What’s the best price for a self-published ebook? $3.99, Smashwords research suggests

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By Laura Hazard Owen

Summary:
Self-publishing platform and distributor Smashwords analyzed ebook sales for nearly a year. CEO Mark Coker draws some interesting conclusions on the best way to price a self-published ebook.

One of the biggest decisions that self-published authors have to make is how to price their ebook. What’s the sweet spot? Self-publishing platform and digital bookstore Smashwords analyzed 11 months’ worth of sales — $12 million, 120,000 ebooks sold — to discern some best practices for self-published authors. The full report is here. Among the findings:

Most authors price at $2.99…

Smashwords founder and CEO Mark Coker found that authors chose to price at $2.99 ”more frequently than any other price point. In last year’s survey, $.99 was a more common price point than $2.99. In this year’s survey, $2.99 was [chosen] about 60 percent more often.”

…but $3.99 sells the most copies.

Smashwords’ findings suggest that those $2.99 authors should price up by a dollar: “One surprising finding is that, on average, $3.99 books sold more units than $2.99 books, and more units than any other price except FREE. I didn’t expect this. Although the general pattern holds that lower priced books tend to sell more units than higher priced books, $3.99 was the rule-breaker. According to our Yield Graph, $3.99 earned authors total income that was 55% above the average compared to all price points.”

Coker also noted that “Books priced between $.99 and $1.99 continue to underperform when we look at the book’s total earnings. $1.99 performs especially poorly. It’s a black hole. I’d avoid that price point if you can.”

Coker acknowledged that if everyone starts pricing their ebooks at $3.99, the enhanced sales effect may be lost: “Today, [the] $3.99 price point appears to be an underutilized opportunity because there are fewer titles than $2.99 and readers respond favorably to $3.99. However, if thousands of authors shift their pricing to $3.99 tomorrow, would the edge diminish? I don’t know the answer to that.”

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Library of Marketing Articles for Indie Authors

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2

How-to-market-your-self-published-book-a-plan-
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/04/how-to-market-your-self-published-book-a-plan-by-bill-quain/

Why-self-publishing-is-a-long-tail-business
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/why-self-publishing-is-a-long-tail-business/

Self-publishing-basics-book-review-sources
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/10/self-publishing-basics-book-review-sources/

Self-publishing-basics-how-to-create-arc-cover
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/09/self-publishing-basics-how-to-create-arc-cover/

Getting-to-the-top-of-the-charts-on-amazon-kindle
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/05/getting-to-the-top-of-the-charts-on-amazon-kindle/

Self-publisher-with-drive-the-amazing
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/07/self-publisher-with-drive-the-amazing-tania-mccartney/

7-things-writers-need-to-know-today
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/02/dear-suzanne-7-things-writers-need-to-know-today/

8-reasons-self-publishing-is-entering-a-golden-age
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/08/8-reasons-self-publishing-is-entering-a-golden-age/

top-5-discussion-forums-for-self-publishers
http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/02/top-5-discussion-forums-for-self-publishers/

Marketing Your Book

Lots of authors have no interest in marketing and sales, and they don’t make good candidates for self-publishing. There’s nowhere else in self-publishing where you can see the distance between writing books and publishing them so clearly.

Writing is a creative, often solitary work. Marketing means connecting with a larger network of people, bringing the work you’ve created to a larger public.

Start Your Marketing Before You Write the Book

Self-publishers—especially nonfiction authors—give themselves the best chance of success by focusing on how they will market the book before they write it. Why? How your book addresses the basic question of the readers you hope to sell it to will be crucial in how well it’s received in the market.

Book Reviews for Book Marketing

The first form of marketing most self-publishers explore is book reviews. Since a review is editorial content, it’s much more persuasive for most readers than advertising or promotional copy.

The biggest challenge for new self-publishers is understanding the kind of marketing effort it’s going to take to get the word out about their book. But the internet has created an environment in which we can compete on a much more level playing field.

Being savvy about how to create interest, traffic and sales online takes skills and work to find out how the pieces fit together. Building an author platform, using social media, and the distribution options you’ve made for your book will all come into play.

There is so much more to explore about marketing our books, because it strikes to the heart of why we published the books in the first place. Certainly anyone who hopes to profit from their publishing needs to treat it as a business.

Your marketing ideas for your book contain both the reason you wrote it and the people who stand to benefit from it. Understanding these two poles, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to start the communication that will become your marketing effort.

Because marketing information is essentially a form of communication in which both parties stand to gain from the process.

As with everything else in this field, each successful self-publisher solves the marketing of their book differently, and often with surprising ingenuity.

Some people drive online traffic with keyword strategies. Others sell books in the back of the room during presentations and workshops. Some authors become social media “celebrities” amassing huge followings, others become experts and spokespeople for their cause.

So don’t be the publisher who ends up with a garage full of books and suddenly realizes she has no idea what to do with them. Think through your plan as early in the process as you can. Identify your ideal readers and how you can reach them. That is the beginning of marketing your self-published book.

