Guest Post: The Advantages of Discoverability

Today’s guest blog started as a post last week entitled, Book Sales Ruminations & Why You Need A General. Recently featured author in “Fantasy Authors Unplugged”, Autumn Birt, responded with a few cogent points of her own to the post. I invited Autumn to write a guest post and she kindly churned one out on short order. Take it away, Autumn!

The Advantages of Discoverability

Businessman Speaking Through MegaphoneI realized writing, at least a career in writing, was going to be a long haul when I met a woman with numerous books, multiple publishers, over twenty years of publishing experience, 35,000 followers on twitter, and yet she was promoting her book just like every other Indie author out there (well, with a bit more panache). That is when I switched my marketing enthusiasm from short term to a more steady pace for the long term. And that is when I took a hard look at what worked.

I very much agree with P.H. Solomon’s four points on his post Writing Ruminations. Social media has completely changed how writers (or anyone) markets. You can engage readers one on one. Some authors even allow readers to help guide the plot of a story. And because of the power of the internet, anything a writer posts can be linked back to the author. After a security breach at home, my husband freaked to see the first four and a half pages of a Google search on my name were all on me. I was thrilled! But that means the content I post, be it a Facebook comment, blog post, or released book is listed under the ‘flagship’ of my name and who I am as an author.

On one hand, we as authors should strive for social engagement. On the other, we have to be careful what we say and how well we say it. You thought politicians were the only ones with media problems…?! Because the other issue is that marketing should be social engagement, not social media spamming. That means not saying and promoting the same thing over and over and over. It means paying attention to media feeds and answering questions, thanking people who help you out, and helping out other authors because we aren’t competing against each other. Readers read MANY books. I’ve gotten new readers because I was nice to a friend of a friend or handled a bad situation well. How is that for marketing flukes?

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So writing the book really can be the easy part. Which is a good thing because another strategy to getting noticed and increasing book sales is writing more books.

It is an easy deduction to make based on statistics. If your book is one of one billion on Amazon, or one of a thousand being marketed on twitter this second, your rate of attracting attention is… yup, one in a billion or one in a thousand. Ouch.

If you have two books though, and maybe some friends tweeting, or fans – lets go with fans! – talking about the book, a search will bring up both of your books. You can link them together under blogs, author pages, and in book content. Two for one marketing! One solid book can sell another. Fans and mailing lists on new releases (high recommended as well!) work BEST when you have multiple things to release and read. So write more books.

I’ve heard the ‘magic’ number for steady sales is five novels. I’m at five, but I consider the three that make up the core of my epic fantasy series as my main books (of the other two, one is a real life travel compilation and the other is a companion to the fantasy books going more into the world and its history). So I consider myself at three books. A few more to go yet to steady sales based on this theory. But…

What I didn’t expect was how much having a complete series would enhance my book sales. I don’t remember hearing about that when I was researching marketing. When Born of Water was released, I was happy for a sale a month, if I managed that. With book 2, Rule of Fire, I found similar expectations though actually met them a bit more frequently. When Spirit of Life, book 3, was released, I quickly averaged a sale a week. When I managed to get Born of Water permafree on Amazon, those sale numbers quickly increased. Yes, increased by giving away a book – and I’m not counting the free downloads of book 1.

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Thanks to a marketing boost from my more promotion savvy publisher, Born of Water hit #2 in epic fantasy on Amazon and the sales of the other two books picked up quickly. I usually see purchases of the second two books at the same time or with a lag of a day to a week between them (it helps when it is an odd country sale so I can really track what is most likely one reader). Now I average at least one sale a day over a week, frequently more. If I counted the free downloads of book 1, I’d get too giddy, so I simply choose to exclude that figure from my mental tally!

There is much debate out there about whether to write a series or a stand alone novel. I think it depends on the genre you write in and what is expected. BUT, I’d council anyone writing in fantasy to write a series and release the books in quick succession, maybe three to four months apart. The interest level and new marketing that this allows will help increase author visibility and hopefully attract readers.

Which is why my marketing plan before I signed with an Indie publisher included releasing short stories that are a prelude to my next trilogy for free in a very short time span, approximately two to three weeks apart. I planned to use Smashwords as a distributer plus Wattpad and Goodreads. Then combine the short stories for a 99 cent novel only available on Amazon and THEN release book 1 about a month later. It is a marketing strategy which relies on releasing quality writing that is captivating (I hope!) for free.

One final important reason to write more than one book besides making yourself so much more discoverable: how much your writing improves.

The author I mentioned at the beginning of the post often makes the comment she is glad she wrote her first book under a pen name because it was so bad. So think about how much you aren’t improving if you stop at one book. I hope that I never am embarrassed by Born of Water, but I will admit that if I started writing it today it would be a completely different novel, recognizable but different. I’ve learned so much since then.

