In the lead up to tomorrow’s Frankfurt Book Fair Indie Author Fringe here’s a Fringe Highlight that’s part of our new #AskALLi weekly podcast series that features popular Indie Author Fringe speaker session highlights as podcasts. This means you can catch up on sessions you may have missed, and listen to them on-the-go or in your car. We’ve also published a transcripts for those of you who prefer to read your content rather than listening to it.
This Fringe Highlight is presented by Carla King, the author of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors. She has collated the best tools you can use to reach more readers and build your fan base, whatever your genre. These tools are easily integrated into your website and let you listen and respond to readers, attract and reward fans, and sell direct.
Topics Discussed in this Session:
- Getting reviews with Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)
- Giveaways tools for Authors
- Selling your book direct
- Selling your book as a subscription
- E-Commerce Options for Authors
- How authors can use Gumroad
- Become a Content Curator using Aer.io
- Beta publishing with Leanpub
- Integrating HTML Widgets into Your Website
Learn how to vary pricing to leverage the power of free without sacrificing profit; how to generate a monthly income with subscriptions to your works-in-progress; how to pre-sell — and more.
Fringe Highlight Podcast: Author Tools to Reach More Readers
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Fringe Highlight Video: Author Tools to Reach More Readers
Fringe Highlight Transcript: Author Tools to Reach More Readers
Carla: Welcome to cool tools you can use to reach more readers, I’m Carla King and you can find more about self-publishing tools at authorfriendly.com.
The tools I’d like to focus on today are BookFunnel, Patreon, PayPal, Gumroad, Leanpub and Aer.io.
But before we dive into the tools, I’d like us to focus on, just for a minute, about what do readers want? Readers want free books, right? And they want bargain books and, if they like to read a lot, they like subscriptions to books. Basically, readers want to read. So, the tools in this presentation are going to help you move beyond normal, traditional distribution, beyond Ingram Sparks, Smashwords, Amazon CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing and Pronoun, the usual suspects, into areas you probably haven’t thought about yet.
Getting Reviews with an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC)
First of all, let’s start with the beginning because when you have a book and you want to get it out in the world, the first thing you want to do is get reviews for it and in order to get reviews for it, you need to create an advanced reader copy. This may be the completely finished book or it may be a last draft with a few typos before copy editing. Advanced reader copies go out to reviewers and they can also go out as giveaways to the existing readers on your email list, on your social media platform. The people who make up your street team and if you haven’t started compiling email addresses for a street team yet, I’d recommend that you start that now. Because these are people who you can send the book to for free, who already like you and you give it to them for free in PDF format or MOBI or EPUB format in exchange for a review made on the same day as released, right? So, this is a promise, they may not keep it but I’ve talked to a lot of authors who feel like more than half, and up to 90%, do keep that promise to review it. A fair, unbiased review on Amazon on the first day it comes out. But getting reviews on Amazon isn’t the only reason to send out books to readers.
Giveaway Tools for Authors
Sometimes you just want to have a special for your email subscribers and for your social media friends and you need to give that book away for free. So, how do you do that? You’re not going to email it to them, that’s really awkward and DropBox is awkward and so is Google Drive, WeTransfer, you know, there’s always problems with these downloadable slide sharing, document sharing sites. And you’re going to be doing a lot of customer support. So, I’m going to suggest to you that you use a product called BookFunnel. Now, Book Funnel starts at about $20 a year, just for the ability for you to upload and share a few books. And it’s well worth it because it makes it so incredibly easy for your customer/reader/reviewer, somebody that you want to make really happy with your book, makes it painless for them to download it. I want you to take a look at the flow of BookFunnel.
BookFunnel uses Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as an example because it is in the common domain but this, imagine that this was your book and I’m one of your subscribers or a reviewer and you send this link, you would upload your book to BookFunnel, you would, of course, have to create the various formats, MOBI, EPUB and PDF and then release it, approve it for distribution, just with a link. And you send me the link and I would get this screen, I’d get on “get my book” and I would be presented with this incredibly friendly screen that shows me my device. I use a Kindle, so, I would click on that and then it asks me what kind of Kindle I have and has a little description of them and I can click on one of those or just say email my book. Because I have an email address on Amazon, I just want the book emailed to my email address so that I can email it to my Kindle email address, if that makes sense, for those of you who have Kindle.
In case I can’t figure it out, they have even provided a little video here, so, see, they’re doing all the customer service work for you. Again, I click “email my book”, they give me a screen that says where you want it to go, I say [email protected], I choose MOBI for Kindle from the drop down menu and I say “send the book”. Soon I get an email in my inbox with the book and now I just simply forward that to my Kindle email address.
