On Wednesday night Lucy Kevin, author of several “fun romances,” discussed her strategies for success on Barnes & Noble Nook on B&N’s Facebook page for PubIt!, the publishing platform. Lucy has self-published four books so far and sold nearly 100,000 copies! It’s fair to say most of the chatters were authors with books published on the Nook, or want to be. The questions ranged from marketing to covers to pricing… Lucy didn’t have time to answer all the questions so check her blog for more info. Here is an edited version with Lucy’s advice. (I’ve deleted most of the questions.) Personally I like her advice that the best thing you can do to sell your book is write the best book you can. Then do it again.
LUCY: A book description can be one of the hardest things to get right – but it’s also incredibly valuable. I know that sounds obvious…but it’s really true, nonetheless. Also, what are the kind of keywords that people might search for your book under. You’re going to put those in the keywords box on your dashboard.
Lise – I was going to put this in my answer to Charles, but really since it’s all interconnected, I’ll say it in response to your question too. Your ? was HOW CAN YOU MAKE YOUR BOOK MORE VISIBLE TO BUYERS. I really think there’s a lot of power in a great cover. Great covers sound like another super obvious thing. 🙂 But I found out on my first weeks on PubIt! just how much different a cover can make. When I first put SEATTLE GIRL up it had a photo cover. Meaning, I bought a stock photo of a girl with an umbrella (it was a tad depressing, actually…more like *really* depressing) and designed the cover around that. Sales were…lackluster, to put it best.
More on covers: I literally woke up in the middle of the night about a week later and though, “There’s a better cover out there!” 🙂 2 am found me sitting there looking for another photo. That’s when I found the illustration of the girl with the umbrella. That was it. I’d found my brand. All of my covers reflect that brand. And I’m not kidding when I say that my sales literally took off overnight.
Jill – You asked about specific marketing for my book once I published. Well, honestly, those first weeks I really focused on the books. I had three I wanted to get up in fairly rapid succession. Three books that – yup, you guessed it – never sold to traditional publishers. Of course, they all needed editing. Some more than others. LOL. I had a sense that if I could get a few books up in a row, then I might be able to build some momentum. And then, I could leverage off of that momentum.
Once those new covers were up for SEATTLE GIRL, FALLING FAST and SPARKS FLY (all part of my fun romance brand) and I sweated it out in a serious way over my book descriptions and keywords, I was lucky enough to see that momentum kick in. That was when I began to set up my social marketing channels and utilize them.
Social marketing (well, this whole thing we’re all doing, actually) seems to be equal parts sweat and luck. I wanted to let people (readers and book bloggers) know that I had books out – and that people seemed to be enjoying them. So I worked at talking about the books. And then luck struck. A reporter from the Washington Post saw one of my tweets about hitting the BN.com bestseller list with my self-published book (I made sure to tell them it was self-published in those 140 words, because I knew it was important and newsworthy – more on the newsworthyness of what we’re doing later, hopefully) – and ten minutes later, I had a direct message: “Can I call you?” Washington Post. Um, yeah. Please call. LOL The feature will be the lead story in their living section this Sunday. Yes, I’m still OMG about it all. I was OMG from that first DM on twitter, to having the reporter show up on my doorstep for three days….
All to illustrate the point that the beauty of the digital world is that we can make things happen for ourselves! Amazing, crazy, shockingly great things. We’ve got to put ourselves out there, tho.
It was scary getting on twitter and talking up my books. Heck, every step of the way I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone – everyone I know who’s doing this is – but I think that’s good. All of us out here pubbing at PubIt! are doing fantastic, amazing things.
Bryan – You asked about how to deal with not being able to do physical signings for your ebooks. Honestly, I think you can reach a *ton* more people online that by driving or flying around the country. (Although meeting readers is lovely, too.) The beauty of social marketing – and by that I mean twitter, facebook, online writing boards and groups, etc – is that you can always start a conversation. Anywhere. Anytime. Just by asking a question. Or making a comment. Or congratulating someone on something they’ve done. You might not know them, but you will soon.
Bryan – how’s this for one tip: Every day on twitter or facebook (or both!) find five people who’ve done something wonderful. Finished a book, written five pages, had their first sale – and Congratulate them. I know every time someone recognizes something I’ve done, I pretty much love them forever. 🙂
Drew – You’ve asked how to generate interest in your books without breaking the bank. I know I’m a bit of a broken record already (and we’ve only been here 21 minutes!), but I honestly think the number one thing you can do is….write. My husband was teasing me today for saying my new favorite saying for the hundredth time. “Books sell books.”
Can I say it again? Books sell books. The best sales pitch for your books is to write another. And then another. In the middle of all of that, definitely get out there with social media. Definitely join groups of indie authors and make sure your name is being heard – and your covers are being seen, too.
Honestly, I’m saying all this to remind myself to hold focus. It can get really easy to get lost in the weeds of promotion and marketing and covers and links and tweets. I do all the time! LOL But I usually find I’m happiest when the words are coming and I can see another book taking shape.
I don’t think you have to spend any money beyond the artwork for your book and great copy-editing and proofreading. But if you want to, it’s fairly easy to google for places to fairly inexpensively advertise your books.
How do you begin writing and do you need to find a coach? What is the proper way about putting it all together for publishing? Hmmm…I really can only answer from my own experience. I had been writing for several years and, as I said earlier, I wasn’t able to find a publisher for these books. But I still believed in them, of course! 🙂 So once I realized I wanted to self-publish, I started doing research on where and how to do it. I also worked on those manuscripts until they were pretty much new books, start to finish. And then, I went out and found a great copy-editor. That’s a super important step – and of course she found lots to clean up – even though I felt like I’d gone over the books a zillion times! Then to proofing. And then to figuring out covers, book blurbs, titles, keywords. That’s pretty much the pre-pub order for me. It always takes longer than I think it will. A perpetual optimist, I guess! 🙂 A week is usually three. A month is two.That being said, a deadline really helps me keep focus. I like deadlines. Even when I don’t meet them!
