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Ad Campaigns

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Believe me when I say the LAST thing I ever thought I’d be writing about was Ad Campaigns.  Alas, Karen Baney, the instigator of Grace & Faith, led the way for me in this area too.

A couple weeks ago, Karen and her husband Jim, opened a new site for authors–Christian Ebook Today.  http://www.christianebookstoday.com/  They were offering advertising on their site and in special packages.  I decided to try it to help them out and just to put a toe in the water.  Wow!

I was amazed what that little toe did in boosting sales.  Now it wasn’t BIG MEGA bucks.  But it certainly was enough to do two things #1 Convince me to do it again #2 Show me that sales really DO come from buying targeted spots on quality sites.

So I’m now exploring other options at sites like The Kindle Book Review, WorldLiteracyCafe, and Digital Book Today as well as Karen’s site.  I’m still not convinced that I can swing with the Kindle Nation advertising crowd, but maybe that will change.

I do have to say, it helps immensely to have a great cover, at least 10 really good reviews, a great description, a good price, etc.  Just putting up advertising isn’t going to pull sales in without those things in place, but it might be a good way to boost sales of titles that DO have all of those in place.

Go slow.  Use your ad campaigns to increase your reach on “waves” you’re building.  Integrate the ads into what you’re already planning.  Don’t just go buy a bunch of ads and think that will make your sales go through the roof.  It probably won’t.  But it might boost them enough to make you, like me think, “Hmmm… I think I want to try a little more of that.”

Further, since my foray into buying advertising, we’ve started selling advertising for both the Grace & Faith blog and Christian Kndle.  So check them both out and see if any of them fit your needs!

Advertisements

Records, Sales, and Counting

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the things you will want to do from the first time you publish a book is to track your sales.  Now if you’re a traditionally published author, this can be quite difficult as you won’t see sales in real time.  You will get a quarterly statement, and that will make this lesson very difficult to implement.

For those who are indies, however, I highly recommend putting in place a counting, record-keeping system, however simple, so that you can track sales as you go.

(Side note:  I am adding this lesson in after the series is finished because over the last 9 months I’ve learned the value of doing this.  Thankfully I started from the beginning of my Kindle/Nook career because it’s given valuable insights over time.)

The first month I published on Kindle and Nook, I sold 63 ebooks.  I kept track of the sales on a simple Excel spreadsheet by tallying how many of each title I sold each week.

The second month I sold 48 because I had outside commitments and couldn’t invest the time in sales.

The third month I sold 68, and at the end of that month, Grace & Faith was born.

The fourth month, I sold 72.  That was my goal–to sell more than I had in month 3.

By the fifth month, I had learned some of what I teach you in this course–specifically Twitter and Facebook, and I sold 168 ebooks–more than doubling the month before.  By now I was seeing patterns in how my books sold–more on the weekends, more when I tweeted about a certain title.

The sixth month, I sold 320 ebooks.  That was in January 2012, right before my life took a dramatic turn!  Amazon came out with KDPSelect and after watching some of my friends do it, I put one of my books up for free Feb. 1 & 2.  It wasn’t long and I had to adjust my record keeping to daily sales, and it has gone bigger and better ever since then.

I have learned some things by being able to look back at my records and by tracking them every day (when the sales got enough to warrant that).  #1 I sell about 1/2 the books I will sell for that day overnight.  #2  Stacking waves works.  Planning them out 3 months or so in advance really helps.  #3 Every day is different.  You will have up days and down days, and there really is no rhyme or reason to a particular day, so look at overall trends rather than pegging your hopes on a single day’s sales.  #4  Amazon will break and lag for no apparent reason.  Don’t panic.  Just record when they put something up.

I have gotten to where now I have each title and the approximate profit from that title multiplied by how many I’ve sold to come up with a subtotal of sales for the month.  Then I have it to where it will add everything up and tell me what I’ve made for that day.  I “close out” the books every night, noting how many books I sold that day and the dollar amount I made.  I’ve learned that a good day on a high-priced title will match or exceed a great day on a lower-priced title.  But a lower priced title may end up selling more copies, thus landing on a Best Seller list and can out-sell over time a higher-priced title.

Admittedly not every author will want to go to this much trouble.  But being able to look back on these records has given me valid insights into my personal sales that I could not have gleaned any other way.

