I was going to call this article “Evolve or Die!,” but I didn’t want to scare you. It is kind of life or death out there, though, and I want you to be mentally prepared for this huge paradigm shift that is going to mean you move at the speed of internet marketing (rather than publishing).
Times they have a’changed, people. In the old days (and by “old days” I mean as recently as a couple of years ago), moving at the speed of Big Publishing America, taking months (or years) to make updates, never really knowing what worked to sell books, and being completely resistant to starting over with a new approach.
Those times are behind us, and I’m here to tell you that, especially if you’re self-publishing books, you can (literally) not afford to adhere to old publishing paradigms.
Here’s an example/ case study: I recent spent a month taking a look at one of my books to see what I could get it to sell better. The book, in case you’re curious, is “Wealth from Within,” which is a book about happiness, meditation, and the law of attraction (but not just limited to visualization), and using your personal energy supply to create your life. I wrote this book a few years ago, and despite being well-received initially, it was not moving.
Here’s what I changed (hold on to your hat, especially if you’re an author who is used to being traditionally published):
— Description (Amazon’s Kindle Direct program allows for 4,000 characters in the description. I used all of them)
— Reviews (I did two giveaways in order to get more reviews)
— Keywords (KDP allows seven keywords. I switched these twice)
— Categories (KDP allows you to put the book into two categories, which DO NOT correspond with BISAG categories or codes. There are several ways to determine the best category for your book, including studying the competition to see where their book is categorized and trying that. I switched the categories
— The Book Itself I updated the entire manuscript to include more bonus material and to change it into a format that could be more easily read by the KDP system.
— Price. I tried multiple price-points for this book after analyzing more than 50 books in this market. Right now I have the book at $.99, which is not thrilling to me, but seems to be what this particular niche wants. I know that because when I raised the price, it stopped selling.
— Amazon Author Central. I updated my entire Author Central profile, including filling out some of the newer fields that were added since I first put myself on there.
After doing this “trial and error” dance for six weeks, I am happy to report that the book is finally selling steadily and has appeared on multiple bestseller lists within Amazon. Yay!
My point here is this—it took WEEKS of trying different stuff before I was able to achieve an improvement in sales. If your book is self-published, are you prepared to do the same? The “internet marketing” mentality in conjunction with book sales requires the author to have no attachment to their cover, description, editorial material, or really, any part of the book, since you must be ready and willing to make many changes to order to see what works.
If you are traditionally published, this is obviously going to be more difficult for you (though, between you and I, I did discover that I was able to edit the descriptions of my traditionally published books through Amazon Author Central—nice!). You are not going to have control over things like the cover, the categories, the keywords, etc, and your publisher is probably not going to be amenable to your category change suggestions or description rewrites (because Big Publishing simple does not move at this speed yet, and that is why they are now “Big 5” instead of “Big 6”).
My best advice to the author who is ready and willing to make these kinds of rapid and frequent changes is this: start publishing your own books. If you are this kind of person anyway, you have probably reached maximum frustration with the publishing machine, so writing a new book and putting it out yourself will be an exercise in liberation for you.
My real concern here is for self-published authors who, for instance, took a year to finish their book, spent a ton of money getting the cover designed, and took six months to figure out how to get their book into the Amazon system. This is the author that needs to embrace the changed marketplace and make frequent changes to keep up. Frequently, though, this is the author I hear from in tears because they just don’t want to change the cover again, Amazon KDP terrifies them, and after all the work they put in, they really just want to put this book behind them and move on.
This is where I have bad news: if your book is not selling the way you want it to, you are not going to be able to “put it behind you.” You are going to need to get in there and make changes, then track your sales, and keep making changes until something works. This is the new publishing paradigm, for better or worse. Once you accept that, you will be that much more competitive as an author.
OK, I’ll go ahead and say it: Evolve or Die, my friends!
And, just because I like to end with action, I will challenge you: today, take a look at your book sales, go into KDP (or wherever you have your books published), and make a couple of changes. Hopefully just getting over this hump will shake things up for you and you’ll sell some more books today.