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Managing a Reviewer Mailing List

Reviewer mailing list: maintaining your own list of avid readers

We’ve spent a few blog posts talking about newsletters, book reviewers, and street teams. Today, we’d like to talk about a combination of both of them–your reviewer mailing list. For self-publishers looking to make a bigger splash on release day, having one is key.

Why Build a List?

Your reviewer mailing list is simply a group on your regular author newsletter profile dedicated solely to handing out review copies of your books. You can set aside a different brand for this list, or keep it the same as the rest of your newsletter. (We recommend the former) Every time you get a book ready for review, you’ll send it out to your list. We’ll talk technical how-to a little further down.

Why should you maintain your own list of reviewers? First of all, if you find a reviewer who likes what you put out, why not keep that resource nearby? Given enough releases, and enough reviewers, you could have a robust list of hundreds of loyal followers. Also, as any author will tell you, reviews are very hard to come by. Asking people to jot down a few thoughts can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. Growing a big list is part of that numbers game–the more folks who have review copies, the more reviews you’ll get.

Clean Regularly

There are always readers who like getting free books for nothing in return. Therefore, keep good records of your book reviewers, including who’s leaving reviews on big box sites. If you find you’ve sent a book to someone and they haven’t ever posted a review, yank ’em off your list.

Keep in mind, however, that not all reviewers like the same books. Especially if you write in different genres, a young adult fantasy might be better received than an adult space opera. Segmenting your reviewer mailing list into which genres they like can also help cut down on sending books to the wrong folks–and give you better metrics on how well your list is performing.

How to Deliver a Review Copy

There are several different options for you. The first, and easiest, is to use a third party solution like Instafreebie, BookFunnel, or BookSprout. There, you’ll be able to upload your ARC and make it available to just your reviewers list (or even to others, if you so choose). There’s a fee associated with some of the programs, but you won’t have to deal with uploading and managing ARCs.

If you’re a little more technically savvy, you may want to consider adding your ARCs to your website and using a plug-in. We prefer to use Delightful Downloads here at SGR-Pub, combined with a MailerLite automation. Users sign up for our reviewer mailing list, they receive a welcome email with a link to review plus a password. We add links to all three formats (Kindle, ePub, PDF) to keep our reviewers happy.

How to manage your reviewer mailing list

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Newsletter Swaps: An Easy, Free* Way To Market Your Book

Newsletter swaps: a great, free* way to market your book

In 2018, one of the hot, new ways to market your book is by building your newsletter email lists. The idea being email is far from dead, and is in fact one of the most effective ways to market. And many authors have banded together to do what’s known as a newsletter swap. In short, it is what it sounds like: you promote theirs, they promote yours, everybody wins. But how does one go about getting into these things?

Step 1: Set Up a Newsletter

Newsletter swaps are a great way to expand your reachOkay, this is where that free* part comes in. The very first step to a newsletter swap is to make sure you have a list to swap with in the first place. So you’ll want to take some time to build your author newsletter. But of course, you’re already doing that, right?

MailChimp and MailerLite are both excellent options (we use the latter). Both do offer free plans, however, you’re limited in the number of subscribers you can have. So you may have to pay a little bit in order to get to the higher numbers.

Step 2: Grow Your Subscribers

If you’ve got ten folks on your newsletters, sorry to say that probably nobody’s going to want to promote your book on their list of 10,000. Where’s the benefit to them, right?

Once you’ve got a baseline newsletter, grow your subscribers. You should take care to grow smartly; after all, ten thousand email subscribers who don’t buy anything isn’t worth much, right? The best way to grow your subscriber base is to give away a free eBook in exchange for a newsletter. Instafreebie is a great source, as is Bookfunnel. Or, for a cheaper option, you can set up a download plug-in on your wordpress site and send people there via your mailing list landing page. (Don’t know how to do that? Contact us for a quote!)

Step 3: Join an Author Groups

Get all the newsletter swaps!Most authors these days find swaps via Facebook Groups. Nowadays, there’s a group for every genre and niche out there. Get a feel for what the list sizes are for authors and what they’re looking for in response. Where you can fit in, offer to swap.

Step 4: Schedule Your Own Promotion

It’s a good idea to figure out a system to manage promotions so you don’t forget anyone. We’re big fans of Google Docs and Forms as an entry form. Just make sure you keep track of who’s supposed to share what on what day, and the same for your own.

