How Do I Get My Book Out There? Tips from the Experts

how-do-i-get-my-book-out-thereThis is the question just about every self-published author is asking. And so are many authors who went through publishing houses, too. “How do I get my book out there?”

In other words, authors are asking what they can do to get readers to take a chance on their work. What strategies or techniques will get the average reader to dedicate some time (and hopefully money) into reading your first book. Because if you’re confident in your work, you know that once they read the first book, they will be a fan for life.

Someone posed just this question to a team of successful authors and publishing experts at Publishers Weekly. Here are some suggestions, as proposed by the panelists.

1. Write more books!

Bestselling author Bella Andre recommends that you get started writing your second, third, and even fourth book before your first is a hit. “Once you have a four to five books out, and especially if they are in a connected world/series, then you are best able to begin promoting your books to readers,” she adds.

2. Become a good marketing copywriter.

Another bestselling author, Hugh Howey, says that a good writer should be able to write more than just a good book. He recommends that you hone your writing skills so that you can seamlessly craft interesting blog posts, book teasers, social networking posts and more. “Can you sell your book in a single sentence? If not, keep working on that sentence.”

3. Consider a giveaway or promotion.

The great publishing vet Jane Friedman shared her top recommendation: free stuff! As she put it, “The number one tool for any new or unknown indie author is the giveaway, whether that’s through Amazon, your own site, or a marketing service like BookBub.” And she’s right. I mean, who doesn’t want something for free? Joanna Penn, bestselling author and blogger, agrees. “Having a book for free is the very best way to get people to try your work. I have my first in series free on all e-book stores and I give away a novella on my site to entice people to sign up for my email list. You can also do giveaways on Goodreads and other sites.” Bella Andre chimes in here as well, suggesting, “You can try a temporary sale on the first book.”

4. Own a space in your genre.

Figure out exactly what type of book you have written. Then market accordingly. Jane Friedman notes that it’s especially important to make sure your website is properly updated with the right keywords for your book. “Ensure your book’s metadata is accurate and specific (your categories, tags, and description) — to make sure readers who are searching for your work’s themes, settings, or characters will be more likely find it.” Joanna Penn also recommends that you reach out to other book bloggers or reviewers in your genre to build relationships.

5. Make the right investments.

Sure, some things cost money. But many of them are worth it. Bella Andre points out that you can buy some online ads at a reasonable cost to increase the visibility of your books. Similarly, she talks about the importance of a really nice, professional-looking cover. I couldn’t agree more that getting a good book cover designer is definitely worth the investment. And, in my humble opinion, the same goes for working with a good author website development firm.

So if you’re asking the question, “How do I get my book out there?,” these five ideas will hopefully serve as a really good starting point.

5 Common Author Blog SEO Mistakes

author-blog-seoI just got off the phone with a marketing consultant who helps self-published authors promote themselves. We spent a long time talking about author blog SEO … and I was really surprised just how little even professionals understand about the dos and don’ts of search engine optimization.

With that in mind, here are five common mistakes I see/hear about from authors…

1. Optimizing for too many keywords.

How many keywords was your most recent blog post optimized for? Five? Ten? The truth is, each post should have one primary keyword. The days of entering 10 keywords in the traditional meta keyword field and thinking that your post is optimized are long gone. Nowadays, it takes far more work than that to get your post to show up on a search result page. Pick your primary keyword and then optimize your entire post for it. Speaking of which…

2. Not using headlines, URLs, images or h2/h3 tags.

Yup, these are the places that really matter. The primary keyword you select should be worked into your blog headline, your URL, your intro paragraph and in h2/h3 tags (subheads). See how the words “author blog SEO” appear in all those places here? This post is properly optimized. Unless you work your keyword into each one of those places, you’re not doing your post justice.

2. Optimizing for keywords that are too general.

Let’s say you wrote a book about the history of baseball. Common sense would say that your blog post should be optimized for the keyword term “baseball,” right? Wrong. There are probably hundreds of thousands of blog posts out there optimized for the word “baseball,” and the chances that you could compete with them is minimal. After all, ESPN has kind of mastered this stuff. So you need to get more specific in your keyword choices. For example, “Babe Ruth,” “1919 World Series” and “the origin of baseball” are keywords that are far more attainable. It’s a much better use of your time to focus on those. So how do you find those keywords?