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Autumn BirtSo my plug for an author marketing plan: write a lot, write well, market new works while mentioning the existing, give away a lot of content (blogs, stories, and novels), and be nice to each other!

Thanks for sharing your insights, Autumn. Take a look at her books and other links since she’s been kind enough to volunteer her time and effort for this blog post:

Media Links

Facebook (me)  Facebook (writing page)  Website

Writing Blog  Travel Blog  Guild of dreams (another blog I write for)

Twitter  Google+  Wattpad  Goodreads

What other ideas do you have about the fluid world of book sales? What has worked for you in the past? What’s changed for you – good and bad? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

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  1. Autumn,

    You make some really good points here, especially after reading PH’s earlier blogs on the same subject.

    I hadn’t heard the “5 book” rule of thumb, but I have found my sales to increase dramatically after I hit 3 books. Mine are in a series as well. After your advice and some other I’ve read, I’m considering lowering the price on the first book to free like you did.

    On the writing improvement, you are SO right! I can’t even tell you how many comments I’ve gotten on books 3 and soon-to-be-released book 4 being better than book 1. It’s made me consider re-editing book 1.

    I haven’t read your books yet, but I was wondering what you’d think about second ‘series’ or standalone unrelated to your current series. Don’t know if you’ve encountered this with other authors as you seem to know what you’re talking about! I wonder if that would help, especially now that our writing is so much better. I’m considering a second series, is why I ask 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your advice!

    1. We sound like we have a lot in common, Loren! I actually did re-edit my book 1 before dropping it to the free price. I think it really helped, and made me feel better too. 🙂

      And as for a second series, absolutely! I’m actually writing a new trilogy based on the same world and using many of the same characters. They actually convinced me their story isn’t finished; I thought I was done at the end of book 3!

      My only advice is make it stand apart from the first. I’m careful about referring to prior events and making sure they are explained. I picked up book 1 of a series once that looked awesome, but gave up reading it before chapter 3. None of the characters were introduced or described, and half the references were to events in prior books. I was lost and not engaged. Just remember it will be book 1 and go for it. Good luck!

      1. I do wonder if varying the price on the first book might be better. It could be a minimum price much of the year but cut to free during book launches and notoriously slow sales months. Have you bundled your series? Also, what’s your opinion of bundling books for sale with other authors?

      2. I’ve talked to a couple authors about bundling. But I haven’t ever gotten back a clear response. Would be interesting to do a comparison of the books alone verses in a bundle.

      3. I’d be careful choosing who I bundle with but I could see it working under correct circumstances.

      4. Bundling does seem to be the current thing, but I have yet to see or hear hard evidence it helps with sales. I wouldn’t mind including Born of Water or a short story from my next series to be released, but I have no urge to bundle the trilogy (and companion) together.

        I did have Born of Water at 99¢ for ages and dropped it to free for promos. It performs and leads to secondary sales so much better now as a free book. I guess the question is will it always be free or will I consider doing the same thing with my the first book in my next series? I don’t entirely have those answers yet and having a publisher changes a few things now, both a benefit and frustrations!

      5. If what the publisher does is successful you might emulate that with your other series – especially since they are companions to each other.

  2. This was a great guest post. One of the best I’ve read. I liked the honesty of your book sales data. I write stand alone books, and am on approximately the same path you are on. I’m seeing more frequent sales of all titles now that I’ve released #5. I plan on issuing a book of short stories at a discount later this year. One tale, minimum, will use a character from one of my novels. It’s an earlier novel and will cause a re-edit before the shorts go out.

    1. I agree. I like re-posting blogs like this on the weekend for that reason. I’m thinking that my next book will be a free prequel giving my two books that aren’t intended to make money and my novel will be the third later this year followed by the rest of the series.

      1. Sounds good. I’m a big believer in sharing data. Once I execute my plan, I’ll share results. It might be next winter, but maybe it will help someone else.

    2. Glad you liked the post! I really like your idea for a group of short stories featuring a character from the stand alone novels. Very cool!

      It is funny how much I’ve learned and what has changed since I wrote this post – like how important keywords are to discoverability as well. Having several books is only one aspect. AND… I dropped the publisher and am following the plan I outlined above to release my new series! I’m on short story number three out of eight I’m releasing for free only two weeks apart. The schedule is a little crazy, but its been a lot of fun!

      1. I think we all fumble around, looking for something that works. I love the idea of sharing information. it helps us all get there faster.

      1. My pleasure. Quite apropos as I just started a new blog called Unitingbloggers dedicated specifically to guest blogging. We’ll see how it goes…

      2. Interesting concept, let me know if you need specific content on Scrivener, writing or the fantasy genre.

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