So what conclusions can we draw?
There has to be something....
- Price. Price is a huge factor and it has nothing to do with any esoteric "artistic value to the reader". Get over that idea right now, it will only cause you to make terrible decisions. A lot more people are willing to buy a book at $.99 than at $7.00. It's the revenue stream that matters, not the individual unit price. Believe me. I know. To tempt readers, you need at least one book for $.99 as an "entry-book". (Think like drug pushers and you'll do just fine.)
- Cover. You need a great cover. Or at least not an appallingly bad cover. Or a cover that looks like your 7-year-old daughter created it as she twirled around in a pink tutu. It should look professional.
- Blurb. You need a great blurb. No errors. One that tempts and teases the reader. One that grabs and won't let a reader rest until they buy the book and find out what it's all about. Present the core of the conflict and make it pithy.
- Marketing. To a large extent, marketing is a waste of your time. There are only a few things you can really do that make a difference. Here they are: get reviews for your book; participate in blogs that are NOT hard sells of your book--you need to provide something of interest that may be related to your book, but stop just talking about your book (for crying out loud); participate in some of the groups out there but not as a poster of excerpts, but as a real human with interesting ideas, opinions, etc; Twitter--but not about your book all the time.
- You'll notice a theme under marketing: shut up about your book, already. What you're looking for is to build a social network and provide your friends and readers with interesting information. It can be related to your book, but if all you do is squirt excerpts out everywhere and post solely about your book, then people will tune you out. They'll have no reason to listen. As Konrath says: it's all about content. Give them something of value. I've seen a huge change in the success of my marketing strategy--such as it is--when I simply stopped chatting up my books all the time. In fact, I sold more books than ever during the month when I was off the 'net entirely and not doing any marketing whatsoever.
- Note: My first month of sales beat the last year of sales for all of my five previous small-press books combined. Last month tripled that number. This is for ONE book. If my book remains at the same level of sales, by the end of the year I will have already earned what I got as an advance for my most recent legacy-published book. By the time that legacy-published book comes out in 2012, I'll have already earned TWICE that advance; and that is if the sales of my one book remain flat at the current level.
- Sadly, success breeds success. If your book starts generating sales, that will generate more interest. More interest will generate more sales. This happens organically, on its own, and there's pretty much nothing you can do about it. Except...
- Write. Your very best tool is writing the next book and publishing it at a reasonable price. No more than $2.99. Every author has reported that when they published a second (or subsequent) book, it created a jump in sales for all previous books. So your very, very BEST MARKETING tool is...the next book.