Creating Your Author Press Kit by Joanna Penn

While doing research just before my novel was published, I came across the “press kit” and its usefulness when contacting people in the media for publicity. And since I started promoting the novel, it’s been a great tool, handy for sending out information quickly. It was also easy to give it to my publicist, so she could send it to her contacts as well.

But it’s not just for media or journalists; your press kit can also be requested by retailers, book bloggers, event planners, editors; basically anyone who might take an interest in you as an author or in the topic of your book.

So what should your press kit contain?

From my own experience, most people requesting a press kit would like the following information:

1) Author Bio and Contact Information

You should already have an author bio to hand. If not, start working on it right away, whether you’re already published or not. You’ll need it for your blog or website, for guest posts (like this one!) or stories submitted to magazines. Your author bio should be about 200 words, and it should have things that make you sound interesting and professional. You should include your name, your place of birth or where you currently live, what you do (or used to do) for a living, what you’ve written, perhaps your education (if it’s relevant), quirky hobbies, or interesting travel experiences. Basically, anything that will make you stand out.

Don’t forget to include your contact information, and your agent or other representatives if necessary.

2) Press Release

A press release should focus on the unveiling of your new work. It should be brief and sucking, one page should do. Include information that is newsworthy about your book or about you as an author. If you have upcoming events, it might be a good idea to omit them from your press kit press release to keep the article timely a month or two down the road. You can read more about creating a perfect press release on the Creative Penn here.

3) Sample Author Q&A

Make a list of interview questions (and responses) about you and your book. This can include questions about your background, your inspiration for writing this book, why you chose to self-publish, your own favorite writers, future projects, etc. This section is particularly helpful for the interviewer and bloggers who want to help you promote your work, as it’s useful and ready content for them.

4) Specific Information on Your Book

So many books are published every week, every month, every year. This is where you need to talk about what makes yours different. You can describe your book in terms of its unique features. Why did you write this book? Did you feel there was a gap in the market for this type of story? Does the book shed new light on a common issue? Is it a topic that a lot of people can easily relate to? Is the story set in a place or time that is quite significant? As the author, do you have a unique background different from most other authors? You need to convince the person reading your press kit that your story is interesting enough for their audience.

Tip: Sometimes, when requesting your press kit, you may be asked to send in excerpts of your book as well. I’ve put the first three chapters of my novel together into a sample PDF that can be downloaded from my website and blog, at the same time as the press kit. I also have the samples in print, so I can hand it to people when they ask about my book.

You can also include interesting information about your book’s topics (especially for non-fiction titles) and a sample Q & A for an interviewer, since it’s unlikely they will have read your book.

You may also include things like: editorial reviews, testimonials, links to relevant media content like audio and video, any awards you’ve won, etc.

Here’s two great examples of author press kits:
■Non-fiction: Michael Hyatt’s press kit for ‘Platform’
■Fiction: CJ Lyons, author of thrillers with heart

Nowadays, most people prefer to receive a PDF version of press kits. They are easier to distribute by email and upload onto blogs and websites. It’s also easier for the recipient to copy the information they need. I would still suggest printing a few copies and having them on hand, especially for your local retailers, bookstore or library readings and other speaking events. You should, of course, have a copy of the press kit on your author website or blog.

Remember, a press kit doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy.

The people who are requesting it just want information that will help them. Keep the format and font simple. If you’re putting one together for the first time, I’m sure you already have some of the materials needed. Start with the items you already have and then work on adding the others as you go along. You don’t want to create a press kit at the last minute for the editor or reviewer who requests one.

Let’s discuss in the comments below: Do you have a press kit? How often do you use it? Do you think press kits are outdated, especially in this digital age? I know some authors just use a “review request sheet” or a one-page sell sheet. What do you use?

Tolulope Popoola grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and moved to the United Kingdom in 2000. By chance, she started blogging in 2006, which rekindled her love for writing and telling stories.

A few writing classes and an online fiction series soon followed and in 2008, Tolulope quit her Accounting career to become a full-time writer. She now writes short stories, flash fiction, and articles for many print and online magazines.

She set up Accomplish Press in 2011 to publish her first novel, when she realised that there were not many mainstream publishers in the UK willing to take a chance on “ethnic” writers like her. You can interact with Tolulope online via her blog at http://www.onwritingandlife.com, on Facebook; http://www.facebook.com/TolulopePopoola and Twitter @TolulopePopoola or @AccomplishPress

Blogs: 10 reasons Authors should have one by Joanna Penn

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Blogging is a few years old now, but mainly in tech and online marketing industries. It is now taking off in publishing and writing, as authors come to understand the power of blogging.

If you don’t have a blog yet, here’s why you need to get blogging!

1. People can find you on the internet. Google loves blogs and regular content updates. Blog software allows you to update your blog whenever you like, creating extra pages for your website. These are indexed and over time you can build up a great internet presence so people can find you when searching.