Step 5: Keep Growing

Post a link to your free book in your book’s back matter. Sign up for newsletter builders with other authors. Keep growing your list with avid readers who want what you’re putting out there. Not only will you continue to qualify for larger swaps, but you’ll be cultivating a list of readers that you own, and you won’t have to pay one red cent to access them.


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Running a Book Kickstarter – Tips For Success

In January 2016, we ran our very first Kickstarter to fund the publication of the first book in our fantasy romance. Where we expected a meager $400, we ended up with $1600! Along the way, we learned a few things, and that’s what we’ll talk about today. As always, your mileage may vary. Genre, audience, and many other factors can play into success. But generally, here are some tips to follow when running your first book Kickstarter.

Why Are You Doing It?

While it’s entirely possible to create and spit out a Kickstarter (or any other crowdfunding campaign) in an hour, it’s not recommended. You should give as much thought and effort into your crowdfunding campaign as you do your final release date of the book. That means, you guessed it, a project plan.

First, figure out what you want to do. Are you just trying to get early copies out to your readers? (In which case, Kickstarter might not be the best idea, but we’ll hit that in another post). Are you trying to offset the cost of cover and editing? Or are you just testing this new thing out to see how it improves your bottom line?

For the purposes of this blog, we’ll say you’re going with #2: offsetting publication costs.

How Much Do You Need?

To calculate this, you’ll need to know a few things. Obviously, how much are you planning to pay your cover artist and editor. If you’re going to seek them out after the Kickstarter, then get some estimates and timelines. Then, take your (already complete) manuscript and figure out how many pages you’ve got. You can use a tool like IngramSpark’s Print and Ship Calculator to then estimate how much it’ll cost to print your books. This is very important, as it might be a lot more than you think (especially if you’ve never published a book before). Are you including any swag like bookmarks, buttons, or tote bags? Add that in there, too.

Now that you’ve got all your costs, it’s time to figure out how much you’ll need. This is a bit of a give-and-take process, as you won’t know how many books you’ll need to buy until the end of the Kickstarter. But you can make an educated guess, based on where your audience numbers are right now. Basically, you’ll be taking the amount of money you need for your publication costs (the reason for the Kickstarter) and compare it with the profits you’ll make from your rewards, and come up with the minimum.

For example:

Paperback rewards: $10 each / Cost to print book: $6.50 per book = Profit: $3.50 per book

Editing Costs: $500 + Cover Design: $500 = Total cost: $1,000

$1000 / $3.50 = 286 books at $10 each to cover the cost, so a total goal ~$2860 (Rounding up to $3,000 for Kickstarter Fees)

(Keep in mind this doesn’t take into account rewards with swag or people donating more than the cost of the reward, but it’s a good place to start)

Set Your Goals High, But Reasonable

One of the big risks you take with Kickstarter is that if you don’t make your goal, then you don’t get a thing. So while you could absolutely set a goal of $3,000 or $5,000, do you have a current audience base that would support 300 individual orders? If not, it may be wise to lower your goals to something more achievable. If it’s your first book and Kickstarter, a lower goal like $500 might be a better place to start. You can always go over, and set up stretch goals to keep momentum moving.

As far as timeline, remember the idea of marketing momentum. You will most likely have a flurry of activity at the beginning of your Kickstarter and at the end, and the middle is what’s known as “soggy.” But keeping your schedule open for at least two weeks means you’ll be able to capture sales from folks on a biweekly pay period, and you’ll have a wider net to capture more potential backers.

Ten Tips For A Successful Kickstarter

We’ve put together the below infographic to help guide your planning. If you still need more help, then use our contact form at the bottom of the post to let us know how we can help you!


10 tips for a successful book kickstarter

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Your Book Marketing Questions: Answered!

Your book marketing questions: answered!

The past few weeks, we’ve been sharing all our knowledge about different social media channels and how best to use them to grow your audience. We’ve talked about in-person events too, and how to manage old and new media. To wrap up this series, we wanted to open the floor to your most confounding book marketing questions.

Thanks to our friends in all the author groups for providing the questions.

My book was downloaded 2000 times and I only got 2 reviews. Help?

Book marketing questions: Measure success by appropriate benchmarksReviews are hard. In the first place, people have to remember to add in text with their little stars. Then they have to cross post it. Nobody has time for that. But also, you shouldn’t be measuring reviews by free downloads.

This boils down to understanding your audience. If you’re doing an eBook blast on BookBub or the like, those readers are the voracious ones that read 1-2 books per day. These guys aren’t slowing down for anything, let alone writing a five-word review.

