mass market books

Have E-Books Replaced Mass Market Books?

mass market booksYou probably remember the term “mass market books” or “mass market paperbacks.” But you also probably haven’t heard it in quite a while. There’s a reason for that. And that reason sits primarily in the e-book space.

What Is a Mass Market Book, Anyway?

People often used to confuse the term “mass market book” with “trade book.” So let’s start by defining what each term means.

Both of these types of books are designed for the general consumer. Most could be categorized as romance or mystery. But trade books were intended to be sold primarily through bookstores. Mass market books, on the other hand, were intended to be sold predominantly through “mass” channels beyond traditional bookstores. They often would be available by the register at a drug store, supermarket, etc…

Mass market books were also generally printed on less expensive paper than trade books, making them cheap to produce and cheap to sell.

What Happened to Mass Market Books?

Well, e-books happened. If mass market books were originally intended to be cheap and easy reads … well, what’s cheaper and easier than paying 99 cents to download the book on your Kindle? As more books became available in e-book form, people’s desires to read the same book in paperback (and pay a lot more for it) dwindled.

Now, note that not all genres were sacrificed by e-books. There are still plenty of topics in which people prefer to read a hardcover book — like autobiographies and self-help books. But “light reading” — the types of books that had always been mass market — has not been shown to be one of them.

Experts also say that there’s been a reduction in shelf space on the retail side. But that’s a chicken/egg thing … did that happen because of reduced mass market success? Or vice versa?

So Is Mass Market Dead?

It’s not quite dead, but it’s on life support. Here are a few stats from Publishers Weekly:

  • According to NPD BookScan, which tracks roughly 80% of print sales, mass market titles accounted for 13% of total print units sold in 2013; that figure dropped to 9% last year.
  • The Association of American Publishers reported that dollar sales of mass market titles fell 30% in 2015 compared to 2012.

So What’s an Aspiring Mass Market Author to Do?

You might have spent many years aspiring to be the next Michael Crichton or John Grisham. And you might be wondering if that’s still a possibility.

Rest assured, there are still new mass market books being printed all the time. In fact, according to PW: “Bricks-and-mortar mass merchants continue to be the outlets where these books are most popular, with Walmart being one of the most important retailers among that group. (Depending on the publisher and the book, though, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Target can be just as, if not more, important.) With exceptions, women remain the top customer group for mass market titles because, in genre fiction, romance is one of the biggest drivers of sales. Mass market books also remain, publishers believe, impulse buys. (All the publishers interviewed for this story said that Amazon is not a significant outlet for mass market books.)”

So there’s hope.

But here’s the rub. Given the changing industry, publishers aren’t actively looking for the next mass market author the same way they are looking for the next great historical fiction writer. Because there’s not a lot of money to be made there. Instead, they are opting to publish books by already-successful authors as mass market.

So here’s what that means for you…

You need to become a successful author BEFORE you find success in mass market. The cheapest and easiest way to do that is by breaking in via e-books. Build an audience through a success author marketing campaign (including an author website, of course). Gain readers and followers. Then approach a publisher as a proven success story and pitch yourself as a mass market author that’s worth the small investment.

Times are a-changin’.

author reads april 2017

April Round-Up: 5 Author Reads Worth Your Time

author reads april 2017April showers bring May flowers. Or, in this case, good author reads from April (will hopefully) bring some additional book sales this month.

But seriously, here’s a recap of the five author reads you might have missed in April. Now’s your time to catch up.

