Saturday, May 07, 2011

What Works: Promo for Ebooks

I get bombarded by email, mostly from people either thanking me or asking me for something, and I simply can't respond to everyone. If you've emailed me and not gotten a reply, it's because I need an assistant, not because I hate you.

That said, one reoccurring question seems to be: "I've got an ebook, now what can I do to make sure it sells a lot of copies?"

The bare-bones answer: There's nothing you can do to guarantee a lot of sales.

Sales involve luck. Luck is all about random chance, which can't be predicted or planned for. There is no magic bullet for generating big sales.

But... there are a few truisms I've discovered.

1. Sales Fluctuate. What is your best seller this month may drop off next month and may again be your bestseller two years from now. Ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time for a book to find its audience. Don't sweat it. Don't panic. This is like surfing. Waves may die, but new waves always come along.

2. Remember the Four. I've noticed the books that sell best seem to be professional looking (covers, formatting, editing), have low prices, good product descriptions, and are well-written. Don't put up anything less than terrific on all counts.

3. The More the Merrier. The more books you have for sale, and the more you keep adding to your virtual shelf-space, the better you'll do. Right now I have 40 ebooks available. That's a lot of ways to be discovered. And once discovered, it's a lot of titles to sell to fans.

4. Exploit All Platforms. Kindle is still King, but remember to upload your books to Createspace, B&N, Smashwords, and Overdrive (more on Overdrive in an upcoming blog post.)

5. Practice Makes Perfect. I'm currently reading a book that was recommended to me by my buddy Henry Perez, called Outliers: The Story of Success. It mentions the 10,000 Hour Rule. In short, no one becomes an expert at something without having invested 10,000 hours in it.

I found it interesting to apply this to my career. It took me twelve years to become published. While holding down a fulltime job, I still managed to write over a million words during that time--roughly 15 to 20 hours a week. Guess what? That's 10,000 hours.

Since being published in 2004, I've been writing fulltime. But the majority of my job has always been promoting my work, not the writing itself. It wasn't unusual (and still isn't) for me to work 60 hours a week.

Guess what? In order to reach the point where I understood the opportunities that ebooks presented, and was able to capitalize on that opportunity, I'd put in another 10,000 hours learning how the publishing industry worked.

So according to the 10,000 Hour Rule, I'm a dual outlier, in both writing and self-promotion.

In other words: if you aren't a raging ebooks success yet, keep at it. You may not have put in enough time yet.

Now what does this all mean to you?

While none of the above guarantee success, if you're doing them all you're maximizing your chances for success. But success STILL involves chance.

Chance. Luck. Randomness. We hate these things, because we want to be in control of our careers. We want to believe that working hard will make us winners.

That isn't necessarily true. But working hard can improve your odds at success.

Years ago, when I was more known for my self-promotion techniques than I was for ebooks, I used to always caution that the things I tried did not guarantee I'd become a bestseller. All they guaranteed was that I'd sell more books than if I hadn't done anything at all.

All promotion results are twofold. First, there are the tangible results of a marketing effort, which are usually calculated by immediate sales. But there is a secondary result that is tougher to gauge. Much of what we do to promote our work is intangible.

In other words, we may not know that what we're doing is working, until later. Sometimes years later.

My first novel, Whiskey Sour, is still selling strongly after 8 years. I attribute this to the massive amount of work I did in the past. I visited over 1200 bookstores. I signed tens of thousands of autographs. (Hell, I wrote the definitive article on how to do booksignings.) I traveled to 40 states, met countless librarians and fans and booksellers.

I began blogging in 2005. I gave away ebooks that same year. I was one of the first authors to use MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter to promote my work. I did a mass mailing to 7000 libraries. I amassed a newsletter list of 10,000 names. I've gone to scores of conventions, conferences, and book fairs.

As a result, my books are all still in print, while many of my peers are out of print. (A cruel irony, since right now I'd pay big money for my books to go out of print so I could get the rights back.)

My efforts didn't turn my early books into bestsellers, even though I did more to promote them than just about any other author who ever lived.

But I did sell some books.