For these folks, you measure success by how many of Book 2 and beyond you sell. If you got 200 downloads of book 2, then you’re rocking a 10% read-through-rate. That’s awesome, because most folks are doing well at 3%.

Instead of looking for reviews from your eBook ads, you should be focusing on the casual reader, who does have time to stop and write a short blurb. This is where soft selling comes into play, as well as a street team, if you have one.

I did everything you said, and my book still didn’t sell and lost money!

Book marketing questions: There's always one or two things you can try when things aren't workingEverything? You did everything? Even we don’t do everything. There’s just not enough time in the day for it all.

My advice if your book isn’t selling is to look at a few different factors. First: Are we talking a series or a standalone? Depending on the genres, standalones can be harder to market. If you’re talking about a series, understand that indie publishing isn’t a bell curve, where all the sales you’re ever going to make are during release week. For indies, it’s more like an exponential curve. Our experience is that books don’t take off until you’ve got at least three books published in the series.

The other thing to do is to take a good, hard look at how your marketing your book. Are you creating relationships with the right influencers? Did you spend the money on a good cover? A good editor? Are you posting good content on a regular basis to social media? Are you interacting with your fans? Have you looked into eBook ads and gauged performance? Have you benchmarked with other authors in your genre?

See what we mean about everything? There’s probably one or two things you can tweak to improve where you are. And if all else fails, there’s one way to sell more books: Write another one.

How do I promote a book that doesn’t fit into a specific category?

No matter the book, no matter the product, no matter the industry: Soft-selling works. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if a book doesn’t fit into a specific category, your method for growing your audience should be exactly the same. Find readers who like things similar to your book and build a relationship with them! Your book is unique, but it’s not that unique. Somewhere out there, another author has something out there that’s got themes and ideas similar to yours. Find them, and then get to work on getting to know those fans.

This is also where Amazon’s keywords come in handy. You can use words and phrases in your seven keywords that more accurately describe your book, and make sure it fits into the right category on the search results.

Got more book marketing questions? Sound off in the comments!

Or, if you’d rather get a one-on-one session, we offer consulting services for authors. At just $6.25 for every 15 minutes, we can help you do everything from clean up your social media to fix the SEO on your blog. Contact us via the form below for more info!

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How to Sell Book Sequels – Book 2 and Beyond

How to sell book sequels - book 2 and beyond

Believe it or not, it’s a lot easier to sell the first book in a series. It’s new! It’s fresh! It’s coming soon!  But when it comes to book 2 and beyond, many authors find themselves coming up short. Some of them try to recreate the magic of book 1 by doing the same thing for book 2. Others just hope that they’ll get follow-on sales from readers. Below, you’ll find our best tips for how to sell book sequels to guide your marketing strategy

A Different Animal

How to sell book sequels: Remember you're marketing to both new and existing readersFirst, recognize that when you’re releasing a sequel, you are actually doing two marketing campaigns simultaneously: First, you’re back to the drawing board selling book 1 to new readers (with the promise that they can also read book 2). Second, you’re trying to recapture the readers who were excited about book 1, but have moved on.

That changes your strategy a bit, doesn’t it?

Finding New Readers

Instead of approaching your external audience with your second book, approach them with much of the same content you created with book 1. Obviously, this requires using different bloggers and whatnot as you had with your first go-round. Tweak the content to mention that the second book is arriving soon.

This is also the time when you should drop the price of book 1 to an enticing $0.99 (for a second book release) or even permafree (for book 3 and beyond). Even if it’s temporary, it will help draw those new readers in, who will then go on to preorder the second book. Because it is up for preorder, right?

You can also use this time to experiment with other channels you might have ignored in the first push. Play around with Facebook Ad or Amazon Ads. Remember: You’re selling a product you have in hand, so that means people will be more eager to put down cash for something they can get right away.

Additionally, eBook ads are a great way to utilize that price drop, especially on book 2’s release day.

Recapturing the Old Readers

Once you’ve got all your content re-scheduled for capturing those new readers, it’s time to focus on your existing readers. When the second book comes up for preorder, do a newsletter blitz. If you’ve got the budget, offer some swag or gift for folks who send you a receipt of their preorder on Amazon or elsewhere.

Don’t forget about your street team, who are your ready readers and reviewers. Hand out early copies to get some review buzz going Goodreads. Remind them to cross-post their reviews of book 1. While you’re offering swag or gifts for preorders, run a street team competition for your group if they do certain things (such as sharing content or commenting on Facebook posts).