Great, now we have a distribution tool for getting your book out, your advanced reader copy out, your rewards copy out, giving free books to whoever you want and sharing it and hoping to build a platform.
Selling Your Book Direct
So, now let’s move on to direct sales. You really want as much direct contact with your readers as you can possibly get. Direct sales, giveaways, discounts, you can do all of this without going through another company. You can do it easily yourself with these tools but first, why would you do direct sales when there are distribution companies out there who are going to distribute your book and have people pay for it? Well, we already have figured out that people like free and bargain books because they want to read more and they are going to take a risk on a self-published author if they don’t have to pay for the book or if they pay really little for the book. They are also going to take a risk if they see a lot of reviews and if you sent out ARCs and if you had a straight team to give you reviews on a previous book, for instance, on Amazon, on this book, they’re going to Amazon, they’re going to see the reviews, they’re going to see that they can get this on your website for free or sign up for your email newsletter and get the first book in a series free and they’re going to love you for that. You’re going to make more money because there are no distribution fees, you’re not paying, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50% to sell your book on these various sites and you can collect customer data. You can make the reader subscribe to your email address in exchange for a free book. And they’re glad to do that. You can repurpose and repackage content. I mean, a lot of us have stories, books and writing that just doesn’t fit anywhere so, why not wrap it all up in a package together and create a sampler for readers and put it out as email bait, the ethical bribe on your website? They get a package of your free writing or it can be a bonus or you can sell this stuff, you could sell it on Amazon. You can beta publish your less than perfect books and get some reader feedback, you can get some free editing, you can figure out if your narrative arc is good or if your readers are getting confused, all these things that developmental editing is for and, in the meantime, you’re building community and you’re building your platform and marketing your books.
So, again, what can you sell? You can sell your writing, your products and your time. You can give this away too. This is going to include, not just books but blog posts and podcasts, artworks and book readings on YouTube. If you’re a non-fiction author like me, you can create course ware and consulting. You can sell an awful lot and make a lot of money and funnel people down to your books as well.
So, how do you spread the word if you don’t have a platform? I hope you have a platform and if you don’t, you need to get on social media especially Facebook and Twitter and start telling people about your books. You can spread the word there, with your email newsletter, you can band together with other authors and put out a set of stories together. You can advertise. I actually like Facebook Ads, I think they’re pretty easy and you can really target a demographic really narrowly, like, 15 to 22 year olds in Australia who like vampire romance fiction, you see? You can get very, very narrow there and that’s good for you. And it only costs $5, $15, $50, you can set a budget and not go above it.
Selling Your Book as a Subscription
Now, the tools to deliver content include Patreon, PayPal, Gumroad, Leanpub. Aer.io’s a little bit different, I’ll talk about that in a minute. But first, I just want to start with the subscription model.
A subscription model I like best is Patreon, for creators, Patreon is a way to get paid for creating the things you’re already creating. And your fans can pay a few bucks a month or per post or story you release and then you get paid every single month or every single time you release something new. Patreon takes 5% of your earnings and there is a bunch of writers who are making hundreds and even thousands of dollars per month on Patreon. I am starting a Patreon channel, I think of it as a subscription channel, for a project that I am doing, creating an adventure travel guide to Baja, California and Mexico, just across the border from where I live in San Diego. There’s a lot of interest in this and I’m launching it next week, in May.
Let’s look at a couple of authors, I really like Kameron Hurley as an example. She is a published writer who has a bunch of books, actually. And currently she’s making almost $2500 per short story, which is insane. She has a lot of various levels of engagement, you can pay $1, $2, $3, $5, $10, $50, $150. People get digital downloads of each month’s story in various formats, if you have a backstage pass, you get deleted scenes, deleted chapters, you can get wallpapers, access to podcasts, all kinds of cool stuff. She even has a writing workshop that might be of interest to you if you’re writing stories in her genre.
This is her website, and you notice that she does have a “support me on Patreon” button on the bottom right of her webpage. I think I would actually put it at the top right, because that’s where people look most often. There’s also Ellen Nathary, she creates comic books and she’s making about $775 a month. Fireside Fiction company is a fiction magazine, a literary magazine that pays their authors, so, they’re asking for funds to pay their authors and they have various different levels with wallpaper and such and on their website, down at the bottom too, they have a prominent button where you can become a Patreon.
