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Marketing Middle-Grade Or Young-Adult Books And More Self-Publishing Questions Answered By Michael La Ronn And Sacha Black: Member Q&A Podcast

Marketing Middle-Grade or Young-Adult Books and More Self-Publishing Questions Answered by Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black: Member Q&A Podcast

In the latest installment of the AskALLi Member Q&A podcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors, hosts Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black discuss effective strategies for marketing middle-grade or young-adult books. They emphasize the importance of targeting parents rather than children and recommend networking with other authors in the same genre to maximize visibility and sales.

Other questions include:

  • What do you do differently to launch a perma-free story or list magnet compared to a sale for a short story?
  • What are some promotional things to do when marketing a murder mystery besides paying for NetGalley reviews?
  • What are the moral issues of using AI narration as opposed to a human for your audiobook?
  • Do you have any rules of engagement for dealing with negative reviews and nasty comments?
  • Is it okay to attach press releases when approaching media, and should you try to speak to journalists in person or on the phone?
  • Are there any benefits or disadvantages to launching two books at the same time, especially if one is a novel and the other is a short story collection?

And more!

Thoughts or further questions on this post or any self-publishing issue?

If you’re an ALLi member, head over to the SelfPubConnect forum for support from our experienced community of indie authors, advisors, and team. Simply create an account (if you haven’t already) to request to join the forum and get going.

Non-members looking for more information can search our extensive archive of blog posts and podcast episodes packed with tips and advice at ALLi's Self-Publishing Advice Center.

And if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast: Marketing Middle-Grade or Young-Adult Books

On the #AskALLi Member Q&A podcast, @MichaelLaRonn and @sacha_black discuss effective strategies for marketing middle-grade or young-adult books. Plus, many more self-publishing answers. Click To Tweet

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About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is ALLi’s Outreach Manager. He is the author of over 80 science fiction & fantasy books and self-help books for writers. He writes from the great plains of Iowa and has managed to write while raising a family, working a full-time job, and even attending law school classes in the evenings (now graduated!). You can find his fiction at www.michaellaronn.com and his videos and books for writers at www.authorlevelup.com.

Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition winning author, rebel podcaster, speaker and casual rule breaker. She writes fiction under a secret pen name and other books about the art of writing. When Sacha isn't writing, she runs ALLi's blog. She lives in England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son. You can find her on her website, her podcast, and on Instagram.

Read the Transcripts to the Podcast: Marketing Middle-Grade or Young-Adult Books

Michael La Ronn: Let's go ahead and tackle our first question here. Sarah has the first question, and that is, do you have any advice on marketing middle grade or young adult books?

Sacha Black: We have a children's book marketing book, don't we, I believe?

Michael La Ronn: Yes, we do, and I can get the name of that.

Sacha Black: Okay, and then Karen Inglis is our children's book advisor, and Karen has also written a book, which is great, and it's on its second edition. It's something like, How to Market a Children's Novel. I would recommend looking at that.

Then there's another book by, I want to say David Hendrix. It's a white book, and it talks all about how to go into schools, how to market to schools to get those connections.

I don't write children's books, so it's difficult. My advice, whenever you're new in a genre is to try and network with other authors in that genre, and it really depends what kind of book that you're writing.

So, there's an author I can think of, Melissa Torres, and she writes gymnastics books for children. She goes to gymnastic events, and that is where she sells the vast majority of her books, of her merchandise. She does some really clever things like she has leotards designed in the same outfits that her character wears on the front cover of the books, things like that. But she goes and sells books where children are, which is at the gymnastics events.

So, quite a seasonal marketing method, that one, but that is one way of doing it.

I would say to look at the children's marketing book that we've got and also the one that Karen Inglis wrote.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and the name of that book is Self-Publishing Children's Books, and we can say this now because everybody listening is an ALLi member, you can get it for free in your ALLi dashboard. Just log in and then under your dashboard go to publications and then there's a drop down under that says guidebooks. It's about halfway down the page. Karen graciously licensed that book to ALLi members so you can have access to that.

I love everything you said, Sacha.

I think the big thing, too, is that you're not marketing to children, you're marketing to the parents. So, how do you find ways to reach the parents that are the target market for your book, and neither Sacha nor I have that answer because we don't write middle grade, but that's something that you'd also think about that should be a guiding light for you as well.

