Tag Archives: self publishing

Making Ads and Amazon Rankings Work for You

This article is directed to the many writers I mentor and teach who are interested in promoting their books and stories via Internet advertising. The main focus for my own initial experience in book advertising was when Amazon, my publisher, put my first historical romance, Rye’s Reprieve, on sale for 99 cents without warning.

Rye's Reprieve (3) Final - CopyAmazon in its publishing role effectively uses email blasts to promote the works of its authors, so immediately my novel began climbing in the Top 100 of various lists: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Inspirational Romance, Kindle Worlds, as well as Westerns and the Romance category under Westerns.

Even after the advertising I’m going to talk about below lost its influence, today, September 19, 2016, the book is #97 on the Western Romance list, which could mean Amazon is still doing a modicum of promotion, or my own humble ad campaign combined with theirs has residual effect, or there is some mysterious force at work. It’s too much to hope that the book has a following, a life of it’s own. That would be too exciting for words.

Even more importantly, Rye’s Reprieve, which had only 13 reviews before July 2016, currently has 54 reviews on Amazon (79 % are 5-star reviews) and 80-plus ratings on Goodreads. And finally, I enjoyed seeing my new readers find and buy my other books and stories.

Here is the report I wrote in late August (with updates today in red):

Yesterday my book Rye’s Reprieve hit #7 on the Kindle Historical Romance Best Sellers list. Perhaps you are jaded by all the wonderful best-selling authors who regularly hit #1 on all the major lists and don’t think #7 is all that much.

But consider: Rye’s Reprieve is my first historical and my first novel-length fiction to release in more than two decades*. Reestablishing a writing career equates to pushing a two-ton boulder up Mt. Baldy. So seeing your new book hit #7 is about as good as eating homemade blueberry ice cream made with blueberries you picked on the hill behind your house just that morning.

*In May 2014, my period short story “Cora Lee” achieved #6 in Literary Short Fiction, following behind stories by Stephen King and Lee Child. For that launch the only promotion I did was to mention the book on Twitter & Facebook and in a newsletter to my email list of about 1200. I reissued my Harlequin titles and put out several short stories. My Amazon author page shows all fiction.

I didn’t achieve this recent modest success on Rye’s Reprieve without friends’ advice and a bit of luck. Here’s how I did it.

Decoding the rankings

On March 9 after my initial email promotion, Rye’s Reprieve went to #6 in Kindle World Romance. In contrast, this go-round, August 7-11, with the 99 cent sale and some low-cost promotions, the book hit #1 in Kindle Worlds Romance and Westerns (and at this writing, it’s still #1 in Kindle Worlds overall.) It achieved #3 in Kindle Western Romance and held there, which, together with #7 in Historical Romance, is more prestigious because the competition is huge. This “little engine that could” is still #97 in Western Romance!

Screen Capture by Snagit

Screen Capture by Snagit

How do you begin for your own promotion? Make a study of Amazon’s ranking structure. It’s complex—more complex than what you see beneath your title’s descriptive data on the book’s Amazon page. Here is the link to see all the lists available under Best Sellers Kindle Store eBooks: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-eBooks/zgbs/digital-text/154606011/ref=zg_bs_nav_kstore_1_kstore . You can see the list above, with Romance and then Western Romance highlighted. From there, click on your genre and drill down until you find the various lists where your book exists.

Under ebook subcategories, Romance is the umbrella topic. I then checked Historical Romance as well as Western Romance. Clicking Westerns takes you to Western Romance.

Another ranking, Westerns, can be found by clicking on Literature & Fiction/Genre Fiction. Strangely, under Genre Fiction, Romance is not listed!

I found Kindle Worlds rankings in the Ranking area on my book’s page.

But also, if your book is on sale, think seriously about placing relatively inexpensive ads on websites whose sole mission is to promote free and 99 cent ebooks.

What worked in promotion

First, Rye’s Reprieve was released in February 2016 in Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Kindle World. For all its Worlds releases, Amazon controls when price-reductions occur; they put my book on sale without warning at the beginning of August. I’m assuming they did multiple email blasts that included my book, but even those didn’t keep the book up in the rankings for long.

In addition to my own Facebook and Twitter announcements of the 99 cent sale, a member of OCC RWA and Novelists, Inc. (NINC), Lauren Royal, opened her Friday Freebies & 99-Cent Bargain Books and her weekly newsletter featuring historical novels to NINC members, so I submitted my book cover and blurb. She also mentioned my title on Facebook and Twitter. The promotion at www.LaurenRoyal.com hit on August 5 and was free.

