Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How NOT to sell a million books

There are many books, blogs, articles, Youtube videos out there telling you how to sell a million books.  They are written by people who have achieved this goal or would have you believe they have achieved the goal.  Well done to them.  They are a success story.  But I am also a success story.  I have succeeded in NOT selling a million books.  And this is how I did it.
They tell you it is very important to have a blog to build your author platform and your footprint on the web.  It is relatively easy to set up a blog and it's free which is always good.  To get your blog noticed you have to find your niche.  As a very random person with a very random mind specialising in random thoughts and making random connections, my niche is total randomness.  However, this does not seem to be a popular niche for other bloggers and people who read blogs.  Unfortunately that is who I am and I write about things I see and what interests me.  Yes, I am the target audience apparently, or other random people like me who appear to be few and far between.  They also say always put an image on your blog.  I hope you like the image I included of autumn in Chernobyl.  It has nothing to do with the content of this post but that's the way I work, isn't it?
Guest Bloggers
They tell you to have guest bloggers post on your blog to extend your reach.  It's part of the whole networking thing.  I have done this for a couple of years and all it has succeeded in doing is making my blog even more random.
Virtual Book Tours
They tell you this is a great way to market your books.  I have tried this and forked over my hard-earned $30 to pay for other bloggers to advertise my books and host my guest posts on their blogs.  Finding the time to come up with content for my own blog is a mission and trying to come up with content for others' blogs is just putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.  Especially if time is at a premium.  To be fair this did help me sell a handful of books.  But a handful is not quite a million is it?
Commenting on others blogs
They say (and this is all theory) that when you comment on others' blogs they come back to comment on yours.  Bullshit.  Everybody is pressed for time.  Blog-hopping is very time-consuming and aren't we supposed to be spending some time actually writing our books?  When I first started doing my marketing I made an effort to comment on other blogs but don't think this generated any book sales.
Commenting on forums
They say become active on forums and you'll see sales spark.  The only spark is the sales burning up to ash.  On most forums authors frequent, all they are interested in is marketing their own book.  They don't give a flying monkey about your book.  And frankly, I find it difficult to feign an interest in Vampires and Fairies.  I am all about reality which it appears is what most people are trying to escape.  Forum commenting also takes up valuable time which I can ill afford and if you have internet hassles it becomes a lesson in frustration.
Social Networking
Ooo this is the biggie.  Join Facebook, Twitter, Shelfari, Goodreads, Google+, Linkedin etc.  Those that made a million tell you that this was how they did it.  People retweeted status updates about their books and that was how the word of mouth thing spread.  Seriously, have you seen how many authors spam their books on these social networking sites?  Do people really read those status updates?  I am not convinced.  They tell you that through social networking you engage with your readers.  Most people struggle to find the time to engage with all their friends on these sites.
Free book giveaways
They say that this is how you make your name known.  I have not found this particularly successful.  In fact, I was selling roughly 100 copies a day of my book Not Telling.  It even reached the top 500 on Amazon's best seller list.  Then I read some of those How I sold a million ebooks books and got greedy.  I took my books off Smashwords and went exclusive on Kindle Select.  I offered my books for free as part of their free promotion.  Thousands downloaded my free books.  And then my sales dried up.  It was as if my target audience all got a free copy of my books so that they didn't need to buy it anymore.
Pricing your books
When I first started out my books were priced at $2.99 so that I could get the 70% royalty.  After I gave books away for free and my sales started dropping, I lowered the price to $1.50.  This meant that I only got the 35% royalty.  They say if you keep the price low (even 99c has been bandied about) then you get the volume of sales and this makes up for the lower royalty.  I don't find you sell any more books at a lower price.  People will buy your book if it intrigues them regardless of whether it is $1.50 or $2.99.  The trick is just to find people who read the types of books you write.  I can't say that I have been particularly successful in this.
Know your target audience
They say that this is really important.  Some authors write specifically for their target audience.  They are the ones who sell a million books.  I tend to write what I like to read.  Books on the dark side, reality fiction and how people get through terrible situations.  I read books like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  Susan Lewis, Jodi Picoult etc.  I enjoy writing my books and reading what I have written.  There is a target audience out there somewhere, people who like to read the same books I do but I have not been able to connect with them.  Maybe because I don't have a degree in marketing.  But probably because I haven't made enough of an effort.
This is another biggie.  They say if you want to sell a million books you need to have a lot of reviews.  John Locke has admitted to buying reviews initially.  I don't have the money or the inclination to buy reviews.  My reviews are all genuine reviews from people who read my book.  Personally, I review every book I read.  The problem with reviews is not everybody who reads your book is your target audience.  If it's not Vampires and Fairies they might not like your dark reality fiction.  And then if your books are written in South African English because you are South African, then some readers don't get that you might spell words differently (color vs colour) and you might say things in a different way, and their review will be all about saying how poorly proofread your book was because of bad spelling and grammar.  Seriously.
They say that you need your own website.  I have one http://cindyvine.com.  You need to update it regulary and put on new content.  Time....time....time.  But this has not helped me to sell a million books.
Write more books
They say that when you finish one book you need to start on another.  They say you have to be an expert at juggling your full-time job, writing and marketing and probably caring for your family at the same time.  When I write I struggle to find the time to market.  Then again, distractions are my bug bear in life.  I used to be quite disciplined in my writing then I discovered Candy Crush.  There is something relaxing in mindlessly killing candy.  These days I can only start my writing process after I have lost all 5 of my lives.  Then when that is finished I might watch some past episodes of Silent Witness on my laptop.  To NOT sell a million books you have to find a distraction.  Maybe if I stopped all distractions and wrote a million books, then if I sold only one copy a year of each book I'd make a million dollars.  Definitely something to think about.
Cindy Vine has somehow managed to sell 45 000 books in two and a half years through no fault of her own.  She currently lives and works in Kiev in the Ukraine and is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective and CU@8.  If you think you might be her target audience, you are welcome to join her Facebook Page or befriend her on Twitter.

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