Offering your novels or short stories as a box set

This post is the fifty-eighth post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

One way to increase sales of your books and increase your fan base is to offer your books as a bundle, or if you wrote a series to offer them in a boxed set. This applies no matter if you published a print or e-book version of your novel.

An e-book bundle or box set is simply multiple books offered together. It is one download and payment for a reader followed by hours of enjoyment. This ensures readers of a se

ries can read each story in order (and immediately). And usually because the books are offered at a lower price than buying them individually, book lovers are getting a bargain. And who doesn’t love a bargain?

It cost you, the author, next to nothing to offer your e-books as a box set or bundle. You simply create a file with all the books and then create a picture of a virtual box, and add it to your usual distributor websites with an appropriate blurb and price.

Box Set – One Author

You don’t have to have written a trilogy or series to have a box set. You can make a bundle out of any of your novels. This especially works well if they have a similar theme (small-town romances) or are the same genre (mysteries).

Box Set – Multiple Authors

It just doesn’t have to be your novels in a box set. You can get authors which write in the same genre together. Or you can have all women authors but different genres. Or perhaps there is something else that ties your novels together such as they are all second-chance romances or all have a dog as a character.

These multi-author sets bring readers entire new worlds in one convenient package. It is just a matter of getting some other authors to go in with you on a set. You will then have to work out how you will promote it and how profit will be distributed, but these are small issues compared to the amount of exposure it can bring you as an author.

Cover Art

I would say that most authors had artwork that looked like a box set – sort of 3D looking where you have a front and then see the spines of the other books. (See my box set image at top of post.) Or if you have a four-book set, you could lay them out like the set by Kristen James on the right.

Smashwords would not accept a 3D image so I had to create this one to be in their Premier catalog.

Pricing

Readers typically expect some sort of price discount if they buy a box set or bundle. Basically, plan to knock off several dollars off what it would cost if they bought the books individually. On my box set for my trilogy, I reduced the price by $1 per book. So Summoned costs $2.99 (as do Quietus and Destiny), but you can get the box set for $5.99.

No matter how you do it – your books, your series, a collection of books from various authors – a box set or bundle is an excellent sales tool that every author with more than one book to their name should consider.

 

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

#52 – The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

#53 – Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

#54 – My results from offering my novels for free

#55 – Amzon’s Kindle Countdown Deals explained and my results

#56 – Selling your book through book ads

#57 – Using a Book Trailer to promote your novel

 

Selling your book through book ads

This post is the fifty-sixth post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Over the past few weeks I have talked about offering your book on promotion whether it is for free or at a discount. From my own experience, no sales promotion is going to succeed without readers knowing about it. And no book will ever be read without readers being able to find it. This is where advertising comes into play.

Now you can go with free routes – posting on Facebook, Twitter or blogs. But your reach can be limited on these venues. You need to go where readers go. You need to go where people buy, review or discuss books.

But before you purchase an ad on any of website, I would suggest you research whether this will help you reach your target market of readers. It doesn’t help to just advertise your books to just readers in general. You need to get it in front of those that actually might read your book. In other words, don’t advertise your sci-fi thriller to romance readers.

Some websites will offer you an ad on their website or perhaps a listing on their “special” or “deal section.” And some even will include your information in their e-mail newsletter. Other sites will offer advertising based on a Cost-per-Click (CPC) program. This is where you have an advertisement (sometimes just copy and sometimes with an image) and you only pay for the people who click on the link in your ad.

Let’s go over briefly a few places you can buy an advertisement.

Amazon

What better place to advertise than on the biggest e-book retailer out there? Amazon offers Amazon Marketing Services, which offers sponsored ads, display ads or video ads. The sponsored ads are cost-per-click while the display ads or video ads require a $35,000 budget to start, so those are out for most of us. Find out more here.

https://advertising.amazon.com/kindle-select-ads

Goodreads

Goodreads is another good place to advertise. They have over 80 million members and 430 million page views a month. This is where many readers go to discuss books or to find their next great read.

Here though people won’t be clicking to buy your book. They will be adding the book to their To-Read list. This may be an easier commitment than an actual purchase and the plus for you is that when people add books to their To Read list, it shows up in their friends’ news feeds and email digests meaning more publicity for you.

Facebook

With over 1 billion users, Facebook could be the way to find the next reader for your book. Like Amazon and Goodreads, you pay when people click on your ad. You can narrow who you want to see your ad by region, age, sex and interests.

