7 Bestseller Book Marketing Strategies
For Fiction Writers

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Be honest now, are you still dreaming of that contract with a publisher? Fantasizing about a mile-long book signing queue outside the book store?

If so, you’re not alone.  Most of my writer friends still cling to the author dream of writing a book, then doing nothing further except being signed by a publisher who does everything else, such as printing, distributing to book stores, and mass marketing that turns their book into a bestseller.

Unfortunately, very few publishers do this any more.  I’m sorry to shatter anyone’s illusions, but those days are fading away, thanks to the one store that rules them all:

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Amazon books

Amazon. Ignore It At Your Peril

You see, because of the huge number of books sold online by Amazon and the explosion of self-publishing, publisher’s profit margins have been seriously squeezed, and it has also affected main-street retailers.  Every day another book store closes.

Borders BooksSo publishers will now only spend money promoting brand name authors such as Nora Roberts or George R.R. Martin, because their large fan bases make them a safe bet.

But if you’re a new author, no such luck, except in rare instances.  Even if you do have a publisher it’s still largely down to you to market your own books.

So I’m going to give you the seven key marketing strategies you need to do this successfully.

No selling is required either.  In fact, your primary strategy is simply to ensure that your books are discoverable.
i.e. easily found by readers wherever you sell your books.

And if your books are well written and resonate with readers, then you’ll begin to build a fan base of advocates who tell all their friends, which will ignite the most powerful form of book marketing – contagious word of mouth recommendation, reader to reader.
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You Must Read This!

But first, they need to find your books.  So let’s look at how to make your books discoverable.  Here are seven clearly defined strategies to make your books more visible, increase sales, and grow long-term readership.
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7 Bestseller Book Marketing Strategies

1. Choose Your Genre So Readers Can Find Your Books

-Book Genres

It’s vital to determine exactly where you fit in the marketplace, so your books can be found by readers of a specific genre.

For example: Thriller, Romantic Fiction, Historical Romance, YA, Police Procedural, Crime, Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal. Or even a tiny sub-genre within one of these.

But whichever you write for, there is one certainty:  The narrower you focus the genre, the more likely you are to be successful, because most readers look for specific types of books and obsessively hunt them down.  It’s better to be meaningful to a smaller group of you-holics who love your work and talk about it.

zig-ziglarDon’t become a wandering generality.
Be a meaningful specific.”

Zig Ziglar

2. Create A Unique Brand That Stands Out From The Crowd

Considering there are millions of titles available on Amazon, your books need a unique point of difference to stand out.  Otherwise you’ll be jostling for position with several thousand others, with no discernible reason why readers should pick yours.

Harry Potter - Order Of The Phoenix

Your literary point of difference could be derived from almost anything in your books – distinctive characters, narrative, plot, setting, style, voice.

Maybe it’s a special character trait, or a new take on an historical event, or an unusual location. Even a remix of two separate cultural memes, such as Wizards and English Public Schools.

Furthermore, sum up this memorable point of difference with a tagline, and use it in your blog header, in social media profiles, as your email signature – everywhere.

Once you’ve established your unique position in the marketplace, you’ll own it forever, and become an increasingly visible Lighthouse Author Brand.

3. Write A Series. The Single Most Effective Marketing Strategy For Your Author Career

Of all the things I’ve encountered in the ‘book business’ that lead to success, there’s one in particular that tops them all: Series.

6 characters

There’s no question that sales of a book series will far outstrip a sequence of one-off books.  It’s the single most effective book marketing strategy you can employ.

A book series will sell itself.

Readers become addicted to a series with a central character to whom they become deeply attached.  If you can get people hooked on the first couple of books in your series, the subsequent books sell themselves.

The momentum carries over from each book to the next, as readers become desperate to find out what will happen.

Take a moment to recall the power of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, Lemony Snickett’s Violet Baudelaire, Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon, Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Stephenie Meyers’ Vampire Edward Cullen, and the all-time classic, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, the super-sleuth.

It’s no accident that all of these photographs are from movies or TV shows based on books. When you create a successful book brand as a series with a central cast of characters, it opens up other opportunities too.

Special note re ‘series’ for Romantic Fiction writers:

Erin KnightleyBecause most Romantic Fiction stories must have a happy ending, it means the main character’s issues have been resolved. So the character cannot easily start again in a next book.

This is not always the case, but is true for most. 50 Shades was series of course, and also the YA Twilight books which was a four part series.

But they are not the type of one-off books to which I’m referring. For single Romantic Fiction books, instead of series as such, more attention needs to go into developing great writing, memorable author brand, attractive tagline, and appealing covers with your author name writ large.

4. Know Who Your Reader Is, And Target Them

Yes, I do intend to trip you up with that grammatically incorrect headline, because I want you to envisage just one reader.   Who are they exactly? Mothers with children? 20-something girls? Young teens? Sci-fi geeks? Discover what they’re obsessed with. What are they interested in, their hobbies?  Think of them as a person you have come to know. Form a mental picture, and note it down.

Dartboard

Moreover, craft all your communications specifically for them.  Mirror their interests and obsessions and they’ll soon notice.  Learn where they spend time online too, so you can interact with them and gain their interest.

This is reader-targeted marketing.  You want your books being read by a specific genre audience, not just in-store on the shelves.

5. Use Your Author Platform To Attract Readers

Your Author Platform is comprised of all the ways your books are made visible to readers, through your communication channels and your network of contacts and relationships.

It is steadily built up over the duration of your career, and essentially it funnels readers to your books where you have them for sale. e.g.  Amazon.  This diagram displays all of your communication channels.

Author Platform

The heart of the platform is your blog - home base of your promotional activity

The way to capture the attention of readers with a blog is by writing posts that reflect their interests perfectly.  You introduce your books during these posts (rather than at the beginning) so when readers come across them, they’ll already be in a fascinated frame of mind and take an interest, rather than feeling they’ve been pitched.

This is known as content marketing.

Author emailFurther to this, another major advantage of a blog is the ability to build an email list of readers and supporters by giving away eBooks in exchange for email addresses.

It enables you to contact all of them at any given moment. To see the advantage of this, picture a list of readers ready and waiting to be notified when you launch your next book.

I’ll be blogging soon about the power of author email marketing, how to do it effectively, and the easiest way to set it up.

Use social media to engage readers and attract them to your blog

Twitter and FacebookPost intriguing teasers about your blog posts on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Place clickable links in the teasers to attract supporters and readers to your blog where you introduce your books. From there you can send them on to Amazon.

Avoid constantly spamming Buy My Book!”

If you constantly advertise on social media instead of being interesting, readers will tune out.  People are on social media to chat, interact with others and be entertained, in a similar way to talk-back radio listeners.

Buy My Book!

Conversely if you intersperse a limited number of promotional Tweets amidst interesting content Tweets and interactions, then you’ll successfully draw attention to your books.  The thing to avoid is being promotional all the time.  Be promotional at the right time. i.e. after you’ve spent time giving out value first.

More specifically, here’s my rant about what authors should NOT do on social media.

6. Commission Beautiful Book Covers That SELL

Book covers are the billboards for your books that identify your genre and your point of difference.  If they’re strikingly beautiful, they’ll stand out amidst inferior covers, especially at thumbnail size on Amazon.  And because of their attention-grabbing power, great covers can significantly increase impulse purchases by first-time buyers.

Amateur design attempts have no place when you are working to attract attention for your books.  Have beautiful covers designed by a professional.
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Beautiful Book Covers

Note. Visit my informative article about creating beautiful book covers that sell.

7. Make Full Use Of Amazon’s System

There’s no question that Amazon rules the world of online bookstores. Yes, there are lesser lights such as B&N Nook, Kobo, Apple iBookstore and Smashwords.  But Amazon should be central to your activities.  So here are some key Amazon actions to take:

public-secrets

Write attractive, attention-grabbing book descriptions

You need to toot your own horn, because no-one else will.

On the book’s sales page, write irresistible teaser headlines that focus on your central character, and capture the appeal of your book. Briefly expand on this, and end with a cliff hanger so the reader is left wondering “What on earth is going to happen?”

For example, Nora Roberts tantilizing description of her book Public Secrets.

“Emma. Beautiful, intelligent, radiantly talented, she lives in a star-studded world of wealth and privilege. But she is about to discover that fame is no protection at all when someone wants you dead…”

Utilize Amazon’s categories accurately to boost discoverability

When picking two Amazon categories to list a book, use the same approach as you did when choosing your sub-genre.  Include specific keywords in your book subtitle and the description that readers will use when searching for your type of book.

As I said, the narrower your focus, the more likely you are to be found and bought, because readers look for certain specific types of books and obsessively hunt them down. Plus you’ll have far less competition.

Be patient, Amazon’s Phoenix Effect will eventually kick in and boost sales

There’s no need to become downhearted if your Amazon sales are slow.

book-stackUnlike in a book store, a book on Amazon has time to find its audience, because it’s there forever.  Not only that, but if by chance your books don’t sell initially, once you have several books written and on sale they all begin to sell each other.

This is when the Phoenix effect kicks in.  Your reader addicts will go back and chase down everything you’ve written in the past, often going on a bender and splurging on several of your books at the same time.  This has an accelerating effect on sales.

The earlier books rise from the ashes of previously lackluster sales and catch fire, selling a growing number of copies.  The more books you have, the greater the power of this phenomenon.

“How Much Time Should I Put Into Marketing?”

My recommendation is to divide your available author-career time into 70% for creative writing and 30% for promotion.  It’s the ratio I use for my own work.

Writing Time

The reason for this strong creative bias is that your writing carries the day in the end.

Most book sales are driven by word of mouth, and that will only happen if your books have reader appeal.  So make it your primary focus and you’ll be far more likely to succeed.

