Posted in All Articles, Free online marketing

13 things you must plan ahead before publishing your first book and officially starting your author career

Some time ago I’ve written an article on 10 incredibly harmful pre-publishing myths that most newbie writers still believe. Today, I want to continue helping newbie writers by sharing 13 things that they need to think of before publishing their first book – and officially starting their author careers. This article is written in the form of open ended questions, as its aim is getting you into solving-problems mode.

Ready? Let’s go!

#1 Plan Ahead: Who are you as an author and who are your readers?

Why this matters: Cause who you are as a private person is not the type of information you want to paste anywhere online. Also, an author bio that fits your genre is more likely to get your readers’ attention. Now – who are your readers going to be? Where are you going to find them? How are you going to communicate with them? And convince them to read your book?

#2 Plan Ahead: Are you going to self-publish or publish traditionally? What challenges do these routes bring?

Why this matters: These two routes are slightly different, which doesn’t mean that any of them is easier than the other one. Keep in mind that in order to succeed you will have to work hard regardless of the route that you have taken. If you are self publishing, how are you going to do this? Where are you going to find the staff you need: cover artist, editor, e-book formatter and printing facility? If you are publishing traditionally, do you know already where to send your manuscript? Do you know the success rate of other writers? Maybe it would be a good idea to get an agent? If you are rejected by everyone, what will you do? Do you have a plan B?

#3 Plan Ahead: How are you going to build your social media following?

Why this matters: If you don’t know about the hundredth monkey effect, read about it now. Your book can’t become popular… without being popular (!). What does it mean? Nobody is going to like your Facebook page or follow your Twitter if you aren’t popular. How are you going to get the first fans on your social media? You realize that the more fans you have, the greater your organic reach – and the greater the chances that your book will sell. Now it’s the time to think about how to build a massive social media following. Not once you publish!

#4 Plan Ahead: What are you going to do to appear in more Google Search results?

Why this matters: Your future readers are going to google you. What they’re going to find is up to you. An author who has more results in Google Search is automatically seen as more popular. On which websites are you going to register so as to appear in Google Search more often?

#5 Plan Ahead: Where are you going to post video, photos, artworks and presentations that will promote you and your book?

Why this matters: posting varied content on social media is important, however, social media isn’t everything. You must be active in as many places as you can so as to increase your organic reach. Lots of authors say to post ads on forums or Facebook groups, however people present there don’t want to be spammed and may react negatively to you being overactive with your marketing. What websites you know which will allow you to share your promotional content without appearing as spammy?

#6 Plan Ahead: Where are you going to post writings that will promote you and your book?

Why this matters: Like I explained above, social media isn’t everything and you don’t want to appear as a spammer. Think well: in which places can you post your writings and actually receive feedback from readers? This is important because people who have once read your works and liked it might become your first fans and choose to purchase your book later.

#7 Plan Ahead: How are you going to build your e-mail list?

Why this matters: I assume that each of us has an e-mail list of around 200 contacts. However, not everyone on this list is a target reader willing to buy and review our book. Most probably won’t (why, I explained here and here). If you are going to make your book popular among strangers, you will need an e-mail list consisting of your target readers. Building it requires not only a strategy, but also a time. Start as soon as you can.

#8 Plan Ahead: How are you going to obtain reviews as an unknown author?

Why this matters: If you are publishing traditionally, your publisher should contact bloggers in your name and organize some reviews. That number isn’t going to be as high as you expect (I got only 3 reviews), so you must think how to get more  reviews. If you are self-publishing, there’s even more pressure on you to resolve this problem. I have already shared in the members advice section that contacting book bloggers doesn’t work, as the response rate is really low. Are you going to buy reviews? If yes, where? If the reviews are negative, what will do you? Think now, so you don’t fall into the crisis later.

#9 Plan Ahead: How are you going to organize a virtual book tour?

Why this matters: Book tours increase the discoverability of your book and raise your Google Search rankings. It is important that you have your own blog where you promote your book, but the more blogs you can appear on with your book, the better.

#10 Plan Ahead: How are you going to promote your book right after its launch?

Why this matters: If you are self publishing, e.g. on Amazon, you will want to know everything about their ads. If you are publishing traditionally, you’ll need to learn about other types of ads (social media or Google). Ads are just one way to promote yourself: you need to prepare materials that attract your readers. What are those materials going to be?

#11 Plan Ahead: Where you are going to find money for investing into your books and author brand? 

Why this matters: self-publishing costs, and traditional publishing doesn’t free your from the need to market your books. Ads cost, promos cost, materials cost. Start saving or get a freelancing job to cover your extra expenses.