How should I launch a permafree or reader magnet story?

Our next question is from Helen. What do you do differently to launch a permafree story or list magnet compared to a for-sale short story.

Sacha Black: It's hugely different for me because I don't do a whole lot, I would say, for the permafree. Well, permafree is slightly different to a reader magnet. So, let me take reader magnet first. If it is for a brand-new pen name, so let's say that you've got no list existing, then I would be sharing on social media. I would be going to other authors to see if they would be willing to share the link, and obviously I'd be very specific to make sure those authors are directly comp authors. So, an author that's writing in, not only the same genre, but the same niche within that genre.

I may look at things like a Book Funnel, to see if they've got any promotions. I might look at things like Book Sweeps or Story Origin to see whether or not there's any other authors in my genre doing promotions on reader magnets.

I would, yeah, post all over social media and then try to make those connections with authors and ask if they would share in their newsletter.

Then in terms of permafree, the really important thing is to connect the two. So, in the front and the back of the permafree, I will make sure that it says, sign up to get another short story for free, sign up to get a novella, whatever it is, and I would try and put some kind of hooky hook that would make them want to get it.

So, for example, at the end of my, A Game of Hearts and Heists, there's a bonus epilogue that's a wedding proposal that everybody wants to see because of what's happened in the story. So, I know that I get a lot of read through for that.

But with the permafree, once you've put it in the front and back of your book, I would then run a newsletter, promo stacking type activity. So, you pay various newsletters, if you're lucky enough to get a BookBub, et cetera, ones like that. Written Word Media are great one, and they will organize a promo stack for you.

Then you drive as much traffic as possible to that permafree, which in turn, a percentage of the people that pick it up when it's free, it's a small percent that then read it and then an even smaller percent then goes on to sign up to your mailing list.

Essentially, it becomes a game of visibility and a game of traffic in order to get people onto that mailing list and that reader magnet. But what I would say is, even if you don't have a permafree, if you have the right reader magnet in the back of your book, and you are driving traffic and driving sales of your book, then you will get sign ups.

So, I started a mailing list in February last year, and it's well over, I think it's over three and a half thousand, and that's only organic back of the book sign ups. So, you can do it, even if you don't have a permafree.

You don't have to give things away; you can, and it will increase the number of signups, but the quality, I would say, varies depending on how they've come to you.

Michael La Ronn: You answered that beautifully, I can't add anything to that.

Other than NetGalley what promotion should I be doing for my book?

Next question is from Jared. I'm marketing a murder mystery. I will pay for NetGalley reviews, but what are some other promotional things I should be doing?

Sacha Black: Do you want to go first on this one?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I can. So, everything Sacha said around promos.

Cravebooks is another one you could look at. If you're looking for reviews, you could take a look at Booksprout or BookSirens, they serve a similar purpose to NetGalley, where they allow you to get in front of different readers. You basically post your book and then readers will browse all the books that are posted and then if they download it, then you pay, I think it's a dollar or some amount, and then if they leave a review, great. If they don't, they don't, but at least you get the book in front of more people.

I found that those services have done a pretty good job. I think I got 10 reviews from Book Sirens the first time I used it. Which, hey, I'll take any review I can get.

Then you could also consider BookFunnel. BookFunnel is one of our partner members. They have a newsletter swap deal where basically you can organize swaps with newsletters with other authors. That will help you get some sales, but it could also help you get some ARCs out as well.

Those are the things I would think about in terms of getting reviews.

You have anything, Sacha, you want to add?

Sacha Black: I think consider NetGalley, consider whether or not it's worth the amount of money, because NetGalley is not cheap, and I would say that NetGalley, in terms of the style of reviewers, is quite similar to Goodreads, so they can be quite harsh over there. They have quite high expectations. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't use them, it's just that it is very much a reader sphere rather than an area where readers want to support authors.

If you get sort of followers and readers on social media, they tend to be a lot more supportive.

So, I would just say, consider whether or not NetGalley is right for you.

For me, I try to find a street team and try and get those reviews in advance.

Does it say what genre? Murder mystery. Okay.