2. Connect with like-minded people. Being a blogger opens up a new world of networking. You can connect with other authors who blog, or literary agents, publishers and communities all over the world.

3. Two way interaction and feedback. You can allow comments on your blog so people can connect with you directly by leaving a message. You can also comment on other blogs. This allows an interaction that cannot be achieved by a static website or email.

4. Marketing you as an author. You can add all sorts of information about yourself at your blog, including photos, videos and examples of your work. You can list your publishing credits, your ebooks, articles, media appearances and anything else you want to use to market yourself as an author.

5. Book promotion. Have a special page for your book where you can add photos, your book trailer, downloads of chapters and any other information on your book. You can do special blog posts, for example, an interview with you talking about your book, or a giveaway.

6. Online sales channel. You can use your blog as a place to sell your books and services. If you integrate with a shopping cart or use a service like Smashwords or Clickbank, you can add links for these Buy Now pages.

7. Writing practice. Blogging is a very dynamic way of writing. Sometimes you will get an idea and want to blog on it immediately. You will do some research, try to write something catchy or useful, and then post it all very quickly. Sometimes you might spend a lot longer on one piece, but generally you write between 500-800 words and get it out there. If you get “bloggers block”, then chances are you are not interested enough in the material to sustain a blog on it, so move on!

8. Blog your book. You can use your book as the key material for your blog. Take excerpts and use them as posts, and then spin off from those posts into new things. This will get you traffic related to your topic/book subject so make sure you have a sales page that allows people to buy your book.

9. Build an audience. People can subscribe to your blog through an RSS feed which means you can build a following who read your work. You can build relationships with these people and get direct feedback through comments and seeing how people respond to your posts.

10. Build your platform. Publishers these days want a “platform” meaning that you have a following, people who will buy your books. If you are self-published, this is even more important as you will need to sell it yourself. Blogging enables you to build this platform in terms of a body of work, an online presence, knowledge of the industry and marketing as well as hopefully some people who are interested in what you have to say.

10 Publishing Mistakes Writers Make

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1. Writing for the wrong reason. The most common wrong reason to write a book is to make a lot of money. Statistically, you’re heading for disappointment. Instead, you should write a book for good reasons such as you have something valuable to say, you have a cause you want to further, or you want to meet the intellectual challenge of writing a book.

2. Not hiring a professional copyeditor.

3. Designing your own cover. The cover is one of the most important marketing pieces for your book, so hiring a great graphics designer is money well spent.

4. Not building your marketing platform in advance. Self-publishing is not a serial process where you can write a book and then worry about marketing it later. You need to start building a marketing platform as soon as you start writing because the process takes a year. You should already have thousands of followers on social media on the day that you ship.

5. Using a word processor other than Microsoft Word.

6. Inadequately testing your ebook. Do not assume that if your ebook looks right on one platform that it will look right on all the others. You can’t even assume that if your book looks good on a Kindle tablet that it will look good on a Kindle app. The only way to truly know is to examine your book on each platform.

7. Selling only an ebook version.

8. Depending solely on social media and word of mouth. Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are powerful and inexpensive marketing methods, but old-fashioned PR is still necessary.

9. Getting feedback from writing community prior to finalizes. There are always people out there who know more than you do and who are willing to help for the intrinsic value of helping a fellow human being.

10. Having only one plan. There are at least three plans to getting your book published: Plan A is to find a traditional publisher; Plan B is to self-publish; and Plan C is to implement Plan B in order to attract a traditional publisher and reinstate Plan A. There is no right and wrong; there is only what works for you and what doesn’t, so be flexible.

Elite E-book Package from Outskirts Press Goes Green

1new Elite E-book Package from Outskirts Press gives self-publishing authors increased distribution that promises less impact on the environment and publishing dollars.

Outskirts Press, the leading self-publishing and book marketing service provider, announced today the launch of its Elite E-Book Package, which bundles three valuable e-book conversion and distribution services into one discounted package. This pricing for this new package represents a savings of 25 percent when compared with purchasing each electronic edition separately.

With the Elite E-Book Package, increased e-book exposure means greater distribution and higher sales potential without the need for additional paperback and hardback printing.

While self-publishing authors can still choose one or two electronic formats, combining all three at the same time allows them to reach a wider audience of readers, many of which are loyal to one electronic reading device over another. Only books that have been submitted via the required process and format for each edition are available for electronic book readers to purchase and enjoy. Outskirts Press simplifies the process by offering one convenient and cost-effective package that includes three popular electronic book editions:

• Amazon Kindle Edition: The Kindle edition of a book appears on Amazon and in Amazon search listings just like any other format (such as a hardback edition).

• Apple iPad/iPhone Premium Edition: This service provides authors with convenient, full distribution of an iPad/iPhone electronic edition of their book through Apple’s popular iBookstore.

• Barnes & Noble NOOK Edition: Inclusion in this virtual bookstore allows self-publishing authors to tap into an important, and growing, market of readers.