If you are an indie author, you can track your sales at https://kdp.amazon.com/  on the Reports page where you uploaded your book to Kindle on the Bookshelf page.  The Amazon system only gives the total monthly sales for each title–to do daily or weekly, you will have to write down the new total and figure out how many new ones have been sold since you wrote it down last time.

If you’ve published on the Barnes & Noble site, the tracking place is http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/  BN does their tracking differently and you have to check every day because they don’t give you a by-title breakdown after the one they give on the day of the sale.

Bottom line is… figure out a tracking system that works for you and use it.  If you’re serious about growing sales, that’s the yardstick you will need to measure how you’re doing.

Where to go from here…

Well, our time together has been great fun!  It is time now to put all of this knowledge into action (for you and for me!).  But before I go, I want to point you in the direction of other people and places who can help you on your quest to becoming a best selling author…

G&F’s own Karen Baney:

Also Karen’s Site Everything Author:
Melissa Foster’s site:
Be aware that most of Melissa’s stuff is fee based.  There is very little free information available thru her program.
Jeff Bennington often has good marketing info:
Bob Mayer has a lot of publishing / self pub related blog posts:
Michael Hyatt
Rachel Gardner
Good luck & Godspeed!
Staci Stallings

FREE ON KINDLE TODAY!

August 16

Staci’s “Amazing!” novel:

To Protect & Serve

“Reading To Protect & Serve, I’m taken away to another world, a world I want to be a part of and never leave. Staci’s characters are real with real everyday problems. I love that.

Oh, and the firemen in this story, they’re smokin’ hot! Especially the hero!”

–Debra, Amazon Reviewer

When control freak Lisa Matheson falls for handsome but shy firefighter, Jeff Taylor, it’s possible that life might just be going her way for a change. The only problem is she can’t control Jeff or the death wish he seems to have…

Available as a free download from Amazon!

Click here to get your Free Kindle Copy TODAY!

Click here to get a free Kindle App to read “To Protect & Serve” on your computer.

Amazon Lists

August 9, 2012 2 comments

I must make mention of one of the best things you can do to sell ebooks and books, which will also prove the most frustrating — Amazon’s lists.

There are several lists to be aware of (and use if you can) on Amazon.

Best Seller’s lists — there is an overall best seller’s list (which you can see how your book or ebook is doing by looking at the “Rank” in the Product Details portion of your book’s buy page).  Sales + sales history will make a book move up or down on this list.  So if you have a spike in sales over a short period, this rank will climb.  But it can be very volatile, and unless you make it onto the Top 100, the only place you can see your book’s rank is on your book’s page.

Category Best Seller’s lists — These are smaller best seller’s lists derived from the categories you put your book in when you upload it to KDP.  So for example, my book went to #86 on the Best Seller’s list (yes, the big one), but at that time it was #1 on four category lists:

Now, one of the uplists (I think it was Religious Fiction) was the fourth list it was #1 on.

Basically when you hit a rank on a category list, your book is ON ever list listed.  So you can back track up the lists to see where it ranks on each list (each uplist gets progressively bigger).

When you make it onto a Best Seller’s Category list, you are a best seller.  Take a screen cap and save it for proof!

Popularity Lists

When people go to Amazon with no set book in mind, they will often search.  The popularity lists can be a very powerful way to get books to people who might otherwise never see your books.  The trick is how to get on them.

Before May 2012, this was relatively easy in that the popularity lists were devised pretty much the same way the Best Seller’s lists were (sales + sales history).  However, in May, Amazon changed the system so now they’ve added the revenue brought in by a title to the ranking order.  So if I sold 11 ebooks at 99 cents and you sold 1 at $11.99, my book would have outranked yours on the popularity lists.  However, now your one sale (because of the higher revenue) would now outrank my 11 sales.

So to get onto the popularity lists, you have to sell a lot of books at a higher price.  Needless to say, that’s a lot tougher to do.

To see this type of list click here.

Off-lists

These are like the popularity lists in how the ranks are determined.  There are many of these on Amazon such as Hot Releases and Top-Rated in each Category. These are fun to watch and can be good landing pages if your book ranks highly.

Tagged lists

Finally, there are lists based on the tags on your book.  Simply click on the tag on your book page (toward the bottom–you should have your books tagged!) and see where your book ranks.  These can be great landing pages especially for those just starting out.