Debra Holland recommended I try for an ad in eReader News Today (ENT) and I was lucky to be chosen to participate. The fee for an ad on a specific day for historical romance is only $60. You can pay by PayPal or credit card (as most of the sites I mention allow). The morning the ad appeared at www.ereadernewstoday.com, August 7, the book shot to #1 in the Kindle Worlds mentioned above and #5 on the Western Romance list. Unfortunately, I did not think to check the Historical Romance category, but when I did a couple days later, the novel was ranked #22, rising to #7 in the past few days.

ent-ad-8-7-16I credit Amazon emails, the ENT ad, and Lauren’s newsletter for Rye’s Reprieve’s initial rise in rank.

Meanwhile, I contacted colleague Linda Carroll-Bradd and asked her advice about advertising. She recommended I look into www.JustKindleBooks.com and www.Ebookshabit.com. The ad at Just Kindle Books costs $20 plus Add Ons (keep the book on their homepage for extra 3 days $20; Facebook post to 26,000 followers, $10) for a total of $60. The fee includes cover image/link on Pinterest, Tumblr, and other main social media.

That promo hit August 11. The book rose to #7 in Historical Romance, # 3 in Western Romance, as well as #1 in Westerns, and #1 in KW both Romance and Western. This is a pretty good indication that Just Kindle Books is worth the money. In contrast, I did not get the bump I was hoping for from a $10 ad with eBooksHabit.

After reading a chapter email and attending the Published Authors Workshop at RWA on Saturday, I gathered the following advertising ops for ebooks that are free or 99 cents from Kitty Bucholtz, Vicki Crum, Shelley Bleackley, and others.

I had spent $120 so far. With a remaining budget of about $250, I placed ads here:

Robin Reads (August was closed when I checked but I wrote to them about the success of the initial advertising efforts, they encouraged me to submit my book, and voila! A spot in their calendar opened up: Aug. 25. If they select me, the cost will be $45.)

Choosy Bookworm accepted me and will advertise Rye’s Reprieve on Aug. 18. Yay! The Rush Premium Feature costs $70 and the cover will remain on their Featured eBooks Page for a week.

Book Sends is pricey at $90 for the spot on Aug. 18 and just about ate up my budget—I have only $25 left to spend.

However, when you’re making pennies per book, money can’t be your main motive for promotion. It has to be gaining new readers, racking up a few more reviews and even cross-over sales to your other books and stories, and seeing your efforts pay off in a rise in rankings that you can share with followers. Some authors also experience a bump in sales when the book returns to its normal price, which in the case of Rye’s Reprieve is $3.99.

Did I mention BookBub? If they agreed to let me advertise with them—a slim possibility—the cost would be $500 and they anticipate I’d have roughly 2500 sales. If that happened, I’d clear $375 after costs, and the ranking would no doubt shoot Rye’s Reprieve to single digits on most coveted lists, plus bring a whole bunch of new readers to my author page.

I did not yet advertise with eBookWorth, Bargain Booksy, or Fiverr’s BKnight with its $5 price tag and 50,000 readers, because I needed to meet Marianne Donley’s deadline for A Slice of Orange. However, I will at least check out their sites.

I probably don’t need to mention…most of the authors and professional newsletter editors want the authors they feature to put the newsletter link in their social media announcements.

I would appreciate having an email from anyone who wants to share their promotion/ranking journey, and if things really jump by the end of August, I may give a follow-up report in a future blog post.

Contact me at lounelson@cox.net or this website. Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/louella.nelson.1 and Twitter: @LouellaNelson


This post first appeared in the Orange County Romance Writers of America blog machine, A Slice of Orange, in August 17, 2016, and has been updated here.

Inspiration for writers who aspire to be published

author photo

Debra Holland is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author.

My student and developmental editing client, close friend Debra Holland, inspires us all with her talk for authors in the Kindle Direct Publishing January 2015 newsletter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y17orcCg_Cg&list=UUNrC87LRD8yAuhU0pw90QwQ&ref_=72

If you want to learn from Debra’s mentor and writing teacher, sign up for Intermediate Novel & Memoir Writing, an intensive 10-week series beginning February 19 at 6pm in Lake Forest, CA. Email: lounelson@cox.net

Ten Ways to Promote Your Writing with Social Media

by Louella Nelson

First, the back-story:

Newly-published writer Alexis Montgomery (L) with best-selling author Linda Howard at the RITA Awards.