Can’t Miss Author Reads

1. How to Create a Review Campaign for Your Book Launch
What you need is a system to ensure you’re predictably and steadily bringing in reviews from the moment you hand out your first advance reader copy (ARC). So, let’s get to it.
Book Marketing Tools | April 10, 2017

2. DIY: Book Awards for Self-Published Authors
With hundreds of thousands of self-published books hitting the virtual shelves every year, indie authors need to find ways of standing out.
Publishers Weekly | April 10, 2017

3. Authors: Don’t Make Your Social Media All About You
I get it. In the hyper-competitive world of social media, it seems counter intuitive to use one’s precious bandwidth to promote something other than your own work. But it works, and here’s why.
Joel Pitney | April 11, 2017

4. A Quick Guide to Pricing Your E-Book
There’s one question that we editors hear again and again from self-publishing writers we work wit: How much should I charge for my ebook?
Build Book Buzz | April 19, 2017

5. Author Pages: 5 Sites You Should Consider Having One on
Here are five sites you should consider having an author page on – including Amazon and Facebook – and tips on how to maximize each one.
Smart Author Sites | April 24, 2017

If you read any articles recently that you think would be helpful to other start-up authors, share them below in the comments box. You can never have too many!

Happy book selling, and happy May.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An Author Website Book Publishers Will Love

I work with authors at all different stages of publication. Some who are self publishing. Others who reach out to me when their books are only a few months away from release through a major publishing house. The saddest of all are the authors whose books came out six months ago, and only now are they realizing how little publicity their book publishers are doing for them.

But some authors actually reach out to me way sooner than that. In fact, many of them haven’t even finished their manuscript yet.

How Soon Is Too Soon to Build an Author Website?

I’ve written about this before. It’s honestly never too soon. But be aware that the website you build prior to finishing your book is going to be drastically different from what it will be a year later. Once you have a finished book (and cover), book reviews, testimonials, links to buy it, etc… the site will look different because your goals will be different. At that point, you will be aiming to get readers to buy your book. But now, you have nothing to buy.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t have a site this early in the process. Building an online presence is an important piece of being a successful author today, and that’s something that takes time.

So What’s the Site for If It’s Not Selling Books?

Well, some of that depends on if you’re self publishing or reaching out to book publishers. In the case of traditional publishing, you want to make sure that when the person who receives your book pitch takes a look at your site, they are impressed and think, “Now, that’s an author I want to get behind.” More on that below.

Obviously, if you’re planning to self publish, you will be less focused on appealing to book publishers. But in many ways, the goals of the site would still be the same.

This early in the journey, the goal of your author website should be to build a following. That can be done in a few different ways, including:

  • Blogging regularly
  • Driving traffic to the site through Facebook/Twitter
  • Collecting email addresses and building fans/followers
  • Optimizing your site for search terms that readers might be looking for

So What Type of Site Would Appeal to Book Publishers?

Author websites for book publishers

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is receiving your manuscript. Let’s call her Jane.

Picture this scenario….

Jane comes across your book pitch. She sees your name and does a Google search for you.

Does your site show up right at the top of search results for your name?

Jane is now clicking around your site. The first thing she wants to know is if this site looks clean and professional.

Did you have it designed by a professional? Is it mobile-friendly?

Jane now wants to know what you look like. After all, she likes to attach a face to a name and is curious whether you’re 25 or 65.

Do you have a professional photo of yourself on the site?

Now, Jane is going to take a look at your blog. She wants to know what you write about, how dedicated you seem to be to it, and if people seem to be visiting it regularly.

Do you post entries on your blog on a regular basis? Are people commenting, and are you replying?

While she’s at it, Jane wants to get an idea of if you’ve already built a list of followers/subscribers. The more people you already have following you the easier it will be to sell the book to a larger audience once it’s published.

Do you prominently collect email addresses on the site? Do you have a social widget that shows how many followers/fans you already have?

Now, let’s not forget your writing. Jane knows that your book pitch is good, but how does she know that you did that yourself and didn’t hire someone? She wants to know what writing you’ve done in the past and where you might have been published.

Do you have a page on your site dedicated to previous writings (articles, book chapters, etc…) and a place where they can be read? Do you highlight any writing awards you’ve received?

 

If you answered yes to most of the questions above, a book publisher like Jane is more likely to take you seriously. Now, that doesn’t mean she’s going to publish your book. That’s still a ways away. But if, at the end of the day, she’s deciding between two promising authors and you’ve checked more boxes above than the other author she’s considering, you have a serious advantage.

