Starting From Zero

lets_get_digital_amazonSuccess can seem unattainable to those starting out. It’s easy to forget that even the biggest sellers started from zero.

Amanda Hocking didn’t arrive on the scene as a fully formed sales machine. She didn’t have a platform which she had been diligently building up for years, nor did she come from trade publishing. She was unable to convince an agent to take her on and decided to self-publish instead, and then sold a million e-books in nine months!

Detractors tried to paint Hocking as an anomaly — and she was, in the sense that anyone who is phenomenally successful at anything is an anomaly.

But that missed the point: she was able to sell as much as the biggest names in publishing without the help of a publisher.

Soon, others followed suit. Authors like Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, HM Ward, Liliana Hart, and Barbara Freethy have sold millions of e-books on their own. Michael Wallace, Deanna Chase, Ed Robertson, Monique Martin, Chris Culver, BV Larson, Russell Blake, David Dalglish, Marie Hall, and Ryk Brown are just some of the many, many authors who have sold hundreds of thousands of e-books on their own. Without the help of a publisher.

Further down the food chain, hundreds of authors (possibly thousands), myself included, are making a living from book sales. Many of them, like me, were authors who couldn’t get out of the slushpile.

In other words, most of us started from zero. No readers, no platform, nothing.

A lot has changed in the three years since self-publishing went mainstream. In some ways it’s harder, but in some ways it’s easier too. Competition has increased. More importantly, the general savviness of self-publishers has improved. But the tools we have for reaching readers are much more sophisticated, and the prizes have swelled along with the market.

But it’s definitely different than it was three years ago, and, as such, the route to success has changed somewhat too. Beginners might get frustrated trying to follow in the footsteps of the authors named above because of that.

I see some of that frustration any time I share marketing tips. When those starting out read a post like this one on how to boost your mailing list, there’s always a comment which says something like “All that is great, but what do you do if you don’t have any readers?”

I get it. I really do. It can seem like a chicken-egg situation. You need ads to get sales, sales to get mailing list sign-ups, reviews to get ads, fans to get reviews, ads to get fans… pretty soon you’re all tied up in knots and see no way out.

The underlying question is “how do I get the ball rolling?” The short answer is step-by-step. And here’s the long answer.

If you are starting from zero today (like I did 3 years ago), I suggest the following plan:

  1. Get 10 sales as soon as you can. Get those algorithms moving. Also Boughts only appear after 10 sales, and they are central to the Amazon recommendation engine in ways we only partly understand.
  1. Get 10-20 reviews as soon as you can. This will take a while, but it opens up a world of possibilities in advertising and adds social proof. Don’t buy any, obviously. There are lots of legit places to get reviews such as Goodreads and LibraryThing. Be willing to give anyone a free book in exchange for a review. Only ever request an honest review, and don’t offer anything other than a free book in exchange for same. Also don’t worry about cannibalizing your sales; you are building something much bigger. Finally, don’t let overblown fears of piracy prevent you from giving away copies of your work.
  1. Apply to BookBub once you have 20 reviews. They don’t have a minimum, but a new author probably needs that many before they’ll look at it seriously. If they reject, don’t worry. Happens often (to all of us). Reapply further down the line when you have even more reviews, and have padded out your blurb with some juicy pull quotes. Instead, book an ad at ENT, BookSends, or Kindle Books & Tips. Also submit to Pixel of Ink and The Midlist, both of which are free.
  1. Once you get an ad at any of those, build something around it. Put another ad the day after, or before. Or both, if you can.
  1. Drop the price to 99¢ for the ad. Don’t be tempted to run at $1.99, even if you are normally priced quite high. 99¢ always brings way better results at the deal sites.
  1. Before the ad runs, make sure you are in the best categories to get maximum exposure. Also make sure your mailing list sign-up is the first thing readers see when they reach the end of your book.
  1. When the ad runs, enjoy the sales burst and the increase in mailing list sign-ups. Don’t panic when sales decay afterwards. That’s inevitable (and usually unavoidable).
  1. While all this is going on, write another book. When that’s ready for the world, you’ll have a bigger list to launch to, and you will throw the book higher in the charts, and have a longer tail of nice sales after launch. This will also increase mailing list sign-ups, so the next one goes even higher again.
  1. It starts becoming a virtuous circle at this point. With more titles, you have more promotional opportunities, more ads you can take out, more launches, all of which result in more sales, more spill-over to other titles, more mailing list sign-ups, and then bigger launches the next time around.
  1. Don’t give up. Books have a million lives. It doesn’t matter if no one has read it yet and it has been out a while. It’s always new to the reader encountering it for the first time. And be patient. Success doesn’t happen overnight. Expecting it to will only lead to disappointment.

When you get a little more experienced, there are various things you can add, as well as increasing levels of sophistication to all of this, but you won’t go too far wrong by starting off with this basic template.

