens can be quite small and a 1cm indent can look excessive. You can use multiple paragraph returns to space out paragraphs but ensure that you use a page-break at the end of each chapter. This ensures that your next chapter will start at the top of a new page. You should not add headers or page numbers. Every e-reader device will automatically create headers based on the book title and/or author name. Page numbers are generated by the e-reader device itself. Note also that your book will vary in number of pages depending on the screen size of the device and the user’s font size settings. It is therefore unwise to refer to specific page numbers within the body text of your manuscript. Following on from my previous point regarding pages, footnotes do not work in ebooks, as you cannot be sure where the page break will fall. Instead you can use endnotes, either at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the book. There is no problem including images in an ebook, however there is a significant issue that needs to be considered when selling through Amazon, namely delivery fees. Unlike other ebook sellers Amazon charges you, the author/publisher, a delivery fee every time your book is purchased and downloaded. This fee is based on file size. The more images you use, the larger the file will be and the higher the delivery charge. The issue is further complicated by Amazon’s royalty structure where if you select the 30% royalty option, they waive the fee. You can factor the delivery fee into your ebook’s list price but if it is a large file and you wish to sell it cheaply this may not be the best solution. You will need to weigh up which royalty option works out best for you, based on the price you wish to charge for your ebook and its file size. It sounds a little complicated but more info can be found here. Here is a short list of body text settings that result in good ebook conversions: Use a standard font such as Times New Roman, Georgia or Arial.Use a point size of 10, 11 or 12 for the main body text.Use black text.Avoid line spacing greater than 1.5.Use standard margins.Do not use leading or kerning as these will be ignoredIf you wish to highlight particular words or sentences, use only basic formatting tools such as bold, italic and caps. The above tips cover the essentials when preparing your work for ebook formats. All ebook sellers will have their own list of requirements for the files you submit to them and many still will not accept Word documents for automatic conversion. Some that do, such as Smashwords, have further stipulations such as limitations on font colours, restrictions on indentation options and the requirement to credit them as publishers. A quick Google search should provide you all the info you need on your retailer of choice. Unfortunately creating an ebook from a Word document can still be a bit hit-or-miss as the process is an automated one. This is why many people employ people like me to create their books using html code. If you have any questions about this article or have other ebook-related queries, you can comment below or reach me via my website or email address below. I hope this short guide comes in useful. All the best with your literary ventures. Ben no longer formats ebooks for clients, but you can find paid services such as Word-2-kindle’s service, just by Googling around. Search for “ebook formatting services” and take your pick. Be sure to go for a service that allows for no-added-cost revisions. A regular novel should cost an absolute maximum of $100.
Read more

Why a bestselling author chose to self-publish

Guest author and blogger William Kowalski is a bestselling, traditionally published author. He’s shared with us here why he’s chosen to self-publish. This is a tale of two worlds, two centuries, two distinct epochs in the history of publishing, and one author – that’s me – who stands with a foot planted firmly in each age, a devil-may-care grin on his slightly-exhausted-but-still-boyishly-optimistic features, doing his best to appear as if he knows what he’s doing and hoping like hell no one figures out he hasn’t a clue. And it contains, at the end, an Amazing Discovery, certainly the most amazing discovery of my authorial career. Our brave author (that’s me again) is heading out of the familiar and comforting land of Traditional Publishing, wistful for the old days but mature enough to realize that they are gone forever. He is striking out into the frightening wilderness of Self-Publishing, which is not only scary in and of itself but also seems to involve a neverending foray into the even more frightening world of The Internet, that vast space filled with pictures of cute kittens, videos of baby monkeys riding backwards upon pigs, and approximately 1.9 squillion other self-published books. How did all this happen? How did this come to be? Our intrepid author (hi!) remembers all too well the luminous glow that surrounded him during what he realizes now were the last days of a glorious age, in the final moments of the twentieth century. When he was just a stripling of twenty-eight, you see, he wrote a book, and some Important Publishing People said to him, “What’s that? You’re completely unknown, have no platform from which to promote yourself, might not ever produce a second book, and aren’t even thirty years old? Well, in that case, we’d like to dump this large bucket of money on your head.” Well, said our author modestly, you may certainly go right ahead and do that. He rather thought, in his youthful optimism, that things were always going to be that way. They say the worst thing that can happen to a man is to win a lot of money on a horse race at an early age. A similar statement might be made about young writers who publish the first novel they attempt to write. Our young author moved to New York and took up the business of living just like a Real Writer. It was great fun: cigarettes and smoky bars (you could smoke places then), cool artists, trendy openings, literary cocktail parties. Then came big box bookstores and the home entertainment revolution; then 9/11, George W. and his wars; and then the crash of 2008. All of it was reminiscent of a long, long water slide with no end in sight, and quite possibly no pool of water at the bottom, either. The publishing world, like so many other worlds, was essentially turned upside down and shaken like a snow globe. Fast forward to the present day. Our author is no longer quite so young, but is still incredibly good-looking, and his talent has only matured in the manner of a very expensive French cheese. (Or at least that’s what he tells himself.) “What’s that?” say the Important Publishing People to him now. “You’ve published nine books, including one international best-seller, you have a global readership, and you’ve just finished a new book that critics and readers alike are hailing as not just Really Sorta Good, but also relevant to the pickle our modern society finds itself in? Welp, sorry, chum. We might be able to cough up a few bucks to print twelve copies of it, if you give us a year or two to think about it first. Then again, we might not. You’ll just have to wait and see.” That’s the situation in a nutshell. My latest book, The Hundred Hearts, which is my ninth published title and my fifth work of what I refer to with eternal optimism as literary fiction, was published in Canada in 2013 by Thomas Allen Publishers. Just after it came out, Thomas Allen was promptly gobbled up by another house, whose job it then became to do all the things Thomas Allen was supposed to do–all the things publishers have historically done, such as, oh, I don’t know, sell books. Yet that didn’t seem to be happening. Why not? I don’t know. Neither does anyone else. One might be forgiven for getting the impression that publishers buy books these days not to put them out, but to suppress them. “We hate this book!” I imagine them saying. “We hate its guts. We detest it. So we’re going to buy it, and we’ll pretend to publish it but really we’re going to stick it under this rock here, and because we own the rights, the author won’t be able to touch it!” Well, no, they don’t do that at all, but really, when I got my last royalty statement and realized that the number of copies sold in the last sales period was lower than my shoe size, and when I got on the phone with my agent last week and further realized that the chances of an American publisher putting this book out any time before my children become parents themselves were about equal to Sarah Palin’s chances of being made an honorary member of Monty Python, I knew with a great and mighty knowingness that the time had come. If anyone outside Canada was ever going to read this book, it would have to be self-published. Once I said the phrase “self-published” nine or ten times out loud in the mirror, it didn’t sound so bad. Not nearly as bad as the word “unpublished,” anyway. Why not, after all? I know how to make websites. I know, vaguely, how self-publishing works. It’s no longer considered the domain of the hopeless crank, the type of person who still often buttonholes me at social events to explain the sheer genius behind their scheme of writing a ten-volume series of novels in which they never use the letter E. There are plenty of perfectly respectable writers who self-publish, and in fact there always have been. Perhaps it was my own snobbery that needed to be laid to rest. After all, I had nothing left to prove. I could boast publication by the largest houses in North America and the UK. Even books I’d ghost-written under false names had been published by major literary houses. It was proof, to me if to no one else, that I could really write. That was something I could whisper aloud to myself as I lay in bed at night, staring up into the darkness, remembering the warm caress of the last rays of golden light as the sun went down on twentieth-century Manhattan. I would have to hold that memory close to my heart. Lord knows I couldn’t buy groceries with it. The most painful thing was to admit that I really had nothing to lose, either. Despite stellar reviews, generous blurbs, and even some most welcome press coverage from the likes of Lainey Lui at, my book had only sold a double handful of copies in the land of snowy beaver pelts. If I sold even one copy anywhere else, it would be an infinite increase, percentage-wise, over previous non-Canadian sales, which were zero. So, here I am. It still feels strange, but is decidedly pleasant. I don’t know what the Other Writers are going to think of me now. Will they giggle into their hands as I walk by? Actually, I don’t care. Other writers don’t buy my books, after all. I strongly suspect they don’t even read them. Well, how could they? They’re too busy writing books of their own. Most surprising has been the reaction of the people who do read my books. They seem even more excited by this venture than I. I flatter myself into thinking it’s because they are happy to have another book by me to read. Certain friends of mine have been urging me to self-publish for years. The fact is this: readers don’t care who publishes a book. They only care that they get to read it. That’s the Amazing Discovery I want to share. The imprimatur of the publishing elite is growing increasingly irrelevant. Publishers and authors once needed each other to exist. That is no longer the case. People will always want to be told stories. They will never care whose colophon graces the front page of a book. So guess who will still be standing when the dust clears? I have plenty more to say about self-publishing, but that will have to wait for another post, perhaps. In the meantime, I need to send some emails out to reviewers, I have to finish converting the manuscript to yet another format, and I need to interact with fans on Facebook. Am I busy? Yes. Am I happy? Deliriously so. Onward.
Read more

Author website essentials: a writer’s toolkit

You’re an author. You need a storefront. You could put a sign up in your front garden or (better idea) you could build a website. Here’s everything you need to know. 1. The Book Comes First Do you have a book cover already? If not, you must get that in place before you start to design your site. That cover will define your brand as an author. It’ll be the primary way that readers ‘know’ you. That book cover will define the fonts and images that are part of your visual brand. Your website needs to support that, not conflict. There are no exceptions to this rule. That means: if you are an indie author and don’t yet have a cover, then get one. (Use this guide for how to commission your cover.) If you’re a traditional author, then wait for your publisher to produce a cover before you start to build your website. Either way, start with the book, then roll that look out to the site. 2. Build For The Long Term It’s really easy to think small, early on. That means limiting your budget. Limiting the design energy. Using a free domain such as instead of just (Or, if some celebrity has got to the domain name first.) On balance, I’d advise writers to somehow find the extra money needed to do this right. As your writing business expands, you’ll want your core assets to be strong enough to support that expansion – and that means getting the site right from the start. What’s more, doing it right doesn’t mean a lot of investment. Once you have your book cover, you’ll have the basic look of the site right there, together with font selections and images. Generating the rest of the site should not be hard or expensive. If you’re paying more than £1000 or $1500, you’re probably paying more than you need. So if you’re a pro or semi-pro designer yourself, then build your own site. Anyone else, commission a site, but make it clear from the outset that the designer should use the fonts and images that are used in your book cover. You’re essentially looking for a technician to plug things together for you, not an artist to create something wonderful and new. And pay the small amount needed to get your own proper domain name:, not harrybingham[.] Those little things do count. 3. Your Site Must Be Mobile-friendly These days, it would be a crazy designer who didn’t generate a site that wasn’t mobile friendly, but still, do be explicit in your brief. And when you see a draft site, then check it. If you’re working on a laptop not a phone, just resize the window so it’s phone-sized and take a look at your site now. If your key assets and messages are being buried at the bottom, you need to re-order those things so that they float up to the top. This isn’t hard to do, and any competent designer can do it fast. 4. Seo Doesn‘t Matter For Fiction, It’s Essential For Subject-led Non-fiction Are you writing fiction? In that case, Search Engine Optimisation basically doesn’t matter. If people want to search for your site they’ll almost certainly search you by name, in which case your site should pop up at or close to the top of any search. (If it doesn’t, just go out and do a few guest post with bloggers active in your niche. Make sure there’s a link through to your site at the end of the guest post. Those links should be enough to tickle Google’s algorithms that it figures out what to do.) If you’re writing creative non-fiction (a travel book, a personal memoir, or bringing some little-known historical narrative to life) then much the same thing applies. Those sort of books can pretty much forget Search Engine Optimisation as a source of readers and traffic. If, on the other hand, you’re writing subject-led non-fiction (a book on ‘How To Build a Great Author Website’, for example), then SEO matters a lot. Your first step is probably to ditch the idea of using your name as the site’s domain name, and instead use something like – basically embed your core search term in the website title itself. Then give proper, search-engine-friendly titles to every page on your site. Make sure the content is good. And go build some links. That recipe basically works every time . . . but this isn’t a blog post on SEO, so I’ll leave it there. Suffice to say that for this type of non-fiction author, SEO does matter and it’s a big, important subject. Go research it with people like Brian Dean and Neil Patel. 5. Don’t Confuse The Brand Are you an eclectic, interesting person, with numerous interests and passions? Great. Please don’t tell me about it, or at least not on your author website. Your website is there for readers of your books. You need to target your site at them. You need to leave everything else at the door. If you want a more personal site that shows the full range of you to a wondering world, then fine. But your author site needs to stick to its knitting, which is your books and nothing else. If you write two very different series – slasher horror fiction under one name and heart-warming children’s books under another – then you’ll need two websites. Sorry, but again no exceptions. You can of course link between the two, so readers from one can easily navigate to the other but keep the core message clear. 6. Figure Out Your Priorities What do you want your site to do? Your answer is quite likely to be ‘help sell my books’, but remember it will basically never achieve that objective. If people haven’t heard of you, they won’t come to your site. If they have heard of you and are curious about your work, they will go to Amazon. The only people likely to visit your site are readers who have read your work and who are passionate enough about it to investigate further. Certainly, you may achieve some additional sales by providing a warm and interesting experience, but the truth is, you can probably only convert one or two percent of people that way. It’s not a priority. So if an author site isn’t there to sell books, what should it do? For me, there’s one very, very clear answer to that, and only a fraction of author sites do this properly. Your author website is there to collect the email addresses of passionate readers. Why does that matter so much? It matters for two reasons: When you next release a book you can contact your core readers and tell them directly about the launch. A high proportion of those readers will make the purchase and those are nice easy sales to make – one email, to sell hundreds or thousands of books. Better still, you can time the sales you make. When I send out a sales email relating to my Fiona Griffiths novels, about 30% of my list will buy within 8 hours of my hitting send. That causes a huge wave of sales to hit Amazon … which drives my book way up the salesrankings … which means that (because most Amazon search pages promote high-selling books over low-selling ones) my book becomes more visible right across the Amazon system … which means I start attracting the interest of completely new readers. Of these two issues, it’s the second which will make you the most money, so don’t neglect it. You can get a ton more help with all this from us and don’t forget to check out our post about Instafreebie. 7. Connect, Connect These days, the first thing that someone will do if they want to learn more about you is seek you out on social media. You don’t need to be a social media junkie to succeed these days. Personally, I’m more or less Trappist on both Facebook and Twitter, and I’m perfectly happy to stay that way. Still, you do want to make yourself open to the world for all sorts of reasons. For example: You want your site to be easily shareable for those who do use Twitter and Facebook You want to be easily contactable You want to have all channels open so you can, for example, make contact with a key blogger in your area who is contactable via Twitter, but may not be easily reachable via email. Your super-fans need a way to reach you direct. You don’t have to answer every email that comes your way – and you certainly don’t have to answer promptly – but those super-fans are the absolute heart of what will drive things. Happy site-building!
Read more

How to start a writer’s blog (the basics)

Whether you’d like to be traditionally or self-published, this kind of contact between yourself and readers can start with a blog. Sharing your thoughts and writing life in a blog helps create a connection to readers, whether you’re published now or are hoping to be. For in-depth social media and blog insights, you may like our self-publishing course content – but, be you published or not, here’s a whistle-stop tour on how to successfully start a writer’s blog for time-pressed writers. What To Write About In Blog Posts A few first ideas. Opinion post (perhaps wise or poignant, perhaps funny, depending how you write)How-to guide (on something you know well)Personal anecdotes (sharing stories that serve audiences and serve you)Book reviewsBook giveawaysRound-ups (e.g. writing or competition news, links, etc.) Enjoy mind-mapping, as this should be a passion project and unique to you. A blog you love is a blog others will love. (If you’re a planner, you may enjoy creating a blog content calendar, too.) What Blog Platform To Choose If you’re an uncertain blogger, try starting a hosted blog., for instance, is a free platform that makes it easy to transfer to, the latter giving autonomy on domain, design choices, and more. You’ll have the option of upgrading later to a self-hosted site when you feel confident. Joanna Cannon, for instance, uses WordPress. Squarespace is an alternative blog home, as used by Tor Udall. If you’re time-pressed, another idea is a micro-blog. Writers like Erin Morgenstern, Rainbow Rowell and Neil Gaiman use Tumblr. On a hosted site like Tumblr, it’s easy to ‘re-blog’ if you’re on the move. You can re-share social content (bookish images, links, quotes, audio, and video), whilst still linking to original users. If you know you’ll struggle finding time for posts, Tumblr is a ‘low-maintenance’ choice, and you can buff up less-frequent writings with this sort of re-sharing. Question how much time you can really commit to a blog, how confident you are, your aims and the content you want to create. Research your options and work from there, as best suits you. How To Write Blog Content That Sticks You need writing readers can return to. How will your blog shine out, and how will your posts stick over time? Creativity on your own time and terms should bring fun and fulfilment, so write posts that bring you to life. Just remember, if you’d like to create engagement and connected readers, everything you post needs justification. What value is it bringing? If you’re writing for other authors, as an example, why must people with limited writing time stop by to read? Is there timeless advice you’re posting, encouragement you can share, a round-up of quotes, or tips for productivity and self-confidence you can give? Brainstorm advice, anecdotes, lists and inspiration you can offer. Write for enjoyment, but make it worth a reader’s time stopping by. If your content grips, they’ll linger, feeling more connected to and interested in you and your books. Look up popular authors’ blogs for ideas. A Note On Copywriting You’ll have no in-house editorial team as a blogger, no line- and copy-edits made, just as if you were self-publishing a novel. As a plus, you can write what you want. As a minus, you can write what you want. Shakespeare’s observed brevity is the soul of wit, so keep sentences clear, concise, and sharp. Use shorter paragraphs, bullet lists and subheadings, remembering people will often read on the move. Simpler is better in blog copy. How To Get People To Blog Your Book Whichever social channels you feel comfortable using (never the ones you don’t), add your blog URL to profiles. Make use of writers’ and readers’ hashtags like #amwriting, #askagent or #bookstagram if you’re sharing post links on Twitter. If there are calendar days or months like #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November), tap into these, schedule thematic blog posts and join the chats. Social media helps feed your blog. (Just don’t spend too long on social media. Keep it to only an hour a day.) What’ll make readers linger on your blog, though, is still value of content. Once those readers are there, really enjoying your words and your stories, they can enter their emails to subscribe to your feed. Ultimately, whatever you’re posting should bring readers value and wisdom in some guise. This gets readers to your blog and keeps them there. Do Writers Need Blocks? You’ll need a website and social media, online spaces your readers can find you. A personal blog should display writings, musings, advice, insight into what readers may find in your books. It’s the space you can create meaningful connections with readers. Do share your links on social media with us. For more free insights, peek at our prose advice, or other writing advice pages to give you ideas. There’s also our self-publishing course with details on arranging blog tours, plus more marketing essentials for self-publishing writers and bloggers. Happy blogging!
Read more

