I was sitting there the other day, having finished writing for the evening, and I found myself staring at my rather static reports on Amazon, hoping against hope that if I refreshed them one of the numbers would click over to a slightly higher number, meaning I'd made an elusive sale.
I tried it.
The numbers stayed the same.
So I went to Amazon and browsed a few of my book pages, reading a few reviews telling me how awesome I am, and then I went back to my sales reports and saw that nothing had changed.
Of course it hadn't. Because all I had been doing was wasting time. It would have been as much use for my books to go and browse Yahoo for half an hour. I was procrastinating, and no amount of staring forlornly at my books would make them sell.
I needed to do something to make my books sell, but after two failed blog promotions over the Xmas period I was out of cash, and I was saving up my one chance at the big daddy, Bookbub, for when the final Tube Riders book got released.
So what could I do, without spending any money, to improve my sales?
Lots of things, actually.
First of all, let's redefine that sentence.
Let's change it to what can I do to improve my reach?
No matter how hard you try, without a gun pointed at someone's head you can't really force them to buy your books. But what you can do is start to persuade them, and part of persuading them is to let them know that your books are there in the first place. And part of letting them know that your books are there, is letting them know that YOU are there in the first place.
There are lots of ways to do this without being an annoying spammer, something I really hate.
Obviously, the zero, the most important thing, would be to write more. But you're tired. I understand. There are days when I'm tired from WIP in the morning followed by a full day at work, followed by cleaning the house, followed by more work on the WIP. I just want to do something mindless for a while.
So here, are a few options.
1. Write a blog. Exactly what I'm doing now. Write something that will be out in the public domain. You can write something to help people (as I'm hoping this will do), you can write a diary, or you can write a book or a movie review. Anything. What did you do today? Me, I wrote in the morning, then I taught a class for a couple of hours, then I went to the supermarket, then I came home. Yeah, sorry, not very interesting, but I took a couple of pictures of my cat today, so I could post them if I wanted. Better than nothing, and she's pretty cute.
Of course, if you don't have a blog, start one. Get a blogger like this, or a Wordpress. They're free. Set up your blog like mine, with all your links down the side so that anyone stumbling across it gets a look at your books. They might not buy any, in fact they probably won't - I know exactly how many people buy mine through the links, and its not many, haha). But, whereas you have perhaps a 5% chance of someone buying a book from a blog post, you have zero chance of them buying it if they can't see it at all. 5% is a lot more than 0.
2. You can post your book on Facebook. See that Facebook link under your book on Amazon? Click it and post it. Who cares if most people ignore it. You're not spamming because it's YOUR Facebook page and on your Facebook page you can post whatever the hell you damn well like. A link to your book is going to be way more interesting that some idiot writing something like "OMG me bestie just dyed her hair blue. Sick, innit?" and enough people do that. What's the worst that can happen? They block you. Oh, what a shame.
DO NOT post your link on other people's pages. THAT is spamming, and that sucks.
And while you're at it, I assume you have a Facebook page set up for your book? No? Here's how. Do it. Then share your page on your main page, and start collecting followers.
3. Is your book on Goodreads? If not, then get yourself set up there. Goodreads is a site for readers, so the usual spam rules apply - in short, don't be a douche. Once you're on there, join a few groups and start some conversations. You don't have to talk about your book - in fact, in many cases its best not to - but if you're interesting people might want to find out more about you.
4. Write some stuff on Twitter. If you don't have one, go and set one up. You're allowed to follow up to 2000 people straight off the bat, and there is absolutely no reason why you should have less than this, unless you're waiting for your follower count to rise. Here's a few tips on the best ways to utilize Twitter from my friend and fellow author Kristie Haigwood. Follow those rules and you're well on your way. Again, if you just post endless links to your books people will likely ignore you, but if you write normal things from time to time people might take an interest and start a conversation. And who knows where that might lead ...
5. Next thing. Do you have freebies, either permafrees or books currently free through KDP Select? Get to Author Marketing Club and start advertising them. Fill out all the free book submission tools that your book meets the requirements for. Sure, they might not post it, but they definitely WON'T post it unless you ask. Just the way things work, that ...
6. Okay, so those sites are asking for a certain number of reviews? Start trying to get some then. Email book bloggers (a good list is here), or post your book on the Making Connections page on Goodreads. Again, no one might want it, but you don't know unless you try.
7. Are all your books in KDP Select? If not, then there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn't be available through other vendors, such as Apple or Barnes & Noble. If you're in the US you can go direct, but if not, go to Smashwords or Draft to Digital and start uploading. You're missing out on potential sales.
So, there are a few ideas to get you started. As a disclaimer, there is no guarantee that any of the above will get sales for you, but if you don't try, you never know. The biggest thing to remember is that if you want a career you have to treat it like a career. Careers last a long time, usually until retirement or death (although you might be able to publish to Amazon from the afterlife, they're pretty good at anything else!). So think long-term. If you set up your Facebook author's page today (I have three, for each of my pen-names), you could set yourself a goal of say 200 likes by the end of the year. Or if you have Twitter, try using the tips above to get yourself 5000 followers.
The key is to be proactive. As a friend of mine often says, it doesn't matter how many books you have, they won't sell themselves.
Best of luck!
January 11th 2013