The Bottom Line: Get Those Books Out There!

Let me know in the comments below of your writing progress, your publishing plans, ideas, trials and tribulations.

Note:  This post is part 3 of a 3 part series on how to sell more books.
Part 1:  The Book Launch Strategy Every Author Should Use
Part 2  How To Attract Readers By Creating A ‘Lighthouse’ Author Brand

Did this help?  Which of the 7 strategies do you like most?  Which one causes you the most trouble?  Please leave a comment or a question.

Jonathan Gunson

Article written by Jonathan Gunson

Author / Book Marketing Coach / CEO Bestseller Labs

 

Notice: This article is copyrighted material. Reproduction of brief snippets of this article with a link to this site are permitted, but it may not be reproduced in full anywhere without the written permission of Jonathan Gunson at BestsellerLabs.com

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Comments

  • June 12, 2013 at 11:05am

    Hi Jonathan, thanks for another great post.

    My challenges are identifying my genre and readers – but I’m hoping that as I write more books that will become clear. It can be hard to fit a book into a particular category – my perception of what the work entails might not match other people’s!

    And, following on from your last post, I’ve a tagline now which I’ve added to my blog : the Haunted Historian: haunting the page across time. Thanks for the recommendation to get a tagline, great advice!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 11:46am

      Ellie
      ‘The Haunted Historian…’ Outstanding tagline. I see so many possibilities for that.
      ~Jonathan
      PS. Enjoyed reading your insightful blog post. ‘The Emotional Cost Of Writing A Novel’

  • Priscilla Olivier (aka Psychic Priscilla) says:
    June 12, 2013 at 11:06am

    Hi Jonathan. Thanks once again for your helpful tips! Authors can’t help but just love this caring, sharing man/ author!!

    Keep it up Jonathan!

    kind regards,
    Priscilla Olivier.
    author : A Second Chance At Love.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 11:57am

      You’re welcome Priscilla.
      By the way, here’s another post re ‘Point Of Difference’: The Beauty Spot
      I’d just been to the movie ‘THE ARTIST’ and was in a state of high inspiration when I wrote it.
      ~ Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 11:32am

    Hiya Jonathon

    Writing progress: Good, I have 4 books on amazon, and many more stories on the website.

    publishing plans, ideas: I write stories inspired by friends, and since going online in March inspired by people I’ve met on twitter. Nice interactive writing project :-) I’m at the beginning of a children’s fairytale series, all based around the invisible dragon character. I do the music and illustrations too, so a good creative project.

    trials and tribulations: Learning the software (Twitter, Kindle mobi file production etc.) is a boring learning curve, but do-able. Learning the marketing wisdom… Not so easy. Advice of you and others online is soooo helpful. I feel a lot of gratitude for people like you who share your ideas freely. Point 4 in today’s article was the most valuable for me at this time – I need to “know my readers” better. But I noticed one other nice thing while reading today… I seem to be well on track with the other 6 points :-)

    Your advice is fantastic, sometimes I think you are a kind of real-world Merlin :-)

    Cheers, have a great day, Peter

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 11:53am

      Peter
      Your children’s fairytale appeals greatly to me. An invisible dragon character? Clever / unique / original / memorable. Tell me more about the music side. We come from the same ‘story planet’ it would seem. Are the stories iPad apps?
      And yes, marketing is the issue for writers today. For a while I wondered if this post was too long, but bashed on anyway, included everything, and now I’m grateful it has helped you.
      ~Jonathan
      P.S. It so happens that Merlin was my code name during the Merlin Mystery contest.

      • June 12, 2013 at 12:43pm

        Hi again

        You asked about the music side: I’ve created songs and videos based on story excepts. An example is here… thedragonadventures.com I haven’t created iPad apps yet… That’s another learning curve for the future :-) I’ve researched it, and it’s in the plan, but I need a better “author platform” in place first.

        BTW – Your articles are the right length… Your readers are semi-professional authors so they have a much longer attention span than the average “15 seconds and click away” internet user :-)

        Cheers, and thanks.

        Peter

        P.S. You’re right, we come from the same “story planet” …I appear as “the magician” in my series :-)

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          June 13, 2013 at 2:43am

          Peter
          Material is great. You have quite a world building up. Dare I make one suggestion? Use instrumental only music under the story sample to enhance it. Voice (even though it is well done) distracts greatly because it demands to be listened to.
          ~Jonathan

          • June 13, 2013 at 5:10am

            Hi Jonathon

            I’m glad you like the world of the invisible dragon :-)

            Your suggestion makes sense, but in this case I have to think carefully about how to adapt…

            If I remove the vocal, I remove the words, which is so deeply a part of the “magic” in the story – the invisible dragon “hears” the Poet Caster’s emotions while flying overhead, and “sings” the song back to her. No vocal, no singing… No magic story…

            The story of the Poet Caster is about the real Amanda Durand (who I only know via Twitter). She wrote the words to the song at 4AM and posted them to her Twitter profile. Her words were so beautiful they inspired the story in the video. I explain this in the introduction to the Poet Caster book (you can read the intro via the ‘look inside’ feature on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Poet-Caster-Emotion-ebook/dp/B00D7FLMI4/)

            I think my solution is to “justify” the vocal with the explanation above below the video… The reinforces the centerpiece of my “author lighthouse brand” …that all my stories and characters are directly inspired by real people and events in their lives.

            I appreciate greatly your suggestion a lot, it made me think carefully about the issue. :-) If you think my solution is misguided/mistaken please let me know…

            Have a great day, Peter

          • Jonathan Gunson says:
            June 15, 2013 at 11:12am

            I understand Peter… Your concept makes perfect sense.

            But I was really referring to ‘the either or’ – of listening to the song, OR reading the story.

            It’s not possible to read and also listen to completely different words being said (or sung) at the same time.

            It’s only possible for a person to do one or the other at any given moment. Another example would be trying to read a book at the same time as listening to a conversation. Or attempting to listen to the words of a song while trying to talk to someone. None of those are humanly possible – this is just plain common sense if you think about it.

            I’ve made over 100 TV commercials and know this to be true by learning from many painful early mistakes.

            ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 11:51am

    Your point about word of mouth sales is probably the key thing I’m zeroing in on here. I’ve been reading books by top agents recently and these echo your points. In effect, you are saying that we as authors have to light the touch paper with our promotional efforts and then, provided the book is a good read, it should catch people’s imaginations and word spread.

    To me, this is the best news I could read, as if my books are good enough, they will sell. Now, back to writing…

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 12:04pm

      Peter
      You clearly understand the central point being made. All these strategies will definitely work if your writing has appeal. If your books do resonate with certain readers, they will almost certainly find their entire audience eventually, no question. So yes, from this point it’s all about ‘ignition’, getting the viral ‘word of mouth’ fire started.
      ~Jonathan

  • Jeanie says:
    June 12, 2013 at 12:22pm

    Hello Jonathan ~

    And to your bit about “publishers now only spend money promoting brand name authors such as Nora Roberts or George R.R. Martin,” I would add or Snooky and Justin Bieber which is utterly depressing!

    And your post is not too long. I gain a lot from it. Just one teensy problem. I write non fiction only…so where does that leave us little nonfic folks? Are the only sales coming from fiction?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 12:59pm

      Jeanie
      I’m surprised. Non-fiction is actually far easier to sell than fiction usually, because users or readers identify themselves, and gather in identifiable places unlike fiction readers. They can be found on user groups, and forums with Google searches for example – depending on the subject material. Also, non-fic tends to be ‘how to’ which is a must have as against fiction which is ‘nice to have… That’s just the tip of the iceberg! It is considerably more difficult to find fiction readers, hence this blog.
      So… be encouraged. You’re in a good space – which brings me to the point : what is your market niche? I may be able to help.
      ~Jonathan

      • Jeanie says:
        June 12, 2013 at 5:50pm

        Jonathan, my market niche would be professional women in the 20 plus age group. Book targets women who want to break the cycle of serial monogamy (Life is Just a Bowl of Jerrys: Breaking the Cycle of Serial Monogamy). The book is not male bashing, but attempts to ask women some critical questions and to change the dynamic women have of constantly getting what they don’t want in order to attract what they truly desire. Is not available until July/August on Amazon < see, I took your advice. I've not done so well on Smashwords. Am getting ready to get the cover, and a youtube video when videographer returns…..so working on it.

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          June 12, 2013 at 8:56pm

          Jeanie
          Great subject – of fascination to a wide audience I should imagine. Amazon… absolutely yes.
          One straight forward promotional tactic you can do is to write some brief articles about your subject, (not directly about your book, but do include it) and contact relevant LARGE women’s websites or magazines that deal with related issues. (or any popular site – e.g. Huffington Post.)
          Offer to write for them – and include the actual article. (Put copyright etc at the bottom, and a link to your books or to your own site)
          You can even promise 10 gift copies of your Kindle book to the online magazine to give away in a mini contest to their readers to encourage them to accept your article.
          Try to get onto as many sites as you can.
          If you approach them with enthusiasm, along with your sparkling / intriguing / amusing book title you should succeed. Editors are just people who need content, so think of them that way.
          ~Jonathan

          • Jeanie says:
            June 13, 2013 at 2:58pm

            Jonathan ~ Thank you so much for these great ideas. You’re now my base camp! as I put on the oxygen and scale the mountain. Moving forward, can’t turn back now. Knowledge is EVERYTHING!

          • Jonathan Gunson says:
            June 15, 2013 at 11:20am

            Jeanie.
            I’ll be here every step of the journey. Re Knowledge… yes, but the right knowledge is the key. So my mission is to save writers sifting through piles of dross to find the gold nuggets.
            ~ Jonathan

  • Margaret Taylor says:
    June 12, 2013 at 12:29pm

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks, once again, for some wonderfully written insight! I put out my first book this past month and you’re right, the sales initially have been slow. But, I am not worried. I have 16 more books to go in the series, so now it’s just a matter of waiting.

