Welcome to an entire month of Top 5 Tips for Authors!
Every day this month my friends and I will bring you a new set of Top 5 Tips to help you along on your author journey. 2017 was a year of change in the Indie author world for sure. So many happenings. So many new things to learn. So many old things that didn’t quite do what you’d hoped. Well, every day is a new day. And every year is a new year. So we hope that this month’s worth of tips will get you the kick start you need to make 2018 your best yet and please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.
Lynn Raye Harris is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the HOSTILE OPERATIONS TEAM SERIES of military romances as well as 20 books for Harlequin Presents. A former finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award and the National Readers Choice Award, Lynn lives in Alabama with her handsome former-military husband, two crazy cats, and one spoiled American Saddlebred horse named Reggie. Lynn’s books have been called “exceptional and emotional,” “intense,” and “sizzling.” She has sold over 3 million copies worldwide. You can learn more at her website or come and visit her at her Facebook page. Lynn loves hearing from her readers! To sign up for Lynn’s newsletter–where you’ll be kept up to date about all of Lynn’s books–text the word HOTTIES to 66866 or go to http://bit.ly/LRHNews
MAKE A BESTSELLER LIST
Hi again! Hasn’t it been an awesome month of tips from JA Huss and friends?! I’m just amazed at all the great advice I’ve read here! Okay, so today I’m going to talk to you about making a bestseller list. There are different kinds of bestseller lists. Amazon has all kinds of categories, some obscure, and when you hit the Top 100 in those categories, some people say it’s perfectly fine to call yourself an Amazon bestseller.
I don’t agree with that, but I’m not here to argue the point. For our purposes today, we’re talking the USA Today Bestseller List. There’s also the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, but both those lists are harder to hit and it’s more difficult to quantify what it takes. It’s easier to break it down for the USAT list.
I’ve hit the USAT a number of times. First two times in print only, when I was with Harlequin (ebooks weren’t counted for the list then), and then as an Indie author releasing at full price.
It used to be that when authors wanted to make the USAT, they got together with a bunch of other authors, did a big boxed set, and released it for 99 cents. You were almost guaranteed a spot on the list with that strategy, but it’s harder now as readers have grown weary of 99-cent bundles.
So how do you do it then?
1 PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER
No, it’s not easy these days. The numbers required to hit change from week to week, depending on time of year and what else is out that week, but the conventional wisdom is that you need around 6,000 units in US sales to hit at the bottom end of the list. Plan your release strategy for one of the seasons where it’s not so difficult. Anything from Thanksgiving to Christmas is near impossible, by the way. Look at slower times, such as the spring and summer, for a USAT run. And always, for maximum numbers impact, release on a Tuesday. The USAT calculates from Monday through Sunday. The reason you choose Tuesday is that Amazon in particular will dump a bunch of pre-orders the day before – so if you release on Monday, thinking you’re getting maximum time, you’ll lose a bunch of sales because Amazon will dump them on Sunday (which means they count for the previous week). Not good. Go for Tuesday.
2 A PRE-ORDER IS YOUR FRIEND FOR NEW BOOKS
To build to the kinds of numbers you need, a pre-order is best. Because if you’re capable of hitting the list without a pre-order, then you don’t need to be reading this post. Go for the longest pre-order you can on all the retailers. Amazon is only 3 months, and there are penalties for missing that date, so be VERY careful when making a decision that you don’t paint yourself into a corner. The other retailers are 6 months, with iBooks being the longest at 1 year. You can change dates on the others without penalty, so don’t be afraid to use that long pre-order feature to try and rack up the numbers there.
3 TO DISCOUNT OR NOT
Totally up to you, of course. But when you’re first making a run at the list, you might be tempted to do it at 99 cents. Since you aren’t as well known, you think that 99 cents will get you maximum exposure. And perhaps it will. But carefully consider whether or not you want to sacrifice income for numbers (I’m talking about a new book here, not a sale book that’s been out a while). There are no guarantees you’ll hit the list, and you will have given up significant dollars by cutting your price.
4 BUNDLING BOOKS IN A SERIES
And here’s where I’ll contradict myself a bit and say that if you can bundle at least 3 full-length books in a series and discount them for a limited run, this can be a very good way to hit the list. Especially if you can support the run with a Bookbub Featured Deal. The key here is that you’re going to offer readers a great deal on books that are normally priced much higher and you’re going to make it time sensitive. If you have the backlist to bundle, give it a try! You can also stack other ads around your Bookbub for an increased shot at reaching more readers. Can you do this with a single book that you discount to 99 cents? Sure you can, but I haven’t seen that strategy work as well recently. (Like everything in publishing, this is not a hard and fast rule. Things change.)
5 THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR NEWSLETTER
It really helps to have a robust newsletter. Not one you gained by doing freebie swaps, but one where people sign up because they want to read your books. You can offer a freebie in exchange for signing up, but when you do group freebie exchanges, you often only get freebie seekers who will likely mark you as spam the first time you send them an actual newsletter. This is where patience comes in again. Build your newsletter by seeking out people who like your books. Put the link on your site, in the back of your books, in your social media profiles, etc. And be sure that once you have your list, you use it. Don’t let it sit there unused. Send stuff out, not too often, but often enough that people won’t forget you. When you get your pre-order up, send them a newsletter and tell them. Then send several more over the course of the pre-order period, reminding them it’s there. You’d be surprised how many new people will click the pre-order button each time. Don’t spam them – no way! But don’t be afraid to send them information either.
BONUS TIP: ADS
Advertise your pre-order. You can boost posts on Facebook, build an ad there, or use Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) ads or even Bookbub ads. Don’t spent money you don’t have, but set a budget and keep to it. Readers need to see that you have a book coming out and they need to see it frequently, so advertise it if you have the budget and post about it often.
BONUS TIP: WRITE A KICK ASS BOOK
Everything I’ve said is meant to help you reach the USAT list, but there is absolutely no substitute for the most important ingredient of all. You MUST write a great book that people want to read. You probably can’t make the list with a first book, but if you’ve got a series going and you’ve been gaining readers, maybe it’s time. Maybe they simply can’t wait for the next book to come out. This is where planning meets opportunity. Get those pre-orders up, get the word out, and watch the dashboard. You can calculate how close you’re getting if you keep that 6k figure in mind. You can also make decisions about advertising if you know how many sales you have and how many you need.