Book Marketing for the Indie Author

This is a guest post by Karen Bell.

When my publisher closed last December, I was shaking in my shoes. I knew that I would probably have to take over as publisher if I wanted my book to remain “out there.” I tried to find another publisher to take over, but it had taken me ten years to find this one—yes that’s right ten years. Sales were kind of meager, so even though reviews were quite good, I couldn’t get anyone interested. Luckily, I was given the files, the cover art, and the contact at Lightning Source. With trepidation, I proceeded and low and behold, my book remained for sale at all online outlets. I had done it. Writer—check. Indie-publisher—check. Done.


Yes, I had mastered the mechanics, now what? How do I get the word out? My publisher had introduced me to the concept of a virtual book tour and she had set one up with TLC. It didn’t set the world on fire but it was something. But ya know, that was about it for her marketing strategy. She did pay for a review at a US Book Reviews, but the review was written so generally it was like the reviewer just read the blurb. I complained to her that she didn’t get her money’s worth, but I guess she had other issues to think about.

After I became my own publisher, I realized just how little she had done. I was an active marketing participant right from the start with my publisher. I had a website, a blog, a FB page, a trailer of sorts, a Twitter account but that wasn’t enough. A sale here, a sale there. Not anything to retire to the South of France.

So I have spent many hours searching the web, following indie writers on Twitter. Trying to learn the ropes. There are avenues for advertising that won’t break the bank. But even at that they are hard to turn into significant sales. I did a FB ad and picked up over 300 fans and no real sales. I did a Goodreads ad and picked up 92 people who have added my book. On closer inspection, these people had thousands of books to read. By the time they get to mine, I’ll be long dead. I gave away my book on Librarything in exchange for a review. Seventy people requested it. I thought—now we’re cookin’. Fifty of the 70 downloaded and so far only eight reviews. I am emailing these people again to ask for a review. Not a small task. I follow a guy on Twitter who said an ad Kindle New Daily would create big sales. I paid a hefty amount and got about two sales. I found a free site to create your own press release and did that. Have no idea what that does, but it is something my publisher should have done.

So now, I have a few ads running and I’m trying to be smart and not spend too much. It’s the reviews I’m mostly after now. And I am getting great ones. Four and five stars. I also am trying to get a review at Publisher’s Weekly. They have a program for indie authors, and I paid for it—probably too much. Kirkus charges $400 and I’m not ready to do it…but never say never.

If you Google indie authors there are a slew of sites now that will review your book for free, or have you do a guest blog, or interview—like this tour. Indie Lounge, Indie News, Indie Bookspot—to name a few. And I’m sure the number of these outlets are growing with the explosion of indie publishing. But does anyone actually drop by these sites and read anything?

They say the first thing you must have is a good book. But you know in this crazy world, what you really need is a story that appeals to the young people who are into zombies or sex-starved housewives. My friends suggest that maybe I should write erotica—jump on the bandwagon.

“Not while my mother is alive,” I tell them.

But she’s 94, sooooooooo.

You can find my debut novel, Walking with Elephants, at all online outlets:


Barnes and Nobles


Kindle Select Grows Up

From this news release… 16 of the Top 100 Best-Selling Paid Kindle Books in March Are Exclusive to the Kindle Store and Available for Prime Members with a Kindle to Borrow for Free.

That’s a pretty big stat considering that “Select” is so new. Check out the rest of the release for more stories how it is changing author’s lives. Of course, that’s only half of the story. In the piece I did for Huffington Post I examine the authors who don’t agree that Select is working for them., Inc. today announced that 16 of the top 100 best-selling paid Kindle books in March are exclusive to the Kindle Store and available for Prime members with a Kindle to borrow for free through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. These 16 books, which include only paid units and do not take into consideration borrowed or free units, include Kindle Singles “An Unexpected Twist” by Andy Borowitz and “Bearded Lady” by Mara Altman, “Easily Amused” by Karen McQuestion, books 1-3 in Michael Wallace’s Righteous Series, and independently-published books from T.R. Ragan and A.K. Alexander. Other popular Kindle-exclusive books include Kurt Vonnegut’s new Kindle Single “Basic Training” and Stephen Covey’s groundbreaking business book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

More than 100,000 books are now available in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, including over 100 current and former New York Times Best Sellers. The vast majority of these titles are exclusive to Kindle and published using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) — a self-service, easy-to-use platform for independent authors and publishers. When KDP authors choose to participate in KDP Select, their books are automatically included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

In March, each time Kindle owners borrowed a KDP Select book from the lending library, the author received $2.18, leading to significant increases in income for independently-published authors. One example is Martin Crosbie, the independent author of “My Temporary Life.” After enrolling the book in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library in February, he earned over $45,000 in one month from paid sales and loans combined — a huge increase from the $100 he earned the prior two months when his book was not enrolled in the program. “Because of Amazon, and KDP Select in particular, I can now call myself an author — before my experience with this program that was only a dream,” said Crosbie. “Through KDP Select, I have been able to get my work to thousands and thousands of readers quickly and effectively. My experience with KDP Select is truly life-changing.”

