None of us can deny the power of social media to impact businesses, big and small. As we’ve seen repeatedly, what we post to our accounts can have positive and negative real-life effects, destructive and groundbreaking. With it, we can reach people worldwide without leaving the house. It is no longer just about posting family photos. People are making real money and establishing real connections.
However, an over reliance on social media to hold up the core of our business can prove disastrous since we do not own them. Lately, I have heard many complaints of Instagram pages being hacked, Facebook jail, and TikTok suspensions.
And these are not complaints from people with small accounts. People with tens of thousands of followers have had to start from zero.
People who operate systematically, moving their tribe (those genuinely interested in their content because everyone isn’t), over to their own platforms, do not lose when their accounts are hacked or when IG decides to glitch.
They do not lose because they understand a basic principle:
Social Media is the vehicle, not the destination.
Social Media is a powerful tool for socializing and networking with your target audience. Still, you want to always be moving them along your funnel.
This looks like adding them to your blog, email/text list, website, or membership site.
To do this, use a call-to-action at the end of your posts to tell people what you want them to do.
The call-to-action or CTA is when you give your people direction. What do you want us to do after seeing your post?
Do you want us to visit your website by clicking the link in your bio?
Do you want us to leave a comment? Are you asking for feedback?
Do you want us to buy something? Are you having a Black Friday sale?
The goal is to avoid getting too comfortable with the followers you get from these social media platforms. Only some people following you are interested in what you have to offer. You can ensure they know where to find you outside Instagram and Facebook. This allows you to nourish relationships and build stronger bonds with those who care.
In a matter of seconds, your thousands of followers can be gone if someone hacks you or your account is deleted for whatever reason.
Protect yourself by establishing an online home.
Indie Author Basics simplifies and streamlines the Self-Publishing Process so authors can Self-Publish high-quality books without pulling out their hair.
I used to ask people to subscribe to my email list, and almost no one ever did. It was also cringy to ask.
And then I realized I was working harder than I needed to.
The truth is, asking people to subscribe to your email list is boring, and no one wants to do it. We have enough emails.
And if you are a new author, no one’s ever heard of, saying we will get a free copy of your book doesn’t work either.
As I alluded to in the last post, authors must start to think like readers if they want to attract them.
Instead of asking people to subscribe to your list directly, do this instead.[mepr-show rules=”31881″ unauth=”message”]
Offer Something They Want
The value in giving something away is that if it’s a truly valuable piece of content, it will naturally lead to your paid stuff. At first, this wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t until I gave away my best book (the one people actually wanted to read) that I started to see a difference.
For your give, my advice would be not to throw something together. Give us something good.
Your give is also known as a lead magnet and doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a resource, guide, free tutorial, or access to exclusive content. It can be a complimentary ticket to your online class or a virtual pass to the next event.
Deliver Your Give By Requiring Email Sign-Up
Choose a platform to use to collect email addresses. I use Mailchimp, but there are tons of others. Require people to enter their email to receive the freebie.
Set Up Automation
As soon as they sign up, they should be able to instantly download the freebie. Setting up an automatic welcome email to officially introduce yourself is an excellent start to a warm welcome.
You’re done, and you didn’t have to beg, borrow, or pull teeth to get here.
Other ways to add subscribers:
Collaborate with other Authors
Host a contest
These are the two most powerful strategies I’ve seen. I get the most sign-ups through my poetry contests or when I collaborate with other authors.
Have a sign-up sheet at every live event.
This is probably the only time it’s okay to ask people to subscribe to your email list directly. I always have it sitting at my table. Still, the amazing thing is people will walk by and put their email addresses down without me asking! So in a way, you still don’t have to ask. All you have to do is make it available.
Add a pop-up on your blog and website.
Please ensure this goes away after about 5 seconds and doesn’t take up most of the space. Pop-ups that aren’t easy to close out are annoying and distracting. This makes us feel like we are being forced to sign-up. You don’t want people leaving your site because your pop-up won’t leave them alone.
Use Your Blog
If email newsletters aren’t your thing, you can always use a blog. When people subscribe to your blog, they get an email notification whenever you post something new. You can use this with your third-party email list or by itself. Either way, it’s another way to stay connected with your tribe outside social media.