These days, I no longer do signings. I don't speak at libraries, or visit conventions. For years, I talked about having a one-on-one interaction with fans, and now I don't answer my email. I used to scramble to get interviews, now I turn them down.

In 2011, the game has changed, and so have the rules.

So what are the new rules?

Here are my thoughts. Again, none of these will guarantee huge sales. And none of them work all the time for all books. But doing these things will help to sell more books than doing nothing at all, and I've found them to be the best use of my time.

1. Use Your Fans. Blake Crouch and I have done well by sending free advance ebooks to fans we've got on our mailing lists, or found on Offering a freebie in exchange for an honest review seems to work well.

2. Social Network. Being active on Twitter and Facebook beats not being active. But remember it is about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell. No one likes ads, or being sold.

3. Change Your Price. I've become a fan of putting ebooks on sale. The more books you have available, the easier this is to do without hurting your pocketbook. Keep in mind that you may not see instant results.

4. Write More. The best advertisement for your writing is your writing. The larger your virtual shelf space, the more you'll be discovered.

5. Diversify and Experiment. I've had as many failures as successes. Though my ebooks Trapped and Origin continue to sell hundreds per day, I've got other ebook titles that only sell a hundred per month. I have no idea why some sell better than others, but I'm continuing to explore new genres and experiment with formats.

My worst selling novel on Kindle is Banana Hammock, a humorous Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type of interactive narrative. I think it's funny as hell, and perfectly suited for ereaders.

Oddly enough, it is one of my bestsellers on OverDrive for the library market. Go fig.

If your sales are in the gutter, switch genres. Get a pen name. Try something different. Play with the cover art and product description. Switch the category label. There is no surefire path to success, but if you want to hit a home run, you gotta swing at everything.

6. Use Your Peers. Do guest blogs. Trade back matter excerpts. Review each other. Buy each other. Support one another. We're all in the same boat, and we all need to row.

(My latest novel Flee is now available on Smashwords, Amazon, Nook, and the Apple iBookstore for just $2.99.)

7. Prioritize It. In my never-ending quest to get into Bartlett's Familar Quotations (there's a quote list at the end of this blog post) I've coined yet another axiom that I invite all to retweet:

"Don't prioritize the mundane."

By mundane I mean routine and ordinary.

If you want to have extraordinary sales, it means devoting an extraordinary amount of time to it. That means sacrificing other aspects of your life, like leisure, sleep, and family.

If you don't want to give up Netflix, or miss your kid's baseball game, or get out of bed at 4am, that's fine. It's your life, and you decide what is important.

But while you may win Dad of the Year, never have bags under your eyes, and be able to quote every episode of Seinfeld, you probably won't ever sell 1000 ebook a day, either.

I realize these rules aren't what writers want to hear. A writer would much rather be told, "Tweet your Kindle URL three times a day for three weeks, and you'll sell 15,000 copies." That just isn't how this works.

In fact, doing that could actually harm you. In that spirit, here are some things that I don't believe work.

1. Advertising. Joe's First Rule of Marketing is: Only do things that work on you.

I have never bought an ebook because I saw a Facebook ad, a Google ad, a print ad, or any kind of ad. Ditto postcards, bookmarks, or any sort of handout.

I've never heard of an ad campaign for a book that paid for itself.

I've never met any writer truly satisfied with the results of advertising, but have met many who aren't.

Those who wish to sell you ad space will tell you that ads are meant to announce releases or inform potential fans, and have intangible effects that reinforce brands.

That's fine. But I'm not paying $500, let alone $5000, for intangible effects. I get plenty of intangible effects on my own, for free. If I don't see an immediate sales bump, I'm unimpressed.

I feel the same way about publicists. I've met some terrific publicists who do exactly what they say they'll do: get you publicity. Radio interviews, newspaper and magazine coverage, and press releases are all well and good, but guess what? I've been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The LA Times, and many others. I've watch my sales while this happened, and didn't notice any appreciable uptick.

Odd, isn't it? Being on the front page of the LA Times, and not seeing a huge boost in sales?

How many publicists would be able to land you on the front page? How much would they charge?

