Advertising, Business, Marketing

Affiliate Marketing For Indie Authors Part 1: The Basics

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Pic via Pexels

These days it seems as though everyone’s hustling products, from celebrities, athletes, and even politicians.  Usually, they can be found promoting anything from beauty products to prescription meds, often serving as an affiliate of a company or of several companies.  Before I go on, let me explain what an affiliate does: An affiliate is a person or entity chosen to promote services or products on behalf of a business.  Affiliates are usually given a percentage of any sale made through them.

There is serious money to be made these days selling products to your online audience.  And today, an indie author can approach affiliate marketing in two ways first, as an affiliate (also known as a content creator), and as an advertiser.

Now I have to be honest, most indie authors say that the earnings they make from affiliate marketing can barely cover their Netflix subscription.  On the other hand, there are few who are making thousands from affiliate marketing.  It all depends on what you sell and the deal you make.

Popular Things Authors Sell and Promote

  1. Books; digital, audio and print versions.
  2. Writing or editing software.
  3. Learning eCourses.
  4. Subscription services like; Audible or Amazon Prime.
  5. Book related swag like; T-shirts, posters and tote bags.
  6. Book cover design services.
  7. Editing services.
  8. Conference or workshop tickets.

Before You Start

Before you go signing up for all the affiliate programs available, please be careful and realistic as to what you are most comfortable promoting. If you’re a religious person, maybe signing up with Harlequin (a romance publisher) isn’t the best idea. Keep in mind, if you don’t like or understand a product, this affiliate experience will most likely end in a disaster.
Another thing to seriously consider is your audience’s tolerance for promotion. When your readers sign up for your blog or liked your social media page, they are signing up to connect with YOU not your benefactor. It is possible that if you promote too much, your audience may get turned off by it and leave.

You Don’t Have To Sell Your Soul

As a content creator, it is up to you as to who you’ll work with and what products you’ll promote. You can always say no to a deal especially, if the terms are unreasonable or pathetic. As I said before, it’s all about what you’re comfortable with.

What’s Expected

It’s not uncommon for a company to want a content creator to write an article or review about their product. This can mean anything from a Youtube video or a blog post. And as the content creator, you’ll have to act natural as well as keep the dialog organic.

Spaces You Can Rent To An Advertiser

  • Social Media
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters (Check the rules, Amazon doesn’t allow affiliate links in emails while other sites do.)
  • Podcasts

Be warned that some companies might give you a script that you’ll be required to read from or post on your blog.  Usually, these scripts consist of the sales copy, a call to action and links to the product. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are companies who will give you the freedom to sell a product anyway you see fit.

Know Who You’re Selling To

The only way for this affiliate marketing thing to work is to make sure that you’re selling to the right crowd. For example, you can’t sell wheat bread to an audience of Celiacs. I mean you could, but I doubt they would appreciate you for it. So you need to know your audience before you can sell them ANYTHING. Hopefully, you’ve gotten to know your audience through your analytics, the comment section of your blog or through random polls. If you haven’t done this, you had better get started. The most common questions content creators ask their audiences are;

  1. What are you struggling with? (Find a product that can help them with their problems.)
  2. What are your favorite books or products? (Try pitching that publisher/ company for an affiliate opportunity.)
  3. What products do you hate? (Avoid them like the plague.)
  4. What are your goals? (Find a product to help them reach their goals.)

If you can get your audience to answer some of these questions, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to which products to sell and which ones to avoid.

Well there you have it, tune in next week where I’ll discuss the requirements for successful affiliate marketing.

You can check out Part 2 here: Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 2.

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Advertising, Indie Publishing, Publishing

5 Things Indies Can Get for Cheap or Free!

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It’s that time of year again and I got software that’s in serious need of an upgrade and several of my friends are looking for cheap book covers.  So I went on a quest to find the best deals on everything from advertising to free college courses.  And since I promised to share everything I learn, I’m passing this info on to you so you can share in the savings and spread the word.

Before I go on, I have to announce I am in no way affiliated with any of the products or services listed.