3. Not doing author blog SEO keyword research.

I’m a big fan of the Google keyword tool to analyze keywords; it tells you how many people are searching for each one, and how much competition there is. But even if you don’t have this service, you can simply go to Google and start typing keywords into the search box. See how Google is actually finishing your search for you? Take a look at the keywords Google is filling in. This is a good starting point for determining what people are actually searching for. Identify those keywords first, and then optimize your post accordingly.

5. Reusing the same keyword in multiple posts.

Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? In terms of keywords, yes. If you already have a blog post optimized for, say, “the best author blogs,” and then you create a second blog post with the same keyword, what’s the result? Well, according to the experts, it in no way makes your site any more of a destination for that search term. Instead, it basically just sets you up to compete with yourself. It’s recommended that you have one destination (or in this case, blog post) for each specific keyword, and that you’re better off optimizing future posts for a variation of that keyword.

Now, SEO is an ever-changing field. What I’m telling you today may or may not still be applicable five years from now. But these are some good guidelines to start following to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck in terms of SEO for your blog. If you’re looking for more advice on building your author website, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

February Author Round-Up: 5 Things You Might Have Missed

A new month is here already. Here’s an author round up of five things you might have missed in the month of February … and that we think are definitely worth going back to author-round-up-calendarread!

1. Marketing Your Books Through Current Events
Smart Author Sites
February 11, 2016

2. 7 Proven Ways to Use Content Curation to Become a Recognized Authority in Your Industry
Donna Gunter, LinkedIn
February 17, 2016

3. 10 rock-solid reasons why authors should build an email list
Joan Stewart, Build Book Buzz
February 17, 2016

4. Good Marketing. Poor Author Website Design. Does It Matter?
Smart Author Sites
February 18, 2016

5. The Self-Publishers Guide to Marketing Author Blogs
Publishers Weekly
February 19, 2016

If you stumbled across any other good articles in February that you’d like to share with other authors, please do so!

Good Marketing. Poor Author Website Design. Does It Matter?

beverly-ovalle-author-website-designI stumbled across an article today from a local newspaper published in Wisconsin. It’s a personal profile on a local author, Beverly Ovalle.

If you’re interested in reading the full story, you can find it here. But, in short, it talks about how she became an author, the books that she’s written that are selling well on Amazon, and the various marketing efforts she’s using to promote her books, including Facebook and Twitter. She also joined the Romance Writers of America and the Wisconsin Writers Association and ROMVETS, a group of women veterans who write romances. She even entered one of her books in a contest (which it didn’t win).

There’s nothing about her story that’s shocking or exceptional. She’s an average person who tried her hand at writing, invested some time and energy in promoting her books and did pretty well.

Just the fact that I found this article means that she was able to pitch her story to the local paper and get it picked up. This is some great publicity for her! So she’s really doing something right.

But as I dug into her efforts, one thing caught my eye … and not in a good way: her website.

What’s Wrong With Her Author Website Design?

When I clicked through to her site, my first reaction was that it looked … well … amateurish. Here it is. Take a look for yourself: www.beverlyovalle.com.

It’s not awful, but it didn’t exactly blow my socks off either. My first guess was that she had designed it herself. And as I scrolled to the bottom, I found that I was pretty much correct. Right where the credit to the design team usually goes, it says it was “proudly created with Wix.com.”

For those of you who don’t know, Wix is a free website design service. It allows you to pick a website template and then customize it to your needs. The templates themselves aren’t bad. The problem is usually the customization.

In this particular case, Beverly decided that she was going to make the website look exciting and splashy. She wanted to add boxes that feature news, have words/image moving around, etc… None of these are bad things in and of themselves. It’s just that when the things that you’re adding are self-made — not made by a professional designer — they can fall flat. That was my reaction when I saw Beverly’s site.