I can go on, but the moral of the story is there are tons of ways to collect email without spamming.[/mepr-show]
Oh, please be sure you provide a way out! It is illegal not to provide a way for people to unsubscribe if they no longer feel you. It is much easier to do this if your emails go through a third party. If people can’t unsubscribe, they will report you as spam, which can ultimately hurt you. I talk more about that here.
Kyrie Irving is in hot water for posting a link to the documentary Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black Americato his Twitter account. The movie is a film adaption of the Independently Published book by the same name. It is alleged that the movie has much antisemitism in it, (I disagree but that’s a different post), and Irving has since taken the tweet down and apologized to the Jewish community via an Instagram post.
This post is about how he found the documentary and what Indie Authors can learn about platforms.
Kyrie Irving found the documentary by researching Yahweh on Amazon, saying that’s what his name translates into. According to this interview, he typed the name in the search engine, and the movie came up.
Many Indie Authors have long-cut ties with Amazon, which is their business. What I hope we can gain is an understanding of how people search for information, namely books, and the role that it plays for us as authors.
Amazon is not a distributor or bookstore. Amazon is a retailer that sells many things but is known for books. They are known for books because, in addition to selling books, they operate a Self-Publishing arm called Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. Amazon is so very well connected with books that bookstores hate them, and people who think of buying a book (and now movies) turn to Amazon almost instinctively.
Amazon is also the world’s second-largest search engine, with Google being the first.
“Amazon, with 54 percent of product searches taking place, is the world’s largest search engine for e-commerce. Technically, Amazon is the second largest search engine in the world excluding Google.”
Decoding the World’s Largest E-commerce Search Engine: Amazon’s A9 Algorithm
When someone wants to search for a book and does not want to visit an offline bookstore like Barnes and Noble, where will they search first?
Today (11/2022), it is a #1 Bestseller with tons of new reviews. Yes, he searched for the movie, but the book is a #1 Bestseller.
All because a rich and famous celebrity tweeted the link.
And this celebrity found it on the second largest search engine in the US.
When deciding what platforms to put your book on, consider not what you want but what readers want.
When your average reader wants to look up a movie, topic, or book, they are not going to Smashwords. They are not going to Draft2Digital. They are not even going to Goodreads like that. They are also not flooding B&N.com, though they’ll visit the brick-and-mortar bookstore (catch that).
When people (not necessarily people who are always on the internet and are familiar with the book world but everyday people with jobs who happen to want to buy something) want to look up information, they go to Google and Amazon.
Ignoring this is just not good business sense, except that your goal is not to make money from your books or bring a whole lot of awareness to it, which is cool. Not everyone publishes a book for these reasons.
(It is also not wrong to be on the other platforms, also known in the Indie community as “going wide.” It means you are not exclusive to Amazon but have your book available at other online retailers, which is awesome. I go wide myself. At the risk of steering away from the topic, that’s a post for a different day.)
However, for those of you Self-Publishing books you want people to buy, not being on Amazon is not bad or wrong, but it is leaving a lot of money (and exposure) on the table.
This post is a nudge to consider more strongly the platforms you wish to sell your book (if you are selling it).
It is a reminder to go to the places where your potential reader will most likely hang out.
That is the message.
Kyrie Irving found Hebrews to Negroes and made it a bestseller by posting the Amazon link (without a caption) because the book was sitting on a platform where readers are most likely to search for books.
Go where your readers are most likely to hang out, and search for books like yours.
Indie Author Basics simplifies and streamlines the Self-Publishing Process so authors can Self-Publish high-quality books without pulling out their hair.
Editing is first for several reasons, one being that I can’t get the book formatted before it has been properly edited. I determine my production schedule on the date the book comes back from editing.
2. Digital and Print Formatting
Now that the book has been edited, it can be formatted for digital and print. Formatting for digital ensures that it flows properly when you read it on your kindle, phone, and other e-devices.
Print formatting is vital to ensure the intended finished size of the book is how I want it. The most common size is 6×9 for a standard paperback. Poetry books tend to be smaller, 5×8, and workbooks are larger, maybe 8×10.
When I published my first poetry book, I chose 8×10. Imagine a poetry book the size of the 8×10 picture on your wall. Yes, it was a mess.