For more complete information about this new Elite E-Book Package, visit http://outskirtspress.com/p/ebookpackage

About Outskirts Press, Inc.: Outskirts Press offers high-quality, full-service self-publishing and book marketing services for writers and professionals who are seeking a cost-effective, fast, and flexible way to publish and distribute their books worldwide while retaining 100% of their rights, 100% of their profits, and 100% of the creative control. http://www.outskirtspress.com.

How to Write a Query Letter

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Query letters? Do literary agents really read them?

Agents take queries very seriously, and yes, they really do read them. It’s not some universal rumor that agents have perpetuated because they all have a secret fetish for being bombarded with mail. Sure, agents make it sound like digging through the slush pile is the last priority of their day. Some agents even relegate the ambivalent task of reading unsolicited queries to an assistant or intern. But the fact of the matter is that most agents do read queries. Even more importantly, agents actually respond to ones that spark their interest.

So write a professional, intelligent, concise, intriguing query and not only will you entice an agent to ask for more, but you’ll move yourself one step closer to a book sale.

Query Letter Basics

A query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a resume. It’s not rambling saga of your life as an aspiring writer. It’s not a friendly, “Hey, what’s up, buddy. I’m the next John Grisham. Got the next best selling thriller for ya,” kind of letter. And for the love of god, it is NOT more than one-page. Trust us on this.

A query letter has three concise paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. Don’t stray from this format. You won’t catch an agent’s attention by inventing a creative new query format. You’ll just alienate your chances of being taken seriously as a professional writer. A query letter is meant to elicit an invitation to send sample chapters or even the whole manuscript to the agent. It’s not meant to show off how cute and snazzy you can be by breaking formatting rules and going against the grain. Keep it simple. Stick to three paragraphs. The goal is to get the agent to read your book, not to blow you off because you screwed up the introduction.

Paragraph One—The Hook: A hook is a concise, one-sentence tagline for your book. It’s meant to hook your reader’s interest, and wind them in. The best way to understand how to write a hook is to read the loglines of the titles sold by agents in our free searchable AQ database.
Here are a few examples of hooks for well-known novels:

House of Sand and Fog
When Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian military, sinks his remaining funds into a house he buys at auction, he unwittingly puts himself and his family on a trajectory to disaster; the house once belonged to Kathy Nicolo, a self-destructive alcoholic, who engages in legal, then personal confrontation to get it back.

Bridges of Madison County
When Robert Kincaid drives through the heat and dust of an Iowa summer and turns into Francesca Johnson’s farm lane looking for directions, the world-class photographer and the Iowa farm wife are joined in an experience that will haunt them forever.

The Corrections
When family patriarch, Alfred Lambert, enters his final decline, his wife and three adult children must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them as a family if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.
The “When” Formula: As you can see, we’re a fan of the when formula: “When such and such event happens, your main character—a descriptive adjective, age, professional occupation—must confront further conflict and triumph in his or her own special way. Sure, it’s a formula, but it’s a formula that works.

However, be warned…everyone and their grandmother who reads this site will try using our “when” formula, so we recommend simply using it as a starting point. Write your basic hook, then try spicing things up as you get more and more into the groove of “hooking.” And don’t worry, it’s legal in every state, not just Nevada.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out AQ success story, Sophie Perinot, who snagged a literary agent who sold her novel, The Sisters Queen, to major publisher Penguin/New American Library!

Check out these very simple, yet very non-“formulatic” fiction hooks:
The Kite Runner
An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present.
The Da Vinci Code
A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ.
Everything Is Illuminated
With only a yellowing photograph in hand, Jonathan Safran Foer—both author and meta fictional protagonist—sets out to find the woman who might or might not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis.
Here are some non-“formulatic” hooks for a few nonfiction books:
Into Thin Air
On assignment for Outside Magazine to report on the growing commercialization of the mountain, Krakauer, an accomplished climber, went to the Himalayas as a client of Rob Hall, the most respected high-altitude guide in the world, and barely made it back alive from the deadliest season in the history of Everest.
The Perfect Storm
The true story of the meteorological conditions that created the “Storm of the Century” and the impact the Perfect Storm had on many of the people caught in its path; chiefly, among these are the six crew members of the swordfish boat the Andrea Gail, all of whom were lost 500 miles from home beneath rolling seas.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
The memoir of Dave Eggers, who at the age of 22, became both an orphan and a “single mother” when his parents died within five months of one another of unrelated cancers, leaving Eggers the appointed unofficial guardian of his 8-year-old brother, Christopher.
Other Great Ways to Start Your Hook:
Give era and location: Three Different Examples:
• Set in modern-day Jerusalem…
• During the summer of 1889 in a rural Texas town…
• Taking place in turn-of-the-century New York City…
• Set up your main character: Three Different Examples:
• The tale of Una Spencer, wife of Melville’s legendary fictional whale harpooner Captain Ahab…
• A chatty cozy mystery starring 50-something college professor Bell Barrett…
• Narrated by Cot Daley, an Irish peasant girl kidnapped from Galway and sent to Barbados…
• Variations on the “when” formula: Three Different Examples:
• Following a botched circumcision…
• While defending a drug-addicted prostitute accused of murder….
• After years of abuse at the hands of her alcoholic mother and step-father…

There are literally scores and scores of hooks listed in our database, specifically in the past & present clients section of our agents’ profiles. We encourage you to read as many as possible, and learn what captures your attention in a single sentence. Then try to emulate a similar hook for your query letter.