Are you sure you want to pay for publicity?

You can see the effects for yourself. Tomorrow, I'm mentioned twice in a long ebook article in the Washington Post. Watch my Kindle rankings. See if they change dramatically.

Here's what I'd like to see with publicists and advertisers. I believe their purpose should be to sell books, not sell the writer their services. So offer to pay them a percentage of every sale that can be directly linked to their campaign.

I doubt you'll find any takers.

And let me state here that I don't doubt that ads and publicity have intangible, long-term benefits, and even some tangible short-term ones. I'm sure they do sell some books.

But in order for me to be behind them, I need to be shown they can sell enough to at least cover their own cost.

2. Appearances. I used to evangelize public appearances, and would speak at every opportunity I could. These appearances undeniably had value, both tangible and intangible. I sold books while there, and sold books after I'd left, for sure.

But I never sold enough to justify the cost of travel, or the time it took away from my writing.

These days, I get offered decent money to speak. But being flown to Texas, or Italy, is a minimum of three days lost to me. Even being paid $5k or more for an appearance, my hatred of travel, and the burnout I still feel from giving so many talks, panels, and lectures, does not make it worthwhile. So I quit cold turkey.

And my sales have increased.

Now it could be said that perhaps my sales would have increased even more had I kept up with appearances, but if you look at the biggest sellers in both print (King, Patterson, Rowling) and ebook (Hocking, Locke) you'll notice that they do very few public appearances.

I've eased up a bit on my moratorium. Amazon is bringing me to BEA (I'll be wearing a tee shirt will a bulls-eye on it) and OverDrive asked me to be the keynote at Digipalooza, which I agreed to because I'm pretty sure ebook lending at libraries is going to be the next big thing.

But in these cases, the main reason I'm going is to meet the people I'm working with, as face-to-face time at the bar is great for cementing relationships. Meeting fans is secondary, though I'll do my best to dazzle those I encounter.

The conference/library/bookfair/book touring circuit I've embraced in the past helped me sell a lot of books, though not in proportion to the time and money I spent traveling.

But until Autography becomes fully implemented and organizers begin catering to the ebook crowds, appearances have little value for self-pubbed authors.

3. Spam. Spam comes in all flavors these days. You can spam via email, via Twitter and Facebook, via Goodreads, Library Journal, Shelfari, via forums, via blog comments.

As mentioned earlier, no one likes being sold. Especially hard sells, repeated again and again and again.

It's a fine line to walk between blatantly tooting your own horn and informing those that want your message. So tread carefully.

Have a mailing list and make sure it is opt in/opt out. I use When you use Twitter or Facebook, make sure links to your books are vastly outnumbered by content. Content, as you know, is information and entertainment, not spam.

Building relationships online is about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell. This blog wouldn't be popular if it was about me trying to sell my shit. Surf through a few dozen of my past entries, and see how many are about me offering information, vs. me trying to sell my books. Even though people come here of their free will, I could easily lose readers if I began to spam my own blog with constant self-promotion.

Occasionally it's okay. But out of the 600+ blog posts I've written (over 500,000 words) I doubt there are more than 30 that are dedicated to me selling my ebooks. The rest are content, which is why people keep coming back.


I fully believe that the ultimate reason I'm selling so many ebooks is because I got lucky.

I was able to improve my odds by being a good writer, being prolific, being professional, and learning a lot about writing and promotion. But it still came down to luck.

Ultimately, there isn't anything we can do to guarantee success.

However, as I'm fond of saying, being "successful" isn't a good goal.

Goals should be within your control. "I want to hit the Top 100" or "I'm going to sell 10,000 ebooks by June" are not goals. Those are dreams.

Goals are "I'll have three books up on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords by September" or "I'll be active on Facebook and Twitter until I get 5000 friends each." Those are within your control, and worthy pursuits.

Everyone needs to stop worrying about things they have no control over, and focus instead on the things they can control. Write well. Be professional. Experiment. Learn from mistakes. Keep an open mind.

There are no longer any gatekeepers. But that doesn't mean being a writer has gotten easier.