Book/Reader Websites

There are numerous reader websites such as BookBub, Kindle News Daily and Ereader News Daily to name a few that offer advertisements. These can range in price from $15 up to several hundred dollars (especially when looking at the very-challenging-to-get-accepted BookBub). Before considering any of these, you need to look at how many of their readers are in your target market.

There are many blogs out there that will tell you which sites they have had success using but remember that each book, each promotion is different. My results will not be the same as yours just as your results will differ from another authors. My advice is to set a budget and experiment to see what helps increase your sales and reviews.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

#52 – The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

#53 – Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

#54 – My results from offering my novels for free

#55 – Amzon’s Kindle Countdown Deals explained and my results

Amzon’s Kindle Countdown Deals explained and my results

This post is the fifty-fifth post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

For the past two weeks, I have discussed offering your novel for free. My most successful promotions have come when doing this as part of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program.

With KDP Select, you agree to exclusively publish your novel on Amazon for 90 days. You can either renew after 90 days or remove your e-book from the KDP Select program. During each 90-day period, you get to choose to either offer your book for free (see previous posts) or offer it as part of their Kindle Countdown Deals. (Of course, you are not required to do either of these promotions.)

With a Kindle Countdown Deal, you can run limited time discounts on your e-books on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Customers will see both the regular price and the promotional price as well as a countdown clock showing how much time is left at the promotional price. But you get to keep your selected royalty rate. This means you can get 70% royalty when you are selling your book for just 99 cents.

Another of the benefits is that there is a dedicated website for customers to browse through all the active Kindle Countdown deals.

When you go to the KDP website and look at an example of this promotion, here is what they show you.

Your book is listed at $4.99. You start your promotion on Monday at 8 a.m. and start by offering your book at $1.99. You set three price increments to run for 24 hours each.

  • Thursday @ 8 a.m. – Price is discounted to $1.99 for 24 hours
  • Friday @ 8 a.m. – Promotional price increases to $2.99 for 24 hours
  • Saturday @ 8 a.m. – Promotional price increases to $3.99 for 24 hours
  • Sunday @ 8 a.m. – Price returns to original list price of $4.99

During each promotional day, your book’s detail page will display a counter announcing the promotion, the current price, the time remaining until the price changes and the next price.

To use this promotion, your original price must be at least $2.99, you must be in KDP Select for at least 30 days, and you must discount the book for at least $1. And unlike the free book promotion, you must run your Kindle Countdown Deal all at one time. (All 7 days versus running one deal for 3 days and another for 4 days.)

Now before I decided to try my own Kindle Countdown Deal, I did a little research. Many authors suggested not going up in increments but keeping your book at one special lower price. So, when I put Blood Bond on this deal, I went from my normal price of $2.99 to 99 cents for 7 days.

As with my previous experience with offering my books for free, I knew I would need to do some sort of promotion to let readers know about this deal. While looking into advertising opportunity, I read a blog by someone who used Facebook to advertise. I had a good response on my free book Facebook ad so I thought why not try that as my only advertising option (beyond posting on my blog, Twitter and my Facebook Page).

Sadly, it did not go well. While I had several clicks on my Facebook ad, I didn’t sell a single novel through this promotion. While I am sure that this promotion can work, I definitely think you need advertising other than Facebook ads. It certainly would be something I will try with a future book.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

#52 – The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

#53 – Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

#54 – My results from offering my novels for free

My results from offering my novels for free

This post is the fifty-fourth post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I wrote about offering your book for free as part of a promotion. I have done this numerous times and wanted to share my results with you. But be warned that your results may vary as every book is different and every promo has differing variables that will change the outcome.

Now with my first three books, I never enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select.

(For a refresher – KDP Select is a program where you sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon. Through the program, you can either offer your book free for up to five days or offer it at a discount using their Kindle Countdown promotion. Your agreement with Amazon lasts 90 days, and then you can choose whether to renew your enrollment in the program or not. If you renew, you get to use one of the promotions again for that 90-day period.)

Smashwords Coupons

But I have offered these first three books for free on Smashwords. Typically, I reduced their price on Amazon while offering them free on Smashwords through their coupon program, which only apply to purchases on the Smashwords website.

When I have done these promotions, I have typically advertised these on my blog, my Facebook page and on Twitter. Because my reach on these avenues is limited, downloads of my free or reduced-price books have been low to non-existent. The good thing is that these promotions have cost me nothing.

KDP Select Free Promotions

I have used this program for my short story as well as my last two full length novels.

