How far will you go to rank as an Amazon Best Seller?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

When a writer sells a manuscript, it's cause for celebration. At first. But in a world of publishing, it's about the benjamins.

Yet in being an author, after a while, there is an inverse relationship to the green. Subtle and hard to perceive or address without sounding as if chomping on self-righteous sour grapes. I’m not. Here’s my proof dated today (Jan 25, 2016), Amazon ranking overall on Kindle 329. #77 in contemporary romance. Is this my first time, no. I've gotten onto this list, getting up to #25 overall on Amazon, #1 in subgenres, and I'm not here to brag. But this time it was different and deserves an explanation.


If you’re new to publishing, those numbers aren’t easy to attain. Am I doing a dance of glee? Not exactly. I’m taking this opportunity to talk tough about the sacrifice of writing. My drug of choice. And to unearth some truth.

Well that's a lie... yes I am. And I prefer to be called 'Catnip' okay?
Easy to put off, especially during a brief exodus into crazy town during a release. That’s when it becomes evident I’ve sanctioned my own insanity caught up as a cog in an industry moored in social media now more than ever. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to so many, many people. For a post-neurosurgery-gone-wrong-writer, this road is both a blessing and a crutch. Check off a way to avoid pain. A doorway beyond the physical. A means to an end. It's like volunteering for the 2016 Ranking Game.
ONCE UPON A TIME, right after NaNo 2012, an editor snagged Tempted in less than two minutes via a tweet. Tempted is the first cowboy tale of a ten-book series and I wish I could do things over. But I can’t. I can only share what I’ve learned. This story went through the grind of a release to become a cross to bear aka an education as well as heartache. What I learned could be published as The Good, The Sad, and The Ugly side of romance writing. If there is one thing anyone who ever wondered about writing a book and calling herself an author, might think about, it’s this:


The euphoria in writing isn't connected to rankings. It isn't bank deposits. It’s in the process of creation. And when a writer decides to submit to it as a career, dare I name it a calling, then this madness becomes more about talent and about improvement, refinement. At least it is for me.


We all want to write a great book. A good book is a mark of a good writer. But how to measure what is good?

It’s subjective and near impossible to do with a consistent yardstick when none exist. Literary marketing has nothing whatsoever to do with the writing aptitude of an author. It's more. It’s a talent that is hard to perceive unless you understand what you’re looking at. People mistake PR, advertising, and promotions for creative writing competence and nothing could be further or more polar to the truth.

When it comes to selling a product, a book (print or ebook) qualifies as an object with a price; it isn’t based upon an author’s literary dexterity—it’s grounded first and foremost in good old-fashioned popularity beyond Amazon.
Most of us believe, falsely, that only applies to those other writers. Our novel doesn't require fabricated hype. And chances are during the pre-release phase you've got family and friends thrilled for you.
The adrenaline dumping into your bloodstream makes everything in the world glittery--it's the ultimate high. Fantastic and a little nauseous is how one feels heading out the gate when it's your first book. 



Whether online or in person, your peeps shows up and share your news. Same when it's your second, third... but what about when it's your 30th release?
      Suddenly, people have lives too. And if you haven't snagged a rung on the NY Bestseller's list, well we can't expect the peeps to wait around f-o-r-ever. Can we? For kicks, let's say we didn't toss out a book willy-vanilly but actually planned. A little. As in studied what successful writers were doing.  Unless you've contracted one of the big six or is it five? Your release is your gig for the most part. That means recruiting your team is on you.
    The street team required isn't composed of faces you'd recognize in the flesh. And the skill set you've got to develop isn't related to weaving a story world. Kinda. We'll revisit that one in another post. For now, it’s the fork in the road that resembles a carefully constructed spider web constructed of connections.
  • Think factions.
  • Think popular.
  • Think rock star quality…if you want to make it big.   
Is that some sort of conundrum?  I am alive. How is that helpful?

My point isn’t an exercise in teeth gnashing, but to draw out a premise that might help someone. Before a writer leaps off the cliff, executing a swan dive into the publishing pool, just keep in mind, it’s larger than the concept of ‘Will I sink or swim?’ Help yourself by coming to grips with a huge reality that most folks fail to recognize. Or fail to grow. There isn’t a jump, dive, or belly flop because in fact, there is no pool. Similar to a field of dreams, our wordsmith quest is to cultivate the land.

We’ll only go as far as our social media platform permits. An author’s reach is directly linked to connections. Or idiomatically if not biblically, what we reap, we sow.

