In Your Corner: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings (Part II: Pre-Orders)

online sales rankings ratings reviews

Last time I wrote, I sought to answer one very important question for self-publishing authors: What are online sales rankings, specifically Amazon sales rankings, and what do they mean for you, a self-publishing author? I spent some time tackling the definitions of and usefulness of sales rankings to the average indie author, and set out to debunk another question as well: What about the stuff that Amazon isn’t saying about its sales rankings? Which, as it turns out, is a lot. Pretty much everything, in fact!

In summary, Amazon is a business and its sales rankings, like its search algorithms and its “if you liked [x] you might also like [y]” algorithms, are both private and proprietary. Which means they don’t have to disclose what human and algorithmic assumptions are built into the process—what fundamental things Amazon believes about the way you, and all people, work. Quite apart from the potential for unconscious (or sometimes conscious) biases to perpetuate things like racism, sexism, and other -isms—especially if leadership and oversight isn’t constantly and thoughtfully looking out for such things—the fact remains that algorithms such as those used to determine sales rankings can be helpful, but require a significant human component in order to work in your favor.

This week, I’m going to ask (and hopefully answer) another important and related question:

What is the relationship between pre-orders and your sales ranking—and how can you make this relationship work for you?

preorder

Pre-orders can actually have a negative effect on your sales ranking—at least during the first week or so after your book launches. This is because pre-order sales are more spread out, and their dates of transaction will not be lumped together with the other books sold during your first week, even though the actual physical or digital books will be distributed at the same time as your first-week sales. And the more you sell in a short amount of time, the higher your sales ranking will be during that period. Others have written and spoken very eloquently on this first-week problem, so I won’t go into detail about it here, other than this quick summary.

There are other reasons why pre-orders are a good idea, and these deserve a little bit of your time and attention as well. Just to name a few, opening up your book for pre-orders provides you with a promotional opportunity that you wouldn’t otherwise have, and provides an actionable way for readers to purchase your book right away when they first hear about it, rather than requiring them to wait and plan to buy your book later—as we all know, instant gratification may not be a human ideal, but it is a very human reality. If readers can’t buy your book the first time they hear about it, many of them are liable to forget about it altogether. A pre-order option means that during your heaviest promotional period before your book launch, you can get your readers to commit to a purchase even though they’ll have to wait for delivery. You can then spread your pre-order link around all of your various social media platforms and digital presences, ensuring that it’s easy to find your book paired with your name everywhere it appears.

And yes, a pre-order period also allows you time to refine your promotional materials. It’s one thing to edit and edit away before your book launch, but a soft release like a pre-order allows you to test your language in the field and see how readers and potential buyers respond … and then make changes as you go to better appeal to them. This holds true for any advertising or website monetization you might run during the pre-order period, as well.

The biggest benefit to a self-publishing author of making pre-orders available is the reviews! Normally, a book can’t be reviewed on Amazon before it’s available for purchase, distribution, and arrival. (Goodreads allows reviews as soon as a book is listed.) But with pre-orders, a huge chunk of your readership will receive your book on the first day it’s out, and you’ll start getting reviews immediately. Reviews are the most powerful marketing tool of all!

So, while your pre-orders can negatively affect your Amazon sales ranking, it’s only for a few days, and it will only truly make a difference if you don’t make use of the pre-order period for the aforementioned optimization. Pre-orders can in many ways prove a useful training ground for promotion and marketing, meaning that your book launches to higher acclaim and attention than it would otherwise. It’s wise to see the larger relationship in context.

Next time, I’m going to look at what we know about Amazon’s other algorithms—so check back in two weeks for more on this fascinating and important subject!

online sales shopping cart

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings

online sales rankings ratings reviews

What are online sales rankings, specifically Amazon sales rankings, and what do they mean for you, a self-publishing author?

This is the question I’m going to set out to answer, at least in part, for you today.

