So, authors who think readers only download free ebooks for Kindle and other devices these days think they have no shot in hell at an indie author career. My title is a question I’ve seen so many times it makes me want to scream.
Readers don’t buy books anymore unless they’re free?
Sure, you have Kindled Unlimited, where readers simply pay a monthly fee to read all the books they want while Amazon pays authors fewer than half a cent per page read and other subscription services. Then you have perma free works which sell well but paid works just sit there and skydive down the rankings since readers say, ‘yeah, I’ll just buy the work when it’s for free’ or maybe even committing to buy before procrastinating and forgetting about your lovely series altogether.
So, why am I doing this rather than look for a full-time job in the fitness industry, get my credentials renewed, and start training clients again or working forty to fifty hours for someone else, probably in a fitness sales gig?
Well, it’s because readers do buy e-books, audiobooks, and paperbacks if they see value in them.
Don’t we all?
The problem isn’t that all readers are cheapskates; the problem is your work might not fit in well with certain readers. In fact, neither your work nor my work is going to fit well with most readers. If a die-hard conservative or liberal touched Lord of Columbia, I would likely see a lot of one-star reviews on Amazon.
Not because the work is bad, but because I reached the wrong reader, which if they’re in a bad mood, I won’t even find my right reader.
Your job is to do two things:
1. Make your work presentable.
2. Find the right reader.
Let’s Talk About Presentation
My Lord of Columbia Series works always had professional covers, but when I first released Northern Knights everything that could go wrong with the work did go wrong.
While my plot held up and my editing was on point, there was really nothing about this work that would coax a reader into buying more copies of new works when they came out.
My book description was ABYSMAL!
My Look Inside content was bad.
I didn’t know nearly enough about SEO or keywords to have any business putting the work on Amazon, where it would only sell during its free days.
And worst yet, there was no ad at the time on my book’s front matter encouraging readers to DOWNLOAD THIS FREE PREQUEL AND JOIN MY EMAIL LIST!
Yeah, it was barren.
But when I did start the Neo Skyehawk Series to use The Eurean Kingdom as the reader magnet, I connected the ad from the front matter of Northern Knights to Prolific Works—hardly a professional-looking landing page.
Oh, and did I mention the first paragraph of each new chapter was indented?
Big mistake…big mistake…
In other words, my indie work looked like one carved up by an amateur once a reader looked past the cover.
Let’s Talk Descriptions
One reason why readers aren’t buying is that your book description probably sucks.
Know what most book descriptions do?
They summarize the work.
Why the hell is a reader going to read a work you just summarized as if you were about to turn a book report into your tenth grade English teacher?
Here’s the original description for Northern Knights:
One Hero’s Fight for Freedom
Cain Riscattare never thought he’d lead the South Columbian colonies in their battle against an imperial police state known as the Southpoint Empire.
A college athlete gifted in sports and controlling the classical elements, Cain’s only concerned with becoming a pro athlete and living a life of luxury, but when a military draft threatens Cain’s freedom and athletic career, he’s cornered into either fighting for Southpoint or fighting against them.
When Southpoint soldiers and law enforcement raid South Columbia to round up any potential draft dodger, Cain and his college teammates spark a rebellion using their element-control abilities.
Now fugitives, Cain and his friends flee South Columbia to the unoccupied region of North Columbia, where they undertake their senior year at Summit University.
Upon discovering several rival students are working undercover as Southpoint spies in North Columbia, it’s a matter of time before Southpoint advances northward.
As open warfare erupts in South Columbia, Cain and his friends balance athletics while working with top North Columbian leaders to defend the land from Southpoint invasion.
Will they succeed in keeping Southpoint from overrunning the North?
As you can see, I basically summarized the entire plot, giving the reader ZERO incentive to open the work. Also, it’s boring. It might outline the main objectives and key points, but it’s not going to sell many copies. It resembles a synopsis on Wikipedia.
Let’s take a look at the book’s current description:
The world’s most powerful empire wants him dead…
…yet how far will the desire to achieve liberty push a brash college senior?
Cain Riscattare just wanted to return to school, play ball, and enhance his element control ability—never suspecting a military draft will derail his plans. Faced with the prospect of getting shipped off to fight a needless war under the imperial banner, Cain and his small group of friends resist, sparking a colonial uprising not seen in two decades.
The revolution has begun, and Cain is number one on the global power’s hitlist.
Join readers who are talking about this fast-paced new adult urban fantasy and discover whether Cain and his friends survive the encounter.
Notice, I give away just enough of the premise and nothing more. There’s no mention of anything else except the reader knows Cain’s going to cause some trouble. The reader knows it’s a work of fantasy with element control ability, that Cain’s an athlete, and since we’re also in the new adult subgenre, that he’s also a college student. They also know a rebellion has begun, but after this proclamation, they don’t know where Cain’s going, how he’s going to face this rebellion, or even with whom he’s facing it.
Also unlike the original, there’s a call to action (CTA) at the bottom.
A little better than what I had before.
So, look at your book descriptions and be honest with yourself: Do they hold up, or do they sound like book reports or summaries one can find on Wikipedia?
If they resemble the latter, you need to get to work and bring them up to par.
Apart from your cover, your description is the second element readers look at before they venture to the ‘Look Inside’ feature.
Nail Your Look Inside Feature
So, when I’m looking for another book to read, it’s cover first, description next, then Look Inside, always in that order. First off, if you simply uploaded a Word document to your books, you’re not going to sell many copies.