How Tim O’Rourke became a Kindle bestseller

Publishing direct via Kindle is increasingly becoming a sensible option for new writers. Guest author and blogger, Tim O’Rourke, succeeded in becoming a #1 bestseller within his category by taking that exact route. In just four months, he has sold 40,000 books after manuscript feedback from us, and sales are still increasing. Here is his story. My name is Tim O’Rourke. Recently my ebooks have really taken off, and on this blog, I’m going to tell you how I did it – what I’m discovering – and how you can do it, too. I’ve only been self-publishing my books for the last ten months. If I really think about it though, that short space of time has been tough, fun, exciting and sometimes surreal. Like many aspiring writers, over the years I’ve had my fair share of knock backs from agents and never got close to even getting any of my books in front of a publisher. But, I never stopped writing and that’s the most important thing. I kept on writing because I just loved doing it. Last February I was bought a Kindle for my birthday. I didn’t want one as I loved books. I loved the feel of them, the smell of them and the noise of the pages being turned over. Nevertheless, I switched it on and started downloading and downloading and reading and reading and downloading and reading – you get the picture and rightly or wrongly, I haven’t bought a paper version of a book since. In March, I happened across an article on the internet regarding self-publishing your own books onto the Kindle to be sold on Amazon. Intrigued by this and with a fair amount of hesitation (what if I didn’t sell any?) and the numerous articles on the internet telling you that you shouldn’t self-publish on the Kindle as it’s killing the publishing industry, and self-published authors on the Kindle are lucky if they sell more than 150 copies, and although Amazon offer an attractive 70% royalty programme, 70% of nothing (the amount of books you will sell) is still nothing, I thought I would give it a go. What did I have to lose? I would have been happy to sell 50 books as that meant I’d shared my stories with 50 more people than I had previously. So with very little effort and totally free of charge, I uploaded my first book Doorways onto the Kindle, which meant it was available as an ebook on Amazon in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The original cover was designed by a friend. The book was a fantasy adventure aimed at 14 – 16-year-old boys. I set the price low at 99 cents (77p). Why so low? Two reasons, I thought that as a self-published and unknown author it was more important for me to find a readership for my work than to make money. Secondly, I have two teenage sons who, believe it or not, have never walked into a music store and bought a CD. Every piece of music they buy, they download for 79p from the iTunes store. The Apps and games that they download are never more than £1.00. So, as I was aiming my book at a similar age group and my books were going to be downloadable, it made sense to me to set the price of my books at the same levels as equivalent media that my own children were downloading. With my book on Amazon, I waited to see what would happen. Not a lot. After initial copies that were snapped up by friends and family, the book just kind of sat there. Undeterred, I uploaded another book that I had just finished writing. This book was called ‘Black Hill Farm, a psychological thriller with a paranormal twist aimed at the YA market (16 plus). Again, I got my friend to design a cover, and I uploaded to Amazon. This did a little better and I sold about 65 copies in the first few weeks and a few more copies of ‘Doorways. Pleased by my progress (hey, I was halfway to that magic 150 number!), I wrote a follow up book to Black Hill Farm called Andy’s Diary. I put this out about six weeks later and my sales crept up again and I think I sold about another 50 copies. (Happy days as I had passed the magic 150!) The problem is, there are over 600,000 books available to download on the Kindle so how do I make mine stand out? I’m competing with books promoted by massive publishing houses – my books must compete with thousands of traditionally published books! So, with a little bit of money I had earnt as overtime from my day job (£80), I invested in some Facebook ads. With a very small budget compared to the big publishing houses, I knew I had to spend my money wisely. I therefore targeted young adults aged between 16 and 21 years, who had a Kindle, and read authors in the same genre that I was writing in. You pay per ‘click’ and you can set the price. I set mine as low as possible – I think about 12p per ‘click’. Every time someone ‘Clicked’ on my add it took them to my book on Amazon and Facebook took 12p. Just because someone ‘Clicks’ doesn’t meant that they will buy your book. I tried to make my blurb as enticing as possible, and with my prices low and what I hoped was a pretty good cover, some of those people did buy my book and my overall sales for one month went to about 200. I soon realised that once people had read Black Hill Farm, they then downloaded Andy’s Diary, book two. Then, if they liked them perhaps they would download Doorways. So, one book was then selling two other books, if that makes sense. I realised that one way of growing a greater readership was having more books available. About the same time, I discovered book bloggers and these people are awesome. Just like you and me, they have a passion for reading and reviewing the books on their blogs. I researched some bloggers that reviewed books in the genre that I write in (YA paranormal romance) and emailed them. I offered them a free copy of my ebook ‘Black Hill Farm’ for a review. It’s risky because they might hate the book and you get a bad review, but again, what did I have to lose? I emailed about twenty-five different bloggers and a few got back to me and offered to do a review. While this was going on, I started writing the ‘Kiera Hudson series, again another set of books aimed at the YA market. Kiera Hudson is a feisty twenty-year-old new police recruit who has the wonderful knack of solving crimes that others can’t, especially when it comes to vampires and all other things paranormal. Eventually my £80 marketing budget dried up, and although my sales had increased to anywhere between 150 – 200 a month, I couldn’t tell if this was due to the bloggers, the Facebook adds or if my books were spreading by word of mouth. I had started to sell books in the US and I knew this wasn’t friends or family who were buying them. Then one day, just before releasing the first book in my Kiera Hudson series, I googled my own name and the title of my book ‘Black Hill Farm’ and I was surprised that it was being mentioned on blogs that I hadn’t even contacted. It was also being mentioned on a website called Goodreads. I’d never heard of it. It’s a site where avid readers and writers review books, join communities and talk about authors, etc. I was surprised to see that my book and been put on the virtual bookshelves of members of the site and some had mentioned that they had seen my book on Facebook – so I knew that in some way, my £80 had been well spent. I joined the site and created a blog which I connected to my own books. I put the first Kiera Hudson book out in July and then something exciting started to happen. In August, I had my best month ever and sold approx. 400 books. Then, in September, something truly amazing happened and I sold just under 1,000 books. October, I sold approx. 4,000 books, November, over 8,000 books, December over 16,500 books. Why did this happen? To be honest, I think there are several reasons. I set the price of my book low, I write in a genre that is popular, I personally answer every single piece of fan mail that I receive, I contact those people kind enough to have left me reviews on Goodreads and thank them for doing so. I believe this is important, not to sell more books, but to say thank you to that person for spending their money on my book, taking the time to read it, then to leave a review for me. For instance, I received an email only the other day from a young girl you said that she had been given a Kindle for Christmas along with a £10 gift voucher. She went on to say that my books were the first that she downloaded and had loved them. It’s nice to know that she enjoyed them, but more than that, she spent her Christmas present on my books and that really made me think how nice that actually is. So the very least that I could do was email her to say thank you. I also have my own website which I have linked to my Facebook page. This is where I post news about my books and a place where people can become a fan of my books and leave messages. Again, I make sure that I respond to every message that is left for me and answer any questions. This for me is important and the bit I love the most, because it gives me a chance to chat to those people that are taking the time to read my books. I’m not very good at ‘Twittering’ but this again is an important tool, so I have linked my Facebook page to my twitter page, which is linked to my Amazon author page and website. This is a great way of connecting to the readers of my books. I also run competitions and giveaways, which have included signed T-Shirts that I had made with my book cover on the front, bookmarks that were kindly made by a fan, signed prints of the book covers and original pieces of artwork from the book cover designs. This to me is the most important part of what I’ve done, to have a good relationship with the people that read and enjoy my books. I have made so many new friends. At the beginning of this blog, I said that I had experienced many things in the last ten months and one of those was at times I had found the experience tough. How can it be tough? I’m doing what I’ve always dreamt of doing? But the thing is, I still have a day job and a young family. Everything that I have done in the last 10 months, including writing eight novels, publishing them, marketing them and everything else that I have mentioned above has all been done in my spare time. One night I was caught by my family asleep sitting in front of my laptop halfway through writing a chapter. The point I think that I’m trying to make is that, although my books are selling well (and there are other independent writers out there that are doing just as well and better) it has taken a lot of work. This is not easy. As an indie writer you are just that, plus the publisher, the editor, the marketing department, finding artists to do book covers, answering and dealing with all the correspondence, updating your blog, website, Facebook and a hundred other things that I’ve probably forgotten. I am no expert in publishing, but my heart tells me that things will change in the publishing world. I’ve read plenty of articles on the internet that authors are now leaving their agent and publishers to self-publish on the internet. Some of them have said that they earn more money that way, and others say it gives them more creative freedom. But for me, I’m starting to wonder if publishers will look straight to the internet to see what they want to publish next. Maybe the test of a good book won’t be on the suggestion of an agent, after all that is just one opinion, but if a book seems to be selling well on the internet, doesn’t that suggest that the public are enjoying it? Maybe that will be the real test. I believe this for a couple of reasons. The first book in my Kiera Hudson series was rejected by an agent as they said the book was for adults, not children, but the Amazon Children’s Horror chart and Amazon Children’s Romance Chart didn’t reflect this. Despite the concerns the agent had that my book wasn’t really a children’s book (although I wrote it for YA), doesn’t the fact that it was at the top of the Children’s/Young Adult chart suggest it did fit into that age range? Secondly, another agent recently said “no” to the same book because they didn’t think they could sell the foreign rights, despite that the book sold more copies in the US than anywhere else, as well as in Canada, Australia, Mexico, Germany, France and Italy – without even being translated. I even received an email from a US Publisher asking if I had an agent because they were interested in buying the rights, so they could sell my book in China. Yet I’d just been told by an agent that the book wouldn’t sell abroad. The point that I want to make is this: isn’t it the children/young adults who are buying my books the people that decide whether it’s a kid’s book or an adult book? Why pigeonhole everyone? Children have different reading ages, and likes and interests. With regards to my Kiera Hudson books, haven’t the young adults who are downloading them in their thousands already decided they like them? Yet it seems it’s just a handful of adults deciding what is right for them and what they should and shouldn’t be reading. I don’t know, I could be wrong – but if young adults didn’t feel that my books were right for them, would they be buying them? This point was never made clearer to me than the other day, when I received an email from a young teenage girl who said in big bold letters at the end of her email: “I want to be Kiera Hudson!” If you’ve been inspired by Tim’s story then learn more about self-publishing yourself. From how to write an Amazon description, which ebook format to use, and whether developmental editing is something indie authors should invest in, we’ve got you covered.
Read more

Should self-published authors turn to traditional publishing?

The age-old battle between self-publishing vs traditional publishing. This is one of the big debates in the publishing industry: should self-published authors turn to traditional publishing? First, lets address the pros and cons of each. There have been numerous recent examples of highly successful self-published authors turning to traditional mainstream publishers for the next stage of their careers. James Oswald. Offered his first book free on Amazon, by way of a taster for his second book which was priced at £2.99. He sold 50,000 copies in a month and was snapped up in a three-book, £150,000 deal by Penguin – and I strongly suspect that, given Oswald’s subsequent and continuing success, Penguin would feel that they got a very good deal. (More. Oswald’s literary agent is Juliet Mushens of The Agency. Juliet’s agent profile here, her website here.) Kerry Wilkinson. Sold his first books at £0.99 on Amazon. Shifted 250,000 copies in six months. Was offered a (remarkable) six-book deal by Macmillan that took his self-published work into print and extended the series to a minimum of six books. (More. Wilkinson’s agent is Nicola Barr of Greene and Heaton. Nicola’s agent profile here, her LinkedIn here.)E.L. James. In terms of sales, James dwarfs pretty every other author who started out with non-traditional publishing contracts. In her case, she never really self-published, but she did take a kind of hybrid e-book/POD deal that wouldn’t have been offered by any more conventional publisher. Her subsequent sales, via Random House, were simply vast, breaking most international sales records and spawning a new ‘mommy porn’ genre. James’ literary agent is Valerie Hoskins, whose agent profile is here, and whose own website can be found here. Given that there are plenty of intelligent voices suggesting that conventional publishers have relatively little to offer self-published authors (examples here, here and here), there’s a real question about why anyone would want to shift from a self-published status to a more traditional one.And that’s not a silly question.To be clear about it, self-published authors have the following massive assets on their side:They earn 100% of the net receipts from e-books.That’s about 70% of the cover price. A regularly published author will not be entitled to more than a 25% share.They have total control over every aspect of publication.Self-published authors pick their covers, pick their editors, pick their page-designers, pick their marketing strategies. If they don’t like something, they change it.They retain total control over copyright.When a traditionally published authors sells his or her book, they are selling it. The publisher may well retain control over that book until the author is dead and his or her children too. (The exact arrangement will depend on the nature of any reversion clause, but historically those clauses have been written sharply in publishers’ favour.)There’s nothing to stop self-pub authors selling subsidiary rights as they want to.If you are self-published in the UK and want to sell your US rights to a big 5 publisher there, you can. If you want to sell audio rights, you can. If you want to sell foreign or TV rights, you can. You can do those things if you have a traditional deal too, but the point here is that you can be self-pub in one arena and still work with huge media conglomerates in any area where you feel your own reach would be insufficient. Since those are rather significant advantages, and since the likes of Oswald, Wilkinson and James are hardly idiots, there must be some quite substantial advantages of the conventional route, too.And there are, such as: Access to print distribution Even now, it remains the case that if you want your book to appear in bookstores – and to pick up the revenues that result – you will need a publisher on your side. Yes, you can achieve some kind of hyper-local distribution by working very hard yourself, but to get properly promoted in bookshops across the nation, you will still need a publisher. Access to traditional channels of acclaim This one is a little more in flux, but it remains the case in the UK that it is rare for self-published books to be taken seriously by reviewers. And more broadly: the kind of books that the chattering classes talk about are nearly always traditionally published ones – as though print still sheds a kind of glamour on the author. We don’t particularly welcome that fact – our view is that books should be judged on their merits, and that’s it – but we don’t get to set the rules. (Alas.) Better access to foreign markets As a self-published author, you can sell your work overseas without having a domestic publisher – but it’s a hell of a lot easier if you do have one. Partly that’s because you’ve already proved that one corporation has loved you enough to lay out a significant amout of cash for what you have to offer. And partly it’s because publishers are deeply nested in the whole foreign rights market. They, and agents, just have a depth of contacts that you can never acquire on your own. Better access to film and TV markets It’s actually relatively rare for fiction to get made into film, whether for the large screen or small. But again: when those things do happen, it’s much commoner for regularly published work get taken on. There’s just a halo of approval you get from a regular deal which just helps those film and TV deals happen. An easy life Yes, as a self-publisher you have total control … but you also have a hell of a workload, and that load gets bigger the more successful you become. Publishers do know how to market books and they will simply, at a stroke, relieve you of much of the burden. In effect, you acquire a professional and experienced support team with a few strokes of the pen on that contract. Better financial outcomes than royalty figures suggest It’s true that publishers pay authors only 25% of net receipts from Amazon and other e-sellers. It’ s also true that print royalties are pretty small (think about 7-10% on paperbacks). But remember that authors get advances, not just royalties, and – without getting too technical about it – if your book doesn’t earn out, then your de facto royalty per book will be far higher than those relatively modest amounts. And since most books don’t earn out their royalties, authors can do very well, even in comparison with the riches of successful self-pub. You’d expect a site that helps writers find agents to argue that self-publishing was only ever a stepping stone to the real thing. We don’t actually believe that, however – and think that the future is likely to see many more hybrid authors emerging: authors who self-publish in one corner of their activities, and who publish conventionally in others. We also think that the relatively standard boilerplate of the average publishing contract is likely to become more flexible over time, so if there are elements of a regular deal you don’t like, there will at least be a sensible discussion over how to accommodate your preferences. And we think the emerging world will be a better one for authors. The ease with which any author can simply self-publish on Amazon will keep publishers honest. That’s great. The availability of other means of distribution will make publishers more humble and more flexible in their terms. That’s also great. The ability for an author to choose how to publish is also wonderful. You want total control? Then have it. You want dedicated corporate support? Then that’s fine. You want one thing in one market, and another in another – then, fine, let’s talk about it. And one simple and everlasting truth is this. If you can demonstrate, through successful self-publishing or simply a remarkably good manuscript, that your work can move readers, there are agents who want you.And (of course) you can find all those agent profiles in our database here. Whichever route you chose, whether that be self-publishing or traditional publishing: good luck! There have been numerous recent examples of highly successful self-published authors turning to traditional mainstream publishers for the next stage of their careers.
Read more