Oh, and Microsoft Word will not take care of your book formatting for you. Converting an MS word document to PDF and uploading it as is, is why many Self-Published books look messy and all over the place on digital devices. It can also make the printed book look poorly done, such as having too much spacing that makes your novel look like a College Essay. Ya’ll know what I’m talking about.
Don’t skip on formatting. How your book looks inside is important.
3. Professional Cover Design
Technically, the cover can be worked on as the book is being edited. A finished cover can be used to help promote the book if it’s done early and even kick off early preorders.
However, there’s a reason cover art is not right under editing.
To complete the entire cover (front, back, and spine), the artist needs the exact number of pages and the book’s trim size. Usually, the number of pages changes after formatting. Also, some books are too thin for a spine. If I give him/her the wrong size, it can affect how the book prints, and then I’ll have to get it redone, which can cost more money.
While I can get away with a finished cover, I cannot complete the full artwork before steps one and two are accomplished.
As you can see, I have a strategic reason for publishing in this order.
4. Buy / Assign ISBN
I buy ISBNs in bulk, so this part is usually already done. If it’s not, this is around the time I get them.
5. Upload Files to KDP / Ingram Spark / Draft2Digital
This part requires its own post to fully explain. I’ll do my best to keep it short but clear.
I publish with Kindle Direct Publishing and Ingram. KDP for Amazon and Ingram for wholesale distribution to bookstores and libraries.
How it works is I upload my files to KDP per usual, but I DO NOT select expanded distribution. The reason is that if you are making your title available in both self-publishing systems, that makes the title available to Ingram and will cause a conflict with the ISBN when you upload it into IngramSpark.
Although Amazon works with Ingram, publishing with Ingram separately makes it easier for your book to be ordered by bookstores. And bookstores hate Amazon, by the way. The thought of carrying a book published by Amazon gets their blood boiling. That’s another reason it’s good to have your own ISBN. It can make it easier for the store to carry your print-on-demand title without being distracted by the fact it was published independently by Amazon.
After publishing with Amazon, I go through the process of uploading my files to Ingram Spark.
If step three was not done properly, this is the part I can get stuck on. The cover must match the size of the book and the artist must provide a single PDF file that includes the back cover, spine, and front cover as one image.
Lastly, I upload my files to draft2digital for distribution to all online retailers, from B&N, to Kobo, to iTunes.
6. Order Proof Book
Order the proof copy of the book from Amazon and Ingram. Check for errors.
7. Start Production Schedule / Publish Book
Now that the book is complete, I can kick off the production schedule.
Independent Authors have become obsessed with rankings, reviews, and becoming an Amazon Best Seller over the years. While there is proof book reviews carry weight (social proof, credibility, increased visibility), there are many myths surrounding rankings.
According to Amazon, “the better the sales rank, the more sales it’s getting on Amazon.”
But, is this true?
Yes, selling books will naturally raise your book ranking, but your Amazon ranking can also be high for other reasons.
When I released I am Soul back in 2017, I set it up for preorders and, on release, it made it to #7 on Amazon’s Best Seller’s List.
To the untrained eye, this can look like I sold tons of books. And by the “untrained” eye, I mean everyday people who are not Self-Publishers or are not familiar with how the system works like family and friends.
According to my sales report for December 2017, I sold five preorders between December 16-19 (the book was released on the 20th).
Yes, I said five.
Five books sold, and I was #7 on Amazon’s Best Seller’s List.
Just so you know I am not BS-ing you, here’s a screenshot:
How is this possible? Shouldn’t the book that sold more copies rank better? Yes, but as many people have already said, no one knows exactly how Amazon’s algorithm works. What we do know is books sold aren’t the only thing that determines a book’s ranking.
There is nothing wrong with pushing your book to sell tons of copies on release day and to make that Best Sellers list, but your book’s success is not contingent upon how well it does in the first few days or even weeks. A book that continues to sell over time does better than a book that does well all at once and then stops selling.
In the long run, steady, organic growth will always outperform sudden bursts of activity.
“At the end of two weeks, a book that sells five copies a day will rank significantly higher than a book that sells 3,000 copies on its launch day.” (Doppler, J)
It’s like book reviews, in a way. The newer the review, the better.