Paragraph Two—Mini-synopsis: This is where you get to distill your entire 300 page novel into one paragraph. Lucky you. We’d like to offer advice on how to do this, but really, it just takes practice, hard work and lots of patience. Then, like we said before, get your friends to read it and if their heads hurt afterwards, go back to the drawing board. We don’t envy you. We really don’t. Summing up your entire book in an intriguing single paragraph is worse than a root canal.

So think of it this way. You had trouble writing the gist of your book in one sentence, right? Now, you get a whole paragraph. About 150 extra words. Here’s your chance to expand on your hook. Give a little bit more information about your main characters, their problems and conflicts, and the way in which adversity changes their lives. Read the back flaps of your favorite novels and try to copy how the conflict of the book is described in a single, juicy paragraph. You can do this. You really can. You just have to sit down, brainstorm, then vomit it all out onto the page. Afterwards, cut, paste, trim, revise, and reshape.

Paragraph Three—Writer’s bio: This should be the easiest part of your query. After all, it’s about you, the writer. Okay, so it’s a bit daunting, especially if you’ve never been published, never won any awards, hold no degrees from MFA writing schools, and possess no credentials to write your book. No problem. The less you have to say, the more space you have for your mini-synopsis. Always a plus.

If you do choose to construct a writer’s bio (and you should), keep it short and related to writing. Agents don’t care what your day job is unless it directly relates to your book. Got a main character who’s a firefighter, and that’s your day job? Be sure to say that. Otherwise, scrap it. Education is helpful because it sounds good, but it’s only really important if you’re offering a nonfiction book about A.D.D. children and you hold a PhD in pediatric behavioral science. If you’ve published a few stories in your local newspaper, or a short story in a few literary magazines, or won any writing awards or contests, now’s the time to list the details. Don’t go hog wild, but don’t be too modest either.

Your Closing: Congratulations! You’ve finished your query letter. As a formal closing, be sure to do two things. First, thank the agent for her time and consideration. Second, if it’s nonfiction, tell them that you’ve included an outline, table of contents, and sample chapters for their review. If it’s fiction, alert the agent that the full manuscript is available upon request. And in case you still don’t believe us, we want to reiterate: don’t query agents until you’ve finished your full fiction manuscript. Agents will want to read the whole novel before they offer representation to you and your book.

Other Random Query Letter Tips:
The Do’s:

Do address your query specifically to an agent.
Nowadays, more and more agencies prefer email queries. Great for you, right? After all, email queries are free, fast and easy-peezy to send. Just the click of a button. Well, here’s the downside: Ri-DIC-ulous amounts of email queries are being received by agents every day. Like, over 100 queries a DAY. And that’s average for the more popular agents.
So if your query is addressed to “Whom it May Concern” — even if the agency’s submission guidelines state “send all email queries to info@primadonnaagency.com” — guess what is going to happen to your precious 1 little email out 100? Yeppers… The big ol’ DELETE.

For this reason, always, always, always address your email query to somebody… even if it’s the intern’s name (and sometimes it is the intern or assistant screening those 100-email queries-per-day). Always address it to a specific agent.
As far as salutations, there are lots of greetings from which to choose. Here are your options in order of best to worst:
• Attn. Ms. Shermanstein:
• Dear Adrian Shermanstein:
• Dear Ms. Shermanstein:
• Dear Ms. Shermanstein,
• Dear Adrian,
Do state the title of your book.
You wouldn’t believe how many wanna-be writers sweat for weeks and weeks over their query’s hook and mini-syn, only to totally forget to include the title of their book in their query.
The title of your book should be included in at the beginning of your query — preferably in your hook — but at the very least, in the very first few sentences.
For some whacko reason, (and we have no idea why), newbie writers who don’t completely forget to mention their book’s title in their query, instead, do this really weird thing: they bury it at the end of their query. Like deep in the closing paragraph. Like it’s some big reveal.
Don’t be weird. Phhhhlease. State your book’s title somewhere in the beginning of your query. You’ve been warned.
BTW, if you’re sending an email query, include your title in the subject line: QUERY: AN AWKWARD FORM OF PROSTITUTION. And yeah, the catchier your title, the better chances your query will be opened and glanced over before those other 99-email queries.

Do mention the word count and genre of your book.
Novels should be 80,000 to 100,00 words. Young adult novels can be significantly less: 40,000-60,000 words. Suavely insert word count and genre at the end of your first “hook” paragraph.

