Author Topic: How to sell books as a new author  (Read 437 times)

Mysterywriter

How to sell books as a new author
« on: March 17, 2019, 03:04:39 AM »
 There are so many posts these days about the market being flooded and how hard it is for newbies, I wanted to tell the story of my first year and to hopefully give some encouragement and easy to follow steps of what I think you need to do in order to kick start a new pen name these days.

So first a little background...

I wrote 7 terrible books and released them all under pen names. I did this because I knew I needed to learn...

1. How to write a book
2. How self-publishing works
3. I needed feedback from readers

I got all this in spades and decided that I was ready to write and release under my own name and make a proper go of it. I released three books between January and June (I wrote ahead and saved some up). I had a VERY good year, particularly for a new author with no following.

There are a few things that I think contributed to my good start, and a few things I screwed up that stalled things for a while, but I think I have a good handle on what someone needs to do to get off to a good start in 2019.

Now obviously there are many factors involved here and Iím not saying Iím some guru of how to write and sell books. I simply want to offer up some advice of what I think works in the hope it helps others. I learnt a huge amount from the other place and feel like I want to pay it back somewhat. This is a condensed and simplified version, but Iím happy to answer questions if people have them. Please be aware this advice is only based on Amazon exclusively.

So here we go!

First, the basics...

1. Pick a genre you know well and love.
2. Write a series of three books under a pen name and release them.
3. Learn from the writing, learn from the publishing, learn from the reviews.

Once youíve done that, youíre probably ready to start doing this for real.

So hereís what I think works...

1. Write a book that meets genre expectations
2. Find 4-5 authors who write incredibly similar books to yours and are selling really well. Ideally these wonít be big established stars but mid-listers or people on the rise. They need to have quite a few books or be releasing quickly as well.
3. Run some low daily cost AMS ads using these authors names and any auto-suggestions around them from Amazon.
4. Pick a release schedule you can maintain and stick to it. 4 a year ideally.
5. Stick rigidly to your genre until youíre killing it.

What this does is ties your books early on to those 4-5 authors. Amazonís engine spots that people buying those books are buying yours and shows your book to more people like that. If they then buy it, Amazon will show your book to note people like that and so on.

Because of the automated selling machine Amazon have created, the main thing you need to do is teach it what type of product you have and who they should be selling it to. Once youíve done that, theyíll start selling it for you.

I spent quite a while identifying the perfect authors to target at the beginning and have ridden that wave since. You can do it too. :banana:
« Last Edit: March 17, 2019, 03:45:31 AM by Mysterywriter »
 

Mysterywriter

Re: How I sold a load of books and hopefully you can too...
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2019, 03:12:51 AM »
Additional notes!

All my books have been full price from the beginning. I know this isnít the general advice, but I think doing a cheap or free run near launch is just going to dilute your audience in amazonís eyes, and thatís not helpful.

I have also been part of two prime reading deals and have another possible amazon promo coming in April. They offered these to me, I believe, because I have a clear, defined audience which makes me a safe bet to promo. They know exactly who to sell my books to.
 
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She-la-te-da

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2019, 05:24:06 AM »
Thanks for posting about your journey. It's nice to see someone who isn't an SEO genius with cash to burn posting about a viable way to go about this.
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 
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RiverRun

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2019, 05:27:18 AM »
Additional notes!

All my books have been full price from the beginning. I know this isnít the general advice, but I think doing a cheap or free run near launch is just going to dilute your audience in amazonís eyes, and thatís not helpful.

I have also been part of two prime reading deals and have another possible amazon promo coming in April. They offered these to me, I believe, because I have a clear, defined audience which makes me a safe bet to promo. They know exactly who to sell my books to.

Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm curious why you think a cheap or free run early on diminishes your standing at Amazon. (I was planning to try this with a new first in a series.) Any particular reason or just a feeling? (Online marketing is such a murky place to look for cause and effect that a hunch is probably as good as anything else, I was just curious.)

Also, did you use Kindle Unlimited?

Thank you!
 
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Mysterywriter

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2019, 05:31:15 AM »
Thanks for posting about your journey. It's nice to see someone who isn't an SEO genius with cash to burn posting about a viable way to go about this.

Thanks She-la-the-da.

Iíve found that lots of people talk about Ďfinding your niche audienceí as a way to success, but Iíve always thought there was very little actionable steps to find them. I think the key is just targeting a small batch of similar authors and then letting amazon (who, letís face it, have far more data than us), target the perfect audience for us.