Book A gets about twenty reviews out of the gate. Your review team showed up and showed out. But, over the next few days, weeks, and months, there is no new activity.
Book B gets a couple of reviews out of the gate, a few more a week later, a few more the following week, and several more over the next few months.
Because Book B has newer reviews, it tells Amazon’s algorithms people are still interested in this book.
A book that gets reviews slowly but consistently over time does better than a book that gets tons of reviews at once, but then the reviews stop coming in.
But what does this have to do with the sales ranking?
The book that continues to get new reviews is likely also the book that is continuing to sell. It might not be a #1 Best Seller or rank in Amazon’s top 100, but the author is selling books consistently.
And this is what authors should focus more of their attention on.
Most indie books that take off running, in the beginning, stop selling after the release date because so much energy is directed at the launch that authors forget they need to continue to sell books AFTER that.
It is not to say being an Amazon Best Seller is not a cool thing. It is to say it doesn’t carry as much weight as people have made it out to be. Being an Amazon Best Seller is great, but it doesn’t really mean anything if the author is not making sales in the grand scheme of things.
There is no need for Indie Authors to stalk their Amazon ranking because a high ranking doesn’t always mean they are selling books. In the same way, a low ranking doesn’t always mean they are not selling books.
Sales rank plays a minor role in determining the order of Amazon search results. Other factors such as relevance, keywords, sales history, product listing quality, and available inventory may influence Amazon’s algorithms. Therefore, a book with a high sales rank may appear later in search results than lower-ranked books.
How do you tell if your sales rank on Amazon is reflective of books sold or just a bump in Amazon’s algorithm because of other influences?
Besides monitoring your sales report through your KDP account, consistency is the best determinate that your book ranking on Amazon is legit. By legit, you are a best seller because you are selling books. If you are a #1, #2, #3 (and so on) best seller in your category for weeks, months, or even years at a time, the chances are that is because you are selling books regularly, getting reviews, and doing the dango thang. Congratulations, you are an actual bestseller.
Suppose you are only a #1 Amazon Best Seller for five minutes. In that case, it could be a combination of things influencing the algorithm, causing the numbers to fluctuate where one minute you are number one (let’s say because tons of people looking at your book page), and the next you are #512.
You should certainly be proud of yourself for making it to #1, whether you were there for five minutes or five months. However, don’t allow yourself to be deceived by Amazon’s ambiguous system. Ya’ll are out here going crazy and being scammed over something that doesn’t even matter.
This isn’t about Amazon. This is about Indie Authors and how we’ve allowed our writing self-esteem to be determined by numbers and rankings. Just because you are not an Amazon Best Seller does not mean you are not selling books. Period.
And, for clarity, I did not say you should ignore your book ranking, just that there’s no need to stalk it, as in repeatedly going back to refresh the page every five minutes.
I hope you are all doing well and all that good stuff. I have not blogged much lately because I am working on The Women with Blue Eyes and tons of other projects, including our 4th Annual Poetry Contest I want to get underway next month.
If you are new here, welcome to The PBS Blog! This is a great time for you to learn more about who I am through my most recent interview.
Below is a snippet of the interview and links with WRDE-TV, an affiliate of CBS. Also find links to Fox 34 and WBOC, affiliate of NBC. (If you read one, you’ve read the others cause it’s the same article, just on different platforms.)
What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?
Y: Faith without works is dead, so my best advice is to do your work. Get on your knees and pray and then get on your feet and work. I hate to sound so overly simplistic, but sometimes things are a lot simpler than we make them out to be. We must be willing to do the work necessary to manifest all that we believe we can achieve. Belief is good, but alone it is not enough so I cannot tell you to just believe in yourself. You must prove this belief with action. What you say you believe is one thing, but what you do exposes who you really are. Whatever it is you say you want, you must act on it for it to become a reality.
Not only must we love ourselves and believe in our ability, but we must also be prepared to do the work necessary to turn the unseen into the seen. Consistency is also key because while actions speak louder than words, consistency speaks louder than both. These skills Yah has blessed us with are not intended to serve only us. They are meant for us to multiply. This is possible when we combine a steadfast belief with a compelling work ethic.
Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?