Amazon, of course, has their own page and definition dedicated to sales rankings:

Best Seller and Category Ranks are based on customer activity – sales and borrows – of your book relative to the activity of other books. A book ranking #1 in Mystery & Thrillers is the book with the most activity in Amazon’s Mystery & Thrillers category. Books can appear in up to three categories. The book’s rank in each category will show under the Product Details section. Activities that may not be an accurate reflection of customer demand, including promotional Amazon Giveaway sales and purchases that are later returned, are not counted towards sales rank.

Rankings are updated hourly but may take 24-48 hours to appear. Rankings reflect recent and historical activity, with recent activity weighted more heavily. Rankings are relative, so your sales rank can change even when your book’s level of activity stays the same. For example, even if your book’s level of activity stays the same, your rank may improve if other books see a decrease in activity, or your rank may drop if other books see an increase in activity.

When we calculate Best Sellers Rank, we consider the entire history of a book’s activity. Monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book activity, but it is not an accurate way to track your book’s activity or compare its activity in relation to books in other categories.

The ranking for books with consistent activity histories that have been available on Amazon for a long time may fluctuate less than the ranking of new books, or books whose histories aren’t as stable. One sale of a very popular book may not influence its rank much at all, but one sale of a lower volume book may significantly improve that book’s rank.

Note: Each available format of your book (eBook, paperback) has its own independent Amazon Best Sellers Rank.

This is a lot to parse, but the main points to remember are these:

  • Your sales ranking is essentially an attempt to quantify your book’s popularity;
  • The release of new books, awards announcements, and book club recommendations (among many other factors) means that new books are always climbing the rankings, while others are dropping in the rankings at the same time—it’s a constant balancing act, and sales rankings are relative;
  • Even if you sell the same number of copies each month, your sales ranking will rise and fall dependent on factors outside of your control. As I mentioned in my last post, there are yearly rhythms to book sales that mean you need to sell more books at certain times just to maintain the same ranking relative to other months when book sales are lower for everyone;
  • Blockbuster books are constantly battling it out for the upper sales rankings in every category, and rankings mean less to popular books because they have other avenues to selling a lot of books. But for new books, indie publications, and self-published books? Sales rankings mean a lot more, because even one or two sales can boost an author’s sales ranking, and as a result, boost their visibility, which will itself boost sales. It’s a feedback loop that can work to your advantage.

Amazon also has a page dedicated to giving its sellers a larger-picture idea of what their sales figures represent, and that’s worth checking out as well if you sell on the website.

But what about the stuff that Amazon isn’t saying about its sales rankings?

Any number of websites out there at any point in time are happy to claim that they’ve “cracked the code” or “tamed the algorithm” or can help you “game the system,” but the fact of the matter is, most of them are offering something more along the lines of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) advice, which is totally well and good, but not quite the same thing as delivering on a promise to make Amazon’s system work for you.

At its core, Amazon is a business which is driven by its bottom line, which is to say, eking every possible profit out of both its customers and its third-party sellers. Their algorithm code is not fully public, and while we can speculate about ways to improve sales rankings, it’s entirely Amazon’s right to code their algorithm to ignore the little sales and boost the visibility of popular items, including those blockbuster book sales that I mentioned earlier. It’s not actually in their best profit-driven interest to be fair, even though it’s certainly in their profit-driven interest to discover new niche markets—which they often do by measuring how many readers access titles through their Kindle Unlimited offering—a service which rarely profits the authors themselves, as authors themselves often point out. All this is to say, we don’t actually know how sales rankings work, other than what Amazon itself has told us, and Amazon has more than one horse in the race to make money.

Next time, I’m going to look at what we know about preorders and how they affect sales rankings—so check back in two weeks for more on this fascinating and important subject!

online sales shopping cart

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Summer is Coming

Look, we know summer is just around the corner, and we also know you’ve all been mainlining the latest season of *ahem* a certain popular fantasy show, so here’s our thirty-second shout-out:

brace-yourselves-summer-is-coming-quick-meme-com-4945958

Okay, now that that‘s done, we can move on from wisecracks to talking about preparing for summer book sales and marketing plans.