For an example of that kind of list, click here.

Lists will really help you sell.  It’s getting on them that’s the tough part, and staying on them is even tougher.  But being on a list will definitely increase sales so it’s something to understand and work toward.

Cross Promotions & Joint Ventures

August 7, 2012 5 comments

We are now slowly winding our way to the end of marketing course.

After you’ve set up your landing pages, gotten your promo chain going on Twitter (and Facebook, etc.), you are now ready to do some out-of-the-box thinking.

Setting up cross promotions and joint ventures for big marketing pushes takes time but mostly a good group of authors willing to participate–and by participate, I mean doing something other than saying, “I’ll do a guest blog” and then getting it to you the day before.

Ideally for a cross promotion or joint venture you want somewhere upward of ten authors, some newbies but not all.  You will need to map out the strategy and get everyone going in the right direction.  You may need to offer advice on how to use Twitter and FB, etc. (feel free to direct them here for the basics).

The idea is that instead of you promoting your book, you get 10 people promoting the venture.

I’ve seen several of these now, and they can all work if you are willing to put in the time and effort.

** 99 cent sale (or just a sale) ** in which all ten books go on sale at the same time and are promoted for say 3 days or so.

** Book launch ** Several authors get together to promote the launch book while promoting their own work as well.

** Blog Events ** Such as Penny Zeller’s Christmas Memories Event.  Many authors participate and direct traffic to the blog for that time period.

** 30 Days: 30 Books ** This is one I participated in during January.  The blog offered a different book for a giveaway every day for a month.

 

The problem I’ve seen with book giveaways is that it gives no one an incentive to go buy your book.  If you’re looking for increased visibility, this can work.  If you’re looking to increase sales, not so much.

In each of these ventures, the participating authors created landing pages via guest blogs and blogs on their own sites.  They did interviews and tweeted and posted like crazy about the event.  They got their friends involved in helping them cross-promote.

So setting these up and running them can be a very good way to raise your visibility.  Participating in several throughout the year can also help if you get into the right ones.

Twitter: A Spreadsheet Strategy

Before we leave the topic of Twitter, I want to touch on two things.

The first is how often to tweet.  When I first hit Twitter, this was not a problem because there are only so many hours in the day.  Then I realized with Hootsuite that I could schedule tweets rapidly over the course of say an hour or so.

Watching both my Twitter feed and my sales, I realized there was a correlation for my stuff with what I tweeted to what I sold.

As I was doing this research, I started learning to bulk upload.  At first I did a spreadsheet a day, which ran from around 6 a.m. to about 10 p.m. and focused on one book, with blog posts thrown in as well.

Then I began helping others with promotions on what they were marketing–a group promoting their books together for example.  I began to understand that tweeting could not be inconsistent.  It needed to be focused and well-thought-out to be effective.

(Let me also throw in here that it makes a difference what your books are about.  Some genres sell better via Twitter than others.  I know one person who has sworn off Twitter because when he posts, his sales go down.  I don’t know why.  I don’t have any explanation for it.  But I’m taking him at his word.  So please understand that I’m telling you what has worked for me.  If it doesn’t work for you, try something else!)

What I eventually got to was having spreadsheets of 50 tweets at a time (the max Hootsuite will let you upload).  They are a mix of posts about my blog, about my books, and about my site ebookromancestories.com

At first I sent them out about 3 an hour.  Then I expanded that to every 15 minutes, then every 10.  I now put out tweets every 5 minutes.  I have about 12 spreadsheets prepared that are a mix of tweets to different landing pages for my things.

Each morning I choose 3 to 4 of them (depending on how many of my 200 I have left).  I reset the dates and times and upload them.

Now that everything is set up, I can do this in about 10 minutes in the morning, and tweets are done for the rest of the day.

Every so often, I write up a new spreadsheet or two just to keep things interesting, but I think the variety in what I’ve got works very well.

Oh, and my followers have increased since doing this too.  So don’t think you are going to chase people off–so long as you literally have 100’s of different tweets to different landing pages and are not sending out the same or almost the same one all day every day!

Twitter: Tools to Use It

Now that we’ve learned to write tweets for Twitter, it’s time to take it to the next level.

Obviously if you have a life, the last thing you want to do is sit for hours sending out tweets.  Worse, I think as an intermediate effort, I don’t think Twitter is very effective.  You have to have a presence on Twitter–not post once in awhile about what you just ate for supper.