    My fire is just a tiny little spark at the moment, but I’m fanning it with Twitter, Facebook and blogging interactions that I hope will begin breathe life onto the flames so they burst high and warm the hearts of my readers!

    We’ll see. My next step – once book 2 & 3 are live – is to ‘publish’ the series related website I’m creating so that my readers will have a place to find all the juicy, behind the scenes tidbits about the Universe I’ve created for the books.

    My tagline is: “Explore the Universe, One Book at a Time…” (It’s Sci-Fi Romance and the backdrop of the covers are obviously space related with distant planets, star systems and the like, along with alternating Male & Female faces for the Hero or Heroine respectively. Book 1 has a female face (the Heroine) Book 2 has a male (The Hero) and so the series will go to the end.)

    Where my problem comes in is finding that 70/30 balance you recommend. *laughs* I’m working on it though, so thank you for the input!

    Sincerely,

    Margaret Taylor

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 1:04pm

      Margaret
      “Explore the Universe, One Book at a Time…” Another terrific tagline that’ll take you far, far away! If you have 16 books planned you can’t miss really, especially if they are a long series. But it really does require work, patience and waiting for the fire to catch alight. It takes time, but keep the faith, you’re definitely on the right track.
      PS… 30 / 70 is just a guideline – depends on your personality type to a certain extent.
      ~Jonathan

      • Margaret Taylor says:
        June 12, 2013 at 8:24pm

        *laughs* My personality…wow, I’m done for then! I’m an Author remember? We’re all crazy on at least some level!

        But seriously, I have patience. I started the series in 2007 and been working on it – and the background world(s) since. I don’t think releasing them over a year/year and a half is going to “kill” me…

        Thank you though, very much, for the encouragement. It is truly appreciated.

        Margaret Taylor

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          June 13, 2013 at 2:46am

          Margaret
          A year and a half is no time at all in an authors existence. Standing by for the releases… one by one.
          ~Jonathan

  • Drew Dyer says:
    June 12, 2013 at 1:06pm

    Nice article Jonathan. I’m a children’s author and am wondering if you have any tips specific to marketing children’s books. Thanks!
    -Drew Dyer

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 9:14pm

      Drew
      Children’s books always a key interest. I’ve written and illustrated over ten of them – words take a month, illustrations 6 months! None ‘in print’ right now, but I’m gearing up for a series of new ones. So they’re top of mind. I’ll be blogging about marketing those in a while, so stand by. I assume these books are YA? If text only, then most of the above strategies apply. If illustrated I would definitely also convert them for the iPad and tablets.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 1:10pm

    I read this post through with great interest. I’m doing some things right according to your previous advice. I blog views on news daily and rarely mention my books, which consist of series with specific genres. I’ll follow up on a few more of your tips, hoping the awesome dragon of flaming sales kicks in soon. I’ll tweet this and share on fb.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 9:23pm

      Francene
      With ‘series’ you’re clearly on the right track. And I’m always impressed by writers who can do more then one series contiguously. I can usually only focus on one thing at a time. (Maybe it’s ‘mere male’ thing.) Thanks for ‘spreading the word.’
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 1:21pm

    Great post, Jonathan. I’ve been using your Twitter strategies and I found that once I had close to 300 hand-picked followers, many more are coming to me with little effort on my part except to vet them.

    “Shattered Blue” has been on Amazon for 3 months, and I just discovered this morning that it’s beginning to show up in “also bought” lists. That’s exciting!

    My lighthouse brand: Romancing the Thriller

    Thanks for all the great work you do to help self-publishers reach the light.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 9:26pm

      Jane
      ‘Romancing The Thriller’. Very fine… portable. Do you have a Pinterest page that reflects this idea? (See, it got me excited immediately.)
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 1:22pm

    This is an excellent, down to earth and optimistic post. Great advice in one place. I like the idea of the 70% to 30% ratio overall. It’s far too easy to get distracted from the important thing which is writing. I’ve noticed how some people who are focused on marketing recommend a reversal of your percentages.

    I echo what you say about the importance of the series. Most of my sales come from the books in my The Lost King series. In fact I ought to get back to editing the third in the series.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 9:31pm

      Martin
      Most writers should focus on the writing (70%) because most are not particularly well organised. (Nothing wrong with that either – it’s reality.) More vitally, the greater the number of books in a series out there, the more they will cross sell each other. Second to writing well, writing the next book is the most effective thing to do – it’s not a marketing strategy as such, but a powerful product strategy. Readers DEVOUR an ongoing series.
      ~Jonathan

  • Prachi says:
    June 12, 2013 at 1:51pm

    Dear Jonathan,
    I’m nearly done with the manuscript for my first serious novel. Since you stress on the narrowing down of genres, my genres are crime and romance, written in the form of literary fiction. The novel has been written from a psychological point of view, and intertwines two stories- the crime story and the love story. Now here’s the difference- the love story is not like many other love stories- it’s about how the protagonist falls in love all over again. This story is very much related to the story of an FBI agent who’s investigating a serial murders…again, there is a lot of psychology and other stuff related to criminal investigations. And it’s not a murder mystery-potboiler- there are extensive character descriptions. I do make it clear that the FBI agent is the protagonist of a series of books based on him…but here, since there is also a love story, there is also a female protagonist for this particular novel. I put part of my novel on Authonomy ( a site for budding authors by Harper Collins) and my book did well, readers liked the idea of a love story combined with a murder mystery. What do you think are the prospects of such a story? How do you think it must be molded so that this unusual concept can do well in the market? If you’re interested, I can give you the link for my book, and you can check it out!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 12:13am

      Prachi

      It’s promising indeed that your story was well received by the Authonomy community.
      Love story combined with murder mystery? An excellent, attractive set up.

      Your FBI agent is at the center of your series, so that needs to be your marketing focal point. It’s not possible to promote a book using 10 ideas at once using a complicated description without a central theme. Instead a single idea is needed for people to come to grips with it – a clear idea of what to expect. Once they are on board, then the detail can grow wider.

      The same process is used for news media. Headline with one idea, subheadline that expands a little, story that expands fully. Advertising works the same way. For exactly the same reason, do pick a genre to identify your work, even if it’s not perfect. i.e. Be a ‘meaningful specific’ so you reach a specific audience.

      ~Jonathan

      • Prachi says:
        June 13, 2013 at 6:38am

        Dear Jonathan,
        Thank you so much for the advice. You’re doing a very good thing by sharing your experience with other authors. God bless. Will keep in touch.
        Regards

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          June 13, 2013 at 12:01pm

          My pleasure Prachi. Keep the questions coming. I’m here to help.
          ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 2:05pm

    This was a really interesting read, thank you very much.

    I’ve been a non fiction writer for a long time, and have as you say found it reasonably easy to reach my target market.

    Now that I’ve got my first children’s book out there, I’m having to re-learn some stuff about marketing, or rather learn how to market fiction rather than non-fiction.

    I like the idea of a tagline, I will ponder that one. The main character in my book is a strong girl, I wrote it because I was so fed up of all the pink fluffy stuff aimed at girls! The book is the first in a series: Bad Faerie and the Grotto of the Goblins.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 12:15am

      Sue
      ‘Bad Faerie’ sounds like a truly great children’s series character.
      Keep me posted.
      ~Jonathan

  • John Hundley says:
    June 12, 2013 at 2:31pm

    Jonathan, after reading the previous two posts in this series, I was pleased to find that most of your suggestions are in the process of being implemented already. I’ve really appreciated the posts and the suggestions. It’s given me some direction in an otherwise floundering marketing effort. We’ll see how it goes from here, of course, but thanks a bunch!

  • Michael Furlonger says:
    June 12, 2013 at 2:43pm

    Hello Jonathan.
    I enjoyed reading your blog. Great insight. I have one short book on Amazon about making extra money. Not much of a nail biter, but in a failing economy I thought it would be helpful.
    However, I’m working on a fantasy series. The main character starts out as a poor, quiet boy that likes books and teaching. He travels to find his brother and sister and on the way finds out that he is a chosen wizard. What do you think?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 12:21am

      Michael
      The ‘poor boy’ angle should work well. Everyone loves an underdog. And the answer to his situation was always within – a rich moral tale (but not overt) that should do well.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 2:54pm

    Hello Jonathan;
    at present my third book – I Want To Live – is being printed at present and will be out in around a fortnight. It’s about a man’s fight against three cancers and is aimed at people who are – or will in the future – be suffering from this scourge. I won’t be exploiting cancer sufferers, just telling readers about what I did to beat it in the last eighteen years and try to give them a few tips. My aim is also to target the health profession, where one point four million people work in the British and Irish health industries. I requested from the NHS here for documents on my condition; the health protocols, names of different diseases, etc and the names of the doctors and nurses who treated me, as I’d forgotten after so long a time, which they kindly sent under the Freedom of Information Act. for a small fee. everything was in the documents, and the names of the drugs, etc, that they treated cancer sufferers with, including for radio and chemotherapy. I’m advertising in a number of medical journals and trade union, health publications, so hopefully it can sell all right. Thanks Jonathan, Patrick.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 12:24am

      Patrick…
      A suggestion. For publicity, write some articles for the relevant media. (Talk about your book in the latter part of the article.)
      Sounds like a Trojan sized task that is well on the way. Congratulations on your perseverance.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 3:01pm

    Thanks much for this, Jonathan. Really focused me in. I fell at the first hurdle, though, I’m afraid… well, sort of: I didn’t think YA was a genre; I think of it as the target readership age only. I always refer to my novel’s genre as ‘contemporary realism’. I can’t be the only person writing about everyday life (with extraordinary happenings thrown in of course), but I haven’t seen much of it about and can’t say I’ve heard a clear term to describe this genre. The pull with my writing is, I hope, the writing itself and not which genre it’s in, but I wondered if you have a thought on whether ‘contemporary realism’ (à la ‘Submarine’ by Joe Dunthorne) is a bona fide genre… and if not, how should I be classifying my novel?? I *have* been listening and do realise that knowing your genre is linked with discoverability, but… well I’ve logged my query.