E-Commerce Options for Authors
Now, let’s look at do it yourself, e-commerce option, PayPal. We’ve all heard of PayPal and they allow you to create a “buy now” button, a subscription program, a donation or a shopping cart. I love the example of Maria Popova, she has a blog called Brain Pickings, where she deconstructs writing and writers and it’s just an amazing, amazing site, a blog for literary fiction, non-fiction mostly. She spends an awful lot of time on this site. It’s very, very deep as you see. And she asks for donations. Now, this is on every single page, if you’ll notice, in the middle of the sidebar, she has “donating equals loving” and she has created a monthly donation pattern of 3, 5, 7 10 and 25. And this is strictly for support. It’s not for anything extra. You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation of any amount. So, if I was super rich and I really decided, wow, that she was doing such an amazing job, I mean, what’s to stop me from kicking back $1000 to her, just because I’m in the mood. This is really what you’re hoping for, as an author, isn’t it? She also has a page on her website, a support page, I imagine because it’s a DIY solution, unlike Patreon which handles customer support for you, that she gets a lot of queries saying, “Oh, hey, I don’t want to donate any more, I’m out of money or I want to change my donation amount or what the heck is this charge on my credit card”, things like that. She has to make sure that she has a really, really detailed customer support page.
I’m going to move you off to the Tim Ferriss show for more on Maria Popova because this podcast is amazing, Maria Popova on being interesting, creating more time in the day and how to start a successful blog. I think every single author really needs to read that or listen to that episode.
How authors can use Gumroad
Now, let’s move on to Gumroad. Gumroad is one of my favorite tools of all because it lets you create a product, a subscription or a pre-order. You can sell pre-orders on Patreon too or with PayPal but they’re not really specifically set up to do that, Gumroad is. Note that you can also set up pre-orders for Ingram Spark for CreateSpace as well. So, what you do is you upload your digital products and you assign a price to it and you simply put it out on social media. A link is created, you put it on social media, you can embed it on your website, you can blog about it, put it in your newspaper. But they also let you create a little widget that you can embed right on your website so that it looks like you’re selling direct from your website instead of linking to the Gumroad store, which isn’t your brand, right? So, what you want to do, as in this example, is put the widget in your WordPress website, so the reader can say, “oh, I want to buy that book”, they hit the “buy” button, they get a box coming out and saying ok, you know, “here’s what you’re going to buy and put in your credit card information”. And then you’re going to get the book delivered. Now, this example, and I do this too, is for an autographed physical book, so, of course, it’s not a digital download but I will get an email saying somebody bought my book and then I just stick my autographed book in a priority mail envelope and then it goes off in the mail.
Another thing Gumroad does really well for authors and musicians and artists of any kind, is to create pre-orders. A pre-order is a promise to deliver a product by a certain date, so then your readers put money down to be the first to receive it as soon as it’s published. Once it’s published, you receive the money in your account. Now, there have been a lot of studies recently that show that if you have book pre-orders, it massively increases your sale because it helps you build up excitement. So, you’re going to sell more books and create more excitement when it’s not going to be available for a month or two. I think 30 days and 60 days is optimal and the nice thing about creating pre-orders directly on your site is that you can give people an extra, like you can say, “Order the physical book, autographed, I’m going to give you the digital book for free or I’m going to give you this other little book of stories for free”. This example is of a musician who is giving the MP3 of a song, free, as a free download, immediately upon the pre-order of the physical CD.
So, you can look at these slides later, there is a lot of information on this slide but Gumroad has amazing delivery, it hooks into Facebook and Twitter really nicely so you can immediately share the fact that you have a digital download available and hopefully your friends will also share this. It does e-commerce really well. There’s a free product and a $10 a month product. They take 3% and 30%, 30 cents transaction fee so, you’re not going to want to do a 99 cents e-book here because 30 cents is going to cut deeply into your profits, isn’t it? It will deposit to PayPal or to your bank and you also get your customer email addresses, which is so important because what you can do is say, “Hey, I hope you really liked my book or my music or my art. Would you join my email list”? Now, you can’t put them on your email address list right away, you have to ask them to subscribe. It’s illegal just to pop people onto your email lists, so, entice them with more freebies.
Become a Content Curator using Aer.io
Moving on, we have talked about BookFunnel, Patreon, PayPal, Gumroad, subscription, direct sales tools, let’s move on to this really interesting product called Aer.io. Aer.io was bought by Ingram last year and what they are is a curation tool. Now what a curation tool does is it positions you as an expert and brings readers to your site for other reasons than just your fabulous book. It makes you a bookseller and earns you some money via affiliate sales, quite like the Amazon associates program where you earn a few pennies per book that you sell using a special affiliate link on your website or your blog. I started using Aer.io a long time ago when it was still on beta and I use it today in my little publishing company called Misadventures Media, where I publish books about motorcycle adventure travel, that’s my niche. I’ve got about ten books so far in this publishing effort but with curation, it looks like I have hundreds of books on motorcycle and overland adventure travel. This is done by signing up to the site and choosing the books that I want to present. So, if you go to the tool bar of Misadventures Media, you’ll see that I have several mini stores on the site that curate in a super niche area. I’ve got one store, you can filter through women’s motorcycling stories, motorcycle adventure classics, regional motorcycle touring guides, motorcycle how-to books and little known gems. What I’ve done is, I’m an author but I’ve become a bookseller, right? I’m a publisher but I’m a book seller and in that way, I’m building a platform and making money and attracting people to my own books because I read this stuff anyway.
