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There are books that seem to come out of nowhere and storm the Amazon charts, ranking highly and selling well. The truth is that they get to the top through word of mouth which can be boosted by strategic marketing. Rachel Abbott wrote a brilliant guest post about making #1 on Amazon a while back and so I asked her on the podcast to talk more about it. This interview will give you some great marketing tips
Rachel Abbott is the author of suspense thriller ‘Only the Innocent' which reached #1 on Amazon.co.uk and continues to remain in the Top 100 books on Kindle in multiple categories 5 months after launch. Rachel is British but lives in Italy and she shares her knowledge about book marketing generously on her blog.
- How Rachel got started with writing. She used to be a business writer for proposals in a media company, also writing scripts for products. She sold the business and eventually moved to Italy, renovating and renting property. Rachel is a business woman so always has to have a business to run! She had the idea for a novel for a long time and finally, one winter, got down to writing.
- Rachel did try to get an agent and publisher, but had no luck, putting it aside for a couple of years. Then she heard about Amazon Kindle publishing but at the time it was closed to non-US citizens. Once it opened up, she decided to have a go and self-published ‘Only The Innocent' just as an idea.
- On ‘Only The Innocent'. The book opens with a man murdered by a woman, and Rachel wanted to come up with a scenario where killing him would be the only option out of a terrible situation. The mystery is which woman does the killing and why – the motivations behind. On hinting about violence and leaving it up to the imagination vs/ graphic violence. Rachel and I both prefer the former.
- The Marketing plan. Initially Rachel found her book didn't move at all. There was no impact on sales. So she started to do a lot of research, and finally decided to put it into action. In the end, she wrote a marketing plan, allocating time for different activities to be most strategic. You want your books to be bought by people who have bought a lot of books, because then you get ‘People who also bought' titles coming up and your book appears on other places based on the Amazon algorithms. Rachel also used Twitter strategically connecting with book readers and people in the niche. Click here for Rachel's full blog post on her marketing plan.
- Forums worked well – Goodreads forum and also KindleBoards – interacting with readers and talking about other things. But the links to your books are in the footer of your profile. This is a time-consuming process, as you need to establish relationships in here. It probably was an hour a day in the forums. You do have to be in the ‘Meet our authors' area on the forums. Rachel gives an example of when the forums pushed her book sales up.
- Formal review requests. Rachel does professional review requests with formatted blurb and book cover. She got reviews from high level reviewers which made a difference.
- On targeting reviewers. Rachel spent a lot of time doing Google searches and created a comprehensive list. You must follow the submission guidelines – don't scattergun requests. Make it easy for people to review your book. Rachel did all this before her sales went up at all.
- This was a slow process. At Xmas, she sold 6 copies which she thought was fantastic. In January, 10 a day and then end of Jan, it went berserk and got to #1 on 18 Feb.
- On what could be improved next time. Building up a list prior to launch would be the biggest thing. Sending advance copies to reviewers in the hope of getting earlier reviews. It takes time for reviews to kick in. But the strategy can't just be about reviews. The main thing would be setting it all up prior to launch.
- On traditional vs indie. Rachel can understand why it was difficult for agents to take ‘Only the Innocent' as it is hard to categorize. It's not in an obvious genre. Traditional publishers do have a lot to offer. Rachel now has an agent who is helping her to improve her writing. This kind of editing helps a lot and continues to be a stand out for traditional publishing. Even with indie, Rachel will get an editor next time, and she is still interested in having her book in a bookstore. But saying that, going indie is a great, viable option – as long as you're prepared to do the marketing. There's no guarantee of replicating success either.
- There are positive choices either way – it's about the choice per book. It puts a more positive, entrepreneurial spin on the publishing experience which is great! It's not just about the advance, it's about how they will use the book and how it will be targeted.
