6 Ways to Increase Your Luck in Self-Publishing

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Indie bestseller Joe Konrath recently suggested that even if you do all the right things to become a career author, you’ll still need luck to succeed. Nobody likes to hear that they could spend hundreds to thousands of hours on multiple difficult projects and still fall well below the bar. We agree that luck is a key component to a successful book business, but we also think it’s very possible to manufacture your own luck.

You can’t guarantee luck, but you can focus your attention on the things that are within your control. When you spend your time on the following six tactics, you’ll be much more likely to see a “lucky break” come your way:

1. Choose Your Genre Wisely

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Of course, you should write what’s in your heart. If your dream has always been to write children’s books about dental hygiene, go to town. When you’re looking to have good fortune as an indie author, however, you need to remember that some genres just sell better than others.

Are we saying to drop everything and write the next steamy romance? No, but you should try to find a compromise between your dream story and something that more people will buy. Most people in this business want to become better writers, and writing in a new genre is one of the best ways to accomplish that. Additionally, you may find out things about the genre that excite you in new creative ways.

Once you’ve picked a genre, stick with it for a while. Authors who create multiple books in a series tend to have more luck than those who write a standalone and move on.

2. Write Faster

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The more you write, the more pieces of work you have out there in the world. When you have more books, you’re more likely to have one that succeeds. Traditionally published authors like Stephen King and Suzanne Collins, as well as indy authors like Hugh Howey found their greatest success with books that weren’t the first thing they’d ever written.

As you write more words every day, you’ll get better at your craft and your chances of luck will improve dramatically. Push beyond your boundaries to get from a few hundred words a day to several thousand. Books like Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k and Monica Leonelle’s Write Better, Faster have some great tips to get your word count up even with a limited number of hours available.

3. Market Harder

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The luckiest authors spend significant time on marketing. One rule of thumb says your author business should consist of five parts of marketing for every one part of marketing. We’re not sure if you need to go that extreme, but you still need to make marketing a major priority.

If you’ve put hundreds of hours into a book, then you need to go out there and tell people about it. The instances in which a self-published author with no website or online presence has had major success are few and far between. Spend time on your marketing every day, because you’re more likely to be discovered if your book is in front of someone’s eyes than if it’s at the bottom of a pile.

4. Meet More People

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Networking matters. The more people you know, the better chances you have of making a connection with someone who can improve your career. You need to put yourself out there online and at conferences to grow your network. Connect with big-time authors to offer them your help and to learn the ins and outs of the trade. Meet merchandizers from self-publishing retailers to help get your book featured.

It’s not always what you do. Sometimes it’s who you know, and that’s why you’ve gotta get out there and meet people.

5. Build Your Mailing List

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We will beat the “build your mailing list” drum until everybody out there has finally listened to us. Email marketing is still the most effective way to connect with your readers. If you’re having a hard time choosing what to spend your daily marketing time on, look no further than growing your mailing list.

The next time you chat with a “lucky” author, ask her how many email addresses she has on her list. It’s likely she’ll have a five-figure number to share with you. You can be as lucky as she is if you work just as hard to build your list to that size.

6. Never Give Up

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Luck doesn’t owe you anything, and it may elude you through years of hard work. You need to keep going. You’re going to have rejections along the way and you’ll have books that absolutely flop. Don’t stop writing and don’t stop marketing. The only thing that can completely extinguish your chances of luck is quitting. Never quit and you’ll already have more luck than the other authors who gave up.

Some People Are Luckier Than Others

More often than not, the luckiest authors are the ones who worked the hardest. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Luck is always going to be a part of things. It can feel like a lottery at times, but you’re never going to win the grand prize unless you buy some tickets.

Why Put Your Book in Audio Format?

Why put your book in audio format?

When you first started self-publishing, it likely seemed like a ton of work you’d never be able to accomplish yourself. Whether you have one book on Amazon or two dozen on a variety of e-retailers, you’ve learned that self-publishing wasn’t quite as hard as you thought. While marketing those books may remain a challenge, you’re more likely to get a return if you have more products out there. Getting your books in audio format gives you one more product for each book you have on the market.

Audiobook production may seem even more daunting than digital self-publishing ever did. You’ll need to learn some new terminology and you’ll have to figure out a whole new process, so you might be wondering if the whole audio enterprise is worth it. To keep things simple, let’s just say that audio is the future of publishing and we’re nowhere close to reaching the tipping point.