* * *

This is just a glimpse at some of the stuff I’ll be covering in the revised, expanded, and updated second edition of Let’s Get Digital.

I’ve finally locked down a release date, and I’ll be launching it here on the blog on September 17 — later than expected, but the delay is for good reasons. I ended up adding way more new content than originally planned.

I’ll be uploading Digital 2 directly over Digital 1. This means that if you purchased the original, you will get the second edition free. I’ll be blogging about that in more detail over the next couple of weeks.

As always, my mailing list peeps will get an exclusive for a couple of days, so if you want to hear about the new release before anyone else, sign up here.

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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119 Responses to Starting From Zero

  1. garrettbrobinson says:

    So glad you published this as its own list! This is fantastic. Sharing with my writing community on Facebook.

    Like

  2. That is such a great post–and exactly what I needed to read today to help keep me motivated. Thanks!

    Like

  3. I’ll be uploading Digital 2 directly over Digital 1. This means that if you purchased the original, you will get the second edition free. I’ll be blogging about that in more detail over the next couple of weeks.

    Looking forward to this, as I’m doing exactly the same thing with my Indie Author Survival Guide – I’m hoping that Amazon will elect to notify readers, but even if they don’t, can they automatically get the update? I’d like to know before I issue the second edition.

    And of course looking forward to seeing your second edition!

    Like

    • It’s tricky. Readers will be able to get the update via Manage My Kindle (and there’s something similar for Smashwords and Apple). I don’t actually know about B&N/Nook – still need to check that out (at worst, I’ll fulfill the promise manually if I have to). And Kobo are doing something for me to get the book to those readers.

      Notifying them is another matter. I’ve been trying to get in touch with someone at Amazon to see if they can do this, but without success so far. In short, KDP do sometimes send out notices to readers saying that there is an update available – usually when there are formatting errors or typos which have been fixed. I’ve never seen them do it for this reason, but I’m gonna try. I hope they will, it’s a far better reason than someone fixing screwy formatting. But I guess you are at the mercy of whatever random KDP rep gets the request (which is why I’m trying another route).

      I’ll let you know if I figure out a better way. There should be one.

      Like

      • Agreed! I’ve put an email request into them just to find out if submitting that way is the best way.

        Like

      • Paolo Amoroso says:

        For the new versions of a few ebooks I received such email notifications, but for content updates and not just formatting fixes.

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      • Oooh that’s interesting. Would you be able to forward me one if you still have it? I’d love to see what it looks like. I’m david dot gaughran at gmail dot com if you don’t have it already.

        Like

      • Paolo Amoroso says:

        David, I unfortunately no longer have the update notification emails. But one of the books is this, you may contact the author and ask how she did it: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004MDLKKK

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      • Paolo Amoroso says:

        David, I was able to find the update notification of the book I mentioned in this thread, check your mail.

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      • Got it, thanks Paolo.

        Unfortunately, this email gives the reason for the update as “Significant editorial issues were present.” What I don’t know is whether the author had a genuine second edition, and this is what the bot spits out. Which I would hate, as it makes it sound like there were errors in the book which had to be fixed, rather than a genuine new edition.

        Like

      • Paolo Amoroso says:

        That changelog does indeed look bot-ish. But the author did add content to the updated version of the book.

        Like

      • Ok, I emailed Amazon asking how to do this Second Edition thing, and here’s their response:

        Hello Sue,

        I’ll be glad to provide further guidance regarding update content of your book, and procedure to give advise to customers.

        1. If you are not making any corrections to the book and want to updated as a second edition, our quality team will not be able to comply with the process to give advise to customers since this procedure is only follow when changes are critical and change the story or the way of understand the point in several parts of the book.

        2. If you decide to publish your book as a new submission. It will be considered as a new book submission, which means that you will be in charge of notify your customers about this new submission and is not possible to notify customers who previously purchase a different submission for the same book. Basically the system will recognize it as a new book and not an update for the one you already have.

        Now, then if we received your request to give updated content to customers who purchased your book. We’ll need in order to confirm content updates, please provide details and detailed examples of the corrections made to that book. Once we confirm you completed the improvements, we will take any appropriate action within 4 weeks.

        1. If we find the changes you made to your content are critical, we’ll send an e-mail to customers who own the book to notify them of the update and improvements made. These customers will be able to choose to opt in to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com (www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage).

        2. If the changes made to your content are to correct minor quality issues, we won’t notify customers by e-mail, but we’ll activate their ability to update the content through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com.

        3. If the changes made to your content create unexpected critical issues with the book content, we’ll temporarily remove your book from sale and inform you of the issues found so you can fix them.

        We will only make the content updates available to your customers after we confirm you completed the improvements necessary to correct quality issues present in the earlier version.