If your novel is a 200,000 word Weight Watchers candidate… our advice? Cut it down before you start querying.
Agents hit DELETE on a proposed first-time novel over 110,000-120,000, so you have two choices. You can either omit your word count (which is going to circle back to bite you in the bum when they request a partial, so we don’t advise this…) or you can cut it down. Unless your first novel is an family saga historical or a science fiction battle epic, agents have little tolerance for chubby debut novels because major publishers simply don’t buy them. Too expensive to print and distribute. Too risky of an investment.

Do mention exactly why you’re approaching Ms. Agent.
Well, this one is more of a “Try-Your-Best-To…” Try your best to compare your book with other books that Ms. Agent has represented in the past. Or, at the very least, let her know that you’ve done some research, looked at her website, read her blog, checked out her submission guidelines and reviewed what she says she’s looking for, blah, blah, blah.
And we’ll admit, this “try-to” is one of those things that newbie writers do for the first 20-30 queries, and then it quickly gets dropped in favor of the numbers game. But if you met the agent at a conference or respond to a specific call for submissions that Ms. Agent posted on Twitter or her blog, then definitely mention it.

Do adopt the “proper” tone for your query letter.
Yes, a query should be a professional business letter, but honestly, writing a query in the same manner as a regular cover letter is a recipe for snoozeville.
A great query should not only tell an agent what your book is about, but it should also match your book’s tone.
Got a cozy mystery novel with a witty, self-depricating female sleuth? Then, why are you making your query sound like a stuffy academic dissertation? Got a suspenseful thriller with a hard-boiled edge? Then, why does your query letter sound like a bone-dry, business letter?
Matching your query’s tone to the tone of your book is one of those tips that sounds like a “risk,” because everyone will tell you to keep it professional. But really, we’re not taking about writing your query from the POV of one of your characters. We’re talking about showing your voice through your query’s tone, and proving to an agent that you really understand your book’s genre, and ultimately, its marketability.

Do keep your query to one-page only.
This is “old school” advice, especially since the majority of younger agents who are actively building their client list only accept email queries. A one-page query letter is a luxury. In the age of emailed queries and GenY nano-second attention spans, you’ve got to hook an agent in half that time. Your limit is 250 words. 300 max. If you really believe you can’t distill down your book into a 250 email query, you’ve either written one of those literary masterpieces in which there’s zippo plot, or you need some help learning the art of the query.

Do format your snail mail query using standard business letter alignment and spacing.
That means: Single spaced. 12 point font. Everything aligned along the left margin. No paragraph indentations, but a space between each paragraph. One-page only!
However, if you’re sending an email query, be sure to send a version to yourself–and a few other email addresses–in order to search and destroy all those weird formatting blips. When you start copying and pasting from MS Word into email browsers, you’ll be horrified to see how fonts and indentations become all FOOKED up. One of the best solutions is to copy and paste your query into a text editor, like Notepad, strip it bare of any formatting, and then re-edit your query directly in your email’s browser.

Do list your phone number, mailing address, and email address, but only IF you’re sending a snail mail query.
If you’re sending an email query, then don’t waste the precious space. Start with Dear Ms. Agent: and then vomit right into your query letter.

Do include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with all snail mail submissions.
However, if you’re looking to streamline the whole snail mail thing, and you don’t feel the need to pay for the privilege of receiving rejection letters via your SASE, simply state at the end of your query that no SASE is enclosed, and instead, Ms. Agent can simply email you regarding a request for a partial or full; otherwise, no additional response is required from the agent (like a “form” rejection letter).

Do have a pair of “fresh eyes” proofread for typos and grammar mistakes.
How many typos have you found thus far? Yeah, exactly. Bet it’s driving you nutszooooo…. Since most five year-olds can type and spell better than the AQCrew, be sure to get someone, anyone, even a five year-old, to proofread your query…

The Do NOT’s: •Do NOT start off your query by saying, “I am querying you because I found your name in ‘such and such’ writing guide or internet agent database” (like AQ!). Not only does this take up valuable query letter space, but it’s also the sign of an amateur.
•Do NOT refer to your novel as a fictional novel. That’s redundant. Just call it a novel.
•Do NOT sing the praises of your book or compare it with other best selling books.
•Do NOT send gifts or other bribes with your query.
•Do NOT print your query on perfumed or colored paper. Use plain business stationery.
•Do NOT shrink your font down to 9 point so it all fits on one page. 12 point is standard. 11 point if you’re really desperate.
•Do NOT Fedex or mail your query in a lavish, signature-required fashion in order to make your query stand out. It will stand out, but in a very “annoying, over-zealous, bad first impression” kind of way. Not to mention, it’s a friggin’ waste of money.
•Do NOT apologize in your query for being a newbie writer with zero publishing credits and experience. Your goal is to write a tight, alluring, eye-catching query and sound like a professional. If you’re worried about your lack of writing credentials, just keep quiet and let the writing speak for itself.
•Do NOT include sample chapters of your novel with your query UNLESS an agent’s submission guidelines specifically SAY to include sample pages with your snail mail query. If you really feel compelled to show an agent your writing style along with your query letter, include only the first 5 pages of your novel. Never send more than the first 5 pages with your query unless the guidelines say, “A-Okay!”
•Do NOT forget to list your email address or contact phone number on your query.
•Do NOT forget to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE)

FREE SITES TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOK

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EBOOK LOGOBy Jason Boog on December 17, 2012 4:23 PM

Are you struggling to promote your self-published digital book?