Happy site building!

facebook author page

Author Page: 5 Sites You Should Consider Having One On

I often hear the term “author page” thrown around by clients as something they should have. I think it’s important that I first define what an author page is — and why it’s not the same thing as an author website.

The term author page refers to one page on the web that is dedicated to an individual author. It generally highlights who they are, what they write about, and why a reader might be interested in becoming a fan. This is not to be confused with an author site, which is generally comprised of many elements.

With that in mind, here are five sites that you should consider having an author page on (and tips on how to maximize each one).

Sites for Your Author Page

1. Your author website. As I alluded to above, an author page is a subset of an author site. Think of it like a thumb being a type of finger. You have five fingers on your hand, one of them is a thumb. You have an author website with many pages, one of them being an author page. Your entire site will likely be comprised of a blog, pages dedicated to your books, a contact page, a media page, etc… And yes, an author page.

Tip: Learn more about how to create a great author bio on your own website.

amazon author page2. Amazon. If you have books for sale on Amazon, you absolutely need an author page on Amazon as well. This will allow your name (wherever it appears on Amazon) to serve as a link to your author page. Once someone arrives there, they can view your photo, your bio, a list of all your books available for sale, and highlights of the reviews your books have gotten on Amazon. It essentially becomes a one-stop shop where people can learn more about you and your writing. And best of all, it’s free. You can start by joining Amazon Author Central.

Tip: In addition to all the basic information, your Amazon author page can also be customized to include a blog feed (pulling in your most recent blog entries), details on upcoming book tours, and any video you’ve created. Plus, on the back end, it allows you to access a book sales tracker and see how your books are doing in real time.

3. GoodReads. Much like Amazon, building an author page on GoodReads is free. All you have to do is join their author program. By creating this page, you are essentially claiming your space on GoodReads. Not only will this mean people learning about your books will also be able to learn about you, but it will also provide you with the official Goodreads Author badge that will appear anywhere you post on the site — like answering reader questions or reviewing other books in your genre. Fans will then also be able to follow you on Goodreads.

Tip: There are various book marketing tools that also become available when you build an author page on GoodReads, like being able to run a book giveaway or advertise your books through the site.

facebook author page4. Facebook. You probably already have a personal profile on Facebook. But what you may not have is an author page. And it’s important that you understand the difference. Unlike a Facebook profile, which is for an individual and allows you to friend people, like posts, etc… a Facebook page is defined as “a business account that represents a company or organization. [It] allows businesses to promote specials and contests to followers who have engaged with their page by ‘liking’ it.” In this case, your business is your authorship, and it needs a page that both friends and fans can follow. Another way to put it is that while your Facebook profile has friends, your Facebook page has followers. This is also free to create.

Tip: Make sure to take advantage of Facebook Insights, which you get when you set up an author page. It allows you to track how successful your social media efforts are. It also allows you to schedule posts in advance, launch contests, or run Facebook ads (not free).

5. Your publisher’s site Depending on who published your book — and even if you published it yourself — the publisher’s site is likely to have a place where you can create your own author page. This probably won’t be your most heavily-trafficked author page, but there’s no harm in getting it set up. Make sure to ask your publisher or self-publishing company if and how you can go about creating this page on their site.

Tip: Given the fact that you’re unlikely to spend a lot of time working on maintaining this author page, I highly recommend that you work in a link to your author website somewhere on the page. That way, a visitor who wants to stay on top of what you’re doing knows where to go.

Which author page worked best for you? What tips would you give other authors? Share them with us!

stopwatch-to-speed-up-your-author-website

7 Ways to Speed Up Your Author Website

stopwatch-to-speed-up-your-author-websiteSo your site is loading slowly. You’re not alone. Nearly everyone — from time to time — has dealt with a slow-loading site that is turning off potential readers. In fact, here’s a stat that you should be aware of: according to a report by the Microsoft Bing search team, a 2-second longer delay in page responsiveness reduced user satisfaction by 3.8%, increased lost revenue per user by 4.3%, and a reduced clicks by 4.3%. So how do you speed up your author website?