If you're going to pay, then there are book review boxes, it's quite expensive to do it, but I'm seeing quite a lot of positive results from it at the moment. So, it's basically a company that organizes a book tour type thing for you. They put together these PR boxes and they go to big TikTokkers and big Instagrammers. It is an investment, but I would potentially say that would be a better investment of money than a NetGalley at the moment, always caveated by “at the moment”.

When you ask about promotional stuff, ultimately this game is a game of visibility. It's all about traffic, how much traffic can you send to your sales page? Ultimately, that is the game that we are all playing.

So, whether it be driving traffic through advertising, through paid book teams, through social media, TikTok, whatever. What you should be focusing on is driving as much traffic to your sales page as humanly possible.

Michael La Ronn: Absolutely.

What are the ethics of using AI narration?

Next question is from Jeff. We have an AI question. So, I'm considering using an AI narrator for my novel. I'm aware of AI's limitations as far as intonation, understanding, etc, but what are your thoughts about the moral issues of using AI as opposed to a human for narration?

I can start.

Sacha Black: Oh, you can answer that one.

Michael La Ronn: Okay, I'll step on the landmines. So, the thoughts around AI, particularly AI audio. We won't get into AI art or generative AI, or anything like that. We'll just specifically answer the question that was asked.

When it comes to AI audio, it's pretty important to make sure that what you're doing is ethical across the board. So, making sure that you're using a service that is getting their voices sourced ethically.

Now, there are some companies out there that will allow you to use any voice to create AI narration without really checking it to make sure that the proper clearances are had, not going to name names, we don't recommend that. Now, naturally, if you're using Google Play Voices or the Amazon Voices or the Apple Voices, you don't have anything to worry about in that regard, and I think that's perfectly fine, a perfectly, safe and moral, ethical way to do it.

The big thing is just to make sure that whatever you're using from an AI voice, that it's sourced ethically and also that you're labelling your novels as AI narration, like Joanna Penn, for example, I believe she puts a little button on her covers that let people know that the book is AI narrated.

I think it's pretty easy to tell if books are AI narrated right now, but I think in the future, as the voices get better and more human, it's going to be important to disclaim that, and ALLi's position has always been transparency.

So, just be transparent in what you're doing, and that's going to go a long way in terms of building trust with your readers.

The market is segmenting, so in terms of AI audio replacing human narrators, I don't really see that happening, except in a few small cases, and those cases are getting certain books into audio that probably would never be narrated by a human anyway. I think that's the use case that a lot of people are using AI audio to play in right now.

In the future, that certainly could change, but I still think that in the future there's going to be a fracture. There's going to be some people that want to hear AI audio for disinformation, or they're going to be more comfortable paying less for an AI audio book, just as a way to be able to hear a story, and there will be people that don't care and will buy either/or, and then there will be some people that prefer the artisan human narration experience, which can't honestly be replaced.

So, that's my long answer to the question, Jeff. Sacha, what do you think?

Sacha Black: Only to add on the segmentation, I think it will go, like you've said, I think one will be high quality, multi human narrator, folio sounds, that kind of stuff, studio based work, and then it will be binge listeners who listen at two and a half speed and don't care, they just want the information or they just want the story.

So yeah, that's what I think. I agree, basically, with everything that you said.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I don't know about you, but I listen to a metric crap ton of audiobooks. I go through three or four audiobooks a month, or a week actually. I listen to them at two and a half.

I'm insane because I listen to them when I'm exercising, when I'm doing chores. I fly through audiobooks, and one of the things that I've noticed is that nonfiction audiobooks, I tend to listen to them a lot faster, and I'm really only listening for the information.

Sacha Black: Yep, me too.

Michael La Ronn: Don't get me wrong, I love a good narrator, and if there's a narrator that's killing it, I'll, drop it down to one, and I'll listen to the whole thing and just enjoy it. But generally speaking, nonfiction audio listeners tend to only want to listen for the information.

So, I see a proliferation of AI audio in the nonfiction space in particular. Just my thought.

But I think fiction, there's still some kinks to be ironed out. It still sounds a little mechanical, a little wooden, but things change fast.

How should I deal with negative reviews and nasty comments?