        To read more about what issues we consider critical, please visit our Help page: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1MMQ0JHRBEINX

        We look forward to hearing back from you, we are just one email away!

        I hope this helps!
        Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

        Like

      • “Readers will be able to get the update via Manage My Kindle ” Also… this is only true (from what I understand) if Amazon has cleared your book for updates. For example, I bought my own book back in 2012, but I’ve updated the backmatter many times since then. Even if I delete from my kindle and redeliver, even if I have Manage My Kindle AutoUpdates on, I do NOT get the updated version. Only the 2012 version.

        So, this would mean that I COULD NOT download Digital 2 (because I purchased Digital 1). And you can’t re-buy. *insert sobbing here*

        It seems like the only option is to manually give my Second Edition out to old readers OR upload the Second Edition as a separate book and allow old readers to buy it. UGH.

        Like

      • Ok, a much BETTER email from Amazon this time, after I complained about their inability to do this well. Amazon, you are back in my good graces!!

        Hello Sue,

        Thanks for contacting us and giving me the opportunity to help you. I will be more than glad to assist you with your inquiry!

        You can upload your second edition without any problems. However, our Kindle Quality Department does not notify customers when a second edition is uploaded because as my colleague David mentioned, this would be a brand new book and not a new file that overwrote the previous one on an existing book.

        If you uploaded a new file for your existent book and update the title of it to notify that it is a second edition of the book, our Quality Department would notify your customers because they already bought your book and have the title on their Kindle devices. They would decide which is the most appropriate way to let them know that you uploaded new content for a second edition and customers will decide to download the new version or not.

        Some people decide not to download a new version that is being offered on their Manage Your Kindle option because they have already put notes on the book and highlights. When new content is received on their devices, all highlights and notes will disappear.

        If you don’t want customers to buy your book again, it’d be better if you uploaded the file of the second edition over your existent book, clarify on the title that it is a second edition, let us know which were the changes you made and we will make the request to our Quality Department. After the review finishes, they will be notified accordingly.

        Follow these steps to upload your revised content and replace your previous submission:

        1. Log in to your account at https://kdp.amazon.com 2. Find the book you want to edit, and in the ‘Other Book Actions’ column, click ‘Edit Book Details’.
        3. Scroll down to Section 5 and under the text ‘Book Content File’, click ‘Browse’.
        4. Find the revised file of your book’s content and select it.
        5. Click ‘Upload Book’.
        6. Click ‘Save and Continue’.

        You’ll also need to reconfirm Content Rights and click ‘Save and Publish’. The new file will overwrite the old file within 24-48 hours. The ‘Look Inside’ sample should update within a week of republishing your book.

        To change the title of your book, please follow the steps below.

        1. Log in: https://kdp.amazon.com
        2. Find the book you want to update, and in the “Other Book Actions” column, click “Edit book details.”
        3. Under the title section, make the necessary edits.
        4. Go to the bottom of the page and click “Save and Continue.”
        5. Confirm that you have all rights to publish by clicking on the box at the bottom.
        6. Click on “Save & Publish.”

        If your item has already been published, updated details may take up to 48 hours to reflect on the website.

        In case if you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact us back, we are here to help and we will gladly assist you. You can contact us back by replying directly to this email.

        I hope you have a very nice day! Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

        Like

      • Oh that IS much better (and much better than what I was getting). Nice work! When are you pubbing yours?

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      • David – I’m hoping to roll out the Second Edition of Indie Author Survival Guide mid-October, at the same time I’m launching the new book I’m working on For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career. Easier to do two at once!🙂

        Since it sounds like yours will come out first, I’ll look forward (as a reader) to seeing if this Second Edition procedure performs as well as I hope!

        Like

      • Well, I’ll definitely let you know. I expect there will be some teething problems. I’m going to load things up a little in advance of launch day to do some testing. I’m hoping I can iron out any probs before the launch goes public, but we’ll see. I’m not expecting it to go 100% smoothly.

        I’m interested to see how doing this goes in other ways too. Obviously, uploading over the old edition means original purchasers can’t buy the second edition. And that’s quite a lot of people at this point, meaning I’ve no idea how this book will sell. I’m hoping that reader karma earned from giving the update for free will turn into some extra noise during launch week, but we’ll see. Fun to try anyway – esp. when it’s something that no publisher would probably let you do!

        Like

    • Paolo Amoroso says:

      I seem to remember the email notifications included a sort of short changelog, no more than a couple of lines.

      Like

      • That’s intriguing. I wonder if it’s auto-generated or if the author provided the text. Did it look like something from a bot? Also, do you remember any of the titles? I’d love to chase the author down and ask them some Qs.

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    • Paolo Amoroso says:

      Another data point on book updates. When a book I had bought was updated with a new round of copyediting, I didn’t receive any email notifications, and theere was no trace of the update under Manage Your Kindle. The only way I was able to get the new version was by asking the author.

