While the advent of e-books has been a blessing to authors who would otherwise never have been published, the competition to find readers is more difficult than ever before.
Amazon, undoubtedly the largest online retailer of e-books, print books and now audio books, has literally millions of choices available to readers. A reader can choose from well known authors such as J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Dan Brown and dozens of others, or they can choose to read works by lesser known indie authors. Some indie authors have even managed to gain a significant following and their works are now mainstream.
For most indie authors though, it can be a struggle to get your books noticed by potential readers, but it is not impossible!
The first thing you must do is write a good story, one that will entertain your readers. Once that is done, spend some time and money designing an eye-catching cover; the old adage "never judge a book by its cover" doesn't hold true and most readers will decide whether or not to look at your book based on the cover design. I have discussed cover design in previous blog posts so I won't waste your time going over this issue again.
The next, and one of the most important and potentially expensive things you will need to do is advertise your book. This step can be daunting to anyone unfamiliar with even basic advertising, but it is not insurmountable.
The first piece of advice I will give is DO NOT waste your money purchasing advertising from people or companies that offer to tweet your book to thousands of their followers. This is generally an ineffective, and annoying, way to promote your book. I would also stay away from companies that offer to promote your book to thousands of people on their mailing lists.Why? One simple reason: this is a "shotgun" approach to marketing your book and in all likelihood your ad will get lost among dozens of other ads that are being promoted at the same time.
The most effective advertising that I use is targeted pay-per-click advertising through Amazon and Bookbub. With both of these companies, you design a small ad showing the cover of your book and a small but attention grabbing sentence about your book.
With Bookbub, you then set the genres which are applicable to your book (e.g. fiction, history, ghost story, etc.). These are the genres under which your potential readers would find your book. Bookbub then also offers a list of related authors that you can select that write genres similar to yours. Once done, you can then set a daily budget (I usually select between $5.00 and $7.00 per day) and then you set a "per-click" budget amount. The "per-click" budget amount is the price you will pay each time a potential reader clicks on your ad.
Bookbub's per click prices are fairly high, normally $0.65 per click, but remember that you ONLY PAY if someone clicks on your ad. If you set a daily limit for your ad, you will always remain within your set budget amount. The other option that this company offers is a "per impression" fee, but I prefer paying only for the actual clicks on my ad.
Amazon, the industry leader in online book retailing, has a similar form of advertising. With Amazon Marketing Services, you can design a similar ad showing your book cover and a quick blurb about your story, designed to catch a potential reader's attention. Amazon offers two types of ads, Sponsored and Product Display. I have tried both types of advertising and have found that the Sponsored ads are the most effective.
With Sponsored ads, you set a series of key words that a potential reader would use to find your story. In the case of my novel, Bloodlines: Cove Point Manor, some of the key words I use are "ghost", "ghost story", "haunting", etc. When you select your key words, you also choose a price that you are willing to pay for each click on your ad by a reader, which can start as low as you want, and go as high as you want.
Like Bookbub, Amazon offers you the choice of setting a daily budget for your advertising (again, I usually choose between $5.00 and $10.00 per day) and your ad will be stopped if you reach your maximum budget. Amazon also offers a choice of selecting a date range for your ad and also a maximum budget for that time period.
With both Bookbub and Amazon, your ad will be placed where the company feels that they will earn the most clicks and thereby earn the most income from you. Clicks may or may not translate into sales of your books, but you will be able to quickly determine whether your ads are working or not based on your overall sales. Amazon even offers an estimated number of sales in their report which is helpful in determining whether your advertising dollars are well spent.
I have been running my ads continuously on both Bookbub and Amazon and carefully monitor which key words, genres and authors garner the most clicks and the most impressions. An impression is the number of times your ad is actually shown to potential readers. Impressions are important even if not all impressions result in sales as it is getting your name and your books in front of potential readers. Remember that people do not usually buy something right away, but if they keep seeing your book over a period of time, they will be more likely to make a purchase.
Since I have started using pay per click advertising through Bookbub and Amazon, I have seen my sales steadily increase for all three of my novels. Adding, or removing key words on a regular basis helps to refine the ad and garner more impressions and more sales. You may also need to play around with the cost per click that you are willing to pay as sometimes your bid may be too low to compete with other advertisers. Remember that even if your cost per click bid is high, you only pay when a potential reader clicks on your ad. A higher bid price usually results in more impressions. Just be sure to set your daily budget so you don't spend all of your advertising dollars in one day!