Next question is from Helen. Do you have any rules of engagement for dealing with reviews and nasty comments?

Sacha Black: Oh, please let me take this one.

Michael La Ronn: Please go for it.

Sacha Black: On the whole, I have a couple of things to say. The first one to say is, do not, under any circumstance, engage. Just don't. If you don't like what they're saying, delete the comment, or block them. Or both! Because you owe them nothing. You owe them literally nothing.

If they want to have these comments and conversations off of your social media, or off of your space, then that's up to them. If they're doing it on a post that you've posted, you are within your rights to delete that comment and block the person.

However, if you start to reply, you are going to incite war.

Literally, there's no other way of describing it, because readers will just become feral, and they will come for you. So, do not engage.

Now, my one exception to this is something that I have now done very successfully twice, and it's when I get an absolute corker of a one-star review, and these really do have to be exceptionally brilliant one-star reviews. They have to say something that is so utterly your style, that anybody seeing that one-star review would one-click buy it based on the one-star review.

So, my two examples, I write sweary nonfiction books about writing, teaching people how to write better, and one of the one-star reviews was like, and I'm going to paraphrase, but it was something along the lines of, ‘If Deadpool was a professor, this is what it would be like sat in his class.'

Now, of course, I was like, oh my goodness me, I would love to be taught by Professor Deadpool. So, I screenshot that one-star review and I posted it all over social media, and got a whole bunch of sales because of it.

Second example, I now mostly write spicy, adult, queer fiction. The latest one-star review, and I've got to be careful how I say it, but it was two words.

It said, ‘basically p*rn'. That's all I'm going to say.

I've posted that everywhere on social media, and I have had thousands and thousands of views and purchases and sales because of this.

So, this is the only times that I would recommend that you ever do anything with negative anything, because it's only if you can truly turn that negative into a huge positive that would appeal to people, that I would suggest that you do something with it. If you can't do that, then you ignore it, you delete it, you block them, and that is it.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that's great, and, even when you did that, you weren't putting the person's name on it? You were just taking you were just taking their quote.

Sacha Black: Right. So, I screenshot the one-star review and then I use a, like static TV, like in the old days when you had the aerial. So, I use a static image and it like blurs out the face, and then I use a big black line across the name so that they're completely anonymous.

But if you don't screenshot it, it doesn't look good valid, so people can accuse you of it not being real. So, I always do screenshot it, but I yeah, I make sure to keep the person private because they are entitled to not like my book, that's completely okay, but I'm also entitled to use it for marketing. All's fair in love and war, you put it on the internet, I can use it.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, my point is that you're not engaging even when you're doing that, you're technically still not engaging. You're turning lemons into lemonade.

Sacha Black: Exactly. I've not commented on that review, I've not replied, I've not liked it, I've not disliked it. I've done nothing other than, and in fact, I don't even do it, my virtual assistant screenshots them and says, this is a corker, we should use this.

So, I don't even go onto Goodreads to see these things.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. So, distancing yourself from it. If you don't have a virtual assistant, you could have a friend do it. I love that, that's great.

I've had a few times where I've had corkers of one-stars too, and that's the thing, trolls think that they're doing damage to you, but what they don't really realize is they're actually helping you out

Sacha Black: This is just reminding me. I had another one that was like, I can't remember the adjective, but it was something like ‘overly British.' I was like, yes, I am very British, thank you

Michael La Ronn: Subconsciously, what I think is happening when somebody leaves a one-star review, they're not doing it for other people, they're doing it to try to hurt you.

It has nothing to do with the book. There's just something about you and your writing that made them want to lash out, and that has everything to do with psychological issues they're dealing with. Me personally, I can't think of the last time I left a one-star review on something.

Like, when a product made me so mad. I just don't do it, it's not in me.

Something has got to trigger you.

Sacha Black: Yeah, I will only leave a five-star review or nothing.

Michael La Ronn: I'm okay leaving a three-star. I always try to make sure it's constructive. There has to be something that the creator or the company could actually take.

When you become an author, you develop radical empathy around reviews.

Okay, we've beat that dead horse enough. Let's, jump on to the next question.

Should I send a press-release to journalists about my book?