When you work with a professional design team, (like us — the perfect time for a plug) you get a full package of design services. We start by helping you choose a template, and then we work with you to customize it to your needs. If you want splashy, you’ll get splashy. And you’ll get it with the professionalism of a true designer. You’ll also get lots of expert advice on what works and what doesn’t for other authors. We’re not afraid to push back on an idea if we think it won’t convey what you want it to convey. That’s the personalized service you get with a professional author website design firm, and not with a free service like Wix.

So here’s my question for you …

Does It Really Matter?

Clearly, Beverly is doing a lot of things right. She’s selling copies of her book. She’s active on social media. She got the local paper to cover her story. So her website is less than ideal in terms of its design and functionality. Does that matter? Is that hindering her success?

Ultimately, that’s for each and every author to decide for him or herself. Some might argue that getting a professionally designed website is a waste of money. I can’t argue that’s wrong. But I can tell you this. If I looked at Beverly’s site and thought it was missing something, then what reaction would agents have when they take a look? What about publishers? How about readers? You know what they say about first impressions.

What do you think? Is having a professionally designed author website important? Share your thoughts below!

Marketing Your Books Through Current Events

googletrendsQuick. Check out Google Trends. What do you see?

In case you’re not aware of Google Trends, it’s the branch of Google that shows you which search terms are being entered the most right now. And what is the thread that always seems to carry through each and every one of them? That would be news.

In other words, on the day of the Super Bowl, the most popular search terms were “Super Bowl,” “NFL,” “Denver Broncos” etc… On the day of a presidential primary, the top search terms are the names of the candidates, the state that’s voting, etc… This isn’t rocket science. People are searching for what’s top of mind that day.

So why does this matter to authors? Because taking advantage of these top trends can play a role in marketing your books. Let me explain…

Making the Connection

“What does my book have to do with today’s news?”, you might ask. For some people, making this connection is easy. If you’ve written a book on politics, it’s a no-brainer to think about how to tie your book in to the conversation surrounding the presidential election. But for a large majority of authors, this isn’t such an easy connection. That’s where your creative mind comes into play. Here are three scenarios of book topics and things in the news as I write this … and how you can link them.

Romance Novel and the Super Bowl

These two things seem to be polar opposites, correct? Well, that’s exactly where the connection lies. What a great opportunity to bring up the fact that chances are, if you’re a fan of romance novels, you are not all that into watching the Super Bowl. This is where you create, say, a live chat with the author during the Super Bowl. Or you remind people that your book is the perfect one to read while their significant others are wrapped up with football.

Psychology Book and the Presidential Election

This year’s Presidential election is … well … fascinating. We’ve got competitive candidates in both parties, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who are using extremely non-conventional approaches to the election. And no matter how you feel about these candidates, studying their tendencies — and their supporters’ devotion — is practically a psychology experiment. This is the perfect time for an author to step in and talk about the intensity of the feelings behind the support for these candidates. Are they feeling angry? Why? What’s the best way for them to express this anger? Is there room for personal growth for either these candidates or their followers? Or are they MORE in tune with themselves than the other candidates? Again, this is ripe conversation for fodder among authors who dabble in the spirituality/self-help/psychology arena.

Historical Biography and the Flint Water Crisis

So we’ve all heard about the awful situation in Flint, Michigan. Kids — and let’s not forget pets — are being filled with lead through the drinking water. The results are already awful, and could only get worse over time. So what does this have to do with a historical biography? Well, let’s look at the leadership in Flint, in the state of Michigan and in the US government. What are they doing to fix the problem? What caused the problem in the first place, and who is responsible? If you have written a biography on, say, John F. Kennedy, Jr., you probably know something about his position on the involvement of government in this type of issue — both on a local and national level. Maybe you even know if he worked on any bills related to clean drinking water. If nothing else, this is your opportunity to write a piece along the lines of “What Would JFK Do?” in response to this current crisis.

Obviously, you are not likely to fit into one of these three scenarios exactly. But this (hopefully) will give you some ideas about how to think outside the box and find the link.