Measuring Success

How to sell book sequels: Remember, it takes two or three books for a series to take off in indie publishingOften times, your first book will do better than the rest in the series in the outset. But when it comes to indie publishing, we’ve found that the sales curve is more exponential than bell. Therefore, just because you don’t have a gangbuster first week of sales, doesn’t mean you won’t get more as the weeks go on. Our experience is that it takes three books (and a permafree first book) for a series to really take off. Even with all this promotion, there will still be people, weeks from release day, who say, “Oh snap, that book came out already?”

Therefore, it’s important to approach each book as its own project and plan for the long term.

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Your Author Brand – Your Reputation on the Internet

Your author brand is your reputation on the internet

For many authors, the idea of a “brand” is one that they are vehemently against. They think a brand is something manufactured and fake. They want to be authentic. But the truth is, your author brand will emerge regardless. The key is to make that brand a positive one, which will eventually result in more sales.

What is an Author Brand

Your author brand tells people what to expect from you.Generally, you can consider your author brand to be the amalgamation of the different content you present on the internet. You can have a different brand per social media, or have a singular one across all of them. For example, if all you post on Instagram are cat photos, your Instagram brand is just that: Cat photos.

Why does that matter? Because if you suddenly take your feline-focused timeline and turn it into one selling your horror novel, you might find yourself losing followers left and right. More importantly: You may not sell any books.

Taking it another way, your brand tells people what to expect from you. It helps build that all-important trust necessary for soft selling. Building your online persona focused on a certain theme helps attract potential readers of your genre.

Build a Brand Workshop

Multi-million dollar corporations have teams assigned to brand image and management. You, self- or indie- author, have just yourself. So you’re free to take it as detailed as you like.

Start by asking yourself, “What do I want people to think of when they see my name on social media?” Start at the ten thousand foot view:

  • Do I want to provide readers with information about a certain topic?
  • What are the main themes of my book(s)?
  • What genres do I write in, and what are other authors in that genre doing?

Once you have the answers to those questions, you can start digging deeper. Once you’ve got a general idea of the person you want to be on the internet, you can decide what kind of content you should be posting. For example: if you want to be known as an author who helps other indie authors, post indie knowledge anecdotes. If you want to be fantasy writer, you should follow nerd and geek sites like io9, so you have plenty of content to share to fellow nerds.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be more or less consistent. And, of course, if you find yourself veering away from what you thought your brand was, feel free to change it! After all, it’s your brand.

Social Media Etiquette

When it comes to your brand, how you behave is just as important as what you schedule. Every fan response, every reply builds your readers’ idea of you. So, obviously, you want to make sure that perception is a positive one.

It goes without saying: Never respond to negative reviews. Ever.

Even if you think you’re right, even if you think the reviewer is targeting you unfairly. Or if they got the book wrong. Even if you do it privately, because there’s no guarantee the reviewer won’t respond by screencapping your email and posting it for the world to see. Take a breath, write your response in an offline journal, and move on.

When it comes to ruining brand over bad sales, this is a bit more nuanced. Generally, people flock to two kinds of folks: those who are upbeat and positive, and those who cause lots of excitement by drumming up controversy. It’s why we love reality TV.

What people don’t love is when an author gets online and says, “Woe is me. Nobody buys my books. I guess I’ll just hang up my hat and stop writing.” You’ll get a few well-wishers, and maybe a pity sale, but what you’re doing is alienating the readers you do have. Instead, focus on giving yourself opportunities to highlight the positives. Run a sale on your books and post when it hits a high water mark.

This isn’t to say, “don’t be human.” If you’re having a bad day, share it with your followers if you feel it’s appropriate. One of our favorite tried-and-true methods for turning a frown upside-down is our “Bad Day Giveaway” where when we have a bad day, we’ll run a quick Twitter contest and give away a free eBook. We also like, “Tell us something great that happened to you.” It gets our fans talking, and brightens our own mood.

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Book Release Strategies – Tips and Tricks to Maximize Success

So you’ve built your audience, you’ve established your presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more. You’ve been building your newsletter and your media kit is built. Most importantly, your manuscript has been reviewed by beta readers or a content editor, a line editor, and has a professional cover. Now, it’s time to talk about actually releasing that book! The book release strategies outlined in this post aren’t a one-size-fits-all, and some have worked with one book and haven’t with others. At a minimum, they’ll help you put together your own plan for success.

Six Months Out

Yes, really.

Right about when you finish that first draft, you should look half a year out and pick a publish date. This will give you plenty of time to go through the editing process outlined above, plus enough time to get everything ready. Keep in mind this is purely for planning a book release; you should be building your platform long before this.