If your site was built in WordPress (which most author websites are), there are some simple steps you can take to make your site load faster.

Tips to Speed Up Your Author Website (in WordPress)

1. Uninstall unused plug-ins. Each plug-in that you have slows down your site just a bit. So go through your list of installed plug-ins and remove any that you aren’t currently using.

2. Make sure your images are optimized. If you are displaying a photo at a width of, say 450 pixels, make sure that the version that you’ve uploaded is not, say, 2000 pixels. The larger the original version of the image (even if you’re not displaying it at its full size) the longer the page will take to load.

3. Consider choosing a lighter WordPress theme. The more designed (i.e. full of code) your site is, the longer it takes to load. Consider switching to a faster theme. You’ll have fewer bells and whistles in the design, but it can be much more functional.

4. Install a caching plug-in. Okay, this probably sounds contrary to the “remove unused plug-ins” I discussed before, but this plug-in serves one purpose: to cache your site and improve site speed. One that is frequently recommended is W3 Total Cache.

5. Reduce content on your homepage. Each element on your homepage is its own widget. So if, for example, you have an introductory paragraph, a feed of your most recent blog posts, followed by a slider of photos, etc… each one of those is its own widget, and each comes with a boatload of code. If you can simplify/reduce the amount of content on your homepage, you can drastically increase load time.

6. Optimize your WordPress database. Yes, this is yet another plug-in. But I promise. These are helpful. This one helps optimize all your files to help reduce site load time. So if you have, say, 10 drafts of an old blog post or 100 spam comments in the system, those might be slowing down your site. Try the WP-Optimize plug-in.

7. Consider changing web hosts. This is probably your least attractive option. Because, let’s face it, who wants to have to move to a new host? But if all of the above options don’t work, the problem may just be your server. If so, it might be worth moving your site to a new host that gets good reviews from users on site speed.

It’s important to know that you can always track your progress on site speed as you take each of these steps. Use Google PageSpeed Insights to get real-time data on your load time (both on desktop and mobile) and watch your numbers increase.

Happy (and speedy) loading.

good reads for authors

March in Review: 5 Good Reads for Authors

good reads for authorsHappy April! Here’s what you might have missed in March. It’s time to catch up on your reading. Presenting … 5 Good Reads for Authors

Good Reads for Authors, March 2017

1. Should Indie Authors Publish Exclusively With Amazon or Not?
A new report from Author Earnings doesn’t completely answer the question, but it will help writers decide.
March 6, 2017 | Observer

2. 6 book publishing models in 2017
Discover today’s six book publishing models and get advice on how to figure out whose book publishing advice you can trust
March 8, 2017 | Build Book Buzz

3. The Indie Author’s Guide to Paid Reviews
For indie authors who have some room in their marketing budgets, paid book review services can be an appealing option.
March 10, 2017 | Publishers Weekly

4. Why Is It Important to Write Unique Blog Content?
There will always be room for another blog, but you cannot get away with poorly written content anymore. Writing unique and informative posts is where the money is at.
March 17, 2017 | Just Publishing Advice

4. Author Marketing Plans: Why Yours Should Be Unique
Are you looking for ready-made author marketing plans? Hoping to find a simple checklist that tells you everything you need to do to get your book out there to a wide audience? Well, sorry … I have some bad news for you.
March 23, 2017 | Smart Author Sites

author website domain name

Author Website Domain Name: 5 Fast Facts

author website domain name

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s the first thing you need to do when you are building an author website: choose a domain name! And yet, many people get tripped up by the experience. Here are five fast facts that may help make the process of choosing an author website domain name a little bit smoother and easier.

1. An author website domain name costs very little.

While building and hosting a site may come with some cost, a domain name shouldn’t break the bank. For about $15/year you can purchase your domain. So even if the domain you purchase isn’t the perfect one, that’s okay. Don’t let anyone try to charge you an arm and a leg for it.

