I want to start by thanking everyone for their understanding about the open floor I had to put up last week. I try not to do so very often but last Tuesday was one of those days when everything converged to keep me not only away from the computer but out of the house. I’ve still been kept away from the house a great deal of late and off-line, but things are getting better. Which is probably a good thing since my work laptop has something odd happening with it where it no longer likes Yahoo and there are a number of sites — including mail sites and file sharing sites — that it seems to be blocking. So, once I finish here, I’m tearing into the firewall and other programs that are supposed to be protecting me and see if HAL has taken over.
Some of you were kind enough to leave suggestions for topics last week. Some of them, like the suggestion to discuss copyright and fanfic, will take more thought and research than I’ve had time to give to it yet. So, give me a couple of weeks — to get some deadlines dealt with — and I’ll do a post on copyright, fanfic and filing off the serial numbers.
Several of you wanted to talk about how to deal with the current dry spell so many writers seem to be experiencing right now. Not so much a dry spell on the writing front but on the sales front. That seems to be a topic a lot of folks are talking about. I wish I had a response that we could all implement, but I don’t. I’ll admit that over the last few years, I’ve seen a trend in my own sales where sales seem to slow a bit in July, drop through the floor in August and then slowly start picking up in September. Whether that means anything or not, I don’t know. It could be as simple as people are on vacation or are getting ready for their kids to return to school. But sales do seem to be cyclical and they do pick up.
I just haven’t found any quick fix for the decline. I’ve tried blog tours. It’s a lot of work for what didn’t always give a return that made it worth the time. I’ve had a trailer made and it had no impact on sales. I’ve tried putting titles up on all sales fronts and only on Amazon’s KDP program. I’ve changed the pricing — up and down — and changed the tags. Facebook and Twitter and snippets, oh my.
What I’ve learned is that different tactics work for different genres. The blog tour worked to an extent for one of the novels written under the pen name. It worked, not so much because it increased sales a great deal but because it got reviews up on Amazon. The reviews weren’t always glowing but they were always honest and the good reviews outweighed the bad ones. Those reviews do help because potential readers will look at the number of reviews and the average rating when considering whether or not to try a book by a new author.
However, for the urban fantasy stuff, the blog tour didn’t work as well. Does that mean such a tactic won’t work for others? No. It just means that, for me at least, I will have to think twice before putting in the time and effort to do an other blog tour for more of the Nocturnal Lives books. I’ll do a few guest posts — hint, if you need someone to fill in on your blog one day, give me a shout. I’ll be glad to as long as I can link to my Amazon page — but a blog tour of a week or two where I’m on different blogs every day is a no go now. I’d rather be writing my next book.
As for the rest of it — especially Facebook and Twitter — social media is a way to keep your name and the titles of your work in people’s minds. But it is a balancing act. You don’t want to do so much promotion that your Facebook page or Twitter feed is nothing but one long ad for your latest novel or short story. (Hint: I’m seeing more and more people posting on their walls that if they get a friend request on Facebook from someone and, when they go to check out that person’s FB page it is dominated by self-promotion, they will refuse the friend request.) So, before you start spamming your page and feed with info about your latest release, stop and think. Are you going overboard? Look at your last three to five entries. If they have to deal with your work and have all happened in the last couple of hours, you are going overboard. Step away from the keyboard and breathe. Post something different.
There’s another pitfall to social media sites like Facebook that a lot of authors fall into. That’s the creation of a page for your latest novel or series or whatever. Every day I’m getting invitations to “like” some author’s new page. That’s annoying enough because it does take time to figure out if it is a page I want to be involved with — and this is something you need to think about. When you “like” a page, it shows up on your wall. Your “friends” can see your likes. So do you really want to like that latest invitation? For example, how will your Christian publisher react if they check and see you’ve liked a number of pages for books that are about demonology or the like? — Even if I am interested, do I have time to follow them?
Worse are when authors or fans create group pages and add you without asking. I’ve finally reached the point where if people do that and I don’t know them well, I will not only delete the group but will unfriend the person responsible for adding me.
Social media is just that — social. For the average indie author who is struggling to make a name for himself, it isn’t a major sales tool. It is a tool to be used, carefully and sparingly. You have to walk that thin line between promotion and becoming a pest. So think about what you like, and don’t like, to see and apply that to your use of Facebook and Twitter and then see if it yields any results. Just remember, those results may be long term and may not show up right away. That’s especially true if you are distributing your books through Smashwords (where sales may not be reported for up to six months for outlets in their premium catalog) and not putting them directly up on sites like Amazon, Kobo or BN.
So, what can you do to help pump your sales? One of the best is to check your product description on Amazon or the other sales pages. Do you give the potential buyer enough information to hook them without giving them too much? Is it well-written? How about formatted? If your description has more than one paragraph, make sure there’s space between the paragraphs so it is not only visually pleasing but also an indication that your book is properly formatted. Have you checked to make sure there are no misspelled words? You’d be surprised how many descriptions I’ve seen with spelling errors, even for books released by the major publishers. That description is the first impression your writing is going to make on a reader. So make it the best you can.
Then comes the tags you use for your book. Each site has a different number of tags you can use, so you have to be careful not to just cut and paste from site to site because you may wind up losing that one tag you really want there.
So what tags should you use?
First of all, understand that your tags are different from the categories you select for your books or short stories to be listed in. The tags are basically the meta tags or descriptive words that help readers find your books when doing a general search on Amazon or another store site. They are keywords treaders might input into the search engine for the sales site. If you write a romantic suspense novel set in Dallas around a wedding that has a murder and blackmail in it, the tags I’d use are romance, suspense, Dallas, wedding, murder, blackmail. That’s six and, iirc, Amazon lets you tag up to seven words. So I’d figure out something else, maybe the profession of my main character, to use. Anything that I think someone might use as a search term.
Tags you don’t want to use are your name, title of the book or series title. Why? Because they are already associated with your work if you filled out the information page properly.
So, here’s a challenge for each of you. Take your current wip and put a sample of the product page description and your tag words in the comments below. I’ll be back later, after I clean house, to see what you’ve done.
Now, for the brief snippet from Nocturnal Interlude:
“Don’t you dare die on me now!”