The next question is from Fran. Is it okay to attach press releases when approaching media, or should you try to speak to journalists in person or on the phone? Is that even possible, and how much lead time would you need?

I can take it if you want.

Sacha Black: Yeah, you take that one. I haven't really done press release stuff.

Michael La Ronn: So, here's the thing about press releases. I'm not convinced that they are effective for the vast majority of indie authors, and there's a couple reasons for it.

The first reason is that, when was the last time that you ever looked at a press release and thought, oh, I'm going to buy this?

That might've been true 30 years ago, but people just don't, as a general rule, look at press releases anymore. It's not a mode of communication that exists in today's digital environment.

The second thing about press releases, particularly with traditional media outlets, is that they historically have not been friendly to indies. So, the chances of them even being interested in a self-published author, and then being willing to treat you favourably, I think, are pretty slim.

So, you've got to have the right product. The authors where I've seen press releases work is when there's some sort of local connection. Like the book takes place. in this neighbourhood, or it promotes a cause that the city is rallied around, that sort of thing. There has to be a local connection.

If it's just because you're from Des Moines, Iowa or London, I think that you would be better served going other routes.

As to your question on the journalists, I would just much rather do it in writing, if you ever have to talk to a journalist, because I've heard some stories that authors have done some interviews with journalists, and they thought the interview was going to be one thing, and then the article turned out to be something different. There have been some successful authors, like Brandon Sanderson, for example, that hit piece that went out on him, I don't know if anybody saw that, where I think he did an interview with somebody, and the journalist completely took his words and twisted them.

So, just be careful about that if you're speaking to the press as well, just because of everything I just said about the bias against self-publishing. We've really got that working against us, and for that reason, that's why I don't pursue traditional media outlets as part of my marketing.

Sacha Black: No, I don't either.

Is it too late to put my book in Draft2Digital if it’s been on IngramSpark for a while?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, next question is from Barbara. Is it too late to put your book on Draft2Digital if it has been on IngramSpark for a couple of months, or can you have them on both platforms at the same time?

Sacha Black: Yes, you can. That's the simple answer to that.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, it's never too late.

Sacha Black: It's one of the benefits of being an indie, right?

Michael La Ronn: Exactly. I guess, maybe there's a caveat like, I probably wouldn't use Draft2Digital's print service and Ingram's service at the same time. It is Ingram. But I would have my eBook on Draft2Digital all day long and my print books on IngramSpark, 100%.

What companies organize book tours for indie authors?

From Sarah again, do you have the names of any of the companies that you mentioned, Sacha, that organize book tours?

Sacha Black: I'm awful with names. There's Nerdy Book Fam, I think, or Book Farm, I can't remember, but that one is quite high priced. So, there's a lady author, and I believe her X handle, so her Twitter handle, was @paperfury. I know that she has a book box company.

I think MTMC is another one, but essentially a bit of a google would get you them, and then what I would do is go and look at some of their portfolio, and if you can see authors on there that you might be able to connect with to say, look, what was your experience, I would probably do that.

Have a bit of a Google. Instagram is another great place to look for the book box companies.

Are there benefits/disadvantages to launching to books at the same time?

Michael La Ronn: Next question is from Kay. Are there any benefits or disadvantages to launching two books at the same time when they're not in the same series? One is a novel, and one is a short story collection, and they're both in the same paranormal fantasy genre. Both are also debut works.

Sacha Black: So, they're both paranormal fantasy. Okay, other than a giant headache, and logistical nightmare, I can't see that there's any reason that you couldn't do it.

I would say that if it were me and I had a short story collection and I had a novel, I would probably prioritize my time and energy into driving the novel, and I would probably pour everything into that, and I would probably just put up the short story collection so that there was something else for readers to go to, if it were me, because the thing is that short story collections, whilst they can sell, they don't sell anywhere near as well as novels. So, if you want to get the maximum sales outcome out of the launch, then I would look at prioritizing the novel.

But the other thing to say is it's not all about the launch. So, I launched a book at the end of February, and I have continued to earn increasingly more amounts of money on that book every month since. So, I actually earned the least amount of money on launch in February, and now I've earned the most amount of money three months on.

So, really, a launch is just about hitting the publish button. The marketing hard work then begins after that, because it's really a game of continuing to drive people to that book forever.