Word Processing Software

Did you know that your MS Office software has an expiration date? It’s called a lifecycle and when yours ends, the software no longer receives updates thus making your computer vulnerable.  So when the lifecycle on your software ends, you’ll have to upgrade.  Today, Microsoft has subscription based services ranging from $6.99-$9.99  per month or $69-$99 per year.  This sounds cheap but If you compare it to a one time purchase, it’s not.

For example, you can of course purchase Office Word 2016 for about $109.99, while, Office Home & Student 2016 costs $149.99 and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.  If that’s not enough for you, Office Professional 2016 is $399 and includes Outlook, Access, and Publisher as well as the basics Word, Excel, etc.  According to Microsoft the 2016 software’s extended support date is over in 2025.  So long term, a one time purchase beats the subscription hands down.

Yes, Microsoft does have a free online version of their software, but as you may have already guessed, it’s not complete like the paid version. But if all you need is a very basic version of Word, this is a great thing because now MS Word is 100% free for you!

Check it out for yourself and while you’re doing that, I’ll list all the cheaper and free alternatives below.

Cheap:

  •  Scrivener: For the past few years Scrivener has made a name for itself as THE writer’s software. Everyone from novelists to screen writers sing the praises of this software. Scrivener is great for indie authors because it can convert files to .epub or .kobi making it easy to upload manuscripts to retailers.
    Price: $40 after a 30 day free trial.

 

  •  Word Perfect: MS Word’s twin cousin who is very basic in features. Price: $89 for the student version and $219 for the standard edition. *These are their holiday 2015 sale prices*

 

  •  KingSoftware: Often called the clone of Microsoft Office, KingSoftware is based in Hong Kong and offers both free and paid services. Their paid professional software will cost you around $79.99 and includes spreadsheet, word processor, and presentation software.

 

Free:

  • Google Docs: I have a Google account and shared both documents and spreadsheets on this blog.  It’s also convenient having your Gmail account, Google Drive and Youtube account all in the same place. However, Google Docs are relatively Spartan so I only use them to share documents with others.

 

  • Apache Open Office: I know several authors who use Open Office and sung the praises of this free word processing software. Over the past few years though, it’s fallen out of favor because of numerous bugs and user issues. However, developers have fixed those things and now Open Office is slowly mounting a comeback.

 

  • Libre Office is a spinoff of Open Office’s source code but is different in the sense that it is user friendly and less buggy. It also translates Word documents much better than it used to.

Wi-Fi

If your internet bill or data plan is sky high, then maybe it’s time to get your internet free. I know plenty of authors who use free wi-fi at libraries, cafes, and even airports in order to keep their expenses low.

But if you need to have the internet purchase a plan that is basic and cheap while occasionally going to wi-fi hot spots. This way you can surf all you want at a wi-fi hotspot while not exceeding your data limits. Consider it a 50/50 compromise.

Here are a few apps to help you find free wi-fi hotspots in your area.

Book Advertising

Many indie authors are frightened by the idea of advertising their books because they believe it will cost a fortune. However they couldn’t be more wrong. There are several reader-centric sites that offer cheap or even free advertising. Keep in mind some of these sites are only for books that are free. If you want to actually make a profit then go to my post Cheap Advertising for Indie Authors.
Free:

  • Book Daily Listing on their sales page with free sample chapter.
  • Awesome Gang Basic listing.
  • Digital Book Today: Weekly Featured Reads is temporarily free as of 12/1/15 You have to meet their requirements though 35 reviews of 4+ stars of more etc. P.S. They are looking to fill up their 2016 schedule so space is limited.  Also, their regular listing is available for free here too.

 

Cheap:

  • Bargain Booksy (The cousin of Free Booksy) offers advertising as low as $25.
  • Kboards: $35 to get a feature.
  • Free Kindle Books & Tips: This is for a regular posting and is $25 for books under $1.00 and $50 for books over $1.01.

Book Covers

I hesitated before writing this because of all of poorly made self-published book covers. However there are so many good free photo editing services and even cheap book cover designers I decided why not? Maybe this will be the year indies shake that image the rest of the industry has about our book covers. A girl can dream, right?
Free:

Cheap:

 

If you need more resources, I have a Pinterest board called: Affordable Book Cover Designers you can check out if you’re in the market for a book cover.