      Like

  4. AGClaymore says:

    The mail list is an excellent point. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard you urge us to set up our mail lists and I’ve always said I’d get around to it, but months went by and no list. I finally rented a mail box from UPS (I don’t want to give Mailchimp the address where my family sleeps) and set up a list.
    Then I wrote an exclusive prequel to one of my series and hosted it on Google Drive. When readers sign up to my list, they get a welcome email with a direct download link for the story. The only way to get it is by signing up for the mail list.

    It’s too easy to focus on roadblocks such as the need to use a physical address or the stress of figuring out a new system.

    All it takes is that first step…

    Like

    • patricefitz says:

      For Mailchimp I just put in my town twice instead of the street address and it accepted it. I know that gives a lot of folks pause… to have a physical address required…

      Like

      • AGClaymore says:

        Interesting idea. My business address already has Calgary in it. Maybe I should have just put Coventry for the street. Every street within a five kilometer radius has Coventry in it….
        Calgary’s confusing that way.

        Like

  5. RJ Crayton says:

    Great post. Just the advice I needed today, especially as August seems like a slow sales time in these parts (I guess lots of people are on holiday – I know I was gone a couple of weeks).

    It’s hard to remember that slow and steady wins the race… and also that it’s not actually a race. We have all the time in the world because, as you said, books have a million lives.

    Like

  6. Janet Oakley says:

    Thanks for the post, David and the tip from AG. My email list is half-formed. Just have a couple more steps to finish off. I’m using General Delivery which another writerly friend does and she’s sold thousands of books. My website has a healthy following.

    Like

  7. Fantastic article, David, and timely as I have a book launch coming up. I didn’t know about #1, so that was helpful.

    I look forward to reading the updated version of Digital 2.

    Like

    • I can share what we do know about Also Boughts. First, they are triggered by ten sales. So if you see a book with Also Vieweds instead, that *usually* means they haven’t hit the threshold yet. Glitches can cause delays, but normally Also Boughts are crunched (IIRC) on a Thursday and a Sunday, so your Also Boughts will first appear on the next Thurs/Sun after you hit those first ten sales.

      Before you get Also Boughts, you won’t qualify for certain internal Amazon recommendation pushes – particularly email blasts to customers. And I think the level of email love you get is dependent on (or related to) your sales level between those Also Bought crunches.

      Like

      • Good to know. Thanks so much for sharing that. I’m going to work like a madman to get 10 sales now.🙂

        Like

      • AGClaymore says:

        I can stop refreshing the screen then! I just launched a new title Wednesday and had the requisite number of sales in the US market by Thursday night. Now I can stop checking until Sunday.
        Definitely a good reason to have a segmented mail list. You could start with the first group to get the also-bot running and then send periodic emails to the other segments to spread out the sales and keep the algorithms happy.

        Like

      • Definitely do. Also Boughts have been super glitchy recently, with some books waiting a week or two to get them. The system goes through these periodic spasms every, oh, three months or so it seems.

        Like

      • AGClaymore says:

        Interesting note:
        The ‘Frequently bought together’ Bot is working already, even though the ‘Also Bought’ isn’t live yet.
        It must rely on a different data crunch and load-day. I think it just started working.

        Like

      • That’s a relatively new feature (on the e-book side at least, it has been around in a slightly different form on the print side for ages). It’s probably something they are testing to see if readers like it/use it. We can’t say for sure if it’s going to stick around in its current form, or at all. And we don’t know anything about how it works yet, other than it must use some variation of the also bought algos, or something similar. Interesting that it appears before Also Boughts. Again, hard to know if that’s SOP or just because Also Boughts are laggy in general at the moment.

        Like

      • Andrew Claymore says:

        Probably a lag thing. The other thing I’ve noticed on this title is that the US site loads the bots as much as a day earlier than the others.

        Like

  8. ztyoauthor says:

    Thanks for posting this. Free advice is ample in this world, but free advice from someone who is walking the same path and is in a position I hope to be in 5 years.

    I have a question though. Would you recommend giving advanced copies to potential reviewers, or wait until after the official release?

    Like

    • Absolutely. I did that for the original release of Digital, and the release of Visible, and it made things SO much easier having 15-20 reviews up there right from the start. I didn’t do that for Mercenary, and I’m still playing catch-up. Big regret.

      You will miss out on some sales from those you give ARCs to, but any author would swap 20 sales for 20 reviews at launch in a heartbeat. Easily worth the trade-off, and some of the people you give the ARCs to might end up buying it anyway.

      Now, when you start out you might not have anyone to give ARCs to. Don’t sweat it if that’s the case. You should have plenty of people to offer ARCs to the next time around. But if you do have anyone, even if it’s one or two people, it’s really really worth doing. Just make sure that you are only asking for an honest review, and not offering anything in addition to the free book as a sweetener, which is verboten.