How to self-publish an e-book and why you ought to do it

We’re storytellers, so I’ll start out with a story. The story is true, and has been life-changing for me (it’s Harry Bingham writing). Follow some of the advice in this post, and your life might change, too. In a very, very good way. How Self-publishing E-books Makes Me An Easy Six-figures A few years back, the first novel in my Fiona Griffiths crime series was bought by Kate Miciak of Delacorte/Bantam Dell in New York. If those names don’t mean anything to you, suffice to say that Kate also edits the work of Lee Child. Back then, she also edited the work of Karin Slaughter. She edits, or has edited, the work of countless other megastar authors. Delacorte is an imprint of Penguin Random House, and a leading crime imprint in the US. My literary agents in the US and UK were (and are) both outstanding, so it looked to me like I had pretty much a full house, aces over kings. The perfect editor, at the perfect imprint, at the perfect publisher, and with superb agents by way of support. That’s dream-come-true territory. Only, of course, if the book was lousy, no amount of good publishing would save it, so there was that to consider. There was a possible pitfall right there. Except – the book did okay. It got a starred review in Publishers Weekly. A starred review in Kirkus. A full four stars in the USA Today. It got rave reviews in the Boston Globe, the Seattle Times, and a host of others places too. Second book in the series, the same thing. Brilliant reviews. Great publishing team. The best names in the business. And the books flopped. Curled up and died. They did so badly, that the second book never even went into paperback. How come? Response from readers had been good. Things seemingly lay more in the difficulty that my publishers had in finding the right look – the hardback of that first book had a nice but weird cover on it. Retailers were unconvinced, and didn’t stock it. Readers, the same. When they saw the book in store, they didn’t really know what kind of book it was. The failure of that cast a pall over a radically rejacketed paperback. Since that also didn’t sell, the second book was pretty much dead in the water, despite yet another desperate attempt at rejacketing and rebranding with the hardback of the second book. And that was that. My US career pretty much over. Nice reviews, no sales. Too bad – but I believed in those books. And if what I’ve described was correct, that seemed to me an extremely soluble problem. So I wasn’t quitting the North American market. My Self-publishing Experiment I chose to self-publish book #3 in that series (more about how to do that in a minute). That experiment went well, so I bought back the rights to books #1 and #2 from the (very generous) people at Penguin Random House. That repurchase cost me $10,000, but it was probably the best investment I’ve ever made. In June 2017, I published #6 in that series. I’ve earned about $100,000 from my Fiona Griffiths books over the last twelve months. I do almost no marketing. I release just one book a year. I have an incredible relationship with my US readers – the best I’ve had in twenty years of being a professional author, and readers like my books. I hope you’ll agree that’s a great outcome. How do you achieve it? What’s the secret? Well, two things. Number one: my books are good. If your books are poor, or even mediocre, they won’t get that level of success and, frankly, don’t deserve it. And number two: I self-published an e-book. (Or, rather, a series of e-books.) Yes, I also sell in print, but ebooks account for 95% of my sales, or more. And the print sales I do get arise, almost entirely, as a result of my ebooks’ visibility. Why Ebooks Haven’t Peaked – And Are Here To Stay Is this all a bubble, though? A flash in the pan? Well, you might well think so, given the number of daft stories like this one, which claim the ebook revolution is on the wane. And the short answer is that, yes, the number of ebooks sold by traditional publishers have flattened off and even dipped, but that’s largely the result of an acute decline in the market share of trad publishers. The Association of American Publishers reports double figure declines in ebooks. The British Publishers Association notes that sales of trade fiction (i.e. novels for adults and kids) have declined by a quarter. In five years. Ouch! That’s a horrendous loss of revenue, but it’s not that people have stopped reading books. It’s that they’re not reading traditionally published work in anything like the same quantity. What tells you is that, between 2014 and 2016, Amazon’s own publishing imprints doubled their market share. Indie authors have relentlessly accumulated share. And traditional publishers as a group, and the large publishers most of all, have lost share seriously. In short, the ebook market is thriving, and the market for books of any format sold online is now utterly, utterly dominant. AuthorEarnings reckon that sales of adult fiction are now more than 75% online, and that’s just unbelievably excellent news for writers like you. Why? Because you can’t compete on in bricks and mortar retail. Except in exceptional circumstances, or in minuscule volumes, your books just won’t get sold through those channels. You have fully three quarters of the entire market for books to aim at, and: Not only can you compete here – no one is blocking your wayBut also it’s free to compete here – there’s no entry chargeThe dominant player wants you to compete here – it positively welcomes self-pub authors And best of all: You actually have a competitive advantage over big traditional firms, because readers positively want a direct connection with the author. No one in the world positively wants a direct connection with some giant multinational. You have a marketing edge they cannot match. So it’s perfectly possible to make good money with e-books. As Amazon continues to flourish, the indie tide is rising all the time. The simple fact is: More and more indies are making more and more money than ever before. Next year will be better than last year. Good to know, right? But money doesn’t just drop into your lap. You gotta to go make it. So – after a pretty picture of that rising tide – let’s go figure out our next steps. Step 1: Set Up An Account With KDP KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing and you will grow to love those intials very much indeed. You just go here – – and sign in with your regular Amazon account. If you have everything else ready, you are about ten minutes away from publishing your first ebook. Step 2: Prepare Your Ebook (In Word) It’s absolutely fine to prepare your book as a regular Word document. Just be aware that you need to think about an ebook in three sections: The front matter: this is the “Look Inside” section and you need to prepare this part thinking about readers who are curious about your book, interested in buying it, but who haven’t yet made the purchasing decision. This is the place for any lovely reviews you may have, any good selling text – and of course plenty of the actual book itself. What you don’t want is any tedious copyright notices and that kind of thing. Yes, sure, you have to get those in somewhere, but you can bundle them right out of the way, at the end of the book.The book itself: Obviously you want to make this as strong as possible. Your only thought here should be to deliver the very best reading experience possible.The end matter: This is where you want to solicit reviews for the book and, crucially, where you want to collect your readers’ email addresses. I’ll tell you how to do that in a moment, but it’s probably the single most important element in the whole selling chain, so don’t neglect it. Make sure as well that you have done the basic formatting bits and pieces right. So, for example, you need to: Use the tab key or the paragraph format menu to indent paragraphs. (Do not just hit the spacebar five times: that’s a real formatting no-no.)Ensure total consistency in your chapter numbering and formatting. So if you use simple digits to mark out each new chapter, make sure those things are formatted the same way every time.Ensure consistency in other headings, such as Author’s Note, About this Series, etcAnd of course, the entire book should be in a single document – don’t even think about trying to format something chapter by chapter If you want KDP’s own formatting guide, you can get it here. Step 3: Create Your Cover Top-end cover design is hard. It can be fairly expensive. And, even if you splash the cash, results can be curiously disappointing. Nor is that even surprising, really, given that everyone knows that covers really matter, and everyone is trying to out-compete everyone else. Just don’t get too worried. It’s not hard – it’s actually easy – to get a good, professional cover on your book. And it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. For a really detailed overview on how to commission a cover, check our advice, but mostly I’d suggest that you: Search “pre-made book cover.” What you’ll find here is huge libraries of covers that have been put together by pro designers and then discarded. If that sounds crazy, then bear in mind that a large publisher or picky author may well commission multiple designs, in order to pick one. Rather than bin the unwanted designs, designers simply remove the specifics of author name and title and make the design available to anyone with $50-100 to spare. Sure, the cover may not be super-specific to your book, but that really, really doesn’t matter. Readers buy on mood and genre-indication. The specifics just aren’t relevant.Fly solo, using Canva. Canva announces itself as ‘amazingly simple graphic design software’ and it really is easy. It offers a variety of book cover templates. You just pick a photo. Add your text. And off you go. Depending on whether you use a free image or not (I’d suggest probably not), that route will cost you between nothing at all and a few bucks. Step 4: Format Your Ebook These days, you have multiple options for formatting an e-book. You can: Pay someone. These people, for example – but look at various quotes, as you shouldn’t really be paying more than $100 for this service.Do it yourself via Scrivener, if you like Scrivener.Do it yourself via Vellum, if you like Apple.Do it yourself via Draft2Digital. (The service I mostly use – it’s free.)Do it yourself via KDP’s own conversion platform – though this will leave you with a mobi file only and all other e-tailers use epub files. (These are basically the same, but also irritatingly different.) The DIY version of things is fast and simple. Once you’ve got the hang of a particular system, it’s a ten minute chore, if that. Remember that the cover is part of the e-book, so you can’t progress to the formatting step until you’ve got your cover sorted. And of course once you’ve ticked off this step – congratulations! You’ve created your product. Now your only job is to get it on the shelves and starting to sell. Step 5: Set Your Ebook Details So the new model is to ignore the keyword bundling, and instead use subtitles that present the book in the most attractive possible light, e.g., “The Seventh Corpse: A tense thriller that you won’t be able to put down”. I think that’s a better strategy, and it’s the one I recommend. Do note that Amazon requires you to have the text of the subtitle present somewhere on the cover. (You can read more about their requirements here.) But Amazon doesn’t effectively enforce that rule and the truth is that, at the moment, you can ignore it if you want to. So one perfectly practical strategy woul be: experiment with different subtitles, see what works best, then change the cover when you’re ready. But also: don’t spend too long on all this. It’s not a game-changer. SeriesIs your book part of a series? If so, say so. Anyone searching for my books, for example, might use my name to look for them, or they might look for the name of my detective protagonist, Fiona Griffiths. To make sure that anyone searching for “Fiona Griffiths” finds my books, I call my series “Fiona Griffiths”, and Amazon will add “Book X” to each book in the series. So, for example, my sixth book in the series is entitled (with title, subtitle, and series data) as follows: “The Deepest Grave: An ancient battle, a dead researcher, and a very modern crime (Fiona Grifiths Book 6)”. That’s not a bad template to follow. EditionYou probably won’t need to use this. You can just ignore it. AuthorThat’s you. Check for typos! Don’t misspell your name. ContributorsDo you have co-authors? Illustrators? Other collaborators? If so, this is the spot to include them. DescriptionThe book description matters. It’s how you pitch to the reader. How you convert that opening interest into the hook of purchase-intent. I like descriptions that follow a little story arc all of their own. So: An opening sentence or two, that acts as a hook, or teaser. The purpose of this sentence is to make the reader curious and choose to read on.The blurb proper. Usually this will describe the set up only, and will include those elements most likely to intrigue the reader.A cliff-hanger type ending. The sort of thing that runs, “But that’s when he started to realise how serious the danger really was – and when he wondered if he’s escape with his life.” You can definitely choose your own strategy, but that basic Teaser – Content – Cliffhanger template is hard to beat. Note that if you want to make use of bold, italics, and that kind of thing, then you can. If you know basic html, then feel free to use it. If you don’t, then use a simple formatting tool like this one, to generate beautiful looking text. Don’t overuse those tools though – too much bold just looks childish. Keep it nice! RightsYou need to declare that you own the copyright and hold the necessary publishing rights. If you are the author of the work, then you’re fine. KeywordsThese are the keywords that help Amazon determine what kind of book yours is and will guide what searches it appears under. Amazon’s own guidelines – here – are quite helpful, and you should use them. Do remember that it might seem clever to shove a keyword like “thriller” into your keyword choices – because lots of people like thrillers, right? – but your book is unlikely to feature on highly competitive searches, unless you have reason to be very confident of hitting a good salesrank early. Again, it’s worth doing a reasonable bit of research into possible keyword selections, but don’t go crazy. 2-3 hours work on this is easily enough, or more than enough. Keyword choices won’t make the difference to your sales. CategoriesJust choose the library-style classification for your book where your readers are most likely to congregate. For me, for example, I choose these categories: Fiction > Mystery & Detective > International Mystery & CrimeFiction > Mystery & Detective > Police Procedural The ‘International Mystery & Crime’ category is relatively niche, but works very well for me, because I want US readers with an interest in non-US set crime. And ‘police procedural’ precisely describes what I write, so I’m going to find my natural readers in that category. Age rangeSelf-explanatory. If you’re not writing for kids, this isn’t relevant. Pre-orderUnless you are an experienced author with a strong sales plan, I’d recommend against using a pre-order. And even if you are experienced, they may not work for you. I don’t pre-orders myself any more and my sales have benefitted. And, to be clear, if you don’t set a pre-order date, then your book will publish within about 24 hours of you hitting the publish button at the end of this form. You are that close to getting out there! Yowch! This is a lot to take in, right?Yep. One big reason why a lot of self-publishers mess up is that they’re so keen to get published that they don’t invest enough time in learning how to do it right.(And yes, I’m guilty of that myself. I threw away plenty of easy money as a result.)So we created a really comprehensive, easy to follow, step-by-step video course that teaches the whole self-publishing game – and it’s designed for people just like you.And yes, yes, I know. As soon as someone says “video course” to me, I think here comes the hard sell for a product which might really be great, but which is going to have some eye-watering price.And yes, the course does have an eye-watering price (details here), but you can get it free.That’s right. You can get an entire, super-premium video course FREE, just by taking out membership of Jericho Writers. We’re a club, founded by writers for writers, and our aim is just to deliver a spectacularly huge amount of value within that membership. So it’s not just that one course. We’ve also got an incredible how to write course. Loads of stuff on trad publishing. Filmed masterclasses. Live online webinars with agents, writing tutors and more.If you’re even one tiny bit interested (and, if you’re reading this blog post, then you darn well should be), then hop over here to learn a whole heap more. We look forward to welcoming you soon. Step 6: Set Your Ebook Content We’ve already dealt with the two biggest ingredients of your content: your book itself and your cover. With those two items, just upload the relevant files and wait for Amazon to digest them. I do recommend that you use the eBook previewer tool: it’s just a comforting way to make sure that everything looks as it should do before you hit publish. In this section, however, there are three other things you need to think about. DRM choiceYou can choose whether or not to protect your book from potential piracy with ‘Digital Rights Management’. And while protecting your book sounds like a no brainer – of course you want to protect it! It’s your baby! – the simple fact is that DRM doesn’t work. Easily available software can strip the DRM out of your book in a couple of minutes, and once some idiot has done that, the pirated version of your book can spread everywhere anyway. Meantime, DRM can be a real pain for perfectly legitimate readers who may want to lend your book, read on a new device, or whatever. So my choice – and this would be the advice of a majority of experienced indie authors – is not to enable DRM protection. Realistically, there just isn’t much you can do about piracy. Treat any manifestations of piracy as a compliment to your book and your writing, and focus your efforts on all the millions of legitimate readers who want to buy, not steal, your book. ISBNTo get your book into a bricks and mortar bookstore, you would need an ISBN – effectively an international identifier for your book. But e-books don’t need ISBNs. And even if you’re publishing in print with Amazon as well, you can let Amazon just allocate a free ISBN to you when you publish. So basically, just ignore the ISBN box. It doesn’t matter to you. PublisherHuh? You’re the publisher, right? So why is KDP asking you for this information? Well, no reason, really. Lots of self-publishers just leave this box blank, and there’s no reason not to do that. But personally, I just like the idea of having a publisher’s name on my books, so I call my publishing imprint ‘Sheep Street Books’ and give that phrase to Amazon when it asks me for my publisher. Note, there’s absolutely no requirement for any legal substance here. There isn’t a legal entity called Sheep Street Books. My accountant doesn’t have to handle anything different. It’s literally just a name. Nothing more. But it’s nice, no? Step 7: Choose If You’re Going To Go Exclusive To Amazon At this stage, you need to determine if you’re going to make your work exclusive to Amazon or not. That sounds like a bad idea – why wouldn’t you want your book to be sold in every store possible? – but there’s a catch. The thing is, Amazon doesn’t just control the world’s largest bookstore (, it controls the second biggest one too – Kindle Unlimited, which makes e-books available for free to participating members. The word ‘free’ in this context might cause you some alarm but, be not afeard, Amazon pays about $0.0045 for every page of your book that a KU subscriber reads. Your KU income, therefore, comes in the form of payments for pages read, rather than a traditional type of sale. And KU is huge. KU is disproportionately important to indie authors and, indeed, indie authors in 2017 made a total of about $180 million from Kindle Unlimited, compared with just $50 million a year from Apple and all other non-Amazon sources. To me personally, that logic is overwhelming. I offer the first book in my series wide (i.e. with every store) in order to capture as many readers as possible. After that, though, all my books are Amazon exclusive. I make about a third of my income from KU reads and I know some very successful authors who make a full 50% of their income from KU. If you are just starting out, then I urge you to follow that exact template. When and if you start to generate decent sales for your series, you should reconsider the matter. Some pro indies urge the wide route; others advocate the narrow one. For these experienced authors, there’s a real choice. But starting out? Go narrow. Make it work. Then think again. Step 8: Set Ebook Pricing Finally, you need to determine royalties and pricing. Amazon likes people to sell e-books in the $2.99 to $9.99 range. It wants to avoid excessively high pricing (because that would damage the extent of the e-book market), but it doesn’t like super-low pricing all that much either (because it doesn’t make enough money.) The result is that is offers an (amazing, brilliant, wonderful) royalty of 70% to indies publishing their books within that range and a (still good) royalty of 35% outside that band. In terms of where you should sell your books, you need to think about (A) where you want to end up, and (B) the best way to start out. A typical end-point for you will be something like mine: Book #1 – $0.99 (make it attractive for readers to get into the series)Book #2 – $4.99 (make some money)Book #3 – $4.99 (make some money)Book #4 – $4.99 (make some money)etc But you can only sell books in volume at $4.99 or more if you already have a bunch of committed readers. If you’re not yet at that stage, then remember: FREE IS A MARKETING STRATEGY What’s more, and by the same fine logic: CHEAP IS A MARKETING STRATEGY Sure, you don’t actually make any money from free, and you don’t make much from cheap . . . but your job now is to tempt readers into your series (and your book’s job is then to blow them away.) For newer authors, then, I think you want to fool around at the $0.00, $0.99 and $2.99 price points to find readers and build your base. Remember, you can change your decisions at any time, so just try out one option, see what happens, then change it if you need. Step 9: Hit That Button, ‘Publish My Kindle Ebook’ You’ll get a message telling you that the book may take up to 72 hours to be published, but it’s generally a lot less than that. You’re on your way, my friend. You’re a published author now. But don’t walk alone.We created our Jericho Writers club to be here for you on your journey. We’ve helped all types of writer get published, including some of the biggest selling indie authors of recent years. I’m not going to start yelling about how much we make available for free in our club (clue: it’s masses). Instead, I’m just going to tell you to hop over here and take a look.Honestly? I think it’ll be the best investment you ever make. Step 10: Market Like Crazy And Build Your List I told you earlier that that the back matter for your book needed to include an inducement for readers to leave you their email address. The way you do that is by deploying the power of free. You create a reader magnet – a nicely written, properly formatted short story with a decent cover – and say, “Get my wonderful story, for free.” Readers, blown away by the power of your storytelling, sign up for this new free story. You send it to them by email. You now have their email address . . . and their permission for you to market to them direct. That, in essence, is the strategy that lies at the heart of every self-publishers success. Your core readers buy each new book when you ask them to. That sales surge blasts you up the Amazon sales rankings. That delivers a ton of visibility you couldn’t get in any other way. And a whole host of new readers enters the series and falls in love with your writing. Now needless to say, that strategy is important enough that you need to get it right. This post – already too long – isn’t going to talk in detail about how to build your list, but it matters intensely,and fortunately for you, this post goes into detail about how to set up the various elements. Get published, my friend. Sell some books. Have some fun. And good luck. About the authorHarry Bingham has been a pro author for twenty years and more. He’s been trad published and self-published, and hit bestseller lists via both routes. He’s also had his work adapted for the screen, has had a ton of critical acclaim, and been published all over the world. (More about Harry, more about his books.)
Read more

Mobi vs Epub: Which Ebook Format Is Best For You

The battle of the ebook formats. You’ve written a book. What you have is a massive Word document and you can’t wait for the world to read it. Only now it seems that ebooks are a totally different kind of beast from Word. You have to start converting your Word document to some other file format, and you don’t know which one to pick. And you don’t know how to do it. Well, relax. It’s all easy. What Is A Mobi File? What Is An Epub? When you think about it, an ebook is a bit like a special sort of webpage: a way to get text and images to appear on screen. The most universal and flexible ebook file format is the EPUB. Those kind of files can: Fit the text to whatever device you are usingHandle text-to-speechOffer a pagination-type experienceChanges in font size and typeHandle embedded imagesPermit highlighting and bookmarkingAnd plenty more And what is a Mobi file? It is the same thing, in almost every respect. The only differences between a mobi file and an epub file is that the MOBI file: Is an Amazon proprietary standardAllows Amazon to control your ebook from afar – and in particular,Mobi files have embedded “digital rights management” (DRM) that allow Amazon to restrict your mobi files only to devices that are associated with your Amazon account. In short, epub and mobi files are basically indistinguishable to users – with the exception that mobi files are kept within Amazon’s walled garden. What File Format Should You Choose For Your Ebook? When you are choosing your file format, you basically need to answer the question of where you want to sell your ebooks. Here are your choices: Only AmazonApple and Kobo and everyone else except AmazonAll e-stores – Amazon, and Apple, and everyone else Now, there are basically two smart choices there, and one dumb one. The dumb choice is to sell your book with Apple and Kobo and all the rest, but not with Amazon. How come? Because Amazon (depending on what stats you look at) accounts for about 75-85% of all ebooks sold in the United States. Their dominance of the UK market is somewhat similar. Only in Canada and some other minor markets does Amazon have anything less than an absolute lock on the market. So, OK, you’re definitely going to sell your ebook on Amazon. And Amazon only works with mobi files. So you’re going to have to create a mobi file. Fine. But are you going to be exclusive to Amazon? Or sell via Apple and everyone else as well? Now that sounds like a dumb question, right? You might assume that you just want to be selling books in as many places as possible. Except if you agree to sell your work exclusively through Amazon, you get to participate in Kindle Unlimited (KU). If KU subscribers borrow a book and read it, you will be entitled to a payment based on the total number of pages read. Loads of indie authors report that KU income is as large as regular sales royalties, or even more. Other indies (who prefer to be ‘wide’ rather than exclusive) prefer to sell through as many stores as possible. Without getting into the weeds on that argument here, you’ll end up deciding between two options: Amazon Exclusive: You are only selling through Amazon. You need a Mobi file and nothing else.Selling Everywhere: You’re selling everywhere, so you need both a mobi file and an epub. Just to be clear, you can easily create both a mobi file and an epub file from the same Word document. Before You Create Your Mobi / Epub File Before you create your ebook file, you just need to make sure that your Word document is in good shape to convert. That means three things: Your text needs to be (very largely) free of typos and other errorsYour document needs to be consistently formattedYou need to put together front- and end-material that will support your ebook marketing I’ll talk just a bit more about those things. Text Should Be Free Of Typos If you are preparing to self-publish, it’s not enough just to tell a good story. Your text needs to be free of spelling and punctuation mistakes, accidental typos, messy formatting and other issues. Even if you’re naturally very attentive to these things (and most authors aren’t), you will need a second pair of eyes finding those typos and correcting the errors. If you know someone who can do this for you (an English teacher friend, a librarian, or whatever), then you should definitely take that route. But if in doubt, pay for a professional copyeditor – such as our own copy editing services. These days, a badly proofed book stands next to no chance of selling. Consistent Formatting When you convert your document from Word to Epub / mobi, the converter will scan your document and look for major headings and sub-headings. So if all your chapter headings (whether numbers or titles) are formatted the same way, the converter is almost certain to find them and render them correctly. If your chapter headings are a mish-mash of different font sizes, caps and lowercase, bold and not bold, then the converter will almost certainly have no idea how to structure your document. You can read up on how to format your manuscript, here. So the message is simply – be consistent. Use a consistent font size and format for your major headings, and the converter should be able to do the rest. Simple. Support Your Ebook Marketing Remember that your Word document will form the basis of your ebook. And remember that your ebook can basically be divided into three slices: The front “Look Inside” part of the ebookYour text itselfThe bit after the actual end of your story It’s pretty obvious what your text has to do: it has to dazzle readers and blow their brains. But you need to remember that the front part of your book should be all about converting a possible reader. So if someone comes to your Amazon page and hits the “Look Inside” button, you want to present them with material that makes them most likely to convert. So don’t fill it with long author’s notes and thanks to friends. You want to include a few positive messages about your book and then leave plenty of room for text. All the boring stuff can live at the back of the book. And that leaves end matter. When a reader finishes your book, you want them to complete three actions. You want them to review the book they’ve just read. You want them to buy the next one. And you want them to give you their email address in exchange for a reader magnet of some kind. I’m not going to get into detail here – this jumbo post on self-publishing does that – but just remember: an ebook is not a print book. Your document needs to look forward to the ebook it wants to become. How To Create A Mobi File The easiest way to create a mobi file is … just upload your Word document to Amazon, via your KDP dashboard. Amazon will handle the conversion for you. Once Amazon has completed the conversion, it’ll ask you if you want to preview your ebook. And you do! Every page. If there is a formatting error, a slipped heading, a page break in the wrong place, now is your time to catch it. If you do find an error, you need to rework your Word document, then re-upload it. Continue that process until all your errors are fixed. And one other thing: when you preview your ebook, you need to do so using a variety of different device / font settings. Because pagination varies from device to device, a faulty page break may not show up on one view. You may only find it when you switch from one font setting to another. In essence, though, creating a mobi file is simplicity itself. Step one: write a book. Step two: ask one of the world’s largest tech companies to do the fiddly stuff for you. Step three: become a kindle bestseller. Easy. How To Create An Epub File You can’t ask Amazon to create an Epub file for you, because Amazon doesn’t work with them. You have a couple of alternatives here. One, if you are an Apple user, you use Vellum – a very easy to use and beautiful formatting tool. Everyone who uses it, loves it. It comes very highly recommended. For people in PC-world, I generally recommend that you use Draft2Digital, which has a very easy to use – and free – conversion tool. The principle here is exactly the same as with the Amazon / mobi conversion process above, so just repeat that same basic exercise. And that’s it. It takes maybe three minutes to convert your files, assuming that your Word document was in shape to start with. Easy right? Epub Vs Mobi Vs PDF Older posts used to include the PDF file format in a discussion of ebooks. But you know what? PDFs aren’t ebooks. They’re fine for corporate brochures and that kind of thing, but for a responsive reading experience, you need the flexibility of an epub or mobi file. So, please, just forget the PDF. It has no place in this discussion. Conclusion And that’s it! The question isn’t really mobi vs epub, because you’ll quite likely need both. They’re simple to create, and the creation process comes free. The main thing to think about, in fact, is getting the raw material – your Word document – in shape first. Good luck with the process. Happy editing. Happy converting. And, most of all, happy publishing. About The Author: Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)  (You can read more about Harry here and here, and more about his books here).
Read more

How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?