As for the ? of needing a coach – well, I know there are some really great self-publishing consultants out there. I’ve seen them on blogs and boards. I haven’t used them, but I’ll bet they can be a great help. I will say, though, that I’ve liked having to learn each of the pieces of this puzzle…even if some have been more painful to learn than others. It’s been a very empowering process.
You’re going to laugh at this, Tammy, but honestly, the marketing that didn’t work was anything that took my focus too far – for too long – from the writing. It’s a delicate balance…one that I’m afraid I haven’t yet figured out how to always come out on the right side of. Like I said earlier, marketing and promo is great. But the writing has to be there too.I didn’t want to get stuck in the trap of always flogging the same book. Rather, I like the idea of a fairly constant set of releases that hopefully build on a building readership.
John – you asked what I’ve done to market my books. Well, after doing the usual social marketing things – and being pleased with the results! – I had a new thought with my most recent release. What if I combined an ebook with songs? Since GABRIELLE is about a 17 year old student songwriter trying to find her way through a love triangle (and a curse) – it made sense for me to utilize my background as a songwriter in LA and Nashville. I ended up writing five songs into the story. My heroine, Gabrielle, works out her feelings and emotions by writing these songs on the page. The reader watches them come together and then at the end of each songwriting session, I’ve included links to both youtube and itunes so that people can easily click through to listen to the song. I hope that this will make people’s ebook experience even richer! (In case anyone is curious, here’s the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/user/GabrielleLucyKevin)
Of course, I have plans. 🙂 I’m about to begin sending out very targeted press releases for this book. Not just to people in digital publishing and book bloggers, but to technology blogs. Marketing can be really fun. It can also be exhausting, tho. But I like to think that it only takes one person to see something and say, “Cool! I’m going to highlight that.”
Shawneda, your ? was: How many units do you have to move to be considered a best selling pubit author? When I hit #4 on the BN.com Nook bestseller list with FALLING FAST, I said to my husband, “Hey, I think I can probably put Bestselling Author on my cover now, can’t I?” 🙂 It was a crazy thought. And I’ve been busy enough that I still haven’t managed to take care of it yet. But I at least added it into my bio. i don’t know if it makes anyone want to buy the books more 🙂 but I think it’s fun. 🙂
Dennis asked: Do you do blogs or send out message to let people know of your books? I’ve done some guest blogs. I’ve sent out some messages. And I like twitter quite a bit. 🙂 Honestly, I’ve always been a bit daunted by blogs. All those words. What to say. Plus, I can never get away from the fact that I want my words to count in my book, that whatever time I have is best spent writing. That’s why twitter is so fab. 140 characters – I can do that! Also – if you’ve got writing friends with twitter and facebook accounts, I think you should definitely ask them to post about your book. We all help each other. I’m amazed and floored by what a lovely, incredible network other writers are. Most of my favorite people are writers.
I almost forgot – I should give everyone the link to my “Fan” page here – since I’m primarily using that rather than the profile page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucy-Kevin/210611032291614
[from “Nathan”] BTW, Every wednesday is “WriterWednesday” on Twitter so make sure to tweet about writers that you like and use the hashtag #WW or #writerwednesday. It’s a good way to help each other out.
Author Sandra Peoples asked Do you really need to have book bloggers to help sell your ebook? GOod ? I don’t think I’ve had an book bloggers write about mine yet. That being said, I think it can – and has been – really super handy for authors to spread the word about their books through great reviews and recs from book bloggers. I think it’s certainly worth a shot. I’m planning to send out GABRIELLE to as many YA book bloggers as I can find. Why not, right? 🙂
Jeanne Miller asked How do you get yourself into the mindset of a teen to write for the young market? Um, maybe it helps that I’m still a goofball at heart. 🙂 Seriously, though, I think if it’s your voice, it’s your voice. I love writing that sassy first-person voice. I also like switching it up to something more lyrical. I think it depends on the book and the character, and most importantly – YOU.
Nathan Wrann asked what’s the percentage breakdown of time/effort that you spend split up between social media (FB/Twitter), on-line advertising, press releases, “Blog tours” etc? Honestly, Nathan, I”m not sure. Each day has been a major adventure. I find myself just trying to keep up sometimes. 🙂 And then I have to do things like go into writing lockdown and not stop writing until 10k words are on the computer. That was last night. I finished at 9:30. And you know? As Maria Von Trapp said in Sound of Music, “I had a marvelous time.” Shockingly. 🙂
Jeanette Cheezum asked How many books do you have on Pubit? I have 5 out. SEATTLE GIRL, FALLING FAST, SPARKS FLY and GABRIELLE. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE is a digital compilation of the first three for a discounted price.
Elizabeth Loraine asked How much impact do reviews have on sales? WEll, when they’re great reviews, I like to think they have *a lot* of impact. When they’re bad, I tell myself no one reads reviews. That didn’t help, did it?
Mike Cyra asked What was the highest number of books sold per month and what marketing tool did you think made the biggest difference on book sales? I’ve been lucky to sell nearly 100,000 ebooks. What marketing tool worked best? Probably having more than one book out is the biggest thing that helps with that.
I just posted a goodbye – but I think fb ate it….so sorry if this is a repost! I had a lovely, wonderful time with everyone here tonight. Thanks so much for coming with your questions. I hope everyone sells a zillion books! 🙂 Please come hang with me on TWITTER http://www.twitter.com/lucykevin, FACEBOOK http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucy-Kevin/210611032291614 and my blog:http://lucykevin.blogspot.com/