      Like

      • pascalbleval says:

        Hi David,
        I’ve discovered your blog recently and am quite happy about that. I found ton of useful pieces of very good advice on it, especially that part about email lists and mailchimp.
        Sad, though, that being a french author makes it hard for me to use bookbub ads as i suppose its for english written books (should really check that).
        My question today is on “sending ebooks copies for reviews”: i suppose we are speaking about sending them by email, not having them downloaded from amazon. Meaning the commentaries wont be labelled as “this book was bought on amazon”.
        Fact is, i heard reviews on amazon from customers who did not buy the book on amazon could be deleted by amazon automatically if there is any suspicion of false review.
        How do you get around that?

        many thanks.

        Like

  9. annerallen says:

    Such sensible advice, as always. I’ve given you a shout-out on my blog this week. I often do.🙂 http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2014/08/10-obsolete-beliefs-that-can-block-self.html

    Like

  10. vickilesage says:

    This post came at just the right time – I have a $.99 promo scheduled in a few weeks and submitted it to all the sites you mentioned except Kindle Books & Tips. I just submitted there as well, so hopefully that will give me even more exposure. Thanks for the tip!

    Like

  11. Great stuff. >>With more titles, you have more promotional opportunities<< Each book should have a list of your others, and ebooks should have links to where the other ebooks are sold.

    http://www.doasisay.xyz/

    Like

  12. Ed Teja says:

    I like the idea of this becoming a virtuous circle…. Anything that will make me feel virtuous about my writing is nice. (Insert cheeky grin here) Nice article. I didn’t know that was how also boughts came into being either.

    Like

  13. abciers says:

    Useful stuff, I’ve just completed my first novel and I’m finding the marketing side the most difficult part of it all so far.

    Like

  14. Reblogged this on CKBooks Publishing and commented:
    David Guaghran spells out some very good things to do whether it’s your first book or your fifth. Also, don’t forget to do an ebook presale on Smashwords, and I’ve heard (but have not investigated) that Amazon is finally getting into the ebook presale biz. About time, Amazon. What took you so long?!

    Like

  15. J W Nelson says:

    Once again, an invaluable post. Thank you!

    Like

  16. claire.luana says:

    Reblogged this on A Shot and a Half Pint and commented:
    Some super-helpful tips on self-publishing and growing your sales!

    Like

  17. claire.luana says:

    Reblogged this, thanks for the wonderful tips!

    Like

  18. Thanks, David. Looking forwarding to seeing the updated version🙂

    Like

  19. Thomas M. Watt says:

    This is awesome. Copy and pasted your bullet points, now I have them saved to my desktop under “Marketing Plan”. Great stuff.

    Like

  20. finesharpie says:

    Great information thanks!

    Like

  21. Great piece, David. Very informative as usual! Keep up the great work.

    Like

  22. Iola says:

    Can I just say HUGE THANK YOU for updating Let’s Get Digital, and for making it free for those of us who bought the first one. I’ll certainly be (re) reading it, and recommending it.

    And excellent list. The principles are simple, even if the execution isn’t so much.

    Like

  23. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Again, David sums up the self-publishing game with elegant simplicity. There are a lot of books out there about this business. We’ve looked at a lot of them and happily recommend David’s to anyone who wants a no-nonsense guide to what it’s all about.

    Like

  24. Pingback: Starting From Zero | Le Mag des Auteurs Ind&eac...

  25. Joan Koehler says:

    David, Your advice is incredibly useful and well-written to boot. Thanks! Please keep on spreading the word to your fellow writers. We look forward to all of your posts.

    Like

  26. Reblogged this on David VanDyke's Author Blog and commented:
    For all you authors, pay attention to Gaughran. Read all his blog posts for a roadmap to success. You have to walk the road yourself, but at least you will know you’re on the right path.

    Like

  27. raizscanlon says:

    Excellent, David, as always!

    Re: updated books – I’ve also been able to ask Amazon to force the update of my own book(s) as I wanted to check the newly uploaded version against my own purchased copy. It’s frustrating that they only re-deliver whatever version one purchased at the time, and don’t give an option to say ‘there is a newer edition: would you like it?’, regardless of whether they have ‘approved’ it as a generally available update (the sort that are given through the automatic update function).

    So as a previous purchaser of the book, if they do not ‘approve’ your it for a forced update, at least we could request it directly. The whole system is a pain in the butt really😉

    Like

  28. jenanita01 says:

    Reblogged this on Anita & Jaye Dawes and commented:
    great bloke, this. He has helped me immensely…

    Like

  29. Reblogged this on Ruth Nestvold – Indie Adventures and commented:
    Another great post by David Gaughran, this time going back to basics. Highly recommended!

