Tag Archives: marketing your work

Defining a winning strategy – update

straegyimageA few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about defining a winning strategy. I laid out my ideas, and explained my thinking about pricing. I decided that today it was time for an update. (You can find the original post HERE if you haven’t read it.)

Some of you eagle eyed readers may have noticed that – contrary to my last post – from 1st May the price of Only the Innocent and The Back Road both dropped to £0.99. You can check them both out by clicking the title links, but I thought I should explain what has happened.

This is an intrinsic part of my strategy, and not a change of heart!

I have to admit that after my last post, the temptation to drop the price of The Back Road to 99p did prove quite hard to resist, once I’d realised that only books that were either extremely well known or under £1 had much of a chance in the Amazon chart. But I did my sums, and I decided that 70% of £1.99 would overall bring me a better financial return than 35% of 99p – despite the much higher sales figure of books in the top 5. Quite how long I would have hung on to that stubborn resistance if my book had fallen out of the top 100, I don’t know – but fortunately for me, it didn’t. For any of you who aren’t aware, Amazon has two different royalty rates depending on the price of your book. The lower prices attract a 35% royalty, whilst anything over £1.49 is paid a 70% royalty (less a few pence for distribution costs).

So why are both books 99p now?

One result of maintaining the higher price has been that I have been selected for an Amazon promotion. There is a “100 books for under £2.99” promotion each month, and to be selected, a book has to have a price that Amazon can effectively reduce. They select the price point, so I waited with bated breath to find that they have reduced both The Back Road and Only the Innocent to £0.99.

The advantage of this promotion is that even though the price is reduced and my royalty is based on 99p, I still get 70% of that price. I was delighted that they agreed to do this for Only the Innocent as well as The Back Road, because to be honest I had decided that Only the Innocent was now an ‘old’ book, and had more or less stopped promoting it. The major discovery in all of this has been that the books really do sell each other – when The Back Road hit the number 2 spot, Only the Innocent raced up the charts to number 30.

The timing for the price reduction is good. The Back Road has been out for six weeks now, and has started to be mentioned in a few forums. It has been selected as one of the four “Books for May” in the Goodreads UK forum, and been awarded “A MUST READ” status by the reviewers. It’s had a few reviews on blogs – and great reviews on Amazon. However, I have to say that it’s been more difficult to generate buzz about the book than I would have expected. Much of this is down to the changing face of the forums.

When Only the Innocent was launched, I know that some of its success was down to lots of chatter on key forums – but it all feels a little different now. People used to chat a lot, get to know each other, buy each other’s books. Now it seems that most people just post their promo and move onto the next thread where they can post exactly the same thing. I was suckered in to doing something similar – it seemed the way to go. But it’s not particularly effective, because few people are reading what other people post.

As a result, yesterday I set up my own discussion group on Goodreads, and there are already 41 members. We can chat about books, and other authors can join in too. You can check it out here if you’re a member of Goodreads. I’m going to generally stick to places where I can chat and share information and thoughts with others now.

I have to admit that in spite of not achieving the buzz that I had hoped for in the forums, the result of dropping the price has been pretty impressive. The Back Road has gone from around position 70 in the charts to number 11 today. Only the Innocent has risen from 277 to 24 since the 1st May – just 4 days ago.

It would, however, be a mistake to suggest that this is purely down to an Amazon promotion. The third highest rated title (after my two) in the Crime, Thrillers and Mystery category of the promotion is at number 157 in the charts, so currently quite a way behind.

The stark reality is that to gain visibility for a book, the vast majority of the work is still down to the author. Once it gets into the top 10, I think an author can have little impact, because the sales numbers are high, and it’s unlikely that a Twitter or Facebook campaign would significantly impact upon those numbers. But to get there in the first place, there are no short-cuts. Amazon promotions will undoubtedly help – particularly if they are tied into email campaigns – but any hopes I had of forgetting all about marketing and getting on with the next book have actually proved to be little more than a pipe-dream.

So – that’s my update. The key findings are:

  • financially I’m very happy that I stuck to the £1.99 price
  • it’s very clear that a sub £1 price is very attractive to readers, who are more likely to take a risk on an unknown author
  • the forums are not as useful as they used to be
  • it’s harder to create a buzz about a book
  • there is no shortcut to marketing
  • books by the same author sell each other

The conundrum comes in the last two, of course, because whilst marketing – I’m not writing the next book!

As always – comments, please!

And if you would like to benefit from the current 99p price point, click on the book covers below to go to Amazon.

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Bestseller on Amazon

Do video book trailers work, and how do you make one?

I have been questioning the impact of video trailers on book sales for some time. I’ve seen some very good trailers – usually with specially shot video – and some very poor ones where scrolling text describes the whole story for seemingly endless minutes.

I played around a bit with some utility apps that I had on my Mac (and I do love messing around with software), but I really didn’t know where to start. I checked out Animoto – a free app – but although it was quick and easy I didn’t really like the fact that I had no control at all, and with little more than the cover of my book to work with, it just didn’t seem to deliver – so I temporarily gave up.

