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Robin Sullivan is one of the indie publishing evangelists who embraced online marketing early and is taking the Amazon charts by storm with her small press, Ridan Publishing. In this interview, she shares some of her best marketing tips and advice for authors.
Robin Sullivan is the founder of small press publisher Ridan Publishing. She is also a publicist for her husband and bestselling author Michael Sullivan and public speaker on all things publishing.
In this interview you will learn:
- What Ridan is up to in the small press publishing space in terms of series of books. Robin has expanded the books they offer as well as now moving into the UK market.
- Robin is the primary marketer for the Ridan authors and has tremendous experience with what works. The two most effective marketing techniques are:
The top 2 marketing techniques for book marketing
- Book Bloggers: Target them specifically and stand out by pitching a professional mini-ad. Include a picture, a headline & the back blurb so you can stand out in the crowded market. This will get you to the top of the queue.
- Goodreads: Utilize Goodreads giveaway program. This will give you a lot more traffic than if you give away on your site. You will get hundreds if not thousands of people joining in. These people have raised their hands so you can connect with them more personally by email and offer them free chapters.
- As a small press publisher, Robin focuses on each author in a targeted way and ‘primes the pump' with the hand-selling and then it kind of takes off. She switches her attention around the books as they come out with some excellent results.
On longer-term sales after the launch spike
- The spike numbers often don't even coincide with the launch and in fact, the launch process is very tied to traditional publishing where they have a small window of opportunity. Indie authors don't need to aim for launch only and in fact, it's worth it to keep trying until something works, e.g. an example of an adult book re-released and re-branded as YA.
- The best thing you can do as an author is put out more books. A book every 4-6 months is the right pacing to reinvigorate your sales. (This might be a tall order for some authors!) A new book will always add more sales to the backlist.
- It's also an ongoing process, keep scheduling marketing activities. You don't want a flurry of activity and then to drop off the map. You need to keep it going.
What are small presses looking for?
- The industry wants authors with a platform who can market themselves. Robin is looking for a good book as she can do the marketing. You can't teach someone to be a storyteller but the rest can be fixed. So if you're looking for a small press/other publishing house, consider what your strengths and what their strengths are so you can both benefit. Writing a series is beneficial for small presses and the long tail as this helps with ongoing sales.
- On social networking. It's about connecting and interacting with people – not just shouting about your book. This is important on reader sites like Goodreads. You need to be a very participatory person and what goes around comes around. Robin mentions Simon Sinek who talks about ‘Start with Why'. Robin is also passionate about making authors money and seeing them as successful.
On ebook pricing
- Seth Godin recently rated $1.99 as the go-forward price point for ebooks. Robin notes that with 1 book you won't make much money. The trick in this business for a sustainable income is to have multiple books selling for you. On pricing, $1.99 is the worst price point as you are in the 35% royalty rate and it's above an impulse buy of 99c. Robin is far more interested in making money for her authors at the $4.95 mark and even above that, unless there's a sale on.
- The secret is experimentation and track your results. Remember that the statistics mean nothing if your sales are very low. The market is also always changing.
- On ratings vs sales income. [For example, my Amazon ranking is higher when my price is lower.] Is it better to be ranking on Amazon or making more money for a long term career? Robin counsels me and others with one book to focus on getting to 3 books first and then focus on the marketing. Spend all the extra time writing and finishing the books before going hard on marketing.
- Robin ends the interview by getting very excited about why this is such a great time for authors (and we love that around here!) Self-publishing has been around a long time but now the distribution is available, and it just wasn't before. This is changing the industry and authors are making a lot of money in this new market.
You can find Robin at Ridan Publishing.
Lois D. Brown says
Great blog. I really like Robin’s blog. She’s very forward thinking and is so willing to share.
Aleshia Robinson says
I learned a TON from this interview. While listening to Robin I changed my retail price from $2.99 to $4.95 and decided not to bother book bloggers anymore until my third book is published which should be completed in the first quarter of 2012. John Loeke said the same thing in his non-fiction book. He didn’t even think about marketing until he completed his third book. I feel there is some truth to that. Thanks again Joanna! I love this blog.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Aleshia, I have relaxed my efforts as well – my 2nd book will be ready in early Jan and then I’ll get on with the 3rd – I’ve also changed my price since I was slipping in the rankings anyway… I am still in the Religious Fiction Top 100 but have definitely slipped – but due to this interview, I’m trying not to be too bothered by it!
