Friday, 18 March 2016

Indie Author Advice: Interview with Sabrina Ricci from Digital Pubbing

Indie Author Advice, Interview, Sabrina Ricci, Digital Pubbing

Hi Sabrina, thanks for taking time out to talk to me. As you know, I am using your article 7 Strategies and 110 Tools to Help Indie Authors FindReaders and Reviewers as a guide to help promote my new novel The Flood. I'd like to focus on the seven categories individually starting with Free Promotions/Giveaways. What would you suggest to be the best approach when offering books for free? 

Thanks for having me, and for doing this challenge! I'm really honored and I hope it helps you find new success with The Flood.

Personally, I've seen the most success with LibraryThing giveaways. Though the site is not always the easiest to navigate, it's great to be able to give away 100 copies of an ebook. Most of the people who win one of your ebooks likely enjoy reading books in your genre, so there's a decent chance they'll leave a review.

But it's only a start.

One author I've worked with, Pedro Barrento, said he thinks authors who have sold a lot of books "in most cases [...] can be traced down togetting a lot of books into the hands of readers through free downloadsand then having the good luck of being mentioned by influential people wholiked what they read and who have clout and have their opinions voiced inwidely circulated media.".

There are also a number of success stories for people who use NoiseTrade. One example is Ed Cyzewski, who shares on Jane Friedman how he was able to collect reader emails through NoiseTrade and build a list to promote his future books.

Tell me a bit about crowdscourcing, and the pros and cons of doing it in your opinion.

Crowdsourcing is great because you can get feedback on your works in progress, and potentially build up a fan base. On every site I've used for crowdsourcing, I've found the community to be supportive and interactive.

The site you choose to use should depend on your goals. Bookrix and Widbook are about connecting with people who are serious about writing and willing to give notes (who are also looking for feedback). Book Club Reading List is more about getting exposure.

My favorite site listed in the article is Wattpad, which is probably also the biggest. One of the cons of using Wattpad though is that to take advantage of all their promotions, you have to upload your full manuscript.

If your strategy is to make a book permafree, say it's the first book in a series, and you plan on making your book free everywhere, that may not be a big deal. On the other hand, if you have a big enough following, you may evenattract the attention of a traditional publisher.

In an ideal world every indie author would have a huge amount of cash to splash on advertising - it would make life a lot easier! From your experience, what advice would you give to an author working on a tight budget? Where can you get the most bang for your buck?

Ha, well as an indie author who is very strapped for cash, I say go for as many freebies as you can. Addicted to eBooks, Book Deal Hunter, and Snickslist all work. There are also a few paid sites that can really help you out. BookBub is the biggest, but Bknights on Fiverr has helped out a lot of people.

However, even if you get a BookBub deal (they are pretty picky), whichregularly leads to thousands of downloads, you need to have a plan in place if you want the book to be successful for more than a few days. That's why it's good to multiple books that you link to in your promoted book, so that readers who like your work know what they can read next. Also give them an option to sign up for your mailing list, so you can easily let them know about your upcoming releases.

Offering your book for free throws up a dilemma for authors like myself who have signed up for the Amazon KDP programme. Do you think it is a good idea to throw all of your eggs into one basket or is there a greater benefit using these 'free' listings sites?

I agree with Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, on this one, and am a fan of distributing in as many places as possible. I think it gives you a wider potential reach, and it gives you more marketing options. You can have your books enrolled in KDP though without being exclusive, and actually you probably should, since Amazon is the biggest ebook retailer.

On the other hand, I do have one book enrolled in KDP Select at the moment. That's because I'm also a big believer in experimenting. And it'skind of fun seeing how many millions Amazon is putting into the fund eachmonth. (Keep in mind though that retailers such as Amazon can and do change their terms and algorithms often, and if you put all your books into one retailer's basket, you may lose money some months if an algorithm changes so that the site no longer promotes your book or the amount of money per page read is lowered.)

Tell me about your experience, or experience of others, who have used sites where they request payment for a listing. I am always concerned that you end up spending a fortune for very little in return. Is there any truth in that?

In my experience, I haven't had much luck paying for a site to list my book. That may be because the sites I've used were very new and didn't yet have a big following (as I've said, I like experimenting). I can't really speak for others though.

How would you advise an author to approach a blogger when requesting interviews/Q&As on their site? And what is your advice to someone who has never done a blog tour before and have no idea where to start?