You want the real secret for success? Work your ass off until you succeed, no matter how long it takes.

Konrath Motivational Quotes

There's a word for a writer who never gives up... published.

Denial is a powerful opiate.

If you're selling eggs, don't piss off your chickens

Ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time.

When you're learning how to walk, you don't take classes. You don't read how-to books. You don't pay experts to help you, or do it for you. You just keep falling until you learn on your own.

Before you make the key, study the lock.

People would rather fight to the death to defend their beliefs than consider changing their minds.

It's about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell.

You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than becoming successful in this biz. But if you really want to get hit by lightning, you can improve your odds.

No one is entitled to anything.

What are the last ten books you bought, and what made you buy them? Use those techniques to sell your books to other people. Do what works on you.

Hard work trumps talent. Persistence trumps inspiration. Humility trumps ego.

Praise is like candy. We love it, but it isn't good for us. You can only improve by being told what's wrong.

Your book is your child. You can't recognize its shortcomings, any more than a proud parent can consider their child dumb and ugly.

The experts don't know everything, and they might not know what's right for you.

Fate is a future you didn't try hard enough to change.

Anyone looking for you can find you. Get them to find you when they're looking for something else.

Life gives you wonderful opportunities to conquer fears, learn skills, and master techniques. "I can't" shouldn't be synonymous with "I don't want to."

People seek out two things: information and entertainment. Offer them freely, and they'll come to you.

The Internet isn't temporary. What you post today can lead people to you decades from now.

Writing is a profession. Act professional.

No one said it would be fair, fun, or easy. But it can be worthwhile.

We're all in the same boat. Start rowing.

If you can quit, quit. If you can't quit, stop complaining--this is what you chose.

There are a lot of things that happen beyond your control. Your goals should be within your control.

Just because something is publishable doesn't mean it will get published. Just because something is published doesn't mean it will do well.

Write when you can. Finish what your start. Edit what you finish. Self-publish. Repeat.

The most successful people on the planet have one thing in common: nothing can stop them. Don't expect to reach your goals without sacrificing things that are important to you. You can't be both happy and ambitious.

Being your own best advocate is about understanding how people react to you.

Fake confidence, and real confidence follows.

Maybe you can't win. But you sure as hell can try.

Always have two hands reaching out. One, for your next goal. The other, to help people get to where you're at.

If you can't be smart or funny, be brief.

If you're not in love with the sound of your own voice, how can you expect anyone else to ever be?

Knowing you're not original is the first step in becoming unique.

There's a word for a self-published writer who never gives up... rich.


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I just cancelled my contract with my prominent agent so I could self-published novel #3. Numbers 1&2 have been bestsellers on three Kindle genre lists since January and sales keep climbing. #4 is close to complete. Its rights also have reverted to me so that I can self-publish it as well. This blog has been central in my decision-making to eschew traditional publishing altogether. The so-called "Gatekeepers," I'm convinced don't know their arse from their elbow.

Andy Conway said...

The so-called "Gatekeepers," I'm convinced don't know their arse from their elbow.

ROTFL. That's another classic quote to add to the list!

Andy Conway
Train Can't Bring Me Home
The Girl with the Bomb Inside
on Amazon
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.2011

badas2010 said...

Hi Joe.

Just another newbie lining up to shout THANK YOU.

The ebook revolution has come a bit late for me, (I'm 75 godammit), but you've inspired me and I've published in the last month or so a novel and a few short stories on Smashwords and Kindle. 21 sales so far, (oh, alright, 18 from family), but that's three more than I've ever sold before! I think I can write, but I can't find the words to tell you how enthusiatic and excited you've ma..... I'm welling up just writing this! See what you've done?

I'm pressing on with three more novels that need re-writing and hope to get them on later this year and next. At my age I don't have a long future, but however long it is it's going to be spent doing this. And that's all your fault.

I don't know if you can hear this shout from the UK, but here goes nothing .....


Barry Dashwood
Author of Silverback!

badas2010 said...

Oh, and by the way, good sale-ing to one and all (see what I did there?).

Barry Dashwood
Author of Silverback!