When building your book release strategies, start with taking an inventory of all your assets. This includes your number of social media followers, street team, and other advertising revenues. Why? Because it will help inform the rest of your plan.

Your next step is to establish a budget. Take a realistic look at what you can spend to promote the book, recognizing that you’re investing in a product, versus just spending money. Include everything in this number–cover design, editing, and advertising. If you’re giving away books, count on shipping (international can run you up to $30). If you’re doing a street team competition, make a budget for prizes and shipping.

Then, put together your vision, objectives, and goals for the book. This planning method is one part thought exercise, and one part schedule-building. By starting at the 10,000-foot-view, you understand what you really want out of your release. And intention is key.

The book release vision can be something general (I want to release Book X on X date) or it can be specific (I want to increase sales/reviews/reach from the previous book).

Your objectives are the big rocks:

  • Have finished book ready for upload by X date
  • Obtain additional preorders by doing X
  • Continue to grow social media presence by doing X
  • Test (particular advertising service or marketing ideas)

Your goals are the specific achievements. There may be a little overlap for the objectives, but it’s better to keep them separated. Generally, we like to add actual numbers to the goals to have something to shoot for:

  • Book X will be released to editor on X date
  • Write 12 blog posts about the book
  • Grow reviews on Goodreads to 50
  • Increase Twitter to 2,000
  • Grow Facebook to 1,000
  • Preorder Goals: 100 on Kindle, 15 on paperback, (etc.)

Finally, put together a list of tasks for each goal. This is where your asset inventory and budget come in handy, because you’ll have a list of tools readily available. For increasing preorders, you can create a task to seek out 10 book bloggers for a cover reveal tour, using your Twitter or Facebook followers to ask for help. To increase Twitter following, set a task to find and strike up a conversation with five people per day, etc. Make sure you’ve got space for contacting people, especially if you’re setting up a blog tour or asking for guest posts.

Use a GTD system like ToodleDo to put your tasks in order and add a completion date to them. And now you’ve created a project plan!

So go execute that plan.

Three Months Out

As we chatted about a while ago, Amazon will only let you upload a book 90 days away from your publication date. Therefore, we like using that as our official “marketing kick-off” date. Here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate this milestone:

  • Conduct a cover reveal blog tour: Include:
    • The cover (obviously) but also a short snippet of the book
    • Your own social media and author photo
    • A giveaway on Rafflecopter with entrants signing up for your newsletter and following you on social media
    • Links to preorder the book. We recommend sending users back to your website, as you may not get access to Amazon’s link until a day before the blog tour goes live.
  • If you’re doing physical books, you can get early copies from Ingram. Find a few Instagram bloggers and see if they want to feature your book for a cover reveal.
  • Start your weekly blog posts. We’ve found the sweet spot for daily blog posts is about 6 weeks, but at 12 weeks, you can start sharing one day per week. Ideally, you should have all this content written and scheduled ahead of time.
    • Start soliciting guest blog posts from authors in your genre
  • Encourage your street team to spread the word, as well as your followers. People will be more willing to share new information than older information
  • Create a light schedule of social media posts with links to buy your books. It’s better to have secondary content (blog posts or Instagram photos), but the occasional tweet about the book is fine.
  • Start a Goodreads Giveaway
  • Announce the cover to your newsletter subscribers
    • If your book is 100% ready to go, you can grow subscribers by offering a sneak peek at the first chapter by signing up. Recommend that you align this sign up form to a new list so existing subscribers can get access, too.
  • If you’ve got a little money to spend, or you’ve got some know-how, put together a book trailer and post it to YouTube
  • Make your book available on NetGalley or send it to reviewers and your street team

For the book itself, if you really want to encourage preorders, set it at a special price of $0.99 until release day. You’ll have to determine if the lower profit is worth it, but we’ve seen three times as many preorders at that price, versus full.

Six Weeks Out

Now is when you kick your blogging from weekly to daily. We like to have a mix of content, including posts written by and about others:

  • Mondays – A topical blog post about something related to the book
  • Tuesdays – Sharing a snippet of the book for #TeaserTuesday, either on the blog or on Amazon
  • Wednesdays – Guest blogs from other authors in our genre
  • Thursdays – Character profiles
  • Friday – #FridayReads, sharing a short review (positive) about other books in the genre

For the blog posts focused on the book, make sure to end each blog post with the cover and how to buy. Use a program like CoSchedule or Buffer to promote the blog posts, and use all your assets in your inventory.

