Episode 32 – Penny Sansevieri, Event Results and Bestseller Lists

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Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts joined Jim and Bryan to discuss the results of last week’s March to a Bestseller 2 event. The gang discussed over 100 writing tips from Galleycat, the author success traits that are more important than talent and lessons learned from MTAB2. In the news this week were stories based on Kindle Unlimited earnings, the Indie Author Power Pack’s push for the bestseller list, the importance of your book launch, the Nook Press push for print on demand and traditional publishing’s view on contracts with indies. The sound is a little off in this episode, so please bear with us until we get back to normal next week! This week’s Question of the Week: What role do book launches play in your marketing? Have you ever had a successful book launch? If so, how’d you do it? Music: Inspirational, Promo Presentation Music by Marcus Neely (Creative Commons)
What You’ll Learn: 
  • How the 20 authors fared on the March to a Bestseller 2 event
  • What you can pick up from over 100 writing tips
  • The real traits you need to be a successful author
  • What one author learned from the March to a Bestseller 2 event
  • How Lindsay Buroker suggests making ends meet
  • Why you should consider other Amazon affiliate programs
  • More about the Indie Author Power Pack’s attempt to reach the NY Times list
  • The point of having a book launch
  • Why Nook is dipping its toes in the POD business
  • One mistake traditional publishing might be making
Links: 
Question of the Week: What role do book launches play in your marketing? Have you ever had a successful book launch? If so, how’d you do it?

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  • Emali Shah

    I have a question about task prioritization/time management. Having decided to try and make some money writing, how should I split my time between all the different tasks (setting up an author blog/social networking/studying marketing/WRITING, lol/business planning, etc) There seems to be so much to do, and I want to start publishing my fiction and non-fiction in Feb.

    • Bryan

      Hey Emali, thanks for listening.

      Spend 5-10 hours building your website and email list. Write 2 months worth of autoresponder emails. Write a few blog posts that are spaced out over the course of a couple of month.

      Then spend the next few months writing your books. That should be 90 percent of your time when you’re just starting out.

      Just one man’s opinion :). Hope it helps.

  • I really appreciated Jim’s perspective on the affiliate links discussion. I hate driving sales away to other sites – I want them to buy direct from me, especially since I offer all my books at a discount if you buy them from me vs. Amazon. I’d love to hear some more tips on how to get people to pull the trigger on MY site, instead of driving them away to Amazon, B&N, etc.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, Jim really nailed this, Laura. We’ll keep hunting down the tips of which you speak 🙂

    • Ruby Lionsdrake

      First off, you can have an affiliate link open in a new browser tab/window, so there’s really no reason you have to “drive sales away.”

      Second, anyone who is on your list already, at least if you’re a fiction author, most likely has already bought all of your work. Unless you finagled people into signing up by giving away freebies, these are your *true fans*. Sharing other authors’ books, books that your readers might enjoy, can be appreciated by your readers and yes, make you a feel extra cents. It also gives you something to share in your newsletter during months when you don’t have a new release of your own.

      Sorry but I feel you guys kind of missed the point on this discussion. I would have really liked to hear more about Patrion and the subscription models and whether any other authors are using them rather than rants about affiliate links.

      But thanks for the show. I appreciate listening, guys!

      • I get what you’re saying, Ruby, but I’m still losing the chance to make 100% of the money on a purchase that comes directly from my site, vs. a 30% or 70% cut (depending on the price of the book) when people buy through Amazon. Even if you’re getting the affiliate bump, you’re never getting 100%, and wasn’t that part of the goal of becoming an indie author – making more money for putting forth more effort?

  • Brittany Gulbrandson

    I have to say, when I read the story about the St. Martin’s Press thing, I wondered whether there might be an element of sour grapes. These indies clearly don’t need major publishers’ deals to profit, and I’ve heard enough indies say they wouldn’t take a publishing deal any major publisher would actually offer – so how much of this is “fine, we didn’t want your washed-up books anyway”? I don’t suppose anyone would ever admit to that, but I couldn’t help thinking it.

    • Bryan

      Definitely seems a little sour grapes-ish, Brittany. Good point.