A short, honest answer So you’ve written your book. Congratulations! Now you want to self-publish your work and you’re excited about what might lie ahead. But, getting the damn thing published? How exactly does all that work? And (yikes!) just how much does it cost? In this blog post, we will honestly answer exactly how much does it cost to self-publish a book. OK. We’re not going to tell you HOW to self-publish your work in this post. If you want a complete guide to what to do and how to do it, then hop over here for everything you need. That guide deals step by step with what you need to do to self-publish successfully, but for now, lets talk about costs. Oh, and before we talk about costs: you probably want to know who I am and whether I know what the heck I’m talking about. Well, I’m Harry Bingham. I’ve written and self-published a fair few books. (You can see some of them here.) In the last 12 months, I’ve earned $100,000 from my self-published work, and I look to do even better in the future. If you can write well, and if you have the diligence and commitment to put together a series of books, not just the one, then there is no reason why you should not go all the way to a rich and satisfying career. Here’s what you need to know. How Much Does It Cost To Self-publish A Book? For a typical manuscript, allow: Editing – $800 (optional, but probably sensible)Copyediting – $1200 (optional, best avoided)Cover design – $70-400Formatting – $0 (do it yourself)Typesetting – $300 (optional)Uploading to Amazon – $0Email list builder – $0 (at first)Bookfunnel – $100Website – from $12/month, but spend more to get it right How Much Does Self-publishing Cost? OK, I’m going to start with the headlines, and a giant BUT. The ‘but’, quite simply, is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. Every single book and indie author will do things a bit differently here and that’s just fine. Different writers have different skills, different access to resources, and different audiences. What follows then is just a broad set of guidelines for you to adapt as you please. I’ll assume you have written a novel of about 80,000 words, and that you are serious about actually making money from this project. That is: you are happy to invest a little in the expectation of a proper future return. Do read the comments that follow these headlines, because the juice is in the comments, not the headlines. Okie-doke. Your costs very roughly are: Book Production Structural editing – $800 / £550You can skip this, but we’d advise against doing soCopyediting – $1200 / £850You need to do something here, but this is an area where you can and should, save moneyProofreading – $0 / £0Don’t do this as well as copyediting. The big publishers do both, but for you it’s a waste of moneyCover design – $70-$400 / (£50-£250)You have to get the cover right, but there are some great low cost options available.Formatting (for ebook) – $0 / £0You can do this yourself perfectly easily for freeTypesetting (for print) – $450 / £300 (if you want)This is more a vanity-type cost. You can just upload a Word file and it’ll look OK. But if you want a fancy-shmancy book to give to your mother, then you’ll want to pay a bit more. Skills Building OK, that’s not a normal entry on a list like this, but if you jump into a complex area like indie-publishing – an area where you’ll be competing head-on against some very skilful and well-resourced authors and publishers – you’ll just waste a ton of time and money if you don’t learn the ropes in a disciplined way. You have to make room in your budget for intelligently directed learning. Books – $20Just buy everything by David Gaughran, Joanna Penn and Nicholas Erik. This is small potatoes in terms of money, but the wisdom is yuuuuge.Podcasts, blogs, video – $0It’s all free. This blog post is free. Reading that stuff makes you a better, more effective entrepreneur.. You’re doing the right thing.Courses – $50I’ve done most of the big expensive courses out there, and I’ve learned a lot. But some of those things are $699 and upwards – and that’s crazy money. We have a big expensive self-publishing course of our own and it’s very damn good indeed. (Check it out here.) But why buy it? As a member of Jericho Writers you can get access to it for free. Signing up with us for a month costs just $39. You can just grab the entire super-premium course in that time, download all the notes, and walk away a massively better equipped writer. Basically a good course gives you a step-by-step template for success and you’re just crazy if you don’t do something along these lines. You can take out a simple, cancel-any-time Jericho Writers membership here. Uploading To Retailers Uploading to Amazon – $0 / £0I know everyone knows that, but it’s still amazing, isn’t it? You get unlimited access to all the readers in the world. And it costs nothing! How good is that?Uploading to everyone else – $0 / £0Same thing, except everyone else combined isn’t worth half of one Amazon. Creating Your Platform Building & hosting your website – $12/monthIf you use an all-in-one service like Squarespace or Weebly, you can get web-hosting plus drag-and-drop type editing tools that make it unbelievably simple to create your site. It’s crazy-cheap for what you get.Email list builder – $0Did I just say free? Yep I did – at least for anything up to 2,000 email addresses with Mailchimp. And within this starter package, you get automation tools which are essential for pinging readers thank you emails whenever and wherever they sign up to your list. Another amazing thing that the modern world just gives you.Book delivery (Bookfunnel) – $20/yearNot strictly essential, but any serious indie author will use Bookfunnel or something like it. And at this price? You gotta have it.Prolific Works – $20/monthYou don’t need to be permanently signed up to Prolific Works, but you can use it as a superb mailing-list accelerant. You probably want to budget at least a few months’ membership here as you start out.Other design costs – $100?You can use your cover design plus Squarespace’s design tools, plus freely available photos, to give you a pretty damn good website along with any other design bits and bobs you might want. But some amazing photos need paying for. Sometimes a designer offers you something too good to turn down. So chuck another $100 into your budget, and consider that as your way to treat yourself to stuff you like. Paid Advertising AMS – Budget $200/monthAMS is Amazon’s own in-store advertising system. (You’ve seen those “sponsored result” messages – that’s AMS doing its stuff. AMS is a pretty ropy system, in truth, but it’s pretty easy to get results. So assume you’ll spend some cash here. You should get it all back, and then some.Bookbub – $500 (if you can get it)If you enter your book for a featured offer type promotion, and Bookbub accepts you, then kiss BB’s sainted feet and hand over your wallet. You will certainly make money. That said, it’s hard to get accepted by BB these days, so that money is likely to stay in your wallet.Bookbub ads, Facebook ads – ????You could spend $10,000 here, or nothing. This post is hardly long enough to go into the ins and outs of the two biggest ad platforms for authors, so I’ll just observe that (A) some indie authors essentially make their livings by playing the ad-game with great care and extreme skill, and (b) other indie authors – including me! – make a fat living while making almost zero use of ads on either of these platforms. I am in a minority, but it is possible. So much for the headlines. But do read on, because there’s real debate about whether some of these costs are necessary – and real opportunities to shave money off these figures if you’re agile enough. What Costs Are Involved In Self-publishing A Book? Editing and copyediting OK. We’ve talked about headlines, and some of those headlines are uncontroversial. It just doesn’t cost any money to upload your book to Amazon. And yes, you can pay $2000 for a professionally created website . . . but you’ll end up with less control over it than you would if you build it yourself, and you won’t actually get any additional sales. But let’s home in on a few areas where it might or might not make sense to save money – and where there might or might not be opportunities to cut corners. We start with the heart of the entire publishing industry – the editorial process itself. Structural editing(Also known as developmental editing, or manuscript assessment, or just plain editorial advice.) What’s involved?An experienced, professional editor reads your text in detail and tells you what’s working, what’s not working and (crucially) how to fix the stuff that isn’t yet right. An editor isn’t there to inflict changes on your work directly – this is your book and you need to be the final judge of what changes are needed – but you should get a very good idea of how to develop and improve your text. Likely costDepends on the length of your book and the quality of the editorial service. An 80,000 word book will generally be charged at around $850 / £550, assuming that you are going to a really good editor with a load of experience and insight. You will find offers online for a good bit less, but I’d question whether they’re worth it. Good editorial advice can be THE thing that turns it from good-but-not-dazzling to the kind of thing that readers are recommending to their friends. Bad editorial advice on the other hand can actually kill a book. So if it were me, I’d rather pay a proper wage to a proper editor – or skip editing altogether. And me personally (but see the disclosure below), I’d never send a book out, unedited. DisclosureI’ve had a dozen novels traditionally published, and have worked with each of the world’s three largest publishers. I’ve had a ton of critical acclaim and have a big fat load of experience. But even so I use third party editorial advice. I have never published a book without it. I never will. Now, I truly believe that and have always lived by it. But just to be clear: Jericho Writers is (among other things) an editorial agency. We offer editorial help on books such as yours, so you could argue that I’m totally biased. And, OK, I do have a financial interest here, but the single reason why such huge numbers of Jericho clients have gone on to get published and (in some cases) sell millions of copies / win film deals / etc is because we take editorial advice incredibly seriously. You can read more about the editorial help we offer here. I really hope you take a look! Right. Enough of that. Just two more comments before we move on Remember that editorial advice may not be a one-shot thing. Especially if you are on your first book and don’t have a ton of previous experience, then your first draft may be horrible. Your second draft will be better. It may take multiple rounds of editorial advice to get your book to where it needs to be. Don’t worry about that. Just put in the time and the investment. The other thing is this. A bad product can’t sell – but you’re not just investing in the product. You’re investing in yourself. Every time you work with an editor, you will become a better writer. Your next book will come faster, slicker and more confident than it would otherwise. I promise. Copy-editing and proofreading What’s involved?A big traditional publisher will typically engage in one or two rounds of editorial work per book. Then the manuscript will be copyedited (or line-edited.) Then it’ll be typeset. Then there’ll be one last set of checks prior to printing, and those final checks are referred to as proofreading. The two activities – copyediting and proofreading – are much the same, except that copyediting is broader. So where proofreading will only be looking for clear errors (misprints, typos, spelling errors, and the like), a copy-editor should also be looking for: factual errorsclumsy phrasingawkward repetitionsinconsistencies (grey eyes that turn blue, for example)plotting inconsistencieserroneous or awkward punctuation Do I need copyediting and proofreading?No. Save yourself the money. Do it properly once, and a few remaining typos won’t kill anyone. How can I save money?To get a formally trained copyeditor doing a Big Publisher quality job on your book is eyewateringly expensive. In the figures above, I suggested $1200 might be a reasonable guide for an 80,000 word book. Well, maybe. But only if you got a hungry copyeditor and your manuscript needed only the lightest of edits. The truth is, because this work is painstaking and done page by page and line by line, it’s slow. Because standards in the Kindle store have risen over the years, readers have (rightly) become a bit tetchy about sloppy spellings / puncutation / presentation etc. That means you’re in a bind: On the one hand, you want to do a decent job On the other hand, you don”t want to pay $2000 and more to fix some commas. So what do you do? Well, as it happens Jericho Writers does offer pro-quality copy-editing services (more about that here), but 99% of people reading this will NOT want to use them – and probably shouldn’t: they’re just too expensive for what you get. So the best advice, really, is as follows: Train yourself to write a really clean manuscript. Grammarly is a great tool, but better still, you start to build a Grammarly-style app in your own head. Find your own errors. Be your own copy-editor. You still won’t eliminate all errors – you just need a second pair of eyes for that – but you’ll vastly reduce the work (and the cost) involved in copyediting.And then, once you have your – fairly clean – manuscript, just use whatever resources you can find to work with you cheaply or for free. Are you friends with your local librarian? Have a keen reader who used to be a school teacher? Have a college friend who’d do some work for cash? If you snuffle through your contacts (and reader emails) you’re quite likely to find someone who will work for nothing. I’ve had offers from readers along those lines and have ended up choosing to pay $300 – partly as a thank you, but also as a way to say, “Look, this is a professional relationship and I’d really appreciate it if you did the best job you possible could.” Will you get a perfect result from this approach? No. Will you get a perfectly OK one? Yes, if you do it right. And will you lose any sales as a result of low-balling it? Well, no, not really.
Read more

Traditional Publishing vs Self Publishing

What are the pros and cons?Which route generates more money?And which approach is right for you? When I wrote my first book, things were easy. You wanted to sell books? You needed to get hold of a book publishers. Simple. The rise of Amazon and the e-book obliterated all those old certainties – and made a whole array of exciting new options of how to publish a book available to authors. But this leaves one important question for writers; do you follow traditional publishing routes or explore self publishing possibilities? In the twenty years since my first book deal, I’ve published books both traditionally, and self published them as an indie author. I’ve made money and hit bestseller lists via both routes. But even now, if you asked me “which is better?”, I couldn’t tell you. Either option has advantages and disadvantages, and some types of author will find one specific route obviously appropriate to them. Other authors will just find it a hard call, because both routes look attractive. The purpose of this blog post is, therefore, to lay out the pluses and minuses of traditional publishing, and of self-publishing. I’m not going to tell you what you ought to do. I will tell you what to expect in terms of pros and cons. So sit tight. Let’s start with some basic definitions. What’s The Difference Between Traditional And Self Publishing? Traditional publishing (or just “trad publishing”): Means that the intellectual property rights in your manuscript are purchased outright by a publishing company (often a large multinational). The best known publishers include Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and others.The sale normally takes place via a literary agent (and novelists, especially, will benefit from having an agent),The publisher will use its corporate contacts to make your book available for sale as widely as possible. That means you can expect your book to be sold via every e-tailer (notably Amazon), but also chain bookstores (Barnes & Noble or Waterstones, for example), supermarkets, indie bookstores, and so on.Your book will almost certainly appear in print – and quite likely in four separate editions (hardback, paperback, e-book, audio.)You stand a chance of being reviewed by formal outlets, such as newspapers.You would normally expect to receive an advance.If your sales are such that your advance ‘earns out’, you will also receive royalties – though many authors don’t see royalties at all.Your book now belongs to the publisher. If you want it back – that’s just tough. If you don’t like their marketing – that’s just tough. If you change your mind and want to go indie – well, you’ll either need to buy the rights back or just write a new book. In essence, you are selling your work to a corporation, and that corporation will go about exploiting those rights. Sure, you can expect your editor to be nice to you, and to listen to your viewpoint and all the rest of it. But you’ve sold the book, and you’ve lost control. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but you need to understand the basic nature of the transaction. Self publishing (or “indie publishing”, or “e-publishing on Amazon”) is a totally different proposition. Self publishing: Means you never sell rights to the book. It’s yours.That also means there’s no advance in self-publishing. Rather the opposite: you’ll need to make some investments upfront, even if they’re not very large.Most indie sales take the form of e-books. (My own e-book sales volume is about 25 times greater than my print sales volume, and I’m not exceptional.)Means you are highly unlikely to see your book sold in physical bookstores on any kind of national or international basis. (Local store owners might be happy to stock a handful of books on sales or return, but that’s just being nice. You won’t make many sales from that route.)Equally, you won’t get reviewed in newspapers.And you’re responsible for everything: creating your product, marketing it, choosing an ebook format, everything. We’ve adorned this blog post with pictures of old-fashioned rotary phones in a (slightly feeble) attempt to suggest that the trad vs indie issue marks a dichotomy as profound as the analogue phone / smartphone one. But the trad / indie division isn’t about a simple technical evolution. After all, modern publishers use plenty of technology too. They sell on Amazon too. Really, what we’re looking at is a totally new ability for indie authors to reach a worldwide audience without the support of a corporate publisher. Amazon created that ability, and it’s astonishing, and it’s wonderful. But Big 5 publishers can also get you in front of a very broad audience. So which route do you choose? Which option do you take? Who Makes More Money? Traditional Publishing vs Self Publishing There are a lot of questions with unclear, blurry answers. This question has a clear and emphatic one. Indie authors are, today, generating more money from their work than traditionally published ones. That situation is likely to become progressively more true over time. It remains true, no matter which income level you want to look at. Here, for example, is one graphic from the excellent To see that, look first at the left hand side of the graph: “Authors who debuted in the past century”. Clearly, that includes a host of huge-selling and long-established traditionally published names -that’s the category where you find your Lee Childs, your John Grishams, your Stephen Kings. But those guys were all established before indie publishing was a thing. More relevant to your situation is the cluster of bars on the right of the graph: “authors who debuted in the past three years.” You’ll see that the number of indie-published authors (in blue) vastly exceeds the number of Big 5 authors (in mauve). That is, there are way, way more authors earning $50,000 or more on Amazon than there are trad authors. Now yes, trad authors may have better access to income sources beyond Amazon. (eg: Barnes & Noble, other physical retail outlets, non-Amazon e-stores, foreign translation deals, film & TV money, etc), but: (A) you can exaggerate the size of that disparity.I self-publish my Fiona Griffiths books and I’ve sold audio rights, foreign rights, and am in detailed discussions on a possible major TV deal. Many more experienced indies would be in the same approximate position. (B) the picture doesn’t change, even if you allow for greater non-Amazon income on the part of trad authors.This post isn’t quite the right place to go into all that. The numbers are now a little out of date, but if anything today’s numbers are even more favourable to indies. How Come Self Publishers Make More Money? Well, it’s not rocket science. If a trad author sells $100 of ebooks on Amazon, Amazon will keep $30 as its (very fair) retailer share. The rest passes to the publisher, who will keep 75% of the amount, passing the rest (25% * $70 = $17.50) to that author’s agent. That author’s agent will help themselves to their contractual 15% and pass the balance (85% *$17.50 = $14.88) to the author. So trad authors makes $14.88 from $100 of e-sales. Not a lot, right? The indie author sells $100 on Amazon. They get $70. No deductions, just cash in the pocket, paid monthly, and with exceptionally clear and detailed reporting. Indie authors make $70.00 from $100 of e-sales. That huge – almost fivefold – difference in what a trad author gets from an e-book sale and what an indie author gets from the same sale accounts for the basic difference in income levels. The fact is: an indie author can price their books more cheaply than a trad author’s, and sell fewer copies, and still make more money. That is the golden engine behind the entire self-publishing revolution. But even if you’re quite focused on money, the “who earns more?” question doesn’t settle all debate. You need to remember, for example, that: Traditionally published authors will (mostly) get an advance.Self published authors will be putting time and money into the publication and marketing process. Focusing on top-line revenues ignores all that.The “top of the world” type outcomes are still way more common with trad than with indie publishing. (I’m talking about explosive international successes like Gone Girl, or Girl on a Train. It’s not that hits like these are ever frequent, nor that huge hits are impossible via indie routes, but that level of global attention does mostly fall to trad published authors. It’s just the way it is.)Lots of self published authors sell effectively nothing. They may make a loss from self publishing. In fact, it’s probably true that a majority of indie authors lose money (because their books are bad, or their marketing is bad, or both. Equally, lots of traditionally-oriented authors knock at the gates of the traditional industry and are never admitted. Those guys don’t make money either.) And forget about the boosters from either camp. Making money from either trad or indie publishing is hard. Most writers don’t earn a living from what they do. There are a zillion other reasons to write of course (because it’s brilliant!), but Earning Fame and Fortune isn’t one of them. Want to know how I earn $100,000 a year from self publishing, with minimal effort?Well, I’ve put together an entire video course on the subject, that runs you through the entire self-pub process and will ensure you avoid all the mistakes I made along the way. The course is expensive to buy – so don’t buy it! It’s free to members of Jericho Writers – and we’d just love it if you chose to join our club. All the info you need is here. I really hope you hop on board. Traditional Vs Self Publishing: Different Genres / Authors What’s right for you? One of the problems with the traditional vs self publishing question is that the advantages and disadvantages of the two routes vary depending on who the author is. So here is a quick tour of the major issues. Do Traditional Publishers Even Want You? As a very rough guide, literary agents receive about 2,000 submissions a year, and they are likely to take on 2-3 authors from that torrent. Put another way, you have a roughly 1 in 1,000 chance of being taken on by a given agent. And suppose an agent does take you on. Even then, the agent may sell hawk your book around, only to find that no one wants it. Or someone does want it, but only a micro-publisher who has no money to spend either on author advances or (more serious yet) on marketing. Or you end up with a digital-only imprint that won’t get your book into bookshops, which is the thing you always had your heart set on. The truth is, I’m not sure that those Stats of Doom should alter your decision one way or the other. Here’s the simple truth: You can’t sell a bad book. I mean, yes, sure, you can make some sales with almost anything. But if you want to make a career at this game, you need to write well enough to persuade a large audience that you have what it take. And that’s why the top indies move in and out of traditional publishing with ease. Mark Dawson was published by Macmillan, then switched to indiedom. Hugh Howey was and is an indie, but he’s done some huge traditional deals too. The levels of quality needed aren’t set by your choice of publishing route. They’re set by readers. So the bar is set high, no matter what. And that’s good. We’re writers. We want to write well. So please: raise that bar. What Genre Is Your Book? Indie authors do well in genre fiction – and the more genre the better. So if you take a niche like military sci-fi or out-and-out romance, you’ll find that indies account for 80% or more of the market. Indies also do very well in crime, thrillers, westerns, SF, fantasy, young adult, women’s fiction, and so on. At the same time, there is essential no indie market for serious literary fiction. If you want to write the kind of books that could sit alongside work by Jonathan Franzen or Elizabeth Strout etc, then you can forget about self-publishing completely. The route just won’t work for you. WIth non-fiction, if your work is the sort of thing that might be found by its title (“How to Make Your Own Sausages”), then self publishing is very viable indeed. If it’s a one-off (eg: Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow), then indie publishing will not work. Short message:Genre fiction and subject-led non-fiction work very well on the indie model. With anything else – take care. Are You Writing In A Series? That sounds like a funny question, right, but here’s the thing: For indie authors, series fiction sells way, way better than non-series fiction. Here, for example, is data collected by Smashwords which shows that around three quarters of bestselling fiction (in Smashwords’ own sample) is series-driven. At the bottom end, around two-thirds of the books are standalones. And sure, Smashwords’s userbase isn’t quite representative of the broader indie market – but the fact is that series books sell much, much better than standalones: probably in large part, because an indie author’s selling tools work better for such work. If you are currently writing standalone work, but are intending to explore the indie route, I’d urge you to consider how you could series-ify your work. For example, if you write standalone private investigator novels, maybe your PIs could all work for the same agency, or run up against the same cops, or drink in the same bars or, really, anything to say to the reader, “Yes, this is the world you know and love.” Short message:If your work is not currently written in a series, then either think of ways to series-ify it . . . or consider traditional publishing as a better option. Are You Prolific? Most successful indie authors will have lists of a dozen or more books for sale. Indeed, plenty of indies will really only hit six-digit earnings when they have 15-20 titles available. if you just can’t see yourself writing that many books or if you don’t want to be under pressure to write 2-4 books a year (or even more), then the traditional route may be better for you. But think about it. You may be able to write faster than you think. A writer’s first book is often a learning experience and often a wrestling match to get into shape. Books do come more easily with time, so you may be a faster writer than you quite realise at this stage. Do You Want Traditional Acclaim? What do you think will fulfil you as a writer? Is it book sales and money and being able to give up work? If that’s the case, then the indie-publishing route may be better for you. Or are you OK for money already? Do you want, instead, to see your work in ‘real’ bookshops? Do you want book reviews in proper newspapers? Do you want to be invited to literary festivals and invited to talk on radio, and all the rest of it? If you want all those signs of acclaim, then traditional publishing is probably your only route to fulfilment. Please note that traditional publishing does not guarantee those things, not by any means. You can be traditionally published, and find that your publisher just hasn’t managed to get your book into many stores, and no newspaper reviews are forthcoming, and no literary festival is interested in hearing you speak. That experience is, indeed, more common than not. All the same, those good things almost always flow only to traditionally published authors, so if that’s what floats your boat, you know what to do. Are You Entrepreneurial? Will You Relish The Challenge Of Self Publishing? Let’s face it. Self publishing isn’t easy. You will either have to take on the following roles, or commission third parties to handle them for you Authoring (that’s your job!)Structural editingCopy-editingBook formatting (e-book and print)Copy writing (book description)Cover designingWebsite constructionEmail list: building blocksEmail list: copyFinanceAdvertising strategyAdvertising creativeAdvertising monitoring and adjustment Aside from the authoring, most of those things will either be done by your traditional publishers, or they’ll ignore them completely (effective digital marketing? from a Big 5 publisher? Hmm). That still leaves some things down to you (notably, your website and email list) but no one will fret too much if you don’t do them at all. In other words: if you want to be left alone to write and do not much else of anything, that is more possible with traditional publishing than it is with self publishing. It’s not advisable either way. But is it possible? Yes. How Much Work Is Really Involved? There are a lot of misconceptions about the amount of work involved in self-publishing and the type of work required. The result is that writers can make poor decisions because their information is faulty. It’s really easy to think, “Jeepers, I don’t want to do all that, so I’ll just have some highly paid, very experienced professionals to do it all for me.” And yes, OK, there’s some truth in that – but only some. So here are some countervailing thoughts: It’s still the case that traditional publishing tends to handle Amazon sales quite badlyI can’t even count the number of trad authors I know who tear their hair out with low energy & unintelligent e-marketing from their publishers. Indie authors who watch that hair-tearing just feel mildly puzzled that the whole thing should seem so arduous. Selling on Amazon is (in many ways) easy!There is quite a lot of author-input needed in traditional publishingAs soon as you engage on the traditional publishing process, you will notice that (a) you care a lot more about your book than anyone else does, and (b) you don’t have any control over anything – you signed control away when you sold your book. The consequence is that, to make a difference to things, you have to work quite hard and from a place where your tools are cajoling / asking / yelling, rather than simply an ability to give orders. (“No, sorry, I don’t like that. Can you redo it? Thanks.”)Much of the work in self publishing is around setting up your sales channelThere IS quite a lot of work and some expense in getting your website and email list set up as you need it to be. But that work takes place upfront. It’s basically a one-off. It’ll save you time and make you money for ever after. Short message:There is work involved in both routes and, believe me, you’ll care enough about your book that you’re happy to do any amount of work if that gets it sold. Final Thoughts What’s right for you? You should probably go indie if: You are entrepreneurialYou aren’t totally scared of a few numbers and a bit of tech. (You don’t need great expertise here; you just can’t have a powerful irrational aversion!)You are able to be fairly prolificYou write genre fiction or subject led non-fictionYou are happy to write in a seriesYou favour income/readers over traditional bookstore sales / traditional channels of acclaim. The more you check those boxes, the more definitely you are an indie author. If those boxes really, really don’t apply to you, you should go for the trad route. And if you check some, but not all, boxes – well, it’s up to you. There’s no right or wrong answer here, and you don’t have to make a once-and-f0r-all choice. You can start out indie and go trad (or hybrid) later if you choose to. You can start out trad and migrate the other way if you prefer. Truth is, this is a great time to be an author. You have more choice and more possibility than ever before. Enjoy the freedom – and happy writing!
Read more

