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Today's podcast is a discussion on book launches and how various types of marketing activities impact book sales with paranormal romance author Zoe Winters and religious thriller author Joanna Penn.
Zoe Winters is an independent paranormal romance author and has written the Bloodlust trilogy of novellas which have sold over 40,000 copies. Her most recent book is Save My Soul.
Zoe has been on the podcast before when we discussed being an indie author and we had so much fun that I invited her back for another chat.
In the podcast you will learn:
- A bit about Zoe and why she is an independent author of novellas Kept, Claimed and Mated as well as her novel Save My Soul. Being indie is about control and choice and determining everything about your books.
- Zoe recently launched Save My Soul and shares a few things about what she learned. In the past, she focused on ranking sales and freaked out to keep the marketing going. She used to write guest posts, tweet etc and it was too stressful. Now she is pulling back a little and focusing on writing. It looks like Amazon has changed their algorithms so it is not just about jumping up the charts in one go anymore. You want sustained sales over time.
- Joanna talks about the Pentecost launch and how tiring it was. One of the biggest efforts was appearing on 32 guest blog posts in one day. In the rest of the podcast, we go into the details of each aspect of a launch.
- On the need for a baseline author platform. The first batch of sales come from a newsletter or your own list, those people who know you are launching. But the biggest thing is when the Amazon recommendation algorithm kicks in and word of mouth moves through reviewers. So you need the best book you can write, you can't survive on marketing alone.
- We talk about Amanda Hocking's amazing indie author success. USA Today reports she has sold 450,000 ebooks . She doesn't have a massive platform but she is a paranormal writer who puts out a new book every 2 months. Is it worth it to have a platform or should you just write?
- It is hard to get initial readers to read your book. Hocking had book bloggers initially and then word of mouth caught on. But you need initial readers and a place to connect with fans. There are a lot of writers who are sitting way down in the Kindle charts and with a platform you stand a better chance of getting the momentum going. As you go along, you can step back from the marketing a little.
- I've been considering this, as in whether I spend too much time blogging. For me the platform is more than a mechanism to sell books. The blog has got me speaking gigs as well as other benefits. It's worth it for me to continue author platform building.
- On book trailers, Zoe talks about why she likes them. They can make people want to read your book, but it can also hype up your current fans. It's more about building your brand than directly impacting sales. Marketing is not a linear thing. It's a bunch of stuff that rolls together and the power of the whole thing. It's very hard to break down what is successful and what isn't.
- I have also found that people did buy Pentecost based on the book trailer. It's a 1 minute promo.
- On guest posting on other blogs. I did 32 other blogs for the launch of Pentecost. It's best to go where the readers will be, not just the blogs for writers. Even if there is no uptick in sales or traffic, it can generally help your brand by raising your profile. I made this mistake but I hadn't built up relationships in that area so focused on my existing network. This is one of the reasons I started Mystery Thriller TV in order to reach readers.
- On spending money for advertising. Kindle Nation Daily didn't work for Zoe but it did work very well for me with Pentecost (priced at $2.99). I think that I could have made #1 by combining the launches instead of doing it over a week. Zoe considers that Amazon algorithms may not like that type of approach anymore. Kindle giveaways can be effective on a small scale but may attract people who wouldn't become fans of the work. Maybe focus prizes on the niche you are in. I offered a choice of a Kindle or my Author 2.0 program to winners. That kept the cost down but still gave great benefit to the winners.
- On the pressure on writing fast and getting books out there as fast as possible. It feels like a gold rush right now on ebooks but calm down, you need to keep putting out quality. Zoe wrote this post on the topic: Slow down, the tortoise won. We don't have to release as fast as Amanda Hocking. I discuss the longevity aspect of being an author. We can write books for the rest of our lives. We need to live in the moment but also we have time to write. One book a year for the next 35 years still gives me a good back-list. Celebrate the moment!
- We talk about the growth of the ebook and ereading devices and how it is really going mainstream. It's also important to consider other platforms than Amazon to publish. Zoe talks about how her sales on Barnes & Noble have been bigger than Amazon.
- On writing series – we mention Holly Lisle's Writing a Series online course (I highly recommend Holly's courses and have done a number of them myself. I'm also an affiliate).
You can find Zoe at ZoeWinters.org. You can find her paranormal romance books on Amazon and other online retailers.
You can buy Pentecost in print or on the Kindle on Amazon sites. I will be doing a longer text post on all the aspects of the Pentecost launch soon.