Utilizing the Connection for Marketing Your Book

So now that you’ve found the connection, what do you do with it? Here are a few different ways to take advantage of the news cycle and use it as an opportunity to market your book. All of these routes will help — in one way or another — get a mention of your book in front of a portion of the many, many people searching for these popular keywords.

  1. Blog, blog, blog. Yup, it all goes back to blogging. This is the easiest and quickest way for you to get your message out there. Write one or more blog posts specifically tying your book to a top news story. Make sure to use specific tools/plug-ins that allow you to properly optimize the piece for those search terms. For example, here are dummy titles for each of the three scenarios outlined above:

    “Forget the Super Bowl! Read _____” (optimized for “Super Bowl”)
    “Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and the Psychology Behind Them” (optimized for the candidates names)
    “The Flint Water Crisis: What Would JFK Do?” (optimized for “Flint water crisis”)

    By properly writing and optimizing these pieces, you can try to break through to the audience specifically looking for more on these news items. Is it easy to compete with top news organizations for these keywords? Of course not. But a good effort might just sneak you in. And if your title is interesting and clickable enough, it will attract the perfect audience of potential readers.

  2. Pitch articles. There are hundreds of sites out there just looking for good writers to pitch good story ideas to them. Giving an interesting slant to a popular news story is just icing on the cake. Think about local publications/news sites that you can easily reach out to, and also think big — like HuffPost — and pitch your ideas there as well. It may be as simple as finding other bloggers and asking them if you can guest blog on their site. Depending on the specific subject matter, identify five or so relevant sites that accept story submission ideas and make your pitch.

  3. Use social media. How many people are talking about top news items via Twitter or Facebook? That would be a lot. Just look at how many tweets were sent out during the Super Bowl. Do some quick sleuthing online to find out which hashtags are being used for tweets related to the news item you’re connecting with. Then use that tweet to inject yourself into the conversation and make the connection with your book. For example, a post that reads, “#superbowl Bored to tears? Buy an e-copy of ____ now” can reach your target audience. Ditto with Facebook … find conversations going on related to hot news items, and chime in with your quick blurb (or link to your blog post).

Again, there are a million ways you can go about this — both how you make the connection and how you get the word out. But no matter what type of book you’ve written, piggybacking on today’s hot news items can be your ticket to reaching a whole new audience.

 

January Round-Up: 5 Must Reads for Authors

january-snowmanHappy February. We’re now very much in the swing of 2016, with lots of news and advice for authors — both those who are self published and those taking the traditional route. In case you missed any of it, here are the must reads for authors from the last month.

1. 5 Blunders Nonfiction Authors Make
Curiouser Editing
January 7, 2016

2. How to Promote a Book Without Using Social Media
Build Book Buzz
January 13, 2016

3. 6 Questions You MUST Ask an Author Website Development Firm
Smart Author Sites
January 14, 2016

4. 6 Ways a Publisher Can Kill Your Success
Huffington Post
January 14, 2016

5. Five Marketing Models for Self-Publishing Success
Publishers Weekly
January 15, 2016

Happy writing (and marketing)!

 

Case Study: What One Author Website Does Right … and Wrong

SuperwomanSmarts -- an author websiteI stumbled upon a press release this morning about an author website that was just re-launched: www.superwomansmarts.com/.

There are a bunch of things about this site that I like … and a lot of elements that I didn’t have quite as good a reaction to.

Now, I don’t claim to be the final word on this. Some people may disagree with my opinions. But here’s my assessment of what this site does right — and what it does wrong — based on my experience building websites for authors.

What This Author Website Does Right

Design
Whomever designed this site is good. The site was clearly built in WordPress, but with enough customization to really stand out and look different and unique. The site is also mobile-friendly, a huge plus in 2016.

Message clarity
The bulleted list of what Superwoman Smarts has to offer, along with a “welcome” message, is crucial. It allows people to clearly get their bearings when they arrive. Thankfully, this isn’t one of those sites that plops you into the latest blog entry and leaves you trying to figure out what it’s all about.

Video, video, video
Having video on your site is crucial. This site has it front and center as a way for people to understand what the site is about.