At this point, you should start seeing some reviews come in from your street team and book bloggers. Feel free to share these as appropriate. It goes without saying you will probably receive some lower ratings, although some bloggers don’t share these until after release. Don’t engage or respond to them. Just share the higher rated ones.

You can also use the six week mark to start a Street Team competition, encouraging your team to post their reviews and/or comment on your social media for points to win prizes.

Six weeks is also where you should be setting up all the channels you want to utilize on release day. If you’re doing a book blog blitz on release day, now is when you solicit bloggers. If you want your book included in new release lists, reach out now.

Week Of Release

At one week out, you can increase your social media advertising, both paid and unpaid. You also have six weeks (or more) worth of content to re-share at this point, so reuse the best-performing content.

The night before release, we like to do our Twitter Chats. If we’re promoting a series, this is the time when we do a cover reveal for the next book in the series. If we’ve got it available, we’ll also share the preorder links.

Release Day

This is where your asset inventory really comes in handy. On release day, make sure you’re utilizing every tool and channel in your arsenal, from YouTube to your street team to your personal Facebook page (be careful with this one; Facebook is persnickety about selling from your FB page).

  • Encourage your Street Team to share photos about the book on Instagram, and tweets with #bookbirthday on Twitter.
  • Release a newsletter with buy links and information about the next book (if applicable)
  • Use that same content on your blog, and set up a one-day release blitz with other bloggers
  • Re-share your best performing, non-blog content (Instagram photos, videos, reviews, other blog posts, etc)
  • Send an email to the bloggers who have left early reviews on Goodreads first thanking them for doing so, and then gently reminding them to cross-post their reviews to Amazon
  • Set up eBook advertising for sites that will accept new books
  • If you’ve set your eBook at $0.99, remind your followers that the price is increasing soon


First, congratulations! You’ve worked very hard up until this point and you deserve an adult beverage of your choosing.

The main difference between indie releases and traditionally published ones is the release curve. For Trad pubbed kids, your sales look more like a bell curve. There’s a big boost at the beginning, and then (for most), it dips significantly. For indies, the curve looks more exponential. Even with all this work, you may release your first book to lackluster sales. But that’s why you have ten more waiting in the wings, right?

Our experience is it takes a minimum of three books for a series to take off. So if the first book doesn’t sell well, don’t panic. The old adage goes: Your frontlist sells your backlist. Besides that, you’ve created a whole lot of content that you can use and reuse for the release of the next few books. You’ve built your network more by connecting with more reviewers and growing social media. All of this work you’ve done will pay off, but it make take two or three books to get there.

To keep up the momentum, set up a regular schedule of eBook advertising. We’re big fans of focusing on one book every three or four months, getting about $30 worth of eBook ads, and letting them do the work. Occasionally, if we have other books on sale (like the second book in the series), we’ll also share on our social media. The “tail” of sales lasts for about 90 days, and then it’s time to do it again.

But by then, you should be ready to release your next book, right?

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eBook Newsletters – The Best Bang for Your Buck

eBook newsletters are a great way to promote your book

Very rarely does advertising work exactly as you want it to. Even harder is being able to track return on investment (ROI) directly from a specific action. But when it comes to eBook advertising services, we haven’t found a better, more predictable way of getting our books in front of new readers.

What is an eBook Newsletters?

For the purposes of this blog, we’re talking about advertisers who maintain large newsletter subscriber lists (50,000+ or so) and then offer space to authors on said newsletter for a fee. The cost can range from free to $500+, depending on the advertiser.

These are your BookBubs, your Book Barbarians, eReader Today, and more.

When we talk about return on investment, we’re talking apples-to-apples: how much money did we invest (i.e. How much did we pay for the ad?) and how many book sales did we get in return on that particular series during that month? We have found a three-month “tail” of follow-on sales, longer if it’s a first in a series free book. And, of course, we usually always see backlist purchases from folks who want more from our authors.

Another option that’s growing in 2018 are author newsletter swaps. We’ve also been experimenting with author newsletter swaps, where authors have been able to cultivate and grow their own lists, offering space in exchange for hosting their book in your newsletter. We’ll talk more about those in a future blog.

Lessons Learned

Since 2014, we’ve been testing different books and different eReader ads. Now, even though we’ve seen fairly consistent results, there’s always an outlier that over or under performs. When you’re scheduling eBook ads, keep an eye out for holidays, weekends, and other large events that impact overall sales, such as political elections.