    Apologies if you’ve covered the above in Part 1 or 2 as, I confess, I haven’t read them yet.

    I won a competition judged by the editor of Writers’ & Artists’ Year Book, the prize for which was a publishing package with Createspace, including professional edit and cover design.

    I recently received the first copy of ‘If Everyone Knew Every Plant and Tree’ to proofread. It’s certainly been great having so much say in each stage of the proceedings (almost too much say…! I’m no artist, and I struggled to proffer advice on the cover design).

    I suppose number 2 – unique brand – is the trickiest book marketing strategy for me to grasp or develop. My fourteen/fifteen year old MC is quirky and is obsessed with horticulture and words – should the tagline be linked with him or is the idea to be linked with me, the author? This strategy is also my favourite since it seems illusive and therefore, no doubt, the most beneficial in terms of where I’m at!

    I’m holding off (and droning on a tad, it appears!) with setting the ‘launch’ date of my book as I’m working on a proper website, video, social networking, promotion etc. Since I can control that side of things, I’m aiming to get everything in placish before it’s on sale.

    Very much appreciate your time and perspicacity (ooo, big word that, for my ‘lull hour’).

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 12:37am

      Julia

      MC is your main character, around which your marketing should be grown. (Your author brand is built on the back of your books, not the other way around.)

      The real test is to describe your idea in a brief sentence. Most stories have at least some measure of crisis. You’re off to a flying start with your note here… (to which I’ve added):

      “Fourteen/fifteen year old MC is quirky and is obsessed with horticulture and words, His world seems perfect to him,but when such and such a crisis happens, then he… etc….”

      And I would definitely call your book ‘YA’. ‘Contemporary realism’ may be accurate, but what does that really mean? Does it appeal? Will that sell it? I would seek out a relevant genre or two on Amazon and at least use those to get started.

      ~Jonathan

      • July 14, 2013 at 6:16am

        Thanks a lot for this, Jonathan. I’ve been away and only just found it as I didn’t get email alert.
        Julia

  • June 12, 2013 at 3:18pm

    I know several writers who try their best to ignore Amazon and spend all their time marketing the other book sites. You’re absolutely correct. Ignore Amazon at your peril. At least 95% of the money I make on my books comes from Amazon and they’re very helpful if you hit the right niche. The “What do others buy” has been very helpful to me with my fiction.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 12:39am

      Dannie
      You’re onto it re Amazon. Plus that ‘also bought’ on Amazon means you’ve stepped onto the sales escalator.
      Jonathan

  • Conrad says:
    June 12, 2013 at 3:39pm

    Excellent article, as usual. Thanks.

    My Book 1 has been on Amazon since January, and I have seen a couple of sales per month, even though I am promoting the heck out of it. I had 150 downloads during my three-day free promotion in April. So far, I have three reviews on Amazon.

    My main goal right now is not sales, but reviews. I am trying to get reviewers to accept the book, but it is hard getting through their slush pile.

    I hope to have Book 2 on Amazon by September. It is a self imposed deadline, but I think deadlines are a great way to force yourself to write.

    Thanks

    Conrad

  • June 12, 2013 at 3:47pm

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for another outstanding post. I learn multiple things each time I read your articles.

    A question I have is with regard to narrowly niching your genre. This has always been my POV when it comes to marketing. However, as I’ve recently been exploring indie publishing, some of the experts say you should get your book into as many categories as possible, for maximum exposure on Amazon.

    With 5 million titles on Amazon, I can totally see the need for your book to stand out but the multi-genre approach, which I equate to “spray and pray,” seems counter intuitive.

    I’d love to hear yours or anyone else’s comments on this. I have a lot to learn!

    ~ Karen

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 9:48pm

      Hi Karen
      Good point you make re ‘narrowing your fiction niche’ so let me clarify.
      This has to do with the way your writing appeals to a specific group of readers; If they like it they become ‘you-holics’ – fans who will buy everything you write. That’s far less likely to happen if you write more generally.
      But this is a quite different point to how to deal with categories on Amazon if you can see the distinction. Your books need to find their natural audience, so the more places readers can find your books the better, as long as the books have relevance to the categories you choose.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 3:50pm

    Hey Jonathan,

    For awhile now I have been silently creeping around in your cyber space. I decided to come out of the shadows today and thank you for some excellent advice. You are right, social media and amazon has changed the literary lives of many….readers, writers, publishers, booksellers, and the list goes on. I am about to self publish my first book in a series called “Gods and Fairy tales,” in which I am mixing Norwegian mythology and fairy tales into the everyday life of a normal young woman. My first book in this series, “Secrets of the Ash Tree” is essential to my success as a writer looking for followers. Thank you again for your great advice!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 9:53pm

      Siv
      Fairy tales? Series? Marvellous! (Pun intended) There is a specific and large audience for your work, divided into various sub-genres. Once your books find their perfect audience and they begin to read it in reasonable numbers, they’ll not only take up everything you write, increasingly, but also start talking about them. Excellent position to be in.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 4:41pm

    This is all very good information, and more or less what I was beginning to suspect… that a series does tend to sell itself, that cover art really does matter (people are superficial I suppose–I can’t help it either!), and that it is important to offer more content over promotion.

    As for my own progress, I started a blog months ago but ended up deleting it. I had a number of “content” posts on it, but I just haven’t been able to get a single reader. I gave up on it, disheartened. Much later, I decided to approach it from a different angle. A blog is a really handy tool to keep a writer writing during slack periods, even if no one reads it. So, doing it mostly for myself, instead of wholly for an audience, seems to help somewhat with the despair. I have been trying to link it where I can slip it in, but… in the meantime, I suppose I’ll just keep posting.

    Currently, I have a novelette on Amazon, but I wouldn’t say it has taken off. I’ve been struggling with a three-book series for many years, and don’t even have a first draft of the first novel yet. I’ll get through it, but it is seriously difficult and frustrating. I’ve been discussing it in some blog posts as a way to vent.

    Here’s to hoping I can get something to happen.

    Charlotte

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 10:11pm

      Charlotte

      A series plan is a great start.

      And I agree entirely – writing is never a cake walk, so you’re not alone with your difficulties. Frustration around writing is often caused by ‘block’, which (even though most writers don’t realize it) is mostly based on the fear that one’s work is not good enough. This is not true! So here are two articles to brighten your day.

      1. Re frustration and block
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/how-to-beat-writers-block-forever/

      2. Re ‘Getting on with writing’ with Maeve Binchy
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/maeve-binchy-her-writing-secrets-interview/

      I’m sure they will help. Let me know here on the blog. Progress can often go faster when sharing.

      ~Jonathan

      • June 13, 2013 at 12:29pm

        Jonathan,

        You’re so exactly right! The frustration is definitely coming from block, and I can freely admit that much of my own block is due to believing the writing isn’t good enough, or somehow isn’t “right.” The current problem seems to be a feeling that something is amiss in the basic plot, though I have been discussing that with other writers and so far it seems that my worry is unfounded. But writers are also stubborn people…!

        Thank you for linking these two articles. I’m going to read through them now, and I’ll let you know my thoughts! I think you’re right that sharing can help a writer work through these difficulties.

        Thank you!

        Charlotte

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          June 13, 2013 at 12:41pm

          Charlotte
          Perfectionism is a curse. Don’t be afraid of being judged, just get that stuff out there and take the hits! I’ll wager any mud that is slung at you will be be nothing remotely near what you dread, if any is even slung your way at all! This video by John Cleese helped me greatly. All about creativity, and ceasing to worry about what other think. Its a 13 minute excerpt from a whole lecture.
          http://youtu.be/ijtQP9nwrQA
          Enjoy.
          ~Jonathan

          • June 17, 2013 at 3:49pm

            Thank you! I’ved always loved John Cleese.

            Charlotte

  • June 12, 2013 at 4:52pm

    Jonathan — You are right on target. Excellent points, all seven. Recommended reading for every writer, whether trad or self-pubbers. Particularly #3 — that has been done in tradpub forever, so I would assume it would also work with selfpub. Good reminder and emphasis.

    You know, you should write an eBook that collates all these wonderful blog posts you’ve written to help writers with marketing. It’ll be great to have them all in one eBook on my iPad Kindle rather than my having to search for them on your website. It would be easy, really, to prove that your marketing strategies work.

    Don’t price the eBook too low, now, OK. I paid US$4.99 each for David Gaughran’s Let’s Get eBooks. So when’s yours coming out?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 11:16pm

      Jan
      Might take you up on that re making one book across all subjects, although I have found that most writers want material in bite-sized chunks. For example social media is too big a subject for a single book in my view, so I am steadily splitting it up into sectors. Case in point – my course Blogging For Authors is being released next week. And there’s always my book the Bestseller Labs Guide For Authors, which is free.
      ~Jonathan

      • June 13, 2013 at 3:41am

        Not all your blogs into one ebook :-) I meant multiple ebooks, one for each category or something… Aha, a non-fiction series… :-)

        I’ve also been noticing that blogs are providing buttons now that say “Send to my Kindle.” How cool is that!

        Anyway, I agree with all of your 7 points. I’ve been studying the publishing industry, and it took me several months to gather most of the same information that you have so succinctly written in this one blog. Man, I should have just waited for your RSS feeds LOL. The Phoenix Effect — that is a cool phrase.