A.P. Fuchs said...

There's a word for a self-published writer who never gives up... rich.

How about there are "three words for a self-published writer who never gives up"? STUBBORN AS HELL.

I say that because I'm one of them. I've been self-publishing for seven years and kept doing it despite a slow start, low sales, bashing from midlisters and bestsellers, the scolding of "eBooks are not 'real' books," criticism from family and friends, colleagues and more.

But you know what? You go out there, keep fixated on your goal, and never, ever give up.

It is true that chance is a big part of publishing. It's a sad truth, actually. If I've learned anything over the years, it's that you have to find what works for you and run with it, whether that's legacy publishing, small press or self-publishing. None of those three offer any guarantees. Actually, they pretty much all offer around the same chances of success when you measure the pros and cons of each.

I don't buy into the "new era" hype going on. That's simply not true because self-publishing is what authors did before corporate publishing. However, what I do buy is the distribution model is different, and not even thanks to Kindle. I thank the smartphones because that's what people are glued to. eReaders and tablets are just big smartphones with similar and varied features.

Most folks these days are digital junkies and get their info that way. Now books are falling into the "info" category, whether it's fiction or not, and since people are so used to reading on a screen, texting, etc., why not add a little entertainment to the mix?

As a side note, I'm experimenting with genre. I released a series of paranormal vampire novellas (The Blood of my World Series) to see if genre is a huge factor. Right now, it's still early in the game so I can't say, but past experience has taught me that genre plays a big role in any book's success. We'll see.

You can find out more about the experiment at

Raison D'etre said...

Inspiring. Sure makes me want to start waking up at 4am to chug away at the laptop.

Thanks, Joe.

Amy said...

Pretty accurate, Joe. It matches my experiences after 5 small press pubbed books, 1 traditional pubbed book (out in 2012 *ouch*), and 1 indie book.

Sales on my indie book, The Vital Principle, have doubled in the last week, although I've been away at Malice Domestic and off the 'net for the last three weeks (in other words, not doing any promotional stuff).

I promoted the heck out of the small press books with no results whatsoever, although I spent a fortune doing it. The difficulty for authors with small press is that the books have a higher price than comparable books from indie authors.

Anyway, my own experiences suggest:
1) Sales breed more sales; Success breeds more success. A book that is selling well will get "suggested" more often by places like Amazon, so more people will see it and have the opportunity to decide to buy it. Higher rankings mean a book may be the first thing a potential reader sees in a desired category and that book therefore has a higher chance of purchase.

2) The opposite is also true, which is incredibly frustrating for new authors. If you have few or no sales, you're so far down the list that only the most dedicated reader searching for something different in a specific category may click through enough pages to find you. OR, you have to rely on searches specifically for your name or title. Which have to work more on social media so that people know your name or title to search for you.

3) Social media can work pretty well, but only if you offer content and not just hard sell your book. (In my case, staying off the 'net for 3 weeks seems to have helped enormously. hmmm. LOL)

4) Edit, edit, edit. Then edit more. Get a reader's opinion (you'll be amazed how often something you think is perfectly clear is, in reality, muddy as heck to every other person in the world). Obtain/create a terrific cover. Write a blurb that teases and thrills and won't let the reader pass up your book.

It takes time, but books tend to build an audience over time and by about the 7th month after release, you'll have a good feel for the earnings of a specific book.

Finally, the best way to sell a book is to write another. And another.

So thanks, Joe, for the encouragement. I would never have gone the indie path if I had not started reading your blog. I'd still be trapped by small press/traditional publishers and not earning enough to pay for my membership in the writers groups I belong to.

Keep up the good work!
Amy Corwin

historywriter said...

Well laid out dos and don'ts (ie what doesn't work). On the library thing, I've personally contacted the libraries in my area about getting my novel TREE SOLDIER on their shelves. My local one is ordering the book and I believe that Kindle now has an agreement on lending at libraries. I've been contacting local book groups and the national parks.

I have slowly been building my sales. I have a second novel getting prepped for e-book and self-pub as book. I have a great cover for my first book, it's a good story, and edited by someone outside of me.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Thanks to both of you. It gave me a good start on my next project. I want to write - and I hope others want to read what I write. But if the writings are not there then the readers can't decide.