Thanks to the Kindle Boards, we discovered a long list of places where self-published authors can promote their eBook for free.

We’ve collected more information about the sites in a simple directory below, linking to the submission pages for these eBook sites. If you are looking for more support, try our Self-Publishing Finishing School–an online course to help you with the final steps of the indie route.

Free Sites for eBook Promotion

Addicted to eBooks: “This website is perfect for readers like me, who want to watch their book budget. This website also allows the author to rate some of the content of their book. I want to know before I buy if a book the level of profanity, violence or sex in a book. I’m excited that authors can now rate their books for the readers.” http://addictedtoebooks.com/

AppNewser Free eBooks of the Week: Our editors pick a few free eBooks every week. To submit email your pitch to appnewser [at] mediabistro [dot] com.

AskDavid: We offer free book promotion for authors.
Author Marketing Club: “No longer do you have to dig up your links to the best places to submit your books. We’ve put them all together here for you in one spot. Just click on the logos below to load each site’s form, fill in your details, and you’re done.” http://askdavid.com/

Bargain eBook Hunter: “If your title is currently FREE on Amazon, we want to know about it! Simply use the Contact Form to let us know about your free title and we will consider listing it on our site. There is NO COST to you if you contact us and we choose to post your free book. We accept all genres except erotica.” http://bargainebookhunter.com/

Books on The Knob: “Bargain reads, free ebooks and book reviews for the Amazon Kindle, nook, Kobo, Sony and other ereaders, Kindle Fire, nookColor, Kobo Vox, and other tablets, along with some games, music, technology and computers tossed in now and then.” http://blog.booksontheknob.org/

The Cheap: “This website was created in an attempt to let other Barnes and Noble NOOK users know that there really are plenty of deal priced books for NOOK readers. Here at the Cheap we, a group of deal scouting women, inform you of free and low-cost books. These change frequently so please be sure to check in often. We do our best to share only legitimate offers.” http://the-cheap.net/

Digital Book Today: Includes both free and paid options for writers looking to promote. http://digitalbooktoday.com/

eBooks Habit: “Each day we will bring you 20-30 great ebooks that are free at the time of posting, as well as some bargain ebooks with reduced prices!” http://ebookshabit.com/

eReader News Today: Features bargain Kindle books and free Kindle books.http://ereadernewstoday.com/

eReader Perks: reading, ereader devices and all things reading+tech related. Here you will find free books for Kindle, Kobo and Nook plus the latest device news, book/ereader reviews and author interviews. http://www.ereaderperks.com/

Flurries of Words: “we have both FREE and PAID advertising options (apologies but we do not accept porn or erotica books). There are currently five FREE advertising options available: 1) Free Book Find (for permanently or temporarily free books) 2) 99 Cent Book (for permanently or temporarily 99 cent books) 3) Bargain Deal (for books over $0.99 but under $4.99–either permanently or temporarily) 4) Indie New Releases (for books newly released within the past 30 days) … 5) BOOK OF THE DAY” http://flurriesofwords.blogspot.com/

FreeBooksy: If you find an ebook you think our Freebooksy readers should know about please let us know in the form below. And if you are an author and you want to tell the world about your free ebook fill out the form in the Authors section and we’ll take a look at your book.

Frugal Reader: “Please use the form below to submit your FREE books to be considered for a featured FREEBIE post. Submitting your novel does not guarantee that your book will be featured. Please allow as much lead time as possible as I know these are limited time offers. Please note that I feature most genres, and while I may feature romance titles that include sexual scenes, I don’t feature titles that strictly fall under the erotica genre.”

Free Kindle Books & Tips: “If you are an author and would like to have your book promoted (for free) on our site, please fill out the form below: your book must be free in the Amazon Kindle Store and must have an average user rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars for consideration. Please note each book submitted cannot be promoted due to space limitations on a particular day, but if your book is selected we will contact you at the email address you provide below.”

Free eBooks Daily: “I love to hear from authors and readers! If you have a comment, suggestion, or free ebook you would like listed or if you just want to say hello, feel free to send me an email.”

Free Erotica: “This form is for erotic eBook submissions, ONLY. If you have more than one book to promote, fill out the form separately for each book. – If you have not scheduled all of your free dates, feel free to come back again and fill out the form. – Please give me at least two days advanced notice.”