        I just retweeted this article. I think I posted the link to my Facebook page earlier today. It’s a must-read, especially for indie authors.

        Thanks again!

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          June 13, 2013 at 4:56am

          Thanks Jan

          I’ve seen the ‘send to my kindle button’. Must investigate that a little further. Cool it is.

          ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 5:15pm

    Excellent post. I agree that Amazon really is the humming hub for book sales. In the month that my memoir titled REACHING has been on the market, I’ve garnered 6 reviews. I’m still not sure about the exact sales figures because my publisher hasn’t released them yet. But I’m feeling pretty psyched.

    Now I need to read your post on what NOT to do. :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 11:26pm

      Grace
      I can definitely oblige re what NOT to do. It happens to be the subject of my next blog post – already written, coming shortly. (‘Idea plagiarists’ please make a note.)
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 5:55pm

    John what is your take on book trailers? Are they worth the cost marketing wise? Love your site and the info you are always offering other authors.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 12, 2013 at 11:34pm

      George
      I’m always ambivalent on the value of book trailers. I would spend the money instead on high-quality of book covers. (Unless you have them already.)

      A book trailer alone – for example on YouTube – does not attract viewers. Why would anyone suddenly choose to watch one? The best use of trailers instead is in a specific context where there is already a captive audience, for example at a book launch, or to introduce you when you are speaking, or in the middle of a blog post, or in an article posted on a popular well read site.

      If you do choose to make a book trailers, here’s my advisory article:
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/the-best-book-trailer-ive-seen-in-years/

      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 9:00pm

    Jonathan,

    Thank you for all of the information and links.

    At the present time Ava D Dohn has a very unique brand offline and in the writing, but online it is only the book, Pinterest, and twitter comments. But time will help us improve that. What is really necessary is the unique tagline that goes with the books genre.

    The readers are usually those seeking inspiration for the fight of life, that seems a little long for a tagline but it might be good. On the other hand it doesn’t seem to fit into a genre. The book is fiction, and it’s mind bending and heart twistingly inspirational. It’s in the classical, historical, fiction, fantasy, science genre and assistance by readers is needed to truly determine its genre.

    Readers so far have been over thirty, both men and women, and those that have been depressed by their expectations in life and people. Do you have any suggestion for how much time is appropriate for choosing genre based on the audience?

    And how to encourage the readers to share their genre opinions or even the necessity of that?

    Any answers are welcome, thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Rhapsodie 4avaddohn

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 12:57am

      Rhapsodie
      Your brand idea strikes a chord. Reminds me of Ian MacLaren’s Christmas message sent in 1898 to the readers of The British Weekly. (Often erroneously attributed to Plato)

      “Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle,”

      So I feel that you’re not far off finding your tagline, because you know what it is you want to say.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 10:41pm

    Fascinating article. I was able to ID myself into speculative fantasy, specifically mythology related, but mostly bill myself as fantasy. I developed a tag line that I’ve slowly been using “Take what you know about mythology and throw it out the window…” I have used that in my book descriptions and also put it on bookmarks that I am handing out with my characters on it.

    I sometimes tell people if Xena fell into LOTR you’d have an idea what kind of books I write.

    I followed most of your points and have at least worked towards those goals, but I have a problem with the audience part. They are not YA and I’m having a hard time to identify my audience. I would say 16+ for books 3 and 4 because of the sexual situations, but book 1 has been pegged by some as “appropriate for middle grade and YA”. YA is hot, but I don’t want to bill myself as that. I try to connect with mythology and fairy tale fans. How do you classify 16+?

    I also went one step further and made my first installment a free book forever as well as having some free shorts for readers hoping that people will try it and want books 2-4…..and also the other book I have.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 1:07am

      Shannon
      Your different approach to fantasy / mythology is a great strength, for two reasons:
      1) It will stand out as something unique, special and identifiable amongst a large number of mere copyists.
      2) It’s uniqueness will be learned by readers. They won’t be able to read anything like it anywhere else. To get more they will have to keep reading YOUR books.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 12, 2013 at 11:50pm

    As always, you’ve hit the nail on the head with these excellent tips Jonathan. In reading them I was glad to see I’ve been on the right track by incorporating many of them for the marketing of my debut novel, In The Spirit Of Love. I’ll look forward to learning more as I continue this crazy journey called writing for the sequel. As new writers we need to learn as much as we can, tailor it to our own unique styles, and implement as many of the points Tand others we discover), then share that information with others. Thanks again for doing your part. You know I’m a fan. :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 1:12am

      Debbie
      You nailed it with “….tailor it to our own unique styles”, because it’s your uniqueness that will win the day. All the very best with the sequel.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 13, 2013 at 12:33am

    Hello Jonathan, and thanks for another outstanding article. I believe that I’m applying most of your tips here save the blog writing. That’s a difficult area for me because I convince myself that I don’t have the time or can’t provide interesting articles. The true reason is that I haven’t come to enjoy blog writing, so create excuses not to. I’ll work at changing that.

    I definitely agree about series writing. I’m off to a nice start with my Troubleshooter series and should have the next installment by the year’s end, along with some shorter work in the meantime. At the moment I’m working on my debut fantasy novel which will be the first of a trilogy. I also have two YA series that are just begging to be written, so it’s not the lack of material that afflicts me, it’s the time. Working 40-50 hrs a week makes it a challenge to get sufficient writing time in, but I’ll be working with what I have until I reach my ultimate goal of writing for a living.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 1:24am

      Bard

      Imagination knows no bounds in your case, except for the conflicting ‘lack of time’ curse that is central to so many writer’s worlds. Regarding Trouble shooter, fantasy and other works: The books you’re truly destined to write will gradually emerge, and allow you to focus the time more precisely.

      For now, box on, and do watch this brief Ray Bradbury again for motivation – it was his issue too. >> ‘Ray Bradbury Video

      ~Jonathan

  • Savannah says:
    June 13, 2013 at 1:19am

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thank you so much for your timely and sound advice, it really benefits novice writers like me. I’ve used your tips for improving my blog and now each time I post, I gain from one to up to four new followers. It may not sound like a lot but I know I’m gaining my followers from word of mouth. And I’m wise enough to know that small beginning lead to great things.

    Please keep the advice coming, you are definitely making a difference in my writing career.
    Savannah J

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 1:27am

      Savannah
      If you are gaining followers, you’re winning already. For some additional motivation re creativity watch the ‘Everything is a Remix – part 3‘ video if you haven’t already. It’s extraordinary and apt.
      Jonathan

  • Kelly Graham says:
    June 13, 2013 at 2:22am

    Hi Jonathan,

    That was a great post. I’ve just published my first novel and need all of the promotion tips I can get. I couldn’t help but have a laugh though – ‘viral word of mouth’ sounds like an STI! Or perhaps that’s just my warped mind at work.

    Cheers,
    Kelly

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 2:35am

      Kelly
      Ha yes. You’re not the first to think of that. All the best with your first novel, the first of many I hope. Title?
      ~Jonathan

      • Kelly Graham says:
        June 15, 2013 at 1:40am

        The novel is called ‘Eyes of the Many.’ It’s a thriller and I have received some great reviews so far. Take a peek if you’re interested (available on Amazon, B&N, and iTunes).

        Cheers,
        Kelly

  • June 13, 2013 at 3:55am

    Hi Jonathan,
    Excellent advice. Although “Curse of the Salute” is what would be considered a “one off”, I have been seriously thinking of turning “Obtrusion” into a series, mainly, because there are so many avenues that it can explore in the plotline. What are your thoughts on that? If you want to check out some of the teasers, and give me your opinion on the “series” idea, would appreciate it greatly.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 5:07am

      Anastacia
      If the review I read about your book is anything to go by, it’s a page turner. So I read the first few pages of the gripping scene in the ship’s ice-cold hold, and don’t think I even took a breath! Your work is clearly able to create word of of mouth buzz en masse, and so is worth development into a series in my view. And you already have a central character – ‘Dick Frank’. Genre… Thriller?
      ~Jonathan

      • July 11, 2013 at 1:27pm

        Thank you for your kind words Jonathan.
        Without tossing a ‘spoiler’ out there re: “Curse of The Salute” . . . that could be a possibility (although slim).

        The book I am working right now (almost ready to publish) is called “Obtrusion”, and it revolves around alien conspiracies, secret bases, and a quite a few references to
        “the creation theory”, etc. It is turning out to be more of a series than I had imagined, due, mostly to the large cast of characters, and the sub plots that can be expounded in future editions. I have decided to make it a series, and hopefully it will blossom. Thank you for your VERY interesting and informative articles. They are a real help to us “Indie Authors”. You are a great inspiration to everyone.

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          July 11, 2013 at 10:06pm

          Anastacia
          Series… absolutely. Be sure to maintain a central character across all the books, for it is that character readers will become addicted to.
          ~Jonathan

          • July 18, 2013 at 2:02am

            Thank you Jonathan!
            Actually, I’m thinking of three main characters that are pretty vital to the story. In your opinion do you think 3 is too many? I don’t want the book to become one big “Stand” as Stephen King’s was, and I know there was just more than one central character, so I’m thinking that even in a series, it seems like it would be a good avenue. Thoughts?

          • July 18, 2013 at 2:04am

            It messed up the link :( This is to my “Curse of The Salute” book on Sony. Getting great reviews so far. Hoping to have “Obtrusion Book 1 The Gathering” published by the end of this month.