Great question! I'm biased on this one since I often blog book reviews. A few things:

  • If a blogger has a set of guidelines for how to submit a book request, follow them. 
  • Please take the time to figure out the blogger's name. My name is all over my blog, yet it's amazing how many requests I get that start with "Hey there" or just "Review my book." 
  • Use your real name. I say this because I had one author who submitted a really bad book for me to review (meaning I couldn't get past the first page because there were so many typos and none of it made sense). Then an hour later the same person sent me another really bad book to review (same genre, nearly identical storyline, same writing style, lots of typos) but using a different email address and name. I emailed the person back asking if they were the author of both books. They replied yes, and so I asked, "why?" and then never got a response. I've heard that happen to at least one other book blogger. Side note: I guess if you use a pen name and really want to keep your name a secret, you can go by the pen name. I've reviewed books before though where the author contacted me under their real name and asked me to use their pen name in the post, and I did. 
  • For your own sake, make sure the blogger is interested in the genre you write. Otherwise, it's just a waste of time for everyone and could lead to a negative review. 
  • Give the blogger plenty of time, either to read your book or to be a part of your blog tour. Most bloggers review books for free, just for the love of reading. Sometimes life gets in the way, and it takes longer to read a book than expected. That said, if you haven't heard back from a blogger after a few weeks or months, you can always send them a polite note asking if they've had a chance to read your book yet. (I usually feel pretty guilty at that point, and make reading the book a much higher priority). 
  • For blog tours, you also want to give bloggers at least a month's lead time. They may have other posts scheduled already and won't be able to fit you in. It also takes a while to set up posts, so they need time to prepare.

For authors who have never done a blog tour before, make sure that you are well prepared. Have a media kit ready with a high-resolution image of your cover, your book description and author bio, a profile picture if you'd like or an image for the blog tour, and any quotes or editorial reviews you may have (if applicable). You may also want a few guest posts ready to go, such as a Q&A or a post as one of your characters.

Have everything ready at least a month in advance, and contact bloggers to schedule your tour at least a month ahead too. Keep a spreadsheet of which blogs are posting what and on which dates, and on those days make sure to be a good guest. By that I mean comment on the blog, respond to questions, thank the host, and tweet or share as much as possible on social media.

Doing all that may seem daunting, in which case I recommend using a service such as Bewitching Book Tours. These services also need advance notice, sometimes as much as three months. (I'll be using Bewitching Book Tours for one of my novels later this year!)

A good review is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. How can you make sure you are getting the maximum amount of exposure for your book and how many reviews should you be aiming for during the first three months of publication?

The magic number I've heard is 8, and you want an average of 4 stars. I think this is because it's what BookBub requires.

In the beginning, aside from asking family and friends, you can seek out beta readers, offer them a free copy of the finished book, and ask for a review. You can also contact Amazon reviewers. Make sure they read books in your genre and address them by name when you politely ask them to read your book.

The showcase/sell section - which sites do you believe are the most effective and why?

Personally, I think it's Amazon Author Central and Scribd. Amazon makes a lot of sense, since it's the biggest retailer and has the biggest audience. I like Scribd because I can share snippets of my book for free and potentially attract more readers.

I've had some success with and Slideshare as well, but more for my non-fiction work. I've gotten a lot of views on both, though they didn't really lead to sales.

You wrote the 7 Strategies blog post back in 2014 so I'm sure you have come across some new techniques and sites to use over the last couple of years. Can you share some of the better ones you would advise indie authors to take a closer look at.

Bknights on Fiverr is one I learned about after publishing the blog post. KDSpy is another great tool. It lets you research other books in your genre on Kindle.

I've also recently signed up for the online course, Your First 10,000Readers. It's a bit expensive (around $600), and since I am cash-strapped I scrutinized it a lot before deciding to buy it. The tipping point for me was the fact that Joanna Penn recommended the teacher, Nick Stephenson. So far, I haven't been disappointed. He's shared some valuable insights about building relationships and setting up email funnels. Some of it is a bit techie, but I like it.

Aside from that, audiobooks and podcasting have really grown in the last couple years. Indie authors should create audiobook versions of their books if they can. I'm nearly done making a free PDF guide on how to make audiobooks, and I'll be sending it out to anyone who joins my newsletter.

There's a number of podcasts out there that are specifically for indie authors (Authors Marketing Suite, Aerogramme Writers' Studio, The Creative Penn). If you follow their guidelines, you may be able to get an interview on one.

I've also found podcasting to be a great platform builder. My husband and I have a podcast called I Know Dino about dinosaurs, and we've managed to build a wonderful and engaged audience who even buy some of our dinosaur books!

Tell me a bit more about Digital Pubbing and what other articles on your site would you recommend indie authors check out?

I started Digital Pubbing in 2010 when I was a grad student at NYU, getting my M.S. in Publishing. It started as an experiment and as a way to share what I was learning about the industry, both at school and working for book publishing houses. Over the years it's evolved to be more about indie authors. Twice a week I publish posts about ebook creation tips, marketing advice and tools, book reviews, author interviews, and when I can, more in-depth articles about success stories or the industry.

If you have the time, I'd recommend checking out By the Numbers: 189+ Tips and Tricks on How to Write, Edit, Market, and Sell Your Books and my Indie Author section.

And if you're interested in learning how to create your own ebooks, check out my online course How to Create Beautiful Ebooks or my How to Ebook series.

Thanks for joining me Sabrina. You've given me a wonderful insight into the world of self-publishing, and also worried me slightly with all the work I have to do!

Thanks so much for having me. This was a lot of fun!

Sabrina Ricci is a writer, wanderluster, ebook developer, UCSB and NYU alum, co-dinosaur enthusiast @iknowdino, blogger at Digital Pubbing. Make sure you check out her blog!

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