If you want to get the most of out your fiction or non-fiction, then you need to make audio a key part of your author business plan. Here are four reasons you should turn your novel or non-fiction work into an audiobook:

1. Audio Is On The Rise

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It’s tough to believe statistics unless everybody is saying the same thing. While the Association of American Publishers says that ebooks are on the decline, indie sources like the Author Earnings report express the exact opposite. But if there’s one thing the studies agree on it’s the growth of the audiobook industry. According to AAP, sales of audiobooks rose 26.2 percent in 2013 and an additional 28 percent in 2014, and there’s no indication the trend will reverse itself.

One of the reasons for the growth of audio is significant improvement in technology. Audiobooks no longer require packs of 10 to 20 CDs or cassette tapes. You can easily download a single file through iTunes or Amazon to your iBooks or Audible apps. Audiophiles can also listen to their books on the go or in the car thanks to Apple CarPlay. As the technology continues getting better, audio sales will rise without an end in sight.

2. You’ll Create An Additional Revenue Stream

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We’re big fans of Joanna Penn here at Author Marketing Institute, and if you’re familiar with her podcast, then you know the importance she places on multiple streams of income. When you’ve finished a novel or a non-fiction book, you may think that book only grants you one possible way to make money. In reality, that one book provides you many potential paths to passive income.

When you put your book on multiple sales platforms, it’s like getting a new stream of revenue for each retailer. Sure, your revenue for Google Play or Nook Press probably won’t equal your earnings from Amazon, but things can really add up when you bring multiple books into the mix. Beyond other retailers, you can get your work translated into other languages which multiplies your potential revenue streams by each language you use for translation.

Audiobooks allow you to create revenue streams on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Multiply those streams by the number of books you have and the numbers really work in your favor.

3. Some Customers Only Read in Audio

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When you post your ebook on Amazon, you may feel as though you have access to nearly all the reading customers in the whole wide world. That’s not exactly true though because there’s a significant minority of readers who only read by consuming audiobooks. Even if the number is relatively small compared to paperback or ebook readers, audiobook buyers tend to spend more on books and they devour them using apps on their mobile devices. Missing out on these readers could cause you to neglect connecting with true fans who want to hear your words brought to life.

4. Make More From Existing Readers

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There really is nothing like a true superfan. These die hard supporters have bought all of your books and they’re willing to do all they can to help you in your author journey. Many readers like having the option of switching back and forth between audio and ebooks (some of them using Amazon’s Whispersync feature). By getting your book out in audio, you give yourself the chance of getting more money per fan while delivering even greater value to the people who care about your work the most.

Audio Is a Worthwhile Investment

Creating audiobooks will be a challenge at first, but if you figured out how to create ebooks than you definitely have the necessary skill set to learn audio production as well. We’re not even close to reaching the sales potential of audiobooks. Why wait until everybody else knows about this amazing opportunity? Get started now to receive higher earnings and find more revenue. The publishing industry wants to tell you something, and it’s about time you listened.

The Top 5 Ways to Track Your Sales Without Amazon KDP’s Dashboard

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The author community was abuzz late last year when Amazon made its first cosmetic change to its KDP sales tracking system in years. The KDP Sales Dashboard now displays up to 90 days worth of sales and gives the author the ability to control which books are tracked during which time periods. It even displays a handy chart of how much money you’ve earned during the specified period. While this was a slight improvement, it wasn’t without its problems.

The earnings in different countries aren’t converted to a single currency, which means you have to break out a calculator or do some internet research to determine your true earnings. It also fails to take borrows into account in the earnings chart. To determine how much you earned from borrows, you have to wait two weeks past the end of the month to look at Amazon’s densely-packed spreadsheet that would give some accountants headaches. Fortunately for self-published authors, there are several pieces of software that overcome KDP’s limitations.

The following five add-ons each have their pros and cons. Some are free, while others require a monthly or yearly payment. Read on to figure out which of the following tools would best work for your indie author business:

1. Rachel Aaron’s KDP Plus

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Rachel Aaron is the bestselling author of the popular 2k to 10k book, as well as the scribe of several popular fantasy series. In an effort to assist authors, she co-developed a great tool on her website called KDP Plus that authors can use to make sense of Amazon’s complicated KDP spreadsheets. It’s simple. All you need to do is upload your KDP spreadsheets from Amazon and with the click of a button you’ll see a convenient graph that displays your number of sales, borrows, and free downloads.