The Search

The Search is my short story. It came out in September of 2012. I enrolled it in KDP Select for the first 90 days, so I had 5 free days.

My first free promotion, done 11 days after The Search was released, resulted in 119 downloads. I did this on a Thursday and Friday with very little promotion.

For my second free promotion which ran Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 (Thursday to Saturday), I did a lot more promoting. About three weeks before my promotion, I submitted my free book information to 14 different websites and posted it to various Goodreads groups and the World Literary Café free boards. (The World Literary Café is no longer in business.)

I joined the tweet teams on World Literary Café and posted it on my blog, which meant my tribemates on Triberr all tweeted about it for me. And I was featured on two different blogs that were both run by some great people who promoted my free book on numerous Facebook pages as well as through their own Triberr/Twitter connections.

My additional promotion paid off. Over the three days, I had 928 downloads. During this time, my short story rose to #280 on the free book list and #2 on the Young Adult/Fantasy free list. Also right after the promotion ended, I sold 2 more copies of The Search and 18 copies of my other novels. (I had 2 out at this time.)

The Heir to Alexandria

The Heir to Alexandria came out in January 2015. Again, I only used KDP Select for the first 90 days, so I had just 5 free days.

I ran my first promotion on March 10-11, which was a Tuesday and Wednesday, days that I had heard would be good for a free book promotion. Again, I used my blog, Twitter and Facebook to announce my promotion. Putting it on my blog meant that my Tribber team helped spread the word. I also listed the promotion on the Independent Author Network and World Literary Café’s free book sections. Many other websites won’t list your free book if you don’t have the required amount of reviews (typically 20 or more 4 or 5 star reviews) so I didn’t have a lot of other options.

Over the two days, I had 76 downloads. Disappointing.

So for my second set of free days, I decided to purchase a few advertisements. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today’s website. I also applied to be on E-Reader News Today’s email and website. (They must approve you.) For only $15, I would be on Wednesday’s e-mail list and on their homepage. So in addition to these and my previous efforts, this time my free days would also happen during the A to Z challenge when my blog would be getting more traffic.

Here is the breakdown of my second set of free days…

April 21 – 234 books

April 22 (day of E-Reader News Ad) – 1769 books

April 23 – 737 books

Total free books – 2740

During the free promotion and the week after, I received three new reviews and sold five copies of The Search, two copies of Summoned (Book 1 of my trilogy), one copy of Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy), and five copies of my trilogy box set.

During the free promo, I also rose in sales rank. The Heir to Alexandria got as high as 82 on Kindle’s top 100 free list. It also stayed at number 1 in Epic Fantasy for a whole day.

Blood Bond

Blood Bond came out in February 2018. So far, I have kept this book in KDP Select for three rounds, using a free promotion my first 90 days and then Kindle Countdown for my second. I haven’t decided how I will use my third. (I’ll discuss Kindle Countdown and my results in a separate post.)

This time I decided to do all five days at one instead of doing two promotions. I was hoping on building momentum. As your sales rank rises, the visibility of your free book does too.

Based on my other experiences, I knew I needed some advertising – whether free or paid. I did my free promotion from April 25 to April 29 (Wednesday thru Sunday). I bought an ad on Digitalbooktoday.com and applied for one on E-reader News but was denied so I went with Indie Author News instead. I also filled out forms to have my book featured on as many other websites as I could. As the promotion ran, I also did a free Facebook promotion for the last day. (Facebook business was trying to entice me to use them and gave me a $30 credit.)

Over the five days, I had 781 downloads. After the success I had with The Heir to Alexandria, I found this number to be disappointing. I think the difference was the E-reader news ad. I did sell 5 books in April and 11 in May.

Remember if you choose to run your own free book promotion that your results will certainly differ from mine.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

#52 – The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

#53 – Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

 

Is it worth it to offer your book for free?

This post is the fifty-third post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

You have published your book and want readers and reviews. Many authors choose to offer their book for free. (It is one way to get reviews.) But should you offer your novel that you worked so hard to produce for nothing?

Well, that depends…

I have heard many authors claim that it is a bad idea to offer our books for free. We are diminishing what we do, they say. We worked hard on our novel so shouldn’t we expect to get paid? Are we setting a precedent for readers who will now expect free books all the time? Are free books deterring them from actually buying books?

These are all valid concerns but from a marketing stand point offering a novel at no charge has its benefits. It allows readers to get a taste for your writing without them having to risk any of their money. Your hope is that if they like your free book and purchase your other novels.