How to typeset your own book

It’s the stuff of writers’ dreams. Your double-spaced, A4 sized, agent-ready manuscript turns into a beautiful paperback book; that first line that you agonised over for days, leaping out at the reader; your paragraphs neatly aligned and looking as they should – actual real-life pages in a beautiful looking book. Ahhh, we can almost smell the paper. One of the highlights of CompletelyNovel is getting to help writers turn this dream into reality. Every day, writers turn manuscripts into quality paperback books, either for self-publishing or to give to family and friends as a handy editing tool. Readily-accessible tools such as Microsoft Word mean that writers can now typeset their manuscripts themselves. Once you learn the tricks of DIY typesetting, it’s straightforward and immensely satisfying to see your book take shape. Here are some top tricks for DIY typesetting that every writer should know. 1.Paragraph Styles The key to any book interior is consistency. This includes making sure your chapter headings, typeface, quotations and asides are all in the same style. You won’t see many books that start in 11pt Times New Roman and then suddenly change to 12pt Helvetica (unless it’s intentional, of course!). You can find paragraph styles on most Word processors – in Word, they’re placed in a bar at the top with different fonts and headings. Once you’ve perfected the font and placement of your first chapter heading, highlight it and then right click on ‘Heading 1’ to save it as a style. Then, when it comes to writing Chapter Two, you can easily replicate the same style. You can also do the same for your main body text and any other headings and styles, perhaps a character’s handwriting, or a quote, if you’re writing non-fiction. 2. Page Breaks No more shall we press the return key multiple times to get to a new page. If you do this, you’ll find yourself having to go back and forth adding and deleting paragraphs every time you make a change to the text. Instead, just insert a page break. This will take you onto the next page, right where you want to be. You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll use this when you know it’s there! 3. Justification Authors who typeset their own work often don’t justify their text. This is where you make sure each line meets both margins, so that it looks like a perfect rectangle on the page. This just makes things a bit neater and is a key part in giving your manuscript that extra finesse that will make it look as beautiful as it reads. 4. Prelims And Title Pages Title pages are where you get to be creative. They are the first few pages that the reader sees when they open your book. This might include a page that states title and author name, a copyright page (if you’re self-publishing) and then maybe a half-title page which also lists the publisher. Many publishers use the title pages to bring some of the aspects of the cover into the book itself – perhaps by using the same font as the title on the cover or similar black and white illustrations or shapes. There are some really great examples of title pages around – just look at the books on your shelf for inspiration! 5. Indents As standard, a first paragraph after a new chapter or heading shouldn’t be indented, but every new paragraph afterwards should be. Although using the ‘tab’ key to indent your text on your A4 manuscript is fine, this space suddenly looks huge once you size the page down to your standard paperback size. I’d recommend an indent of 0.5-1cm to match the other books on your shelf. To alter the indent, just drag the small, top arrow on the ruler at the top of your screen. Remember to update your paragraph style with the change to save you the time of decreasing every indent! And Finally … Whether you end up typesetting your own book or not, you’ll be surprised how often some of these typesetting skills will crop up in your writing career. If you’d like to continue your learning in more detail, there’s a handy typesetting guide on CompletelyNovel, which can be downloaded as a PDF file for free. And, for those writers who’d like a helping hand from a professional, the team at CompletleyNovel offer a handy typesetting service, too.
Read more

Author Platform (What It Is and How To Build It)

What it is, why it matters, & how to build your own. I remember when I first learned what an author platform really was – and its extraordinary power to deliver readers, sales and publicity. I was writing non-fiction for HarperCollins at the time (I’m quite proud of this book), and I shared an editor with the mighty Ben Goldacre. If you haven’t come across Goldacre’s work, he’s the guy behind Bad Science and Bad Pharma – essentially a scientist’s quest to expose poor quality science across the globe. He’s a campaigner for truth and loves nothing better than exposing fraudulent ‘scientific’ claims for what they are. He was early into the blogging arena, and quickly built up a substantial worldwide following. That following was big rather than huge, but it was passionate. These were people who cared about the same things as Goldacre, and loved the fact that he was making a noise about them. (The blog is here, by the way. The design now looks rather elderly.) The result? Goldacre didn’t use HarperCollins as a marketing operation. He used it as a fulfilment one. To paraphrase my (somewhat stunned) editor, Goldacre effectively walked in and said, “Here’s the manuscript. I’ve arranged these online promotional activities. I’ve got this many science editors from the major international newspapers agreeing to review it. I’ve got endorsements from all these famous people. Now can you please get this thing printed up and into bookshops.” Now, OK, I’m sure it wasn’t quite as simple as that, but you get the point. HarperCollins provided the sales network, but it was Ben Goldacre who actually brought the readers The result? Half a million books sold . A further best-selling book to follow. A hyper-successful career as public speaker and campaigner. And more than any of that? He changed the world. The British government recognised the truth in much of what Goldacre was saying, and used him to reshape the way they fund and support science. You want to know what an author platform is? It’s that. It’s what Goldacre did. It’s owning your audience. Or, if you want a more formal definition, then author platform can be defined as the ability to deliver readers, through having direct and effective channels of communication with them. And please note, the issue here – the thing that this definition makes central – is your ability to deliver readers. It’s not how many Twitter followers you have, or how many likes you’ve acquired on Facebook. The fact is, the scale of your platform is measured in terms of the number of people who, when you say “Buy!” will go right ahead and buy your book. Platform Vs Authority While we’re still on definitions, it’s also worth distinguishing between your author platform and your authority. Authority is about how much kudos and respect you have acquired in your niche. It’s a measure of your knowledge. Platform is about your communication potency. It’s about your ability to reach – and influence – readers in your niche. So, in the popular science space, a Harvard Professor of Physics might have super-high authority, but zero platform. Equally, the host of a TV science show might have great platform but relatively low authority. Both routes can generate sales. Ben Goldacre had a huge platform . . . and he sold a lot of books. Daniel Kahneman had no platform to speak of, but he did have a Nobel Prize – so, when he wrote his Thinking, Fast and Slow, people wanted to read it, and it too became a global bestseller. Authority and platform at the same time? Not many people can bring that. Jordan Peterson – psychology professor and YouTube sensation – can. This guy outscores him in both dimensions, though.) Why Author Platform Matters If author platform equals your ability to deliver readers, then it’s sort of obvious why it matters. But depending on what type of author you are, the specific issues vary a little. Tradtionally Published Non-fiction If you are a non-fiction author seeking traditional publication, then most literary agents will demand to see evidence of either: Platform, orAuthority Indeed, it can sometimes seem that if you can’t provide evidence of excellence on one of those two issues, then you simply won’t be able to sell your book. Luckily (for most of us), that’s just not true. When I sold my This Little Britain – a book of popular history about Britain’s role in the world – I had no platform at all. Nor did I have any authority: I didn’t even study the subject at college.. But what the heck? I had a great concept. I loved my subject. I could write well. I could make people laugh. My agent and I laid three sample chapters in front of a bunch of publishers, and we had a blow-out book auction that netted a two book £175,000 ($250,000) book deal. That wasn’t thanks to my platform, or my authority, just plain good writing. The fact is, quality sells. Traditionally Published Fiction When it comes to fiction, there will, of course, be some authors who bring a platform with them: oftentimes, celebs wanting to cash in by writing a book that relates in some way to their celebrity. For example, a political reporter writing a political thriller, or a reality star ‘writing’ romance. (The inverted commas are needed there because those books are often ghostwritten. If you’re a reality TV star, why would you actually need to write anything? You can get staff for that.) But the vast majority of times, debut authors will bring exactly nothing by way of platform. Yes, maybe a couple of thousand Twitter followers. Yes, maybe a blog – ‘My Writing Journey’, that kind of thing. But those things won’t impress publishers. (What would be impressive? Well, I think you’d need to look at monthly blog traffic in excess of 100,000 visitors. Twitter followers in the several hundred thousand.) So for ordinary writers, the short message is: just don’t worry. If you have a huge following – great; publishers will like that.If you have no great following – doesn’t matter; publishers weren’t expecting one anyway.If you just don’t like and don’t get on with social media – don’t worry; publishers will just find other ways to promote your work. That said, there is a caveat here and it’s a very important one. It actually has the potential to alter and enlarge your entire career. How come? Well, just consider the following question for a moment: How do self-published authors sell their work? After all, indie authors don’t have the ability of Big 5 houses to get your book into bookstores across the land. They can’t get newspaper reviews. In fact, most of the options open to Big 5 publishers are closed to indies. Yet these guys now sell more adult fiction than all the Big 5 houses combined. So something’s going on there . . . and that secret sauce is something that absolutely any author should be interested in concocting for themselves. More on that subject coming right up. How To Build Your Author Platform How indies do it – and how you can do it too. When self-publishing first became serious business, back in about 2010 or thereabouts, the new breed of indie authors had to figure out how they were going to crack this exciting new market. Pretty quickly, it became clear how not to market your book. Failed approaches include: Yelling about your book on TwitterYelling about your book on FacebookBlogging a lotGuest blogging a lotTaking out full page ads in the New York TimesHiring a trad publicist for $5-10,000+ to do all the things that a trad publicist doesArranging book signingsArranging book tours & multiple signingsHand-selling your book, bookstore by bookstore, across the countryHiring a zeppelin to criss-cross Manhattan, while a troupe of performing monkeys scamper along below handing flyers to passers-by Now, in truth, I’m not absolutely certain that the last of these methods doesn’t sell books, because I’m not sure it’s been tried. (The zeppelin gambit has probably already been used a few times by now. But zeppelin and monkeys? That’s cutting edge.) Instead, the indie community has come to cluster around a few techniques which do, absolutely, 100% guaranteed sell books. (If done right, and if the books are good enough, and so on.) Those techniques are: Distributing free or very low cost booksEmails, sent direct from author to readerFeatured deals on Bookbub and similar. (more here, if you’re interested.)Advertising on various online platforms (notably Facebook, AMS and Bookbub). These techniques only partially work for trad-published authors. On the free/deeply discounted book idea: just try running that past your editor. Her laughter may be loud and demented enough to crack glassware. On the featured deals on Bookbub : well, yes, trad publishers do make more use of those than they have in the past. But they don’t always use them well, and, in any event, you’ll only enjoy those once a year or so, and the benefits won’t flow mostly to you. On the advertising: yeah, right. Publishers do extremely little online advertising, and it won’t be worth your while to do any at all, because you can’t make ads work if someone else is collecting most of the revenue generated. Which leaves emails. Which sounds sad. And boring. And kinda hopeless. Except that email marketing is one of the most potent tools ever invented and you have it in your power to do it exceptionally well. A well-built, carefully curated email list is, in fact, one of the most potent author platforms it is possible to build. And you can build it. And I’ll show you how. Just add monkeys How Email Marketing Works For Authors Here, in a nutshell, is how email marketing works: You sell an ebook.In the back of the ebook, you say to your readers, “Hey, I’ve written a great story. Would you like a copy of it for free?”They say yes, because they love your writing, so they click through to a page which collects an email address (with all appropriate consents, of course)You email them the story (a process which can be easily automated), so they’re happyBut you have their email address and that reader’s permission to email themWhen you have your next book out, you email that reader, saying, “Here’s my book, and here’s where you can buy it.”That reader is happier than a Trump with a Cheeseburger, because – remember? – that reader loves your work, is thrilled to hear from you, and would love nothing better than buy your latest release. This is permission marketing at its purest. You’re not marketing to people who resent being marketed to. You’re marketing to people who love your stuff! Who get genuinely excited when an email from you plops into their inbox! Who actually contact you asking you to write faster, because they’re impatient to read your next release. And email marketing is a lot, lot better than you think How come? Because, let’s say you work hard to create a mailing list of 10,000 names. And let’s say 3,000 of those buy a book when you ask them to. (The other 7,000 were maybe busy. Or never got your email. Or thought, “yep, I must buy that at some point in the future.” Or lost all their powers of taste and judgement and decided against reading your books.) But still. You want to amplify your sales, not just sell to a smallish subset of the people you sold to last time. Luckily, there is a very fine solution to that conundrum, and that solution has a name: Amazon. Amazon’s bestseller rankings are highly susceptible to short-term movements in sales. Which means those 3,000 sales can blast your title right up the search rankings, so it starts popping up in the search results of readers who have never heard of you or your book before. Sure, most of those casual browsers won’t buy your book, but enough will. And before too long, you are making a heap of sales to brand new readers, who’ll read your book, and love it, and see that invitation in the back of your book (the one about getting a free story), and they’ll think, yeah, sounds good, and they’ll go get that ebook, and add their names to your mailing list, and the next time you launch a book, you’ll have even more firepower than you did before. Get it right, and this type of author platform can be: Easy to build (but you have to get the details right; this game is all about detail)Cheap to build (there are few significant costs involved)Versatile (it works for almost any type of author)Durable (those readers will stick with you)Self-sustaining (each new launch will bring new readers to your email list) And best of all, this kind of marketing can be: very lucrative. I self-publish my Fiona Griffiths books in the US and Canada only. (I’ve been trad published elsewhere.) I built my email list using the techniques described here. I do minimal amounts of paid advertising. I do very little of anything else either. (No book signings, no zeppelins, no monkeys.) But last year I earned $100,000 from sales of my work in the US and Canada. If I wrote faster (or spent less time moonlighting for Jericho Writers), I’d earn a fair bit more. That’s the power of email marketing. That’s an author platform that delivers readers, time after time after time. Indeed, if I could only one bit of advice to about-to-be debut novelists, then it’s this: Build your email list! It’s the single most effective thing you can do to sell books. It’s the single thing that is most likely to future-proof your career. You will be called upon to do countless other things in your career – those book signings, those festival appearances, and all the rest of it – but only two things matter. Writing books, and building your list. Your sales rep. How Email Marketing Works For Authors OK. This post has gone on way too long – but at the same time, if you are serious about building your platform, then constructing a really good email list should be your first duty outside actually writing the damn book. In fact, your priorities are, in order: Write the damn book,Collect email addresses,Eat, drink and be merry. Truly, nothing else matters as much as this. How do you accomplish step #2 above? And accomplish it as fast as possible, as cheaply as possible, and without making yourself scream in frustration at any tech stuff? Well, I said it’s about getting the detail right, and it is. We’ve put a really detailed post together on how to self-publish. You can find that post here. If you are heading for trad publishing, then the material on actually preparing your manuscript for publication is irrelevant to you. But the material on email lists and websites and best-practice e-book construction does matter to you. Ignore the fact that the post references self-pub, and just home in on anything that relates to the collection and use of email lists. Honestly? That information is just about the most helpful material we have anywhere on this website. But it’s hard doing things from a blog post alone. Which is why we  developed a complete set of video courses on  – well, everything. You want to know how to set up your email marketing platform?We have a course on that. (And a filmed two hour tutorial with a heap of slides. And a ton of other supporting material.) You want to know how to get published?We have a course on that. (Tons of tutorials, loads of PDF downloads, every topic expertly covered.) You want to know how to improve your writing?Yep, we’ve got a course on that. (A very good one, with a bazillion stunned testimonials from writers just like you.) You want a brilliant database of literary agents with super-easy search tools?Yep, we built one, just for Jericho members. It’s the slickest, most comprehensive tool of its kind in the world. You want to pitch your work live online to literary agents?Yep, we got you covered. Each month, we stick a camera in front of some agents, we give them some work submitted by Jericho members and see what they say. Then fire questions at them. And you get to watch . . . if you decide to become a member. You want tons of other stuff too? For free, within one low cost, cancel-any-time membership plan?OK, sure. We’ll do that too. We built Jericho Writers as a club for writers like you. Our aim is to deliver THE best tools and resources in the world at an insanely attractive price. There are no lock-ins, and you can cancel yoru subscription at any time. You can find out more about joining us here. We look forward to welcoming you soon! About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
Read more

How to Commission a Cover Design for a Book (17 Easy Tips)

17 tips (and every one of them awesome) If you are planning to e-publish your book on Amazon and elsewhere – as an ebook and/or in print – you’re going to need a cover. And needless to say, getting that cover right can make a huge difference to sales. The right cover can make the difference between a book that works, and one that falls flat. But commissioning a cover design is not easy, and can easily become very expensive. I’m Harry Bingham, and I make six-figures annually self-publishing my work. And truthfully? I think commissioning your first book cover is hard. And it’s especially hard when you’re starting out and don’t have a lot of moolah to spend. So what follows are the tips I’ve derived from my own personal experience – and from hanging out in the industry a long time, and seeing a lot, a lot of successes and failures. Hold on to your hats, and let’s go design that cover. Where Do You Find A Book Cover Designer? First up, where do you source your designer? There are basically five possible answers to that question. 1. You Google “Book cover designer” (or similar)Nothing wrong with that. Do some proper research though: it may well be that the right person for you is on page #5 of a set of Google search results. Remember that Google ranks websites, not book cover design quality! Remember too that designers tend to have specific genres, they’re most comfortable with. So a designer who’s great for upmarket women’s fiction may be awful for genre romance . . . and may not even want to touch space-opera type SF. 2. You Google “Pre-made book covers” (or similar)Same idea, except that here you’ll be buying covers that pro designers have designed for a particular commission, but then not gone on to use. So you can get pro covers for (typically) $49 to $99, some of which are just excellent. A good site to start with is Self-Pub Book Covers. I’m not always convinced they have the best material out there, but they certainly have a lot of it! 3. You run a competition99 Designs offers a design-based solution for your book cover needs. So does Design Crowd. So do others in that arena. The idea here is that you set a prize. Different designers from around the world compete for your prize. You award it to the design you love the most (or pay nothing if none of the designs pleases you.) Don’t low-ball this, though. A bottom-end sized prize will get you bottom-end type entries. And you don’t want bottom end. 4. You create your own designProbably using Canva, which is, by a country mile, the best design-tool-for-idiots out there. It’s got some good book cover templates, and the service is free, so what’s not to like? 5. You use a friend or relativeAnd I don’t mean Auntie Ira, who likes messing about on her laptop now and again. I mean a friend or relative who has actual design skills (as in: makes a living as a pro designer in some way.) All of those options can work. In the rest of this piece, I’m assuming you are actually commissioning someone . . . but even if you use one of the other routes, the basic tips & advice apply in just the same way. Two last comments: Golden Rule #1Get this right! If the first design isn’t good enough, spend more money.Almost good-enough isn’t good enough. Scary, right? Because covers matter a lot, because the quality of competition (from both indies & trad publishers) has increased, and because design processes are necessarily open-ended. But that brings us to the second, and more reassuring rule: Golden Rule #2Your first cover is (nearly always) your most expensive How come? Because that’s where you evolve the look which will apply to all the titles you ever do. So, for example, my book covers are stark black-and-white images, with bright text. The basic look is fixed. The fonts are fixed. The only real variables left are (a) what image to use? and (b) what colour are we going to go through this time. Some of my later-in-series covers have taken just a couple of hours to build at a fraction of the original cost. OK. Preamble done. Now let’s turn to the design guidelines themselves . . . 1. Don’t Be Too Specific Unless you are a designer (and maybe even then), you should avoid thinking that you know what you want. You probably don’t. The perfect book cover will be one that you only know when you see it. If your design brief is hyper-detailed (“I want a kitchen table and a silver coffee pot, and an range cooker in front of a cottage window …”), you really aren’t giving the designer any room to use their best imagination. 2. Don’t Be Too Literal Let’s say your book is called ‘The Parting’, you might be tempted to depict a parting on the front cover. So you might go for two lovers, with outstretched arms, torn apart. Maybe you might even have a tear-line ripping down the middle of the book. That says Parting, doesn’t it? So it must be a good cover, right? Well, actually, no, not at all. It’s way too literal. You need a cover to convey a mood, not a word. So a much better cover would be a cafe table with two seats, but only one cup of coffee. Perhaps one person (a woman, probably) in the shot, but only half seen. And that gives you all you need. The title – which conveys loss – and a picture which in that context tells you something about the post-parting atmosphere. Beautiful, simple – and oblique. Anything too direct will almost certainly feel heavy handed. 3. Do Be Specific About Atmosphere Your cover designer is not going to read your book, so they won’t know about setting, atmosphere, mood, protagonist or anything else, unless you tell them. So let’s take that idea we just discarded (the coffee pot and an range cooker one), a good way of sending the right kind of message to the designer might be as follows: “This book is a quiet domestic drama set in rural Ireland. The protagonist is a 34-year-old Irish woman, living quietly alone in a pleasant rural cottage.” You might even want to offer more texture than that, but you can see what you’re trying to do. You’re giving the kind of guidance that might indeed end up with coffee-pots, range cookers, cottage-windows, but which also might express the same kind of domesticities in a million other ways, too. Give the designer creative freedom within boundaries that you set. The boundaries give you what you want. The freedom gives you the best possible ideas. Here for exampke is just such a cosy/domestic cover that evokes exactly the right ideas, but without the specific images we first thought of. 4. Do Offer Sample Images By all means, include a section in your design brief which says, “The following images evoke the kind of landscape I have in mind,” and then includes let’s say 8-12 smallish images, copied from Google images, which convey the kind of landscape you have in mind. And of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to landscapes. Just offer a collection of the kind of images (cities, people, homes, lakes, whatever) that cover the approximate territory you have in mind. Again, don’t be too specific. Don’t search for the perfect image. For one thing, the perfect image may be copyright and not available for purchase. For another thing, you are the author, not the designer. Give the designer room to breathe. Offering a wider spread of images is a good way to encourage creativity in your designer. 5. Do Mention Authors Who Write In Your Niche If you are writing a quiet Irish-set romance, then refer the designer to a handful of authors who write in the same area. Partly, there may well be designers who know those authors and who will get instantly what kind of book you are writing. But partly, too, any competent designer will head straight to Amazon to see what others are doing. That means that a designer stands the best chance of being able to create a design that acknowledges the current market trends, while adding a genuinely original tweak or two. 6. Do Refer The Designer To Book Covers, In Your Genre, That You Like It will really help a designer if you say, “I like the following book covers”, and include thumbnails of (let’s say) a dozen or so books that you rate. If you come across covers where you really love the image but don’t rate the typography, for example, then say so. It doesn’t matter if you find yourself liking both pale-and-mysterious images for a crime novel, let’s say, and dark-and-bloody ones. If your taste includes both areas, then it’s fine to let the designer know. It’s their job to interpret your guidance to come up with a cover that pleases you. If you try to hard to be consistent in your choices, you are quite likely excluding some possible covers that would, in fact, delight you. 7. Do Include All Cover Text The designer needs to know what elements they have to handle in the cover design. So if you want title and author name and shout line and puff or review, then you need to tell the designer upfront. If you don’t, you risk evolving a brilliant design which then becomes cluttered with an excess of text. (A shout line, by the way means something like this: “In rural Ireland, nobody hears you”. A puff or review is something like this: “Literally a genius.” – Maeve Binchy. Never make up reviews. And remember that jokes which seem funny to you at the time don’t tend to seem funny on the page.) These thoughts bring us to rule 7a: 7A. Keep Cover Text Very Economical Title, fine, but don’t let that title exceed six words or so, unless you want a purely typographical cover. Author’s name, well, yes, you’re not going to leave that off. Shout line or puff: it’s easy to decide to cram text in, but remember that the more text you have, the simpler your actual design needs to be. You can’t have any real complexity in the image if you have a lot of text and for most books, the image should take priority. Note that you’ll see lots of successful commercial covers that do have a fair bit of text, but that’s because they’ve many quotes from major national newspapers. If your text is not equally strong, you probably want to prioritise the image. 8. Be Open To Purely Typographic Covers There are some fantastic text-only covers out there. Against Happiness by Eric G. Wilson is one example (below). If your book could handle a text-only design, don’t write a design brief that blocks that route. If your genre is commercial fiction, you probably need an image. But upmarket fiction and anything non-fictiony can certainly handle a text-only design. 9. Keep The Image Simple – Think Thumbnail Simple images work. Complex ones don’t. Complex ones don’t even work at full-size – but they are car-crashes when seen at thumbnail size. And if your thumbnail view doesn’t work, you will get no eyeballs on your book page anyway. So keep it simple. That means, probably, two main visual elements only: A woman’s coat, plus a flight of steps. Bingo, that’s a cover.A guy’s back, walking away from a burning building. Bingo, that’s a cover.A rowing boat, rocking at a misty jetty. Bingo, that’s a cover. A woman walking up a flight of steps, while a flock of doves fly overhead, a rosebush smothers a garden wall and a pair of wedding rings glint from a silver bowl, shown in inset format … that’s not a book cover, it’s a car-wreck. It’s a total mess and will never work and never sell your book. For an example of the simple, complete cover, try this, for example. No doves, no rosebush, no rings . . . but it works, right? 10. Clichés Are Good Well, sort of, since we sort of hate clichés. They’re like a red rag to a bull to us. We will rewrite text a million times rather than allow the merest whiff of cliché to invade our precious text, but that’s the text. On the cover, we love cliché. Or, to be precise, we love the instant communication that the clichés offer. So you can laugh all you like about the familiar clichés of the front-of-store book tables – but if you follow that link, you’ll see that nearly all the covers they’re laughing at are really good covers. Man lurking by fence: yes, a cliché, but what atmospheric covers! Woman in long white dress: yes, a cliché, but what lovely, buyable covers those are! And so on. Clichés work because they quickly (i) identify the type of book, (ii) appeal to the right kind of audience, and (iii) encourage a casual browser to click through to find out more about the book itself. (You’ll also notice, by the way, that the clichéd covers keep it simple, reinforcing our earlier point about the beauties of simplicity.) 11. Be Realistic Nearly all books put out by publishers use stock images from image libraries, that are combined and tweaked and textured and layered in ways that make them look amazing. Your designer will have access to commercial image libraries and should be able to find things that you love that impose no additional cost on you beyond that initial design fee. And a good designer will be able to use those images to create something every bit as good as those produced by a traditional publisher. But that’s all. If you want a hand-crafted illustration by a professional illustrator or painter, you are talking about an investment, plus you are sort of committed upfront. So if you bought £500 or £1,000 worth of an illustrator’s time, you kind of have to use the image that results, even if that’s not really quite the image you had in your mind. Unless you have stupid amounts of money to throw at this, forget about commissioning an original illustration. You don’t need to do that to create a wonderful cover. Most professional covers never use anything beyond stock images. I’ve had more than a dozen books published, and those have typically been published in multiple countries across the world, and not one of those book covers used an original illustration. (Plus, those stock libraries do include drawings, so if you want a drawing of Paris, let’s say, ask the designer to find one. Don’t commission your own.) 12. Don’t Ask Your Cousin, Brother, Aunt, Or Friend For Help They probably aren’t professional book cover designers, and this, remember, is the project on which you are now professionally engaged yourself. You can’t say to your them after they’ve spent twenty hours on your cover, “You know what? I know we’ve put a lot of work into this, but on reflection, I don’t think that cover looks right. Do you have any other ideas at all?” And you have to be able to say that. If you feel you can’t, you have the wrong designer. 13. Don’t Please Yourself, Please The Reader You aren’t always the best person to make the final decision on cover, as the book is highly personal to you. Do get the views of other readers, but don’t allow the final choice to be decided by a simple poll. When you get feedback from readers, you need to think hard about how much weight to give each bit of feedback. If you are writing gentle chick-lit, then the views of someone who reads that kind of thing are much more significant than someone who doesn’t. Equally, someone who is trying to please you is much less useful than someone who just expresses their view and doesn’t give a damn about what you think. You want honesty, here, not touchy-feeliness. 14. Demand The Hat I read a book by a sell-a-million-on-Kindle type author, which contained the following anecdote (and apologies for not referencing the book: I just haven’t been able to place the quote). A Jewish grandmother takes her grandson to the beach. He’s wearing his swimsuit, his sunhat and all is well … until he is swept away by a giant wave. The grandmother shakes her fist at heaven and shouts at God, “Have I not been your faithful servant? Have I not kept the law? Raised a family? Honoured you in all that I do? Now give me back my grandson.” Sure enough, the clouds part, there is a rumble of thunder, and a second giant wave deposits the grandson on the beach unharmed. The grandmother inspects her child, then once again yells upwards, “HE WAS WEARING A HAT!” Moral of that fine story: don’t be satisfied until you are really, truly satisfied in every detail. If you have any kind of personal relationship with the designer, you can’t be obstreperous about the very last shade of red in the shout line. And you have to be that obstreperous if you want a perfect book cover. 15. Always Consider The Thumbnail Some designs look great at full size and just dwindle down to nothing when they get to Amazon’s thumbnail view (which is a mere 160 pixels high). Find thumbnail covers you like and figure what works. You need intelligible text, images with clarity. 16. Put The Assignment Out To Tender More controversial, but I personally would recommend using a contest-based service to select your designer. The idea of these services is that you put your brief online, and thousands of designers review that brief to see if it’s something that appeals to their creativity. With a good service, you’ll get 100+ designs to choose from. You can rate them, discard them, encourage modifications, and massage your way to a shortlist, then a finalist. Many of the designs you get will be, quite frankly, poor – but unless you really try to low-ball the budget, you should get a slew of really attractive designs from which to make your selection. Services that offer this kind of system include 99designs, Designcrowd, elance and others. There are two huge advantages of this service: (1) you get a massive range of ideas and approaches to choose from, and (2) because you will start working in detail only with an idea that is very close to cooked, from your point of view, you won’t suffer from the don’t-demand-the-hat problem mentioned above. In terms of budget, I would think you should be setting aside about £350 or $500 if you are genuinely ambitious for your work. You can get the job done for less, but your odds of a not-quite-good-enough cover go down the more you low-ball it. 17. The Final Tip And finally. Covers are essential to piquing the reader’s interest, but no book has ever sold well on Amazon unless it tells a good story and is presented properly. If you want to be a professional author (and that includes any indie author who genuinely wants to make sales), you must be even more obsessive about your text than you are about your cover design. That means getting professional feedback on your text and it means making sure that the copyediting is up to scratch (even if it doesn’t quite have to be as good as a professionally published text.) We offer both those services and we are excellent at both things. If you really want to make a go of your book, don’t get a perfect cover that encloses a so-so text. Get both things right. Click for more on our editorial services – and go get yourself a fabulous book.
Read more