GalleyCat Facebook Page: You can post your book in our New Books section, an easy way to share your book with our readers.

Goodkindles: “we are a place where you post your own article about your title and can reach the readers. We do not review your book – we give you a platform to tell everyone what do you think is most interesting about your book and what you think will interest readers so much that they will go and buy your book.”

Indie Books List: “If you submit an excerpt with less than 1,500 words, we will delete it. Due to the high number of submissions we receive, we may not have time to email every person who submits a shorter excerpt to ask for another one. Please – look at your word count before uploading. If you would like to be considered for both Indie Books List, and Only Romance…you must submit using each site’s submission form. There are now two separate submission forms, when there used to be just one.”

Kindle Daily Deal: “Let’s get the word out about your wonderful books on Kindle to my 13,000+ followers. I am a fellow author and I’d love to help promote your books. I enjoy reading as much as writing, and feel it’s important to support my friends. Currently, this service is FREE to you, but in return for adding your book(s), I’m hoping you reciprocate by buying my latest book containing funny essays about relationships…”

Meet Our Authors Forum: A place on Amazon where writers can talk about their work.

Pixel of Ink: “If your book will be listed as Free ($0.00) on Amazon.com in the next 30 days, then please let us know by filling out the form below. Pixel of Ink may attempt to feature your book on the day it is free, time and space permitting.

Spicy Romance: Fill out the submission form, send a 600 to 3,000 word excerpt and a cover image.

Guy Kawasaki On The Benefits Of Self-Publishing

Guy Kawasaki On The Benefits Of Self-Publishing

Guy Kawasaki, the former Apple evangelist, who is now advising Google’s Motorola group on product design, recently co-authored a book with Shawn Welch, called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book, aimed at helping people understand the self-publishing process. Kawasaki offered WebProNews some additional thoughts on the subject, so if you’ve written a book, or are planning to, pay attention.

According to Kawasaki, there are three main benefits to self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

“Creative control, shorter time to market, and greater royalty per copy,” he says, noting that these benefits do, however, come with “greater responsibility for the quality of your book.”

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he adds.

When it comes to marketing and distribution, Kawasaki notes, “First, an author has to realize that whether her publisher does these things or she does them herself, the same things have to happen. Many self-published authors don’t realize this. Then the most powerful method is to use social media such as Google+, Twitter, and Facebook to develop a fan base that you own. This applies to traditionally published authors too.”

In 2011 the publisher of Kawasaki’s book Enchantment couldn’t fill an order for 500 ebook copies, he tells us. For that reason, he self-published his next book, What the Plus! (which we discussed with him here). He says that this experience helped him learn first hand that self-publishing is a “complex, confusing, and idiosyncratic process.”

Though the book was self-published, it’s now available from McGraw Hill.

“I met an editor and one thing led to another, and I pitched her on the idea,” says Kawasaki of how the publisher came to pick up the book. “The book had been out about six months by then. I learned two things from this experience: first, a good publicist can get press that simply social-media contacts cannot. Second, non-fiction books need to be available in both electronic and paper format.”

According to Kawasaki, the ease of self-publishing means that the 99.9% of authors that publishers reject have an alternative. “It also means that the .1 percent of authors who use traditional publishing also have an alternative,” he adds. “If they can bring themselves to view this positively, it means that they can cherry pick books that are successfully self-published and turn them into even bigger sellers. That’s a huge ‘if,’ however.”

Those self-publishing books inevitably have to figure out how much they’re going to charge for them. You don’t want to set the price too high, where nobody will buy it, but you also don’t want to short change yourself. How do you know how to price it?

Kawasaki says, “My theory for ebooks is this: $.99 for a novice novelist, and $2.99 for an established but emerging novelist. When you’re proven, then you should go to $9.99. For non-fiction, you should start at $4.99 to ensure that people take your book seriously. Then you should go to $9.99 when you’re proven too.”

Obviously people are reading ebooks more these days thanks to ereaders and tablets. Tablet is Kawasaki’s preferred medium for books, “by far.”

“I’ve bought about 200 Kindle books so far,” he says. “I read five times the books I used to read before because of the convenience of Kindle books.”

Last year, we spoke with fiction writer Joe Lansdale, who told us that paperbacks (the smaller ones, at least) will soon be gone. When we asked Kawasaki for his thoughts on this, he said, “It depends on what he means by ‘soon.’ I’d say this is probably the first genre to go because people read this kind of books in large quantities so the frictionless buying of ebooks is compelling. Also, no one can see the cover of what you’re reading on a tablet, so you don’t have to hide Fabio’s picture. Finally, it seems like this is the genre where novice writers often emerge.”

Lansdale also said ebooks are too easy to copy, which can potentially cut into a writer’s sales.

“My logic on DRM is that it inconveniences legitimate customers and doesn’t hinder crooks, so you shouldn’t worry about it,” says Kawasaki. “I doubt that an author can sue or copy-protect her way to success.”

APE started off as a Kindle ebook, but is now also available in paperback.