Education

Many indie authors are determined to perfect their craft and figure out business side of publishing while others are looking to perfect their craft. That’s great because an education hasn’t been this accessible since—  ever.
Free:

  • Open Culture: Courses include; young adult literature, Lord of the Rings #1-3 (I kid you not!), copyright law, journalism and business.
  • Coursera :Advanced writing, historical fiction, grammar and writing for young readers.
  • edX.org: Did you know that Ivy League schools are offering free courses online too?  At edX.org several ivy league schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton are uploading courses like; how to write a novel, English comp, and electronic literature for free!

Cheap

  • Udemy:  Here courses can be anywhere from $199-$299.  Courses include; Marketing, communication and entrepreneurship.
  • Lynda.com: Has a subscription service of $19.99 $29.99 a month as well as yearly services that ranges from $239.88 to $359.88.  Courses range from; Email marketing, freelancing, and writing (look in the business category).   There is a free trial so it doesn’t hurt to try it before committing.

I know I dumped a lot of resources here but it’s the holiday season and I think you’re worth it! ❤

Advertising, Book Promotion, Book Reviews, Indie Publishing, Marketing, Publishing

How to Increase Your Book’s Odds at BookBub

HomepageScreenMany indie authors call Bookbub the golden standard of online book advertising and I can’t say I disagree. Over the years their competitors like Pixel of Ink have either stopped accepting submissions or have gone under. Meanwhile Bookbub has only continued to grow with no signs of slowing down.  In fact just two weeks ago, Bookbub announced they’ve secured seven million dollars in funding to take their company global. This is great news for indie authors who want to reach more readers and make more money from advertising.

Facts You Need to Know

  • BookBub has a subscriber base of over 5 million members
  • BookBub subscribers are spenders.
  • BookBub has strict standards accepting only 10-20% of submissions
  • They are not the most expensive place to advertise
  • Most indie authors who use their services get an ROI (Return on investment)
  • Even indie authors who don’t get an ROI, report a small boost in sales

Reviews Are Critical?

Author Brian Cohen, from the Sell More Books Show wanted to get his YA book, Ted Saves the World a Boobkbub ad however, that proved to be more difficult than expected. After several rejections, he wanted to know what the problem was.  Determined to get answers, he studied BookBub and particularly, their YA list then noticed that many of the books in his genre had over 130 reviews, at the time, his book only had 115.  Meanwhile, the bestsellers had anywhere between 200-300 reviews.  He’s not the only author to notice this, many indie authors have also had to secure more reviews before Bookbub gave them the nod. However Bookbub claims  reviews aren’t a deal breaker but I doubt they hurt your odds.

Tip: In February, BookBub held a discussion on the Kboards and answered many questions for indie authors.  It’s very informative for those considering buying an ad.

Blurb

Next to editing, writing a blurb is the most hated of tasks according to most authors. In fact, there are books and online courses devoted solely to helping authors nail this craft. However your blurb is not only important for your book’s Amazon sales page but also to BookBub.  If your book sounds boring, why would they want to promote it? This would hurt their reputation with their subscribers. You have to remember this site is oriented toward readers, not authors. They don’t just take anything that comes in the door.

Your Cover

Many authors believe that they need to like their book cover but that couldn’t be farthest from the truth. This year at IndieRecon, bestselling author H.M. Ward, talked about how she didn’t necessary like all her book covers. In the beginning of her career, when her romance novels weren’t selling, she did some careful investigation and realized none of her book covers matched those on the market. Hers were more artsy and whimsical, while the books that were selling had pictures of attractive people in sexy poses.

It was a harsh lesson in marketing but she learned, romance readers expect a certain type of product.  BookBub is no different, they expect your book to look a certain way whether it’s a sci-fi novel, or an erotic book.  If the cover looks bland or weird, they may just pass it up.  Remember presentation matters in this industry.

Price

Price is a big deal on BookBub, if you read the page written exclusively for their subscribers, you’ll see they promise free and deeply discounted books.  This means you have to compete and either go low, or even free.  For those of you who are concerned about going too low, BookBub claims that 65% of their readers have reported recommending books they got for free on the site. Who knew?

