{{ An Excerpt From Ebook Author Success Guide, by Steve Bareham }}


Part II | Part III

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New things are being discovered every day about the process and the marketing and promotion of ebooks. Each of us who has uploaded an ebook knows that writing the book is almost the easiest part of the process. Getting found is the real challenge when sites such as Amazon have 10 million titles listed. It’s an odd paradox that we can literally reach out to the world in minutes with an online post, but shooting blind into cyberspace is frustrating, pointless and even damaging. We’ve never had such enormous soap boxes, but we’re all talking at once, so very few get heard.

So, here are important tips to help ebook authors immediately. The first tip has to do with keeping a positive attitude in a complex and sometimes trying endeavor of being your own publisher.

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Be Prepared For a Long Distance Race, Not a Sprint

While an ebook can get written and published very quickly, don’t expect sales to happen fast unless you’re extremely lucky or are already famous–in which case you wouldn’t be reading this! The message here is to toughen up your ego and don’t worry about your sales numbers for months after your book goes up. There are two things that are crucial:

1) Continue writing: get more product online to improve the chances of appealing to more buyers. The more books you have, the better your chances, because you cover more ground with different readers’ tastes, and you get cross linkages with online sellers (i.e., “Also available from this author”) as people browse.

2) While writing more books comes first, it’s also vital to spend time every day getting messages out: Contact bloggers who will write about you or let you write a guest blog. Participate in forums, such as the forum on GoodReads, where you can access potential readers, participate in giveaways, offer yourself for interviews, etc.  These are all ways to reach new readers.

Book Review Blogs and The Indie View are both great sites that give you access to hundreds of potential book review bloggers. You do have to work through the lists to find bloggers interested in your subject matter, but they’re there. You also have to create a good pitch to get their interest, since they’re being bombarded with requests from other authors.

Here’s an example of a pitch to book reviewers that worked well for me. (It’s posted on Scribd, another fantastic promotional vehicle that self-published authors should take advantage of.

Try not to worry too much about your Amazon ranking and the number of books sold. It’s possible to watch rankings daily, but the rises and falls will drive you nuts. Writers are supposed to like writing, so do more of what you like, and don’t get totally bogged down in marketing until you’re done writing. Only a masochist can enjoy the marketing part of this process. Most of the time it seems like horrendous effort for little or no payback. Steel yourself, don’t get discouraged, and evaluate after a couple of years have passed.

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Get Those 5-Star Reviews: They’re a Top Priority

Do whatever you can to get positive, 5-star reviews on every online seller you can. Prospective buyers don’t know you or your writing, so they need positive comments by other readers before taking a chance on that all-important buying decision. So spend as much time as needed to ensure that every friend, family member, work associate, etc., buys and reviews your book. While five reviews is okay, 20 is better.

The reality, though, is that it’s not easy to get dozens of reviews, especially when you have to cover several books and several different sellers, i.e. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. It’s wise to try to get good reviews on each seller site so visitors see positive comments no matter where they shop. Even two is better than none at all.

Seeing six 5-star reviews puts surfers in more positive mindsets, and a line of stars may even deter someone from feeling free to give a 1-star negative blast in the absence of anyone else rating your book.

I should also note that some promotional sites—Digital Book Today, for instance—demands at least 10 five-star reviews before it will promote your book; there has to be quantifiable evidence that you have a reader base. I believe you get very good mileage for reasonable rates with DBT.

Important: Don’t overlook GoodReads during your review work, since what you post there also appears on Kobo, Sony, and Chapters Indigo. This means that GoodReads reviews do quadruple duty. Bonus!

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Understand Viral Leveraging

As noted previously, writing the book is the easiest part of self-publishing in my view. The hard part is ensuring that people find it. This is where leveraged viral marketing and communication comes in. You can have your own website, your own blog, run your own ads, and contact everyone you know on the planet, but if you don’t persuade other bloggers, reviewers and media outlets to spread the word about your book, you’ll be lost in a very crowded flood of millions of other authors all trying to capture readers’ eyes.

Sourcing and writing good proposals to dozens, even hundreds, of potential “helpers” to spread your message virally is very time consuming, but it’s absolutely critical. You can’t do it alone. Here’s a website detailing 46 other sites that will help you promote your book for free.

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Don’t Overlook Tags On Amazon

I’m surprised how many authors don’t enter tags, or seem to give them little thought on Amazon. Tags, as you probably know, help searching readers find your books … or not!

So, like picking the right genre, picking appropriate tags is also important. You can change these easily, so by all means experiment. Amazon’s automatic word-completion function helps you identify what words and phrases people search most often. For example, with this book, when I entered “eBook,” I saw that there were 30,074 usages, so that means the word is searched a lot—maybe too much. So more fine tuning is required, such as “eBook author guide,” and “eBook marketing.” If you’re too general and undifferentiated, your book will never be found, as the best sellers will push you back 50 pages.

You get to select 15 tags on Amazon, so you have quite a bit of search latitude; use them wisely. For my Progeneter books, I used every reference to Mayans I could think of (“the Mayans,” “Mayan prophecy,” “Mayans 2012”), and it’s working quite well to keep the books reasonably close in the first few pages. Since the books are new, my task now (to build the all-important sales revenues that really boost Amazon rankings), becomes coverage from book bloggers and targeted advertising.

But right from the start, experiment with your tags; they are crucial.

Log onto TeleRead tomorrow for the second Ebook Author Success Guide excerpt.

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Steve Bareham has taught writing and business communication to management students at Selkirk College, Nelson, B.C., since 1996.

His writing career began in 1969 with a decade-long stint as a reporter and editor with several Canadian daily newspapers. He worked next in public relations, marketing and business communications management positions with TransAlta, Simon Fraser University, and the B.C. School Trustees Association before joining the teaching staff at Selkirk. He has written nine print books through publishers such as Harper Collins and McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

As head of marketing and chief editor of EduServ Inc., a North American publishing house that served the education sector, Steve signed authors and edited more than dozen books from 1985-1991, generating several million dollars in revenue. Four of his eBooks will come online this year.


  1. Interesting advice. Reader after reader posts in forum after forum how they don’t believe any 5-star review of an indie book because they’re all by friends and family. Guess why they feel that way? For those of us who waited for genuine stranger reviews, this is a bitter pill, but then a lot of us sell books without cheating.

  2. I agree with Ellen’s point on five-star reviews – if a self-published work has nothing but, I smell a rat and shy away. For a tip of my own on Goodreads reviews being copied to Sony and others, this relies on Goodreads displaying the ISBN rather than Amazon’s ASIN, so check those book pages…

  3. I do find it amusing how people have such contempt for insider reviews. I have spent a lifetime reading the ‘reviews’ on the back of pBooks and in their promotions … perhaps the authors who express such scorn for them might think of that before they launch into their comments.

    In my view the prospect of ‘reviews’ offering ANY value to readers has always been a complete nonsense. Not knowing anything about the person who writes the review, however independent and honest they be, offers ZERO value to me, or any other reader for that matter.

    The only third party system that does offer any value is finding other people who like the same books, and sharing recommendations with them. No one is implementing this as yet and when they do, imho they will clean up.

  4. Steve, I greatly appreciate the links and good advice. I’m publishing romances I previously wrote for several publishers, and the entire marketing thing is daunting. How anyone has time to write new material while keeping up with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. is beyond me.

    Also, I tried to buy your book EBook Author Success Guide by clicking the title at the top–maybe you need to make it an active link?

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