New authors often pollute this data by getting friends and family to buy for instance. Iíd say that itís better to have a slower release but get the right audience.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2019, 05:40:37 AM by Mysterywriter »
 
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Mysterywriter

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2019, 05:40:11 AM »
Additional notes!

All my books have been full price from the beginning. I know this isnít the general advice, but I think doing a cheap or free run near launch is just going to dilute your audience in amazonís eyes, and thatís not helpful.

I have also been part of two prime reading deals and have another possible amazon promo coming in April. They offered these to me, I believe, because I have a clear, defined audience which makes me a safe bet to promo. They know exactly who to sell my books to.

Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm curious why you think a cheap or free run early on diminishes your standing at Amazon. (I was planning to try this with a new first in a series.) Any particular reason or just a feeling? (Online marketing is such a murky place to look for cause and effect that a hunch is probably as good as anything else, I was just curious.)

Also, did you use Kindle Unlimited?

Thank you!

Hi, no problem!

I would particularly caution against doing a promo on a first in series near launch. That book will be your funnel, your focal point and the key to your series selling going forward. You want the Amazon machine to know exactly who to sell it to. I think early sales or free runs can make this picture less clear as people will grab a bargain or freebie even if itís not the exact genre they like reading.

What I would focus on is getting Amazonís machine to link your book to 4-5 others just like it that are selling well.

I realise this is against a lot of other peopleís advice, but I can only go by what Iíve experienced.

My books are in ku and what Iím talking about is particularly relevant there as Amazon does a lot of recommendations based on what people are reading through ku, itís what they have the most data on.
 
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Al Stevens

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Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2019, 05:57:40 AM »
3. Run some low daily cost AMS ads using these authors names and any auto-suggestions around them from Amazon.
"..using these authors names..." As keywords? In the description? Could you link for examples to one or more of your own books with which you've done this?
Genres: mystery, music, programming, science fiction, historical fiction


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Al Stevens is a retired author of computer programming books. For fifteen years he was a senior contributing editor and columnist for Dr. Dobb's Journal, a leading magazine for computer programmers. Al lives with his wife Judy and a menagerie of cats on Florida's Space Coast where he writes by day and plays piano, string bass, and saxophone by night.
 
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Mysterywriter

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2019, 06:05:42 AM »
3. Run some low daily cost AMS ads using these authors names and any auto-suggestions around them from Amazon.
"..using these authors names..." As keywords? In the description? Could you link for examples to one or more of your own books with which you've done this?

Um... Iím a bit reluctant to shed my anonymity as I know how that can play out sometimes...

The answer though is yes. I take an authors name, paste it in as a keyword and Amazon suggests more around it and I add them all.

What youíre really aiming for is 20+ people who have bought books from those authors to buy yours. Once thatís happened, You start to get lumped in with them in the Amazon algo
 
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Vijaya

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2019, 08:52:31 AM »
Thank you MysteryWriter. This is so helpful and encouraging. I'll keep on keeping on.

Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces, primarily for children
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DrewMcGunn

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2019, 10:49:39 AM »
I can second Mysterywriter's experience, as mine was similar.
While everyone's journey will be unique, the whole reason I wrote my first book was that I was having a challenging time finding my reading crack. So I focused on what I really wanted to read. I released my first three books within a 90ish day window.

Like Mysterwriter, I built my AMS campaign around a handful of successful alternate history writers and over time expanded out to a few hundred keywords.

I write as fast as I can, but writing is a part-time gig for me and my DW has health issues that require some of my time. Unless I get a breakthrough series that lets me write full-time, I'm limited to 2-3 books a year.

Drew McGunn
 
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Tom Wood

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2019, 12:30:36 AM »
...
I take an authors name, paste it in as a keyword and Amazon suggests more around it and I add them all.
...

Do you know if this list of author names was significantly different than the list you would get by looking at the also-boughts of the authors' books that you are trying to associate yours against? It seems like they should be the same list, but maybe I'm missing something.

 
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Lick Darsey

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2019, 12:35:45 AM »
Thank you for this post!

I also have a question about the keyword suggestions from Amazon. When I create a new ad I get suggested keywords before I enter any keywords of my own. When I enter author names or other keywords the suggestion list don't change from the original list. Am I doing something wrong?
 
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Bill Hiatt

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Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2019, 01:53:43 AM »
...
I take an authors name, paste it in as a keyword and Amazon suggests more around it and I add them all.
...

Do you know if this list of author names was significantly different than the list you would get by looking at the also-boughts of the authors' books that you are trying to associate yours against? It seems like they should be the same list, but maybe I'm missing something.
It sounds as if the idea is to jumpstart the process by using AMS ads to stimulate those connections, so they form faster.

