Selling Ebooks

© 2013 Daniel Arenson

In my other writing tips, I discuss the craft of writing—creating compelling characters, outlining, sentence structure, and more. In this article, I'd like to discuss the business of marketing and selling ebooks.

As of me writing this (December 2013), I've sold 260,000 ebooks. Below, I've summarized the ten marketing principals that have worked for me.

1) Write what you love. I'm sometimes tempted to chase trends. Some days, I feel like I should put aside fantasy and switch to a bigger genre, such as thrillers or romance. I'd have access to a wider audience, I tell myself. I sometimes look at the number of readers per genre and want to switch to the big boys. But ultimately, I think that we need to write what we're passionate about, even if it's a smaller genre. I love writing epic fantasy, which is something of a niche (albeit one of the bigger ones), but if you love what you do, I think it's possible to succeed within a niche too.

2) I believe that the key to ongoing success is a dependable, loyal group of fans. Many of my readers have followed me from book to book. They're the reason I can keep writing. An active Facebook page, website, and mailing list are musts. I try to do more than just announce releases but also interact with my readers—answer questions, talk about what I'm working on, and just hang out.

3) The best place to find new readers is on popular newsletters such as BookBub, ENT, BookBlast, and Kindle Books and Tips. Guest blog posts / blog reviews have sold a few copies for me, but I've had far more success finding readers on popular newsletters.

4) Convert new readers into fans. With freebies, sales, and every other method I use to reach new readers, I try to keep these readers around. My books all include links at the end to my Facebook, Twitter, and mailing list. I'm rarely just looking to sell an individual book; I'm primarily looking for long-term readers. When I'm promoting a book, I'm not just thinking, "I want to sell X number of copies." I'm thinking, "I want to find X number of new loyal readers."

5) Series are usually easier to sell, at least when it comes to fantasy. To this day, my standalone novels don't sell much. The bulk of my sales are from my series.

6) The long tail. Unless I have a major promo or new release, I don't always have individual books with amazing ranks at Amazon. On many days, it's just a few books hovering around ranks of 10,000 or so. But I have twenty books in the Kindle store. It adds up. A large backlist helps me.

7) This is about long-term thinking. In August this year, I was incredibly fortunate. I was chosen for the Kindle Daily Deal. I'm insanely grateful for this opportunity, which I know is so rare. But a week after my KDD, sales were back to normal. It's fantastic to have a one-hit-wonder. But even better is slowly building a steady career. I try not to focus too much on short-term successes or failures—the "bleeps" on the graph—but rather on cultivating a readership that will, hopefully, stick around for years.

8) In 2013, I released a new novel every two months on average. For me at least (and YMMV), regularly releasing new books has been key. After about two or three months without a new release, my sales significantly slow down. A new book is a new boost. This is a tough pace—I often write for 70-80 hours a week—but I think it's helped me.

9) It's all about the readers. As socially awkward as I am (D&D nerd here), I try to network with other authors and industry professionals. I learn a lot from them. But every day, I'm primarily thinking about my readers. I write for them. I'm not trying to impress critics, agents, editors, or other authors (at least I tell myself I'm not). I'm here for my readers first and foremost. Everything else follows.

10) The best ebook prices that have worked for me are $2.99 and $3.99. It's true that $0.99 might sell more copies. But while $2.99-$3.99 might mean fewer sales short-term, it means MORE sales long-term. First of all, some people (at least with my books) will just grab a $0.99 book and never read it. A reader buying a $2.99 book is more likely to read that book and, if he/she enjoyed it, buy more of my work. Also, the money a $2.99-$3.99 title earns can fund future books—editing costs, hiring cover artists, or just paying the bills while I sit at home writing. Finally, a regular price of $2.99-$3.99 lets me post occasional $0.99 promos.

BONUS TIP: Long walks are great. I try to go for a long walk every day. I walk in the snow. I walk with an umbrella when it rains. I walk when it's hot and curse the heat. When I walk, I don't think about my books. I try to focus on the birds, the trees, and clearing my mind. Taking some time each day AWAY from writing—especially for a full time writer (which I am)—helps me maintain a tiny shred of sanity.

I hope these points helped. Good luck with your writing!

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