Readers don’t like feeling like they’re reading a term paper and to be honest, jagged edges that the align-left paragraph format offers is annoying when trying to read a book. Also, you need to work on really cleaning up your document.
So notice what I have above is a fantastic example of how a Look Inside feature is supposed to be done. There’s no indentation, no jagged edges as the paragraph formatting is justified, and no weird spacing. In other words, it looks like a legitimate ebook.
Compare my work to this one. Note, I blurred this out and made it far more compact than my example on purpose. But notice the first paragraph is indented, there’s an added space between each paragraph, and the edges are jagged. This work looks like it came straight from a Word Document and wasn’t properly formatted. I know the bottom example is a little tough to see, but you can make out the differences here.
While I like Draft2Digital over them, this style guide from Smashwords really helped me nail Northern Knights, so click the link and read the guide. I think you’ll be surprised as to what you read.
Next, you need to be able to format your book and while there are paid options, you can do this for free via Draft2Digital and it’ll also let you download the epub, .mobi, and PDF formats, which is great as having all three formats allows you to offer your work to readers of different devices.
How to Find the Right Reader?
Okay, so for me, Northern Knights tends to be a more political-driven urban fantasy. Therefore, I have a few options here. Urban fantasy readers will naturally be attracted to the work, as will those who watched and loved Avatar: The Last Airbender due to the element control featured in the work.
Harry Potter fans may even like Northern Knights since the work takes place at a school and the main character is public enemy number one of the primary antagonist.
So, what I like to do is to make the themes in my work known.
How do you do this?
First off, you need to blog about it. If you click through this link to my Lord of Columbia Series blog, you’ll notice a tab dubbed Libertarian Influences. This is done on purpose since my readers will have a more Libertarian ideology.
While I do blog about the works and of course, about shotball, I like to hit up a couple Libertarian-based articles twice a month featuring Libertarian views. This can be from my stance on US foreign policy to gun ownership, to how markets work, as well as conspiracy facts like Operation Northwoods, etc. Subjects my target reading audience will also find in Lord of Columbia.
I also use social media for the same concepts. I tend to follow Libertarian-based personalities like Ron Paul, Jake Morphonios, Lew Rockwell, and others. I also like to interact with these people as well and they usually end up following me. I’ll share articles from places like Reason.com, the Foundation of Economic Freedom, The Mises Institute, etc., to really establish my following.
Also, finding authors whose genre and themes are similar to your own will work wonders. Just a simple cross-promotion to another author’s email list will go a long way, just make sure you’re targeting the right readers.
I probably wouldn’t do a cross-promo with an author whose fantasy genre may also be politically driven but feature politics from the mainstream Right or Left in America; my work wouldn’t suit their readers well. However, if I knew the author inserts ideology from the Austrian School of Economics, it’s highly likely their readers will take to my own work.
Authors who write in a dystopian genre may also work well for me, too, because one common theme in both my work and theirs has to do with fighting large, oppressive governments.
In other words, you shouldn’t just look for the genre, but also look for theme. I tend to look more at theme when I want to cross-promote since I hit so much harder on it in my own work.
However, if you’re more of a genre-based author, genre alone is fine, especially if the messages tend to be more mainstream.
What I’m ultimately getting to is your need for a niche audience and these people are everywhere. And guess what? They’ll buy your book. Your target market, when found, will buy your book.
And this will do wonders for your blogs, for your bookstore rankings, and other avenues as well.
So, start with a niche blog, niche your social media audience, and find other authors to cross-promote and joint promote with who also happen to be in your niche.
Solve the Puzzle
Okay, so first off, we went over our professionalism. You need to be established as a legitimate author, so none of those free WordPress.com sites, @gmail, or @outlook email accounts, and landing pages that belong to a different domain.
You need to have everything in one, which is what platforms like Wealthy Affiliate and themes like Authorcats are made for. WA will allow you to host your own domain on their servers. You’ll also have an email address attached to your domain through Site Rubix. As for Authorcats, the theme is all-in-one inclusive, so you’ll have plenty of landing pages attached to your own domain, as well as places to store your books, etc.
You need to make sure your book description doesn’t summarize the entire work and give the story away. In fact, a description between one-hundred and one-hundred-fifty words is really all you need here. If you can’t figure this out, it’s wise you hire a copywriter. Make sure your book cover is custom-made, either though a premade site like Self Pub Book Covers, or if you can fork it, a completely custom-made cover.
Nail your Look Inside feature and make sure it’s properly formatted. If it’s not, readers are going to run from your work, because one that look like it came straight from a Word document gives off the message it’s full of typos and plot errors.
So, for those authors who believe no one buys e-books anymore, it’s really pure ignorance on their part.
Did they buy a premade cover?
Do they have a reader magnet in their book?
Do they own their own domain that isn’t a free WordPress or Wix.com domain?
Does their email address reflect their domain name?
Did they invest in a real professional theme that shows them as a legit player in the game?
Is their book description up to par?
Did they properly format their book?
Are they blogging regularly and engaging on social media with their target audience?
Are they blogging about the right subjects that reflect the genre and/or themes of their books?
Are they engaging in group giveaways, cross promos, joint promos, and getting in front of other authors’ audiences?
And finally—are they even treating their books like a legit business, or are they uploading and expecting the royalties to flow in with not a single clue about marketing?
Answer all these questions as honestly as you can and see where you are.