Category Archives: site traffic

7 learnings about self-publishing from a dedicated independent

Hi, here are 7+ things I have learned about self-publishing by doing it myself, researching, talking to professionals and discussions with other authors (independent and traditionally published).

Now before we start, I am the living embodiment of ‘learning from not yet succeeding’ at this point, so please consider these thoughts and how they apply to you. In other words, I do not profess to have the magic gift of how to sell self-published books, yet. I have succeeded in progressing this far and the genuine positive feedback from readers has been what has sustained me to this point. That said these are honest findings from the coal face without sanitizing to suit my sponsors. (My little joke – I don’t have any sponsors).

I have self-published two books for 8 to 14 year olds and here are some things I’ve learned along the way. Check out my books online here and here, If you know readers in this age group please support me by reading free samples of Sean Yeager Adventures either on my website here or with Amazon’s ‘look inside’ feature. If you feel inclined please purchase a copy.

  • Yes you can self-publish
  • The mechanics are relatively straight forward to execute, learn the ropes and DIY with CreateSpace, Smashwords and similar. Do not pay someone else huge amounts of money to format or create your book. If you need some help with e-books it can be worth a modest sum £60 / $80 to resolve formats with a first edition. You will however need a cover designer and help with editing your book, because different perspectives will help you to increase your book’s quality. The cover in particular is critical to how your book is perceived. I suggest budgeting according to how complex your cover needs to be and negotiate good terms. Editing is all about raising your game to professional writing standards, for which you will need to find a good editor with knowledge of your genre.
  • Self promotion is challenging
  • There are numerous articles on the internet about how to promote books. Essentially you need to have a promotional plan and ‘reach’ to sell books. I define ‘reach’ as the number of people you can put your product in front of with a promotional message. That can be real world, online or through paid advertising.  I have found promotion to be a challenge. You also need to clearly understand your target market and make sure you can reach them.  (e.g. mine is mums & dads buying for children aged 8 to 14 who like adventure books)
  • Twitter – does not sell books. It is too noisy and full of pushy self-published authors and promoters of the same. I have also heard it said that people go there to dump emotions not to buy. If you find an exception go with the flow. You can gain interest about yourself as an author and possibly clicks to your website. None the less, Twitter users are reacting and want to say something, direct sales for books are less likely.
  • Facebook free – rarely sells books unless your reader audience is online, typically aged 20 to 35. You need genuine organic word of mouth to encourage people to buy your books.  I have also heard it said that people are checking out their interests and connections, browsing rather than buying.
  • Facebook paid advertising – is good for targeted visibility, but rarely sells books in my experience.  Now that may again be due to the ‘mode’ people are in when using Facebook. Browsing rather than shopping. Clicks to your website will help, your website then needs to convert the interest to actual sales which is the tricky part.
  • Google Ads paid – rarely sell books, but will send traffic (briefly) to your website. It is complicated to use Google Ads and it can be expensive. The click-through location is where the selling would really happen, hence the challenge. Can you set up a compelling shop to convert traffic for your books into sales? It is worth remembering that you can not advertise your own website and also direct traffic to your Amazon page in the same Google Ad.
  • Goodreads – can sell books, if you receive good word of mouth, reviews and give away books. Again your target audience need to be using Goodreads for this to be effective. The Goodreads audience is broader than Facebook and book-centric which helps. The rest is down to how you engage with your Goodreads audience. Claim your works, add a blog, run some giveaways, contribute to some forums, but never argue with anyone on Goodreads about your own works.
  • Book blogger reviews – might sell books. I honestly would not know because hardly any book bloggers with good reach are open to reviewing new books in my genre. It seems the market is saturated and traditional publishers are targeting book bloggers. If you can have your book reviewed by a book blogger within your book’s target market I recommend it.  The visibility is probably worth the effort.
  • Face to face selling – does sell books, but in limited quantities. The buyer is buying ‘you’ as much as the book. It can be embarrassing the first few times, but it is satisfying if the reader genuinely likes your book and gives you balanced feedback (which I am pleased to say has happened to me).
  • BookBub (newsletter) does sell e-books, but only if they accept you and you are targeting an adult reader market. And yes it is not a given that they will accept your book, they price and prioritize based on the market reach for your book’s genre. It is worth reading their price list alone to understand the market size you are dealing with.
  • Your own Newsletter – can sell books, especially when you are launching a new book to an established list of people who have signed up to hear more about your work. You will though need to incentivise them and add the links into the promotion you send out.  I suggest treating your subscribers as you would prefer to be treated, with relevant, infrequent and genuine offers. I do not propose spamming with news updates or trivia because this tends to annoy people and they will most likely junk your emails.
  • Your own website – might sell books. I see a steady trickle of traffic to my website www.SeanYeager.com . (Most people think I am Sean Yeager which is entertaining.) You can control your own content on your website. I suggest using a relatively cheap provider who can support what you need and where you control all the content yourself, hands-on – blog, pictures, about, product information etc. If you need a shop you need to be more careful, because it is more complex to set up a compelling store online, especially for mobile phone users. Likewise for video blogs and storage. Shop around and trial some.