2. Your domain name is not the same as your site hosting.

In order for your website to be live online, it will have to be hosted somewhere. Think of that as paying rent for your space on the internet. But well before you get there, you need to have your domain name purchased. One common misconception among authors is that their author website domain name and hosting are one in the same. They are not. The two entities — both of which are required to have a functioning site — can be purchased through the same company, but they don’t have to be. And, too often, an author only remembers their login for their domain name and not their site hosting, or vice versa. These are two very distinct items. Think of one as the copyright to your book (the domain) and one the book itself (the hosting.)

3. You can purchase multiple domain names.

I’ve worked with many authors who purchase multiple domains and have them all point to the same site. That’s perfectly fine. If you want to purchase your name at .net, .com and .org, great. If you want both your name and each of your book titles to all be domains that take people to your author site, that’s totally doable. You will need to select one primary domain (the one that is visible to your audience), but there’s no limit to how many domains you can purchase. Any time someone enters any one of those domains, they will end up on your website.

4. Unless it’s not available, your author website domain name should match the name on your book cover.

Let’s say you go by the name of Joe, but your book is published under Joseph. Or you use your middle initial on your book cover. In those instances, what do you do? Do you reserve a domain by the name people know you as? Or by the one you’ve published under? Again, you can purchase multiple domains, so in many cases I would recommend both. But your primary domain — the one that people see — should match as closely as possible to your author name. Now, if you have a relatively common name, like Joseph Smith, you may have to get more creative. So JosephSmith.com may not be available, but you can always try JosephSmithBooks.com, AuthorJosephSmith.com, etc…

5. You should ALWAYS own your own domain.

I can’t stress this to authors enough. Never let another organization purchase your domain name for you. They might build your website and own the rights to all your files. They might host your site. But at the end of the day, your author website domain name has to be yours. If at some point you decide to terminate the relationship with whomever built your site, you want to have full control over that domain. Because, if you own it, you can always have a new site built under that domain. If someone else owns it, they essentially own your brand and can do with it as they wish. That’s a marketing no-no for authors.

Hopefully, this has cleared up some confusion you might have had about author website domain names. If you have any additional questions, feel free to post them in the comments box below and I will be happy to provide a response! Or feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

articles for authors

Articles for Authors: What You Might Have Missed in February

articles for authors

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy March, everyone.  Since February came and went so quickly, you may have missed some of these really helpful articles for authors – put together from various places across the web. Here are five our our favorites.

5 Must-Read Articles for Authors

  1. The Indie Author’s Guide to Customer Reviews
    How indie authors can turn that discouraging “no customer reviews yet” message into star ratings and commentary.
    Publishers Weekly, February 1, 2017
  2. Are You Confusing Your Readers?
    Here are five signs you might be confusing readers with your book’s category and description. If you confuse readers, you’ll also cripple sales.
    Build Book Buzz, February 8, 2017
  3. Writing an Effective Book Description: 7 Ways to Turn Browsers Into Buyers
    Today I share 7 tips on how to write a book description that will turn browsers into buyers.
    Karen Woodward, February 14, 2017
  4. The 7 Benefits Of Inviting Guest Authors To Your Blog
    Attracting guest posts to your blog, written by outsiders, is a strategy of enormous potential value. Here are seven reasons why.
    Forbes, February 15, 2017
  5. I Want to Stop Blogging. Now What?
    Here are three questions I frequently get when people want to stop blogging, and what you as an author need to know about cutting ties with your blog.
    Smart Author Sites, February 16, 2017

Happy Reading!

good reads for authors

Good Reads for Authors from January (No Pun Intended)

good reads for authors

Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Another month has come and gone. And with that in mind, here’s a list of the good reads (and no, I don’t mean GoodReads) for authors and writers that were published in January. If you missed any of these, now’s the time to go back and make sure you don’t miss them.