And it is really difficult to find blocks of time to tweet consistently.  Maybe some can.  For me, that was a major uphill battle.

So I went out and found some tools to help.

One is called Tweetdeck.  I know friends who use it and love it.  So please feel free to check it out.  I don’t use that one much and don’t know the intricacies of how it works and what it can do.  But it is one option.

Then there’s Social Oomph.  Social Oomph costs $30 a month.  The benefit of Social Oomph is being able to “spin” tweets.  Basically you make a post with say 5 tweets in it.  Then you schedule that post to shuffle and run every hour (or two or six or whatever).  SO chooses one of those five and sends it out every hour.  This can be really great if you literally want to set it and forget it.  Also, it will run either indefinitely or for a set amount of time, in case you have a campaign that lasts a week and then you want those tweets taken down.

However, SO can be expensive especially if you are just starting out.

For $6 a month, you can go with Hootsuite, which is the program I learned and the one I’m still using.

You can do Hootsuite for free, but if so, you only get the manual upload, which means pasting each tweet in separately and scheduling a time.  This is almost as time consuming as sitting there sending out individual tweets, with the one exception that you could do them all at once and then leave it be.

If, however, you have $6 a month, I recommend learning to bulk upload through Hootsuite.

I will be the first to admit that it is not an easy process to learn, but once you get it, it will free up many hours of your valuable time.

If you are interested in doing the bulk uploading through HS, here’s how (get out the aspirin!):

Advanced Hootsuite Tweeting (Bulk Upload)

If you have the pro version of Hootsuite ($6 a month), you can do bulk uploading of tweets.

Step 1

Create a new document in Excel.  You will only be using the first two columns.

Column A is the date and time formatted as:  dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm  so that Oct. 9, 2011 at 6:30 a.m. would read 09/10/2011 06:30

The date and time HAVE to be in this form (with all leading zeros intact) or your upload will not work!  I will show you how to do that in a little bit.  And the time has to be in increments of 5.  So 04:15 not 04:18.

If Excel changes this format (and it will try), you will have to click:

The arrow number format section where it usually says “General”

More Number Formats (at the bottom)

Next Click “Custom”

Then in the “Type” box that now says “General,” type this: dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm  (those letters and symbols NOT your date).  Then click “Okay.”

 

In Cell A2, type this formula:

=A1+TIME(0,25,0)

 

This means that the date and time in A2 is relative to A1 and will advance 25 minutes.  And advance of 1 hour and 30 minutes would look like this:

=A1+TIME(1,30,0)

 

Then copy and paste that formula in A3, A4, etc. for as many tweets as you have to schedule.  This prevents you from having to retype in every date and time each time you do a new spreadsheet (as tomorrow your date will change!).

To change the advance of any of the times down the spreadsheet, just click on that cell and replace the time there with the time you want.  So to go from 1:30 minute intervals to 15 minute intervals, you would make it look like this:

=A1+TIME(0,15,0)

 

Column B is the actual tweet.  Remember, you still only have 140 characters, and Hootsuite will not take any of your upload if even one tweet is too long.  You can use hashtags and @’s, but don’t start a tweet with an @, Excel will not accept it.

 

Step 2

You are now going to write your tweets.

Open a Word document and write your tweets.  (This sounds like an unnecessary extra step, but later on you will be glad to have this to refer back to.)  When I did this, I listed each book and the corresponding URLs for that book.  For example:

Cowboy

Staci Stallings  http://ow.ly/79VkM Amazon   http://ow.ly/7afqI
Free Preview   http://ow.ly/7boLb Nook    http://ow.ly/7boIo

 

This is for my book COWBOY.  The “Staci Stallings” link is to my bookshelf which gives the Kindle and Nook and in Print links as well as a blurb and pic of the book.

“Amazon” is the direct link to the Kindle version

“Nook” is the direct link to the Nook version

“Free Preview” is the link to Your Book Authors, which gives a free preview of the book.

Then I can mix and match these with the review-blurbs and hashtags like this:

“One of the most gripping contemporary romances I’ve read in the past three years…” COWBOY #99Cents  http://ow.ly/7boLb #FreePreview

“From beginning to end, Cowboy is a truly inspiring novel.” COWBOY #99Cents #Kindle http://ow.ly/7afqI #Christian

Now that you have some tweets written (you need about 5 or 6 for your first test run experiment). Copy and paste them into the Excel Spreadsheet with the dates and times ready.