    Like

  30. Reblogged this on AM Justice Journeys Through Time and commented:
    Finally, a step-by-step guide to indie marketing.

    Like

  31. garrettbrobinson says:

    Getting those reviews is a HUGE, HUGE point. In fact if I would modify any part of this list, it’s that if you have another book ready or coming soon, I would make my review CTA first. That’s what I did for my current series. The first book released, and the first CTA in the back was, “Like this book? Want the second one free? I’ll give it to you if you’ll review this one.” And it took them to a page on my site where they could send me their review URL.

    As a result, I’ve been getting an average of about 5 reviews a day for weeks now. After my book passes 100 reviews, I’ll change the order of the CTAs so that the email signup comes first. But for running BookBub ads and whatnot, it looks FANTASTIC to have an almost brand-new book (just a few weeks old) with (currently) 91 reviews. I’m looking forward to tweaking and expanding this tactic to drive new series up the charts faster.

    Like

    • Yeah I think there are three key things that writers will want to focus attention on in their end-matter (and everything else should be kept to a minimum): the mailing list sign-up, the review request, and the authors’ other titles. Depending on your current needs/situation, you will want to change the emphasis or jockey the position of each of those.

      For example, if you have three books of a series out, and the first one is 99c or permafree (which authors should strongly consider doing), then the link to the next book might be the most important thing you want to train reader attention on. If you only have one title out, then the mailing list might be the most important thing. But if you are struggling to get reviews, then you might want to bump that up until you hit the number you are shooting for.

      As with a lot of things (like pricing), it pays to both be clear on your goals, and to experiment to see what approach brings you closer to those goals.

      Like

  32. rodneymiles says:

    Hi David! First, THANK YOU–I’ve found your content always fantastically relevant and applicable. I started with “Let’s Get Digital” and am about to embark upon “Let’s Get Visible.” Your quality is always perfect, which should be lesson #1 for any writer hoping for repeat viewers and buyers (otherwise known as a “platform!”).

    I wanted to point out that as I myself claw my way up and out of the rocky well walls of obscurity and financial limitations, I KNOW with 100% certainty that I will end up at my goal to be a financially independent author. That doesn’t mean necessarily another household name or a billionaire, but it does mean, for me, an even greater freedom than I now enjoy as a full-time, laptop-lifestyle manager of a boutique team of ghostwriters.

    And it’s because I can see the formula, which I think you’d agree with, and I’d love if you can comment upon, for independence as a self-published author, which I think is QUALITY + BEING PROLIFIC + SALES GROWTH (even gradual!). Simple!

    So many miss the prolific part. They toil for years on ONE book, release it, and wait, and then normally go back to their day jobs. If they would just keep on, even it it means a four-year plan instead of two, I think they’d start to crack the ice ceiling.

    For myself, I too have great novels I’d like to write, great works of pithy nonfiction as well. I don’t quite have the freedom to work on them yet. Instead, I am concentrated on (a) great ghostwriting which pays the bills and is in itself a dream-come-true, (b) beginning to publish abundant, shorter, high-quality titles to get the cash ball rolling, (c) working with a great team of people because we keep each other developing and penetrating the industry further and further. I use pseudonyms not to hide but to reserve my birth name for the works I ultimately want to write, and to allow me to practice in different genres.

    The e-book has resurrected a dream I’d given up on, and your quality leadership and insights have kept me excited about it all, like pouring gas on a fire.

    Thanks!

    ~ Rodney

    Like

  33. David Biddle says:

    This is a great piece David. All your stuff is. Here’s my problem, though: I write what some might call literary fiction, you could call it contemporary or general fiction, maybe. A lot of this game depends on reviews. It’s damned hard to find book bloggers who are willing to take on general/literary fiction.

    Like

  34. barryknister says:

    On the basis of strong recommendations posted at many websites, and based on my own appreciation of the straight talk you consistently deliver, I’ve bought your book, and look forward to learning from it. Everyone in the business talks the talk. You also walk the walk–thank you!

    Like

  35. Pingback: One Size Does Not Fit All for Self-Publishing | Self-Publishing Review

  36. Randi says:

    Great info and definitely keeping a lookout on the second edition of Let’s Get Digital. This post came in a perfect time for the “promo plan” I’m putting together to accompany the ENT ad I finally secured next month (of course, they accepted too late to change my countdown deal and will just have to drop the price manually–lesson for next time). I noted the places you suggested placing ads and started some basic research on them. Unfortunately, for The Midlist, I can only find info for a $100 ad placement package (https://www.themidlist.com/submit/ads) but not the one for Free that you described. Booksends has a 5 review minimum (like so many others have) and Kindle Books & Tips merely has me sign up to “join our advertiser list” (http://www.fkbooksandtips.com/for-authors/). Am I missing something (overlooking some link, etc.) on these three?