  • I’m honestly not sure how I feel about book launches. I’m doing a Facebook launch in February for my book, ‘Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire,’ on Facebook and then an IRL event at my local library in March. I’m much more excited about the Facebook event because I think the reach could be much larger. And I won’t have to read my book in public. lol

    • Bryan

      Haha, both sound cool. I’ve never done a public reading. You’ll have to let us know how it goes.

  • Book launchings are hit or miss for me. My most successful launch was for a boxed set I did with 15 other authors this summer. We had a number of authors with very large mailing lists (not me), so I think that was a huge help. We hired a blog tour company who arranged about 50 blog stops, reviews, contests, created banners and teasers. We all posted blogs on our individual blogs and sent out newsletters. Created a #SpiceBox hashtag and tweeted with the retailer links. Had a two-week long FB party which we joined up with another box set group and gave away prizes every day. Took out a few ads and targetted FB ads. We hit #6 New York Times and #13 USA Today lists. On one of my own books, a vampire book, I recently did a much smaller launch with a blog tour, no ads since its the first of a series, FB and Twitter posts, newsletter announcement, etc. And it did hit the bestseller list in its genre (for a day) :). But another book about a month later, a scifi romance with a similar launch, got no reviews, and poor sales. My suggestion is try your best, try different marketing techniques, but don’t keep throwing money at a book or series if it isn’t gaining traction. Write another book.

    • Bryan

      Great tips, Kathy! Congrats on that box set. With all that talk of the NY Times list in our show, care to share any sales data? It’s ok if you can’t :). Way to go!

      • Sure, Bryan and thanks! With Spice Box we had 26,275 preorders and 26,396 post release sales (one month each). In total we sold 52,299 copies and that was just on Amazon. Not sure about the other retailers or returns. It was a great opportunity. I learned a lot from the group and everyone worked really hard.

        • Bryan

          How cool! Thanks for sharing,
          Kathy.

  • Michael La Ronn

    I have a pretty small platform, so I don’t worry too much about book launches. I just focus on publishing more books and getting new readers. I am re-launching my very first book in a few weeks, though. I’m adding some bonus content, audio commentary, and an afterword. Mostly for true fans, though.

    • Bryan

      Ooh, audio commentary. Very cool. Let us know how the relaunch goes!

  • Crissy Moss

    I’ve mostly published short stories and single novellas, so I haven’t done a full fledged book launch yet, and honestly am not really sure how to do one. But I finally feel like I’ll have something to do a real launch with early next year. My first full length trilogy.

    I suppose it’s time to do some research. So far I’ve only drummed up buzz by posting little snippets of chapters via social media, doing some blog posts about characters, and little things like that. My newsletter only has ten people so far, so that isn’t enough. I’m hoping having a full trilogy will help grow the newsletter too.

    • Bryan

      We need to get you more people on your list, Crissy. You’ve got your CTAs in place and everything right? Maybe you should rock out some kind of giveaway to start bumping up the numbers a bit.

  • What if your talent is more for writing than for business? What if you have minimal talent for business? Or accumen as they call it?
    There are 2 kinds of writers:
    People for whom writing comes first and business comes second and sometimes at a struggle.
    People for whom business comes first and they write to make money.
    I am a duck in water writing ficition and find business really hard because my mind does not naturally work that way.
    Its not just ego its temperament. Artistic temperment is not always realistic but idealistic. Those us who grew up in the Arts have been taught that Art ofetn doesn’t massively sell. Stravinsky;s Rites of Spring caused riots when it first came out. The French Impressionists had to create their own Salon de Refuse.
    That’s a little deeper answer to this question.
    I hate to say this but Disquis is a pain……

    • Bryan

      Yeah, Disqus has its positives though.

      Hmm. I think just do what you’re good at. Sometimes, you can market just by being yourself. That’s what I’m trying to do. In my marketing emails, I try to be weird and silly and honest. Who knows if it’s good copy, but it’s just the kind of guy I am!

      • Lol! Some of us have to — even though I know I’m a little weird……but you get like that writing all the time.