The mood at the Romance Writers of America National Conference was more upbeat than in past years, probably because writers feel more empowered than ever with options beyond traditional publishing for their work.  In addition to traditional publishing opportunities, writers can apply to small press houses which are likely to respond more quickly to their queries and submitted manuscripts and who often give more personalized service if not the big budget for promotion.  Scribes can also send their work through the once-frowned-on “vanity presses,” such as Amazon’s CreateSpace, and for a fee have the book designed, printed, and distributed to bricks-and-mortar bookstores via the huge granddaddy of distributors, Ingram, or out to digital retailers such as Amazon.  But most of the buzz at the conference was about self-publishing direct to eBook retailers such as Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, and others.

During a session called “Self-Publishing: A Discussion,” which was open only to published authors, the panelists disagreed about the financial potential of self-publishing.  One pundit offered the opinion that 90 percent of self-published authors make less than five thousand dollars a year from their digital books, and ten percent make a whole lot more.  Another panelist, Courtney Milan, who was published in 2009 by Harlequin and now ePubs her books, took exception.  She said she could “name forty names who are making $300,000 a year and had never published before.”  No statistical evidence was offered for either opinion.  Interestingly, Ms. Milan is paying in the range of $6000 to $7000 for translation services and going after the increasingly lucrative and burgeoning German market.  She says she has made a profit of $2000 on the most recent translation.  Study her website; you’ll find it interesting.

And as you might recall, Debra Holland sold just under 100,000 units in a year in the U.S., mostly on Amazon (but increasingly on B&N and Smashwords), with cover prices ranging from $.99 to $2.99.  Two of her “sweet western romance” trilogy, The Montana Sky Series, were launched on Amazon in April 2011, and the third in January 2012

In addition, several writers in the Orange County chapter of Romance Writers of America are doing “very well” in sales of erotic digital novels.  According to Jon Fine, author liaison at Amazon, and others on a booksellers panel at the RWA, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is giving a boost to sales of both romance and erotica.

Best-selling author Kristan Higgins (on the self-publishing panel) recommends writers try to market their work to both traditional and electronic outlets to capture readers who prefer one medium over the other.  That means selling books to traditional houses and self-publishing other work electronically.

With this background, here are some quick tips for subtle self-promotion from the famous authors, agents, and editors at the conference:

1.  You should Tweet that!  Select two forms of social media and do them well.  Authors love Twitter and readers love Facebook (photos are winners on FB), but if you love another form, such as Tumblr, do that well.

2.  Share you.  Readers want something personal about you.  Are you passionate about gardening?  Cooking?  Fashion?  Whatever is YOU is what they want.  But dress it up.  Make it pretty. And blog, tweet, email, or FB it!  Having a website is key, too. See Nora RobertsUp Close and Personal tab on her website.

3.  Love you!  Love you more! Build readers by working on electronic relationships.  Talk about others/other subjects 80 percent of the time and yourself and your projects 20 percent of the time.  “Think of social media as a conversation,” says HQN goddess Malle Vallik.  “Attract the right bloggers and cultivate them.”  Join eGroups at Yahoo, Goodreads, or ?  Help others.

4.  I get you.  Follow people you’re interested in.  Comment on and “like” blogs and books that interest you.

5.  Details at eleven.  Send out a periodic newsletter.  You’re interesting because of the things you’re interested in, the research you do for your books, and the people you know.

6.  Mr. Ambassador…  Turn readers into ambassadors. See Robyn Carr’s site “Hold Out for a Hero,” created by herself and HQN to give amazing gifts to military families. Authors run contests to name characters, books, outcomes.  Voting is involved.  Authors aren’t saying, “Buy my book.”

7.  Video is king!  Goodreads, YouTube, and your own website are good places to upload videos.  Most newer computers are equipped with recording capability.  Or create a Powerpoint and record as you flip through slides.  And don’t rule out the interest aspiring writers and reading fans will have in a video chat that informs.  Here are two low-cost recording examples at Y/A author Kim Baccellia’s site.

8.  Investigative reporting #1:  See who’s reviewing the popular books in your genre and contact the reviewer to see if she will review your book.

9.  Investigative reporting #2:  Visit countless author websites and see what they’re doing.  You may chose not to be busy in social media, but you must know what’s happening out there.  You’ll see promotion ideas.  You’ll discover which publishers are buying, what topics are hot, where authors are going in popular social media, and more.

10.  Feed the beast.  Nothing happens without the words.  So as one speaker in the self-publishing panel discussion suggested, “Pick a genre or theme and write as fast as you can.”  Readers are waiting.  Okay, so this isn’t a promotional tip.  But it could be the start of an exciting career if you get the book written, and then all the other tips will make sense.

Thank you to the panelists and speakers at the July 2012 Romance Writers of America National Conference.  You change lives with your shared wisdom.  Next year’s conference will be held in Atlanta, Georgia.  Attending conferences is an excellent way to stay informed about the market and decide where to go next in your writing career.