Read A Few Books
OK, more correctly, read a LOT of books.
This all ties back to other Rules where we’ve talked about writing what will sell and keeping your books on the book seller’s hot lists. Yes, as I’ve said, a representative or (sometimes) agent will help you here, and a personal assistant can be priceless, but it still comes back to you actually reading books to see what other authors are doing.
But there’s a big problem here: Who has time to read? We’re all busy writing!
First, like any other task, you need to set aside time to read. Put it on a schedule and your list of Things To Do Today. Make yourself do it.
Second, read faster. The average American reads around 200 words per minute with about 60% comprehension. To read a, let’s say, 40,000 word novella, the typical reader will need about 200 minutes, or just over three hours. It is possible for most people to learn to read faster. It’s not uncommon to see numbers in the 500 wpm range with near 90% comprehension. Take some classes. I personally am one of the lucky ones in that I read at around 1,000 wpm with better than 90% comprehension. That means I can read the above example book in well under an hour.
The last thing is something you may not be able to do for a number of reasons: Get other people to read books and provide you with a synopsis of them, a maximum of one page. I do this within my company, but the bottom line is that I pay those people to read books. Some are editors, others are marketing types, and some are just average people. For example, the lady who is the supervisor of the housekeeping crew that keeps the offices looking pristine reads books for me. As I said, this may not work for some people, but I would bet that you could get a few friends and family members to read books for you and provide summaries if you buy the books for them.
Using the three items above, in a typical week I personally read 17 books on average, and I get summaries of about 50 more. Do the math…every week, I see what the writers of more than 60 books are doing.
The more you read, the more you learn.
Let’s talk about listening to a book in today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday Question:
Have any of your books/stories been made into an audio book? If so, what was the experience like?
Don’t Pass Up Free Promotion
In this post, I’m going to pick on Twitter only for the sake of simplicity and clarity. The same concepts apply to other social media sites and to promotion in general, so try to expand your awareness to those other areas as well.
Promotion of your books is, by and large, hard work. Probably more work than actually writing the books. Promotion is also, by and large, a royal pain in the ass. With these things in mind, why, in God’s name, would anyone want to make it even harder???
There are countless people on Twitter (myself included) who send out weekly tweets for #MM (Mention or Muse Monday), #WW (Writer Wednesday), #FF (Follow Friday), and other hashtags related to writing and/or general social contacts. Usually, people mentioned in these tweets will retweet them. To make a long story short, a typical #MM tweet will be seen by nearly a million people in the first 24 hours. Stretch that out to a week, and 5-million is not unreasonable.
So, if your author account is mentioned in that tweet, your name (and brand) is seen by a LOT of people. If we assume you are mentioned in six #MM/#WW/#FF tweets a week, your brand could be seen by as many as 30-million people! Just for fun, let’s assume that you gross $0.50 on every book you sell and that 0.05% of the people who see you mentioned buy a book, that comes out to $7,500.00. A week. That’s nearly $400,000 a year. Would you like to have that in your bank account? Better yet, can you afford to leave that money on the table?
I can hear the nay-sayers out there…those numbers are wildly optimistic. OK, so if we assume that the numbers are inflated by 90%, you would still make an extra $750 a week or almost $40,000 a year. Even if you only sell twenty more books, you made enough to go to KFC and get a $5 Fill Up meal. The point is, you will see an increase in sales.
See Rule Number Thirty-Six as well, because the things I discuss there apply to social media promotion, too.
The trick to all of this is getting other Tweeps to mention you. This may be in the #MM/#WW/#FF tweets, by means of retweets, likes, and other things. How to make this happen varies from one Tweep to another, but as a general rule, they will mention (or retweet) people they follow and who follow (and mention) them back.
For our business, the best bang for the social media buck comes from other authors. Follow them and, if they follow you, follow them back. Make use of Twitter’s List functions to organize them. Retweet their tweets. Mention them.
As a side note here, one way to get a two-for-one deal is to retweet something where one author is mentioning another author. With one tweet, you mentioned two Tweeps who will, hopefully, mention/retweet you.
Yes, this takes some time, but the odds are you’re spending more time than that now and not actually doing anything positive. Twitter (and other social media systems) are huge time-sinks. Most people waste staggering amounts of time there chatting with “friends”. All you need to do is change your attitude and behaviors so you are interacting in a way that promotes you and your books. Get your name/brand out there.
In short, you can get a lot of benefit from a small amount of effort.
Today on Two Hundred Word Tuesday we’ll take a look back at your writing past…
Thinking back to the first story you wrote and actually sold, was it: Too Long; Too Short; or Just the Right Length?
Advertising Bang versus Bucks
Many people think of promotion and promoting their books. In more general terms, promotion is just a subset of advertising. But no matter what you call it, you need to get the most bang for the buck when you are trying to sell your books.
Now, if you’re really not interested in making a living as an author and/or don’t care how much you make (or lose), you might as well skip this rule. It won’t make any sense to you and some will even puff up like a bullfrog and fuss about the art or craft or some other thing in order to get the entire world of writers to see the light and make as little money as you do.
For the rest of you who want to (or already do) make a living as an author, read on…
I want to make sure you understand that I am NOT talking about the basic promoting needed from the author of any book. What we’re looking at here is extra promotion down the road.
First off, you need to set a price on your time. This isn’t easy, though. In a general sense, you need to know how long it takes to write a book (from concept to release) and how much you gross from each book on a yearly (or other time frame) basis. Obviously, both of these values vary, but think in terms of averages. Let’s assume you can write a book (as defined above) in six months and in the first year of release you’ll net $100,000. This means, in a year, you’ll write two books and get $200,000 from them. Using the standard working year of 2,080 hours (40 hours a week for 52 weeks) you made just over $96 an hour from writing.
Now we do something similar on the promotion work…how many hours do you spend promoting and how much net income is made from that? In short, the dollars per hour spent on promotion must be less than the dollars per hour earned from the book.
This is MUCH harder than the book income and to simplify the numbers, we’ll make a few assumptions that seem to fit a good number of professional writers. We’re going to cut the dollars per hour from the book to 25% of the above value. This is to allow for “normal” promotion and deviations from the averages. So, instead of considering $96 per hour, we’ll call it $24 per hour.
In other words, if you spend two hours on promo, sales must increase by at least $48 to stay in the black.
Just as an aside, if you have a person employed to handle promotion and you pay this person $20 an hour, using the above numbers you still come out ahead.
DISCLAIMER: All the above numbers are 100% fictitious and many were selected just to make the math easy. You’ll need to plug in real numbers that fit you and your situation.
One thing you’ll notice is that, no matter the values used, as you become more successful and your books sell more and your net income goes up, the value of your time writing also goes up. This means the payback from promotion must get greater and greater to be worth your time and extra effort.
Promotions, especially live appearances like signings, can be a lot of fun. You can also combine such trips with a vacation (about 80% of which is deductible if you’re incorporated) and that’s worth something, too.
The real bottom line is to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of promoting beyond the basics. Is it really worth it?