KDP Plus is convenient and free. If you need to get a quick total of your number of sales on Amazon during the last calendar year, then this is probably your best bet. It can help with your long-term tracking while allowing you to see month-to-month results in a more digestible way than Amazon provides.

While the system works great for 12 files or so at once, it gets a little buggy after that, despite claims that you can add up to 20 spreadsheets. You can’t import spreadsheets from non-Amazon retailers either, but for the vast majority of authors who sell hardly any copies elsewhere, KDP Plus should serve your needs well.

2. Book Report

Book Report is the newest of the bunch, but it’s also the sleekest. Created by a web designer, the tool works like a website browser extension. Once you sign up and add the tool to your bookmarks tab, you simply visit your KDP Sales Dashboard and click on the link. Book Report shows you exactly how much you’ve earned that day in real-time in one currency, as well as which books are your top sellers. It also displays a convenient pie chart so you can see which books are bringing in the most money. Further down the page, you can also see how many free downloads you’ve had for permafree or discounted titles. Additional features include historical earnings in the last 90 days and the ability to compare the earnings of books or pen names with one another.

Since several of the tracking tools only work on PCs, this is a great alternative for Mac users. You also don’t have to provide your passwords, which is a requirement of another Mac-friendly alternative, BookTrakr. Keep in mind that Book Report just came out, so there’s no telling what kind of upgrades and support it will have going forward. It also only displays around 90 days of data, which is a limitation compared to longer-term trackers like KDP Plus.

If you write with multiple pen names and your business depends on knowing up-to-the-second stats, Book Report is a strong choice. The tool comes with a two-week free trial and costs $10 per month after that depending on how much you earn.

3. TrackerBox

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KDP Plus and Book Report are great tools for Amazon, but what if you have significant sales on other platforms? That’s where our next two trackers come in. TrackerBox is one of the most popular tools out there because you can import sales from nearly all platforms, including Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and even CreateSpace. It’s not as flashy as Book Report, but it’s very convenient for multi-platform authors to see everything displayed on one page.

The biggest drawback for TrackerBox is that it’s only available for PCs, which means that Mac users will need to borrow a Windows computer or set up some mirroring software that let them run the operating system on their device. Many authors speak highly of TrackerBox for organizing the many different spreadsheet formats provided by the various self-publishing retailers at the end of each month. If you have a PC and significant sales on many platforms, then TrackerBox might be worth the $59.95 price tag for you. You can take it on a 45-day test drive for free before you buy.

4. BookTrakr

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BookTrakr has many similarities to TrackerBox with one key advantage and one key disadvantage. Unlike Tracker Box, you can get your sales info from multiple channels within 24 hours instead of once every 30 days. It also displays reviews, bestseller rankings, and shows you your all-time sales for each book. The charts are easy to use and understand with a quick glance. Best of all, the software is completely free, with some authors saying that it’s been in a “beta testing” period for over two years now.

Here’s the drawback. In order to provide this information, you need to give all of your platform passwords to BookTrakr. You heard me right, you need to trust the developers of the software with your passwords. While no authors have ever lodged complaints against the creators of BookTrakr, we recommend that you take whatever safety precautions possible when signing up for these kinds of services. Authors who want Tracker Box-style sales reporting on a Mac without paying any upfront costs could consider this program, but you should first determine if you’re willing to risk your passwords getting used or stolen somewhere down the line.

5. Author Earnings Dashboard

Author Earnings Dashboard is our final entrant and it has several similarities to the other software on the list. The interface is similar to BookTrakr, though it just shows Amazon KDP stats and doesn’t require passwords. Similarly to TrackerBox, it helps you identify trends so you can make necessary changes and likewise it’s only available for PCs. It’s a powerful tool that shows you revenue by title in an easy to understand graph, as well as an annual summary and how much revenue different books earned each month.

It $9.95 for the basic version and has other levels of pricing based upon what you earn per month. Author Earnings Dashboard comes highly recommended by Hugh Howey, so it’s worth a look, but newer and more expensive doesn’t always mean the best. It’s a good idea to check out some more testimonials as they start to roll in for the Author Earnings Dashboard.

Tracking Sales Lets You See What Works

The above five tools don’t give you a green light to just spend all of your time tracking sales. Instead, you should use them to decrease the amount of time you spend tracking so you can put more time into your writing. Pick the tool that works for your business, then set it and forget it. Check it only when necessary. Get in, get out, and then get back to work.