As a self-published author, you’re no doubt already well-aware that book sales are seasonal. According to this excellent report from Springer (which is dedicated to taking a numbers approach to publishing), the winter holidays remain the season with the highest book sales, followed by summer. The report writers state that:

In early January, the lowest median sales over the years is close to 15,000 copies a week, a number higher than the highest median sales of any other time of the year except late December. For fiction, a similar but less pronounced peak is observed during the summer months with median sales surpassing 10,000, likely due to book purchases in preparation for the summer vacation. In nonfiction, there is no such summer peak. During these periods of elevated sales a book needs to sell more copies to make it to the New York Times bestseller list than during other months. We also note that in general, fiction books sell more copies than nonfiction, a gap which is largest during summer and decreases considerably during the holiday season, where the sales of both fiction and nonfiction are significantly elevated.

The writers also point out that not only are “the first year sales are the most important for a hardcover,” but also that “most fiction books have their peaks strictly in the first 2–6 weeks [… while] for nonfiction, even though peaks at weeks 2–5 are common, the peak can happen any time during the first 15 weeks.” While on a surface level this might lead one to believe that it would be smart to time a book’s publication with an upcoming sales peak, the reverse may actually be the case. As the Springer report’s authors point out, one has to sell a lot more books during a sales peak than at any other time of year to hit bestseller lists—or see a boost in the Amazon sales rankings. This is because there is more competition during sales peaks (winter holidays for nonfiction, and both summer and winter holidays for fiction). Your sales ranking, for those who may not know, shows how high you rate compared to other authors and books in the same category—the lower the number, the more popular you or your book is. (There are separate rankings for authors and books.)

A book can see successful sales at any time of year, of course, and a refined marketing plan is probably more of a determining factor when it comes to sale than time of year of publication, but it’s well worth keeping certain questions in mind: Can you make effective use of your sales ranking (on Amazon and elsewhere)? That may just be a deciding factor in what you choose to do next in your summer marketing plan.

Next time, I’m going to break those sales rankings down for you, and demonstrate how you can use your Amazon sales ranking to better market and sell your self-published book!

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Spring into Self-Publishing (Part III)

books planting spring gardening

The first time I wrote, I provided some thoughts on constructive ways to take advantage of the spring to reset our writing. And last time I wrote, I spent some time thinking about why spring is so important to us as writers and writing professionals—as opposed to any other season of the year. This week, I wanted to close out this trilogy of posts by reflecting a little bit on the importance of a “growth mindset” approach to your work.

We’ve discussed the growth mindset before on this blog, but for those who may not have been here for that conversation, the concept of a growth mindset (especially in contrast to a fixed mindset) is one of many tools in the personality toolkits developed and celebrated by life coaches and mindfulness experts the world over. It’s less useful to think of these as categories that a person either falls into or doesn’t fall into, and more useful to think of a growth mindset as aspirational. We want to cultivate a growth mindset, and if you have a growth mindset, you’ll automatically be congenial to the idea that our personalities are not fixed and that life is a moving target.

growth mindset fixed mindset

When you take a growth mindset and look at it in light of our ongoing conversation about springtime and crafting a “spring reset” for your writing and marketing as a self-published author, the two start talking to each other in a really rewarding way. In a fixed mindset, it would be really easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your success or failure is defined by strict metrics and that you will either succeed or fail, with no shades of nuance in between. A fixed mindset is allergic to baby steps, progress over the long arc of time, and mistakes.