I think the idea is brilliant. My problem is that I haven't run across too many authors who are "incredibly similar." The ones Amazon associates me with (on my author page, presumably derived from some of the same algorithms) are often pretty similar. In fact, I've found some new authors to read that way. But I was unaware of most of them until they showed up in the list of related authors.


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TimothyEllis

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Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2019, 02:29:24 AM »
I also have a question about the keyword suggestions from Amazon. When I create a new ad I get suggested keywords before I enter any keywords of my own. When I enter author names or other keywords the suggestion list don't change from the original list. Am I doing something wrong?

There are 2 tabs from memory. The automatic list you see first, and the manual entry list. Select manual entry to add yours. It should be empty until you add something.
 
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Lick Darsey

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2019, 04:22:51 AM »
I also have a question about the keyword suggestions from Amazon. When I create a new ad I get suggested keywords before I enter any keywords of my own. When I enter author names or other keywords the suggestion list don't change from the original list. Am I doing something wrong?

There are 2 tabs from memory. The automatic list you see first, and the manual entry list. Select manual entry to add yours. It should be empty until you add something.

Thanks, Timothy. I tried the manual entry and the suggestions list still does't update. I'll keep messing around to see what I can do.
 
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123mlh

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #15 on: March 18, 2019, 04:33:32 AM »
I also have a question about the keyword suggestions from Amazon. When I create a new ad I get suggested keywords before I enter any keywords of my own. When I enter author names or other keywords the suggestion list don't change from the original list. Am I doing something wrong?

There are 2 tabs from memory. The automatic list you see first, and the manual entry list. Select manual entry to add yours. It should be empty until you add something.

Thanks, Timothy. I tried the manual entry and the suggestions list still does't update. I'll keep messing around to see what I can do.

Were you looking for that list to update with more author names? That doesn't happen. I'm pretty sure the OP was doing this in the search field on Amazon. You can look up an author and then see on their author page, for example, other authors like that author. But that doesn't happen within AMS. When you manually enter an author name it will suggest iterations for that author but doesn't suggest anywhere other similar authors to use.
 
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Lick Darsey

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2019, 04:48:29 AM »
I also have a question about the keyword suggestions from Amazon. When I create a new ad I get suggested keywords before I enter any keywords of my own. When I enter author names or other keywords the suggestion list don't change from the original list. Am I doing something wrong?

There are 2 tabs from memory. The automatic list you see first, and the manual entry list. Select manual entry to add yours. It should be empty until you add something.

Thanks, Timothy. I tried the manual entry and the suggestions list still does't update. I'll keep messing around to see what I can do.

Were you looking for that list to update with more author names? That doesn't happen. I'm pretty sure the OP was doing this in the search field on Amazon. You can look up an author and then see on their author page, for example, other authors like that author. But that doesn't happen within AMS. When you manually enter an author name it will suggest iterations for that author but doesn't suggest anywhere other similar authors to use.

Yes, I was wondering if the suggestion list updated keywords based on this quoted from the OP:


... I take an authors name, paste it in as a keyword and Amazon suggests more around it and I add them all.


I have a vague memory of the suggestions updating with the old AMS dashboard. But that could just be me misremembering. That happens a lot...
 
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Mysterywriter

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2019, 08:13:11 AM »
...
I take an authors name, paste it in as a keyword and Amazon suggests more around it and I add them all.
...

Do you know if this list of author names was significantly different than the list you would get by looking at the also-boughts of the authors' books that you are trying to associate yours against? It seems like they should be the same list, but maybe I'm missing something.

Sorry, think I explained this badly! I just meant the iterations of keywords they prompt you with when adding manually. For instance, if you add JK Rowling it will say Jk Rowling Harry Potter, Harry Potter books, etc.
 
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Lick Darsey

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2019, 11:38:45 PM »
...
I take an authors name, paste it in as a keyword and Amazon suggests more around it and I add them all.
...

Do you know if this list of author names was significantly different than the list you would get by looking at the also-boughts of the authors' books that you are trying to associate yours against? It seems like they should be the same list, but maybe I'm missing something.

Sorry, think I explained this badly! I just meant the iterations of keywords they prompt you with when adding manually. For instance, if you add JK Rowling it will say Jk Rowling Harry Potter, Harry Potter books, etc.

Thanks for clarifying, Mysterywriter!
 
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dariusmarley

Re: How to sell books as a new author
« Reply #19 on: March 20, 2019, 04:44:31 PM »
Excellent stuff here, and thanks very much OP for sharing your experiences with us!
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