January in Review: 5 Good Reads for Authors

1. Memoir Author’s Book Marketing Success Story
Jen Miller leveraged her platform, skills, and experience to turn her memoir launch into abook marketing success story. Here’s how she did it.
BuildBookBuzz, January 4, 2017

2. Building a Platform to Land a Book Deal: Why It Often Fails
If you’re preparing to pitch your nonfiction work to agents or publishers, you’ve probably heard about the necessity of having a platform.
JaneFriedman.com, January 5, 2017

3. 8 Book Marketing Mistakes to Ban in 2017
Avoid the most common book marketing blunders made by self-publishing authors.
Reedsy.com, January 10, 2017

4. 10 Times Book Reviewers Totally Got It Wrong
I love reading book reviews but I always take them with a grain of salt. Thing is, no matter how much of an expert the reviewer is, a review is an opinion, not a fact.
#AmReading, January 24, 21017

5. Author Tip Sheet: The Whys and Hows
You may have heard about an author tip sheet, sometimes called an author sell sheet. But what in the world is it? Let’s answer some of your questions.
SmartAuthorSites.com, January 26, 2017

Happy February, everyone! If you come across other good reads for authors this month, please share them with us.

how do you track book sales

How Do You Track Book Sales?

how do you track book salesSo you have an author website. And you, of course, have links to buy your book through your website (or at least I hope you do!) But how do you track book sales? In other words, how do you know if people are actually clicking on those links? And how do you know how many books are being sold?

There are actually few options for doing this.

How Do You Track Book Sales From Your Site?

Yes, you can track how many people are clicking on each of your “Buy the book” links. You can even track where they are clicking on them (From your blog? The book description page?) and which particular link they are going to (Amazon Kindle? B&N? Your hardcover?)

All of this can be done relatively simply – and for free – through a redirect URL or WordPress plug-in. This means that you can create a custom, hidden URL for each link that then redirects to the actual link. So, in other words, you could create a “page” on your site – let’s call it /buy-amazon-hardcover – that immediately redirects to your hardcover page on Amazon. No user clicking on the link would ever see that “blank” page on your site, because they’re only on it for a millisecond before they’re redirected to Amazon. But your site analytics records that visit, and any time you log in to view your analytics you can find out how many people actually went there — or, in layman’s terms, clicked on that particular Amazon link.

As I mentioned before, there are simple WordPress plugins that can do this work for you as well. The one we’ve used is called Redirection and it automates the process of creating these redirect URLs.

But here’s one thing this free functionality doesn’t do: let you know if people actually went through with the purchase. In other words, it tells you if people clicked on the link from your site that took them to the page on Amazon where they could buy the book. What it doesn’t tell you is if those same people actually followed through with the purchase.

How Do You Track Book Sales in Total?

So now we’ve talked about tracking how many books you’ve sold through your site. But what about tracking book sales in total? You clearly want to know how many books you’re selling, regardless of where the buyers are coming from.

The free option for doing this can be pretty time consuming. Essentially, any site where your book is sold will allow you to view that data. Your Amazon Author Central account will essentially allow you to view how many copies of your book were sold on Amazon – as well as some other partner sites.

But I still hear from authors that their sales through Smashwords, etc… are not included in these reports. They find themselves looking at multiple sources to figure out how many copies they’ve sold, and then working to crunch all the numbers into one place. Not fun.

Thankfully, there are several paid services that help you track all your book sales in one place without the legwork.

One is called Shelley Hitz. It allows you to enter your book information from multiple sites that sell it (Amazon, Smashwords, etc…) and it will generate all the data for you. It allows you to try it for free for 14 days and then the cost is anywhere up to $9.99/month (depending on how many books you’re tracking the sales of).

Another similar option is the downloadable Story Box Software. It offers similar features and allows you to run reports, download your data into Excel files, etc…. The difference with this service is that there’s a one-time fee to download it — $89.99 – and then you can use it for as long as you need. It also offers a free trial.

I’m sure there are plenty more websites, apps, etc… that can help with this. These are just the ones I’ve heard of through word of mouth.

So how do you track book sales? Well, there are a variety of options. It all depends on what you want to know, how you want to get that information, and – like everything else in life — how much you’re willing to pay for it.