  • June 13, 2013 at 6:25am

    Jonathan,
    Welcome back! Hope you enjoyed your writing (I assume that’s what you’ve been doing). Thank you for another blog chock-full of good stuff for authors. You’re a lighthouse in the dark waters of self-publishing. I enjoy how you make every word count.
    I am struggling with two of the above areas as I approach publishing my first novel on Amazon:
    1) Genre. There seems to be no category that describes a character driven story with a gripping plot. ‘Thriller’ seems a bit over the top and, dare I say, a bit superficial; ‘Crime Mystery’ is also not quite right – although crimes are committed in my novel, it is not about solving them. I am tempted by ‘Literary Fiction’, but that feels a tad bold for a first novel (and a bit outdated as a genre – what think you?). In short, where do you place a novel that is primarily human drama against the background of a good story?
    2) Cover. My tagline is: “Freedom is at the heart of all happiness”. I have placed some sample covers on Pinterest that I am trying to decide on: http://pinterest.com/montytof/mamud-cover/ Perhaps you, and maybe some of my fellow followers of your blog, could take a quick look and let me know what you think? I prefer Cover 1. Thank you.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 12:27pm

      John
      Yes you are correct, I was AWOL, writing and constructing my children’s publishing project, plus completing my ‘Blogging For Authors’ product, so the blog (my central thing) slid a little. I promise it won’t happen again Sir!

      To your questions:

      Re Genre. You may have to settle for ‘Thriller‘. (Better half a loaf than no bread at all.) If you choose something obscure or catch-all you’ll end up catching no-one. Literary fiction? Not a great idea. No-one searches Amazon looking for that. Plus, you need to follow the Amazon system; if your book is in clearly identified genre, then if it appeals to readers and starts to sell, your book will be listed alongside other popular books of the same genre as a ‘Readers also bought…(your book)’. This is just one of the ways Amazon system works its magic for you.

      Re Cover. I can see WHY you chose a cell photo, but only by chance. It has no meaning at all because there is absolutely no clue as to the huge central sales drawcard of the book, the exciting / attention getting aspect of your story… Attempted assassination of NELSON MANDELA. I had no idea this was the case until I saw your reply to a comment under one of the designs.

      This needs to be revealed on the cover somehow. If it had been my book I would have at least mention him on the cover. e.g. “Who is trying to assassinate Mandela?”

      ~Jonathan

      PS. “Freedom is at the heart of all happiness” – An appealing, heartfelt tagline. Begs for publicity articles to be written about the idea of a ‘Mandela assassin’ as op-eds, or guest posts, or on news sites. Submit and see.

      • June 13, 2013 at 5:33pm

        A royal reply, sir! As usual, you go the extra two miles. Thank you for the good advice.

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          June 13, 2013 at 9:41pm

          John
          You’re welcome Sir. Yours is a project worth supporting.
          ~Jonathan

  • June 13, 2013 at 6:56am

    Thanks for a great post, as always.
    Perhaps another point you could add is writers should look at getting foreign rights and translation deals. We only ever think of the English-speaking readers, but we should be looking further afield for readers as well. There are millions of readers out there who would love to read a variety of books in their own languages.
    The way to get this kind of agent is exhibit books at an international book fair. There are several big fairs world-wide each year. The next one (I think) is the Shanghai Book Fair in October. That’s where foreign agents browse for new titles to interest their publishers.
    How do I know? I did this several times with no luck, and then at the recent Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy I was overwhelmed with offers. I settled on a US agent who deals with all of them. I’m not saying it’s a sure-fire method, but if you can’t win if you don’t play. It doesn’t cost that much either, maybe $100+ or so. Writers must cast the net wide.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 12:58pm

      First rate contribution Fiona. Nothing like some real experience!
      The seven strategies I have covered here are intended to be within the capabilities of new authors, and largely for eBooks. The point I am making from the outset is that writers should no longer need to cling to the idea of printed books, of bookstores and trying to find a publisher to ‘do it for them’ – even in foreign language markets.
      But it worked for you, so congratulations. Enterprise rewarded.
      ~Jonathan

      • June 17, 2013 at 3:09pm

        Hi Jon,
        With ref to my above comment: Sorry, I should have made myself clearer. I specifically asked about this e-book aspect with my agent and she said foreign agents look to having a contract that includes e-books, so it’s not as if book fairs are out of reach of e-authors. Of course, one would have to have a few copies printed POD, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          June 17, 2013 at 10:58pm

          Fiona.
          I suspect you might have missed the point of this article, but maybe I didn’t make it clear enough. So I’ll note down why an aspiring eBook author doesn’t necessarily really need a publisher, including one for ‘foreign rights’.

          Traditional print publishers have been vital to authors until recently for four reasons:
          1) They might pay an advance to the author
          2) They edit, design book covers, and print the books
          3) They ‘distribute’ to book stores. (A form of ‘promotion’ that authors can’t access)
          4) They do book promotion & publicity

          The crucial points being 3 & 4 – distribution and promotion.

          But in an eBook era, they are no longer vital because:
          1) Publishers won’t pay advances to new authors especially for eBooks.
          2) Any author can get their own editor and cover designer for an eBook, and there’s no ‘printing’.
          3) Publishers don’t ‘distribute’ an eBook. They simply put it on Amazon & Smashwords and an author can do that for themselves.
          4) But the most important point is that publishers definitely won’t spend money promoting an eBook by a struggling new author, no matter how much they bluster to the contrary.

          A publisher’s special knowledge of a foreign market’s book stores might be considered a reason for signing with them, but we’re talking eBooks here, and that’s all online. Plus, anyone can get a book translated. No publisher needed for that either.

          The REAL solution for publishers to stay relevant is to start offering mass marketing for new eBooks (in both English and foreign languages) then they will once again have high value for authors. I hope it happens. In fact I’ve written an article about this already.

          http://bestsellerlabs.com/if-printed-books-die-can-you-still-get-a-publisher/

          ~Jonathan

  • AC Townsend says:
    June 13, 2013 at 2:06pm

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for another excellent article. I am still in the “branding” stage. Thanks to your previous article, I’ve created a tag line – “Join the Conspiracy” – and the four books I have previously thought of as “the Trinity Road Trilogy and sequel” are now under a new heading as “The Trinity Conspiracy.” I have a lot of work ahead in creating a web page, a FB page, a You Tube video, and so forth … and I need to put some thought into narrowing down the genre, as you indicated. Marketing and promotion are my weak points, so I’ve got some catching up to do. And I’m writing that sequel. It’s a long and detailed process, but work is play if you love what you do.

    ~ Angela

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 9:36pm

      Angela
      ‘The Trinity Conspiracy’ is a terrific series title, and ‘Join The Conspiracy’ an equally superb tagline. Congratulations.
      Re your marketing: Thing to focus on first is ensuring your Amazon listing is optimized. After that, then the blog / FB page / Twitter et al – i.e.platform work. But be sure it doesn’t slow down the writing too much! A book trailer video is not crucial in my view unless you want to impress a publisher, or use it to introduce yourself when speaking publically.
      ~Jonathan

      PS. Re marketing, a warning: Remember this?
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/social-media-train-wreck-that-authors-must-avoid/

      • AC Townsend says:
        June 20, 2013 at 1:43pm

        Hi Jonathan,

        Thanks for sharing this. Working through one or two marketing opportunities at a time keeps the Marketing Mountain from becoming an overwhelming concept. I am looking forward to your Amazon article, because I’m almost ready to publish. And you’re right about the writing being top priority. I don’t want to take any more time away from my writing than absolutely necessary. The Day Job and Life In General already take their share of each day. :)

        Angela

  • Cynthia Harris says:
    June 13, 2013 at 2:39pm

    Wow wonderful tips! I’m excited just figuring out how to make my books more exciting! Thanks

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 9:37pm

      Cynthia
      Sounds like you may need some cliff-hanger moments in your work yes? Crisis is the life blood of stories. Re ‘excited’…. agree! A little enthusiasm goes a long way.
      ~Jonathan

  • Tara Reed says:
    June 13, 2013 at 3:41pm

    Jonathan,

    What a wonderful, wonderful post.

    I appreciate this not only as someone with a background in PR and marketing, but as an author who is currently crowdfunding my first novel, the first in a series, on Indiegogo.

    It’s contributing building a foundation of the above elements so I’m ready to go when the book is actually available at e-tail. It’s organically encouraged content marketing, made me really think about my book’s demo (It’s a Choosable-Path novel for women inspired by dating and relationship advice – so a three-genre cross!) and be present where they hang out.

    I have the tightest elevator pitch I possibly can, and I have a recognizable brand around the format, theme and my characters (who each have their own Pinterest boards, and a series of e-cards conveying their personalities through quips from the book).

    Admittedly, as is the nature of trying to get a book for a demo that doesn’t hang out on crowdsourcing sites funded, I am currently far more promotional on my social media channels than I would dare to be regularly, though I do my best to find balance through talking about my process and sharing gifts for my followers which strengthen my brand. Having presence in guest posts around the web has also helped immensely.

    If I might add one or two things from experience with other authors:

    1. Do not dare put out a book that hasn’t been professionally edited – at the very least, copy edited. It will follow you everywhere and destroy your series.
    2. Allow for time between releases of books in a series so you can maximize your marketing without cannibalizing sales, or missing out on the opportunity to learn from one release and apply it to the next.

    Your posts always have value, but this one is exceptional, and has confirmed that I’m on the right track.

    I’m quite happy to selfpublish and fortunate to have the background to market my books, but should traditional publishing (or even securing an agent to help with efforts, such as licensing, etc.), I’m able to prove my platform and ability to market my book.