Be Flexible

Some authors have been willing to forgo advertising on major holidays and weekends in order to get their book in BookBub. There is a comment section of the application that allows you to alert them to the fact that you are not particular about dates. P.S. This didn’t work with our friend Brian Cohen. 😦

Study BookBub’s Patterns

In every genre there is a pattern or theme that BookBub is favoring at any given time. Now ask yourself, does your book even come near that? For example, if you’re looking to advertise your romance novel, are they favoring historical romances or contemporary ones? It would be wise to sign up for their newsletter (for readers) and see if you can find patterns.  Also, don’t forget to sign up for their blog as well.

Alternatives

If you’ve done all that you can and BookBub is still not accepting your submission, then try going to their competitor like Ereader News Today, another site that indie authors rave about.  You can also check out a post I wrote last year: Cheap Advertising for Indie Authors for more alternatives.

 

Advertising, Book Promotion, Marketing

The Indie’s Guide to Researching Potential Book Promoters

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Image via Pixabay

In the age of the indie author it’s pretty cool to have multiple avenues to promote our work. However not all services are created equal and sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s on the up and up when it comes to value and integrity. Today, I hope to show a few techniques that I’ve used to check out services claiming to promote books to the moon.  Whether it’s advertising, newsletters or blogtours, I’ve got you covered.

Newsletters

In my opinion newsletters are the hardest to research because many promotional sites won’t reveal their numbers. Those that do, only reveal the total sum of their subscribers however, that can be problematic if they have multiple newsletters. For example, if a site claims to have 20,000 subscribers but has 10 newsletters, then that 20,000 becomes a very small number when you divide it by 10.  Also, you have to take into consideration that not every subscriber opens every single newsletter, some are likely getting deleted.  In fact, a great deal are being deleted.

So how do you get the stats? You can obviously email the site personally and ask, or Google the name of the site as well as the words; reviews, or complaints. But if that doesn’t turn up anything, I’d type the question: Has anyone used (Insert name) Promotions? Half of the time a conversation on the Kboards or Absolute Write will pop up.  You know we authors just love to dish! 😉

Online Advertising

With advertising it’s a little easier, you can always gauge activity by looking at their rankings on Alexa, Google Analytics or Clicky. But what is a good number? Let’s try to put all of this into perspective, Google usually has an Alexa ranking of 1, while Goodreads has a ranking of 125.  A small blog like mine, has a ranking of  43,000 on a good month and 90,000 on a bad one.

Alexa Stats for Writing By The Seat of My Pants
Alexa stats for June

However, I’ve seen sites with rankings worse than mine charging hundreds of dollars for ads.  This blog gets a few hundred visitors on a good day and half of them don’t click anything.  That’s why I don’t allow advertising on this blog because it won’t work.  And  despite what you may have heard, the numbers do matter because a site needs significant traffic just to get a few clicks.  More importantly, a site needs a loyal following just to get a few conversions (buyers).

Now here’s an interesting fact, Publisher’s Weekly Select, (the indie version of the website) has a ranking of 3,087 and they seem to charge more for advertising than Goodreads. Does that make sense to you?

Social Media Promotional Sites

There are many authors who want nothing to do with social media and prefer to farm out

this aspect of their marketing to a social media promotion site and that’s totally cool. But not all sites are created equal and here’s how you can investigate whether a service is worth your money.

• Investigate their followers by clicking on their profiles and check to see if they’re all authors or spammers.  If so, run away!

• Check out the interaction on their pages, if they have 10,000 fans but there’s no conversation going on then it’s time to move on.

• Look at how their social media pages are arranged, are their header photos professionally done? Do they collect emails? Also, if they’re not actively reaching out through promoted posts and ads then they aren’t the social media superstars they would like you to believe.  In other words, if they’re not promoting their own page why would you trust them to promote your book?

Blog Touring Services

This one is super easy, if you can not find any authors who’ve worked with them previously, don’t do it.  A service like this should have some sort of testimonial to speak of.  Another way to investigate is to check out their previous tours by Googling their name and see what kind of interaction the bloggers had with their fans.  If you see no comments or shares, then this isn’t the place to put your money in.

I hope I gave you something to think about before you pay for that ad or Twitter blast.  Next week, I’ll be talking about how to get featured on Barnes and Noble.