However, I was impressed with the impact that a good trailer could have when I went to one of S J Bolton’s Amazon pages and saw a video taster for one of her books. Once I’d got over the fact that the actor chosen for her leading man was nowhere near as sexy as he seems in the book, I watched the video and I was hooked. I’d gone there to purchase the book, as it happens – but if I had stumbled across that page by accident, I would still have bought it. The video worked.

I knew that I couldn’t produce anything as professional because S J Bolton’s video was made with specially shot footage, but I thought I might be able to put something together that gave a flavour of my book.

First of all I explored Adobe After Effects. I have a subscription to Adobe Creative Suite and I thought that my knowledge of Photoshop would help. It didn’t. I spent a whole day trying to get to grips with After Effects, and while I am certain that it’s a fantastic piece of software in the hands of the right person – that person isn’t me!

I then discovered an app called iMovie on my Mac. There were no clues about how to work with stills – but I thought I would just have a go. It’s not super-sophisticated, but it did exactly what I wanted it to do. (I understand there is an equivalent for the PC.)

Check out the video here so that the following might make more sense.

These were the steps I took:

  • I found a piece of music that was 30 seconds long – the length that I thought would work best as I only had two images! I had to pay for this soundtrack, and I bought it from iStockPhoto.
  • Using Photoshop and the original PSD file for my cover, I extracted various layers. If you’ve never used Photoshop or equivalent software, images are created using different layers – a background layer, then layers that hold different parts of the final image – in my case the girl, the headlights and the text. The Back Road cover has over 70 layers!
  • I selected the same section of each relevant layer so that I could ‘build’ the images on the screen as the action developed – when you look at the video, this should make sense: the empty road, the road with the girl, the road with the headlights, the road with the headlights AND the girl
  • I played around with colour a bit.

Manipulating images in iMovie

The first thing I did was to add all the images that I wanted to use. Each of these is nominally given an on-screen duration of 4 seconds, but that’s a long time to look at a still image. Fortunately in iMovie there is an option to set the time to fractions of a second. There is also a great feature that allows you to select an area of the still image shown at the start of the shot, and the area at the end. The software creates a moving image of the still by zooming in or out accordingly. The selections don’t have to be centred – you can start in the bottom left corner and end in the top right, if you want to. This adds movement to your still images without resorting to effects. In the example below, I chose to start wide, and end where the red rectangle is. This happens over a period of 4.9 seconds

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 18.20.48


There are a number of different transitions between images to choose from. They are a bit limited but you can wipe screens, spin things in and out, fade, dissolve etc. Most of these transitions weren’t really relevant to the type of story I was trying to tell.


After all of the transitions are in place, you may want to add some words, and iMovie offers several title options, from ‘sideways drift’ to ‘boogie lights’. In general I wanted them to be quite simple in my trailer – I didn’t want loads of flashy stuff to take away from the message. What I did find, though, was a lens flare option. This normally flares around the title words, but I’ve used it a couple of times without any words at all. This tied in nicely to the car headlights which feature in the movie.


Finally, the music track can be selected from wherever it is stored on your computer. I downloaded mine into iTunes. When the track is added, you can start tweaking so that the dramatic moments in the music are matched by changes to screen images. This can be achieved by shortening clips, playing with transition times, increasing the duration of titles, etc. Some people would probably choose to put the music track down first, and then match the images to the track – but I had a clear idea of the structure of the images, and then I tweaked until I was happy. You can see where the peaks are in the music, so that you can match up transitions.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 18.24.31

You can apply different video effects too – such as changing to a sepia effect, a negative, etc. I didn’t use any of these – but they’re there if needed.

So there we have it. One video, which – if I hadn’t faffed around playing with tools that were far too sophisticated for me – I could have done in about three hours. An expert would do it in about 20 minutes.

I have now been bitten by the bug. I would like to use moving footage next time, but I’m not good enough to shoot it so I will have to buy some clips. I reckon that to create a 30 second video using the clips I have found will cost me around £80 (including the music that I’ve already bought).

So we have to ask – is it worth it?

If the video is just going on YouTube, I doubt it’s worth it at all. If you have a website, and it’s getting a decent amount of traffic, it’s certainly worth considering. You can also add it to a Goodreads page and your Amazon Author page.

My video is on my book page on Amazon. An author can’t upload video in this way as far as I’m aware, but this was organised between my agent and Amazon as part of the Amazon White Glove programme.

I don’t think the video has driven more people to my product page, but I do think that it may well have converted more page visitors into purchasers.

V6 smallWhat do you think? I know the video is far from professional – but I would love to know if this would be more or less likely to persuade you to buy the book.

Click the book cover to go to the book page and see the video.

Killer tips for self-publishing by Mel Sherratt

I am sure many of you will have heard of Mel Sherratt, whose book Taunting the Dead was a bestseller in 2012. She’s a great supporter of other indie authors, so I have asked her to share some of her knowledge and experience with us all. 

smallerSince my novel, TAUNTING THE DEAD, became one of the top ten self-published Kindle bestsellers of 2012, I’m often asked how did I do it. The answer could be one of a few things: did I get lucky? Did I get noticed in some way? Did I have a marketing strategy? Did word of mouth take over once people started to read it? The answer is obviously the latter one – joking! In truth, it’s probably a bit of all of them. So I thought I’d share a few tips with you:

1. IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: Cover, cover, cover. Personally, I think covers are everything for e-books. I know they’re not seen as often as on a printed version but online they are crucial to catch someone’s eye, just as much as walking into a book shop and spotting one on the shelf that sticks out from the many.