How to increase Amazon book sales

Using Categories and Keywords The ever-rising power of the Amazon Kindle Store in the publishing market offers the possibility of extremely lucrative book sales for self-published writers. However, to get visibility in the Amazon charts, you need to be deadly smart about the categories and keywords (the ‘metadata’) you choose for your book in order to get maximum sales. Luckily for us, guest author and blogger, Dave Gaughran, is here with his many successful years’ experience as a self-published author to explain how you can get the most sales out of your book on Amazon. This is an adapted excerpt from the third edition of Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran, available from Amazon and other retailers. You can find our own complete self-publishing guide right here and advice on which ebook format to use here, should you need it. Categories And Keywords On Amazon Kindle Why it pays to be smart with your metadata Authors are an impatient bunch. In the eagerness to share our scoundrel rakes and dastardly villains with the reading public, we can often rush through critical steps, and miss powerful, free opportunities for visibility in the Kindle Store — a classic example being keywords and categories. Many writers give little thought about metadata until confronted with the box on KDP, which is hardly the optimal time to be researching keywords and categories. Best to be well-prepared so you are not caught short during a stressful launch. You can rather cleverly “bake in” little bits of marketing and discoverability into your book. This is all that is meant by the somewhat intimidating phrase of “optimizing your metadata” — you’re simply attaching the right pieces of information so retailers know what kind of book it is and fans of that genre can find it more easily. If you are smart about metadata, you can give yourself a huge advantage over much of the marketplace. How To Choose Categories Most publishers — even the largest — have only a rudimentary understanding of Amazon’s store, categories in particular. You often see books from huge authors in sub-optimal categories, decreasing their visibility in the biggest bookshop in the world, and hurting their chances of being discovered by readers, even ones searching for that exact kind of book. Publishers will fail to use all categories available to them or, without drilling down further, will choose something generic like Fiction, which is useless as a category unless you are at the very top of the Amazon rankings. Just choosing the right subcategory for your work can give your book a real head start. You only get two choices when uploading. As I will explain in the next section below, smart keyword picks can get you into additional sub-categories, but they must be related to the categories you pick now, so you must choose wisely. Appearing in the Top 100 of Fiction in the US Kindle Store requires a tremendous number of sales — around 650 in a single day — which will be beyond us most of the time. However, choosing Fiction as a category is a waste for a much simpler reason: electing a subcategory of Fiction will get you into the Fiction category as well. Even if you drill down several levels to choose something like Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Political, your book will still show in all the top-level categories above the one you have chosen (i.e. each of Fiction; Mystery, Thriller & Suspense; Thrillers). When you pick something more specific, you are multiplying your potential visibility opportunities rather than restricting them. Each one of those sub-categories has a Top 100 of its own, and qualifying on those charts requires a much more manageable number of sales. If your book is doing particularly well, you will appear on a number of Top 100 lists, all of which will bring you new readers. Wherever possible, it’s wise to choose categories in which you can compete. Let’s say you have written a Contemporary Inspirational Romance, more Nicholas Sparks than Fifty Shades. If you pick Romance > Contemporary as a category you will need a rank of #500 or better to hit the back of the Top 100, which is 200 sales a day, or more. It’s a competitive category. But you have alternatives. The competition is a little less tough in Romance > Inspirational, where a rank of around #3,000 will get you into the back of the chart, around 80 sales a day. A little more manageable, and even more so if you drill down to the sub-categories under Romance > Inspirational. A little nosing around the Kindle Store might turn up more suitable opportunities, such as Romance > Clean & Wholesome. Qualifying for that Best Seller list requires a rank of about #10,000 or in the region of 20 sales a day. This is starting to seem more achievable, particularly if you consider what you might be selling during or after a promotion. Also remember that new books qualify for Amazon’s Hot New Releases charts, which are even more attainable. At the time of writing, only one sale a day is needed to hit the back of the Clean & Wholesome Hot New Releases chart. Of course, there’s no point picking a less competitive sub-category if it’s not a relevant choice for your book. Going through potential sub-categories can indicate the relative size of each genre and subgenre, and can also help you identify a category that might provide an easier path to visibility. Be warned, however, that a very small category might not receive a lot of reader traffic. If the lists are small and stagnant, readers may not return to be faced with the same books each time. As a self-publisher, you have just two categories to play with. It can be a good approach to pick one competitive category you occasionally qualify for, and one that is a little less competitive and enables you to always hit the Best Seller list. This way, you have a chance of front-page action in a smaller category, plus you’re covered if you have a good run of sales and start moving up the Best Seller list of a more frequently browsed category. You may wish to freshen up your category choices at some point to hit new readers. Or your sales may increase to the point where you feel confident about charting in those bigger categories, which will naturally attract more browsers and lead to more sales. Alternatively, you may realize you were targeting the wrong readers and need to tweak your approach. It’s always good to have alternatives. Just be careful that your book is a good fit for the categories you are playing with. You don’t want to incur the wrath of romance readers because your book doesn’t have a happily ever after. And if you don’t know what that is… Like virtually all ebook retailers, Amazon gives you numerous category choices when uploading your book or making changes. These are based on BISAC subject headings, which are industry standard. However, it’s extremely important to note that these don’t always reflect the actual categories in the Kindle Store. I could go into this in granular detail but all you need to know right now is that it’s important to first identify your optimal categories by browsing Amazon as your target readers might. But if you want to learn more about categories you can get a free copy of Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide To The Kindle Store by signing up to my mailing list. It’s the only place you can get that book at the moment, and you can unsubscribe right away if you wish. How To Choose Keywords The final piece of metadata you need to consider are keywords. Great keywords give two killer benefits. First, you can expand your number of assigned categories. Second, you will appear higher in search results on Amazon. You need to consider both angles. (At this point, you might be considering looking for a publisher instead but, trust me: they don’t know this stuff.) For any given search term entered by a reader, Amazon’s system will return a list of books it considers relevant. Relevancy is determined by a number of factors, including keywords, your book’s title, and subtitle. You may not have too much wiggle room with your book’s title, although, for non-fiction, putting keywords in the title is very important; for example, Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should or Guitar Mastery Simplified: How Anyone Can Quickly Become a Strumming, Chords, and Lead Guitar Ninja. You only get to choose seven keywords, so make sure they are relevant to your book. Try to put yourself in the shoes of one of your target readers, and picture the kind of terms they might enter into the search box when looking for books. Each “keyword” can actually be made up of several separate words as long as you remain within the limit of 50 characters. Try to maximize the opportunities here. You want to increase your categories and cover what readers might search for, although the latter is much more important for non-fiction than fiction. Some examples: my book Liberty Boy is set in Dublin in 1803, in the aftermath of a failed rebellion against the British. It’s a plot-driven historical novel, with some slight literary inclinations. In this case, expanding categories is most important, as historical fiction readers use Amazon charts to browse for new recommendations, and don’t use Search as much to find books. By consulting this list on KDP Help of extra categories, I immediately get keyword ideas. My two primary categories for that book are Historical Fiction and Literary Fiction. I can then expand my footprint by choosing keywords like “18th century,” “19th century,” “politics,” “politician,” “military,” and “love.” I myself can think of things that might be appropriate for the book like “Ireland,” “Irish,” “British,” “history,” “historical novel,” “historical fiction,” “literary fiction,” and so on. We can combine some of those to optimize the space. With that in mind, I might have “historical novel literary fiction” as one keyword and “Ireland Irish British history book” as another. And then I’ll appear for variations of those searches, like “Irish history” or “historical fiction.” You can change these keywords at any time, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect the first time out. With a non-fiction, search becomes much more important — and there are few appropriate categories to add with keywords. Try to make a comprehensive list, then be artful with how you maximize your allotted keyword space. At all times though, only choose relevant keywords. You don’t want to appear to anyone outside your target audience; that only works against you, something I’ll explain in comprehensive detail later. Metadata might not be the sexiest topic in the world, but getting smart about it can give you a real advantage, one that costs you nothing but a little effort. With a pair of well-chosen categories and a set of smart keywords, you will make your book instantly more discoverable and expand your footprint in the world’s biggest bookstore. And it won’t cost you a penny, either. The updated and expanded third edition of David’s Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should is available from Amazon and all other retailers. David has helped thousands of authors self-publish via workshops, blog, and books, and you could be one. Visit to sign up to his mailing list and get a free copy of Amazon Decoded. Need more help?It’s not suprising: most of us do. The fact is that self-publishing is (A) fantastic, and (B) very sensitive to the details of how you put together your marketing campaigns. That can be daunting when you’re just starting out, so . . .Don’t go it alone!You don’t have to. The path you are walking now, is the path that many others have trodden before you. And we at Jericho Writers have put everything we know about self-publishing into an awesome self-publishing course. But that course is expensive, and we don’t like expensive.So get it free. In fact, get a whole ton of stuff free, just by becoming a member of Jericho Writers.We built our club for people like you, and we’d just love it if you took a lot at what we offer. You can find out more here – and we hope you love it!
Read more

How to Promote Your Books on Bookbub (& Generate Huge Sales)

