Monday, June 6, 2011

How do I market my ebooks?

Short answer:  this blog, more books, price, trading excerpts, Facebook, Twitter, author website, online reviews

Long answer:

I started my epublishing adventure back in late September 2010. My first full month of sales was in October, during which I sold 13 copies of my anthology Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds. I had been hoping to sell at least 30 in October, but that didn’t pan out. I was a bit disappointed.

In November I released my second book, a full length cyberpunk novel  titled Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance. I started paying for advertising on Project Wonderful, Bing, and Google. I also bought a sponsorship on Kindle Author. I spent about $240 in total on this advertising, and even though I was selling very few copies a day, I saw no obvious uptick in sales. By the end of 2010, I had sold 164 units. I decided to stop advertising because each click was costing me up to 80 cents with no way to determine if that resulted in a sale. Since I only make $2 per novel  that was a high price to pay.

In January I released How to Format Your Ebook for Kindle in One Hour. It sold very well from the get go. I attribute this to my author following here on this blog. Without doubt, this blog helped sell HtFYEfKiOH. This is an obvious example of perfectly targeted free advertising. I already had a following of authors interested in epublishing, and I wrote a DIY book targeting them. Voila! Predisposed customers.

In March, I lowered the price of my Dwarf novel from $2.99 to 99 cents. It went from Amazon Kindle sales rank #6000 to #333 in about 6 weeks. In May I raised the price again to $2.99, and royalties tripled.

Also earlier this year I traded excerpts with John G. Hartness. An excerpt from my Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance went into his Hard Day’s Knight, and vice versa. We’re both now getting free advertising with each other’s fans. No way to determine exactly how many sales this results in, but it’s definitely not zero.

I’m also going to trade excerpts with Manley Peterson, between his Bloated Goat novel  and my The Elemental Odyssey. I just haven’t had time to do it, which isn’t too bad since  TEO hasn’t sold more than a couple dozen copies yet. Don’t worry, Manley, I’ll send you an excerpt soon.

I’ve also put excerpts from my own work into Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance. This book sells anywhere from 27 to 90 copies a day, and every excerpt in there gets free advertising.

I have a Facebook account with 33 friends. I use it purely to announce blog posts and release information. I don’t use it for more than that. I’ve heard that some other authors use Facebook much more diligently, building their customer base by being very active. I just don’t like Facebook and so I can’t/won’t exploit that marketing avenue to its fullest extent.

I also tweet notifications about my blog posts and releases on Twitter. I have 58 followers. I know other authors use it for communicating and discussions. Keeping track of dozens of feeds and hundreds of tweets is way too much of a time sink for me.

Maybe I could generate more interest and fans by committing more time to Facebook and Twitter. Do other authors find these venues to be helpful? Let me know in the comments.

I’ve only had a couple interviews and reviews. I certainly appreciate these opportunities. These certainly can’t hurt. My hope is that they have resulted in at least some of sales over time. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any sales spike on the same day or soon after an interview or review.

I have received a couple free bits of advertising based on my blog post: The Keys to Epublishing Success. The German online magazine, Spiegel, mentioned me in this article. I saw a huge spike in blog visits from this. I was also mentioned in this article in the Huffington Post online. No way to know how many sales I might have gotten from these mentions, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

How exactly did my marketing efforts contribute to sales? I have no idea. What worked and what didn’t? Hard to tell. All I know is that the sum total of my marketing efforts has helped me sell over 7500 units and earn over $6200. My royalties have gone from $4.20 in October to $2913 in May. I must be doing something right.

So, what’s this mean for you?

Unfortunately, I can’t give you any concrete advice that will guarantee continued increases in revenue. There are way too many variables and all these marketing efforts are just a part of the story.

However, I can give you some advice on where you might want to commit your time for marketing:

Cover: This is the first bit of marketing prospective customers see. Pay for a great cover. Don’t skimp. Both Igor Kieryluk and Les Petersen are great artists and can do covers for under $1000. Your cover is your best marketing asset on Amazon. Make sure it’s great.

Description: Your description is the second bit of marketing prospective buyers see. Make sure it is really good. Find other books in your genre that are selling well and look at their descriptions. Emulate them.

Good book: If you wrote a poor book, it won’t sell. So, write a good book. This will get you good reviews, which will get you more customers.

Price: Experiment with price and keep each price constant for at least 2 months to see the impact.

Blog: definitely create a blog to give fans a way to connect with you. This is the largest non-writing time sink that I’m willing to commit to. Go read a few more author blogs to get an idea of what kind of content they concentrate on and then decide which you want to emulate. Or come up with your own style!

Author website: if you are comfortable creating a website then you should definitely create your own author website. If not, and you don’t want to pay someone else to create your website, use your blog as your website.

Facebook: Create an account on Facebook and at least use it to announce blog updates. If you enjoy using FB, then go hog wild. It can’t hurt.

Twitter: Create an account and tweet your blog updates. If you love Twitter, then use it to its full potential.

Trading excerpts: These are no-cost, minimal effort free advertising opportunities. Find authors of similar genres and ask them if they’d like to trade.

More books: The best way to make more money is to write more books. All your current fans are instant customers for your new books. Your fans will buy buy buy. Take advantage of their interest.

Online reviews/interviews: I haven’t gotten very many of these and I haven’t seen any direct sales impact. However, I certainly wouldn’t refuse to do an interview. Again, these can’t hurt. Even bad reviews might give you some exposure that could be helpful.


  1. Your posts are always informative and helpful, Derek. Your advice looks spot-on, from where I sit.

  2. Good post. If I were an author, I'd gladly follow your "Program" :)

  3. It is inspiring, to read your post!

  4. Thanks for the information about how you're doing it.

  5. I'm going the opposite direction of you and spending time on FB, Twitter, blog, and what not before my first full length story comes out the end of this year.

    I did put together a guide of everything I'm doing with links and mentioned your Kindle guide with a link as well.

    The (almost) Complete DIY Guide to eBook Publishing

    There's a lot of information with links and if you want some handy-dandy advice for FB and Twitter let me know and I'll shoot you a copy. An older on is in the 12 Worlds folder.

    Much success to you! Hey, you also did 12 Worlds and that was an amazing project to be on as well. :)

  6. Nice, Derek. This cracked me up, btw:



  7. Thanks for the tips! Very helpful :)

  8. No problem, Derek. Thanks for mentioning Bloated Goat, and I can't wait to update it with an excerpt from The Elemental Odyssey. I think our books will complement each other. Now, if only I could finish my second teen book and get that on the virtual shelves...

  9. Thanks for a great, informative post! I just e-published for the first time 4 days ago, and your post basically touched on every single question I've had running through my mind ever since. :) I have a radio interview on Saturday and I'm really curious to see what happens after that. (Obviously I'd like to sell books, but I'll be just as fascinated if I sell 0 copies as I will if I sell 1,000. I LOVE DATA.)

  10. I followed you over from Absolute Write. Thank you for this post!

  11. Connor, welcome! Glad you liked the post!