Offering benefits for signing up
I have a lot of authors ask me what the secret is to collecting email addresses. The answer? A reason for someone to give you their email address. This site nicely tells people exactly what they’ll get for signing up — from access to podcasts and webinars to private discussion groups that let you connect with other members.

What This Author Website Does Wrong

Now we get to the good stuff, right? Well, here goes…

Serious branding and URL confusion
So you come to SuperwomanSmarts.com, and you think you’re on the site’s homepage. Well, you’re not. And that’s a problem. You see, the main URL for the site is AundreaYWilcox.com. SuperwomanSmarts.com is not its own site — it’s a subsection of Aundrea’s site, and the URL simply directs you to that subpage. Plus, no matter where you click around on the site, the URL is still SuperwomanSmarts.com. And that leads to a whole bunch of confusion. For example:

  • You might wonder, as I initially did, why the header of the site says Aundrea Y. Wilcox if the site name is Superwoman Smarts.
  • Here’s a question: What happens if you click around the site (as I did) and then attempt to go back to the “homepage”? You would click on “home,” right? And then you’d be on Aundrea’s homepage, even though it still says you’re on SuperwomanSmarts.com. Incredibly confusing!
  • There’s clearly some brand confusion here. What is it that we’re supposed to be buying into? SuperwomanSmarts? Or the speaker Aundrea Y. Wilcox? Personally, I think that if Superwoman Smarts is its own brand, then it needs its own site. Period.

Unexpected music
This is just my personal pet peeve, but I can’t stand when you come to a site and it starts blaring music at you. If you accidentally left your sound on and, say, are at work or have a sleeping baby next to you, that’s experience is sure to make you start whispering obscenities at the site. And then leave!

Heavy promotion
Unlike many author websites, this one actually aims not to sell just books, but also retail wear, like t-shirts and the like. And while, if successful, that’s a great idea, I wonder if there’s a little too much pushing of products when you arrive here. After all, the first thing the site needs to do is sell you on the ideas behind it, and once you’re deep enough, it can start encouraging you to spend money on products. Instead, it feels a bit like there’s a huge ad right on the homepage.

Still to Be Determined

Requiring payment
This is honestly one of the boldest things I’ve ever seen done on an author website. Aundrea and Superwoman Smarts (still not clear on which one it is) wants you to “upgrade” and pay for full membership to the site. Here’s the description of what you get with a full membership:

“… upgrade to a VIP Member for $17/month—the cost of a movie ticket and popcorn (and a bottled water if you’re lucky)—and gain expanded access to member detail pages with direct contact information and special offers (and a PREMIUM listing for yourself), live webinars, podcasts, video trainings, the mentoring program, and more exclusive content! If you have the time and the drive to do more with what you have—no matter how little you think you have—these deliverables will help you finally execute on your vision.”

In other words, Superwoman Smarts is offering women the chance to connect with other female professionals, promote their own services, and receive special offers, trainings and professional mentorship if you pay a monthly fee. That’s a tall ask. Personally, I would love to see how many people have already signed up for this. My hunch is that it’s probably not many. But this is something to keep an eye on … because any new way for authors to make money is worth watching.

 

Do you have a site you’d like me to do this type of assessment of? Submit your URL in the comments box below and I’ll be happy to offer my two cents.

Our 5 Most-Read Blog Posts in 2015

Johan Larsson / photo on flickr

Johan Larsson / photo on flickr

A new year has begun, and with it will come a whole new batch of blog posts — chock full of advice, the latest news in the industry and more.

But first, feast on our most-read blog posts of 2015. Please note that not all of these were published in 2015 (some are older than that) … but they certainly were read! We hope these have been helpful to you, and here’s to an even better 2016.

  1. How to Write the Perfect Book Teaser
    When I’m working with an author to create an effective homepage, one of the things that I always ask a writer to do is create a book teaser … something that really whets the appetite of a visitor in the few seconds that you have their attention. Then you give them links to read more about the book, read an excerpt, or … of course … buy the book….