  • Your own blog – can sell books. However you need ‘reach’ and ‘relevance’ for this to be the case. Often authors become ‘author helpers’ or ‘consultants’. When this happens I wonder to what extent their viewers perceive them as a service provider or advisor instead of a book seller and author. In fact they may well make more income from services & advertising than books. Or from books about ‘how to self-publish’, no pun intended because it is an industry in its own right.
  • WordPress is a really good platform and the free offering is great. If you need more features, I suggest shopping around for the right balance of price and ease of use. If you plan on becoming a professional blogger / expert, it is important to have enough storage for your video blogs and articles.  I have no such aspirations at this time, so I stick with WordPress Free. (And no they do not sponsor me).
  • Don’t give away free e-books
  • This will be controversial to some. I suggest keeping a price and protection on your e-books at all times. Firstly, because it puts a value on your work. Secondly, because people will pirate your work more easily otherwise. I do not believe that people who take free books are inclined to buy future books. Also, you would need to have a lot of different books available to benefit from any halo effect caused by your first free book. Instead, I suggest making free chapters available on your website. Or consider cheaper offers for your book for a limited period. Smashwords are good with offer codes which you could combine with your newsletter for a new release.
  • Learn to think like a marketeer
  • At first you need to think like a writer, because let’s face it you need a lot of good ideas and hard work to complete your book.  However, you also need to embrace thinking like a marketeer for your work as a product as well. This will be needed for all the strap-lines, brief book blurbs, the back and inside covers, your website text, how you position your work and of course your promotional plan. Fortunately it is possible to learn about marketing, advertising and promotion online using resources in YouTube and on career marketeer’s websites. This will speed up your learning curve.
  • People will discriminate against a self publisher because you are not ‘published’
  • Rightly or wrongly people will assume that your product is not as high in quality as a traditionally published work. The truth is that no matter how emotive you may be about this lack of fairness, it is going to happen. You therefore will need to dig deep and find your coping approach and support. There are successful independent authors who self publish and as far as I can tell they will sign a deal with a multinational to gain reach and a better deal once they have gained attention. And to be honest I would be tempted myself depending on the nature of that ‘deal’. In the meantime, you can sell books despite the discrimination, only don’t bank on leaving your day job for a while and best of luck with the selling.
  • Book fairs – I was asked for my publisher to forward my back-list before even being considered to be part of a book fair. It was the published authors’ subtle barrier. Now if I knew what a back-list looked like and had a publishers’ letter head I could play along.  Most likely they would then have me marshal a car park.
  • Book bloggers – most do not want self-published books to review and they say so. You could try to bypass this, but honestly you could equally annoy them into a poor review.
  • Book stores – pretty much struggle as it is. Those that do not are probably open to local authors to some extent. However, if you mention self-published / independent you can pretty much see their eyes glaze over. Best tactic is to not mention it and put forward your charm to sell yourself and your sale or return books.
  • Book store head office – will routinely ignore your self-published book unless you somehow manage to meet someone sympathetic to the qualities of your book. They already get bombarded with books from traditional book publishers who offer all kinds of incentives, so the competition is fierce.
  • Libraries and e-libraries – may take a free gift of your book. They may also tell you that someone has to vet it first before putting it on the shelves. It’s worth a try. However, e-libraries are now locked down by a handful of suppliers who only deal with publishers who offer a minimum of 6 plus books. So you’ll need help to get around the restriction and gain an account with them.
  • Book giveaways often do not lead to book reviews
  • Book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads make a difference. Getting them and keeping them is tough. I do not recommend attempting to rig reviews because people notice and Amazon has been known to remove them. I do recommend asking anyone who is willing to write an honest review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads. Now, giving away a print copy on Goodreads may lead to a book review. The odds are about 10%. Goodreads prefer that you do not contact the winners or entrants, which is not so hot. I suggest you write a note when you send out the physical book to winners and ask for a review from them. It does not always work and sometimes the receiver can be mean in the review. However, it is still a review and decent people will give you a fair review in exchange for a free book.
  • You will need trusted beta readers
  • It’s a tricky balance – who do you trust?  Well you can start by trusting yourself. Next, hopefully your partner, though be aware they could become jealous or dismissive, it happens. What you need is a set of beta readers who are interested in your genre of book. Ideally you need them to be balanced in their feedback. That said, if you have some overly critical, some more relaxed and plenty of mistake and typo spots, you are onto a good thing. I suggest you follow-up on everything they spot even if it does not make sense at first sight. I have known five people to overlook the same typos and plot holes before now. And you need all the help you can find to maintain high quality writing for your book. Also thank them and gift them a signed print copy, it’s a win win.