#12 Plan Ahead: What will your new book be about and how can you promote it while publishing and marketing your first book?

Why this matters: publishing your first book is a great way to advertise your soon-to-be-published second book. Also, showing the readers that you have two books (preferably in the same genre) might make them consider following you on social media or joining your mailing list so as to be informed about the newest releases.

#13 Plan Ahead: What is your long-term marketing strategy for building a strong online presence for your books and your author brand?

Why this matters: you are not just publishing one book – you are embarking on a new career. If you want your author brand to grow and attract more and more readers, you need to put in time, money and effort. How are you going to build yourself as an author online? Think about it.

I know that planning these things ahead is difficult, but trust me that it’s better you start thinking about it now rather than after you’ve published.

I was 21 years old when I published my first book and I had no idea how to promote myself, how to reach the target readers, how to grow an e-mail list etc. I knew that a 16 year old student from my high school had a popular YouTube channel (around 1000 subscribers), so I asked him for advice on how to build a presence online. He told me that I needed to create my author persona, get more people to like my page, invest in ads.

That was just the beginning. It took me 4 years to figure out my answers to the questions I’ve asked you in this post. I decided to share my secret knowledge with you and I prepared a cheat sheet containing 50 steps to a successful debut. This cheat sheet will be available for premium members here on Always Inspired Writing, however, you can get it for free by joining my mailing list. Sign up here!

Successful Debut 2.jpg

I hope this article was useful to you!

Stay inspired.

Posted in All Articles, Free online marketing

Is it a good idea to enroll your book in KDP Select?

There are tons of articles on whether you should or shouldn’t enroll your book in KDP Select. I am definitely for, but I can also understand authors who are against. All their arguments boil down to the three following ones:

  • Books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited earn an extremely low royalty (4.78$ per 1000 pages).
  • You could sell the book on your website and earn everything that the customer pays, without extra taxes.
  • By putting all your eggs in one basket, you are missing out the readers on iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Noble.

It all makes sense, doesn’t it? If you publish a book that has 100 pages, and price it at 5.55$, your royalty will be 3.88$. But if that same book is borrowed through Kindle Unlimited, your book earns 0.47$. Congratulations! You’ve just lost 88% of your earnings.

But what if your book never gets any sales at all? What if you are just starting out there as an indie author, you have three people on your e-mail list and you can’t ask your friends and family anymore? Then it’s 0.00$ vs 0.47$. Of course that 0.47$ is better.

I want to remind you that people love free stuff, and Kindle Unlimited gives an illusion of a free library, where you pay a small monthly fee you can afford, and can download thousands of ebooks without worrying about their tall prices.

Signing up your book for Kindle Unlimited is like leaving it in lots of different libraries in the world at once, so that the voracious readers interested in the genre can find it and borrow it.

You wouldn’t earn anything for leaving your book in a library, but you can get some cents in your royalty jar, and you are also giving the readers the chance to get to know you.

If you are just starting, nobody knows you and nobody cares about your book. Even if you drive 100 people daily to your website (which is already an achievement), it’s highly unlikely that they will purchase it. Private websites aren’t as credible as huge bookstores.

Then what about Apple? Kobo? Barnes & Noble? My uncle’s alternative bookshop? I agree that missing out on other retailers is a flaw of KDP Select. Yet, from my own experience, driving traffic to ONE SPECIFIC LINK is already problematic. Imagine all that traffic getting divided in 5. 10 people go to Kobo, 10 people go to Barnes & Noble, 10 people go to Apple, 10 people go to your uncle, 10 people go on your website, and 10 people go on Amazon. How high is the probability that any of these people will actually purchase your book from any of these places? Very low.

I learned these lessons after trying my luck with Amazon Associate Marketing. I’ve been promoting links nearly everywhere, got 490 clicks and 2 orders. That means that 0.4% of those who clicked actually bought anything.

So… Where do we go from here?

To the wise words that I have read on another author’s blog (I can’t quote them, cause I don’t remember who they were, I’m sorry):

Enroll in KDP Select when nobody knows you, and give up on it once you’ve grown a huge fan base.

I can tell you that my pen name would be absolutely lost without KDP Select.

KDP Select books are always offered for free, which is likely to attract the portion of readers who have Kindle Unlimited.

You can organize a free promotion as well, and advertise it on the websites I’ve listed in here. You’ll get plenty of downloads and maybe even get a high position in the free Kindle Store rank.

The free promotions are important, because they let new readers discover you without any financial risk. Those readers might leave you reviews, like your fanpage, or in the best case – purchase your other books.