- On ebook pricing. Rachel doesn't like the 99c price but eventually used it as the book crept up the charts. She then changed it to 1.99 and sales weren't impacted. But the low price is important when people haven't heard of you. Publishers charge a higher price, similar to print cost, but it is difficult as ebook readers do prefer lower prices for new authors. Established authors can get away with having higher prices. We talk about our experience as readers and how we are drawn to lower prices and our justification for it.
- Go for it. Don't be shy. It's well worth the effort and even if you only sell a few copies, it's better than you would have done otherwise. You have to be prepared to put some work in. Work out what works for you and what doesn't For example, fliers on cars at the location of the setting of the book which worked for one person, but ‘live' marketing isn't easy for Rachel as she is in Italy. Think about what you can do in terms of marketing. Rachel gets a lot of emails about books that don't sell, but mainly it's because authors aren't marketing. The bottom line is – you have to put the effort in, and making a plan will really help.
I highly recommend you check out Rachel's blog which has fantastic articles for writers and self-publishers.She's also on twitter @rachel__abbott
Marcus Bird says
I’ve been using a lot of both Rachel’s and Joanna’s tips and it has been a great help. The internet truly is better when people like these two provide the little details for people who are serious about deconstructing their own marketing plans. I’m a little stuck on one thing. I’m going to have some Createspace versions of my ebook available soon (many people keep asking me for hardcopy) and I’m not sure how to price it. I was thinking that mabye 11.99 would be a fair ebook price (and still provide reasonably enough royalties). Do you have a take on this Joanna? Or have you ever written a blog post on pricing strategies for POD (print on demand) books? I ask mainly because each book will need its own barcode (with the price on it) so there is a cost if you keep adjusting the price. Would love any two cents you can give.
E. Brian Rose says
You wrote, “But low price is important when people haven’t heard of you.” Who says? If you are going to approach this as a marketer, then you must use marketing testing techniques to decide what the best price is and not some ol’ wives tale. The best thing to do is to test your elasticity. Keep increasing the price until you are no longer making more money, then regress back to the sweet spot. Congrats on your success. I’m not trying to challenge your methods, just adding to the discussion.
Bryan Koepke says
A great article for anyone with a newly published book. I like the idea of having a marketing plan. Also that she spent time connecting to readers in forums. I’m coming up on 1 month since I published my novel, VENGEANCE – Book one in the Reece Culver Thriller series, and I find it difficult sometimes to balance marketing /writing/ and working my day job. Any tips us newly published authors can gain are extremely helpful. Thanks again Bryan
Mahla Etan says
I know that this post is quite dated so I would like to know if there is anything else that you would like to offer as advice? I a have the same problem with no having a specific category for my book. It is a Christian thriller BUT it has some dialogue that some Christians find offensive. For other readers who are not Christian, I run into the problem that it is too religious. I am stuck with no specific category to list.
You can see my my book inside on Amazon kindle. My book is Road to Sisters.
I would love any advice. I feel a little out in the middle of nowhere.
I became worried hearing about Taxes on Amazon Kindle….
Can you, or anyone reading this let me know if we can publish on Amazon without having 30%taken away?
I’m in the Netherlands and I read the Tax rules and it’s scary, because I don’t have IRS or TIN or SSN numbers.
Thanks so much, I’m clearly a new author and worried.
Joanna Penn says
Check out this link: https://kareninglis.wordpress.com/tax/
It goes into the tax for non-US citizens stuff – the with-holding will depend on the treaty that the US has with your country.
Jeanne Daux says
Dear Rachel, I am very fond of your blog and wanted to thank you for all the tips about self-publishing you share with us. I totally agree with what you say about your marketing strategy: it is very relevant to use Amazon algorithms. Do you have other tips concerning the way we can use these algorithms? Moreover, your advice concerning reviewers is inspiring, I must use it with my forthcoming book “My Father, This Murderer” on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Maybe you would be willing to review it? Best.
Ulysses Speck says
Your article is very interesting. As a Publisher, I think your marketing tips can help writers who want to do self-publishing, but I believe every book is unique and, to me, marketing will never replace literature… The first work has to be done on the text, its style…