Anonymous said...

This articles is what I needed to hear/read.
Thanks Joe.

Rachael Wade said...

"You want the real secret for success? Work your ass off until you succeed, no matter how long it takes."

I believe that's exactly what it all boils down to. Realistic, tangible goals--not just dreams--that are within our control, and a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears to go along with them.

Great post, thanks!

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

It took forever but I read the entire wonderful post plus every comment and loved every interesting, informative minute of it.

But it wasn’t until I reached the final page of comments that I actually cheered out loud.

I’ve been reading Joe’s blog for a long time but have never come out of lurkdom until today…because I simply had to offer my congratulations to Barry Dashwood (badas2010)!

I love your spirit, Barry, and am delighted to see you becoming a part of the ebook revolution at the age of 75. It is NEVER too late to follow your dreams and do what you love.

May you experience great happiness and success in your exciting new indie publishing venture!


Charmaine Clancy said...

Lots of great advice here! Thanks.

I'm a big fan of the new app books being produced and think choose your own story style books would work great for those. Maybe Banana Hammock would convert well?
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

badas2010 said...


Thanks very much for the comment you made here, and for taking the trouble to visit me at the world's loneliest blog!

Your encouragement is certainly driving me Miss Daisy!.

Regards, Barry.

Kiersten Fay said...

Thanks Joe! As someone who's just starting out self publishing, I truly appreciate your input.

I agree that professionalism is key, and bad promotion habits will just irritate your clientele.

Wonderful post, and very informative.

CMSmith said...

Thanks for the information and inspiration.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Thanks for all you do Konrath. These posts from other authors are very encouraging. Cyn

Leigh Ellwood said...

I have applied twice to Overdrive and was turned down. Does anybody have any advice on getting over this hurdle?

RuthCardello said...


I keep coming back to your blog and articles as I work my own way through this ebook business. Thank you for all advice and inspiration you've already provided -- and thanks in advance for the articles I didn't have time to read yet, but will return for on a regular basis.

A fan and fellow writer,
Ruth Cardello

James W. Lewis said...

Thank you for this excellent blog. It's good to know we're doing most of things you mentioned. Still got a long way to go, though! :-)

Anonymous said...

Can a title alone determine sales?

Lust Demented

eBook Marketing said...

I like how you mentioned "Exploit All Platforms" It's really true, to be competitive with your book, you have to have a presence on every available venue to the public. It's much the same reason why companies have a jingle...if you can remember it, you remember the company. So if you're available on all digital reading platforms...people remember you because you're everywhere. Thanks for the review by the way. Sorry I kinda went on a tangent.

Jessica L. Buike said...

I learned more from this post than I did from reading 50+ other posts today as I try to figure out how to market my first eBook!! Thanks so much for sharing this.

Craig Halloran said...

This is one of the best blogs on the internet as far as I am concerned. Thanks!

I have been selling my ebook through Amazon and Smashwords over 6 months now. Sales are slow. I actually do better selling at Barnes, Apple and Kobo than Amazon. I dont' understand. I think I might have too much information under my author profile and description. I would appreciate some advice as I have two more books to release by december. The book is 'The Darkslayer' by Craig Halloran. Heck, maybe I need a pen name.

Simon Jenner said...

I’ve been writing for a couple of years now and recently self published an illustrated children’s book via CreateSpace.

I also have three projects that, having been turned down by agents and publishers, are perfect for epublishing. There is a lot of useful information in this blog post in terms of ‘how to best promote the books’. As you say, the writing is just the first bit and if you don’t promote it is unlikely that anyone will ever buy your ebook.

I liked the bit about using a fan base and sending them free copies. I think that using your time where it can reap the best rewards is the trick to success – well one of them, at least.

Thanks for the advice.
Simon Jenner

LK Watts said...