Hope these thoughts help you on your quest. Best of luck. Remember to share this link with people you know and feel free to drop by www.SeanYeager.com .

Thanks for visiting.

D.M. Jarrett

www.seanyeager.comHunters Hunted Text 2l

 

 

 

 

Self publishers – how to reach your future readers…… tips and learnings

Hi,

I thought I would share a few learnings before I start taking what I have picked up for granted. After many hours I’ve learned one thing more than anything – authors need to keep learning and connecting with their readers and peers. Because self-publishing is a constantly evolving enterprise and world.

How to reach an audience online? Partly it’s about luck, mostly it is about toil and being interesting for your audience.

Here in no set order are some tips. I hope you find them useful.

1) Set-up your own website with your own branding and content relevant to your books. Cross-link your online presence in all directions with your website as the hub. Brand your website and link to reviews, sales points, samples and everything else you can think of.

2) Make absolutely certain that your books are as good as you think they are AND as good as they can be. Find some critical readers and correct ALL the typos, mistakes and rubbish parts. Polish, polish, polish. IF the feedback is poor or ‘iffy’ STOP. Re-write your book until it shines under all lights. If you cringe when you read back a section, it is because it is not good enough, YET.  Or it might need to be cut out completely……

NOTE: Omit this step at your peril. Bad reviews can not be deleted later when you attract a level of interest. If your book(s) suck paying customers really will tell you so….. and in so doing tell the whole world. Plus you could spend a lot of hours promoting yourself and your work with a relatively poor product to sell. And that will ultimately prove painful.

3) Join a group or two of like minded self-publishers. I recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors. This will help you to stay in touch with developments, meet helpful people and ultimately keep you relatively sane. And contribute what you can in return as well – it’s good for the soul.

4) Set-up and use Twitter, being authentic, interesting and book / fiction centric in the main. Your aim is to connect with people who can help you, read your work and people you can help in return – by entertaining them with great books or sharing learnings.

If you use Twitter automation tools be aware that Twitter could suspend your account. So be careful and as low key initially as you can be. I do not recommend buying followers or for that matter book reviews.

5) Set-up and use Facebook. Create a Facebook page for your books. Upload interesting content and cross link to everywhere. Friend authors, readers, book clubs and anyone you reasonably ‘know’ or share an interest with. Avoid complete strangers and people peddling non-book stuff.

6) Set-up and use Goodreads. Become an author and ‘claim’ your books. Use the groups to make connections. If you have print copies, create ‘giveaways’ over a 2 to 3 month period. Use a ‘pull’ model to attract and invite interest. Do not chase or hassle on Goodreads, they don’t like it! They could bar you.

7) Set-up and use Librarything. Load your books etc. Use your Bio (that you created way back for your website) and run e-book or print giveaways.

8) Set-up and start writing a blog. Use it as your own lessons learned log and a way of talking about your journey. It’s your blog so experiment with the style you prefer. Do you want to be a book / writing tips consultant? Or maybe a reviewer / blogger? Or perhaps a commentator on a particle genre of media that ties in with your books? Your blog. Your call.

9) Keep writing your books. All the above is pretty much useless until you have written your next and subsequent books. Why? Because it will take you time to do and you need multiple titles to cross-sell to your audience. Satisfied customers will ask – ‘when can I read the next one?’

10) Commercials matter. Price appropriately and DO NOT give away too many books. You are a business and you do not want to promote yourself as a ‘free writer’ who values their work as only good enough to give away. Possibly run promos for limited periods across titles, possibly have a sacrificial promo title that will always be free. Remember basic maths – making one thousand bucks is a whole lot easier if you are charging 2.99 than if you are charging nothing or 99 pennies. Remember, the big indie authors usually have lots of titles and a huge audience. You don’t. Yet.

11) Monitor your SEO and presence online by regular Google and Bing searches. Check what sites are moving up the rankings and promoting your work. Your work will still have to sell itself ultimately, but your page rankings matter if you want to attract browsers. You will also have to take a realistic look at your book market and Google Adwords analysis of terms ‘searched for’ can be a sobering exercise. Are people really looking for funny books about duodenal ulcers and the family consequences? That’s not a dig, but you do need to be realistic about your market expectations. Not every genre sells and that’s a reality.