    Also, while putting together his “promo plan,” I’m gathering a list of twitter promo options (those that retweet, etc.) and other related resources for those books/authors that have zero-five reviews in particular. If it’d be helpful, I’d love to share this list (with detailed notes and links, etc.) with you, your followers, or any other author that might be interested.

    Anyways… thanks for all you do for the indie community. I know I appreciate it and hope to be able to give back even a smidgeon of what you contribute.

    Like

  37. This is very helpful. Thank you very much.:)

    Like

  38. Pingback: Sunday Round Up: Links to My Favorite Recent Writing Articles | Miri Thompson

  39. Pingback: Starting From Zero – Great Advice for Aspiring Authors | USA Today Bestselling Author S. E. Lund

  40. enkousama says:

    Thanks for the words of wisdom Dave

    Like

  41. kellyaberry says:

    This looks amazing, thank you for pointing it out to us!!

    Like

  42. Reblogged this on The Writers' Workshop Blog and commented:
    Self-publishing? Good advice here, thank you David Gaughran.

    Like

  43. Reblogged this on Jean Reinhardt and commented:
    When I first tested out the waters of self-publishing, David Gaughran’s was one of the most informative blogs I came across. This post by him will tell you why. Excellent advice.

    Like

  44. I always appreciate your advice and insights. Thanks, David.

    Like

  45. gvkbj says:

    Interesting advice as usual. See this article, I thought at first it was “wrong” but then remembering reading David’s books it does make sense. All expenses is what Davis recommends: http://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2014/aug/28/self-publish-novel-how-to-amazon

    Like

    • The *idea* behind much of that article is fine – it behooves authors to spend good money on editors and covers. But the idea that it takes $6,000 to self-publish is ridiculous. What’s even more ridiculous is how the journalist doubled down in the comments after loads of self-publishers (myself included) explained her numbers were off, and that she had made several errors (like claiming you need ISBNs or that buying reviews is ever a good idea).

      Like

      • gvkbj says:

        Thanks David for setting this straight, I was eager to know your view on this. So, the cost for the editing and cover could be less if I understand. And of course the idea of the ISBN and reviews.

        Like

      • I’ve left two comments under that piece with more information. The second comment, in particular, goes into a lot of detail on that.

        Like

      • gvkbj says:

        Oops. I had not seen there were so many comments on that article. Went through it and very much eye-opening! Thanks for pointing it out.

        Like

  46. Pingback: Starting From Zero | Анатолий Сметанников

  47. Pingback: Scott William Carter » When Giving Away Free Books Is the Smartest Thing a Writer Can Do

  48. Ryan M. Church says:

    Reblogged this on The Way of the Storyteller:.

    Like

  49. Pingback: Writer Wednesday | creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

  50. Pingback: Episode 22 – Live Events, Cliffhangers and Reviews | Sell More Books Show

  51. Pingback: How To Start Your Digital Marketing: Friday Find | writers of wales

  52. Superb advice so I’m reblogging.

    Like

  53. Reblogged this on Author -Carole Parkes and commented:
    Superb advice from David Gaughran.

    Like

  54. Thanks for this it’s so helpful. I’m currently reading ‘Let’s Get Visible’ which I’m also finding extremely useful. What you say about not letting lack of sales get you down and being patient is just what I needed to hear!🙂

    Like

  55. Becki says:

    Hey, thanks for sharing this information. I appreciate it. How do you create a mailing list? I suck at technology, btw. LOL. Is it easy to do?

    Like

  56. aealbert23 says:

    Great Info!!! Thanks

    Like

  57. angelabooth says:

    Reblogged this on Angela Booth: WordPress and commented:
    Wise words. Everyone starts at zero — it’s the journey, and where you end up that counts.

    Like

  58. Pingback: What I'd Do If I Started a Writing Career Today

  59. I can tell you obviously know what you’re talking about. It takes a high level of knowledge to be able to provide such a succinct and logical map.

    But my favorite thing about this piece is that you accomplished a killer road map that is just that – a map. It’s not some perfect solution or get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a starting place that anyone can use.

    You’ve done a useful service here and I, for one, plan to pick up your book when the new edition comes out.

    -Jake

    Like

  60. oobesessions says:

    Great article. Have been thinking about self publishing myself and this really helps. Just need to start pulling all my notes together.

    Like

  61. oobesessions says:

    Reblogged this on oobe sessions and commented:
    Interesting article on self publishing.