So before releasing that first book, think long and hard on what it is you wish to do? See your name in print for a single release? Or possibly spin this into a career? Regardless if you’re socially adroit, a child prodigy, or born under a lucky star. Won’t matter if you hail from the panster or plotter camp either. Today, a writer wishing to retain an iota of control in an industry that churns out thousands of books daily, you can’t escape the bare necessity that involves, yep a plan. The first book released defines an author. It imprints who we are, our skill set, and becomes the calling card we can’t escape if we aren’t careful.


If you’re a writer just starting out, you’re in luck by being in the driver’s seat. As such, it’s your responsibility to know the rules of the road. And what it means to rank on a list.  Begin now to map out the journey.
Plug in the steps to grow your social media platform, whether it’s Instagram or FB. Learn the lessons before it is too late, which includes pretty graphics to post. You can use Word, PowerPoint, or Photoshop to name a few. Here's your very own cheat sheet link on sizing (SO IMPORTANT! ) Click here or below. Trust me, you need this and do follow the link.

If you can't hire a PR firm, then start small with a book tour company. There are vast numbers and again, check them out. See what they've done for their clients. Yet you still have to do the ground work. Optimally, a writer would begin at least a year or two before the first release.
I started here as in blogging.
Pre-release, that is exactly what a writer should be doing: blog. Nothing major, just be consistent and pick a theme.
What else?
  • Find a photo stock company, set up an account, and download images to use in teasers, trailers, promotions, and social media posts announcing your release, and well before to get your name out in the public's eye.
  • Join a writer group and ask lots and lots of marketing questions.
  • Decide on a budget and stick to it.
  • Swag? Are you pro or con or have no idea? Then join investigate other authors and see what they're offering up. How do they do it? Is it something you truly love!
  • Book conventions? They're terrific ways to get your name out, especially if one is local. Otherwise, investigate who is running it, their experience, who attended, and costs. Out-of-town conventions can run an author into the thousands to attend. If not, what about a bookstore nearby? Can you set up a table there one evening to give a book talk?
  • Branding. It's never to early to decide on an author logo, blog or website theme which is then translated outward to your social media sites down to tiny favicons.
  • Read. Read about marketing. Read about social media engagement. Read fiction writing (craft)books. Read from your genre. Stay abreast of what is happening in this industry via Publisher's Weekly (PW). From your reading, you can write shorts posts and connect with the author or blogger, letting him/her know you've written about them or their post or ideas.
  • Enter contests or judge them to gain recognition.
  • And always, always ALWAYS stay positive, cheerful, amused online. Save your rants and venting to share with your BFF, your poor spouse, or use frustration as fuel your morning run or morning scream. Let it out during a long commute (I mean when you're alone in your car. NOT ON THE SUBWAY!)
    That's a compact list and now you've got your marching orders and a cheat sheet. But do know, it's all doable if you plan and begin to build your author platform. Genre writer communities are around so you aren't alone. If you reach out, you're doing exactly what you should be doing: being social, which is the crucial part of S O C I A L  MEDIA. If there is one thing I believe about most writers, it's by our very nature of wanting to share our thoughts and ideas, we're a pretty compassionate group if someone asks us a question and needs help.
And as for me this time up at bat, it was all about Amazon Encore doing their own marketing of Tempted by Trouble. I did nothing. It wasn't my magical writing but their decision to drop the price and run an ad on Kindle screens.

And that's why this ranking isn't a source of pride I can lay claim to since I'm not a PR firm.  A direct opposite when it comes to social media and forming connections and why this post exemplifies a "do as I say, not as I do" approach to the ranking game. Thus far, I stink at the gregarious aspects of social media.  Being an introvert with ADHD, I'm immersed in my next ten thoughts to focus on the present moment. And the irony that the Internet is both "now" as well as forever doesn't escape me; if anything I'm haunted by it.

Lastly, let me drive home this point: those who master this universe, the exponential value of PR together with a well-placed ad can bounce the sale and ranking, using their developed social media tribe by putting out the word via FB, Instagram, Tweets, word of mouth, newsletters, texts. In return, Amazon (or B & N, Kobo, etc) spins that book in response, and it stays aloft in orbit, organically at that point.

Doesn't mean I'll give up or given in. I'm still studying craft and writing when I can. And yeah, forcing myself to be s-o-c-i-a-l minus the cringe. 

What about you?
If you're ready to commit and jump aboard the author crazy train, then c'mon! Buckle up and enjoy the ride.  
Oh yeah, and...

Link to social media cheat sheet.

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