Joe, I read this post when I had just started out on my journey of self publishing. Back then I really didn't know what to make of it because I had no experience of my own to draw upon, I was a clean slate. Now I have some experience to reflect on, and I now know that what you say is absolutely spot on. If my efforts to advertise my book did actually work I would be up there with Locke and Hocking right now and unfortunately I'm not. You've just got to concentrate on writing your next book.

Derek said...

A banquet for food for thought! Thanks for the insightful post. said...

Jack, all i can say is well done. I believe in hard-work and will continue to try till i get the checks rolling every month like you.
I also want to say that I fully using twitter, facebook, my website @ and my blog to push my eBooks, written 7 for now and will keep writing. My thriller novel is on the way coming. So watch out. I will come see you one day.

Author Cynthia Vespia said...

What a great, bare-bones post. Thank you Joe. You just saved me a great deal of wasted time and alot of money!

Benton Miller said...

Good tips, and I agree on the "luck" aspect completely. I released a dating book called The Journal months ago and sometimes we get 100 a day on Amazon, and sometimes weeks will pass with 0 sales.

Completely unpredictable.

jaket kulit said...

Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just too fantastic. I really like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it smart. I can not wait to read far more from you. This is really a great site.

Virgil Bierschwale said...

I don't normally comment on things like this, but I did want to say you are absolutely right on that 10,000 hour rule.

In 2003 I found myself suddenly unable to find a decent job ever again even though I have 20 plus years software experience at all levels.

In 2007 I founded Keep America At Work where I began to document my findings about what was happening.

A couple of weeks ago I put together "Significant Milestones" at the top of Keep America At Work where I began to connect the dots.

Looking back, I have well over ten thousand hours in my comprehension of the subject and I feel I have but scratched the surface.

Glad to see somebody telling it like it is in regards to writing as I have been thinking about writing a book which is what led me to your site.


Keep America At Work dot com

Anonymous said...

" Kindle is still King". What fantasy Universe do you live in? EPUB & PDF are the most common formats. I assume you are unaware of Itunes?

Kim Hornsby said...

Thanks for the info and it was a pleasure being neck in neck with your book this weekend on Kindle free!
Kim Hornsby

Anonymous said...

Joe, I cried when reading your words because:

1. You are a wonderful person for writing your thoughts here that help newbie authors more than you can ever know. I think what you do is selfless, from a good heart and you have my total and full respect for this. You have helped SO many people who will forever be grateful.

2. Your words are so inspirational, motivating, encouraging, superb!

3. I am forever grateful to you for speaking the truth and for not sugar-coating things. You explain exactly how things are in a realistic and down-to-earth sensible manner. The truth helps others to create literary magic as they do their absolute best while being aware of just how much it takes out of them in order to achieve success; working very hard, perfecting their work and learning from what you say, being humble and maximising their chances of success.

It is very difficult to succeed in this profession as there are so many gifted writers out there, but as you say, luck is also involved.

Thank you from my soul for writing such superb words. You have helped me more than you will ever know.

I wish you a thousand times more success than you have already achieved because you've helped me.

I adored everything that you have written here, but especially when you said: "The most successful people on the planet have one thing in common - nothing can stop them"

So very true. :-)

Thank you again Joe for your superb superb thoughts and advice. I for one will most certainly be purchasing your books because of the reasons above - and because I want to express my gratitude, oh and also because you are a fabulous writer! You deserve all the success in the world and more. xxx

Anonymous said...

I publish ebooks on Amazon for 99c. Price seems to be a quality issue but as they are fables I can't justify a higher price. As an unknown I'll just keep on writing and stick to the one genre - fables and myths. Dense word clouds and 'outside the square' tags might help with exposure. The other 99% will go to luck. I've waited a long time for the opportunity to get out what I do. No point in wondering 'what if'. Good luck to everybody.

Robert Morschel said...

Superb post! I've sold three copies.

brenda said...

It seems silly leaving a comment at his post, but I am silly. You'r e right about the 10,000 hour rule. When I came out of the closet--with my dream to be a writer--my then lover told about this rule He was right. He also said, in everything a person needs a little bit of luck. Everything else...well, you can be the best damn right this side of heaven, have 5,000 FB likes, and still no agent will talk to you or you won't sell a book, You just have to hold on, and keep holding.