In general, we have found that eBook ads work the best when you can offer the first in your series for free. That’s not to say you won’t see a bump in sales from your $0.99 eBook, but we have actually found a higher ROI when we promote the first book, and leave the rest of the series at full price.

Speaking of series, they do better than standalones, from our experience. We’d recommend using that as a newsletter freebie versus spending money on advertising. You also might find different success if you’re utilizing KDP Select (versus going wide).

The other thing we’re coming to find out is that your eBook advertising can also result in higher audiobook sales. So if you haven’t already taken a look at ACX and how to create your own audiobooks, it’s worth a look.

Best Ad Services

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and we welcome you to put your own experience in the comments. Keep in mind that these are trends over a three year period, and that the market is always changing. It’s best to test your own books with each service.

Book Barbarian

We’ve been big fans of this service for a long time, which has given us as much as 250% ROI on our space pirate series. At $25, it’s a cheaper option, and they require a 3.5 or better rating and 90 days between promotions.

eReader News Today

Don’t let the website fool you; eRNT is one of our favorite sites to promote our books. We consistently make back our money and then some. At $30 it’s well worth the cost, especially as they don’t have a minimum number of reviews to qualify.


Another service we’ve been piloting, and this one has a unique twist: You can add your Amazon affiliate link to the book you’re promoting. This is huge, especially if you’re promoting a free book. We almost paid for our eBook ad based on affiliate sales when we tested it last year.

This one can be a little pricer, with $125 covering the Free Book of the Day (well worth it, in our opinion) or $10-$120 depending on the genre and price of the book.


BookBub is one of the most popular eAd services, and as such, they are incredibly picky about who they accept and in which genres. They also come with a heftier price tag ($200+), depending on your genre. We were granted an international Bookbub for our Madion War Trilogy eBook box set, made twice what we invested in the first month alone, and continued to see buy-through for six months.

Our way in: We went to Bookbub the first time we discounted the book, and used their comment section to say so. Bookbub has the volume to be picky with which books they run, so if you’ve never discounted your book before, it’s a wise idea to try them first.


What are some of the best ads you’ve run for your books?

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Press Releases and Author Media Kit – Old Media in the New Age

Author Media Kits and Press Releases: Old media in the new age

Last week, we talked about how to set up your book signing at a Barnes and Noble or other brick-and-mortar store. This week, we’ll talk about one aspect of marketing that a lot of authors (especially indie authors) overlook, your press releases and media kits.

Why Do I Need This?

An author media kit can mean the difference between an amateur and a career author.Many authors are already full-up on social media, between Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Adding one more thing onto their plate seems like overkill. But in this case, your press kit is one of those things that will set you apart from the amateur author. Taking a few hours to draft a well-written, informative document that you can leave on your website (and update once a year) shows reviewers, journalists, and the like that you mean business.

What is an Author Media Kit?

Your media kit is a collection of documents, images, and information about you, the author, and your books. Compiled into a single document, you can share that information with local press outlets (newspapers, TV, etc) and/or local press outlets can use it to find information about you. At a minimum, it should contain:

  • Author photo
  • Links to website, social media, contact email
  • Author bio
  • Book synopsis (shorter than the actual book blurb)
  • Cover images
  • Book excerpts
  • Interview questions with answers

You can also add individual press releases, review blurbs, and anything else that you think a news organization would like to know to help promote you.  Generally, you’ll want to compile all of this information into a .PDF (not a Word document) and stick it on your website near or around your About section. You should also have links to high resolution images of your cover and author photo on that same page.

For our alter-ego’s press kit, we broke out the book covers and excerpts into their own bullets, and kept the press kit focused on just the author herself.

What’s in a Press Release?

A press release is an official statement or description given to a news organization about a particular matter. You can use a press release to announce the release of your new book, or, more likely, you’ll use it to drum up excitement about a local event, such as a book signing or comic book convention.

Your press release needs to contain, at a minimum:

  • Introduction: What’s happening, where, and when.
  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (bolded, at the top)
  • Dateline (Your location and date)
  • Opening paragraph: A more storified version of your introduction.
  • Author Quote: This part gets a little strange, and is one of the only times you can quote yourself.
  • Author bio or more information about the books themselves
  • Contact information: How to get in touch with you (generally, email address)

You can adjust your content as needed for the specific event that you’re drafting the release for.

On Author Media Kits: Sometimes, reaching out to journalists on social media can net more coverage than cold emailing.Where Do I Send It?