Dennis R. Blanchard says
In regards to your question: “What aspects have you found to be the most successful for launching books?” Without a doubt, I have found that having a direct relationship with readers that are interested in my genre was the most important tool. My book, Three Hundred Zeroes, is a book that has three target audiences: Hikers, (especially the Appalachian Trail), Ham Radio enthusiasts and heart surgery (CABG) survivors.
I have a long standing relationship with hikers and hams and have been on Yahoo Groups, email lists and blogs for years. When the book was released I was able to launch an introductory letter through those connections and had immediate, sincere, interest in the book. To me, those relationships are more important than sales, but it makes those relationships all that much sweeter when I realize that people that I correspond with on a regular basis are now “fans” as well.
The heart surgery audience was a new one for me, I had heart surgery right in the middle of my hike (and subsequently, the book) and that audience is still new to me. My goal for these readers was to provide an example of how to deal with undergoing such a serious operation and yet keep my sense of humor while doing it.
The book is actually intended for a general audience that enjoys a good, humorous, outdoor story. Since I’m an Indie author with very limited means, I had to start somewhere, and the reader base that I began with has been wonderful. I now find that they are telling friends about this book that they read and the friends are doing the word-of-mouth thing.
This trend, from my very amateur observation, seems to be reflected in what you mentioned earlier about steady sales, rather than big spikes that dissipate rapidly. The book seems to be gathering steam nicely, a few at a time every day. There is also a corresponding increase in fan mail which seems to track right along with the sales numbers.
I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from knowing that the readers are enjoying the book so much. I never intended to write more, I had a story to tell, and I told it, but the question that keeps coming up over-and-over again is: What is your next book?
Since my writing is non-fiction and about my adventures, I’m about to head off for another adventure. Hopefully my readers will be as thrilled with this next adventure.
Some of my fiction writer friends argue that they cannot take a similar route since my story is something that relates to real people and events. I would argue that they can still build relationships with their audience through sites like Goodreads.com, LiveJournal.com (Bookish and Bookshare) and other social media sites. I haven’t searched it, but I suspect that there should be all sorts of genre related groups on Yahoo Groups as well. Join, participate and be a member in good standing and the relationships will follow.
One other prolific tool that has worked for me is writing magazine articles. Some of my magazine articles appear in journals with circulations of 250,000 readers. When the byline at the end of the article says: “…Author of blah-blah-blah,” and that many readers see it, more than a few might go to check on the author’s work. We’re writers and the best way to get the word out about our work is to write about it!
Thanks for all of your efforts Joanna, you’ve made writing such a joy for me.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks so much Dennis. That “baseline” audience is definitely what starts the ball rolling with sales – and in fact, is rewarding in itself, so the sales are a bonus! As you say, it takes years to build up but it is the most effective. I have just started using Goodreads more seriously as I believe you’re right about engagement there. Fiction authors must find readers after all!
Writing magazine articles for non-fiction is great – and the equivalent is short fiction for authors. Not something I have dabbled in yet 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Joanna
Zoe Winters says
I think a lot of people don’t grasp the “takes years to build” thing about platform. I’m not aware of a “quick way” to build it. Certainly there are some who just shoot right out of the gate selling a lot, but actual platform building takes time. It’s something you keep doing throughout your writing career, but something that is difficult to get going at first. It’s difficult for nearly everyone. I think a lot of people just throw in the towel way too soon, though.
Joanna Penn says
Lucky for us we enjoy the marketing and platform building as well!
Maria Zannini says
I really enjoyed this podcast! You both brought up some great observations and it made me think harder on my own marketing plans.
Zoe, it was great to hear your voice!
And Joanna, I adore your blog! I added your site to my reader.
Thank you both.
Zoe Winters says
haha it was great to hear a southern gerbil on speed? 😛
Joanna Penn says
Thanks so much Maria – we definitely had some fun on the show!
Stuart Wakefield says
I haven’t had this much fun listening to a podcast since… well… forever!
Can you imagine drinks and dinner, or a night out, with Zoe? She sounds like an amazing woman and I’m certainly going to go and buy her book. If her personality comes through on the page then I think she’s onto something.
Thanks for such an enjoyable time!
Zoe Winters says
Joanna Penn says
I’m so glad you enjoyed Stu – and I would love to catch up with Zoe for dinner one day! The hemispheres keep us apart, but that’s what podcast interviews are for! Maybe we will need to do a late night version one time, with some wine….