    Thanks very much,

    Tara

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 10:16pm

      Tara
      Editors are Gods. So agree re the crucial point you make about ensuring work is proofed & edited, no question about that.
      On the other point, if you have an agent and do manage to attract a traditional publisher, while I don’t place much value on any ‘validation’ related to that, if they’ll truly promote the books, then an author should go for it. At time of writing, the majority of books are still sold the traditional way, and the plain truth is that many authors need that level of support / encouragement / mentoring. But… be aware that the world is changing. This post is about ‘future proofing’ as much as anything else

      See. http://bestsellerlabs.com/why-children-hold-the-key-to-your-future-as-an-author/

      ~Jonathan

  • Athina says:
    June 13, 2013 at 5:37pm

    Well, that was an amazing post. Thanks for sharing.
    Everything you said is very helpful and we all need to have these things in mind, but what happen when we’re stuck in editing?

    I know many people hire a professional editor, but if we can’t afford one, how we can edit our book? I guess all the above require a well-written book.

    What makes me sad is that I have followed some of the steps you said, but I can’t publish due to editing. I have finished two novels, the second is part of a series, I’m now writing the sequel, but everything just collects e-dust.

    Thanks again for your wonderful post.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 10:26pm

      Athina
      Well, not sure how to help here. Editors are definitely an investment, and absolutely worth it – they are not a cost. The good ones can have an amazing transcendent effect on the writing, and also bring a far sharper edge to the work.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 13, 2013 at 5:55pm

    Great post, Jonathan! And timely for me – my second book, UNEXPECTED SUPERHERO, just came out in ebook format on June 1, and will come out in print next week. I have a lot of promo work to do – but I have to get writing on my next book, too. I’m going to try your 70/30 time management tip and see how it works for me.

    Thanks for all the other tips here, too! I’m glad I found you and your blog! :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 13, 2013 at 10:35pm

      Kitty
      Awaiting your start on ‘The Next Book‘. A series of books is the best career move of all – the books sell each other.
      No doubt you’ll have long since discovered that writing a book is a long haul, requiring a lot of work and patience. (Two concepts are not so popular with the ‘y’ generation!)
      Here’s what my own editor has to say on the subject:
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/game-of-thrones-editor-reveals-top-writing-tips/
      ~Jonathan

  • Michael says:
    June 14, 2013 at 10:03am

    I have been thinking about writing a YA series. After reading this wonderful article, I’m more excited than ever to begin (just as soon as I finish revising my current novel). Many thanks for the great info.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 14, 2013 at 9:18pm

      Michael
      YA is not only thriving, but is to be encouraged. Think of the positive impact of JK Rowling.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 15, 2013 at 4:23am

    Thanks, Jonathan! I love all of your posts, and always come away with so many new and fresh ideas for promotion. It was also encouraging reading about the “Phoenix Effect.” Find your readers–and they will find you. Have a great weekend!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 15, 2013 at 9:44am

      Penelope
      It’s true. If your books really are appealing, then with a little work, they will find their audience.
      This post took me the longest of all to write – an opus of sorts! But I wanted to encapsulate the posts of the previous year into one single post that gave the whole picture for authors.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 16, 2013 at 3:55am

    Ah, yes marketing. I have 15 books published mostly YA but some adult murder mysteries too. My sales have been steady but not like I want. I do the social media thing, have a website and fan page on FB, do guest posts/blogs, blog tours, and book trailers. My latest release is a YA contemporary called, HOW TO BE ALMOST FAMOUS IN TEN DAYS.

  • June 16, 2013 at 3:33pm

    Thanks again for a very stimulating post. In this amazing landslide happening in the world of books one can be out of breath at times; I know I am as an author. There’s lots of confusing opinions out there, but reading the stuff you’re writing is a sure antidote for some of that confusion. I’m working on a series myself and there are certain details that I need to fix or may need to fix — the science of covers being one of them. But like you suggest, one needs patience too. When publishing a series there’s room for patience, fortunately, so I’ll be able to fix these details. I hope to be reading your post on covers soon and deal with that too. Keep up the good work!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 17, 2013 at 8:08am

      MHV

      Landslide – an apt description of the disruptive changes tumbling onto us like so many boulders. Patience is on the money too, and yes, covers need to be sublime no doubt. But overall, it is originality that wins – imagination run riot for all aspects including the story, writing craft, and cover design.

      Einstein: Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.

      This is central yes? I believe that beyond love, the imagination is the greatest gift we have. Don’t let it slip through your fingers.

      ~Jonathan

  • Michael says:
    June 17, 2013 at 6:29pm

    Great article. I’m editing my first novel and need all the marketing help I can get. I did the right thing and hired a freelance artist to create a simple but effective book cover. But I had not thought about who exactly my target audience was. The Darkest Corner is a crime thriller with supernatural undertones. My tag line is : One Man’s Madness Is Another Man’s Hell. I’ll have to do more research on just who I want to market my book to. Thanks again for the great articles, Jonathan.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 18, 2013 at 12:04am

      Michael
      Examine the Crime and Thriller categories on Amazon, and also check out the authors there and see who they are communicating with – to identify your target market. And… think series.
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/the-hottest-tip-no-fiction-writer-can-afford-to-ignore/
      ~Jonathan

      • Michael says:
        June 18, 2013 at 8:33pm

        Thanks for the link. My current novel doesn’t have series potential but I do have a couple ideas geared for younger readers. I’ll definitely try and develop those. I also have a couple screenplays I wrote that might have series potential as novels.

  • June 17, 2013 at 8:26pm

    Great tips and exactly what we’ve been doing for our novels. I agree having multiple books and books in a series are arguably the most effective ways to sell books. My problem is making time to write, but I try to write everyday–even if it’s only a 100 or so words.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 18, 2013 at 12:03am

      James.
      You are not alone. ‘Finding time’ is the central dilemma for most writers. But if the motivation is high enough, then time seems to appear almost miraculously.
      Helpful link for you – Maeve Binchy on writing: http://bestsellerlabs.com/maeve-binchy-her-writing-secrets-interview/

      ~Jonathan

    • Michael says:
      June 18, 2013 at 8:35pm

      I have the same problem. Trying to find the time to write. I’ve been working close to 60 hours a week at my job so finding time to write is delegated to the weekends.

  • June 19, 2013 at 7:46pm

    I recently found your blog and am loving it! Trying to read all of your older posts. I love the advice to build a light house author brand, and to write a series. Besides my 2 dating advice books, I wrote a memoir and the sequel, and people do keep asking when the next installment is coming. So, your post gives me encouragement to keep going with it.

    I also own a business so I am extremely busy. Since a book takes me almost a year to write, I decided to publish some short stories on kindle. I published my first one a couple of months ago, called Amateur Night. I have so many wonderful, humorous stories from my personal experiences, that I thought it would be fun to publish them individually and sell them for 99 cents. I am hoping that if someone reads one of my short stories, and they like it, they will try one of my books.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 19, 2013 at 9:11pm

      Marla
      A collection of humorous short stories with a recognisably common theme, a tagline to tie them together, or better still, a central character (you?) is the path. If the stories have appeal, people will start in, become addicted and want ever more … like candy.
      ~Jonathan

  • Michael says:
    June 23, 2013 at 7:28pm

    Hi Jonathan, I’m writing a YA fantasy series based on a screenplay I wrote. In the script, my protagonist is a 12 year old African/American girl. I’m wondering if having a minority protagonist matters. I can’t imagine changing her race but I don’t want to hinder sales. Do you have any opinion on this issue?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 23, 2013 at 11:19pm

      Michael
      Tolkien editor Jane Johnson says it best: “First and foremost write the book you want to write, not the one you – or others – think will sell…”
      What counts in the end is authenticity, the strength of your story, and the quality of your writing craft, because if your books are well written and have appeal, they will find their audience. Here’s the article by Jane Johnson http://bestsellerlabs.com/game-of-thrones-editor-reveals-top-writing-tips/
      ~Jonathan

      • Michael says:
        June 24, 2013 at 5:13am

        Thanks Jonathan, good advice. I love the character of Eliza and would hate to change her. I’ll write the story that feels organic to me and let the readers decide.

  • June 24, 2013 at 12:32pm

    Hi Jonathan,
    Great article. I have three new windows open to read other articles you referenced above. As a fantasy writer I was wondering how important the blog is to sales. I just finished the first manuscript in the series and started querying agents. I have started building my platform using Twitter, Facebook, and even have my own website (all in the preliminary stages). I have gone back and forth on doing some sort of blog, but I don’t want to go into something half-hearted. What are your thoughts?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 24, 2013 at 9:46pm

      Charles
      A blog is home base for an author, the place where an audience can be captured permanently. It’s also crucial to realize that it is run by personality, not books! But the eventual purpose is the same: Book promotion. Plus, if a publisher sees you have a constantly updated online presence, particularly a properly designed blog, it will make a considerable difference to their decision as to whether they publish or not. I’ll also be posting articles (for subscribers only) about blogging in the coming months.
      ~Jonathan

  • June 25, 2013 at 2:56am

    Thanks for the great advice. I just published my book “Mother’s Day” a month ago and I am finding the promotion part to be really tedious and hard. I was getting a little discouraged looking at the numbers and when I see how small they are, I wonder if all the hard work is worth it. Yet this is the reality. It is worth it. It just might take time to get the word out there, especially since I have heard nothing but positive feedback from those who have read it!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 25, 2013 at 3:29am

      Stacy.
      “Nothing but positive feedback” … is pure gold. Now they just need to tell all their friends!
      Marketing certainly is more difficult than immediately apparent which is the central reason authors want a publisher. But the reality is that a publisher won’t do marketing anyway for struggling new writers, so why give them a % for doing nix?
      With a lone book it’s also hard to build momentum. You need at least three books, preferably all connected thematically or by the central character then the books all start to sell each other and readers become addicted. (Note: Romantic fiction books cannot have ongoing characters because they always have a happy endings. So instead need a strongly distinctive style and mass output to which readers become hooked.)
      Here’s an article about the power of a book series: http://bestsellerlabs.com/the-hottest-tip-no-fiction-writer-can-afford-to-ignore/
      The first stages of sales can be troubling, but once the word-of-mouth fire starts, you’ll no longer have to hand crank every sale.
      ~Jonathan

  • Michael says:
    June 30, 2013 at 3:34pm

    Jonathan, I want to write in more than one genre. Should I use a pen name for, say, children’s books, and use my own name for adult books?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 30, 2013 at 9:13pm

      Michael
      Depends how many books you are writing, and the genres. If writing ‘horror thrillers’, then obviously it would be a good idea to use a different name for children’s picture books.
      ~Jonathan

      • Michael says:
        July 1, 2013 at 6:54pm

        My YA book series is aimed at the tween reader (11-14 year old). But my Noir crime thriller I’m editing is very adult-oriented. I like writing period horror so I’m not sure what reading category that falls into. I know a lot of teens enjoy reading horror.