12) Treat all your online contacts (messages, posts, responses, emails) in a consistently jovial and constructive manner. Never enter a slanging match EVER online. Because it will not go away, it will be recorded for a long, long time. Ignore bad reviews; block inappropriate followers and comments; delete what you have control over if it is plain abusive. HOWEVER – leave constructive comments alone and learn from them.

13) Write this out and repeat it daily. ‘I will learn more from a constructive and harsh critic of my work than I ever will from my friends’.

It’s true. You will. It will hurt initially, but you have to learn how to open your mind to the reality that no one’s work is perfect. Everyone can improve how they write, how they plot, what they write about etc etc. Even the pros. Check out any successful book’s reviews on Amazon to see the array of thoughts if you don’t believe me.

And of course you can select which parts of the feedback to action. Often people will give conflicting suggestions, so look for the patterns. Consider whether they have a point. (That is after you’ve (privately and offline) fumed and vented your initial reaction).

14) Last and by no means least – be yourself across all sites, media and in the real world. Have fun and consider all the new skills you’re learning as positives. In theory, you could now promote almost anything online. You will also have to learn firm time management and how to stay healthy – another time perhaps for those topics.

Good luck

David Jarrett

Sean Yeager Adventures

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted

Website page read stats – what can you trust?

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted

Hello and welcome,

When not writing the highly entertaining Sean Yeager adventures series, I do what I can to spread the word. A phenomenon I’ve come across recently is a massive disparity between website page read stats from different sources. And by massive I mean 1000% inaccuracies.

So what do we mean by a page read?  Simply – how many times did someone open (and hopefully read) a page of your content? (Or more precisely – the number of discrete page impression per browser session / IP combinations by a human being in a given time frame).

(Definitions – IP meaning IP address which can identify a single machine or at least a service provider’s bundle of active connections to the internet. Session being a period of active use of a given website before a log-off / period of inactivity. )

Now that may seem like a very straightforward concept. And it is. However, consider this:

  1. A website site counter showing 2000 reads with peaks of 100+ per day for a rolling month
  2. Google Analytics stats reporting 50 reads with peaks of 4 per day for a rolling month

And that’s for the same website and for the same month.

And on Scribd for related content:

  1. Scribd document counter showing 3000+ reads for a given period
  2. Scribd user map counter showing 12 users who have ever read the content for the same content and period

So what’s going on here and how can we interpret these conflicting web stats?

Firstly, they are all strictly incorrect as a measure of real people, because that is impossible to measure unless everyone logs in and/or saves cookies for the whole month, while using the same device / log-in. The reason being that no website can recognise and verify the person browsing the content unless they choose to positively identify themselves. (Consider a shared public or home computer or multiple log-in Ids per person or multiple devices per person).

Also, if people have Javascript or some session hiding software active that can also distort the stats. Sure, you see a trend. However it does not answer the question – ‘how many people read my content?’ It leads to an approximation, which is as good as you can reasonably expect.

In addition, we have to eliminate web crawling software, malware and robots that trawl for content from our numbers. This should be easy given that their sessions on any given page will be very short and their IPs repeat. However, many counters do not look at such information. Which means that …..

We can only gauge ‘real people’ responses based on comments, subscriptions, purchases and log-ins. Otherwise we are left with vague ‘ball parks’ and trend indicators and that is all.

From my experience Google Analytics under-counts and unfiltered website counters over-count. (I base my Google assertion on tests that bypass Google search results and use JScript =Off with cache clearing each time).

Incidentally, there are no apparent patterns that I’ve noticed to correlate between the two sets of figures either. One might expect a busy day to show up as spikes using either measuring method, but in my experience they don’t. I’ve had a spike on Google and nothing unusual on the website stats and vice-versa. I often have spikes on the website counter and next to nothing reported on Google. Which is frustrating and perplexing.

Bottom line – if you really need to know your traffic stats, you need to find a website SEO tool that is impartial and well integrated with your site / blog. Unfortunately, you can not rely on free tools and counters if you need accuracy. And you’ll need a webserver log analytics analyser to see what is really happening – but that is for the big commercial sites only. For the rest of us we simply need to make do with the free or cheap alternatives.

Hope you found that useful. That’s all for now.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

Author of Sean Yeager books

DNA Thief and Hunters Hunted

seanyeagercolsmallcover1

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted

Sean Yeager Hunters Hunted