How to get chosen. How to structure your promotion. How to maximise sales across your series. You’ve launched your book, you’ve accrued some sales, you’ve had some nice comments from readers and then … … Launch sales drop away. You may not have another book out (if you’re me) for another twelve months. It’s not that your books become invisible on Amazon, exactly – you’ll still be kicking around on some sub-bestseller lists, you’ll probably be visible on some Also Boughts – but, no question, your sales drop off to levels that are a pale shadow of what they were. So what do you do? Well, there are a few possible answers to that. After Your Book Launch: Some Strategies Option #1 One popular answer is: just keep pumping out the books. Bookouture, a wonderful British digital-only publisher, works on a book-every-three-months model. The beauty of that is that no sooner has a reader finished one book by Author X than they can pre-order the next one. (Amazon pre-orders are limited to 90 days, hence the three-month model.) Although Bookouture is the most visible example of such a publisher, the basic model was invented by indies. John Locke, Sean Platt / Johnny B. Truant, Adam Croft, and countless others blazed that trail, or variants of it. And the model works. Each new launch helps build the mailing list and elevates the visibility of the entire series. What’s more, because you accumulate backlist so fast, even if you only make $200-300 per title in a quiet month, your list may be as big as 10-20 titles long. You only have to multiply that out, add in some extra money during those juicy launch months, and suddenly the financial arithmetic starts to look more appealing. Disadvantages? Well, none really, except you have to pump out the fiction and maybe (like me) you feel that you can’t do that and retain the quality. Option #2 So a second popular answer is: advertise the heck out of your books. That’s easier said than done, to be honest. Facebook ads are very expensive these days, and conversion rates have fallen. AMS ads are fabulous value, but can be hard to scale meaningfully. Bookbub’s own advertising platform (ie: paid-for ads, not featured deals) is great but Ex. Pen. Sive. So yes, advertising is still an option. It still works for some authors, some genres, and some titles. But you do need to be very careful with it – you need to become as as skilled at advertising as you are at writing. Option #3 So a third – beautiful – answer is Bookbub, designed to stuff money into your pockets, and the more the better. Bookbub isn’t so easy to access, and even if you do succeed in accessing it, there are tricks and tools for maximising the value it creates for you. So buckle up, sit tight, and let’s go Bookbub. What Is Bookbub? Bookbub is basically an email service. Readers can sign up (here) for a series of emails that alerts them to high quality ebooks at deeply discounted prices. That’s great from a reader’s point of view – the emails are human-curated, so you are getting some real assurances as to quality and the books are priced at a minimum 50% discount, but are often free or just $0.99. Obviously, readers can specify what genres they’re interested in, and Bookbub is smart enough to flex those lists as tastes and interests change. The reason why this service is so great for authors is that Bookbub’s email lists are huge. I write crime fiction and Bookbub’s crime emails go out to nearly 4 million crime readers worldwide. Sure, lots of those 4 million won’t read or open every email. And sure, not everyone is going to be interested in your book, but the numbers are still huge. Bookbub reckons that a free crime book should expect around 50,000 downloads. A $0.99 one might hit 4,000 sales. In a day. How Does Bookbub Make Money? Bookbub’s service is free to readers, but as an author (or publisher) you have to pay to play. The full data can be found here, but suffice to say that the cost in a popular genre can run into thousands of bucks. If you want to submit your crime novel as a free ebook, it’ll cost you $512. If you want to advertise it as a $2.99 ebook, it’ll cost you a thought-provoking $2,560. How Does Bookbub Make Money For Indie Authors? These numbers are impressive, but the astute indie may be thinking, “50,000 downloads multiplied by no money at all, equals, uh … hang on, that can’t be right.” Even if you price your book at $0.99, it’s quite likely that the actual sales made on the day of your Bookbub promo will only just cancel out the cost of buying the promotion in the first place. This might makes it sound like Bookbub is fun as a way to draw attention to your books, but not actually a way to make money. Except it is. Because Bookbub’s numbers are so huge, they basically buy you access to the upper end of Amazon’s sales rankings. And sure, you may or may not make money on the day of the actual promo, but who cares about that? If you’re smart (and have any kind of backlist), you make money by the spadeful in the days and weeks that follow. In essence, Bookbub gives you visibility on Amazon. That visibility brings new eyes to your book page. Not just Bookbub users. Not just your existing readership. But completely new readers. A proportion of those guys buy your book. That’s new readers, new fans, for you. And the day after Bookbub, sure: your sales rank starts to crash back to earth again. But not all the way, and as you travel back down from (say) #100 on Bookbub day to (say) #30,000 or wherever your ‘steady state’ sales rank tends to settle, you will accumulate new readers and new sales. Because most writers eliminate or reduce their discounting post-Bookbub, those new sales will be at full price. And, of course, a good proportion of those new readers will become committed fans of your whole series, so a $0.99 or free Bookbub offer could bring in readers who then buy half a dozen books or more at the full $4.99, or whatever your chosen price point is. (Need some actual figures on an actual Bookbub promo? Stay with me. We’re getting there.) How To Get Selected For A Bookbub Promotion There’s no real magic here. Bookbub tells you exactly what you need to be considered, so you just need to go ahead and supply it. The minimum requirements are clear enough (listed in full here). Your title, minimum, needs to be: Free or discounted by at least 50%.Error free.A limited-time offer.A full-length book.Available at least in either the US or the UK. In short: you need to submit a book that is a full-length text, at a radically discounted price, which hasn’t been offered for less money over the past few months, and is high quality (no errors!) and widely available (which is code for “not exclusive to Amazon, please.”) In addition, you should certainly also review this advice on how to make your submission stand out. The gist there, quite simply, is you need to make sure you are offering Bookbub’s readers a wonderful, professionally produced text that has already demonstrably satisfied numerous readers. In particular, you should check that: Your book has a classy, professional cover. (More advice here.)Your cover copy (or book description) is classy, inviting, and error free.You have a good number of positive reader reviews for your book or your series. I’d suggest that your entry level ambition should be an average star rating of no fewer than 4.0 and (depending on genre) anywhere from 50 to 100 or more reviews in total. For crime or romance books, you might need to do a fair bit better than that to pass muster.Ideally, you’ll have scored some prize shortlists or awards, or positive critical reviews in nationally recognised outlets, or been a NYT bestseller, or something along those lines. Those things are harder for indies to come by than it is for traditionally published authors, but don’t panic. They’re more of a nice-to-have than a real essential. Great, authentic reader reviews will do just fine instead.You should also aim to have your title available wide, not narrow – that is, not exclusive to Amazon. You should also aim to have your deal global in scope. A flexible promo date also helps with the scheduling. Personally, I don’t think any indie author should be soliciting a Bookbub deal unless they’re offering their work free or at $0.99. (Unless it’s a box set, in which case $1.99 is OK too.) Bookbub tells you that they won’t offer the same book to their readers more often than once every six months or any book by the same author more often than every 30 days. That’s true, yes, but a bit misleading in bigger genres. If you’re not a Mr John Grisham or a certain Ms Rowling, I’d suggest that you should bank on getting at most two Bookbub deals in the course of a year … or, more likely, just the one. How To Make Bookbub Work For You The key to making these promotions work is twofold. You need to lure people from the book to the series, and you need to expand the sales window from one day to 2 weeks, or even two months. Let me explain. Let’s say you’re like me and you have a six-book series to play with. My standard ‘full’ price is $4.99, and I might want to give the first book away for free. So here’s one way I could do things: The Naked Bookbub Strategy Book #1: down from $4.99 to free. Back to (say) $2.99 post-promo Books #2-#6: $4.99 (no change) That’s fine, except that it doesn’t really do anything to lure Bookbubbers into the series then and there. A lot of them will probably think, “hey, this series looks interesting, but expensive. I’ll read this free book at my leisure and if, in a few weeks time, I want more, I’ll take a look then.” And sure, you will pick up new readers that way, but you’ll get a thin trickle drawn out over a number of weeks, and that trickle will do nothing so great for your sales rank, or your visibility. We’ve reached those Bookbub free-sample types, and no one else. So let’s try running our promo like this instead: The Enticing Bookbub Strategy Book #1: down from $4.99 to free. Back to (say) $2.99 post-promo Books #2-#6: $0.99 (for a few days post-promo, then $4.99) The brilliant thing about this approach is that Bookbubbers are likely to see that the free book is an entry to a whole, wonderful, cheap series, and they’ll fill their boots. Yes, you’re giving the book away free, but you’re making money back from all those $0.99 sales. $0.99 is hardly great, but those are paid sales, which means they boost sales rank, so that by the time you do snap back to full price, your books are going to be a lot more visible than they were before. But it gets better. Because there’s a really obvious extension to this strategy, and one that instantly adds a ton of profitability. The Crafty Bookbub Strategy Book #1: down from $4.99 to free. Back to (say) $2.99 post-promo Books #2-#6: $0.99 on a Kindle Countdown deal (few days post-promo) Then snap back to full $4.99 price. If you’re okay with having your #2-and-later books exclusive to Amazon, then you can jump from a 35% royalty share to a 70% one, simply by synchronising your Kindle Countdown deal with your Bookbub promo. That’s an easy-peasy way to put money in your pocket. It’s like having your very own $100-bill counterfeiting plates. Only legal. And, you know, less likely to land you in a Federal Penitentiary. The Ultimate Bookbub Strategy But it gets better. We said that to make real money from Bookbub, we wanted to achieve two things: Lure people from the book to the seriesExpand that sales window We’ve done that by pricing the rest-of-series books aggressively, and keeping the discount window open for long enough to really boost sales rank and visibility. But there’s one easy – free – way to ramp up the success of a Bookbub promo, and it’s this: you co-promote the giveaway. Sure, Bookbub boasts an email list that’s a gazillion times bigger than yours. But who cares about that? You boast an email list consisting entirely of your readers and ones who already have a personal connection with you. Use that list. Load bullets into that little Email Service Provider gun of yours, and blaze away like a deranged Charlton Heston. Like the end of a Schwarzenegger movie. Or, to say the same thing in somewhat less colourful language, allow me to unveil the Ultimate Bookbub Strategy. The Ultimate Bookbub Strategy Book #1: down from $4.99 to free. Back to (say) $2.99 post-promo Books #2-#6: $0.99 on a Kindle Countdown deal (4 days post-promo) Then snap back to full $4.99 price Email support from your list: Emails to go out Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4 If you like, also a teaser on Day -2, or something like that And sure, most of your readers may have bought most of your books, but only a fairly small fraction of your list will have bought everything. Even committed fans may have missed the launch of #5, or have lost the copy of #2 that they once had on their Kindle. And even if they have got everything, maybe a low-cost sale like this is the moment where they think, “Oh, what a great offer, I’ve got to tell my reader-buddies about this.” In short, if you email your fans to say, “Hey, if you’ve got any holes in your collection, this is the perfect time to fill them,” that’ll seem like a helpful, kind and generous offer. You’re not annoying them, you’re helping them. Meanwhile, the support that Bookbub has given your books gets another kick from the further support that your readers give them. Result: huge sales rank boost, long term visibility gains – and sales. New sales, to new readers, at full price. Why the hooting heck are you even reading this post?I’m gonna guess that you’re an indie author and you want to maximise your returns from your list. But did you know that Jericho Writers is a club for writers just like you? And we have an entire, complete self-publishing course with tons of information in it for writers in your exact position? And that you can get free access to ALL our materials, just by taking out a simple, low-cost, cancel-any-time membership.Your best strategy as an indie? Learn more about Jericho Writers now.Like right now. This minute. Go. Bookbub Series Promotion: A Case Study That all sounds good, right? But you’re an indie author, and I know how your mind works. Talk is all very well, but in the end it comes down to the figures. So here are some figures. I ran a Bookbub promo earlier this year, using essentially the Ultimate Bookbub Strategy described above. The full price for my books is $4.99. My email list at the time was then about 6,000 names, but a good chunk of those related to the UK, where I’ve been traditionally published in the past. I’d say my email list then wasn’t huge – it’s more than doubled since February – but it was committed. My open rates and click rates were always excellent. So. That’s the background. I ran a Bookbub promo, bringing my #1 series title down to free, on February 21, 2017. Here’s what happened: On the day of the promo My #1 title hits the #1 rank in the Amazon free charts in the US. It does the same in the UK. My other titles start to sell like crazy. I’d earned out my $512 Bookbub fee by about midday EST on the day of the promo. Subsequently Here’s a graph of my sales, month by month, before during at after the promo. (And, to be clear, these are all paid sales. I’ve excluded the free downloads from this graph.) That big kick in February? That’s my Ultimate Bookbub Strategy only. I did no other promo activity at all. I didn’t even tweet. March and April: the same thing. What you’re looking at there is the tail end of the Bookbub effect. There’s nothing else jigging those numbers around. No new ad campaign. No launch. And aside from my #1 series title, my books are exclusive to Amazon and so eligible for KU borrows as well. Do you want to see a graph of those borrows? Here it is. No huge effect in February itself (because Bookbub readers were digesting book #1 before turning to the rest of the series.) But then came that huge surge in March. The effect was still significant in April. And even May was ahead of the “steady state” reader-flow in January. Indeed, if we take January as my “steady state” month, then Bookbub probably delivered the equivalent of an additional 8 new sales-months, and maybe 4-5 new KENP-months. All that, from a one day free promo. That cost $512. In my experience, nothing at all delivers a better outcome than this … aside of course from launching a new book, which has the irritating disadvantage that you actually have to sit down to write the thing. How To Maximise Your Returns From Bookbub Final reflections Posts like this one follow a conventional strategy. Introduce a book-promotional topic (in this case, Bookbub)Outline a basic strategyIntroduce some refinements to that strategyReveal some case-study style dataAnd – ta-da! – job done And whilst posts like this one are useful, and the strategies outlined do really work, they also miss something. The thing that they miss is still the one thing that really, really matters. Think about it: why does our Ultimate Bookbub Strategy work? Bookbub’s giant email list pours gasoline over your sales, and your laser-targeted email-support tosses in a stick of gelignite, but plenty of authors use broadly similar tactics and don’t always see the same results. In the end, the difference between a good Bookbub experience and a dazzling one is simple. Whether readers love your book. That Bookbub free promo put a free sample of my work into the hands of 50,000 readers. Do those readers read beyond the first chapter? Do they read all the way to the end? Do they feel compelled to sign up to your email list? Do they feel compelled to go and buy other books in your series? Or maybe the entire series? The ultimate success of a properly structured Bookbub promo has to do almost entirely with the actual quality of your actual book. And not just the quality of that very first book, but of the entire series. In the end, you can market books as hard as you like. But if the product is duff, the product is duff. So the final moral of this post is the same as it should always be. Write hard, and market easy. It’s more satisfying that way – more satisfying to you, the creative artist – but long run, it’s more profitable too. The best of both worlds. Happy writing. Happy editing. Happy publishing. But don’t leave it there!We created our Jericho Writers club especially for writers like you. Members get access to our super-premium self-publishing course completely FREE. And our crazily popular writing course, completely FREE. And masses of other stuff as well. All free. You can find out more about what we offer and what our club is all about. But remember: we’re writers too, and we built this club for you. Learn more about the club. About the author Harry Bingham has been a pro author for twenty years and more. He’s been trad published and self-published, and hit bestseller lists via both routes. He’s also had his work adapted for the screen, has had a ton of critical acclaim, and been published all over the world. (More about Harry, more about his books.)
Read more

Book Launch Plans 2019

Indie and traditionalBasic | Intermediate | Advanced Launching a book is the most exciting moment in an author’s journey, but it’s also the scariest. You only really appreciate the sheer scale of the competition facing you when you’re getting ready to launch your book into the world. And launch is confusing too. There are so many strategies out there, but which one is right for you? You can easily feel that you have to do everything – which is impossible – so you end up feeling like a failure before you even start. So let’s make things clear and simple. We’re going to show you four strategies. They are: New author (first book launch)Intermediate author (third book launch)Advanced author (tenth book launch, let’s say)Traditionally published author Obviously, these strategies are guidelines only. If you have specific assets (a well-listened to podcast, for example), then you’re going to make use of them, no matter where you are in your publishing journey. Likewise, you have skills and preferences and those need to play a part too. If you just hate tech, you probably aren’t going to get heavily involved in advertising. If you’re great on social media, you’re going to want to be active there. And so on. In short, what follows is a set of guidelines for you to adapt around who you are. If you don’t follow one exact recipe in what follows, that’s not you being dumb. That’s you intelligently adapting an approach around your specific needs. Oh, and yes, I know you want to plunge straight in here, but don’t. The single thing which will most determine the success or failure of your book is the quality of your preparation. If you’re so impatient to get to launch that you’ve rushed your cover, or your text, or any of the other essentials, you’ll simply be leaving a big fat heap of money on the table for someone else to pick up. Think of launch as a bucket where you are trying to scoop up as many readers, fans, sales and reviews as possible. If you don’t make damn sure that bucket is sealed and watertight before you start, you are going to leak readers like crazy. You can work like seven devils and still not be rewarded for all your effort. So before we get to your launch plans, we’re going to run you through a checklist. If you’re solid on all those bullet points, then please proceed to launch. If you’re wobbly on some of the checklist items, then fix those things before doing anything else. Preparation: it’s boring, but it matters. Your Book Launch Checklist Here’s your checklist, organised in rough order of priority The Essentials This first set of bullets are things that you just can’t compromise on. Yes, you can theoretically publish a book if you haven’t done these things, but you can’t do it well. So don’t skimp. Completed textProfessional editorial review. I’ve put this in italics, just because Jericho Writers offers a very high quality editorial service – info here – and we have an obvious interest in boosting editorial services. But I’ve been a pro author for twenty years, and I’ve never once launched a book without a third party editorial review. And you know what? My books have always got better. So: yes, I’m biased. And yes, editorial help makes a difference.Copy editing / proofreading. Same thing here. You will need help with copyediting, unless you want your book to go out into the world strewn with errors. We also offer copyediting help (info here), but honestly? This is an area where you can save money. If you’re friends with an English teacher, or librarian, or anyone else you trust to read a text very closely and pick up errors, then go with that. You DO need a second set of eyes to review your text. You SHOULD save money here if you can. A few errors won’t hurt anyone.Quality cover. Don’t skimp. Get this right. If you only 95% like the design you have, then go on until you’re at 100%. The first cover you ever make will be the most expensive, because that’s where you’re evolving the strategy for the entire series. Once you have the basic template, your future covers will be easy. But get this right. More help here.Amazon book description. Get this right. Help available here.Categories and keywords. Get this right: an hour or two’s work upfront will pay dividends for literally years to come. More info here.Front matter. This is the “Look Inside” portion of your e-book. This is where you convert the curious browser into the brand-new reader. So make sure that the front part of your e-book helps that conversion process. You need to be clear about what your book is, and why someone should read it.End matter. This is so crucial. The platform for all your future launches is the readers you collect from this one. And the place to collect those readers? Is right after they’ve finished your book and are still in a state of focused excitement about it. In particular, the back of your book is the place where you need to (A) offer a free download and (B) solicit reviews.Free download offer. You need to offer your core readers a freebie. The basic offer is, “Hey, do you want a free story / video explainer / set of cheat sheets / anything else?” Not all readers will engage with that offer, but your best readers WILL engage … and you’ll get their email address … and that email list will form the basis of everything else you do.Email collection system. You can’t just offer people a free story (or other incentive). You also have to deliver it. That is going to mean you have an author website with the right technology on it, or you are going to use a third party service (like the ever-excellent Bookfunnel) to collect the email address and deliver the book.Email service provider. You need to be signed up with a Mailchimp or ConvertKit, or some similar company. Those guys are going to collect emails for you, automate emails, send emails, and everything else. If you need more help with any of this, you probably want our monster self-publishing guide, which you can view for free here. If you need more than that (and you probably do), we have an exceptionally good self-publishing course. That course is expensive to buy – because it’s really, really good – so don’t buy it. That course, plus a ton of other incredibly good stuff, is available FREE to members of Jericho Writers. And if you’re serious about your writing, we’d love to welcome you as a member. You can find out more about us and how to become a member right here. The Nice-to-haves What follows are things that you may well already have in place, or think you absolutely need. Advanced authors are likely to tick every one of these boxes. For newer authors – well, you can’t do absolutely everything all in a single go. So don’t panic. Facebook author page. You need to make sure that your profile picture is 100% consistent with your book cover visuals. You need to add content at least weekly and – this is the important bit – that your content is very narrowly focused on your ideal reader. So if you are writing non-fiction about training dogs, then your Facebook page should be very narrowly focused on that topic, and nothing else. If you have to choose between 100 passionate fans and 1000 people half of whom are there for the freebies or the cute puppy pictures, then choose the 100 every time. The “not all that interested” brigade will ruin your engagement metrics and blur your audience definition. Focus matters. Scale doesn’t – or not nearly so much.Amazon Author Central page. It’s an easy win this one, so you probably want to take care of it. Basically: Amazon lets you build your own author profile on their system. Will it sell books for you? Not really. Maybe a few.Author website with blog. You notice that I DO think you need an email collection system that works, and for most authors the actual story-for-email exchange will be done on their website. But that’s by far the most important element of any author site. If you also want to blog, then do, but it’s no big deal. If you blog, then see what I’ve said above about the Facebook author page. Narrow focus is much, much more important than just grabbing random sets of eyeballs.Facebook tracking pixel. If you want to use some more advanced ad techniques on Facebook, then you’ll want a tracking pixel on your site, so Facebook (in its incredibly creepy way) can watch when its users visit your site. Even if you don’t use that data now, you probably want to start collecting it, so Facebook can start populating its creepy databases.Twitter. Oh heck. Some people love Twitter. If you do, then you’re already on it. If you’re not, well, maybe you don’t want to be. I don’t think it sells books, so don’t worry. The “Why Bother?” List Somethings that people say you ought to do, you don’t need to do. Including: Your Goodreads profilePrinting flyers / postcardsPress releasesA launch party. I mean that’s fun, and you should probably have one. But you should have one because it’s fun celebrating with your friends. It’s not a serious book launch technique.Book trailer. Not much point here, unless you have a significant YouTube audience, or similar.Giveaways, unless these are very carefully targeted. OK. Checklist all done and dusted? Then let’s move onto three book launch plans, graded according to author experience. We start easy, and build from there. Solve Your Self-pub Problems With these free resourcesGET YOURS A Book Launch Plan For The First Time Author This is your first book launch. And your first job is to set your expectations appropriately. You will not make much money from this book. You will not reach many readers. You will not get many reviews. You will probably lose money, if you take into account all your upfront costs. All the same, this book launch really matters. This first-of-series book is going to be your little ambassador to the Big Wide World. It’s where the majority of all your series readers ever are going to start. So the quality of the book matters. Ditto the number and quality of reviews. The quality of your cover and book description. And so on. Here’s your marketing plan. 1. Price. This is your first book and nobody knows you. So this is like one of those little bits of cheese they give you as tasters, when they want you to buy the whole damn cheese. It’s free to nibble, but you pay to gorge. In short: price your book free or at $0.99. Or yo-yo between those two price points. Or kick the price up to $4.99, so when you slash the price to free, it looks like a great offer to readers. At this stage, you’re not looking to make revenue. You’re looking to: Build reviewsPopulate your Also Boughts with the right type of readers (more on that in a second)Collect emails for your mailing list If you tick those three boxes in a satisfactory way, don’t worry too much if your revenue is small to negligible. You are building a platform for the future. 2. Ask For Reviews At the end of your book, include a note to the reader that you would love them to review your book. Tell them how to do it and say how much it means to you personally. Those direct appeals really help secure reviews. Oh, and it probably goes without saying that you should never buy reviews or anything of that sort. Amazon will sniff those things out and send an army of tiny robots to invade your bloodstream and turn your skin yellow. 3. Offer A Free Download We sort of covered this in the checklist material, but it’s so important I’m going to say it again. You need to offer your readers a free download. They get a story (or video, or cheat sheet, or whatever). You get their email address and permission to contact them. This is the rock that stands at the heart of everything else you ever do. Don’t neglect it. Get the details right. You have to make this part work. 4. Friends And Family It’s fine to ask your friends and family to buy your book and leave an honest review, BUT only ask those people who actually like and regularly read your specific genre. If your mother only ever readers slasher-zombie-horror books and you only write Sweet Romance, then her purchase of your romance book will be an active negative. How come? Because Amazon needs to understand who the readers of your book are, and if you start, in effect, saying to Amazon “this Sweet Romance book will be enjoyed by readers of Slasher-Zombie-Horror” then Amazon won’t know how to market your book. Key lesson: A bad sale is worse than no sale at all. Don’t be tempted. 5. Hit Your Email List (If You Have One) Let’s say you’ve already released a free novella via, for example, Instafreebie. That release will give you a list of email addresses. You can and should go to those people and say, “hey, I’d love you to buy my book [or get the free download]. But in particular, I’d really love it if you left a review for me on Amazon. I’m just starting out in my career and those reviews are invaluable for me – and they’re so helpful to other readers too. Thanks so much.” 6. Go Narrow Don’t be tempted by Apple and all those other book stores. You are better off going all in on Amazon. Yes, you lose the (pretty meagre) sales available from Apple &c, but in return you gain access to Kindle Unlimited readers, who may easily make up 50% of your income, or even more. This isn’t even a marginal decision, to be honest with you. When you have 3+ books out and are making $10,000+ in sales revenue, then maybe you have a decision to make. But starting out? Go narrow. You’ll do far better. 7. Don’t Go For Pre-orders Pre-orders stink. Why would you want to drive traffic to an Amazon page that has zero reviews and which doesn’t actually let readers get a book on their devices right now this second? Answer: you wouldn’t. So launch naked. No pre-orders at all, please. (And yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but if you are a newbie, then you’re not one of them.) 8. AMS Adverts AMS – Amazon Marketing Services, Amazon’s own in-house ad-platform – is a great but frustrating ad platform. It’s great, because it’s easy to build ads that convert well and make money. It’s frustrating because the interface is dire and because the ads are really hard to scale. (Unlike on Facebook, where you just have to throw more money at the service.) But still: AMS ads are great for new authors, because they’re cheap and because the sales and reviews will mount up over time. (Also, and this post is in part an overview for what works in 2019, Amazon will surely give AMS a much-needed overhaul. At the moment, the interface is just embarrassingly bad. It feels like something mocked-up in-house for early testing. If Jericho Writers had an ad platform, we wouldn’t release something as crappy as this. It’s that bad.) 9. Free / Discounted Book Sites There are sites like Robin Reads, ENT, Freebooksy and others that build large databases of readers interested in free or discounted titles. Those lists are segmented by genre, so if you write Space Opera you won’t be bothering people who only love Cozy Mystery. You definitely want to drop some money on those sites. Get your book right in front of people specifically looking for titles like yours. And yes, those email lists go to discount hounds, but a lot of those discount hounds are looking for a new series to commit to and enjoy, so they want their “taster” experience to be free (or low cost). Thereafter they’ll be happy to pay full e-book prices. Oh yes, and while Bookbub is the biggest discounted book site by a mile, you are extremely unlikely to get access to it at this stage in your career. So start smaller and build up. Expert tip: you probably want to stack promotions if you can. It’s better to drop $300 over several promo sites at the exact same time, than to pay the same money in split promotions. Especially on Amazon, big, bold promos work better than multiple small ones. Expert tip II: Use the great Nicholas Erik for an always up-to-date guide of which book sites are great and which ones are just meh. Get his insights here. 10. Blog Tours, Etc I’ve listed this last on the checklist, because I think it’s optional. I don’t think you get a lot of readers from blog tours, soliciting reviews from bloggers, etc. But – this is your first book. Maybe you just want to get out there and you will get some readers, and those readers are gold dust for you at this stage. So if you want to go for it, go chase around some bloggers in your niche. If you can’t be bothered, then don’t bother – and don’t feel guilty either. Is all this doing your head in? I’m not surprised. There’s a lot to take in and it can seem overwhelming. The solution for most people will be to take a really good step-by-step course that just walks you through the entire process.We have just such a course – here – and it’s superb. Inspirational, practical, and lavishly documented. Trouble is, our course, like all the other good uns on the market, is really expensive. So don’t buy it. That course, and a ton of other good stuff, is available totally free to members of Jericho Writers. If you’re serious about your writing & your publishing, then we’d love to have you join us. All the info you need is right here. We look forward to meeting you! A Book Launch Plan For The Intermediate Author This is maybe your third or fourth book launch. Some of the strategies above are either second nature to you now, or they’ve dropped away completely. (Approaching friends and family is mostly a first-book-only thing. Ditto blog tours and the like.) So for your third or fourth book launch, you’re going to use all of the above strategies – where they make sense – and then add / elaborate as follows: 1. Sophisticated Use Of Email Lists With our first book launch, we just thumped out a “buy my book now” email to the few names we had on our list, and we got what we got. OK, but that was then. Now we have a stronger list, and we can play things a little more cleverly. Because here’s the thing: Amazon likes email-driven sales surges (and drives your book high up the bestseller charts as a result)Amazon LOVES strong and steady sales surges, especially those that continue over four or (play safe) five days. So , assuming that we have a decently performing list of, let’s say, 2,000 names or more, we’re not just going to bang out a “buy my book” email on the day of launch. Instead, we’re going to divide that list into three or four roughly equal slices, and launch emails on day #1, day #2, day #3, with reminder emails to non-openers on days #3, #4, and #5. (Or something like that. The principle is more important than the exact way you choose to implement it.) The resulting steady pattern of sales will signal to Amazon that this book isn’t a one-day wonder. There’s real selling strength behind it. That signal will prompt Amazon to work harder, and for longer, than it otherwise would. This simple, free email strategy remains the most powerful single strategy at your disposal. If you do this well, and little else, you can still achieve great things. 2. Get Reviews From Your Best Readers Once you are developing your email list nicely, you can go to your best readers and offer them an Advance Review Copy of your forthcoming book, in exchange for a review once they’ve read it. You’re not asking them for fake reviews. You want honest verdicts. But crucially, you want anyone with an ARC to post their review within 48 hours of your book being launched. That’s the part that really, really matters. How come? Because with all your activity around launch, the visibility of your new title will never be as high as this again (give or take a huge Bookbub promo, perhaps.) That visibility means that a ton of totally new readers will be finding your work for the first time. And that means, you want to populate your page with reviews as soon as humanly possible. Waiting 30-60 days for the reviews to populate organically will slaughter your conversions at the time when your Amazon book page has its maximum levels of traffic. So get your readers engaged early. And feel free to nudge them. Get the reviews, and get them fast! 3. Series Listings In Your End-matter The best place to sell your e-books? Your other e-books. As you start to build out your list, make sure you go back to the e-books you already have out on sale and list all your titles. Make sure that you include the series number and a very short blurb (50-100 words is plenty) for each book. You also, of course, need to include purchase links for each book with link text that’s more tentative (“Find out more”) than pushy (“Buy now!”). 4. Remarketing Ads On Facebook And Google Both Facebook and Google let you “remarket” to your “almost-but-not-quite” customers. So Google allows you to push ads at people have who have recently visited your website. Facebook does the same, but also lets you market to specific audience groups – for example, people on your mailing list, or people who didn’t open and click your launch email. Because these ads are going to a very warm audience, they tend to have an excellent conversion rate, with good CTRs and low CPCs. Even so, before you start to advertise with any kind of meaningful budget, you do need to test carefully to get the right creative. It remains a lot easier to waste money with ads than it is to make it. Take care! 5. Series-level Promos Now that you have a series of books to play with, you can get a bit more creative with the way you structure your promos. You should no longer think about promoting a book, but about the series. So if you’re launching #3 in your series, you might want to arrange things like this: Book #1. Free promo. Use Freebooksy, ENT, and other sites to promote the freebie. Make sure you stack promos to deliver downloads in the necessary volumes.Book #2. Use a Kindle Countdown deal to earn 70% royalties at $0.99. Maybe use some of the other promo sites to support this offer. Maybe try some remarketing ads, using a carousel to display all three of the products you have for sale.Book #3. Launch, launch, launch! This is where you’re going to spend most of your firepower. You’ll use your email list to support the launch, of course, but you’ll probably want to draw attention to the other offers too. The more your whole series increases its visibility in Amazon, the more new readers will pour into your series as a whole, with all the lovely readthrough sales you’ll collect over the long term. 6. Think Kindle Unlimited If you’re still intermediate in terms of sales and list, then you should stick with Kindle Unlimited. It’ll simplify your life, and make you more money. But you also need to have a KU mindset, because the way you make money on Apple/Kobo/etc is different from the way you’ll earn money on KU. The essence of effective Kindle Unlimited marketing is simple. You want to achieve big bursts of visibility. As much visibility as possible, extended over a minimum of four days, but ideally for a week or even more. That extended big-burst visibility will earn you money for weeks and weeks. You’ll see a surge in page reads that dies off slowly rather than fast. Granular, drip-drip-drip marketing techniques cannot achieve this effect. On this model, you’d do much better to have a big budget, 0% ROI promotion that really lifts visibility, than to have a couple of nicely performing little campaigns that achieve decent ROI but don’t really impact visibility.
Read more