Michael La Ronn: You could just publish one book in May, and then do all the marketing you can on it, and then publish another book. You don't have to do them at the same time.

Can I publish the eBook version of my book first and worry about print later?

So next question is from Chad. I'm about to publish on KDP, is it okay to put out the eBook and add print copies when you're ready, or is there any advantage of doing it all at once?

Sacha Black: Okay. I'm just trying to see if it's their debut book, but it doesn't say.

For me, it really depends on what kind of readers you have. 50 percent of my income comes from paperbacks, so I personally wouldn't launch a book without the physical copies available as well.

That said, if you're the sort of author that writes, for example, reverse harem, and you're in KU, then 80% of your income might come from KU. Therefore, your priority is to release the eBook and not the paperback.

I would say that's a decision that comes a bit later down the line. If it's your debut book, then there's no reason why you can't wait until it's all ready, because some people will buy eBook and paperback at the same time, some people will be frustrated if there isn't the version or the edition that they want.

But also, that's not to say that you can't do it. The beauty of indie authors is that we have the flexibility.

If you are a KU author, I know loads of people who are KU authors and they will just release their eBook first, and then a week or so later they will release the paperback. I do think that in this day and age of increasing technology, there is more and more of an expectation from readers that at least eBook and a form of physical book is available at launch, but it isn't compulsory, and it does depend on your audience.

When you're an indie author there's no wrong way.

When’s the best time of year to launch a debut book?

Michelle asked, is there a best time of year to launch a self-published debut book?

Michael La Ronn: I can answer. There is no bad time of year to launch a book.

Sacha Black: Oh, I disagree.

Michael La Ronn: Okay, so anecdotally summer is maybe not a good time, but I don't know. It depends if somebody can show me data. I probably wouldn't launch a book on Christmas, that's probably not a good idea. The stretch of Christmas to New Year's, probably not a good idea.

January is probably a little bit difficult. I don't know. What are your thoughts, Sacha?

I think the right time to publish a book is when you're ready to publish it.

Sacha Black: I don't necessarily agree with that. I think January is a fantastic time to launch nonfiction, because everybody's picking up new habits.

I think if you write nonfiction and it's very much in the self-help, kind of information giving sphere, I think that's a great time to launch. There isn't a best time to launch, but if you're going to pick a month that is super helpful, for nonfiction, I would say it's that.

I would say that, in an election year, do not launch in November because a lot of Amazon purchases are in America, and everybody's distracted. Nobody's reading books, everybody's watching the news and the TV. So, I would say November in an election year is a really bad time to launch a book.

I also think that very large public holidays are not great. I can tell you from looking at my own sales data that things like Thanksgiving can sometimes impact sales. New Year’s Day can impact sales, things like that.

The other thing that I would say is, if it is a book two or three and you have a pre-order, then it matters considerably less than a book one.

Your book one, I wouldn't launch in December, and I wouldn't launch in November on an election year, but other than that, I think it matters much less for books two and three.

There was one other thing I was going to say on this.

Michael La Ronn: While it comes back to your head, I'm going to say something.

I also disagree about the election year thing. Here's why. One of my best performing series, I launched it in November, the November that Donald Trump was elected, and it worked out just fine for me.

I think that for every opinion about a holiday or a time that doesn't work, I think that there are authors that say, I launched my book during that time, and it was fine for me. I don't know.

I just want somebody to show me data, because I think that the only answers we can give are anecdotal.

Sacha Black: So, I literally had this conversation last week. I checked my data, and my sales went down by 30% in November 2020. So, for me, it did have a huge impact.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, what works for one person, like that makes sense for you, Sacha, with your data, but if you look at my data, it could be that my sales didn't go down or didn't go up, or maybe my sales went up right.

There are so many variables that this is dependent on. It's dependent on what you're doing for marketing, what your genre is, what your sub-genre is.

Sacha Black: Also, if you are trying to do a USA Today run or a New York Times run, or whatever, there is also days to avoid. So, Tuesday is the release day for traditional publishing typically because of those New York Times bestseller lists and all of the rest of it, but that comes at a slightly more advanced point in your career when you look at that kind of stuff, but I never release on a Tuesday because of that, because you'll be competing against trad for rank.