The keywords here are “other novels.” To make this an effective marketing strategy you need other novels for them to purchase. So offering the first novel in a trilogy for free would hopefully entice readers to fall in love with your series and buy the next two books.

Basically, this is a sound economic principle. You offer one book as a “loss leader” because you will be making your money by selling your other novels. Many authors have successfully increased their readership with this “loss leader” strategy though some authors have noted that they don’t make enough money to make up for the books they’ve given away. And others have said that offering a book for free only boosts sales for a short period.

Be warned that if you are offering a book for free, you may not see immediate results in your sales of other books or reviews of your current free offer. If the person has downloaded a lot of free books, it may take them months to get around to reading yours – if they ever do.

Quite simply you will never know if the thousands of downloads of your free books are actually being read. People simply cannot turn down something that is free and sometimes download more books than they can read. I have seen numerous comments by readers supporting this.

Of course, you still may reap some benefit, even if they don’t read your book. Every time they open their e-reader and scroll through their books, they will see your name and title. Maybe later while searching on the Internet they come across one of your books and recognize your name. They may not remember where they saw it before but perhaps that recognition will get them to buy your book.

But the readers you hope are downloading your free book are the kind that finds a new author and buys all of their books. These readers are hungry for new books and will keep coming back. By offering them that first book for free, you are building your readership with them. Many readers will pay for books when they find an author they love.

Still, it is hard to put your 80,000+ word novel out there and not get paid for your work. In this case, you might consider putting a short story or novella out there for free instead.

I did this with my short story The Search. I used one of the characters from my The Elemental trilogy and wrote a short tale of what happens before the trilogy – a prequel of sorts. I included the first chapter of Summoned (Book 1) and hope that readers who like my writing will buy the trilogy and then my other books.

So remember that offering a book for free can be good advertising and a way to gain readers. But, and this is very important, you MUST have other books available for readers to buy. Otherwise, you won’t see any benefit from offering your work for nothing.

Now I have offered several of my books for free on different times – some through KDP Select and some just as a promotion through Smashwords. Next week, I will go over my results from these free book promos.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

#52 – The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

The importance of Book Reviews and how to get them

This post is the fifty-second post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

One of the best and most inexpensive marketing tools for your novel is a book review. Before shelling out money for a book, many readers like to know ahead of time if it is good. Reviews give those readers an ideal of what others liked or didn’t like about the book. Reviews add a level of credibility to your book.

Importance of Book Reviews

Years ago before the Internet, many readers bought their books from brick-and-mortar book stores. They would find a book with an interesting cover, read the back blurb, and if it sounded intriguing, they would buy it. Unless the story was already a best-seller, reviews were probably not even considered but a friend’s recommendation might have been. When deciding between two books, readers are probably far more likely to pick the one recommended by a friend.

But nowadays we have the Internet and a mass of independently published books. Whether right or wrong, some readers have a poor perception of those books. Perhaps they think because they were not traditionally published, they are not as good. Of course, that is not true. There are many reasons people decide to self-publish.

This is where reviews can come in handy. A good, well-written review can do wonders for your sales. But so can word of mouth recommendations. In 2011, Smashwords creator Mark Coker did a survey asking readers to select the biggest deciding factor in choosing a book to read.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they selected books based on recommendations from readers on forums, message boards and blogs. This implies that it isn’t so much reviews on a book-buying website but the reviews of peers elsewhere that influence the purchase of a book.

This makes sense as the trustworthiness of online book reviews have been called into question. Some authors pay for top reviews (though paying for a review is not always bad) or the reviews obviously sound like a friend or family member posted them. Sometimes online reviews on places like Amazon are thoroughly unhelpful to other readers as all you get is an “I liked it.” quote.

That is the problem with reviews found at online book retailers. They can be written by anyone, including someone who doesn’t read or like your genre or someone who has a beef about something totally unrelated to your book. But when these point-of-sale reviews are detailed and positive, they can reap rewards in the additional sales.

How to Get Book Reviews

A good, well-written book review can benefit your sales. When choosing between a book with numerous reviews and one with only a few or no reviews, many readers will pick the more “popular” choice.

So how do you go about getting those reviews?

1.) Ask for a review as part of the back matter of your book. It is simple to include “If you enjoyed this, please leave a review. Thanks!” to the end of your book. Amazon does a good job of asking readers to write a review before they exit the book on their Kindle or Kindle App.

2.) Join book reviewer groups on places such as Goodreads or Google+. Here you can find people who like to review books. Just make sure you follow any of the posted guidelines before you post looking for reviews.