First, you’ll want to add your press kit to your website. That way, if any reporter or media person is looking for information about you to use in a story (hopefully, a positive one), it’ll be easily accessible. This is also really helpful for bloggers and reviewers who might want to feature your book on their site.

When it comes to sending press releases, you’ll actually want to put the press release into the body of the email. Most journalists won’t accept attachments (because #internet), so if you want your words to be seen, it needs to go in the body of the email. Many news outlets have a Submit a News Story link on their website, but if you can talk to an actual person, then you might find more success. You also may not get any hits on your press release either. But like with most advertising, half of it works. The trick is finding out which half.

Don’t be shy about reaching out to journalists on social media (politely and professionally, of course). Our alter-ego scored an extended interview and wall-to-wall coverage for Pensacon in 2016 on the local news station–simply by reaching out to the news director on Twitter and asking if they needed more stories for the event.

You never know until you try!

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How to Set Up Book Signings – An Author’s Dream Come True

When most of us sit down to dream about “life as an author,” many of us envision rolling up to a Barnes and Noble for our book signing and seeing our books on the shelf and fans streaming out the door. Unfortunately, the mere act of setting up a book signing doesn’t always conjure up this reality. But, with a few tips and tricks, you can fulfill your lifelong dream of having your very own bookstore book signing.

The Fine Print

Setting up author events: be wary of events that require books to be returnableA few weeks ago, we had a long discussion about the merits of CreateSpace vs IngramSpark. Here is where IngramSpark pulls ahead in the horserace. Because of Amazon’s policy of making all books printed through CreateSpace nonreturnable, most bookstores will not allow you to sign in their store. This protects the bookstore from having a glut of books that won’t sell, but it also limits your options.

Now, this generally applies to larger chain bookstores and established indies. Some bookstores will let you bring your own and work out a consignment deal (usually 60-40 with you getting the larger chunk). This is an ideal situation, but lacks the funness of walking into Barnes and Noble and seeing your books already there.

Speaking of the B&N, our experience is that it usually takes 3-4 months to get on their schedule. They generally limit their signings (our local store only does one per month). So if you’re planning on doing one in conjunction with a release, plan ahead. Each store has an event coordinator on staff (they may have a few stores in their purview) that you’ll work with.

Getting the Word Out

One of the big differences between a bookstore book signing and, say, a comic book convention, is that with the latter, there’s usually more of a draw. People are coming to a comicon see Steven Amell and all the Doctors, and you just pluck them off as they walk by. At a bookstore, you are the draw. Which can be a blessing and a bit of a curse.

You’ll want to start spreading the word about your signing early. This is a good opportunity for a Facebook Ad, especially as you can localize the advertising to a smaller area and interest. It’s also a good idea to put together a press release (we’ll have more on that next week) and submit it to your local news organizations.

You can also put up flyers in local coffee shops and restaurants. Maybe add an extra incentive if people say they saw the flyer, such as a signed bookmark.

Most importantly, use your local network! Tell your friends to tell their friends, tell your mom to bring all her friends. You never know who might be a secret reader of your genre, so make sure you spread the word far and wide.

The Big Day

If you’re doing the consignment deal, give yourself a few days buffer if you’re having the books shipped in. Also, keep in mind that books are heavy, so you’ll want to have help getting them inside. The last thing you want is to be sweaty when you’re in a bunch of photographs.

It’s also smart to bring takeaways, such as bookmarks, businesscards, or any other swag you have on hand. And don’t forget pens or Sharpies!

Arrive about an hour beforehand to make sure your table and books have been set up. You can also bring any banners that you’ve created to stand up behind the table.

And then… get to work!

The truth is, unless you’re a NYT bestselling author with a legion of fans who’ve all preordered your book (which may happen someday!), most people are going to be at the bookstore for some other reason. You’ll need to convince them why they should come visit you and your book. This is a great job for friends and family who’ve (presumably) already bought your book. Send them out into the store to find prospective readers and ask those folks to come visit.

And don’t forget to take lots of photos and enjoy this big day!

The After

For our money, book signings aren’t the best way to utilize our time. Especially ones where the bookstore purchases our books and then returns them if they aren’t sold.

If you do Barnes and Noble, about six months after your book signing, you’ll get a box in the mail with the remainders. Now, if you’re an author who does a lot of in-person events and conventions, you can sell them later. But if you don’t do a lot of events, you might be stuck. Additionally, IngramSpark will charge you the cost to print + $2 for each book they return. If we’re talking a box of 20 hardcovers at $16 each to print, this can add up quickly.

But, on special occasions, it is nice to get the star author treatment.

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