  2. The Importance of an Author Tagline (and How to Write One!)
    Picture this. You go to an author’s website. Or you end up on the website because … well … you’re not quite sure how. The homepage of the website includes the author’s name in huge letters, on top of a large, adorable photo of him or her. “Aw … what a nice photo,” you think…

  3. Authors: Create Your Own Wikipedia Page
    Did you know that Wikipedia is one of the most popular ways of doing research on the web? In some ways, that’s kind of crazy. After all, it’s not experts who post information on Wikipedia — covering everything from the Berlin Wall to the history of the Slinky toy. It’s your average guy who creates a Wikipedia page about something or someone and puts in what they know. Other people can then add to that information. It’s basically a wealth of knowledge from common folk (another example of Web 2.0) that stays there unless someone else finds it to be incorrect…

  4. 6 Things Elizabeth Gilbert Does Right on Her Author Website (and You Can, Too)
    Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (known best for Eat, Pray, Love) has an amazing author website. And no, we didn’t build it. But when I stumbled upon it today, I was immediately impressed by it. Why? Here are six reasons…

  5. Building Your Author Media Page/Press Kit
    Do you have a media page on your author website? It’s purpose is to provide the media with the information they might need to feature you in their next piece. If you decide to have a press page on your website, here are some ideas about what it should include…

  6. Looking to Get Published? Consider Harper Collins’ Authonomy
    If you’re an author looking to get published by a major publishing house, you may want to consider posting your book on Harper Collins’ Authonomy website. Here’s the scoop….

  7. What Is a Book Landing Page and Do You Need One?
    You may or may not have heard the term “landing page” in the context of an author website. But you very well may not know exactly what a landing page is. It’s time to learn!

  8. 6 Tips for Pre-Selling Your Book
    If you’re a smart author — and all our Smart Author Sites clients are 🙂 — you’ll have your website up-and-running well before your book is published. In fact, your website may have even helped to get your book published. But exactly what should an author be doing with the website for the months leading up to the book’s release date? How do you promote a book that’s not on the shelves yet? Here’s what you can do to get a head start selling copies of your book…

  9. Author Newsletters: Tips, Misconceptions, and More!
    Several of my clients have asked me to send out newsletters to their mailing lists recently. But none of them seemed to understand exactly what a newsletter can do (or the information you can cull out of sending a newsletter). With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to outline exactly what an author newsletter can do, when it should be used, and what kind of information you can cull from it…

  10. A New Way for Authors to Get ‘Discovered’
    I came across this article today on MediaBistro. Just thought I’d share it with my author friends. Apparently, Penguin has created a new website called Book Country — a place where authors can connect with reviewers, publishing professionals, and readers…

Have an idea for a future blog entry you’d like to see? Make your recommendation in the comments section below.

5 Author Website-Related New Year’s Resolutions

new-years-eve2016 is rapidly approaching, and with a new year comes new goals, new technologies and new promises. With that in mind, here are five things that authors might consider making their new year’s resolution.

1. I will blog/update my site regularly. There’s a reason this is the first potential resolution on the list. This is where I see the most authors getting lax, or letting things slide. I regularly see blogs that haven’t been updated in months, or “upcoming events” listed that have dates long in the past. Look, it’s hard to stay on top of these types of things. After all, authors have a lot of other things to do. But consider this: if you visited a website and saw that it hadn’t been updated in a while, what would your reaction be? Probably something like, “If he/she isn’t paying attention to it, why should I?” That in and of itself is enough reason for you to make sure your website is always current, and looks like it’s tended to.

2. I will make sure my site is mobile-friendly. Mobile is taking over the world. Seriously. The number of mobile users has grown tremendously in the past few years, and it’s only continuing to get larger. Whether it’s phones or tablets, a large percentage of web users nowadays are not using a desktop computer with a large screen. So when is the last time you looked at your site on a mobile device? How about multiple mobile devices (say, an iPhone and a tablet)? If your site doesn’t offer the optimal user experience on those devices, then you should make your goal for 2015 to make sure that every mobile user has as good an experience on your site as a desktop user.