A growth mindset, in contrast, takes J.K. Rowling’s brilliant “The Fringe Benefits of Failure” seriously. Mistakes aren’t a marker of failure, but rather the building blocks of success. Trial and error? No thanks! Just trial and refinement, for lack of a better term. A growth mindset finds ways to transform the process of self-publishing into a constantly evolving and life-enriching learning opportunity. And this isn’t like when you scraped your knee growing up and your parents sat you down and told you not to cry because “this is a learning opportunity,” but a true recognition of the reality that every experience you have in publishing builds to a final product that is worthy of the time and effort you put into it.

Just as seedlings are fragile when they first start out and take constant care and cultivation, your book deserves the kind of gentleness you give the new plants you’ll put into the ground this spring. Not everything is going to be robust and able to withstand gale-force winds right away, but that doesn’t mean that seedling is a failure or doing anything other than what it is meant to: grow! There is no fixed end of the growth process, no point in time when the project of getting better at what you do is done. All we can do is keep going forward, finding those life-enriching steps that bring us joy and further our book publishing projects, and celebrating each and every step as we take it.

books planting spring gardening

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Spring into Self-Publishing (Part II)

spring writing laptop

It has been some weeks since I last checked in about resetting for spring, and much has changed. Where I live, the snow has turned to rain, and every time it rains the worms show up on sidewalks and in gutters and on lawns, roaming just a bit astray from their primary work tunneling through the thawing, loosening soil. The birds are in the midst of their spring migration, and the ice is breaking up, even in the lake bays. The grass is greening under the last of the winter detritus, and even though the wind sometimes still blows cold, I am often tempted to take myself and my laptop out of doors to work in the warming sunlight.

Last time I wrote, I provided some thoughts on constructive ways to take advantage of the spring to reset our writing. This week, I want to spend some time thinking about why spring is so important to us as writers and writing professionals—as opposed to any other season of the year. Summer is lush with golden afternoons full of freedom and adventure. Fall is lovely and full of pumpkin spice lattes (as I think I’ve mentioned a hundred times each year). Winter is packed with special days of great emotional importance, and is a season of returns. But spring? Spring is special. And here’s why.

  • Symbolism.

    I’ve already mentioned that the world feels like it’s coming back to life in the spring, and it’s hard not to feel inspired by natural cycles on a symbolic level (not to mention physical—increasing sunlight levels and exposure in spring do some serious magic within the human brain). Rather than resisting this natural and symbolic rhythm, it’s worth attempting to channel it into forms that are useful to you. Feeling restless? Try out a bunch of new writing and marketing styles, and see what works well and what doesn’t. Spring is a laboratory of opportunities, and it’s okay to give yourself permission to let loose and be disorganized every now and again! Feeling energized and focused? Plan out a new schedule which makes more time for the things that you know will bring you peace and joy later in the year, when these habits are etched into your routine.

  • Publishing practicalities.

    While the rhythm of self-publishing is far more flexible than that of traditional publishing, there remain some practical reasons why spring is the best time to both a) begin the self-publication process, and b) get to work on your next project. The first reason is that spring is normally a quieter season in publishing and self-publishing both, with awards season more than half of a calendar year away and nominee announcements in advance of that. The busiest period is still a few months out, with the submission deadlines for the National Book Awards (arguably the biggest event in traditional publishing) at the end of June and the CIPA EVVY Awards (one of the most important awards in indie and self-publishing) in mid-May. Another busy period of the year starts in Fall, after submission deadlines are over and authors feel free to focus on marketing. As Anthony Wessel wrote in 2012:

The book industry has sales trend lines that have been consistent for the past forty years. Sales are relatively flat on a week-to-week basis for forty-six weeks out of the year. Slight sales increases are seen on the minor sales holidays. This means approximately the same number of books is being read in any given week compared to the previous year. […] Indie authors should expect flat sales in 2012 from May till December and nothing close to what they had at the beginning of the year. I would suggest authors spend this time period writing and putting marketing plans together to capitalize on the upcoming holiday season.

  • Personal meaning.