Cassi Haggard says
Actually $1.99 is totally impulse buy range for me. Whenever amazon sends out those monthly “$3.99 and under emails” I always buy books, usually at the $1.99 or $2.99 price point. Maybe I’m not 100% an impulse buyer though because I do check goodreads first. I’ve maybe bought 1 book at the 99¢ price.
Belinda Pollard says
Joanna, that price point thing is really interesting. Maybe we need to place a value on our work so potential readers get a sense that it’s good, and worth their time.
I particularly liked what Robin said right at the end. What’s changed the game for self-publishers is distribution. New technologies in print-on-demand and ebooks etc have opened up possibilities and dropped the cost, but it’s worldwide distribution for the little guy that’s really going to turn publishing on its head.
Thanks for more useful stuff.
Joanna Penn says
I’ve always maintained a bulk numbers rather than income approach to the 1st novel. I’ve hit 15,000 sales now so I am happy with that many people having access to my book. Now I have proved to myself that some form of mass is possible, perhaps I can repeat that with a higher price too 🙂 I do value my work but also, I want to sell and rank well 🙂
Monica Rodriguez says
An eye-opening interview. To not market until you have three books out is a new concept for me. I’ve struggled to balance starting a new blog while revising my WIP. We’re constantly told we have to somehow find a balance b/w marketing and writing. This puts a whole different spin on things. I have a lot to think about!
Selena Silcox says
This interview was very timely for me. I’ve been struggling to understand how on earth I can get my first book out, blog, market and work on the next. It’s been doing my head in. As a result I’ve stagnated and up until a week ago, had hardly written anything for the previous 6 months.
I have now given myself permission to just write, blog a bit, and get a few books out before I start really thinking about the marketing side of things.
Combined with my first time participating in Nanowrimo (having a blast I might add!), this advice has allowed me to actually enjoy writing again.
Joanna Penn says
NaNoWriMo is awesome 🙂 I hope you are enjoying it. I only made it to 20,000 words but it changed my life as it started me onto Pentecost.
Peter Connor says
You should check out my friend Michele Gorman who, despite being a best-selling writer in the UK, decided to self-publish in the US. She’s blogging about (her experiences/the pricing dilemma/author control/moving to an eBook … change according to the article) on http://www.michelegormanwriter.blogspot.com. I think writers like this are changing the game.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Peter – I’ll check her out.
R. Scot Johns says
Thanks so much for the interview Robin & Joanna! Incredibly insightful and informative take on the current state of publishing. I’m just reading Robin’s Goodreads blog post series, which is also very helpful; like many authors, I’ve never quite got the hang of social interaction, so all of this is very useful. Keep up the great work both of you, and my sincere thanks once again.
Barbara Miller says
Great interview with Robin and a wealth of information for writer’s!
Diane Capri says
Good ideas and suggestions here. So much to do, so little time……
cynthia kocialski says
Interesting comment on the $1.99 price point and Seth Godin. The difference may be the type of books. With non-fiction authors, the ebook is more of an advertisement. They make the bulk of their income from other things such as seminars, workshops, speaking, and consulting. For these authors, the low price point may make sense. Honestly, $1.99 less expensive than the pay-per-click advertising on Google or Facebook. A fiction author doesn’t look at his book in relation to his income in the same manner. For a fiction author, the book is the product. For a non-fiction author, the book is an ad for the other products.
Scott Nicholson says
Robin is astute, generous, and progressive! Thanks for sharing.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Scott, I’m seeing your books everywhere at the moment so clearly you are one of the authors already doing all of this type of thing – prolific at writing and marketing – you’re an inspiration!
Pearl Rodgers says
Great information. I’ve only published one book, and now writing on my second book I was more focus on my firs novel. I really loved this article. I’m practing on my selling and trying to get my own website beside facebook, and tweeter
Christie V Powell, author of 'The Spectra Unearthed' says
Thanks for the interview. I learned a lot, especially about having three books out before cracking down on marketing. I’m about to release my second. Does it make a difference if the books are part of a series? Mine are, and sometimes I wonder if I should take a break and publish something else to possibly read more readers. Any thoughts? Thanks.