Advertising, Business, Marketing

Cheap Book Advertising for Indie Authors

 

Final Advertising Pic

Update: 12/6/21015

Several of these advertising sites have changed their policies since the publication of this post.  Please be sure to go to the actual website and read carefully the terms and conditions before signing anything.  ~Rachel Rueben

Recently, we had a discussion on the podcast about marketing and the subject of advertising versus PR (social media) came up.  One of the guests who had a background in marketing said, “Many authors buy Facebook ads and don’t sell anything.”  She went on to explain that PR and marketing were different animals and not many authors know that.  I agreed, though I had to come to that conclusion the hard way.  I too advertised on Facebook, and Goodreads then wondered why I got no return on my investment.  I quickly learned that the best places to advertise are in email newsletters but not all of them are cheap or indie friendly, so I went on a quest to find affordable and effective advertising.

In my search I found lots of sites with poor web traffic charging upwards of $6,000 for an ad.  And when I say poor web traffic, I mean sites with less traffic than my own blog.  Indies have to be careful, there are a lot of people looking to take advantage of a naïve author.  Case in point, a website catering to ebook readers emerged recently and was actively promoting on indie forums.  However, when several authors did a little digging, it was discovered the site had an Alexa rating that was comparable to that of a small blog.  To add to the confusion, they (the site) boasted of a subscriber base of over 100,000 readers which seemed impossible.  Then a theory was purposed that maybe the site had purchased an email list and was most likely spamming people.  I won’t list that one here and I’m warning all authors to do their research before handing over any money for an ad, blog tour or social media blitz.

It wasn’t easy finding 10 sites that are cheap and indie friendly.  I searched in author forums, blogs and even went to social media to find out what authors were saying about their experiences buying ads on these various sites.  Those with bad customer service where automatically left out, while those with no tangible ROI outside of exposure were kicked to the curb.  Some of the places listed are well known in the indie community, while others might be new to you.

The Obvious Disclaimer: 

I need to warn you that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to advertising.  Just because one author had success with a particular site doesn’t mean you’ll reap the same benefits.  There are many factors that come into play when it comes to a successful marketing campaign like; popularity of genre, timing, placement, packaging and platform.

10 Cheap Promotional Ads for Your Books

Pixel of Ink
Is free, but your book must be .99 cents or lower to qualify and there’s no guarantee that your book will be picked.  From what I’ve been told, it’s hard to get in.

Ereader News Today aka ENT: Takes 25% of all sales made through their ads and they exclusively use PayPal.  Many indie authors swear by this site.

Masquerade Books: Offers to Tweet your book 200-500 times as well as post a promo ad on their site for $20-$30.

Book Praiser: Advertises your book to 120 sites including social media groups $30

Ebook Booster Advertises your book (which must be priced at 0.99 cents) to over 30 sites for $30.

Kboards: Their ads range from $35 for a featured book 1 day to a 7 day feature book at $195.

BookBub Is the golden standard of advertising that many indies swear by.  Prices here range depending on genre, with the lowest price at $40 for Parenting books, to the highest being $640 for Mysteries.  Be warned they take the price of your book into consideration so the cheaper your book is, the less expensive the ad will be.

Book Send is set up like BookBub where they charge you based on Genre, the lowest price being $10 for YA and $100 for Romance. They claim to have over 60,000 subscribers.

Kindle Nation Daily aka Book Gorilla
Now I know this one is a wee bit expensive but I’m listing KND anyway. Why? Because I used this site myself and it worked for me and many others.  Keep in mind this was 2 years ago and a few authors have complained that KND doesn’t seem to work anymore for them.  Prices starts at $99 for a one day feature and ends at $529 for Thriller of the Week.

Kindle Books and Tips
I just discovered this site via the Kboards.  At $50 this site has done well for both fiction and nonfiction authors.

Freebie, Shmeebie

For those of you doing a giveaway, there are millions of sites on the internet willing to help you promote for free.  Heck, if you do nothing to promote your free book it will probably still do well in most cases.  So I’m not listing freebie promotions, just the sites that offer ads for books on sale.  You know, so we can actually make money for a change.

Now back to you, do you know of any cheap and effective sites to advertise a book?  Spill the tea and keep another indie author from wasting their money.