    Like

  62. Hi David,
    Firstly I would like to say thank you. I have now received your updated version through the ‘manage my content and devices’ section of Amazon. (My notes from your first version have already been backed up on my laptop, so I can check them out whenever I wish – I wrote LOTS).
    Secondly, in response to thread with SusanKayeQuinn, I have uploaded new versions of a book to KDP and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting the update. They were only minor changes, however, after emailing Amazon about it, they were happy to resend me an updated version for my Kindle.
    And lastly, when I look up ENT as far as advertising goes, I get a lot of medical sites about Ear, Nose and Throat Doctors.🙂 What is ENT actually short for?
    Thanks again.
    Katie

    Like

    • vickilesage says:

      Ereader News Today – http://ereadernewstoday.com. They’ve really helped me moved books during price promos. Good luck!

      Like

    • Hi Katie,

      It appears I was misinformed. It’s a major screw-up. The version Amazon is letting you download from Manage My Content & Devices is the OLD version (despite the new cover).

      While I’m getting that fixed at Amazon’s end, to get the new version, there are three options:

      1. Call Amazon and they will push the actual 2nd edition out to your device. Here are the numbers (toll free in US & Canada): US: 866-216-1072 Canada: 866-321-8851 UK: (0203) 356 6212 International: +1-206-266-2992.

      2. Email Amazon and request same (but phoning is probably better to avoid successive rounds of emails and/or delays).

      3. I’ll send you the mobi and you can sideload it.

      The way you can tell if you have the first or second edition is simple. Look at the copyright page, the 2nd ed. should have “Second edition published September 2014” in bold on the front. The old one doesn’t. Also, in the 1st ed. the first chapter is called “Challenges Facing The Publishing Industry”. In the 2nd ed. it’s called “Appetite for Disruption”

      Sorry for the trouble.

      Dave

      P.S. ENT = Ereader News Today! This one: http://ereadernewstoday.com/

      Like

  63. suemvan says:

    Reblogged this on Indie Authors and commented:
    Interesting article for new authors.

    Like

  64. pascalbleval says:

    Reblogged this on Bleval's Tavern and commented:
    Very interesting information indeed.

    Like

  65. Hi David,
    I must once again thank you for your invaluable advice. I reread your blog again today and got just as much out of it the second/third time around.
    Cheers.
    Ken
    http://www.kengracebooks.com

    Like

  66. chasnewport says:

    Reblogged this on THE RUSTY NUT BIBLE and commented:
    David Gaughran just read my mind…

    Like

  67. Clare Walker says:

    Hi David,
    Thanks for this article — I’ve found it and other articles on your blog helpful! Also, I recently started listening to Simon’s Rocking Self-Publishing podcast and enjoyed your interview. I also bought Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible — both very good!

    I have a question about something you mentioned in this article. You mentioned “padd[ing] out your blurb with some juicy pull quotes…” I assume these pull quotes are from reader reviews on amazon, b&n, goodreads, etc. But who actually *owns* those reviews? The reviewer? The site? (amazon? b&n?) I can see how it would be kosher to pull snippets from an amazon review and include it in the book description on amazon, but is it legit to pull quotes from an amazon review and use them in my book description on b&n or other booksellers? Or to print pull quotes from amazon in the front matter of the paperback edition of my book?

    Does one merely need to provide attribution for the review? For ex, you’ve seen those review snippets in printed books: “The world’s greatest book…ever!!!!” — Joe Schmo, New York Times Review of Books.”

    Thanks, David! I hope my question is clear and that you can at least point me the right direction.

    Like

    • Technically, Amazon owns all the reviews on its site (and presumably it’s the same for Goodreads, B&N et al). That said, I’ve seen plenty of authors and publishers use Amazon reviews in their product description, or quoted on the cover, or in other promo material, etc. I’d say it’s one of those situations where it’s against the terms and conditions but no one is going to pull you up for it.

      But that’s not quite what I’m suggesting. The most effective pull quotes – and this is backed up by research from people like BookBub – aren’t those from a random review on Amazon, but from either (a) an author in your genre, and (b) a trusted publication. For the latter, that could mean the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, or a book blog that is big in your genre. For the former, obviously the bigger the author name the better, but any is better than none. You can have a look at some of my books for a suggested format (and I do it a little differently for fiction v non-fiction – the latter with more informational/longer blurbs, and the former shorter/hookier).

      Also be careful where you use the word “Amazon” as certain players in our industry can be stupidly allergic to it. Books containing the word “Amazon” can have trouble getting published at Apple. Barnes & Noble might pull a book from sale if it had the Amazon name in the blurb. And then indie bookstores might not stock the book if it has the word “Amazon” prominently on the cover. People are that ridiculous about it, unfortunately.

      Note: “trusted publication” will vary hugely depending on your genre and target market. A quote from PW or Kirkus does zilch for me as a reader, but can add a little heft to your blurb/description/cover copy. It’s another form of social proof that will help on-the-fence purchasers click that button – just like lots of positive reviews or appearing in the charts.

      Like

  68. Pingback: Let’s Get Digital Is Free. Maybe Forever? | David Gaughran

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