  • I just have to say this—I have bought NY Times bestsellers and have never finished the books because they weren’t my cup of tea, I guess.
    I also have been using the same strategy as that not-needing-a-launch lady. I’ve seen my sales creep and up and up as I build my empire. I mean inverntory. That sounds more buisness-like,. lol!! I agree with Bryan — get a few books going and get more for your efforts. I plan a BIG launch next year some time. Watch out!

    • Bryan

      Empire! 🙂 I love it.

  • On Amazon affiliate links: the main value in having affiliate book links is not the 24 cents you make on a $3 ebook sale. It’s the other sales. When someone clicks your affiliate link, it loads a cookie on their device, and you get an affiliate commission on all purchases they make for the next 24 hours. Bookbub makes most of its money this way, for example, as do the other book ad email lists. So you don’t actually need to have millions of visitors show up on your blog to make some additional money this way.

    • The commission is still extremely low. Bookbub’s main revenue generator isn’t being an Amazon affiliate, believe me. You don’t get millions invested into you if that’s your business model.

      • Jim, I don’t have all the math in front of me. But Bookbub has over five million users. They have 28 categories and make over $20k a day in ad revenue from the books.

        But they have a BUY rate of over 20% – over 20% of emails send out result in at least one buy or free download out of the selection of books sent to the reader. Which means the rate of people clicking a book link to check one out is MUCH higher.

        Every click means that for the next 24 hours they make 8% on everything that person buys on Amazon.

        Two million clicks a day, if the customers avg just $1 a day spent, is $80k a day. And the average Bookbub customer probably spends more than $1 a day on Amazon. But minimally it’s at least three times what they earn in the ads.

        • A couple of things.

          1. Amazon associate rates are much lower and different per product. See here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/help/operating/advertisingfees

          For example, electronics only pay 4%. Different commissions for different products.

          So it’s not 8% on everything. Much lower actually, depending on the category. But I get your point. I’m just saying, it’s much lower usually.

          2. Where did you get the data that shows they make 20k/day in ad revenue?

          3. My points are still valid. A. Investors don’t give you millions in VC money based off an affiliate model from Amazon. Amazon could shut you down any day. B. Most people aren’t going to have millions of users and clicks to generate any significant money.

          I’m just saying. Building a business model off of Amazon commissions isn’t really feasible except for people with tons of traffic/clicks. In other words, everyone except bookbub and handful of others. 🙂 Regular authors aren’t going to make any “real” money sending traffic.

          • I don’t disagree, Jim. 🙂 Bookbub would never have gotten VC funding if their only model had been as an Amazon affiliate. Making over $20k a day (maybe quite a bit over, hard to know for certain, but at LEAST that much) is a lot of money, too. On the flip side, we can tell that the affiliate scheme is crucial to their operation because of how they changed their business model when Amazon changed how affiliate payments worked for free ebooks. Almost overnight, Bookbub (and every other ebook affiliate business) went from almost all free to almost all 99 cent books. It rewrote how people market their books, and in many ways made “99 cents the new free”.

            Anyway, for the small-time operation… We’re not talking about looking for VC. So if you have 5000 visitors a month, and a thousand of them click on some link somewhere, you’re going to make three, maybe low four figures a month from that. Lindsay didn’t mean to say it was a good central business model – she was talking about ways to bolster income with an additional stream. For someone making $2k a month from her writing, who is suddenly making $1200 in the KU downturn, a few hundred extra dollars a month is a big deal.

            (PS: Love the show. I’ve listened to like the last 20 or so. Never come to the comments before, but I’ll have to keep coming, such GREAT comments in this thread, awesome stuff to read!)

          • Bryan

            Thanks, Kevin! Glad to have you as a listener.

        • Bryan

          Great points, you two!

  • Ruby Lionsdrake

    A note on the “KU Apocalypse.” This is the term coined by authors who *aren’t* in the program because they don’t want to give exclusivity to Amazon. They’re the ones particularly feeling the hit, because they’ve been pushed down in the sales rankings (and off the charts in many cases) by books that get credit for sales *and* borrows. Every borrow counts as a sale right now on Amazon, even though they’re much easier to come by.

    • Bryan

      Good info, Ruby, thanks!