There are also Kindle Countdown Deals, which create a sense of urgency. It’s on sale, buy it nowww! And who doesn’t love a huge discount? Discounts make us buy things we’d never buy otherwise. It manipulates the customer into thinking: “oh wow, this is so cheap, I’ll give it a try, it’s 0.99$ anyways!”

It doesn’t matter that you aren’t earning big money on it. What matters is that your book is downloaded, or borrowed, or bought. 

Each time that happens, your book jumps in the Kindle Store rank. The more free promotions and countdown deals you make, the more your books are going to jump.

My pen name had a book that was listed as 1,000,000 in the Kindle Store. Total disaster. After I had launched the free promotion, the book has landed on the first page in its three categories, and now it’s stuck at 200,000 in the Kindle Store, and even higher in its three categories (from 100 to 3000!).

By promoting just one book, you are promoting all your books. Readers have read your book for free, and now they trust you as an author – and what to read MORE of what you’ve written. So make sure there is something else in your Amazon catalogue, not just that one free e-book.

I can’t comment on Kindle Countdown Deals right now, as I haven’t tried it yet, but from what I’ve seen, there are lots of promotional websites that accept only discounted books.  I’m sure that the right amount of online buzz can create a successful Kindle Countdown Deal campaign, but I have to crack it first to tell you something wise (I don’t want to repeat stuff said by other authors without testing it first).

But those two goodies – Free Promotions and Kindle Countdown Deals – are only available if you are in KDP Select.

I don’t know what other huge bookstores have to offer their authors. So I can’t speak about Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and others. But I know that I’d be lost on KDP Select. I’d have to rely on paid promotions to create a buzz around your books, and while many seem very promising (targetted audience, first place in the newsletter), they don’t always result in sales.

To be honest, I don’t trust websites who send e-mails to their subscribers 4 times a day (or even every day). I bet those people don’t even open the e-mails, cause they’ve had enough of them. And even if they do, they are flooded with so many books that the probability that they choose yours is rather low.

There are also Amazon ads, however, creating a successful campaign that has a low ACOS (aka is profitable) is quite a challenge. I’ll write about Amazon ads another time, as I crack them and actually get some profit.

In my view, KDP Select is best for indie authors who are just starting. You can always opt out of it once you gather a larger audience, and more experience with marketing. However, I definitely wouldn’t miss it if you are an indie author who is only starting to do anything online. It’s going to be tough, and without KDP Select, it’s going to be even tougher. This is why I think that it’s really worth it to give exclusivity to Amazon for some time, in exchange for some great marketing tools that might help you become recognized among the target readers.

I hope that it helps.

Stay inspired.

Posted in All Articles, Free online marketing

20 actually free websites where you can promote your free e-book

Today a really short, but useful article on free websites where you can promote your free e-book.

Who hasn’t bumped into lists of free sites to promote your Kindle deals, or 91 sites for e-book submissions? And got horribly frustrated, because these sites:

  • only pretend to be free but actually require a payment (and you discover it after filling a form with 30-50 places);
  • want you to create an account without the guarantee that you will actually get the promotion;
  • require you to like and share their posts before they promote you;
  • don’t accept steamy romance;
  • haven’t been updated for months or even years;
  • require 20 reviews (and you have zero);
  • don’t exist anymore?

If yes, then try out the following list compiled by me. I only put websites which are functional, free and actually allow you to promote your e-book online. If you are required to log in, then it’s worthy doing it, as the website will actually allow you to promote your e-books. Hence, you aren’t risking spam in your inbox by creating a new account.

Websites on which you can promote your e-book (regardless of its price):

  1. AllAuthor
  2. Awesome gang
  3. Thirsty author
  4. Wanton reads
  5. Pretty hot

Websites on which you can promote your e-book (if perma-free or on free promotion on Kindle):

  1. Get Free Ebooks
  2. eBookasaurus
  3. Free Books
  4. Free Ebooks Blog
  5. Free Stuff Times
  6. Hunt 4 Freebies
  7. Indie book of the day
  8. E-reader IQ (this is an interesting website that tracks your novel once submitted. If a reader wants to read your book, but want to read it for free, they can track it and if you start a promotion, they will be notified. It’s smart and interesting!)
  9. OHFB
  10. Discount Book Man
  11. Book Preview Club
  12. Book Circle
  13. Freebies4Mom
  14. This is writing
  15. Shameless book deals (it’s better to submit ahead to make sure that there are free places in the newsletter)

With time, I hope to post more lists like these. If you find out that any of the links stopped working, please write me a comment in the section below and I’ll instantly delete it.

I hope this helps!

Stay inspired.