So, essentially, if you've got 500 sales on any other day, you'd probably rank a lot higher than you would if you got those 500 sales on a Tuesday.

Oh, my goodness me, that has just made so much sense to me. I always complain about Tuesdays. I always say that Tuesdays are my worst sales days; it makes so much sense now. I've got to go tell my friend this because I moan every Tuesday about sales. It's hilarious.

Michael La Ronn: That's a great example of you getting your own data and figuring out what works for you, and I bet everybody on this call has times when you maybe don't want to launch a book just based on the data. But I think you have to make decisions based on the data. Don't make decisions based on what people are telling you anecdotally.

Again, so this next Tuesday is May 21st. So, let's just say you have a book that's ready to launch and you debate on whether you should launch it on Tuesday, May 21st or Wednesday, May 23rd.

In the grand scheme of things, I don't think it's going to make a difference because your book is going to be available for your entire life plus 70 years, and even longer than that, if you've got family that will continue it. We're playing a long game here. I think we have to also remember that books are not produce, we don't follow the traditional publishing model, where if a book doesn't do well in a week or a month, then it's a failure.

Okay, you launch your book, and it wasn't the right time, it's not the end.

What you said earlier, Sacha, there's a launch, but then you've got to promote the book for the rest of your life. If you're doing it right, you'll probably find more readers over the lifetime of your book than you'll do in your launch day.

I just don't want people to be so stressed out about when they publish their book as opposed to just getting it published. To me, I think it's better just to publish the book even if it's on Christmas than to not publish the book

Sacha Black: I think it depends on the goal.

I think you're probably right for a debut book. I think once you're at a certain point, those things do make a difference, but like you say is based on data.

Michael La Ronn: It's fun when we don't agree.

Sacha Black: I love it when we don't agree.

Michael La Ronn: We get spicy.

Sacha Black: No, but also, isn't it important? Because when we don't agree, it probably means that there isn't a right or wrong answer anyway. I think when we are both agreed on something, then it's probably sensible to pay attention, but if we disagree, then actually it probably does mean that there's no right or wrong answer.

I mean, how many years of experience do we have between us? A couple of decades?

Michael La Ronn: Two decades, maybe a quarter of a century?

Sacha Black: Exactly. So, if we can't agree, there's probably not a right answer.

Michael La Ronn: That's the beauty of this lifestyle, is that there are no right answers.

Your path is totally different than mine, Sacha, like in terms of how you've gone about your publishing career, and then all of our ALLi team members, we've all taken different paths and all of those paths have worked out.

Some of them may be a little bit more scenic than others, I know mine has been, but that's the beautiful thing.

Can I organize pre-sales for a book that isn’t ready to publish?

Okay, let's jump to our next question from Michelle. Is it possible to organize presales? I've got a lucky bit of promo coming up, can I cash in on this little bit of publicity that's fallen into my lap?

Sacha Black: I'm not quite sure I understand. So, the way that I am working at the moment is that I release on my own website and Shopify first, and then I release on Amazon, is that kind of what you're saying?

Michael La Ronn: I missed part of the question. She says, I've got a lucky bit of promo coming up, but my book won't be ready to launch until September. So, it sounds like the promo she's getting is before her book launch. I'm, sorry, Michelle. I misunderstood you, I jumped to your question, and I missed your preamble.

Sacha Black: Okay, it depends, is the answer

So, there's this phrase in the indie community bank over rank or rank over bank, and what that essentially means is, if you want a high rank, so you want a chance of either an orange bestseller flag on Amazon or Apple or wherever, and you want the associated visibility that comes with that, then it is better to not have a pre-sale, a pre-order, and to hit it very hard on release day and after that, because on Amazon in particular, whenever you get a sale, it counts on that day and that day alone.

So, if you are 90 days out from release and you put a pre-order up and you get a sale on the 1st of May, but you're not releasing until August then that counts on May, and you get the rank juice, for want of a better word, in May for that. Then when the sale goes through, and you get paid, the only benefit you're getting is being paid. So, you'll have no further rank boost from that.

Unlike on places like Apple, where it will count twice. It will count on the day of the pre-order and on release day.