3. I will begin adding video to my website. I recently posted another entry on video. And, if you haven’t gotten into video yet, the numbers are pretty scary. In short, video is the future of the web. As much as you and I may be “authors” (i.e. people of the written word), we will fall behind the times unless we start thinking about ways to incorporate video into our author websites.  Whether they’re vlogs, book trailers or curated YouTube videos, don’t let video pass you by this upcoming year.

4. I will take an objective look at my site. When you look at your author website on a regular basis, it’s hard to know what it looks like to new users. It’s kind of like your spouse: he or she may look beautiful to you every day, because you don’t notice that receding hairline or those few extra pounds. But to someone new, those things might be evident. In other words, take a step back and look at your website like you’re seeing it for the first time. Does the design look current? Is it clear at first glance what kind of writer you are? Does the tagline you put under your name still apply? Is there anything on the site that looks out of place? Sometimes, it helps to step away for a little bit before you come back with fresh eyes. You may be surprised at what you see.

5. I will think about new ways to make my site interesting. This is where I stop giving you specific ideas and toss the ball into your court. The best author websites are the ones in which the authors have started their own trends. Maybe they are asking readers to vote on a title for their next book. Maybe they’re running a writing contest for aspiring writers in their genre. Maybe they’re doing live video chats with users, answering questions. The ideas are endless, and it’s up to you to come up with them. So make a resolution to think outside the box this upcoming year and make your site one that others will want to emulate.

Happy New Year, everyone!

5 Things Authors Can Learn From the 2015 Smashwords Survey

smashwordslogoSmashwords recently released the results of its annual survey. And the results are … well … interesting.

If you want to read the full report, you can check it out on the Smashwords blog. But here’s a summary of what you, as an author, can take from the 2015 Smashwords survey.

1. Offering things for free makes a difference. It’s kind of a no-brainer. If a store that sells accessories is offering a free handbag, you’re more likely to go to the store to take advantage of the free handbag… and then purchase a few other things you like there. The same is true with books. For the first time this year, Smashwords analyzed the difference in sales between series with free series starters and series without free series starters.  The results were clear: the free series starter group earned 66% more.  In addition, free books (not surprisingly) got 41 times more downloads than priced books. For many authors, that’s a good first step to building loyal readers. As they describe on Smashwords, “A free book allows a reader to try you risk free, and if you’re offering them a great full length book, that’s a lot of hours the reader has spent with your words in which you’re earning and deserving their continued readership. Free works!”

2. There’s a value to preordering. For the first time, Smashwords compared the percentage of books available for preorder with those simply uploaded the day of release, as well as the sales of each one. Interestingly, less than 10 percent of the books available through Smashwords were available for preorder … and yet, two thirds of their top 200 bestselling titles were able to be preordered.  That’s right: that small 10% of books made up 66% of the top sellers. Think about that for a minute. Then use that as motivation to allow people to preorder your book.

3. People still want traditional book-length books. There’s not a lot of detail in the report, but the stat is clear: longer books do better than some of today’s shorter e-books. Whether or not that trend will change as the industry changes is still to be determined.

4. $3.99 is the pricing sweet spot for e-books. Some interesting stats in here about the prices that help sell the most books. For the third year in a row, according to Smashwords, authors sold more units and earned more overall income with books priced at $3.99.  As they explain, “This is significant because it counters the concern of some authors that the glut of high-quality will lead to ever lower prices.  For great authors, readers are still willing to pay.” And the worst price point? That would be $1.99. “If you write full length fiction and you have books priced at $1.99, trying increasing the price to $2.99 or $3.99, and if your book performs as the aggregate does, you’ll probably sell more units.  Or if it’s short and $2.99+ is too high, try 99 cents instead because the data suggests you’ll earn more and reach about 65% more readers,” Smashwords recommends.

5. Successful authors have a blog and social media presence. Much like people wanting stuff that’s free, this is another no brainer. According to the latest Smashwords research, bestselling authors are more likely to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, as well as more likely to have a blog. If you’re interested in building an author website, blog or social media presence, we can certainly help you with that.

Keep in mind that all of this data is specific to Smashwords, which only publishes e-books, so do with it as you wish. But personally, I think there’s some really interesting stuff here about the current and future world of publishing.