    What does spring mean to you? I think this is an important question to ask each year. When I was younger, it was easiest to seize upon the optimistic and joyful aspects of spring; now that I’m older, I’m conscious of spring as a connection point between cycles of loss and life—a reality which heightens the joy in some ways but also renders it bittersweet. I have a lot of feelings to navigate in spring that I didn’t before, and these feelings translate directly into what projects I move forward with and which ones I let percolate a little while longer. I think it’s wise to listen to your body as well as your intuition about things like writing, and spring brings new dimensions to both.

How will you move your writing and marketing projects forward this spring? I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line in the comments section, below, or reach out to us online (we’re on Twitter at @SelfPubAdvisor)!

spring writing mug coffee tea books

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Spring into Self-Publishing (Part I)

2019 is now well underway, but not so far underway that it feels quite like spring––at least, not if you live in the same part of the world that I do.  The weather is grey and cold––and wet––and worst of all, there seems to be no end in sight (even though we know, in theory, that this happens every year).  At some point during the incrementally lengthening days, there comes a realization: your writing is suffering.  Whether it’s because of all the other things piling up, or because you’ve burned through your allotment of holiday candy, I thought I’d take a moment today to encourage you with a few simple––and practical!––ideas for kicking those pre-Spring blues.

spring crocus snow

  1. Take care of your body.  Revisit your sleep schedule, your vitamins C and D intake, your water intake, and those other finicky cycles that we all tend to interrupt and sacrifice on the altar of our incredibly busy lives.  If you notice that one of these basic components of day-to-day health is off, don’t stress!  Take a moment to breathe, and take steps to correct them––sustainably, of course, and never ever punish yourself for struggling or lapsing.  Positive reinforcement only!
  2. Check in with friends and fellows.  We all need the boost that a good conversation can bring.  Google it: research shows that we need positive interactions with friends, family, and other community members to stay positive ourselves.  During this pre-Spring time, reach out and touch base with your friends and fellow writers.  You need them, and they need you too!
  3. Try something new, like signing up for a creative writing or introduction to publishing course through your local library, or join a local writer’s group.  Don’t think in terms of a long-term commitment just yet––just give it a taste, a quick try, and reassess after a month or so.  Is it helping?  If yes, keep going.  If not, let it go and try something else.
  4. Get outside.  We writers tend to stick to the hermitage for reasons of both preference and (mostly) practicality.  Writing is easiest inside, where there are plenty of wall sockets and comfortable seating nooks and wifi connections.  And before summer well and truly dries out the snowbanks, getting outside can be kind of … messy.  But here’s the thing: sunlight and fresh vistas can be some of the best curative tricks in the whole trade.  Take something portable––an iPad or regular plain old paper notebook––in case something sparks your imagination.  Get it down then and there!
  5. Plan something fun.  Whether it’s a big vacation or a weekly trip to a local coffee shop (or, let’s face it, the local bookstore!), build rewards into your upcoming schedule.  Giving yourself something to look forward to as you strive to write this spring will spur you on!

It only seems right that we lay a solid foundation for the months of work to come.  Just remember: it’s okay to pick and choose what techniques work for you!

house finch spring buds snow

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

 

In Your Corner: The Polar Vortex of Marketing (Continued)

Last week, with our fingers frozen stiff inside of our heaviest winter mittens, we leaned into the life-affirming (and self-publishing-lifestyle-affirming) wisdom of self-publishing authors who have seen success, drawing specifically upon a series of articles put out by Goodreads; the first post was titled “Advice for Aspiring Indie Authors by Successful Indie Authors” and I would continue to recommend that you check it out, as well as its sequel, “Indie Authors Share Their Secrets to Creating Successful Self-Publishing Careers,” which features much more lengthy insights from a number of others.