3.) Contact book bloggers for reviews. When doing this, make sure they read your genre and be sure to follow any guidelines they provide. Beware that often the reviewer’s to-be-read list is long. You will also want to find out if they post only on their site or if they post on Amazon and other e-book retailers’ sites.

It sometimes helps to cultivate your relationship with reviewers before you ask for a review. This means get involved on their blog by asking and answering questions related to their posts. Think of these book bloggers as potential business partners.

4.) Approach top reviews on sites like Amazon. Often in their profile, it says if they review books and many provide an email address for authors to contact them. Remember to be polite in your inquiry. You can also look for people who reviewed books similar to yours and contact them to see if they would like a free copy in exchange for a review.

5.) You can of course pay a company to find reviewers for you or to even review your book. It is one thing to pay a reviewer and quite another to pay for a positive or five-star review. And I think reviewers will not put as much credibility of a “bought” review. So this option should be used only if you have considered all the pros and cons.

6.) One of the best ways to get a lot of reviews is to giveaway many copies of your book. The more hands you get your book into, the more likely it will be read. An increase in the number of readers will hopefully increase your chance of reader reviews.

Reviews are obviously a benefit no matter when you received them, but if you can get reviews out BEFORE your book is released, it can only help the momentum of any book release promotions you do. This means you will need to start early to make sure the reviews coincide with your book release date.

But no matter when you get a review, the important thing is to get reviews. It will definitely increase your sells.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book

#51 – Finding your Book’s Target Market

Finding your Book’s Target Market

This post is the fifty-first post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

The stories about authors who succeeded without any marketing are rare. Most books, even the really good ones, will become lost in the jumble of the millions of other available titles unless something is done to make them stand out, to make them become discoverable to their target audience.
This is one thing that many authors don’t take the time to find – their target audience. It does no good to spend all your time and marketing effort to try to sell your book to EVERYONE.

First off, EVERYONE doesn’t buy books. And then the ones that do have their own interests and tastes. There usually is no use trying to sell a techno-thriller to someone who enjoys romances or a historical novel to someone who reads futuristic sci-fi adventures. No book will appeal to EVERYONE.
The key question to ask yourself is “Who is going to buy my book when they are bombarded with all those other books?”

If you can answer that question, you will know where to spend your marketing efforts. If not, you need to take some time to figure out what makes your book unique. Is there something special about your character? Do they love cats or surfing? Identifying what makes your character special can provide a powerful “hook” that resonates with a prospective book buyer. Also look at where your book takes place. You might be able to build a promotion based on that location.

When looking at your book, the more relevant your book is to a specific audience, the more connected you will be with them. Think of this as an inverted triangle. At the top is the broad topic (such as the genre), and as you get to the tip of the triangle, you get more specific to who is interested in that genre would read your book. You may be able to narrow your target audience down by age, gender, income level or even their viewpoints on religion or politics. (Don’t be worried if you can’t get this detailed.)

Basically, you have two target audiences: the General Target Audience (people who would be interested in your fiction as a whole) and your Specific Target Audience for each book (people who would be interested in that particular book).

Here are some tips to finding your target market.

1.) Genre – This is the easiest one, but don’t be too general. You need to look at the subcategories of the genre. You can’t simply say your novel is a romance or fantasy and be done with it. It is important to know the sub genre as not every reader reads every sub genre of romance or fantasy.

2.) Setting – If your story takes place in a real, recognizable place, the regional color you add can get the book into local book stores and gift shops.

3.) Theme – Think about who might resonate with the life lesson your novel teaches. If you are writing about single motherhood, you might find mom-bloggers with similar interests to be your ally.

4.) Problem – If you are dealing with a real problem – autism, cancer, alcoholism, you might connect with readers facing those same issues.

5.) Character – Your protagonist might represent your target market. Are they a surfer, a college student or a cat lover? Your character may belong to a professional, social or ethnic group that will appeal to your reader.

6.) You, the Author – If you bring a certain knowledge to your book (say as an attorney or doctor writing a legal or medical thriller), you might look at your own affiliations for marketing ideas.

Finding the right target audience for your book can be the difference between excited readers and sales versus a bunch of disappointment and wasted effort trying to sell your book to people who don’t want to buy it and never will.

If you know your target market, you can speak directly to the people who already want your book. This saves you time, energy and money on advertising. When you speak to your target market, you don’t have to really “sell” your book. You only need to let them know your book exists, and they will be ready to buy it.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

#49 – Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

#50 – Marketing your E-book