Step 3

Save your Excel spreadsheet as Test Run #1

Make sure your dates and times are at least 10 minutes from now.

Make sure you have only your tweets in Column B and nothing else on the spreadsheet.

Please note:  You can NEVER have a double tweet that is exactly the same as one in the Hootsuite system at one time.  If you have to do several that are close, change the hashtags or move things around.  Tweets that are exactly the same, even a few hours apart will not be accepted until the first one has run and is gone.

To get around this issue, plan to create separate Tweet Templates Spreadsheets, each with different tweets from the others.  For me, I label them A, B, C.   On Monday, I upload A.  Tuesday B.  Wednesday C.  So that on Thursday  can do A again and it doesn’t double up any tweets.

Step 4 (on your second run and beyond; skip this step for your first run)

Replace the date. (On subsequent runs, you will have to replace the date. Skip this step if it is your first time through.)

When you have to change the date and time in Column A to reflect when you want these new tweets to start running, here is how.  Remember, Hootsuite will not run anything less than 10 minutes from when you upload it. Also, the time has to be divisible by 5.  So 4:15, not 4:19.

Put your cursor into A1.

Change the date you want it to be by retyping what is there or by deleting and retyping.

Set the times you want

Everything after A1 is relative.  Remember the formula looks like this:

=A1+TIME(0,25,0)

What this means is that you take the time in A1 and go forward 25 minutes.

If it said (1,25,0), that would be 1 hour, 25 minutes.

THESE MUST BE IN 5 MINUTE INCREMENTS.  Hootsuite will not accept anything else.

Format the date and time if necessary.

Excel is just bizarre on this point, so stick with me, you’re almost there.

For some unknown reason, Excel does not like leading zeros, and Hootsuite doesn’t accept a bulk upload without them.

So look at the dates and times in Column A.  If they are not formatted like this:

dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm

you HAVE to fix them.

To do so, highlight all of Column A.  Go up to Format, and click “More Number Formats.”  Then click Custom.

In the box marked “Type:”  type in:  dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm  (those letters and symbols, not the actual date and time).

This should reformat all of Column A as needed. (And you may have to do this every time… until Excel believes you are serious. Sorry. I’ve found no way around this one!)

 

Step 5

Finally you are ready to tackle uploading.

First, save the spreadsheet somewhere on your system that you can find it in an Excel Document as Test Run #1.  Save it as a spreadsheet first.

Now resave it as a CSV (comma-separated value).  To do this, simply click Save As.  Scroll to the bottom to “Other formats.”

Now under Save As Type, click that to get the list of other types of files to save it as.  Find “CSV” on the list and click that.

Excel will probably protest twice, but simply click “Yes” each time.

 

Step 7 (this is it!)

Now go to Hootsuite.

In the Compose box, click the Scheduler and go down to “Try bulk upload.”

This will give you a dialogue box.  In the first Browse box, find the CSV file from your computer.  Select the twitter account you want to upload this to, and click Submit.

 

At this point, you will have to read and troubleshoot your spreadsheet.  Any problem in red is something that must be fixed before you can upload.  Fix and try again.

Possible issues:

Tweets that are too long. Shorten them.

Column A isn’t formatted correctly or the dates are not in the future.

You have double tweets with previous uploads. Change some part of your tweet and try again.

 

Fix whatever issues show up and try again.

If Hootsuite simply says it didn’t upload, the problem is you tried to upload the Excel doc rather than the CSV.  Try the CSV.

 

If all the tweets go through and are scheduled, it will say “You have successfully uploaded X number of tweets.”

If you get that message, do a cartwheel because you’ve mastered something very few ever do!

 

Some additional notes:

* You can send up to 50 tweets to the bulk uploader at a time.

* You can schedule no more than 200 messages scheduled through uploader at a time, and you cannot duplicate a tweet that is presently scheduled. (Once it runs, you can then reschedule even on the same day.)

* If you sent a tweet yesterday and it’s still in the queue, you cannot duplicate it today.  So I set up three basic spreadsheets A, B, C and I rotate them to avoid this problem.

 

We’ll talk more about spreadsheets next time!  Good luck!