It depends if you're wide. People who are in KU don't typically get very many pre-orders at all because, obviously, the majority of their readers borrow the book, and you can't do that until it's released.

Then on the bank side, if you were to have a pre-order, and you prefer bank, as in to earn the most money, then your priority is to get as many pre-orders as possible and forget the rank benefit.

So, it really does depend on what your goal is.

How do I make a sales page for my books?

Michael La Ronn: Perfect. Okay, next question is from Jeff. I don't have a sales page yet, what is the best way to do this, and would it be on my website or on Amazon?

Both. So, when we say sales page, we're referring to a couple of different things. It could be a page on your website where your book rests. So, for example, I have a page on my website for every book that I have. It's got the cover. It's got the book description. It's got the links to where you can buy it on my personal store and on Amazon, and all the other places that are out there.

On some of my books, I have snippets from reviews. It's basically a sales page that just promotes the book that I can send readers to.

That's critically important because you want to build that on your own land.

But then every place you publish your book, like Amazon, for example, you also have a sales page. I think on Amazon, they call it the product display page, but it has all the same stuff, but you can do your book description, you can have editorial reviews, you can have with Amazon in particular, A+ content, all of that. You want to build that as well, and there are tips and tricks to optimizing your sales page on every place where you sell your books.

So, the answer, Jeff, is yes, you want to have a sales page anywhere you can get one.

What does going wide look like as an indie author?

Okay, Fran asks, what does going wide look like? Is there a list of best places to have your book listed?

Sacha Black: I've got two answers for this. ALLi recommends that you go Amazon, Google, Kobo, Apple, and is it Barnes and Noble?

Michael La Ronn: Barnes and Noble.

Sacha Black: Yeah, so that would be the big five, and then using an aggregator to do the rest.

Draft2Digital is one, Streetlib is another, PublishDrive is another. So, those would be other places that you could go to aggregate and that essentially means that these companies will push out your book to a whole bunch of other places.

Draft2Digital has just merged with Smashwords.

So, that is what most people do. Now, the more places you go wide, the more dashboards you have to handle. If you find a typo, the more files you have to upload. So, it does proliferate and become quite arduous, if you have all of these dashboards.

However, depending on your genre, depending on your experience, some people earn a lot more wide. Some people, don't. With this one, your mileage will vary, and actually I can give myself as a case study. Most of my friends writing in fantasy romance are all in Kindle Unlimited. However, I have had two viral videos in the last four weeks. One was on my KU book, and one was on my wide book, and I earned probably four times the amount of money on my wide book than I did on my KU book. But it will depend on your genre, it will depend on your readers, and more than that it will also depend on how you are driving traffic and where you are driving traffic from.

TikTok, for example, huge physical book readers.

There is a huge population of KU readers. Typically, a lot of KU authors will use Facebook ads to drive KU reads.

So, there's a lot to consider. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer. I think that you should look at what your genre does, and then I'd look at where you're getting your audience from because that can change things for you too.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, it's a tale of different genres and a tale of what readers are reading on Amazon and outside of Amazon. I know some authors that some of their books do better on Amazon and some of their books do better wide, it just depends.

It's a huge question mark.

Sacha Black: And the only thing that you can do is experiment, really.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, experiment and just understand that again, we're playing a long-term game. We don't want to be dependent on one retailer no matter who the retailer is, whether it's Amazon or whoever.

I take that back. I suppose one would want to be reliant on their own store on Shopify. I think that's the only exception. The dream is to be able to be reliant on your own store, but you own that store, you don't want to be reliant on just Amazon, or just Google, or just Apple; you want to diversify just in case something happens.

Sacha Black: Absolutely.

Michael La Ronn: That's the key and that's something that we preach about all the time at ALLi.

Go wide, otherwise we're not really independent, are we? You don't want to be a dependent author; you want to be an independent author. That's why we're the Alliance of Independent Authors. I couldn't resist getting a terrible pun in.

We have gotten to the end of our questions, Sacha, so why don't we go ahead and wrap up.

We wish everybody a wonderful writing summer. Good luck with your writing, good luck with your marketing, and certainly keep those questions coming; Sacha and I have a show every month.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/

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