We were hoping that the polar vortex would have been on its merry way by now, but depending on where you live, you may be in for quite a bit more snow throughout the remainder of February.

warning snow

Since the weather hasn’t changed much, we’ll continue in the same vein as my last article two weeks ago, and if you’ll remember, that article ended with a statement and a question:

This week, take a moment to witness and absorb the wise words of these authors and remember what got you into self-publishing in the first place. Remember the joy that comes with carving out a space for yourself in the world of words, and seeing something you’ve written out there, changing the lives of those lucky enough to find it.

Now we can get started thinking about how to help more people be that lucky, right?

If we rephrase that question as how can we get started thinking about how to help other authors find success in self-publishing, the question becomes even more interesting and complex. One way in which authors differ from other entrepreneurs or small business owners is that we are very rarely in competition with each other in any way that affects the pocketbook. If anything, feuding authors tend to drive up each others’ sales, although that’s certainly not a marketing approach that we would counsel anyone to embrace—not when positive collaborative opportunities are so readily available!

[Several years ago, we hosted a “Marketing Master Strokes” article on the subject of “Playing Well With Others,” and it’s well worth revisiting here.]

Even before you reach out to another author to collaborate, there are plenty of ways to learn and benefit from other authors. You’re probably already drawing on quite a few of your own favorites as inspiration for your own work—and the act of writing itself—but you can also learn from other authors by studying how they shape their own brand and public marketing platform. Spend some time on Google acquainting yourself with author websites, Facebook pages and other social media accounts, blogs, newsletters, and their various efforts throughout. Which websites grab your eye? What features do they share? What can you learn from even an ugly website, in terms of what to steer clear of? What was the author’s latest promotion: a sale, a discount, a giveaway, or something else? And what kind of programs and materials did they use to make that happen? How often do they Tweet and post to Facebook, and what kinds of content seem to gain the most responses?

All of these questions can be answered just by surveying what material is already out there. It’s worthwhile narrowing your focus to look at authors who have  similar resources to you, or writing in the same genre; doing so will make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, and ensuring that these authors’ marketing strategies are manageable.

But then … once you’ve finished your web sleuthing … it’s time to make a personal connection. As you’re conducting your web search, keep a record of the names and contact information for authors whose work and marketing strategies you admire. Once you’ve got a handful, it’s time to reach out! Put together a letter to each one which expresses, simply and straightforwardly, what it is you admire about their work and what you’d like to do with them. Would you like to, as our “Marketing Master Strokes” article put it, pair up with another author or multiple authors to host a book discussion or workshop together? Would you like to gather several other authors together and apply to run a booth at a local book fair, or a panel at a “con” (convention)? Would you like to conduct interviews with other authors and share them on each other’s websites, providing insight into the authorial process? Or would you like to perhaps co-write short stories or novellas together, to be distributed as giveaways or free to the public online?

In my opinion, interviews and blog “round-ups” are the most fun and enlightening, and not only do they help drive traffic to your website or blog, but they also may just provide some important insights that you will make good use of in the future!

The letter doesn’t have to be long. It could, in fact, be a three-to-six sentence email. The main thing to remember, etiquette-wise, is that many self-publishing authors who post their contact details online get lots of spam, so make sure your letter or email doesn’t look and feel like the dreaded “form” or “spam” letter. And you should never push back if someone says “no,” because there are far too many awesome possible collaborations out there to be disappointed by one “no,” and also because you really do want to find those authors whose work and style meshes nicely with yours naturally and without too much scheduling gymnastics. A simple:

“Hi, I’m [insert name here], and I recently self-published a book on [insert half-sentence premise here]. I was really impressed by your recent blog post on [insert subject here], and I was wondering if you might be interested in doing a quick interview exchange which we could both post to our blogs. You can find out more about my book at [insert link] to see if a collaboration feels right to you. I wish you much success in all that you do! Sincerely, [insert name here].” Or at least, that’s the kind of email I’d write!

If you have already collaborated with other authors, good on you! That’s awesome! We’d love to hear from you about how you went about making those connections, and how the process ended up working out. Just drop us a line in the comments section, below!

winter snow reading

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.