Continue reading Killer tips for self-publishing by Mel Sherratt

Guest Post : More Indie Author Marketing Tips from Sean Campbell

I came across a great blog recently at 90 Days Novel and immediately asked if one or both of the bloggers, Sean and Daniel Campbell would be interested in writing a guest post for other indie authors. They have some great perspectives on marketing, and they have been kind enough to share them here. I’ll hand you over to Sean …

Hello all!

I’m Sean, half of the duo behind 90daysnovel.com

Rachel invited us to guest on her blog to share our thoughts on marketing for indie authors, and we thought that the best way to do this would be to put together an outline marketing plan showing step by step exactly what we would do when bringing a book to market.

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The Only Thing You Need to Know about Marketing Online


I am delighted to be able to welcome author Nick Thacker to add his thoughts on marketing. The more information and suggestions we glean from a wide variety of people, the more we are able to decide which approach to marketing works for us.

The Only Thing You Need to Know about Marketing Online

In the 1950s and before, “marketing” was a term that more accurately described bringing a product to a market, rather than bringing people to a product.

The distinction is subtle, but it’s everything.

As Seth Godin wrote in Permission Marketing and Purple Cow, it’s now “pull,” not “push.”

  continue reading …

Hitting the Amazon #1 Spot : The Marketing Plan

Killer Plan or Lady Luck Part III – The Marketing Plan

The next post in this series was supposed to be on formatting. However, I have been persuaded to skip that bit for now, because there are lots of books and bits of advice out there that are probably much more detailed. What people want to know, I guess, is how I got to number one – not how I formatted the book!

However, I will say this. The formatting of your book is seriously important. You need to look like a professional. A badly formatted book automatically shouts INDIE, and not in a good way. If you don’t know how to do this, I have already written a couple of posts here and here that will get you to the point where you are almost ready for Amazon, and you will at least have tidied your book in preparation for upload.

The other thing that I was going to talk about was the cover. Again – there is a lot of advice available in that respect. Sometimes people say the cover doesn’t matter. Don’t listen to them. Whilst people may not ultimately choose to buy your book because of the cover, it needs to attract their attention when there are twenty other books on the screen. So go the extra mile.

Now – back to what people seem to want. Marketing tips.

continue reading…

Guest post : Scott Hunter on Marketing your eBook

As promised when I started the series of “Killer Plan or Lady Luck?” I have asked other authors for their input and to let us know what they did to become a best seller. Today’s guest is Scott Hunter who writes thrillers – historical and contemporary. His eBook, ‘The Trespass’ is an Amazon bestseller. His website is at http://www.scott-hunter.net

It’s very interesting to me to check out the commonality between his comments and mine. And, of course, where we differ. Both are important, and I hope you pick up some good tips reading his thoughts. Bear in mind that some of Scott’s comments refer to a printed version of the book, not an ebook, and he is clearly British – so some of the store references relate to the UK only. But the vast majority of his thoughts are appropriate to any format and any country.

So, you want to be an Indie Author. Where do you begin?

The Beginning

  • Write a great book in a genre that people want to read

continue reading…

New series : Hitting the Amazon #1 Spot – A Killer Plan, or Lady Luck?


Since reaching the coveted number 1 spot in the Amazon charts, I have been asked on an almost hourly basis for tips by other indie authors. I have tried to respond to these, but it occurred to me that the best thing that I could do would be to create a whole series of blog posts on the subject, and try to get feedback from other authors too.

Can I start by saying that I am not an expert in any of the fields that will be discussed. I am an amateur in every sense of the word. So I will be talking about the process that I went through – without any guarantees and in the sure knowledge that there are people out there who know more than I do about each and every step in this journey. I will reiterate this every five minutes, so that nobody is under any illusions!

So was it a fluke, or was it careful planning?

continue reading …

Marketing your ebook : what about a press release?

Yesterday I published my first ever press release. I thought I had something to shout about – but I had no idea how to go about it, and I wasn’t prepared. This seems to have been the story of my life with e-publishing!

This week, I am going to write a blog post on everything that I learned in 24 hours about how to write and distribute a press release without it costing a fortune (it cost me £15). And I will include what I should have already prepared – so that you can all get ready for good news, whether that be the launch of your first book, reaching the top in your category, or any other newsworthy item. You may not get picked up by the Times – but even a mention in a local paper is worth it whilst you build your brand.

So for now – the post following this on is my actual Press Release – and I’ll be back later in the week. If you’re interested, click the RSS feed on the left or the choose the follow by email option (a bit lower down on the left).


I have received a considerable number of emails and other requests for more information on the process that I went through to reach number one on Amazon. The press release is only part of it (and after I’d reached #1) – so I’m going to structure everything into a series of posts to explain what I did in the hope that it helps others. The press release blog post could well come a bit later. Hope that’s okay!