I don't know who you are --book wise-- sorry about that, and only found you post because someone shared it. Even so, congrats on breaking through. I love success stories.

Anonymous said...

Good old Joe! I see you're turning gray from all that obsessiveness. Too bad you can't be paid by the blog--or, maybe you are!

"Hank from AFO" (David H Fears)

John said...

What an inspiring post! many thanks! (You may want to edit your link to, it has "" appended on the front. And thanks for the suggestion!)

Chaten Parmar said...

Hello Joe,

I stumbled upon your blog and this interesting post which has prompted me to ask questions.

Speaking from my own personal experience as well the details you’ve outlined it seems that theres no correlation between the “Cost of Creating a Book Vs the Cost of Promoting a Book” with regards to end profit and sales.

Ie. The ends don’t meet.

To sum up your article would it be fair in saying that:

1.The best marketing tool for authors is a fan base?

2.Because no form of advertising for authors correlates to direct sales, it might be best to actually do a bit of everything? (especially if you’re a new author)

In addition do you think that the costs of promoting a book outweighs the potential success and sales for an author? Would cheaper promotional services be beneficial for authors not in terms of affordability but to justify the results and possibly improve actual results?

Last but not least, do you think a “one time writer” has any good chance of selling self-published books? Ie. A person writing a one off book to share knowledge but ultimately to promote themselves.

If you have the time, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above?

Note: I’m not an author or publisher but a designer asking out of personal research/interest.



Anonymous said...

This was an absolutely good article.

thank you JA.
Martha Tucker

Alinka Rutkowska said...

Dear Joe,

if you don't reply to your email, you probably don't read these comments, but I felt so inspired by your article that I want to comment anyway.

I was reading your post and nodding my head! I sent some passages to my husband with whom I was in a big discussion over hiring an advertising agency and I posted a few of your quotes on Facebook. I also added a link to this on my blog.

This is one of the best things I've read recently and I read a lot!

Thank you.

Lawrence Ambrose said...

"Use your peers. Do guest blogs. Trade back matter excerpts. Review each other. Buy each other. Support one another. We're all in the same boat, and we all need to row."

This sounds like a noble sentiment. Shouldn't we all join hands, and while singing Kumbaya strive together to make our indie community a wonderful and prosperous place for everyone? Well, let's dig a bit into this noble notion.

Does this mean that if I contact Joe Konrath and ask him to read and review my novels that he'll do so? Color me skeptical, but I'm guessing that Joe is a very busy man who's rather selective about how he spends his time, and therefore it seems unlikely that he'd devote the many hours it would require to read through even one of my novels, not to mention review it. Unless he believed that I had something worthwhile to offer him.

Should that be any different? Are we morally obligated to support other indie authors by reading their works even if they don't interest us or are poorly written? Are we fulfilling a higher purpose of solidarity by encouraging even more writers who haven't mastered basic spelling, grammar, and plot structure to enter the indie fold?

What I believe does make sense (and is probably what J.A. Konrath would say if pressed) is that we ought to be open to finding quality in indie publications, and that we ought to support the good storytellers in the indie community by purchasing and reviewing their books. And we should encourage, as compassionately as possible, those who aren't yet good writers to work on their craft.

Giving poor writers raving 5-star reviews is not a kindness: it merely reinforces their self-delusions, and thus prevents them from improvement.

Andrew Jonathan Fine said...

I saw your general advice.

I'm actually retired and disabled on SSDI. Because I'm on SSDI, I'm not allowed to be a professional anything.

So I don't need money to stay alive. I just write as a hobby. I just want my book to live independently of my own existence is and be enjoyed in a student's book report someday.

Do you still do book reviews?

If so, you'll find "Alouette's Song" on Amazon to be a fun read.

Kathy Callue said...

Nice post though there are still more free websites to add in the ever-growing list. You may check out the list of the Best Free websites to promote your book and maximize your KDP promotional days at 160 Websites to Promote your Kindle Book for Free

David said...

Thank you so much for this useful info.
You should try also this one to promote ebooks for free:

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