By Vincent B. Davis II @vbdavisii
Writing scares me. Like, the foot tapping and nail biting kind of scared.
Maybe I’m the only one, but I really don’t think so. The whole concept of bringing a world and its inhabitants to life is a daunting task, even non-writers know that. But only the Author understands how difficult this process can truly be.
As I began writing the story that would become my first published novel, I was overwhelmed by fear and frustration at how many things I was required to remember with every word I put on paper. There were rules for dialogue, plot, characterization, and theme. I tried desperately to remember proper grammar, syntax, and developing that elusive and ethereal “voice” that needs to be unique. I needed to constantly recall genre conventions, proper POV use, Steven James’ organic writing, and Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
Luckily, there was a way to organize it all. There was a kind of synergy in developing what I needed before writing, during writing, and for editing afterward. After a little experience, you can analyze the weakness of a scene or chapter, and you can isolate and improve it during your edits.
However, for the writer, the writing is only the beginning.
Next, you must find an agent or editor, a publisher, or decide which self-publishing service is best for you. But even with these, there are steps listed. You develop a synopsis, you write up your query letter, and approach an agent. You can isolate these tasks and handle them accordingly.
But what about publishing? What about sales? Marketing? Most of us pray until our knuckles are white and hope that it works, or understand that if you continue to try, something will stick.
Most of us pray until our knuckles are white and hope that it works, or understand that if you continue to try, something will stick.
If you look elsewhere, the answers aren’t always much better. “Sell more,” “make more,” and “do better” aren’t helpful. The lack of concrete answers made me even more scared of publishing than I had previously been of writing.
Then I found an answer.
I don’t remember where, and I don’t remember how much I thought about it at the time, but the concept has stayed with me.
Traffic + Conversion = Sales
Simply enough, right? It isn’t mind blowing, but it has helped me so much in organizing my marketing approach.
After I had spent some time thinking about this concept, I decided to sit down and write out the equation. Below traffic, I began to scribble a few things.
Traffic- Get Others to See Your Book
Email List: if you haven’t started on, you need to. Mine is abysmal, to be honest, and I haven’t put as much work into this as I should. However, all the experts agree. Your mailing list is one of the most important marketing tools you’ll ever have. Most of the people who will read this blog will have opened it from their inbox, and that is the value an Email list brings. Publishing and Marketing expert Jane Friedman offers some advice on how to build your Email list, here.
Social Media and Blogging: if you’re reading this blog and you aren’t subscribed to the Blue Ridge Conference Email list, I’ll bet you found it via social media. If you know anything about our directors, Edie and DiAnn, I’m sure you’re familiar with how they feel about social media. It is simply the easiest and most effective way of getting in front of people you would have never met otherwise. It is also the best way to invest in and develop relationships with those who are not geographically close to you. In the modern age, social media is the word of mouth that drives sales. When someone values something, they will like and share it, tell others about it, and review it. If you do not have a presence on the major social media outlets, your readers will have a hard time trusting you. They might fear that you are the snake oil salesman who rides into town and leaves before he can get figured out. Edie offers some advice on how to optimize your blog, here, and DiAnn Mills discusses some social media myths, here.
Traditional word of mouth: That being said, human beings will always interact beside the water cooler. As far as marketing goals, traditional word of mouth will struggle to have the reach and exposure of more modern means, but it will always have the best conversion ratios. This is because when one person looks at another and tells them there is something out there they need to experience, it demands their attention. DiAnn wrote an awesome piece on the power of “street teams” here.
Traffic Tsunami: This a term I did not create and have no idea where it came from, but it is a powerful image. In a 48 or 72 hour period, you take as many promotional opportunities as you can. The free book promotion sites I discussed in last week’s post and Amazon Marketing Services which I discussed the week before, are two great ways to do this. Blog tours, guest appearances on podcasts, and posting on various Facebook (professional) pages, is another way. Luckily, if you’re involved in our Blue Ridge Conference family, you have an over abundance of people who would love to help you do this.