“Stories like Martin’s are becoming increasingly common and a great benefit of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content. “KDP authors get a new way to reach more readers and customers discover great books. Every time a customer borrowed an independently-published book in March, the author earned $2.18. That’s more than many authors earn when their books are sold.”

Early sales data indicates that inclusion in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library not only generates additional revenue from loans for authors, but actually increases customer purchases of authors’ work as well.

— In the case of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, 24% of customers who borrowed “The Hunger Games” bought “Catching Fire” and 24% bought “Mockingjay,” despite the entire series being available to borrow for free in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

— Debora Geary was one of the top 10 KDP Select authors in February, and 51% of customers who borrowed one of her books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library went on to buy one of her titles.

— L.J. Sellers, author of the Detective Jackson Mystery/Thriller series, saw that 25% of customers who borrowed one of her books also bought one of her books, all of which are also available in the lending library.

— Since the launch of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library in November 2011, the paid retail sales of backlist trade titles in the library have seen 229% higher growth than corresponding titles that are not enrolled.

Other independent authors who’ve experienced success with KDP Select include:

Contemporary romance writer Kathy Dunnehoff earned nearly $9,000 from the KDP Select fund in February, and her royalties from paid sales increased more than 18 times month over month. “As an indie author, I count on KDP Select to help put me on the radar of my readers,” said Dunnehoff. “Through the free promotion days and exposure in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, all three of my novels continue to find a wider audience.”

In February, romantic thriller writer Nina Bruhns earned over seven times more money from paid sales of her KDP Select books compared to January. “KDP Select is another great example of the innovative and game-changing opportunities that Amazon has provided to every single person out there with a dream to be a published author,” said Bruhns. “I am thrilled to be part of KDP with my indie titles, and have loved the results of my venture into KDP Select.”

T.R. Ragan is the best-selling thriller author of the Lizzy Gardner Series and was the number one KDP Select author in February. She earned over $11,000 from the KDP Select fund, and her royalties from paid sales of her books increased by more than four times from January to February. “My goal from the start has been to reach as many readers as possible and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has made it easy for me to do exactly that,” said Ragan. “Every time I enroll a new book in KDP Select, my expectations are blown out of the water. I can’t wait to see what Amazon will think of next!”



You’re Missing The Point

Seth Godin says that writers shouldn’t expect to have the right to make money from their work.

Rivera: Many authors hear your message about being willing to give away their books for free, or to focus on spreading their message but their question is: “I’ve got rent to pay so how do I turn that into cash money?”

Who said you have a right to cash money from writing? I gave hundreds of speeches before I got paid to write one. I’ve written more than 4000 blog posts for free. Poets don’t get paid (often), but there’s no poetry shortage. The future is going to be filled with amateurs, and the truly talented and persistent will make a great living. But the days of journeyman writers who make a good living by the word–over.

Ok, fine. But that’s not the real issue here. The reason self-publishing is exploding isn’t because of the money. It’s because of the opportunity.

The opportunity to bypass gatekeepers (publishers) who said our work wasn’t good enough.

The opportunity to reach more people easily through social media without spending millions on advertising.

The opportunity to easily upload your work without technical skills.

The opportunity to try to earn money from it.

Of course, in the end, the money will still flow to those that write better than others. But at least everyone has a chance now. That’s what this is all about, and that’s what people are missing.

Amazon Pricing Strategies

Check this screenshot out.

I’ve been playing around with pricing a bit on my books. I was going to put my book free Monday, which I did (I ended up getting over 3k downloads), but it’s smart to make your book price higher before you make your book free. That way the consumer sees how much value they are getting.

So I set the book at $8.17. Why $8.17? Because I’m finding that strange price points work better. Try it.

So after the book stopped being free. I made the book $6.17. Now look at that screenshot. Amazon is doing a price reduction thing. Kinda neat. Smart.

Lesson? Play around with your pricing. Don’t just set it and forget it.

Don’t Blame Amazon, Blame Yourselves

Yet another wonderful piece from J. Konrath. Just go read it.

Why didn’t the Big 6 invent online bookstores and ereaders? Why didn’t the ABA?

Amazon INNOVATES. That’s the thing you whiners don’t understand. They’re not dominating because they undercut you on price. Price is just one way to please customers. Service is another. Value is another. But the biggest one is technology.

Anyone can sell for cheap. Not anyone can single-handedly jump-start the digital revolution. Not everyone can create an online store that is not only a pleasure shop at, but where it is fun to spend time.

Amazon is going to eat you all for lunch because they aren’t thinking about how to make money tomorrow. They’re thinking about how to make money in 2018.

They’re doing all the stuff you never did–hell, they’re doing stuff that you never even thought of. They’re all about pushing it forward. They’re all about gathering and analyzing data. They’re all about challenging themselves to do better, to focus on the future, to learn from the past. They’re all about pleasing the customer (and I heard from no less than half a dozen Amazonians that they consider authors to be their customers.)

They experiment. They change. They evolve.