Success to me means to genuinely enjoy what you do with your life without sacrificing your authenticity. It means to multiply your gifts to serve as many people as is destined for as long as the breath of life is in your body and you are walking this earth. To do so with as much grit and love as possible, and to do it all while staying true to your integrity.
I know some of you are wondering about the effects of the Coronavirus on the book industry. Some of you have asked if you should still publish your books.
Yes, I do think you should proceed with publishing your books.
Based on the current climate, I also think it is wise for all businesses to expect some changes as a result of COVID-19, which is now a global pandemic, according to The World Health Organization. On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump also suspended travel from Europe to the US for thirty days, excluding the UK.
What we know for sure is there have been significant changes due to this virus. We have seen changes in the stock market, cruises, theme parks, tourism, sports, and travel. Factory closures in China (the world’s largest exporter, responsible for a third of global manufacturing. China accounts for more than 80% of imports of toys alone) led to a record low in the country’s Purchasing Manufacturing output. Italy, which has the world’s ninth-largest economy, is on lock-down, and the state department raised the worldwide travel advisory level to Level 3: Reconsider Travel. This advisory means there is an official warning against nonessential travel.
The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments have been canceled, the MLB suspended training, delaying opening day two weeks, the NHL suspended its season, and tons of other sports activities are being canceled.
Trillions of dollars have been wiped from the financial markets this week, and small businesses are already seeing signs of struggle as supply chains dry up. Yes, human suffering can be due to illness, but it can also be due to people not being able to pay their bills, subsequently losing their homes and going hungry.
Consider too the 24 states (more by the time this post is live) under a state of emergency.
What we are seeing is the potential unfolding of several crises, all happening at once. People are panicking and making up stuff, buying out the toilet paper for some strange reason, leaving their jobs; children are not going to school, and conferences, venues, and even sports games are being suspended until further notice.
Whether you want to believe this is media sensationalism or not, the reality is that things are different and there have been changes in the world that are affecting the lives of real people.
This post is about adjusting to these changes as a businessperson in publishing, the hope I see for authors in an age where the go-to form of entertainment (sports) is brought to its knees, and the good news in store for Self-Publishers.
Here are the changes I discovered so far in publishing. Please add on to them by commenting below on what you are hearing as well.
Book Fairs and Conferences (where large communities of people gather) are being canceled. This “social distancing,” as it is being called, includes The London Book Fair (The UK’s largest book fair event), the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and the Leipzig Book Fair.
An employee at Amazon was diagnosed with COVID-19. The bookstores in NY have been holding up so far, I hear, but amazon workers from New York are working from home. “Sellers on Amazon’s marketplace are reportedly struggling to bring goods into the country.”
Not exactly sure if this is directly linked to the Coronavirus, but I am hearing it’s been a hard week for big publishers. Three of the big five are struggling, specifically MacMillan, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster.
Some individual authors have reported a decline in book sales since COVID-19, but some have seen an increase. There is no telling to my knowledge if there are any significant cases of falling book sales among Indies. I do know sales of apocalyptic type literature is on the rise.
Some Authors/Publishers are focusing on the online version of their book business to avoid contact with large groups of people. Examples include releasing digital products, blogging, and live streaming events and conferences. ALLi’s Self-Publishing Advice Conference will be online.
The good news for Indie Authors is that Self-Publishing has its strengths online. Making use of the internet by continuing to release books and digital products through author websites, blogs, live streams, and social media is a smart move in the age of COVID-19. Small book signings might be okay, but most states are now restricting larger gatherings.
My final thought is this:
If you are planning to publish a book in the next few days, few weeks, few months, my thought is to go ahead and keep to your schedule, but take the effect COVID-19 can have on small businesses seriously. Make preparations for working from home as much as possible just in case your city is the one on lockdown.
The US is officially under a National Emergency, so movement is even more limited, and there is talk of more travel bans.
Virtual Book Tours, Online Presentations and Conferences, Facebook and IG Live, Digital Products, Radio shows, Text Interviews, Online Services, Blogging, Guest Blogging, Blog Tours…are all things you can do as an author that doesn’t require face-to-face contact.
Don’t forget to pick up your copy of book one in The Stella Trilogy. Something tells me you’re gonna need something to read 😉