  • Mark Bordner, author of The Mighty First series says:
    July 31, 2013 at 10:32pm

    Once again, excellent information. I have a question for you. In am a newly contracted writer for an 8 episode YA sci-fi series. Book 1 is currently in editing/production, which lasts about 4 months. My agent told me to seek out other veteran authors to review the rough draft and offer a written endorsement if they like it.

    My question is, how do I go about doing that ? I’ve sent polite inquiries to several writers of the same genre, and either have been declined or ignored. I have only the 4 month window to find an endorsement, because after that the work will go to the cover artist and final formating from there.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      July 31, 2013 at 11:03pm

      Mark
      Much as we would both like it to be otherwise, unfortunately there are no short cuts in this business. Moreover, if you want someone such as another author to take a whole day out of their life to read your work, then you’ll have to provide a very good incentive to persuade them to do so, or instead take some time (months) to get to know the author first.

      Yes, I know you have a deadline, but sending a book cold to people you don’t know you won’t go very far as you have discovered. See my article about the identical situation with book bloggers here: http://bestsellerlabs.com/how-to-get-massive-free-publicity-for-your-book

      Most authors send their books off to book bloggers cold without developing a relationship first, and then wonder why they are rejected.

      Having said that, this might just do it: Go to a book conference and get to know several seasoned authors. Ask them about their writing journey. Take a genuine interest. Don’t ask them to read your book, but instead ask them to write the forward, and request that they mention their own writing journey within it.

      Flattery can get you everywhere sometimes. And they may even read your book.

      ~Jonathan

  • leo effi says:
    August 30, 2013 at 4:31pm

    first of all thanks for all your great posts.
    my main problem is that i live in germany and i want to get an agent in the u.s or u.k. i also want to be published in any of these places. is it true that these will be difficult for me

  • September 22, 2013 at 12:16pm

    Hi Jonathan,
    Inspiring stuff. It is a lot to do for the author but it is all do-able. It just takes a little time and effort.

    I recently realized the self-pubbed book I have classified as a YA is really a MG. Big mistake on my part since it has been out for a year now but this is all a part of the learning process for me and I need to do what’s best for the book. I’m in the midst of breaking it down into two books (to conform to the shorter lengths of MG books) which will give me two books in the series (and a third one on the way.) Any tips for launching a rebranding like this?

    Kind regards

  • November 25, 2013 at 1:13pm

    Thank you for a GREAT article. I specifically like the part about series. Ironically, I’m tackling writing short romance series. You’re right; “happily every after” is a hurdle I hadn’t considered when I thought about creating the sequels, but so far, so good. Readers are responding positively. Fingers crossed as I work on Part 2 of the “For Richer For Poorer” short romance series. Glad I found your website. You really give some spot on advice, and I look forward to reading more. Cassandra Black

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      November 27, 2013 at 8:50am

      Cassandra
      A Romantic ‘series’?. Great! Standing by to hear how you did it. (I’m sure it will play out OK.)
      ~ Jonathan

  • AL Parks says:
    January 6, 2014 at 1:42pm

    Jonathan,

    I am having issues trying to narrow the genre of my books, especially through Amazon’s categories. I write contemporary romance which is very broad, but my characters typically have more life experiences under their belts, and the stories revolve around second chances. That is far from the typical romances that are popular these days, with 20-something characters that are falling in love for the first time. What would you suggest I do when there are not easily discernible sub-categories?

    Thanks,
    AL Parks

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 6, 2014 at 10:18pm

      AL P. (Leanne?) Short of asking Amazon to invent a new category for you, the next best thing is to choose two categories that straddle your books. Neither will be perfect, but that will come close to covering it hopefully.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Kia says:
    January 13, 2014 at 3:28am

    Hi there, I need all the advise I can get. I am a first time author who will be self publishing my first book- Possession Of My Soul: The Three Immortal Blades; At the end of this month. It is daunting and I need to really get my website out there. I have a goal to get so many followers on my website but need some advice how. I need to hype it up and get the word out there at a budget price. I want readers to know about it and fall in love with it. So by the release date people won’t be able to contain their excitement. I want that for my book and am open to any suggestions. Thank you. Kind regards, Kia. http://www.thethreeimmortalblades.com

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 13, 2014 at 9:02pm

      Kia
      I’ll be publishing a new blog post this week that should help. In the meantime look through all the blog posts here, and also download the free publishing guide below this post.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Art Colaianni says:
    February 13, 2014 at 1:38pm

    HI Jonathan,

    I am breaking into this creative, entrepreneurial world, so have been doing my homework by reading and studying many things: posts, newsletters, articles, mags, courses, etc., and found myself reading many more words than I have listened to; a survival mechanism. This is the first post I have ever had the inclination to respond to, so I took a look at why. In this relatively new, wild West of ebook marketing, where many gunslingers sharpshoot ‘have to’ wisdoms, selling their (well-meant) ‘snake oil,’ I was struck with the simplicity that there really are only a few vital datums to follow, with which all the others align, and it seems you have cross-haired them here. This is a comforting thing, relaxing the shotgunned soul. I have excelled in two other professions, so I know the sooth you speak. It’s like your first point (and you correctly put it first) of focusing on a specific genre and not being a wandering generality, if you don’t firmly establish your writer identity – the more unique the more identity – you don’t have a stable point from which to communicate. The other vital points you mention will only really align once that is done. ‘Finding yourself’ as a writer, then following the few important stratagems, will undoubtedly allow you to eventually ride off into the sunset. Thanks, partner.

  • Rick Lambert says:
    April 5, 2014 at 2:05pm

    Thanks Jonathan!

    I just completed my first novel (Polycarp, a destroyer of our gods) about a second century church father. As I have waded through a multitude of web sites looking for ideas on what to do next, I found your thoughts on marketing to be the most helpful. I’m excited about taking the next steps.

  • Angie says:
    July 6, 2014 at 7:18pm

    Thank you for this very useful info.
    My problem us deciding which genre my books fit into. They are all romances, fiction but one of them is a fantasy romantic fiction, the other is about all the mythical beings as well as being a romantic fiction. Would the first one go under Fantasy or Romantic Fiction and the second under Paranormal or Romantic Fiction or Paranormal Romance? I am a new writer still trying to find my feet in the self publishing ebook world.
    I have written a couple of books which are being edited at the moment and would like to ask how far in advance should I start promoting my book before its release date?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      July 6, 2014 at 10:41pm

      Angie
      The time to start promoting your book is when you started writing it. Here’s a clip from an article that will help: (And link to it.)
      Start Marketing Your Book Long Before It Appears On The Stage
      The day your book launches is way too late to start your marketing program. Your ‘theater’ needs to be filled with an eagerly waiting crowd, chanting for your book, long before it fronts the footlights.
      Most authors dream of hitting a home run, as Colleen Hoover did with her novel “Hopeless.” From nowhere to a million seller within 5 months! But to simply hope for similar good fortune is not a reliable strategy. Promotional activity needs to begin well in advance.
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/the-most-effective-book-marketing-strategy/
      ~ Jonathan

  • August 13, 2014 at 9:38am

    >>Know Who Your Reader Is, And Target Them<<

    Sloppy English like this makes me doubt everything you say. An author/book coach should know better.

    READERS ARE, dammit.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 17, 2014 at 11:26pm

      Michael

      The word “pedant” springs to mind…

      I understand your pain, but the “typo” is deliberate, pretty much for the same reason you used “Dammit” instead of “Damn it”.

      There’s no question from a grammatical standpoint that you’re right. But this is a blog on book marketing. It’s not underscored by Strunk and White, but by Ogilvy & Mather, McCann Erickson and their ilk.

      Advertising everywhere overflows with seemingly atrocious typographical errors, but usually they’re intentional, because on testing it’s found that frequently the ‘wrong’ ones sell far more. For example, one I’m using right now on another blog is “Yours Absolutely Free”. On testing we discovered it converts 4 times better than “Yours Free”, even though it makes no sense. (It’s either free or it isn’t.) Some years back, the same applied to a fly spray campaign we ran. “Kills Flies Dead” sold more than 5 times as much as “Kills Flies”. That doesn’t make any sense either, but it works.

      Academics do not realize how myopic they look as they snicker at outdoor billboards with holier-than-thou piety, not realizing the typographical errors are deliberate.

      George Bernard Shaw was asked to write an ad campaign, but it was an abject failure for this specific reason. The debate over whether one should be right and fail, or be wrong and succeed has been raging ever since.

      “Know who your readers are” while being grammatically correct doesn’t work from a marketing perspective because it’s appallingly vague. Instead I use the incorrect “Know who your reader is” to force authors to accurately envisage their target market as an idealized individual, as if they are speaking to just one person. Many different types of people will read the author’s book, but writing with ALL of them in mind brings utter confusion.

      ~ Jonathan

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