After I finished Traffic, I was already feeling a little better. Then I continued in Conversion.
Conversion- Get Viewers to Buy Your Book
Title: Pick a good one. Something that asks a question, something that makes the reader want to know more. Dan Balow of The Steve Laube Agency wrote a great piece on this, here.
Book Cover: People do judge books by their cover. You do it, I do it, everyone does. And I disagree with the old adage when it actually comes to book covers. The quality of a book’s appearance shows the degree to which the author or publisher values the project. If you want to be thrifty in your writing career, I encourage you to do so, but not with your Book Cover. I hired a very expensive designer with a fantastic background, and I have no doubt that many of my book sales have come from this. Something you designed yourself, or bought on Fiverr, will struggle to convert a lot of your traffic. If you decide to take the risk and trust yourself to create the book cover, I implore you to study the industry and spend some time on it. In an age when the majority of book sales come from a tiny Amazon thumbnail, you can’t afford to have a cover that doesn’t demand attention. NY Times Best Selling Author Joanna Penn wrote a great article on this, here.
Review: This is the most difficult step of conversion for new authors. If your book has no reviews, readers will view it with skepticism. If readers view your book with skepticism, they will not buy it. Ergo, you won’t get any reviews. You can mitigate this vicious circle by sending out review copies before hand, and asking in advance for reviews on the day of your book launch. Within the first few days of my book’s launch, I had five reviews on Amazon. This gave me some credibility, and my sales have increased with every review. Now I have 16 in the US and a few elsewhere. At first, I was averaging around 5 e-book sales a day, and now I average around 25 e-book sales a day. All the other conversion tools can break down and fall apart if there aren’t reviews to promise your prospective readers that your book is worth their time. A few other ways to get reviews are to pay for a Kirkus Review, purchase the Book Review Targeter software, and to ask at the end (or even the beginning) of your book. Writer’s Digest wrote more about that, here.
Book Description: Copy writing is difficult. I struggle with it, to be honest. But this is where you make a proposal to your reader, of what you plan to give them within the pages of your book. Their purchase is the signature at the end of the proposal. If you skim here, they are likely to put the pen back in their pocket. Another word on description: two of my favorite movies were destroyed by trailers that misrepresented them. The Grey and the Assassination of Jesse James were two incredible movies that are slow, contemplative, and reflective. Their trailers, however, made them seem like shoot-em-up action movies. As a result, they were box office flops and received negative to mediocre reviews. Make sure that you create a book description that accurately describes your book. If you don’t deliver on the promise you made in your proposal to the reader, you are likely to receive negative reviews, which will hurt your conversion in the long run. Publishing expert Jane Friedman discusses book descriptions more, here.
Price: There is a “golden mean” somewhere in the price spectrum, but it is difficult to find and it shifts constantly. It also depends on what you want to get out of your sales. Is it exposure? Income? Life-long fans? There are many different things to consider when determining your price. There isn’t an easy answer, but don’t just slap something on that feels good. Research, research, research. Then change it and test the results. Then do it again, until you find the right balance. publishersweekly.com discusses this more, here.
As I wrapped up my convert section, I moved to sales.
That’s right. Nothing. You do not and can not control your sales. You can only manipulate the variables that lead to sales.
Isn’t that relieving? Doesn’t that ease the nerves? So, for the 2nd half of 2017, focus on improving what you can, and leave the “sell more” and “do better” in the rear view mirror. If you can do that, you won’t be nail biting and foot tapping… as much.
Vincent B. Davis II is an entrepreneur, soldier, and freelance writer. In December 2016, he founded Thirteenth Press, LLC. His first novel, “The Man with Two Names” is available on Amazon now. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or on his website at vincentbdavisii.com. He loves hearing from other authors! If you would like to be featured on Blueridgeconference.com, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Blog Query”.