Write Amazon Book Descriptions That Sell (Examples & Template)

An easy template | Loads of examples | A flood of sales … You’ve lured readers to your book page. Congratulations. Maybe, your stunning cover art has done it. Or a great title. Or a really well-constructed email campaign. Either way, you’ve got readers where you want them. They’re curious. They’re interested. But . . . they’re also suspicious. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying those potential readers are unusual in any way. Quite the reverse. They’re like you or me. Sure a $2.99 ebook isn’t a huge purchase decision – but a dollar is a dollar, and we value our time, and no one wants to buy a book that doesn’t grab them. And that’s why your book description is so intensely important: a vital member of the Fab Four of sales conversion. A strong description may make a reader buy the book or, perhaps more likely, go to the “Look Inside” feature which gives them more data, on which to base their decision. And that really is the task of your book description: make readers click “Look Inside”. If you do that, you’ve won. (Oh, and before we go further, I should say that the basic template we’re about to lay out works for both novels and non-fiction – but if produces very different results in both cases. Bear with me, because we’ll look at both.) The Sales Pathway In fact, if you like to visualise the complete sales journey on Amazon (and excluding a ton of complicating factors), then it looks like this. Amazon Search Page ⇒ Your Book PageKey conversion factors: Cover, Price, Reviews (total number)Supporting cast: Title, Reviews (average rating) Your Book Page ⇒ Look InsideKey conversion factors: Book descriptionSupporting cast: Cover, reviews Look Inside ⇒ Buy NowKey conversion factors: The book itself!Supporting cast: Cover, book description, Reviews, Price Every step of that pathway is critical, except of course that in some cases the book page will push users straight to the Buy Now button. (Although, who actually makes purchase decisions that fast? You do if you’re buying Lee Child #97, because you’re already a keen fan of Lee Child #1-96. You do if you’re buying a “How To” style non-fiction book and you know that this author and this topic will meet your needs. But mostly? Mostly, I think, users want to try before they buy with authors who are new to them, and that means it helps you to visualise your sales journey in three steps, not two.) What Your Amazon Book Description Has To Do So, OK, your book description has to push people into hitting that “Look Inside” feature. That’s the step which defines success. But how do you actually accomplish that goal? How do you write Amazon book descriptions that really sell the book and compel the reader? To answer that question, you have to get a clear read on your who reader is – what their state of mind is. So let’s say, like me, you are a crime novelist. I’m going to assume that you’ve set your keywords and categories correctly. (Not sure about them? Check here for guest blogger, Dave Gaughran’s super-expert guide.) So, if you’ve done things right to this point, your book should start popping up in front of readers who: (a) have come to Amazon looking for a book,ie: they have real purchase intent – they want a crime novel (b) are interested in your genre,that’s how come your work is showing up in their searches, but (c) don’t know anything specific about you or what you’ve written Your great cover and great reviews persuade those people to click through to your book page. And these people are your perfect customers, in the sense that they have an immediate purchase-intent and they want a crime book. But They’re impatientBecause this is the internet, and everyone is impatient.They need information about what you’re offeringBecause you as an author are new to them, and they need help in understanding your product.They need to understand why they should buy your productBecause they need you to answer the question, “What will this book do for me? What will I get from it?” And finally of course: They want to be blown away They want to find themselves trapped in a place, where the only way out is to read your book. (And they probably need to be nudged towards that course of action.) So how exactly do you do it? How do you nudge the reader to set out on a book-length journey with you . . . when you only have maybe 150 words to convince them to take the trip? How To Take The Reader With You . . . In 150 Words Or Less We’ve said that readers are impatient (it’s them that set that 150 word limit, not Amazon.) So you have to achieve a lot in a very short space of time . . . and here’s the basic template you need to follow. First, you need (1) to hook your readers in your first or second sentence. Then you need to (2) provide more data about what kind of book you’re offering. (Yes, a crime book, in our example, but police procedural? Or violent gangland thriller? And set in a quiet English village? Or south central LA?) And beyond that, you need to (3) give the reader a sense of what emotional payoff they’re going to get from your book. And that means that your reader actually needs to feel that payoff. Sure, there’s only so much emotion you can generate in a short space, but your readers understand the difference between the trailer and the movie. They understand the difference between the book description and the book. Then finally, (4), you need to nudge your reader towards the next action (either “Buy Now” or “Look Inside”). I’m not a huge fan of really direct calls to action in a book description, but you can still tip the reader in the direction you want to take. So that’s what our description has to accomplish. I’m about to tell you how to do it. Do just note that this is not a complete guide to the art of self-publishing. Luckily, though, we already have one for you, if you want it. It’s right here. Your Amazon Book Description Template The basic template for a book description is: Hook. This is one sentence, maybe two. Ideally, no more than that. If you go for three or more sentences, that can be fine . . . as long as they’re very short ones!Content. In the case of fiction, this will be a mini-story in its own right. In the case, of non-fiction, you will be laying out the substance of the book. In both cases, though, you’ll be answering the “what is this?” question and the “what will it do for me?” one. For fiction, your mini-story should run to about 75-100 words. Non-fictioneers can (and probably should) go long.Climax / call to action. If your main content is a mini-story, you want to end it on a cliffhanger, or a question, or some other place that is unsatisfying to the reader. In that sense, the cliffhanger IS your call to action. You’re effectively saying, “Hey, you don’t like being left in that place of suspense? Well, there’s only one way you can fix that problem, buddy . . . and the ‘Buy Now’ button is right up there.” You don’t even need to say that explicitly to say it. Oh, and the same basic approach works with non-fiction too. We’ll look at both. In terms of length, your climax is probably just one sentence. It could be two, but if so, they’re probably short ones . . . To be clear, that template works for every book. It’s the heart of every successful book description ever. We’re going to go on to look at some specific examples of how that template works out in practice, but before we get there, we have to face one more question. Do you want a very clean, pared-down book description, of the sort that Amazon Publishing generally favours? (One example here.) Or do you want to follow the kitchen-sink model favoured by Bookouture, an outstandingly successful British e-publisher? (One example of their monster book descriptions here – note the huge number of reviews etc included as part of that book description. Personally, I prefer the latter model. I like the ability to hold the reader on “my” part of my book’s web real estate. So I want readers to look at the reviews that I choose to shove under their nose. I don’t want my reader wandering down to look at the “also boughts”. I want them to feel complete before they even reach the end of the book description. But to be clear: that’s not the only method. Amazon, in case you hadn’t noticed, is rather good at data, and if their publishing arm favours a very trimmed-down version of the book description, it clearly works for them. So you can go light, or you can go heavy . . . the one thing you can’t do is mess with that template. The next thing for us to do? See how it works in practice. This stuff is helpful, right?But, you know, there’s a lot more where this came from. We’ve got an entire self-publishing video course, that’s expensive to buy (see details) . . . but which we’d like to give you totally free.And not just that course, but an awesome on on How To Write. And live webinars with literary agents and top book doctors. And an incredible cinema, full of films by writers for writers.In fact, our Jericho Writers club is made for writers like you – and was created by writers like you. We think you’ll be blown away by what we have on offer. To find out more, just Explore Our Club. We’ look forward to welcoming you soon. Your Book Description: Some Examples OK, you want an example of a top quality book description? Well, here’s one from Amazon imprint author, Mark Edwards. Mark writes his own descriptions and Amazon loves them so much, they don’t change a word. Mark opts for a super-pared down description and it works unbelievably well, as you can see. Here’s an example from his BECAUSE YOU LOVE ME. (Here on, or here on Amazon UK.) You can see that the hook / content / climax template is alive and well in that short piece of text. (Which totals just 100 words, by the way. I’d say that 100 words sits at the very short end of what you can get away with. Anything between 100 and, say, 180 words feels about right.) In this case, the hook is simply: “this author is a #1 worldwide bestseller, and if you like stories about jealousy / obsession / murder, you’re probably in the right place.” Works for you? Yep, it works for me too. Notice that that one short sentence has ticked two boxes. It’s said, “here are the themes of the book [so you already know what kind of emotional journey it’s going to offer.” But it’s also said, “And you don’t need to be worried about wasting your $3.99, because I’m a top author and you’re in good hands.” The story here is delivered with extreme economy, but just look what it accomplishes. That first sentence (Andrew meets Charlie) gives us the premise. In effect, that’s the initiating incident right there. In one sentence. Not just that, but you’re given the first uh-oh moment. (“He is certain his run of bad luck has finally come to an end.” You and I known damn well that it’s only just starting.) With the starting position swiftly drawn, the story instantly escalates . . . things missing, a stalker, misfortune, tragedy. The issues start small and build fast. In effect, in the tiny world of this book description, Mark Edwards has succeeded in building a perfectly formed story. What’s more, that little story answers the “what kind of book is this?” question. You just know exactly from the information you’ve been given. But it answers the “what feelings will you have when reading it?” question too. You know exactly what your emotional payoff is going to be. And then the climax / CTA: in this case, a question. Is this woman an angel – or a demon? Notice that you don’t actually need to do anything as crude as say, “Hey, go and buy my book!” That would actually spoil the emotional place you’ve got the reader into. What you’ve done is smarter than just some crude “buy me” message. You’ve engineered a little emotional conflict in the reader. They want to know the answer to your angel / demon question . . . but the only way they can resolve that is to buy the book. Don’t know about you, but that works for me. Different Ways To Deliver Hook Marks’s hook was a neat and uncomplicated one. Basically, “This book is a story about X, and you can trust that it’ll be a good one because I’m a #1 bestseller.” That’s OK if you are a #1 bestseller. If you’re not? Well, there are a million other ways to do it: Social proof. (“Readers are raving about this book. ‘Awesome, gob-smacking.’ Annie J. ‘Breathtaking. I never wanted it to end.’ Jaco R.”)Formal proof. (“The New York Times called this book ‘dazzling’.  The Washington Post said, ‘It’s so good, you’ll want to read it twice.\'”)Question. (“Was she an angel? Or a demon?”)Provocation. (“Finally – a heroine to kick Lisbeth Salander’s ass.”)Comparison. (“If you loved Donna Tartt’s Secret History, you’ll love this tale of darkness, betrayal – and Homer.”)Premise / set-up. (“She was his ex-wife. He still loved her. But why was she driving the getaway car in Chicago’s biggest-ever heist?”)Sales. (“100,000 copies sold in the series. And fans rate this as the best one yet.”) Or whatever! Be imaginative. Use whatever you’ve got. It doesn’t matter what type of hook you use. It does matter that you have one! Different Ways To Deliver Your Climax / CTA Likewise, your climax can operate in different ways. Choice / question. (“Was she an angel? Or a demon? Or – worse still – was she both?”)Suspense / cliffhanger. (“There was only one way to find out. And that was to open the tomb.”)Reminder of social proof / sales / formal proof. (“This is the novel that has sold a bazillion copies / that the New York Times raved about / that readers have awarded 100s of 5-star reviews.”)Comparisons nudge. (“Perfect for fans of Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins.”) Again, it doesn’t really matter what you do; it does matter that you choose to do it. Personally, when it comes to fiction, I think you want to leave your readers in the story. That means the choice / question / cliffhanger ending works better for me than the jump back into “hey, the New York Times loved this”. But that could be a personal thing. Certainly you see plenty of competent indie authors / trad publishers using a whole variety of methods here. One More Example Just to show you how universal this model is, I’m going to give you an illustration from my own work – this one comes from the UK edition of my police procedural, THE DEAD HOUSE. I wasn’t in fact the primary author of this description – I just tweaked a description written by my publisher – but it’s probably the best of the descriptions of my work out there. You’ll see how precisely that description follows our template. The hook delivers a sense of emotion (“Chilling, atmospheric and gripping”), and a proof of quality – here’s top author Mark Edwards bigging the book up. (I’d forgotten, actually, that Mark had plugged The Dead House when I extracted his description above – but he’s a damn nice guy, with excellent taste . . . and he can write quite nicely too!) The story / content builds from the premise (victim’s body found), adds some mystery (who is she? why is she here? what’s with the thin white dress?), then escalates is one more time (another woman went missing). All that in a space hardly longer than Mark Edwards’s super-economical 100 words. And then the climax / CTA follows the template too: a question of the type that crime readers love. In fact – big claim here – if you find ANY good book description on Amazon, you’ll find it follows the same basic template. You don’t believe me? What about non-fiction, you cry? Pshaw, says I, and fiddle-de-dee. It’s true of non-fiction too. I’m going to show you an example of that in just one moment – but first some very important remarks about formatting, and how to make the most of the 4000 character allowance that Amazon grants us for book descriptions. Book Descriptions: Formatting, Length And Additional Content If you’ve been thinking about book descriptions at all, you’ll have noticed that some descriptions make good use of formatting (bold, italics, subheadings, etc), some make wildly excessive use of them, and some make no use at all. About Formatting Although Amazon’s own imprints make almost no use of formatting (and those guys test extensively, so they’re not just being stupid or lazy), my own view is that some good, calm, tasteful formatting adds structure and intelligibility to the blurb. I’m not going to talk in detail about how to insert bold and italics, etc. The short answer is that you use html tags like or to make text bold or italics respectively, and then lose the tags with, for example or , once you want the bold / italics to stop. But that’s not really a complete answer, so: You can read Amazon’s own guidelines here, but better stillThere’s a really easy tool here, which allows you to format your text on screen in a way that you’re happy with. Once you’re happy with the way your book description looks, you just hit “Get code” and the tool will deliver you with the text you can just cut and paste into your Amazon book description box. Simple! I’m happy enough using html tags, but I still use that tool, just because it’s easier to design nice-looking text if you can see what you get, real-time. In short, my advice is DO use formatting, but carefully. I think both my DEAD HOUSE description and the Italian guidebook description we’re about to look at use those formatting tools in a nice, clear, helpful way. But then another question looms. It’s this: do you want your book description to look very short and sweet – like the Mark Edwards description we looked at first – or do you want it to segue from book blurb into a whole pile of reviews and the like? Book Descriptions: Short Versus Long? Compare the Mark Edwards book description here, with this one from Angela Marsons, who is published by hyper-successful British e-publisher, Bookouture. The Angela Marsons one follows our template at the start – so it has a blurb-like blurb with intro / story / climax like all the others. But then it tells us “Readers are loving Dying Truth” and lays out a whole set of reader / blogger / formal reviews. Now there’s something interesting here. If you look at their records over the last several years, there’s a strong case to be made that Bookouture and Amazon are the world’s two best publishers when it comes to publishing and selling on Amazon’s KDP platform. They text extensively and monitor outcomes. But one firm – Amazon – goes for extremely short, unformatted book descriptions. The other, Bookouture, goes for very long, highly formatted ones. Which to prefer? Well, if you have two great firms making quite opposite choices, that says to me that both options work. Personally, I prefer – and use myself – the Bookouture model, of conventional blurb followed by a ton of reviews, but it’s your call. There’s no absolute right and wrong here. Using Formatting To Brand Your Book Finally, do take a look back at that book description for Angela Marsons. Notice the way that the publishers use formatting not just to say “this book is great”, but to ram home their key marketing messages for the book. So take this bit from the book description: ‘Just wow. This is police procedural at its best…It is complex, intriguing, and the writing hooked me in completely. I read the majority of this book in a few short hours not pausing for breath’ (5 stars) Rachel’s Random Reads That quote (and use of bold) is reminding the reader that this book is a police procedural. In other words, it’s sending out the not-so-subtle message to readers who like police procedurals that this book could well be for them. So the perfect reviews to select for your book description will be ones that (a) say “this book is great”, but also (b) reinforce your basic message of what this book is and what the emotional payoff will be. In effect, any reviews you include at the bottom of your book description should say, “You know that implicit promise from the blurb? About what you can expect to get from the book if you buy it? Well, trust me, buddy, this book will more than deliver for you.” So the blurb part of the book description delivers a promise, and the review part of it affirms that other readers / reviewers consider that promise to have been met. That’s a template that I personally like very much and use for all my self-published work. Has This Been Helpful? Before you leave this page – and just before we get to that long-promised non-fiction book description – may I ask you a question? It’s this: Has this page been helpful? And, because you’re an indie author, what that really means is: Will you make more sales by using insights from this page?Will you develop your career?Will you look like – and be – a more professional author? I’m really hoping that the answers to those questions are yes, yep, and you betcha. In which case – why stop at one blog post? Why not go the whole hog? Because – did you know this? – we have an entire course on self-publishing that tells you everything you need to know in incredibly clear detail. It’s fun. It’s engaging. It’s comprehensive. And it will get you from zero to sixty in no time at all. Basically, it’ll cut out all the mistakes and get you on the road to indie-dom fast and properly. And yes, there’s a catch. But, panic ye not, there’s a way to sniggle your way past that catch without being snared. So the catch is quite simply price. The course is a super-premium course and it costs hundreds of dollars to buy. (You can view the course outline in full here.) The price makes sense. You get 13 full length videos, plus a ton of bonus material too. Those videos come with full, extensive PDF-downloads, so you have notes on every topic at the click of a button.  Unless you are a super-sophisticated indie author already, this course WILL make you a better, richer, happi er author. It’ll basically cut out all the mistakes and trial-and-error decisions, and put you on the road to success. But it’s expensive. So what to do? The answer is: don’t buy it. Rent it. If you become a member of Jericho Writers, you get all the learning material on this site FOR FREE. All of it. There’s no limit to your access. So you can gobble up that video course, and all our self-published filmed masterclasses, and all our material on how to write, and everything else besides, and not pay one dime over your monthly membership fee. You can learn more about Jericho Writers here or just sign up here. What’s more, our membership is cancel-any-time, so you can just sign up, help yourself to whatever you want from our learning tools, then quit. We’d love it if you stayed, but if you don’t want to, that’s fine too. We’re writers ourselves and we’re here to help. Non-fiction Book Descriptions – Also Formatting, Length & Reviews The thing about non-fiction, is that you still need the hook, to draw readers into your page. You still need the springboard-style lift So here, for example, is the book description from Rick Steve’s Italy – a guidebook that I’ve chosen to complement the beautiful images of the Italian landscape that adorn this post. Notice the enticing intro, the meaty content, and what is effectively a call-to-action right at the end. Notice too the clever way this blurb moves from standard guidebook stuff (“top sights and hidden gems”) to things that make you start visualising yourself in Italy with this book in your pack (“Over 1000 Bible-thin pages”). That’s the whole book description template in (beautifully formatted) action, right? In fact, I hope that you can see our book description rules are basically universal. If they can cover dark crime fiction like mine / Mark Edwards’s / Angela Marsons’s AND a standard-issue Italian guidebook, then they just have to work everywhere, right? So go write your book description, entice those readers and grab those sales! And don’t forget to join the Jericho Writers crew, and blast your self-publishing and writing knowledge into a whole new  dimension. About the authorHarry Bingham has been a pro author for twenty years and more. He’s been trad published and self-published, and hit bestseller lists via both routes. He’s also had his work adapted for the screen, has had a ton of critical acclaim, and been published all over the world. (More about Harry, more about his books.)
Read more
Page 1 of 1