You sign up for about $40, and I can’t remember if it’s a one time sign up fee or an annual sign up fee and you’re presented with all the books in the world really. You go into the search box and type in, vampire cowboy novel or, what I did was motorcycle travel or adventure travel or motorcycle adventure travel. And you see all the books that have been tagged with those keywords. So, when I am presented with those, I look through them, I choose the ones I want in my catalogue and then I can further narrow them down into collections. And each of these collections can be embedded on a webpage easily, just by importing the HTML code that they give you, right? You’re familiar with these already, because probably you’ve inserted HTML code for your Facebook or Twitter feed, in your website. So, it’s very, very similar to that.
So, suddenly you’re not an author anymore, you’re an actual publisher, you’re not just an author, you’re a bookseller. And this brings so much more traffic to your website and you sell your own books and other people’s books and you can make a lot of friends in your community by doing this as well. If your book is not in the catalogue, you can upload your book into the Aer.io catalogue, for sale, as well.
Beta publishing with Leanpub
Let’s talk about a tool called Leanpub. I love Leanpub because it’s an interactive publishing platform that lets you collect money for your error-ridden, in-progress books. In that way, it’s a really, really good beta publishing tool and I think everybody should be beta publishing before they put their books out to the big publishing distribution companies. It’s a pre-order tool too, since readers will get the whole book when it’s finished. Which means that it works like a crowdfunding platform as well. You can even use it as a subscription program for serials, and a paid blogging tool too, with variable pricing from free to $500.
Yeah, I really think that this is the most underused tool in the whole set that I’ve been talking about, which is too bad because it’s very easy to use. You’ve been seeing cloud based book creation sites pop up now all over the place, Pronoun and Readsy, and others but Leanpub has had this for a long, long time. You can either upload your document or you can use their cloud based tool. You can use GitHub which is really for programmers and you can sync it to DropBox, which you probably won’t do. But if you’re familiar with DropBox, you might want to use their text based markup language for simple formatting and sync it between their DropBox and yours, to deliver updates to your books.
You can control the page size, six by nine, five and a half by eight and a half, the paragraph style, indented or with space between, where the pages break, even if you want chapters or not. Here’s a look at their cloud based tool, you see it is very, very simple to use.
So, again, Leanpub lets you set your own pricing and add extras. You can add an extra like an audio file or music. Anything digital that can be delivered in your sleep. You can have variable and suggested pricing. You can have a free book or you can offer it for $4.99 and people can drag the slider bar to free or all the way up to $500.
Like, Gumroad, you get the buyer’s email address so that you can email them and say, “Hey, thank you so much for purchasing my book or downloading it for free. I think you’ll like my other books, please sign up for my email newsletter”. Or you can simply give them another freebie. It has a book page and a store. You earn a 90% royalty rate with 50 cents per sale to Leanpub, for their troubles. And also, you know what it is? It’s a great way to create MOBI, EPUB and PDF files. I have been advising you to upload MOBI, EPUB and PDF files to all these sites, all during this presentation but I haven’t told you how to make these files. Well, if you use Leanpub, it will make the MOBI, EPUBs and PDFs for you, I think that might just be worth it all on itself.
Integrating HTML Widgets into Your Website
Now, the last thing I want you to leave you with is integration. I’ve suggested a lot of places on the web to spread your work around. I think you’re going to be attracted to one or another or a couple of these. But you’re not going to be spread that thin but never the less, you’re going to need to put a widget on your website, leading people to the site that you’re selling on, right? So, remember that you can get buttons and HTML widgets from all these sites and very easily integrate them into your own website.
Thanks again, I’m looking forward to seeing you in email and social media. This is Carla King, for Author Friendly, signing off for today.
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Carla King is the creator of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp books and workshops and founder of Author Friendly, a resource, education, and service center for self-publishers and small presses. Her comprehensive Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors is now in its fourth edition. She has written for Bowker’s Self-Published Author, Bookworks, PBS MediaShift, and hosts a popular blog at AuthorFriendly.com. Carla also penned the Book Formatting, Book Distribution, and Book Discovery guides for IngramSpark, where she is on the advisory board.
Connect with Carla on Twitter: @carlaking
About Indie Author Fringe
If you’re not familiar with our Fringe event, it’s three-times a year, online conference for self-publishing authors, brought to you by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and fringe to the major global publishing fairs; London Book Fair, BookExp, and Frankfurt Book Fair.
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