A week ago, I self-published my first book – How To Find Your Vital Vocation: A Practical Guide To Discovering Your Career Purpose And Getting A Job You Love – through Amazon and Smashwords. In this series of posts on how to self-publish, I look at the journey and the lessons learned along the way. In this final post, I focus on pricing and promotion.
Step 9: Set your price
In terms of pricing your ebook, it’s important to do your research and consider your goals carefully. Different price points on different platforms have different royalty levels associated with them, so if earning an income from your books is a specific goal, you must take this into account. In the case of Amazon, for example, the level at which you price your ebook will determine whether you can claim a 35% or 70% royalty on sales.
Readers, too, will respond differently to different prices. Although some indie authors price their books at the lower end of the spectrum (as low as .99 cents) in order to compete with better-known writers whose work is being released through traditional publishers, some readers may be put off by prices which seem artificially low, because they won’t trust the quality of the book. “Buy cheap, buy twice” as they say.
For others, the opposite is true – they’ll see a low-priced book as a bargain, and snap it up. Perhaps here, more than anywhere else, experimentation is required. I’ve spoken to some indie authors who had to drop the price of their books before the sales really started rolling in; others didn’t see any action until they increased the price of their product substantially.
The Future of Ink blog has an excellent post on how to price your ebook, whether it be fiction or non fiction. Another useful post on this subject can be found on Digital Book Word. Ebooks are usually – and increasingly – priced significantly lower than the print version of the book, so if you’re publishing to both formats, you need to consider the differential you’re going to create between the formats.
Don’t forget you can also use pricing as a promotional tool for your ebook, through low-price special promotions and even periods where you offer your book for free. Amazon’s KDP Select program has been used successfully by many indie authors to drive rankings (and consequently sales) through free promotion periods, although some believe it’s no longer quite as useful as it used to be.
Here are four articles – written at different stages during the past 12 months – giving the different sides of the KDP Select story:
- The Definitive Guide To KDP Select Free Giveaways by David McGowan (August 2012)
- KDP Select: Is It Still Worth It? Thoughts for 2013 by Ryan Casey (January 2013)
- Is KDP Select Worth It? (An Example From a Real Person) by Blaise Lucey (March 2013)
- KDP Select Still Works in 2013 by AuthorDiscovery.com (May 2013)
Step 10: Release and promote
Let me be perfectly honest – I’m not really qualified to advise on this part of the process, as I’m only just beginning to embark upon the promotion for How To Find Your Vital Vocation. (Psst – this blog post series is part of that promotion). But I’m happy to share my thinking on the subject, and I’ll share details of how things pan out as my promotional efforts for the book progress. The fact is, promotion is as essential a step in the “how to self-publish your first book” journey as the writing part.
I’m exploring several different options here:
- I’m in the process of constructing a “virtual blog tour” where I’ll be guest posting on other related blogs about the book and about the process of becoming a self-published author.
- In addition to arranging my own tour stops, I’ve engaged a blog tour company – Orangeberry Book Tours – to syndicate some of my articles to other blogs in my niche. My hope is that this will not only help me gain SEO exposure, but also some positive reviews for my book.
- I’ve sourced some fairly basic advertising, mainly through Facebook and also through some specific indie publishing channels, such as World Literary Café, The Kindle Book Review, and Digital Book Today. Again, this is as much about SEO as it is about sales, but I’ll be closely monitoring the outcomes of these adverts to see what effect they have.
- I’m continuing to utilise my own author platform through this blog, as well as through the specific Vital Vocation blog which relates directly to the book. I’m tweeting from my author Twitter feed and from the book’s Vital Vocation Twitter feed. I also have a Vital Vocation page on Facebook which is getting increasingly active (1000+ fans and growing).
- I’ll be announcing the book’s publication to my own mailing list shortly. Incidentally, if you want to join my mailing list so that I can update you on my future publications, you can do so here. It’s worth it. Not only do I not spam you (I don’t message the list very often) you’ll also get two spiffy free ebooks.
- I’ve constructed a set of Vital Vocation “memes” featuring a collage of the book’s cover with other photographs and some quotes from various parts of the book. These are proving popular on Pinterest and are being shared on Facebook. I’ve selected several quotes form the book which I think will work in these meme formats, and I’m working my way through them. They’re great for tweeting, too. You can see some of these peppered throughout this post.
I’ll blog soon about which of the above tactics are working – and which are not!– and will let you know the results.
So there you have it – a brief tour through the process I went through to write and publish How To Find Your Vital Vocation. I’ll close with some “lessons learned” from the process.
The Lessons I’ve Learned on the Self-Publishing Journey (So Far!):
1. Don’t wait.
If you want to write and publish a book, don’t wait until you have it all figured out before you start – just start. Start before you’re ready. And don’t feel you have to wait until a “real publisher” shows an interest in your work. You can be a real publisher. In this day and age, easily accessible and inexpensive self-publishing facilities afford you many opportunities to get your work out there. You don’t have to wait until someone else gives you permission to be a writer.
2. Plan ahead.
Start writing, and take some time out to explore what self-publishing and author platform options are available to you. Use this blog series as a guide, and don’t forget the benefits of making yourself a plan and a writing schedule.
3. Don’t underestimate how long it takes.
I set myself the task of having two books out by the time I hit 40 this summer, and I managed to have one out (and one drafted). I’m very happy with that, and I can smile at my youthful naïveté just ten months ago. Writing a book takes time, if you want to do it right (although a lot depends – obviously – on how long the book’s going to be). Two books in ten months?? These whippersnapper 39-year-olds – they know nothing!
4. Don’t be scared to experiment.
Do I know if my marketing tactics will work? No. Am I sure my ebook is priced at the right level to drive sales? No. Am I prepared to chop and change things until I get them right? Hell, yes. I’ll keep tweaking things, monitoring things, re-measuring things, and tweaking them again until I get them as right as I possibly can.
5. Write, write, write…and then write some more.
If you think the writing is over once you’re book is out there – fuhgeddaboudit. If you want people to know the book exists, you’ll have to make some considerable online noise about it, and that means blogging, guest posting, tweeting, Facebooking and generally continuing to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for some time after you hit “publish”.
Bear this in mind: the best marketing tool for your current book is your next book. From all the reading I’ve done on the subject of indie publishing, this little tidbit comes up again and again, although it isn’t given the prominence it deserves. The fact is, each new book will help you to promote the previous, and vice versa, because you can easily amend the files of your self-published books to include details of new books as you add them to your roster. Also, authors with more than one book tend to have more credibility. Whether that’s fair or unfair, it just seems to be.
As Jeff Goins so brilliantly said – You Are A Writer: So Start Acting Like One.
Finally – don’t become obsessed with your current book. Do the best job you can with it. Give it the best start in the world you possibly can once it’s out there. Possibly have a bit of a rest. And then get on with writing the next one. I know that that’s what I’ll be doing…
Find this post useful? You can check out the beginning of this series on “How I Wrote And Self-Published My First Book here.